Legends and Lyrics, Series 1.
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THE ANGEL'S STORY.

 

THROUGH the blue and frosty heavens
    Christmas stars were shining bright;
Glistening lamps throughout the City
    Almost matched their gleaming light;
While the winter snow was lying,
And the winter winds were sighing,
    Long ago, one Christmas night.

While, from every tower and steeple,
    Pealing bells were sounding clear,
(Never with such tones of gladness,
    Save when Christmas time is near,)
Many a one that night was merry
    Who had toiled through all the year.

That night saw old wrongs forgiven,
    Friends, long parted, reconciled;
Voices all unused to laughter,
    Mournful eyes that rarely smiled,
Trembling hearts that feared the morrow,
    From their anxious thoughts beguiled.

Rich and poor felt love and blessing
    From the gracious season fall;
Joy and plenty in the cottage,
    Peace and feasting in the hall;
And the voices of the children
    Ringing clear above it all!

Yet one house was dim and darkened;
    Gloom, and sickness, and despair,
Dwelling in the gilded chambers.
    Creeping up the marble stair,
Even stilled the voice of mourning—
    For a child lay dying there.

Silken curtains fell around him,
    Velvet carpets hushed the tread.
Many costly toys were lying,
    All unheeded, by his bed;
And his tangled golden ringlets
    Were on downy pillows spread.

The skill of all that mighty City
    To save one little life was vain;
One little thread from being broken,
One fatal word from being spoken;
    Nay, his very mother's pain,
And the mighty love within her,
    Could not give him health again.

So she knelt there still beside him,
    She alone with strength to smile,
Promising that he should suffer
    No more in a little while,
Murmuring tender song and story
    Weary hours to beguile.

Suddenly an unseen Presence
    Checked those constant moaning cries,
Stilled the little heart's quick fluttering,
    Raised those blue and wondering eyes,
Fixed on some mysterious vision,
    With a startled sweet surprise.

For a radiant angel hovered,
    Smiling, o'er the little bed;
White his raiment, from his shoulders
    Snowy dove-like pinions spread,
And a starlike light was shining
    In a Glory round his head.

While, with tender love, the angel,
    Leaning o'er the little nest,
In his arms the sick child folding,
    Laid him gently on his breast,
Sobs and wailings told the mother
    That her darling was at rest.

So the angel, slowing rising,
    Spread his wings; and, through the air,
Bore the child, and while he held him
    To his heart with loving care,
Placed a branch of crimson roses
    Tenderly beside him there.

While the child, thus clinging, floated
    Towards the mansions of the Blest,
Gazing from his shining guardian
    To the flowers upon his breast,
Thus the angel spake, still smiling
    On the little heavenly guest:

"Know, dear little one, that Heaven
    Does no earthly thing disdain,
Man's poor joys find there an echo
    Just as surely as his pain;
Love, on earth so feebly striving,
    Lives divine in Heaven again!

"Once in that great town below us,
    In a poor and narrow street,
Dwelt a little sickly orphan;
    Gentle aid, or pity sweet,
Never in life's rugged pathway
    Guided his poor tottering feet.

"All the striving anxious forethought
    That should only come with age,
Weighed upon his baby spirit,
    Showed him soon life's sternest page;
Grim Want was his nurse, and Sorrow
    Was his only heritage.

"All too weak for childish pastimes,
    Drearily the hours sped;
On his hands so small and trembling
    Leaning his poor aching head,
Or, through dark and painful hours,
    Lying sleepless on his bed.

"Dreaming strange and longing fancies
    Of cool forests far away;
And of rosy, happy children,
    Laughing merrily at play,
Coming home through green lanes, bearing
    Trailing boughs of blooming May.

"Scarce a glimpse of azure heaven
    Gleamed above that narrow street,
And the sultry air of Summer
    (That you call so warm and sweet)
Fevered the poor Orphan, dwelling
    In the crowded alley's heat.

"One bright day, with feeble footsteps
    Slowly forth he tried to crawl,
Through the crowded city's pathways,
    Till he reached a garden-wall;
Where 'mid princely halls and mansions
    Stood the lordliest of all.

"There were trees with giant branches,
    Velvet glades where shadows hide;
There were sparkling fountains glancing,
    Flowers, which in luxuriant pride
Even wafted breaths of perfume
    To the child who stood outside.

"He against the gate of iron
    Pressed his wan and wistful face,
Gazing with an awe-struck pleasure
    At the glories of the place;
Never had his brightest day-dream
    Shone with half such wondrous grace.

"You were playing in that garden,
    Throwing blossoms in the air,
Laughing when the petals floated
    Downwards on your golden hair;
And the fond eyes watching o'er you,
And the splendour spread before you,
    Told a House's Hope was there.

"When your servants, tired of seeing
    Such a face of want and woe,
Turning to the ragged Orphan,
    Gave him coin, and bade him go,
Down his cheeks so thin and wasted,
    Bitter tears began to flow.

"But that look of childish sorrow
    On your tender child-heart fell,
And you plucked the reddest roses
    From the tree you loved so well,
Passed them through the stern cold grating,
    Gently bidding him 'Farewell!'

"Dazzled by the fragrant treasure
    And the gentle voice he heard,
In the poor forlorn boy's spirit,
    Joy, the sleeping Seraph, stirred;
In his hand he took the flowers,
    In his heart the loving word.

"So he crept to his poor garret;
    Poor no more, but rich and bright,
For the holy dreams of childhood—
    Love, and Rest, and Hope, and Light—
Floated round the Orphan's pillow
    Through the starry summer night.

"Day dawned, yet the visions lasted;
    All too weak to rise he lay;
Did he dream that none spake harshly—
    All were strangely kind that day?
Surely then his treasured roses
    Must have charmed all ills away.

"And he smiled, though they were fading;
    One by one their leaves were shed;
'Such bright things could never perish,
    They would bloom again,' he said.
When the next day's sun had risen
    Child and flowers both were dead.

"Know, dear little one! our Father
    Will no gentle deed disdain;
Love on the cold earth beginning
    Lives divine in Heaven again,
While the angel hearts that beat there
    Still all tender thoughts retain."

So the angel ceased, and gently
    O'er his little burthen leant;
While the child gazed from the shining,
    Loving eyes that o'er him bent,
To the blooming roses by him,
    Wondering what that mystery meant.

Thus the radiant angel answered,
    And with tender meaning smiled:
"Ere your childlike, loving spirit,
    Sin and the hard world defiled,
God has given me leave to seek you—
    I was once that little child!"

*            *            *            *            *            *

In the churchyard of that city
    Rose a tomb of marble rare,
Decked, as soon as Spring awakened,
    With her buds and blossoms fair—
And a humble grave beside it—
    No one knew who rested there.

 

___________________

 
ECHOES.

 

STILL the angel stars are shining,
    Still the rippling waters flow,
But the angel-voice is silent
    That I heard so long ago.
    Hark! the echoes murmur low,
                                Long ago!

Still the wood is dim and lonely,
    Still the plashing fountains play,
But the past and all its beauty,
    Whither has it fled away?
    Hark! the mournful echoes say,
                                Fled away!

Still the bird of night complaineth,
    (Now, indeed, her song is pain,)
Visions of my happy hours,
    Do I call and call in vain?
    Hark! the echoes cry again,
                                All in vain!

Cease, oh echoes, mournful echoes!
    Once I loved your voices well;
Now my heart is sick and weary—
    Days of old, a long farewell!
    Hark! the echoes sad and dreary
              Cry farewell, farewell!

 

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A FALSE GENIUS.

 

I SEE a Spirit by thy side,
Purple-winged and eagle-eyed,
Looking like a Heavenly guide.

Though he seem so bright and fair,
Ere thou trust his proffered care,
Pause a little, and beware!

If he bid thee dwell apart,
Tending some ideal smart
In a sick and coward heart;

In self-worship wrapped alone,
Dreaming thy poor griefs are grown
More than other men have known;

Dwelling in some cloudy sphere,
Though God's work is waiting here,
And God deigneth to be near;

If his torch's crimson glare
Show thee evil everywhere,
Tainting all the wholesome air;

While with strange distorted choice,
Still disdaining to rejoice,
Thou wilt hear a wailing voice;

If a simple, humble heart,
Seem to thee a meaner part,
Than thy noblest aim and art;

If he bid thee bow before
Crowned Mind and nothing more,
The great idol men adore;

And with starry veil enfold
Sin, the trailing serpent old,
Till his scales shine out like gold;

Though his words seem true and wise,
Soul, I say to thee—Arise.
He is a Demon in disguise!

 

___________________

 
MY PICTURE.

 

STAND this way—more near the window—
    By my desk—you see the light
Falling on my picture better—
    Thus I see it while I write!

Who the head may be I know not,
    But it has a student air;
With a look half sad, half stately,
    Grave sweet eyes and flowing hair.

Little care I who the painter,
    How obscure a name he bore;
Nor, when some have named Velasquez,
    Did I value it the more.

As it is, I would not give it
    For the rarest piece of art;
It has dwelt with me, and listened
    To the secrets of my heart.

Many a time, when to my garret,
    Weary, I returned at night,
It has seemed to look a welcome
    That has made my poor room bright.

Many a time, when ill and sleepless,
    I have watched the quivering gleam
Of my lamp upon that picture,
    Till it faded in my dream.

When dark days have come, and friendship
    Worthless seemed, and life in vain,
That bright friendly smile has sent me
    Boldly to my task again.

Sometimes when hard need has pressed me
    To bow down where I despise,
I have read stern words of counsel
    In those sad reproachful eyes.

Nothing that my brain imagined,
    Or my weary hand has wrought,
But it watched the dim Idea
    Spring forth into armed Thought.

It has smiled on my successes,
    Raised me when my hopes were low,
And by turns has looked upon me
    With all the loving eyes I know.

Do you wonder that my picture
    Has become so like a friend?—
It has seen my life's beginnings,
    It shall stay and cheer the end!

 

___________________

 
JUDGE NOT.

 

JUDGE not; the workings of his brain
    And of his heart thou canst not see;
What looks to thy dim eyes a stain,
    In God's pure light may only be
A scar, brought from some well-won field,
Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.

The look, the air, that frets thy sight,
    May be a token, that below
The soul has closed in deadly fight
    With some infernal fiery foe,
Whose glance would scorch thy smiling grace,
And cast thee shuddering on thy face!

The fall thou darest to despise—
    May be the angel's slackened hand
Has suffered it, that he may rise
    And take a firmer, surer stand;
Or, trusting less to earthly things,
May henceforth learn to use his wings.

And judge none lost; but wait, and see,
    With hopeful pity, not disdain;
The depth of the abyss may be
    The measure of the height of pain
And love and glory that may raise
This soul to God in after days!

 

___________________

 
FRIEND SORROW.

 

 DO not cheat thy Heart and tell her,
    "Grief will pass away,
Hope for fairer times in future,
    And forget to-day."—
Tell her, if you will, that sorrow
    Need not come in vain;
Tell her that the lesson taught her
    Far outweighs the pain.

Cheat her not with the old comfort,
    "Soon she will forget"—
Bitter truth, alas—but matter
    Rather for regret;
Bid her not "Seek other pleasures,
    Turn to other things:"—
Rather nurse her caged sorrow
    'Till the captive sings.

Rather bid her go forth bravely.
    And the stranger greet;
Not as foe, with spear and buckler,
    But as dear friends meet;
Bid her with a strong clasp hold her,
    By her dusky wings—
Listening for the murmured blessing
    Sorrow always brings.

 

___________________

 
ONE BY ONE.

 

One by one the sands are flowing,
    One by one the moments fall;
Some are coming, some are going;
    Do not strive to grasp them all.

One by one thy duties wait thee,
    Let thy whole strength go to each,
Let no future dreams elate thee,
    Learn thou first what these can teach.

One by one (bright gifts from Heaven)
    Joys are sent thee here below;
Take them readily when given,
    Ready too to let them go.

One by one thy griefs shall meet thee,
    Do not fear an armèd band;
One will fade as others greet thee;
    Shadows passing through the land.

Do not look at life's long sorrow;
    See how small each moment's pain;
God will help thee for to-morrow,
    So each day begin again.

Every hour that fleets so slowly
    Has its task to do or bear;
Luminous the crown, and holy,
    When each gem is set with care.

Do not linger with regretting,
    Or for passing hours despond;
Nor, the daily toil forgetting,
    Look too eagerly beyond.

Hours are golden links, God's token,
    Reaching Heaven; but one by one
Take them, lest the chain be broken
    Ere the pilgrimage be done.

 

___________________

 
TRUE HONOURS.

 

IS my darling tired already,
    Tired of her day of play?
Draw your little stool beside me,
    Smooth this tangled hair away.
Can she put the logs together,
    Till they make a cheerful blaze?
Shall her blind old Uncle tell her
    Something of his youthful days?

Hark!   The wind among the cedars
    Waves their white arms to and fro;
I remember how I watched them
    Sixty Christmas Days ago:
Then I dreamt a glorious vision
    Of great deeds to crown each year—
Sixty Christmas Days have found me
    Useless, helpless, blind—and here!

Yes, I feel my darling stealing
    Warm soft fingers into mine—
Shall I tell her what I fancied
    In that strange old dream of mine?
I was kneeling by the window,
    Reading how a noble band,
With the red cross on their breast-plates,
    Went to gain the Holy Land.

While with eager eyes of wonder
    Over the dark page I bent,
Slowly twilight shadows gathered
    Till the letters came and went;
Slowly, till the night was round me;
    Then my heart beat loud and fast,
For I felt before I saw it
    That a spirit near me passed.

Then I raised my eyes, and shining
    Where the moon's first ray was bright
Stood a winged Angel-warrior
    Clothed and panoplied in light:
So, with Heaven's love upon him,
    Stern in calm and resolute will,
Looked St. Michael—does the picture
    Hang in the old cloister still?

Threefold were the dreams of honour
    That absorbed my heart and brain;
Threefold crowns the Angel promised,
    Each one to be bought by pain:
While he spoke, a threefold blessing
    Fell upon my soul like rain.
HELPER OF THE POOR AND SUFFERING;
    VICTOR IN A GLORIOUS STRIFE;
SINGER OF A NOBLE POEM:
    Such the honours of my life.

Ah, that dream! Long years that gave me
    Joy and grief as real things
Never touched the tender memory
    Sweet and solemn that it brings—
Never quite effaced the feeling
    Of those white and shadowing wings.

Do those blue eyes open wider?
    Does my faith too foolish seem?
Yes, my darling, years have taught me
    It was nothing but a dream.
Soon, too soon, the bitter knowledge
    Of a fearful trial rose,
Rose to crush my heart, and sternly
    Bade my young ambition close.

More and more my eyes were clouded,
    Till at last God's glorious light
Passed away from me for ever,
    And I lived and live in night.
Dear, I will not dim your pleasure,
    Christmas should be only gay—
In my night the stars have risen,
    And I wait the dawn of day.

Spite of all I could be happy;
    For my brothers' tender care
In their boyish pastimes ever
    Made me take, or feel a share.
Philip, even then so thoughtful,
    Max so noble, brave and tall,
And your father, little Godfrey,
    The most loving of them all.

Philip reasoned down my sorrow,
    Max would laugh my gloom away,
Godfrey's little arms put round me,
    Helped me through my dreariest day;
While the promise of my Angel,
    Like a star, now bright, now pale,
Hung in blackest night above me,
    And I felt it could not fail.

Years passed on, my brothers left me,
    Each went out to take his share
In the struggle of life; my portion
    Was a humble one—to bear.
Here I dwelt, and learnt to wander
    Through the woods and fields alone,
Every cottage in the village
    Had a corner called my own.

Old and young, all brought their troubles,
    Great or small, for me to hear;
I have often blessed my sorrow
    That drew others' grief so near.
Ah, the people needed helping—
    Needed love—(for Love and Heaven
Are the only gifts not bartered,
    They alone are freely given)—

And I gave it.   Philip's bounty,
    (We were orphans, dear,) made toil
Prosper, and want never fastened
    On the tenants of the soil.
Philip's name (Oh, how I gloried,
    He so young, to see it rise!)
Soon grew noted among statesmen
    As a patriot true and wise.

And his people all felt honoured
    To be ruled by such a name;
I was proud too that they loved me;
    Through their pride in him it came.
He had gained what I had longed for,
    I meanwhile grew glad and gay,
'Mid his people, to be serving
    Him and them, in some poor way.

How his noble earnest speeches,
    With untiring fervour came;
HELPER OF THE POOR AND SUFFERING;
    Truly he deserved the name!
Had my Angel's promise failed me?
    Had that word of hope grown dim?
Why, my Philip had fulfilled it,
    And I loved it best in him!

Max meanwhile—ah, you, my darling,
    Can his loving words recall—
'Mid the bravest and the noblest,
    Braver, nobler, than them all.
How I loved him! how my heart thrilled
    When his sword clanked by his side.
When I touched his gold embroidery,
    Almost saw him in his pride!

So we parted; he all eager
    To uphold the name he bore,
Leaving in my charge—he loved me—
    Some one whom he loved still more:
I must tend this gentle flower,
    I must speak to her of him,
For he feared—Love still is fearful—
    That his memory might grow dim.

I must guard her from all sorrow,
    I must play a brother's part,
Shield all grief and trial from her,
    If it need be, with my heart.
Years passed, and his name grew famous;
    We were proud, both she and I;
And we lived upon his letters,
    While the slow days fleeted by.

Then at last—you know the story,
    How a fearful rumour spread,
Till all hope had slowly faded,
    And we heard that he was dead.
Dead!   Oh, those were bitter hours;
    Yet within my soul there dwelt
A warning, and while others mourned him,
    Something like a hope I felt.

His was no weak life as mine was,
    But a life, so full and strong—
No, I could not think he perished
    Nameless, 'mid a conquered throng.
How she drooped!   Years passed; no tidings
    Came, and yet that little flame
Of strange hope within my spirit
    Still burnt on, and lived the same.

Ah! my child, our hearts will fail us,
    When to us they strongest seem;
I can look back on those hours
    As a fearful, evil dream.
She had long despaired; what wonder
    That her heart had turned to mine?
Earthly loves are deep and tender,
    Not eternal and divine!

Can I say how bright a future
    Rose before my soul that day?
Oh, so strange, so sweet, so tender—
    And I had to turn away.
Hard and terrible the struggle,
    For the pain not mine alone;
I called back my Brother's spirit,
    And I bade him claim his own.

Told her—now I dared to do it—
    That I felt the day would rise
When he would return to gladden
    My weak heart and her bright eyes.
And I pleaded—pleaded sternly—
    In his name, and for his sake:
Now, I can speak calmly of it,
    Then, I thought my heart would break.

Soon—ah, Love had not deceived me,
    (Love's true instincts never err,)
Wounded, weak, escaped from prison,
    He returned to me; to her.
I could thank God that bright morning,
    When I felt my Brother's gaze,
That my heart was true and loyal,
    As in our old boyish days.

Bought by wounds and deeds of daring,
    Honours he had brought away;
Glory crowned his name—my Brother's;
    Mine too!—we were one that day.
Since the crown on him had fallen,
    "VICTOR IN A NOBLE STRIFE,"
I could live and die contented
    With my poor ignoble life.

Well, my darling, almost weary
    Of my story?   Wait awhile;
For the rest is only joyful;
    I can tell it with a smile.
One bright promise still was left me,
    Wound so close about my soul,
That, as one by one had failed me,
    This dream now absorbed the whole.

"SINGER OF A NOBLE POEM,"—
    Ah, my darling, few and rare
Burn the glorious names of Poets,
    Like stars in the purple air.
That too, and I glory in it,
    That great gift my Godfrey won;
I have my dear share of honour,
    Gained by that beloved one.

One day shall my darling read it;
    Now she cannot understand
All the noble thoughts, that lighten
    Through the genius of the land.
I am proud to be his brother,
    Proud to think that hope was true;
Though I longed and strove so vainly,
    What I failed in, he could do.

I was long before I knew it,
    Longer ere I felt it so;
Then I strung my rhymes together
    Only for the poor and low.
And, it pleases me to know it,
    (For I love them well indeed,)
They care for my humble verses,
    Fitted for their humble need.

And, it cheers my heart to bear it,
    Where the far-off settlers roam,
My poor words are sung and cherished,
    Just because they speak of Home.
And the little children sing them,
    (That, I think, has pleased me best,)
Often, too, the dying love them,
    For they tell of Heaven and rest.

So my last vain dream has faded;
    (Such as I to think of fame!)
Yet I will not say it failed me,
    For it crowned my Godfrey's name.
No; my Angel did not cheat me,
    For my long life has been blest;
He did give me Love and Sorrow,
    He will bring me Light and Rest.

 

___________________

 
A WOMAN'S QUESTION.

 

 BEFORE I trust my Fate to thee,
    Or place my hand in thine,
Before I let thy Future give
    Colour and form to mine,
Before I peril all for thee, question thy soul
        to-night for me.

I break all slighter bonds, nor feel
    A shadow of regret:
Is there one link within the Past,
    That holds thy spirit yet?
Or is thy Faith as clear and free as that which
        I can pledge to thee?

Does there within thy dimmest dreams
    A possible future shine,
Wherein thy life could henceforth breathe,
    Untouched, unshared by mine?
If so, at any pain or cost, oh, tell me before
        all is lost.

Look deeper still. If thou canst feel
    Within thy inmost soul,
That thou hast kept a portion back,
    While I have staked the whole;
Let no false pity spare the blow, but in true
        mercy tell me so.

Is there within thy heart a need
    That mine cannot fulfil?
One chord that any other hand
    Could better wake or still?
Speak now—lest at some future day my whole
        life wither and decay.

Lives there within thy nature bid
    The demon-spirit Change,
Shedding a passing glory still
    On all things new and strange?—
It may not be thy fault alone—but shield my
        heart against thy own.

Couldst thou withdraw thy hand one day
    And answer to my claim,
That Fate, and that to-day's mistake,
    Not thou—had been to blame?
Some soothe their conscience thus: but thou,
        wilt surely warn and save me now.

Nay, answer not—I dare not hear,
    The words would come too late;
Yet I would spare thee all remorse,
    So, comfort thee, my Fate—
Whatever on my heart may fall—remember
        I would risk it all!

 

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THE THREE RULERS.

 

I SAW a Ruler take his stand
And trample on a mighty land;
The People crouched before his beck,
His iron heel was on their neck,
His name shone bright through blood and pain,
His sword flashed back their praise again.

I saw another Ruler rise—
His words were noble, good, and wise;
With the calm sceptre of his pen
He ruled the minds and thoughts of men;
Some scoffed, some praised—while many heard,
Only a few obeyed his word.

Another Ruler then I saw—
Love and sweet Pity were his law:
The greatest and the least had part
(Yet most the unhappy) in his heart—
The People, in a mighty band,
Rose up, and drove him from the land!

 

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A DEAD PAST.

 

SPARE her at least: look, you have taken from me
The Present, and I murmur not, nor moan;
The Future too, with all her glorious promise;
But do not leave me utterly alone.

Spare me the Past—for, see, she cannot harm you,
She lies so white and cold, wrapped in her shroud;
All, all my own! and, trust me, I will hide her
Within my soul, nor speak to her aloud.

I folded her soft hands upon her bosom,
And strewed my flowers upon her—they still live—
Sometimes I like to kiss her closed white eye-lids,
And think of all the joy she used to give.

Cruel indeed it were to take her from me;
She sleeps, she will not wake—no fear—again:
And so I laid her, such a gentle burthen,
Quietly on my heart to still its pain.

I do not think that any smiling Present,
Any vague Future, spite of all her charms,
Could ever rival her.   You know you laid her,
Long years ago, then living, in my arms.

Leave her at least—while my tears fall upon her,
I dream she smiles, just as she did of yore;
As dear as ever to me—nay, it may be,
Even dearer still—since I have nothing more.

 

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A DOUBTING HEART.

 

WHERE are the swallows fled?
            Frozen and dead,
Perchance upon some bleak and stormy shore.
              Oh doubting heart!
          Far over purple seas,
          They wait, in sunny ease,
          The balmy southern breeze,
To bring them to their northern homes once
                more.

Why must the flowers die?
              Prisoned they lie
In the cold tomb, heedless of tears or rain.
              Oh doubting heart!
          They only sleep below
          The soft white ermine snow,
          While winter winds shall blow,
To breathe and smile upon you soon again.

The sun has hid its rays
              These many days;
Will dreary hours never leave the earth?
              Oh doubting heart!
          The stormy clouds on high
          Veil the same sunny sky,
          That soon (for spring is nigh)
Shall wake the summer into golden mirth.

Fair hope is dead, and light
              Is quenched in night.
What sound can break the silence of despair?
              Oh doubting heart!
          Thy sky is overcast,
          Yet stars shall rise at last,
          Brighter for darkness past,
And angels' silver voices stir the air.

 

___________________

 
A STUDENT.

 

OVER an ancient scroll I bent,
Steeping my soul in wise content,
Nor paused a moment, save to chide
A low voice whispering at my side.

I wove beneath the stars' pale shine
A dream, half human, half divine;
And shook off (not to break the charm)
A little hand laid on my arm.

I read; until my heart would glow
With the great deeds of long ago;
Nor heard, while with those mighty dead,
Pass to and fro a faltering tread.

On the old theme I pondered long—
The struggle between right and wrong;
I could not check such visions high,
To soothe a little quivering sigh.

I tried to solve the problem—Life;
Dreaming of that mysterious strife,
How could I leave such reasonings wise,
To answer two blue pleading eyes?

I strove how best to give, and when,
My blood to save my fellow-men—
How could I turn aside, to look
At snowdrops laid upon my book?

Now Time has fled—the world is strange,
Something there is of pain and change;
My books lie closed upon the shelf;
I miss the old heart in myself.

I miss the sunbeams in my room—
It was not always wrapped in gloom:
I miss my dreams—they fade so fast,
Or flit into some trivial past.

The great stream of the world goes by;
None care, or heed, or question, why
I, the lone student, cannot raise
My voice or hand as in old days.

No echo seems to wake again
My heart to anything but pain,
Save when a dream of twilight brings
The fluttering of an angel's wings!

 

___________________

 
A KNIGHT ERRANT.

 

THOUGH he lived and died among us,
    Yet his name may be enrolled
With the knights whose deeds of daring
    Ancient chronicles have told.

Still a stripling, he encountered
    Poverty, and struggled long,
Gathering force from every effort,
    Till he knew his arm was strong.

Then his heart and life he offered
    To his radiant mistress—Truth;
Never thought, or dream, or faltering,
    Marred the promise of his youth.

So he rode forth to defend her,
    And her peerless worth proclaim;
Challenging each recreant doubter
    Who aspersed her spotless name.

First upon his path stood Ignorance,
    Hideous in his brutal might;
Hard the blows and long the battle
    Ere the monster took to flight.

Then, with light and fearless spirit,
    Prejudice he dared to brave;
Hunting back the lying craven
    To her black sulphureous cave.

Followed by his servile minions,
    Custom, the old Giant, rose;
Yet he, too, at last was conquered
    By the good Knight's weighty blows.

Then he turned, and, flushed with victory
    Struck upon the brazen shield
Of the world's great king, Opinion
    And defied him to the field.

Once again he rose a conqueror,
    And, though wounded in the fight,
With a dying smile of triumph
    Saw that Truth had gained her right.

On his failing ear re-echoing
    Came the shouting round her throne;
Little cared he that no future
    With her name would link his own.

Spent with many a hard-fought battle,
    Slowly ebbed his life away,
And the crowd that flocked to greet her
    Trampled on him where he lay.

Gathering all his strength, he saw her
    Crowned and reigning in her pride!
Looked his last upon her beauty,
    Raised his eyes to God, and died.

 

___________________

 
LINGER, OH, GENTLE TIME.

 

        LINGER, oh, gentle Time,
Linger, oh, radiant grace of bright To-day!
        Let not the hours' chime
                Call thee away,
But linger near me still with fond delay.

        Linger, for thou art mine!
What dearer treasures can the future hold?
        What sweeter flowers than thine
                Can she unfold?
What secrets tell my heart thou hast not told?

        Oh, linger in thy flight!
For shadows gather round, and should we part,
        A dreary starless night
                May fill my heart,—
Then pause and linger yet ere thou depart.

        Linger, I ask no more,—
Thou art enough for ever—thou alone;
        What future can restore,
                When thou art flown,
All that I hold from thee and call my own?

 

___________________

 
HOMEWARD BOUND.

 

I HAVE seen a fiercer tempest,
    Known a louder whirlwind blow;
I was wrecked off red Algiers,
    Six-and-thirty years ago.
Young I was, and yet old seamen
    Were not strong or calm as I;
While life held such treasures for me,
    I felt sure I could not die.

Life I struggled for—and saved it;
    Life alone—and nothing more;
Bruised, half dead, alone and helpless,
    I was cast upon the shore.
I feared the pitiless rocks of Ocean;
    So the great sea rose—and then
Cast me from her friendly bosom,
    On the pitiless hearts of men.

Gaunt and dreary ran the mountains,
    With black gorges, up the land;
Up to where the lonely Desert
    Spreads her burning, dreary sand:
In the gorges of the mountains,
    On the plain beside the sea,
Dwelt my stern and cruel masters,
    The black Moors of Barbary.

Ten long years I toiled among them,
    Hopeless—as I used to say;
Now I know Hope burnt within me
    Fiercer, stronger, day by day:
Those dim years of toil and sorrow
    Like one long dark dream appear;
One long day of weary waiting—
    Then each day was like a year.

How I cursed the land—my prison;
    How I cursed the serpent sea—
And the Demon Fate that showered
    All her curses upon me;
I was mad, I think—God pardon
    Words so terrible and wild—
This voyage would have been my last one,
    For I left a wife and child.

Never did one tender vision
    Fade away before my sight,
Never once through all my slavery,
    Burning day or dreary night;
In my soul it lived, and kept me,
    Now I feel, from black despair,
And my heart was not quite broken,
    While they lived and blest me there.

When at night my task was over,
    I would hasten to the shore;
(All was strange and foreign inland,
    Nothing I had known before;)
Strange looked the bleak mountain passes,
    Strange the red glare and black shade,
And the Oleanders, waving
    To the sound the fountains made.

Then I gazed at the great Ocean,
    Till she grew a friend again;
And because she knew old England,
    I forgave her all my pain:
So the blue still sky above me,
    With its white clouds' fleecy fold,
And the glimmering stars, (though brighter,)
    Looked like home and days of old.

And a calm would fall upon me,
    Worn perhaps with work and pain,
The wild hungry longing left me,
    And I was myself again:
Looking at the silver waters,
    Looking up at the far sky,
Dreams of home and all I left there
    Floated sorrowfully by.

A fair face, but pale with sorrow,
    With blue eyes, brimful of tears,
And the little red mouth, quivering
    With a smile, to hide its fears;
Holding out her baby towards me,
    From the sky she looked on me;
So it was that last I saw her,
    As the ship put out to sea.

Sometimes, (and a pang would seize me
    That the years were floating on,)
I would strive to paint her, altered,
    And the little baby gone:
She no longer young and girlish,
    The child, standing by her knee,
And her face, more pale and saddened
    With the weariness for me.

Then I saw, as night grew darker.
    How she taught my child to pray,
Holding its small hands together,
    For its father, far away;
And I felt her sorrow, weighing
    Heavier on me than my own;
Pitying her blighted spring-time,
    And her joy so early flown.

Till upon my hands (now hardened
    With the rough, harsh toil of years)
Bitter drops of anguish falling,
    Woke me from my dream, to tears;
Woke me as a slave, an outcast.
    Leagues from home, across the deep;
So—though you may call it childish—
    So I sobbed myself to sleep.

Well, the years sped on—my Sorrow,
    Calmer, and yet stronger grown,
Was my shield against all suffering,
    Poorer, meaner, than her own.
Thus my cruel master's harshness
    Fell upon me all in vain,
Yet the tale of what we suffered
    Echoed back from main to main.

You have heard in a far country
    Of a self-devoted band,
Vowed to rescue Christian captives
    Pining in a foreign land.
And these gentle-hearted strangers
    Year by year go forth from Rome,
In their hands the hard-earned ransom,
    To restore some exiles home.

I was freed: they broke the tidings
    Gently to me: but indeed
Hour by hour sped on, I knew not
    What the words meant—I was freed!
Better so, perhaps; while sorrow
    (More akin to earthly things)
Only strains the sad heart's fibres—
    Joy, bright stranger, breaks the strings.

Yet at last it rushed upon me,
    And my heart beat full and fast;
What were now my years of waiting,
    What was all the dreary past?
Nothing—to the impatient throbbing
    I must bear across the sea:
Nothing—to the eternal hours
    Still between my home and me!

How the voyage passed, I know not;
    Strange it was once more to stand
With my countrymen around me,
    And to clasp an English hand.
But, through all, my heart was dreaming
    Of the first words I should hear,
In the gentle voice that echoed,
    Fresh as ever, on my ear.

Should I see her start of wonder,
    And the sudden truth arise,
Flushing all her face and lightening
    The dimmed splendour of her eyes?
Oh! to watch the fear and doubting
    Stir the silent depths of pain,
And the rush of joy—then melting
    Into perfect peace again.

And the child!—but why remember
    Foolish fancies that I thought?
Every tree and every hedge-row
    From the well-known past I brought:
I would picture my dear cottage,
    See the crackling wood-fire burn,
And the two beside it seated,
    Watching, waiting, my return.

So, at last we reached the harbour.
    I remember nothing more
Till I stood, my sick heart throbbing,
    With my hand upon the door.
There I paused—I heard her speaking;
    Low, soft, murmuring words she said;
Then I first knew the dumb terror
    I had had, lest she were dead.

It was evening in late autumn,
    And the gusty wind blew chill;
Autumn leaves were falling round me,
    And the red sun lit the hill.
Six-and-twenty years are vanished
    Since then—I am old and grey,
But I never told to mortal
    What I saw, until this day.

She was seated by the fire,
    In her arms she held a child,
Whispering baby-words caressing,
    And then, looking up, she smiled:
Smiled on him who stood beside her—
    Oh! the bitter truth was told,
In her look of trusting fondness—
    I had seen the look of old!

But she rose and turned towards me
    (Cold and dumb I waited there)
With a shriek of fear and terror,
    And a white face of despair.
He had been an ancient comrade—
    Not a single word we said,
While we gazed upon each other,
    He the living: I the dead!

I drew nearer, nearer to her,
    And I took her trembling hand,
Looking on her white face, looking
    That her heart might understand
All the love and all the pity
    That my lips refused to say—
I thank God no thought save sorrow
    Rose in our crushed hearts that day.

Bitter tears that desolate moment,
    Bitter, bitter tears we wept,
We three broken hearts together,
    While the baby smiled and slept.
Tears alone—no words were spoken,
    Till he—till her husband said
That my boy, (I had forgotten
    The poor child,) that he was dead.

Then at last I rose, and, turning,
    Wrung his hand, but made no sign;
And I stooped and kissed her forehead
    Once more, as if she were mine.
Nothing of farewell I uttered,
    Save in broken words to pray
That God would ever guard and bless her—
    Then in silence passed away.

Over the great restless ocean
    Six-and-twenty years I roam;
All my comrades, old and weary,
    Have gone back to die at home.—
Home! yes, I shall reach a haven,
    I, too, shall reach home and rest;
I shall find her waiting for me
    With our baby on her breast.

 

___________________

 
LIFE AND DEATH.

 

   "WHAT is Life, Father?"
                                 "A Battle, my child,
    Where the strongest lance may fail,
Where the wariest eyes may be beguiled,
    And the stoutest heart may quail.
Where the foes are gathered on every hand,
    And rest not day or night,
And the feeble little ones must stand
    In the thickest of the fight."

   "What is Death, Father?"
                                 "The rest, my child,
    When the strife and the toil are o'er;
The Angel of God, who, calm and mild,
    Says we need fight no more;
Who, driving away the demon band,
    Bids the din of the battle cease;
Takes banner and spear from our failing hand,
    And proclaims an eternal Peace."

   "Let me die, Father! I tremble and fear
    To yield in that terrible strife!"

   "The crown must be won for Heaven, dear,
    In the battle-field of life:
My child, though thy foes are strong and
            tried,
    He loveth the weak and small;
The Angels of Heaven are on thy side,
    And God is over all!"

 

___________________

 
NOW.

 

RISE! for the day is passing,
    And you lie dreaming on;
The others have buckled their armour,
    And forth to the fight are gone:
A place in the ranks awaits you,
    Each man has some part to play;
The Past and the Future are nothing,
    In the face of the stern To-day.

Rise from your dreams of the Future—
    Of gaining some hard-fought field;
Of storming some airy fortress,
    Or bidding some giant yield;
Your Future has deeds of glory,
    Of honour (God grant it may!)
But your arm will never be stronger,
    Or the need so great as To-day.

Rise! if the Past detains you,
    Her sunshine and storms forget;
No chains so unworthy to hold you
    As those of a vain regret:
Sad or bright, she is lifeless ever,
    Cast her phantom arms away,
Nor look back, save to learn the lesson
    Of a nobler strife To-day.

Rise! for the day is passing:
    The sound that you scarcely hear
Is the enemy marching to battle—
    Arise! for the foe is here!
Stay not to sharpen your weapons,
    Or the hour will strike at last,
When, from dreams of a coming battle,
    You may wake to find it past!

 

___________________

 
CLEANSING FIRES.

 

LET thy gold be cast in the furnace,
    Thy red gold, precious and bright,
Do not fear the hungry fire,
    With its caverns of burning light:
And thy gold shall return more precious,
    Free from every spot and stain;
For gold must be tried by fire,
    As a heart must be tried by pain!

In the cruel fire of Sorrow
    Cast thy heart, do not faint or wail;
Let thy hand be firm and steady,
    Do not let thy spirit quail:
But wait till the trial is over,
    And take thy heart again;
For as gold is tried by fire,
    So a heart must be tried by pain!

I shall know by the gleam and glitter
    Of the golden chain you wear,
By your heart's calm strength in loving,
    Of the fire they have had to bear.
Beat on, true heart, for ever;
    Shine bright, strong golden chain;
And bless the cleansing fire,
    And the furnace of living pain!

 

___________________

 
THE VOICE OF THE WIND.

 

LET us throw more logs on the fire!
    We have need of a cheerful light,
And close round the hearth to gather,
    For the wind has risen to-night.
With the mournful sound of its wailing
    It has checked the children's glee,
And it calls with a louder clamour
    Than the clamour of the sea.
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

Let us listen to what it is saying,
    Let us hearken to where it has been;
For it tells, in its terrible crying,
    The fearful sights it has seen.
It clatters loud at the casements,
    Round the house it hurries on,
And shrieks with redoubled fury,
    When we say "The blast is gone!"
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

It has been on the field of battle,
    Where the dying and wounded lie;
And it brings the last groan they uttered,
    And the ravenous vulture's cry.
It has been where the icebergs were meeting,
    And closed with a fearful crash;
On shores where no foot has wandered,
    It has heard the waters dash.
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

It has been on the desolate ocean,
    When the lightning struck the mast;
It has heard the cry of the drowning,
    Who sank as it hurried past;
The words of despair and anguish,
    That were heard by no living ear;
The gun that no signal answered:
    It brings them all to us here.
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

It has been on the lonely moorland,
    Where the treacherous snow-drift lies,
Where the traveller, spent and weary,
    Gasped fainter and fainter cries;
It has heard the bay of the bloodhounds,
    On the track of the hunted slave,
The lash and the curse of the master,
    And the groan that the captive gave.
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

It has swept through the gloomy forest,
    Where the sledge was urged to its speed,
Where the howling wolves were rushing
    On the track of the panting steed.
Where the pool was black and lonely,
    It caught up a splash and a cry—
Only the bleak sky heard it,
    And the wind as it hurried by.
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

Then throw more logs on the fire,
    Since the air is bleak and cold,
And the children are drawing nigher,
    For the tales that the wind has told.
So closer and closer gather
    Round the red and crackling light;
And rejoice (while the wind is blowing)
    We are safe and warm to-night.
               Hark to the voice of the wind!

 

___________________

 
TREASURES.

 

LET me count my treasures,
    All my soul holds dear,
Given me by dark spirits
    Whom I used to fear.

Through long days of anguish,
    And sad nights, did Pain
Forge my shield, Endurance,
    Bright and free from stain!

Doubt, in misty caverns,
    'Mid dark horrors sought,
Till my peerless jewel,
    Faith to me she brought.

Sorrow, that I wearied
    Should remain so long,
Wreathed my starry glory,
    The bright Crown of Song.

Strife, that racked my spirit,
    Without hope or rest,
Left the blooming flower,
    Patience, on my breast.

Suffering, that I dreaded,
    Ignorant of her charms,
Laid the fair child, Pity,
    Smiling, in my arms.

So I count my treasures,
    Stored in days long past—
And I thank the givers,
    Whom I know at last!

 

___________________

 
SHINING STARS.

 

SHINE, ye stars of heaven,
    On a world of pain!
See old Time destroying
    All our hoarded gain;
All our sweetest flowers,
    Every stately shrine,
All our hard-earned glory,
    Every dream divine!

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
    On the rolling years!
See how Time, consoling,
    Dries the saddest tears,
Bids the darkest storm-clouds
    Pass in gentle rain;
While upspring in glory,
    Flowers and dreams again!

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
    On a world of fear!
See how Time, avenging,
    Bringeth judgment here;
Weaving ill-won honours
    To a fiery crown;
Bidding hard hearts perish;
    Casting proud hearts down.

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
    On the hours' slow flight!
See how Time, rewarding,
    Gilds good deeds with light;
Pays with kingly measure;
    Brings earth's dearest prize;
Or, crowned with rays diviner,
    Bids the end arise!

 

___________________

 
WAITING.

 

"WHEREFORE dwell so sad and lonely,
    By the desolate sea-shore,
With the melancholy surges
    Beating at your cottage door?

"You shall dwell beside the castle
    Shadowed by our ancient trees;
And your life shall pass on gently,
    Cared for, and in rest and ease."

"Lady, one who loved me dearly
    Sailed for distant lands away;
And I wait here his returning
    Hopefully from day to day.

"To my door I bring my spinning,
    Watching every ship I see;
Waiting, hoping, till the sunset
    Fades into the western sea.

"After sunset, at my casement,
    Still I place a signal light;
He will see its well-known shining
    Should his ship return at night.

"Lady, see your infant smiling,
    With its flaxen curling hair—
I remember when your mother
    Was a baby just as fair.

"I was watching then, and hoping:
    Years have brought great change to all;
To my neighbours in their cottage,
    To you nobles at the hall.

"Not to me—for I am waiting,
    And the years have fled so fast,
I must look at you to tell me
    That a weary time has past!

"When I hear a footstep coming
    On the shingle—years have fled—
Yet amid a thousand others,
    I shall know his quick, light tread.

"When I hear (to-night it may be)
    Some one pausing at my door,
I shall know the gay soft accents,
    Heard and welcomed oft before!

"So each day I am more hopeful,
    He may come before the night:
Every sunset I feel surer
    He must come ere morning light.

"Then I thank you, noble lady,
    But I cannot do your will:
Where he left me, he must find me.
    Waiting, watching, hoping, still!"

 

___________________

 
THE CRADLE SONG OF THE POOR.

 

HUSH!   I cannot bear to see thee
    Stretch thy tiny hands in vain;
Dear, I have no bread to give thee,
    Nothing, child, to ease thy pain!
When God sent thee first to bless me,
    Proud, and thankful too, was I;
Now, my darling I, thy mother,
    Almost long to see thee die.
            Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
            God is good, but life is dreary.

I have watched thy beauty fading,
    And thy strength sink day by day;
Soon, I know, will Want and Fever
    Take thy little life away.
Famine makes thy father reckless,
    Hope has left both him and me;
We could suffer all, my baby,
    Had we but a crust for thee.
            Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
            God is good, but life is dreary.

Better thou shouldst perish early,
    Starve so soon, my darling one,
Than in helpless sin and sorrow
    Vainly live, as I have done.
Better that thy angel spirit
    With my joy, my peace, were flown,
Than thy heart grew cold and careless,
    Reckless, hopeless, like my own.
            Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
            God is good, but life is dreary.

I am wasted, dear, with hunger,
    And my brain is all opprest,
I have scarcely strength to press thee,
    Wan and feeble, to my breast.
Patience, baby, God will help us,
    Death will come to thee and me,
He will take us to his Heaven,
    Where no want or pain can be.
            Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
            God is good, but life is dreary.

Such the plaint that, late and early,
    Did we listen, we might hear
Close beside us,—but the thunder
    Of a city dulls our ear.
Every heart, as God's bright Angel,
    Can bid one such sorrow cease;
God has glory when his children
    Bring his poor ones joy and peace!
            Listen, nearer while she sings
            Sounds the fluttering of wings!

 

___________________


 

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