Legends and Lyrics, Series 2.
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 IF THOU COULDST KNOW.

 

            I THINK if thou couldst know,
                Oh soul that will complain,
            What lies concealed below
                Our burden and our pain;
            How just our anguish brings
            Nearer those longed-for things
            We seek for now in vain,—
I think thou wouldst rejoice, and not complain.

            I think if thou couldst see,
                With thy dim mortal sight,
            How meanings, dark to thee,
                Are shadows hiding light;
            Truth's efforts crossed and vexed,
            Life's purpose all perplexed,—
            If thou couldst see them right,
I think that they would seem all clear, and
            wise, and bright.

            And yet thou canst not know,
                And yet thou canst not see;
            Wisdom and sight are slow
                In poor humanity.
            If thou couldst trust, poor soul,
            In Him who rules the whole,
            Thou wouldst find peace and rest:
Wisdom and sight are well, but Trust is best.

 

___________________

 
THE WARRIOR TO HIS DEAD BRIDE.

 

IF in the fight my arm was strong,
    And forced my foes to yield,
If conquering and unhurt I came
    Back from the battle-field—
It is because thy prayers have been
    My safeguard and my shield.

My comrades smile to see my arm
    Spare or protect a foe,
They think thy gentle pleading voice
    Was silenced long ago;
But pity and compassion, love,
    Were taught me first by woe.

Thy heart, my own, still beats in Heaven
    With the same love divine
That made thee stoop to such a soul,
    So hard, so stern, as mine—
My eyes have learnt to weep, beloved,
    Since last they looked on thine.

I hear thee murmur words of peace
    Through the dim midnight air,
And a calm falls from the angel stars
    And soothes my great despair—
The Heavens themselves look brighter, love,
    Since thy sweet soul is there.

And if my heart is once more calm,
    My step is once more free,
It is because each hour I feel
    Thou prayest still for me;
Because no fate or change can come
    Between my soul and thee.

It is because my heart is stilled.
    Not broken by despair,
Because I see the grave is bright,
    And death itself is fair—
I dread no more the wrath of Heaven—
    I have an angel there!

 

___________________

 
A LETTER.

 

DEAR, I tried to write you such a letter
As would tell you all my heart to-day.
Written Love is poor; one word were better;
Easier, too, a thousand times, to say.

I can tell you all: fears, doubts unheeding,
While I can be near you, hold your hand,
Looking right into your eyes, and reading
Reassurance that you understand.

Yet I wrote it through, then lingered,
        thinking
Of its reaching you,—what hour, what day;
Till I felt my heart and courage sinking
With a strange, new, wondering dismay.

"Will my letter fall," I wondered sadly,
"On her mood like some discordant tone,
Or be welcomed tenderly and gladly?
Will she be with others, or alone?

"It may find her too absorbed to read it,
Save with hurried glance and careless air:
Sad and weary, she may scarcely heed it;
Gay and happy, she may hardly care.

"Shall I—dare I—risk the chances?" slowly
Something,—was it shyness, love, or pride?—
Chilled my heart, and checked my courage
        wholly;
So I laid it wistfully aside.

Then I leant against the casement, turning
Tearful eyes towards the far-off west,
Where the golden evening light was burning,
Till my heart throbbed back again to rest.

And I thought: "Love's soul is not in fetters,
Neither space nor time keep souls apart;
Since I cannot—dare not—send my letters,
Through the silence I will send my heart.

"If, perhaps now, while my tears are falling,
She is dreaming quietly alone,
She will hear my Love's far echo calling,
Feel my spirit drawing near her own.

"She will hear, while twilight shades enfold
        her,
All the gathered Love she knows so well—
Deepest Love my words have ever told her,
Deeper still—all I could never tell.

"Wondering at the strange mysterious power
That has touched her heart, then she will
        say:—
'Some one whom I love, this very hour,
Thinks of me, and loves me, far away.'

"If, as well may be, to-night has found her
Full of other thoughts, with others by,
Through the words and claims that gather
        round her
She will hear just one, half-smothered sigh;

"Or will marvel why, without her seeking,
Suddenly the thought of me recurs;
Or, while listening to another speaking,
Fancy that my hand is holding hers."

So I dreamed, and watched the stars' far
        splendour
Glimmering on the azure darkness, start,—
While the star of trust rose bright and tender,
Through the twilight shadows of my heart.

 

___________________

 
A COMFORTER.

I.

 

WILL she come to me, little Effie,
    Will she come in my arms to rest,
And nestle her head on my shoulder,
    While the sun goes down in the west?


II.


"I and Effie will sit together,
    All alone, in this great arm-chair:—
Is it silly to mind it, darling,
    When Life is so hard to bear?


III.


"No one comforts me like my Effie,
    Just I think that she does not try,—
Only looks with a wistful wonder
    Why grown people should ever cry;


IV.


"While her little soft arms close tighter
    Round my neck in their clinging hold:—
Well, I must not cry on your hair, dear,
    For my tears might tarnish the gold.


V.


"I am tired of trying to read, dear;
    It is worse to talk and seem gay:
There are some kinds of sorrow, Effie,
    It is useless to thrust away.


VI.


"Ah, advice may be wise, my darling,
    But one always knows it before;
And the reasoning down one's sorrow
    Seems to make one suffer the more.


VII.


"But my Effie won't reason, will she?
    Or endeavour to understand;
Only holds up her mouth to kiss me,
    As she strokes my face with her hand.

VIII.


"If you break your plaything yourself, dear,
    Don't you cry for it all the same?
I don't think it is such a comfort,
    One has only oneself to blame.


IX.


"People say things cannot be helped, dear,
    But then that is the reason why;
For if things could be helped or altered,
    One would never sit down to cry:


X.


"They say, too, that tears are quite useless
    To undo, amend, or restore,—
When I think how useless, my Effie,
    Then my tears only fall the more.


XI.


"All to-day I struggled against it;
    But that does not make sorrow cease;
And now, dear, it is such a comfort
    To be able to cry in peace.


XII.


"Though wise people would call that folly,
    And remonstrate with grave surprise;
We won't mind what they say, my Effie;—
    We never professed to be wise.


XIII.


"But my comforter knows a lesson
    Wiser, truer than all the rest:—
That to help and to heal a sorrow,
    Love and silence are always best.


XIV.


"Well, who is my comforter—tell me?
    Effie smiles, but she will not speak;
Or look up through the long curled lashes
    That are shading her rosy cheek.


XV.


"Is she thinking of talking fishes,
    The blue bird, or magical tree?
Perhaps I am thinking, my darling,
    Of something that never can be.


XVI.


"You long—don't you, dear?—for the Genii,
    Who were slaves of lamps and of rings;
And I—I am sometimes afraid, dear,—
    I want as impossible things.


XVII.


"But hark! there is Nurse calling Effie!
    It is bedtime, so run away;
And I must go back, or the others
    Will be wondering why I stay.


XVIII.


"So good-night to my darling Effie;
    Keep happy, sweetheart, and grow wise:—
There's one kiss for her golden tresses,
    And two for her sleepy eyes."

 

___________________

 
UNSEEN.

 

THERE are more things in Heaven and Earth,
          than we
Can dream of, or than nature understands;
We learn not through our poor philosophy
What hidden chords are touched by unseen
          hands.

The present hour repeats upon its strings
Echoes of some vague dream we have forgot;
Dim voices whisper half-remembered things,
And when we pause to listen,—answer not.

Forebodings come: we know not how, or
          whence,
Shadowing a nameless fear upon the soul,
And stir within our hearts a subtler sense,
Than light may read, or wisdom may control.

And who can tell what secret links of thought
Bind heart to heart? Unspoken things are
          heard,
As if within our deepest selves was brought
The soul, perhaps, of some unuttered word.

But, though a veil of shadow hangs between
That hidden life, and what we see and hear,
Let us revere the power of the Unseen,
And know a world of mystery is near.

 

___________________

 
A REMEMBRANCE OF AUTUMN.

 

NOTHING stirs the sunny silence,—
    Save the drowsy humming of the bees
        Round the rich, ripe peaches on the wall,
    And the south wind sighing in the trees,
        And the dead leaves rustling as they fall:
    While the swallows, one by one, are
            gathering,
        All impatient to be on the wing,
    And to wander from us, seeking
                                Their belovèd Spring!

Cloudless rise the azure heavens!
    Only vaporous wreaths of snowy white
        Nestle in the grey hill's rugged side;
    And the golden woods are bathed in light,
        Dying, if they must, with kingly pride:
    While the swallows in the blue air wheeling,
        Circle now an eager fluttering band,
    Ready to depart and leave us
                                For a brighter land!

But a voice is sounding sadly,
    Telling of a glory that has been;
        Of a day that faded all too fast—
    See afar through the blue air serene,
        Where the swallows wing their way at last,
    And our hearts perchance, as sadly wander-
            ing,
        Vainly seeking for a long-lost day,
    While we watch the far-off swallows,
                                Flee with them away!

 

___________________

 
THREE EVENINGS IN A LIFE.

I.

 

 

YES, it looked dark and dreary,
    That long and narrow street:
Only the sound of the rain,
    And the tramp of passing feet,
The duller glow of the fire,
    And gathering mists of night
To mark how slow and weary
    The long day's cheerless flight!


II.


Watching the sullen fire,
    Hearing the dismal rain,
Drop after drop, run down
    On the darkening window-pane:
Chill was the heart of Alice,
    Chill as that winter day,—
For the star of her life had risen
    Only to fade away.


III.


The voice that had been so strong
    To bid the snare depart,
The true and earnest will,
    The calm and steadfast heart,
Were now weighed down by sorrow,
    Were quivering now with pain;
The clear path now seemed clouded,
    And all her grief in vain.


IV.


Duty, Right, Truth, who promised
    To help and save their own,
Seemed spreading wide their pinions
    To leave her there alone.
So, turning from the Present
    To well-known days of yore,
She called on them to strengthen
    And guard her soul once more.


V.


She thought how in her girlhood
    Her life was given away,
The solemn promise spoken
    She kept so well to-day;
How to her brother Herbert
    She had been help and guide,
And how his artist nature
    On her calm strength relied.


VI.


How through life's fret and turmoil
    The passion and fire of art
In him was soothed and quickened
    By her true sister heart;
How future hopes had always
    Been for his sake alone;
And now,—what strange new feeling
    Possessed her as its own?


VII.


Her home—each flower that breathed there,
    The wind's sigh, soft and low,
Each trembling spray of ivy,
    The river's murmuring flow,
The shadow of the forest,
    Sunset, or twilight dim—
Dear as they were, were dearer
    By leaving them for him.


VIII.


And each year as it found her
    In the dull, feverish town,
Saw self still more forgotten,
    And selfish care kept down
By the calm joy of evening
    That brought him to her side,
To warn him with wise counsel,
    Or praise with tender pride.


IX.


Her heart, her life, her future,
    Her genius, only meant
Another thing to give him,
    And be therewith content.
To-day, what words had stirred her,
    Her soul could not forget?
What dream had filled her spirit
    With strange and wild regret?


X.


To leave him for another,—
    Could it indeed be so?
Could it have cost such anguish
    To bid this vision go?
Was this her faith? Was Herbert
    The second in her heart?
Did it need all this struggle
    To bid a dream depart?


XI.


And yet, within her spirit
    A far-off land was seen,
A home, which might have held her,
    A love, which might have been.
And Life—not the mere being
    Of daily ebb and flow,
But Life itself had claimed her,
    And she had let it go!


XII.


Within her heart there echoed
    Again the well-known tone
That promised this bright future,
    And asked her for her own:
Then words of sorrow, broken
    By half-reproachful pain;
And then a farewell spoken
    In words of cold disdain.


XIII.


Where now was the stern purpose
    That nerved her soul so long?
Whence came the words she uttered,
    So hard, so cold, so strong?
What right had she to banish
    A hope that God had given?
Why must she choose earth's portion,
    And turn aside from Heaven?


XIV.


To-day! Was it this morning?
    If this long, fearful strife
Was but the work of hours,
    What would be years of life?
Why did a cruel Heaven
    For such great suffering call?
And why—Oh, still more cruel!—
    Must her own words do all?


XV.


Did she repent? Oh Sorrow!
    Why do we linger still
To take thy loving message,
    And do thy gentle will?
See, her tears fall more slowly,
    The passionate murmurs cease,
And back upon her spirit
    Flow strength, and love, and peace.


XVI.


The fire burns more brightly,
    The rain has passed away,
Herbert will see no shadow
    Upon his home to-day;
Only that Alice greets him
    With doubly tender care,
Kissing a fonder blessing
    Down on his golden hair.



-II-

I.


THE studio is deserted,
    Palette and brush laid by,
The sketch rests on the easel,
    The paint is scarcely dry;
And Silence—who seems always
    Within her depths to bear
The next sound that will utter—
    Now holds a dumb despair.


II.


So Alice feels it: listening
    With breathless, stony fear,
Waiting the dreadful summons
    Each minute brings more near:
When the young life, now ebbing,
    Shall fail, and pass away
Into that mighty shadow
    Who shrouds the house to-day.


III.


But why—when the sick chamber
    Is on the upper floor—
Why dares not Alice enter
    Within the close—shut door?
If he—her all—her Brother,
    Lies dying in that gloom,
What strange mysterious power
    Has sent her from the room?


IV.


It is not one week's anguish
    That can have changed her so;
Joy has not died here lately,
    Struck down by one quick blow;
But cruel months have needed
    Their long relentless chain,
To teach that shrinking manner
    Of helpless, hopeless pain.


V.


The struggle was scarce over
    Last Christmas Eve had brought:
The fibres still were quivering
    Of the one wounded thought,
When Herbert—who, unconscious,
    Had guessed no inward strife—
Bade her, in pride and pleasure,
    Welcome his fair young wife.


VI.


Bade her rejoice, and smiling,
    Although his eyes were dim,
Thanked God he thus could pay her
    The care she gave to him.
This fresh bright life would bring her
    A new and joyous fate—
Oh, Alice, check the murmur
    That cries, "Too late! too late!"


VII.


Too late!   Could she have known it
    A few short weeks before,
That his life was completed,
    And needing hers no more,
She might—Oh sad repining!
    What "might have been," forget;
"It was not," should suffice us
    To stifle vain regret.


VIII.


He needed her no longer,
    Each day it grew more plain;
First with a startled wonder,
    Then with a wondering pain.
Love: why, his wife best gave it;
    Comfort: durst Alice speak,
Or counsel, when resentment
    Flushed on the young wife's cheek?


IX.


No more long talks by firelight
    Of childish times long past,
And dreams of future greatness
    Which he must reach at last;
Dreams, where her purer instinct
    With truth unerring told,
Where was the worthless gilding,
    And where refined gold.


X.


Slowly, but surely ever,
    Dora's poor jealous pride,
Which she called love for Herbert,
    Drove Alice from his side;
And, spite of nervous effort
    To share their altered life,
She felt a check to Herbert,
    A burden to his wife.


XI.


This was the least; for Alice
    Feared, dreaded, knew at length
How much his nature owed her
    Of truth, and power, and strength;
And watched the daily failing
    Of all his nobler part:
Low aims, weak purpose, telling
    In lower, weaker art.


XII.


And now, when he is dying,
    The last words she could hear
Must not be hers, but given
    The bride of one short year.
The last care is another's;
    The last prayer must not be
The one they learnt together
    Beside their mother's knee.


XIII.


Summoned at last: she kisses
    The clay-cold stiffening hand;
And, reading pleading efforts
    To make her understand,
Answers, with solemn promise,
    In clear but trembling tone,
To Dora's life henceforward
    She will devote her own.


XIV.


Now all is over. Alice
    Dares not remain to weep,
But soothes the frightened Dora
    Into a sobbing sleep.
The poor weak child will need her: . . .
    Oh, who can dare complain,
When God sends a new Duty
    To comfort each new Pain!



-III-

I.


THE House is all deserted,
    In the dim evening gloom,
Only one figure passes
    Slowly from room to room;
And, pausing at each doorway,
    Seems gathering up again
Within her heart the relics
    Of bygone joy and pain.


II.


There is an earnest longing
    In those who onward gaze,
Looking with weary patience
    Towards the coming days.
There is a deeper longing,
    More sad, more strong, more keen:
Those know it who look backward,
    And yearn for what has been.


III.


At every hearth she pauses,
    Touches each well-known chair;
Gazes from every window,
    Lingers on every stair.
What have these months brought Alice
    Now one more year is past?
This Christmas Eve shall tell us,
    The third one and the last.


IV.


The wilful, wayward Dora,
    In those first weeks of grief,
Could seek and find in Alice
    Strength, soothing, and relief;
And Alice—last sad comfort
    True woman-heart can take—
Had something still to suffer
    And bear for Herbert's sake.


V.


Spring, with her western breezes,
    From Indian islands bore
To Alice news that Leonard
    Would seek his home once more.
What was it—joy, or sorrow?
    What were they—hopes, or fears?
That flushed her cheeks with crimson,
    And filled her eyes with tears?


VI.


He came.   And who so kindly
    Could ask and hear her tell
Herbert's last hours; for Leonard
    Had known and loved him well.
Daily he came; and Alice,
    Poor weary heart, at length,
Weighed down by others' weakness,
    Could lean upon his strength.


VII.


Yet not the voice of Leonard
    Could her true care beguile,
That turned to watch, rejoicing
    Dora's reviving smile.
So, from that little household
    The worst gloom passed away,
The one bright hour of evening
    Lit up the livelong day.


VIII.


Days passed. The golden summer
    In sudden heat bore down
Its blue, bright, glowing sweetness
    Upon the scorching town.
And sighs and sounds of country
    Came in the warm soft tune
Sung by the honeyed breezes
    Borne on the wings of June.


IX.


One twilight hour, but earlier
    Than usual, Alice thought
She knew the fresh sweet fragrance
    Of flowers that Leonard brought;
Through opened doors and windows
    It stole up through the gloom,
And with appealing sweetness
    Drew Alice from her room.


X.


Yes, he was there; and pausing
    Just near the opened door,
To check her heart's quick beating,
    She heard—and paused still more—
His low voice—Dora's answers—
    His pleading—Yes, she knew
The tone—the words—the accents:
    She once had heard them too.


XI.


"Would Alice blame her?"   Leonard's
    Low, tender answer came;—
"Alice was far too noble
    To think or dream of blame."
"And was he sure he loved her?"
    "Yes, with the one love given
Once in a lifetime only,
    With one soul and one heaven!"


XII.


Then came a plaintive murmur,—
    "Dora had once been told
That he and Alice"—"Dearest,
    Alice is far too cold
To love; and I, my Dora,
    If once I fancied so,
It was a brief delusion,
    And over,—long ago."


XIII.


Between the Past and Present,
    On that bleak moment's height,
She stood.   As some lost traveller
    By a quick flash of light
Seeing a gulf before him,
    With dizzy, sick despair,
Reels backward, but to find it
    A deeper chasm there.


XIV.


The twilight grew still darker,
    The fragrant flowers more sweet,
The stars shone out in heaven,
    The lamps gleamed down the street;
And hours passed in dreaming
    Over their new-found fate,
Ere they could think of wondering
    Why Alice was so late.


XV.


She came, and calmly listened;
    In vain they strove to trace
If Herbert's memory shadowed
    In grief upon her face.
No blame, no wonder showed there,
    No feeling could be told;
Her voice was not less steady,
    Her manner not more cold.


XVI.


They could not hear the anguish
    That broke in words of pain
Through the calm summer midnight,—
    "My Herbert—mine again!"
Yes, they have once been parted,
    But this day shall restore
The long lost one: she claims him:
    "My Herbert—mine once more!"


XVII.


Now Christmas Eve returning,
    Saw Alice stand beside
The altar, greeting Dora,
    Again a smiling bride;
And now the gloomy evening
    Sees Alice pale and worn,
Leaving the house for ever,
    To wander out forlorn.


XVIII.


Forlorn—nay, not so.   Anguish
    Shall do its work at length;
Her soul, passed through the fire,
    Shall gain still purer strength.
Somewhere there waits for Alice
    An earnest noble part;
And, meanwhile God is with her,—
    God, and her own true heart!

 

___________________

 
THE WIND.

 

THE wind went forth o'er land and sea
                Loud and free;
    Foaming waves leapt up to meet it,
    Stately pines bowed down to greet it;
          While the wailing sea
    And the forest's murmured sigh
                Joined the cry
Of the wind that swept o'er land and sea.

The wind that blew upon the sea
                Fierce and free,
    Cast the bark upon the shore,
    Whence it sailed the night before
          Full of hope and glee;
    And the cry of pain and death
                Was but a breath,
Through the wind that roared upon the sea.

The wind was whispering on the lea
                Tenderly;
    But the white rose felt it pass,
    And the fragile stalks of grass
          Shook with fear to see
    All her trembling petals shed,
                As it fled,
So gently by,—the wind upon the lea.

Blow, thou wind, upon the sea
                Fierce and free,
    And a gentler message send,
    Where frail flowers and grasses bend,
          On the sunny lea;
    For thy bidding still is one,
                Be it done
In tenderness or wrath, on land or sea!

 

___________________

 
EXPECTATION.

 

THE King's three daughters stood on the
        terrace,
The hanging terrace, so broad and green,
Which keeps the sea from the marble Palace,
There was Princess May, and Princess Alice,
And the youngest Princess, Gwendoline.

Sighed Princess May, "Will it last much longer,
Time throbs so slow and my Heart so quick;
And oh, how long is the day in dying;
Weary am I of waiting and sighing,
For Hope deferred makes the spirit sick."

But Princess Gwendoline smiled and kissed
        her:—
"Am I not sadder than you, my Sister?
Expecting joy is a happy pain.
The Future's fathomless mine of treasures,
All countless hordes of possible pleasures,
Might bring their store to my feet in vain."

Sighed Princess Alice as night grew nearer:—
"So soon, so soon, is the daylight fled!
And oh, how fast comes the dark to-morrow,
Who hides, perhaps in her veil of sorrow,
The terrible hour I wait and dread!"

But Princess Gwendoline kissed her, sighing,—
"It is only Life that can fear dying;
Possible loss means possible gain.
Those who still dread, are not quite forsaken;
But not to fear, because all is taken,
Is the loneliest depth of human pain."

 

___________________

 
AN IDEAL.

 

WHILE the grey mists of early dawn
    Were lingering round the hill,
And the dew was still upon the flowers,
    And the earth lay calm and still,
A wingèd Spirit came to me
Noble, and radiant, and free.

Folding his blue and shining wings,
    He laid his hand on mine.
I know not if I felt, or heard
    The mystic word divine,
Which woke the trembling air to sighs,
And shone from out his starry eyes.

The word he spoke, within my heart
    Stirred life unknown before,
And cast a spell upon my soul
    To chain it evermore;
Making the cold dull earth look bright,
And skies flame out in sapphire light.

When noon ruled from the heavens, and man
    Through busy day toiled on,
My Spirit drooped his shining wings;
    His radiant smile was gone;
His voice had ceased, his grace had flown,
His hand grew cold within my own.

Bitter, oh bitter tears, I wept,
    Yet still I held his hand,
Hoping with vague unreasoning hope:
    I would not understand
That this pale Spirit never more
Could be what he had been before.

Could it be so?   My heart stood still.
    Yet he was by my side.
I strove; but my despair was vain;
    Vain, too, was love and pride.
Could he have changed to me so soon?
My day was only at its noon.

Now stars are rising one by one,
    Through the dim evening air;
Near me a household Spirit waits,
    With tender loving care;
He speaks and smiles, but never sings,
Long since he lost his shining wings.

With thankful, true content, I know
    This is the better way;
Is not a faithful spirit mine—
    Mine still—at close of day? . . .
Yet will my foolish heart repine
For that bright morning dream of mine.

 

___________________

 
OUR DEAD.

 

NOTHING is our own: we hold our pleasures
Just a little while, ere they are fled:
One by one life robs us of our treasures;
Nothing is our own except our Dead.

They are ours, and hold in faithful keeping
Safe for ever, all they took away.
Cruel life can never stir that sleeping,
Cruel time can never seize that prey.

Justice pales; truth fades; stars fall from
            Heaven;
Human are the great whom we revere:
No true crown of honour can be given,
Till we place it on a funeral bier.

How the Children leave us: and no traces
Linger of that smiling angel band;
Gone, for ever gone; and in their places,
Weary men and anxious women stand.

Yet we have some little ones, still ours;
They have kept the baby smile we know,
Which we kissed one day and hid with flowers,
On their dead white faces, long ago.

When our Joy is lost—and life will take it—
Then no memory of the past remains;
Save with some strange, cruel sting, to make it
Bitterness beyond all present pains.

Death, more tender-hearted, leaves to sorrow
Still the radiant shadow, fond regret:
We shall find, in some far, bright to-morrow,
Joy that he has taken, living yet.

Is Love ours, and do we dream we know it,
Bound with all our heart-strings, all our own?
Any cold and cruel dawn may show it,
Shattered, desecrated, overthrown.

Only the dead Hearts forsake us never;
Death's last kiss has been the mystic sign
Consecrating Love our own for ever,
Crowning it eternal and divine.

So when Fate would fain besiege our city,
Dim our gold, or make our flowers fall,
Death the Angel, comes in love and pity,
And to save our treasures, claims them all.

 

___________________

 
A WOMAN'S ANSWER.

 

I WILL not let you say a Woman's part
    Must be to give exclusive love alone;
Dearest, although I love you so, my heart
    Answers a thousand claims beside your own.

I love—what do I not love? earth and air
    Find space within my heart, and myriad
            things
You would not deign to heed, are cherished
            there,
    And vibrate on its very inmost strings.

I love the summer with her ebb and flow
    Of light, and warmth, and music that have
            nurst
Her tender buds to blossoms . . . and you know
    It was in summer that I saw you first.

I love the winter dearly too, . . . but then
    I owe it so much; on a winter's day,
Bleak, cold, and stormy, you returned again,
    When you had been those weary months
            away.

I love the Stars like friends; so many nights
    I gazed at them, when you were far from me,
Till I grew blind with tears . . . those far-off
            lights
    Could watch you, whom I longed in vain
            to see.

I love the Flowers; happy hours lie
    Shut up within their petals close and fast:
You have forgotten, dear: but they and I
    Keep every fragment of the golden Past.

I love, too, to be loved; all loving praise
    Seems like a crown upon my Life,—to make
It better worth the giving, and to raise
    Still nearer to your own the heart you take.

I love all good and noble souls;—I heard
    One speak of you but lately, and for days
Only to think of it, my soul was stirred
    In tender memory of such generous praise.

I love all those who love you; all who owe
    Comfort to you: and I can find regret
Even for those poorer hearts who once could
            know,
    And once could love you, and can now
            forget.

Well, is my heart so narrow—I, who spare
    Love for all these? Do I not even hold
My favourite books in special tender care,
    And prize them as a miser does his gold?

The Poets that you used to read to me
    While summer twilights faded in the sky;
But most of all I think Aurora Leigh,
    Because—because—do you remember why?

Will you be jealous? Did you guess before
    I loved so many things?—Still you the
            best:—
Dearest, remember that I love you more,
    Oh, more a thousand times than all the rest!

 

___________________

 
THE STORY OF THE FAITHFUL SOUL.
FOUNDED ON AN OLD FRENCH LEGEND.

 

THE fettered Spirits linger
    In purgatorial pain,
With penal fires effacing
    Their last faint earthly stain,
Which Life's imperfect sorrow
    Had tried to cleanse in vain.

Yet on each feast of Mary
    Their sorrow finds release,
For the Great Archangel Michael
    Comes down and bids it cease;
And the name of these brief respites
    Is called "Our Lady's Peace."

Yet once—so runs the Legend—
    When the Archangel came
And all these holy spirits
    Rejoiced at Mary's name;
One voice alone was wailing,
    Still wailing on the same.

And though a great Te Deum
    The happy echoes woke,
This one discordant wailing
    Through the sweet voices broke;
So when St. Michael questioned,
    Thus the poor spirit spoke:—

"I am not cold or thankless,
    Although I still complain;
I prize our Lady's blessing
    Although it comes in vain
To still my bitter anguish,
    Or quench my ceaseless pain.

"On earth a heart that loved me,
    Still lives and mourns me there,
And the shadow of his anguish
    Is more than I can bear;
All the torment that I suffer
    Is the thought of his despair.

"The evening of my bridal
    Death took my Life away;
Not all Love's passionate pleading
    Could gain an hour's delay.
And he I left has suffered
    A whole year since that day.

"If I could only see him,—
    If I could only go
And speak one word of comfort
    And solace,—then, I know
He would endure with patience,
    And strive against his woe."

Thus the Archangel answered:—
    "Your time of pain is brief,
And soon the peace of Heaven
    Will give you full relief;
Yet if his earthly comfort
    So much outweighs your grief,

"Then, through a special mercy
    I offer you this grace,—
You may seek him who mourns you
    And look upon his face,
And speak to him of comfort
    For one short minute's space.

"But when that time is ended,
    Return here, and remain
A thousand years in torment,
    A thousand years in pain:
Thus dearly must you purchase
    The comfort he will gain."


*        *        *        *


The Lime-trees' shade at evening
    Is spreading broad and wide;
Beneath their fragrant arches,
    Pace slowly, side by side,
In low and tender converse,
    A Bridegroom and his Bride.

The night is calm and stilly,
    No other sound is there
Except their happy voices:
    What is that cold bleak air
That passes through the Lime-trees
    And stirs the Bridegroom's hair?

While one low cry of anguish,
    Like the last dying wail
Of some dumb, hunted creature,
    Is borne upon the gale:—
Why does the Bridegroom shudder
    And turn so deathly pale?


*        *        *        *


Near Purgatory's entrance
    The radiant Angels wait;
It was the great St. Michael
    Who closed that gloomy gate,
When the poor wandering spirit
    Came back to meet her fate.

"Pass on," thus spoke the Angel:
    "Heaven's joy is deep and vast;
Pass on, pass on, poor Spirit,
    For Heaven is yours at last;
In that one minute's anguish
    Your thousand years have passed."

 

___________________

 
A CONTRAST.

 

Can you open that ebony Casket?
    Look, this is the key: but stay,
Those are only a few old letters
    Which I keep,—to burn some day.

Yes, that Locket is quaint and ancient;
    But leave it, dear, with the ring,
And give me the little Portrait
    Which hangs by a crimson string.

I have never opened that Casket
    Since, many long years ago,
It was sent me back in anger
    By one whom I used to know.

But I want you to see the Portrait:
    I wonder if you can trace
A look of that smiling creature
    Left now in my faded face.

It was like me once; but remember
    The weary relentless years,
And Life, with its fierce, brief Tempests,
    And its long, long rain of tears.

Is it strange to call it my Portrait?
    Nay, smile, dear, for well you may,
To think of that radiant Vision
    And of what I am to-day.

With restless, yet confident longing
    How those blue eyes seem to gaze
Into deep and exhaustless Treasures,
    All hid in the coming days.

With that trust which leans on the Future,
    And counts on her promised store,
Until she has taught us to tremble
    And hope,—but to trust no more.

How that young, light heart would have pitied
    Me now—if her dreams had shown
A quiet and weary woman
    With all her illusions flown.

Yet I—who shall soon be resting,
    And have passed the hardest part,
Can look back with a deeper pity
    On that young unconscious heart.

It is strange; but Life's currents drift us
    So surely and swiftly on,
That we scarcely notice the changes,
    And how many things are gone:

And forget, while to-day absorbs us,
    How old mysteries are unsealed;
How the old, old ties are loosened,
    And the old, old wounds are healed.

And we say that our Life is fleeting
    Like a story that Time has told;
But we fancy that we—we only
    Are just what we were of old.

So now and then it is wisdom
    To gaze, as I do to-day,
At a half-forgotten relic
    Of a Time that is passed away.

The very look of that Portrait,
    The Perfume that seems to cling
To those fragile and faded letters,
    And the Locket, and the Ring,

If they only stirred in my spirit
    Forgotten pleasure and pain,—
Why, memory is often bitter,
    And almost always in vain;

But the contrast of bygone hours
    Comes to rend a veil away,—
And I marvel to see the stranger
    Who is living in me to-day.

 

___________________

 
THE BRIDE'S DREAM.

 

THE stars are gleaming;
    The maiden sleeps—
What is she dreaming?
    For see—she weeps.
By her side is an Angel
    With folded wings;
While the Maiden slumbers
    The Angel sings:
He sings of a Bridal,
    Of Love, of Pain,
Of a heart to be given,—
    And all in vain;
(See, her cheek is flushing,
    As if with pain;)
He telleth of sorrow,
    Regrets and fears,
And the few vain pleasures
    We buy with tears;
And the bitter lesson
    We learn from years.

The stars are gleaming
    Upon her brow:
What is she dreaming
    So calmly now?
By her side is the Angel
    With folded wings;
She smiles in her slumber
    The while he sings.
He sings of a Bridal,
    Of Love divine;
Of a heart to be laid
    On a sacred shrine;
Of a crown of glory,
    Where seraphs shine;
Of the deep, long rapture
    The chosen know
Who forsake for Heaven
    Vain joys below,
Who desire no pleasure,
    And fear no woe.

The Bells are ringing,
    The sun shines clear,
The Choir is singing,
    The guests are here.
Before the High Altar
    Behold the Bride;
And a mournful Angel
    Is by her side.
She smiles, all content
    With her chosen lot,—
(Is her last night's dreaming
    So soon forgot?)
And oh, may the Angel
    Forsake her not!
For on her small hand
    There glitters plain
The first sad link
    Of a life-long chain;—
And she needs his guiding
    Through paths of pain.

 

___________________

 
THE ANGEL'S BIDDING.

 

NOT a sound is heard in the Convent;
    The Vesper Chant is sung,
The sick have all been tended,
    The poor nun's toils are ended
    Till the Matin bell has rung.
    All is still, save the Clock, that is ticking
    So loud in the frosty air,
    And the soft snow, falling as gently
    As an answer to a prayer.
        But an Angel whispers, "Oh, Sister,
        You must rise from your bed to pray;
        In the silent, deserted chapel,
        You must kneel till the dawn of day;
        For, far on the desolate moorland,
        So dreary, and bleak, and white,
        There is one, all alone and helpless,
        In peril of death to-night.

"No sound on the moorland to guide him,
    No star in the murky air;
And he thinks of his home and his loved ones
    With the tenderness of despair;
He has wandered for hours in the snow-drift,
    And he strives to stand in vain,
And so lies down to dream of his children
    And never to rise again.
        Then kneel in the silent chapel
        Till the dawn of to-morrow's sun,
        And ask of the Lord you worship
        For the life of that desolate one;
        And the smiling eyes of his children
        Will gladden his heart again,
        And the grateful tears of God's poor ones
        Will fall on your soul like rain!—

"Yet, leave him alone to perish,
    And the grace of your God implore,
With all the strength of your spirit,
    For one who needs it more.
Far away, in the gleaming city,
    Amid perfume, and song, and light,
A soul that Jesus has ransomed
    Is in peril of sin to-night.

"The Tempter is close beside him,
    And his danger is all forgot,
And the far-off voices of childhood
    Call aloud, but he hears them not;
He sayeth no prayer, and his mother—
    He thinks not of her to-day,
And he will not look up to Heaven,
    And his Angel is turning away.

"Then pray for a soul in peril,
    A soul for which Jesus died;
Ask, by the cross that bore Him,
    And by her who stood beside;
And the Angels of God will thank you,
    And bend from their thrones of light,
To tell you that Heaven rejoices
    At the deed you have done to-night."

 

___________________

 
SPRING.

 

HARK! the Hours are softly calling,
    Bidding Spring arise,
To listen to the raindrops falling
    From the cloudy skies,
To listen to Earth's weary voices,
    Louder every day,
Bidding her no longer linger
    On her charmèd way;
But hasten to her task of beauty
    Scarcely yet begun;
By the first bright day of summer
    It should all be done.
She has yet to loose the fountain
    From its iron chain;
And to make the barren mountain
    Green and bright again;
She must clear the snow that lingers
    Round the stalks away
And let the snowdrop's trembling whiteness
    See the light of day.
She must watch, and warm, and cherish
    Every blade of green;
Till the tender grass appearing
    From the earth is seen;
She must bring the golden crocus
    From her hidden store;
She must spread broad showers of daisies
    Each day more and more.
In each hedgerow she must hasten
    Cowslips sweet to set;
Primroses in rich profusion,
    With bright dewdrops wet,
And under every leaf, in shadow
    Hide a Violet!
Every tree within the forest
    Must be decked anew
And the tender buds of promise
    Should be peeping through,
Folded deep, and almost hidden,
    Leaf by leaf beside,
What will make the Summer's glory,
    And the Autumn's pride.
She must weave the loveliest carpets,
    Chequered sun and shade,
Every wood must have such pathways
    Laid in every glade;
She must hang laburnum branches
    On each archèd bough;—
And the white and purple lilac
    Should be waving now;
She must breathe, and cold winds vanish
    At her breath away;
And then load the air around her
    With the scent of May!
Listen then, Oh Spring! nor linger
    On thy charmèd way;
Have pity on thy prisoned flowers
    Wearying for the day.
Listen to the raindrops falling
    From the cloudy skies;
Listen to the hours calling
    Bidding thee arise.

 

___________________

 
EVENING HYMN.

 

THE shadows of the evening hours
    Fall from the darkening sky;
Upon the fragrance of the flowers
    The dews of evening lie:
Before Thy throne, O Lord of Heaven,
    We kneel at close of day;
Look on Thy children from on high,
    And hear us while we pray.

The sorrows of Thy Servants, Lord,
    Oh, do not Thou despise;
But let the incense of our prayers
    Before Thy mercy rise;
The brightness of the coming night
    Upon the darkness rolls:
With hopes of future glory chase
    The shadows on our souls.

Slowly the rays of daylight fade;
    So fade within our heart,
The hopes in earthly love and joy,
    That one by one depart:
Slowly the bright stars, one by one,
    Within the Heavens shine;—
Give us, Oh, Lord, fresh hopes in Heaven,
    And trust in things divine.

Let peace, Oh Lord, Thy peace, Oh God,
    Upon our souls descend;
From midnight fears and perils,
    Thou Our trembling hearts defend;
Give us a respite from our toil,
    Calm and subdue our woes;
Through the long day we suffer, Lord,
    Oh, give us now repose!

 

___________________

 
THE INNER CHAMBER.

 

IN the outer Court I was singing,
    Was singing the whole day long;
From the inner chamber were ringing
    Echoes repeating my song.

And I sang till it grew immortal;
    For that very song of mine,
When re-echoed behind the Portal,
    Was filled with a life divine.

Was the Chamber a silver round
    Of arches, whose magical art
Drew in coils of musical sound,
    And cast them back on my heart?

Was there hidden within a lyre
    Which, as air breathed over its strings,
Filled my song with a soul of fire,
    And sent back my words with wings?

Was some seraph imprisoned there,
    Whose voice made my song complete,
And whose lingering, soft despair,
    Made the echo so faint and sweet?

Long I trembled and paused—then parted
    The curtains with heavy fringe;
And, half fearing, yet eager-hearted
    Turned the door on its golden hinge.

Now I sing in the court once more,
    I sing and I weep all day,
As I kneel by the close-shut door,
    For I know what the echoes say.

Yet I sing not the song of old,
    Ere I knew whence the echo came,
Ere I opened the door of gold;
    But the music sounds just the same.

Then take warning, and turn away
    Do not ask of that hidden thing,
Do not guess what the echoes say,
    Or the meaning of what I sing.

 

___________________

 
HEARTS

I.

 

A TRINKET made like a Heart, dear,
    Of red gold, bright and fine,
Was given to me for a keepsake,
    Given to me for mine.

And another heart, warm and tender,
    As true as a heart could be;
And every throb that stirred it
    Was always and all for me.

Sailing over the waters,
    Watching the far blue land,
I dropped my golden heart, dear,
    Dropped it out of my hand!

It lies in the cold blue waters,
    Fathoms and fathoms deep,
The golden heart which I promised,
    Promised to prize and keep.

Gazing at Life's bright visions,
    So false, and fair, and new,
I forgot the other heart, dear,
    Forgot it and lost it too!

I might seek that heart for ever,
    I might seek and seek in vain;—
And for one short, careless hour,
    I pay with a life of pain.


II.


THE Heart?—Yes I wore it
    As sign and as token
Of a love that once gave it,
    A vow that was spoken;
But a love, and a vow, and a heart
    Can be broken.

The Love?—Life and Death
    Are crushed into a day,
So what wonder that Love
    Should as soon pass away—
What wonder I saw it
    Fade, fail, and decay.

The Vow?—why what was it,
    It snapped like a thread:
Who cares for the corpse
    When the spirit is fled?
Then I said, "Let the Dead rise
    And bury its dead,

"While the true, living future
    Grows pure, wise, and strong"
So I cast the gold heart,
    I had worn for so long,
In the Lake, and bound on it
    A Stone—and a Wrong!


III.


Look, this little golden Heart
    Was a true-love shrine
For a tress of hair; I held them,
    Heart and tress, as mine,
Like the Love which gave the token
    See to-day the Heart is broken!

Broken is the golden heart,
    Lost the tress of hair;
Ah, the shrine is empty, vacant,
    Desolate, and bare!
So the token should depart,
    When Love dies within the heart.

Fast and deep the river floweth,
    Floweth to the west;
I will cast the golden trinket
    In its cold dark breast,—
Flow, oh river, deep and fast,
    Over all the buried past!

 

___________________

 
TWO LOVES.

 

DEEP within my heart of hearts, dear,
    Bound with all its strings,
Two Loves are together reigning
    Both are crowned like Kings;
While my life, still uncomplaining,
    Rests beneath their wings.

So they both will rule my heart, dear,
    Till it cease to beat;
No sway can be deeper, stronger,
    Truer, more complete;
Growing, as it lasts the longer,
    Sweeter, and more sweet.

One all life and time transfigures,
    Piercing through and through
Meaner things with magic splendour,
    Old, yet ever new:
This,—so strong and yet so tender,—
    Is . . . my Love for you.

Should it fail,—forgive my doubting
    In this world of pain,—
Yet my other Love would ever
    Steadfastly remain;
And I know that I could never
    Turn to that in vain.

Though its radiance may be fainter,
    Yet its task is wide;
For it lives to comfort sorrows,
    Strengthen, calm, and guide,
And from Trust and Honour borrows
    All its peace and pride.

Will you blame my dreaming even
    If the first were flown?
Ah, I would not live without it,
    It is all your own:
And the other—can you doubt it?—
    Yours, and yours alone.

 

___________________

 
A WOMAN'S LAST WORD.

 

WELL—the links are broken,
      All is past;
This farewell, when spoken,
      Is the last.
I have tried and striven
      All in vain;
Such bonds must be riven,
      Spite of pain,
And never, never, never
      Knit again.

So I tell you plainly,
      It must be:
I shall try, not vainly,
      To be free;
Truer, happier chances
      Wait me yet,
While you, through fresh fancies,
      Can forget;—
And life has nobler uses
      Than Regret.

All past words retracing,
      One by one,
Does not help effacing
      What is done.
Let it be. Oh, stronger
      Links can break!
Had we dreamed still longer
      We could wake,—
Yet let us part in kindness
      For Love's sake.

Bitterness and sorrow
      Will at last,
In some bright to-morrow,
      Heal their past;
But future hearts will never
      Be as true
As mine was—is ever,
      Dear, for you. . . . .
. .Then must we part, when loving
      As we do?

 

___________________

 
PAST AND PRESENT.

 

"LINGER," I cried, "oh radiant Time! thy
          power
Has nothing more to give; life is complete:
Let but the perfect Present, hour by hour,
Itself remember and itself repeat.

"And Love,—the future can but mar its
          splendour,
Change can but dim the glory of its youth;
Time has no star more faithful or more tender,
To crown its constancy or light its truth."

But Time passed on in spite of prayer or
          pleading,
Through storm and peril; but that life might
          gain
A Peace through strife all other peace exceed-
          ing,
Fresh joy from sorrow, and new hope from pain.

And since Love lived when all save Love was
          dying,
And, passed through fire, grew stronger than
          before:—
Dear, you know why, in double faith relying,
I prize the Past much, but the Present more.

 

___________________

 
FOR THE FUTURE.

 

        I WONDER did you ever count
        The value of one human fate;
        Or sum the infinite amount
        Of one heart's treasures, and the weight
Of Life's one venture, and the whole concen-
          trate purpose of a soul.

        And if you ever paused to think
        That all this in your hands I laid
        Without a fear:—did you not shrink
        From such a burthen? half afraid,
Half wishing that you could divide the risk,
          or cast it all aside.

        While Love has daily perils, such
        As none foresee and none control;
        And hearts are strung so that one touch,
        Careless or rough, may jar the whole,
You well might feel afraid to reign with abso-
          lute power of joy and pain.

        You well might fear—if Love's sole claim
        Were to be happy: but true Love
        Takes joy as solace, not as aim,
        And looks beyond, and looks above;
And sometimes through the bitterest strife
          first learns to live her highest life.

        Earth forges joy into a chain
        Till fettered Love forgets its strength,
        Its purpose, and its end;—but Pain
        Restores its heritage at length,
And bids Love rise again and be eternal,
          mighty, pure, and free.

        If then your future life should need
        A strength my Love can only gain
        Through suffering, or my heart be freed
        Only by sorrow, from some stain—
Then you shall give, and I will take, this
          Crown of fire for Love's dear sake.


Sept. 8th, 1860.

 

___________________



Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.
___________________

 

PER PACEM AD LUCEM.

I DO not ask, O Lord, that life may be
    A pleasant road;
I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
    Aught of its load;

I do not ask that flowers should always spring
    Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
    Of things too sweet.

For one thing only, Lord, dear Lord, I plead,
    Lead me aright—
Though strength should falter, and though
          heart should bleed—
    Through Peace to Light.

I do not ask, O Lord, that thou shouldst shed
    Full radiance here;
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
    Without a fear.

I do not ask my cross to understand,
    My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand
    And follow Thee.

Joy is like restless day; but peace divine
    Like quiet night:
Lead me, O Lord,—till perfect Day shall shine,
    Through Peace to Light.

 



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