The Poor Ghost
'Oh whence do you come, my dear friend, to me,
With your golden hair all fallen below your knee,
And your face as white as snowdrops on the lea,
And your voice as hollow as the hollow sea?'
'From the other world I come back to you,
My locks are uncurled with dripping drenching dew.
You know the old, whilst I know the new:
But to-morrow you shall know this too.'
'Oh not to-morrow into the dark, I pray;
Oh not to-morrow, too soon to go away:
Here I feel warm and well-content and gay:
Give me another year, another day.'
'Am I so changed in a day and a night
That mine own only love shrinks from me with fright,
Is fain to turn away to left or right
And cover up his eyes from the sight?'
'Indeed I loved you, my chosen friend,
I loved you for life, but life has an end;
Through sickness I was ready to tend:
But death mars all, which we cannot mend.
'Indeed I loved you; I love you yet,
If you will stay where your bed is set,
Where I have planted a violet,
Which the wind waves, which the dew makes wet.'
'Life is gone, then love too is gone,
It was a reed that I leant upon:
Never doubt I will leave you alone
And not wake you rattling bone with bone.
'I go home alone to my bed,
Dug deep at the foot and deep at the head,
Roofed in with a load of lead,
Warm enough for the forgotten dead.
'But why did your tears soak through the clay,
And why did your sobs wake me where I lay?
I was away, far enough away:
Let me sleep now till the Judgment Day.'
The Hour And The Ghost
O love, love, hold me fast,
He draws me away from thee;
I cannot stem the blast,
Nor the cold strong sea:
Far away a light shines
Beyond the hills and pines;
It is lit for me.
I have thee close, my dear,
No terror can come near;
Only far off the northern light shines clear.
Come with me, fair and false,
To our home, come home.
It is my voice that calls:
Once thou wast not afraid
When I woo'd, and said,
'Come, our nest is newly made'—
Now cross the tossing foam.
Hold me one moment longer,
He taunts me with the past,
His clutch is waxing stronger,
Hold me fast, hold me fast.
He draws me from thy heart,
And I cannot withhold:
He bids my spirit depart
With him into the cold:—
Oh bitter vows of old!
Lean on me, hide thine eyes:
Only ourselves, earth and skies,
Are present here: be wise.
Lean on me, come away,
I will guide and steady:
Come, for I will not stay:
Come, for house and bed are ready.
Ah, sure bed and house,
For better and worse, for life and death:
Goal won with shortened breath:
Come, crown our vows.
One moment, one more word,
While my heart beats still,
While my breath is stirred
By my fainting will.
O friend forsake me not,
Forget not as I forgot:
But keep thy heart for me,
Keep thy faith true and bright;
Through the lone cold winter night
Perhaps I may come to thee.
Nay peace, my darling, peace:
Let these dreams and terrors cease:
Who spoke of death or change or aught but ease?
O fair frail sin,
O poor harvest gathered in!
Thou shalt visit him again
To watch his heart grow cold;
To know the gnawing pain
I knew of old;
To see one much more fair
Fill up the vacant chair,
Fill his heart, his children bear:—
While thou and I together
In the outcast weather
Toss and howl and spin.
The Ghost’s Petition
'There's a footstep coming: look out and see,'
'The leaves are falling, the wind is calling;
No one cometh across the lea.'—
'There's a footstep coming; O sister, look.'—
'The ripple flashes, the white foam dashes;
No one cometh across the brook.'—
'But he promised that he would come:
To-night, to-morrow, in joy or sorrow,
He must keep his word, and must come home.
'For he promised that he would come:
His word was given; from earth or heaven,
He must keep his word, and must come home.
'Go to sleep, my sweet sister Jane;
You can slumber, who need not number
Hour after hour, in doubt and pain.
'I shall sit here awhile, and watch;
Listening, hoping, for one hand groping
In deep shadow to find the latch.'
After the dark, and before the light,
One lay sleeping; and one sat weeping,
Who had watched and wept the weary night.
After the night, and before the day,
One lay sleeping; and one sat weeping—
Watching, weeping for one away.
There came a footstep climbing the stair;
Some one standing out on the landing
Shook the door like a puff of air—
Shook the door, and in he passed.
Did he enter? In the room centre
Stood her husband: the door shut fast.
'O Robin, but you are cold—
Chilled with the night-dew: so lily-white you
Look like a stray lamb from our fold.
'O Robin, but you are late:
Come and sit near me—sit here and cheer me.'—
(Blue the flame burnt in the grate.)
'Lay not down your head on my breast:
I cannot hold you, kind wife, nor fold you
In the shelter that you love best.
'Feel not after my clasping hand:
I am but a shadow, come from the meadow
Where many lie, but no tree can stand.
'We are trees which have shed their leaves:
Our heads lie low there, but no tears flow there;
Only I grieve for my wife who grieves.
'I could rest if you would not moan
Hour after hour; I have no power
To shut my ears where I lie alone.
'I could rest if you would not cry;
But there's no sleeping while you sit weeping—
Watching, weeping so bitterly.'—
'Woe's me! woe's me! for this I have heard.
Oh night of sorrow!—oh black to-morrow!
Is it thus that you keep your word?
'O you who used so to shelter me
Warm from the least wind—why, now the east wind
Is warmer than you, whom I quake to see.
'O my husband of flesh and blood,
For whom my mother I left, and brother,
And all I had, accounting it good,
'What do you do there, underground,
In the dark hollow? I'm fain to follow.
What do you do there?—what have you found?'—
'What I do there I must not tell:
But I have plenty: kind wife, content ye:
It is well with us—it is well.
'Tender hand hath made our nest;
Our fear is ended, our hope is blended
With present pleasure, and we have rest.'—
'Oh, but Robin, I'm fain to come,
If your present days are so pleasant;
For my days are so wearisome.
'Yet I'll dry my tears for your sake:
Why should I tease you, who cannot please you
Any more with the pains I take?'
From House To House
The first was like a dream through summer heat,
The second like a tedious numbing swoon,
While the half-frozen pulses lagged to beat
Beneath a winter moon.
'But,' says my friend, 'what was this thing and where?'
It was a pleasure-place within my soul;
An earthly paradise supremely fair
That lured me from the goal.
The first part was a tissue of hugged lies;
The second was its ruin fraught with pain:
Why raise the fair delusion to the skies
But to be dashed again?
My castle stood of white transparent glass
Glittering and frail with many a fretted spire,
But when the summer sunset came to pass
It kindled into fire.
My pleasaunce was an undulating green,
Stately with trees whose shadows slept below,
With glimpses of smooth garden-beds between
Like flame or sky or snow.
Swift squirrels on the pastures took their ease,
With leaping lambs safe from the unfeared knife;
All singing-birds rejoicing in those trees
Fulfilled their careless life.
Woodpigeons cooed there, stockdoves nestled there;
My trees were full of songs and flowers and fruit,
Their branches spread a city to the air
And mice lodged in their root.
My heath lay farther off, where lizards lived
In strange metallic mail, just spied and gone;
Like darted lightnings here and there perceived
But nowhere dwelt upon.
Frogs and fat toads were there to hop or plod
And propagate in peace, an uncouth crew,
Where velvet-headed rushes rustling nod
And spill the morning dew.
All caterpillars throve beneath my rule,
With snails and slugs in corners out of sight;
I never marred the curious sudden stool
That perfects in a night.
Safe in his excavated gallery
The burrowing mole groped on from year to year;
No harmless hedgehog curled because of me
His prickly back for fear.
Oft times one like an angel walked with me,
With spirit-discerning eyes like flames of fire,
But deep as the unfathomed endless sea,
Fulfilling my desire:
And sometimes like a snowdrift he was fair,
And sometimes like a sunset glorious red,
And sometimes he had wings to scale the air
With aureole round his head.
We sang our songs together by the way,
Calls and recalls and echoes of delight;
So communed we together all the day,
And so in dreams by night.
I have no words to tell what way we walked.
What unforgotten path now closed and sealed;
I have no words to tell all things we talked,
All things that he revealed:
This only can I tell: that hour by hour
I waxed more feastful, lifted up and glad;
I felt no thorn-prick when I plucked a flower,
Felt not my friend was sad.
'To-morrow,' once I said to him with smiles:
'To-night,' he answered gravely and was dumb,
But pointed out the stones that numbered miles
And miles to come.
'Not so,' I said: 'to-morrow shall be sweet;
To-night is not so sweet as coming days.'
Then first I saw that he had turned his feet,
Had turned from me his face:
Running and flying miles and miles he went,
But once looked back to beckon with his hand
And cry: 'Come home, O love, from banishment:
Come to the distant land.'
That night destroyed me like an avalanche;
One night turned all my summer back to snow:
Next morning not a bird upon my branch,
Not a lamb woke below,—
No bird, no lamb, no living breathing thing;
No squirrel scampered on my breezy lawn,
No mouse lodged by his hoard: all joys took wing
And fled before that dawn.
Azure and sun were starved from heaven above,
No dew had fallen, but biting frost lay hoar:
O love, I knew that I should meet my love,
Should find my love no more.
'My love no more,' I muttered stunned with pain:
I shed no tear, I wrung no passionate hand,
Till something whispered: 'You shall meet again,
Meet in a distant land.'
Then with a cry like famine I arose,
I lit my candle, searched from room to room,
Searched up and down; a war of winds that froze
Swept through the blank of gloom.
I searched day after day, night after night;
Scant change there came to me of night or day:
'No more,' I wailed, 'no more:' and trimmed my light,
And gnashed but did not pray,
Until my heart broke and my spirit broke:
Upon the frost-bound floor I stumbled, fell,
And moaned: 'It is enough: withhold the stroke.
Farewell, O love, farewell.'
Then life swooned from me. And I heard the song
Of spheres and spirits rejoicing over me:
One cried: 'Our sister, she hath suffered long.'—
One answered: 'Make her see.'—
One cried: 'Oh blessed she who no more pain,
Who no more disappointment shall receive.'—
One answered: 'Not so: she must live again;
Strengthen thou her to live.'
So while I lay entranced a curtain seemed
To shrivel with crackling from before my face;
Across mine eyes a waxing radiance beamed
And showed a certain place.
I saw a vision of a woman, where
Night and new morning strive for domination;
Incomparably pale, and almost fair,
And sad beyond expression.
Her eyes were like some fire-enshrining gem,
Were stately like the stars, and yet were tender;
Her figure charmed me like a windy stem
Quivering and drooped and slender.
I stood upon the outer barren ground,
She stood on inner ground that budded flowers;
While circling in their never-slackening round
Danced by the mystic hours.
But every flower was lifted on a thorn,
And every thorn shot upright from its sands
To gall her feet; hoarse laughter pealed in scorn
With cruel clapping hands.
She bled and wept, yet did not shrink; her strength
Was strung up until daybreak of delight:
She measured measureless sorrow toward its length,
And breadth, and depth, and height.
Then marked I how a chain sustained her form,
A chain of living links not made nor riven:
It stretched sheer up through lighting, wind, and storm,
And anchored fast in heaven.
One cried: 'How long? yet founded on the Rock
She shall do battle, suffer, and attain.'—
One answered: 'Faith quakes in the tempest shock:
Strengthen her soul again.'
I saw a cup sent down and come to her
Brimfull of loathing and of bitterness:
She drank with livid lips that seemed to stir
The depth, not make it less.
But as she drank I spied a hand distil
New wine and virgin honey; making it
First bitter-sweet, then sweet indeed, until
She tasted only sweet.
Her lips and cheeks waxed rosy-fresh and young;
Drinking she sang: 'My soul shall nothing want;'
And drank anew: while soft a song was sung,
A mystical slow chant.
One cried: 'The wounds are faithful of a friend:
The wilderness shall blossom as a rose.'—
One answered: 'Rend the veil, declare the end,
Strengthen her ere she goes.'
Then earth and heaven were rolled up like a scroll;
Time and space, change and death, had passed away;
Weight, number, measure, each had reached its whole;
The day had come, that day.
Multitudes—multitudes—stood up in bliss,
Made equal to the angels, glorious, fair;
With harps, palms, wedding-garments, kiss of peace
And crowned and haloed hair.
They sang a song, a new song in the height,
Harping with harps to Him Who is Strong and True:
They drank new wine, their eyes saw with new light,
Lo, all things were made new.
Tier beyond tier they rose and rose and rose
So high that it was dreadful, flames with flames:
No man could number them, no tongue disclose
Their secret sacred names.
As though one pulse stirred all, one rush of blood
Fed all, one breath swept through them myriad-voiced,
They struck their harps, cast down their crowns, they stood
And worshipped and rejoiced.
Each face looked one way like a moon new-lit,
Each face looked one way towards its Sun of Love;
Drank love and bathed in love and mirrored it
And knew no end thereof.
Glory touched glory on each blessed head,
Hands locked dear hands never to sunder more:
These were the new-begotten from the dead
Whom the great birthday bore.
Heart answered heart, soul answered soul at rest,
Double against each other, filled, sufficed:
All loving, loved of all; but loving best
And best beloved of Christ.
I saw that one who lost her love in pain,
Who trod on thorns, who drank the loathsome cup;
The lost in night, in day was found again;
The fallen was lifted up.
They stood together in the blessed noon,
They sang together through the length of days;
Each loving face bent Sunwards like a moon
New-lit with love and praise.
Therefore, O friend, I would not if I might
Rebuild my house of lies, wherein I joyed
One time to dwell: my soul shall walk in white,
Cast down but not destroyed.
Therefore in patience I possess my soul;
Yea, therefore as a flint I set my face,
To pluck down, to build up again the whole—
But in a distant place.
These thorns are sharp, yet I can tread on them;
This cup is loathsome, yet He makes it sweet:
My face is steadfast toward Jerusalem,
My heart remembers it.
I lift the hanging hands, the feeble knees—
I, precious more than seven times molten gold—
Until the day when from his storehouses
God shall bring new and old;
Beauty for ashes, oil of joy for grief,
Garment of praise for spirit of heaviness:
Although to-day I fade as doth a leaf,
I languish and grow less.
Although to-day He prunes my twigs with pain,
Yet doth His blood nourish and warm my root:
To-morrow I shall put forth buds again
And clothe myself with fruit.
Although to-day I walk in tedious ways,
To-day His staff is turned into a rod,
Yet will I wait for Him the appointed days
And stay upon my God.