Guns Of Peace
GHOSTS of dead soldiers in the battle slain,
Ghosts of dead heroes dying nobler far,
In the long patience of inglorious war,
Of famine, cold, heat, pestilence, and pain,--
All ye whose loss makes our victorious gain--
This quiet night, as sounds the cannon's tongue,
Do ye look down the trembling stars among
Viewing our peace and war with like disdain?
Or wiser grown since reaching those new spheres,
Smile ye on those poor bones ye sowed as seed
For this our harvest, nor regret the deed?--
Yet lift one cry with us to Heavenly ears--
'Strike with Thy bolt the next red flag unfurled,
And make all wars to cease throughout the world.'
HEAVEN rest thee!
We shall go about today
In our festal garlands gay;
Whatsoever robes we wear
Not a trace of black be there.
Well, what matters? none is seen
On thy daisy covering green,
Or thy pure white pillow, hid
Underneath a cofin lid.
Heaven rest thee!
Heaven take thee!--
Ay, heaven only. Sleeps beneath
One who died a virgin death:
Died so slowly, day by day,
That it scarcely seemed decay,
Till this lonely churchyard kind
Opened,--and we left behind
Nothing but a little dust;--
Heaven is pitiful and just:
Heaven take thee!
Heaven keep thee:
Nevermore above the ground
Be one relic of thee found:
Lay the turf so smooth, we crave,
None would guess it was a grave,
Save for grass that greener grows,
Or for wind that gentlier blows
All the earth o'er, from this spot
Where thou wert--and thou art not.
Heaven keep thee!
A Dead Sea-Gull
LACK-LUSTRE eye, and idle wing,
And smirchèd breast that skims no more,
White as the foam itself, the wave--
Hast thou not even a grave
Upon the dreary shore,
Forlorn, forsaken thing?
Thou whom the deep seas could not drown,
Nor all the elements affright,
Flashing like thought across the main,
Mocking the hurricane,
Screaming with shrill delight
When the great ship went down.
Thee not thy beauty saved, nor mirth,
Nor daring, nor thy humble lot,
One among thousands--in quick haste
Fate clutched thee as she passed;
Dead--how, it matters not:
Corrupting, earth to earth.
And not a league from where it lies
Lie bodies once as free from stain,
And hearts as gay as this sea-bird's,
Whom all the preachers' words
Will ne'er make white again,
Or from the dead to rise.
Rot, pretty bird, in harmless clay:--
We sing too much poetic woes;
Let us be doing while we can:
Blessed the Christian man
Who on life's shore seeks those
Dying of soul decay.
SENT IN A LITTLE BOX.
LET them lie, yes, let them lie,
They'll be dead to-morrow:
Lift the lid up quietly
As you'd lift the mystery
Of a shrouded sorrow.
Let them lie, the fragrant things,
Their sweet souls thus giving:
Let no breezes' ambient wings,
And no useless water-springs
Lure them into living.
They have lived--they live no more:
Nothing can requite them
For the gentle life they bore
And up-yielded in full store
While it did delight them.
Yet, poor flowers, not sad to die
In the hand that slew ye,
Did ye leave the open sky,
And the winds that wandered by,
And the bees that knew ye.
Giving up a small earth place,
And a day of blooming,
Here to lie in narrow space,
Smiling in this sickly face,
This dull air perfuming?
O my pretty violets dead,
Coffined from all gazes,
We will also smiling shed
Out of our flowers witherèd,
Perfume of sweet praises.
And as ye, for this poor sake,
Love with life are buying,
So, I doubt not, ONE will make
All our gathered flowers to take
Richer scent through dying.
On The Cliff-Top
FACE upward to the sky
Quiet I lie:
Quiet as if the finger of God's will
Had bade this human mechanism 'be still!'
And sent the intangible essence, this strange I,
All wondering forth to His eternity.
Below, the sea's sound, faint
As dying saint
Telling of gone-by sorrows long at rest:
Above, the fearless sea-gull's shimmering breast
Painted a moment on the dark blue skies--
A hovering joy, that while I watch it flies.
Alike unheeded now
Old griefs, and thou
Quick-wingèd Joy, that like a bird at play
Pleasest thyself to visit me to-day:
On the cliff-top, earth dim and heaven clear,
My soul lies calmly, above hope--or fear.
But not--(do Thou forbid
Whose stainless lid
Wept tears at Lazarus' grave, and looking down
Afar off, upon Solyma's doomed town.)
Ah, not above love--human yet divine--
Which, Thee seen first, in Thee sees all of Thine!
Is't sunset? The keen breeze
Blows from the seas:
And at my side a pleasant vision stands
With her brown eyes and kind extended hands.
Dear, we'll go down together and full fain
From the cliff-top to the busy world again.
A Dead Baby
LITTLE soul, for such brief space that entered
In this little body straight and chilly,
Little life that fluttered and departed,
Like a moth from an unopened lily,
Little being, without name or nation,
Where is now thy place among creation?
Little dark-lashed eyes, unclosèd never,
Little mouth, by earthly food ne'er tainted,
Little breast, that just once heaved, and settled
In eternal slumber, white and sainted,--
Child, shall I in future children's faces
See some pretty look that thine retraces?
Is this thrill that strikes across my heart-strings
And in dew beneath my eyelid gathers,
Token of the bliss thou mightst have brought me,
Dawning of the love they call a father's?
Do I hear through this still room a sighing
Like thy spirit to me its author crying?
Whence didst come and whither take thy journey,
Little soul, of me and mine created?
Must thou lose us, and we thee, forever,
O strange life, by minutes only dated?
Or new flesh assuming, just to prove us,
In some other babe return and love us?
Idle questions all: yet our beginning
Like our ending, rests with the Life-sender,
With whom naught is lost, and naught spent vainly:
Unto Him this little one I render.
Hide the face--the tiny coffin cover:
So, our first dream, our first hope--is over.
The Path Through The Snow
BARE and sunshiny, bright and bleak,
Rounded cold as a dead maid's cheek,
Folded white as a sinner's shroud,
Or wandering angel's robes of cloud.--
Well I know, well I know
Over the fields the path through the snow.
Narrow and rough it lies between
Wastes where the wind sweeps, biting keen:
Every step of the slippery road
Marks where some weary foot has trod;
Who'll go, who'll go
After the rest on the path through the snow?
They who would tread it must walk alone,
Silent and steadfast--one by one:
Dearest to dearest can only say,
'My heart! I'll follow thee all the way,
As we go, as we go
Each after each on this path through the snow.'
It may be under that western haze
Lurks the omen of brighter days;
That each sentinel tree is quivering
Deep at its core with the sap of spring,
And while we go, while we go,
Green grass-blades pierce thro' the glittering snow.
It may be the unknown path will tend
Never to any earthly end,
Die with the dying day obscure,
And never lead to a human door:
That none know who did go
Patiently once on this path through the snow.
No matter, no matter! the path shines plain;
These pure snow-crystals will deaden pain;
Above, like stars in the deep blue dark,
Eyes that love us look down and mark.
Let us go, let us go,
Whither heaven leads in the path thro' the snow.
Until Her Death
UNTIL her death!' the words read strange yet real,
Like things afar off suddenly brought near:--
Will it be slow or speedy, full of fear,
Or calm as a spent day of peace ideal?
Will her brown locks lie white on coffin pillow?
Will these her eyes, that sometime were called sweet,
Close, after years of dried-up tears, or meet
Death's dust in midst of weeping? And that billow,--
Her restless heart,--will it be stopped, still heaving?
Or softly ebb 'neath age's placid breath?
Will it be lonely, this mysterious death,
Fit close unto her solitary living,--
A turning of her face to the wall, nought spoken,
Exchanging this world's light for heaven's;--or will
She part in pain, from warm love to the chill
Unknown, pursued with cries of hearts half-broken?
With fond lips felt through the blind mists of dying,
And close arms clung to in the struggle vain;--
Or, these all past, will death to her be gain,
Unto her life's long question God's replying?
No more. Within his hand, divine as tender,
He holds the mystic measure of her days;
And be they few or many, His the praise,--
In life or death her Keeper and Defender.
Then, come He soon or late, she will not fear Him;
Be her end lone or loveful, she'll not grieve;
For He whom she believed in--doth believe--
Will call her from the dust, and she will hear Him.
A Dream Of Death
WHERE shall we sail to-day?'--Thus said, methought,
A voice that only could be heard in dreams:
And on we glided without mast or oar,
A wondrous boat upon a wondrous sea.
Sudden, the shore curved inward to a bay,
Broad, calm, with gorgeous sea-weeds waving slow
Beneath the water, like rich thoughts that stir
In the mysterious deep of poets' hearts.
So still, so fair, so rosy in the dawn
Lay that bright bay: yet something seemed to breath,
Or in the air, or from the whispering waves,
Or from that voice, as near as one's own soul,
'There was a wreck last night.' A wreck? then where
The ship, the crew?--The all-entombing sea
On which is writ nor name nor chronicle
Laid itself o'er them with smooth crystal smile.
'Yet was the wreck last night.'. And gazing down
Deep down below the surface, we were ware
Of ghastly faces with their open eyes
Uplooking to the dawn they could not see.
One moved with moving sea-weeds: one lay prone,
The tinted fishes gliding o'er his breast;
One, caught by floating hair, rocked quietly
Upon his reedy cradle, like a child.
'The wreck has been'--said the melodious voice,
'Yet all is peace. The dead, that, while we slept,
Struggled for life, now sleep and fear no storms:
O'er them let us not weep when heaven smiles.'
So we sailed on above the diamond sands,
Bright sea-flowers, and white faces stony calm,
Till the waves bore us to the open main,
And the great sun arose upon the world.
Will Sail Tomorrow
THE good ship lies in the crowded dock,
Fair as a statue, firm as a rock:
Her tall masts piercing the still blue air,
Her funnel glittering white and bare,
Whence the long soft line of vapory smoke
Betwixt sky and sea like a vision broke,
Or slowly o'er the horizon curled
Like a lost hope fled to the other world:
She sails to-morrow,--
Out steps the captain, busy and grave,
With his sailor's footfall, quick and brave,
His hundred thoughts and his thousand cares,
And his steady eye that all things dares:
Though a little smile o'er the kind face dawns
On the loving brute that leaps and fawns,
And a little shadow comes and goes,
As if heart and fancy fled--where, who knows:
He sails to-morrow:
To-morrow the serried line of ships
Will quick close after her as she slips
Into the unknown deep once more:
To-morrow, to-morrow, some on shore
With straining eyes shall desperate yearn--
'This is not parting? return--return!'
Peace, wild-wrung hands! hush, sobbing breath!
Love keepeth its own through life and death;
Though she sails to-morrow--
Sail, stately ship; down Southampton water
Gliding fair as old Nereus' daughter:
Christian ship that for burthen bears
Christians, speeded by Christian prayers;
All kinds of angels follow her track!
Pitiful God, bring the good ship back!
All the souls in her forever keep
Thine, living or dying, awake or asleep:
Then sail to-morrow!
Ship, sail to-morrow!
A Ghost At The Dancing
A WIND-SWEPT tulip-bed--a colored cloud
Of butterflies careering in the air--
A many-figured arras stirred to life,
And merry unto midnight music dumb--
So the dance whirls. Do any think of thee,
Friends greet each other--countless rills of talk
Meander round, scattering a spray of smiles.
Surely--the news was false. One minute more
And thou wilt stand here, tall and quiet-eyed,
Shakespearian beauty in they pensive face,
Many here knew and loved thee--I nor loved,
Scarce knew--yet in thy place a shadow glides,
And a face shapes itself from empty air,
Watching the dancers, grave and quiet-eyed--
Eyes that now see the angels evermore,
On just such night as this, 'midst dance and song,
I bade thee carelessly a light good by--
'Good by'--saidst thou; 'A happy journey home!'
Was the unseen death-angel at thy side,
Mocking those words--('A happy journey home,'
Ay, we play fool's play still; thou hast gone home.
While these dance here, a mile hence o'er thy grave
Drifts the deep New Year snow. The wondrous gate
We spoke of, thou hast entered; I without
Grope ignorant still--thou dost its secrets know,
What if, thus sitting where we sat last year,
Thou camest, took'st up our broken thread of talk,
And told'st of that new Home, which far I view,
As children, wandering on through wintry fields,
Mark on the hill the father's window shine,
No. We shall see thy pleasant face no more;
Thy words on earth are ended. Yet thou livest;
'T is we who die.--I too, one day shall come,
And, unseen, watch these shadows, quiet-eyed--
Then flit back to thy land, the living land,
A Dream Of Resurrection
SO heavenly beautiful it lay,
It was less like a human corse
Than that fair shape in which perforce
A lost hope clothes itself alway.
The dream showed very plain: the bed
Where that known unknown face reposed,--
A woman's face with eyelids closed,
A something precious that was dead;
A something, lost on this side life,
By which the mourner came and stood,
And laid down, ne'er to be indued,
All flaunting robes of earthly strife;
Shred off, like votive locks of hair,
Youth's ornaments of pride and strength,
And cast them in their golden length
The silence of that bier to share.
No tears fell,--but with gazings long
Lorn memory tried to print that face
On the heart's ever-vacant place,
With a sun-finger, sharp and strong.--
Then kisses, dropping without sound,
And solemn arms wound round the dead,
And lifting from the natural bed
Into the coffin's strange new bound.
Yet still no farewell, or belief
In death, no more than one believes
In some dread truth that sudden weaves
The whole world in a shroud of grief.
And still unanswered kisses; still
Warm clingings to the image cold
With an incredulous faith's close fold,
Creative in its fierce 'I will.'
Hush,--hush! the marble eyelids move,
The kissed lips quiver into breath:
Avaunt, thou mockery of Death!
Avaunt!--we are conquerors, I and Love.
Corpse of dead Hope, awake, arise,
A living Hope that only slept
Until the tears thus overwept
Had washed the blindness from our eyes.
Come back into the upper day:
Pluck off these cerements. Patient shroud,
We'll wrap thee as a garment proud
Round the fair shape we thought was clay.
Clasp, arms; cling, soul; eyes, drink anew
The beauty that returns with breath:
Faith, that out-loved this trance-like death,
May see this resurrection too.
LITTLE white clouds, why are you flying
Over the sky so blue and cold?
Fair faint hopes, why are you lying
Over my heart like a white cloud's fold?
Slender green leaves, why are you peeping
Out of the ground where the snow yet lies?
Toying west wind, why are you creeping
Like a child's breath across my eyes?
Hope and terror by turns consuming,
Lover and friend put far from me,--
What should I do with the bright spring, coming
Like an angel over the sea?
Over the cruel sea that parted
Me from mine own, and rolls between;--
Out of the woful east, whence darted
Heaven's full quiver of vengeance keen.
Day teaches day, night whispers morning--
'Hundreds are weeping their dead, while thou
Weeping thy living--Rise, be adorning
Thy brows, unwidowed, with smiles.'--But how?
O, had he married me!--unto anguish,
Hardship, sickness, peril, and pain;
That on my breast his head might languish
In lonely jungle or scorching plain;
O, had we stood on some rampart gory,
Till he--ere Horror behind us trod--
Kissed me, and killed me--so, with his glory
My soul went happy and pure to God!
Nay, nay, Heaven pardon me! me, sick-hearted,
Living this long, long life-in-death:
Many there are far wider parted
Who under one roof-tree breathe one breath.
But we that loved--whom one word half broken
Had drawn together close soul to soul
As lip to lip--and it was not spoken,
Nor may be while the world's ages roll.
I sit me down with my tears all frozen:
I drink my cup, be it gall or wine:
For I know, if he lives, I am his chosen--
I know, if he dies, that he is mine.
If love in its silence be greater, stronger
Than million promises, sighs, or tears--
I will wait upon Him a little longer
Who holdeth the balance of our years.
Little white clouds, like angels flying,
Bring the spring with you across the sea--
Loving or losing, living or dying,
Lord, remember, remember me!
The Cathedral Tombs
THEY lie, with upraised hands, and feet
Stretched like dead feet that walk no more,
And stony masks oft human sweet,
As if the olden look each wore,
Familiar curves of lip and eye,
Were wrought by some fond memory.
All waiting: the new-coffined dead,
The handful of mere dust that lies
Sarcophagused in stone and lead
Under the weight of centuries:
Knight, cardinal, bishop, abbess mild,
With last week's buried year-old child.
After the tempest cometh peace,
After long travail sweet repose;
These folded palms, these feet that cease
From any motion, are but shows
Of--what? What rest? How rest they? Where?
The generations naught declare.
Dark grave, unto whose brink we come,
Drawn nearer by all nights and days;
Each after each, thy solemn gloom
We pierce with momentary gaze,
Then go, unwilling or content,
The way that all our fathers went.
Is there no voice or guiding hand
Arising from the awful void,
To say, 'Fear not the silent land;
Would He make aught to be destroyed?
Would He? or can He? What know we
Of Him who is Infinity?
Strong Love, which taught us human love,
Helped us to follow through all spheres
Some soul that did sweet dead lips move,
Lived in dear eyes in smiles and tears,
Love--once so near our flesh allied,
That 'Jesus wept' when Lazarus died;--
Eagle-eyed Faith that can see God,
In worlds without and heart within;
In sorrow by the smart o' the rod,
In guilt by the anguish of the sin;
In everything pure, holy, fair,
God saying to man's soul, 'I am there';--
These only, twin-archangels, stand
Above the abyss of common doom,
These only stretch the tender hand
To us descending to the tomb,
Thus making it a bed of rest
With spices and with odors drest.
So, like one weary and worn, who sinks
To sleep beneath long faithful eyes,
Who asks no word of love, but drinks
The silence which is paradise--
We only cry--'Keep angelward,
And give us good rest, O good Lord!'
Living: After A Death
(Thus seems it we should say to our beloved,--
Each held by such slight links, so oft removed
And I can let thee go to the world's end,
All precious names, companion, love, spouse, friend,
Seal up in an eternal silence gray,
Like a closed grave till resurrection-day:
All sweet remembrances, hopes, dreams, desires,
Heap, as one heaps up sarificial fires:
Then, turning, consecrate by loss, and proud
Of penury--go back into the loud
Tumultuous world again with never a moan--
Save that which whispers still, 'My own, my own,'
Unto the same broad sky whose arch immense
Enfolds us both like the arm of Providence:
And thus, contended, I could live or die,
With never clasp of hand or meeting eye
On this side Paradise.--While thee I see
Living to God, thou art alive to me.
And I, methinks, can let all dear rights go,
Fond duties melt away like April snow,
And sweet, sweet hopes, that took a life to weave,
Vanish like gossamers of autumn eve.
Nay, sometimes seems it I could even bear
To lay down humbly this love-crown I wear,
Steal from my palace, helpless, hopeless, poor,
And see another queen it at the door,--
If only that the king had done no wrong,
If this my palace, where I dwelt so long,
Were not defiled by falsehood entering in:--
There is no loss but change, no death but sin,
No parting, save the slow corrupting pain
Of murdered faith that never lives again.
(So endeth faint the low pathetic cry
Of love, whom death has taught love cannot die,)
And I can stand above the daisy bed,
The only pillow for thy dearest head,
There cover up forever from my sight
My own, my earthly all of earth delight;
And enter the sea-cave of widowed years,
Where far, far off the trembling gleam appears
Through which thy heavenly image slipped away,
And waits to meet me at the open day.
Only to me, my love, only to me.
This cavern underneath the moaning sea;
This long, long life that I alone must tread,
To whom the living seem most like the dead,--
Thou wilt be safe out on the happy shore:
He who in God lives, liveth evermore.
The Dead Czar
LAY him beneath his snows,
The great Norse giant who in these last days
Troubled the nations. Gather decently
The imperial robes about him. 'T is but man,--
This demi-god. Or rather it was man,
And is--a little dust that will corrupt
As fast as any nameless dust which sleeps
'Neath Alma's grass or Balaklava's vines.
No vineyard grave for him. No quiet tomb
By river margin, where across the seas
Children's fond thoughts and women's memories come
Like angels, to sit by the sepulchre,
Saying: 'All these were men who knew to count,
Front-faced, the cost of honor, nor did shrink
From its full payment: coming here to die,
They died--like men.'
But this man? Ah! for him
Funereal state, and ceremonial grand,
The stone-engraved sarcophagus, and then
Nay, oblivion were as bliss
To that fierce howl which rolls from land to land
Exulting,--'Art thou fallen, Lucifer,
Son of the morning?' or condemning,--'Thus
Perish the wicked!' or blaspheming,--'Here
Lies our Belshazzar, our Sennacherib,
Our Pharaoh,--he whose heart God hardenèd,
So that he would not let the people go.'
Self-glorifying sinners! Why, this man
Was but like other men:--you, Levite small,
Who shut your saintly ears, and prate of hell
And heretics, because outside church-doors,
Your church-doors, congregations poor and small
Praise Heaven in their own way;--you, autocrat
Of all the hamlets, who add field to field
And house to house, whose slavish children cower
Before your tyrant footstep;--you, foul-tongued
Fanatic or ambitious egotist,
Who thinks God stoops from His high majesty
To lay His finger on your puny head,
And crown it,--that you henceforth may parade
Your maggotship throughout the wondering world,--
'I am the Lord's anointed!'
Fools and blind!
This Czar, this emperor, this disthronèd corpse,
Lying so straightly in an icy calm
Grander than sovereignty, was but as ye,--
No better and no worse;--Heaven mend us all!
Carry him forth and bury him. Death's peace
Rest on his memory! Mercy by his bier
Sits silent, or says only these few words,--
'Let him who is without sin 'mongst ye all
Cast the first stone.'
Faithful In Vanity-Fair
THE great human whirlpool--'t is seething and seething:
On! No time for shrieking out--scarcely for breathing:
All toiling and moiling, some feebler, some bolder,
But each sees a fiend-face grim over his shoulder:
Thus merrily live they in Vanity-fair.
The great human caldron--it boils ever higher:
Some drowning, some sinking; while some, stealing nigher
Athirst, come and lean o'er its outermost verges,
Or touch, as a child's feet touch, timorous, the surges--
One plunge--lo! more souls swamped in Vanity-fair.
Let's live while we live; for to-morrow all's over:
Drink deep, drunkard bold; and kiss close, maddened lover;
Smile, hypocrite, smile; it is no such hard labor,
While each stealthy hand stabs the heart of his neighbor--
Faugh! Fear not: we've no hearts in Vanity-fair.
The mad crowd divides and then soon closes after:
Afar towers the pyre. Through the shouting and laughter
'What new sport is this?' gasps a reveller, half turning.--
'One Faithful, meek fool, who is led to the burning,
He cumbered us sorely in Vanity-fair.
'A dreamer, who held every man for a brother;
A coward, who, smit on one cheek, gave the other;
A fool, whose blind soul took as truth all our lying,
Too simple to live, so best fitted for dying:
Sure, such are best swept out of Vanity-fair.'
SILENCE! though the flames arise and quiver:
Silence! though the crowd howls on forever:
Silence! Through this fiery purgatory
God is leading up a soul to glory.
See, the white lips with no moans are trembling,
Hate of foes or plaint of friends' dissembling;
If sighs come--his patient prayers outlive them,
'Lord--these know not what they do. Forgive them!'
Thirstier still the roaring flames are glowing;
Fainter in his ear the laughter growing;
Brief will last the fierce and fiery trial,
Angel welcomes drown the earth denial.
Now the amorous death-fires, gleaming ruddy,
Clasp him close. Down drops the quivering body,
While through harmless flames ecstatic flying
Shoots the beauteous soul. This, this is dying.
Lo, the opening sky with splendor rifted,
Lo, the palm-branch for his hands uplifted:
Lo, the immortal chariot, cloud-descending,
And its legioned angels close attending.
Let his poor dust mingle with the embers
While the crowds sweep on and none remembers:
Saints unnumbered through the Infinite Glory,
Praising God, recount the martyr's story.
Only A Woman
"She loves with love that cannot tire:
And if, ah, woe! she loves alone,
Through passionate duty love flames higher,
As grass grows taller round a stone."
SO, the truth's out. I 'll grasp it like a snake, --
It will not slay me. My heart shall not break
Awhile, if only for the children's sake.
For his too, somewhat. Let him stand unblamed;
None say, he gave me less than honor claimed,
Except -- one trifle scarcely worth being named --
The heart. That 's gone. The corrupt dead might be
As easily raised up, breathing -- fair to see,
As he could bring his whole heart back to me.
I never sought him in coquettish sport,
Or courted him as silly maidens court,
And wonder when the longed-for prize falls short.
I only loved him -- any woman would:
But shut my love up till he came and sued,
Then poured it o'er his dry life like a flood.
I was so happy I could make him blest!
So happy that I was his first and best,
As he mine -- when he took me to his breast.
Ah me! If only then he had been true!
If for one little year, a month or two,
He had given me love for love, as was my due!
Or had he told me, ere the deed was done,
He only raised me to his heart's dear throne --
Poor substitute -- because his queen was gone!
O, had he whispered, when his sweetest kiss
Was warm upon my mouth in fancied bliss,
He had kissed another woman even as this, --
It were less bitter! Sometimes I could weep
To be thus cheated, like a child asleep: --
Were not my anguish far too dry and deep.
So I built my house upon another's ground;
Mocked with a heart just caught at the rebound --
A cankered thing that looked so firm and sound.
And when that heart grew colder -- colder still,
I, ignorant, tried all duties to fulfil,
Blaming my foolish pain, exacting will,
All -- anything but him. It was to be:
The full draught others drink up carelessly
Was made this bitter Tantalus-cup for me.
I say again -- he gives me all I claimed,
I and my children never shall be shamed:
He is a just man -- he will live unblamed.
Only -- O God, O God, to cry for bread,
And get a stone! Daily to lay my head
Upon a bosom where the old love's dead!
Dead? -- Fool! It never lived. It only stirred
Galvanic, like an hour-cold corpse. None heard:
So let me bury it without a word.
He 'll keep that other woman from my sight.
I know not if her face be foul or bright;
I only know that it was his delight --
As his was mine: I only know he stands
Pale, at the touch of their long-severed hands,
Then to a flickering smile his lips commands,
Lest I should grieve, or jealous anger show.
He need not. When the ship 's gone down, I trow,
We little reck whatever wind may blow.
And so my silent moan begins and ends.
No world's laugh or world's taunt, not pity of friends
Or sneer of foes with this my torment blends.
None knows -- none heeds. I have a little pride;
Enough to stand up, wife-like, by his side,
With the same smile as when I was a bride.
And I shall take his children to my arms;
They will not miss these fading, worthless charms;
Their kiss -- ah! unlike his -- all pain disarms.
And haply, as the solemn years go by,
He will think sometimes with regretful sigh,
The other woman was less true than I.
A mountain in the Island of Arran, the summit of which resembles a gigantic
WITH face turned upward to the changeful sky,
I, Fergus, lie, supine in frozen rest;
The maiden morning clouds slip rosily
Unclasped, unclasping, down my granite breast;
The lightning strikes my brow and passes by.
There's nothing new beneath the sun, I wot:
I, 'Fergus' called,--the great pre-Adamite,
Who for my mortal body blindly sought
Rash immortality, and on this height
Stone-bound, forever am and yet am not,--
There's nothing new beneath the sun, I say.
Ye pigmies of a later race, who come
And play out your brief generation's play
Below me, know, I too spent my life's sum,
And revelled through my short tumultuous day.
O, what is man that he should mouth so grand
Through his poor thousand as his seventy years?
Whether as king I ruled a trembling land,
Or swayed by tongue or pen my meaner peers,
Or earth's whole learning once did understand,--
What matter? The star-angels know it all.
They who came sweeping through the silent night
And stood before me, yet did not appal:
Till, fighting 'gainst me in their courses bright,*
Celestial smote terrestrial.--Hence, my fall.
Hence, Heaven cursed me with a granted prayer;
Made my hill-seat eternal: bade me keep
My pageant of majestic lone despair,
While one by one into the infinite deep
Sank kindred, realm, throne, world: yet I lay there.
There still I lie. Where are my glories fled?
My wisdom that I boasted as divine?
My grand primeval women fair, who shed
Their whole life's joy to crown one hour of mine,
And live to curse the love they coveted?
'The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.'
Gone--gone. Uncounted æons have rolled by,
And still my ghost sits by its corpse of stone,
And still the blue smile of the new-formed sky
Finds me unchanged. Slow centuries crawling on
Bring myriads happy death:--I cannot die.
My stone shape mocks the dead man's peaceful face,
And straightened arm that will not labor more;
And yet I yearn for a mean six-foot space
To moulder in, with daisies growing o'er,
Rather than this unearthly resting-place;--
Where pinnacled, my silent effigy
Against the sunset rising clear and cold,
Startles the musing mstranger sailing by,
And calls up thoughts that never can be told,
Of life, and death, and immortality.
While I?--I watch this after world that creeps
Nearer and nearer to the feet of God:
Ay, though it labors, struggles, sins, and weeps,
Yet, love-drawn, follows ever Him who trod
Through dim Gethsemane to Cavalry's steeps.
O glorious shame! O royal servitude!
High lowliness, and ignorance all-wise!
Pure life with death, and death with life imbued;--
My centuried splendors crumble 'neath Thine eyes,
Thou Holy One who died upon the Rood!
Therefore, face upward to the Christian heaven,
I, Fergus, lie: expectant, humble, calm;
Dumb emblem of the faith to me not given;
The clouds drop chrism, the stars their midnight psalm
Chant over one, who passed away unshriven.
'I am the Resurrection and the Life.',
So from yon mountain graveyard cries the dust
Of child to parent, husband unto wife,
Consoling, and believing in the Just:--
Christ lives, though all the universe died in strife.
Therefore my granite lips forever pray,
'O rains, wash out my sin of self abhorred:
O sun, melt thou my heart of stone away,
Out of Thy plenteous mercy save me, Lord.'
And thus I wait till Resurrection-day.
Looking Death In The Face
AY, in thy face, old fellow! Now's the time.
The Black Sea wind flaps my tent-roof, nor wakes
These lads of mine, who take of sleep their fill,
As if they thought they'd never sleep again,
Pitiless Crimean blast,
How many a howling lullaby thou'lt raise
To-morrow night, all nights till the world's end,
Over some sleepers here!
Some?--who? Dumb Fate
Whispers in no man's ear his coming doom;
Each thinks--'not I--not I.'
But thou, grim Death,
I hear thee on the night-wind flying abroad,
I feel thee here, squatted at our tent-door,
Invisible and incommunicable,
Why yell so in your sleep,
Comrade? Did you see aught?
Well--let him dream:
Who knows, to-morrow such a shout as this
He'll die with. A brave lad, and very like
* * * * * *
So! just two hours have I lain
Freezing. That pale white star, which came and peered
Through the tent-opening, has passed on, to smile
Elsewhere, or lost herself i' the dark,--God knows.
Two hours nearer to dawn. The very hour,
The very hour and day, a year ago,
When we light-hearted and light-footed fools
Went jingling idle swords in waltz and reel,
And smiling in fair faces. How they'd start,
Those dainty red ad white soft faces kind,
If they could but behold my visage now,
Or his--or his--o some poor faces cold
We covered up with earth last noon.
The laidly Thing I felt on our tent-door
Two hours back. It has sat and never stirred.
I cannot challenge it, or shoot it down,
Or grapple with it, as with that young Russ
Whom I killed yesterday. (What eyes he had!--
Great limpid eyes, and curling dark-red hair,--
A woman's picture hidden in his breast,--
I never liked this fighting hand to hand.)
No, it will not be met like flesh and blood,
This shapeless, voiceless, immaterial Thing,
Yet I will meet it. Here I sit alone,--
Show me thy face, O Death!
There, there. I think
I did not tremble.
I am a young man;
Have done full many an ill deed, left undone
Many a good one: lived unto the flesh,
Not to the spirit: I would rather live
A few years more, and try if things might change.
Yet, yet I hope I do not tremble, Death;
And that thy finger pointed at my heart
But calms the tumult there.
What small account
The All-living seems to take of this thin flame
Which we call life. He sends a moment's blast
Out of war's nostrils, and a myriad
Of these our puny tapers are blown out
Forever. Yet we shrink not,--we, such frail
Poor knaves, whom a spent ball can instant strike
Into eternity,--we helpless fools,
Whom a serf's clumsy hand and clumsier sword
Smiting--shall sudden into nothingness
Let out that something rare which could conceive
A universe and its God.
We rush like bridegrooms to Death's grisly arms:
Surely the very longing for that clasp
Proves us immortal. Immortality
Alone could teach this mortal how to die.
Perhaps, war is but Heaven's great ploughshare, driven
Over the barren, fallow earthly fields,
Preparing them for harvest; rooting up
Grass, weeds, and flowers, which necessary fall,
That in these furrows the wise Husbandman
May drop celestial seed.
So let us die;
Yield up our little lives, as the flowers do;
Believing He'll not lose one single soul,--
One germ of His immortal. Naught of His
Or Him can perish; therefore let us die.
I half remember, something like to this
She says in her dear letters. So--let us die.
What, dawn? The faint hum in the trenches fails.
Is that a bell i' the mist? My faith, they go
Early to matins in Sebastopol!--
A gun!--Lads, stand to your arms; the Russ is here.
Kind Heaven, I have looked Death in the face,
Help me to die.
IT is a moor
Barren and treeless; lying high and bare
Beneath the archèd sky. The rushing winds
Fly over it, each with his strong bow bent
And quiver full of whistling arrows keen.
I am a woman, lonely, old, and poor.
If there be any one who watches me
(But there is none) adown the long blank wold,
My figure painted on the level sky
Would startle him as if it were a ghost,--
And like a ghost, a weary wandering ghost,
I roam and roam, and shiver through the dark
That will not hide me. O but for one hour,
One blessed hour of warm and dewy night,
To wrap me like a pall--with not an eye
In earth or heaven to pierce the black serene.
Night, call yet this? No night; no dark--no rest--
A moon-ray sweeps down sudden from the sky,
And smites the moor--
Is't thou, accursèd Thing,
Broad, pallid, like a great woe looming out--
Out of its long-sealed grave, to fill all earth
With its dead, ghastly smile? Art there again,
Round, perfect, large, as when we buried thee,
I and the kindly clouds that heard my prayers?
I'll sit me down and meet thee face to face,
Mine enemy!--Why didst thou rise upon
My world--my innocent world, to make me mad?
Wherefore shine forth, a tiny tremulous curve
Hung out in the gray sunset beauteously,
To tempt mine eyes--then nightly to increase
Slow orbing, till thy full, blank, pitiless stare
Hunts me across the world?
No rest--no dark.
Hour after hour that passionless bright face
Climbs up the desolate blue. I will press down
The lids on my tired eyeballs--crouch in dust,
--Thank God, thank God!--a cloud has hid
My torturer. The night at last is free:
Forth peep in crowds the merry twinkling stars.
Ah, we'll shine out, the little silly stars
And I; we'll dance together across the moor,
They up aloft--I here. At last, at last
We are avengèd of our adversary!
The freshening of the night air feels like dawn.
Who said that I was mad? I will arise,
Throw off my burthen, march across the wold
Airily--Ha! what, stumbling? Nay, no fear--
I am used unto the dark, for many a year
Steering compassionless athwart the waste
To where, deep hid in valleys of white mist,
The pleasant home-lights shine. I will but pause,
Turn round and gaze--
O me! O miserable me!
The cloud-bank overflows: sudden outpour
The bright white moon-rays--ah! I drown, I drown,
And o'er the flood, with steady motion, slow
It walketh--my inexorable Doom.
No more: I shall not struggle any more:
I will lie down as quiet as a child,--
I can but die.
There, I have hid my face:
Stray travellers passing o'er the silent wold
Would only say, 'She sleeps.'
Glare on, my Doom;
I will not look at thee: and if at times
I shiver, still I neither weep nor moan:
Angels may see, I neither weep nor moan.
Was that sharp whistling wind the morning breeze
That calls the stars back to the obscure of heaven?
I am very cold.--And yet there is a change.
Less fiercely the sharp moonbeams smite my brain,
My heart beats slower, duller: soothing rest
Like a soft garment binds my shuddering limbs.--
If I looked up now, should I see it still
Gibbeted ghastly in the hopeless sky?--
It is very strange: all things seem strange:
Pale spectral face, I do not fear thee now:
Was't this mere shadow which did haunt me once
Like an avenging fiend?--Well, we fade out
Together: I'll nor dread nor curse thee more.
How calm the earth seems! and I know the moor
Glistens with dew-stars. I will try and turn
My poor face eastward. Close not, eyes! That light
Fringing the far hills, all so fair--so fair,
Is it not dawn? I am dying, but 't is dawn.
'Upon the mountains I behold the feet
Of my Beloved: let us forth to meet'--
This is death. I see the light no more;
But like a morning bird my soul
Springs singing upward, into the deeps of heaven
Through world on world to follow Infinite Day.
IT is near morning. Ere the next night fall
I shall be made the bride of heaven. Then home
To my still marriage chamber I shall come,
And spouseless, childless, watch the slow years crawl.
These lips will never meet a softer touch
Than the stone crucifix I kiss; no child
Will clasp this neck. Ah, virgin-mother mild,
Thy painted bliss will mock me overmuch.
This is the last time I shall twist the hair
My mother's hand wreathed, till in dust she lay:
The name, her name, given on my baptism-day,
This is the last time I shall ever bear.
O weary world, O heavy life, farewell!
Like a tired child that creeps into the dark
To sob itself asleep, where none will mark,--
So creep I to my silent convent cell.
Friends, lovers whom I loved not, kindly hearts
Who grieve that I should enter this still door,
Grieve not. Closing behind me evermore,
Me from all anguish, as all joy, it parts.
Love, whom alone I loved; who stand'st far off,
Lifting compassionate eyes that could not save,
Remember, this my spirit's quiet grave
Hides me from worldly pity, worldly scoff.
'T was less thy hand than Heaven's which came between,
And dashed my cup down. See, I shed no tears:
And if I think at all of vanished years,
'T is but to bless thee, dear, for what has been.
My soul continually does cry to thee;
In the night-watches ghost-like stealing out
From its flesh tomb, and hovering thee about;
So live that I in heaven thy face may see!
Live, noble heart, of whom this heart of mine
Was half unworthy. Build up actions great,
That I down looking from the crystal gate
Smile o'er our dead hopes urned in such a shrine.
Live, keeping aye they spirit undefiled,
That, when we stand before our Master's feet,
I with an angel's love may crown complete
The woman's faith, the worship of the child.
Dawn, solemn bridal morn; ope, bridal door;
I enter. My vowed soul may Heaven take;
My heart its virgin spousal for thy sake;
O love, keeps sacred thus forevermore.
THE SISTER OF MERCY.
IS it then so?--Good friends, who sit and sigh
While I lie smiling, are my life's sands run?
Will my next matins, hymned beyond the sun,
Mingle with those of saints and martyrs high?
Shall I with these my gray hairs turned to gold,
My aged limbs new clad in garments white,
Stand all transfigured in the angels' sight,
Singing triumphantly that moan of old,--
Thy will be done? It was done. O my God,
Thou know'st, when over grief's tempestuous sea
My broken-wingèd soul fled home to Thee,
I writhed, but never murmured at Thy rod.
It fell upon me, stern at first, then soft
As parent's kisses, till the wound was healed;
And I went forth a laborer in Thy field:--
They best can bind who have been bruisèd oft.
And Thou wert pitiful. I came heart-sore,
And drank Thy cup because earth's cups ran dry:
Thou slew'st me not for that impiety,
But madest the draught so sweet, I thirst no more.
I came for silence, heavy rest, or death:
Thou gavest instead life, peace, and holy toil:
My sighing lips from sorrow didst assoil,
And fill with righteous thankfulness each breath.
Therefore I praise Thee that Thou shuttest Thine ears
Unto my misery: didst Thy will, not mine:
That to this length of days Thy hand divine,
My feet from falling kept, mine eyes from tears.
Sisters, draw near. Hear my last words serene:
When I was young I walked in mine own ways,
Worshipped--not God: sought not alone His praise;
So he cut down my gourd while it was green.
And then He o'er me threw His holy shade,
That though no other mortal plants might grow,
Mocking the beauty that was long laid low,
I dwelt in peace, and His commands obeyed.
I thank Him for all joy and for all pain:
For healèd pangs, for years of calm content:
For blessedness of spending and being spent
In His high service where all loss is gain.
I bless Him for my life and for my death;
But most, that in my death my life is crowned,
Since I see there, with angels gathering round,
My angel. Ay, love, thou hast kept thy faith,
I mine. The golden portals will not close
Like those of earth, between us. Reach thy hand!
No miserere, sisters. Chant out grand
Te Deum laudamus. Now,--'t is all repose.