I HEAR the waves to-night
Piteously calling, calling
Though the light
Of the kind moon is falling,
Like kisses, on the sea
That calls for sunshine, dear, as my soul calls for thee.
I see the sea lie gray
Wrinkling her brows in sorrow,
Hear her say:--
'Bright love of yesterday, return to-morrow,
Sun, I am thine, am thine!'
Oh sea, thy love will come again, but what of mine?
'LOVE me little, love me long,'
Is the burden of my song,
And if nothing more may be
Little shall suffice for me.
But if you could crown with flowers
All my radiant, festal hours,
And console for hours of sorrow
Love me more with each to-morrow.
And if you would turn my days
To one splendid hymn of praise,
And set hopes like stars above me
Love me much, and always love me!
Now the Spring is waking,
Very shy as yet,
Busy mending, making
Grass and violet.
Frowsy Winter's over:
See the budding lane!
Go and meet your lover:
Spring is here again!
Every day is longer
Than the day before;
Lambs are whiter, stronger,
Birds sing more and more;
Woods are less than shady,
Griefs are more than vain -
Go and kiss your lady:
Spring is here again!
WE loved, my love, and now it seems
Our love has brought to birth
Friendship, the fairest child of dreams,
The rarest gift of earth.
Soon die love's roses fresh and frail,
And when their bloom is o'er,
Not all our heart-wrung tears avail
To give them life once more.
But when true love with friendship lives,
As now, for thee and me,
Love brings the roses--Friendship gives
That was the skylark we heard
Singing so high,
The little quivering bird
We saw, and the sky.
The earth was drenched with sun,
The sky was drenched with song;
We lay in the grass and listened,
Long and long and long.
I said, 'What a spell it is
Has made her rise
To pour out her world of bliss
In that world of skies!'
You said, 'What a spell must pass
Between sky and plain,
Since she finds in this world of grass
Her nest again!'
THE summer down the garden walks
Swept in her garments bright;
She touched the pale still lily stalks
And crowned them with delight;
She breathed upon the rose's head
And filled its heart with fire,
And with a golden carpet spread
The path of my desire.
The larkspurs stood like sentinels
To greet her as she came,
Soft rang the Canterbury bells
The music of her name.
She passed across the happy land
Where all dear dreams flower free;
She took my true love by the hand
And led her out to me.
To Vera, Who Asked A Song
IF I only had time!
I could make you a rhyme.
But my time is kept flying
By smiling and sighing
And living and dying for you.
The song-seed, I sow it,
I water and hoe it,
But never can grow it.
Ah, traitress, you know it!
What is a poor poet to do?
Ah, let me take breath!
I am harried to death
By the loves and the graces
That crowd where your face is
That lurk in your laces and throng.
Call them off for a minute,
Once let me begin it
The devil is in it
If I can not spin it
As sweet as a linnet, your song!
'WILL you not walk the woods with me?
The shafts of sunlight burn
On many a golden-crested tree
And many a russet fern.
The Summer's robe is dyed anew,
And Autumn's veil of mist
Is gemmed with little pearls of dew
Where first we met and kissed.'
'I will not walk the woodlands brown
Where ghosts and mists are blown,
But I will walk the lonely down
And I will walk alone.
Where Night spreads out her mighty wing
And dead days keep their tryst,
There will I weep the woods of Spring
Where first we met and kissed.'
DAWN in the east, and chill dew falling--
Tears of the new-born day;
Dew on the lawn, and blackbirds calling,
Music and mild mid-May.
The lilac, see, wins back the colour
Lost on the field of Night
See, the spent stars grow dimmer, duller!
Look forth, my life's delight!
Open your window, lean above me,
Rose, my white rose, my song!
Leave your white nest, love, if you love me--
Night is so lonely-long.
Day is our own, and day's a-breaking;
Sweet sleepy eyes of grey,
You shall not chide an early waking
When Night grows kind as Day!
A MONTH of green and tender May,
All woods and walks awake with flowers,
Wide sunlit meadows for the day,
And moon-bathed paths for evening hours;
A bright brief dream that had no past,
And of the future knew no fear;
A kiss at first, a sigh at last--
Only last year.
Another spring, dim soulless woods;
No farewell kiss, no parting tear;
No stone to mark where silence broods
O'er the dead love we found so dear.
But, oh, to me the green seems grey,
The budding branches all are sere,
For sweet love's sake, that died one day,
Only last year.
THE sunshine of your presence lies
On the glad garden of my heart
And bids the leaves of silence part
To show the flowers to your dear eyes,
And flower on flower blooms there and dies
And still new buds awakened spring,
For sunshine makes the garden wise,
To know the time for blossoming.
Night is no time for blossoming,
Your garden then dreams otherwise,
Of vanished Summer, vanished Spring,
And how the dearest flower first dies.
Yet from your ministering eyes
Though night hath drawn me far apart
On the still garden of my heart
The moonlight of your memory lies.
ALL winter through I sat alone,
Doors barred and windows shuttered fast,
And listened to the wind's faint moan,
And ghostly mutterings of the past;
And in the pauses of the rain,
'Mid whispers of dead sorrow and sin,
Love tapped upon the window pane:
I had no heart to let him in.
But now, with spring, my doors stand wide;
My windows let delight creep through;
I hear the skylark sing outside;
I see the crocus, golden new.
The pigeons on my window-sill,
Winging and wooing, flirt and flout,--
Now Love must enter if he will,
I have no heart to keep him out.
Song Of The Rose
THE lilac-time is over,
Laburnum's day is past,
The red may-blossoms cover
The white ones, fallen too fast.
And guelder-roses hang like snow,
Where purple flag-flowers grow.
And still the tulip lingers,
The wall-flower's red like blood
The ivy spreads pale fingers,
The rose is in the bud.
Good-bye, sweet lilac, and sweet may!
The Rose is on the way.
You were but heralds sent us--
All April's buds, and May's--
But painted missals lent us
That we might learn her praise,
Might cast down every bud that blows
Before our Queen, the Rose!
Child's Song In Spring
The Silver Birch is a dainty lady,
She wears a satin gown;
The elm tree makes the old churchyard shady,
She will not live in town.
The English oak is a sturdy fellow,
He gets his green coat late;
The willow is smart in a suit of yellow
While brown the beech trees wait.
Such a gay green gown God gives the larches-
As green as he is good!
The hazels hold up their arms for arches,
When spring rides through the wood.
The chestnut’s proud, and the lilac’s pretty,
The poplar’s gentle and tall,
But the plane tree’s kind to the poor dull city-
I love him best of all!
BIRDS in the green of my garden
Blackbirds and throstle and wren,
Wet your dear wings in the tears that are Spring's
And so to your singing again!
Birds in my blossoming orchard,
Chaffinch and goldfinch and lark,
Preen your bright wings, little happy live things;
The May trees grow white in the park!
Birds in the leafy wet woodlands,
Cuckoo and nightingale brown,
Sing to the sound of the rain on green ground--
The rain on green leaves dripping down!
Fresh with the rain of the May-time,
Rich with the promise of June,
Deep in her heart, where the little leaves part,
Love, like a bird, sings in tune!
Spring Song Iii
HERE'S the Spring-time, Sweet!
Earth's green gown is new,
Lambs begin to bleat,
Doves begin to coo,
Birds begin to woo
In the wood and lane;
Sweet, the tale is true
Spring is here again!
I have been discreet
All the winter through;
Now, before your feet,
Blossoms let me strew.
Flowers, as yet, are few;
Will my lady deign
Take this flower or two?
Spring is here again
Make the year complete,
Give the Spring her due!
All the flowers entreat,
All the song-birds sue.
'Twixt the green and blue
Let Love wake and reign,
Let me worship you--
Spring is here again!
Song Of Long Ago
LONG ago, long ago,
When the hawthorn buds were pearly
And the birds sang, late and early,
All the songs that lovers know,
How we lingered in the lane,
Kissed and parted, kissed again,
Parted, laggard foot and slow!
What a pretty world we knew
Dressed in moonlight, dreams and dew,
Long ago, my first sweet sweetheart,
Long ago, long ago,
When the wind was on the river
Where the lights and shadows shiver,
And the streets were all aglow.
In the gaudy gas-lit street
We two parted, sweet, my sweet,
And the crowd went to and fro,
And your veil was wet with tears
For the inevitable years--
Long ago, my last sweet sweetheart,
I WANDERED in the enchanted wood,
And as I wandered there, I sang
A song I never understood,
Though sweet the music rang.
I held a lily white and fair,
Its perfume was a song divine,
A song like moonlight and clear air,
No rose-hued cloud like mine.
Beneath pale moon and wind-winged skies
My lips were dumb as one drew near,
Folded warm wings across my eyes
And whispered in my ear.
He left a flame-flower in my hand,
And bade me sing as heretofore
The song I could not understand;
But I can sing no more.
His secret seals my dumb lips fast,
My lily withered 'neath his wing;
But now I understand at last
The song I used to sing.
WHEN all the weary flowers,
Worn out with sunlit hours,
Droop o'er the garden beds
Their little sleepy heads,
The dewy dusk on quiet wings comes stealing;
And, as the night descends,
The shadows troop like friends
To bring them healing.
So, weary of the light
Of life too full and bright,
We long for night to fall
To wrap us from it all;
Then death on dewy wings draws near and holds us,
And like a kind friend come
To children far from home,
With love enfolds us.
But when the night is done,
Fresh to the morning sun,
Their little faces yet
With night's sweet dewdrops wet,
The flowers awake to the new day's new graces;
And we, ah! shall we too
Turn to the daydawn new
Our tear-wet faces?
THERE are white moon daisies in the mist of the meadow
Where the flowered grass scatters its seeds like spray,
There are purple orchis by the wood-ways' shadow,
There are pale dog-roses by the white highway;
And the grass, the grass is tall, the grass is up for hay,
With daisies white like silver and buttercups like gold,
And it's oh! for once to play thro' the long, the lovely day,
To laugh before the year grows old!
There is silver moonlight on the breast of the river
Where the willows tremble to the kiss of night,
Where the nine tall aspens in the meadow shiver,
Shiver in the night wind that turns them white.
And the lamps, the lamps are lit, the lamps are glow-worms light,
Between the silver aspens and the west's last gold.
And it's oh! to drink delight in the lovely lonely night,
To be young before the heart grows old!
_From the Portuguese._
HEAVY my heart is, heavy to carry,
Full of soft foldings, of downy enwrapments--
And the outer fold of all is love,
And the next soft fold is love,
And the next, finer and softer, is love again;
And were they unwound before the eyes
More folds and more folds and more folds would unroll
Of love--always love,
And, quite at the last,
Deep in the nest, in the soft-packed nest,
One last fold, turned back, would disclose
You, little heart of my heart,
Laid there so warm, so soft, so soft,
Not knowing where you lie, nor how softly,
Nor why your nest is so soft,
Nor how your nest is so warm.
You, little heart of my heart,
You lie in my heart,
Warm, safe and soft as this body of yours,
This dear kissed body of yours that lies
Here in my arms and sucks the strength from my breast,
The strength you will break my heart with one of these days.
New Year Song
WE climb the hill; the mist conceals
That valley where we could not stay;
Surely this hill's crest, gained, reveals
The glory of the sunlit day.
The hill is climbed. Still shadow-land--
Still darkling looms another hill.
Oh, weary feet!--climb that to find
A new ascent, 'mid shadows still!
We dare not stop or think of rest,
This one hill may be all that lies
Between us and our souls' desire--
The splendour of the eastern skies.
Through long long lives we till and tend,
Sow, weed, and water, all in vain;
Without the flower we looked to find,
Each year springs blooms and dies again.
Bowed down with our unanswered prayers,
Our face averted from our past,
We watch each year grow green, and cry,
'Surely this brings our flower at last!'
Failure on failure! What! tired out?
Too tired to live? Heart, dare you die
When this new year may bud and bear
Your longed-for flower of Liberty?
Shepherds All And Maidens Fair
PIPE, shepherds, pipe, the summer's ripe;
So wreathe your crooks with flowers;
The world's in tune to Love and June,
The days are rich in hours,
In rosy hours, in golden hours--
Love's crown and fortune fair,
So gather gold for Love to hold,
And flowers for Love to wear!
Sing, maidens, sing! A dancing ring
Of pleasures speed your way;
Too harsh and dry is fierce July,
Too maiden-meek was May;
But Love and June their old sweet tune
Are singing at your ear:
So learn the song and troop along
To meet your shepherds dear!
Oh, Chloris fair, a rose to wear,
And gold to spend have I--
When all are gay on this June day
You would not bid me sigh?
You would not scorn a swain forlorn--
Each shepherd far and near
Hastes to his sweet, with flying feet,
As I towards my dear.
No maids there be in Arcady
But have their shepherds true;
Must you alone despise the one
Who only pipes for you?
You have no ear my pipe to hear
Though all for you it be;
And I no eyes for her who sighs
And only sings for me!
'It is the skylark come.' For shame!
Robert-a-Cockney is thy name:
Robert-a-Field would surely know
That skylarks, bless them, never go!
* * *
Love of my life, bear witness here
How we have heard them all the year;
How to the skylark's song are set
The days we never can forget.
At Rustington, do you remember?
We heard the skylarks in December;
In January above the snow
They sang to us by Hurstmonceux
Once in the keenest airs of March
We heard them near the Marble Arch;
Their April song thrilled Tonbridge air;
May found them singing everywhere;
And oh, in Sheppey, how their tune
Rhymed with the bean-flower scent in June.
One unforgotten day at Rye
They sang a love-song in July;
In August, hard by Lewes town,
They sang of joy 'twixt sky and down;
And in September's golden spell
We heard them singing on Scaw Fell.
October's leaves were brown and sere,
But skylarks sang by Teston Weir;
And in November, at Mount's Bay,
They sang upon our wedding day!
* * *
Mr.-a-Field, go forth, go forth,
Go east and west and south and north;
You'll always find the furze in flower,
Find every hour the lovers' hour,
And, by my faith in love and rhyme,
The skylark singing all the time!
I HAD a star to sing by, a beautiful star that led,
But when I sang of its splendour the world in its wisdom said:
'Sweet are your songs, yet the singer sings but in madness when
He hymns but stars unbeholden of us his fellows of men;
Glow-worms we see and marshlights; sing us sweet songs of those
For the guerdons we have to give you, laurel and gold and rose;
Or if you must sing of stars, unseen of your brother man,
Go, starve with your eyes on your vision; your star may save if it can!'
So I said, 'If I starve and die I never again shall see
The glory, the high white radiance that hallows the world for me;
I will sing their songs, if it must be, and when I have golden store,
I will turn from the marsh and the glow-worms, and sing of my star once more.'
So I walked in the warm wet by-ways, not daring to lift my eyes
Lest love should drive me to singing my star supreme in the skies,
And the world cried out, 'We will crown him, he sings of the lights that are,
Glories of marshlight and glow-worms, not visions vain of a star!'
I said, 'Now my brows are laurelled, my hands filled full of their gold,
I will sing the starry songs that these earthworms bade withhold.
It is time to sing of my star!' for I dreamed that my star still shone,
Then I lifted my eyes in my triumph. Night! night! and my star was gone.
They talk about gardens of roses,
And moonlight over the sea,
And mountains and snow
And sunsetty glow,
But I know what is best for me.
The prettiest sight I know,
Worth all your roses and snow,
Is the blaze of light on a Saturday night,
When the barrows are set in a row.
I've heard of bazaars in India
All glitter and spices and smells,
But they don't compare
With the naphtha flare
And the herrings the coster sells;
And the oranges piled like gold,
The cucumbers lean and cold,
And the red and white block-trimmings
And the strawberries fresh and ripe,
And the peas and beans,
And the sprouts and greens,
And the 'taters and trotters and tripe.
And the shops where they sell the chairs,
The mangles and tables and bedding,
And the lovers go by in pairs,
And look--and think of the wedding.
And your girl has her arm in yours,
And you whisper and make her blush.
Oh! the snap in her eyes--and her smiles and her sighs
As she fancies the purple plush!
And you haven't a penny to spend,
But you dream that you've pounds and pounds;
And arm in arm with your only friend
You make your Saturday rounds:
And you see the cradle bright
With ribbon--lace--pink and white;
And she stops her laugh
And you drop your chaff
In the light of the Saturday night.
And the world is new
For her and you -
A little bit of all-right.
O CHRIST, born on the holy day,
I have no gift to give my King;
No flowers grow by my weary way;
I have no birthday song to sing.
How can I sing Thy name and praise,
Who never saw Thy face divine;
Who walk in darkness all my days,
And see no Eastern stars a-shine?
Yet, when their Christmas gifts they bring,
How can I leave Thy praise unsung?
How stay from homage to the King,
And hold a silent, grudging tongue?
Lord, I found many a song to sing,
And many a humble hymn of praise
For Thy great Miracle of Spring,
The wonder of the waxing days.
When I beheld Thy days and years,
Did I not sing Thy pleasant earth?
The moons of love, the years of tears,
The mysteries of death and birth?
Have I not sung with all my soul
While soul and song were mine to yield,
Thy lightning crown, Thy cloud-control,
The dewy clover of Thy field?
Have I not loved Thy birds and beasts,
Thy streams and woods, Thy sun and shade;
Have I not made me holy feasts
Of all the beauty Thou hast made?
What though my tear-tired eyes, alas!
Won never grace Thy face to see?
I heard Thy footstep on the grass,
Thy voice in every wind-blown tree.
No music now I make or win,
Yet, Lord, remember I have been
The lover of Thy world, wherein
I found nought common or unclean.
Grown old and blind, I sing no more,
Thy saints in heaven sing sweet and strong,
Yet take the songs I made of yore
For echoes to Thy birthday song.
(Air: Carnaval de Venise)
LET Housman sing of Severn shore,
Of Thames let Arnold sing,
But we will sing no river more
Save this where crowbars ring.
Let others sing of Henley,
Of fashion and renown,
But we will sing the thirteen locks
That lead to Tonbridge town!
Then sing the Kentish river,
The Kentish fields and flowers,
We waste no dreams on other streams
Who call the Medway ours.
When on the level golden meads
The evening sunshine lies,
The little voles among the reeds
Look out with wondering eyes.
The patient anglers linger
The placid stream beside,
Where still with towering tarry prow
The stately barges glide.
Then sing the Kentish river,
The Kentish fields and flowers,
We waste no dreams on other streams
Who call the Medway ours.
On Medway banks the May droops white,
The wild rose blossoms fair,
O'er meadow-sweet and loosestrife bright,
For water nymphs to wear.
And mid the blowing rushes
Pan pipes a joyous song,
And woodland things peep from the shade
As soft we glide along.
Then sing the Kentish river,
The Kentish fields and flowers,
We waste no dreams on other streams
Who call the Medway ours.
You see no freight on Medway boats
Of fashions fine and rare,
But happy men in shabby coats,
And girls with wind-kissed hair.
The world's a pain forgotten,
And very far away,
The stream that flows, the boat that goes--
These are our world to-day.
Then sing the Kentish river,
The Kentish fields and flowers,
We waste no dreams on other streams
Who call the Medway ours.
Out Of The Fulness Of The Heart The Mouth Speaketh
In answer to those who have said that English Poets
give no personal love to their country.
ENGLAND, my country, austere in the clamorous council of nations,
Set in the seat of the mighty, wielding the sword of the strong,
Have we but sung of your glory, firm in eternal foundations?
Are not your woods and your meadows the core of our heart and our song?
O dear fields of my country, grass growing green, glowing golden,
Green in the patience of winter, gold in the pageant of spring,
Oaks and young larches awaking, wind-flowers and violets blowing,
What, if God sets us to singing, what save you shall we sing?
Who but our England is fair through the veil of her poets' praises,
What but the pastoral face, the fruitful, beautiful breast?
Are not your poets' meadows starred with the English daisies?
Were not the wings of their song-birds fledged in an English nest?
Songs of the leaves in the sunlight, songs of the fern-brake in shadow,
Songs of the world of the woods and songs of the marsh and the mere,
Are they not English woods, dear English marshland and meadow?
Have not your poets loved you? England, are you not dear?
Shoulders of upland brown laid dark to the sunset's bosom,
Living amber of wheat, and copper of new-ploughed loam,
Downs where the white sheep wander, little gardens in blossom,
Roads that wind through the twilight up to the lights of home.
Lanes that are white with hawthorn, dykes where the sedges shiver,
Hollows where caged winds slumber, moorlands where winds wake free,
Sowing and reaping and gleaning, spring and torrent and river,
Are they not more, by worlds, than the whole of the world can be?
Is there a corner of land, a furze-fringed rag of a by-way,
Coign of your foam-white cliffs or swirl of your grass-green waves,
Leaf of your peaceful copse, or dust of your strenuous highway,
But in our hearts is sacred, dear as our cradles, our graves?
Is not each bough in your orchards, each cloud in the skies above you,
Is not each byre or homestead, furrow or farm or fold,
Dear as the last dear drops of the blood in the hearts that love you,
Filling those hearts till the love is more than the heart can hold?
Therefore the song breaks forth from the depths of the hidden fountain
Singing your least frail flower, your raiment of seas and skies,
Singing your pasture and cornfield, fen and valley and mountain,
England, desire of my heart, England, delight of mine eyes!
Take my song too, my country: many a son and debtor
Pays you in praise and homage out of your gifts' full store;
Life of my life, my England, many will praise you better,
None, by the God that made you, ever can love you more!
LEAVE me alone, for August's sleepy charm
Is on me, and I will not break the spell;
My head is on the mighty Mother's arm:
I will not ask if life goes ill or well.
There is no world!--I do not care to know
Whence aught has come, nor whither it shall go.
I want to wander over pastures still,
Where sheared white sheep and mild-eyed cattle graze;
To climb the thymy, clover-covered hill,
To look down on the valley's hot blue haze;
And on the short brown turf for hours to lie
Gazing straight up into the clear, deep sky,
I want to walk through crisp gold harvest fields,
Through meadows yellowed by the August heat;
To loiter through the cool dim wood, that yields
Such perfect flowers and quiet so complete--
The happy woods, where every bud and leaf
Is full of dreams as life is full of grief.
I want to think no more of all the pain
That in the city thrives, a poison flower--
The eternal loss, the never-coming gain,
The lifelong woe--the joy that lives an hour,
Bright, evanescent as the dew that dawn
Shows on this silent, wood-encircled lawn.
I want to pull the honey-bud that twines
About the blackberries and gold-leaf sloes;
To part the boughs where the rare water shines,
Tread the soft bank whereby the bulrush grows--
I want to be no more myself, but be
Made one with all the beauty that I see.
Oh, happy country, myriad voiced and dear,
I have no heart, no eyes, except for you;
Yours are the only voices I will hear,
Yours is the only bidding I will do:
You bid me be at peace, and let alone
That loud, rough world where peace is never known.
Yet through your voices comes a sterner cry,
A voice I cannot silence if I would;
It mars the song the lark sings to the sky,
It breaks the changeful music of the wood.
'Back to your post--a charge you have to keep--
Freedom is bleeding while her soldiers sleep.'
Oh, heart of mine I have to carry here,
Will you not let me rest a little while?--
A space 'mid doubtful fight and doubtful fear--
A little space to see the Mother's smile,
To stretch my hands out to her, and possess
No sense of aught but of her loveliness?
Ah, just this power to feel how she is fair
Means just the power to see how foul life is.
How can I linger in the sacred air
And taste the pure wine of the dear sun's kiss
When in the outer dark my brothers moan,
Nor even guess the joys that I have known?
Back the least soldier goes! To jar and fret,
To hope uncrowned--faith tried--love wounded sore--
To prayers that never have been answered yet,
To dreams that must be dreams for evermore;
To all that, after all, is far more dear
Than all the joys of all the changing year.
Spring Song Ii
THE spring is here, and the long nights grow
Less bitterly cold than awhile ago;
Our rags serve their purpose now, and keep
Warmth enough in us to let us sleep.
The rain that trickles down our walls
No longer seems to freeze as it falls;
There was dust, not mud, on our feet to-day;
There's some green in a flower-pot over the way;
The sky-strip over the court's changed hue,
From dull yellow-grey to clear grey-blue;
Through our broken windows no more the storm
Laughs and shrieks as we try to keep warm,
But through dusty panes the long sunbeams peer,
For the spring is here.
Small joy the greenness and grace of spring
To grey hard lives like our own can bring.
A drowning man cares little to think
Of the lights on the waves where he soon must sink.
The greenest garments the spring can wear
Are black already with our despair:
Earth will be one with us soon--shall we care
If snow or sunshine be over us there,
Or if wintry the world be we found so drear,
Or if spring be here?
In the western half of our Christian town
The Winter only pretends to frown,
And when his undreaded rage is done,
The 'London season' they say is begun.
With wine, feast, revelling, laugh and song,
The hours rose-garlanded dance along,
The whirl of wickedness wilder grows
In this western camp of our bitter foes;
They fight with each other--the victors take
The largest share of the wealth we make;
They spend on their horses, their women, their wives,
The money wrung from our blasted lives:
It is theirs to enjoy--it is ours to pay.
Do they never dream of a reckoning day,
When the lives they have wrecked shall be counted up,
And measured the blood that has brightened their cup,
When we who have worked shall take payment due,
And they for their work shall have payment too?
Do they dream of that coming hour? Not they!
Their feet flit fast down the smooth steep way,
They see not the waiting snakes that hide
In the hothouse flowers at their life-path's side,
They know no justice, no pity, no fear--
But the spring is here!
Yes--here! In the hope we had almost lost,
That has sprung to bud after long years' frost;
In this fire in our veins that cries, 'Give youth,
Love, manhood, life, for the Right and the Truth;'
In our steady purpose, for Freedom's sake,
Through custom, privilege, 'fate,' to break;
In the brains of the thinkers, the arms of the men
Who will strike, and strike, and still strike again,
Till they cut our way to the land of flowers,
And the summer of freedom at last is ours--
In these is the spring. The winter was sore--
It is over and done, and will come no more.
The fruit will grow with the changing year,
Though only the blossoms now appear;
For the sake of the fruit the blossoms are dear,
And the spring is here--the spring is here.
A Song Of Trafalgar
LIKE an angry sun, like a splendid star,
War gleams down the long years' track;
They strain at the leash, the dogs of war,
And who shall hold them back?
'Let loose the pack: we are English bred,
We will meet them full and fair
With the flag of England over our head,
And his hand to keep it there!'
So spake our fathers. Our flag, unfurled,
Blew brave to the north and south;
An iron answer we gave the world,
For we spoke by the cannon's mouth.
But he who taught us the word to say
Grew dumb as his Victory sang,
And England mourned on her triumph day,
And wept while her joy-bells rang.
Long hour by hour, and long day by day,
The swift years crept apace,
The patient, the coral-insect way,
To cover the dear dead face.
O foolish rabble of envious years,
Who wist not the dead must rise,
His name is music still in our ears,
His face a light to our eyes!
Bring hither your laurels, the fading sign
Of a deathless love and pride;
These cling more close than the laurels twine,
They are strong as the world is wide:
At the feet of Virtue in Valour clad
Shall glory and love be laid,
While Glory sings to an English lad,
Or Love to an English maid.
Wherever the gleams of an English fire
On an English roof-tree shine,
Wherever the fire of a youth's desire
Is laid upon Honour's shrine,
Wherever brave deeds are treasured and told,
In the tale of the deeds of yore
Like jewels of price in a chain of gold
Are the name and the fame he bore.
Wherever the track of our English ships
Lies white on the ocean foam,
His name is sweet to our English lips
As the names of the flowers at home;
Wherever the heart of an English boy
Grows big with a deed of worth,
Such names as his name have begot the same,
Such hearts will bring it to birth.
They say that his England, grown tired and old,
Lies drunk by her heavy hoard;
They say her hands have the grasp of the gold
But not the grip of the sword,
That her robe of glory is rent and shred,
And that winds of shame blow through:
Speak for your England, O mighty Dead,
In the deeds you would have her do!
Small skill have we to fight with the pen
Who fought with the sword of old,
For the sword that is wielded of Englishmen
Is as much as one hand can hold.
Yet the pen and the tongue are safe to use,
And the coward and the wise choose these;
But fools and brave were our English crews
When Nelson swept the seas.
'Tis the way of a statesman to fear and fret,
To ponder and pause and plan,
But the way of Nelson was better yet,
For that was the way of a man;
They would teach us smoothness, who once were rough,
They have bidden us palter and pray,
But the way of Nelson was good enough,
For that was the fighting way.
If Nelson's England must stoop to bear
What never honour should brook,
In vain does the tomb of her hero wear
The laurel his brow forsook;
In vain was the speech from the lips of her guns,
If now must her lips refrain;
In vain has she made us, her living sons,
Her dead have made her in vain.
So here with your bays be the dear head crowned,
Lay flowers where the dear dust lies,
And wreathe his column with laurel round
To point his fame to the skies;
But the greenest laurel that ever grew
Is the laurel that's yet to win;
Crowned with his laurels he waits for You
To bring Your laurels in!
A Song For Peace And Honour
TO THE QUEEN
LADY and Queen, for whom our laurels twine,
Upon whose head the glories of our land
In one immortal diadem are met,
Embodied England, in whose woman-hand
The sceptre of Imperial sway is set,
Receive this song of mine!
For you are England, and her bays grow green
To deck your brow, your goodness lends her grace,
And in our hearts your face is as Her face;
The Mother-Country is the Mother-Queen.
We, men of England, children of her might,
With all our Mother's record-roll of glory,
Great with her greatness, noble by her name,
Drank with our mothers' milk our Mother's story,
And in our veins the splendour of her fame
Made strong our blood and bright;
And to her absent sons her name has been
Familiar music heard in distant lands,
Heart of our heart and sinews of our hands,
England, our Mother, our Mistress and our Queen!
Out of the thunderous echoes of the past
Through the gold-dust of centuries we hear
Her voice, 'O children of a royal line,
Sons of her heart, whom England holdeth dear,
Mine was the Past--make ye the future mine
All glorious to the last!'
And, as we hear her, cowards grow to men,
And men to heroes, and the voice of fear
Is as a whisper in a deaf man's ear,
And the dead past is quick in us again.
Her robe is woven of glory and renown,
Hers are the golden-laden Argosies,
And lordship of the wild and watery ways,
Her flag is blown across the utmost seas:
Dead nations built her throne, and kingdoms blaze
For jewels in her crown.
Her Empire like a girdle doth enfold
The world; her feet upon her foes are set;
She wears the steel-wrought, blood-bright amulet
Won by her children in the days of old.
Yet in a treasury of such gems as these
Which power and sovereignty and kingship fill
To the vast limit of the circling sun,
England, our Mother, in her heart holds still,
As her most precious jewel, save only one,
The priceless pearl of peace--
Peace plucked from out the very heart of war
Through the long agony of strenuous years,
Made pure by blood and sanctified by tears,
A pearl to lie where England's treasures are.
O peaceful English lanes all white with may,
O English meadows where the grass grows tall,
O red-roofed village, field and farm and fold
Where the long shadows of the elm-trees fall
On the wide pastures which the sun calls gold
And twilit dew calls gray;--
These are the home, the happy cradle-place
Of every man who has our English tongue,
Sprung from those loins from which our sires have sprung,
Heirs of the glory of our mighty race!
Brothers, we hold the pearl of priceless worth:
Shall Peace, our pearl, by us be cast aside?
Is it not more to us than all things are?
Nay, Peace is precious as the world is wide,
But England's honour is more precious far
Than all the heavens and earth.
Were honour outcast from her supreme place
Our pearl of Peace no more a pearl would shine,
But, trampled under-foot of cowards and swine,
Rot in the mire of a deserved disgrace.
Know then, O ye our brothers over sea,
We will not cast our pearl of Peace away,
But, holding it, we wait; and if, at last,
The whole world came against us in array,
If all our glory into darkness passed,
Our Empire ceased to be,
Yet should we still have chosen the better part
Though in the dust our kingdoms were cast down,
Though lost were every jewel in our crown
We still should wear our jewel in our heart.
So, for our Mother's honour, if it must
Let Peace be lost, but lost the worthier way;
Not trampled down, but given, for her sake
Who forged of many an iron yesterday
The golden song that gold-tongued fame shall wake
When we are dust, in dust:
For brotherhood and strife and praise and blame
And all the world, even to our very land,
Weighed in the balance, are as a grain of sand
Against the honour of our English name!
A Song Of Parting
QUEEN of my Life, who gave me for my song
The richest crown a poet ever wore,
Since I have given you songs a whole year long,
Stoop, of your grace, and take this one song more.
It was upon a golden first June day
I chanced to take the quiet meadow way
The flowers and grasses met across my feet--
Red sorrel, daisies, and pale meadow-sweet,
With buttercup that set the field ablaze--
The fields have no such flowers now-a-days--
The hedges all along were pearly white;
And there I met with Chloris, all alone,
I drew her face to lean against my own.
The branch of May that hid her maiden eyes
Was scented like the rose of Paradise--
The May-bough fell: I knew what youth was worth,
And sunshine and the pleasant green-gowned earth,
When first love rhymed to summer and delight.
Yet, since my ship must sail away that day,
Despair new-born met new-born joy half-way.
And I, 'mid rapture and tears, found voice to say
'Farewell--my Love--to leave you is to die,
I never shall forget you, dear!--Good-bye!'
At parting from Clarinda life was gray,
With the cold haze of mutual weariness;
The treasure our souls were bartered to possess,
We saw as ashes in the cold new day,
And only longed for leave to steal away
And wash remembrance from our tired eyes,
To cleanse our lips of kisses and of lies,
And to forget the barren fairy gold
For which we had journeyed such a weary road,
Had borne so hard a chain, so great a load,
Yet none the less was the old story told;
The old refrain re-iterate none the less,
'My life's one love,' we said, with sigh for sigh,
'I never can forget you, dear!--Good-bye!'
You were so innocent, so sure, so shy,
Life was a chart well-marked for you, you knew--
With rocks and quicksands plainly set in view,
And, fitly beaconed by a heavenly star,
The port you sought marked unmistakeably
Attainable, and not so very far.
So of your charity you chose to try
To take a pirate bark to haven with you.
Ah! child, I had learned to steer on other seas,
Through other shoals--by other stars than these.
My chart had other ports you knew not of,
And so, one day, my black sails took the breeze,
And, ere you knew it, I was leagues away:
Yet not so far but you could hear me cry
Across the waters of your sheltered bay--
'Farewell, my child! Farewell, my only love!
I never can forget you, dear!--Good-bye!'
When I had courted Chloe half a year
She bade me go--she could not hold me dear,
We parted in the orchard, very late:
The dew lay on the white sweet clover flowers
The moon shone through the pear-tree by the gate,
And on the grass the blossoms fell in showers.
'Pray Heaven,' I cried, 'to bless you--none the less
That you have cursed my life eternally!'
She laughed--my pretty china shepherdess,
Kissed her white hand towards the white full moon.
'Up there,' she said, 'the folk who say farewell
Never intone it to a funeral bell,
But sing it to the sweet old-fashioned tune!
Go there and learn!'--'I have learned that tune,' quoth I
''I never can forget you, dear!--Good-bye!''
In that far land where myrtles dream of love,
Where soft winds whisper through the orange grove;
And, 'twixt the sapphire of the seas and skies,
The sunshine of perpetual summer lies,
I brought white flowers to lie where Clemence lay.
The shutters, closed, strove with the radiant day,
And in her villa all was still and chill.
Flowers die, they say, but these flowers never will,--
Whenever I see a rose I smell them still;
I laid them by her on the strait white bed:
There were no kisses given, no tears were shed,
And never a whisper of farewell was said;
Yet, when they had laid her underneath the clay,
And paid their prayers and tears, and gone their way,
My heart stirred, and I found the old word to say--
This time--this one time--and this last time--true:
'White lady, my white flowers touch you where you lie,
I never shall forget you! Dear, good-bye!'
Queen of my life, and of the songs I sing,
Whose love sets life to such a royal tune;
This song of parting to your hands I bring,
As I bring honour and faith and everything:
Because I know our parting shall be soon--
Since violets hardly live one happy moon,
And love, full-fledged, is ready to take wing;
But, when he flies, part we the silent way,
And, if you ever loved me, do not say:
'Farewell, my only love--I love you still,
I never will forget you!'--For you will!
The Singing Of The Magnificat
IN midst of wide green pasture-lands, cut through
By lines of alders bordering deep-banked streams,
Where bulrushes and yellow iris grew,
And rest and peace, and all the flowers of dreams,
The Abbey stood--so still, it seemed a part
Of the marsh-country's almost pulseless heart.
Where grey-green willows fringed the stream and pool,
The lazy meek-faced cattle strayed to graze,
Sheep in the meadows cropped the grasses cool,
And silver fish shone through the watery ways,
And many a load of fruit and load of corn
Into the Abbey storehouses was borne.
Yet though so much they had of life's good things,
The monks but held them as a sacred trust,
Lent from the storehouse of the King of kings
Till they, His stewards, should crumble back to dust.
'Not as our own,' they said, 'but as the Lord's,
All that the stream yields, or the land affords.'
And all the villages and hamlets near
Knew the monks' wealth, and how their wealth was spent.
In tribulation, sickness, want, or fear,
First to the Abbey all the peasants went,
Certain to find a welcome, and to be
Helped in the hour of their extremity.
When plague or sickness smote the people sore,
The Brothers prayed beside the dying bed,
And nursed the sick back into health once more,
And through the horror and the danger said:
'How good is God, Who has such love for us,
He lets us tend His suffering children thus!'
They in their simple ways and works were glad:
Yet all men must have sorrows of their own.
And so a bitter grief the Brothers had,
Nor mourned for others' heaviness alone.
This was the secret of their sorrowing,
That not a monk in all the house could sing!
Was it the damp air from the lovely marsh,
Or strain of scarcely intermitted prayer,
That made their voices, when they sang, as harsh
As any frog's that croaks in evening air--
That made less music in their hymns to lie
Than in the hoarsest wild-fowl's hoarsest cry?
If love could sweeten voice to sing a song,
Theirs had been sweetest song was ever sung:
But their hearts' music reached their lips all wrong,
The soul's intent foiled by the traitorous tongue
That marred the chapel's peace, and seemed to scare
The rapt devotion lingering in the air.
The birds that in the chapel built their nests,
And in the stone-work found their small lives fair,
Flew thence with hurled wings and fluttering breasts
When rang the bell to call the monks to prayer.
'Why will they sing,' they twittered, 'why at all?
In heaven their silence must be festival!'
The brothers prayed with penance and with tears
That God would let them give some little part
Out for the solace of their own sad ears
Of all the music crowded in their heart.
Their nature and the marsh-air had their way,
And still they sang more vilely every day.
And all their prayers and fasts availing not
To give them voices sweet, their souls' desire,
The Abbot said, 'Gifts He did not allot
God at our hands will not again require;
The love He gives us He will ask again
In love to Him and to our fellow-men.
'Praise Him we must, and since we cannot praise
As we would choose, we praise Him as we can.
In heaven we shall be taught the angels' ways
Of singing--we afford to wait a span.
In singing, as in toil, do ye your best;
God will adjust the balance--do the rest!'
But one good Brother, anxious to remove
This, the reproach now laid on them so long,
Rejected counsel, and for very love
Besought a Brother, skilled in art of song,
To come to them--his cloister far to leave--
And sing Magnificat on Christmas Eve.
So when each brown monk duly sought his place,
By two and two, slow pacing to the choir,
Shrined in his dark oak stall, the strange monk's face
Shone with a light as of devotion's fire,
Good, young and fair, his seemed a form wherein
Pure beauty left no room at all for sin.
And when the time for singing it had come,
'Magnificat,' face raised, and voice, he sang:
Each in his stall the monks stood glad and dumb,
As through the chancel's dusk his voice outrang,
Pure, clear, and perfect--as the thrushes sing
Their first impulsive welcome of the spring.
At the first notes the Abbot's heart spoke low:
'Oh God, accept this singing, seeing we,
Had we the power, would ever praise Thee so--
Would ever, Lord, Thou know'st, sing thus for Thee;
Thus in our hearts Thy hymns are ever sung,
As he Thou blessest sings them with his tongue.'
But as the voice rose higher, and more sweet,
The Abbot's heart said, 'Thou hast heard us grieve,
And sent an angel from beside Thy feet,
To sing Magnificat on Christmas Eve;
To ease our ache of soul, and let us see
How we some day in heaven shall sing to Thee.'
Through the cold Christmas night the hymn rang out,
In perfect cadence, clear as sunlit rain--
Such heavenly music that the birds without
Beat their warm wings against the window pane,
Scattering the frosted crystal snow outspread
Upon the stone-lace and the window-lead.
The white moon through the window seemed to gaze
On the pure face and eyes the singer raised;
The storm-wind hushed the clamour of its ways,
God seemed to stoop to hear Himself thus praised,
And breathless all the Brothers stood, and still
Reached longing souls out to the music's thrill.
Old years came back, and half-remembered hours,
Dreams of delight that never was to be,
Mothers' remembered kiss, the funeral flowers
Laid on the grave of life's felicity;
An infinite dear passion of regret
Swept through their hearts, and left their eyelids wet.
The birds beat ever at the window, till
They broke the pane, and so could entrance win;
Their slender feet clung to the window-sill,
And though with them the bitter air came in,
The monks were glad that the birds too should hear,
Since to God's creatures all, His praise is dear.
The lovely music waxed and waned, and sank,
And brought less conscious sadness in its train,
Unrecognised despair that thinks to thank
God for a joy renounced, a chosen pain--
And deems that peace which is but stifled life
Dulled by a too-prolonged unfruitful strife.
When, service done, the Brothers gathered round
To thank the singer--modest-eyed, said he:
'Not mine the grace, if grace indeed abound;
God gave the power, if any power there be;
If I in hymn or psalm clear voice can raise,
As His the gift, so His be all the praise!'
That night--the Abbot lying on his bed--
A sudden flood of radiance on him fell,
Poured from the crucifix above his head,
And cast a stream of light across his cell--
And in the fullest fervour of the light
An Angel stood, glittering, and great, and white.
His wings of thousand rainbow clouds seemed made,
A thousand lamps of love shone in his eyes,
The light of dawn upon his brows was laid,
Odours of thousand flowers of Paradise
Filled all the cell, and through the heart there stirred
A sense of music that could not be heard.
The Angel spoke--his voice was low and sweet
As the sea's murmur on low-lying shore--
Or whisper of the wind in ripened wheat:
'Brother,' he said, 'the God we both adore
Has sent me down to ask, is all not right?--
Why was Magnificat not sung to-night?'
Tranced in the joy the Angel's presence brought,
The Abbot answered: 'All these weary years
We have sung our best--but always have we thought
Our voices were unworthy heavenly ears;
And so to-night we found a clearer tongue,
And by it the Magnificat was sung.'
The Angel answered, 'All these happy years
In heaven has your Magnificat been heard;
This night alone, the angels' listening ears
Of all its music caught no single word.
Say, who is he whose goodness is not strong
Enough to bear the burden of his song?'
The Abbot named his name. 'Ah, why,' he cried,
'Have angels heard not what we found so dear?'
'Only pure hearts,' the Angel's voice replied,
'Can carry human songs up to God's ear;
To-night in heaven was missed the sweetest praise
That ever rises from earth's mud-stained maze.
'The monk who sang Magnificat is filled
With lust of praise, and with hypocrisy;
He sings for earth--in heaven his notes are stilled
By muffling weight of deadening vanity;
His heart is chained to earth, and cannot bear
His singing higher than the listening air!
'From purest hearts most perfect music springs,
And while you mourned your voices were not sweet,
Marred by the accident of earthly things,--
In heaven, God, listening, judged your song complete.
The sweetest of earth's music came from you,
The music of a noble life and true!'
THREE months had passed since she had knelt before
The grate of the confessional, and he,
--The priest--had wondered why she came no more
To tell her sinless sins--the vanity
Whose valid reason graced her simple dress--
The prayers forgotten, or the untold beads--
The little thoughtless words, the slight misdeeds,
Which made the sum of her unrighteousness.
She was the fairest maiden in his fold,
With her sweet mouth and musical pure voice,
Her deep grey eyes, her hair's tempestuous gold,
Her gracious graceful figure's perfect poise.
Her happy laugh, her wild unconscious grace,
Her gentle ways to old, or sick, or sad,
The comprehending sympathy she had,
Had made of her the idol of the place.
And when she grew so silent and so sad,
So thin and quiet, pale and hollow-eyed,
And cared no more to laugh and to be glad
With other maidens by the waterside--
All wondered, kindly grieved the elders were,
And some few girls went whispering about,
'She loves--who is it? Let us find it out!'
But never dared to speak of it to her.
But the priest's duty bade him seek her out
And say, 'My child, why dost thou sit apart?
Hast thou some grief? Hast thou some secret doubt?
Come and unfold to me thine inmost heart.
God's absolution can assuage all grief
And all remorse and woe beneath the sun.
Whatever thou hast said, or thought, or done,
The Holy Church can give thy soul relief.'
He stood beside her, young and strong, and swayed
With pity for the sorrow in her eyes--
Which, as she raised them to his own, conveyed
Into his soul a sort of sad surprise--
For in those grey eyes had a new light grown,
The light that only bitter love can bring,
And he had fancied her too pure a thing
For even happy love to dare to own.
Yet all the more he urged on her--'Confess,
And do not doubt some comfort will be lent
By Holy Church thy penitence to bless.
Trust her, my child.' With unconvinced consent
She answered, 'I will come;' and so at last
Out of the summer evening's crimson glow,
With heart reluctant and with footsteps slow
Into the cool great empty church she passed.
'By my own fault, my own most grievous fault,
I cannot say, for it is not!' she said,
Kneeling within the grey stone chapel's vault;
And on the ledge her golden hair was spread
Over the clasping hands that still increased
Their nervous pressure, poor white hands and thin,
While with hot lips she poured her tale of sin
Into the cold ear of the patient priest.
'Love broke upon me in a dream; it came
Without beginning, for to me it seemed
That all my life this thing had been the same,
And never otherwise than as I dreamed.
I only knew my heart, entire, complete,
Was given to my other self, my love--
That I through all the world would gladly move
So I might follow his adorèd feet.
'I dreamed my soul saw suddenly appear
Immense abysses, infinite heights unknown;
Possessed new worlds, new earths, sphere after sphere,
New sceptres, kingdoms, crowns, became my own.
When I had all, all earth, all time, all space,
And every blessing, human and divine,
I hated the possessions that were mine,
And only cared for his belovèd face.
'I dreamed that in unmeasured harmony,
Rain of sweet sounds fell on my ravished sense,
And thrilled my soul with swelling ecstasy,
And rose to unimagined excellence.
And while the music bade my heart rejoice,
And on my senses thrust delicious sway,
I wished the perfect melody away,
And in its place longed for his worshipped voice.
'And at the last I felt his arms enfold,
His kisses crown my life--his whispered sighs
Echo my own unrest--his spirit hold
My spirit powerless underneath his eyes,
My face flushed with new joy, and felt more fair:
He clasped me close, and cried, 'My own, my own!'
And then I woke in dawn's chill light, alone,
With empty arms held out to empty air.
'I never knew I loved him till that dream
Drew from my eyes the veil and left me wise.
What I had thought was reverence grew to seem
Only my lifelong love in thin disguise.
And in my dream it looked so sinless too,
So beautiful, harmonious, and right;
The vision faded with the morning light,
The love will last as long as I shall do.
'But in the world where I have wept my tears,
My love is sinful and a bitter shame.
How can I bear the never-ending years,
When every night I hear him call my name?
For though that first dream's dear delight is past,
Yet since that night each night I dream him there
With lips caressing on my brow and hair,
And in my arms I hold my heaven fast!'
'Child, have you prayed against it?' 'Have I prayed?
Have I not clogged my very soul with prayer;
Stopped up my ears with sound of praying, made
My very body faint with kneeling there
Before the sculptured Christ, and all for this,
That when my lips can pray no more, and sleep
Shuts my unwilling eyes, my love will leap
To dreamland's bounds, to meet me with his kiss?
'Strive against this?--what profit is the strife?
If through the day a little strength I gain,
At night he comes and calls me 'love' and 'wife,'
And straightway I am all his own again.
And if from love's besieging force my fight
Some little victory have hardly won,
What do I gain? As soon as day is done,
I yield once more to love's delicious might.'
'Avoid him!' 'Ay, in dewy garden walk
How often have I strayed, avoiding him.
And heard his voice mix with the common talk,
Yet never turned his way. My eyes grow dim
With weeping over what I lose by day
And find by night, yet never have to call
My own. O God! is there no help at all--
No hope, no chance, and no escapeful way?'
'And who is he to whom thy love is given?'
'What? Holy Church demands to know his name?
No rest for me on earth, no hope of heaven
Unless I tell it? Ah, for very shame
I cannot--yet why not?--I will--I can!
I have grown mad with brooding on my curse.
Here! Take the name, no better and no worse
My case will be. Father, thou art the man!'
An icy shock shivered through all his frame--
An overwhelming cold astonishment;
But on the instant the revulsion came,
His blood felt what her revelation meant,
And madly rushed along his veins and cried:
'For you too life is possible, and love
No more a word you miss the meaning of,
But all your life's desire unsatisfied.'
Then through his being crept a new strange fear--
Fear of himself, and through himself, for her;
His every fibre felt her presence near,
Disquiet in his breast began to stir.
'Lord Christ,' his soul cried, while his heart beat fast,
'Give strength in this, my hour of utmost need.'
And with the prayer strength came to him indeed,
And with calm voice he answered her at last.
'Child, go in peace! Wrestle, and watch, and pray,
And I will spend this night in prayer for thee,
That God will take thy strange great grief away.
Thou hast confessed thy sin. Absolvo te.'
Silence most absolute a little while,
Then passed the whisper of her trailing gown
Over the knee-worn stones, and soft died down
The dim deserted incense-memoried aisle.
She passed away, and yet, when she was gone,
His heart still echoed her remembered sighs:
What sin unpardonable had he done
That evermore those grey unquiet eyes
Floated between him and the dying day?
How had she grown so desperately dear?
Why did her love-words echo in his ear
Through all the prayers he forced his lips to say?
All night he lay upon the chancel floor,
And coined his heart in tears and prayers, and new
Strange longings he had never known before.
Her very memory so thrilled him through,
That to his being's core a shiver stole
Of utter, boundless, measureless delight,
Even while with unceasing desperate might
His lips prayed for God's armour for his soul!
The moon had bathed the chancel with her light,
But now she crept into a cloud. No ray
Was left to break the funeral black of night
That closely hung around the form that lay
So tempest-tossed within, so still without.
'God! I love her, love her, love her so!
Oh, for one spark of heaven's fire to show
Some way to cast this devil's passion out!
'I cannot choose but love--Thou knowest, Lord--
Yet is my spirit strong to fly from sin,
But oh, my flesh is weak, too weak the word
I have to clothe its utter weakness in!
I am Thy priest, vowed to be Thine alone,
Yet if she came here with those love-dimmed eyes,
How could I turn away from Paradise?
Should I not wreck her soul, and blast my own?
'Christ, by Thy passion, by Thy death for men,
Oh, save me from myself, save her from me!'
And at the word the moon came out again
From her cloud-palace, and threw suddenly
A shadow from the great cross overhead
Upon the priest; and with it came a sense
Of strength renewed, of perfect confidence
In Him who on that cross for men hung dead.
Beneath that shadow safety seemed to lie;
And as he knelt before the altar there,
Beside the King of Heaven's agony
Light seemed all pangs His priest might have to bear--
His grief, his love, his bitter wild regret,
Would they not be a fitting sacrifice,
A well-loved offering, blessed in the eyes
That never scorned a sad heart's offering yet?
But as the ghostly moon began to fade,
And moonlight glimmered into ghostlier dawn,
The shadow that the crucifix had made
With twilight mixed; and with it seemed withdrawn
The peace that with its shadowy shape began,
And as the dim east brightened, slowly ceased
The wild devotion that had filled the priest--
And with full sunlight he sprang up--a man!
'Ten thousand curses on my priestly vow--
The hated vow that held me back from thee!
Down with the cross! no death-dark emblems now!
I have done with death: life wakes for thee and me!'
He tore the cross from out his breast, and trod
The sacred symbol underfoot and cried,
'I am set free, unbound, unsanctified!
I am thy lover--not the priest of God!'
He strode straight down the church and passed along
The grave-set garden's dewy grass-grown slope:
The woods about were musical with song,
The world was bright with youth, and love, and hope;
The flowers were sweet, and sweet his visions were,
The sunlight glittered on the lily's head
And on the royal roses, rich and red,
And never had the earth seemed half so fair.
Soon would he see her--soon would kneel before
Her worshipped feet, and cry, 'I am thine own,
As thou art mine, now, and for evermore!'
And she should kiss the lips that had not known
The kiss of love in any vanished year.
And as he dreamed of his secured delight,
Round the curved road there slowly came in sight
A mourning band, and in their midst a bier.
He hastened to pass on. Why should he heed
A bier--a blot on earth's awakened face?
For to his love-warm heart it seemed indeed
That in sweet summer's bloom death had no place.
Yet still he glanced--a pale concealing fold
Veiled the dead, quiet face--and yet--and yet--
Did he not know that hand, so white and wet?
Did he not know those dripping curls of gold?
'We came to you to know what we should do,
Father: we found her body in the stream,
And how it happed, God knows!' One other knew--
Knew that of him had been her last wild dream--
Knew the full reason of that life-disdain--
Knew how the shame of hopeless love confessed
And unreturned had seemed to stain her breast,
Till only death could make her clean again.
They left her in the church where sunbeams bright
Gilded the wreathèd oak and carven stone
With golden floods of consecrating light;
And here at last, together and alone,
The lovers met, and here upon her hair
He set his lips, and dry-eyed kissed her face,
And in the stillness of the holy place
He spoke in tones of bitter blank despair:
'Oh, lips so quiet, eyes that will not see!
Oh, clinging hands that not again will cling!
This last poor sin may well be pardoned thee,
Since for the right's sake thou hast done this thing.
Oh, poor weak heart, for ever laid to rest,
That could no longer strive against its fate,
For thee high heaven will unbar its gate,
And thou shalt enter in and shalt be blessed.
'The chances were the same for us,' he said,
'Yet thou hast won, and I have lost, the whole;
Thou wouldst not live in sin, and thou art dead--
But I--against thee I have weighed my soul,
And, losing thee, have lost my soul as well.
I have cursed God, and trampled on His cross;
Earth has no measurement for all my loss,
But I shall learn to measure it in hell!'
WHEN on the West broke light from out the East,
Then from the splendour and the shame of Rome--
Renouncing wealth and pleasure, game and feast,
And all the joys of his polluted home,
Desiring not the gifts his world could give,
If haply he might save his soul and live--
Into the desert's heart a man had come.
His God had died for love of him, and he
For love of God would die to all of these
Sweet sins he had not known for sins, and be
Estranged for evermore from rest and ease;
His days in penance spent might half atone
For the iniquity of days bygone,
And in the desert might his soul find peace.
Crossing wide seas, he reached an alien land:
By mighty harbours and broad streams he passed
Into an arid, trackless waste of sand,
And journeying ever faster and more fast,
Left men behind, and onward still did press
To a ruined city in the wilderness,
And there he stayed his restless feet at last.
There stood long lines of columns richly wrought,
Colossal statues of forgotten kings,
Vast shadowy temples, court within dim court,
Great shapes of man-faced beasts with wide firm wings;
And in and out each broken colonnade
The bright-eyed, swift, green-gleaming lizards played,
In that still place the only living things.
But when the moon unveiled her still, white face,
And over sand and stone her glory shed--
Another life awoke within the place,
And great beasts stalked, with silent heavy tread,
Through pillared vista, over marble floor,
And the stern menace of the lion's roar
Made horrible the city of the dead.
Like a great bird soft sinking on its nest,
Too lightly to disturb its tender brood,
The night, with dark spread wings and cloudy breast,
Sank on the desert city's solitude
As he drew near. The shadows grew more dense,
The silence stronger; weariness intense
Fell on him then, and only rest seemed good.
He passed between tall pillars' sculptured gloom,
And entered a deserted, lightless fane,
And knew not if it temple were, or tomb,
But slept and slept, till over all the plain
The level sunbeams spread, and earth was bright
With morning's radiant resurrection-light;
Then he awoke, refreshed and strong again.
Through empty courts he passed, and lo! a wall
Whereon was imaged all the languid grace
Of fairest women, and among them all
Shone like a star one lovely Eastern face:
Undimmed by centuries the colours were,
Bright as when first the painter found her fair,
And set her there to glorify the place.
All he had fled from suddenly drew near,
And from her eyes a challenge seemed down-thrown;
'Ah, fool!' she seemed to say, 'what dost thou here?
How canst thou bear this stern, sad life alone,
When I--not just this face that copies me,
But I myself--stretch arms and lips to thee,
From that same world whose joys thou hast foregone?'
His heart leaped up like flame--she was so fair;
Then with a start he hid his eyes and fled
Into the hotness of the outer air.
His pulse beat quickly. 'Oh, my God!' he said,
'These be the heart made pure, and cleansèd brain!
I vow to Thee to never look again
On women, real or painted, quick or dead!'
So lest within the city he should find,
To tempt his soul, still some accursèd thing,
He left the palaces and courts behind,
Found a green spot, with date-palms and a spring
And built himself a rough stone shelter there
And saw no more the face, so strange and fair
That had begot such vain imagining.
He tilled the patch of land, and planted seeds
Which from his own far country he had brought;
And, caring little for his body's needs,
Strove still by blind belief to strangle thought,
By ceaseless penance to deny desire,
To quench in prayer and fast all human fire,
And wrest from Heaven the blessings that he sought.
And there peace found him, and he dwelt alone,
And gladly gave his life to God. Behind
Lay the long dim arcades of graven stone;
Before him lay the desert, burning blind
Sometimes with the dread dance of its own sand,
That wildly whirled in shadowy columns, fanned
By the hot breath of the fierce desert wind.
Each day passed by as had passed other days,
And days gone by were as the days to come,
Save that on some days he was wild with praise,
And weak with vigil and with fast on some;
And no man saw he for long months and years,
But ever did he penance with hot tears,
And but for prayer and praise his lips were dumb.
Sometimes at first, when spent with watch and prayer,
He saw again the Imperial City's towers,
Where, in a mist of music and sweet air,
Thais and Phryne crowned his cup with flowers--
He saw the easeful day, the festal night,
The life that was one dream of long delight,
One rose-red glow of rapture and fair hours.
He heard old well-remembered voices cry,
'Come back to us! Think of the joys you miss;
Each moment floats some foregone rapture by,
A cup, a crown, a song, a laugh, a kiss!
Cast down that crown of thorns, return, and be
Once more flower-crowned, love-thrilled, wine-warmed, and see
The old sweet life--how good a thing it is!'
But his soul answered, 'Nay, I am content;
Ye call in vain; the desert shuts me in.
Your flowers are sere, your wine with gall is blent,
Your sweets have all the sickening taste of sin;
Such sin I expiate with ceaseless pain,
And world and flesh and devil strive in vain
Back from its sanctuary my soul to win.
'Fair are the Imperial City's towers to see?
I seek the City with the streets of gold.
Beside the lilies God has grown for me
Faint are the roses that your fingers hold.
Ear hath not heard the music I shall hear,
Eye hath not seen the joys that shall appear,
Nor heart conceived the things I shall behold.'
After long days a stranger halted there,
For some far distant monastery bound.
The hermit fed and lodged, nor could forbear
To tell his guest what rest his soul had found
How with the world he long ago had done,
How the hard battle had been fought and won,
And he found peace, pure, perfect and profound.
The stranger answered, 'Thou hast watched an hour,
But many hours go to make up our day,
And some of these are dark with fateful power,
And Satan watches for our souls alway;
The spirit may be willing, but indeed
The flesh is weak, and so much more the need
To pray and watch, my brother, watch and pray.'
The Roman bowed his head in mute assent,
And, having served the stranger with his best,
Bade him God-speed, and down the way he went--
Gazed sadly after, but within his breast
A pale fire of resentment sprang to flame
Was he not holy now, and void of blame,
And certain of himself, and pure, and blest?
That night a new-born desolation grew
Within his heart as he made fast the stone
Against the doorway of his hut, and knew
How more than ever he was now alone.
He was in darkness, but the moon without
Made a new tender daylight round about
The hut, the palms, the plot with millet sown.
Hark!--what was that?--For many months and years
He had not heard that faint uncertain noise,
Broken, and weak, and indistinct with tears--
A voice--a human voice--a woman's voice.
'Oh, let me in,' it wailed, 'before I die!
Oh, let me in, for Holy Charity!
For see--my life or death is at thy choice!'
Unthinking, swift he rolled the stone away:
There stood a woman, trembling, shrinking, thin;
Her pale hair by the moon's white light looked grey,
And grey her hands and grey her withered skin.
'Oh, save me--lest I die among the beasts
Who roam, and roar, and hold their fearful feasts!
Oh, save me,' she besought him, 'let me in!'
Troubled, he answered, 'Nay, I have a vow
Never again a woman's face to see!'
'But, ah,' she cried, 'thy vow is broken now,
For at this moment thou beholdest me.
I cannot journey farther. Help!' she said,
'Or I before the dawning shall be dead,
And thou repent to all eternity!'
His soul was gentle and compassionate.
'Thou shalt not perish--enter here,' he said;
'My vow is broken, and thy need is great.'
She staggered forward to the dry leaf bed,
And sank upon it, cold and still and white.
'Perhaps she may not live until the light,'
He thought, and lifted up her drooping head,
And gave her wine from out a little store
Which he had kept untouched since first he came;
He rolled the stone again before his door
To keep the night air from her wasted frame;
And, though his vow was broken, somehow knew
That he was doing what was right to do,
Yet felt a weight of unacknowledged blame.
And many a day he tended her and fed;
But ever after that first night's surprise
With earnest vigilance he held his head
Averted, and downcast he kept his eyes.
His vow, though broken once, was still his law;
He looked upon her face no more, nor saw
Her whom he cared for in such kindly wise.
She never spoke to him, nor he to her--
That she was sick and sad was all he knew;
He never asked her what her past days were,
Nor of the future, what she meant to do.
So dwelt they, till the full moon's yellow light
Flooded the world once more. Then came the night
Which all his life had been a prelude to.
The stone was moved a little from the door,
And near it he was kneeling rapt in prayer
Upon the cold uneven earthen floor;
The moonbeams passed him by, and rested where
The woman slept--her breathing soft and slow,
With rhythmic cadence even, restful, low,
Stirring the stillness of the cool night air
His prayer being ended, as he turned to rest,
He chanced to let his eyes fall carelessly
Upon the figure that the moon caressed,
The woman that his care had not let die.
And now no more he turned his face aside,
But gazed, and gazed, and still unsatisfied
His eager look fed on her, hungrily.
On her? On whom? The suppliant he had saved,
Thin, hollow-cheeked and sunken-eyed had been,
With shrunken brow whereon care-lines were graved,
With withered arms, dull hair, and fingers lean.
'Has my blind care transformed her so?' he said;
For she was gone, and there lay in her stead
The loveliest woman he had ever seen.
The rags she wore but made her seem more sweet,
Since in despite of them she was so fair;
The rough brown leaves quite covered up her feet,
But left one ivory arm and shoulder bare,
The other lay beneath the little head,
And over all the moonlit couch was spread
The sunlight-coloured wonder of her hair.
He could not move, nor turn away his gaze:
How long he stood and looked he could not guess.
At last she faintly sighed, and in her face
Trembled the dawn of coming consciousness;
The eyelids quivered, and the red lips stirred,
As if they tried to find some sweet lost wo
And then her eyelids lifted, and he met
Full in his dazzled eyes the glorious light
Of eyes that he had struggled to forget
Since he had broken from their spells of might--
The Eastern eyes that from the painted wall
Had lightened down upon him, to enthral
Senses and soul with fetters of delight.
He knew her now, his love without a name,
Who in his dreams had looked on him and smiled,
And almost back to his old world of shame
His unconsenting manhood had beguiled!
There was no world now any more. At last
He knew that all--his future, present, past--
In her sole self was fused and reconciled.
The moments fled as in a dream divine:
Fire filled his veins--there beat within his brain
The madness that is born of love or wine;
And her eyes gleamed--softened and gleamed again,
And in those stormy seas he gazed, until
Her beauty seemed the whole vast night to fill,
And all, save her, seemed valueless and vain.
Then, with her eyes still deep in his, she rose
And moved towards him, and a wave of bliss
Flooded his sense with the wild joy that goes
Before a longed-for, almost granted kiss,
And slowly she drew nearer to his side--
Then, with a smile like mid-June's dawn, she sighed,
And turned to him, and laid her hand on his.
And at the touch, all he had deemed effaced--
All the heart-searing passions of his past--
Surged up, and their destroying wave laid waste
The ordered garden of his soul. At last
The spell of silence broke, and suddenly
The man's whole heart found voice in one low cry,
As round her perfect head his arms he cast--
And did not clasp her, for his foiled arms crossed
Only upon his own tumultuous breast!
His wrecked heart, tempest driven, passion tossed,
Beat fierce against his own hand on it pressed.
As on June fields might fall December frost,
In one cold breath he knew that she was lost--
Eternally foregone and unpossessed.
For even as he clasped she had seemed to melt,
And fade into the misty moonlit air;
His arms were empty, yet his hand still felt
The touch of her hand that had rested there:
But she was gone, with all her maddening grace--
The solitude and silence, in her place,
Like a chill searching wind crept everywhere.
Silence--at first. Then suddenly outbroke
A little laugh. And then, above, around,
A hideous peal of laughter, shout on shout,
Re-echoing from sky, and air, and ground;
And in his devastated soul had birth
A horrid echo of that demon mirth,
And with his human voice he swelled its sound.
'Tricked, fooled!' he laughed. 'We laugh, the fiends and I,
They for their triumph, I to feel my fall!
From snares like these is no security,
In desert wild or close-built city wall:
And since I must be tempted, let me go
And brave the old temptations that I know;
Not these, that are but phantoms after all--
'Phantoms, not living women, warm and real,
As the fair Roman women were. And yet
The phantom only is my soul's ideal,
Longed for through all the years and never met
Till now; and only now to make hell worse--
To fan my fires of infinite remorse
With the cold wind of infinite regret.
'Back to the world, the world of love and sin!
For since my soul is lost, I claim its price!
Prayers are not heard. The God I trusted in
Has failed me once--He shall not fail me twice!
No more of that wild striving and intense
For irrecoverable innocence--
No more of useless, vain self-sacrifice!
'Life is too potent and too passionate,
Against whose force I all these years have striven
In vain, in vain! Our own lives make our Fate;
And by our Fate our lives are blindly driven!
There is no refuge in the hermit's cell
From memories enough to make a hell--
Of chances lost that might have made a heaven!'
Back to his world he went, and plunged anew
Into the old foul life's polluted tide;
But ever in his sweetest feast he knew
A longing never to be satisfied:
This strange wild wickedness, that new mad sin,
Might be the frame to find her picture in;
And if that failed, some other must be tried.
And in the search, soul, body, heart, and brain
Were blasted and destroyed, and still his prize,
Ever untouched, seemed always just to gain,
And just beyond his reach shone Paradise.
So followed he, too faithfully, too well,
Through death, into the very gate of hell,
The love-light of those unforgotten eyes!
The Moat House
UNDER the shade of convent towers,
Where fast and vigil mark the hours,
From childhood into youth there grew
A maid as fresh as April dew,
And sweet as May's ideal flowers,
Brighter than dawn in wind-swept skies,
Like children's dreams most pure, unwise,
Yet with a slumbering soul-fire too,
That sometimes shone a moment through
Her wondrous unawakened eyes.
The nuns, who loved her coldly, meant
The twig should grow as it was bent;
That she, like them, should watch youth's bier,
Should watch her day-dreams disappear,
And go the loveless way they went.
The convent walls were high and grey;
How could Love hope to find a way
Into that citadel forlorn,
Where his dear name was put to scorn,
Or called a sinful thing to say?
Yet Love did come; what need to tell
Of flowers downcast, that sometimes fell
Across her feet when dreamily
She paced, with unused breviary,
Down paths made still with August's spell--
Of looks cast through the chapel grate,
Of letters helped by Love and Fate,
That to cold fingers did not come
But lay within a warmer home,
Upon her heart inviolate?
Somehow he loved her--she loved him:
Then filled her soul's cup to the brim,
And all her daily life grew bright
With such a flood of rosy light
As turned the altar candles dim.
But love that lights is love that leads,
And lives upon the heart it feeds;
Soon grew she pale though not less fair,
And sighed his name instead of prayer,
And told her heart-throbs, not her beads.
How could she find the sunlight fair,
A sunlight that he did not share?
How could a rose smell sweet within
The cruel bars that shut her in,
And shut him out while she was there?
He vowed her fealty firm and fast,
Then to the winds her fears she cast;
They found a way to cheat the bars,
And in free air, beneath free stars,
Free, and with him, she stood at last.
'Now to some priest,' he said, 'that he
May give thee--blessing us--to me.'
'No priest,' she cried in doubt and fear,
'He would divide, not join us, dear.
I am mine--I give myself to thee.
'Since thou and I are mine and thine,
What need to swear it at a shrine?
Would love last longer if we swore
That we would love for evermore?
God gives me thee--and thou art mine.'
'God weds us now,' he said, 'yet still
Some day shall we all forms fulfil.
Eternal truth affords to smile
At laws wherewith man marks his guile,
Yet law shall join us--when you will.
'So look your last, my love, on these
Forbidding walls and wooing trees.
Farewell to grief and gloom,' said he;
'Farewell to childhood's joy,' said she;
But neither said, 'Farewell to peace.'
My sweet, my sweet,
She is complete
From dainty head to darling feet;
So warm and white,
So brown and bright,
So made for love and love's delight.
God could but spare
One flower so fair,
There is none like her anywhere;
Beneath wide skies
The whole earth lies,
But not two other such brown eyes.
The world we're in,
If one might win?
Not worth that dimple in her chin
A heaven to know?
I'll let that go
But once to see her lids droop low
Over her eyes,
By love made wise:
To see her bosom fall and rise
Is more than worth
The angels' mirth,
And all the heaven-joys of earth.
This is the hour
Which gives me power
To win and wear earth's whitest flower.
Oh, Love, give grace,
Through all life's ways
Keep pure this heart, her dwelling place.
The fields were reaped and the pastures bare,
And the nights grown windy and chill,
When the lovers passed through the beech woods fair,
And climbed the brow of the hill.
In the hill's spread arm the Moat House lies
With elm and willow tree;
'And is that your home at last?' she sighs.
'Our home at last,' laughs he.
Across the bridge and into the hall
Where the waiting housefolk were.
'This is my lady,' he said to them all,
And she looked so sweet and fair
That every maid and serving-boy
God-blessed them then and there,
And wished them luck, and gave them joy,
For a happy, handsome pair.
And only the old nurse shook her head:
'Too young,' she said, 'too young.'
She noted that no prayers were read,
No marriage bells were rung;
No guests were called, no feast was spread,
As was meet for a marriage tide;
The young lord in the banquet hall broke bread
Alone with his little bride.
Yet her old heart warmed to the two, and blessed,
They were both so glad and gay,
By to-morrow and yesterday unoppressed,
Fulfilled of the joy of to-day;
Like two young birds in that dull old nest,
So careless of coming care,
So rapt in the other that each possessed,
The two young lovers were.
He was heir to a stern hard-natured race,
That had held the Moat House long,
But the gloom of his formal dwelling place
Dissolved at her voice and song;
So bright, so sweet, to the house she came,
So winning of way and word,
The household knew her by one pet name,
'My Lady Ladybird.'
First love so rarely gets leave to bring,
In our world where money is might,
Its tender buds to blossoming
With the sun of its own delight.
We love at rose or at vintage prime,
In the glare and heat of the day,
Forgetting the dawn and the violet time,
And the wild sweet scent of the may.
These loved like children, like children played,
The old house laughed with delight
At her song of a voice, at the radiance made
By her dress's flashing flight.
Up the dark oak stair, through the gallery's gloom,
She ran like a fairy fleet,
And ever her lover from room to room
Fast followed her flying feet.
They gathered the buds of the late-lived rose
In the ordered garden ways,
They walked through the sombre yew-walled close
And threaded the pine woods maze,
They rode through woods where their horses came
Knee-deep through the rustling leaves,
Through fields forlorn of the poppies' flame
And bereft of their golden sheaves.
In the mellow hush of October noon
They rowed in the flat broad boat,
Through the lily leaves so thickly strewn
On the sunny side of the moat.
They were glad of the fire of the beech-crowned hill,
And glad of the pale deep sky,
And the shifting shade that the willows made
On the boat as she glided by.
They roamed each room of the Moat House through
And questioned the wraiths of the past,
What legends rare the old dresses knew,
And the swords, what had wet them last?
What faces had looked through the lozenge panes,
What shadows darkened the door,
What feet had walked in the jewelled stains
That the rich glass cast on the floor?
She dressed her beauty in old brocade
That breathed of loss and regret,
In laces that broken hearts had swayed,
In the days when the swords were wet;
And the rubies and pearls laughed out and said,
'Though the lovers for whom we were set,
And the women who loved us, have long been dead,
Yet beauty and we live yet.'
When the wild white winter's spectral hand
Effaced the green and the red,
And crushed the fingers brown of the land
Till they grew death-white instead,
The two found cheer in their dark oak room,
And their dreams of a coming spring,
For a brighter sun shone through winter's gloom
Than ever a summer could bring.
They sat where the great fires blazed in the hall,
Where the wolf-skins lay outspread,
The pictured faces looked down from the wall
To hear his praise of the dead.
He told her ghostly tales of the past,
And legends rare of his house,
Till she held her breath at the shade fire-cast,
And the scamper-rush of the mouse,
Till she dared not turn her head to see
What shape might stand by her chair--
Till she cried his name, and fled to his knee,
And safely nestled there.
Then they talked of their journey, the city's crowd,
Of the convent's faint joy and pain,
Till the ghosts of the past were laid in the shroud
Of commonplace things again.
So the winter died, and the baby spring,
With hardly voice for a cry,
And hands too weak the signs to bring
That all men might know her by,
Yet woke, and breathed through the soft wet air
The promise of all things dear,
And poets and lovers knew she was there,
And sang to their hearts, 'She is here.'
Soft is the ground underfoot,
Soft are the skies overhead,
Green is the ivy round brown hedge root,
Green is the moss where we tread.
Purple the woods are, and brown;
The blackbird is glossy and sleek,
He knows that the worms are no more kept down
By frost out of reach of his beak.
Grey are the sheep in the fold,
Tired of their turnip and beet,
Dreaming of meadow and pasture and wold,
And turf the warm rain will make sweet.
Leaves sleep, no bud wakens yet,
But we know by the song of the sun,
And the happy way that the world smiles, wet,
That the spring--oh, be glad!--is begun.
What stirs the heart of the tree?
What stirs the seed the earth bears?
What is it stirring in you and in me
Longing for summer, like theirs?--
Longing you cannot explain,
Yearning that baffles me still!
Ah! that each spring should bring longings again
No summer can ever fulfil!
When all the world had echoed the song
That the poet and lover sang,
When 'Glory to spring,' sweet, soft, and strong,
From the ferny woods outrang,
In wet green meadow, in hollow green,
The primrose stars outshone,
And the bluebells balanced their drooping sheen
In copses lovely and lone.
The green earth laughed, full of leaf and flower,
The sky laughed too, full of sun;
Was this the hour for a parting hour,
With the heaven of spring just won?
The woods and fields were echoing
To a chorus of life and bliss.
Oh, hard to sting the face of the spring
With the smart of a parting kiss!
A kinsman ailing, a summons sent
To haste to his dying bed.
'Oh, cruel sentence of banishment!
For my heart says 'Go'!' he said.
'So now good-bye to my home, my dear,
To the spring we watched from its birth;
There is no spring, oh, my sweet, but here,
'Tis winter all over the earth.
'But I come again, oh, spring of my life,
You hold the cord in your hand
That will draw me back, oh, my sweetheart wife,
To the place where your dear feet stand;
But a few short days, and my arms shall be
Once more round your little head,
And you will be weeping glad tears with me
On the grave of our parting, dead!
'I leave you my heart for a short short while,
It will ache if 'tis wrapped in fears;
Keep it safe and warm in the sun of your smile,
Not wet with the rain of your tears.
Be glad of the joy that shall soon be won,
Be glad to-day, though we part;
You shall weep for our parting when parting is done,
And drop your tears on my heart.'
Good-bye, my love, my only dear, I know your heart is true
And that it lingers here with me while mine fares forth with you.
We part? Our hearts are almost one, and are so closely tied
'Tis yours that stirs my bosom-lace, mine beats against your side.
So not at losing you I grieve, since heart and soul stay here,
But all the gladness of my life, I cry to lose it, dear;
Warmth of the sun, sweet of the rose, night's rest and light of day,
I mourn for these, for if you go, you take them all away.
You are sad too--not at leaving me, whose heart must with you go,
But at the heaven you leave behind--ah, yes--you told me so,
You said wherever you might go you could not ever find
A spring so sweet, love so complete, as these you leave behind.
No future joy will ever pay this moment's bitter ache,
Yet I am glad to be so sad, since it is for your sake.
You take so much, I do but wish that you could take the whole,
Could take me, since you take my rest, my light, my joy, my soul.
Oh, love, I leave
This springtide eve,
When woods in sunset shine blood-red;
The long road lies
Before my eyes,
My horse goes on with even tread.
I dare not turn
These eyes that burn
Back to the terrace where you lean;
If I should see
Your tears for me,
I must turn back to dry them, O my queen!
Yet I must go,
Fate has it so,
Duty spoke once, and I obey;
Sadly I rise,
And turn my face the other way.
Nothing is dear
On earth but here,
There is no joy away from you;
What though there be
New things to see,
New friends, new faces, and adventures new?
Yet since I may
Not with you stay,
Hey for the outer world of life!
Brace limbs, shake rein,
And seek again
The hurry, jostle, jar and strife.
Hey for the new!
Yet, love, for you--
I have loved you so--the last hand-kiss.
How vast a world
Lies here unfurled!
How small, if sweet, home's inner round of bliss!
The road bends right,
Leads out of sight,
Here I may turn, nor fear to see;
So far away,
One could not say
If you are weeping now for me.
Behind this eve
My love I leave,
The big bright world spreads out before;
Yet will I come,
To you and home,
Oh, love, and rest beneath your yoke once more.
She stood upon the terrace, gazing still
Down the long road to watch him out of sight,
Dry-eyed at first, until the swelling hill
Hid him. Then turned she to the garden bright,
Whose ways held memories of lover's laughter,
And lover's sadness that had followed after,
Both born of passion's too intense delight.
The garden knew her secrets, and its bowers
Threw her her secrets back in mocking wise;
''Twas here he buried you in lilac flowers.
Here while he slept you covered up his eyes
With primroses. They died; and by that token
Love, like a flower whose stalk has once been broken,
Will live no more for all your tears and sighs.'
The sundial that had marked their happy hours
Cried out to her, 'I know that he is gone;
So many twos have wreathed me round with flowers,
And always one came afterwards alone,
And always wept--even as you are weeping.
The flowers while they lived were cold, shade keeping,
But always through the tears the sun still shone.'
She left the garden; but the house still more
Whispered, 'You love him--he has gone away.'
Where fell her single footstep sighed the floor,
'Another foot than yours fell here to-day.'
The very hound she stroked looked round and past her,
Then in her face, and whined, 'Where is our master?'
The whole house had the same one thing to say.
Empty, without its soul, disconsolate,
The great house was: through all the rooms went she,
And every room was dark and desolate,
Nothing seemed good to do or good to see.
At last, upon the wolf-skins, worn with weeping,
The old nurse found her, like a tired child, sleeping
With face tear-stained, and sobbing brokenly.
Wearily went the days, all sad the same,
Yet each brought its own added heaviness.
Why was it that no letter from him came
To ease the burden of her loneliness?
Why did he send no message, word, or greeting,
To help her forward to their day of meeting,
No written love--no black and white caress?
At last there came a letter, sweet but brief,
'He was so busy--had no time for more.'
No time! She had had time enough for grief,
There never had been so much time before;
And yet the letter lay within her bosom,
Pressed closely to her breathing beauty's blossom,
Worn for a balm, because her heart was sore.
She knew not where he stayed, and so could send,
Of all the letters that she wrote, not one;
Hour after soft spring hour the child would spend
In pouring out her soul, for, once begun,
The tale of all her love and grief flowed over
Upon the letters that she wrote her lover,
And that the fire read when the tale was done.
And yet she never doubted he would come,
If not before, yet when a baby's eyes
Should look for him, when his deserted home
Should waken to a baby's laughs and cries.
'He judges best--perhaps he comes to-morrow,
But come he will, and we shall laugh at sorrow
When in my arms our little baby lies.'
And in the August days a soft hush fell
Upon the house--the old nurse kept her place
Beside the little wife--and all was well;
After rapt anguish came a breathing space,
And she, mid tears and smiles, white-faced, glad-eyed,
Felt her wee baby move against her side,
Kissed its small hands, worshipped its tiny face.
Oh, baby, baby, baby dear,
We lie alone together here;
The snowy gown and cap and sheet
With lavender are fresh and sweet;
Through half-closed blinds the roses peer
To see and love you, baby dear.
We are so tired, we like to lie
Just doing nothing, you and I,
Within the darkened quiet room.
The sun sends dusk rays through the gloom,
Which is no gloom since you are here,
My little life, my baby dear.
Soft sleepy mouth so vaguely pressed
Against your new-made mother's breast,
Soft little hands in mine I fold,
Soft little feet I kiss and hold,
Round soft smooth head and tiny ear,
All mine, my own, my baby dear.
And he we love is far away!
But he will come some happy day.
You need but me, and I can rest
At peace with you beside me pressed.
There are no questions, longings vain,
No murmuring, nor doubt, nor pain,
Only content and we are here,
My baby dear.
While winged Love his pinions folded in the Moat House by the hill,
In the city there was anger, doubt, distrust, and thoughts of ill;
For his kinsmen, hearing rumours of the life the lovers led,
Wept, and wrung their hands, and sorrowed--'Better that the lad were dead
Than to live thus--he, the son of proudest man and noblest earl--
Thus in open sin with her, a nameless, shameless, foreign girl.'
(Ever when they thus lamented, 'twas the open sin they named,
Till one wondered whether sinning, if less frank, had been less blamed.)
''Tis our duty to reclaim him--mate him to a noble bride
Who shall fitly grace his station, and walk stately by his side--
Gently loose him from the fetters of this siren fair and frail
(In such cases time and absence nearly always will prevail).
He shall meet the Duke's fair daughter--perfect, saintly Lady May--
Beauty is the surest beacon to a young man gone astray!
Not at all precipitately, but with judgment sure and fine,
We will rescue and redeem him from his shameful husks and swine.
So--his uncle's long been ailing (gout and dropsy for his sins)--
Let that serve for pretext; hither bring the youth--his cure begins.'
So they summoned him and welcomed, and their utmost efforts bent
To snatch back a brand from burning and a soul from punishment--
Sought to charm him with their feastings, each more sumptuous than the last,
From his yearning recollections of his very sinful past--
Strove to wipe his wicked doings from his memory's blotted
By the chaster, purer interests of the ball-room and the stage.
And for Lady May--they hinted to the girl, child-innocent,
That her hand to save the sinner by her Saviour had been sent,
That her voice might bring his voice her Master's triumph choir to swell,
And might save a man from sorrow and a human soul from hell.
So she used her maiden graces, maiden glances, maiden smiles,
To protect the erring pilgrim from the devil's subtle wiles--
Saw him daily, sent him letters, pious verses by the score,
Every angel's trap she baited with her sweet religious lore--
Ventured all she knew, not knowing that her beauty and her youth
Were far better to bait traps with than her odds and ends of truth.
First he listened, vain and flattered that a girl as fair as she
Should be so distinctly anxious for his lost humanity,
Yet determined no attentions, even from the Lady May,
Should delay his home-returning one unnecessary day.
But as she--heart-wrung with pity for his erring soul--grew kind,
Fainter, fainter grew the image of his sweetheart left behind;
Till one day May spoke of sorrow--prayed him to reform--repent,
Urged the festival in heaven over every penitent;
Bold in ignorance, spoke vaguely and low-toned of sin and shame,
And at last her voice, half breathless, faltered, broke upon his name,
And two tears fell from her lashes on the roses at her breast,
Far more potent in their silence than her preaching at its best.
And his weak soul thrilled and trembled at her beauty, and he cried,
'Not for me those priceless tears: I am your slave--you shall decide.'
'Save your soul,' she sighed. 'Was ever man so tempted, tried, before?
It is yours!' and at the word his soul was lost for evermore.
Never woman pure and saintly did the devil's work so well!
Never soul ensnared for heaven took a surer road to hell!
Lady May had gained her convert, loved him, and was satisfied,
And before the last leaves yellowed she would kneel down as his bride.
She was happy, and he struggled to believe that perfidy
Was repentance--reformation was not one with cruelty,
Yet through all congratulations, friends' smiles, lovers' flatteries,
Lived a gnawing recollection of the lost love harmonies.
In the day he crushed it fiercely, kept it covered out of sight,
But it held him by the heart-strings and came boldly out at night:
In the solemn truthful night his soul shrank shuddering from its lies,
And his base self knew its baseness, and looked full in its false eyes.
In the August nights, when all the sky was deep and toneless blue,
And the gold star-points seemed letting the remembered sunlight through,
When the world was hushed and peaceful in the moonlight's searching white,
He would toss and cast his arms out through the silence and the night
To those eyes that through the night and through the silence came again,
Haunting him with the persistence and the passion of their pain.
'Oh, my little love--my sweetheart--oh, our past--our sweet love-day--
Oh, if I were only true--or you were only Lady May!'
But the sunshine scared the vision, and he rose once more love-warm
To the Lady May's perfections and his own proposed reform.
Coward that he was! he could not write and break that loving heart:
To the worn-out gouty kinsman was assigned that pleasing part.
'Say it kindly,' said her lover, 'always friends--I can't forget--
We must meet no more--but give her tenderest thought and all regret;
Bid her go back to the convent--she and I can't meet as friends--
Offer her a good allowance--any terms to make amends
For what nought could make amends for--for my baseness and my sin.
Oh, I know which side the scale this deed of mine will figure in!
Curse reform!--she may forget me--'tis on me the burdens fall,
For I love her only, solely--not the Lady May at all!'
'Patience,' said the uncle, 'patience, this is but the natural pain
When a young man turns from sinning to the paths of grace again.
Your wild oats are sown--you're plighted to the noble Lady May
(Whose estates adjoin your manor in a providential way).
Do your duty, sir, for surely pangs like these are such as win
Pardon and the heavenly blessing on the sinner weaned from sin.'
Day is fair, and so is she
Whom so soon I wed;
But the night, when memory
Guards my sleepless bed,
And with cold hands brings once more
Thorns from rose-sweet days of yore--
Night I curse and dread.
Day is sweet, as sweet as her
But the night, when near me stir
Rustlings of a dress,
Echoes of a loving tone
Now renounced, forsworn, foregone,
Night is bitterness.
Day can stir my blood like wine
Or her beauty's fire,
But at night I burn and pine,
Torture, turn and tire,
With a longing that is pain,
Just to kiss and clasp again
Love's one lost desire.
Day is glad and pure and bright,
Pure, glad, bright as she;
But the sad and guilty night
Outlives day--for me.
Oh, for days when day and night
Equal balance of delight
Were alike to me!
In the day I see my feet
Walk in steadfast wise,
Following my lady sweet
To her Paradise,
Like some stray-recovered lamb;
But I see the beast I am
When the night stars rise.
Yet in wedding day there lies
Magic--so they say;
Ghosts will have no chance to rise
Near my Lady May.
Vain the hope! In good or ill
Those lost eyes will haunt me still
Till my dying day.
Quickly died the August roses, and the kin of Lady May
Dowered her richly, blessed her freely, and announced her wedding day;
And his yearnings and remorses fainter grew as days went on
'Neath the magic of the beauty of the woman he had won;
And less often and less strongly was his fancy caught and crossed
By remembrance of the dearness of the woman he had lost.
Long sweet mornings in the boudoir where the flowers stood about,
Whisperings in the balcony when stars and London lamps came out,
Concerts, flower shows, garden parties, balls and dinners, rides and drives,
All the time-killing distractions of these fashionable lives;
Dreary, joyless as a desert, pleasure's everlasting way,
But enchantment can make lovely even deserts, so they say,
Sandy waste, or waste of London season, where no green leaf grows,
Shone on but by love or passion, each will blossom like the rose!
Came no answer to the letter that announced his marriage day;
But his people wrote that Lady Ladybird had gone away.
So he sent to bid get ready to receive his noble wife.
Two such loving women granted to one man, and in one life!
Though he shuddered to remember with what ghosts the Moat House swarmed--
Ghosts of lovely days and dreamings ere the time when he reformed--
Yet he said, 'She cannot surely greatly care, or I had heard
Some impulsive, passionate pleading, had some sorrowing written word;
She has journeyed to her convent--will be glad as ere I came,
Through her beauty's dear enchantment, to a life of shameless shame;
And the memories of her dearness passion's flaming sword shall slay,
When the Moat House sees the bridal of myself and Lady May!'
Bright the mellow autumn sunshine glows upon the wedding day;
Lawns are swept from leaves, and doorways are wreathed round with garlands gay,
Flowery arches span the carriage drive from grass again to grass,
Flowers are ready for the flinging when the wedded pair shall pass;
Bells are ringing, clanging, clamouring from the belfry 'mid the trees,
And the sound rings out o'er woodlands, parks and gardens, lawns and leas;
All the village gay with banners waits the signal, 'Here they come!'
To strew flowers, wave hats, drop curtseys, and hurra its 'Welcome home!'
At the gates the very griffins on the posts are wreathed with green.
In their ordered lines wait servants for the pair to pass between;
But among them there is missing more than one familiar face,
And new faces, blank expectant, fill up each vacated place,
And the other servants whisper, 'Nurse would wail to see this day,
It was well she left the service when 'my Lady' ran away.'
Louder, clearer ring the joy-bells through the shaken, shattered air,
Till the echoes of them waken in the hillside far and fair;
Level shine the golden sunbeams in the golden afternoon.
In the east the wan ghost rises of the silver harvest moon.
Hark! wheels was it? No, but fancy. Listen! No--yes--can you hear?
Yes, it is the coming carriage rolling nearer and more near!
Till the horse-hoofs strike the roadway, unmistakable and clear!
They are coming! shout your welcome to my lord and lady fair:
May God shower his choicest blessings on the happy wedded pair!
Here they are! the open carriage and surrounding dusty cloud,
Whence he smiles his proud acceptance of the homage of the crowd;
And my lady's sweet face! Bless her! there's a one will help the poor,
Eyes like those could never turn a beggar helpless from her door!
Welcome, welcome! scatter flowers: see, they smile--bow left and right,
Reach the lodge gates--God of heaven! what was that, the flash of white?
Shehas sprung out from the ambush of the smiling, cheering crowd:
'Fling your flowers--here's my welcome!' sharp the cry rings out and loud.
Sudden sight of wild white face, and haggard eyes, and outstretched hands--
Just one heart-beat's space before the bridal pair that figure stands,
Then the horses, past controlling, forward bound, their hoofs down thrust--
And the carriage wheels jolt over something bloody in the dust.
'Stop her! Stop her! Stop the horses!' cry the people all too late,
For my lord and Lady May have had their welcome at their gate.
'Twas the old nurse who sprang to her, raised the brown-haired, dust-soiled head,
Looked a moment, closed the eyelids--then turned to my lord and said,
Kneeling still upon the roadway, with her arm flung round the dead,
While the carriage waited near her, blood and dust upon its wheels
(Ask my lord within to tell you how a happy bridegroom feels):
'Now, my lord, you are contented; you have chosen for your bride
This same fine and dainty lady who is sitting by your side.
Did ye tell her ere this bridal of the girl who bore your shame,
Bore your love-vows--bore your baby--everything except your name?
When they strewed the flowers to greet you, and the banners were unfurled,
She has flung before your feet the sweetest flower in all the world!
Woe's the day I ever nursed you--loved your lisping baby word,
For you grew to name of manhood, and to title of my lord;
Woe's the day you ever saw her, brought her home to wreck her life,
Throwing by your human plaything, to seek out another wife.
God will judge, and I would rather be the lost child lying there,
With your babe's milk in her bosom, your horse-hoof marks on her hair,
Than be you when God shall thunder, when your days on earth are filled,
'Where is she I gave, who loved you, whom you ruined, left and killed?'
Murderer, liar, coward, traitor, look upon your work and say
That your heart is glad within you on your happy wedding day!
And for you, my noble lady, take my blessing on your head,
Though it is not like the blessing maidens look for when they wed.
Never bride had such a welcome, such a flower laid on her way,
As was given you when your carriage crushed her out of life to-day.
Take my blessing--see her body, see what you and he have done--
And I wish you joy, my lady, of the bridegroom you have won.'
Like a beaten cur, that trembles at the whistling of the lash,
He stands listening, hands a-tremble, face as pale as white wood ash;
But the Lady May springs down, her soul shines glorious in her eyes,
Moving through the angry silence comes to where the other lies,
Gazes long upon her silent, but at last she turns her gaze
On the nurse, and lips a-tremble, hands outstretched, she slowly says,
'She is dead--but, but her baby--' all her woman's heart is wild
With an infinite compassion for the little helpless child.
Then she turns to snatch the baby from the arms of one near by,
Holds it fast and looks towards him with a voiceless bitter cry,
As imploring him to loose her from some nightmare's deadly bands.
Dogged looks he down and past her, and she sees and understands,
Then she speaks--'I keep your baby--that's my right in sight of men,
But by God I vow I'll never see your dastard face again.'
So she turned with no word further towards the purple-clouded west,
And passed thither with his baby clasped against her maiden breast.
Little Ladybird was buried in the old ancestral tomb.
From that grave there streams a shadow that wraps up his life in gloom,
And he drags the withered life on, longs for death that will not come,
The interminable night hours riven by that 'Welcome home!'
And he dares not leave this earthly hell of sharp remorse behind,
Lest through death not rest but hotter fire of anguish he should find.
Coward to the last, he will not risk so little for so much,
So he burns, convicted traitor, in the hell self-made of such:
And at night he wakes and shivers with unvanquishable dread
At the ghosts that press each other for a place beside his bed,
And he shudders to remember all the dearness that is dead.
I had a soul,
Not strong, but following good if good but led.
I might have kept it clean and pure and whole,
And given it up at last, grown strong with days
Of steadfast striving in truth's stern sweet ways;
Instead, I soiled and smutched and smothered it
With poison-flowers it valued not one whit--
Now it is dead.
I had a heart
Most true, most sweet, that on my loving fed.
I might have kept her all my life, a part
Of all my life--I let her starve and pine,
Ruined her life and desolated mine.
Sin brushed my lips--I yielded at a touch,
Tempted so little, and I sinned so much,
And she is dead.
There was a life
That in my sin I took and chained and wed,
And made--perpetual remorse!--my wife.
In my sin's harvest she must reap her share,
That makes its sheaves less light for me to bear.
Oh, life I might have left to bloom and grow!
I struck its root of happiness one blow,
And it is dead.
Once joy I had,
Now I have only agony instead,
That maddens, yet will never send me mad.
The best that comes is numbed half-sick despair,
Remembering how sweet the dear dead were.
My whole life might have been one clear joy song!
Now--oh, my heart, how still life is, how long,
For joy is dead.
Yet there is this:
I chose the thorns not grapes, the stones not bread;
I had my chance, they say, to gain or miss.
And yet I feel it was predestinate
From the first hour, from the first dawn of fate,
That I, thus placed, when that hour should arise,
Must act thus, and could not act otherwise.
This is the worst of all that can be said;
For hope is dead.