The Last Betrayal
AND I shall lie alone at last,
Clear of the stream that ran so fast,
And feel the flower roots in my hair,
And in my hands the roots of trees;
Myself wrapt in the ungrudging peace
That leaves no pain uncovered anywhere.
What--this hope left? this way not barred?
This last best treasure without guard?
This heaven free--no prayers to pay?
Fool--are the Rulers of men asleep?
Thou knowest what tears They bade thee weep,
But, when peace comes, 'tis thou wilt sleep, not They.
NIGHT wind sighing through the poplar leaves,
Trembling of the aspen, shivering of the willow,
Every leafy voice of all the night-time grieves,
Mourning, weeping over Chloe's pillow.
Chloe, fresher than the breeze of dawn,
Fairer than the larches in their young spring glory,
Brighter than the glow-worms on the dewy lawn,
Hear the dirge the green trees sing to end your story:--
'Chloe lived and Chloe loved: she brought new gladness,
Hope and life and all things good to all who met her;
Only, dying, wept to know the lifelong sadness
Willed, against her will, to those who can't forget her.'
Out Of Hope
IF through the rain and wind along the street,
Where the wet stone reflects the flickering gas,
Some weeping autumn night your wandering feet,
Lost in a lonely world, should chance to pass;
If, passing many doors that welcomed you
When robes of good renown your dear name wore,
Your feet again, as once they used to do,
Paused at my door,--
Should I shut fast my heart for the old ill,
The old wrong done, the sorrow and the sin?
Or--only knowing that I love you still--
Should I throw wide the door and let you in?
Come--with your sins--my tears shall wash them all,
The heart you broke still waits to be your home.
Yet if you came. . . . Oh! lost beyond recall
You never more will come.
A Parting Ii
I WILL not wake you, dear; no tears shall creep
To chill the still bed where you lie asleep;
No cry, no word, shall break the sanctity
Of the great silence where God lets you lie.
I will not tease your grave with flower or stone;
You are tired, my heart; you shall be left alone.
And even the kisses that my lips must lay
Upon the mould of the triumphant clay
Shall be so soft--like those a mother lays
Upon her sleeping baby's little face--
You will not feel my kisses, will not hear;
You are tired: sleep on, I will not wake you, dear!
But when the good day comes, you will hear me cry,
'Ah, make a little place where I can lie!'
And half awakened, you will feel me creep
Into the folds of your familiar sleep,
And draw them round us, with a tender moan,
'How could you let me sleep so long alone?'
The Heart Of Joy
DEAR, do you sigh that your love may not stay with you,
Laugh with and play with you,
Weep with and pray with you,
All his life through?
Think, O my heart, if you never had found me,
Crept through the cere-clothes the world has wound round me,
What would you do?
Wide is the world, and so many would sigh for you,
Long for and cry for you,
Weep for and die for you,
You being you.
I only I, am the man you could sigh for,
Live for and suffer for, sorrow and die for,
Twenty lives through.
Think! Had I missed you! The world was so wide for us,
Traps on each side for us,
Nothing as guide for us,
Yet I and you
Found Life's great treasure, the last and the first, love;
Life's little things, Time and Space, do their worst, love!
What, after all, can they do?
The Day Of Judgment
When the bearing and doing are over,
And no more is to do or bear,
God will see us and judge us
The kind of men we were;
And our sins, so ugly and heavy,
We shall drag them into His sight,
And throw them down at the foot of the throne,
Foul on the steps of light.
We shall not be shamed or frightened,
Though the angels are all at hand,
For He will look at our burden,
And He will understand.
He will turn to the little angels,
Agog to hear and obey,
And point to the festering sin-loads
With, 'Take that rubbish away!'
Then the steps will be cleared of the burdens
That we threw down at His feet;
And we shall be washed in the tears of Christ,
And our tears bathe His feet.
And the harvest of all our sinning
That moment's shame will reap -
When we look in the eyes that love us
And know we have made them weep.
ALL summer-time you said:
'Love has no need of shelter nor of kindness,
For all the flowers take pity on his blindness,
And lead him to his scented rose-soft bed.'
'He is a king,' you said.
'That I bow not the knee will never grieve him,
For all the summer-palaces receive him.'
But now Love has not where to lay his head.
'He is a god,' you said.
'His altars are wherever roses blossom.'
And summer made his altar of her bosom,
But now the altar is ungarlanded.
Take back the words you said:
Out in the rain he shivers broken-hearted;
Summer who bore him has with tears departed,
And o'er her grave he weeps uncomforted.
And you, for all you said,
Would weep too, if when dawn stills the wind's riot,
You found him on your threshold, pale and quiet,
Clasped him at last, and found the child was dead.
MAKE strong your door with bolt and bar,
Make every window fast;
Strong brass and iron as they are,
They are so easy passed--
So easy broken and cast aside,
And by the open door
My footsteps come to your guarded home,
And pass away no more.
In the golden noon--by the lovers' moon,
My shadow bars your way,
My shroud shows white in the blackest night
And grey in the gladdest day.
And by your board and by your bed
There is a place for me,
And in the glow when the coals burn low,
My face is the face ye see
I come between when ye laugh and lean,
I burn in the tears ye weep:
I am there when ye wake in the gray day-break
From the gold of a lovers' sleep.
I wither the rose and I spoil the song,
And Death is not strong to save--
For I shall creep while your mourners weep,
And wait for you in your grave.
DEAREST, if I almost cease to weep for you,
Do not doubt I love you just the same;
'Tis because my life has grown to keep for you
All the hours that sorrow does not claim.
All the hours when I may steal away to you,
Where you lie alone through the long day,
Lean my face against your turf and say to you
All that there is no one else to say.
Do they let you listen--do you lean to me?
Know now what in life you never knew,
When I whisper all that you have been to me,
All that I might never be to you?
Dear, lie still. No tears but mine are shed for you,
No one else leaves kisses day by day,
No one's heart but mine has beat and bled for you,
No one else's flowers push mine away.
No one else remembers--do not call to her,
Not alone she treads the churchyard grass;
You are nothing now who once were all to her,
Do not call her--let the strangers pass!
The Heart Of Sadness
IT is not, Dear, because I am alone,
For I am lonelier when the rest are near,
But that my place against your heart has grown
Too dear to dream of when you are not here.
I weep because my thoughts no more may roam
To meet, half-way, your longing thoughts of me,
To turn with these and spread glad wings for home,
For the dear haven where I fain would be.
When first we loved, I loved to steal away
To show to solitude what love could do,
To fill the waste space of the night and day
With thousand-wingèd dreams that flew to you;
But now through many tears I am grown wise
To know how mighty and how dear love is;
I dare not turn to him my longing eyes,
Nor even in dreams lean out my face to his,
Because, if once I let my caged heart go
Through dreams to seek you, I should follow too
Through wrong and right, through wisdom and through woe,
Through heaven and hell, until I won to you!
NOW veiled in the inviolable past
Love lies asleep, who never more will wake;
Nor would you wake him, even for my sake
Who for your sake pray he sleep sound at last.
What good thing had we of him--we who bore
So long his yoke? what pleasant thing had we
That we should weep his deathlong sleep to see,
Or call on Life to waken him once more?
A little joy he gave, and much of pain,
A little pleasure, and enduring grief,
One flower of joy, and pain piled sheaf on sheaf,
Harvests of loss, for every bud of gain.
Yet where he lies in this deserted place
Divided by his narrow grave we sit,
Welded together by the depths of it,
Watching the years pass, with averted face.
We do not mourn for him, for here is peace;
The old unrest frets not these empty years;
With him went smiles a few, and many tears,
And peace is sweeter far than those or these.
Only--we owe him nothing. If he gave,
We too gave gifts--his gifts were less than ours:
We gave the world, that held so many flowers
For this--the world that only holds his grave.
IF I might build a palace, fair
With every joy of soul and sense,
And set my heart as sentry there
To guard your happy innocence--
If I might plant a hedge so strong
No creeping sorrow could writhe through,
And find my whole life not too long
To give, to make your hedge for you--
If I could teach the wandering air
To bring no sounds that were not sweet,
Could teach the earth that only fair
Untrodden flower deserved your feet:
Would I not tear the secret scroll
Where all your griefs lie closely curled,
And give your little hand control
Of all the joys of all the world?
But ah! I have no skill to raise
The palace, teach the hedge to grow;
The common airs blow through your days,
By common ways your dear feet go.
And you must twine of common flowers
The wreath that happy women wear,
And bear in desolate darkened hours
The common griefs that all men bear.
The pinions of my love I fold
Your little shoulders close about:
Ah--could my love keep out the cold
And shut the creeping sorrows out!
Rough paths will tire your darling feet,
Gray skies will weep your tears above,
While round you still, in torment, beat
The impotent wings of mother-love.
Children's Playground In The City
THIS is a place where men laid their dead,
Each with his life-tale of good or ill;
Here prayers were murmured and hot tears shed,
And passionate anguish moaned its fill.
Silent now is each voice that cried,
And the tears that were wept have all been dried
In the dust; and dust are the hearts that bled
With hopeless longing for hearts grown still.
Dead and forgotten! for Death, requiter
Of love, taught Memory how to forget!
The love that remembered them died. Grow brighter,
Oh, dim grave-garden, with dead hearts set!
Room for the small flying feet to pass,
The feet of the children over the grass!
The dead, if they knew it, would feel them lighter
Than the weight of a stone that no tears make wet.
We must die too, and the grief that will live
Must die as surely--death comes to all;
But you who come after--let Nature give
To our graves her tears, to our dust her pall:
Let her hide us away in her cold broad breast,
Let us be forgotten, and be at rest,
And over our heads let the great world strive,
And the children's voices carol and call.
If your heart on the flower of remembrance is set,
There is one way to pluck it--and only one:
Dare you ask your country not to forget
A name that needs to be graved on stone?
By grief, strife, sacrifice, scorn of fame,
You may grave on the people's hearts your name,
Or your name may die, and your soul live yet
In the cause you died for--the work you have done.
A Star In The East
FOR THE ART EXHIBITION AT ST. JUDE'S, WHITECHAPEL
LIKE a fair flower springing fresh, sweet, and bright,
Through prison stones; or like one perfect song
Heard in a dream on one remembered night,
When waking worlds were dumb with grief and wrong;
Like the one kiss that links--first kiss and last--
The inevitable future spent apart
With the immutable divided past:
So in the east shines out this star of Art.
The narrow-shouldered, pale-faced girl and boy
Nestle against Art's new-found, love-warm breast,
And feel vague stirrings of a far-off joy,
Which life has never for themselves possessed,
And dimly guess at wonders hardly known--
Even as dreams--and weep glad tears to see
A loveliness that is at once life's own,
And yet is something life can never be.
Not worse will work the flying busy hand
Because the soul has drunk a cup of pleasure,
Has picked up on its leaden-coloured strand
Some little jewel of Art's splendid treasure,
Nor will less work be done because men see
That work is not the only thing in life,
Because they have been glad at heart and free
A little space 'mid sorrow, sin, and strife.
And this sweet draught may banish men's content?
For this we pray and strive--not all in vain--
That men may reach such heights of discontent
As never to fall back to peace again
Where no peace is--nor rest from strife and prayers,
But tread firm-footed up the thorny way,
Till all that spring of art and joy is theirs
Whereof they taste so small a draught to-day.
WHEN I am young again I'll hoard my bliss,
Nor deem that inexhaustible it is,
Remembering old age comes after this,
Joy grows to pain;
Nor waste one moment of youth's rose-sweet hours,
Nor trample one of all its countless flowers,
But drink the summer sun and soft spring showers,
When I am young again.
I will be wise with wisdom dearly won
By those who through life's wood have nearly run;
Learn what to do, and what to leave undone,
Risk or refrain.
I will not seek into my mouth to take
The bitter apple of the acrid lake,
But at clear fountains all my thirsts will slake,
When I am young again.
I will not brush the bloom to reach the core,
Remembering how it chanced with me before,
And bloom once lost returns not any more,
Hard cores remain:
I will fence round with prudence and secure
A lasting bloom whose freshness shall endure;
Oh, I will guard my peach of youth, be sure,
When I am young again.
When I am young again, I'll spend no breath
On bitter words the heart remembereth
When bitterness is swallowed up by Death
Holding sole reign;
I'll love so well that if they pass to sleep
Before me, I shall have no watch to keep
Over their tears-only my tears to weep
When I am young again.
I will not lightly joy nor idly grieve,
Nor for a heaven itself one soul deceive,
Nor will I be deceived, vainly believe,
Nor love in vain.
Come back, lost youth! Ah, Fate, that one gift give!
Then I will show that I have learned to live;
Youth shall be wise--and two and two make five--
When I am young again!
Mary Of Magdala
Mary of Magdala came to bed;
There were no soft curtains round her head;
She had no mother to hold of worth
The little baby she brought to birth.
Mary of Magdala groaned and prayed:
'O God, I am very much afraid;
For out of my body, by sin defiled,
Thou biddest me make a little child.
'O God, I have turned my face from Thee
To that which the angels may not see;
How can I make, from my deep disgrace,
A child whose angel shall see Thy face?
'O God, I have sinned, and I know well
That the pains I bear are the pains of hell;
But the thought of the child that sin has given
Is like the thought of the airs of Heaven.'
Mary of Magdala held her breath
In the clutch of pain like the pains of Death,
And through her heart, like the mortal knife,
Went the pang of joy and the pang of life.
'We two are two alone,' said she,
'And we are two who should be three;
Now who will clothe my baby fair
In the little garments that babies wear?'
There came two angels with quiet wings
And hands that were full of baby things;
And the new-born child was bathed and dressed
And laid again on his mother's breast.
'Now who will sign on his brow the mark
To keep him safe from the Powers of the Dark?
Who will my baby's sponsor be?'
'I, the Lord God, who died for thee.'
'Now who will comfort him if he cry;
And who will suckle him by and bye?
For my hands are cold and my breasts are dry,
And I think that my time has come to die.'
'I will dandle thy son as a mother may;
And his lips shall lie where my own Son's lay.
Come, dear little one, come to me;
The Mother of God shall suckle thee.'
Mary of Magdala laughed and sighed;
'I never deserved a child,' she cried.
'Dear God, I am ready to go to hell,
Since with my little one all is well.'
Then the Son of Mary did o'er her lean.
'Poor mother, thy tears have washed thee clean.
Thy last poor pains, they will soon be done,
And My Mother shall give thee back thy son.'
Frozen grass for a bearing bed,
A halo of frost round a woman's head,
And pious folks who looked and said:
'A drab and her brat that are better dead.'
IT is not Love, this beautiful unrest,
This tremor of longing that invades my breast:
For Love is in his grave this many a year,
He will not rise--I do not wish him here.
It is not memory, for your face and eyes
Are not reflected where that dark pool lies:
It is not hope, for life makes no amends,
And hope and I are long no longer friends:
It is a ghost out of another Spring
It needs but little for its comforting--
That I should hold your hand and see your face
And muse a little in this quiet place,
Where, through the silence, I can hear you sigh
And feel you sadden, O Virgin Mystery,
And know my thought has in your thought begot
Sadness, its child, and that you know it not.
If this were Love, if all this bitter pain
Were but the birth-pang of Love born again,
If through the doubts and dreams resolved, smiled
The prophetic promise of the holy child,
What should I gain? The Love whose dream-lips smiled
Could never be my own and only child,
But to Love's birth would come, with the last pain,
Renunciation, also born again.
If this were Love why should I turn away?
Am I not, too, made of the common clay?
Is life so fair, am I so fortunate,
I can refuse the capricious gift of Fate,
The sudden glory, the unhoped-for flowers,
The transfiguration of my earthly hours?
Come, Love! the house is garnished and is swept,
Washed clean with all the tears that I have wept,
Washed from the stain of my unworthy fears,
Hung with the splendid spoils of wasted years,
Lighted with lamps of hope, and curtained fast
Against the gathered darkness of the past.
I draw the bolts! I throw the portals wide,
The darkness rushes shivering to my side,
Love is not here--the darkness creeps about
My house wherein the lamps of hope die out.
Ah Love! it was not then your hand that came
Beating my door? your voice that called my name?
'It is not Love, it is not Love,' I said,
And bowed in fearful hope my trembling head.
'It is not Love, for Love could never rise
Out of the rock-hewn grave wherein he lies.'
But as I spake, the heavenly form drew near
Where close I clasped a hope grown keen as fear,
Upon my head His very hand He laid
And whispered, 'It is I, be not afraid!'
And this is Love, no rose-crowned laughing guest
By whom my passionate heart should be caressed,
But one re-risen from the grave; austere,
Cold as the grave, and infinitely dear,
To follow whom I lay the whole world down,
Take up the cross, bind on the thorny crown;
And, following whom, my bleeding pilgrim feet
Find the rough pathway sure and very sweet.
The august environment of mighty wings
Shuts out the snare of vain imaginings,
For by my side, crowned with Love's death-white rose,
The Angel of Renunciation goes.
The grass was gray with the moonlit dew,
The stones were white as I came through;
I came down the path by the thirteen yews,
Through the blocks of shade that the moonlight hews.
And when I came to the high lych-gate
I waited awhile where the corpses wait;
Then I came down the road where the moonlight lay
Like the fallen ghost of the light of day.
The bats shrieked high in their zigzag flight,
The owls' spread wings were quiet and white,
The wind and the poplar gave sigh for sigh,
And all about were the rustling shy
Little live creatures that love the night -
Little wild creatures timid and free.
I passed, and they were not afraid of me.
It was over the meadow and down the lane
The way to come to my house again:
Through the wood where the lovers talk,
And the ghosts, they say, get leave to walk.
I wore the clothes that we all must wear,
And no one saw me walking there,
No one saw my pale feet pass
By my garden path to my garden grass.
My garden was hung with the veil of spring -
Plum-tree and pear-tree blossoming;
It lay in the moon's cold sheet of light
In garlands and silence, wondrous and white
As a dead bride decked for her burying.
Then I saw the face of my house
Held close in the arms of the blossomed boughs:
I leaned my face to the window bright
To feel if the heart of my house beat right.
The firelight hung it with fitful gold;
It was warm as the house of the dead is cold.
I saw the settles, the candles tall,
The black-faced presses against the wall,
Polished beechwood and shining brass,
The gleam of china, the glitter of glass,
All the little things that were home to me -
Everything as it used to be.
Then I said, 'The fire of life still burns,
And I have returned whence none returns:
I will warm my hands where the fire is lit,
I will warm my heart in the heart of it!'
So I called aloud to the one within:
'Open, open, and let me in!
Let me in to the fire and the light -
It is very cold out here in the night!'
There was never a stir or an answering breath -
Only a silence as deep as death.
Then I beat on the window, and called, and cried.
No one heard me, and none replied.
The golden silence lay warm and deep,
And I wept as the dead, forgotten, weep;
And there was no one to hear or see -
To comfort me, to have pity on me.
But deep in the silence something stirred -
Something that had not seen or heard -
And two drew near to the window-pane,
Kissed in the moonlight and kissed again,
And looked, through my face, to the moon-shroud, spread
Over the garlanded garden bed;
And--'How ghostly the moonlight is!' she said.
Back through the garden, the wood, the lane,
I came to mine own place again.
I wore the garments we all must wear,
And no one saw me walking there.
No one heard my thin feet pass
Through the white of the stones and the gray of the grass,
Along the path where the moonlight hews
Slabs of shadow for thirteen yews.
In the hollow where drifted dreams lie deep
It is good to sleep: it was good to sleep:
But my bed has grown cold with the drip of the dew,
And I cannot sleep as I used to do.
A Prayer For The King's Majesty
22nd January, 1901.
THE Queen is dead. God save the King,
In this his hour of grief,
When sorrow gathers memories in a sheaf
To lay them on his shoulders as he stands
Inheriting her glories and her lands--
First gain of his at which his Mother's voice
Has not been first to bless and to rejoice--
A man, set lonely between gain and loss.
(O words of love the heart remembereth,
O mighty loss outweighing every gain!)
A Son whose kingdom Death's arm lies across,
A King whose Mother lies alone with Death
Wrapped in the folds of white implacable sleep.
O God, who seest the tears Thy children weep,
O God, who countest each sad heart-beat, see
How our King needs the grace we ask of Thee!
Thou knowest how little and how vain a thing
Is Empire, when the heart is sick with pain--
God, save the King!
The Queen is dead. The splendour of her days,
The sorrow of them both alike merge now
In the new aureole that lights her brow.
The clamour of her people's voice in praise
Must hush itself to the still voice that prays
In the holy chamber of Death. Tread softly here,
A mighty Queen lies dead.
Her people's heart wears black,
The black bells toll unceasing in their ear,
And on the gold sun's track
The great world round
Like a black ring the voice of mourning goes,
Till even our ancient foes
With eyes downbent, and brotherly bared head,
Keep mourning watch with us. This is the hour
When Love lends all his power
To speed grief's arrows from the bow of Death,
When sighs are idle breath,
When tears are fountains vain.
She will not wake again,
Not now, not here.
O great and good and infinitely dear,
O Mother of your people, sleep is sweet,
No more Life's thorny ways will wound your feet.
O Mother dear, sleep sound!
When you shall wake,
Your brows freed from the crown that made them ache
So many a time, and wear the heavenly crown,
Then, then you will look down
On us who love you, and, remembering,
The love of earth will breathe with us our prayer,
Our prayer prayed here, joined to your prayer prayed there:
Who knows what radiant answer it may bring?
'God save the King!'
The Queen is dead. God save the King!
From all ill thought and deed,
From heartless service and from selfish sway,
From treason, and the vain imagining
Of evil counsellors, and the noisome breed
Of flatterers who eat the soul away,
God save the King!
From loss and pain and tears
Such as her many years
Brought her; from battle and strife,
And the inmost hurt of life,
The wounds that no crown can heal,
No ermine robes conceal,
God save the King!
God, by our memories of his Mother's face,
By the love that makes our heart her dwelling-place,
Grant to our sorrow this desired grace:
God save the King!
* * * * * * * * *
The Queen is dead. God save the King.
This is no hour when joy has leave to sing;
Only, amid our tears, we are bold to pray,
More boldly, in that we pray sorrowing,
In this most sorrowful day.
God, who wast of a mortal Mother born,
Who driest the tears with which Thy children mourn,
God, save the King!
Look down on him whose crown is wet with tears
In which its splendour fades and disappears--
His tears, our tears, tears out of all her lands.
The Queen is dead.
God! strengthen the King's hands!
God, save the King!
The Ballad Of The White Lady
SIR GEOFFREY met the white lady
Upon his marriage morn,
Her eyes were blue as cornflowers are,
Her hair was gold like corn.
Sir Geoffrey gave the white lady
A posy of roses seven,
'You are the fairest May,' said he,
'That ever strayed from Heaven.'
Sir Geoffrey by the white lady
Was lured away to shame,
For seven long years of prayers and tears
No tidings of him came.
Then she who should have been his bride
A mighty oath she swore,
'For seven long years I have wept and prayed,
Now I will pray no more.
'Since God and all the saints of Heaven
Bring not my lord to me,
I will go down myself to hell
And bring him back,' said she.
She crept to the white lady's bower,
The taper's flame was dim,
And there Sir Geoffrey lay asleep,
And the white witch sat by him.
Her arm was laid across his neck,
Her gold hair on his face,
And there was silence in the room
As in a burial-place.
And there were gems and carven cups,
And 'broidered bridal gear--
'Whose bridal is this?' the lady said,
'And what knight have ye here?'
'The good knight here ye know full well,
He was your lord, I trow,
But I have taken him from your side,
And I am his lady now.
'This seven year with right good cheer
We twain our bridal keep,
So take for your mate another knight
And let my dear lord sleep.'
Then up and spake Sir Geoffrey's bride,
'What bridal cheer is this?
I would think scorn to have the lips
Who could not have the kiss!
'I would think scorn to take the half
Who could not have the whole;
I would think scorn to steal the body
Who could not take the soul!
'For, though ye hold his body fast
This seven weary year,
His soul walks ever at my side
And whispers in my ear.
'I would think scorn to hold in sleep
What, if it waked, would flee,
So let his body join his soul
And both fare forth with me;
'For I have learned a spell more strong
Than yours that laid him low,
And I will speak it for his sake
Because I love him so!'
The white lady threw back her hair,
Her eyes began to shine--
'His soul is thine these seven years?--
To-night it shall be mine!
'I have been brave to hold him here
While seven long years befell,
Rather than let a bridal be
Whose seed should flower in hell.
'I have not looked into his eyes
Nor joined my lips to his,
For fear his soul should spring to flame
And shrivel at my kiss.
'I have been brave to watch his sleep
While the long hours come and go,
To hold the body without the soul,
Because I love him so.
'But since his soul this seven year
Has sat by thee,' she said,
'His body and soul to-night shall lie
Upon my golden bed.
'Thou hast no need to speak the spell
That thou hast learned,' said she,
'For I will wake him from his sleep
And take his soul from thee.'
She stooped above him where he lay,
She laid her lips on his;
He stirred, he spake: 'These seven long years
I have waited for thy kiss.
'My soul has hung upon thy lips
And trembled at thy breath,
Thou hast given me life in a cup to drink,
As God will give me death.
'Why didst thou fear to kill my soul
Which only lives for thee?
Thou hast put seven wasted years,
O love, 'twixt thee and me.'
To The Queen Of England
COME forth! the world's aflame with flags and flowers,
The shout of bells fills full the shattered air,
This is the crown of all your golden hours,
More than all other hours august and fair;
This did the years prepare,
A triumph for our Lady and our Queen,
More rich than any king in any land hath seen.
Clothed are your streets with scarlet, gold, and blue,
Flowers under foot and banners over head,
And while your people's voice storms Heaven for you
About your way are voiceless blessings shed,
And over you are spread
Wide wings of love, free love, tamed to your hand,
Love that gold cannot buy, nor Majesty command.
Not these mere visible millions only, share
Your triumph--here all English hearts beat high,
Nations far off your royal colours wear,
And swell with unheard voice this loyal cry
That strikes the English sky:
A cloud of unseen witnesses is here
To testify how great is England's Queen, and dear.
From out the grey-veiled past, long years away,
Come visionary faces, vision-led,
And splendid shapes that are not of our day,
The spirits of the mute and mighty dead,
To see how Time has sped
The fortunes of their England, and behold
How much more great she is than in the days of old.
The world can see them not; but you can see--
You the inheritor of all the past
Wherein the dead, in noble heraldry,
Blazoned the shield of England, and forecast
The charge it bears at last--
More splendid than the azure and the or
Of the French lilies lost--long lost and sorrowed for.
Here be the weaponed men, the English folk,
Who in long ships across the swan's bath fared,
In whose rude tongue the voice of Freedom spoke,
In whose rough hands the sword was bright and bared--
The men who did and dared,
And to their sons bequeathed the fighting blood
That drives to Victory and will not be withstood.
Here, in your ordered festival, O Queen,
Mixed with the crowd and all unseen of these,
On their long swords the wild Norse rovers lean
And watch the progress of your pageantries,
And on this young June breeze
Float the bright pennons of the Cressy spears--
Shine shadowy shafts that fell, as snow falls, at Poitiers.
Here flutter phantom flags that once flew free
Above the travail of the tournament;
Here gleam old swords, once wet for Liberty;
Old blood-stiff banners, worn with war and rent,
Are with your fresh flowers blent,
And by your crown, where love and fame consort,
Shines the unvanquished cloven crown of Agincourt.
Upon your river where, by day and night,
Your world-adventuring ships come home again,
Glide ghostly galleons, manned by men of might
Who plucked the wings and singed the beard of Spain;
The men who, not in vain,
Saved to the children of a world new-trod
The birth-tongue of our land, her freedom, and her God.
Princes who lived to make our England great,
Poets who wreathed her greatness with their song,
Wise men who steered her heavy ship of State,
Brave men who steered her battle-ships along,
In spectral concourse throng
To applaud the consummated power and pride
Of that belovèd land for which they lived and died.
The thousand un-named heroes who, sword-strong,
Ploughed the long acre wherein Empire grows
Wide as the world, and long as Time is long--
These mark the crescence of the English rose
Whose thorny splendour glows
O'er far-off subject lands, by alien waves,
A crown for England's brow, a garland for her graves.
And faces out of unforgotten years,
Faces long hidden by death's misty screen,
Faces you still can scarcely see for tears,
Will smile on you to-day and near you lean,
O Mother, Wife, and Queen!
With whispered love too sacred and too dear
For any ear than yours, Mother and Wife, to hear.
Lady, the crowd will vaunt to-day your fame,
Daughter and heir of many mighty kings,
The Queen of England, whose imperial name
From England's heart and lips tumultuous springs
In prayers and thanksgivings,
Because your greatness and her greatness shine
Merged each in each, as stars their beams that intertwine.
Yet in the inmost heart, where folded close
The richest treasures of the poorest lie,
Love, whose clear eyes see many secrets, knows
A nobler name than Queen to call you by,
And breathes it silently;
But, 'mid His listening crowd of angels, One
Shall speak your name and say, 'Faithful and good, well done!'
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!'
At The Gate
THE monastery towers, as pure and fair
As virgin vows, reached up white hands to Heaven;
The walls, to guard the hidden heart of prayer,
Were strong as sin, and white as sin forgiven;
And there came holy men, by world's woe driven;
And all about the gold-green meadows lay
Flower-decked, like children dear that keep May-holiday.
'Here,' said the Abbot, 'let us spend our days,
Days sweetened by the lilies of pure prayer,
Hung with white garlands of the rose of praise;
And, lest the World should enter with her snare--
Enter and laugh and take us unaware
With her red rose, her purple and her gold--
Choose we a stranger's hand the porter's keys to hold.'
They chose a beggar from the world outside
To keep their worldward door for them, and he,
Filled with a humble and adoring pride,
Built up a wall of proud humility
Between the monastery's sanctity
And the poor, foolish, humble folk who came
To ask for love and care, in the dear Saviour's name.
For when the poor crept to the guarded gate
To ask for succour, when the tired asked rest,
When weary souls, bereft and desolate,
Craved comfort, when the murmur of the oppressed
Surged round the grove where prayer had made her nest,
The porter bade such take their griefs away,
And at some other door their bane and burden lay.
'For this,' he said, 'is the white house of prayer,
Where day and night the holy voices rise
Through the chill trouble of our earthly air,
And enter at the gate of Paradise.
Trample no more our flower-fields in such wise,
Nor crave the alms of our deep-laden bough;
The prayers of holy men are alms enough, I trow.'
So, seeing that no sick or sorrowing folk
Came ever to be healed or comforted,
The Abbot to his brothers gladly spoke:
'God has accepted our poor prayers,' he said;
'Over our land His answering smile is spread.
He has put forth His strong and loving hand,
And sorrow and sin and pain have ceased in all the land.
'So make we yet more rich our hymns of praise,
Warm we our prayers against our happy heart.
Since God hath taken the gift of all our days
To make a spell that bids all wrong depart,
Has turned our praise to balm for the world's smart,
Fulfilled of prayer and praise be every hour,
For God transfigures praise, and transmutes prayer, to power.'
So went the years. The flowers blossomed now
Untrampled by the dusty, weary feet;
Unbroken hung the green and golden bough,
For none came now to ask for fruit or meat,
For ghostly food, or common bread to eat;
And dreaming, praying, the monks were satisfied,
Till, God remembering him, the beggar-porter died.
When they had covered up the foolish head,
And on the foolish loving heart heaped clay,
'Which of us, brothers, now,' the Abbot said,
'Will face the world, to keep the world away?'
But all their hearts were hard with prayer, and 'Nay,'
They cried, 'ah, bid us not our prayers to leave;
Ah, father, not to-day, for this is Easter Eve'.
And, while they murmured, to their midst there came
A beggar saying, 'Brothers, peace, be still!
I am your Brother, in our Father's name,
And I will be your porter, if ye will,
Guarding your gate with what I have of skill'.
So all they welcomed him and closed the door,
And gat them gladly back unto their prayers once more.
But, lo! no sooner did the prayer arise,
A golden flame athwart the chancel dim,
Then came the porter crying, 'Haste, arise!
A sick old man waits you to tend on him;
And many wait--a knight whose wound gapes grim,
A red-stained man, with red sins to confess,
A mother pale, who brings her child for you to bless'.
The brothers hastened to the gate, and there
With unaccustomed hand and voice they tried
To ease the body's pain, the spirit's care;
But ere the task was done, the porter cried:
'Behold, the Lord sets your gate open wide,
For here be starving folk who must be fed,
And little ones that cry for love and daily bread!'
And, with each slow-foot hour, came ever a throng
Of piteous wanderers, sinful folk and sad,
And still the brothers ministered, but long
The day seemed, with no prayer to make them glad;
No holy, meditative joys they had,
No moment's brooding-place could poor prayer find,
Mid all those heart to heal and all those wounds to bind.
And when the crowded, sunlit day at last
Left the field lonely with its trampled flowers,
Into the chapel's peace the brothers passed
To quell the memory of those hurrying hours.
'Our holy time,' they said, 'once more is ours!
Come, let us pay our debt of prayer and praise,
Forgetting in God's light the darkness of man's ways!'
But, ere their voices reached the first psalm's end,
They heard a new, strange rustling round their house;
Then came the porter: 'Here comes many a friend,
Pushing aside your budding orchard boughs;
Come, brothers, justify your holy vows.
Here be God's patient, poor, four-footed things
Seek healing at God's well, whence loving-kindness springs.'
Then cried the Abbot in a vexed amaze,
'Our brethren we must aid, if 'tis God's will;
But the wild creatures of the forest ways
Himself God heals with His Almighty skill.
And charity is good, and love--but still
God shall not look in vain for the white prayers
We send on silver feet to climb the starry stairs;
'For, of all worthy things, prayer has most worth,
It rises like sweet incense up to heaven,
And from God's hand falls back upon the earth,
Being of heavenly bread the accepted leaven.
Through prayer is virtue saved and sin forgiven;
In prayer the impulse and the force are found
That bring in purple and gold the fruitful seasons round.
'For prayer comes down from heaven in the sun
That giveth life and joy to all things made;
Prayer falls in rain to make broad rivers run
And quickens the seeds in earth's brown bosom laid;
By prayer the red-hung branch is earthward weighed,
By prayer the barn grows full, and full the fold,
For by man's prayer God works his wonders manifold.'
The porter seemed to bow to the reproof;
But when the echo of the night's last prayer
Died in the mystery of the vaulted roof,
A whispered memory in the hallowed air,
The Abbot turned to find him standing there.
'Brother,' he said, 'I have healed the woodland things
And they go happy and whole--blessing Love's ministerings,
'And, having healed them, I shall crave your leave
To leave you--for to-night I journey far.
But I have kept your gate this Easter Eve,
And now your house to heaven shines like a star
To show the Angels where God's children are;
And in this day your house has served God more
Than in the praise and prayer of all its years before.
'Yet I must leave you, though I fain would stay,
For there are other gates I go to keep
Of houses round whose walls, long day by day,
Shut out of hope and love, poor sinners weep--
Barred folds that keep out God's poor wandering sheep--
I must teach these that gates where God comes in
Must not be shut at all to pain, or want, or sin.
'The voice of prayer is very soft and weak,
And sorrow and sin have voices very strong;
Prayer is not heard in heaven when those twain speak,
The voice of prayer faints in the voice of wrong
By the just man endured--oh, Lord, how long?--
If ye would have your prayers in heaven be heard,
Look that wrong clamour not with too intense a word.
'But when true love is shed on want and sin,
Their cry is changed, and grows to such a voice
As clamours sweetly at heaven to be let in--
Such sound as makes the saints in heaven rejoice;
Pure gold of prayer, purged of the vain alloys
Of idleness--that is the sound most dear
Of all the earthly sounds God leans from heaven to hear.
'Oh, brother, I must leave thee, and for me
The work is heavy, and the burden great.
Thine be this charge I lay upon thee: See
That never again stands barred thy abbey gate;
Look that God's poor be not left desolate;
Ah me! that chidden my shepherds needs must be
When my poor wandering sheep have so great need of me.
'Brother, forgive thy Brother if he chide,
Thy Brother loves thee--and has loved--for see
The nails are in my hands, and in my side
The spear-wound; and the thorns weigh heavily
Upon my brow--brother, I died for thee--
For thee, and for my sheep that are astray,
And rose to live for thee, and them, on Easter Day!'
'My Master and my Lord!' the Abbot cried.
But, where that face had been, shone the new day;
Only on the marble by the Abbot's side,
Where those dear feet had stood, a lily lay--
A lily white for the white Easter Day.
He sought the gate--no sorrow clamoured there--
And, not till then, he dared to sink his soul in prayer.
And from that day himself he kept the gate
Wide open; and the poor from far and wide,
The weary, and wicked, and disconsolate,
Came there for succour and were not denied;
The sick were healed, the repentant sanctified;
And from their hearts rises more prayer and praise
Than ever the abbey knew in all its prayer-filled days.
And there the Heavenly vision comes no more,
Only, each Easter now, a lily sweet
Lies white and dewy on the chancel floor
Where once had stood the beloved wounded feet;
And the old Abbot feels the nearing beat
Of wings that bring him leave at last to go
And meet his Master, where the immortal lilies grow.
Two Christmas Eves
THE white snow veils the earth's brown face,
Strong frost has bound the veil in place--
Under the wide, clear, dark-blue sky
All choked with snow the hollows lie,
Dead-white the fields--once summer sweet--
And woodlands where we used to meet:
We don't meet now, we never part.
Ever together, heart to heart,
We've worked, lost often, seldom won,
Seen pleasures ended, pains begun,
Have done our best, and faced, we two,
Almost the worst that Fate could do--
Yet not Fate's uttermost of ill,
Since here we are--together still!
For me you left, my dearest, best,
Your girlhood's safe warm sheltered nest;
For me gave up all else that could
Have made your woman-life seem good.
You thought a man's whole heart was worth
Just all the other wealth of earth;
I thought my painter's brush would be
A magic wand for you and me.
What dreams we had of fame and gold,
Of Art-that never could withhold
From me, who loved her so, full powers
To make my love for her serve ours,
To shape and build a palace fair
Of radiant hours, and place you there!
Art turned away her face from us,
And all the dreaming's ended--thus!
Our garret's cold; the wind is keen,
And cuts these rotten boards between.
There is no lock upon the door,
No carpet on the uneven floor,
No curtain to the window where
Through frost-blanched panes the moon's cold stare
Fronts us. She's careless--used to see
This world of ours, and misery!
Why, how you shiver! Oh, my sweet,
How cold your hands are, and your feet!
How hot this face of yours I kiss!
How could our love have led to this?
What devil is there over all
That lets such things as this befall?
It was not want of striving. Love,
Bear witness for me how I strove,
Worked till I grew quite sick and faint,
Worked till I could not see to paint
Because my eyes were sore and wet,
Yet never sold one picture yet.
We would have worked--yes, there's the sting--
We would have worked at anything!
Our hands asked work. There's work somewhere,
That makes it all more hard to bear;
Yet we could never understand
Where is the work that asks our hand!
There's no more firing, and the cold
Is biting through your shawl's thin fold,
And both the blankets have been sold.
Nestle beside me, in my arm,
And let me try to keep you warm.
We pawned the table and the bed,
To get our last week's fire and bread,
And now the last crust's eaten. Well,
There's nothing left to pawn or sell!
Our rent is due on Monday too,
How can we pay it--I and you?
What shall we do? What shall we do?
And we are--what was that you said?
You are so tired ? Your dearest head
Is burning hot, and aching so?
Ah, yes! I know it is--I know!
You're tired and weak and faint and ill,
And fevers burn and shiverings chill
This world of mine I'm holding here.
If I could suffer only, dear--
But all the burdens on you fall,
And I sit here, and bear it all!
And other men and other wives,
Who never worked in all their lives--
No, nor yet loved as we have, sweet--
Are wrapped in furs, warm hands and feet,
And feast to-night in homes made bright
With blazing logs and candle-light;
Not dark like this, where we two sit,
Who chose to work, and starve for it!
Don't go to sleep; you mustn't sleep
Here on the frozen floor! Yes, creep
Closer to me. Oh, if I knew
What is this something left to do!
Listen to me! It's Christmas Eve,
When hearts grow warmer, I believe,
And friends forget and friends forgive.
What if we stifled down my pride,
And put your bitter thoughts aside,
And asked your father's help once more?
True, when we asked for it before,
He turned and cursed us both, and swore
That he disowned you. You and I
Had made our bed, and there must lie;
That he would help us not one whit,
Though we should die for want of it.
Now I shall ask his help again.
It's colder now than it was then;
The cold creeps closer to life's core--
Death's nearer to us than before;
And when your father sees how near,
He may relent, and save you, dear.
For my sake, love! I am too weak
To bear your tears upon my cheek,
Your sobs against my heart, to bear
Those eyes of yours, and their despair!
Not faltering, my own pain I bore--
I cannot bear yours any more!
Stand up. You're stiff? That will not last!
The stairs are dark? They'll soon be passed!
You're tired? My sweet, I know you are;
But try to walk--it isn't far.
Oh, that the Christ they say was born
On that dream-distant Christmas morn
May hear and help us now! Be strong!
Yes, lean on me. Perhaps ere long,
All this, gone by, will only seem
A half-remembered evil dream.
Come; I will help you walk. We'll try
Just this last venture, you and I!
Failed! Back again in the ice-gloom
Of our bare, bleak, rat-haunted room!
The moon still looks--what does she care
To see my moon-flower lying there?
My rose, once red and white and fair,
Now white and wan, and pinched and thin,
Cold, through the coat I've wrapped her in,
And shivering, even in her sleep,
To hear how wakeful rats can keep.
We dragged our weary faltering feet
Through the bright noisy crowded street,
And reached the square where, stern in stone,
Her father's town-house sulks alone.
Sick, stupid, helpless, wretched, poor,
We waited at her father's door.
They let us in. Then let us tread
Through the warm hall with soft furs spread.
Next, 'Name and business.' Oh, exact
Were the man's orders how to act,
If e'er his master's child should come
To cross the threshold of her home!
I told our name. The man 'would see
If any message was' for me.
We waited there without a word.
How warm the whole house was! We heard
Soft music with soft voices blent,
And smelt sweet flowers with mingled scent,
And heard the wine poured out--that chink
That glass makes as the diners drink--
The china clatter. We, at least,
Appreciated that night's feast.
Then some one gave a note to me
With insolent smile. I read: 'When she
Is tired of love and poverty,
And chooses to return to what
She left, the duties she forgot,
And never see again this man,
And be here as before--she can.'
We came away: that much is clear;
I don't know how we got back here--
I must have carried her somehow,
And have been strong enough. And now
She lies asleep--and I, awake,
Must do this something for her sake--
The only possible thing to do,
Oh, love! to cut our soul in two,
And take 'this man' away from you!
If now I let your father know
My choice is made, and that I go
And you are here--oh, love! oh, wife!
I break my heart and save your life.
Doubt what to do? All doubt's about
The deeds that are not worth a doubt!
This deed takes me, and I obey,
And there is nothing left to say.
Good-bye, dear eyes I cannot see--
Weep only gently, eyes, for me;
Dear lips, I've kissed and kissed again,
Lose those encircling lines of pain;
Dear face, so thin and faded now,
Win back youth's grace, and light, and glow;
Oh, hands I hold in mine--oh, heart
That holds mine in it--we must part!
When you wake up, and find me fled,
And find your father here instead,
Will you not wonder how my feet
Ever could turn from you, my sweet?
Ah, no! your heart and mine are one;
Our heart will tell you how 'twas done.
No more we meet until I've won
Enough to dare be happy on;
And if I fail--I have known bliss,
And bliss has bred an hour like this.
I am past Fate's harming--all her power
Could mix nought bitterer than this hour.
Good-bye--our room--our marriage life!--
Oh, kiss me through your dreams, my wife!
I have grown rich! I have found out
The thing men break their hearts about!
I have dug gold, and gold, and sold
My diggings, and reaped in more gold--
Sowed that, and reaped again, and played
For stakes, and always won, and made
More money than we'll ever spend,
And have forborne one word to send.
It has been easier for her so:
To wait one year, and then to know
How all is well, and how we two
Shall part no more our whole lives through.
It had been harder to have heard
Some incomplete, imperfect word
Of how I prospered, how despaired,
How well I strove, how ill I fared,
Or strove well and fared well, nor know
Each day which way the scale would go;
Rejoice, and grieve, and hope, and fear,
As I have done throughout the year.
The year is over now--the prize
Is--all our lives of Paradise!
Through all the year her lips and hands
Have drawn me on with passion-bands,
Her soul has held my soul, and taught
The way of storming Fortune's fort.
My little love, those days of ours,
Our dear delight, our sacred hours
Have wrapped me round in all the year;
And brought the gold and brought me here,
And brought this hour than all more fair--
Our triumph hour! What shall we care
For all the past's most maddening pain
When you are in my arms again?
The yellow dust I loved to hold
Was like your hair's less heavy gold;
The clear, deep sea, that bore me hence,
Was like your eyes' grey innocence;
And not one fair thing could I see
But somehow seemed yourself to me.
The very work I had to do
Easier than rest was, done for you.
And through my dreams you walked all night
And filled sleep's byways with delight!
How I have wondered every day
How you would look, and what would say
On that same day! 'Perhaps she paints,
Thinks of our lessons--prays to saints
With my name in her prayers--or goes
Through gardens, heaping rose on rose.
How I love roses! Or mayhap
Sits with some work dropped in her lap,
And dreams and dreams--what could there be
For her to dream about but me?'
This London--how I hated it
A year ago! It now seems fit
Even to be our meeting-place.
It holds the glory of her face,
The wonder of her eyes, the grace
Of lovely lines and curves--in fine,
The soul of sweetness that is mine!
I'll seek her at her father's; say,
'I claim my wife. I will repay
A hundredfold all you have spent
On keeping me in banishment,
On keeping her in affluence,
At her heart's dearest coin's expense!
That is past now, and I have come
To take my wife and sweetheart home,
To show her all my golden store,
My heart, hers to the very core,
And never leave her any more!'
But just before that hour supreme,
Close here our old house is, that dream
And daylight have been showing me
The year through. I would like to see
That room I found so hard to leave,
So hard to keep, last Christmas Eve.
Faith's easy now! There is a God
Who trod the earth we two have trod;
He pays me for our pain last year,
For all these months of longing, fear,
Doubt and uncertainty--outright,
By letting me come here to-night
And just contrast that dead despair
With the Earth-Heaven we two shall share!
Just one look at the old room's door,
If I can get no chance of more;
Yet gold will buy most things--may buy
The leave to see that room. We'll try!
May I go up? Just once to see
The room that sheltered her and me?--
My God! the rapture of to-day
Has sent me mad;--you did not say
She died the night I went away!
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.