From The Tuscan
WHEN in the west the red sun sank in glory,
The cypress trees stood up like gold, fine gold;
The mother told her little child the story
Of the gold trees the heavenly gardens hold.
In golden dreams the child sees golden rivers,
Gold trees, gold blossoms, golden boughs and leaves,
Without, the cypress in the night wind shivers,
Weeps with the rain and with the darkness grieves.
WIDE downs all gray, with gray of clouds roofed over,
Chill fields stripped naked of their gown of grain,
Small fields of rain-wet grass and close-grown clover,
Wet, wind-blown trees--and, over all, the rain.
Does memory lie? For Hope her missal closes
So far away the may and roses seem;
Ah! was there ever a garden red with roses?
Ah! were you ever mine save in a dream?
So long it is since Spring, the skylark waking
Heard her own praises in his perfect strain;
Low hang the clouds, the sad year's heart is breaking,
And mine, my heart--and, over all, the rain.
O thrush, is it true?
Your song tells
Of a world born anew,
Of fields gold with buttercups, woodlands all blue
With hyacinth bells;
Of primroses deep
In the moss of the lane,
Of a Princess asleep
And dear magic to do.
Will the sun wake the princess? O thrush, is it true?
Will Spring come again?
Will Spring come again?
Now at last
With soft shine and rain
Will the violet be sweet where the dead leaves have lain?
Will Winter be past?
In the brown of the copse
Will white wind-flowers star through
Where the last oak-leaf drops?
Will the daisies come too,
And the may and the lilac? Will Spring come again?
O thrush, is it true?
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.
THE child was yours and none of mine,
And yet you gave it me to keep,
And bade me sew it raiment fine,
And wrap my kisses round its sleep.
I carried it upon my breast,
I fed it in a world apart,
I wrapped my kisses round its rest,
I rocked its cradle with my heart.
When in mad nights of rain and storm
You turned us homeless from your door,
I wrapped it close, I kept it warm,
And brought it safe to you once more.
But the last time you drove us forth,
The snow was wrapped about its head,
That night the wind blew from the North,
And on my heart the child was dead.
The child is mine and none of yours,
My life was his while he had breath,
What of your claim to him endures,
Who only gave him birth and death?
The snow is white on wood and wold,
The wind is in the firs,
So dead my heart is with the cold,
No pulse within it stirs,
Even to see your face, my dear,
Your face that was my sun;
There is no spring this bitter year,
And summer's dreams are done.
The snakes that lie about my heart
Are in their wintry sleep;
Their fangs no more deal sting and smart,
No more they curl and creep.
Love with the summer ceased to be;
The frost is firm and fast.
God keep the summer far from me,
And let the snakes' sleep last!
Touch of your hand could not suffice
To waken them once more;
Nor could the sunshine of your eyes
A ruined spring restore.
But ah-your lips! You know the rest:
The snows are summer rain,
My eyes are wet, and in my breast
The snakes' fangs meet again.
To A Tulip-Bulb
And let the storm and winter do their worst;
Let all the garden lie
Bare to the angry sky,
The shed leaves shiver and die
Above your bed;
Let the white coverlet
Of sunlit snow be set
Over your sleeping head,
While in the earth you sleep
Where dreams are dear and deep,
And heed nor wind nor snow,
Nor how the dark moons go.
In this sad upper world where Winter's hand
Has bound with chains of ice the weary land.
To see the whole world lovely for Spring's sake;
The garden fresh and fair
With green things everywhere,
And winter's want and care
Banished and fled;
Primrose and violet
In every border set,
With rain and sunshine fed.
Then bless the fairy song
That cradled you so long,
And bless the fairy kiss
That wakened you to this--
A world where Winter's dead and Spring doth reign
And lovers whisper in the budding lane.
At Evening Time There Shall Be Light
THE day was wild with wind and rain,
One grey wrapped sky and sea and shore,
It seemed our marsh would never again
Wear the rich robes that once it wore.
The scattered farms looked sad and chill,
Their sheltering trees writhed all awry,
And waves of mist broke on the hill
Where once the great sea thundered by.
Then God remembered this His land,
This little land that is our own,
He caught the rain up in His hand,
He hid the winds behind His throne,
He soothed the fretful waves to rest,
He called the clouds to come away,
And, by blue pathways, to the west,
They went, like children tired of play.
And then God bade our marsh put on
Its holy vestment of fine gold;
From marge to marge the glory shone
On lichened farm and fence and fold;
In the gold sky that walled the west,
In each transfigured stone and tree,
The glory of God was manifest,
Plain for a little child to see!
On The Downs
THE little moon is dead,
Drowned in the flood of rain
That drips from roof of byre and shed,
And splashes in the lane:
The leafless lean-flanked lane where last year's leaves are spread.
The sheep cower in the fold,
Where the rain beats them blind,
Where scarce the rotten hurdles hold
Against the weary wind
That moans with angry tears across the pathless wold.
Dim lights across the down
Show where the lone farms lie,
The twisted trees have lost their brown,
Are black against the sky,
And far below blink lights, gay lights of Brighton town.
Ah, was the moon once bright?
And did the thyme smell sweet
Where, between dewy dusk and light,
The warm turf felt our feet,
And bean-flowers scented all the enchanted summer night?
Did sheep-bells tinkle clear
Across the golden haze?
Were the woods ever leafy-dear,
In those forgotten days?
The wet wind shrieks denial: no other voice speaks here.
The Point Of View: I
There was never winter, summer only: roses,
Pink and white and red,
Shining down the warm rich garden closes;
Quiet trees and lawns of dappled shadow,
Silver lilies, whisper of mignonette,
Cloth-of-gold of buttercups outspread;
Good gold sun that kissed me when we met,
Shadows of floating clouds on sunny meadow.
In the hay-field, scented, grey,
Loving life and love, I lay;
By fresh airs blown, drifted into sleep;
Slept and dreamed there. Winter was the dream.
Summer never was, was always winter only;
Cold and ice and frost
Only, driven by the ice-wind, lonely,
In a world of strangers, in the welter
Of the puddles and the spiteful wind and sleet,
Blinded by the spitting hailstones, lost
In a bitter unfamiliar street,
I found a doorway, crouched there for just shelter,
Crouched and fought in vain for breath,
Cursed the cold and wished for death;
Crouched there, gathered somehow warmth to sleep;
Slept and dreamed there. Summer was the dream.
THE lilies in my garden grow,
Wide meadows ring my garden round,
In that green copse wild violets blow,
And pale, frail cuckoo flowers are found.
For all you see and all you hear,
The city might be miles away,
And yet you feel the city near
Through all the quiet of the day.
Sweet smells the earth--wet with sweet rain--
Sweet lilac waves in moonlight pale,
And from the wood beyond the lane
I hear the hidden nightingale.
Though field and wood about me lie,
Hushed soft in dew and deep delight,
Yet can I hear the city's sigh
Through all the silence of the night.
For me the skylark builds and sings,
For me the vine her garland weaves;
The swallow folds her glossy wings
To build beneath my cottage eaves.
But I can feel the giant near,
Can hear his slaves by daylight weep,
And when at last the night is here,
I hear him moaning in his sleep.
Oh! for a little space of ground,
Though not a flower should make it gay,
Where miles of meadows wrapped me round,
And leagues and leagues of silence lay.
Oh! for a wind-lashed, treeless down,
A black night and a rising sea,
And never a thought of London town,
To steal the world's delight from me.
Does the wind sing in your ears at night, in the town,
Rattling the windows and doors of the cheap-built place?
Do you hear its song as it flies over marsh and down?
Do you feel the kiss that the wind leaves here on my face?
Or, wrapt in a lamplit quiet, do you restrain
Thoughts that would take the wind's way hither to me,
And bid them rest safe-anchored, nor tempt again
The tumult, and torment, and passion that live in the sea?
I, for my part, when the wind sings loud in its might,
I bid it hush---nor awaken again the storm
That swept my heart out to sea on a moonless night,
And dashed it ashore on an island wondrous and warm
Where all things fair and forbidden for ever flower,
Where the worst of life is a dream, and the best comes true,
Where the harvest of years was reaped in a single hour
And the gods, for once, were honest with me and you.
I will not hear when the wind and the sea cry out,
I will not trust again to the hurrying wind,
I will not swim again in a sea of doubt,
And reach that shore with the world left well behind;
But you,---I would have you listen to every call
Of the changing wind, as it blows over marsh and main,
And heap life's joys in your hands, and offer them all,
If only your feet might touch that island again!
A Kentish Garden
THERE is a grey-walled garden, far away
From noise and smoke of cities, where the hours
Pass with soft wings among the happy flowers,
And lovely leisure blossoms every day.
There, tall and white, the sceptral lily blows;
There grow the pansy, pink, and columbine,
Brave hollyhocks, and star-white jessamine,
And the red glory of the royal rose.
There greeny glow-worms gem the dusky lawn,
The lime-trees breathe their fragrance to the night,
Pink roses sleep, and dream that they are white,
Until they wake to colour with the dawn.
There, in the splendour of the sultry noon,
The sunshine sleeps upon the garden bed
Where the white poppy droops a drowsy head
And dreams of kisses from the white full moon.
And there, some days, all wild with wind and rain,
The tossed trees show the white side of their leaves,
While the great drops drip from the ivied eaves,
And birds are still--till the sun shines again.
And there, all days, my heart goes wandering,
Because there, first, my heart began to know
The glories of the summer and the snow,
The loveliness of harvest and of spring.
There may be fairer gardens; but I know
There is no other garden half so dear;
Because 'tis there, this many, many a year,
The sacred, sweet, white flowers of memory grow!
To A Child
The fairies have been busy while you slept;
They have been laughing where the sad rain wept,
They have taught Beauty to the ignorant flowers,
Set tasks of hope to weary wind-torn bowers,
And heard the lessons learned in school-rooms cold
By seedling snapdragon and marigold.
At dawn, while still you slept, I grew aware
How good the fairies are, how many and fair.
The fairy whose delightful gown is red
Across a corner of our garden sped,
And, where her flying raiment fluttered past,
Its roseate reflection still is cast:
Red poppies by the rhododendron's side,
Paeonies gorgeous in their summer pride,
And red may-bushes by the old red wall
Shower down their crimson petals over all.
Then she whose gown is gold, and gold her hair,
Swept down the golden steep straight sunbeam-stair,
She lit the tulip-lamps, she lit the torch
Of hollyhock beside the cottage porch.
She dressed the honeysuckle in fringe of gold,
She gave the king-cups fairy wealth to hold,
She kissed St. John's wort till it opened wide,
She set the yarrow by the river side.
Then came the lady all whose robes are white:
She made the pale buds blossom in delight,
Set silver stars upon the jasmine's hair,
And gave the stream white lily-buds to wear.
She painted lilies white, and pearl-white phlox,
White poppies, passion-flowers and gray-leaved stocks.
Her pure kind touch redeemed the most forlorn,
And even the vile petunia smiled, new-born.
The dearest fairy of all--green is her gown--
She kissed the plane-trees in the tiresome town,
She smoothed the pastures and the lawn's pale sheen,
She decked the boughs with hangings fresh and green,
She showed each flower the one and only way
Its beauty of shape and colour to display;
She taught the world to be a Paradise
Of changing leaf and blade, for tired eyes.
Then, one and all, they came where you were laid
In your strait bed, my little lovely maid;
The red-robed fairy kissed your lips, your face,
The white-robed made your heart her dwelling-place.
Into your eyes the green robed fairy smiled;
The golden fairy touched your dreams, my child,
And one, not named, but mightiest, made my Dear
The innermost rose of the re-flowered year.
The Ghost Bereft
THE poor ghost came through the wind and rain
And passed down the old dear road again.
Thin cowered the hedges, the tall trees swayed
Like little children that shrank afraid.
The wind was wild and the night was late
When the poor ghost came to the garden gate;
Dank were the flower-beds, heavy and wet,
The weeds stood up where the rose was set.
The wind was angry, the rain beat sore
When the poor ghost came to its own house-door.
'And shall I find her a-weeping still
To think how alone I lie and chill?
'Or shall I find her happy and warm
With her dear head laid on a new love's arm?
'Or shall I find she has learned to pine
For another's love, and not for mine?
'Whatever chance, I have this to my store,
She is mine, my own, for evermore!'
So the poor ghost came through the wind and rain
Till it reached the square bright window pane.
'Oh! what is here in the room so bright?
Roses and love, and a hid delight?
'What lurks in the silence that fills the room?
A cypress wreath from a dead man's tomb?
'What sleeps? What wakes? And oh! can it be
Her heart that is breaking--and not for me?'
Then the poor ghost looked through the window pane,
Though all the glass was wrinkled with rain.
'Oh, there is light, at the feet and head
Twelve tall tapers about the bed.
'Oh, there are flowers, white flowers and rare,
But not the garland a bride may wear.
'Jasmine white and a white white rose,
But its scent is gone where the lost dream goes.
'Straight lilies laid on the strait white bier--
But the room is empty--she is not here!
'Her body lies here, deserted, cold;
And the body that loved it creeps in the mould.
'Was there ever an hour when my Love, set free,
Would not have hastened and come to me?
'Can the soul that loved mine long ago
Be hence and away, and I not know?
'Oh, then God's judgment is on me sore,
For I have lost her for evermore!'
And the poor ghost fared through the wind and rain
To its own appointed place again.
But up in Heaven, where memories cease
Because the blessed have won to peace,
One pale saint shivered, and closer wound
The shining raiment that wrapped her round.
'Oh, fair is Heaven, and glad am I,
Yet I fain would remember the days gone by.
'The past is veiled, and I may not know,
But I think there was sorrow, long ago;
'The sun of Heaven is warm and bright,
But I think there is rain on the earth to-night.
'O Christ, because of Thine own sore pain
Help all poor souls in the wind and rain.'
Spring Song Ii
THE spring is here, and the long nights grow
Less bitterly cold than awhile ago;
Our rags serve their purpose now, and keep
Warmth enough in us to let us sleep.
The rain that trickles down our walls
No longer seems to freeze as it falls;
There was dust, not mud, on our feet to-day;
There's some green in a flower-pot over the way;
The sky-strip over the court's changed hue,
From dull yellow-grey to clear grey-blue;
Through our broken windows no more the storm
Laughs and shrieks as we try to keep warm,
But through dusty panes the long sunbeams peer,
For the spring is here.
Small joy the greenness and grace of spring
To grey hard lives like our own can bring.
A drowning man cares little to think
Of the lights on the waves where he soon must sink.
The greenest garments the spring can wear
Are black already with our despair:
Earth will be one with us soon--shall we care
If snow or sunshine be over us there,
Or if wintry the world be we found so drear,
Or if spring be here?
In the western half of our Christian town
The Winter only pretends to frown,
And when his undreaded rage is done,
The 'London season' they say is begun.
With wine, feast, revelling, laugh and song,
The hours rose-garlanded dance along,
The whirl of wickedness wilder grows
In this western camp of our bitter foes;
They fight with each other--the victors take
The largest share of the wealth we make;
They spend on their horses, their women, their wives,
The money wrung from our blasted lives:
It is theirs to enjoy--it is ours to pay.
Do they never dream of a reckoning day,
When the lives they have wrecked shall be counted up,
And measured the blood that has brightened their cup,
When we who have worked shall take payment due,
And they for their work shall have payment too?
Do they dream of that coming hour? Not they!
Their feet flit fast down the smooth steep way,
They see not the waiting snakes that hide
In the hothouse flowers at their life-path's side,
They know no justice, no pity, no fear--
But the spring is here!
Yes--here! In the hope we had almost lost,
That has sprung to bud after long years' frost;
In this fire in our veins that cries, 'Give youth,
Love, manhood, life, for the Right and the Truth;'
In our steady purpose, for Freedom's sake,
Through custom, privilege, 'fate,' to break;
In the brains of the thinkers, the arms of the men
Who will strike, and strike, and still strike again,
Till they cut our way to the land of flowers,
And the summer of freedom at last is ours--
In these is the spring. The winter was sore--
It is over and done, and will come no more.
The fruit will grow with the changing year,
Though only the blossoms now appear;
For the sake of the fruit the blossoms are dear,
And the spring is here--the spring is here.
THESE three grey walls are still stout and strong,
Though the fourth wide wall has crumbled away
Where the sea swept by when the land was young,
And the great waves thundered along the bay,
Under the sailing seagull's feather,
Wildly white in the stormy weather,
And, murmuring ever a restless song,
Shone, crumpled green, on a sunny day.
Through eighteen hundred years of our time,
With their storms and sieges, these walls have stood,
Till the cliff that the waves once strove to climb
Is left in a meadow solitude;
And now no sea-gulls' nests are there,
But ash-trees and thorns make the cliff-side fair,
And the green of the leaves, and the white of the lime,
And the red of the berries is sweet and good.
Over the walls, whence eagle-eyed
The Romans looked for the coming foes,
Swift keen-tongued snakes now curl and glide
Where the heavy weight of the ivy grows.
Oh, hand that builded, oh, scheming brain,
So long made one with the dust again,
Your old cement and your walls abide,
But stronger than they are the ivy and rose!
How the whole dear world is golden and green
With the marshy meadows, the dimpled wheat,
The hot strong sunshine, the ivy's sheen,
And the high white lights on the shiny beet.
See the far blue line--the retreating sea!
It is good to be here, it is good to be;
Whatever life is, or whatever has been,
To be now--to be here, is nothing but sweet!
There's an underground passage here, they say,
Here is the entrance with green set round;
You must stoop your head in this low-roofed way,
Leave day, light candles--pass underground.
Here, under the fields, it is damp and cold,
And whatever secret the place may hold
It has held it closely for many a day,
And will hold it for more in its hush profound.
Down here, last year, so the gossips tell,
Some archæological learned bore
Went chipping with hammer and chisel as well
To chip his way to the secret's core--
Shut away from the sun and the browning wheat,
The whitening barley, the purple beet--
In the dark with the damp, the earthy smell,
While the days burned through that return no more.
Oh, fool! not to see that the green of the trees,
The blue of the sky and the blue of the sea,
The placid pasture, the baby breeze,
And the outspread meadows' tranquillity,
With eyes to see them, are more than worth
The whole of the secrets of musty earth.
What secret outweighs such delights as these,
Or pays one lost moment's felicity?
Are we wise, we two, when we try to pierce
To the heart of things, to our own hearts' heart,
To learn the secret springs of the years,
And what that is of which we are part?
Free will--the Absolute--matter--mind--
Ah, we came like the wind and we go like the wind!
Would solving life's mysteries dry our tears,
Or absolute knowledge heal souls that smart?
And meantime one might lose what I'd die to keep--
The power to delight in a day like this,
In the brown wings' whir, and the faint-bell'd sheep,
In the million things that the millions miss.
And, think, had it happened one's in-turned eyes
Had missed the gateway of Paradise,
Had one questioned of dreams till one fell asleep,
Having never dreamed, oh, my Dream, of your kiss!
After Sixty Years
RING, bells! flags, fly! and let the great crowd roar
Its ecstasy. Let the hid heart in prayer
Lift up your name. God bless you evermore,
Lady, who have the noblest crown to wear
That ever woman wore.
A jewel, in the front of time, shall blaze
This day, of all your days commemorate;
With Time's white bays your brows are laureate,
And England's love shall garland all your days.
When England's crown, to Love's acclaim, was laid
On the soft brightness of a maiden's hair,
Amid delight, Love trembled, half afraid,
To give that little head such weight to bear,--
Bind on so slight a maid
A kingdom's purple--bid her hands hold high
The sceptre and the heavy orb of power,
To give to youth and beauty for a dower
Care and a crown, sorrow and sovereignty.
But from our hearts sprang an intenser flame
When loyal Love met tender Love half way,
And, in love's script, wrote on the scroll of fame,
Entwined with all the splendour of that day,
The letters of her name.
Then as fair roses grow 'mid leaves of green,
Love amid loyalty grew strong and close,
To hedge a pleasaunce round our Royal rose,
Our sovereign maiden flower, our child, our Queen.
The trumpets spake--in sonorous triumph shout,
Their speech found echo in the hundred guns;
From countless towers the answering bells rang out,
And England's heart spoke clamorous, through her sons,
The exulting land throughout.
Down streets ablaze with light the flags unfurled,
Along dark, lonely hills the joy-fires crept,
And eager swords within their scabbards leapt
To guard our Lady and Queen against the world.
Those swords are rusted now. Good men and true
Dust in the dust are laid who held her dear;
But from their grave the bright flower springs anew,
Which for her festival we bring her here,
The long years' meed and due;
The bud of homage grafted on chivalry.
God took the souls that shrined the jewel of love,
But made their sons inheritors thereof,
In endless gold entail of loyalty.
Time, compensating life, the fruit bestowed
When in spent perfume passed the flower of youth;
Her feet were set upon the upward road,
Her face was turned towards the star of truth
That in her soul abode.
With youth the maid's bright brow was garlanded
But richer crowns adorn the dear white hair;
The gathered love of all the years lies there,
In coronal benediction on her head.
She is of our blood, for hath not she, too, met
The angels of delight and of despair?
Does not she, too, remember and forget
How bitter or how bright the lost days were?
Her eyes have tears made wet;
She has seen joy unveilèd even as we,
Has laid upon cold clay the heart-warm kiss,
She has known Sorrow for the king he is;
She has held little children on her knee.
Mother, dear Mother, these your children rise
And call you blessèd, and shall we not, too,
Who are your children in the greater wise,
And love you for our land and her for you?
The blessing sanctifies
Your children as they breathe it at your knees,
And, bringing little gifts from very far,
Where the great nurseries of your Empire are,
Your children's blessings throng from over seas.
On Love's spread wings, and over leagues of space,
Homage is borne from far-off sun-steeped lands;
From many a domed mysterious Eastern place,
Where Secresy holds Time between her hands,
The children of your race
Reach English hands towards your English throne;
And from the far South turn blue English eyes,
That never saw the blue of English skies,
Yet call you Mother, and your land their own.
Where 'mid great trees the mighty waters flow
In arrogant submission to your sway,
In fur of price your northern hunters go,
And shafts of ardent greeting fly your way
Across the splendid snow;
And isles that with their coral, safe and small,
Rock in the cradle of the tropic seas,
In soft, strange speech join in the litanies
That pride and prayer breathe at your festival.
All round the world, on every far-off sea,
In wind-ploughed oceans and in sun-kissed bays,
By every busy wharf and chattering quay,
Some cantle of your Empire sails or stays--
Flaunts your supremacy
Against the winds of all the world, and flies
Your flag triumphant between blue and blue,
Blazons to sun and star the name of you,
And spreads your glory between seas and skies,
There is no cottage garden, sunny-sweet,
There is no pasture where our shepherds tend
Their quiet flocks, no red-roofed village street,
But holds for you the love-wish of a friend,
Blent with high homage meet;
No little farm among the cornfields lone,
No little cot upon the uplands bare,
But hears to-day in blessing and in prayer
One name, Victoria, and that name your own.
From the vast cities where the giant's might,
Pauseless, resistless, moves by night and day,
From hidden mines where day is one with night,
From weary lives whose days and nights are grey
And empty of delight,
From lives that rhyme to sunshine and the spring,
From happiness at flood and hope at ebb,
Rose the magnificent and mingled web
That floats, your banner, at your thanksgiving.
Throned on the surety of a splendid past,
With present glory clothed as with the sun,
Crowned with the future's hopes, you know at last
What treasure from the years your life has won;
Behold, your hands hold fast
The moon of Empire, and its sway controls
The tides of war and peace, while in those hands
Lies tender homage out of all the lands
Against whose feet your furthest ocean rolls.
How seems your life, looked back at through the years?
Much love, much sorrow, dead desires, lost dreams,
A great life lived out greatly; hidden tears,
And smiles for daily wear; strong plans and schemes,
And mighty hopes and fears;
War in the South and murder in the East,
And England's heart-throbs echoed by your heart
When loss, and labour, and sorrow were her part,
Or when Fate bade her to some flower-crowned feast.
Red battle-fields whereon your soldiers died,
Green pastoral fields saved by the blood of these,
Duty that bade mere sorrow stand aside,
And love transforming anguish into ease;
Long longing satisfied,
Great secrets wrenched from Nature's grudging breast,
The fruit of knowledge plucked for all to eat,--
These have you known, Life's circle is complete,
And, knowing these, you know what is Life's best:
The dear small secrets of our common life,
The English woods and hills, the English home,
The common joys and griefs of Mother and wife,
Joy coming, going--griefs that go and come,
Soul's peace amid world's strife;
Hours when the Queen's cares leave the woman free;
Dear friendships, where the friend forgets the Queen
And stoops to wear a dearer, homelier mien,
And be more loved than mere Queens rise to be.
And, in your hour of triumph, when you shine
The centre of our triumph's blazing star,
And, gazing down your long life's lustrous line,
Behold how great your life-long glories are,
Yet, in your heart's veiled shrine,
No splendour of all splendours that have been
Will brim your eyes with tremulous thanksgivings,
But little memories of little things--
The treasures of the woman, not the Queen.
Yet, Queen, because the love of you hath wound
A golden girdle all about the earth,
Because your name is as a trumpet sound
To call toward you men of English birth
From the world's outmost bound,
Because old kinsmen, long estranged from home,
Come, with old foes, to greet you, friend and kin,
With kindly eyes behold your guests come in,
See from afar the long procession come!
No Emperor in Rome's Imperial days
Knew ever such a triumph day as this,
Though captive kings bore chains along his ways,
Though tribute from the furthest isles was his,
With pageant and with praise.
For you--free kings and free republics grace
Your triumph, and across the conquered waves
Come gifts from friends, not tributes wrung from slaves,
And praise kneels, clothed in love, before your face.
Ring, bells! flags, fly! and let the great crowd roar
Its ecstasy! Let the hid heart in prayer
Lift up your name! God bless you evermore,
Lady, who have the noblest crown to wear
That ever monarch wore.
For, 'mid this day's triumphal voluntaries,
Your name shines like the splendour of the sun,
Because your name with England's name is one,
As Hers, thank God! is one with Liberty's.
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!'
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.