Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.
How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.
Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!
The dearest hands that clasp our hands, --
Their presence may be o'er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh'd our mind,
Shall come -- as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.
Hear not the wind -- view not the woods;
Look out o'er vale and hill-
In spring, the sky encircled them --
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn's scathe -- come winter's cold --
Come change -- and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne'er be desolate.
My Heart And I
ENOUGH ! we're tired, my heart and I.
We sit beside the headstone thus,
And wish that name were carved for us.
The moss reprints more tenderly
The hard types of the mason's knife,
As heaven's sweet life renews earth's life
With which we're tired, my heart and I.
You see we're tired, my heart and I.
We dealt with books, we trusted men,
And in our own blood drenched the pen,
As if such colours could not fly.
We walked too straight for fortune's end,
We loved too true to keep a friend ;
At last we're tired, my heart and I.
How tired we feel, my heart and I !
We seem of no use in the world ;
Our fancies hang grey and uncurled
About men's eyes indifferently ;
Our voice which thrilled you so, will let
You sleep; our tears are only wet :
What do we here, my heart and I ?
So tired, so tired, my heart and I !
It was not thus in that old time
When Ralph sat with me 'neath the lime
To watch the sunset from the sky.
`Dear love, you're looking tired,' he said;
I, smiling at him, shook my head :
'Tis now we're tired, my heart and I.
So tired, so tired, my heart and I !
Though now none takes me on his arm
To fold me close and kiss me warm
Till each quick breath end in a sigh
Of happy languor. Now, alone,
We lean upon this graveyard stone,
Uncheered, unkissed, my heart and I.
Tired out we are, my heart and I.
Suppose the world brought diadems
To tempt us, crusted with loose gems
Of powers and pleasures ? Let it try.
We scarcely care to look at even
A pretty child, or God's blue heaven,
We feel so tired, my heart and I.
Yet who complains ? My heart and I ?
In this abundant earth no doubt
Is little room for things worn out :
Disdain them, break them, throw them by
And if before the days grew rough
We once were loved, used, -- well enough,
I think, we've fared, my heart and I.
Human Life’s Mystery
We sow the glebe, we reap the corn,
We build the house where we may rest,
And then, at moments, suddenly,
We look up to the great wide sky,
Inquiring wherefore we were born…
For earnest or for jest?
The senses folding thick and dark
About the stifled soul within,
We guess diviner things beyond,
And yearn to them with yearning fond;
We strike out blindly to a mark
Believed in, but not seen.
We vibrate to the pant and thrill
Wherewith Eternity has curled
In serpent-twine about God’s seat;
While, freshening upward to His feet,
In gradual growth His full-leaved will
Expands from world to world.
And, in the tumult and excess
Of act and passion under sun,
We sometimes hear—oh, soft and far,
As silver star did touch with star,
The kiss of Peace and Righteousness
Through all things that are done.
God keeps His holy mysteries
Just on the outside of man’s dream;
In diapason slow, we think
To hear their pinions rise and sink,
While they float pure beneath His eyes,
Like swans adown a stream.
Abstractions, are they, from the forms
Of His great beauty?—exaltations
From His great glory?—strong previsions
Of what we shall be?—intuitions
Of what we are—in calms and storms,
Beyond our peace and passions?
Things nameless! which, in passing so,
Do stroke us with a subtle grace.
We say, ‘Who passes?’—they are dumb.
We cannot see them go or come:
Their touches fall soft, cold, as snow
Upon a blind man’s face.
Yet, touching so, they draw above
Our common thoughts to Heaven’s unknown,
Our daily joy and pain advance
To a divine significance,
Our human love—O mortal love,
That light is not its own!
And sometimes horror chills our blood
To be so near such mystic Things,
And we wrap round us for defence
Our purple manners, moods of sense—
As angels from the face of God
Stand hidden in their wings.
And sometimes through life’s heavy swound
We grope for them!—with strangled breath
We stretch our hands abroad and try
To reach them in our agony,—
And widen, so, the broad life-wound
Which soon is large enough for death.
The House Of Clouds
I would build a cloudy House
For my thoughts to live in;
When for earth too fancy-loose
And too low for Heaven!
Hush! I talk my dream aloud---
I build it bright to see,---
I build it on the moonlit cloud,
To which I looked with thee.
Cloud-walls of the morning's grey,
Faced with amber column,---
Crowned with crimson cupola
From a sunset solemn!
May mists, for the casements, fetch,
Pale and glimmering;
With a sunbeam hid in each,
And a smell of spring.
Build the entrance high and proud,
Darkening and then brightening,---
If a riven thunder-cloud,
Veined by the lightning.
Use one with an iris-stain,
For the door within;
Turning to a sound like rain,
As I enter in.
Build a spacious hall thereby:
Boldly, never fearing.
Use the blue place of the sky,
Which the wind is clearing;
Branched with corridors sublime,
Flecked with winding stairs---
Such as children wish to climb,
Following their own prayers.
In the mutest of the house,
I will have my chamber:
Silence at the door shall use
Evening's light of amber,
Solemnising every mood,
Softemng in degree,---
Turning sadness into good,
As I turn the key.
Be my chamber tapestried
With the showers of summer,
Close, but soundless,---glorified
When the sunbeams come here;
Wandering harpers, harping on
Waters stringed for such,---
Drawing colours, for a tune,
With a vibrant touch.
Bring a shadow green and still
From the chestnut forest,
Bring a purple from the hill,
When the heat is sorest;
Spread them out from wall to wall,
Whereupon the foot shall fall
In light instead of sound.
Bring the fantasque cloudlets home
From the noontide zenith
Ranged, for sculptures, round the room,---
Named as Fancy weeneth:
Some be Junos, without eyes;
Naiads, without sources
Some be birds of paradise,---
Some, Olympian horses.
Bring the dews the birds shake off,
Waking in the hedges,---
Those too, perfumed for a proof,
From the lilies' edges:
From our England's field and moor,
Bring them calm and white in;
Whence to form a mirror pure,
For Love's self-delighting.
Bring a grey cloud from the east,
Where the lark is singing;
Something of the song at least,
Unlost in the bringing:
That shall be a morning chair,
Poet-dream may sit in,
When it leans out on the air,
Unrhymed and unwritten.
Bring the red cloud from the sun
While he sinketh, catch it.
That shall be a couch,---with one
Sidelong star to watch it,---
Fit for poet's finest Thought,
At the curfew-sounding,--- ;
Things unseen being nearer brought
Than the seen, around him.
Poet's thought,----not poet's sigh!
'Las, they come together!
Cloudy walls divide and fly,
As in April weather!
Cupola and column proud,
Structure bright to see---
Gone---except that moonlit cloud,
To which I looked with thee!
Let them! Wipe such visionings
From the Fancy's cartel---
Love secures some fairer things
Dowered with his immortal.
The sun may darken,---heaven be bowed---
But still, unchanged shall be,---
Here in my soul,---that moonlit cloud,
To which I looked with THEE!
The Cry Of The Children
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers---
And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows;
The young birds are chirping in the nest;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows;
The young flowers are blowing toward the west---
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
They are weeping bitterly!---
They are weeping in the playtime of the others
In the country of the free.
Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
Why their tears are falling so?---
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
Which is lost in Long Ago---
The old tree is leafless in the forest---
The old year is ending in the frost---
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest---
The old hope is hardest to be lost:
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
In our happy Fatherland?
They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their looks are sad to see,
For the man's grief abhorrent, draws and presses
Down the cheeks of infancy---
'Your old earth,' they say, 'is very dreary;'
'Our young feet,' they say, 'are very weak!
Few paces have we taken, yet are wearyÑ
Our grave-rest is very far to seek.
Ask the old why they weep, and not the children,
For the outside earth is cold,---
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,
And the graves are for the old.
'True,' say the young children, 'it may happen
That we die before our time.
Little Alice died last year---the grave is shapen
Like a snowball, in the rime.
We looked into the pit prepared to take her---
Was no room for any work in the close clay:
From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her
Crying, 'Get up, little Alice! it is day.'
If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,
With your ear down, little Alice never cries!---
Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,
For the smile has time for growing in her eyes---
And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in
The shroud, by the kirk-chime!
It is good when it happens,' say the children,
'That we die before our time.'
Alas, alas, the children! they are seeking
Death in life, as best to have!
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city---
Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do---
Pluck your handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty---
Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through!
But they answer, 'Are your cowslips of the meadows
Like our weeds anear the mine?
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,
From your pleasures fair and fine!
'For oh,' say the children, 'we are weary,
And we cannot run or leap---
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping---
We fall upon our faces, trying to go;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,
Through the coal-dark, underground---
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
In the factories, round and round.
'For, all day, the wheels are droning, turning,---
Their wind comes in our faces,---
Till our hearts turn,---our head, with pulses burning,
And the walls turn in their places---
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling---
Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall---
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling---
All are turning, all the day, and we with all.---
And, all day, the iron wheels are droning;
And sometimes we could pray,
'O ye wheels,' (breaking out in a mad moaning)
'Stop! be silent for to-day!' '
Ay! be silent! Let them hear each other breathing
For a moment, mouth to mouth---
Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing
Of their tender human youth!
Let them feel that this cold metallic motion
Is not all the life God fashions or reveals---
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
That they live in you, os under you, O wheels!---
Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,
Grinding life down from its mark;
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,
Spin on blindly in the dark.
Now, tell the poor young children, O my brothers,
To look up to Him and pray---
So the blessed One, who blesseth all the others,
Will bless them another day.
They answer, 'Who is God that He should hear us,
White the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred?
When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us
Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word!
And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)
Strangers speaking at the door:
Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him,
Hears our weeping any more?
'Two words, indeed, of praying we remember,
And at midnight's hour of harm,---
'Our Father,' looking upward in the chamber,
We say softly for a charm.
We know no other words except 'Our Father,'
And we think that, in some pause of angels' song,
God may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,
And hold both within His right hand which is strong.
'Our Father!' If He heard us, He would surely
(For they call Him good and mild)
Answer, smiling down the steep world very purely,
'Come and rest with me, my child.'
'But no!' say the children, weeping faster,
'He is speechless as a stone;
And they tell us, of His image is the master
Who commands us to work on.
Go to!' say the children,---'Up in Heaven,
Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find.
Do not mock us; grief has made us unbelieving---
We look up for God, but tears have made us blind.'
Do you hear the children weeping and disproving,
O my brothers, what ye preach?
For God's possible is taught by His world's loving---
And the children doubt of each.
And well may the children weep before you;
They are weary ere they run;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
Which is brighter than the sun:
They know the grief of man, but not the wisdom;
They sink in man's despair, without its calm---
Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom,---
Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm,---
Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly
No dear remembrance keep,---
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly:
Let them weep! let them weep!
They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,
And their look is dread to see,
For they mind you of their angels in their places,
With eyes meant for Deity;---
'How long,' they say, 'how long, O cruel nation,
Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart,
Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
And tread onward to your throne amid the mart?
Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants,
And your purple shows yo}r path;
But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence
Than the strong man in his wrath!'
Aurora Leigh (Excerpts)
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features, -- paler, near as grave ;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.
So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains : I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs, -- and suddenly awoke
To full life and life 's needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, `Love --'
`Love, my child, love, love !' -- (then he had done with grief)
`Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.
There, ended childhood. What succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door ;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives ;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurr'd i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then at last
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck ; how, with a shriek,
She let me go, -- while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharf-edge where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned !
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which supplicants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep ;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night ; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural ; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more that holy heaven
To which my father went. All new and strange
The universe turned stranger, for a child.
Then, land ! -- then, England ! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog ?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England ? the great isle ?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Of verdure, field from field, as man from man ;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals ; all things blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here ? -- not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air.
I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses ; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply yet in delicate lines ;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths ;
Eyes of no colour, -- once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling ; cheeks, in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure, -- if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived, we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the country squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyrean to assure their souls
Against chance-vulgarisms, and, in the abyss
The apothecary, looked on once a year
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality) -- and still
The book-club, guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets, and eat berries !
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water, give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck, --
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
`Love, love, my child.' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love -- she was his sister once,
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved,
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face, -- ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm
And missed it rather, -- told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear, --
`She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.
AURORA LEIGH, be humble. Shall I hope
To speak my poems in mysterious tune
With man and nature ? -- with the lava-lymph
That trickles from successive galaxies
Still drop by drop adown the finger of God
In still new worlds ? -- with summer-days in this ?
That scarce dare breathe they are so beautiful ?--
With spring's delicious trouble in the ground,
Tormented by the quickened blood of roots,
And softly pricked by golden crocus-sheaves
In token of the harvest-time of flowers ?--
With winters and with autumns, -- and beyond,
With the human heart's large seasons, when it hopes
And fears, joys, grieves, and loves ? -- with all that strain
Of sexual passion, which devours the flesh
In a sacrament of souls ? with mother's breasts
Which, round the new-made creatures hanging there,
Throb luminous and harmonious like pure spheres ? --
With multitudinous life, and finally
With the great escapings of ecstatic souls,
Who, in a rush of too long prisoned flame,
Their radiant faces upward, burn away
This dark of the body, issuing on a world,
Beyond our mortal ? -- can I speak my verse
Sp plainly in tune to these things and the rest,
That men shall feel it catch them on the quick,
As having the same warrant over them
To hold and move them if they will or no,
Alike imperious as the primal rhythm
Of that theurgic nature ? I must fail,
Who fail at the beginning to hold and move
One man, -- and he my cousin, and he my friend,
And he born tender, made intelligent,
Inclined to ponder the precipitous sides
Of difficult questions ; yet, obtuse to me,
Of me, incurious ! likes me very well,
And wishes me a paradise of good,
Good looks, good means, and good digestion, -- ay,
But otherwise evades me, puts me off
With kindness, with a tolerant gentleness, --
Too light a book for a grave man's reading ! Go,
Aurora Leigh : be humble.
There it is,
We women are too apt to look to One,
Which proves a certain impotence in art.
We strain our natures at doing something great,
Far less because it 's something great to do,
Than haply that we, so, commend ourselves
As being not small, and more appreciable
To some one friend. We must have mediators
Betwixt our highest conscience and the judge ;
Some sweet saint's blood must quicken in our palms
Or all the life in heaven seems slow and cold :
Good only being perceived as the end of good,
And God alone pleased, -- that's too poor, we think,
And not enough for us by any means.
Ay, Romney, I remember, told me once
We miss the abstract when we comprehend.
We miss it most when we aspire, -- and fail.
Yet, so, I will not. -- This vile woman's way
Of trailing garments, shall not trip me up :
I 'll have no traffic with the personal thought
In art's pure temple. Must I work in vain,
Without the approbation of a man ?
It cannot be ; it shall not. Fame itself,
That approbation of the general race,
Presents a poor end, (though the arrow speed,
Shot straight with vigorous finger to the white,)
And the highest fame was never reached except
By what was aimed above it. Art for art,
And good for God Himself, the essential Good !
We 'll keep our aims sublime, our eyes erect,
Although our woman-hands should shake and fail ;
And if we fail .. But must we ? --
Shall I fail ?
The Greeks said grandly in their tragic phrase,
`Let no one be called happy till his death.'
To which I add, -- Let no one till his death
Be called unhappy. Measure not the work
Until the day 's out and the labour done,
Then bring your gauges. If the day's work 's scant,
Why, call it scant ; affect no compromise ;
And, in that we have nobly striven at least,
Deal with us nobly, women though we be.
And honour us with truth if not with praise.