A South-Sea Islander
ALOLL in the warm clear water,
On her back with languorous limbs,
She lies. The baby upon her breasts
Paddles and falls and swims.
With half-closed eyes she smiles,
Guarding it with her hands;
And the sob swells up in my heart —
In my heart that understands.
Dear, in the English country,
The hatefullest land on earth,
The mothers are starved and the children die,
And death is better than birth!
LITTLE elfin maid,
Old, though scarce two years,
With your big dark hazel eyes
Tenderer than tears,
And your rosebud mouth
Lisping jocund things,
Breaking brooding silence with
Like a flower you grew
While life's bright sun shone.
Does the greedy spendthrift earth
Heed a flower is gone?
No; but Love's fond ken,
That gropes through Death's dark ways,
Almost seems to hear your Voice,
Seems to see your Face!
To Charles Parnell
ONE thing we praise you for that is past praise —
The dauntless eyes that faced the rain and night,
The hand that never wearied in the fight,
Till, through the dark's despair, the dawn's delays,
It rose, that vision of forgotten days,
Ireland, a Nation in her right and might,
As fearless of the lightning as the Light, —
Freedom, the noon-tide sun that shines and stays!
O brave, O pure, O hater of the wrong,
(The wrong that is as one with England's name,
Tyranny with cant of liberty, and shame
With boast of righteousness), to you belong
Trust for the hate that blinds our foes like flame,
Love for the hope that makes our hearts so strong!
Labour — Capital — Land
IN that rich Archipelago of sea
With fiery hills, thick woods wherein the mias
Browses along the trees, and god-like men
Leave monuments of speech too large for us,
There are strange forest-trees. Far up, their roots
Spread from the central trunk, and settle down
Deep in the life-fed earth, seventy feet below.
In the past days here grew another tree,
On whose high fork the parasitic seed
Fell and sprang up, and finding life and strength
In the disease, decrepitude and death
Of that it fed on, utterly consumed it,
And stands the monument of Nature's crime!
So Labour with his parasites, the two
Great swollen Robbers, Land and Capital,
Stands to the gaze of men but as a heap
Of rotted dust whose only use must be
To rich the roots of the proud stem that killed it!
In The Sea-Gardens
'The Man of the Nation'
YONDER the band is playing
And the fine Young People walk.
They are envying each other and talking
Their pretty empty talk.
There in the shade on the outskirts,
Stretched on the grass I see
A Man with a slouch hat smoking,
That is the Man for me!
That is the Man of the Nation;
He works and much endures.
When all the rest is rotten,
He rises and cuts and cures.
He's the soldier of the Crimea,
Fighting to honour fools;
He's the grappler and strangler of Lee,
Lord of the terrible tools.
He's in all the conquered nations
That have won their own at last,
And in all that yet shall win it.
And the World by him goes past!
O strong sly World, this nameless
Still, much-enduring Man,
Is the Hand of God that shall clutch you
For all you have done or can!
I SAW them as they were born,
Erect and fearless and free,
Facing the sun and the wind
Of the hills and the sea.
I saw them naked, superb,
Like the Greeks long ago,
With shield and spear and arrow
Ready to strike and throw.
I saw them as they were made
By the Christianizing crows,
Blinking, stupid, clumsy,
In their greasy ill-cut clothes:
I heard their gibbering cant,
And they sung those hymns that smell
Of poor souls besotted, degraded
With the fear of 'God' and 'Hell.'
And I thought if Jesus could see them,
He who loved the freedom, the light,
And loathed those who compassed heaven
And earth for one proselyte,
To make him, etcetera, etcetera, —
Then this sight, as on me or you,
Would act on him like an emetic,
And he'd have to go off and spue.
O Jesus, O man of the People,
Who died to abolish all this —
The Pharisee rank and respectable,
The Scribe and the scabrous Priest —
O Jesus, O sacred Socialist,
You would die again of shame,
If you were alive and could see
What things are done in your Name.
A Death At Sea
(Coral Sea, Australia)
DEAD in the sheep-pen he lies,
Wrapped in an old brown sail.
The smiling blue sea and the skies
Know not sorrow nor wail.
Dragged up out of the hold,
Dead on his last way home,
Worn-out, wizened, a Chinee old, —
O he is safe — at home!
Brother, I stand not as these
Staring upon you here.
One of earth's patient toilers at peace
I see, I revere!
In the warm cloudy night we go
From the motionless ship;
Our lanterns feebly glow;
Our oars drop and drip.
We land on the thin pale beach,
The coral isle's round us;
A glade of driven sand we reach;
Our burial ground's found us.
There we dig him a grave, jesting;
We know not his name.
What heeds he who is resting, resting?
Would I were the same!
Come away, it is over and done!
Peace and he shall not sever,
By moonlight nor light of the sun,
For ever and ever!
'Sleep in the pure driven sand,
(No one will know)
In the coral isle by the land
Where the blue tides come and go.
'Alive, thou wert poor, despised;
Dead, thou canst have
What mightiest monarchs have prized,
An eternal grave!
'Alone with the lovely isles,
With the lovely deep,
Where the sea-winds sing and the sunlight smiles,
Thou liest asleep!'
CROUCHED in the terrible land,
The circle of pitiless ice,
With frozen bloody feet
And her pestilential summer's
Fever-throb in her brow,
Look, in her deep slow eyes
The mists of her sleep of faith
Stir, and a gleam of light,
The ray of a blood-red sun,
Beams out into the dusk.
From far away, from the west,
From the east, from the south, there come
Faint sweet breaths of the breeze
Of plenteous warmth and light.
And she moves, and around her neck
She feels the iron-scaled Snake
Whose fangs suck at the heart
Hid by her tattered dress,
By her lean and hanging teat.
Russia, O land of Faith,
O realm of the ageless Slav,
O oppressed one of eternity,
This darkest hour is the hour,
The hour of the coming dawn!
Europe, the rank, the corrupt,
Lies stretched out at your feet.
Turkey, India, lo all,
East and south, it is yours!
Years, years ago a Nation,
Oppressed as you are oppressed,
Burst her bonds and leaped out,
A volcanic sea-wave of fire,
Quenched at last but in blood,
Though not before the red spray
Dashed the Pyramids, the Escurial,
Rome, and your own grey Kremlin.
That was the great sea-wave
Of a nation that disbelieved,
Of a nation that had not faith!
What shall the sea-wave be,
Of this race of eternal belief,
This nation of passionate faith!
Dedication To His Love
SWEETEST, in desperate hours
Of clouds and lightning and rain,
You came like a vision of flowers
And summer and song once again:
You came, and I could not receive you,
Seared in my flesh, in my sight.
I heedlessly turned back to leave you;
We passed on into the night.
(Heart, soul and all, sweet, never to sever, Love me for ever!)
Dearest, in hours of twilight,
Terrible, silent and lone,
When the light, long sought for as my light
And found, for ever seemed gone —
When the hope of the love-dream of boyhood
Passed sad with unknowing rebuff,
With your passionate patience and joyhood
You came, O my Priestess of Love!
(Heart, soul and all, dear, never to sever, Love me for ever!)
With your lips to mine deathly-reposing,
You kissed back the blood and the sighs:
You lit up my tired eyes unclosing
With the light of your beautiful eyes.
You held me close-pressed to your bosom,
Your heart to my heart, beating strong,
In mine eyes put your life like a blossom,
Put my love in your lips like a song!
(Heart, soul and all, sweet, never to sever,
Love me for ever!)
Dearest, of my heart-blood's Evangel
I hail you Queen, and of me:
Sweetest, I revere you Archangel
Of the better time that shall be.
So to these Songs, for my love's sake,
As Priestess of Love must you stand,
And, for the great Truth above's sake,
God's seraph with his sword in your hand!
(Heart, soul and all, dear, never to sever,
Love me for ever!)
One Among So Many
. . . In a dark street she met and spoke to me,
Importuning, one wet and mild March night.
We walked and talked together. O her tale
Was very common; thousands know it all!
'Seduced'; a gentleman; a baby coming;
Parents that railed; London; the child born dead;
A seamstress then, one of some fifty girls
'Taken on' a few months at a dressmaker's
In the crush of the 'season' at ten shillings a week!
The fashionable people's dresses done,
And they flown off, these fifty extra girls
Sent — to the streets: that is, to work that gives
Scarcely enough to buy the decent clothes
Respectable employers all demand
Or speak dismissal. Well, well, well, we know!
And she — 'Why, I have gone on down and down,
And there's the gutter, look, that I shall die in!'
'My dear,' I say, 'where hope of all but that
Is gone, 'tis time, I think, life were gone too.'
She looks at me. 'That I should kill myself?'
'That you should kill yourself.' — 'That would be sin,
And God would punish me!' — 'And will not God
Punish for this?' She pauses; then whispers:
'No, no, He will forgive me, for He knows!'
I laughed aloud: 'And you,' she said, 'and you,
Who are so good, so noble' . . . 'Noble? Good?'
I laughed aloud, the great sob in my throat.
O my poor Darling, O my little lost Sheep
Of this vast flock that perishes alone
Out in the pitiless desert! — Yet she'd speak:
She'd ask me: she'd entreat: she'd demonstrate.
O I must not say that! I must believe!
Who made the sea, the leaves so green, the sky
So big and blue and pure above it all?
O my poor Darling, O my little lost Sheep,
Entreat no more and demonstrate no more;
For I believe there is a God, a God
Not in the heaven, the earth, or the waters; no,
But in the heart of Man, on the dear lips
Of angel Women, of heroic Men!
O hopeless Wanderer that would not stay,
('It is too late, I cannot rise again!')
O Saint of faith in love behind the veils,
('You must believe in God, for you are good!')
O Sister who made holy with your kiss,
Your kiss in that wet dark mild night of March,
There in the hideous infamous London streets,
My cheek, and made my soul a sacred place,
my poor Darling, O my little lost Sheep!
I CAME to buy a book. It was a shop
Down in a narrow quiet street, and here
They kept, I knew, these socialistic books.
I entered. All was bare, but clean and neat.
The shelves were ranged with unsold wares; the counter
Held a few sheets and papers. Here and there
Hung prints and calendars. I rapped, and straight
A young Girl came out through the inner door.
She had a clear and simple face; I saw
She had no beauty, loveliness, nor charm,
But, as your eyes met those grey light-lit eyes
Like to a mountain spring so pure, you thought:
'He'd be a clever man who looked, and lied!'
I asked her for the book. . . . We spoke a little.
Her words were as her face was, as her eyes.
Yes, she'd read many books like this of mine:
Also some poets, Shelley, Byron too,
And Tennyson, but 'poets only dreamed!'
Thus, then, we talked, until by chance I spoke
A phrase and then a name. 'Twas 'Henry George.'
Her face lit up. O it was beautiful,
Or never woman's face was! 'Henry George?'
She said. And then a look, a flush, a smile,
Such as sprung up in Magdalenè's cheek
When some voice uttered Jesus, made her angel.
She turned and pointed up the counter. I,
Loosing mine eyes from that ensainted face,
Looked also. 'Twas a print, a common print,
The head and shoulders of a man. She said,
Quite in a whisper: 'That's him, Henry George!'
Darling, that in this life of wrong and woe,
The lovely woman-soul within you brooded
And wept and loved and hated and pitied,
And knew not what its helplessness could do,
Its helplessness, its sheer bewilderment —
That then those eyes should fall, those angel eyes,
On one who'd brooded, wept, loved, hated, pitied,
Even as you had, but therefrom had sprung
A hope, a plan, a scheme to right this wrong,
And make this woe less hateful to the sun —
And that pure soul had found its Master thus
To listen to, remember, watch and love,
And trust the dawn that rose up through the dark:
O this was good
For me to see, as for some weary hopeless
Longer and toiler for 'the Kingdom of Heaven'
To stand some lifeless twilight hour, and hear,
There in a dim-lit house of Lazarus,
Mary who said: 'Thus, thus he looked, he spake,
The Master!' — So to hear her rapturous words,
And gaze upon her up-raised heavenly face!
AT anchor in that harbour of the island,
The Chinese Gate,
We lay where, terraced under green-clad highland,
The Sea-town sate.
Ships, steamers, sailers, many a flag and nation,
A motley crew,
Junks, sampans, all East's swarming jubilation,
I watched and knew.
Then, as I stood, sweet sudden sounds out-swelling
On the boon breeze,
The church-bells' chiming echoes rang out, telling
Of inland peace.
O English Chimes, your music rising and falling
I cannot praise,
Although to me it come sweet-sad, recalling
Dear childish days.
Yet, English Chimes — last links of chains that sever,
Worn out and done,
That Land and Creed that I have left for ever —
Ring on, ring on!
There is much in this sea-way City
I have not met with before,
But one or two things I notice
That I seem to have known of yore.
In the lovely tropical verdure,
In the streets, behold I can
The hideous English Buildings
And the brutal English Man!
I stand and watch the Soldiers
Marching up and down,
Above the fresh green Cricket-ground
Just outside the town.
I stand and watch and wonder
When in the English land
This poor fool Tommy Atkins
Will learn and understand?
Zulus, and Boers, and Arabs,
All fighting to be free,
Men and women and children,
Maimed and murdered has he.
In India and in Ireland
He's held the People down,
While the robber English Gentleman
Took pound and penny and crown.
To make him false to his Order,
What was it that they gave —
To make him his brother's oppressor?
The clothes and soul of a slave!
O thou poor fool, Tommy Atkins,
Thou wilt be wise that day
When, with eager eyes and clenched teeth,
Thou risest up to say:
'This is our well-loved England,
And I'll free it if I can,
From every rotten Shop-keeper,
And played-out Gentleman!'
('This is the love of Nature, that the same peace awaits us all')
There is a valley green that lies
'Mid hills, the summer's bower.
The many-coloured butterflies
Flutter from flower to flower.
And round one lush green side of it,
In gardened homes are laid,
With grief and care compassionate,
The People of the Dead.
There all the voicing summer day
They sing, the happy rills.
No noisy sound awakes away
The echoes of the hills.
A Glimpse Of China
In a Sampan
(Min River, Fo Kien)
Up in the misty morning,
Up past the gardened hills,
With the rhythmic stroke of the rowers,
While the blue deep pales and thrills!
Past the rice-fields green low-lying,
Where the sea-gull's winging down
From the fleets of junks and sampans
And the ancient Chinese Town!
In a Chair
From the bright and blinding sunshine,
From the whirling locust's song,
Into the dark and narrow fissures
Of the streets I am borne along.
Here and there dusky-beaming
A sun-shaft broadens and drops
On the brown bare crowd slow-passing,
The crowd of the open shops.
We move on over the bridges
With their straight-hewn blocks of stone,
And their quaint grey animal figures,
And the booths the hucksters own.
Behind a linen awning
Sits an ancient wight half-dead,
And a little dear of a girl is
Examining — his head.
On a bended bamboo shouldered,
Bearing a block of stone,
Two worn-out Coolies half-naked
Utter their grunting groan.
Children, almond-eyed beauties,
Impossibly mangy curs,
Take part in the motley stream of
This is the Dream, the Vision
That comes to me and greets —
The Vision of Retribution
In the labyrinthine streets.
These Chinese toil, and yet they do not starve,
And they obey, and yet they are not slaves.
It is the 'free-born' fuddled Englishmen
Who grovel rotting in their living graves.
These Chinese do not fawn with servile lips;
They lift up equal eyes that ask and scan.
Their degradation has escaped at least
That choicest curse of all — the Gentleman!
Over the Samovar
'Yes, I used always to think
That you Russians knew
How to make the good drink
As none others do.
'And I thought moreover,
(Not with the epicures),
You might search the world over
For such Women as yours.
'In both these matters now
I perceive I was right,
And I really can't tell you how
Much I delight
'In my third (Thanks, another cup!)
Idea of the fun,
When your Country gets up
And follows the sun!
'And just as in Europe, see,
There's a Conqueror Nation,
So why not in Asia be
A like jubilation?
'Taught as well as organized,
The eternal Coolie,
From being robbed and despised,
Takes to cutting throats duly!
'But — please, don't be flurried;
For I daresay by then
You'll be comfortably buried,
Ladies and gentlemen!
'No more, thanks! I must be going!
I'm so glad to have made this
Opportunity of knowing
Some more Russian ladies!'
At The West India Docks
(A Memory of August, 1883)
I STOOD in the ghastly gleaming night by the swollen, sullen flow
Of the dreadful river that rolls her tides through the City of Wealth and
And mine eyes were heavy with sleepless hours, and dry with desperate
And my brain was throbbing and aching, and mine anguish had no relief.
For never a moment — no; not one — through all the dreary day,
And thro' all the weary night forlorn, would the pitiless pulses stay
Of the thundering great Machinery that such insistence had,
As it crushed out human hearts and souls, that it slowly drove me mad.
And there, in the dank and foetid mist, as I, silent and tearless, stood,
And the river's exhalations, sweating forth their muddy blood,
Breathed full on my face and poisoned me, like the slow, putrescent
That carries away from the shambles the refuse of flesh and brain —
There rose up slowly before me, in the dome of the city's light,
A vast and shadowy Substance, with shafts and wheels of might,
Tremendous, ruthless, fatal; and I knew the visible shape
Of that thundering great Machinery from which there was no escape.
It stood there high in the heavens, fronting the face of God,
And the spray it sprinkled had blasted the green and flowery sod
All round where, through stony precincts, its Cyclopean pillars fell
To its adamantine foundations that were fixed in the womb of hell.
And the birds that, wild and whirling, and moth-like, flew to its glare
Were struck by the flying wheel-spokes, and maimed and murdered
And the dust that swept about its black panoply overhead,
And the din of it seemed to shatter and scatter the sheeted dead.
But mine eyes were fixed on the people that sought this horrible den,
And they mounted in thronged battalions, children and women and men,
Right out from the low horizon, more far than eye could see,
From the north and the south and the east and the west, they came
Some silent, some raving, some sobbing, some laughing, some cursing,
Some alone, some with others, some struggling, some dragging the dead
and the dying,
Up to the central Wheel enormous with its wild devouring breath
That winnowed the livid smoke-clouds and the sickening fume of death.
Then suddenly, as I watched it all, a keen wind blew amain,
And the air grew clearer and purer, and I could see it plain —
How under the central Wheel a black stone Altar stood,
And a great, gold Idol upon it was gleaming like fiery blood.
And there, in front of the Altar, was a huge, round lurid Pit,
And the thronged battalions were marching to the yawning mouth of it
In the clangour of the Machinery and the Wheel's devouring breath
That winnowed the livid smoke-clouds and the sickening fume of death.
And once again, as I gazed there, and the keen wind still blew on,
I saw the shape of the Idol like a Queen turned carrion,
Yet crowned and more terrific thus for her human fleshly loss,
And with one clenched hand she brandished a lash, and the other held up
And all around the Altar were seated, joyous and free,
In garments richly-coloured and choice, a goodly company,
Eating and drinking and wantoning, like gods that scorned to know
Of the thundering great Machinery and the crowds and the Pit below.
Ah, Christ! the sights and the sounds there that every hour befell
Would wring the heart of the devils spinning ropes of sand in hell,
But not the insolent Revellers in their old lascivious ease —
Children, hollow-eyed, starving, consumed alive with disease;
Boys and men tortured to fiends and branded with shuddering fire;
Women and girls shrieking caught, and whored, and trampled to death in
Babyhood, youth, and manhood and womanhood that might have been,
Kneaded, a bloody, pulp, to feed the gold-grinding murderous Machine!
And still, with aching eyeballs, I stared at that hateful sight,
At the long dense lines of the people and the shafts and wheels of might,
When slowly, slowly emerging, I saw a great Globe rise,
Blood-red on the dim horizon, and it swam up into the skies.
But whether indeed it were the sun or the moon, I could not say,
For I knew not now in my watching if it were night or day.
But when that great Globe steadied above the central Wheel,
The thronged battalions wavered and paused, and an awful silence fell.
Then (I know not how, but so it was) in a moment the flash of an eye —
A murmur ran and rose to a voice, and the voice to a terrible cry:
'Enough, enough! It has had enough! We will march no more till we
In the furnace Pit. Give us food! Give us rest! Though the accursed
And then, with a shout of angry fear, the Revellers sprang to their feet,
And the call was for cannon and cavalry, for rifle and bayonet.
And One rose up, a leader of them, lifting a threatening rod,
And 'Stop the Machinery!' he yelled, 'you might as well stop God!'
But the terrible thunder-cry replied: 'If this indeed must be,
It is you should be cast to the furnace Pit to feed the Machine — not
And the central wheel enormous slowed down in groaning plight,
And all the aërial movement ceased of the shafts and wheels of might,
And a superhuman clamour leaped madly to where overhead
The great Globe swung in the gathering gloom, portentous, huge, bloodred!
But my brain whirled round and my blinded eyes no more could see or
Till I struggling seemed to awake at last by the swollen sullen flow
Of the dreadful river that rolls her tides through the City of Wealth and
The New Locksley Hall
'Forty Years After'
COMRADE, yet a little further I would go before the night
Closes round and chills in darkness all the glorious sunset light —
Yet a little, by the cliff there, till the stately home I see
Of the man who once was with us, comrade once with you and me!
Nay, but leave me, pass alone there; stay awhile and gaze again
On the various-jewelled waters and the dreamy southern main,
For the evening breeze is sighing in the quiet of the hills,
Moving down in cliff and terrace to the singing sweet sea-rills,
While the river, silent-stealing, thro' the copse and thro' the lea
Winds her waveless way eternal to the welcome of the sea.
Yes, within that green-clad homestead, gardened grounds and velvet ease
Of a home where culture reigneth and the chambers whisper peace,
Is the Man, the Seer and Singer, who (ah, years and years away!)
Lifted up a face of gladness at the breaking of the day.
For the noontide's desperate ardours that had seen the Roman town
Wrap the boy Keats, 'by the hungry generations trodden down,'
In his death-shroud with the ashes of the fairy Child of Storm,
Fluttering skylark in the breakers, caught and smothered by the foam,
And had closed those eyes heroic, weary for the final peace,
Byron maimed and maddened, strangled in the anguish that was
For this noontide passed to darkness, brooding doubt and wild dismay,
Where the silly sparrows chirruped and the eagles swooped away,
Till once more the trampled Peoples and the murdered soul of Man
Raised a haggard face half-wondering where the new-born Day began,
Where the sign of Faith's renewal, Faith's and Hope's, and Love's,
In the golden sun arising; and we hailed it, we and you!
O you hailed it, and your heart beat, and your pretty woman's lays,
In the fathomless vibration of our rapturous amaze,
Died for ever on your harpstrings, and you rose and struck a chord
High, full, clear, heroic, godlike, 'for the glory of the Lord!'
Noble words you spoke; we listened; and we dreamed the day had come
When the faith of God and Christ should sound one cry with Man's
When the men who stood beside us, eager with hell's troops to cope,
Radiant, thrilled exultant, proud, with the magnificence of hope!
'Forward! forward!' ran our watchword. 'Forward! forward!' by our
You gave back the glorious summons. Would that day that you had died!
Better lying fallen, death-struck, breathless, bleeding, on your face,
With your bright sword pointing onward, dying happy in your place!
Better to have passed in spirit from the battle-storm's eclipse
With the great Cause in your heart and with the war-shout on your lips!
Better to have fallen charging, having known the nobler time,
In the fiery cheer and impulse of our serried battle-line —
Than to stand and watch your comrades, in the hail of fire and lead,
Up the slopes and thro' the smoke-clouds, thro' the dying and the dead,
Till the sun strikes through a moment, to our one victorious shout,
On our bayonets bristling brightly as we carry the redoubt!
O half-hearted, pusillanimous, faltering heart and fuddled brain
That remembered Egypt's flesh-pots, and turned back and dreamed
Left the plain of blood and battle for the quiet of the hills,
And the sunny soft contentment that the woody homestead fills.
There you sat and sang of Egypt, of its sober solid graves,
(Pyramids, you call them, Sphinxes), mortared with the blood of slaves,
Houses, streets and stately palaces, the mart, the regal stew
Where freedom 'broadens down' so slow it stops with lords and you!
O you mocked at our confusion, O you told us of our crimes,
Us ungentle, not like warriors of the sweet idyllic times,
Flowers of eunuch-hearted kings and courts where pretty poet knights
Tilted gaily, or slew stake-armed peasants, hundreds, in the fights?
O you drew the hideous picture of our bravest and our best,
Patient martyrs, desperate swordsmen, for the Cause that gives not
Men of science, 'vivisectors!' democrats, the 'rout of beasts' —
Writers, essayists and poets, 'Belial's prophets, Moloch's priests!'
Coward, you have made the great refusal! you have won the gilded
Of the wringers of his heart's-blood from the peasant's sunless days,
Of the Lord and the Land-owner, of the Rich-man who has bound
Labour on the wheel to break him, strew his rent limbs on the ground,
With a vulture eye aglare on brothers, sisters that he had,
Crying 'Troops and guns to shoot them, if the hunger drive them mad!'
Coward, faithless, unbelieving, that had courage but to take
What of pleasure and of beauty men have won for manhood's sake,
Blustering long and loudest at the hideousness and pain
These you praise have brought upon us; blustering long and loud again
At our agony and anguish in this desperate fight of ours,
Grappling with anarch custom and the darkness and the powers!
O begone, then, from among us! Echo not, however faint,
Our great watch-word, our great war-shout, sweet and sickly poet saint!
Sit there dreaming in your gardens, looking out upon the sea,
Till the night-time closes round you and the wind is on the lea.
Enter then within your chambers in the rich and quiet light:
Never think of us who struggle in the tempest and the night.
Soothe your fancy with your visions; bend a gracious senile ear
To the praise your guests are murmuring in the tone you love to hear.
Honoured of your Queen, and honoured of the gentlest and the best,
Lord and commoner and rich-man, smirking tenant, shopman, priest,
All distinguished and respectable, the seamy sons of light,
O what, O what are these who call you coward in the night?
Ay, what are we who struggled for the cause of Science, say,
Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Haeckel, marshalling our stern array?
We who raised the cry for Culture, Goethe's spirit leading on,
Marching gladly with our captains, Renan, Arnold, Emerson?
We, we are not tinkers, tinkers of the kettle cracked and broke,
Tailors squatted cross-legged, patching at the greasy, worn-out cloak!
We are those that faced mad Fortune, cried: 'The Truth and only she!
Onward, upward! If we perish, we at least will perish free!'
We have lost our souls to win them, in the house and in the street
Falling stabbed and poisoned, making a victory of defeat.
We have lost life's happy present, we have paid death's heavy debt,
We have won, have won the Future, and its sons shall not forget!
Enter, then, within your chamber in the rich and quiet light:
Never think of us who struggle in the tempest and the night;
Spread your nostrils to the incense, hearken to the murmured hymn
Of the praising people, rising from the temple fair and dim.
Ah, but we here in the tempest, we here struggling in the night,
See the worshippers out-stealing; see the temple emptying quite;
See the godhead turning ghostlike; see the pride of name and fame
Paling slowly, sad and sickly, with forgetfulness and shame! . . .
Darker, darker grows the night now, louder, louder howls the wind;
I can hear the dash of breakers and the deep sea moves behind,
I can see the foam-capped phalanx rushing on the crumbling shore,
Slowly but surely shattering its rampart evermore.
Hark! my comrade's voice is calling, and his solitary cry
On the great dark swift air-currents like Fate's summons sweepeth by.
Farewell, then, whom once I loved so, whom a boy I thrilled to hear
Urging courage and reliance, loathing acquiescent fear.
I must leave you; I must wander to a strange and distant land,
Facing all that Fate shall give me with her hard unequal hand —
I once more anew must face them, toil and trouble and disease,
But these a man may face and conquer, for there waits him death and
And the freedom from dishonour and denial e'er confessed
Of what he knows is truest, what most beautiful and best!
O farewell, then! I must leave you. You have chosen. You are right.
You have made the great refusal; you have shunned the wind and night.
You have won your soul, and won it — No, not lost it as they tell —
Happy, blest of gods and monarchs, O a long, a long farewell!
Freshwater, Isle of Wight.
The Mass Of Christ
DOWN in the woodlands, where the streamlet runs,
Close to the breezy river, by the dells
Of ferns and flowers that shun the summer suns
But gather round the lizard-haunted wells,
And listen to the birds' sweet syllables —
Down in the woodlands, lying in the shade,
Among the rushes green that shook and gleamed,
I, I whose songs were of my heart's blood made,
Found weary rest from wretchedness, it seemed,
And fell asleep, and as I slept, I dreamed.
I dreamed I stood beside a pillar vast
Close to a little open door behind,
Whence the small light there was stole in aghast,
And for a space this troubled all my mind,
To lose the sunlight and the sky and the wind.
For I could know, I felt, how all before,
Though high and wonderful and to be praised,
In heart and soul and mind oppressed me sore.
Nevertheless, I turned, and my face raised,
And on that pageant and its glory gazed.
The pillars, vast as this whereby I stood,
Hedged all the place about and towered up high,
Up, and were lost within a billowy cloud
Of slow blue-wreathing smoke that fragrantly
Rose from below. And a great chaunt and cry
Of multitudinous voices, with sweet notes,
Mingled of music solemn, glad, serene,
Swayed all the air and gave its echoes throats.
And priests and singers various, with proud mien,
Filled all the choir — a strange and wondrous scene.
And men and women and children, in all hues
Of colour and fresh raiment, filled the nave;
And yet it seemed, this vast place did refuse
Room for the mighty army that did crave,
And only to the vanguard harbourage gave.
And, as I gazed and watched them while they knelt
(Their prayers I watched with the incense disappear),
And could not know my thoughts of it, I felt
A touch upon mine arm, and in mine ear
Some words, and turned my face to see and hear.
There was a man beside me. In that light,
Tho' dim, remote, and shadowy, I could see
His face swarthy yet pale, and eyes like night,
With a strange, far sadness, looking at me.
It seemed as if the buffets of some sea
Had beaten on him as he faced it long.
The salty foam, the spittle of its wrath
Had blurred the bruises of its fingers strong,
Striking him pitilessly from out its path,
Yet had he braved it as the willow hath.
He turned his look from me and where we stood,
His far strange look of sadness, and it seemed
This temple vast, this prayerful multitude,
These priests and singers celebrant who streamed
In gorgeous ranks towards the fane that gleamed,
Were to him as some vision is, untrue,
Tho' true we take it, undeceived the while,
But, since it was unknown to him all through,
And hid some meaning (it might be of guile),
He turned once more, and spake in gentle style.
'Nay, this,' he said, 'is not the Temple, nor
The children of Israel these, whom less sufficed
Of chaunt and ritual. They whom we abhor,
The Phoenicians, to their gods have sacrificed!'
I said, 'Nay, sir, this is the Mass of Christ.'
'The Mass of Christ?' he murmured. And I said
'This is the day on which He came below,
And this is Rome, and far up overhead
Soars the great dome that bids the wide world know
St. Peter still rules o'er his Church below!'
'The Christ?' he said, 'and Peter, who are they?'
I answered, 'Jesus was he in the days long past,
And Peter was his chief disciple.' 'Nay,'
He answered, 'for of these the lot was cast
On poverty.' I said, 'That is all past!'
Then as I might, as for some stranger great
(Who saw all things under an unknown sun),
I told him of these things both soon and late,
Then, when I paused and turned, lo! he was gone,
Had left me, and I saw him passing on.
On, up the aisle, he passed, his long black hair
Upon his brown and common coat; his head
Raised, and his mien such aspect fixed did wear
As one may have whose spirit long is sped
(Though he still lives) among the mighty dead.
He paused not, neither swerved not, till he came
Unto the fane and steps. Nor there he learned
Awe, but went on, till rose a shrill acclaim,
And the High Priest from the great altar turned,
And raised the golden sign that blazed and burned.
And a slow horror grew upon us all —
On priests and people, and on us who gazed —
As that Great King, alive beneath the pall,
Heard his own death-service that moaned and praised
So all we were fearful, expectant, dazed.
Then unknown murmurs round the High Priest rose
Of men in doubt; and all the multitude
Swayed, as one seized in a keen travail's throes,
Where, on the last steps of the altar stood,
The Man — the altar steps all red like blood.
The singing ceased; the air grew clear and dead,
Save for the organ tones that sobbed and sighed.
In a hushed voice the High Priest gazing, said,
'Who are you?' and the Man straightway replied,
'I, I am Jesus whom they crucified!'
His voice was low yet every ear there heard,
And every eye was fixed upon him fast;
And, when he spake, the people all shuddered,
As a great corn-field at the south wind's blast,
And the Man paused, but spake again at last:
'I am the Galilean. I was born
Of Joseph and of Mary in Nazareth.
But God, our Father, left me not forlorn,
But breathèd in my soul his sacred breath,
That I should be his prophet, and fear not death.
'I taught the Kingdom of Heaven; the poor, the oppressed
I loved. The rich, the priests, did hear my cry
Of hate and retribution that lashed their rest.
Wherefore they caught and took and scourged me. I
Was crucified with the thieves on Calvary!'
At that it seemed the very stones did quake,
And a great rumour grew and filled the place;
The pillars, the roof, the dome above did shake,
And a fierce cry and arms surged up apace,
Like to a storm-cloud round that dark pale face.
And yet once more he spake, and we did hear:
'Who are you? What is this you do?' he said.
'I was the Christ. Who is this here
You worship?' From that silence of the dead,
'Tear him in pieces,' cried a voice and fled.
Howls, yells, and execrations, blazing eyes,
And threatening arms — it was unloosened hell!
And in the midst, seized, dragged along with cries
Of hate exultant, still I saw him well,
His strange sad face; then sickened, swooned, and fell!
* The Emperor Charles V., mightiest of mediaeval kings, had the weird
fancy to assist at a representation of his own death service.
Slowly from out that trance did I arouse;
Slowly, with pain, and all was weary and still,
Even as a dreamer dreams some sweet carouse,
And faints at touch of breath and lips that thrill,
And yet awakes and yet is dreaming still.
So I. And when my tired eyes look, mine ears,
Echoing those late noises, listen, and
I seek to know what 'fore me now appears,
For long I cannot know nor understand,
But lie as some wrecked sailor on the strand.
Then bit by bit I knew it — how I lay
On the hard stones, crouched by a pillar tall:
The wind blew bleak and raw; the skies were grey;
Up broad stone steps folk passed into the wall,
Both men and women: there was no sun at all.
I moved, I rose, I came close to, and saw;
And then I knew the place wherein I was;
Here in the city high, the ravening maw
Of all men's toil and kindly Nature's laws,
I stood, and felt the dreary winter's flaws.
And by me rose that lampless edifice
Of England's soul shrunk to a skeleton,
Whose dingy cross the grimy air doth pierce —
London, that hell of wastefulness and stone,
The piled bones of the sufferers dead and gone!
And, when I knew all this, and thought of it,
And thought of all the hateful hours and dread
That smirched my youth here, struck, and stabbed, and lit
The plundered shrine of trust and love that fled,
And left my soul stripped, bleeding worse than dead,
Wrath grew in me. For all around I knew
The accursèd city worked on all the same,
For all the toiling sufferers. The idle few,
The vermin foul that from this dung-heap came,
Made of our agony their feast and game.
And when, with hands clenched tight, with eyes of fire,
Sombre and desperate, I moved on apace,
Within my soul brooded a dark desire;
I reached the stream of those who sought this place,
And turned with them and saw a sudden face.
I knew it, as it was there, meeting mine —
I knew it with its strange sad gaze, the eyes
Night-like. Yet on it now no more did shine,
As 'twere that inner light of victories,
Won from the fiend that lives by the god that dies.
But very weary, as my waking was,
But stunned, it seemed, and as if cowed at last,
Were look and bearing of him: I felt the cause
Even as I looked. My wrath and thought were passed
I came and took his arm and held it fast.
And, as some fever-struck delirious man,
In some still pausing of his anguish-throes,
Forgetful of it all, how it began,
Rises from off his bed and dons his clothes,
And seeks (his footsteps seek) some place he knows;
And there he wanders voiceless, like a ghost,
His weariness confusing him, until
Worn-out, he helplessly perceives he's lost:
So was he here, this man, stricken and still —
Day, place, folk, all incomprehensible!
My hold aroused him. We looked face in face,
And in a little I could watch the wonder,
'Where he had seen me,' in his great eyes, chase
The torpor and oblivion asunder.
Close by there was a porch, I drew him under.
There, after pause, I asked, 'What do you here?'
He said: 'I came, I think, to seek and see
Something which I much long for and yet fear.
I have passed over many a land and sea
I never knew: my Father guided me.
'I think,' he said, 'that I am come to find
Here, in this cold dark place, what in that blue
And sunny south but wounded all my mind.
But I am weary and cannot see things true,
There is a cloud around me. And with you?'
'Come, then,' I said, 'come then, if you must know
What that great saint hath done for us, who is
The second builder of your Church below.
Paul, that was Saul, the Prince of Charities!
He saw you once. Now see him once — in this!'
We went out side by side into the stream
Of folk that passed on upwards thro' the wall
(There was a gateway there), and in the beam
Of the dull light we stood and pillars tall,
And I said 'Look,' and he looked at it all.
Somewhat it was as he had seen before,
Yet darker, gloomier, though some hues were gay.
For all these people had, it seemed, full store
Of quiet ease, and loved the leisured day;
They sang of joy, but little joy had they.
It was the function of the rich, of those
To whom contentment springs from booty's fill,
Gorged to a dull, religious, rank repose.
He raised his voice. He spake the words, 'I will!'
There came a sound from some about, 'Be still!'
Heedless, as one begrimed with blood and smoke,
The leader of a charge shattered in rout,
Strips off his tatters and bids the ranks re-yoke,
And leads them back to carry the redoubt,
So was he, strong once more, and resolute.
But, as he moved into the aisle, there rose
Men round him, grim and quiet, and a hand
Firmly upon each arm and wrist did close,
And held him like an engine at command.
He cried: 'Loose me! You do not understand!'
'Loose me,' he cried, 'I, Jesus, come to tell——'
No answer made they, but without a word
Moved him away. Their office they knew well
With the impious outcasts who the good disturb
In their worship of their Queen and of their Lord.
'Twas finished ere we heard him. At the door
They thrust him out, and I, who followed him,
Knowing that he could enter it no more,
Led him away, his faltering steps, his slim
Frail form within mine arm; his eyes were dim.
Out and away from this I gently guided
Through wretched streets I knew. (Is not my blood
Upon their stones?). A few poor sots derided,
But we passed on unheeding, as we could,
Till by a little door we paused and stood.
We entered. 'Twas a chamber bare and small,
With chairs and benches and a table. There
Some six or seven men sat: I knew them all.
I said, 'Food, food and drink!' Some did repair
At once, without a word, to bring their fare.
He sat down by the table listless. But
When bread was brought him, water, and red wine,
Slowly his white waste hand he stretched, and put
On to the bread and brake it; a divine
Smile touched his lips, and on his brow did shine.
They gathered round him with strange quiet glances,
These soldiers of the army Night hath tried,
One spake the question of their countenances —
'Who are you?' Then he whisperingly replied,
'I, I am Jesus, whom they crucified!'
At that a murmur rang among them all.
There was one man so white he seemed as dead,
Save for his eyes, and when he heard them call:
'Christ, it is Christ,' he bent to him his head,
And the thin bitter lips hissed as they said:
'The name of Christ has been the sovereign curse,
The opium drug that kept us slaves to wrong.
Fooled with a dream, we bowed to worse and worse;
‘In heaven,’ we said, ‘He will confound the strong.’
O hateful treason that has tricked too long!
'Had we poor down-trod millions never dreamed
Your dream of that hereafter for our woe,
Had the great powers that rule, no Father seemed,
But Law relentless, long and long ago
We had risen and said, ‘We will not suffer so.’
'O Christ, O you who found the drug of heaven,
To keep consoled an earth that grew to hell,
That else to cleanse and cure its sores had striven,
We curse that name!' A fierce hard silence fell,
And Jesus whispered, 'Oh, and I as well!'
He raised his face! See, on the Calvary hill,
Submissive with such pride, betrayed and taken,
Transfixed and crucified, the prey of ill,
Of a cup less bitter had he there partaken,
He then by God, as now by Man, forsaken!
'Vain, was it vain, all vain?' had mocked him then;
Now the triumphant gibe of hell had said,
'Not vain! a curse, a speechless curse to men!'
His great eyes gazed on it. He bowed his head,
Without a word, and shuddered. He was dead!
And when I saw this, with a low hoarse cry
I caught him to mine arms and to my breast,
And put my lips to his that breathed one sigh,
And kissed his eyes, and by his name addressed
My Friend, my Master, him whom I loved best.
'Jesus,' I whispered, 'Jesus, Jesus, speak!'
For it did seem that speech from him must break;
But suddenly I knew he would not speak,
Never, never again! My heart did shake:
My stricken brain burst; I shrieked and leaped awake.
Down in the woodlands, where the streamlet runs,
Close to the breezy river, by the dells,
Of ferns and flowers that shun the summer suns
But gather round the lizard-haunted wells,
And listen to the birds' sweet syllables —
Down in the woodlands, lying in the shade,
Among the rushes green that shook and gleamed,
I woke and lay, and of my dream dreams made,
Wondering if indeed I had but dreamed,
Or dreamed but now, so real that dream had seemed.
Then up above I saw the turquoise sky,
And, past the blowy tree-tops swung aloft,
Two pigeons dared the breeze ecstatically,
And happy frogs, couched in the verdure soft,
Piped to each other dreamily and oft.
And, as I looked across the flowery woods,
Across the grasses, sun and shade bedight,
Under the leaves' melodious interludes,
Flowing one way, the blessèd birds' delight,
I saw her come, my love, clothed on with light!
Flowers she had, and in her hair and hands,
Singing and stooping, gathering them with words,
Whose music is past all speech understands,
But God is glad thereof, as of his birds;
I watched her, listening, till I heard the words
Leap from her lips of a bold battle-song,
The clarion clear that silences the strife.
She marched exultantly to it along,
No more a joyous girl, a sacred wife,
But a soldier of the Cause that's more than life!
O well I knew the song that she was singing,
But now she gave her music to my rhyme,
Her rapturous music thro' the wild woods ringing,
Asserting Truth and Trust, arraigning Crime,
And bidding Justice 'bring the better time!'
O Love, sing on, sing on, O girt with light,
Shatter the silence of the hopeless hours;
O mock with song triumphant all the night,
O girl, O wife, O crowned with fruits and flowers,
Till day and dawn and victory are ours!