Sicily, December 1908
O garden isle, beloved by Sun and Sea, --
Whose bluest billows kiss thy curving bays,
Whose amorous light enfolds thee in warm rays
That fill with fruit each dark-leaved orange-tree, --
What hidden hatred hath the Earth for thee?
Behold, again, in these dark, dreadful days,
She trembles with her wrath, and swiftly lays
Thy beauty waste in wreck and agony!
Is Nature, then, a strife of jealous powers,
And man the plaything of unconscious fate?
Not so, my troubled heart! God reigns above
And man is greatest in his darkest hours:
Walking amid the cities desolate,
The Son of God appears in human love.
A Lover's Envy
I envy every flower that blows
Along the meadow where she goes,
And every bird that sings to her,
And every breeze that brings to her
The fragrance of the rose.
I envy every poet's rhyme
That moves her heart at eventime,
And every tree that wears for her
Its brightest bloom, and bears for her
The fruitage of its prime.
I envy every Southern night
That paves her path with moonbeams white,
And silvers all the leaves for her,
And in their shadow weaves for her
A dream of dear delight.
I envy none whose love requires
Of her a gift, a task that tires:
I only long to live to her,
I only ask to give to her
All that her heart desires.
Light Between The Trees
Long, long, long the trail
Through the brooding forest-gloom,
Down the shadowy, lonely vale
Into silence, like a room
Where the light of life has fled,
And the jealous curtains close
Round the passionless repose
Of the silent dead.
Plod, plod, plod away,
Step by step in mouldering moss;
Thick branches bar the day
Over languid streams that cross
Softly, slowly, with a sound
In their aimless creeping
Like a smothered weeping,
Through the enchanted ground.
"Yield, yield, yield thy quest,"
Whispers through the woodland deep;
"Come to me and be at rest;
"I am slumber, I am sleep."
Then the weary feet would fail,
But the never-daunted will
Urges "Forward, forward still!
"Press along the trail!"
Breast, breast, breast the slope!
See, the path is growing steep.
Hark! a little song of hope
When the stream begins to leap.
Though the forest, far and wide,
Still shuts out the bending blue,
We shall finally win through,
Cross the long divide.
On, on, onward tramp!
Will the journey never end?
Over yonder lies the camp;
Welcome waits us there, my friend.
Can we reach it ere the night?
Upward, upward, never fear!
Look, the summit must be near;
See the line of light!
Red, red, red the shine
Of the splendour in the west,
Glowing through the ranks of pine,
Clear along the mountain-crest!
Long, long, long the trail
Out of sorrow's lonely vale;
But at last the traveller sees
Light between the trees!
The Vain King
In robes of Tyrian blue the King was drest,
A jewelled collar shone upon his breast,
A giant ruby glittered in his crown -----
Lord of rich lands and many a splendid town.
In him the glories of an ancient line
Of sober kings, who ruled by right divine,
Were centred; and to him with loyal awe
The people looked for leadership and law.
Ten thousand knights, the safeguard of the land,
Lay like a single sword within his hand;
A hundred courts, with power of life and death,
Proclaimed decrees justice by his breath;
And all the sacred growths that men had known
Of order and of rule upheld his throne.
Proud was the King: yet not with such a heart
As fits a man to play a royal part.
Not his the pride that honours as a trust
The right to rule, the duty to be just:
Not his the dignity that bends to bear
The monarch's yoke, the master's load of care,
And labours like the peasant at his gate,
To serve the people and protect the State.
Another pride was his, and other joys:
To him the crown and sceptre were but toys,
With which he played at glory's idle game,
To please himself and win the wreaths of fame.
The throne his fathers held from age to age
Built for King Martin to diplay at will,
His mighty strength and universal skill.
No conscious child, that, spoiled with praising, tries
At every step to win admiring eyes, ----
No favourite mountebank, whose acting draws
From gaping crowds loud thunder of applause,
Was vainer than the King: his only thirst
Was to be hailed, in every race, the first.
When tournament was held, in knightly guise
The King would ride the lists and win the prize;
When music charmed the court, with golden lyre
The King would take the stage and lead the choir;
In hunting, his the lance to slay the boar;
In hawking, see his falcon highest soar;
In painting, he would wield the master's brush;
In high debate, -----"the King is speaking! Hush!"
Thus, with a restless heart, in every field
He sought renown, and found his subjects yield
As if he were a demi-god revealed.
But while he played the petty games of life
His kingdom fell a prey to inward strife;
Corruption through the court unheeded crept,
And on the seat of honour justice slept.
The strong trod down the weak; the helpless poor
Groaned under burdens grievous to endure.
The nation's wealth was spent in vain display,
And weakness wore the nation's heart away.
Yet think not Earth is blind to human woes ---
Man has more friends and helpers than he knows;
And when a patient people are oppressed,
The land that bore them feels it in her breast.
Spirits of field and flood, of heath and hill,
Are grieved and angry at the spreading ill;
The trees complain together in the night,
Voices of wrath are heard along the height,
And secret vows are sworn, by stream and strand,
To bring the tyrant low and liberate the land.
But little recked the pampered King of these;
He heard no voice but such as praise and please.
Flattered and fooled, victor in every sport,
One day he wandered idly with his court
Beside the river, seeking to devise
New ways to show his skill to wondering eyes.
There in the stream a patient fisher stood,
And cast his line across the rippling flood.
His silver spoil lay near him on the green:
"Such fish," the courtiers cried, "were never seen!"
"Three salmon larger than a cloth-yard shaft---
"This man must be the master of his craft!"
"An easy art!" the jealous King replied:
"Myself could learn it better, if I tried,
"And catch a hundred larger fish a week---
"Wilt thou accept the challenge, fellow? Speak!"
The fisher turned, came near, and bent his knee:
"'Tis not for kings to strive with such as me;
"Yet if the King commands it, I obey.
"But one condition of the strife I pray:
"The fisherman who brings the least to land
"Shall do whate'er the other may command."
Loud laughed the King: "A foolish fisher thou!
"For I shall win and rule thee then as now."
So to Prince John, a sober soul, sedate
And slow, King Martin left the helm of state,
While to the novel game with eager zest
He all his time and all his powers addrest.
Sure such a sight was never seen before!
For robed and crowned the monarch trod the shore;
His golden hooks were decked with feathers fine,
His jewelled reel ran out a silken line.
With kingly strokes he flogged the crystal stream,
Far-off the salmon saw his tackle gleam;
Careless of kings, they eyed with calm disdain
The gaudy lure, and Martin fished in vain.
On Friday, when the week was almost spent,
He scanned his empty creel with discontent,
Called for a net, and cast it far and wide,
And drew --- a thousand minnows from the tide!
Then came the fisher to conclude the match,
And at the monarch's feet spread out his catch ---
A hundred salmon, greater than before ---
"I win!" he cried: "the King must pay the score."
Then Martin, angry, threw his tackle down:
"Rather than lose this game I'd lose me crown!"
"Nay, thou has lost them both," the fisher said;
And as he spoke a wondrous light was shed
Around his form; he dropped his garments mean,
And in his place the River-god was seen.
"Thy vanity hast brought thee in my power,
"And thou shalt pay the forfeit at this hour:
"For thou hast shown thyself a royal fool,
"Too proud to angle, and too vain to rule.
"Eager to win in every trivial strife, ---
"Go! Thou shalt fish for minnows all thy life!"
Wrathful, the King the scornful sentence heard;
He strove to answer, but he only chirr-r-ed:
His Tyrian robe was changed to wings of blue,
His crown became a crest, --- away he flew!
And still, along the reaches of the stream,
The vain King-fisher flits, an azure gleam, ---
You see his ruby crest, you hear his jealous scream.