Waiting In The Dusk
Sitting alone in the twilight time,
Alas! how silent the old house seems
Kissing the voices that only chime
In waking fancies or sleeping dreams!
I sit in my mother's old arm-chair,
But where are the others? Ah where? ah where?
Where is our Willie, so grave and wise?
And where is Harry, so true and bold?
Where is Mabel with laughing eyes,
And tresses sprinkled with molten gold?
On Willie's tombstone the moss is gray,
And Harry is sleeping in Biscay Bay.
But Mabel? Mabel may come again:
Her name is still in my daily prayer;
Yet when I stand where our dead are lain,
I'd rather that it were written there.
They heard God call them, and they obeyed;
But Earth called Mabel—and Mabel strayed.
Yet while God spares, it is not too late
To turn away from the Tempter's smile;
And so in the lonely house I wait,
Because I expect her all the while:
If strangers mot her the day she came,
She might go back to her sin and shame.
I can see the city lie far away,
A sloping path from our house leads down;
And surely, surely, some summer day,
A fading woman will leave the town,
And climb the hill, and traverse the moor,
And enter in at my open door.
And one goes out, and one stays standing still,
And that day's sun sink, o'er the low green hill.
And he goes on, far over field and moor,
And she turns back, goes in, and shuts the door.
She smiled upon him to the very last;
He'll never know what came when that was past.
And he who goes—he has but half the the pain,
His world is new, her empty rooms remain.
The books he opened, can she bear to close?
The rose he gathered; she will keep that rose!
And yet a day shall come when she shall say
''T was well that he who loved me went away.'
Love scarce is true until it has been tried;
And hearts can hold when hands are severed wide.
The last strong light of love in dying eyes
Pierces the mists of death that o'er them rise.
Nor Life nor Death has power to sever Love
It moves the world and builds the heaven above.
It ever has a sound of tears and sorrow;
Yet while we sleep, it changes to 'Good-morrow.'
The Dead Poet
Draw back the curtain, let the light
Upon the chamber's gloom,
That I may think my son asleep,
Not ready for the tomb!
Ah! what he was, he always looked, but ne'er so fair as now;
The angels' wakening kiss has left a glory on his brow!
'He will be great, God make him good,'
His father used to say;
For while we watched him at our side,
A little child at play,
There was an awed look on his face, I knew that it must be,
Sweet voices whispered to his soul, which never spoke to me!
But as we marked the first faint light
Of slowly-dawning fame,
We knew that it would only serve
To gild a dead man's name!
And we, his parents, with no gift but what in loving lies,
Stood lonely on the silent earth, and watched him win the skies!
O God! why was it thy great will
To take him home so soon,
While other livies are spared to reach
A dull inglorious noon?
But in our hearts a voice replies, 'What! would you have him miss
An hour of Joy in that blest world, for years of fame in this?'
'For our sake, Lord, not his,' we plead,
'He, drew us, nearer thee.
This dark world needs the Heav'n-sent light
That shines in such as he.'
But yet again the voice replies, 'Light reacheth from afar:
I took your gem, and purged its dross, and now it lives a star!'
And so we dropp Fame's half-wove wreath,
He does not need it there;
For he has won a brighter crown
Than poets ever wear!
And we will not cross God's good will by one unworthy sigh,
Though now our world's a wintry scene beneath a sunny sky.
The Death Of Emilia Manin
Falls the sunlight, dim and faint,
On her face, like face of saint,
On her thin, white hand:
Oh, the patient spirit pines
For the brighter sun which shines
In a brighter land!
Down her wan cheeks never steal
Quiet tears, which sweetly heal
The unspoken woe:
For although they often rise
Like a mist before her eyes,
Yet they do not flow.
That which sacrifice doth ask,
That which gives a noble task,
Soon our love obtains.
And when one hath given all
At a martyred country's call,
What a love it gains!
She has given youth and health,
And her father's modest wealth,
And her mother's smile:
Gazing at the fresh blue skies,
Mute upon her couch she lies,
All the weary while.
Has her father toiled for nought?
Have his comrades sternly fought
Only for a grave?
Fettered must their country weep,
Those who on her bosom sleep,
Beautiful and brave?
Shall it never rise again,
Better for its martyr's pain,
That dear sunny land?
Ah! she sends the thought away,
She can love, and she can pray,
But not understand.
So the fair brow fadeth fast,
It is very near the last,
And 'tis growing late:
See, the sunbeams fade away,
They will come another day,
But she cannot wait!
Falls the starlight, dim and faint,
On her face, like face of saint,
On her thin white hand:
And no more her spirit pines
For the brighter sun which shines
In the Brighter Land.
The Midnight Lamp
From window, curtainless and high,
There gleamed a sickly, yellow light;
On other casements darkness fell,
But that shone all the dreary night.
And every morning, when the street
Woke to the carman's cheery shout,
Or the quick tread of hurrying feet,
The little yellow light went out.
Beside it sat a haggard man,
Yet 'twas not time had made him so;
Rather, each year that o'er him ran
Had left him a decade of woe.
He lived a month in every night
A month of anguish and despair;
Whilst something on his brow did write
A look that youth should never wear.
He often left the dismal house,
And walked away, with downcast eyes,
As though he feared to see a curse
Writ on the sunny summer skies.
Yet, stern and grave as he appeared,
The little children in the street
Smiled in his face, and never feared
To sport and gambol at his feet.
Yet when those cherub looks were raised,
Half shyly, flashing fun and play,
Scarcely upon their smiles he gazed,
But sighed, and turned his face away;
As though he feared lest childhood's eye
Should chance to penetrate the veil
Of a dark story, and descry
The dismal secret of his tale.
But on one gusty winter eve,
When wind was high, and snow was deep,
Just such a night as makes one grieve
For those who have no home to keep
I drew aside my curtain's fold,
Half shuddering in the frosty air,
The stars were shining, clear and cold,
But that dim lamp—it was not there;
And fears within my spirit stirred,
I felt my brow grow cold and white,
As though a ghostly voice I heard
Upon the silence of the night.
I sought my bed—sleep closed mine eyes
I woke in fear—my brow was damp
I know not what I dreamed, but I
Had dreamed about that little lamp!
I rose, and from my window saw
The house of that mysterious light,
Dull was the morning, dim and raw,
Soiling the snow so pure last night.
People were gathered in the street,
In hushed, mysterious tones they spoke;
Then watchmen came, with heavy feet,
And, passing swiftly mid the folk,
Entered the house, and in its gloom
They found they needs must have a light.
I saw them pass from room to room
To that which once was lit by night,
And long and long they lingered there
(But what they found I could not say):
Then out they came with looks of care,
And sent the people all away.
What had they found?—they found him dead,
That lonely watcher in the night,
Lying alone upon his bed,
And near him his extinguished light.
But though his face was dark and lean,
It wore no more its look of care,
A smile was o'er its sorrow seen,
The cold hand held a lock of hair
A single lock of golden hair
Long, silken, curled, as women's are;
Its owner—was she false as fair?
Or was she dead, or gone afar?
We can but guess that shining tress
Was some sweet relic of his past
A comfort or a bitterness
That soothed, or stung him to the last.
And that was all that man could learn,
But yet it gave me sudden pain
To know that lamp would never burn
On that high window-sill again;
And from my memory ne'er will go
The tarnished hearse, the rusty pall,
The gaping crowd, and all the woe
Of that unfollowed funeral.
A Cripple's Story
Do I not wish I was like other folk?
Well, if a wish would do me any good
I think,—I almost think, sir,—that I should.
But if a lame limb's my appointed yoke,
It's not as bad as many a one might be,
It's easier p'raps to carry than to see!
I was not born here,—No, it must be hard
To be a poor lame child in such a place.
Why wonder at his pinched and wearied face,
When he's from God's own grass and trees debarred?
But just because I pity him, I guess
The God who made him does not pity less!
Lincoln's my place,—I hear they call it flat
The country thereabouts; but to my mind
It's just the sweetest spot you'll ever find:
But then the place one's born in's always that!
I know you'll smile, sir, but I often sit,
Hear parson talk of Heaven, and think of it!
They were as kind at home, as kind can be;
If father carried Kate or little Joe,
The rest would fret, and want a turn, you know,
But never minded how he carried me!
I've travelled over many a mile like that,
(God help the folks who call you country flat!)
If you've a trouble any one can see,
I think you'll always find them very kind:
It's when you go a-limping in your mind,
You get pushed over, or let coldly be.
Do I know aught of that? Well, sir, I do,
We cripples have our hearts, sir, just like you!
I could not play among the boys so strong,
But played among the girls! And there was one
Would leave her comrades to their dance or furl,
Beside my halting crutch to move along.
Lent me her books, and gave herself no rest
To find the flowers she knew I liked the best.
And at the old church steps she'd always wait,
To give a friendly hand to help me down,
Till prouder of my crutch than of a crown
I grew ! Out of such threads God weaves our fate.
And it went on—and I grew up with her,
And was bewitched to ask—you guess it, sir?
We two were walking in a long green lane:
'Why, Jem,' she said, 'I never thought you'd care,
You seemed so different to the rest, but there,
Forget it ! Let us be ourselves again.'
She pitied me, and yet with half a smile!
I should have understood it all the while.
I was so foolish that I couldn't bear
The fields with all their dear old pollard trees
There always seemed a voice upon the breeze
Saying, 'Why, Jem, I never thought you'd care.'
So now, the old folks dead, I came away,
And found this court—a change of scene, you'll say!
When I went back again, she was not there,
I'd thought to find her wed, and wish her joy.
But she was gone, sir, with a baby-boy!
And where she'd gone the people did not care;
They gave her bitter names and foul disgrace;
O, sir, I only saw the sweet good childish face!
I've never found her, sir; I've gone about
Over this city, when my work was done,
But, sir, they're many, and she's only one!
And now, I think, that I must die without.
She's dead, I fear, in some black city sod;
I loved her sir, and so, I hope, did God!
I've help'd a few poor girls for her dear sake;
I do not fear their paint and evil tongue;
Somebody knew them, sir, when they were young;
They've told me stories fit your heart to break,
And if I'm kind to them, it helps my faith
God sent her comfort in a peaceful death.
I've had a hard life?—Did you say so, sir?
No, no! You see see, I often ponder thus:
The very Bible seems express for us;
Christ healed the lame, and spoke to girls like her.
No, sir, I think my sort of life's the best,
Just makes one tired enough to like one's rest.
It's sixty years I've hobbled on my way,
She must be dead, and I—I can't last long.
I'll know her voice in all the burst of song
When Heaven's gate opens. If she's there, d'ye say?
We mustn't judge our foes, says God above,
Surely some ground of hope for those we love!