Tristan And Isolde. The Love Sin.
None, unless the saints above,
Knew the secret of their love;
For with calm and stately grace
Isolde held her queenly place,
Tho’ the courtiers’ hundred eyes
Sought the lovers to surprise,
Or to read the mysteries
Of a love—so rumour said
By a magic philtre fed,
Which for ever in their veins
Burn’d with love’s consuming pains.
Yet their hands would twine unseen,
In a clasp ’twere hard to sever;
And whoso watched their glances meet,
Gazing as they’d gaze for ever,
Might have marked the sudden heat
Crims’ning on each flushing cheek,
As the tell‐tale blood would speak
Of love that never should have been
The love of Tristan and his Queen.
But, what hinders that the two,
In the spring of their young life,
Love each other as they do?
Thus the tempting thoughts begin
Little recked they of the sin;
Nature joined them hand in hand,
Is not that a truer band
Than the formal name of wife?
Ah! what happy hours were theirs!
One might note them at the feast
Laughing low to loving airs,
Loving airs that pleased them best;
Or interchanging the swift glance
In the mazes of the dance.
So the sunny moments rolled,
And they wove bright threads of gold
Through the common web of life;
Never dreaming of annoy,
Or the wild world’s wicked strife;
Painting earth and heaven above
In the light of their own joy,
In the purple light of love.
Happy moments, which again
Brought sweet torments in their train:
All love’s petulance and fears,
Wayward doubts and tender tears;
Little jealousies and pride,
That can loving hearts divide:
Murmured vow and clinging kiss,
Working often bane as bliss;
All the wild, capricious changes
Through which lovers’ passion ranges.
Yet would love, in every mood,
Find Heaven’s manna for its food;
For love will grow wan and cold,
And die ere ever it is old,
That is never assailed by fears,
Or steeped in repentant tears,
Or passed through the fire like gold.
So loved Tristan and Isolde,
In youth’s sunny, golden time,
In the brightness of their prime;
Little dreaming hours would come,
Like pale shadows from the tomb,
When an open death of doom
Had been still less hard to bear,
Than the ghastly, cold despair
Of those hidden vows, whose smart
Pale the cheek, and break the heart.
Has the line of the Patriots ended,
The race of the heroes failed,
That the bow of the mighty, unbended,
Falls slack from the hands of the quailed?
Or do graves lie too thick in the grass
For the chariot of Progress to pass?
Did the men of the past ever falter?
The stainless in name and fame.
They flung life’s best gifts on the altar
To kindle the sacrifice flame,
Till it rose like a pillar of light
Leading up from Egyptian night.
Oh! hearts all aflame, with the daring
Of youth leaping forth into life!
Have ye courage to lift up, unfearing,
The banner fallen low in the strife,
From hands faint through life’s deepest loss,
And bleeding from nails of the cross?
Can ye work on as they worked—unaided,
When all but honour seemed lost?
And give to your Country, as they did,
All, without counting the cost?
For the children have risen since then
Up to the height of men.
Now, swear by those pale martyr‐faces,
All worn by the furrows of tears,
By the lost youth no morrow replaces,
By all their long‐wasted years,
By the fires trod out on each hearth,
When the Exiles were driven forth;
By the young lives so vainly given,
By the raven hair blanched to grey,
By the strong spirits crushed and riven,
By the noble aims faded away,
By their brows, as the brows of a king,
Crowned by the circlet of suffering—
To strive as they strove, yet retrieving
The cause from all shadow of blame,
In the Congress of Peoples achieving
A place for our nation and name;
Not by war between brothers in blood,
But by glory made perfect through good.
We are blind, not discerning the promise,
’Tis the sword of the Spirit that kills;
Give us Light, and the fetters fall from us,
For the strong soul is free when it wills.
Not our wrongs but our sins make the cloud
That darkens the land like a shroud.
With this sword like an Archangel’s gleaming,
Go war against Evil and Sin,
’Gainst the falsehood, and meanness, and seeming
That stifle the true life within.
Your bonds are the bonds of the soul,
Strike them off, and you spring to the goal!
O men who have passed through the furnace,
Assayed like the gold, and as pure!
By your strength can the weakest gain firmness
The strongest may learn to endure,
When once they have chosen their part,
Though the sword may drive home to each heart.
O Martyrs! The scorners may trample
On the broken hearts strewed in their path;
But the young race, all flushed by example,
Will awake to the duties it hath,
And re‐kindle your own torch of Truth
With the passionate splendours of youth!
Neath the casement stood a Ritter,
Sings by night with sweetest tone:
“Thekla, dearest Thekla, listen,
Wilt thou be my bride, mine own?
“Castles have I, parks and forests,
Mountains veined with the red gold;
And a heart that pineth for thee,
With a wealth of love untold.
“I will deck my love in jewels,
Gold and pearl peril on brow and hand,
Broidered robes and costly girdles,
From the far‐off Paynim land.
“Here I hang upon the rose‐tree,
Love, a little golden ring;
Wilt thou take it? wilt thou wear it,
Love?” Thus did the Ritter sing.
Then upon his black steed mounting,
Kissed his hand and doffed his plume.
Lovely Thekla stole down gently,
Sought the gold ring in the gloom.
“Little ring, wilt thou deceive me?
Like the rose dost hide a thorn?”
As she takes it, close beside her
Sounds a ringing laugh of scorn.
And the fatal Mother, mocking,
Points her finger to the ring:
“What, my maiden! sold thy beauty
For that paltry glittering thing?
“Plucked the bauble from a rose‐tree?
Ring and rose and doom in all;
Roses bright from cheek of beauty,
Roses bright must fade and fall.
“Wilt thou follow me?” They glided
Over heath, through moor and wood,
Till beside an ancient windmill,
In the lone, dark night they stood.
All the mighty wheels were silent,
All the giant arms lay still
“Bride and wife, but never mother,
Maiden, swear, is such thy will?
“Dost swear?” “I swear!” They glided
Up the stairs and through the door,
With her wand the magic Mother
Draws a circle on the floor.
Grains of yellow corn, seven,
Takes she from a sack beside,
Draws the gold ring of her lover
From the finger of the bride.
“Seven children would have stolen
Light and beauty from thine eyes,
But as I cast the yellow corn
Through thy gold ring, each one dies.
Slowly creaked the mill, then faster
Whirled the giant arms on high;
Shuddering, hears the trembling maiden
Crushing bones, and infant’s cry.
Now there is a deathlike silence,
Thekla hears her heart alone
Again the weird one flings the corn,
Again that plaintive plantive infant’s moan.
Two—three—four—the mill goes faster,
Whirling, crushing.—Ah! those cries!
“Bride, thou’lt never be a mother;
Thy beauty’s saved—the seventh dies!”
Seven turns the mill hath taken,
Seven moans hath Thekla heard:
Then all is still. The moon from Heaven
Shines down calm upon the sward.
“Now take back thy ring in safety;
Mother’s joy or mother’s woe,
Wasting pain or fading beauty,
Maiden, thou shalt never know!
“Home, before the morning hour!”
Home in terror Thekla flies,
Shuddering, she hears behind her
Laugh of scorn, infants’ cries.
An Appeal To Ireland
The sin of our race is upon us,
The pitiless, cruel disdain
Of brother for brother, tho’ coiling
Round both is the one fatal chain;
And aimless and reckless and useless
Our lives pass along to the grave
In tumults of words that bewilder,
And the conflicts of slave with slave.
Yet shadows are heavy around us,
The darkness of sin and of shame,
While the souls of the Nation to slumber
Are lulled by vain visions of fame;
True hearts, passion‐wasted, and breaking
With sense of our infinite wrong,
Oh! wake them, nor dread the awaking,
We need all the strength of the strong.
For we rage with senseless endeavours
In a fever of wild unrest,
While glory lies trampled, dishonoured,
Death‐pale, with a wound in her breast;
Had we loosened one chain from the spirit,
Had we strove from the ruin of things
To build up a Temple of Concord,
More fair than the palace of Kings;
Our name might be heard where the Nations
Press on to the van of the fight,
Where Progress makes war upon Evil,
And Darkness is scattered by Light.
They have gold and frankincense and myrrh
To lay at the feet of their King,
But we—what have we but the wine‐cup
Of wrath and of sorrow to bring?
Let us ask of our souls, lying under
The doom of this bondage and ban,
Why we, made by God high as Angels,
Should fall so much lower than man;
Some indeed have been with us would scale
Heav’n’s heights for life‐fire if they dare
But the vultures now gnaw at their hearts
Evermore on the rocks of Despair.
Let us think, when we stand before God,
On the Day of the Judgment roll,
And He asks of the work we have done
In the strength of each God‐like soul;
Can we answer—“Our prayers have gone up
As light from the stars and the sun,
And Thy blessing came down on our deeds
As a crown when the victory’s won.
“We fought with wild beasts, wilder passions,
As of old did the saints of God,
Tho’ our life‐blood ran red in the dust
Of the fierce arena we trod;
We led up Thy people triumphant
From Egypt’s dark bondage of sin,
And made the fair land which Thou gavest
All glorious without and within.
“We changed to a measure of music
The discord and wail of her days,
For sorrow gave garments of gladness,
For scorn of her enemies praise;
We crowned her a Queen in the triumph
Of noble and beautiful lives,
While her chariot of Freedom rolled on
Through the crash of her fallen gyves.”
I ask of you, Princes, and Rulers,
I ask of you, Brothers around,
Can ye thus make reply for our people
When the Nations are judged or crowned?
If not, give the reins of the chariot
To men who can curb the wild steeds
They are nearing the gulf, in this hour
We appeal by our wrongs and our needs.
Stand back and give place to new leaders;
We need them—some strong gifted souls,
From whose lips, never touched by a falsehood,
The heart’s richest eloquence rolls.
True Patriots by grandeur of purpose,
True men by the power of the brain:
The chosen of God to lift upward
His Ark with hands clear of all stain.
We need them to tend the Lord’s vineyard,
As shepherds to watch round His fold,
With brave words from pure hearts outpouring,
As wine from a chalice of gold;
That the souls of the Nation uplifted,
May shine in new radiance of light,
As of old stood the Prophets transfigured
In glory with Christ on the height.
Far out where the grand western sunsets
Flush crimson the mountain and sea,
And the echoes of Liberty mingle
With the roar of the waves on the lea;
Where over the dim shrouded passes
The clouds fling a rainbow‐hued arch,
And through giant‐rent portals a people
Go forth on their sad, solemn march:
I had dreams of a future of glory
For this fair motherland of mine,
When knowledge would bring with its splendours
The Human more near the Divine.
And as flash follows flash on the mountains,
When lightnings and thunders are hurled,
So would throb in electrical union
Her soul with the soul of the world.
For we stand too apart in our darkness,
As planets long rent from the sun,
And the mystical breath of the spirit
Scarce touches our hearts sweeping on.
I appeal from this drear isolation
To earth, to the mountains, and sky
Must we die as of thirst in a desert,
While full tides of life pass us by?
Yet still, through the darkness and sorrow,
I dream of a time yet to be,
When from mountain and ocean to Heaven
Will rise up the Hymn of the Free.
When our Country, made perfect through trial,
White‐robed, myrtle‐crowned, as a Bride,
Will stand forth, “a Lady of Kingdoms,”
Through Light and through Love glorified.
Full seven years have passed and flown
But years o’er Thekla lightly pass,
As rose leaves, falling one by one,
From roses on the summer grass.
“It is our bridal day,” she said;
“We’re bidden to a christ’ning feast
I’ll wear the robe I had when wed,
The robe I love of all the best.
“I’ll wear my crown of jewels rare:
On brow and bosom let them shine;
Yet diamonds in my golden hair
Were dull beside these eyes of mine!”
She laughed aloud before the glass.
“Some women’s hair would turn to grey
With cares, ere half the years did pass
I’ve numbered since my wedding day.
“But they were mothers—fools, I trow.
Life’s current all too quickly runs;
I would not give my beauty now
For all their goodly race of sons.”
She sprang upon her palfrey white,
While Erick held the broidered broiderd rein,
And showered down her veil of light
Upon the flowing, silky mane.
The guests rose up in wonderment
Such beauty never had been seen
And bowed before her as she went,
As if she were a crownéd queen.
The knights pressed round with words of praise,
And murmured homage in her ear,
And swore to serve her all their days,
E’en die for her—would she but hear.
But vainly, all in vain they sought
One answering smile of love to win.
Upon her soul there lieth nought
Save that one only, deadly sin.
“I pray you now I fain would have
So fair an angel hold my child,”
The mother said; and smiling smilling , gave
To Thekla’s arms her infant mild.
Advancing slow, with stately air,
Beside the font she took her place,
The infant, like a rosebud fair,
Nestling amid her bosom’s lace.
She lays it on the bishop’s arm,
The while he makes the blessed sign,
And sains it safe from ghostly harm
By Father, Spirit, Son Divine.
Then reaches out her hands again
To take it—but with moaning sound,
Like one distraught with sudden pain,
Falls pale and fainting to the ground.
“She has no children,” Erick said,
As pleading for the strange mischance;
“This only grief since we were wed
Has saddened sore her life, perchance.”
“She has no children!” murmured low
The happy mothers, gathered near;
“No child to love her—bitter woe;
No child to kiss her on her bier!”
But graver matrons shook the head:
“That witchlike beauty bodes no good;
Witch hands can never hold, ’tis said,
A child just blessed by holy rood.”
They raised her up; she spake no word,
But slowly drooped her tearful eyes;
The rushing wave was all she heard,
The whirling wheels, the infants’ cries.
And Erick said, with bitter smile:
“You play the mother all too ill;
Madonnas do not suit your style.”
Her thoughts were by the lonely mill.
They set her on her palfrey white;
She heeds not all their taunting sneers,
But showers down her veil of light,
To hide the conscious, guilty tears.
They rode through all his vast estate,
But rode in silence—he behind,
Sore pondering on his childless fate,
With ruffled brow and moody mind.
They rode through shadowy forest glades,
By meadows filled with lowing kine,
By streams that ran like silver threads
Down from the dark‐fringed hills of pine.
“Alas!” he thought, “no child of mine
When I am dead shall take my place;
Must all the wealth of all my line
Pass to a hated kinsman’s race?
“Now, by my sword, I’d give up all,
Wealth, fame, and glory, all I’ve won,
So that within my father’s hall
Beside me stood a noble son!”
He saw her white veil floating back
Along the twilight gray and still,
Like ghostly shadows on her track
Her thoughts were by the lonely mill.
And now they neared the ancient church,
The ancient church where they were wed!
The moonlight full upon the porch
Shone bright, and Erick raised his head.
O Heaven! There upon the lawn
The palfrey’s shadow stands out clear,
But Thekla’s shadow—it is gone!
Nor form nor floating veil is there.
He spurred his steed with bitter cry:
“Could she have fallen in deathly swoon?”
But no, there, slowly riding by,
He sees her by the bright full moon.
With gesture fierce he seized her rein:
“ Woman or fiend! Look, if you dare,
The palfrey casts a shadow plain,
But yours—O horror!—is not there!”
She gathered close her silken veil,
And wrung her hands, and prayed for grace,
While down from Heaven the calm moon pale
Looked like God’s own accusing face.
He flung aside the broidered rein:
“O woe the day that we were wed!
A witch bride to my arms I’ve ta’en,
Branded by God’s own finger dread.”
She followed, weeping, step by step,
Led by the unseen hand of Fate,
Still keeping in the shadows deep,
Until they reached the castle gate.
He strode across the corridor,
And rolling back upon its ring
The curtain curtan of her chamber door,
He motioned her to enter in.
She laid aside her silken veil,
The golden circlet from her head,
And waited, motionless and pale,
Like one uprisen from the dead.
Could she deny, e’en if she would?
The moonlight wrapped her like a sheet.
And in the accusing light she stood,
As if before God’s judgment‐seat.
Brief were his questions, stern his wrath;
A doom seemed laid on her to tell,
How, with the ring of plighted troth,
Her hand had wrought the murd’rous spell.
How she had marred his ancient line,
And broke the life‐chord that should bless,
And sent the seven fair souls to pine
Back to the shades of nothingness
That so her beauty might not wane,
Her glorious beauty—fatal good;
Yet one she would not lose to gain
The rights of sacred motherhood.
And still she told the tale as cold
The witch‐fire burning in her eyes
As if it were some legend old,
Drawn from a poet’s memories.
He cursed her in his bitter wrath,
He cursed her by her children dead,
He cursed the ring of plighted troth,
He cursed the day when they were wed.
Fierce and more fierce his accents rose:
“Away!” he cried, “false hag of sin:
I see through all this painted gloze
The black and hideous soul within.
“Oh! false and foul, thou art to me
A devil—not a woman fair!
Like coiling snakes I seem to see
Each twisted tress of golden hair.
“I hate thee, as I hate God’s foe.
Forth from my castle halls this night:
I could not breathe the air, if so
Thy poison breath were here to blight.”
She cowered, shivered, spake no word,
But fell before him at his feet,
As if an angel of the Lord
Had smote her at the judgment‐seat.
And on her heart there came at last
The dread, deep consciousness of sin,
That ghastly spectre which had cast
Upon her life this suffering.
And from her hand the gold ring fell
Her wedding ring—and broke in twain;
The fatal ring that wrought the spell,
The accursed ring of love and pain.
The spell seemed broken then: the word
Came, softly breath’d: “Oh, pardon! grace!”
And pleadingly to her dread lord
She lifted up her angel face
With golden tresses all unbound,
Still lovely through her shame and loss,
Around his feet her arms she wound,
As sinner might around the cross.
He dashed her twining hands aside,
He spurned her from him as she knelt.
“O hateful beauty!” Erick cried,
“The source of all thy hellish guilt.
“Pray for a cloud that can eclipse
That long, white streak of moonlight pale.
No word of grace from mortal lips
Can bring a ruined soul from Hell.
“Away! I would not pardon, not
(I swear it by the holy rood)
Unless upon that hated spot
An angel with a lily stood!”
She shuddered in the moonlight pale,
That doomed and banned her from his sight,
Then rose up with a bitter wail,
And fled away into the night!