Farewell To A Singer

On Her Marriage

As those who hear a sweet bird sing,
And love each song it sings the best,
Grieve when they see it taking wing
And flying to another nest:

We, who have heard your voice so oft,
And loved it more than we can tell,
Our hearts grow sad, our voices soft,
Our eyes grow dim, to say farewell.

It is not kind to leave us thus;
Yet we forgive you and combine,
Although you now bring grief to us,
To wish you joy, for auld lang syne.

The House Of Sleep

When we have laid aside our last endeavour,
And said farewell to one or two that weep,
And issued from the house of life for ever,
To find a lodging in the house of sleep -

With eyes fast shut, in sunless chambers lying,
With folded arms unmoved upon the breast,
Beyond the noise of sorrow and of crying,
Beyond the dread of dreaming, shall we rest?

Or shall there come at last desire of waking,
To walk again on hillsides that we know,
When sunrise through the cold white mist is breaking,
Or in the stillness of the after-glow?

Shall there be yearning for the sound of voices,
The sight of faces, and the touch of hands,
The will that works, the spirit that rejoices,
The heart that feels, the mind that understands?

Shall dreams and memories crowding from the distance,
Shall ghosts of old ambition or of mirth,
Create for us a shadow of existence,
A dim reflection of the life of earth?

And being dead, and powerless to recover
The substance of the show whereon we gaze,
Shall we be likened to the hapless lover,
Who broods upon the unreturning days?

Not so: for we have known how swift to perish
Is man's delight when youth and health take wing,
Until the winter leaves him nought to cherish
But recollections of a vanished spring.

Dream as we may, desire of life shall never
Disturb our slumbers in the house of sleep.
Yet oh, to think we may not greet for ever
The one or two that, when we leave them, weep!

The Outcast's Farewell

The sun is banished,
The daylight vanished,
No rosy traces
Are left behind.
Here in the meadow
I watch the shadow
Of forms and faces
Upon your blind.

Through swift transitions,
In new positions,
My eyes still follow
One shape most fair.
My heart delaying
Awhile, is playing
With pleasures hollow,
Which mock despair.

I feel so lonely,
I long once only
To pass an hour
With you, O sweet!
To touch your fingers,
Where fragrance lingers
From some rare flower,
And kiss your feet.

But not this even
To me is given.
Of all sad mortals
Most sad am I,
Never to meet you,
Never to greet you,
Nor pass your portals
Before I die.

All men scorn me,
Not one will mourn me,
When from their city
I pass away.
Will you to-morrow
Recall with sorrow
Him whom with pity
You saw to-day?

Outcast and lonely,
One thing only
Beyond misgiving
I hold for true,
That, had you known me,
You would have shown me
A life worth living -
A life for you.

Yes: five years younger
My manhood's hunger
Had you come filling
With plenty sweet,
My life so nourished,
Had grown and flourished,
Had God been willing
That we should meet.

How vain to fashion
From dreams and passion
The rich existence
Which might have been!
Can God's own power
Recall the hour,
Or bridge the distance
That lies between?

Before the morning,
From pain and scorning
I sail death's river
To sleep or hell.
To you is given
The life of heaven.
Farewell for ever,
Farewell, farewell!

To The Reader Of ‘university Notes’

Ah yes, we know what you're saying,
As your eye glances over these Notes:
'What asses are these that are braying
With flat and unmusical throats?
Who writes such unspeakable patter?
Is it lunatics, idiots—or who?'
And you think there is 'something the matter.'
Well, we think so too.

We have sat, full of sickness and sorrow,
As the hours dragged heavily on,
Till the midnight has merged into morrow,
And the darkness is going or gone.
We are Editors. Give us the credit
Of meaning to do what we could;
But, since there is nothing to edit,
It isn't much good.

Once we shared the delightful delusion
That to edit was racy and rare,
But we suffered a sad disillusion,
And we found that our castles were air;
We had decked them with carvings and gildings,
We had filled them with laughter and fun,
But all of a sudden the buildings
Came down with a run.

Not a trace was there left of the carving,
And the gilding had vanished from sight;
But the 'column' for matter was starving,
And we had not to edit—but write.
So we set to and wrote. Can you wonder,
If the writing was feeble or dead?
We had started as editors—Thunder!
We were authors instead.

We'd mistaken our calling, election,
Vocation, department, and use;
We had thought that our task was selection,
And we found that we had to produce.
So we sigh for release from our labours,
We pray for a happy despatch,
We will take our last leave of our neighbours,
And then—Colney Hatch.

We are singing this dolorous ditty
As we part at the foot of the stairs;
We cannot but think it's a pity,
But what matter? there's nobody cares.
Our candle burns low in its socket,
There is nothing left but the wick;
And these Notes, that went up like a rocket,
Come down like the stick.

Ever to be the best. To lead
In whatsoever things are true;
Not stand among the halting crew,
The faint of heart, the feeble-kneed,
Who tarry for a certain sign
To make them follow with the rest—
Oh, let not their reproach be thine!
But ever be the best.

For want of this aspiring soul,
Great deeds on earth remain undone,
But, sharpened by the sight of one,
Many shall press toward the goal.
Thou running foremost of the throng,
The fire of striving in thy breast,
Shalt win, although the race be long,
And ever be the best.

And wilt thou question of the prize?
'Tis not of silver or of gold,
Nor in applauses manifold,
But hidden in the heart it lies:
To know that but for thee not one
Had run the race or sought the quest,
To know that thou hast ever done
And ever been the best.

Adventure Of A Poet

As I was walking down the street
A week ago,
Near Henderson's I chanced to meet
A man I know.

His name is Alexander Bell,
His home, Dundee;
I do not know him quite so well
As he knows me.

He gave my hand a hearty shake,
Discussed the weather,
And then proposed that we should take
A stroll together.

Down College Street we took our way,
And there we met
The beautiful Miss Mary Gray,
That arch coquette,
Who stole last spring my heart away
And has it yet.

That smile with which my bow she greets,
Would it were fonder!
Or else less fond-since she its sweets
On all must squander.

Thus, when I meet her in the streets,
I sadly ponder,
And after her, as she retreats,
My thoughts will wander.

And so I listened with an air
Of inattention,
While Bell described a folding-chair
Of his invention.

And when we reached the Swilcan Burn,
'It looks like rain,'
Said I, 'and we had better turn.'
'Twas all in vain,

For Bell was weather-wise, and knew
The signs aerial;
He bade me note the strip of blue
Above the Imperial,

Also another patch of sky,
South-west by south,
Which meant that we might journey dry
To Eden's mouth.

He was a man with information
On many topics:
He talked about the exploration
Of Poles and Tropics,

The scene in Parliament last night,
Sir William's letter;
'And do you like the electric light,
Or gas-lamps better?'

The strike among the dust-heap pickers
He said was over;
And had I read about the liquors
Just seized at Dover?

Or the unhappy printer lad
At Rothesay drowned?
Or the Italian ironclad
That ran aground ?

He told me stories (lately come)
Of town society,
Some slightly tinged with truth, and some
With impropriety.

He spoke of duelling in France,
Then lightly glanced at
Mrs. Mackenzie's monster dance,
Which he had danced at.

So he ran on, till by-and-by
A silence came,
For which I greatly fear that I
Was most to blame.

Then neither of us spoke a word
For quite a minute
When presently a thought occurred
With promise in it.

'How did you like the Shakespeare play
The students read
By this, the Eden like a bay
Before us spread.

Near Eden many softer plots
Of sand there be;
Our feet, like Pharaoh's chariots,
Drave heavily.

And ere an answer I could frame,
He said that Irving
Of his extraordinary fame
Was undeserving,

And for his part he thought more highly
Of Ellen Terry;
Although he knew a girl named Riley
At Broughty Ferry,
Who might be, if she only chose,
As great a star,
She had a part in the tableaux
At the bazaar.

If I had said but little yet,
I now said less,
And smoked a home-made cigarette
In mute distress.

The smoke into his face was blown
By the wind's action,
And this afforded me, I own,
Some satisfaction;

But still his tongue received no check
Till, coming home,
We stood beside the ancient wreck
And watched the foam

Wash in among the timbers, now
Sunk deep in sand,
Though I can well remember how
I used to stand

On windy days and hold my hat,
And idly turn
To read 'Lovise, Frederikstad'
Upon her stern.

Her stern long since was buried quite,
And soon no trace
The absorbing sand will leave in sight
To mark her place.

This reverie was not permitted
To last too long.
Bell's mind had left the stage, and flitted
To fields of song.

And now he spoke of Marmion
And Lewis Morris;
The former he at school had done,
Along with Horace.

His maiden aunts, no longer young,
But learned ladies,
Had lately sent him Songs Unsung,
Epic of Hades,

Gycia, and Gwen. He thought them fine;
Not like that Browning,
Of whom he would not read a line,
He told me, frowning.

Talking of Horace -- very clever
Beyond a doubt,
But what the Satires meant, he never
Yet could make out.

I said I relished Satire Nine
Of the First Book;
But he had skipped to the divine
Eliza Cook.

He took occasion to declare,
In tones devoted,
How much he loved her old Arm-chair,
Which now he quoted.

And other poets he reviewed,
Some two or three,
Till, having touched on Thomas Hood,
He turned to me.

'Have you been stringing any rhymes
Of late?' he said.
I could not lie, but several times
I shook my head.

The last straw to the earth will bow
The overloaded camel,
And surely I resembled now
That ill-used mammal.

See how a thankless world regards
The gifted choir
Of minstrels, singers, poets, bards,
Who sweep the lyre.

This is the recompense we meet
In our vocation.
We bear the burden and the heat
Of inspiration;

The beauties of the earth we sing
In glowing numbers,
And to the 'reading public' bring
Post-prandial slumbers ;

We save from Mammon's gross dominion
These sordid times ....
And all this, in the world's opinion,
Is 'stringing rhymes.'

It is as if a man should say,
In accents mild,
'Have you been stringing beads to-day,
My gentle child?'

(Yet even children fond of singing
Will pay off scores,
And I to-day at least am stringing
Not beads but bores.)

And now the sands were left behind,
The Club-house past.
I wondered, Can I hope to find
Escape at last,

Or must I take him home to tea,
And bear his chatter
Until the last train to Dundee
Shall solve the matter?

But while I shuddered at the thought
And planned resistance,
My conquering Alexander caught
Sight in the distance

Of two young ladies, one of whom
Is his ambition;
And so, with somewhat heightened bloom,
He asked permission

To say good-bye to me and follow.
I freely gave it,
And wished him all success.
Apollo Sic me servavit.