In the high leaves of a walnut,
On the very topmost boughs,
A boy that climbed the branching bole
His cradled limbs would house.
On the airy bed that rocked him
Long, idle hours he'd lie
Alone with white clouds sailing
The warm blue of the sky.
I remember not what his dreams were;
But the scent of a leaf's enough
To house me higher than those high boughs
In a youth he knew not of,
In a light that no day brings now
But none can spoil or smutch,
A magic that I felt not then
And only now I touch.
The Tram (In The Midlands)
A grinding swerve, a hissing spurt,
And then a droning through the dirt!
The tram glides on its wonted way
Of everyday, of everyday.
Past every corner still the same
Squat houses huddle, meanly serried,
An image of the mute and maim
With life behind their windows buried;
Blank windows staring under slate
That presses on them desolate
As eyes bereft of brows, and drips
On puddled, flowerless garden strips.
Is it evening, noon or morn?
Is it Autumn, is it Spring?
Nothing tells but the forlorn
Rain that is over everything.
A rain that seems too slow to fall
And drifts, an immaterial pall
Of wetness in the air; it leaves
A dismal glistening on the eaves,
And grimed upon the pavement lies,
For the dirt is in the very skies.
Like without, and like within!
Dull bodies clatter out and in,
And the bell clangs, as they subside
On the long seat, and on we glide,
Defensive creatures, all askance
At one another! Small eyes lance
Suspicion; fingers tighten close
On baskets; thin lips will not lose
A word too much, and skirts draw shy
From any touch too neighbourly.
And now a bald--head, grossly quaking
And lurching round for elbow space,
Sets a black--beaded bonnet shaking
Above a pinched averted face
Or stiffly--bastioned heaving bust
That virtuously expands distrust.
And all the fluttered narrow looks
Appear like little painful books
Of soiled accounts, where bargains keep
Their cherished tale of capture cheap.
For life is all a cheapening,
And the rain is over everything,
And there is neither mirth nor woe.
Who made it so, who made it so?
As I muse, as I muse,
Numbed at heart, with eyelids leaden,
Stupefying senses lose
All but sounds and sights that deaden;
Glassy gaze and shuffled feet,
Humid glide of the endless street
Passing by with rank on rank
Of dripping roofs and windows blank,
Till one dull motion drones the brain
Out of meaning, out of time,
And the blood beats to a chime
As of bells with mouth inane.
And now a monstrous ark it seems
That's hurried with the speed of dreams
Through streets of ages! On it drives
Among unnumbered years and lives.
And now the sound grows like a surging,
As if this speed a host were urging,
And in the sound are voices coming
Thick, and tumultuous music drumming;
And savage odours are astir
Of forest leaves and hidden fur,
And naked limbs of hunters glide
And warriors in the great sun ride,
And mutinous--nostrilled horses champing
With restless necks are strongly stamping.
The Roman purple passes proud
Like an eagle through a cloud.
Lo, knights--at--arms with pennons dancing
To death's adventure gay advancing,
And here a queen that is a bride
Crimson--robed and lonely--eyed,
And there a pilgrim's dusty feet
Faring to the heavenly city;
And now an idle beggar singing
How the sun and wind are sweet
A wayside song, a wanderer's ditty:
And still around, out of the ground,
The armies of the dead are springing;
And with unearthly speed and number
Compelled like those that walk in slumber
They follow, follow! And at my ear
An imp that squats with demon leer
Is screaming, See the Triumph go!
See for whom the trumpets blow!
The prophesied, that goes before us!
This is he, Time's crown and wonder
That has the very stars for plunder;
This is he, the Promethean,
(Hark the ever--rolling paean
With a wilderness of apes for chorus!)
Who fetched from heaven the stormy fire
To serve and toil for his desire,
And plumbed the globe, and spoiled old Earth
Of all the secrets of her birth;
See him, throned triumphant there,
Like a toad, with glassy stare;
Eyes, and sees not; ears, and hears not!
Heart, and hopes not; soul, and fears not!
A boy with a bunch of primroses!
He sits uneasy, flushed of cheek,
With wandering eyes and does not speak:
His hands are hot; the flowers are his.
But Spring, O Spring is in the world.
And to the woods my fancy flying
Sees all the little fronds uncurled,
Where still the dead brown bracken's lying
And a thousand thousand shining drops
Are on the young leaves of the copse.
The spurge has all his green cups filled--
A gust will shake and brim them over--
From trembling oats the rain is spilled;
I smell the sweetness of the clover.
Long pods of tendrilled vetch are thirsting,
White flowers on the thorn are bursting;
Twigs redden on the sapling oaks
Above the grass that shoots and soaks;
The streams flow silent, full and fast;
The cuckoo's cry is heard at last;
In forky boughs and leafy shade
There's busyness for every wing;
And sweet through stalk and root and blade
Run juices of the wine of Spring.
But the primrose perfume, faint and rare
Is like a sigh of Spring forsaken.
O shy soft beauty, torn and taken!
O delicate bruised tissue fair!
You are like the eyes of an outcast fond,
Or a face seen at a prison--grate:
For Beauty's but a vagabond
And knows no home and has no mate.
Alas! what dungeon walls we rear,
For our possession, round us here!
We make a castle of defence
Out of the dullness of our sense;
Possess our burrow like the mole;
And with the blundering hands of chance
Grow cruel in our ignorance.
What is another's springing soul
That I should seek to force and bind it?
To catch my gain where it has tripped,
To thrust it down when it has slipped,
To stupefy and dumb and blind it,
Fortress my virtue with its failing,
And kindle courage at its quailing?
What is another's thought, that I
Should wish it mine in effigy?
Ah! we that grasp and bind and tame,
It is ourselves, ourselves we maim;
We maim the world. The very Spring
Stops all mute and will not sing,
The sapless branches will not quicken,
The cells of secret honey sicken,
Giant brambles writhe and twist
About the trees in poisonous mist.
The spider fattens; flies oppress,
And the buds are blackened promises,
Nothing stirs, but the leaf is shed,
And all the world of wonder's dead!
O for the touch that shall awake!
O for the word that shall renew!
And all this crust of sense shall break
And the world of wonder pierce us through;
The scales be fallen from a sight
Ravished with fountains of delight,
And the sad dullness of our scorn
Be like remembered night at morn:
Then we shall feel what we have made
Of one another, and be afraid.
The dripping of the boughs in silence heard
Softly; the low note of some lingering bird
Amid the weeping vapour; the chill fall
Of solitary evening upon all
That stirs and hopes and apprehends and grieves,
With pining odours of the ruined leaves
Have like a dew distilled upon my heart
The air of death: but now recoiling start
Longing and keen remembrance out of sighs;
And forward the desiring spirit flies
Toward the wild peace of that illumined shore,
Which, left behind her, yet still shines before;
To Douro, rushing through the mighty hills.
Now his great stream with fancied splendour fills
Even this brooding twilight; a swift ghost,
Journeying forever to the glimmering coast,
Where his majestic voice is heard afar,
Exulting dim upon that ocean bar.
O Douro, gliding by dark woods, and fleet
Beneath thy shadowy rocks in the noon heat,
How my heart faints to follow after thee
On one true course to my deep destined sea!
To take no care of dimness or sunshine,
Urged ever by an inward way divine,
Nor falter in this heavy gloom that brings
So thick upon me lamentable things
Of earth, and hinders the swift spirit's wings,
And clouds the steadfast vision that sustains
Alone the trembling heart amid perpetual pains.
Dear friend, who thirstest, even as I, to be
Heir and possessor of sweet liberty,
Once more in memory let us pluck the hour
That bloomed so perfect, and renew the power
Of joy within our wondering breasts, to feel
That freshness of eternal things, and heal
All our unhappy thoughts in those pure rays.
Not yet the last of these delightful days
Into the dark unwillingly has flown,
And thou and I upon a hill o'ergrown,
That indolently shadows Douro stream,
Together watch the wonderful clear dream
Of evening. Under the dark shore of pines
Noiselessly running, the wide water shines.
Curving afar, from where the mountains lift
Their burning heads, through many a forest rift
The River comes, scenting the spaces free
In this broad channel, of his welcoming sea.
No more by silent precipices hewn
Out of the night, murmuring a lonely tune
To craggy Fregeneda; nor where shines
Regoa, throned among her purple vines,
Impetuously seeking valleys new;
But smoothing his broad mirror to the hue
And peace of heaven, unhasting now he flows
And with the sky unfathomably glows,
Even as on yonder shore the woods receive
In their empurpled bosoms the warm eve.
As when a lover gazes tenderly
Upon his loved one, and, as tender, she
Hushes her heart, her joy to realize,
So hushed, so lovely, so contented lies
Earth, by that earnest--gazing glory blest.
But on this hither bank that fervent West
Is hidden behind us, and the stems around
Spring shadowy from the bare and darkling ground.
Only a single pine out of the shade
Emerges, in what splendour soft arrayed!
Magical clearness, warming to the sight
As to the touch it would be: plumed with light,
Motionless upward the tree soars and burns.
But now the dews upon the freshened ferns
In the dim hollow gather, and cool scent
Of herbage with the pine's pure odour blent,
And voices of the villagers below
As home, with music, up the stream they row,
Greet us descending; every blossom sleeps,
And bluer and more blue the evening steeps
Water and fragrant grass and the straight stems
In tender mystery. Down a path that hems
The hollow, to our waiting boat we come.
Pale purple flames shining amid the gloom
Signal the autumn crocus: look, afar,
Betwixt the tree--tops, the first--ventured star!
Soon gliding homeward under shadowy shores
And deepened sky, to the repeated oars'
Strong chime we hasten. Now along pale sand
Our ripple leaps in silver; now the land,
High over the swift water darkly massed,
Echoes our falling blades as we go past;
Until, enthroned upon her hills divine,
The city nears us: lights begin to shine
Scarce from the stars distinguished, so the gloom
Has mingled earth and sky; more steeply loom
The banks on either side, at intervals
Tufted with trees, or crowned with winding walls;
And now at last the river opens large,
Filled with the city's murmur; from his marge,
Slope over slope, the glimmering terraces
Rise, and their scattered lamps' bright images
Cast on the wavering water; and we hear
The sound of soft bells, and cries faint or near
From the dim wharves, or anchored ships, whose spars
Entangle in dark meshes the white stars.
And pale smoke rising blue on the blue air
Sleeps in a thin cloud under heights that bear
Towers and roofs lofty against the west,
Where yet a clearness lingers. Now the breast
Of Douro heaves, foreboding whither bound
His currents hasten, and with joyous sound,
As though the encountering brine new pulses gave,
Lifts, to outrace our speed, his buoyant wave.
For, hearken, up the peaceful evening borne
Out of the wide sea--gates, low thunders warn
Of Ocean beating with his sleepless surge
Along the wild sand--marges: the deep dirge
Of mariners, that wakes the widow's ear
At night, far inland, terrible and near.
Fainter, this eve, he murmurs than as oft
His troubled music: here, by distance soft,
The abrupt volley, the sharp shattering roar,
And seethe of foam flung tumbling up the shore,
Mingle in one wide rumour, that all round
Is heard afar, robing the air with sound.
Deep in my heart I hear it. The still night
Deepens, as we ascend the homeward height,
And loud or low, in following intervals,
Over the hills the sound unwearied falls;
And as upon my bed my heavy eyes
Close up, the drowsing mind re--occupies.
O what a vision floats into my sleep!
As a night--shutting flower, my senses keep
The live day's lingering odours and warm hues,
That thought and motion with themselves transfuse,
Till sound and light and perfume are but one,
Mingled in fires of the embracing sun.
Yet still I am aware of Ocean stirred
Far off, and like a grave rejoicing heard.
Am I awake, or in consenting dreams
Pour thither all my thought's tumultuous streams?
His voice, to meet them, a deep answer sends:
My soul, to listen, her light wing suspends,
And, pillowed upon undulating sound,
For all desire hath satisfaction found.
He calls her thither, where the winds uncage
Vast longing, that the unsounded seas assuage.
Breeze after breeze her wingèd pinnace bears
Over the living water, that prepares
Still widening mystery: she her speed the more
Urges, exulting to have lost the shore,
Supported by the joy that sets her free,
Delighted mistress of her destiny,
Fills the wide night with beating of her wing,
And is content, for ever voyaging
By timeless courses, over worlds unknown,
Lifted and lost, abounding and alone.
Thunder On The Downs
Wide earth, wide heaven, and in the summer air
Silence! The summit of the Down is bare
Between the climbing crests of wood; but those
Great sea--winds, wont, when the wet South--West blows,
To rock tall beeches and strong oaks aloud
And strew torn leaves upon the streaming cloud,
To--day are idle, slumbering far aloof.
Under the solemn height and gorgeous roof
Of cloud--built sky, all earth is indolent.
Wandering hum of bees and thymy scent
Of the short turf enrich pure loneliness;
Scarcely an airy topmost--twining tress
Of bryony quivers where the thorn it wreathes;
Hot fragrance from the honeysuckle breathes,
And sweet the rose floats on the arching briar's
Green fountain, sprayed with delicate frail fires.
For clumps of thicket, dark beneath the blaze
Of the high westering sun, beset the ways
Of smooth grass narrowing where the slope runs steep
Down to green woods, and glowing shadows keep
A freshness round the mossy roots, and cool
The light that sleeps as in a chequered pool
Of golden air. O woods, I love you well,
I love the flowers you hide, your ferny smell;
But here is sweeter solitude, for here
My heart breathes heavenly space; the sky is near
To thought, with heights that fathomlessly glow;
And the eye wanders the wide land below.
And this is England! June's undarkened green
Gleams on far woods; and in the vales between
Gray hamlets, older than the trees that shade
Their ripening meadows, are in quiet laid,
Themselves a part of the warm, fruitful ground.
The little hills of England rise around;
The little streams that wander from them shine
And with their names remembered names entwine
Of old renown and honour, fields of blood
High causes fought on, stubborn hardihood
For freedom spent, and songs, our noblest pride,
That in the heart of England never died,
And burning still make splendour of our tongue.
Glories enacted, spoken, suffered, sung,
You lie emblazoned on this land now sleeping;
And southward, over leagues of forest sweeping
White on the verge glistens the famous sea,
That English wave, on which so haughtily
Towered her sails, and one sail homeward bore
Past capes of silently lamenting shore
Victory's dearest dead. O shores of home,
Since by the vanished watch--fire shields of Rome
Dinted this upland turf, what hearts have ached
To see you far away, what eyes have waked
Ere dawn to watch those cliffs of long desire
One after one rise in their voiceless choir
Out of the twilight over the rough blue
Like music!... But now heavy gleams imbrue
The inland air. Breathless the valleys hold
Their colours in a veil of sultry gold
With mingled shadows that have ceased to crawl;
For far in heaven is thunder! Over all
A single cloud in slow magnificence
Climbs like a mountain, gradual and immense,
With awful head unstirring, and moved on
Against the zenith, towers above the sun.
And still it thickens luminous fold on fold
Of fatal colour, ominously scrolled
And fleeced with fire; above the sun it towers
Like some vast thought quickening a world not ours
Remote in the waste blue, as if behind
Its rim were splendour that could smite us blind,
So doom--piled and intense it crests heaven's height
And mounting makes a menace of the light.
A menace! Yes, for when light comes, we fear.
Light that may touch, as the pure angel--spear,
Us to ourselves, make visible, make start
The apparition of the very heart
And mystery of our thoughts, awaked from under
The mask of cheating habit, and to thunder
Bare in a moment of white fire what we
Have feared and fled, our own reality.
And if a lightning now were loosed in flame
Out of the darkness of the cloud to claim
Thy heart, O England, how wouldst thou be known
In that hour? How to the quick core be shown
And seen? What cry should from thy very soul
Answer the judgment of that thunder--roll?
I hear a voice arraign thee. ``Where is now
The exaltation that once lit thy brow?
Thou countest all thy ocean--sundered lands,
Thou heapest up the labours of thy hands,
Thou seest all thy ships upon the seas.
But in thine own heart mean idolatries
Usurp devotion, choke thee and annul
Noble excess of spirit, and make dull
Thine eyes, enfleshed with much dominion.
Art thou so great and is the glory gone?
Do these bespeak thy freedom who deflower
Time, and make barren every senseless hour,
Who from themselves hurry, like men afraid
Lest what they are be to themselves betrayed?
Or those who in their huddled thousands sweat
To buy the sleep that helps them to forget?--
Life lies unused, life with its loveliness!
While the cry ravens still, ``Possess, Possess!''
And there is no possession. All the lust
Of gainful man is quieted in dust;
His faith, his fear, his joy, his doom he owns,
No more: the rest is parcelled with his bones,
Save what the imagination of his heart
Can to the labour of his hands impart,
Making stones serve his spirit's desire, and breathe.
But thou, what dost thou to the world bequeathe,
Who gatherest riches in a waste of mind
Unto what end, O confidently blind,
Forgetful of the things that grow not old
And alone live and are not bought or sold?''
Speaks that voice truth? Is it for this that great
And tender spirits suffered scorn and hate,
Loved to the utmost, poured themselves, gave all
Nor counted cost, spirits imperial?
Where are they now, they that our memory guard
Among the nations? Shall I say enstarred
And throned aloof? No, not from heavens of thought
Watching our muddied brief procession, not
Judges sublime above us, without share
In our thronged ways of struggle, hope, despair,
But in our blood, our dreams, our deeds they stir,
Strive on our lips for language, shame and spur
The sluggard in us, out of darkness come
Like summoned champions when the world is dumb;
Within our hearts they wait with all they gave:
Woe to us, woe, if we become their grave!
It shall not be. Darken thy pall, and trail,
Thunder of heaven, above the valleys pale!
Another England in my vision glows.
And she is armed within; at last she knows
Herself, and what to her own soul belongs.
Mid the world's irremediable wrongs
She keeps her faith; and nothing of her name
Or of her handiwork but doth proclaim
Her purpose. Her own soul hath made her free,
Not circumstance; she knows no victory
Save of the mind: in her is nothing done,
No wrong, no shame, no glory of any one,
But is the cause of all and each, a thing
Felt like a fire to kindle and to sting
The proud blood of a nation. On her brows
Is hope; her body doth her spirit house
Express and eloquent, not dumb and frore;
And her voice echoes over sea and shore,
And all the lands and isles that are her own
In choric interchange and antiphon
Answer, as fancy hears in yonder cloud
From vale to vale repeated low and loud
The still--suspended thunder. Hearts of Youth,
High--beating, ardent, quick in hope and ruth
And noble anger, O wherever now
You dedicate your uncorrupted vow
To be an energy of Light, a sword
Of the ever--living Will, amid abhorred
Din of the reeking street and populous den
Where under the great stars blind lusts of men
War on each other, or escaped to hills
Where peace the solitary evening fills,
Or far remote on other soils of earth
Keeping the dearness of your fathers' hearth
On vast plains of the West, or Austral strands
Of the warm under--world, or storied lands
Of the orient sun, or over ocean ways
Stemming the wave through blue or stormy days,
Wherever, as the circling light slopes round,
On human lips is heard an English sound,
O scattered, silent, hidden, and unknown,
Be lifted up, for you are not alone!
High--beating hearts, to your deep vows be true!
Live out your dreams, for England lives in you.
A woman sat, with roses red
Upon her lap before her spread,
On that high bridge whose parapet
Wide over turbulent Thames is set,
Between the dome's far glittering crest
And those famed towers that throng the west.
Neglectful of the summer air
That on her pale brow stirred the hair,
She sat with fond and troubled look,
And in her hand the roses shook.
Shy to her lips a bloom she laid,
Then shrank as suddenly afraid:
For from the breathing crimson leaf
The sweetness came to her like grief.
Dropping her hands, her eyes she raised,
And on the hurrying passers gazed.
Two children, loitering along
Amid that swift and busy throng,
Their arms about each other's shoulder,
The younger clinging to the older,
Stopped, with their faces backward turned
To her: her heart within her yearned.
They were so young! She looked away:
Oh, the whole earth was young to--day!
The whole wide earth was laughing fair;
The flashing river, the soft air,
The horses proud, the voices clear
Of young men, frequent cry and cheer,
All these were beautiful and free,
Each with its joy: Alas, but she!
She started up, and bowed her head,
And, gathering her roses, fled.
Through dim, uncounted, silent days,
She had trod deep--secluded ways;
'Mid the fierce throng of jostling lives,
Whom unrelenting hunger drives,
Close to the wall had stolen by,
Yet could not shun calamity.
Her painful thrift, her patient face,
Could not the world--old debt erase;
Nor gentle lips, nor feet that glide,
Persuade the sudden blow aside.
This morn, when she arose, her store,
Trusted to others, was no more.
No more avail her years of care.
She must her bosom frail prepare,
Exposed in her defenceless age,
Against the world and fortune's rage.
For bread, for bread, what must be done?
She stole forth in the morning sun.
I will sell flowers, she thought: this way
Seemed gentler to her first dismay.
Soon to the great flower--market, fair
With watered leaves and scented air,
She came: her seeking, timorous gaze
Wandered about her in amaze.
The arches hummed with cheerful sound;
Buyers and sellers thronged around;
Lilies in virgin slumber stirred
Hardly, the gold dust brightly blurred
Upon their rich illumined snow,
As the soft breezes come and go.
From her smooth sheath, with ardent wings,
Purple and gold, the iris springs;
Deep--umbered wall--flowers, dusk between
The radiance and the odour keen
Of jonquils, this sad woman's eyes
And her o'erclouded soul surprise.
But most the wine--red roses, deep
In sunshine lying, warm asleep,
Breathing perfume, drinking light
Into their inmost bosoms bright,
Seemed fathomlessly to unfold
A treasure of more price than gold.
Martha, o'ercome by wonder new,
Into her heart the crimson drew;
The colour burning on her cheek,
She stood, in strange emotion weak.
But she must buy. Her choice was made:
Red rose upon red rose she laid,
Lingering, then hastened out, with eyes
Bright, and her hands about the prize,
And quickened thought that nowhere aims.
Soon, pausing above glittering Thames,
She spreads the flowers upon her knees.
Vast, many--windowed palaces
Before her raised their scornful height
And haughtily struck back the light.
She scarcely marked them, only bent
Her fond gaze on the flowers, intent
To bind them in gay bunches, drest
So to allure the spoiler best.
But now, as her caressing hand
Each odorous fresh nosegay planned,
A new grief smote her to the heart:
Must she from her sweet treasure part?
They seemed of her own blood. O no,
I cannot shame my roses so:
I will get bread some other way.
So she shut out all thought. The day
Was radiant; and her soul, surprised
To beauty, and the unsurmised
Sweetness of life, itself reproved
That had so little felt and loved!
O now to love, if even a flower,
To taste the sweet sun for an hour,
Was better than the struggle vain,
The dull, unprofitable pain,
To find her useless body bread.
Stricken with grievous joy, she fled.
She fled, but soon her pace grew faint.
She paused awhile, and easier went.
Often, in spirits wrought, despair,
Not less than joy the end of care,
A lightness feigns: for all is done,
And certainty at last begun.
Martha, with impulse fresh recoiled
From empty years, forlorn and soiled,
Trembled to feel the radiant breeze
Blowing from unknown living seas,
And, rising eager from long fast,
Drank in the wine of life at last.
Now, as some lovely face went by,
She noted it with yearning eye;
She joyed in the exultant course
Of horses, and their rushing force.
At last, long wandering, she drew near
Her home; then fell on her a fear,
A shadow from the coming Hours.
By chance a hawker, crying flowers,
His barrow pushed along the street,
And the dull air with scent was sweet.
As on her threshold Martha stood,
A sudden thought surprised her blood.
Quickly she entered, and the stair
Ascended: first with gentle care
Cooled her tired roses: then a box
Of little hoardings she unlocks,
And brings her silver to the door
And buys till she can buy no more.
Laden she enters: the drear room
Glows strangely; the transfigured gloom
Flows over, prodigal in bloom.
Her lonely supper now she spread;
But with her eyes she banqueted.
Over the roofs in solemn flame
The strong beam of the sunset came,
And from the floor striking a glow
Burned back upon the wall; and lo!
How deep, in double splendour dyed,
Blushed the red roses glorified!
When darkness dimmed them, Martha sighed.
Yet still about the room she went
Touching them, and the subtle scent
Wandered into her soul, and brought
All memories, yet stifled thought.
As in her bed she lay, the flowers
Haunted her through the midnight hours:
'Twixt her shut lids the colours crept;
But wearied out, at last she slept.
Next morning she awoke in dread.
O mad, O sinful me! she said,
What have I done? how shall this end
For me? Alas, I have no friend.
She strove to rise; but in her brain
A drowsy magic worked like pain.
She sank back in a weak amaze
Upon the pillow: then her gaze
Fell on the roses; she looked round,
And in the spell again was bound.
The deep--hued blossoms standing by
With serious beauty awed her eye;
Upward, inscrutable, they flamed:
Of that mean fear she was ashamed.
All day their fragrance in the sun
Possessed her spirit: one by one,
She pondered o'er them, dozing still
And waking half against her will.
Her body hungered, but her soul
Was feasting. Gradually stole
The evening shadow on her bed;
She could no longer lift her head,
Deep on her brain the flowers had wrought;
Now in the dim twilight her thought
Put trembling on a strange attire,
And blossomed in fantastic fire.
She stretched her hand out in the gloom:
It touched upon a living bloom.
Thither she turned; the deep perfume
O'ercame her; nearer and more near,
And now her joy is in her fear,
The lily hangs, the rose inclines,
With incense that her soul entwines,
Her inmost soul that dares not stir.
The gentle flowers have need of her.
Unpitying is their rich desire--
Her breath, her being they require.
O, she must yield! She sinks far down,
Conquered, listless, happy, down
Under wells of darkness, deep
Into labyrinths of sleep,
Perishing in sweetness dumb,
By the close enfolding bloom
To a sighing phantom kissed,
Like a water into mist
Melting, and extinguished quite
In unfathomed odorous night.
At last, the brief stars paling, dawn
Breathed from distant stream and lawn.
The earliest bird with chirrup low
Called his mates; softly and slow
The flowers their languid petals part,
And open to the fragrant heart.
And now the first fresh beam returned;
Bright through the lily's edge it burned
And filled the purple rose with fire,
And brightened all their green attire,
And woke a shadow on the wall.
But Martha slept, nor stirred at all.
Where is all the beauty that hath been?
Where the bloom?
Dust on boundless wind? Grass dropt into fire?
Shall Earth boast at last of all her teeming womb,
All that suffered, all that triumphed to inspire
Life in perfect mould and speech, the proud mind's lamp serene--
Nothing? Space be starry in tremendous choir--
In this deserted chamber, as the evening falls,
Silent curtains move no fold;
Long has ebbed the floor's pale gold;
Shadows deepen down the silent walls.
The air is mute as dreams beneath a sleeper's face,
But every hovering shadow seems to hold
The look of things forsaken, each in its own place,
Memories without home in any mind,
Idle, rich neglect and perfume old--
Over these the glimmer of the twilight fades;
Infinite human solitude invades
Forms relinquished, hues resigned.
O little mirror, round and clear,
In solemn--coloured shadow lying
Cold as the moon, pale as a tear,
With spiritual silver beam replying,
Indifferently to all things as to one;
Beauty's relic and oblivion,
But void, void, void! Desolate as a cave
Abandoned even of the breaking wave,
A home of youth and mirth, when all its guests are gone!
As I touch thee in the silence here,
Where thou liest alone, apart,
Through the silence of my heart
Thou flashest elfin flames of fear.
Like a thought of lost delight,
Like love--sweetness, like despair,
Come faint spices of the night
Floating on the darkened air.
The air is tender with the sense of dew,
Is tranced, is dim, is heavy, as if there hung
Within the tinges of its shadowy hue
Ghosts of lost flowers, with all their petals young,
And the young beauty they made incense to.
O forlorn mirror, is there nothing thine?
The cup is emptied of its fragrant wine,
The dress is vacant of the breathing form,
And thou that gleam'st
All absence of what once moved gracious, white and warm
In thy clear wells, or luminously mused,
O little mirror long disused,
Laid in this empty bower's recess,
Thou thyself seem'st
The soul and mystery of emptiness.
Yet if I should raise thee now,
As once and oft, thou knowest how,
Hand and slim wrist, smooth as a flower--stem, raised
Thy silent radiance, and with intent brow
Eyes within thee gazed
Seeking thine oracle,
Shall not from these pellucid secrecies appear
Not I, nor any shape of this dim room,
But all that in thy cave of lambent gloom
Hath dwelt and still may dwell,
Ambushed like visions bound in sleeping memory's cell;
All that thy brightness buries as the sea
Tossed bones and crusted gold: had I the key,
Might'st thou not open depths, might'st thou not yield,
Wonder of wonders! what since time began
Was never yet revealed,
The unmapped, unmeasured, secret heart of man?
Half--shut eyes voluptuously
Lightening, as the bosom swells and glows;
Smile to smile flowering from an ardent thought:
O what moments didst thou deify
With the promise of life crushed to wine
Redder than the cheek's triumphant rose!
--But from deeper places hast thou brought
Nothing? Are not other answers thine?
Hast thou not heard, hast thou not seen,
Hast thou not shown, hast thou not found
Shames unwhispered, terrors bound,
Earthquake pangs of aghast surmise,
When with itself the heart has been
Face to face in an hour profound?
Out of thee what ghosts shall rise,
Shapes and gestures, and accusing eyes!
World--flattered faces in midnights of pain;
Faces defaced by tiger--lusts insane;
Faces appalled before a self unguessed;
Ashaming dawns on faces fallen and dispossessed!
O what glimpses hast thou flashed in dread,
With what hauntings wast thou visited,
Apparitions of a soul made bare
Shuddering at the thing it looked on there!
But thou art stainless, though the heart has bled,
Thou art silent as the air
Or the wave that closes smooth above the drowner's head.
No man hath seen his soul
Save for a glimpse in the night
Brief as an ember of coal
Blown for an instant bright.
To see his own soul as it is,
Eternity must enter him
With the torches of Seraphim
That have shone to the last abyss.
Mirror, couldst thou show the spirit this,
Then within this narrow room
Were the Judgment and the Doom.
For by so much as its own self it knew,
Searched by that burning vision through and through
To the innermost of where it crouched and hid
Amid the husks of the mean deeds it did,
Amid the shadow of all it shunned, the quest
It turned from, and in palterings acquiesced,
To the uttermost of what its eager passion
Caught of the glory springing to re--fashion
Hope and the world, and great with pity saw
Life darkly wrestling with the angel, Law--
By such a measure, molten in that fire,
Should the soul mete itself on God's desire,
Suffer at last all wisdom, and endure
The beam and vision of a thought all--pure.
O were not this to taste Heaven's dawn, or dwell,
Because of knowledge, in the pains of Hell?
Where is all the wailing, all the want
That sorrow tore
From Love's bleeding breast? Extinguished quite?
Shall the wide--winged glory of hope extravagant,
Shall the laughter, shall the song that sprang to soar
Fall, and no ear hearken, and their falling flight
Echoless waste walls of adamant
Draw wide the curtain! Fabulous, remote
Night is come.
Over Earth's lost bosom fragrant breathings float
Into glimmering heights of gloom,
But upon the solitary verge extreme
Steals a beam.
Hushed and sudden, ere the eye could note,
Lo, the moon is there!
Innocence of splendour, gazing bare,
Drenches leaves in quiet, thought in dream.
Is it Earth's pale mirror lifted lone
For an answer to her million sighs?
Can that far Tranquillity atone
In the gaze of those unnumbered eyes
For the pang and for the moan,
For the heart's dim burial and long dirge,
Luring, as she lures the mutinous sea--surge,
To her will of peace this human tide?
From a charmed shadow on the shorn hill--side
Hand--in--hand lovers through the trees emerge,
And pause; their very souls are glorified,
Their feet tread airy on immaterial ground,
With marvelling gaze they feel
That well of spiritual light o'erflow
The listening hush, and steal
Fear and trouble, as though
The world were one vast music of ethereal sound
And they a stillness in the midst of it.
Peace, peace and pity! pardon, pity, peace,
Passing all mortal wit!
O truth long--sought and magically found,
O wonder and release!
O secret of the world long--hidden in day's dust!
They bathe their hearts in that sweet dew, their hands
Thrill clasping in a touch that understands
Nothing magnificent but a divine surrender
Absolving and august.
To distances immersed and tender
Unfolds this vale of struggle hard and pent,
Region of unwon ravishment
In unadventured lands,
A place of leaves and lonely light and leafy scent
Storied like that old forest of the perilous Fleece.
Sorceress of million nights!
Hast thou charmed indeed the brew,
When the stealth of perverse rites--
Mouths that mutter, hands that strew,--
Love tormented and malign,
Flushed with terror like a maddening wine,
Sought another's rue?
Hecate of the cross--roads, hast thou hearkened
To the sailing witch's mew
And the felon raven's croak
When the shuddering winds were darkened
And the leaves rushed from the withered oak?
Ah, not these foul toys would I invoke!
O for some supreme enchanting spell,
Voice of a God crying aloud,
Felt and feared on Earth's heart--strings,
To conjure and to compel
Like a spectre from the shroud
Or like incense--dust that springs
Into fire and fragrant cloud,
Out of thy blind caves and cold recesses,
Out of that blank mirror's desert beam
All the unnumbered longings and wild prayers,
Infinite heart--broken tendernesses,
Indignations and despairs
That from man's long wound of passion stream,
Sucked like vapour, like a mist of tears
Into that imagined peace, that ecstasy!
O surely, surely, thou hast wrought thy part
In every secret and tempestuous heart,
Thou that hast gleamed on thousand battle--crimsoned spears,
Thou that wast radiant on Gethsemane!
She has seen not, she has heard not.
Hearts have leapt for her, but she has stirred not.
Pity she has made, but none has had,
Though her magic mingles with Earth's want
And the trouble of Earth's tender sons,
Thunder of the builded Babylons,
Music of the dreaming poet's chant,
Venture of the steering argosies,
With a light as of divine fulfilment clad
Breathing in for ever syllables of peace.
Peace, is it peace? Yet Earth, dark Earth,
Mother, O Mother, thou that nourishest
In the blind patience of thy teeming breast
Hope without end; who drivest life to birth,
Yet numberest not our dear and sacred dead,
Unheeding of our anguish and lost cries
So thou mayst build beyond us, in our stead,
A race enriched with all for which we bled,
Of haughtier stature and of kinglier eyes;
Thou of whose vast desire strong realms of old,
The dynasty of empires, were but waves
That towered and crashed into their splendid graves,
For thine unresting hunger to remould
Yet mightier, O insatiable! Doth fear
Not shake thee, Mother, seest thou not ev'n here
In that cold mirror's answer what shall steep
Thee also in oblivion? Thou shalt keep
Of all the fruit of thy most fiery spring,
Stored riches of thy sleepless trafficking,
And proud perfection thou hast travailed for,
Nothing! The beauty that thy body bore
Fresh and exulting (Mother, dost not weep?)
Laughter of streams, young flowers, and starry seas,
Pillar and palace, heaven--faced images
That man has wrought, his tossing heart to ease,
Nothing! To cloud shall vanish the deed done;
The bannered victory, the wrong borne alone,
Nothing! and thou be desolate and none
To feel thy desolation: emptiness,
Night within night, immense and issueless,
Till as a breath upon the mirror dies,
Fades the last smoke of thy long sacrifice.
Out of the deeps, trembling, the soul
Cries through night to the silent pole:
``I that am want, I that am grief,
I that am love, I that am mirth,
I that am fear, I that am fire,
Though thou clothe me in beauty brief,
Though I have worn thy sweet attire,
I, thy endless sorrow, Earth,
Dwell in the glory of God's desire,
That kneads for ever in the flesh
Of man, to make his spirit afresh,
A marvel more than all thy wandering seas,
And mightier than thy caverned mysteries,
Nor stays nor sleeps, but world on world transfuses
Melted ever to diviner uses,
Through infinite swift changes burning,
Itself the end, no end discerning,
Till all the universe be wrought
Into its far perfecting thought.
Then this mind of cloud and rue
Shall in eternal mind be new,
Mirror of God, pure and alone,
See and be seen, know and be known.''
I found my Love among the fern. She slept.
My shadow stole across her, as I stept
More lightly and slowly, seeing her pillowed so
In the short--turfed and shelving green hollow
Upon a cushion of wild thyme, amid
Tall bracken--tufts that, roughly luminous, hid
Her hair in amber shadow. Then I stopped.
The light was in the West: the wind had dropped;
A burning fragrance breathed out of the ground,
And the sea--murmur rose remote around.
But my Love slept. My very heart was singing
With the sweet swarm of winged thoughts it was bringing:
And she lay there, with the just heaving breast,
So still. As a lark drops down to its nest,
I sank beside her, waiting for those eyes
To complete earth with light that nowhere lies
But in their depths for me, and carry home
The flight of my full spirit. I had come
From wandering wide beaches far beneath
This airy height of summer--scented heath.
I was alone, and the shore solitary,
And the sea glittered infinite and starry
As on the sands I paced, that dazzling wet
Shone round, until the tumbled rocks they met
At the gaunt cliff's root; silvery runnels, fed
From oozy levels draining to their bed,
Wound flashing between smoothly furrowed slabs
Which the sky coloured; there the youngling crabs
Had scrawled a trail, and weeds, dull--rose and green,
Lay by their shadows, where old foam had been,
Crusted with shells. A mist of finest spray
Blew from the western glory, and in the bay
The ever--streaming surges gleamed and roared
Like a rejoicing Power for ever poured
For the mere splendour of its motion: salt
The air came to the nostril; and the vault
Of heaven had burnt its colours into one
Unfathomable clearness, that the sun
Was soul of, as it journeyed down the West
And in the leaping waters made each crest
A moment of live fire. I breathed the immense
And shining silence. It was to my sense
Like youth, that's all horizon, and misgives
Nothing, and in the unbounded moment lives,
And names not hope yet among things endured
And unamended, being so assured
Of its desire and the long day, and so
Ignorant of that swift Night, saying No.
Ah, why should peace and liberty most bring
Into the heart that loves them most the sting
Of Time's oppression, and the thwarting thorns,
The loss, the want, the many clouded morns?
O for deliverance! To untwist the bond
Of circumstance; to breathe the blest Beyond
Where we would be; to incarnate clean and true
All we were born and dedicated to!
O Love, how often have we shared that sigh!
To me beside that boundless sea and sky
Intolerably came my briefness; all
The undone things. Why into hearts so small
Were crammed these hungering immensities,
Thrust each day back to a prison that denies
Their native satisfaction? I cast me down
On a great slope of rock that, ribbed and brown,
Was cloven at the top; and in between
The hollowed ledges I could lightly lean
And see the deep cup of a pool; it held
Its limpid leaving of the surge that swelled,
A tide since, over that sea--buried reef.
A round pool, deeply clear beyond belief,
Rough with minute white shells about its rim,
Its crystal in the shadow gleamed how dim
And small! while in my eye the homeless main,
Its brine was of, a splendid restless plain
Of water, spread a path for any keel
To take, the round world over, and to feel
Pressures of every wind, and haven far
Where it should choose, mirroring mast and spar
In sultry smooth lagoon, or under pines
Snow--plumed on iron fiord, or where lines
Of ships at a famed port with traffic hum
And chimes of foreign bells to sailors come,
And strange towers over crowded wharfs look high.
--Ah! such a drop of casual life was I,
At evening left: my simple, scanted, raw
Experience but the sipping of a straw
Snatched from me soon! I lifted up my gaze
Into the west and the spray--misted blaze
Where the sun gloried, and his glittering track
Allured me on and on. Then I looked back.
All was changed. Something had transfigured each
Of those hard cliffs that thrust into the beach
Their bouldered ramparts. Every narrow seam
Brimmed with the opposite light, and the warm gleam
Found out small clusters of sea--pink, and many
A samphire--tuft in its uneven cranny,
And bloomed a burning orange on the stain
Of lichen, and dissembled rosy grain
On the rock's blackness. At the summit showed
A gemmy green, where the grass patches glowed
Between those jutting crags. The air was hush;
And the shore quivered with a phantom flush
Of molten colours on far--shining sand.
All was as warm to sight as to the hand,
Distinct yet insubstantial, as if what
The eye saw had been created by a thought
Intenser than its vision. Memory played
A music in the mind, and Time delayed
To whisper names forgotten; I saw no more
The sculpture of those rocks, that vivid shore;
But far--off hours arose before me there
Beautiful in a bright unearthly air.
Memory touched her stops, and one by one
They came, each with its own shadow and sun
And its peculiar perfume: each a part
Of the quick blood and pulsing of my heart.
I carried riches; I was as a king,
Clothed in a more than royal apparelling,
Because of glories in the mind, and light
In eyes I knew, and the unended flight
Of thought, and friendship warmer than the sun,
And dateless joy, and hope shared, and things done
With all the soul's strength, and still precious pain.
Youth, O sweet, careless Youth, flooding the vein
With easy blood, what time the body knows
Scarce that it is, so brimmingly life glows
Within it, and its motions are like words
Born happy on the lips, and like the birds
On April--blossomed boughs rich fancies throng
The mind's exuberance and spill in song,
I think my heart back into all the bloom
And feel it fresh. As one that enters home,
I am there: the shyness, and the secret flame
Of ecstasy that knew not any name,
The wild heart--eating fevers, the young tears,
The absorbed soul, the trouble, and the fears
Wide as the night, the joy without a thought
Meeting the morning,--Time has never taught
My heart to lose them. Still I smell that rose
Of so inscrutable sweetness; and still glows
The glory of the wonder when I first
Heard the enchanted poets, and they burst
In song upon my spirit, as if before
No one had ever passed that magic door,
But for me, first in all the world, they sang.
Sweetest of all things, Youth, sweet in the pang
As in the pleasure, you are in me yet,
Changed as the grape to wine: could I forget,
Then were this hand dust. In those yesterdays
Memory happy and familiar strays,
Exploring hours that, long in shadow lain,
Come effortlessly all distinct again,
As in my light boat I would track the banks
Of narrow streams that rippled past the ranks
Of yellow--flowered reeds, and knew not where
They led me, for no human sound was there,
But the shy wings were near me, and I to them,
And the wild earth was round me as in a dream
And I was melted into it. I can hear,
Lost in the green, bright silence, where I steer
Beneath gold shadows wavering on my arm
The water saying over its low charm
Among the reeds, and, dreading to disturb
The mirror of the blossomed willow--herb,
Drink it into my heart. O idle hours,
Floating with motion like the summer towers
Of cloud in the blue noon, I have not drained
Your fullness yet, for all that care has rained
Upon defeated days of dark sundown,
Like burial of all beauty and all renown,
When the spirit sits within its fortalice
And watches mute. One simple, passionate kiss
Can alter earth for ever. Out of what
Imagination, or what far forethought
Of Time, came Love in beauty new and strange
With eyes of light, my earth and sky to change
And bring me vision of a promised land,
As if long--sunken centuries had planned
The meeting of our lips? From far we came
To one another, ere we had a name.
Wonderful shape, white ecstasy, the cup
That God with living wine has so filled up!
O body made like music, like a word
Syllabled in spontaneous accord;
Quick--sensed with apprehension; capable
Of extreme joy, of pangs far--piercing; full
Of divine wants, like a wave moving through
The passionate and transparent soul of you;
O mystery and power, charged with unknown
Futurities; a lovely flame that's blown
In the wind of life, and sister'd to all fire
That has in it the peril of all desire;
Dearer than breath, what are you made of, whence
Come you? I know not; the eluded sense
Only replies, ``To name her is to tell
The very name of Love.'' It is to spell
A language more profound than tongue can use,
Written in the heart's blood of the world; to lose
All that is worth the losing, and to trust
In spite of withered leaf and charnel dust.
Who knows his own beginning? Hour from hour
Is born; in secret buds, and breaks to flower
Within us. Nothing we have ever been,
Nothing we have endured, nothing we have seen,--
Ay, and before we came into this light,
Were sacrificial hopes, and exquisite
Fears, and the jealous patience of the womb,
And throes of self--consuming martyrdom,
Imprinted on the fibre of our flesh,--
Nothing is ended, but is made afresh
Into a subtler potency; the eyes
See a more wondrous earth, the senses prize
More, its more pregnant meaning; and we go
To enrich a world beyond us, overflow
Into a mind of what thoughts who can tell?
O Love, we draw from an unfathomed well.
Where are the June nights that made heaven a whole
Blue jewel, throbbing through the very soul?
Where is the dizzying bloom and the perfume--
Earth--ecstasy, sighed up to starry gloom,
That in the touching lips' ineffable
Communion, was a spirit and a spell,
As if we had found within ourselves a being
More infinite than any shown to seeing?
Where is the beauty that stole thought away
And moved to tears some one remembered day?
Where is the laughter some sweet chance would start,
To leave its summer warmth about the heart?
Where are the places we shall see no more?
Are they not powers to haunt us at the core
Of feeling, and evoke the eternal Now,
Like music, out of nothing? Nay, I vow,
Most perishable, most immortal tastes;
And the frail flame, that touches us and hastes
Into the dark, endures more than the build
Of proudest fortress. We are found and filled;
And it suffices. For we pass among
Grandeurs, and from a grandeur we are sprung,
Marvellous in our destiny, and know
Man is most man meeting a giant foe,
Whether overcoming or defeated. We,
Who hear, like moving rumour of the sea
And march of ocean waves, the human sound
About us, filled with meaning more profound;
Who know what hearts beat by us, and have shared
In all the mighty martyr names have dared;
Who feel all earth beneath the stars, the race
Of rivers, and the mountains in their place,
Faculties of our being; and have a mind
Dyed in the ardent story of our kind;
We in our briefness, in our storm and ache,
Our loves magnificent in hearts that break,
We, all our bonds and bounds exceeding, ay,
Burning a loftier flame because we die,
We at Time's outpost, we the thrust spear--head
Against the opposing darkness of the dead,
We are the world's adventure! We speed on,
Stay not, but westward travel with the sun,
Westward into the splendour that takes all,
And carry far into the great light's fall
That infinite memory of the world we bear
Within our spirits, burning and aware.
Wake, Love, awake!--Her eyes shone into mine
That moment. In the air was light divine,
Sinking and yet suspended still, to hold
Rocks, ocean, heaven, within one bath of gold.
But in the soul that met me from those eyes,
Impassioning the beauty of the skies,
Was my completion. Earth, as newly made
Ev'n to the smallest shape of green grass--blade,
Lived; and the thrilled, bright silence sang to me;
For in the hush I heard the boundless sea.
The mist has fallen over the isles,
And Ruan turns his boat for home.
The wind is down; with an oar he steers
The narrow races, where at whiles
To left or right through fog he hears
The low roar and short hiss of foam,
As either rock--sharp shore he nears.
Full glad at heart he guides for home,
Full gladly looks ere night to reach
The little haven, twilit beach,
And pleasant smell of the green earth,
That he has left three days ago;
To warm both hands before the glow
Of peats upon the cottage--hearth,
Where his gray father will be mending
The old nets, and his mother, bending
Over the fire, at his step uplook
From the pot that smokes in the ingle--nook.
Is it a sea--mew's cry that calls
Loud through the mist and wailing falls?
Suddenly the white veil lifted,
And in smoking coils was drifted.
Ruan felt a cry ring through him.
There on a jutting rock alone
Stood a woman crying to him;
White her hair was heedless blown;
'Mid gleaming surf the rock rose bare;
Her withered arms were stretched in prayer.
``Fisherman, fisherman, help!'' she cried.
Ruan turned his boat aside
Swiftly in the eddying tide.
``Fisherman, take me in thy boat
And to my own home carry me,
To the isle of Melilot
That lies upon the western sea.''
``How camest thou on this stormy strand,
A barren rock that men avoid?''
``Robbers came upon our land,
Burnt and pillaged and destroyed.
Half our women folk they reft,
And me upon this rock they left.''
``Where is this isle of Melilot?
For of all the isles I know it not.''
``Come hither and take me in with thee
And I will guide thee across the sea.''
Heavily Ruan thought on his home
In Westerness across the foam;
But he turned his oar and glided near;
As it were his mother, he lifted her.
She sat in the stern, cloaked and dim,
And through the chill mist guided him.
It seemed that day had never an end,
It seemed that sea had never a shore,
Such weary hours he seemed to bend
Upon his never--resting oar,
And felt the cold salt on his lip,
And from his hair the vapour drip;
But still the blank fog brooded round
Over an ocean without sound.
At last along the glassy seas
Crept faint upon his face a breeze,
And like a shadow soft and light
Stole up a little wave that knocked
Upon the stern; the boat was rocked;
He looked, and O heart--stilling sight!
She who sat there was not the same!
Before his eyes the winter old
Fell from her; the full hair outrolled
In splendour soft as springing flame,
Breathing out a perfume sweet,
Over her shoulders to her feet.
Now like a bloom her face became,
Her arms and bosom rounded fair,
And even then was Ruan 'ware
Of blueness breaking the white air
And his own shadow trembling there;
And ere his tongue strove into speech
The keel was grating on a beach.
When mortals gaze on goddesses,
So high the hope of our dreaming is,
The wonder loses fear, the charm
Drinks up the wonder; Ruan leapt
Upon a shore in sunshine warm,
And forth with him the Lady stept;
And each to the other lightly talked,
As 'twere their wont so, hand in hand,
To wander through a lovely land.
By solitary slopes they walked.
The mist was scattered, but still before them
Was blown in fleecy tuft and trail;
And tremulous mid the melting cloud,
Upon the bushes low that bore them
Were crimson flowers that danced and bowed,
And green leaves fluttered their edges pale.
In a moment's space behold
The blue noon fell to evening gold.
Suddenly before them stood
A palace silent in a wood.
A dream of the eyes when music fills the ear
By night, and through the lulled brain ebbs and flows,
Might build and colour so unearthly clear
So fair and strange a house as rose
On Ruan's eyes; such gleaming walls,
Delicate towers and airy porticoes.
Pillars of clear jade, whose pale capitals
Like tiger's claws were ivory, smooth and bright,
Upheld a lintel fair like fretted snows.
The carved work by its shadow glowed distinct;
No crevice but was brimmed with brooding light:
Upon the roof a bird of Atlas blinked,
Sun--drowned in splendour from the gorgeous West,
And preened his plumes with languid crest;
Open, beneath, a shadowy doorway stood;
And fragrant smoke from fires of citron wood
Beckoned to happy senses, and the guest
Bade cross the threshold, enter, and be blest.
By now they paused within a spacious room,
Curtained about with glimmering tapestries,
That in the hush and richness of the gloom
Hung like a forest gemmed with fancied eyes.
Pale tendrils twined about the clustered pipe
Of reeds, and black trunks branched above remote
To heavy fruit that hovered over--ripe
Of fiery gold and dull vermilion stripe,
A waste of boughs for wild birds' pillaging:
And over dimness large leaves seemed to float,
That here were spotted like a serpent's throat
And there were greener than a finch's wing.
It seemed to live, though all was whist,
And Ruan gazing seemed to hear
With heart--throb quickened into fear
The drooping briars writhe and twist,
The branches wave with stealthy stir
Of dappled leaves or dappled fur--
A sound as if the tangle hissed!
He trembled as the room he scanned.
The Lady clasped him by the hand.
He looked into her face; she stole
In that moment all his soul.
``Fear not, fear not; all is thine,
Ruan, so thou wilt be mine!
I am Morgaine, whom mortals call Le Fay,
And I have brought thee to my house this day
Because I love thee and will give thee more
Than thou hast dreamed in all thy life before.''
With that she kissed him on the mouth, and he
Was like warm wax before her witchery;
And as she spoke the arras changed to view
Tender and tremulous and clear in hue
As April woods of white anemone;
And in his heart fear died to joy anew.
She led him on with willing feet.
Through many a perfumed hall they glided;
His brain grew giddy with that incense sweet,
But still the smile of Morgaine guided
Betwixt slim pillars, on a floor
Of brindled coromandel wood,
Where now 'twas scented dusk no more
But airy peace calmed all his blood,
For in the wall a window wide
Looked out on magic eventide.
Far, far beneath them a blue lake was cupped
Hollow amid the twilight of a vale,
And over wan mist floating frail
A rosy mountain soared abrupt.
Black pines and gold--green mosses there
On rocks whose distance none could tell
Were pictured in the soundless air
And rivulets that faintly fell
As in some gorge of Saianfu,
Where from her porcelain palace--tower,
Lone on a crag's mist--cradled throne,
A princess leans amid the dew
Of such a marvellous evening hour
O'er balustrade and precipice,
Her lute and woven silk laid by,
Dreaming with a sudden sigh
Of the world--enchanting kiss.
With such a sigh was Ruan's bosom heaving,
With such a sting of beauty past believing,
When soft beside him spoke Morgaine, ``Come, tell:
O Ruan, doth my Kingdom please thee well?''
``Princess, princess,'' he answered, ``I am blest
Beyond all mortals: tell me thy behest
And I will be thy servant.'' But that word
She smiled away; his arms leapt round her, pressed
With mad joy, as she whispered ``Be my lord!''
Morgaine, that lurest the souls of men that are greedy of joy,
What soughtest thou out, Morgaine, in the face of a fisher--boy?
Were the souls of the great ones of earth so easy a prey to thy snare,
Lightly bound to thy hand by a single shining hair,
That the simple heart of a youth, untempted, in hard ways bred,
To thy siren hunger is sweeter than kings or captains dread?
Thou sang'st him songs that lapped him in utter forgetfulness
Of the green hills and the rocks and the waters of Westerness,
Till Time, like a wandering light that is stayed on an opal, shone
Kindled and many--coloured; the charmed days moved not on.
His thoughts were borne as idly as clouds on the slow South,
Or a willow leaf that glides on a wandering summer stream,
And the light that bathed his body, and breathed so sweet to his mouth
Was such as mortals know but in splendid rents of dream
Piercing the cloud of sleep from the dull day--world beguiled.
Together they sailed the calm of evening waters isled
With knolls of gemmy grass, and thickets of nightingales;
They gathered flowers and listened, and moved with drooping sails;
And anon they rose from a feast, from close--embowered delights,
To hunt the timid gazelles on passionate moonlit nights,
Blue nights of milky stars, where fluttering petals snowed
From windswept boughs and scented delicious dusk, and rode
Home by shadowy glades upon soft invisible lawn
Hand in hand through the dews of a shy dove--coloured dawn.
They drank of a fairy wine, till their hearts were weary of earth,
And them, embraced, the mighty wings of Phoenix bore
Up through the light exulting to soar and still to soar,
And the world dropped down beneath them; they clapped their hands in mirth
Mocking the baffled eagle: but how should mortal tell
What wonders Morgaine wove for Ruan in her spell
To charm the nights and days with hopes that never tire,
Morgaine of blissful body and eyes of far desire?
Count the hours that bind and freeze,
That break the breast and shake the knees!
What need of Time's all--patient dial
To him that drinks of this deep phial?
These perfumed hours of white and red
Flowered and were never shed.
It might have been a morning's span
Or twice and thrice the years of man:
For Ruan was not Then nor Now;
He was as young as his desire, as young
As on sweet lips an old song newly sung.
O idle thought to number how
The days onrushed, the morrow flushed,
Thicker than blossoms on an apple--bough.
But on a morn at early dawn awaking
He saw the cold light through the lattice breaking.
A spider there her web had made;
Softly in the air it swayed.
Memory in a drowsy muse
Lost and sought such filmy clues.
Till upon a sudden plain
In Ruan's vision, sharp like pain,
Pictured was his home again,
And the long nets, loosely hung
From the white wall, stirred and swung.
He rose and broke into a mournful cry,
Which Morgaine heard with half--shut eye
And caught him with both hands and strove
To turn him with soft words of love,
But he would not; so sharp a pang
Of desolation in him sprang
For all the dearness long forgot
In his own kind's deserted lot;
A tear fell from his eyelids hot
Upon the marble floor below.
He wept; and in an instant, lo!
Beheld the floor transparent glow.
Yawning, a spectral region shone
Where cold abysses plunged betwixt
Sheer mountain column--peaks whereon
That very palace--floor was fixt.
Ruan shuddered as he gazed.
For toward his eyes were eyes upraised
From human faces, forms that froze
Within the rock--walls as they rose,
A thousand forms, a prisoned host
Imbedded in the mountain frost.
But swift a storm of wind and fire
Up those abysses roared and rushed;
The shapes were stirred; a vain desire--
As they would struggle, nearer, higher,--
Their eyes awoke, their bodies flushed.
And then the blast as sudden passed,
The limbs of torment slowly sank
To ice--green languor, fleshless bone,
And starving ruggedness of stone;
The life within them swooned and shrank
To dungeoned attitudes again,
Their half--closed upturned eyes alone
Were gazing in the gaze of pain.
With eyes of horror opened wide
``Save me, save me!'' Ruan cried.
But Morgaine in her arms hath wound him,
Her panting fierce embrace hath bound him,
Her eyes exulting change and glow
Like lights upon a shaken sword.
She pants as in unearthly throe,
Her arms cling tighter than a cord;
How shall Ruan dare to brook
The demon challenge of her look?
``Listen, Ruan, canst thou hear
How the whole world cries in fear?
Lights not splendour in the air
To dance above the world's despair?
They toil in hunger, grief and night
For our desire, for our delight--
They the twisting roots, and we
The topmost red flower on the tree!''
But Ruan with both hands that pressed
Against the burning of her breast,
Trembled and groaned in that embrace,
And strove from that exultant face,
When soft she melted, sank before him, kneeled
And clung, beseeching him that would not yield.
``They are my flesh, my blood, and I
Must go to seek them, or I die.''
When Morgaine heard that lamentable cry
She knew the heart of joy in him was dead,
Looked in his soul and saw her hour had fled.
``Go then,'' she wept, ``but come again
To thy delight, to thy Morgaine.
Yet if thou go, this casket take with thee;
Hid in thy breast, 'twill guide thee safe to me
Without a rudder o'er the wandering sea,
But O beware thou never open this,
Else art thou lost and all thy hope of bliss.
Farewell!'' she kissed him. ``Farewell,'' Ruan said,
And took the casket with averted head,
Nor turned him back, but swiftly passed the door
Of the charmed house, and came to the seashore.
O what a calm as of old days come back
With their old wont and clear untroubled way
Lifted the heart of Ruan, on the track
Of ocean steering for his native bay!
Over blue waves the morning air sang sweet
Full on his sail; he was all fire to greet
The hearth of home, his father's joyful face,
His mother's tears and tremulous embrace.
He sailed beneath the summer's early noon
With the warm favouring wind; and strangely soon
Rose up the coast, till nearing on the swell
He saw the dark waves glitter as they fell
Against the cliff's worn bases, drained of foam.
Now he is past the headland. There is home!
The boats drawn up, the sands, and the green mound
Beyond them; peaceful, sunned, familiar ground.
It seemed he had not been three days away.
With a light heart he beached amid the spray
His boat, and moored it as of old, and sprang
Ashore; a young girl to a baby sang,
Sitting on fishing--nets spread forth to dry.
She looked up, and her song stopped, and her eye
Was filled with wonder; but impatiently
Ruan ran up the beach, where he might catch
The first glimpse of his father's cottage thatch.
He came, he looked; and the heart in him failed.
The house was not. What lonely strangeness ailed
The world? He thrust his hand within his vest
And felt the casket cold upon his breast.
Helpless he gazed; but lo, there slowly came
An old man with a stick, coughing and lame,
Bowed by his years; then towards him Ruan ran,
With a swift thought of pity, almost scorn,
In his young strength for such old age forlorn,
And cried upon the way, ``Old man, old man,
Where is my father? Surely thou know'st me;
I am Ruan, Ruan! I am home from sea.''
The old man lifted up his faint blue eye
And peered upon him slow and curiously
As on some strange thing from the sea upcast.
``Nay, Ruan's name I know not,'' came at last
The answer. Ruan cried, ``Dwell'st thou not here?''
``Ay, all my life, three--score and fifteen year.''
``And yet thou know'st not Ruan?'' The old man
Puzzled his withered brow as he began
Seeking some far--sunk memory in his brain.
``Ay, so it is,'' he slowly spoke again,
``They told a tale of Ruan; ay, 'tis so.
How he was lost, but that was long ago,
Hundreds of years, I think; he sailed away,
And his old parents died of grief, they say.''
He still spoke on: but Ruan heard no more,
For he was wandering fast along the shore
In the lone sunshine; aimlessly he strayed,
Dazzled and indescribably afraid.
On a sudden flamed a thought
Through his body: straight he sought
Within his breast the casket hid,
Crying, ``Morgaine, thou shalt tell,
Though the answer come from Hell!''
With trembling fingers he undid
The silken cord, the golden lid.
Lo, from the opened casket broke
A stealing skein of purple smoke,
A wandering faint cloud of perfume
That rippled up in filmy plume,
And lingered, faltering like a prayer,
Then melted into sunlit air.
Three hundred years had melted there,
Three hundred years of faery bliss,
Perished sooner than a single kiss!
As Ruan stares upon the empty box,
His outstretched fingers stiffen stark,
His cheek is shrivelled, his eyes grow dark,
Either knee together knocks;
Ere he can pray, ere he can groan.
Swift as grass in a furnace thrown,
Or a crumpled clod in a heedless hand,
He withers into whitened bone.
Where his breathing body stood,
Flushed with life and warm with blood
Is a heap of ashes, a drift of sand,
And the wind blowing, and the silent strand.