IN Volhynia the peasant mothers,
When spring-time brings back the leaves,
And the first swallows dart and twitter
Under the cottage eaves,—
Sit mute at their windows, and listen,
With eyes brimming over with tears,
To the broken sounds which are wafted
To their eager watching ears.
And throw out bread and honey
To the birds as they scintillate by ;
And hearts full of yearning and longing,
Borne out on the wings of a sigh.
For they think that their dear lost children,
The little ones who are gone,
Come back thus to the heartsick mothers
Who are toiling and sorrowing on.
And those sun-lit wings and flashing
White breasts, to their tear-dimmed eyes
Bring visions of white child -angels
Floating in Paradise.
And again to the sounds they hearken.
Grown silent while incomplete,
The music of childish laughter,
The patter of baby feet.
Till the hearts which are barren and childless,
The homes which are empty and cold :
The nests whence the young have departed,
Are filled with young life as of old.
Thus each spring, to those peasant mothers,
Comes the old Past again and again ;
And those sad hearts quicken and blossom,
In a rapture of sorrowless pain.
To A Child Of Fancy
MY little dove, my little lamb,
In whom again a child I am ;
My innocent, on whose fair head
The glories of the unknown are shed ;
Who thro' the laughing summer day
Spendest the rosy hours in play,
Too much by joyous life possest
To give a willing thought to rest ;
Who, with the earliest shades of night,
White-robed, in happy slumbers light,
Recallest in thy stainless calm
An angel resting from its psalm ;
Whence art thou come ? What power could teach
The secret of thy broken speech ?
What agile limb, what stalwart arm,
Like thy sweet feebleness can charm ?
With what a rapture of surprise
This fair world meets thy steadfast eyes,
As if they saw reflected there
Faint images of scenes more fair.
Leaving another heaven behind,
A heaven on earth thou cam'st to find ;
This world, so full of misery,
Opens celestial gates for thee.
Oh ! if thou mightst not e'er grow wise
With the sad learning born of sighs ;
If those soft eyes might never here
Grow dim for any bitter tear.
Vain thought, no creature born of earth
Blooms best 'neath cloudless skies of mirth ;
Only soft rains and clouds can dress
Life's tree with flowers of blessedness
Whate'er the lot thy fate shall give,
At least, while life is mine to live,
Thou shall not lack a share of love,
My little lamb, my little dove !
To A Child Of Fancy
THE nests are in the hedgerows,
The lambs are on the grass ;
With laughter sweet as music
Thy hours lightfooted pass,
My darling child of fancy,
My winsome prattling lass.
Blue eyes, with long brown lashes,
Thickets of golden curl,
Red little lips disclosing
Twin rows of fairy pearl,
Cheeks like the apple blossom,
Voice lightsome as the merle.
A whole Spring's fickle changes
In every short-lived day,
A passing cloud of April,
A flowery smile of May,
A thousand quick mutations
From graver moods to gay.
Far off, I see the season
When thy childhood's course is run,
And thy girlhood opens wider
Beneath the growing sun,
And the rose begins to redden,
But the violets are done.
And further still the summer,
When thy fair tree, fully grown,
Shall burgeon, and grow splendid
With blossoms of its own,
And the fruit begins to gather,
But the buttercups are mown.
If I should see thy autumn,
'Twill not be close at hand,
But with a spirit vision,
From some far distant land.
Or, perhaps, I hence may see thee
Amongst the angels stand.
I know not what of fortune
The future holds for thee,
Nor if skies fair or clouded
Wait thee in days to be,
But neither joy nor sorrow
Shall sever thee from me.
Dear child, whatever changes
Across our lives may pass,
I shall see thee still for ever,
Clearly as in a glass,
The same sweet child of fancy,
The same dear winsome lass.
By The Sea
A LITTLE country churchyard,
On the verge of a cliff by the sea ;
Ah ! the thoughts of the long years past and gone
That the vision brings back to me.
For two ways led from the village,
One, by the rippled sands,
With their pink shells fresh from the ebbing wave ?
For childish little hands.
And one by the breezy cliff-side,
All splendid with purple and gold,
With its terrible humble-bees trumpeting deep,
And butterflies fair to behold.
And the boom of the waves on the shingle,
And hymn of the lark to the sun ;
Made Sabbath sounds of their own, ere the chime
Of the church-going bell had begun.
I remember the churchyard studded
With peasants who loitered and read
The sad little legends, half effaced,
On the moss-grown tombs of the dead.
And the gay graves of little children,
Fashioned like tiny cots ;
With their rosemary and southernwood,
And blue-eyed forget-me-nots.
Till the bell by degrees grew impatient,
Then ceased as the parsonage door
Opened wide for the surpliced vicar,
And we loitered and talked no more.
I remember the cool, dim chancel,
The drowsy hum of the prayers :
And the rude psalms vollied from seafaring throats
As if to take heaven unawares.
Till, when sermon-time came, by permission
We stole out among the graves,
And saw the great ocean a-blaze in the sun,
And heard the deep roar of the waves.
And clung very close together,
As we spelt out with pitying tears,
How a boy lay beneath who was drowned long ago,
And was 'Aged eleven years.'
And heard, with a new-born wonder,
The voice of the infinite Sea,
Whose hither-shore is the shore of Death,
And whose further, the Life to be.
'Did the sea swallow up little children?
Could God see the wickedness done?
Nor spare one swift-winged seraph to save
From the thousands around His throne ?'
'Was he still scarce older than we were,
Still only a boy of eleven ?
Were child-angels children always
In the sorrowless courts of heaven ?'
Ah me ! of those childish dreamers,
One has solved the last riddle since then:
And knows the dread secret which none may know
Who walk in the ways of men.
The other has seen the splendour
And mystery fading away ;
Too wise or too dull to take thought or care
For aught but the needs of the day.
ALL men are poets if they might but tell
The dim ineffable changes which the sight
Of natural beauty works on them : the charm
Of those first days of Spring, when life revives
And all the world is bloom : the whitefringed green
Ofsummer seas swirling around the base
Of overhanging cliffs ; the golden gleam
Seen from some breezy hill, where far and wide
The fields grow ripe for harvest ; or the storm
Smiting the leaden surf, or echoing
On nightly lakes and unsuspected hills,
Revealed in lurid light ; or first perceived,
High in mid-heaven, above the rosy clouds,
The everlasting snows.
And Art can move,
To higher minds, an influence as great
As Nature's self ; when the rapt gazer marks
The stainless mother folding arms divine
Around the Eternal Child, or pitying love
Nailed to the dreadful cross, or the white strength
Of happy heathen gods, or serpent coils
Binding the agonized limbs, till from their pain
Is born a thing of beauty for all time.
And more than Nature, more than Art can move
The awakened soul heroic soaring deeds ;
When the young champion falls in hopeless fight,
Striking for home ; or when, by truth constrained,
The martyr goes forth cheerful to his fate
The dungeon, or the torture, or, more hard,
The averted gaze of friends, the loss of love,
The loneliness of soul, which truth too oft
Gives to reward the faith which casts aside
All things for her ; or saintly lives obscure,
Spent in a sweet compassion, till they gain,
Living, some glow of heaven ; or passionate love,
Bathing our poor world in a mystic light,
Seen once, then lost for ever. These can stir
Life to its depths, till silence grows a load
Too hard to bear, and the rapt soul would fain
Speak with strange tongues which startle as they come,
Like the old saints who spake at Pentecost.
But we are dumb, we are dumb, and may not tell
What stirs within us, though the soul may throb
And tremble with its passion, though the heart
Dissolve in weeping : dumb. Nature may spread
Sublimest sights of beauty ; Art inspire
High thoughts and pure of God -like sacrifice ;
Yet no word comes. Heroic daring deeds
Thrill us, yet no word comes ; we are dumb, we are dumb,
Save that from finer souls at times may rise,
Once in an age, faint inarticulate sounds,
Low halting tones of wonder, such as come
From children looking on the stars, but still
With power to open to the listening ear
The Fair Divine Unknown, and to unseal
Heaven's inner gates before us evermore.
Ah, few and far between ! The earth grows green,
Art's glorious message speaks from year to year,
Great deeds and high are done from day to day,
But the voice comes not which has power to wake
The sleeping soul within, and animate
The beauty which informs them, lending speech
To what before was dumb. They come, they go,
Those sweet impressions spent on separate souls,
Like raindrops on the endless oceanplains,
Lost as they fall. The world rolls on ; lives spring,
Blossom, and fade ; the play of life is played
More vivid than of old a wider stage,
With more consummate actors ; yet the dull,
Cold deeps of sullen silence swallow up
The strain, and it is lost. But if we might
Paint all things as they are, find voice to speak
The thoughts now mute within us, let the soul
Trace on its sensitive surface vividly,
As does the sun our features, all the play
Of passion, all the changeful tides of thought,
The mystery, the beauty, the delight,
The fear, the horror, of our lives, our being
Would blaze up heavenward in a sudden flame,
Spend itself, and be lost.
Wherefore 'tis well
This narrow boundary that hedges in
The strong and weak alike. Thought could not live,
Nor speech, in that pure aether which girds round
Life's central dwelling-place. Only the dull
And grosser atmosphere of earth it is
Which vibrates to the sweet birds' song, and brings
Heaven to the wondering ear. Only the stress,
The pain, the hope, the longing, the constraint
Of limited faculties circling round and round
The grim circumference, and finding naught
Of outlet to the dread unknown beyond,
Can lend the poet voice. Only the weight,
The dulness of our senses, which makes dumb
And hushes half the finer utterance,
Makes possible the song, and modulates
The too exalted music, that it falls
So soft upon the listening soul, that life,
Not withered by the awful harmony, -
Nor drunk with too much sweetness,' nor struck blind
By the too vivid presence of the
Fulfils its round of duty elevated,
Not slain by too much splendour comforted,
Not thunder-smitten soothed, not laid asleep
And ever, through the devious maze of being,
Fares in slow narrowing cycles to the end.
OH ! sometimes when the solemn organ rolls
Its stream of sound down gray historic aisles ;
Or the full, high-pitched struggling symphony
Pursues the fleeting melody in vain :
Like a fawn through shadowy groves, or heroine
Voiced like a lark, pours out in burning song
Her love or grief; or when, to the rising stars
Linked village maidens chant the hymn of eve ;
Or Sabbath concourse, flushed and dewy-eyed
Booms its full bass ; or before tasks begun,
Fresh childish voices sanctify the morn :
My eyes grow full, my heart forgets to beat.
What is this mystic yearning fills my being ?
Hark ! the low music wakes, and soft and slow
Wanders at will through flowery fields of sound ;
Climbs gentle hills, and sinks in sunny vales,
And stoops to cull sweet way-side blooms, and weaves
A dainty garland ; then, grown tired, casts down
With careless hand the fragrant coronal,
And child-like sings itself to sleep.
The loud strain rises like a strong knight armed,
Battling with wrong ; or passionate seer of God
Scathing with tongue of fire the hollow shows,
The vain deceits of men ; or law-giver,
Parting in thunder from the burning hill
With face aflame j or with fierce rush of wings
And blazing brand, upon the crest of Sin,
The swift archangel swooping ; or the roll
Which follows on the lightning ; all are there
In that great hurry of sound.
And then the voice
Grows thinner like a lark's, and soars and soars,
And mounts in circles, higher, higher, higher,
Up to heaven's gate, and lo I the unearthly song
Thrills some fine inner chord, and the swift soul,
Eager and fluttering like a prisoned bird,
Breaks from its cage, and soars aloft to join
The enfranchised sound, and for a moment seems
To touch on some dim border-land of being,
Full of high thought and glorious enterprise
And vague creative fancies, till at length
Waxed grosser than the thin ethereal air,
It sinks to earth again.
And then a strain
Sober as is the tender voice of home,
Unbroken like a gracious life, and lo
Young children sit around me, and the love
I never knew is mine, and so my eyes
Grow full, and all my being is thrilled with tears.
What is this strange new life, this finer sense,
This passionate exaltation, which doth' force
Like the weird Indian juggler, instantly
My soul from seed to flower, from flower to fruit,
Which lifts me out of self, and bids me tread
Without a word, on dim aerial peaks,
Impossible else, and rise to glorious thoughts,
High hopes, and inarticulate fantasies
Denied to soberer hours ? No spoken thought
Of bard or seer can mount so far, or lift
The soul to such transcendent heights, or work
So strong a spell of love, or roll along
Such passionate troubled depths. No painter's hand
Can limn so clear, the luminous air serene
Of Paradise, the halcyon deep, the calm
Of the eternal snows, the eddy and whirl
Of mortal fight, the furious flood let loose
From interlacing hills, the storm which glooms
Over the shoreless sea. Our speech too oft
Is bound and fettered by such narrow laws,
That words which to one nation pierce the heart,
To another are but senseless sounds, or weak
And powerless to stir the soul ; but this
Speaks with a common tongue, uses a speech
Which all may understand, or if it bear
Some seeds of difference in it, only such
As separates gracious sisters, like in form,
But one by gayer fancies touched, and one
Rapt by sweet graver thoughts alone, and both
Mighty to reach the changing moods of the soul,
Or grave or gay, and though sometimes they be
Mated with unintelligible words,
Or feeble and unworthy, yet can lend
A charm to gild the worthless utterance,
And wing the sordid chrysalis to float
Amid the shining stars.
Oh strange sweet power,
Ineffable, oh gracious influence,
I know not whence thou art, but this
Thou boldest in thy hand the silver key
That can unlock the sacred fount of tears,
Which falling make life green ; the hidden spring
Of purer fancies and high sympathies ;
No mirth is thine, thou art too high for mirth,
Like Him who wept but 'smiled not *, mirth is born
On the low plains of thoughts bes' reached by words.
But those who scale the untrodden mountain peak,
Or sway upon the trembling spire, are far
From laughter ; so thy gracious power divine,
Not sad but solemn, stirs the well of tears,
But not mirth's shallow spring : tears are divine,
But mirth is of the earth, a creature born
Of careless youth and joyance ; satisfied
With that which is ; parched by no nobler thirst
For that which might be ; pained by no regret
For that which was, but is not : but for thee.
Oh, fair mysterious power, the whole great scheme
Lies open like a book ; and if the charm
Of its high beauty makes thee sometimes gay,
Yet 'tis an awful joy, so mixed with thought,
That even Mirth grows grave, and evermore
The myriad possibilities unfulfilled,
The problem of Creation, the immense
Impenetrable depths of thought, the vague
Perplexities of being, touch thy lips
And keep thee solemn always.
Oh, fair voice,
Oh virginal, sweet interpreter, reveal
Our inner selves to us, lay bare the springs,
The hidden depths of life, the high desires
Which lurk there unsuspected, the remorse
Which never woke before ; unclothe the soul
Of this its shroud of sense, and let it mount,
On the harmonious beat of thy light wings,
Up to those heights where life is so attuned,
So pure and self-concordant ; filled so deep
With such pervading beauty that no voice
Mars the unheard ineffable harmony,
And o'er white plain and breathless summit reigns
A silence sweeter than the sweetest sound.
At Havre De Grace
ABOVE the busy Norman town,
The high precipitous sea-cliffs rise,
And from their summit looking down
The twin-lights shine with lustrous eyes ;
Far out upon the fields of foam,
The first to greet the wanderer home.
Man here has known at last to tame
Nature's wild forces to his will ;
Those are the lightning's fires which flame,
From yon high towers with ray so still :
And knowledge, piercing through the night
Of time, has summoned forth the light.
And there, hard by the lighthouse door,
The earthly set by the divine ;
At a stone's cast, or scarcely more,
Rises a little pagan shrine,
Where the rough seamen come to pray,
And wives, for dear ones far away.
There, on a starry orb, there stands
A heavenly goddess, proud and fair ;
No infant holds she in her hands
Which must a queenly sceptre bear.
Nay ; wonder not, for this is she
Who rules the fury of the sea.
Star of the sea, they call her, yet
Liker to Here doth she show,
Than Aphrodite, rising wet
From the white waves, with limbs aglow.
Calmer she seems, more pure and sweet,
To the poor kneelers at her feet.
Before her still the vestal fires
Burn unextinguished day and night ;
And the sweet frankincense expires
And fair flowers blow, and gems are bright :
For a great power in heaven is she,
This star and goddess of the sea.
Around the temple, everywhere,
Rude tablets hung, attest her might ;
Here the fierce surge she smooths, and there
Darts downward on a bar of light ;
To quench the blazing ship, or save
The shipwrecked from the hungry wave.
And sea-gifts round the shrine are laid,
Poor offerings, costlier far than gold :
Such as the earlier heathen made,
To the twin Deities of old,
Toy ships, shells, coral, glittering spar,
Brought here by grateful hands from far.
A very present help indeed,
This goddess is to whom they bow ;
We seek Thy face with hearts that bleed,
And straining eyes, dread Lord ! but Thou
Hidest Thyself so far away,
Our thoughts scarce reach Thee as we pray.
But is this she, whom the still voice
Of angels greeted in the night ;
Bidding the poor maid's heart rejoice,
With visions hid from wiser sight :
This heathen nymph, this tinselled queen,
First of all mothers who have been ?
Gross hearts and purblind eyes, to make .
An idol of a soul so sweet !
Could you no meaner essence take,
No brazen image with clay feet ;
No saint from out the crowd of lies,
False signs and shameful prodigies ?
For this one bears too great a name,
Above all other women blest ;
The blessed mother, all her fame
Is His who nestled to her breast :
They do but dull her glory down,
These childless arms, this earthly crown.
Poor peasant mother ! scarce a word
Thou spak'st, the long-drawn years retain ;
Only thy womb once bare the Lord ;
Only thou knew'st the joy, the pain,
The high hope seeming quenched in blood
That marked thy awful motherhood.
No trace of all thy life remains,
From His first childhood to the cross ;
A life of little joys and pains,
Of humble gain and trivial loss :
Contented if the ewes should bear
Twin lambs, or wheat were full in ear.
Or if sometimes the memory
Of that dread message of the night
Troubled thy soul, there came to thee
New precious duties ; till the flight,
The desert sands, the kneeling kings,
Showed but as half-forgotten things.
Or sometimes, may be, pondering deep
On miracles of word and deed,
Vague doubts across thy soul would creep,
Still faithful to the older creed :
Could this thy son indeed be He,
This child who prattled at thy knee ?
And of thy after-life, thy age,
Thy death, no record ; not a line
On all the fair historic page
To mark the life these hold divine :
Only some vague tradition, faint
As the sick story of a saint.
But thou no longer art to-day .
The sweet maid-mother, fair and pure;
Vast time-worn reverend temples gray,
Throne thee in majesty obscure ;
And long aisles stretch in minsters high,
'Twixt thee, fair peasant, and the sky.
They seek to honour thee, who art
Beyond all else a mother indeed ;
With hateful vows that blight the heart,
With childless lives, and souls that bleed :
As if their dull hymns' barren strain
Could fill a mother with aught but pain !
To the gross earth they bind thee down
With coils of fable, chain on chain ;
From plague or war to save the town ;
To give, or hold ; the sun, or rain ;
To whirl through air a favourite shrine,
These are thy functions, and divine.
And see, in long procession rise
The fair Madonnas of all time ;
They gaze from sweet maternal eyes,
The dreams of every Christian clime :
Brown girls and icy queens, the breast
And childish lips proclaim them blest.
Till as the gradual legend grew,
Born without stain, and scorning death;
Heavenward thou soarest through the blue,
While saints and seers aspire beneath:
And fancy-nurtured cam'st to be
Queen over sky and earth and sea.
Oh, sin ! oh, shame ! oh, folly ! Rise;
Poor heathen, think to what you bow ;
Consider, beyond God's equal skies,
What pains that faithful soul must know,—
She a poor peasant on the throne
Raised for the Lord of Life, alone.
O sweet ! O heart of hearts ! O pure
Above all purest maids of earth !
O simple child, who didst endure
The burden of that awful birth :
Heart, that the keenest sword didst know,
Soul bowed by alien loads of woe !
Sweet soul ! have pity ; intercede,
Oh mother of mothers, pure and meek ;
They know no evil, rise and plead
For these poor wandering souls and weak ;
Tear off those pagan rags, and lead
Their worship where 'tis due indeed.
For wheresoever there is home,
And mothers yearn with sacred love,
There, since from Heaven itself they come,
Are symbols of the life above :
Again the sweet maid-mother mild,
Again the fair Eternal child.
GREAT brown eyes,
Thick plumes of hair,
The worse for wear ;
A buttoned jacket,
And peeping out
An ape's grave poll,
Or a guinea pig's snout ;
A sun-kissed face,
And a dimpled mouth,
With the white flashing teeth
And soft smile of the south ;
A young back bent,
Not with age or care,
But the load of poor music
'Tis fated to bear :
But a commonplace picture
To commonplace eyes,
,Yet full of a charm
Which the thinker will prize.
They were stern cold rulers,
Those Romans of old,
Scorning letters and art
For conquest and gold ;
Yet leavening mankind,
In mind and in tongue,
With the laws that they made
And the songs that they sung :
With pleasure-choked breath,
As the nude young limbs crimsoned,
Then stiffened in death ;
Piling up monuments
Greater than praise,
Thoughts and deeds that shall live
To the latest of days :
Adding province to province,
And sea to sea,
Till the idol fell down
And the world rose up free.
And this is the outcome,
This vagabond child
With that statue-like face
And eyes soft and mild,
This creature so humble,
So gay, yet so meek,
Whose sole strength is only
The strength of the weak ;
Of those long cruel ages
Of lust and of guile,
Naught left us to-day
But an innocent smile.
For the laboured appeal
Of the orator's art,
A few childish accents
That reach to the heart.
For those stern legions speeding
O'er sea and o'er land,
But a pitiful glance
And a suppliant hand.
I could moralize still ;
But the organ begins,
And the tired ape swings downward
And capers and grins :
And away flies romance.
And yet, time after time,
As I dream of days spent
In a sunnier clime,
Of blue lakes set deep
In the olive-clad mountains,
Of gleaming white palaces
Girt with cool fountains,
Of minsters where every
Carved stone is a treasure,
Of sweet music hovering
'Twixt pain and 'twixt pleasure ;
Of chambers enriched,
On all sides, overhead,
With the deathless creations
Of hands that are dead ;
Of still cloisters holy,
And twilight arcade,
Where the lovers still saunter
Thro' chequers of shade ;
Of tomb and of temple,
Arena and column,
'Mid to-day's garish splendours,
Sombre and solemn ;
Of the marvellous town
With the salt-flowing street,
Where colour is richest,
And music most sweet ;
Of her the great mother,
Who centuries sate
'Neath a black shadow blotting
The days she was great ;
Bound so fast, brought so low
She, our source and our home-
That only a phantom
Was left us of Rome !
She who, seeming to sleep
Thro' all ages to be,
Was the priests', is mankind's,
Was a slave, and is free !
I turn with grave thought
To this child of the ages,
And to all that is writ
In Time's hidden pages.
Shall young Howards or Guelphs,
In the days that shall come,
Wander forth seeking bread
Far from England and home ?
Shall they sail to new continents,
English no more,
Or turn strange reverse
To the old classic shore ?
Shall fair locks and blue eyes,
And the rose on the cheek,
Find a language of pity
The tongue cannot speak
' Not English, but angels'?
Shall this tale be told
Of Romans to be
As of Romans of old ?
Shall they too have monkeys
And music ? Will any
Try their luck with an engine
Or toy spinning-jenny ?
Shall we too be led
By that mirage of Art
Which saps the true strength
Of the national heart ?
The sensuous glamour,
The dreamland of grace,
Which rot the strong manhood
They fail to replace ;
Which at once are the glory,
The ruin, the shame,
Of the beautiful lands
And ripe souls whence they came ?
Oh, my Britain ! oh, Mother
Of Freemen ! oh, sweet,
Sad toiler majestic,
With labour-worn feet !
Brave worker, girt round,
With tumultuous sound
And salt spume of the sea,
Fenced off from the clamour
Of alien mankind
By the surf on the rock,
And the shriek of the wind,
Tho' the hot Gaul shall envy,
The cold German flout thee,
Thy far children scorn thee,
Still thou shall be great!
Still march on uncaring,
Thy perils unsharing,
Alone, and yet daring
Thy infinite fate!
Yet ever remembering
The precepts of gold,
That were written in part
For the great ones of old
' Let other hands fashion
The marvels of art ;
To thee fate has given
A loftier part.
To rule the wide peoples ;
To bind them to thee'
By the sole bond of loving,
That bindeth the free.
To hold thy own place,
Neither lawless nor slave ;
Not driven by the despot,
Nor tricked by the knave !
But these thoughts are too solemn,
So play, my child, play,
Never heeding the connoisseur
Over the way,
The last dances of course ;
Then, with scant pause between,
'Home, Sweet Home,' the 'Old Hundredth,'
And 'God Save the Queen.'
See the poor children swarm
From dark court and dull street,
As the gay music quickens
The lightsome young feet.
See them now whirl away,
Now insidiously come,
With a coy grace which conquers
The squalor of home.
See the pallid cheeks flushing
With innocent pleasure
At the hurry and haste
Of the quick-footed measure.
See the dull eyes now bright,
And now happily dim,
For some soft-dying cadence
Of love-song or hymn.
Dear souls, little joy
Of their young lives have they,
So thro' hymn-tune and song-tune
Play on, my child, play.
For tho' dull pedants chatter
Of musical taste,
Talk of hindered researches,
And hours run to waste ;
Tho' they tell us of thoughts
To ennoble mankind
Which your poor measures chase
From the labouring mind ;
While your music rejoices
One joyless young heart,
Perish bookworms and books,
Perish learning and art
Of my vagabond fancies
I'll e'en take my fill.
''Qualche cosa, signor ?'
Yes, my child, that I will.
A Cynic's Day-Dream
SOME men there be who can descry
No charm in earth or sea or sky,
Poor painful bigot souls, to whom
All sights and sounds recall the tomb,
And some who do not fear to use
God's world for tavern or for stews.
Some think it wisdom to despoil
Their years for gold and troublous toil ;
While others with cold dreams of art
Would feed the hunger of the heart,
And dilettanti dare to stand,
Eternities on either hand !
But with no one of these shall I
Make choice to live my life or die,—
Rather let me elect to give
What span of life is mine to live,
To honest labour, daily sought,
Crowned with the meed of patient thought ;
To precious friends for ages dead,
But loved where'er their words are read ;
To others living with us still,
Who sway the nation's mind and will
By eloquent pen or burning word,
Where hearts 'are fired and souls are stirred.
So thro' the tranquil evenings long,
Let us awake our souls with song,
Such song as comes where no words come,
And is most mighty when most dumb.
Then soar awhile on wings of art ;
Not that which chokes the vulgar mart,
But subtle hints and fancies fine,
When least completed most divine,
Sun-copies of some perfect thought,
Thro' bronze or canvas fitly wrought,
Known when in youth 'twas ours to see
Thy treasure-houses, Italy !
Then turn from these to grave debate
What change of laws befits the State,
By what wise schemes and precepts best
To raise the humble and oppressed,
And slay the twin reproach of Time,
The fiends of Ignorance and Crime.
Or what if I might come to fill
A calmer part, and dearer still,
With one attempered soul to share
The joys and ills 'tis ours to bear ;
To grow together, heart with heart,
Into a whole where each is part ;
To blend together, soul with soul,
Neither a part, but each the whole ;
With strange creative thrills to teach
The dawning mind, the growing speech,
To bind around me precious bands
Of loving hearts and childish hands,
And lose the stains of time and sense
In those clear deeps of innocence ?
So if kind fate should grant at length,
Ere frame and brain have lost their strength,
In my own country homestead dear,
To spend a portion of the year ;
What joys I'll prove if modest wealth
Should come with still unbroken health !
There, sheltered from the ruder wind,
Thro' the thick woods we'll range, to find
The spring's first flower, the autumn's fruit,
Strange fungus or misshapen root.
Mark where the wood-quist or the thrush
Builds on tall pine or hazel bush ;
See the brave bird with speckled breast
Brood fearless on the teeming nest,
And bid the little hands refrain
From every act of wrong and pain.
Observe the gossip conies sit
By their own doors, the white owl flit
Thro' the dim fields, while I enjoy
The wondering talk of girl or boy.
Sweet souls, which at life's portal stand,
And all within, a wonderland
Oh, treasure of a guileless love,
Fit prelude of the joys above !
There, when the swift week nears its end,
To greet the welcome Sunday friend,
Through the still fields we'll wend our way,
To meet the guest at close of day.
And then, when little eyes in vain
Long time have sought the coming train,
A gradual distant sound, which fills
The bosom of the folded hills,
Till with white steam or ruddy light
The wayworn convoy leaps to sight,
Then stops and sets the traveller down,
Bringing the smoke and news of town.
And then the happy hours to come,
The walk or ride which leads us home,
Past the tall woods through which 'twould seem
Home's white walls hospitablygleam,
The well-served meal, the neighbour guest,
The rosy darlings curled and dressed ;
And, when the house grows silent, then
The lengthened talk on books and men ;
And on the Sunday morning still,
The pleasant stroll by wood-crowned hill
To church, wherein my eyes grow dim
Hearing my children chant the hymn ;
And seeing in their earnest look
Something of innocent icbuke,
I lose the old doubt's endless pain,
And am a little child again.
If fate should grant me such a home,
So sweet the tranquil clays would come,
I should not need, I trust, to sink
My weariness in lust or drink.
Scant pleasure should I think to gain
From endless scenes of death and pain ;
'Twould little profit me to slay
A thousand innocents a day ;
I should not much delight to tear
With wolfish clogs the shrieking hare ;
With horse and hound to track to death
A helpless wretch that gasps for breath ;
To make the fair bird check its wing,
And drop, a dying, shapeless thing ;
To leave the joy of all the wood
A mangled heap of fur and blood,
Or else escaping, but in vain,
To pine, a shattered wretch, in pain ;
Teeming, perhaps, or doomed to see
Its young brood starve in misery ;
With neither risk nor labour, still
To live for nothing but to kill
I dare not ! If perplexed I am
Between the tiger and the lamb ;
If fate ordain that these shall give
Their poor brief lives that I may live :
Whate'er the law that bids them die,
Others shall butcher them, not I,
Not such my work. Surely the Lord,
Who made the devils by a word,
Not men, but those who'd wield them well
Gave these sad tortures of his Hell.
Ah ! fool and blind, to wander so ;
Who hast lived long enough to know
With what insane confusions teem
The mazes of our waking dream,—
The dullard surfeited with gold
His bloated coffers fail to hold,
While the keen mind and generous brain
From penury aspire in vain ;
Love's choicest treasures flung away
On some vile lump of coarsest clay ;
Pure girlhood chained to wretches foul,
Tainted in body as in soul ;
The precious love of wife or child
Not for the loving heart and mild,
But for the sullen churl, who ne'er
Knew any rule but that of fear ;
Fame, like Titania, stooping down
To set on asses' ears a crown ;
The shallow dunce, the fluent fool,
The butt and laughter of the school,
By fortune's strange caprice grown great,
A light of forum or debate ;
The carnal lump devoid of grace,
With each bad passion in his face,
A saintly idol, round whose knees
Crowd throngs of burning devotees.
Great heaven ! how strange the tangle is,
What old perplexity is this ?
The very words of my complaint,
What else are they than echoes faint
Of the full fire, the passionate scorn,
Of high-souled singers and forlorn,
Who, in our younger England, knew
No care for aught but what was true,
But loved to lash with bitter hate
The shameless vices of the great ;
Who bade, in far-off days of Rome,
In verse their indignation come ;
Who, when we learn the secrets hid
Beneath the eldest Pyramid,
Or in those dim days further still,
Whose nameless ruin builds the hill,
Push back our search where'er we can,
Till first the ape became the man,
Will in rude satire bid us find
The earliest victories of mind ?
Strong souls, rebellious with their lot,
Who longed for right and found it not ;
Too strong to take things as they seem,
Too weak to comprehend the scheme,
Too deeply fired with honest trust
To dream that God might be unjust ;
Yet, seeing how unequal show
His providences here below,
By paradoxes girt about,
Grew thro' excess of faith to doubt.
Oh, faithful souls, who love the true,
Tho' all be false, yet will not you ;
Tho' wrong shall overcome the right,
Still it is hateful in your sight ;
Tho' sorely tempted, you, and tried,
The truth stands always at your side ;
Tho' falsehood wear her blandest smile,
You only she shall ne'er beguile ;
For you, 'mid spectral sights and shows,
Life blushes with a hidden rose ;
Thro' the loud din of lower things
You hear the sweep of angel wings,
And with a holy scorn possest,
Wait till these clamours sink to rest.
I MAY not scorn, I cannot prize
Those whose quick-coming fancies rise
Only in quaint disguise
Some trick of speech, or mien, or dress,
Some obsolete uncomeliness,
Some ancient wickedness.
Strange words antique for tilings not strange,
Like broken tower and mould'ring grange,
Made fair through time and change.
Legends of knight, and squire, and dame,
With this our common life the same
In glory and in shame.
Mean lives and narrow aims which owe
The glamour and the charm they show
To that strange 'Long ago;'
Nay, meaner, lower than our own,
Because To-day is wider grown,
Knows deeper, and is known.
I doubt if anything there be
Which best thro' mask of chivalry,
Reveals myself to me ;
Myself, its yearnings and desires,
Its glimpses of supernal fires,
The something which aspires ;
Myself, the thing of blot and stain,
Which fallen, rises, falls again,
A mystery of pain ;
Myself, the toiler slow to earn,
The thinker sowing words that burn,
The sensuous in turn,
The vanquished, the disgraced, the saint,
Now free as air, now bound and faint,
By everyday constraint.
Or, if too near the present lies
For common brains and common eyes
To probe its mysteries.
If feeble fancy fails to tear
The outer husk of fact, and bare
The seed to vital air,
But too extended, too immense,
Life's orb a vast circumference
Stretches for mortal sense ;
If simpler shows the past, more fair,
Set in a pure and luminous air,
Not dimmed by mists of care,
Seeming to breathe a lighter strain
Of lutes and lyres where none complain
With undertones of pain ;
If haply there we seem to view
Ourselves, behind a veil, yet true
The germ from which we grew ;
Not less our duty and our pride
Forbid to leave unsought, untried,
The glories at our side.
What ? shall the limner only paint
Blue hills with adumbrations faint,
Or misty aureoled saint,
And scorn to ponder flower or tree,
Ripe fields, child-faces, summer sea,
And all fair things that be ;
Nor care thro' passion's endless play,
Our living brethren to portray,
Who fare to doom to-day,
When the sun's finger deigns to trace
Each line and feature of man's face,
Its beauty and disgrace ?
Or shall the skilled musician dare
Only to sound some jocund air
Arcadian, free from care,
Round whom in strains that scorn control
The mighty diapasons roll,
That speak from soul to soul ;
Our mystical modern music deep,
Not piped by shepherds to their sheep,
But wrung from souls that weep ;
Where seldom melody is heard,
Nor simple woodland note of bird,
So deep a depth is stirred,
Such blended harmonies divine
Across the core of sweetness twine
As round the grape the vine ?
Or shall some false cold dream of art
Corrupt the voice and chill the heart,
And turn us from our part,
Blot out the precious lesson won
From all the ages past and done,
That bard and seer are one ?
Dull creed of earthy souls ! who tell
That, be the song of heaven or hell,
Who truly sings, sings well,
And with the same encomiums greet
The satyr baring brutish feet,
And pure child-angels sweet ;
Whose praise in equal meed can share
The Mcenad with distempered hair,
The cold Madonna fair.
Great singers of the past ! whose song
Still streams down earthward pure and strong,
Free from all stain of wron'.
Whose lives were chequered, but whose verse
The generations still rehearse ;
Yet never soul grew worse.
What is it that these would ? shall I,
Born late in time, consent to lie
In the old misery ?
I who have learnt that flesh is dust,
What gulfs dissever love from lust,
The wrongful from the just-
Put on again the rags of sense,
A Pagan without innocence,
A Christian in offence ?
Perish the thought ! I am to-day
What God and Time have made me; they
Have ordered, I obey.
And day by day the labouring earth
Whirls on glad mysteries of birth,
Sad death throes, sorrow, mirth,
Youth's flower just bursting into bloom,
Wan age, a sun which sets in gloom,
The cradle, and the tomb ;
These are around me hope and fear,
Not fables, but alive and near,
Fresh smile and scarce-dried tear ;
These are around me, these I sing,
These, these of every thought and thing,
My verse shall heavenward wing.
The sun but seems to kiss the hill,
And all the vast eternal Will
Is moving, working, still
God is, Truth lives, and overhead
Behold a visible glory spread ;
Only the past is dead.
Courage ! arise ; if hard it seem
To sing the present, yet we deem
'Tis worthier than a dream.
Awake, arise, for to the bold
The seeming desert comes to hold
Blossoms of white and gold.
* * * *
Shall I then choose to take my side
With those who love their thoughts to hide
In vague abstractions wide ?
Whose dim verse struggles to recall
The hopes, the fears that rise and fall
Deep in the souls of all.
Who fitly choose a fitting theme.
Not things which neither are nor seem,
No visionary dream,
But the great psalm of life, the long
Harmonious confluence of song,
Thro' all the ages strong,
But grown to wider scale to-day,
And sweeping fuller chords than they
Knew who have passed away.
A worthy theme for worthy bard
But all too often blurred and marred
By intonations hard.
So that the common eye and ear
Can dimly see and faintly hear
What should be bright and clear.
Who wing the fiery thought so high,
An arrow shot into the sky,
Its failing forces die,
And all the straining eye discerns
Is but a spark which feebly burns,
Then quenched to earth returns,
Or with a borrowed lyre devote
Hoarse accent and untuneful throat
To sound a difficult note,
By currents of conflicting thought,
And counter themes which rise unsought,
And jangling chords distraught.
Not song, but science, sign not sound,
Not soaring to high heaven, but bound
Fast to the common ground.
Who with a pitiless skill dissect
What secret sources, vexed and checked,
Surge upward in effect,
And trace in endless struggling rhyme
How hearts forlorn of love and time
Have rotted into crime.
Or those who, baffled and opprest
By life's incessant fierce unrest,
Where naught that is seems best,
Assail the tyrant, lash the wrong,
Till but a wild invective long,
Is left in lieu of song.
Most precious all, yet this is sure,
The song which longest shall endure
Is simple, sweet, and pure.
Not psychologic riddles fine,
Not keen analysis, combine
In verse we feel divine.
Nor fierce o'erbalanced rage alone,
Which mars the rhyme, and dulls the tone
They may not sing who groan ;
But a sweet cadence, wanting much
Of depth, perhaps, and fire, but such
As finer souls can touch,
To finer issues ; such as come
To him who far afield must roam,
Thinking old thoughts of home.
Or who in Sabbath twilights hears
His children lisp a hymn, and fears
Lest they should see his tears.
Wherefore, my soul, if song be thine,
If any gleam of things divine
Thro' thee may dimly shine,
If ever any faintest note
Of far-off sweetness swell thy throat,
True echo tho' remote,
This is my task, to sing To-day,
Not dead years past and fled away,
But this alone To-day.
Or if I pause a little space
Striving, across the gulf, to trace
Some fine, forgotten face
Some monarch of the race whose name
Still lives upon the lips of fame,
Touched by no stain ofshame ;
Some sweet old love-tale, ever young,
Which of old time the burning tongue
Of god -like bard has sung ;
Some meed of effort nobly won,
Some more than human task begun,
Precious though left undone ;
Some awful story, strong to show
How passions unrestricted flow
Into a sea of woe ;
Not less my powers I strive to bend,
Not less my song aspires to tend
To one unchanging end,
By lofty aspirations, stirred
Thro' homely music, daily heard,
Trite phrase and common word,
Simple, but holding at the core
Thoughts which strange speech and varied lore
Have hid from men before.
To lift how little howsoe'er
The hearts of toilers struggling here,
In joyless lives and sere.
To make a little lighter yet
Their lives by daily ills beset,
Whom men and laws forget.
To sing, if sing I must, of love
As a pure spell, with power to move
Dull hearts to things above.
But choosing rather to portray
The warring tides of thought which stray
Thro' doubting souls to-day.
Or if at times, with straining eye
And voice, I dwell on things which lie
Hidden in Futurity,
And strive to tell in halting rhyme
The glorious dawn, the golden prime,
The victories of Time,
The race transfigured, wrong redressed,
None worn with labour, nor oppressed,
But peace for all and rest,
And knowledge throwing wide the shrine
From whose broad doorways seems to shine
An effluence Divine ;
If of these visions fain to dream,
Not less I hold, whate'er may seem,
The Present for my theme,
The vain regret remembering,
Which lost occasion knows to bring,
Afraid, yet bound, to sing.