From The Desert
THOU hast visited me with Thy storms,
And the vials of Thy sore displeasure
Thou hast poured on my head, like a bitter draught
Poured forth without stint or measure ;
Thou hast bruised me as flax is bruised ;
Made me clay in the potter's wheel ;
Thou hast hardened Thy face like steel,
And cast down my soul to the ground ;
Burnt my life in the furnace of fire, like dross,
And left me in prison where souls are bound :
Yet my gain is more than my loss.
What if Thou hadst led my soul
To the pastures where dull souls feed ;
And set my steps in smooth paths, far away
From the feet of those that bleed ;
Penned me in low, fat plains,
Where the air is as still as death,
And Thy great winds are sunk to a breath,
And Thy torrents a crawling stream,
And the thick steam of wealth goes up day and night,
Till Thy sun gives a veiled light,
And heaven shows like a vanished dream !
What if Thou hadst set my feet
With the rich in a gilded room ;
And made me to sit where the scorners sit,
Scoffing at death and doom !
What if I had hardened my heart
With dark counsels line upon line ;
And blunted my soul with meat and wine,
Till my ears had grown deaf to the bitter cry
Of the halt and the weak and the impotent ;
Nor hearkened, lapt in a dull content,
To the groanings of those who die !
My being had waxed dull and dead
With the lusts of a gross desire ;
But now Thou hast purged me throughly, and burnt
My shame with a living fire.
So burn me, and purge my will
Till no vestige of self remain,
And I stand out white without spot or stain.
Then let Thy flaming angel at last
Smite from me all that has been before ;
And sink me, freed from the load oi the past,
In Thy dark depths evermore.
Of Love And Sleep
I SAW Sleep stand by an enchanted wood,
Thick lashes drooping o'er her heavy eyes :
Leaning against a flower-cupped tree she stood,
The night air gently breathed with slumbrous sighs.
Such cloak of silence o'er the world was spread,
As on Nile sands enshrouds the mighty dead.
About her birds were dumb, and blooms were bowed,
And a thick heavy sweetness filled the air ;
White robed she seemed ; and hidden as in a cloud,
A star-like jewel in her raven hair.
Downward to earth her cold torch would she turn
With feeble fires that might no longer burn.
And in her languid limbs and loosened zone
Such beauty dwelt ; and in her rippling hair,
As of old time was hers, and hers alone,
The mother of gods and men.divinely fair ;
When whiter than white foam or sand she lay,
The fairest thing beneath the eye of day.
To her came Love, a comely youth and strong,
Fair as the morning of a day in June;
Around him breathed a jocund air of song,
And his limbs moved as to a joyous tune :
With golden locks blown back, and eyes aflame,
To where the sleeping maiden leant, he came.
Then they twain passed within that mystic grove
Together, and with them I, myself unseen.
Oh, strange, sweet land ! wherein all men may prove
The things they would, the things which might have been ;
Hopeless hopes blossom, withered youth revives,
And sunshine comes again to darkened lives.
What sights were theirs in that blest wonder-land ?
See, the white mountain-summits, framed in cloud,
Redden with sunset ; while below them stand
The solemn pine-woods like a funeral crowd ;
And lower still the vineyards twine, and make
A double vintage in the tranquil lake.
Or, after storm-tost nights, on some sea isle
The sudden tropical morning bursts ; and lo !
Bright birds and feathery palms, the green hills smile,
Strange barks, with swarthy crews, dart to and fro ;
And on the blue bay, glittering like a crown,
The white domes of some fair historic town.
Or, they fare northward ever, northward still,
At midnight, under the unsetting sun ;
O'er endless snows, from hill to icy hill,
Where silence reigns with death, and life is done :
Till from the North a sweet wind suddenly;
And hark ! the warm waves of the fabulous sea.
Or, some still eve, when summer days are long,
And the mown hay is sweet, and wheat is green,
They hear some wood-bird sing the old fair song
Of joys to be, greater than yet have been;
Stretched 'neath the snowy hawthorn, till the star,
Hung high in heaven, warns them that home is far.
Or, on the herbless, sun-struck hills, by night,
Under the silent peaks, they hear the loud
Wild flutes ; and onward, by the ghostly light,
Whirled in nude dances, sweeps the maddened crowd ;
Till the fierce eddy seize them, and they prove
The shame, the rapture, of unfettered love.
Or, by the sacred hearth they seem to sit,
While firelight gleams on many a sunny head ;
At that fair hour, before the lamp is lit,
When hearts are fullest, though no word be said,—
When the world fades, and rank and wealth and fame,
Seem, matched with this, no better than a name.
All these they knew ! and then a breeze of day
Stirred the dark wood ; and then they seemed to come
Forth with reluctant feet among the
Bare fields, unfanciful ; and all the flame
Was burnt from out Love's eyes, and from his hair,
And his smooth cheek was marked with lines of care.
And paler showed the maid, more pure and white
And holier than before. But when I said,
' Sweet eyes, be opened ;' lo, the unveiled sight
Was as the awful vision of the dead !
Then knew I, breathing slow, with difficult breath,
That Love was one with Life, and Sleep with Death.
Ode On A Fair Spring Morning
COME, friend, let us forget
The turmoil of the world a little while,
For now the soft skies smile,
With dew the flowers are wet.
Let us away awhile
With fierce unrest and carking thoughts of care,
And breathe a little while the jocund air,
And sing the joyous measures sung
By blither singers, when the world was young.
For still the world is young, for still the spring
Renews itself, and still the lengthening hours
Bring back the month of flowers ;
The leaves are green to-day as those of old,
For Chaucer and for Shakspeare ; still the gold
Of August gilds the rippling waves of wheat;
Young maids are fair and sweet
As when they frolicked gay, with flashing feet,
Round the old May-pole. All young things rejoice.
No sorrow dulls the blackbird's mellow voice,
Thro' the clear summer dawns or twilights long.
With aspect not more dim
Thro' space the planets swim
Than of old time o'er the Chaldean plain.
We only, we alone,
Let jarring discords mar our song.
And find our music take a lower tone.
We only with dim eyes
And laboured vision feebly strain,
And flout the undying splendours of the skies.
Oh, see how glorious show,
On this fair morn in May, the clear-cut hills,
The dewy lawns, the hawthorn's white,
Argent on fields of gold ; the growing light
Pure as when first on the young earth
The faint warm sunlight came to birth ;
There is a nameless air
Of sweet renewal over all which fills
The earth and sky with life, and everywhere
Before the new-born sun begins to glow,
The birds awake which slumhered all night long,
And with a gush of song,
First doubting of their strain, then full and wide
Raise their fresh hymns thro' all the country side;
Already, above the dewy clover,
The soaring lark begins to hover
Over his mate's low nest ;
And soon, from childhood's early rest
In hall and cottage, to the casement rise
The little ones with their fresh opened eyes,
And gaze on the old Earth, which still grows new,
And see the tranquil heaven's unclouded blue,
And, since as yet no sight nor sound of toil
The fair spread, peaceful picture comes to soil,
Look with their young and steadfast gaze
Fixed in such artless sweet amaze
As Adam knew, when first on either hand
He saw the virgin landscapes of the morning land.
Oh, youth, dawn, springtide, triune miracle,
Renewing life in earth, and sky, and man,
By what eternal plan
Dost thou revive again and yet again ?
There is no morn that breaks,
No bud that bursts, no life that comes to birth,
But the rapt fancy takes,
Far from the duller plains of mind and earth,
Up to the source and origin of things,
Where, poised on brooding wings,
It seems to hover o'er the immense inane,
And see the suns, like feeble rings of light,
Orb from the gray, and all the youngling globe
A coil of vapour circling like a dream,
Then fixed compact for ever ; the first beam
Strike on the dark and undivided sea,
And wake the deeps with life. Oh, mystery
That still dost baffle thought,
Though by all sages sought,
And yet art daily done
With each returning sun,
With every dawn which reddens in the skies,
With every opening of awakened eyes !
How shall any dare to hold
That the fair world growing old,
Hath spent in vanished time
The glories of its prime ?
Beautiful were the days indeed
Of the Pagan's simple creed,
When all of life was made for girl and boy,
And all religion was but to enjoy.
The fair chivalric dream
To some may glorious seem,
When from the sleeping centuries,
Awakened Europe seemed to rise ;
It may be that we cannot know,
In these ripe years, the glory and the glow
Of those young hours of time, and careless days,
Borne down too much by knowledge, and opprest,
To halt a little for the needed rest,
And yield ourselves awhile to joy and praise ;
Yet every year doth bring
With each recurrence of the genial hour
The infancy of spring,
Crowned with unfolding leaf and bursting flower,
And still to every home
Fresh childish voices come,
And eyes that opened last in Paradise,
And with each rosy dawn
Are night and death withdrawn ;
Another world rises for other eyes ;
Again begins the joy, the stress, the strife,
Ancient as time itself, and wide as life.
We are the ancients of the world indeed ;
No more the simple creed,
When every hill and stream and grove
Was filled with shy divinities of love,
Allures us, serving as our King
A Lord of grief and suffering.
Too much our wisdom burdens to permit
The fair, thin visions of the past, to flit
From shade to shade, or float from hill to hill.
We are so compassed round by ill,
That all the music of our lives is dumb,
Amid the turbulent waves of sound that rise,
The discord born of doubts, and tears, and sighs,
Which daily to the listening ear do come ;
Nay, oft, confounded by the incessant noise
Of vast world-engines, grinding law on law,
We lose the godhead that our fathers saw,
And all our higher joys,
And bear to plod on daily, deaf and blind,
To a dark goal we dare not hope to find.
But grows the world then old ?
Nay, all things that are born of time
Spring upwards, and expand from youth to prime,
Ripen from flower to fruit,
From song-tide till the days are mute,
Green blade to ear of gold.
But not the less through the eternal round
The sleep of winter wakes in days of spring,
And not the less the bare and frozen ground
Grows blithe with blooms that burst and birds that sing.
Nature is deathless ; herb and tree,
Through time that has been and shall be,
Change not, although the outward form
Seem now the columned palm
Nourished in zones of calm,
And now the gnarled oak that defies the storm.
The cedar's thousand summers are no more
To her than are the fleeting petals gay
Which the young spring, ere March is o'er,
Scarce offered, takes away.
Eternal arc her works. Unchanging she,
Alike in short-lived flower and everchanging sea.
We, too, are deathless ; we,
Eternal as the Earth,
We cannot cease to be
While springtide comes or birth.
If our being cease to hold
Reflected lights divine
On budding lives, with every morn they shine
With unabated gold.
Though lost it may be to our mortal sight,
It cannot be that any perish quite
Only the baser part forgets to be.
And if within the hidden Treasury
Of the great Ruler we awhile should rest,
To issue with a higher stamp imprest,
With all our baser alloy purged and spent,
Were we not thus content?
Our thoughts too mighty are
To be within our span of years confined,
Too deep and wide and far,
The hopes, the fears, that crowd the labouring mind,
The sorrows that oppress
The sanctities that bless,
Are vaster than this petty stage of things.
The soaring fancy mounts on careless wings
Beyond the glimmer of the furthest star.
The nightly watcher who with patient eye
Scans the illumined sky,
Knows when the outward rushing fire shall turn,
And in far ages hence shall brightly burn
For eyes to-day undreamt of. The clear voice
From Greece or Israel thro' the centuries heard
Still bids us tremble or rejoice,
Stronger than living look or word ;
The love of home or race,
Which doth transfigure us, and seems to bring
On every heaven-lit face
Some shadow of the glory of our King,
Fades not on earth, nor with our years doth end ;
Nay, even earth's poor physical powers transcend
The narrow bounds of space and time,
The swift thought by some mystic sympathy
Speeding through desert sand, and storm-tost sea.
And shall we hold the range of mind
Is to our little lives confined ;
That the pure heart in some blest sphere above,
Loves not which here was set on fire of love ;
The clear eye scans not still, which here could scan
The confines of the Universal plan ;
The seer nor speaks nor thinks his thoughts sublime,
And all of Homer is a speck of lime ?
Nay, friend, let us forget
Our haunting doubts and fears a little while,
Again our springs shall smile ;
We shall not perish yet.
If God so guide our fate,
The nobler portions of ourselves shall last
Till all the lower rounds of life be past,
And we, regenerate.
We too again shall rise,
The same and not the same,
As daily rise upon the orient skies
New dawns with wheels of flame.
So, if it worthy prove,
Our being, self-perfected, shall upward move
To higher essence, and still higher grown,
Not sweeping idle harps before a throne,
Nor spending praise where is no need of praise,
But through unnumbered lives and ages come
From pure laborious days,
To an eternal home,
Where spring is not, nor birth, nor any dawn,
But life's full noontide never is withdrawn.
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.