O THRUSH, your song is passing sweet,
But never a song that you have sung
Is half so sweet as thrushes sang
When my dear love and I were young.
O Roses, you are sweet and red,
Yet not so red nor sweet as were
The roses that my mistress loved
To bind within her flowing hair.
Time filches fragrance from the flower ;
Time steals the sweetness from the song;
Love only scorns the tyrant's power,
And with the growing years grows strong.
AH ! love is like a tender flower
Hid in the opening leaves of life,
Which, when the springtide calls, has power
To scorn the elemental strife
So strong, that well it knows to gain
Fresh sweetness from the wind and rain.
So strong, and yet so weak, alas !
It waits the wooing of the sun ;
'Mid frosts and snows the brief hours pass,
And when they melt the spring is done.
Gay blooms and honeyed fruits may come,
But spring is dead, and birds are dumb.
THO' love be bought and honour sold,
The sunset keeps its glow of gold,
And round the rosy summits cold
The white clouds hover, fold on fold.
Tho' over-ripe the nations rot,
Tho' right be dead and faith forgot,
Tho' one dull cloud the heavens may blot,
The tender leaf delayeth not.
Tho' all the world lie sunk in ill,
The bounteous autumns mellow still,
By virgin sand and sea-worn hill
The constant waters ebb and fill.
From out the throng and stress of lies,
From out the painful noise of sighs,
One voice of comfort seems to rise :
' It is the meaner part that dies.'
WHERE are last year's snows,
Where the summer's rose,
Who is there that knows ?
Or the glorious note
Of some singer's throat,
Heard in years remote ?
Or the love they bore
Who, in days of yore,
Loved, but are no more?
Or the faiths men knew
When, before mind grew,
All strange things seemed true?
* * * *
The snows are sweet spring rain,
The dead rose blooms again,
Young voices keep the strain.
The old affection mild
Still springs up undefined
For love, and friend, and child.
The old faiths grown more wide,
Purer and glorified,
Are still our lifelong guide.
Nothing that once has been,
Tho' ages roll between
And it be no more seen,
Can perish, for the Will
Which doth our being fulfil,
Sustains and keeps it still.
I SEE myself reflected in thine eyes,
The dainty mirrors set in golden frame
Of eyelash, quiver with a sweet surprise,
And most ingenuous shame.
Like Eve, who hid her from the dread command
Deep in the dewy blooms of paradise ;
So thy shy soul, love calling, fears to stand
Discovered at thine eyes.
Or, like a tender little fawn, which lies
Asleep amid the fern, and waking, hears
Some careless footstep drawing near, and flies,
Yet knows not what she fears :
So shrinks thy soul ; but, dearest, shrink not so ;
Look thou into mine eyes as I in thine :
So our reflected souls shall meet and grow,
And each with each combine
In something nobler ; as when one has laid
Opposite mirrors on a cottage wall ;
And lo ! the never-ending colonnade,
The vast palatial hall.
So our twin souls, by one sweet suicide,
Shall fade into an essence more sublime;
Living through death, and dying glorified,
Beyond the touch of time.
To A Lost Love
COLD snowdrops which the shrinking new-born year
Sends like the dove from out the storm-tost ark ;
Sweet violets which may not tarry here
Beyond the earliest flutings of the lark ;
Bright celandines which gild the tufted brake
Before the speckled thrush her nest has made ;
Fair frail anemones which star-like shake
And twinkle by each sunny bank and glade ;
Pale primroses wherewith the virgin spring,
As with a garland, wreathes her comely head ;
No eyes have I for you, nor voice to sing.
My love is dead !
For she was young and pure and white as you,
And fairer and more sweet, and ah! as frail.
I dare not give to her the honour due,
Lest, for a strain so high, my voice should fail.
Like you, she knew the springtide's changeful hours ;
Like you, she blossomed ere the coming leaf ;
Like you, she knew not summer's teeming showers ;
Like you, as comely, and, alas ! as brief.
You may not see the roses, nor might she ;
Such swift short beauty is its only fruit ;
So a sweet silence is her eulogy,
And praise is mute.
LOVE took me up, a naked, helpless child,
Love laid me sleeping on the tender breast,
Love gazed on me with saintly eyes and mild,
Love watched me as I lay in happy rest,
Love was my childhood's stay, my chiefest good,
My daily friend, my solace, and my food.
But when to Love's own stature I was come,
Treading the paths where fabled Loves abound,
Hard by the Cytherean's magic home,
Loveless I paced alone the enchanted ground.
Some phantoms pale I marked, which fled away,
And lo, my youth was gone ; my hair turned gray.
Loveless I lived long time, until I knew
A thrill since childish hours unknown before,
My cloistered heart forth to the wicket flew,
And Love himself was waiting at the door.
And now, howe'er the treacherous seasons move,
Love dwells with me again, and I with Love.
Love folds me round, Love walks with me, Love takes
My heart and burns it with a holy fire :
Love lays me on his silver wings, and makes
My fainting soul to thinner air aspire.
Love of the Source, the Race, the True, the Right,
This is my sole companion day and night.
ALAS for me for that my love is dead !
Buried deep down, and may not rise again ;
Self- murdered, vanished, gone beyond recall,
And this is all my pain.
'Tis not that she I loved is gone from me,
She lives and grows more lovely day by day ;
Not Death could kill my love, but though she lives,
My love has died away.
Nor was it that a form or face more fair
Forswore my troth, for so my love had proved
Eye-deep alone, not rooted in the soul;
And 'twas not thus I loved.
Nor that by too long dalliance with delight
And recompense of love, my love had grown
Surfeit with sweets, like some tired bee that flags
'Mid roses over-blown.
None of these slew my love, but some cold wind,
Some chill of doubt, some shadowy dissidence,
Born out of too great concord, did o'ercloud
Love's subtle inner sense.
So one sweet changeless chord, too long sustained,
Falls at its close into a lower tone :
So the swift train, sped on the long, straight way,
Sways, and is overthrown.
For difference is the soul of life and love,
And not the barren oneness weak souls prize :
Rest springs from strife, and dissonant chords beget
Loss And Gain
FROM day to day, from year to year,
New waves of change assail us here ;
Each day, each year, prolongs the chain
Where pleasure alternates with pain.
New earth-born exhalations rise,
To hide the heavens from our eyes ;
New clouds obscure the vision fair,
Which once was round us everywhere.
New precious obligations come,
New sanctities of love and home,
New tender hopes, new anxious fears,
And sweet experiences of tears.
Old tastes are lost, old thoughts grow strange,
Old longings gradually change,
Old faiths seem no more dear or true,
Lost in the full light of the new.
Youth's boundless aspirations fled,
And every wild ambition dead ;
Love not a meteor blinding sight,
But a pure ray of sober light.
And for the passionate self of old,
A deep affection, calm, not cold ;
A pitying love serenely kind,
A broader trust, a juster mind,
A faith which occupies the heart,
Tho' the brain halts to bear its part,
Which threat and promise fail to move,
Like the dim consciousness of love.
Tho' much be taken, much is left,
Not all forsaken nor bereft ;
From change on change we come to rest,
And the last moment is the best.
I might at last the barren victory gain,
After long struggle and laborious pain,
And many a secret tear,
To think, since think I must of thee,
Not otherwise than thou of me.
Haply I might
Thy chilling coldness, thy disdain, thy pride,
Which draw me, half reluctant, to thy side,
With a like meed requite,
And I my too fond self despise,
Seeing with disenchanted eyes.
But now, alas !
So fast a prisoner am I to my love,
No power there is that can my chains remove,
So sweet the caged hours pass,
That, if it parted me from thee,
I would not willingly grow free.
Nor would I dare
To ask for recompense of love again,
Who love thee for the height of thy disdain.
Thou wouldst not show so fair
If we should own an equal flame,
Unequal souls, in love the same.
Full well I know
That what I worship is not wholly thee,
But a fair dream, a pious fantasy.
Such as at times doth grow
On yearnings of the cloistered mind,
Or the rapt vision of the blind.
Scorn me then, sweet,
I would not thou shouldst leave thy lofty place,
Thy lover should not see thee face to face,
But prostrate at thy feet.
No recompense, no equal part I seek,
Only that thou be strong and I be weak.
ONLY eighteen winters old !
Lay her with a tender hand
On the delicate, ribbed sea-sand :
Stiff and cold ; ay, stiff and cold.
What she has been, who shall care ?
Looking on her as she lies
With those stony, sightless eyes,
And the sea-weed in her hair.
Think, O mothers ! how the deep
All the dreary night did rave ;
Thundering foam and crested wave,
While your darlings lay asleep.
How she cleft the midnight air;
And the idiot surge beneath
Whirled her sea-ward to her death,
Angry that she was so fair.
Tossed her, beat her, till no more
Rage could do, through all the night ;
Then with morning's ghastly light,
Flung her down upon the shore.
Mother ! when brief years ago
You were happy in your child,
Smiling on her as she smiled,
Thought you she would perish so ?
Man ! who made her what she is ;
What, if when you falsely swore
You would love her more and more,
You had seen her lie like this.
And, O Infinite Cause ! didst Thou,
When Thou mad'st this hapless child,
Dowered with passions, fierce and wild,
See her lie as she lies now ?
Filled with wild revolt and rage,
All I feel I may not speak ;
Fate so strong, and we so weak,
Like rats in a cage,—like rats in a cage.
The Living Past
FAITHFUL souls that watch and yearn,
Expectant of the coming light,
With kindling hearts and eyes that burn
With hope to see the rule of right ;
The time of peace and of good will,
When the thick clouds of wrong and pain
Roll up as from a shining hill,
And never more descend again ;
The perfect day, the golden year,
The end of sorrow and of sighs ;
Whether the heavenly change be here,
Or far beyond the sunset skies,—
I cherish you, I love your faith,
I long with you that this may be ;
But hark, a dreary voice which saith,
'Vain dreamer, what were it to thee!'
For though the blest hour strike before
Another sunrise vex the earth,
And pain and evil rule no more,
But vanish in the newer birth,—
Though war and hatred come to cease,
And sorrow be no more, nor sin,
And in their stead an endless peace
Its fair unbroken reign begin,—
What comfort have ye? What shall blot
The memories of bitter years,
Of joys which have been, but are not,
And floods of unforgotten tears ?
The painful records graven clear
On carven rock or deathless page ;
The long unceasing reign of fear,
The weary tale of lust and rage ;
The ills whose dark sum baffles thought,
Done day by day beneath the sun ?
'That which is done,' the old sage taught,
'Not God Himself can make undone.'
For that which has been, still must live,
And 'neath the shallow Present last.
Oh, who will sweet oblivion give,
Who free us from the dreadful Past ?
THE spring day was all of a flutter with flags ;
The mad chimes were beating like surf in the air ;
The beggars had slunk out of sight with their rags ;
And the balconies teemed with the rich and the fair.
And below, on each side, the long vistas were set
In a frame-work of faces, patient and white,
Wives, mothers, sweethearts, with full eyes wet,
And sick hearts longing to see the sight.
Till at length, when the evening was waning, there ran
A stir through the crowd, and far-off, like a flame,
The setting sun burned on the helms of the van,
And with trampling of hoofs the proud conquerors came.
And with every step they advanced, you might hear
Women's voices, half-maddened with long-deferred joy :
'Thank God ! he is safe. See, my love, we are here !
See ! here am I, darling ; and this is our boy !'
Or, 'Here am I, dearest, still iaithful and true ;
Your own love as of old!' Or an agonised cry,
As the loved face came not with the comrades she knew
And the rough soldiers found not a word to reply.
And pitiful hands led her softly away,
With a loving heart rent and broken in twain ;
And the triumph sweeps onward, in gallant array,
The life and the hope, the despair and the pain.
Where was it? In Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome?
Ages since, or to-day ; in the old world, or new ?
Who shall tell ? From all time these strange histories come ;
And to-day, as of old, the same story is true.
And the long line sweeps past, and the dull world rolls on
Though the rapture is dead and the sad tears are dry,
And careless of all, till the progress be done,
Life rides like a conqueror triumphing by.
The Voice Of One Crying
'CRY, cry aloud in the land, cry aloud in the streets of the city ;
Cry and proclaim that no more shall the blood of the people be shed.
Too long have the great ones waxed strong, without justice or any pity,
Too long have they ground down the poor, and eaten the people as bread.'
Thus said the voice from the dead.
'Terrible voice, I said, immoderate, voice of unreason,
Not of themselves do the lowly ones mourn, or the great ones rejoice ;
He who hath made them unequal, hath made all things in their season ;
If they are mighty and strong, they were made without freedom or choice.'
'Cry, cry aloud,' said the voice.
' How shall the sins of the few be reckoned against the many ?
Are there no tender hearts and kind 'midst the selfish and proud ;
Merciful souls and pure, full of love for their suffering brothers ;
Pitiful, touched with compassion and care for the desolate crowd ?'
'Cry,' said the voice, 'cry aloud.'
'Nay, but the world is ruled by merciless rules unbending ;
The feeble folk fade from the earth, and only the mighty remain ;
Not men alone, but all things send upwards a clamour unending ;
Always the whole creation travails in sorrow and pain.'
'Cry, 'said the voice, 'cry again,'
'Are not our sins and our fathers' worked out in our children's sorrow ?
Does not excess of laughter sink at its close in a sigh ?
Mirth and enjoyment to-day turn to pain and repentance to-morrow ;
Thousands are born every hour, in the place of the thousands who die.'
'Cry,' said the stubborn voice, 'cry.'
'Lo ! He hath made all things ; good and evil, sorrow and pleasure ;
Not as your ways are His ways, yet are ye not all in His hand ?
Just is He, though ye know not the measure wherewith He will measure ;
Dark things shall one day be clear ; to obey is to understand !'
Thus that voice, solemn and grand.
In Regent Street
ONE of the nightly hundreds who pass
Wearily, hopelessly, under the gas.
But the old sad words had a strange new tone,
And the wild laugh seemed to sink to a moan.
So that turning as one constrained to look,
The strange sight stifled the voice of rebuke :
For I looked on a girl's face pure and fair,
Blue-eyed, and crowned with a glory of hair,
Such as my dead child-sister might own,
Were she not a child still, but a woman grown ;
Full of the tender graces that come
To the cherished light of an ancient home ;
Even to that touch of a high disdain,
Which is born of a name without blot or stain.
Strange ; as if one should chance to meet
An angel of light in that sordid street !
' O child, what misery brings you here,
To this place of vileness and weeping and fear?'
' I am no more than the rest,' she said,
Proudly averting her beautiful head !
Then no response, till some kinder word
Stole in unawares, and her heart was stirred.
' I was a wife but the other day,
Now I am left without hope or stay !
' Work did I ask ? What work is for you?
What work can those delicate fingers do?
' Service? But how could I bear to part
From the child with whom I had left my heart ?
' Alms ? Yes, at first ; then a pitiless No:
The State would provide me whithei to go.
' But in sordid prisons it laid my head
With the thief and the harlot ; therefore I fled.
' One thing alone had I left untried,
Then I put off the last rag of pride.'
' What came? ' You were of an honoured race,
Now you must live with your own disgrace.'
'But many will buy where few will give,
And I die every day that my child may live.'
Motherly love sunk to this ! Ah, well,
Teach they not how He went down into hell:
Only blind me in heart and brain,
Or ever I look on the like again.
WHAT shall it profit a man
To have stood by the source of things,
To have spent the fair years of his youthful prime
In mystical questionings ;
To have scaled the lovely height,
While his brothers slept below ;
To have seen the vision bright
Which but few on earth may know,—
If when his task be done
He lives his life alone ?
If in the busy street
None come whom he may greet ?
If in his lonely room
With the night the shadows deepen into ghostly shapes of gloom ?
It may be his soul may say,
' I have gained me a splendid dower ;
I can look around on the toiling crowd,
With the pride of a conscious power.
I can hear the passer-by
Tell of all my world-wide fame ;
I have friends I shall not see
Who dwell fondly on my name.
If the sweet smile of wife
Light not my joyless life,
If to my silent home
No childish laughter come,
Shall I no solace find
In communion with the monarchs of the fair broad realm of mind ?'
But when sickness wears him, or age
Creeps on, and his soul doth yearn
For the tender hand and the soothing voice
That shall never more return
When the lessening throng of friends,
Not unkind, but each one set
Safe within white walls of home,
All the world without forget,—
Shall not old memories rise
'Twixt book and weary eyes,
Till knowledge come to seem
A profitless vague dream ?
Shall not he sometimes sigh
For the careless past unlearned, and the happy days gone by ?
Ah ! not to be happy alone,
Are men sent, or to be glad.
Oft-times the sweetest music is made
By the voices of the sad.
The thinker oft is bent
By a too-great load of thought ;
The discoverer's soul grows sick
With the secret vainly sought :
Lonely may be the home,
No breath of fame may come,
Yet through their lives doth shine
A purple light Divine,
And a nobler pain they prove
Than the bloom of lower pleasures, or the fleeting spell of love.
The Garden Of Regret
BEYOND the dim walls of the shadowy Past,
A sweet vague host of fancies flourishes,
Like garden seeds in some rough hollow cast,
Which all unasked the kind earth nourishes,
And sends up tender blooms more sweet and fair
Than the dull Present rears with all its care.
There on its thin stem hangs the frail white flower;
Far sweeter now she shines within the shade,
Than when of old within the trim-kept bower
And perfumed lush parterres her home she made ;
Because her sister blooms are past and gone,
And this alone it is that lingers on.
The same white flower, but oh, the depths of change !
Before, the creamy petals, broad and strong,
Were all adust with gold, and filled with strange
Sweet scents, which lurked the odorous depths among ;
Deep in her honeyed wells, the bee would stay
Content, and birds sing round the livelong day.
The same white flower yet changed in scent and hue.
Now the fair feeble petals curl and shrink ;
The dead smooth surfaces are veined with blue ;
No honeyed draughts they hold for bee to drink,
Nor busy hum, nor joyous song is heard.
What hath she left to charm or bee or bird ?
Only a faint sweet odour lingers yet,
Dearer than those rich scents of former years :
A fragile fairness, fairer through regret,
And watered by the dewy fount of tears.
To me that outcast flower is dearer grown,
Than when in those fair gardens overblown.
I set her in the garden of my heart,
And water her from life's sincerest spring ;
And lo ! once more the frail stems quicken and start,
Fair honeyed blooms arise and blithe birds sing :
The old sweet flower in scent and gorgeous hue,
But not the tender grace that once I knew.
Alas ! not in the Present will she grow :
The Present has its own blooms sweet and bright ;
Within its four walls life's fair pleasures blow,
And each gay season brings its own delight :
Far off in dewy shades the exile sweet
Grows fair, and paths untrodden by living feet.
There let her stay. I know not if my theme
Be love, or some fair child of heart or mind :
Young friendships, hopes, beliefs, which like a dream
Pass from us leaving some sweet ghost behind.
Leave them behind, they have been ; others are,
And shall be. Lo ! the spring time is not far.
A CRUEL little stream I know,
Which slowly, slowly crawls between
The ooze banks, fringed with sedges green,
That serve to bind its feeble flow.
So sheltered that no passing breath
Of west-wind stirs it ; nay, the blast
Which strips the tall elms and is past,
Scarce wakes to life its race of death.
On its black surface year by year
The marsh flowers, grown untimely old,
Shed their soft petals like a tear,
And hopeless drown their faded gold.
Deep in its darkling depths the pike
Darts with his cruel jaws ; by night
The black eels, sinuous, serpent-like,
Twist like fell ghosts that fear the light.
Spring shuns it, summer loves it not ;
The low fat fields are lit with bloom,
But here the watery sedges rot,
And all the months are clothed with gloom.
Autumn's first footstep sears to brown
Its coarse green fringe ; the first cold breath,
Ere yet the oak-leaf flutters down,
Binds its dull life in icy death.
I hate, I hate you, crawling stream !
Dumb, creeping, murderous wretch, I long
To see the sunlit ripples gleam,
To hear the torrent's jubilant song.
But you, dull monster, all the years
Lie rolling on your sullen flood,
And take your fill of mortal tears ;
Yet, like the Churchmen, spill not blood.
The dark gap in the ice, the boat
Keel upward, or the drifting oar ;
Or, like of old, the little coat,
The white clothes heaped upon the shcre;
And some young life is over and gone,
And some fond heart is broken in twain ;
And you flow smoothly, smoothly on,
Taking no heed for death or pain.
They come and grapple with hooks until
They reach the slimy deep, where lies
The white thing, very cold and still,
With death's gaze in its stony eyes.
And you just make a ripple, and then
Flow smoothly onward : you who slew
Young innocent lives of painted men,
Long ere the crowded city grew ;
And shall in far years yet to be,
Pierce unborn mothers with that sharp pain,
Which only a mother feels when he
Who was her first-born comes again,
A clay-cold heap. I would that I
Had but the archangel's flaming brand ;
So would I burn thy dull springs dry,
And choke thy flow with hills of sand.
Yet why ? Whatever soft souls prate,
Babbling of universal good,
Love is the sister-child of hate,
And all good things are bought with blood.
Virtue were not if vice were not,
Nor darkness if there were not light.
Creep on ; fulfil thy murderous lot ;
For Wrong has equal life with Right.
In Memory Of A Friend*
BENEATH the feathery fronds of palm
The white stone of a double grave,
And on the horizon, blue and calm,
The tropic ocean wave.
'Twas three years since, no more, that thou,
Dear friend, with us, in daily round,
Didst labour where we labour now,
'Mid London's surge of sound.
Treading the dull slow paths of law,
With little of reward or gain,
To feel a high ambition gnaw
Thy heart with tooth of pain,
And mark with scant content the crowd
Fulfil the immemorial rule
Which drives the fool with plaudits loud
To glorify the fool.
And so with patient scorn didst gain
To winnow from the growing heap
Of barren precedent the grain
Which hides there buried deep.
Till last, congenial labour came,
To call thee o'er the tropic sea,
And exile, gilt by toil and fame,
Severed thy friends from thee.
Brief as we hoped, but ah, how long !
Though lit by news of days well spent,
Of rights defined, of law made strong,
Of rebels grown content,
Of ordered codes so reasoned out,
Speaking with voice so true and clear,
That none who hear them still may doubt
' 'Tis Justice speaketh here.'
Yet not the less thou barest part
In the old talk we loved before ;
The newest growths of thought or art
Delighted more and more,
And all the marvels of thy isle,
The lavish wealth of sea and land,
The skies with their too constant smile,
Loud surf on breathless strand,
The shallow nature fierce, yet gay,
Of our dark brethren ; thou didst learn,
Noting but gazing, far away,
With eyes that still would yearn,
For that fair time when, toil being done,
The happy day at length should come,
When with our kindly autumn sun
Thou should'st revisit home.
* * * *
It was this very year ; and then
The plague, which long time, dealing death,
Had vexed the shores of kindred men,
On those breathed deadly breath.
And one, I know not who, their guest,
Sickening, Love drew them forth to tend,
Careless of needful food and rest,
Their fever-stricken friend,
Who owed to them life's refluent power ;
While for those duteous martyrs twain,
Brother and Sister, one blest hour
Brought one release from pain.
Too generous natures ! kindred souls !
And now, round those twin tombs the wave,
Forgetful of their story, rolls,
And the palms shade their grave.
* * * *
And we what shall we say of thee ?
Thou hast thy due reward, oh, friend
We serve a High Necessity,
To an Invisible End.
That waste nor halting comes at all
In all the scheme is all we know ;
The force was formed that bade thee fall,
Millions of years ago.
The clouds of circumstance unite,
The winds of fate together roll ;
They meet ; there bursts a sudden light,
And consecrates a soul !
On An Old Minster
OLD minster, when my years were few,
And life seemed endless to the boy ;
Clear yet and vivid is the joy
With which I gazed and thought on you.
Thin shaft and flower-wrought capital,
High-springing arch, and blazoned pane,
Quaint gurgoyles stretching heads profane,
And stately throne and carven stall.
The long nave lost in vaporous gray,
The mailed recumbent forms which wait,
In mockery of earthly state,
The coming of the dreadful day.
The haunted aisles, the gathering gloom,
By some stray shaft of eve made fair :
The stillness of the mouldering air,
The faded legends of the tomb.
I loved them all. What care had I,
I, the young heir of all the Past,
That neither youth nor life might last,
That all things living came to die!
The Past was spent, the Past was done,
The Present was my own to hold ;
Far off within a haze of gold
Stretched the fair Future, scarce begun.
For me did pious builders rear
Those reverend walls ; for me the song
Of supplication, ages long,
Had gone up daily, year by year.
And thus I loved you ; but to-day
The long Past near and nearer shows ;
Less bright, more clear, the Future grows,
And all the world is turning gray.
But you scarce bear a deeper trace
Of time upon your solemn brow ;
No sadder, stiller, grayer now,
Than when I loved your reverend face.
And you shall be when I am not ;
And you shall be a thing of joy
To many a frank and careless boy
When I and mine are long forgot.
Grave priests shall here with holy rage,
Whose grandsires are as yet unborn,
Lash, with fierce stripes of saintly scorn,
The heats of youth, the greed of age.
Proud prelates sit on that high throne,
Whose young forefathers drive the plough
While Norman lineage nods below,
In way-worn tramp or withered crone.
And white-haired traders feign to pray,
Sunk deep in thoughts of gain and gold;
And sweet flower-faces growing old,
Give place to fresher blooms than they. ,
With such new shape of creed and rite
As none now living may foretell ;
A faith of love which needs not hell,
A stainless worship, pure and white.
Or, may be, some reverting change
To the old faith of vanished days :
The incensed air, the mystic praise,
The barbarous ritual, quaint and strange.
Who knows ? But they are wrong who say
Man's work is brief and quickly past ;
If you through all these centuries last,
While they who built you pass away.
The wind, the rain, the sand, are slow ;
Man fades before his work ; scant trace
Time's ringer findeth to efface
Of him whom seventy years lay low.
The grass grows green awhile, and then
Is as before ; the work he made
Casts on his grave a reverend shade
Through long successive lives of men.
But he ! where is he ? Lo, his name
Has vanished from his wonted place,
Unknown his tongue, his creed, his race;
Unknown his soaring hopes of fame.
Only the creatures of the brain,
Just laws, wise precepts, deathless verse ;
These weave a chaplet for the hearse,
And through all change unchanged remain.
These will I love as age creeps on ;'
Gray minster, these are ever young ;
These shall be read and loved and sung
When every stone of you is gone.
No hands have built the monument
Which to all ages shall endure ;
High thoughts, and fancies sweet and pure
Lives in the quest of goodness spent.
These, though no visible forms confine
Their spiritual essence fair ;
Are deathless as the soul they bear,
And, as its Maker is, divine.
The New Order
THE old lives are dead and gone and rotten,
The old thoughts shall never more be thought,
The old faiths have failed and are forgotten,
The old strifes are done, the fight is fought.
And with a clang and roll, the new creation
Bursts forth 'mid tears and blood and tribulation.
Sweet they were, the old days that are ended,
The golden years, the happy careless hours
Then, like Pagan gods on the asphodel extended,
Dreaming, men wove them fancies fair as flowers.
Love laid near them, Art to cheer them, youthful Beauty
Sitting crowned upon the marble throne of Duty.
All good things were theirs to cherish lives grown finer
From the heritage of long ancestral ease,
And a nobler port, and temperate mien diviner
Than their labours and their vigils leave to these ;
Gentler voices, smiles more gracious, and the fashion
Of their soft lives tuned to pity and compassion.
Naught men knew of science, now grown rigid
With its teaching of inexpiable sin ;
Nor the dull pedantic gospel, dead and frigid,
Of a heaven where mind alone may enter in,
Doom awaiting, stern and silent, all transgression,
And no saint with power to make an intercession.
For a Ruler, as men thought they saw above them,
More than earthly rulers, pitiful and mild,
A Father with a stronger love to love them
Than the love an earthly father bears his child—
God above them, and for pleader and defender
Christ's face stooping, like his mother's, true and tender.
But now there seems no place for the Creator
To hold his long unbroken chain of law,
Nor any need for heaven-sent Mediator,
Nor the Providence our fathers thought they saw.
Only a dull world-system, always tending
To a blind goal, by a blind rule unbending.
And for the courtesy and tender graces,
The chivalries and charities of old,
A dull and equal arrogance effaces
Soft sympathies by hard demands and cold ;
And the giver giveth not, lest any blame him,
And the taker may not take, lest taking shame him.
Be still, oh ye of little faith, repining
That the purpose of the Eternal will is dead.
The silent stars forget not yet their shining,
Daily the full sun journeys overhead.
How shall mind's realm alone forget its reason,
When the sure years roll season after season ?
There shall rise from this confused sound of voices
A firmer faith than that our fathers knew,
A deep religion, which alone rejoices
In worship of the Infinitely True,
Not built on rite or portent, but a finer
And purer reverence for a Lord diviner.
There shall come from out this noise of strife and groaning
A broader and a juster brotherhood,
A deep equality of aim, postponing
All selfish seeking to the general good.
There shall come a time when each shall to another
Be as Christ would have him brother unto brother.
There shall come a time when knowledge wide extended,
Sinks each man's pleasure in the general health,
And all shall hold irrevocably blended
The individual and the commonwealth,
When man and woman in an equal union
Shall merge, and marriage be a true communion.
There shall come a time when brotherhood shows stronger
Than the narrow bounds which now distract the world ;
When the cannons roar and trumpets blare no longer,
And the ironclad rusts, and battle flags are furled ;
When the bars of creed and speech and race, which sever,
Shall be fused in one humanity for ever.
Oh, glorious end ! oh, blessed consummation!
Oh, precious day ! for which we wait and yearn.
Thou shalt come, and knit men nation unto nation.
But not for us, who watch to day and burn,
Thou shalt come, but after what long years of trial,
Weary watchings, baffled longings, dull denial !
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.
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.
Love In Death
DEAR heart ! what a little time it is since Francis and I used to walk
From church in the still June evenings together, busy with loving talk ;
And now he is gone, far away over seas, to some strange foreign country, and I
Shall never rise from my bed any more, till the day when I come to die.
I tried not to think of him during the prayers; but when his dear voice I heard,
I failed to take part in the hymn ; for my heart fluttered up to my throat like a bird,
And scarcely a word of the sermon I caught. I doubt 'twas a grievous sin;
But 'twas only one poor little hour in the week that I had to be happy in.
When the blessing was given, and we left the dim aisles for the light of the evening star ;
Though I durst not lift up my eyes from the ground, yet I knew that he was not far.
And I hurried on, though I fain would have stayed, till I heard his footstep draw near ;
And love rising up in my breast like a flame, cast out every shadow of fear.
Ah me ! 'twas a pleasant pathway home, a pleasant pathway and sweet ;
Ankle deep through the purple clover ; breast high 'mid the blossoming wheat ;
I can hear the landrails prate through the dew, and the night-jars' tremulous thrill,
And the nightingale pouring her passionate song from the hawthorn under the hill.
One day, when we came to the wicket gate, 'neath the elms, where we used to part,
His voice began to falter and break as he told me I had his heart.
And I whispered back that mine was his : we knew what we felt long ago ;
Six weeks are as long as a lifetime almost, when you love each other so.
So we put up the banns, and were man and wife, in the sweet fading time of the year,
And till Christmas was over and past, I knew no shadow of sorrow or fear.
It seems like a dream already, alas ! a sweet dream vanished and gone,
So hurried and brief while passing away, so long to look back upon.
I had only had him three little months, and the world lay frozen and dead,
When the summons came, which we feared and hoped, and he sailed over seas for our bread.
Ah, well ! it is fine to be wealthy and grand, and never to need to part ;
But 'tis better far to love and be poor than be rich with an empty heart.
Though I thought 'twould have killed me to lose him at first, yet was he not going for me ?
So I hid deep down in my breast all the grief, which I knew it would pain him to see.
He'd surely be back by the autumn, he said ; and since his last passionate kiss
He has scarcely been out of my thoughts, day or night, for a moment, from that day to this.
When I wrote to him how I thought it would be, and he answered so full of love,
Ah ! there was not an angel happier than I, in all the white chorus above.
And I seemed to be lonely no longer, the days and the weeks passed so swiftly away;
And the March winds died, and the sweet April showers gave place to the blossoms of May.
And then came the sad summer eve, when I sat with the little frock in the sun,
And Patience ran in with the news of the ship Ah, veil ! may His will be done.
They said that all hands were lost, and I swooned away on the floor like a stone ;
And another life came, ere I knew he was safe, and my own was over and gone.
* * * * * * *
And now I lie helpless here, and shall never rise up again ;
I grow weaker and weaker, day by day, till my weakness itself is a pain.
Every morning the slow dawn creeps ; every evening I see from my bed
The orange-gold fade into lifeless gray, and the old evening star overhead.
Sometimes by the twilight dim, or the awful birth of the day,
As I lie, very still, not asleep nor awake, my soul seems to flutter away ;
And I float far beyond the stars, till I thrill with a rapturous pain,
And the feeble touch of a tiny hand recalls me to life again.
And the doctor says she will live. Ah ! 'tis hard to leave her alone,
And to think she will never know, in the world, the love of the mother who's gone.
They will tell her of me, by-and-by, and perhaps she will shed me a tear ;
But if I should stoop to her bed in the night, she would start with a horrible fear.
She will grow into girlhood, I trust, and will bask in the light of love,
And I, if I gain to see her at all, shall only look on from above.
I shall see her and cannot aid, though she fall into evil and woe.
Ah, how can the angels find heart to rejoice, when they think of their dear ones below ?
And Francis, he too will forget me, and go on the journey of life ;
And I hope, though I dare not think of it yet, will take him another wife
It will hardly be Patience, I think, though she liked him in days gone by.
Was that why she came ? But what thoughts are these for one who is soon to die?
I hope he will come ere I go, though I feel no longer the thirst
For the sound of his voice and the light of his eye, which I used to feel at first.
!Tis not that I care for him less, but death dries, with a finger of fire,
The tender springs of innocent love and the torrents of strong desire.
And I know we shall meet again. I have done many things that are wrong,
But surely the Lord of Life and of Love cannot bear to be angry long.
I am only a girl of eighteen, and have had no teacher but love ;
And, it may be, the sorrow and pain I have known will be counted for tna above.
For I doubt if the minister knows all the depths of the goodness of God,
When he says, He is jealous of earthly love, and bids me bow down 'neath the rod.
He is learned and wise, I know, but somehow to dying eyes
God opens the secret doors of the shrine that are closed to the learned and wise.
So now I am ready to go, for I know He will do what is best,
Though He call me away while the sun is on high, like a child sent early to rest.
I should like him to see her first, though the yearning is over and past :
But what is that footstep upon the stair ? Oh, my darling at last, at last!
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.
Gilbert Beckett And The Fair Saracen
THE last crusader's helm had gleamed
Upon the yellow Syrian shore ;
No more the war-worn standards streamed,
The stout knights charged and fell no more ;
No more the Paynim grew afraid—
The crescent floated o'er the cross.
But to one simple Heathen maid
Her country's gain was bitter loss ;
For love, which knows not race or creed,
Had bound her with its subtle chain,—
Love, which still makes young hearts to bleed,
For this one, mingled joy with pain,
And left for one brief hour of bliss,
One little span of hopes and fears,
The memory of a parting kiss,
And what poor solace comes of tears.
A lowly English squire was he,
A prisoner chained, enslaved, and sold ;
A lady she of high degree.
'Tis an old tale and often told :
'Twas pity bade the brown cheek glow,
'Twas love and pity drew the sigh,
'Twas love that made the soft tear flow,
The sweet sad night she bade him fly.
Far from the scorching Syrian plain
The brave ship bears the Saxon home ;
Once more to mists and rains again,
And verdant English lawns, they come.
I know not if as now 'twas then,
Or if the growing ages move
The careless, changeful hearts of men
More slowly to the thoughts of love ;
But woman's heart was then, as now,
Tender and passionate and true.
Think, gentle ladies, ye who know
Love's power, what pain that poor heart knew ;
How, living always o'er again
The sweet short past, she knew, too late,
'Twas love had bound the captive's chain,
Which broken, left her desolate.
Till by degrees the full young cheek
Grew hollow, and the liquid eyes
Still gazing seaward, large and meek,
Took something of a sad surprise ;
As one who learns, with a strange chill,
'Mid youth and wealth's unclouded day,
Of sad lives full of pain and ill,
And thinks, 'And am I too as they?'
And by degrees most hateful grew
All things that once she held so dear
The feathery palms, the cloudless blue,
Tall mosque and loud muezzin clear,
The knights who flashed by blinded street,
The lattice lit by laughing eyes,
The songs around the fountain, sweet
To maidens under Eastern skies.
And oft at eve, when young girls told
Tales precious to the girlish heart,
She sat alone, and loved to hold
Communion with her soul apart.
Till at the last, too great became
The hidden weight of secret care,
And girlish fears and maiden shame
Were gone, and only love was there.
And so she fled. I see her still
In fancy, desolate, alone,
Wander by arid plain and hill,
From early dawn till day was done ;
Sun-stricken, hungry, thirsty, faint,
By perilous paths I see her move,
Clothed round with pureness like a saint,
And fearless in the might of love.
Till lo ! a gleam of azure sen,
And rude ships moored upon the shore.
Strange, yet not wholly strange, for he
Had dared those mystic depths before.
And some good English seaman bold,
Remembering those he left at home,
Put gently back the offered gold,
And for love's honour bade her come.
And then they sailed. No pirate bark
Swooped on them, for the Power of Love
Watched o'er that precious wandering ark,
And this his tender little dove.
I see those stalwart seamen still
Gaze wondering on that childish form,
And shelter her from harm and ill,
And guide her safe through wave and storm.
Till under grayer skies a gleam
Of white, and taking land she went,
Following our broad imperial stream,
Or rose-hung lanes of smiling Kent.
Friendless I see her, lonely, weak,
Thro' fields where every flower was strange,
Go forth without a word to speak,
By burgh and thorp and moated grange.
For all that Love himself could teach
This passionate pilgrim to our shore,
Were but two words of Saxon speech,
Two little words and nothing more
'Gilbert' and 'London'; like a flame
To her sweet lips these sounds would come,
The syllables of her lover's name,
And the far city of his home.
I see her cool her weary feet
In dewy depths of crested grass ;
By clear brooks fringed with meadowsweet,
And daisied meads, I see her pass ;
I see her innocent girlish glee,
I see the doubts which on her crowd,
O'erjoyed with bird, or flower, or tree,
Despondent for the fleeting cloud.
I see her passing slow, alone,
By burgh and thorp and moated grange,
Still murmuring softly like a moan
Those two brief words in accents strange.
Sometimes would pass a belted earl
With squires behind in brave array ;
Sometimes some honest, toilworn churl
Would fare with her till close of day.
The saintly abbess, sweet and sage,
Would wonder as she ambled by,
Or white-plumed knight or long-haired page
Ride by her with inquiring eye.
The friar would cross himself, and say
His paternosters o'er and o'er ;
The gay dames whisper Welladay !
And pity her and nothing more.
But tender women, knowing love
And all the pain of lonelihood,
Would feel a sweet compassion move,
And welcome her to rest and food,
And walk with her beyond the hill,
And kiss her cheek when she must go ;
And ' Gilbert' she would murmur still,
And 'London' she would whisper low.
And sometimes sottish boors would rise
From wayside tavern, where they sate,
And leer from heated vinous eyes,
And stagger forth with reeling gait,
And from that strong unswerving will
And clear gaze shrink as from a blow ;
And 'Gilbert' she would murmur still,
And ' London ' she would whisper low.
Then by the broad suburban street,
And city groups that outward stray
To take the evening, and the sweet
Faint breathings of the dying day
The gay young 'prentice, lithe and slim,
The wimpled maid, demurely shy,
The merchant somewhat grave and prim,
The courtier with his rolling eye.
And more and more the growing crowd
Would gather, wondering whence she came
And why, with boorish laughter loud,
And jeers which burnt her cheek with flame.
For potent charm to save from ill
But one word she made answer now :
For ' Gilbert' she would murmur still,
And ' Gilbert' she would whisper low.
Till some good pitiful soul not then
Our London was as now o'ergrown
Pressed through the idle throng of men,
And led her to his home alone,
And signing to her he would find
Him whom she sought, went forth again
And left her there with heart and mind
Distracted by a new-born pain.
For surely then, when doubt was o'er,
A doubt before a stranger came,
' He loved me not, or loves no more.'
Oh, virgin pride ! oh, maiden shame !
Almost she fled, almost the past
Seemed better than the pain she knew ;
Her veil around her face she cast :
Then the gate swung—and he was true.
Poor child ! they christened her, and so
She had her wish. Ah, yearning heart,
Was love so sweet then ? would you know
Again the longing and the smart ?
Came there no wintry hours when you
Longed for your native skies again,
The creed, the tongue your girlhood knew,
Aye, even the longing and the pain ?
Peace ! Love is Lord of all. But I,
Seeing her fierce son's mitred tomb,
Conjoin with fancy's dreaming eye
This love tale, and that dreadful doom.
Sped hither by a hidden will,
O'er sea and land I watch her go ;
'Gilbert' I hear her murmur still,
And ' London ' still she whispers low.
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.