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.
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!
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.
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.