A Death-Day Recalled
Beeny did not quiver,
Juliot grew not gray,
Thin Valency's river
Held its wonted way.
Bos seemed not to utter
Dimmest note of dirge,
Targan mouth a mutter
To its creamy surge.
Yet though these, unheeding,
Listless, passed the hour
Of her spirit's speeding,
She had, in her flower,
Sought and loved the places -
Much and often pined
For their lonely faces
When in towns confined.
Why did not Valency
In his purl deplore
One whose haunts were whence he
Drew his limpid store?
Why did Bos not thunder
Body and breath were sunder
Of their former friend?
In The Moonlight
"O lonely workman, standing there
In a dream, why do you stare and stare
At her grave, as no other grave where there?"
"If your great gaunt eyes so importune
Her soul by the shine of this corpse-cold moon,
Maybe you'll raise her phantom soon!"
"Why, fool, it is what I would rather see
Than all the living folk there be;
But alas, there is no such joy for me!"
"Ah - she was one you loved, no doubt,
Through good and evil, through rain and drought,
And when she passed, all your sun went out?"
"Nay: she was the woman I did not love,
Whom all the other were ranked above,
Whom during her life I thought nothing of."
The Dead Drummer
They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined--just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.
Young Hodge the Drummer never knew -
Fresh from his Wessex home -
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.
Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow up a Southern tree.
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.
I saw a dead man's finer part
Shining within each faithful heart
Of those bereft. Then said I: "This must be
I looked there as the seasons wore,
And still his soul continuously upbore
Its life in theirs. But less its shine excelled
Than when I first beheld.
His fellow-yearsmen passed, and then
In later hearts I looked for him again;
And found him--shrunk, alas! into a thin
And spectral mannikin.
Lastly I ask--now old and chill -
If aught of him remain unperished still;
And find, in me alone, a feeble spark,
Dying amid the dark.
"Poor wanderer," said the leaden sky,
"I fain would lighten thee,
But there are laws in force on high
Which say it must not be."
--"I would not freeze thee, shorn one," cried
The North, "knew I but how
To warm my breath, to slack my stride;
But I am ruled as thou."
--"To-morrow I attack thee, wight,"
Said Sickness. "Yet I swear
I bear thy little ark no spite,
But am bid enter there."
--"Come hither, Son," I heard Death say;
"I did not will a grave
Should end thy pilgrimage to-day,
But I, too, am a slave!"
We smiled upon each other then,
And life to me had less
Of that fell look it wore ere when
They owned their passiveness.
The Death Of Regret
I opened my shutter at sunrise,
And looked at the hill hard by,
And I heartily grieved for the comrade
Who wandered up there to die.
I let in the morn on the morrow,
And failed not to think of him then,
As he trod up that rise in the twilight,
And never came down again.
I undid the shutter a week thence,
But not until after I'd turned
Did I call back his last departure
By the upland there discerned.
Uncovering the casement long later,
I bent to my toil till the gray,
When I said to myself, 'Ah - what ails me,
To forget him all the day!'
As daily I flung back the shutter
In the same blank bald routine,
He scarcely once rose to remembrance
Through a month of my facing the scene.
And ah, seldom now do I ponder
At the window as heretofore
On the long valued one who died yonder,
And wastes by the sycamore.
Long have I framed weak phantasies of Thee,
O Willer masked and dumb!
Who makest Life become, -
As though by labouring all-unknowingly,
Like one whom reveries numb.
How much of consciousness informs Thy will
Thy biddings, as if blind,
Of death-inducing kind,
Nought shows to us ephemeral ones who fill
But moments in Thy mind.
Perhaps Thy ancient rote-restricted ways
Thy ripening rule transcends;
That listless effort tends
To grow percipient with advance of days,
And with percipience mends.
For, in unwonted purlieus, far and nigh,
At whiles or short or long,
May be discerned a wrong
Dying as of self-slaughter; whereat I
Would raise my voice in song.
Rain on a Grave
Clouds spout upon her
Their waters amain
In ruthless disdain, -
Her who but lately
Had shivered with pain
As at touch of dishonour
If there had lit on her
So coldly, so straightly
Such arrows of rain:
One who to shelter
Her delicate head
Would quicken and quicken
Each tentative tread
If drops chanced to pelt her
That summertime spills
In dust-paven rills
When thunder-clouds thicken
And birds close their bills.
Would that I lay there
And she were housed here!
Or better, together
Were folded away there
Exposed to one weather
We both, - who would stray there
When sunny the day there,
Or evening was clear
At the prime of the year.
Soon will be growing
Green blades from her mound,
And daisies be showing
Like stars on the ground,
Till she form part of them -
Ay - the sweet heart of them,
Loved beyond measure
With a child's pleasure
All her life's round.
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate,
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to me
The Century's corpse outleant,
Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind its death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited.
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
And I was unaware.
Thought Of Ph---A At News Of Her Death
NOT a line of her writing have I,
Not a thread of her hair,
No mark of her late time as dame in her dwelling, whereby
I may picture her there;
And in vain do I urge my unsight
To conceive my lost prize
At her close, whom I knew when her dreams were upbrimming with light,
And with laughter her eyes.
What scenes spread around her last days,
Sad, shining, or dim?
Did her gifts and compassions enray and enarch her sweet ways
With an aureate nimb?
Or did life-light decline from her years,
And mischances control
Her full day-star; unease, or regret, or forebodings, or fears
Disennoble her soul?
Thus I do but the phantom retain
Of the maiden of yore
As my relic; yet haply the best of her--fined in my brain
It may be the more
That no line of her writing have I,
Nor a thread of her hair,
No mark of her late time as dame in her dwelling, whereby
I may picture her there.
WHEN, soul in soul reflected,
We breathed an æthered air,
When we neglected
All things elsewhere,
And left the friendly friendless
To keep our love aglow,
We deemed it endless...
--We did not know!
When, by mad passion goaded,
We planned to hie away,
The storm-shafts gray
So heavily down-pattered
That none could forthward go,
Our lives seemed shattered...
--We did not know!
When I found you, helpless lying,
And you waived my deep misprise,
And swore me, dying,
To wing to me when grieving,
And touch away my woe,
We kissed, believing...
--We did not know!
But though, your powers outreckoning,
You hold you dead and dumb,
Or scorn my beckoning,
And will not come;
And I say, "'Twere mood ungainly
To store her memory so:"
I say it vainly--
I feel and know!
The Dead Man Walking
They hail me as one living,
But don't they know
That I have died of late years,
I am but a shape that stands here,
A pulseless mould,
A pale past picture, screening
Ashes gone cold.
Not at a minute's warning,
Not in a loud hour,
For me ceased Time's enchantments
In hall and bower.
There was no tragic transit,
No catch of breath,
When silent seasons inched me
On to this death ...
-- A Troubadour-youth I rambled
With Life for lyre,
The beats of being raging
In me like fire.
But when I practised eyeing
The goal of men,
It iced me, and I perished
A little then.
When passed my friend, my kinsfolk,
Through the Last Door,
And left me standing bleakly,
I died yet more;
And when my Love's heart kindled
In hate of me,
Wherefore I knew not, died I
One more degree.
And if when I died fully
I cannot say,
And changed into the corpse-thing
I am to-day,
Yet is it that, though whiling
The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling,
I live not now.
The Choirmaster's Burial
He often would ask us
That, when he died,
After playing so many
To their last rest,
If out of us any
Should here abide,
And it would not task us,
We would with our lutes
Play over him
By his grave-brim
The psalm he liked best—
The one whose sense suits
And perhaps we should seem
To him, in Death's dream,
Like the seraphim.
As soon as I knew
That his spirit was gone
I thought this his due,
And spoke thereupon.
'I think', said the vicar,
'A read service quicker
Than viols out-of-doors
In these frosts and hoars.
That old-fashioned way
Requires a fine day,
And it seems to me
It had better not be.'
Hence, that afternoon,
Though never knew he
That his wish could not be,
To get through it faster
They buried the master
Without any tune.
But 'twas said that, when
At the dead of next night
The vicar looked out,
There struck on his ken
Where the frost was graying
The headstoned grass,
A band all in white
Like the saints in church-glass,
Singing and playing
The ancient stave
By the choirmaster's grave.
Such the tenor man told
When he had grown old.
WHEN I look forth at dawning, pool,
Field, flock, and lonely tree,
All seem to look at me
Like chastened children sitting silent in a school;
Their faces dulled, constrained, and worn,
As though the master's ways
Through the long teaching days
Their first terrestrial zest had chilled and overborne.
And on them stirs, in lippings mere
(As if once clear in call,
But now scarce breathed at all)--
"We wonder, ever wonder, why we find us here!
"Has some Vast Imbecility,
Mighty to build and blend,
But impotent to tend,
Framed us in jest, and left us now to hazardry?
"Or come we of an Automaton
Unconscious of our pains?...
Or are we live remains
Of Godhead dying downwards, brain and eye now gone?
"Or is it that some high Plan betides,
As yet not understood,
Of Evil stormed by Good,
We the Forlorn Hope over which Achievement strides?"
Thus things around. No answerer I....
Meanwhile the winds, and rains,
And Earth's old glooms and pains
Are still the same, and gladdest Life Death neighbors nigh.
'O He's suffering - maybe dying - and I not there to aid,
And smooth his bed and whisper to him! Can I nohow go?
Only the nurse's brief twelve words thus hurriedly conveyed,
As by stealth, to let me know.
'He was the best and brightest! - candour shone upon his brow,
And I shall never meet again a soldier such as he,
And I loved him ere I knew it, and perhaps he's sinking now,
Far, far removed from me!'
- The yachts ride mute at anchor and the fulling moon is fair,
And the giddy folk are strutting up and down the smooth parade,
And in her wild distraction she seems not to be aware
That she lives no more a maid,
But has vowed and wived herself to one who blessed the ground she trod
To and from his scene of ministry, and thought her history known
In its last particular to him - aye, almost as to God,
And believed her quite his own.
So great her absentmindedness she droops as in a swoon,
And a movement of aversion mars her recent spousal grace,
And in silence we two sit here in our waning honeymoon
At this idle watering-place….
What now I see before me is a long lane overhung
With lovelessness, and stretching from the present to the grave.
And I would I were away from this, with friends I knew when young,
Ere a woman held me slave.
Her Late Husband (King's-Hintock, 182-.)
"No--not where I shall make my own;
But dig his grave just by
The woman's with the initialed stone -
As near as he can lie -
After whose death he seemed to ail,
Though none considered why.
"And when I also claim a nook,
And your feet tread me in,
Bestow me, under my old name,
Among my kith and kin,
That strangers gazing may not dream
I did a husband win."
"Widow, your wish shall be obeyed;
Though, thought I, certainly
You'd lay him where your folk are laid,
And your grave, too, will be,
As custom hath it; you to right,
And on the left hand he."
"Aye, sexton; such the Hintock rule,
And none has said it nay;
But now it haps a native here
Eschews that ancient way . . .
And it may be, some Christmas night,
When angels walk, they'll say:
"'O strange interment! Civilized lands
Afford few types thereof;
Here is a man who takes his rest
Beside his very Love,
Beside the one who was his wife
In our sight up above!'"
Why do you harbour that great cheval-glass
Filling up your narrow room?
You never preen or plume,
Or look in a week at your full-length figure -
Picture of bachelor gloom!
'Well, when I dwelt in ancient England,
Renting the valley farm,
Thoughtless of all heart-harm,
I used to gaze at the parson's daughter,
A creature of nameless charm.
'Thither there came a lover and won her,
Carried her off from my View.
O it was then I knew
Misery of a cast undreamt of -
More than, indeed, my due!
'Then far rumours of her ill-usage
Came, like a chilling breath
When a man languisheth;
Followed by news that her mind lost balance,
And, in a space, of her death.
'Soon sank her father; and next was the auction -
Everything to be sold:
Mid things new and old
Stood this glass in her former chamber,
Long in her use, I was told.
'Well, I awaited the sale and bought it….
There by my bed it stands,
And as the dawn expands
Often I see her pale-faced form there
Brushing her hairs bright bands.
'There, too, at pallid midnight moments
Quick she will come to my call,
Smile from the frame withal
Ponderingly, as she used to regard me
Passing her father's wall.
'So that it was for it's revelations
I brought it oversea,
And drag it about with me….
Anon I shall break it and bury its, fragments
Where my grave is to be.
By The Earth's Corpse
"O Lord, why grievest Thou? -
Since Life has ceased to be
Upon this globe, now cold
As lunar land and sea,
And humankind, and fowl, and fur
Are gone eternally,
All is the same to Thee as ere
They knew mortality."
"O Time," replied the Lord,
"Thou read'st me ill, I ween;
Were all THE SAME, I should not grieve
At that late earthly scene,
Now blestly past--though planned by me
With interest close and keen! -
Nay, nay: things now are NOT the same
As they have earlier been.
On my eternal mind
Are all the wrongs endured
By Earth's poor patient kind,
Which my too oft unconscious hand
Let enter undesigned.
No god can cancel deeds foredone,
Or thy old coils unwind!
"As when, in Noe's days,
I whelmed the plains with sea,
So at this last, when flesh
And herb but fossils be,
And, all extinct, their piteous dust
That I made Earth, and life, and man,
It still repenteth me!"
Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?
"Ah, are you digging on my grave,
My loved one? -- planting rue?"
-- "No: yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
'That I should not be true.'"
"Then who is digging on my grave,
My nearest dearest kin?"
-- "Ah, no: they sit and think, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death's gin.'"
"But someone digs upon my grave?
My enemy? -- prodding sly?"
-- "Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.
"Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say -- since I have not guessed!"
-- "O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog , who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"
"Ah yes! You dig upon my grave...
Why flashed it not to me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog's fidelity!"
"Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting place."
A Woman's Fancy
'Ah Madam; you've indeed come back here?
'Twas sad-your husband's so swift death,
And you away! You shouldn't have left him:
It hastened his last breath.'
'Dame, I am not the lady you think me;
I know not her, nor know her name;
I've come to lodge here-a friendless woman;
My health my only aim.'
She came; she lodged. Wherever she rambled
They held her as no other than
The lady named; and told how her husband
Had died a forsaken man.
So often did they call her thuswise
Mistakenly, by that man's name,
So much did they declare about him,
That his past form and fame
Grew on her, till she pitied his sorrow
As if she truly had been the cause-
Yea, his deserter; and came to wonder
What mould of man he was.
'Tell me my history!' would exclaim she;
'OUR history,' she said mournfully.
'But YOU know, surely, Ma'am?' they would answer,
Much in perplexity.
Curious, she crept to his grave one evening,
And a second time in the dusk of the morrow;
Then a third time, with crescent emotion
Like a bereaved wife's sorrow.
No gravestone rose by the rounded hillock;
-'I marvel why this is?' she said.
- 'He had no kindred, Ma'am, but you near.'
-She set a stone at his head.
She learnt to dream of him, and told them:
'In slumber often uprises he,
And says: 'I am joyed that, after all, Dear,
You've not deserted me!'
At length died too this kinless woman,
As he had died she had grown to crave;
And at her dying she besought them
To bury her in his grave.
Such said, she had paused; until she added:
'Call me by his name on the stone,
As I were, first to last, his dearest,
Not she who left him lone!'
And this they did. And so it became there
That, by the strength of a tender whim,
The stranger was she who bore his name there,
Not she who wedded him.
UPON a noon I pilgrimed through
A pasture, mile by mile,
Unto the place where I last saw
My dead Love's living smile.
And sorrowing I lay me down
Upon the heated sod:
It seemed as if my body pressed
The very ground she trod.
I lay, and thought; and in a trance
She came and stood me by--
The same, even to the marvellous ray
That used to light her eye.
"You draw me, and I come to you,
My faithful one," she said,
In voice that had the moving tone
It bore in maidenhead.
She said: "'Tis seven years since I died:
Few now remember me;
My husband clasps another bride;
My children mothers she.
My brethren, sisters, and my friends
Care not to meet my sprite:
Who prized me most I did not know
Till I passed down from sight."
I said: "My days are lonely here;
I need thy smile alway:
I'll use this night my ball or blade,
And join thee ere the day."
A tremor stirred her tender lips,
Which parted to dissuade:
"That cannot be, O friend," she cried;
"Think, I am but a Shade!
"A Shade but in its mindful ones
By living, me you keep alive,
By dying you slay me.
"In you resides my single power
Of sweet continuance here;
On your fidelity I count
Through many a coming year."
--I started through me at her plight,
So suddenly confessed:
Dismissing late distaste for life,
I craved its bleak unrest.
"I will not die, my One of all!--
To lengthen out thy days
I'll guard me from minutest harms
That may invest my ways!"
She smiled and went. Since then she comes
Oft when her birth-moon climbs,
Or at the seasons' ingresses
Or anniversary times;
But grows my grief. When I surcease,
Through whom alone lives she,
Ceases my Love, her words, her ways,
Never again to be!
The Two Men
THERE were two youths of equal age,
Wit, station, strength, and parentage;
They studied at the self-same schools,
And shaped their thoughts by common rules.
One pondered on the life of man,
His hopes, his endings, and began
To rate the Market's sordid war
As something scarce worth living for.
"I'll brace to higher aims," said he,
"I'll further Truth and Purity;
Thereby to mend and mortal lot
And sweeten sorrow. Thrive I not,
"Winning their hearts, my kind will give
Enough that I may lowly live,
And house my Love in some dim dell,
For pleasing them and theirs so well."
Idly attired, with features wan,
In secret swift he labored on;
Such press of power had brought much gold
Applied to things of meaner mould.
Sometimes he wished his aims had been
To gather gains like other men;
Then thanked his God he'd traced his track
Too far for wish to drag him back.
He lookèd from his loft one day
To where his slighted garden lay;
Nettles and hemlock hid each lawn,
And every flower was starved and gone.
He fainted in his heart, whereon
He rose, and sought his plighted one,
Resolved to loose her bond withal,
Lest she should perish in his fall.
He met her with a careless air,
As though he'd ceased to find her fair,
And said: "True love is dust to me;
I cannot kiss: I tire of thee!"
(That she might scorn him was he fain,
To put her sooner out of pain;
For incensed love breathes quick and dies,
When famished love a-lingering lies.)
Once done, his soul was so betossed,
It found no more the force it lost:
Hope was his only drink and food,
And hope extinct, decay ensued.
And, living long so closely penned,
He had not kept a single friend;
He dwindled thin as phantoms be,
And drooped to death in poverty....
Meantime his schoolmate had gone out
To join the fortune-finding rout;
He liked the winnings of the mart,
But wearied of the working part.
He turned to seek a privy lair,
Neglecting note of garb and hair,
And day by day reclined and thought
How he might live by doing nought.
"I plan a valued scheme," he said
To some. "But lend me of your bread,
And when the vast result looms nigh,
In profit you shall stand as I."
Yet they took counsel to restrain
Their kindness till they saw the gain;
And, since his substance now had run,
He rose to do what might be done.
He went unto his Love by night,
And said: "My Love, I faint in fight:
Deserving as thou dost a crown,
My cares shall never drag thee down."
(He had descried a maid whose line
Would hand her on much corn and wine,
And held her far in worth above
One who could only pray and love.)
But this Fair read him; whence he failed
To do the deed so blithely hailed;
He saw his projects wholly marred,
And gloom and want oppressed him hard;
Till, living to so mean an end,
Whereby he'd lost his every friend,
He perished in a pauper sty,
His mate the dying pauper nigh.
And moralists, reflecting, said,
As "dust to dust" in burial read
Was echoed from each coffin-lid,
"These men were like in all they did."
The Souls Of The Slain.
The thick lids of Night closed upon me
Alone at the Bill
Of the Isle by the Race -
Many-caverned, bald, wrinkled of face -
And with darkness and silence the spirit was on me
To brood and be still.
No wind fanned the flats of the ocean,
Or promontory sides,
Or the ooze by the strand,
Or the bent-bearded slope of the land,
Whose base took its rest amid everlong motion
Of criss-crossing tides.
Soon from out of the Southward seemed nearing
A whirr, as of wings
Waved by mighty-vanned flies,
Or by night-moths of measureless size,
And in softness and smoothness well-nigh beyond hearing
Of corporal things.
And they bore to the bluff, and alighted -
A dim-discerned train
Of sprites without mould,
Frameless souls none might touch or might hold -
On the ledge by the turreted lantern, farsighted
By men of the main.
And I heard them say "Home!" and I knew them
For souls of the felled
On the earth's nether bord
Under Capricorn, whither they'd warred,
And I neared in my awe, and gave heedfulness to them
With breathings inheld.
Then, it seemed, there approached from the northward
A senior soul-flame
Of the like filmy hue:
And he met them and spake: "Is it you,
O my men?" Said they, "Aye! We bear homeward and hearthward
To list to our fame!"
"I've flown there before you," he said then:
"Your households are well;
But--your kin linger less
On your glory arid war-mightiness
Than on dearer things."--"Dearer?" cried these from the dead then,
"Of what do they tell?"
"Some mothers muse sadly, and murmur
Your doings as boys -
Recall the quaint ways
Of your babyhood's innocent days.
Some pray that, ere dying, your faith had grown firmer,
And higher your joys.
"A father broods: 'Would I had set him
To some humble trade,
And so slacked his high fire,
And his passionate martial desire;
Had told him no stories to woo him and whet him
To this due crusade!"
"And, General, how hold out our sweethearts,
Sworn loyal as doves?"
--"Many mourn; many think
It is not unattractive to prink
Them in sables for heroes. Some fickle and fleet hearts
Have found them new loves."
"And our wives?" quoth another resignedly,
"Dwell they on our deeds?"
--"Deeds of home; that live yet
Fresh as new--deeds of fondness or fret;
Ancient words that were kindly expressed or unkindly,
These, these have their heeds."
--"Alas! then it seems that our glory
Weighs less in their thought
Than our old homely acts,
And the long-ago commonplace facts
Of our lives--held by us as scarce part of our story,
And rated as nought!"
Then bitterly some: "Was it wise now
To raise the tomb-door
For such knowledge? Away!"
But the rest: "Fame we prized till to-day;
Yet that hearts keep us green for old kindness we prize now
A thousand times more!"
Thus speaking, the trooped apparitions
Began to disband
And resolve them in two:
Those whose record was lovely and true
Bore to northward for home: those of bitter traditions
Again left the land,
And, towering to seaward in legions,
They paused at a spot
Overbending the Race -
That engulphing, ghast, sinister place -
Whither headlong they plunged, to the fathomless regions
Of myriads forgot.
And the spirits of those who were homing
Passed on, rushingly,
Like the Pentecost Wind;
And the whirr of their wayfaring thinned
And surceased on the sky, and but left in the gloaming
Sea-mutterings and me.
"ALIVE?"--And I leapt in my wonder,
Was faint of my joyance,
And grasses and grove shone in garments
Of glory to me.
"She lives, in a plenteous well-being,
To-day as aforehand;
The dead bore the name--though a rare one--
The name that bore she."
She lived ... I, afar in the city
Of frenzy-led factions,
Had squandered green years and maturer
In bowing the knee
To Baals illusive and specious,
Till chance had there voiced me
That one I loved vainly in nonage
Had ceased her to be.
The passion the planets had scowled on,
And change had let dwindle,
Her death-rumor smartly relifted
To full apogee.
I mounted a steed in the dawning
With acheful remembrance,
And made for the ancient West Highway
To far Exonb'ry.
Passing heaths, and the House of Long Sieging,
I neared the thin steeple
That tops the fair fane of Poore's olden
And, changing anew my onbearer,
I traversed the downland
Whereon the bleak hill-graves of Chieftains
Bulge barren of tree;
And still sadly onward I followed
That Highway the Icen,
Which trails its pale ribbon down Wessex
O'er lynchet and lea.
Along through the Stour-bordered Forum,
Where Legions had wayfared,
And where the slow river upglasses
Its green canopy,
And by Weatherbury Castle, and therence
Through Casterbridge, bore I,
To tomb her whose light, in my deeming,
Extinguished had He.
No highwayman's trot blew the night-wind
To me so life-weary,
But only the creak of the gibbets
Or wagoners' jee.
Triple-ramparted Maidon gloomed grayly
Above me from southward,
And north the hill-fortress of Eggar,
And square Pummerie.
The Nine-Pillared Cromlech, the Bride-streams,
The Axe, and the Otter
I passed, to the gate of the city
Where Exe scents the sea;
Till, spent, in the graveacre pausing,
I learnt 'twas not my Love
To whom Mother Church had just murmured
A last lullaby.
--"Then, where dwells the Canon's kinswoman,
My friend of aforetime?"--
('Twas hard to repress my heart-heavings
And new ecstasy.)
"She wedded."--"Ah!"--"Wedded beneath her--
She keeps the stage-hostel
Ten miles hence, beside the great Highway--
The famed Lions-Three.
"Her spouse was her lackey--no option
'Twixt wedlock and worse things;
A lapse over-sad for a lady
Of her pedigree!"
I shuddered, said nothing, and wandered
To shades of green laurel:
Too ghastly had grown those first tidings
So brightsome of blee!
For, on my ride hither, I'd halted
Awhile at the Lions,
And her--her whose name had once opened
My heart as a key--
I'd looked on, unknowing, and witnessed
Her jests with the tapsters,
Her liquor-fired face, her thick accents
In naming her fee.
"O God, why this hocus satiric!"
I cried in my anguish:
"O once Loved, of fair Unforgotten--
That Thing--meant it thee!
"Inurned and at peace, lost but sainted,
Where grief I could compass;
Depraved--'tis for Christ's poor dependent
A cruel decree!"
I backed on the Highway; but passed not
The hostel. Within there
Too mocking to Love's re-expression
Was Time's repartee!
Uptracking where Legions had wayfared,
By cromlechs unstoried,
And lynchets, and sepultured Chieftains,
A feeling stirred in me and strengthened
That she was not my Love,
But she of the garth, who lay rapt in
Her long reverie.
And thence till to-day I persuade me
That this was the true one;
That Death stole intact her young dearness
Frail-witted, illuded they call me;
I may be. 'Tis better
To dream than to own the debasement
Of sweet Cicely.
Moreover I rate it unseemly
To hold that kind Heaven
Could work such device--to her ruin
And my misery.
So, lest I disturb my choice vision,
I shun the West Highway,
Even now, when the knaps ring with rhythms
From blackbird and bee;
And feel that with slumber half-conscious
She rests in the church-hay,
Her spirit unsoiled as in youth-time
When lovers were we.
The Obliterate Tomb
'More than half my life long
Did they weigh me falsely, to my bitter wrong,
But they all have shrunk away into the silence
Like a lost song.
'And the day has dawned and come
For forgiveness, when the past may hold it dumb
On the once reverberate words of hatred uttered
Half in delirium….
'With folded lips and hands
They lie and wait what next the Will commands,
And doubtless think, if think they can: 'Let discord
Sink with Life's sands!'
'By these late years their names,
Their virtues, their hereditary claims,
May be as near defacement at their grave-place
As are their fames.'
- Such thoughts bechanced to seize
A traveller's mind - a man of memories -
As he set foot within the western city
Where had died these
Who in their lifetime deemed
Him their chief enemy - one whose brain had schemed
To get their dingy greatness deeplier dingied
So, sojourning in their town,
He mused on them and on their once renown, said,
'I'll seek their resting-place to-morrow
Ere I lie down,
'And end, lest I forget,
Those ires of many years that I regret,
Renew their names, that men may see some liegeness
Is left them yet.'
Duly next day he went
And sought the church he had known them to frequent,
And wandered in the precincts, set on eyeing
Where they lay pent,
Till by remembrance led
He stood at length beside their slighted bed,
Above which, truly, scarce a line or letter
Could now be read.
'Thus years obliterate
Their graven worth, their chronicle, their date!
At once I'll garnish and revive the record
Of their past state,
'That still the sage may say
In pensive progress here where they decay,
'This stone records a luminous line whose talents
Told in their day.''
While speaking thus he turned,
For a form shadowed where they lay inurned,
And he beheld a stranger in foreign vesture,
'Sir, I am right pleased to view
That ancestors of mine should interest you,
For I have come of purpose here to trace them….
They are time-worn, true,
'But that's a fault, at most,
Sculptors can cure. On the Pacific coast
I have vowed for long that relics of my forbears
I'd trace ere lost,
'And hitherward I come,
Before this same old Time shall strike me numb,
To carry it out.' - 'Strange, this is!' said the other;
'What mind shall plumb
Though these my father's enemies were and mine,
I nourished a like purpose - to restore them
Each letter and line.'
Is now not needed, sir; for you will see
That since I am here, a thing like this is, plainly,
Best done by me.'
The other bowed, and left,
Crestfallen in sentiment, as one bereft
Of some fair object he had been moved to cherish,
By hands more deft.
And as he slept that night
The phantoms of the ensepulchred stood upright
Before him, trembling that he had set him seeking
And, as unknowing his ruth,
Asked as with terrors founded not on truth
Why he should want them. 'Ha,' they hollowly hackered,
'You come, forsooth,
'By stealth to obliterate
Our graven worth, our chronicle, our date,
That our descendant may not gild the record
Of our past state,
'And that no sage may say
In pensive progress near where we decay:
'This stone records a luminous line whose talents
Told in their day.''
Upon the morrow he went
And to that town and churchyard never bent
His ageing footsteps till, some twelvemonths onward,
Once more detained him there;
And, stirred by hauntings, he must needs repair
To where the tomb was. Lo, it stood still wasting
In no man's care.
'The travelled man you met
The last time,' said the sexton, 'has not yet
Appeared again, though wealth he had in plenty.
- Can he forget?
'The architect was hired
And came here on smart summons as desired,
But never the descendent came to tell him
What he required.'
And so the tomb remained
Untouched, untended, crumbling, weather-stained,
And though the one-time foe was fain to right it
He still refrained.
'I'll set about it when
I am sure he'll come no more. Best wait till then.'
But so it was that never the stranger entered
That city again.
And the well-meaner died
While waiting tremulously unsatisfied
That no return of the family's foreign scion
Would still betide.
And many years slid by,
And active church-restorers cast their eye
Upon the ancient garth and hoary building
The tomb stood nigh.
And when they had scraped each wall,
Pulled out the stately pews, and smartened all,
'It will be well,' declared the spruce church-warden,
'And broaden this path where shown;
Nothing prevents it but an old tombstone
Pertaining to a family forgotten,
Of deeds unknown.
'Their names can scarce be read,
Depend on't, all who care for them are dead.'
So went the tomb, whose shards were as path-paving
Over it and about
Men's footsteps beat, and wind and waterspout,
Until the names, aforetime gnawed by weathers,
Were quite worn out.
So that no sage can say
In pensive progress near where they decay,
'This stone records a luminous line whose talents
Told in their day.'
Her Death And After
'TWAS a death-bed summons, and forth I went
By the way of the Western Wall, so drear
On that winter night, and sought a gate--
The home, by Fate,
Of one I had long held dear.
And there, as I paused by her tenement,
And the trees shed on me their rime and hoar,
I thought of the man who had left her lone--
Him who made her his own
When I loved her, long before.
The rooms within had the piteous shine
The home-things wear which the housewife miss;
From the stairway floated the rise and fall
Of an infant's call,
Whose birth had brought her to this.
Her life was the price she would pay for that whine--
For a child by the man she did not love.
"But let that rest forever," I said,
And bent my tread
To the chamber up above.
She took my hand in her thin white own,
And smiled her thanks--though nigh too weak--
And made them a sign to leave us there;
Then faltered, ere
She could bring herself to speak.
"'Twas to see you before I go--he'll condone
Such a natural thing now my time's not much--
When Death is so near it hustles hence
All passioned sense
Between woman and man as such!
"My husband is absent. As heretofore
The City detains him. But, in truth,
He has not been kind.... I will speak no blame,
But--the child is lame;
O, I pray she may reach his ruth!
"Forgive past days--I can say no more--
Maybe if we'd wedded you'd now repine!...
But I treated you ill. I was punished. Farewell!
--Truth shall I tell?
Would the child were yours and mine!
"As a wife I was true. But, such my unease
That, could I insert a deed back in Time,
I'd make her yours, to secure your care;
And the scandal bear,
And the penalty for the crime!"
--When I had left, and the swinging trees
Rang above me, as lauding her candid say,
Another was I. Her words were enough:
Came smooth, came rough,
I felt I could live my day.
Next night she died; and her obsequies
In the Field of Tombs, by the Via renowned,
Had her husband's heed. His tendance spent,
I often went
And pondered by her mound.
All that year and the next year whiled,
And I still went thitherward in the gloam;
But the Town forgot her and her nook,
And her husband took
Another Love to his home.
And the rumor flew that the lame lone child
Whom she wished for its safety child of mine,
Was treated ill when offspring came
Of the new-made dame,
And marked a more vigorous line.
A smarter grief within me wrought
Than even at loss of her so dear;
Dead the being whose soul my soul suffused,
Her child ill-used,
I helpless to interfere!
One eve as I stood at my spot of thought
In the white-stoned Garth, brooding thus her wrong,
Her husband neared; and to shun his view
By her hallowed mew
I went from the tombs among
To the Cirque of the Gladiators which faced--
That haggard mark of Imperial Rome,
Whose Pagan echoes mock the chime
Of our Christian time:
It was void, and I inward clomb.
Scarce had night the sun's gold touch displaced
From the vast Rotund and the neighboring dead
When her husband followed; bowed; half-passed,
With lip upcast;
Then, halting, sullenly said:
"It is noised that you visit my first wife's tomb.
Now, I gave her an honored name to bear
While living, when dead. So I've claim to ask
By what right you task
My patience by vigiling there?
"There's decency even in death, I assume;
Preserve it, sir, and keep away;
For the mother of my first-born you
Show mind undue!
--Sir, I've nothing more to say."
A desperate stroke discerned I then--
God pardon--or pardon not--the lie;
She had sighed that she wished (lest the child should pine
Of slights) 'twere mine,
So I said: "But the father I.
"That you thought it yours is the way of men;
But I won her troth long ere your day:
You learnt how, in dying, she summoned me?
'Twas in fealty.
--Sir, I've nothing more to say,
"Save that, if you'll hand me my little maid,
I'll take her, and rear her, and spare you toil.
Think it more than a friendly act none can;
I'm a lonely man,
While you've a large pot to boil.
"If not, and you'll put it to ball or blade--
To-night, to-morrow night, anywhen--
I'll meet you here.... But think of it,
And in season fit
Let me hear from you again."
--Well, I went away, hoping; but nought I heard
Of my stroke for the child, till there greeted me
A little voice that one day came
To my window-frame
And babbled innocently:
"My father who's not my own, sends word
I'm to stay here, sir, where I belong!"
Next a writing came: "Since the child was the fruit
Of your passions brute,
Pray take her, to right a wrong."
And I did. And I gave the child my love,
And the child loved me, and estranged us none.
But compunctions loomed; for I'd harmed the dead
By what I'd said
For the good of the living one.
--Yet though, God wot, I am sinner enough,
And unworthy the woman who drew me so,
Perhaps this wrong for her darling's good
She forgives, or would,
If only she could know!
"OLD Norbert with the flat blue cap--
A German said to be--
Why let your pipe die on your lap,
Your eyes blink absently?"--
--"Ah!... Well, I had thought till my cheek was wet
Of my mother--her voice and mien
When she used to sing and pirouette,
And touse the tambourine
"To the march that yon street-fiddler plies;
She told me 'twas the same
She'd heard from the trumpets, when the Allies
Her city overcame.
"My father was one of the German Hussars,
My mother of Leipzig; but he,
Long quartered here, fetched her at close of the wars,
And a Wessex lad reared me.
"And as I grew up, again and again
She'd tell, after trilling that air,
Of her youth, and the battles on Leipzig plain
And of all that was suffered there!...
"--'Twas a time of alarms. Three Chiefs-at-arms
Combined them to crush One,
And by numbers' might, for in equal fight
He stood the matched of none.
"Carl Schwartzenburg was of the plot,
And Blücher, prompt and prow,
And Jean the Crown-Prince Bernadotte:
Buonaparte was the foe.
"City and plain had felt his reign
From the North to the Middle Sea,
And he'd now sat down in the noble town
Of the King of Saxony.
"October's deep dew its wet gossamer threw
Upon Leipzig's lawns, leaf-strewn,
Where lately each fair avenue
Wrought shade for summer noon.
"To westward two dull rivers crept
Through miles of marsh and slough,
Whereover a streak of whiteness swept--
The Bridge of Lindenau.
"Hard by, in the City, the One, care-crossed,
Gloomed over his shrunken power;
And without the walls the hemming host
Waxed denser every hour.
"He had speech that night on the morrow's designs
With his chiefs by the bivouac fire,
While the belt of flames from the enemy's lines
Flared nigher him yet and nigher.
"Three sky-lights then from the girdling trine
Told, 'Ready!' As they rose
Their flashes seemed his Judgment-Sign
For bleeding Europe's woes.
"'Twas seen how the French watch-fires that night
Glowed still and steadily;
And the Three rejoiced, for they read in the sight
That the One disdained to flee....
"--Five hundred guns began the affray
On next day morn at nine;
Such mad and mangling cannon-play
Had never torn human line.
"Around the town three battle beat,
Contracting like a gin;
As nearer marched the million feet
Of columns closing in.
"The first battle nighed on the low Southern side;
The second by the Western way;
The nearing of the third on the North was heard;
--The French held all at bay.
"Against the first band did the Emperor stand;
Against the second stood Ney;
Marmont against the third gave the order-word:
--Thus raged it throughout the day.
"Fifty thousand sturdy souls on those trampled plains and knolls,
Who met the dawn hopefully,
And were lotted their shares in a quarrel not theirs,
Dropt then in their agony.
"'O,' the old folks said, 'ye Preachers stern!
O so-called Christian time!
When will men's swords to ploughshares turn?
When come the promised prime?'...
"--The clash of horse and man which that day began,
Closed not as evening wore;
And the morrow's armies, rear and van,
Still mustered more and more.
"From the City towers the Confederate Powers
Were eyed in glittering lines,
And up from the vast a murmuring passed
As from a wood of pines.
"''Tis well to cover a feeble skill
By numbers!' scoffèd He;
'But give me a third of their strength, I'd fill
Half Hell with their soldiery!'
"All that day raged the war they waged,
And again dumb night held reign,
Save that ever upspread from the dark death-bed
A miles-wide pant of pain.
"Hard had striven brave Ney, the true Bertrand,
Victor, and Augereau,
Bold Poniatowski, and Lauriston,
To stay their overthrow;
"But, as in the dream of one sick to death
There comes a narrowing room
That pens him, body and limbs and breath,
To wait a hideous doom,
"So to Napoleon, in the hush
That held the town and towers
Through these dire nights, a creeping crush
Seemed inborne with the hours.
"One road to the rearward, and but one,
Did fitful Chance allow;
'Twas where the Pleiss' and Elster run--
The Bridge of Lindenau.
"The nineteenth dawned. Down street and Platz
The wasted French sank back,
Stretching long lines across the Flats
And on the bridge-way track;
"When there surged on the sky on earthen wave,
And stones, and men, as though
Some rebel churchyard crew updrave
Their sepulchres from below.
"To Heaven is blown Bridge Lindenau;
Wrecked regiments reel therefrom;
And rank and file in masses plough
The sullen Elster-Strom.
"A gulf was Lindenau; and dead
Were fifties, hundreds, tens;
And every current rippled red
With Marshal's blood and men's.
"The smart Macdonald swam therein,
And barely won the verge;
Bold Poniatowski plunged him in
Never to re-emerge.
"Then stayed the strife. The remnants wound
Their Rhineward way pell-mell;
And thus did Leipzig City sound
An Empire's passing bell;
"While in cavalcade, with band and blade,
Came Marshals, Princes, Kings;
And the town was theirs.... Ay, as simple maid,
My mother saw these things!
"And whenever those notes in the street begin,
I recall her, and that far scene,
And her acting of how the Allies marched in,
And her touse of the tambourine!"
The Dance At The Phoenix
TO Jenny came a gentle youth
From inland leazes lone;
His love was fresh as apple-blooth
By Parrett, Yeo, or Tone.
And duly he entreated her
To be his tender minister,
And call him aye her own.
Fair Jenny's life had hardly been
A life of modesty;
At Casterbridge experience keen
Of many loves had she
From scarcely sixteen years above:
Among them sundry troopers of
The King's-Own Cavalry.
But each with charger, sword, and gun,
Had bluffed the Biscay wave;
And Jenny prized her gentle one
For all the love he gave.
She vowed to be, if they were wed,
His honest wife in heart and head
From bride-ale hour to grave.
Wedded they were. Her husband's trust
In Jenny knew no bound,
And Jenny kept her pure and just,
Till even malice found
No sin or sign of ill to be
In one who walked so decently
The duteous helpmate's round.
Two sons were born, and bloomed to men,
And roamed, and were as not:
Alone was Jenny left again
As ere her mind had sought
A solace in domestic joys,
And ere the vanished pair of boys
Were sent to sun her cot.
She numbered near on sixty years,
And passed as elderly,
When, in the street, with flush of fears,
On day discovered she,
From shine of swords and thump of drum,
Her early loves from war had come,
The King's Own Cavalry.
She turned aside, and bowed her head
Anigh Saint Peter's door;
"Alas for chastened thoughts!" she said;
"I'm faded now, and hoar,
And yet those notes--they thrill me through,
And those gay forms move me anew
As in the years of yore!"...
--'Twas Christmas, and the Phoenix Inn
Was lit with tapers tall,
For thirty of the trooper men
Had vowed to give a ball
As "Theirs" had done (fame handed down)
When lying in the self-same town
Ere Buonaparté's fall.
That night the throbbing "Soldier's Joy,"
The measured tread and sway
Of "Fancy-Lad" and "Maiden Coy,"
Reached Jenny as she lay
Beside her spouse; till springtide blood
Seemed scouring through her like a flood
That whisked the years away.
She rose, and rayed, and decked her head
To hide her ringlets thin;
Upon her cap two bows of red
She fixed with hasty pin;
Unheard descending to the street,
She trod the flags with tune-led feet,
And stood before the Inn.
Save for the dancers', not a sound
Disturbed the icy air;
No watchman on his midnight round
Or traveller was there;
But over All-Saints', high and bright,
Pulsed to the music Sirius white,
The Wain by Bullstake Square.
She knocked, but found her further stride
Checked by a sergeant tall:
"Gay Granny, whence come you?" he cried;
"This is a private ball."
--"No one has more right here than me!
Ere you were born, man," answered she,
"I knew the regiment all!"
"Take not the lady's visit ill!"
Upspoke the steward free;
"We lack sufficient partners still,
So, prithee let her be!"
They seized and whirled her 'mid the maze,
And Jenny felt as in the days
Of her immodesty.
Hour chased each hour, and night advanced;
She sped as shod with wings;
Each time and every time she danced--
Reels, jigs, poussettes, and flings:
They cheered her as she soared and swooped
(She'd learnt ere art in dancing drooped
From hops to slothful swings).
The favorite Quick-step "Speed the Plough"--
(Cross hands, cast off, and wheel)--
"The Triumph," "Sylph," "The Row-dow dow,"
Famed "Major Malley's Reel,"
"The Duke of York's," "The Fairy Dance,"
"The Bridge of Lodi" (brought from France),
She beat out, toe and heel.
The "Fall of Paris" clanged its close,
And Peter's chime told four,
When Jenny, bosom-beating, rose
To seek her silent door.
They tiptoed in escorting her,
Lest stroke of heel or chink of spur
Should break her goodman's snore.
The fire that late had burnt fell slack
When lone at last stood she;
Her nine-and-fifty years came back;
She sank upon her knee
Beside the durn, and like a dart
A something arrowed through her heart
In shoots of agony.
Their footsteps died as she leant there,
Lit by the morning star
Hanging above the moorland, where
The aged elm-rows are;
And, as o'ernight, from Pummery Ridge
To Maembury Ring and Standfast Bridge
No life stirred, near or far.
Though inner mischief worked amain,
She reached her husband's side;
Where, toil-weary, as he had lain
Beneath the patchwork pied
When yestereve she'd forthward crept,
And as unwitting, still he slept
Who did in her confide.
A tear sprang as she turned and viewed
His features free from guile;
She kissed him long, as when, just wooed.
She chose his domicile.
Death menaced now; yet less for life
She wished than that she were the wife
That she had been erstwhile.
Time wore to six. Her husband rose
And struck the steel and stone;
He glanced at Jenny, whose repose
Seemed deeper than his own.
With dumb dismay, on closer sight,
He gathered sense that in the night,
Or morn, her soul had flown.
When told that some too mighty strain
For one so many-yeared
Had burst her bosom's master-vein,
His doubts remained unstirred.
His Jenny had not left his side
Betwixt the eve and morning-tide:
--The King's said not a word.
Well! times are not as times were then,
Nor fair ones half so free;
And truly they were martial men,
The King's-Own Cavalry.
And when they went from Casterbridge
And vanished over Mellstock Ridge,
'Twas saddest morn to see.