Grandfather says of all things
The silliest he's heard
Is that some children call things
They've never seen, 'absurd!'
And have their doubts of true things,
And won't believe, because
They say, 'If you but knew things,
There is no Santa Claus!'
Grandfather says he knows him,
And sees him every year,
And Santa often shows him
The playthings he brings here;
He says, too, Santa told him
If any girls and boys
Laugh at and won't uphold him,
They'll not get any toys!
by Evaleen Stein.
What Grandpa Mouse Said
The moon’s a holy owl-queen.
She keeps them in a jar
Under her arm till evening,
Then sallies forth to war.
She pours the owls upon us.
They hoot with horrid noise
And eat the naughty mousie-girls
And wicked mousie-boys.
So climb the moonvine every night
And to the owl-queen pray:
Leave good green cheese by moonlit trees
For her to take away.
And never squeak, my children,
Nor gnaw the smoke-house door:
The owl-queen then will love us
And send her birds no more.
by Vachel Lindsay.
Dedicatory Poem For "Underwoods"
TO her, for I must still regard her
As feminine in her degree,
Who has been my unkind bombarder
Year after year, in grief and glee,
Year after year, with oaken tree;
And yet betweenwhiles my laudator
In terms astonishing to me -
To the Right Reverend The Spectator
I here, a humble dedicator,
Bring the last apples from my tree.
In tones of love, in tones of warning,
She hailed me through my brief career;
And kiss and buffet, night and morning,
Told me my grandmamma was near;
Whether she praised me high and clear
Through her unrivalled circulation,
Or, sanctimonious insincere,
She damned me with a misquotation -
A chequered but a sweet relation,
Say, was it not, my granny dear?
Believe me, granny, altogether
Yours, though perhaps to your surprise.
Oft have you spruced my wounded feather,
Oft brought a light into my eyes -
For notice still the writer cries.
In any civil age or nation,
The book that is not talked of dies.
So that shall be my termination:
Whether in praise or execration,
Still, if you love me, criticise!
Grandmother Told Me So
The declaration has been spoken,
For Grandmother told me so.
The darkeys have got their fetlocks broken,
For Grandmother told me so.
Oh, won't they have a lot of iron on hand!
And when the news travels,
Oh, won't it be grand!
'Twill sweep like a sugarcane over the land,
For Grandmother told me so.
American Eagle! hysterical bird!
Oh, flap your wing and crow!
The slaves are embellished--yes, that's the word,
For Grandmother told me so!
There's curious times in that ur section,
For Grandmother told me so.
They think they will have a resurrection,
For Grandmother told me so.
The penholders raving like persons insane --
The darkeys in exodus, raising cane,
And singing like martingales after a rain,
For Grandmother told me so.
But President Abe forgot Kentucky,
For Grandmother told me so.
And Geneses, too -- and that's unlucky,
For Grandmother told me so.
Malicious champagne will be open'd in vain,
Until we shall break the last ox-yoke and chain --
Till through the Benighted States freedom shall reign,
For Grandmother told me so.
by Henry Clay Work.
In Grandmamma's Kitchen
In grandmamma's kitchen, things got in a riot-
The cream in a pot on the shelf,
Where everything always seemed peaceful and quiet,
Got whipped, for I heard it myself.
And grandmamma said-such a queer thing to say,
That it made some things better to whip them that way.
Some bold naughty eggs that refused to be eaten,
On toast with their brothers may be,
Were stripped of their clothing and cruelly beaten
Right where all the dishes could see.
And grandmamma said though the poor things might ache,
The harder the beating, the lighter the cake.
The bright golden butter was petted and patted
And coaxed to be shapely and good.
But it finally had to be taken and spatted
Right hard with a paddle of wood.
When grandmamma carried the round balls away,
The buttermilk sulked, and looked sour all day.
The water declared that the coffee was muddy,
But an egg settled that little fuss.
Then the steak and the gridiron got in a bloody
And terrible broil! Such a muss!
And a flat-iron spat at grandma in the face,
And I ran away from the quarrelsome place.
The Great Grandfather
My father's grandfather lives still,
His age is fourscore years and ten;
He looks a monument of time,
The agedest of aged men.
Though years lie on him like a load,
A happier man you will not see
Than he, whenever he can get
His great grandchildren on his knee.
When we our parents have displeased,
He stands between us as a screen;
By him our good deeds in the sun,
Our bad ones in the shade are seen.
His love's a line that's long drawn out,
Yet lasteth firm unto the end;
His heart is oak, yet unto us
It like the gentlest reed can bend.
A fighting soldier he has been-
Yet by his manners you would guess,
That he his whole long life had spent
In scenes of country quietness.
His talk is all of things long past,
For modern facts no pleasure yield-
Of the famed year of forty-five,
Of William, and Culloden's field.
The deeds of this eventful age,
Which princes from their thrones have hurled,
Can no more interest wake in him
Than stories of another world.
When I his length of days revolve,
How like a strong tree he hath stood,
It brings into my mind almost
Those patriarchs old before the flood.
by Charles Lamb.
Just as the sun was setting
Back of the Western hills
Grandfather stood by the window
Eating the last of his pills.
And Grandmother, by the cupboard,
Knitting, heard him say:
'I ought to have went to the village
To fetch some more pills today.'
Then Grandmother snuffled a teardrop
And said. 'It is jest like I suz
T’ th’ parson—Grandfather’s liver
Ain’t what it used to was:
'It’s gittin’ torpid and dormant,
It don’t function like of old,
And even them pills he swallers
Don’t seem no more t’ catch hold;
'They used to grab it and shake it
And joggle it up and down
And turn dear Grandfather yaller
Except when they turned him brown;
'I remember when we was married
His liver was lively and gay,
A kickin’ an’ rippin’ an’ givin’
Dear Ezry new pains ev’ry day;
'It used to turn clear over backwards
An’ palpitate wuss’n a pump
An’ give him the janders and yallers
An’ bounce around thumpty-thump;
'But now it is torpid and dormant
And painless and quiet and cold;
Ah, me! all’s so peaceful an’ quiet
Since Grandfather’s liver ’s grown old!
Then Grandmother wiped a new teardrop
And sighed: 'It is just like I suz
T’ th’ parson: Grandfather’s liver
Ain’t what it used to was.'
There was grief within our household
Because of a vacant chair.
Our mother, so loved and precious,
No longer was sitting there.
Our hearts grew heavy with sorrow,
Our eyes with tears were blind,
And little Jamie was wondering,
Why we were left behind.
We had told our little darling,
Of the land of love and light,
Of the saints all crowned with glory,
And enrobed in spotless white.
We said that our precious mother,
Had gone to that land so fair,
To dwell with beautiful angels,
And to be forever there.
But the child was sorely puzzled,
Why dear grandmamma should go
To dwell in a stranger city,
When her children loved her so.
But again the mystic angel
Came with swift and silent tread,
And our sister, Jamie's mother,
Was enrolled among the dead.
To us the mystery deepened,
To Jamie it seemed more clear;
Grandma, he said, must be lonesome,
And mamma has gone to her.
But the question lies unanswered
In our little Jamie's mind,
Why she should go to our mother,
And leave her children behind;
To dwell in that lovely city,
From all that was dear to part,
From children who loved to nestle
So closely around her heart.
Dear child, like you, we are puzzled,
With problems that still remain;
But think in the great hereafter
Their meaning will all be plain.
1 Granny's come to our house,
2 And ho! my lawzy-daisy!
3 All the childern round the place
4 Is ist a-runnin' crazy!
5 Fetched a cake fer little Jake,
6 And fetched a pie fer Nanny,
7 And fetched a pear fer all the pack
8 That runs to kiss their Granny!
9 Lucy Ellen's in her lap,
10 And Wade and Silas Walker
11 Both's a-ridin' on her foot,
12 And 'Pollos on the rocker;
13 And Marthy's twins, from Aunt Marinn's,
14 And little Orphant Annie,
15 All's a-eatin' gingerbread
16 And giggle-un at Granny!
17 Tells us all the fairy tales
18 Ever thought er wundered --
19 And 'bundance o' other stories --
20 Bet she knows a hunderd! --
21 Bob's the one fer "Whittington,"
22 And "Golden Locks" fer Fanny!
23 Hear 'em laugh and clap their hands,
24 Listenin' at Granny!
25 "Jack the Giant-Killer" 's good;
26 And "Bean-Stalk" 's another! --
27 So's the one of "Cinderell'"
28 And her old godmother; --
29 That-un's best of all the rest --
30 Bestest one of any, --
31 Where the mices scampers home
32 Like we runs to Granny!
33 Granny's come to our house,
34 Ho! my lawzy-daisy!
35 All the childern round the place
36 Is ist a-runnin' crazy!
37 Fetched a cake fer little Jake,
38 And fetched a pie fer Nanny,
39 And fetched a pear fer all the pack
40 That runs to kiss their Granny!
To My Grandmother
(Suggested by a Picture by Mr. Romney)Under the elm a rustic seat
Was merriest Susan's pet retreat
This Relative of mine
Was she seventy-and-nine
When she died?
By the canvas may be seen
How she look'd at seventeen,
As a Bride.
Beneath a summer tree
Her maiden reverie
Has a charm;
Her ringlets are in taste;
What an arm! and what a waist
For an arm!
With her bridal-wreath, bouquet,
Lace farthingale, and gay
If Romney's touch be true,
What a lucky dog were you,
Her lips are sweet as love;
They are parting! Do they move?
Are they dumb?
Her eyes are blue, and beam
Beseechingly, and seem
To say, 'Come!'
What funny fancy slips
From atween these cherry lips?
Fair Sorceress in paint,
What canon says I mayn't
That good-for-nothing Time
Has a confidence sublime!
When I first
Saw this Lady, in my youth,
Her winters had, forsooth,
Done their worst.
Her locks, as white as snow,
Once shamed the swarthy crow;
That fowl's avenging sprite
Set his cruel foot for spite
Near her eye.
Her rounded form was lean,
And her silk was bombazine:
Well I wot
With her needles would she sit,
And for hours would she knit, -
Would she not?
Ah perishable clay!
Her charms had dropt away
One by one:
But if she heaved a sigh
With a burthen, it was, 'Thy
Will be done.'
In travail, as in tears,
With the fardel of her years
In mercy she was borne
Where the weary and the worn
Are at rest.
Oh if you now are there,
And sweet as once you were,
This nether world agrees
You'll all the better please
Companions - A Tale Of A Grandfather
I KNOW not of what we ponder’d
Or made pretty pretence to talk,
As, her hand within mine, we wander’d
Tow’rd the pool by the lime-tree walk,
While the dew fell in showers from the passion flowers
And the blush-rose bent on her stalk.
I cannot recall her figure:
Was it regal as Juno’s own?
Or only a trifle bigger
Than the elves who surround the throne
Of the Faëry Queen, and are seen, I ween,
By mortals in dreams alone?
What her eyes were like I know not:
Perhaps they were blurr’d with tears;
And perhaps in you skies there glow not
(On the contrary) clearer spheres.
No! as to her eyes I am just as wise
As you or the cat, my dears.
Her teeth, I presume, were “pearly:”
But which was she, brunette or blonde?
Her hair, was it quaintly curly,
Or as straight as a beadle’s wand?
That I fail’d to remark: it was rather dark
And shadowy round the pond.
Then the hand that repos’d so snugly
In mine,—was it plump or spare?
Was the countenance fair or ugly?
Nay, children, you have me there!
My eyes were p’haps blurr’d; and besides I ’d heard
That it ’s horribly rude to stare.
And I,—was I brusque and surly?
Or oppressively bland and fond?
Was I partial to rising early?
Or why did we twain abscond,
When nobody knew, from the public view
To prowl by a misty pond?
What pass’d, what was felt or spoken,—
Whether anything pass’d at all,—
And whether the heart was broken
That beat under that shelt’ring shawl,—
(If shawl she had on, which I doubt),—has gone,
Yes, gone from me past recall.
Was I haply the lady’s suitor?
Or her uncle? I can’t make out;
Ask your governess, dears, or tutor.
For myself, I ’m in hopeless doubt
As to why we were there, who on earth we were,
And what this is all about.
The Fly-Away Horse
Oh, a wonderful horse is the Fly-Away Horse -
Perhaps you have seen him before;
Perhaps, while you slept, his shadow has swept
Through the moonlight that floats on the floor.
For it's only at night, when the stars twinkle bright,
That the Fly-Away Horse, with a neigh
And a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane,
Is up on his heels and away!
The Moon in the sky,
As he gallopeth by,
Cries: "Oh! what a marvelous sight!"
And the Stars in dismay
Hide their faces away
In the lap of old Grandmother Night.
It is yonder, out yonder, the Fly-Away Horse
Speedeth ever and ever away -
Over meadows and lanes, over mountains and plains,
Over streamlets that sing at their play;
And over the sea like a ghost sweepeth he,
While the ships they go sailing below,
And he speedeth so fast that the men at the mast
Adjudge him some portent of woe.
"What ho there!" they cry,
As he flourishes by
With a whisk of his beautiful tail;
And the fish in the sea
Are as scared as can be,
From the nautilus up to the whale!
And the Fly-Away Horse seeks those faraway lands
You little folk dream of at night -
Where candy-trees grow, and honey-brooks flow,
And corn-fields with popcorn are white;
And the beasts in the wood are ever so good
To children who visit them there -
What glory astride of a lion to ride,
Or to wrestle around with a bear!
The monkeys, they say:
"Come on, let us play,"
And they frisk in the cocoanut-trees:
While the parrots, that cling
To the peanut-vines, sing
Or converse with comparative ease!
Off! scamper to bed - you shall ride him tonight!
For, as soon as you've fallen asleep,
With a jubilant neigh he shall bear you away
Over forest and hillside and deep!
But tell us, my dear, all you see and you hear
In those beautiful lands over there,
Where the Fly-Away Horse wings his faraway course
With the wee one consigned to his care.
Then grandma will cry
In amazement: "Oh, my!"
And she'll think it could never be so;
And only we two
Shall know it is true -
You and I, little precious! shall know!
by Eugene Field.
Here, in her elbow chair, she sits
A soul alert, alive,
A poor old body shrunk and bent -
The queen-bee of the hive.
But hives of bees and hives of men
Obey their several laws;
No fiercely-loving filial throng
This mother-head adores.
This bringer of world-wealth, whereof
None may compute the worth,
Is possibly of no account
To anyone on earth.
Her cap and spectacles, that mean
Dim eyes and scanty hairs,
The humble symbols of her state -
The only crown she wears.
Lacking a kingdom and a court,
A relic of the past,
Almost a cumberer of the ground -
That is our queen at last.
But still not wholly without place,
Nor quite bereft of power;
A useful stopgap - a resource
In many a troubled hour.
She darns the stockings, keeps the house,
The nurseless infant tends,
While the young matrons and the men
Pursue their various ends -
Too keen-set on their great affairs,
Or little plays and pranks,
The things and people of their world,
To give her thought or thanks -
The children on whom all her thought
And time and love were spent
Through half a century of years!
Yet is she well content.
The schooling of those fiery years,
It has not been for nought;
A large philosophy of life
Has self-less service taught.
The outlook from the heights attained
By climbings sore and slow
Discovers worlds of wisdom, hid
From clearest eyes below.
So calmly, in her elbow chair,
Forgotten and alone,
She knits and dreams, and sometimes sighs
But never makes a moan.
Still dwelling with her brood unseen -
Ghosts of a bygone day -
The precious daughter in her grave,
The dear son gone astray -
And others, to whom once she stood
As only light and law,
The near and living, and yet lost,
That need her love no more.
Watching their joyous setting forth
To mingle with their kind,
With scarce a pang, with ne'er a grudge,
At being left behind.
'Let them be young, as I was young,
And happy while they may' . . . .
A dog that waits the night in peace
Since it has had its day.
by Ada Cambridge.
Old Granny Sullivan
A pleasant shady place it is, a pleasant place and cool -
The township folk go up and down, the children pass to school.
Along the river lies my world, a dear sweet world to me:
I sit and learn - I cannot go; there is so much to see.
But Granny she has seen the world, and often by her side
I sit and listen while she speaks of youthful days of pride;
Old Granny's hands are clasped; she wears her favourite faded shawl -
I ask her this, I ask her that: she says, 'I mind it all.'
The boys and girls that Granny knew, far o'er the seas are they,
But there's no love like the old love, and the old world far away;
Her talk is all of wakes and fairs - or how, when night would fall,
''Twas many a quare thing crept and came,' and Granny 'minds them all.'
The day she first met Sullivan - she tells it all to me -
How she was hardly twenty-one and he was twenty-three.
The courting days! the kissing days! - but bitter things befall
The bravest hearts that plan and dream. Old Granny 'minds it all.'
Her wedding-dress I know by heart; yes! every flounce and frill;
And the little home they lived in first, with the garden on the hill.
'Twas there her baby boy was born; and neighbours came to call,
But none had seen a boy like Jim - and Granny 'minds it all.'
They had their fights in those old days; but Sullivan was strong,
A smart quick man at anything; 'twas hard to put him wrong…
One day they brought him from the mine… (The big salt tears will fall)…
''Twas long ago, God rest his soul!' Poor Granny 'minds it all.'
The first dark days of widowhood, the weary days and slow,
The grim, disheartening, uphill fight, then Granny lived to know.
'The childer,' ah! they grew and grew - sound, rosy-cheeked and tall:
'The childer' still they are to her. Old Granny 'minds them all.'
How well she loved her little brood! Oh, Granny's heart was brave!
She gave to them her love and faith - all that the good God have.
They change not with the changing years; as babies just the same
She feels for them, though some, alas! have brought her grief and shame:
The big world called them here and there, and many a mile away:
They cannot come - she cannot go - the darkness haunts the day;
And I, no flesh and blood of hers, sit here while shadows fall -
I sit and listen - Granny talks; for Granny 'minds them all.'
Just fancy Granny Sullivan at seventeen or so,
In all the floating fin
(MASSACHUSETTS SHORE, 1800)
I mind it was but yesterday:
The sun was dim, the air was chill;
Below the town, below the hill,
The sails of my son's ship did fill,--
My Jacob, who was cast away.
He said, 'God keep you, mother dear,'
But did not turn to kiss his wife;
They had some foolish, idle strife;
Her tongue was like a two-edged knife,
And he was proud as any peer.
Howbeit that night I took no note
Of sea nor sky, for all was drear;
I marked not that the hills looked near,
Nor that the moon, though curved and clear,
Through curd-like scud did drive and float.
For with my darling went the joy
Of autumn woods and meadows brown;
I came to hate the little town;
It seemed as if the sun went down
With him, my only darling boy.
It was the middle of the night:
The wind, it shifted west-by-south,--
It piled high up the harbor mouth;
The marshes, black with summer drouth,
Were all abroad with sea-foam white.
It was the middle of the night:
The sea upon the garden leapt,
And my son's wife in quiet slept,
And I, his mother, waked and wept,
When lo! there came a sudden light.
And there he stood! His seaman's dress
All wet and dripping seemed to be;
The pale blue fires of the sea
Dripped from his garments constantly,--
I could not speak through cowardness.
'I come through night and storm,' he said.
'Through storm and night and death,' said he,
'To kiss my wife, if it so be
That strife still holds 'twixt her and me,
For all beyond is peace,' he said.
'The sea is His, and He who sent
The wind and wave can soothe their strife
And brief and foolish is our life.'
He stooped and kissed his sleeping wife,
Then sighed, and like a dream he went.
Now, when my darling kissed not me,
But her--his wife--who did not wake,
My heart within me seemed to break;
I swore a vow, nor thenceforth spake
Of what my clearer eyes did see.
And when the slow weeks brought him not,
Somehow we spake of aught beside:
For she--her hope upheld her pride;
And I--in me all hope had died,
And my son passed as if forgot.
It was about the next springtide:
She pined and faded where she stood,
Yet spake no word of ill or good;
She had the hard, cold Edwards' blood
In all her veins--and so she died.
One time I thought, before she passed,
To give her peace; but ere I spake
Methought, 'HE will be first to break
The news in heaven,' and for his sake
I held mine back until the last.
And here I sit, nor care to roam;
I only wait to hear his call.
I doubt not that this day next fall
Shall see me safe in port, where all
And every ship at last comes home.
And you have sailed the Spanish Main,
And knew my Jacob? . . . Eh! Mercy!
Ah! God of wisdom! hath the sea
Yielded its dead to humble me?
My boy! . . . My Jacob! . . . Turn again!
It was years ago one October day
When a shadow fell on my Life's bright way;
And, with fond hopes blighted and glad dreams fled,
I turned with a weary, desolate tread
To the home I had left with light step and free,
Where my mother waited and prayed for me.
Ah ! though crushed by woe, not of all bereft
Can we ever feel while this friend is left.
The love of a mother is strong and true,—
Unchanged, undiminished, our whole life through :
And her circling arms are our truest stay
When hopes we have cherished have passed away.
' Grandmother Dickey,' an aged dame,
Walked over to see me the day I came:
It was life's October with grandmother then,
While mother had passed her threescore and ten.
And they both would fain have soothed me there,
As I sat beside them jn mute despair.
'Grandmother' said it would not be long
Till my call would come from the ransomed throng ;
Life was only a span, and 'twould be so sweet
For friends, long parted, again to meet.
And she told me my duty was plain and clear
To comfort the dear ones left me here.
Then we all knelt down, the pilgrims twain,
With me between them ; and not in vain
Were the fervent prayers, as on bended knee
They asked the Father to comfort me.
For, like perfume wafted from fields of balm,
There came o'er my spirit a wondrous calm.
This was years ago, and a long, long while
It seemed as I passed o'er the grave-yard stile,
And on through the leaves of brown, crimson, and gold
That covered the graves from the Winter's cold;
Then sat me down where the maples wave
Their shadowy boughs o'er my mother's grave.
And my thoughts went back, as I bowed me there,
To an aged form, bent in earnest prayer;
And I said, She is old now as mother was then,—
If she lives, she has counted threescore and ten.
And musing thus, with my lifted eyes
Fixed on the dreary October skies,
I stood, while the branches above poured down
Their wealth of crimson and gold and brown;
Then turned to follow the sound they gave,
And to watch them fall on a new-made grave.
A rustling of feet 'mid the leaflets sere
Made me turn to look,—'twas a child drew near.
' Come hither, my lad ! Whose grave? Pray tell!'
' Why, Grandmother Dickey's : you knew her well.
She was old and feeble and wanted to go,
For so many were dead that she used to know.'
I measured the space. I was just between
The pilgrims' graves, as that day I had been
Between the twain when her voice arose
To the pitying Father to soothe my woes.
But the lips were silent that prayed for me
Whom Faith had forsaken on Life's rough sea.
And my heart wailed out a despairing moan,—
A cry for the earth-love forever flown ;
Until mother's voice through the silence came,
' Waiting and praying, love, all the same.'
And then 'Grandmother's' words, 'It will be so sweet
When friends, long parted, again shall meet ! '
by Kate Harrington.
How Little Red Riding Hood Came To Be Eaten
Most worthy of praise
Were the virtuous ways
Of Little Red Riding Hood's Ma,
And no one was ever
More cautious and clever
Than Little Red Riding Hood's Pa.
They never mislead,
For they meant what they said,
And would frequently say what they meant:
And the way she should go
They were careful to show,
And the way that they showed her, she went.
For obedience she was effusively thanked,
And for anything else she was carefully spanked.
It thus isn't strange
That Red Riding Hood's range
Of virtues so steadily grew,
That soon she was prizes
Of different sizes,
And golden encomiums, too!
As a general rule
She was head of her school,
And at six was so notably smart
That they gave her a cheque
For reciting, 'The Wreck
of the Hesperus,' wholly by heart!
And you all will applaud her the more, I am sure,
When I add that this money she gave to the poor.
At eleven this lass
Had a Sunday-school class,
At twelve wrote a volume of verse,
At thirteen was yearning
For glory, and learning
To be a professional nurse.
To a glorious height
The young paragon might
Have grown, if not nipped in the bud,
Bu the following year
Struck her smiling career
With a dull and a sickening thud!
(I have shed a great tear at the thought of her pain,
And must copy my manuscript over again!)
Not dreaming of harm
One day on her arm
A basket she hung. It was filled
With jellies, and ices,
And gruel, and spices,
And chicken-legs, carefully grilled,
And a savory stew,
And a novel or two
She'd persuaded a neighbor to loan,
And a hot-water can,
And a Japanese fan,
And a bottle of eau-de-cologne,
And the rest of the things that your family fill
Your room with, whenever you chance to be ill!
She expected to find
Her decrepit but kind
Old Grandmother waiting her call,
But the visage that met her
Completely upset her:
It wasn't familiar at all!
With a whitening cheek
She started to speak,
But her peril she instantly saw: -
Her Grandma had fled,
And she'd tackled instead
Four merciless Paws and a Maw!
When the neighbors came running, the wolf to subdue,
He was licking his chops, (and Red Riding Hood's, too!)
At this terrible tale
Some readers will pale,
And others with horror grow dumb,
And yet it was better,
I fear, he should get her:
Just think what she might have become!
For an infant so keen
Might in future have been
A woman of awful renown,
Who carried on fights
For her feminine rights
As the Mare of an Arkansas town.
She might have continued the crime of her 'teens,
And come to write verse for the Big Magazines!
The Moral: There's nothing much glummer
Than children whose talents appall:
One much prefers those who are dumber,
But as for the paragons small,
If a swallow cannot make a summer
It can bring on a summary fall!
Granny Discovers Another Tiger
That's him!! The authentic, identical beast!
The Unionist tiger, full brother to 'Sosh'!
I know by the prowl of him.
Hark to the growl of him,
While all the people ejaculate 'Gosh!
Just look at him glarin' an' starin', by thunder!
Now each for himself and the weakest goes under.'
Beware this injurious, furious brute;
He's ready to rend you with tooth and with claw.
Though 'tis incredible,
Disappears suddenly into his maw;
Into his cavernous inner interior
Vanishes ev'rything strictly superior.
My dears, I've autoptical, optical proof
That he's prowling and growling at large in the land.
Hear his pestiferous
Urging to war his belligerent band!
Talk about Circe and - who's this - Ulysses!
Never was monster so monstrous as this is.
I've watched this abdomenous, omnious shape
Abroad in the land while the nation has slept,
Marked his satanical
Rigorous, vigorous vigil I kept.
He has wicked designs on all right-thinking people!
Proclaim it aloud from the housetop and steeple!
He lays his corrodible, odible plans
While cutely disguising his ultimate claims.
Into your auricle
He will declaim with ulterior aims.
And if as a foe he should happen to spot us,
One gulp - and his great epiglottis has got us!
The tremulous, emulous workers he snares
By most reprehensible, tensible schemes.
Are his designs to encourage their dreams.
But watch, when they're under his dominant digit,
His finical, cynical smile as they fidget.
The shockingly punitive, unitive means
He uses to battle with enterprise private
Lord only knows what at last he'll arrive at!
And when he has swallowed the whole of the nation
He'll probably start on self-assimilation.
He scoffs at convenient, lenient laws
He'd scoff every toff in the House known as Upper
If he'd a precedent;
In the best suburb would serve him for supper.
Good gravious, voracious is hardly the name for it!
Yet we have only our blindness to blame for it.
For mark, his insidious, hideous creed
He propagates even 'mid grocers and drapers,
And they give ear to it,
Bow, and adhere to it,
'Spite all the capers of well-informed papers.
For e'en with the aid of an lens omphaloptic
They can't see the glare in his obdurate optic.
Then 'ware this obstreperous, leperous beast!
A treacherous wretch, for I know him of old.
I'm on th etrack of him,
Close at the back of him,
Tight on his tail I have taken a hold.
And if I gave over my earnest endeavor,
The nation were lodged in his larynx for ever.
It's him!! The authentic, identical beast!
I know him 'The Unionist,' brother to 'Sosh'!
See how I'm holding him,
Nagging and scolding him,
While he is yearning his betters to squash;
Yearning and burning to snare the superior
Into his roomy and gloomy interior
A Health To The Queen
While the thistle bears
And the shamrock is green,
And the English rose
A health to the Queen!
A health to the Queen, a health to the Queen!
Fill high, boys, drain dry, boys,
A health to the Queen!
The thistle bears spears round its blossom,
Round its blossom the shamrock is green,
The rose grows and glows round the rose in its bosom,
We stand sword in hand round the Queen!
Our glory is green round the Queen!
We close round the rose, round the Queen!
The Queen, boys, the Queen! a health to the Queen!
Fill high, boys, drain dry, boys,
A health to the Queen!
Last post I'd a note from that old aunt of mine,
'T was meant for a hook, but she called it a line;
She says, I don't know why we're going to fight,
She's sure I don't know-and I'm sure she's quite right;
She swears I haven't looked at one sole protocol;
Tantara! tantara! I haven't, 'pon my soul!
Soho, blow trumpeter,
Soho, blow trumpeter, onward's the cry!
Fall, tyrants, fall-the devil care why!
A health to the Queen; a health to the Queen!
Fill high, boys, drain dry, boys,
A health to the Queen!
My granny came down-'pour vous voir, mon barbare,'
She brought in her pocket a map-du Tartare-
Drawn up, so she vowed, 'par un homme ah! si bon!'
With a plan for campaigning old Hal, en haut ton.
With here you may trick him, and here you may prick him,
And here-if you do it en roi-you may lick him,
But there he is sacred, and yonder-Oh, la!
He's as dear a sweet soul as your late grandpapa!
Soho, blow trumpeter,
Blow the charge, trumpeter, blare, boy, blare!
Fall, tyrants, fall-the devil care where!
A health to the Queen, a health to the Queen!
Fill high, boys, drain dry, boys,
A health to the Queen!
My cousin, the Yankee, last night did his best
To prove 'the Czar-bless you's-no worse than the rest.'
We wheeled the decanters out on to the lawn,
And he argued-and spat-in a circle till dawn.
Quoth I, 'If the game's half as thick as you say,
The more need for hounds, lad! Hunt's up! Harkaway!'
Soho, blow trumpeter!
Tally-ho, trumpeter, over the ditch-
Over the ditch, boys, the broad ditch at Dover!
Hands slack, boys, heels back, boys,
Yohoicks! we're well over!
Soho, blow, trumpeter! blow us to cover!
Blow, boy, blow,
Berlin, or Moscow,
Schoenbrun, or Rome,
So Reynard's at home,
The devil care which!
Hark, Evans! hark, Campbell! hark, Cathcart!-Halloo!
Heydey, harkaway! good men and true!
Harkaway to the brook,
You won't land in clover!
Leap and look!
High and dry!
Tantivy, full cry!
Full cry up the hill!
Hurrah, and it's over!
A burst and a kill.
While the thistle bears
And the shamrock is green,
And the English rose
A health to the Queen!
A health to the Queen, a health to the Queen!
Fill high, boys, drain dry, boys,
A health to the Queen!
The Queen, boys, the Queen! the Queen, boys, the Queen!
Full cry, high and dry, boys,
A health to the Queen!
In his great cushioned chair by the fender
An old man sits dreaming to-night,
His withered hands, licked by the tender,
Warm rays of the red anthracite,
Are folded before him, all listless;
His dim eyes are fixed on the blaze,
While over him sweeps the resistless
Flood-tide of old days.
He hears not the mirth in the hallway,
He hears not the sounds of good cheer,
That through the old homestead ring alway
In the glad Christmas-time of the year.
He heeds not the chime of sweet voices
As the last gifts are hung on the tree.
In a long-vanished day he rejoices-
In his lost Used to be.
He has gone back across dead Decembers
To his childhood's fair land of delight;
And his mother's sweet smile he remembers,
As he hangs up his stocking at night.
He remembers the dream-haunted slumber
All broken and restless because
Of the visions that came without number
Of dear Santa Claus.
Again, in his manhood's beginning,
He sees himself thrown on the world,
And into the vortex of sinning
By Pleasure's strong arms he is hurled.
He hears the sweet Christmas bells ringing,
'Repent ye, repent ye, and pray;'
But he joins with his comrades in singing
A bacchanal lay.
Again he stands under the holly
With a blushing face lifted to his;
For love has been stronger than folly,
And has turned him from vice unto bliss;
And the whole world is lit with new glory
As the sweet vows are uttered again,
While the Christmas bells tell the old story
Of peace unto men.
Again, with his little brood 'round him,
He sits by the fair mother-wife;
He knows that the angels have crowned him
With the truest, best riches of life;
And the hearts of the children, untroubled,
Are filled with the gay Christmas-tide;
And the gifts for sweet Maudie are doubled,
'Tis her birthday, beside.
Again,-ah, dear Jesus, have pity-
He finds in the chill, waning day,
That one has come home from the city-
Frail Maudie, whom love led astray.
She lies with her babe on her bosom-
Half-hid by the snow's fleecy spread;
A bud and a poor trampled blossom-
And both are quite dead.
So fair and so fragile! just twenty-
How mocking the bells sound to-night!
She starved in this great land of plenty,
When she tried to grope back to the light.
Christ, are Thy disciples inhuman,
Or only for men hast Thou died?
No mercy is shown to a woman
Who once steps aside.
Again he leans over the shrouded
Still form of the mother and wife;
Very lonely the way seems, and clouded,
As he looks down the vista of life.
With the sweet Christmas chimes there is blended
The knell for a life that is done,
And he knows that his joys are all ended
And his waiting begun.
So long have the years been, so lonely,
As he counts them by Christmases gone.
'I am homesick,' he murmurs; 'if only
The Angel would lead the way on.
I am cold, in this chill winter weather;
Why, Maudie, dear, where have you been?
And you, too, sweet wife-and together-
O Christ, let me in.'
The children ran in from the hallway,
'Were you calling us, grandpa?' they said.
Then shrank, with that fear that comes alway
When young eyes look their first on the dead.
The freedom so longed for is given.
The children speak low and draw near:
'Dear grandpa keeps Christmas in Heaven
With grandma, this year.'
'My grandfather Squeers,' said The Raggedy Man,
As he solemnly lighted his pipe and began--
'The most indestructible man, for his years,
And the grandest on earth, was my grandfather Squeers!
'He said, when he rounded his three-score-and-ten,
'I've the hang of it now and can do it again!'
'He had frozen his heels so repeatedly, he
Could tell by them just what the weather would be;
'And would laugh and declare, 'while the _Almanac_ would
Most falsely prognosticate, _he_ never could!'
'Such a hale constitution had grandfather Squeers
That, 'though he'd used '_navy_' for sixty odd years,
'He still chewed a dime's-worth six days of the week,
While the seventh he passed with a chew in each cheek:
'Then my grandfather Squeers had a singular knack
Of sitting around on the small of his back,
'With his legs like a letter Y stretched o'er the grate
Wherein 'twas his custom to ex-pec-tor-ate.
'He was fond of tobacco in _manifold_ ways,
And would sit on the door-step, of sunshiny days,
'And smoke leaf-tobacco he'd raised strictly for
The pipe he'd used all through The Mexican War.'
And The Raggedy Man said, refilling the bowl
Of his own pipe and leisurely picking a coal
From the stove with his finger and thumb, 'You can see
What a tee-nacious habit he's fastened on me!
'And my grandfather Squeers took a special delight
In pruning his corns every Saturday night
'With a horn-handled razor, whose edge he excused
By saying 'twas one that his grandfather used;
'And, though deeply etched in the haft of the same
Was the ever-euphonious Wostenholm's name,
''Twas my grandfather's custom to boast of the blade
As 'A Seth Thomas razor--the best ever made!'
'No Old Settlers' Meeting, or Pioneers' Fair,
Was complete without grandfather Squeers in the chair
'To lead off the programme by telling folks how
'He used to shoot deer where the Court-House stands now'--
'How 'he felt, of a truth, to live over the past,
When the country was wild and unbroken and vast,
''That the little log cabin was just plenty fine
For himself, his companion, and fambly of nine!--
''When they didn't have even a pump, or a tin,
But drunk surface-water, year out and year in,
''From the old-fashioned gourd that was sweeter, by odds,
Than the goblets of gold at the lips of the gods!''
Then The Raggedy Man paused to plaintively say
It was clockin' along to'rds the close of the day--
And he'd _ought_ to get back to his work on the lawn,--
Then dreamily blubbered his pipe and went on:
'His teeth were imperfect--my grandfather owned
That he couldn't eat oysters unless they were 'boned';
'And his eyes were so weak, and so feeble of sight,
He couldn't sleep with them unless, every night,
'He put on his spectacles--all he possessed,--
Three pairs--with his goggles on top of the rest.
'And my grandfather always, retiring at night,
Blew down the lamp-chimney to put out the light;
'Then he'd curl up on edge like a shaving, in bed,
And puff and smoke pipes in his sleep, it is said:
'And would snore oftentimes as the legends relate,
Till his folks were wrought up to a terrible state,--
'Then he'd snort, and rear up, and roll over; and there,
In the subsequent hush they could hear him chew air.
'And so glaringly bald was the top of his head
That many's the time he has musingly said,
'As his eyes journeyed o'er its reflex in the glass,--
'I must set out a few signs of _Keep Off the Grass!_'
'So remarkably deaf was my grandfather Squeers
That he had to wear lightning-rods over his ears
'To even hear thunder--and oftentimes then
He was forced to request it to thunder again.'
The Granny Grey, A Love Tale
DAME DOWSON, was a granny grey,
Who, three score years and ten,
Had pass'd her busy hours away,
In talking of the Men !
They were her theme, at home, abroad,
At wake, and by the winter fire,
Whether it froze, or blew, or thaw'd,
In sunshine or in shade, her ire
Was never calm'd; for still she made
Scandal her pleasure--and her trade!
A Grand-daughter DAME DOWSON had--
As fair, as fair could be!
Lovely enough to make Men mad;
For, on her cheek's soft downy rose
LOVE seem'd in dimples to repose;
Her clear blue eyes look'd mildly bright
Like ether drops of liquid light,
Or sapphire gems,--which VENUS bore,
When, for the silver-sanded shore,
She left her native Sea!
ANNETTA, was the damsel's name;
A pretty, soft, romantic sound;
Such as a lover's heart may wound;
And set his fancy in a flame:
For had the maid been christen'd JOAN,
Or DEBORAH, or HESTER,--
The little God had coldly prest her,
Or, let her quite alone!
For magic is the silver sound--
Which, often, in a NAME is found!
ANNETTA was belov'd; and She
To WILLIAM gave her vows;
For WILLIAM was as brave a Youth,
As ever claim'd the meed of truth,
And, to reward such constancy,
Nature that meed allows.
But Old DAME DOWSON could not bear
A Youth so brave--a Maid so fair.
The GRANNY GREY, with maxims grave
Oft to ANNETTA lessons gave:
And still the burthen of the Tale
Was, "Keep the wicked Men away,
"For should their wily arts prevail
"You'll surely rue the day!"
And credit was to GRANNY due,
The truth, she, by EXPERIENCE, knew!
ANNETTA blush'd, and promis'd She
Obedient to her will would be.
But Love, with cunning all his own,
Would never let the Maid alone:
And though she dar'd not see her Lover,
Lest GRANNY should the deed discover,
She, for a woman's weapon, still,
From CUPID'S pinion pluck'd a quill:
And, with it, prov'd that human art
Cannot confine the Female Heart.
At length, an assignation She
With WILLIAM slily made,
It was beneath an old Oak Tree,
Whose widely spreading shade
The Moon's soft beams contriv'd to break
For many a Village Lover's sake.
But Envy has a Lynx's eye
And GRANNY DOWSON cautious went
Before, to spoil their merriment,
Thinking no creature nigh.
Young WILLIAM came; but at the tree
The watchful GRANDAM found!
Straight to the Village hasten'd he
And summoning his neighbours round,
The Hedgerow's tangled boughs among,
Conceal'd the list'ning wond'ring throng.
He told them that, for many a night,
An OLD GREY OWL was heard;
A fierce, ill-omen'd, crabbed Bird--
Who fill'd the village with affright.
He swore this Bird was large and keen,
With claws of fire, and eye-balls green;
That nothing rested, where she came;
That many pranks the monster play'd,
And many a timid trembling Maid
She brought to shame
For negligence, that was her own;
Turning the milk to water, clear,
And spilling from the cask, small-beer;
Pinching, like fairies, harmless lasses,
And shewing Imps, in looking-glasses;
Or, with heart-piercing groan,
Along the church-yard path, swift gliding,
Or, on a broomstick, witchlike, riding.
All listen'd trembling; For the Tale
Made cheeks of Oker, chalky pale;
The young a valiant doubt pretended;
The old believ'd, and all attended.
Now to DAME DOWSON he repairs
And in his arms, enfolds the Granny:
Kneels at her feet, and fondly swears
He will be true as any !
Caresses her with well feign'd bliss
And, fearfully , implores a Kiss--
On the green turf distracted lying ,
He wastes his ardent breath, in sighing.
The DAME was silent; for the Lover
Would, when she spoke,
She fear'd, discover
Her envious joke:
And she was too much charm'd to be
In haste,--to end the Comedy!
Now WILLIAM, weary of such wooing,
Began, with all his might, hollooing:--
When suddenly from ev'ry bush
The eager throngs impatient rush;
With shouting, and with boist'rous glee
DAME DOWSON they pursue,
And from the broad Oak's canopy,
O'er moonlight fields of sparkling dew,
They bear in triumph the Old DAME,
Bawling, with loud Huzza's, her name;
"A witch, a witch !" the people cry,
"A witch !" the echoing hills reply:
'Till to her home the GRANNY came,
Where, to confirm the tale of shame,
Each rising day they went, in throngs,
With ribbald jests, and sportive songs,
'Till GRANNY of her spleen, repented;
And to young WILLIAM'S ardent pray'r,
To take, for life, ANNETTA fair,--
At last ,--CONSENTED.
And should this TALE, fall in the way
Of LOVERS CROSS'D, or GRANNIES GREY,--
Let them confess, 'tis made to prove--
The wisest heads ,--TOO WEAK FOR LOVE!
English Eclogues Ii - The Grandmother's Tale
Harry! I'm tired of playing. We'll draw round
The fire, and Grandmamma perhaps will tell us
One of her stories.
A pretty story! something dismal now;
A bloody murder.
Or about a ghost.
Nay, nay, I should but frighten you. You know
The other night when I was telling you
About the light in the church-yard, how you trembled
Because the screech-owl hooted at the window,
And would not go to bed.
You said yourself you did not like to hear him.
Pray now! we wo'nt be frightened.
Well, well, children!
But you've heard all my stories. Let me see,--
Did I never tell you how the smuggler murdered
The woman down at Pill?
Not how he cut her head off in the stable?
Oh--now! do tell us that!
You must have heard
Your Mother, children! often tell of her.
She used to weed in the garden here, and worm
Your uncle's dogs, and serve the house with coal;
And glad enough she was in winter time
To drive her asses here! it was cold work
To follow the slow beasts thro' sleet and snow,
And here she found a comfortable meal
And a brave fire to thaw her, for poor Moll
Was always welcome.
Oh--'twas blear-eyed Moll
The collier woman,--a great ugly woman,
I've heard of her.
Ugly enough poor soul!
At ten yards distance you could hardly tell
If it were man or woman, for her voice
Was rough as our old mastiff's, and she wore
A man's old coat and hat,--and then her face!
There was a merry story told of her,
How when the press-gang came to take her husband
As they were both in bed, she heard them coming,
Drest John up in her night-cap, and herself
Put on his clothes and went before the Captain.
And so they prest a woman!
'Twas a trick
She dearly loved to tell, and all the country
Soon knew the jest, for she was used to travel
For miles around. All weathers and all hours
She crossed the hill, as hardy as her beasts,
Bearing the wind and rain and winter frosts,
And if she did not reach her home at night
She laid her down in the stable with her asses
And slept as sound as they did.
With her asses!
Yes, and she loved her beasts. For tho' poor wretch
She was a terrible reprobate and swore
Like any trooper, she was always good
To the dumb creatures, never loaded them
Beyond their strength, and rather I believe
Would stint herself than let the poor beasts want,
Because, she said, they could not ask for food.
I never saw her stick fall heavier on them
Than just with its own weight. She little thought
This tender-heartedness would be her death!
There was a fellow who had oftentimes,
As if he took delight in cruelty.
Ill-used her Asses. He was one who lived
By smuggling, and, for she had often met him
Crossing the down at night, she threatened him,
If he tormented them again, to inform
Of his unlawful ways. Well--so it was--
'Twas what they both were born to, he provoked her,
She laid an information, and one morn
They found her in the stable, her throat cut
From ear to ear,'till the head only hung
Just by a bit of skin.
Oh dear! oh dear!
I hope they hung the man!
They took him up;
There was no proof, no one had seen the deed,
And he was set at liberty. But God
Whoss eye beholdeth all things, he had seen
The murder, and the murderer knew that God
Was witness to his crime. He fled the place,
But nowhere could he fly the avenging hand
Of heaven, but nowhere could the murderer rest,
A guilty conscience haunted him, by day,
By night, in company, in solitude,
Restless and wretched, did he bear upon him
The weight of blood; her cries were in his ears,
Her stifled groans as when he knelt upon her
Always he heard; always he saw her stand
Before his eyes; even in the dead of night
Distinctly seen as tho' in the broad sun,
She stood beside the murderer's bed and yawn'd
Her ghastly wound; till life itself became
A punishment at last he could not bear,
And he confess'd it all, and gave himself
To death, so terrible, he said, it was
To have a guilty conscience!
Was he hung then?
Hung and anatomized. Poor wretched man,
Your uncles went to see him on his trial,
He was so pale, so thin, so hollow-eyed,
And such a horror in his meagre face,
They said he look'd like one who never slept.
He begg'd the prayers of all who saw his end
And met his death with fears that well might warn
From guilt, tho' not without a hope in Christ.
by Robert Southey.
A Ballad For Elderly Kids
Now this is the ballad of Jeremy Jones,
And likewise of Bobadil Brown,
Of the Snooks and the Snaggers and Macs and Malones,
And Diggle and Daggle and Down.
In fact, 'tis a song of a fatuous throng.
Which embraces 'the man in the street,'
And the bloke on the 'bus, and a crowd more of us.
And a lot of the people we meet.
Yes, this is the story of Jack and of Jill,
Whose surnames are Snawley or Smith,
And of Public Opinion and National Will,
And samples of Popular Myth.
For Jeremy Jones, as a very small boy,
Was encouraged to struggle for pelf,
And to strive very hard in his own little yard,
But never to think for himself.
Then, Hi-diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
Come, sing us a nursery rhyme.
For, in spite of our whiskers, we elderly friskers
Are kiddes the most of our time.
So this is the song of the juvenile throng,
And its aunts and its big brother Bill,
Its uncles and cousins, and sisters in dozens,
Louisa and 'Liza and Lill.
Now, Jeremy Jones was exceedingly 'loyal,'
And when any procession went by,
He'd cheer very loud with the rest of the crowd,
Though he honestly couldn't tell why.
He was taught that his 'rulers' toiled hard for his sake,
And promoted the 'general good';
That to meddle with 'customs' was quite a mistake.
And Jones didn't see why he should.
To gird at the 'Order of Things as they Are,'
He was told, was the act of a fool.
He was taught, in effect, to regard with respect
Ev'ry' 'Precedent,' 'Practice' and 'Rule.'
And if we deserted the 'Usual Plan'
He believed that the nation would fall.
So Jones became known as a 'right-thinking man,'
Which meant that he didn't at all.
Oh, Little Miss Muffett, she sat on a tuffet,
But fled from a spider in fright;
For no one haa told her that if she was bolder,
She might have asserted her right.
Ho, rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub,
On a sea of political doubt;
And they argue together concerning the weather,
But never attempt to get out.
They made him a grocer when Jerry left school,
And a very good grocer was he;
And a dunce he was not, for he knew quite a lot
Of such matters as treacle and tea.
But the making of nations, and things so immense,
He considered beyond his control.
He was busy on week-days at saving his pence,
And on Sundays at saving his soul.
But politics Jones did not wholly neglect!
He subscribed to a paper, THE SAGE;
And every morn, with becoming respect,
He scanned its political page.
He believed what was said in each leader he read,
For a 'right-thinking person' was he.
Who was shocked at their vices, who growled of the prices
Of Sugar or treacle or tea.
Oh, Little Jack Horner sits in a corner,
A look of delight in his eye,
At the sight of a plum on the end of his thumb,
While there's somebody sneaking his pie.
Then, ride a cook hoss to Banbury Cross
Though the Lord only knows why we do.
But there's precedent for it, and those who ignore it
We class as an ignorant crew,
So Jeremy Jones he meanders through life,
Behaving as Grandmother bids;
And so do his very respectable wife
And extremely conventional kids.
Their bosses can trust 'em, for habit and custom
They've learnt in the regular school;
And they call him 'right-thinking,' while privately winking
And setting him down as a fool.
Convention's his master; he vows that disaster
Will swiftly encompass its foes.
He thinks Evolution a Labor delusion,
And 'Progress' a 'something' that grows.
He's one of the many - a credulous zany
The leadable, bleedable type
Who looks upon 'Time' - instructed by Granny
As something that rarely is ripe.
Oh, Goosey, goose gander, where do you wander?
Only, kind sir, where I'm told;
For my master has said I must go where I'm led,
And to contradict him would be bold.
And Little Bo-peep she lost her sheep.
It's the Socialist's fault, she'll insist.
But leave her to grieve, for she'll never believe
That a Meat Trust could ever exist.
Then this is the ballad of elderly kids,
Of Jeremy Jones and his kind,
Of Bobadil Brown, and Daggle and Down,
And the crowd with the juvenile mind.
Oh, this is a song of the National Will,
Of the Snooks, and the Snaggers, and Smiths,
Their aunts and their cousins, and big brother Bill,
Convention and Popular Myths.
A sad little song of the fatuous throng,
A string of sedate little rhymes,
Concerning the crowd who consider it wrong
To collide with the 'trend of the times.'
A song about Us, who are missing the 'bus,
While we trifle and toy with pretence.
For we play very hard in our own little yard,
But we seldom look over the fence.
Then Hi-diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle
We're never concerned with the cause.
Let's giggle and sinf for the Trust and the Ring
Are really our old Santa Claus.
Effects may surprise us, but Granny'll advise us;
We'll never behave as she bids.
Ho, grocers and drapres, let's stick to the papers;
We're all of us elderly kids.
And Willy, my eldest-born, is gone, you say, little Anne?
Ruddy and white, and strong on his legs, he looks like a man.
And Willy's wife has written: she never was over-wise,
Never the wife for Willy: he would n't take my advice.
For, Annie, you see, her father was not the man to save,
Had n't a head to manage, and drank himself into his grave.
Pretty enough, very pretty! but I was against it for one.
Eh!--but he would n't hear me--and Willy, you say, is gone.
Willy, my beauty, my eldest-born, the flower of the flock;
Never a man could fling him: for Willy stood like a rock.
`Here's a leg for a babe of a week!' says doctor; and he would be bound,
There was not his like that year in twenty parishes round.
Strong of his hands, and strong on his legs, but still of his tongue!
I ought to have gone before him: I wonder he went so young.
I cannot cry for him, Annie: I have not long to stay;
Perhaps I shall see him the sooner, for he lived far away.
Why do you look at me, Annie? you think I am hard and cold;
But all my children have gone before me, I am so old:
I cannot weep for Willy, nor can I weep for the rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the best.
For I remember a quarrel I had with your father, my dear,
All for a slanderous story, that cost me many a tear.
I mean your grandfather, Annie: it cost me a world of woe,
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago.
For Jenny, my cousin, had come to the place, and I knew right well
That Jenny had tript in her time: I knew, but I would not tell.
And she to be coming and slandering me, the base little liar!
But the tongue is a fire as you know, my dear, the tongue is a fire.
And the parson made it his text that week, and he said likewise,
That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies,
That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright,
But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.
And Willy had not been down to the farm for a week and a day;
And all things look'd half-dead, tho' it was the middle of May.
Jenny, to slander me, who knew what Jenny had been!
But soiling another, Annie, will never make oneself clean.
And I cried myself well-nigh blind, and all of an evening late
I climb'd to the top of the garth, and stood by the road at the gate.
The moon like a rick on fire was rising over the dale,
And whit, whit, whit, in the bush beside me chirrupt the nightingale.
All of a sudden he stopt: there past by the gate of the farm,
Willy,--he did n't see me,--and Jenny hung on his arm.
Out into the road I started, and spoke I scarce knew how;
Ah, there's no fool like the old one -- it makes me angry now.
Willy stood up like a man, and look'd the thing that he meant;
Jenny, the viper, made me a mocking courtesy and went.
And I said, `Let us part: in a hundred years it'll all be the same,
You cannot love me at all, if you love not my good name.'
And he turn'd, and I saw his eyes all wet, in the sweet moonshine:
Sweetheart, I love you so well that your good name is mine.
And what do I care for Jane, let her speak of you well of ill;
But marry me out of hand: we two shall be happy still.'
`Marry you, Willy!' said I, `but I needs must speak my mind,
And I fear you'll listen to tales, be jealous and hard and unkind.'
But he turn'd and claspt me in his arms, and answer'd, `No, love, no;'
Seventy years ago, my darling, seventy years ago.
So Willy and I were wedded: I wore a lilac gown;
And the ringers rang with a will, and he gave the ringers a crown.
But the first that ever I bare was dead before he was born,
Shadow and shine is life, little Annie, flower and thorn.
That was the first time, too, that ever I thought of death.
There lay the sweet little body that never had drawn a breath.
I had not wept, little Anne, not since I had been a wife;
But I wept like a child that day, for the babe had fought for his life.
His dear little face was troubled, as if with anger or pain:
I look'd at the still little body--his trouble had all been in vain.
For Willy I cannot weep, I shall see him another morn:
But I wept like a child for the child that was dead before he was born.
But he cheer'd me, my good man, for he seldom said me nay:
Kind, like a man, was he; like a man, too, would have his way:
Never jealous--not he: we had many a happy year;
And he died, and I could not weep--my own time seem'd so near.
But I wish'd it had been God's will that I, too, then could have died:
I began to be tired a little, and fain had slept at his side.
And that was ten years back, or more, if I don't forget:
But as to the children, Annie, they're all about me yet.
Pattering over the boards, my Annie who left me at two,
Patter she goes, my own little Annie, an Annie like you:
Pattering over the boards, she comes and goes at her will,
While Harry is in the five-acre and Charlie ploughing the hill.
And Harry and Charlie, I hear them too--they sing to their team:
Often they come to the door in a pleasant kind of a dream.
They come and sit by my chair, they hover about my bed--
I am not always certain if they be alive or dead.
And yet I know for a truth, there's none of them left alive;
For Harry went at sixty, your father at sixty- five:
And Willy, my eldest born, at nigh threescore and ten;
I knew them all as babies, and now they're elderly men.
For mine is a time of peace, it is not often I grieve;
I am oftener sitting at home in my father's farm at eve:
And the neighbors come and laugh and gossip, and so do I;
I find myself often laughing at things that have long gone by.
To be sure the preacher says, our sins should make us sad:
But mine is a time of peace, and there is Grace to be had;
And God, not man, is the Judge of us all when life shall cease;
And in this Book, little Annie, the message is one of Peace.
And age is a time of peace, so it be free from pain,
And happy has been my life; but I would not live it again.
I seem to be tired a little, that's all, and long for rest;
Only at your age, Annie, I could have wept with the best.
So Willy has gone, my beauty, my eldest-born, my flower;
But how can I weep for Willy, he has but gone for an hour,--
Gone for a minute, my son, from this room into the next;
I, too, shall go in a minute. What time have I to be vext?
And Willy's wife has written, she never was over-wise.
Get me my glasses, Annie: thank God that I keep my eyes.
There is but a trifle left you, when I shall have past away.
But stay with the old woman now: you cannot have long to stay.
Grandmother's Story Of Bunker Hill Battle (As She Saw It From The Belfry)
'Tis like stirring living embers when, at eighty, one remembers
All the achings and the quakings of 'the times that tried men's souls';
When I talk of Whig and Tory, when I tell the Rebel story,
To you the words are ashes, but to me they're burning coals.
I had heard the muskets' rattle of the April running battle;
Lord Percy's hunted soldiers, I can see their red coats still;
But a deadly chill comes o'er me, as the day looms up before me,
When a thousand men lay bleeding on the slopes of Bunker's Hill.
'Twas a peaceful summer's morning, when the first thing gave us warning
Was the booming of the cannon from the river and the shore:
'Child,' says grandma, 'what's the matter, what is all this noise and clatter?
Have those scalping Indian devils come to murder us once more?'
Poor old soul! my sides were shaking in the midst of all my quaking
To hear her talk of Indians when the guns began to roar:
She had seen the burning village, and the slaughter and the pillage,
When the Mohawks killed her father, with their bullets through his door.
Then I said, 'Now, dear old granny, don't you fret and worry any,
For I'll soon come back and tell you whether this is work or play;
There can't be mischief in it, so I won't be gone a minute'—
For a minute then I started. I was gone the livelong day.
No time for bodice-lacing or for looking-glass grimacing;
Down my hair went as I hurried, tumbling half-way to my heels;
God forbid your ever knowing, when there's blood around her flowing,
How the lonely, helpless daughter of a quiet household feels!
In the street I heard a thumping; and I knew it was the stumping
Of the Corporal, our old neighbor, on that wooden leg he wore,
With a knot of women round him,—it was lucky I had found him,—
So I followed with the others, and the Corporal marched before.
They were making for the steeple,—the old soldier and his people;
The pigeons circled round us as we climbed the creaking stair,
Just across the narrow river—O, so close it made me shiver!—
Stood a fortress on the hilltop that but yesterday was bare.
Not slow our eyes to find it; well we knew who stood behind it,
Though the earthwork hid them from us, and the stubborn walls were dumb:
Here were sister, wife, and mother, looking wild upon each other,
And their lips were white with terror as they said, THE HOUR HAS COME!
The morning slowly wasted, not a morsel had we tasted,
And our heads were almost splitting with the cannons' deafening thrill,
When a figure tall and stately round the rampart strode sedately;
It was PRESCOTT, one since told me; he commanded on the hill.
Every woman's heart grew bigger when we saw his manly figure,
With the banyan buckled round it, standing up so straight and tall;
Like a gentleman of leisure who is strolling out for pleasure,
Through the storm of shells and cannon-shot he walked around the wall.
At eleven the streets were swarming, for the red-coats' ranks were forming;
At noon in marching order they were moving to the piers;
How the bayonets gleamed and glistened, as we looked far down and listened
To the trampling and the drum-beat of the belted grenadiers!
At length the men have started, with a cheer (it seemed faint-hearted),
In their scarlet regimentals, with their knapsacks on their backs,
And the reddening, rippling water, as after a sea-fight's slaughter,
Round the barges gliding onward blushed like blood along their tracks.
So they crossed to the other border, and again they formed in order;
And the boats came back for soldiers, came for soldiers, soldiers still:
The time seemed everlasting to us women faint and fasting,—
At last they're moving, marching, marching proudly up the hill.
We can see the bright steel glancing all along the lines advancing—
Now the front rank fires a volley—they have thrown away their shot;
Far behind the earthwork lying, all the balls above them flying,
Our people need not hurry; so they wait and answer not.
Then the Corporal, our old cripple (he would swear sometimes and tipple),—
He had heard the bullets whistle (in the old French war) before,—
Calls out in words of jeering, just as if they all were hearing,—
And his wooden leg thumps fiercely on the dusty belfry floor:—
'Oh! fire away, ye villains, and earn King George's shillin's,
But ye'll waste a ton of powder afore a 'rebel' falls;
You may bang the dirt and welcome, they're as safe as Dan'l Malcolm
Ten foot beneath the gravestone that you've splintered with your balls!'
In the hush of expectation, in the awe and trepidation
Of the dread approaching moment, we are well-nigh breathless all;
Though the rotten bars are failing on the rickety belfry railing,
We are crowding up against them like the waves against a wall.
Just a glimpse (the air is clearer), they are nearer,—nearer,— nearer,
When a flash—a curling smoke-wreath—then a crash—the steeple shakes—
The deadly truce is ended; the tempest's shroud is rended;
Like a morning mist it gathered, like a thunder-cloud it breaks!
O the sight our eyes discover as the blue-black smoke blows over!
The red-coats stretched in windrows as a mower rakes his hay;
Here a scarlet heap is lying, there a headlong crowd is flying
Like a billow that has broken and is shivered into spray.
Then we cried, 'The troops are routed! they are beat—it can't be doubted!
God be thanked, the fight is over!'—Ah! the grim old soldier's smile!
'Tell us, tell us why you look so?' (we could hardly speak, we shook so),—
'Are they beaten? Are they beaten? ARE they beaten?'— 'Wait a while.'
O the trembling and the terror! for too soon we saw our error:
They are baffled, not defeated; we have driven them back in vain;
And the columns that were scattered, round the colors that were tattered,
Toward the sullen silent fortress turn their belted breasts again.
All at once, as we are gazing, lo the roofs of Charlestown blazing!
They have fired the harmless village; in an hour it will be down!
The Lord in heaven confound them, rain his fire and brimstone round them,—
The robbing, murdering red-coats, that would burn a peaceful town!
They are marching, stern and solemn; we can see each massive column
As they near the naked earth-mound with the slanting walls so steep.
Have our soldiers got faint-hearted, and in noiseless haste departed?
Are they panic-struck and helpless? Are they palsied or asleep?
Now! the walls they're almost under! scarce a rod the foes asunder!
Not a firelock flashed against them! up the earthwork they will swarm!
But the words have scarce been spoken, when the ominous calm is broken,
And a bellowing crash has emptied all the vengeance of the storm!
So again, with murderous slaughter, pelted backward to the water,
Fly Pigot's running heroes and the frightened braves of Howe;
And we shout, 'At last they're done for, it's their barges they have run for:
They are beaten, beaten, beaten; and the battle's over now!'
And we looked, poor timid creatures, on the rough old soldier's features,
Our lips afraid to question, but he knew what we would ask:
'Not sure,' he said; 'keep quiet,—once more, I guess, they'll try it—
Here's damnation to the cut-throats!' then he handed me his flask,
Saying, 'Gal, you're looking shaky; have a drop of old Jamaiky:
I'm afraid there'll be more trouble afore this job is done;'
So I took one scorching swallow; dreadful faint I felt and hollow,
Standing there from early morning when the firing was begun.
All through those hours of trial I had watched a calm clock dial,
As the hands kept creeping, creeping,—they were creeping round to four,
When the old man said, 'They're forming with their bayonets fixed for storming:
It's the death grip that's a coming,—they will try the works once more.'
With brazen trumpets blaring, the flames behind them glaring,
The deadly wall before them, in close array they come;
Still onward, upward toiling, like a dragon's fold uncoiling—
Like the rattlesnake's shrill warning the reverberating drum!
Over heaps all torn and gory—shall I tell the fearful story,
How they surged above the breastwork, as a sea breaks over a deck;
How, driven, yet scarce defeated, our worn-out men retreated,
With their powder-horns all emptied, like the swimmers from a wreck?
It has all been told and painted; as for me, they say I fainted,
And the wooden-legged old Corporal stumped with me down the stair:
When I woke from dreams affrighted the evening lamps were lighted,—
On the floor a youth was lying; his bleeding breast was bare.
And I heard through all the flurry, 'Send for WARREN! hurry! hurry!
Tell him here's a soldier bleeding, and he'll come and dress his wound!'
Ah, we knew not till the morrow told its tale of death and sorrow,
How the starlight found him stiffened on the dark and bloody ground.
Who the youth was, what his name was, where the place from which he came was,
Who had brought him from the battle, and had left him at our door,
He could not speak to tell us; but 'twas one of our brave fellows,
As the homespun plainly showed us which the dying soldier wore.
For they all thought he was dying, as they gathered 'round him crying,—
And they said, 'O, how they'll miss him!' and, 'What will his mother do?'
Then, his eyelids just unclosing like a child's that has been dozing,
He faintly murmured, 'Mother!'—and—I saw his eyes were blue.
—'Why, grandma, how you're winking!'—Ah, my child, it sets me thinking
Of a story not like this one. Well, he somehow lived along;
So we came to know each other, and I nursed him like a—mother,
Till at last he stood before me, tall, and rosy-cheeked, and strong.
And we sometimes walked together in the pleasant summer weather;
—'Please to tell us what his name was?'—Just your own, my little dear,—
There's his picture Copley painted: we became so well acquainted,
That—in short, that's why I'm grandma, and you children all are here!
``Grandmother dear, you do not know; you have lived the old-world life,
Under the twittering eaves of home, sheltered from storm and strife;
Rocking cradles, and covering jams, knitting socks for baby feet,
Or piecing together lavender bags for keeping the linen sweet:
Daughter, wife, and mother in turn, and each with a blameless breast,
Then saying your prayers when the nightfall came, and quietly dropping to rest.
``You must not think, Granny, I speak in scorn, for yours have been well-spent days,
And none ever paced with more faithful feet the dutiful ancient ways.
Grandfather's gone, but while he lived you clung to him close and true,
And mother's heart, like her eyes, I know, came to her straight from you.
If the good old times, at the good old pace, in the good old grooves would run,
One could not do better, I'm sure of that, than do as you all have done.
``But the world has wondrously changed, Granny, since the days when you were young;
It thinks quite different thoughts from then, and speaks with a different tongue.
The fences are broken, the cords are snapped, that tethered man's heart to home;
He ranges free as the wind or the wave, and changes his shore like the foam.
He drives his furrows through fallow seas, he reaps what the breakers sow,
And the flash of his iron flail is seen mid the barns of the barren snow.
``He has lassoed the lightning and led it home, he has yoked it unto his need,
And made it answer the rein and trudge as straight as the steer or steed.
He has bridled the torrents and made them tame, he has bitted the champing tide,
It toils as his drudge and turns the wheels that spin for his use and pride.
He handles the planets and weighs their dust, he mounts on the comet's car,
And he lifts the veil of the sun, and stares in the eyes of the uttermost star.
``'Tis not the same world you knew, Granny; its fetters have fallen off;
The lowliest now may rise and rule where the proud used to sit and scoff.
No need to boast of a scutcheoned stock, claim rights from an ancient wrong;
All are born with a silver spoon in their mouths whose gums are sound and strong.
And I mean to be rich and great, Granny; I mean it with heart and soul:
At my feet is the ball, I will roll it on, till it spins through the golden goal.
``Out on the thought that my copious life should trickle through trivial days,
Myself but a lonelier sort of beast, watching the cattle graze,
Scanning the year's monotonous change, gaping at wind and rain,
Or hanging with meek solicitous eyes on the whims of a creaking vane;
Wretched if ewes drop single lambs, blest so is oilcake cheap,
And growing old in a tedious round of worry, surfeit, and sleep.
``You dear old Granny, how sweet your smile, and how soft your silvery hari!
But all has moved on while you sate still in your cap and easy-chair.
The torch of knowledge is lit for all, it flashes from hand to hand;
The alien tongues of the earth converse, and whisper from strand to strand.
The very churches are changed and boast new hymns, new rites, new truth;
Men worship a wiser and greater God than the halfknown God of your youth.
``What! marry Connie and set up house, and dwell where my fathers dwelt,
Giving the homely feasts they gave and kneeling where they knelt?
She is pretty, and good, and void I am sure of vanity, greed, or guile;
But she has not travelled nor seen the world, and is lacking in air and style.
Women now are as wise and strong as men, and vie with men in renown;
The wife that will help to build my fame was not bred near a country town.
``What a notion! to figure at parish boards, and wrangle o'er cess and rate,
I, who mean to sit for the county yet, and vote on an Empire's fate;
To take the chair at the Farmers' Feast, and tickle their bumpkin ears,
Who must shake a senate before I die, and waken a people's cheers!
In the olden days was no choice, so sons to the roof of their fathers clave:
But now! 'twere to perish before one's time, and to sleep in a living grave.
``I see that you do not understand. How should you? Your memory clings
To the simple music of silenced days and the skirts of vanishing things.
Your fancy wanders round ruined haunts, and dwells upon oft-told tales;
Your eyes discern not the widening dawn, nor your ears catch the rising gales.
But live on, Granny, till I come back, and then perhaps you will own
The dear old Past is an empty nest, and the Present the brood that is flown.''
``And so, my dear, you've come back at last? I always fancied you would.
Well, you see the old home of your childhood's days is standing where it stood.
The roses still clamber from porch to roof, the elder is white at the gate,
And over the long smooth gravel path the peacock still struts in state.
On the gabled lodge, as of old, in the sun, the pigeons sit and coo,
And our hearts, my dear, are no whit more changed, but have kept still warm for you.
``You'll find little altered, unless it be me, and that since my last attack;
But so that you only give me time, I can walk to the church and back.
You bade me not die till you returned, and so you see I lived on:
I'm glad that I did now you've really come, but it's almost time I was gone.
I suppose that there isn't room for us all, and the old should depart the first.
That's as it should be. What is sad, is to bury the dead you've nursed.
``Won't you have bit nor sup, my dear? Not even a glass of whey?
The dappled Alderney calved last week, and the baking is fresh to-day.
Have you lost your appetite too in town, or is it you've grown over-nice?
If you'd rather have biscuits and cowslip wine, they'll bring them up in a trice.
But what am I saying? Your coming down has set me all in a maze:
I forgot that you travelled here by train; I was thinking of coaching days.
``There, sit you down, and give me your hand, and tell me about it all,
From the day that you left us, keen to go, to the pride that had a fall.
And all went well at the first? So it does, when we're young and puffed with hope;
But the foot of the hill is quicker reached the easier seems the slope.
And men thronged round you, and women too! Yes, that I can understand.
When there's gold in the palm, the greedy world is eager to grasp the hand.
``I heard them tell of your smart town house, but I always shook my head.
One doesn't grow rich in a year and a day, in the time of my youth 'twas said.
Men do not reap in the spring, my dear, nor are granaries filled in May,
Save it be with the harvest of former years, stored up for a rainy day.
The seasons will keep their own true time, you can hurry nor furrow nor sod:
It's honest labour and steadfast thrift that alone are blest by God.
``You say you were honest. I trust you were, nor do I judge you, my dear:
I have old-fashioned ways, and it's quite enough to keep one's own conscience clear.
But still the commandment, ``Thou shalt not steal,'' though a simple and ancient rule,
Was not made for modern cunning to baulk, nor for any new age to befool;
And if my growing rich unto others brought but penury, chill, and grief,
I should feel, though I never had filched with my hands, I was only a craftier thief.
``That isn't the way they look at it there? All worshipped the rising sun?
Most of all the fine lady, in pride of purse you fancied your heart had won.
I don't want to hear of her beauty or birth: I reckon her foul and low;
Far better a steadfast cottage wench than grand loves that come and go.
To cleave to their husbands, through weal, through woe, is all women have to do:
In growing as clever as men they seem to have matched them in fickleness too.
``But there's one in whose heart has your image still dwelt through many an absent day,
As the scent of a flower will haunt a closed room, though the flower be taken away.
Connie's not quite so young as she was, no doubt, but faithfulness never grows old;
And were beauty the only fuel of love, the warmest hearth soon would grow cold.
Once you thought that she had not travelled, and knew neither the world nor life:
Not to roam, but to deem her own hearth the whole world, that's what a man wants in a wife.
``I'm sure you'd be happy with Connie, at least if your own heart's in the right place.
She will bring you nor power, nor station, nor wealth, but she never will bring you disgrace.
They say that the moon, though she moves round the earth, never turns to him morning or night
But one face of her sphere, and it must be because she's so true a satellite;
And Connie, if into your orbit once drawn by the sacrament sanctioned above,
Would revolve round you constantly, only to show the one-sided aspect of love.
``You will never grow rich by the land, I own; but if Connie and you should wed,
It will feed your children and household too, as it you and your fathers fed.
The seasons have been unkindly of late; there's a wonderful cut of hay,
But the showers have washed all the goodness out, till it's scarcely worth carting away.
There's a fairish promise of barley straw, but the ears look rusty and slim:
I suppose God intends to remind us thus that something depends on Him.
``God neither progresses nor changes, dear, as I once heard you rashly say:
Man's schools and philosophies come and go, but His word doth not pass away.
We worship Him here as we did of old, with simple and reverent rite:
In the morning we pray Him to bless our work, to forgive our transgressions at night.
To keep His commandments, to fear His name, and what should be done, to do,-
That's the beginning of wisdom still; I suspect 'tis the end of it too.
``You must see the new-fangled machines at work, that harrow, and thresh, and reap;
They're wonderful quick, there's no mistake, and they say in the end they're cheap.
But they make such a clatter, and seem to bring the rule of the town to the fields:
There's something more precious in country life than the balance of wealth it yields.
But that seems going; I'm sure I hope that I shall be gone before:
Better poor sweet silence of rural toil than the factory's opulent roar.
``They're a mighty saving of labour, though; so at least I hear them tell,
Making fewer hands and fewer mouths, but fewer hearts as well:
They sweep up so close that there's nothing left for widows and bairns to glean;
If machines are growing like men, man seems to be growing a half machine.
There's no friendliness left; the only tie is the wage upon Saturday nights:
Right used to mean duty; you'll find that now there's no duty, but only rights.
``Still stick to your duty, my dear, and then things cannot go much amiss.
What made folks happy in bygone times, will make them happy in this.
There's little that's called amusement, here; but why should the old joys pall?
Has the blackbird ceased to sing loud in spring? Has the cuckoo forgotten to call?
Are bleating voices no longer heard when the cherryblossoms swarm?
And have home, and children, and fireside lost one gleam of their ancient charm?
``Come, let us go round; to the farmyard first, with its litter of fresh-strewn straw,
Past the ash-tree dell, round whose branching tops the young rooks wheel and caw;
Through the ten-acre mead that was mown the first, and looks well for aftermath,
Then round by the beans-I shall tire by then,-and home up the garden-path,
Where the peonies hang their blushing heads, where the larkspur laughs from its stalk-
With my stick and your arm I can manage. But see! There, Connie comes up the walk.''
by Alfred Austin.
'Heigh, boys!' cried Grandfather Bridgeman, 'it's time before dinner to-day.'
He lifted the crumpled letter, and thumped a surprising 'Hurrah!'
Up jumped all the echoing young ones, but John, with the starch in his throat,
Said, 'Father, before we make noises, let's see the contents of the note.'
The old man glared at him harshly, and twinkling made answer: 'Too bad!
John Bridgeman, I'm always the whisky, and you are the water, my lad!'
But soon it was known thro' the house, and the house ran over for joy,
That news, good news, great marvels, had come from the soldier boy;
Young Tom, the luckless scapegrace, offshoot of Methodist John;
His grandfather's evening tale, whom the old man hailed as his son.
And the old man's shout of pride was a shout of his victory, too;
For he called his affection a method: the neighbours' opinions he knew.
Meantime, from the morning table removing the stout breakfast cheer,
The drink of the three generations, the milk, the tea, and the beer
(Alone in its generous reading of pints stood the Grandfather's jug),
The women for sight of the missive came pressing to coax and to hug.
He scattered them quick, with a buss and a smack; thereupon he began
Diversions with John's little Sarah: on Sunday, the naughty old man!
Then messengers sped to the maltster, the auctioneer, miller, and all
The seven sons of the farmer who housed in the range of his call.
Likewise the married daughters, three plentiful ladies, prime cooks,
Who bowed to him while they condemned, in meek hope to stand high in his books.
'John's wife is a fool at a pudding,' they said, and the light carts up hill
Went merrily, flouting the Sabbath: for puddings well made mend a will.
The day was a van-bird of summer: the robin still piped, but the blue,
As a warm and dreamy palace with voices of larks ringing thro',
Looked down as if wistfully eyeing the blossoms that fell from its lap:
A day to sweeten the juices: a day to quicken the sap.
All round the shadowy orchard sloped meadows in gold, and the dear
Shy violets breathed their hearts out: the maiden breath of the year!
Full time there was before dinner to bring fifteen of his blood,
To sit at the old man's table: they found that the dinner was good.
But who was she by the lilacs and pouring laburnums concealed,
When under the blossoming apple the chair of the Grandfather wheeled?
She heard one little child crying, 'Dear brave Cousin Tom!' as it leapt;
Then murmured she: 'Let me spare them!' and passed round the walnuts, and wept.
Yet not from sight had she slipped ere feminine eyes could detect
The figure of Mary Charlworth. 'It's just what we all might expect,'
Was uttered: and: 'Didn't I tell you?' Of Mary the rumour resounds,
That she is now her own mistress, and mistress of five thousand pounds.
'Twas she, they say, who cruelly sent young Tom to the war.
Miss Mary, we thank you now! If you knew what we're thanking you for!
But, 'Have her in: let her hear it,' called Grandfather Bridgeman, elate,
While Mary's black-gloved fingers hung trembling with flight on the gate.
Despite the women's remonstrance, two little ones, lighter than deer,
Were loosed, and Mary, imprisoned, her whole face white as a tear,
Came forward with culprit footsteps. Her punishment was to commence:
The pity in her pale visage they read in a different sense.
'You perhaps may remember a fellow, Miss Charlworth, a sort of black sheep,'
The old man turned his tongue to ironical utterance deep:
'He came of a Methodist dad, so it wasn't his fault if he kicked.
He earned a sad reputation, but Methodists are mortal strict.
His name was Tom, and, dash me! but Bridgeman! I think you might add:
Whatever he was, bear in mind that he came of a Methodist dad.'
This prelude dismally lengthened, till Mary, starting, exclaimed,
'A letter, Sir, from your grandson?' 'Tom Bridgeman that rascal is named,'
The old man answered, and further, the words that sent Tom to the ranks
Repeated as words of a person to whom they all owed mighty thanks.
But Mary never blushed: with her eyes on the letter, she sate,
And twice interrupting him faltered, 'The date, may I ask, Sir, the date?'
'Why, that's what I never look at in a letter,' the farmer replied:
'Facts first! and now I'll be parson.' The Bridgeman women descried
A quiver on Mary's eyebrows. One turned, and while shifting her comb,
Said low to a sister: 'I'm certain she knows more than we about Tom.
She wants him now he's a hero!' The same, resuming her place,
Begged Mary to check them the moment she found it a tedious case.
Then as a mastiff swallows the snarling noises of cats,
The voice of the farmer opened. ''Three cheers, and off with your hats!'
- That's Tom. 'We've beaten them, Daddy, and tough work it was, to be sure!
A regular stand-up combat: eight hours smelling powder and gore.
I entered it Serjeant-Major,'-and now he commands a salute,
And carries the flag of old England! Heigh! see him lift foes on his foot!
'-An officer! ay, Miss Charlworth, he is, or he is so to be;
You'll own war isn't such humbug: and Glory means something, you see.
'But don't say a word,' he continues, 'against the brave French any more.'
- That stopt me: we'll now march together. I couldn't read further before.
That 'brave French' I couldn't stomach. He can't see their cunning to get
Us Britons to fight their battles, while best half the winnings they net!'
The old man sneered, and read forward. It was of that desperate fight; -
The Muscovite stole thro' the mist-wreaths that wrapped the chill Inkermann height,
Where stood our silent outposts: old England was in them that day!
O sharp worked his ruddy wrinkles, as if to the breath of the fray
They moved! He sat bareheaded: his long hair over him slow
Swung white as the silky bog-flowers in purple heath-hollows that grow.
And louder at Tom's first person: acute and in thunder the 'I'
Invaded the ear with a whinny of triumph, that seem'd to defy
The hosts of the world. All heated, what wonder he little could brook
To catch the sight of Mary's demure puritanical look?
And still as he led the onslaught, his treacherous side-shots he sent
At her who was fighting a battle as fierce, and who sat there unbent.
''We stood in line, and like hedgehogs the Russians rolled under us thick.
They frightened me there.'-He's no coward; for when, Miss, they came at the quick,
The sight, he swears, was a breakfast.-'My stomach felt tight: in a glimpse
I saw you snoring at home with the dear cuddled-up little imps.
And then like the winter brickfields at midnight, hot fire lengthened out.
Our fellows were just leashed bloodhounds: no heart of the lot faced about.
''And only that grumbler, Bob Harris, remarked that we stood one to ten:
'Ye fool,' says Mick Grady, 'just tell 'em they know to compliment men!'
And I sang out your old words: 'If the opposite side isn't God's,
Heigh! after you've counted a dozen, the pluckiest lads have the odds.'
Ping-ping flew the enemies' pepper: the Colonel roared, Forward, and we
Went at them. 'Twas first like a blanket: and then a long plunge in the sea.
''Well, now about me and the Frenchman: it happened I can't tell you how:
And, Grandfather, hear, if you love me, and put aside prejudice now':
He never says 'Grandfather'-Tom don't-save it's a serious thing.
'Well, there were some pits for the rifles, just dug on our French-leaning wing:
And backwards, and forwards, and backwards we went, and at last I was vexed,
And swore I would never surrender a foot when the Russians charged next.
''I know that life's worth keeping.'-Ay, so it is, lad; so it is! -
'But my life belongs to a woman.'-Does that mean Her Majesty, Miss? -
'These Russians came lumping and grinning: they're fierce at it, though they are blocks.
Our fellows were pretty well pumped, and looked sharp for the little French cocks.
Lord, didn't we pray for their crowing! when over us, on the hill-top,
Behold the first line of them skipping, like kangaroos seen on the hop.
''That sent me into a passion, to think of them spying our flight!'
Heigh, Tom! you've Bridgeman blood, boy! And, ''Face them!' I shouted: 'All right;
Sure, Serjeant, we'll take their shot dacent, like gentlemen,' Grady replied.
A ball in his mouth, and the noble old Irishman dropped by my side.
Then there was just an instant to save myself, when a short wheeze
Of bloody lungs under the smoke, and a red-coat crawled up on his knees.
'''Twas Ensign Baynes of our parish.'-Ah, ah, Miss Charlworth, the one
Our Tom fought for a young lady? Come, now we've got into the fun!-
'I shouldered him: he primed his pistol, and I trailed my musket, prepared.'
Why, that's a fine pick-a-back for ye, to make twenty Russians look scared!
'They came-never mind how many: we couldn't have run very well,
We fought back to back: 'face to face, our last time!' he said, smiling, and fell.
''Then I strove wild for his body: the beggars saw glittering rings,
Which I vowed to send to his mother. I got some hard knocks and sharp stings,
But felt them no more than angel, or devil, except in the wind.
I know that I swore at a Russian for showing his teeth, and he grinned
The harder: quick, as from heaven, a man on a horse rode between,
And fired, and swung his bright sabre: I can't write you more of the scene.
''But half in his arms, and half at his stirrup, he bore me right forth,
And pitched me among my old comrades: before I could tell south from north,
He caught my hand up, and kissed it! Don't ever let any man speak
A word against Frenchmen, I near him! I can't find his name, tho' I seek.
But French, and a General, surely he was, and, God bless him! thro' him
I've learnt to love a whole nation.'' The ancient man paused, winking dim.
A curious look, half woeful, was seen on his face as he turned
His eyes upon each of his children, like one who but faintly discerned
His old self in an old mirror. Then gathering sense in his fist,
He sounded it hard on his knee-cap. 'Your hand, Tom, the French fellow kissed!
He kissed my boy's old pounder! I say he's a gentleman!' Straight
The letter he tossed to one daughter; bade her the remainder relate.
Tom properly stated his praises in facts, but the lady preferred
To deck the narration with brackets, and drop her additional word.
What nobler Christian natures these women could boast, who, 'twas known,
Once spat at the name of their nephew, and now made his praises their own!
The letter at last was finished, the hearers breathed freely, and sign
Was given, 'Tom's health!'-Quoth the farmer: 'Eh, Miss? are you weak in the spine?'
For Mary had sunk, and her body was shaking, as if in a fit.
Tom's letter she held, and her thumb-nail the month when the letter was writ
Fast-dinted, while she hung sobbing: 'O, see, Sir, the letter is old!
O, do not be too happy!'-'If I understand you, I'm bowled!'
Said Grandfather Bridgeman, 'and down go my wickets!-not happy! when here,
Here's Tom like to marry his General's daughter-or widow-I'll swear!
'I wager he knows how to strut, too! It's all on the cards that the Queen
Will ask him to Buckingham Palace, to say what he's done and he's seen.
Victoria's fond of her soldiers: and she's got a nose for a fight.
If Tom tells a cleverish story-there is such a thing as a knight!
And don't he look roguish and handsome!-To see a girl snivelling there -
By George, Miss, it's clear that you're jealous'-'I love him!' she answered his stare.
'Yes! now!' breathed the voice of a woman.-'Ah! now!' quiver'd low the reply.
'And 'now''s just a bit too late, so it's no use your piping your eye,'
The farmer added bluffly: 'Old Lawyer Charlworth was rich;
You followed his instructions in kicking Tom into the ditch.
If you're such a dutiful daughter, that doesn't prove Tom is a fool.
Forgive and forget's my motto! and here's my grog growing cool!'
'But, Sir,' Mary faintly repeated: 'for four long weeks I have failed
To come and cast on you my burden; such grief for you always prevailed!
My heart has so bled for you!' The old man burst on her speech:
'You've chosen a likely time, Miss! a pretty occasion to preach!'
And was it not outrageous, that now, of all times, one should come
With incomprehensible pity! Far better had Mary been dumb.
But when again she stammered in this bewildering way,
The farmer no longer could bear it, and begged her to go, or to stay,
But not to be whimpering nonsense at such a time. Pricked by a goad,
'Twas you who sent him to glory:- you've come here to reap what you sowed.
Is that it?' he asked; and the silence the elders preserved plainly said,
On Mary's heaving bosom this begging-petition was read.
And that it was scarcely a bargain that she who had driven him wild
Should share now the fruits of his valour, the women expressed, as they smiled.
The family pride of the Bridgemans was comforted; still, with contempt,
They looked on a monied damsel of modesty quite so exempt.
'O give me force to tell them!' cried Mary, and even as she spoke,
A shout and a hush of the children: a vision on all of them broke.
Wheeled, pale, in a chair, and shattered, the wreck of their hero was seen;
The ghost of Tom drawn slow o'er the orchard's shadowy green.
Could this be the martial darling they joyed in a moment ago?
'He knows it?' to Mary Tom murmured, and closed his weak lids at her 'No.'
'Beloved!' she said, falling by him, 'I have been a coward: I thought
You lay in the foreign country, and some strange good might be wrought.
'Each day I have come to tell him, and failed, with my hand on the gate.
I bore the dreadful knowledge, and crushed my heart with its weight.
The letter brought by your comrade-he has but just read it aloud!
It only reached him this morning!' Her head on his shoulder she bowed.
Then Tom with pity's tenderest lordliness patted her arm,
And eyed the old white-head fondly, with something of doubt and alarm.
O, take to your fancy a sculptor whose fresh marble offspring appears
Before him, shiningly perfect, the laurel-crown'd issue of years:
Is heaven offended? for lightning behold from its bosom escape,
And those are mocking fragments that made the harmonious shape!
He cannot love the ruins, till, feeling that ruins alone
Are left, he loves them threefold. So passed the old grandfather's moan.
John's text for a sermon on Slaughter he heard, and he did not protest.
All rigid as April snowdrifts, he stood, hard and feeble; his chest
Just showing the swell of the fire as it melted him. Smiting a rib,
'Heigh! what have we been about, Tom! Was this all a terrible fib?'
He cried, and the letter forth-trembled. Tom told what the cannon had done.
Few present but ached to see falling those aged tears on his heart's son!
Up lanes of the quiet village, and where the mill-waters rush red
Thro' browning summer meadows to catch the sun's crimsoning head,
You meet an old man and a maiden who has the soft ways of a wife
With one whom they wheel, alternate; whose delicate flush of new life
Is prized like the early primrose. Then shake his right hand, in the chair -
The old man fails never to tell you: 'You've got the French General's there!'
by George Meredith.
Laurance - [part 3]
And after that, though oft he sought her door,
He might not see her. First they said to him,
'She is not well'; and afterwards, 'Her wish
Is ever to be quiet.' Then in haste
They took her from the place, because so fast
She faded. As for him, though youth and strength
Can bear the weight as of a world, at last
The burden of it tells,-he heard it said,
When autumn came, 'The poor sweet thing will die:
That shock was mortal.' And he cared no more
To hide, if yet he could have hidden, the blight
That was laying waste his heart. He journeyed south
To Devon, where she dwelt with other kin,
Good, kindly women; and he wrote to them,
Praying that he might see her ere she died.
So in her patience she permitted him
To be about her, for it eased his heart;
And as for her that was to die so soon,
What did it signify? She let him weep
Some passionate tears beside her couch, she spoke
Pitying words, and then they made him go,
It was enough they said, her time was short,
And he had seen her. He HAD seen, and felt
The bitterness of death; but he went home,
Being satisfied in that great longing now,
And able to endure what might befall.
And Muriel lay, and faded with the year;
She lay at the door of death, that opened not
To take her in; for when the days once more
Began a little to increase, she felt,-
And it was sweet to her, she was so young,-
She felt a longing for the time of flowers,
And dreamed that she was walking in that wood
With her two feet among the primroses.
Then when the violet opened, she rose up
And walked: the tender leaf and tender light
Did solace her; but she was white and wan,
The shadow of that Muriel, in the wood
Who listened to those deadly words.
Empurpled seas began to blush and bloom,
Doves made sweet moaning, and the guelder rose
In a great stillness dropped, and ever dropped,
Her wealth about her feet, and there it lay,
And drifted not at all. The lilac spread
Odorous essence round her; and full oft,
When Muriel felt the warmth her pulses cheer,
She, faded, sat among the Maytide bloom,
And with a reverent quiet in her soul,
Took back-it was His will-her time, and sat
Learning again to live.
Thus as she sat
Upon a day, she was aware of one
Who at a distance marked her. This again
Another day, and she was vexed, for yet
She longed for quiet; but she heard a foot
Pass once again, and beckoned through the trees.
'Laurance!' And all impatient of unrest
And strife, ay, even of the sight of them,
When he drew near, with tired, tired lips,
As if her soul upbraided him, she said,
'Why have you done this thing?' He answered her,
'I am not always master in the fight:
I could not help it.'
'What!' she sighed, 'not yet!
O, I am sorry'; and she talked to him
As one who looked to live, imploring him,-
'Try to forget me. Let your fancy dwell
Elsewhere, nor me enrich with it so long;
It wearies me to think of this your love.
He made answer, 'I will try:
The task will take me all my life to learn,
Or were it learned, I know not how to live;
This pain is part of life and being now,-
It is myself; but yet-but I will try.'
Then she spoke friendly to him,-of his home,
His father, and the old, brave, loving folk;
She bade him think of them. And not her words,
But having seen her, satisfied his heart.
He left her, and went home to live his life,
And all the summer heard it said of her,
'Yet, she grows stronger'; but when autumn came
Again she drooped.
A bitter thing it is
To lose at once the lover and the love;
For who receiveth not may yet keep life
In the spirit with bestowal. But for her,
This Muriel, all was gone. The man she loved,
Not only from her present had withdrawn,
But from her past, and there was no such man,
There never had been.
He was not as one
Who takes love in, like some sweet bird, and holds
The winged fluttering stranger to his breast,
Till, after transient stay, all unaware
It leaves him: it has flown. No; this may live
In memory,-loved till death. He was not vile;
For who by choice would part with that pure bird,
And lose the exaltation of its song?
He had not strength of will to keep it fast,
Nor warmth of heart to keep it warm, nor life
Of thought to make the echo sound for him
After the song was done. Pity that man:
His music is all flown, and he forgets
The sweetness of it, till at last he thinks
'Twas no great matter. But he was not vile,
Only a thing to pity most in man,
Weak,-only poor, and, if he knew it, undone.
But Herbert! When she mused on it, her soul
Would fain have hidden him forevermore,
Even from herself: so pure of speech, so frank,
So full of household kindness. Ah, so good
And true! A little, she had sometimes thought,
Despondent for himself, but strong of faith
In God, and faith in her, this man had seemed.
Ay, he was gone! and she whom he had wed,
As Muriel learned, was sick, was poor, was sad.
And Muriel wrote to comfort her, and send,
From her small store, money to help her need,
With, 'Pray you keep it secret.' Then the whole
Of the cruel tale was told.
What more? She died.
Her kin, profuse of thanks, not bitterly,
Wrote of the end. 'Our sister fain had seen
Her husband; prayed him sore to come. But no.
And then she prayed him that he would forgive,
Madam, her breaking of the truth to you.
Dear madam, he was angry, yet we think
He might have let her see, before she died,
The words she wanted, but he did not write
Till she was gone-'I neither can forgive,
Nor would I if I could.''
'Patience, my heart!
And this, then, is the man I loved!'
He sought a lower level, for he wrote
Telling the story with a different hue,
Telling of freedom. He desired to come,
'For now,' said he, 'O love, may all be well.'
And she rose up against it in her soul,
For she despised him. And with passionate tears
Of shame, she wrote, and only wrote these words,-
'Herbert, I will not see you.'
Then she drooped
Again; it is so bitter to despise;
And all her strength, when autumn leaves down dropped,
Fell from her. 'Ah!' she thought, 'I rose up once,
I cannot rise up now; here is the end.'
And all her kinsfolk thought, 'It is the end.'
But when that other heard, 'It is the end,'
His heart was sick, and he, as by a power
Far stronger than himself, was driven to her.
Reason rebelled against it, but his will
Required it of him with a craving strong
As life, and passionate though hopeless pain.
She, when she saw his face, considered him
Full quietly, let all excuses pass
Not answered, and considered yet again.
'He had heard that she was sick; what could he do
But come, and ask her pardon that he came?'
What could he do, indeed?-a weak white girl
Held all his heartstrings in her small white hand;
His youth, and power, and majesty were hers,
And not his own.
She looked, and pitied him.
Then spoke: 'He loves me with a love that lasts.
Ah, me! that I might get away from it,
Or, better, hear it said that love IS NOT,
And then I could have rest. My time is short,
I think, so short.' And roused against himself
In stormy wrath, that it should be his doom
Her to disquiet whom he loved; ay, her
For whom he would have given all his rest,
If there were any left to give; he took
Her words up bravely, promising once more
Absence, and praying pardon; but some tears
Dropped quietly upon her cheek.
She said, 'for there is something to be told,
Some words that you must hear.
'And first hear this:
God has been good to me; you must not think
That I despair. There is a quiet time
Like evening in my soul. I have no heart,
For cruel Herbert killed it long ago,
And death strides on. Sit, then, and give your mind
To listen, and your eyes to look at me.
Look at my face, Laurance, how white it is;
Look at my hand,-my beauty is all gone.'
And Laurance lifted up his eyes; he looked,
But answered, from their deeps that held no doubt,
Far otherwise than she had willed,-they said,
'Lovelier than ever.'
Yet her words went on,
Cold and so quiet, 'I have suffered much,
And I would fain that none who care for me
Should suffer a like pang that I can spare.
Therefore,' said she, and not at all could blush,
'I have brought my mind of late to think of this:
That since your life is spoilt (not willingly,
My God, not willingly by me), 'twere well
To give you choice of griefs.
'Were it not best
To weep for a dead love, and afterwards
Be comforted the sooner, that she died
Remote, and left not in your house and life
Aught to remind you? That indeed were best.
But were it best to weep for a dead wife,
And let the sorrow spend and satisfy
Itself with all expression, and so end?
I think not so; but if for you 'tis best,
Then,-do not answer with too sudden words:
It matters much to you; not much, not much
To me,-then truly I will die your wife;
I will marry you.'
What was he like to say,
But, overcome with love and tears, to choose
The keener sorrow,-take it to his heart,
Cherish it, make it part of him, and watch
Those eyes that were his light till they should close?
He answered her with eager, faltering words,
'I choose,-my heart is yours,-die in my arms.'
But was it well? Truly, at first, for him
It was not well: he saw her fade, and cried,
'When may this be?' She answered, 'When you will,'
And cared not much, for very faint she grew,
Tired and cold. Oft in her soul she thought,
'If I could slip away before the ring
Is on my hand, it were a blessed lot
For both,-a blessed thing for him, and me.'
But it was not so; for the day had come,-
Was over: days and months had come, and Death,-
Within whose shadow she had lain, which made
Earth and its loves, and even its bitterness,
Indifferent,-Death withdrew himself, and life
Woke up, and found that it was folded fast,
Drawn to another life forevermore.
O, what a waking! After it there came
Great silence. She got up once more, in spring,
And walked, but not alone, among the flowers.
She thought within herself, 'What have I done?
How shall I do the rest?' And he, who felt
Her inmost thought, was silent even as she.
'What have we done?' she thought. But as for him,
When she began to look him in the face,
Considering, 'Thus and thus his features are,'
For she had never thought on them before,
She read their grave repose aright. She knew
That in the stronghold of his heart, held back,
Hidden reserves of measureless content
Kept house with happy thought, for her sake mute.
Most patient Muriel! when he brought her home,
She took the place they gave her,-strove to please
His kin, and did not fail; but yet thought on,
'What have I done? how shall I do the rest?
Ah! so contented, Laurance, with this wife
That loves you not, for all the stateliness
And grandeur of your manhood, and the deeps
In your blue eyes.' And after that awhile
She rested from such thinking, put it by
And waited. She had thought on death before:
But no, this Muriel was not yet to die;
And when she saw her little tender babe,
She felt how much the happy days of life
Outweigh the sorrowful. A tiny thing,
Whom when it slept the lovely mother nursed
With reverent love, whom when it woke she fed
And wondered at, and lost herself in long
Rapture of watching, and contentment deep.
Once while she sat, this babe upon her knee,
Her husband and his father standing nigh,
About to ride, the grandmother, all pride
And consequence, so deep in learned talk
Of infants, and their little ways and wiles,
Broke off to say, 'I never saw a babe
So like its father.' And the thought was new
To Muriel; she looked up, and when she looked,
Her husband smiled. And she, the lovely bloom
Flushing her face, would fain he had not known,
Nor noticed her surprise. But he did know;
Yet there was pleasure in his smile, and love
Tender and strong. He kissed her, kissed his babe,
With 'Goody, you are left in charge, take care '-
'As if I needed telling,' quoth the dame;
And they were gone.
Then Muriel, lost in thought,
Gazed; and the grandmother, with open pride,
Tended the lovely pair; till Muriel said,
'Is she so like? Dear granny, get me now
The picture that his father has'; and soon
The old woman put it in her hand.
Considering it with deep and strange delight,
Forgot for once her babe, and looked and learned.
A mouth for mastery and manful work,
A certain brooding sweetness in the eyes,
A brow the harbor of grave thought, and hair
Saxon of hue. She conned; then blushed again,
Remembering now, when she had looked on him,
The sudden radiance of her husband's smile.
But Muriel did not send the picture back;
She kept it; while her beauty and her babe
Flourished together, and in health and peace
Her husband never said to her,
'Love, are you happy?' never said to her,
'Sweet, do you love me?' and at first, whene'er
They rode together in the lanes, and paused,
Stopping their horses, when the day was hot,
In the shadow of a tree, to watch the clouds,
Ruffled in drifting on the jagged rocks
That topped the mountains,-when she sat by him,
Withdrawn at even while the summer stars
Came starting out of nothing, as new made,
She felt a little trouble, and a wish
That he would yet keep silence, and he did.
That one reserve he would not touch, but still
Muriel grew more brave in time,
And talked at ease, and felt disquietude
Fade. And another child was given to her.
'Now we shall do,' the old great-grandsire cried,
'For this is the right sort, a boy.' 'Fie, fie,'
Quoth the good dame; 'but never heed you, love,
He thinks them both as right as right can be.'
But Laurance went from home, ere yet the boy
Was three weeks old. It fretted him to go,
But still he said, 'I must': and she was left
Much with the kindly dame, whose gentle care
Was like a mother's; and the two could talk
Sweetly, for all the difference in their years.
But unaware, the wife betrayed a wish
That she had known why Laurance left her thus.
'Ay, love,' the dame made answer; 'for he said,
'Goody,' before he left, 'if Muriel ask
No question, tell her naught; but if she let
Any disquietude appear to you,
Say what you know.'' 'What?' Muriel said, and laughed,
'I ask, then.'
'Child, it is that your old love,
Some two months past, was here. Nay, never start:
He's gone. He came, our Laurance met him near;
He said that he was going over seas,
'And might I see your wife this only once,
And get her pardon?''
'Mercy!' Muriel cried,
'But Laurance does not wish it?'
'Nay, now, nay,'
Quoth the good dame.
'I cannot,' Muriel cried;
'He does not, surely, think I should.'
The kind old woman said, right soothingly.
'Does not he ever know, love, ever do
What you like best?'
And Muriel, trembling yet,
Agreed. 'I heard him say,' the dame went on,
'For I was with him when they met that day,
'It would not be agreeable to my wife.''
Then Muriel, pondering,-'And he said no more?
You think he did not add, 'nor to myself?''
And with her soft, calm, inward voice, the dame
Unruffled answered, 'No, sweet heart, not he:
What need he care?' 'And why not?' Muriel cried,
Longing to hear the answer. 'O, he knows,
He knows, love, very well': with that she smiled.
'Bless your fair face, you have not really thought
He did not know you loved him?'
'He never told me, goody, that he knew.'
'Well,' quoth the dame, 'but it may chance, my dear,
That he thinks best to let old troubles sleep:
Why need to rouse them? You are happy, sure?
But if one asks, 'Art happy?' why, it sets
The thoughts a-working. No, say I, let love,
Let peace and happy folk alone.
'It would not be agreeable to my wife.'
And he went on to add, in course of time
That he would ask you, when it suited you,
To write a few kind words.'
'Yes,' Muriel said,
'I can do that.'
'So Laurance went, you see,'
The soft voice added, 'to take down that child.
Laurance had written oft about the child,
And now, at last, the father made it known
He could not take him. He has lost, they say,
His money, with much gambling; now he wants
To lead a good, true, working life. He wrote,
And let this so be seen, that Laurance went
And took the child, and took the money down
And Muriel found her talking sweet,
And asked once more, the rather that she longed
To speak again of Laurance, 'And you think
He knows I love him?'
'Ay, good sooth, he knows
No fear; but he is like his father, love.
His father never asked my pretty child
One prying question; took her as she was;
Trusted her; she has told me so: he knew
A woman's nature. Laurance is the same.
He knows you love him; but he will not speak;
No, never. Some men are such gentlemen!'
by Jean Ingelow.