To My Lady
When the tender hand of Night
Like a rose-leaf falls
Softly on your starry eyes;
When the Sleep-God calls,
And the gate of dreams is wide,
Wide the painted halls,
Dream the dream I send to you
Through your spirit’s walls!
Dream a lowly lover came,
Lady fair to woo;
Dream that I the lover was,
And the lady—you;
Dream your answer was a kiss,
Warm as summer dew—
Waking, in the rosy dawn,
Let the dream be true!
These are the flowers of sleep
That nod in the heavy noon,
Ere the brown shades eastward creep
To a drowsy and dreamful tune—
These are the flowers of sleep.
Love’s lilies are passion-pale,
But these on the sun-kissed flood
Of the corn, that rolls breast deep,
Burn redder than drops of blood
On a dead king’s golden mail.
Heart’s dearest, I would that we
These blooms of forgetfulness
Might bind on our brows, and steep
Our love in Lethe ere less
Grow its flame with thee or me.
When Time with his evil eye
The beautiful Love has slain,
There is nought to gain or keep
Thereafter, and all is vain.
Should we wait to see Love die?
Sweetheart, of the joys men reap
We have reaped; ’tis time to rest.
Why should we wake but to weep?
Sleep and forgetting is best—
These are the flowers of sleep.
On a golden dawn in the dawn sublime
Of years ere the stars had ceased to sing,
Beautiful out of the sea-deeps cold
Aphrodite arose—the Flower of Time—
That, dear till the day of her blossoming,
The old, old Sea had borne in his heart.
Around her worshipping waves did part
Tremulous—glowing in rose and gold.
And the birds broke forth into singing sweet,
And flowers born scentless breathed perfume:
Softly she smiled upon Man forlorn,
And the music of love in his wild heart beat,
And down to the pit went his gods of gloom,
And earth grew bright and fair as a bride,
And folk in star-worlds wondering cried—
“Lo in the skies a new star is born!”
O Beloved, thus on my small world you
Rose, flushing it all with rosy flame!
Changing sad thoughts to a singing throng,
And creating the earth and the sky anew!
As Love you appeared—and, lo, you are Fame,
And, all my follies and sins despite,
You yet, Beloved, may see my light—
Small, but a star—mid the stars of song.
Love is the sunlight of the soul,
That, shining on the silken-tressèd head
Of her we love, around it seems to shed
A golden angel-aureole.
And all her ways seem sweeter ways
Than those of other women in that light:
She has no portion with the pallid night,
But is a part of all fair days.
Joy goes where she goes, and good dreams—
Her smile is tender as an old romance
Of Love that dies not, and her soft eye’s glance
Like sunshine set to music seems.
Queen of our fate is she, but crowned
With purple hearts-ease for her womanhood.
There is no place so poor where she has stood
But evermore is holy ground.
An angel from the heaven above
Would not be fair to us as she is fair:
She holds us in a mesh of silken hair,
This one sweet woman whom we love.
We pray thee, Love, our souls to steep
In dreams wherein thy myrtle flowereth;
So when the rose leaves shiver, feeling Death
Pass by, we may remain asleep:
Asleep, with poppies in our hands,
From all the world and all its cares apart—
Cheek close to cheek, heart beating against heart,
While through Life’s sandglass run the sands
A child came singing through the dusty town
A song so sweet that all men stayed to hear,
Forgetting for a space their ancient fear
Of evil days and death and fortune’s frown.
She sang of Winter dead and Spring new-born
In the green fields beyond the far hills’ bound;
And how this fair Spring, coming blossom-crowned,
Would cross the city’s threshold on the morn.
And each caged bird in every house anigh,
Even as she sang, caught up the glad refrain
Of Love and Hope and fair days come again,
Till all who heard forgot they had to die.
And all the ghosts of buried woes were laid
That heard the song of this sweet sorceress;
The Past grew to a dream of old distress,
And merry were the hearts of man and maid.
So, at the first faint blush of tender dawn,
Spring stole with noiseless steps through the gray gloom,
And men knew only by a strange perfume
That she had softly entered and withdrawn.
But ah! the lustre of her violet eyes
Was dimmed with tears for her sweet singing maid,
Whose voice would sound no more in shine or shade
To charm men’s souls at set of sun or rise.
For there, with dews of dawn upon her hair,
Like a fair flower plucked and flung away,
Dead in the street the little maiden lay
Who gave new life to hearts nigh dead of care.
Alas! must this be still the bitter doom
Awaiting those, the finer-souled of earth,
Who make for men a morning song of mirth
While yet the birds are dumb amid the gloom?
They walk on thorny ways with feet unshod,
Sing one last song, and die as that song dies.
There is no human hand to close their eyes,
And very heavy is the hand of God.
At The Opera
THE CURTAIN rose—the play began—
The limelight on the gay garbs shone;
Yet carelessly I gazed upon
The painted players, maid and man,
As one with idle eyes who sees
The marble figures on a frieze.
Long lark-notes clear the first act close,
So the soprano: then a hush—
The tenor, tender as a thrush;
Then loud and high the chorus rose,
Till, with a sudden rush and strong,
It ended in a storm of song.
The curtain fell—the music died—
The lights grew bright, revealing there
The flash of jewelled fingers fair,
And wreaths of pearls on brows of pride;
Then, with a quick-flushed cheek, I turned,
And into mine her dark eyes burned.
Such eyes but once a man may see,
And, seeing once, his fancy dies
To thought of any other eyes:
So shadow-soft, they seemed to be
Twin haunted lakes, lit by the gleams
Of a mysterious moon of dreams.
Silk lashes veiled their liquid light
With such a shade as tall reeds fling
From the lake-marge at sunsetting:
Their darkness might have hid the night—
Yet whoso saw their glance would say
Night dreamt therein, and saw the day.
Long looked I at them, wondering
What tender memories were hid
Beneath each blue-veined lily-lid;
What hopes of joys the years would bring;
What griefs? In vain: I might not guess
The secret of their silentness.
What of her face? Her face, meseems,
Was such as painters see who muse
By moonlight in dim avenues,
Yet cannot paint; or as in dreams,
Young poets see, but, when they try
To limn in verse are dumb—so I.
Yet well I know that I have seen
That sweet face in the long ago
In a rose-bower—well I know—
Laughing the singing leaves between,
In that strange land of rose and rhyme—
The land of Once upon a Time.
O unknown sweet, so sweetly known,
I know not what your name may be—
Madonna is your name for me—
Nor where your lines in life are thrown;
But soul sees soul—what is the rest?
A passing phantom at the best.
Did your young bosom never glow
To love? or burns your heart beneath
As burns the rosebud in its sheath?
I neither know nor wish to know:
I smell the rose upon the tree;
Who will may pluck and wear, for me—
May wear the rose, and watch it die,
And, leaf by red leaf, fade and fall,
Till there be nothing left at all
Of its sweet loveliness; but I
Love it so well, I leave it free—
The scent alone I take with me!
As one who visits sacred spots
Brings tokens back, so I from you
A glance, a smile, a rapture new!
And these are my forget-me-nots!
I take from you but only these—
Give all the rest to whom you please.
Sweet eyes, your glance a light shall cast
On me, when dreaded ghosts arise
Of dead regrets with shrouded eyes,
And phantoms of the perished past,
Old thoughts, old hopes, and old desire
Gather around my lonely fire!
Farewell! In rhyme, I kiss your hand—
Kiss not unsweet, although unheard!—
This is our secret—say no word—
That I have been in Fairyland,
And seen for one brief moment’s space
The Queen Titania face to face.
IT MAY have been a fragment of that higher
Truth dreams, at times, disclose;
It may have been to Fond Illusion nigher—
But thus the story goes:
A fierce sun glared upon a gaunt land, stricken
With barrenness and thirst,
Where Nature’s pulse with joy of Spring would quicken
No more; a land accurst.
Gray salt-bush grimmer made the desolation—
Like mocking immortelles
Strewn on the graveyard of a perished nation
Whose name no record tells.
No faintest sign of distant water glimmered
The aching eye to bless;
The far horizon like a sword’s edge shimmered,
Keen, gleaming, pitiless.
And all the long day through the hot air quivered
Beneath a burning sky,
In dazzling dance of heat that flashed and shivered:
It seemed as if hard by
The borders of this region, evil-favoured,
Life ended, Death began:
But no; upon the plain a shadow wavered—
The shadow of a man.
What man was this by Fate or Folly driven
To cross the dreadful plain?
A pilgrim poor? or Ishmael unforgiven?
The man was Andy Blane,
A stark old sinner, and a stout, as ever
Blue swag has carried through
That grim, wild land men name the Never-Never,
Beyond the far Barcoo.
His strength was failing now, but his unfailing
Strong spirit still upbore
And drove him on with courage yet unquailing,
In spite of weakness sore.
When, lo! beside a clump of salt-bush lying,
All suddenly he found
A stranger, who before his eyes seemed dying
Of thirst, without a sound.
Straightway beside that stranger on the sandy
Salt plain—a death-bed sad—
Down kneeling, “Drink this water, mate!” said Andy—
It was the last he had.
Behold a miracle! for when that Other
Had drunk, he rose and cried,
“Let us pass on!” As brother might with brother
So went they, side by side;
Until the fierce sun, like an eyeball bloody
Eclipsed in death, was seen
No more, and in the spacious West, still ruddy,
A star shone out serene.
As one, then, whom some memory beguiling
May gladden, yea, and grieve,
The stranger, pointing up, said, sadly smiling,
“The Star of Christmas Eve!”
Andy replied not. Unto him the sky was
All reeling stars; his breath
Came thick and fast; and life an empty lie was;
True one thing only—Death.
. . . . .
Beneath the moonlight, with the weird, wan glitter
Of salt-bush all around,
He lay; but by his side in that dark, bitter,
Last hour, a friend he found.
“Thank God!” he said. “He’s acted more than square, mate,
By me in this—and I’m
A Rip.. . . . He must have known I was—well, there, mate—
A White Man all the time.
“To-morrow’s Christmas day: God knows where I’ll be
By then—I don’t; but you
Away from this Death’s hole should many a mile be,
At Blake’s, on the Barcoo.
“You take this cheque there—they will cash it, sonny. . . .
It meant my Christmas spree. . . .
And do just what you like best with the money,
In memory of me.”
The stranger, smiling, with a little leaven
Of irony, said, “Yea,
But there it shall not be. With me in Heaven
You’ll spend your Christmas Day.”
Then that gray heathen, that old back-block stager,
And laughed—and laughed again—“Mate, it’s a wager!”
And, grimly laughing, died.
. . . . .
St. Peter stood at the Celestial Portal,
Gazing down gulfs of air,
When Andy Blane, no longer now a mortal,
Appeared before him there.
“What seek’st thou here?” the saint in tone ironic
Said. “Surely the wrong gate
This is for thee.” Andy replied, laconic,
“I want to find my mate.”
The gates flew wide. The glory unbeholden
Of mortal eyes was there.
He gazed—this trembling sinner—at the golden
Thrones, terrible and fair,
And shuddered. Then down through the living splendour
Came One unto the gate
Who said, with outspread hands, in accents tender:
“Andy! I am your mate!”
Through the noiseless doors of Death
Three passed out, as with one breath.
Two had faces stern as Fate,
Stamped with unrelenting hate.
One upon her lips of guile
Wore a cold, mysterious smile.
Each of each unseen, the pale
Shades went down the hollow vale
Till they came unto the deep
River of Eternal Sleep.
Breath of wind, or wing of bird,
Never that dark stream hath stirred;
Still it seems as is the shore,
But it flows for evermore
Softly, through the meadows wan
To the Sea Oblivion.
In the dusk, like drops of blood,
Poppies hang above the flood;
On its surface lies a thin,
Ghostly web of mist, wherein
All things vague and changing seem
As the faces in a dream.
Two knelt down upon the bank
And of that dark water drank.
But the Third stood by the while,
Smiling her mysterious smile.
Rising up, those shades of men
Gazed upon each other, then
Side by side, upon the bank,
In a bed of poppies sank.
“What,” one to the other saith,
“Sent thee through the doors of death?”—
“While life throbbed in every vein,
For a woman I was slain.
“Love is but a fleeting spell,
Hate alone remembers well.
“For my slayer I shall wait,
And though he at Heaven’s gate
“Stand, and wear an angel’s crown,
I shall seize and drag him down!”
So the stern shade made reply.
Then the first that spake said: “I
“For a woman’s sake, also,
Slew myself—and slew my foe.
“Slew myself, that in no shape
He my vengeance should escape,
“Till Oblivion swallow both:
And I swore a solemn oath
“I would—hate remembers well—
Hunt his spotted soul to hell.
“But I left, ere leave-taking,
Round her throat a dark red ring.
“I shall know her—you shall note—
By that red ring round her throat.
“Well I loved my fair, false wife,
And perchance in this new life
“She may love me—we shall see—
She shall choose ’twixt him and me.”
Softly did the other sigh:
“My love’s love will never die.
“Love is not a fleeting spell—
Love, like hate, remembers well.
“Soon—mayhap on this dim shore—
We shall meet to part no more.”
Then the first Shade spoke and said:
“In this Kingdom of the Dead
“Let us, who so strangely meet,
Pledge each other in this sweet
“Water, our revenge to wreak
Side by side, and so to seek,
“Side by side, whate’er our fate,
Those we love and those we hate.”
Kneeling on the dim shore then,
Side by side, they drank again.
And they saw, like drops of blood,
Poppies nodding o’er the flood,
And they gazed upon the thin
Ghostly web of mist, wherein
All things vague and changing seem
As the faces in a dream;
And by some enchantment weird,
As they gazed thereon appeared
Unto each, down-bending low,
Form and features of his foe,
For a moment, then were gone,
And upon the meadows wan—
Half in Death and half a-swoon—
Shone a pale and spectral moon.
Then these twain rose, drowsy-eyed,
And departed side by side.
But the Woman Shade the while
Smiled her cold, mysterious smile.
And her beauty made a light
In that realm of pallid night
(Beauty laughs at worm and grave)
Like the moon beneath the wave.
Back she flung her hair of gold,
Glowing, gleaming, fold on fold,
Showing—all but these might note—
The red ring around her throat.
But they passed with cold surprise,
And unrecognising eyes.
Lightly laughed she then, and said:
“In this Kingdom of the Dead
“Strange the sights that one may see!
There go twain who died for me
“Seeking, through Creation wide,
For each other—side by side!”
Then she wove a poppy crown,
Placed it on her head, and down
On the river’s margin sank
Midst the poppies of its bank,
Saying: “In the world above
Long he tarries, my true love.
“Here beside this river’s rim
I will sleep, and wait for him.”
Ah! that God once would touch my lips with song
To pierce, as prayer doth heaven, earth’s breast of iron,
So that with sweet mouth I might sing to thee,
O sweet dead singer buried by the sea,
A song, to woo thee, as a wooing siren,
Out of that silent sleep which seals too long
Thy mouth of melody.
For, if live lips might speak awhile to dead,
Or any speech could reach the sad world under
This world of ours, song surely should awake
Thee who didst dwell in shadow for song’s sake!
Alas! thou canst not hear the voice of thunder,
Nor low dirge over thy low-lying head
The winds of morning make.
Down through the clay there comes no sound of these;
Down in the grave there is no sign of Summer,
Nor any knowledge of the soft-eyed Spring;
But Death sits there, with outspread ebon wing,
Closing with dust the mouth of each new-comer
To that mute land, where never sound of seas
Is heard, and no birds sing.
Now thou hast found the end of all thy days
Hast thou found any heart a vigil keeping
For thee among the dead—some heart that heard
Thy singing when thou wert a brown, sweet bird
Gray Æons gone, in some old forest sleeping
Beneath the seas long since? in Death’s dim ways
Has thy heart any word?
For surely those in whom the deathless spark
Of song is kindled, sang from the beginning
If life were always? But the old desires—
Do they exist when sad-eyed Hope expires?
How live the dead? what crowns have they for winning?
Have they, to warm them in the dreamless dark,
For sun earth’s central fires?
Are the dead dead indeed whom we call dead?
Has God no life but this of ours for giving?—
When that they took thee by each well-known place,
Stark in thy coffin with a cold white face,
What thought, O Brother, hadst thou of the living?
What of the sun that round thee glory shed?
What of the fair day’s grace?
Is thy new life made up of memories
Or dreams that lull the dead, bright visions bringing
Of Spring above! Are thy days short or long?
Thou who wert master of our singing throng
Mayhap in death thou hast not lost thy singing,
But chauntst unheard, beside the moaning sea,
A solitary song.
The chance spade turns up skulls. God help the dead
And thee whose singing days have all passed over—
Thee, whom the gold-haired Spring shall seek in vain
When at the glad year’s doors she stands again,
Remembering the song-garlands thou hast wove her
In years gone by: but all these years have fled
With all their joy and pain.
My soul laughed out to hear my heart speak so,
And sprang forth skyward, as an eagle, hoping
To look upon thy soul with living eyes,
Until it came to where our dim life dies,
And dead suns darkly for a grave are groping
Through cycles of immeasurable woe,
Stone-blind in the blind skies.
The stars walk shuddering on that awful verge
From which my soul, with swift and fearless motion,
Clove the black depths, and sought for God and thee;
But God dwells where nor stars nor suns there be—
No shore there is to His Eternal Ocean;
A thousand systems are a fringe of surge
On that great starless sea.
And thou wert not. So that, with weary plumes,
My soul through the great void its way came winging
To earth again. “What hope for him who sings
Is there?” it sighed. “Death ends all sweetest things.”
When lo! there came a swell of mighty singing,
Flooding all space, and swift athwart the glooms
A flash of sudden wings.
Dreamer of dreams, thy songs and dreams are done.
Down where thou sleepest in earth’s secret bosom
There is no sorrow and no joy for thee,
Who canst not see what stars at eve there be,
Nor evermore at morn the green dawn blossom
Into the golden king-flower of the sun
Across the golden sea.
But haply there shall come in days to be
One who shall hear his own heart beating faster,
Plucking a rose sprung from thy heart beneath,
And from his soul, as sword from out its sheath,
Song shall leap forth where now, O silent master,
On thy lone grave beside the sounding sea,
I lay this laurel-wreath.
THE old dead flowers of bygone summers,
The old sweet songs that are no more sung,
The rose-red dawns that were welcome comers
When you and I and the world were young,
Are lost, O love, to the light for ever,
And seen no more of the moon or sun,
For seas divide, and the seasons sever,
And twain are we that of old were one.
O fair lost love, when the ship went sailing
Across the seas in the years agone,
And seaward-set were the eyes unquailing,
And landward-looking the faces wan,
My heart went back as a dove goes homeward
With wings aweary to seek its nest,
While fierce sea-eagles are flying foamward
And storm-winds whiten the surge’s crest;
And far inland for a farewell pardon
Flew on and on, while the ship went South—
The rose was red in the red-rose garden,
And red the rose of your laughing mouth.
But no word came on the wind in token
Of love that lasts till the end; and so
My heart returned to me bruised and broken,
From you, my love, of the long ago.
The green fields seemed in the distance growing
To silken squares on a weaver’s loom,
As oversea came the land-wind blowing
The faint sweet scent of the clover bloom.
A rarer odour to me it carried,
In subtle delicate way to tell
Of you, ere you and the world were married—
The lilac-odour you loved so well.
Again, I saw you beneath the blooms of
Those lilac-trees in the garden old.
Ah me! each tree is a mark for tombs of
Dead dreams and memories still and cold.
And Death comes there with his breath scent-laden,
And gathering gently the blossoms shed
(In guise of Autumn, the brown-browed maiden)
With your and my dead buries his dead.
O, fairer far than the fair ideal
Of him who imaged the foam-born Queen
In foam-white marble—a dream made real—
To me were you in those years, I ween.
Your lips were redder than night-shade berries
That burn in borders of hedgerowed lanes,
And sweeter far than the sweet wild cherries
The June sun flushes with crimson stains.
And gray your eyes as a gray dove’s wings were—
A gray soft-shadowing deeps profound,
Where thoughts that reached to the heart of things were,
And love lay dreaming though seeming drowned.
Twin-tulip-breasted like her the tread of
Whose feet made music in Paphos fair,
The world to me was not worth a thread of
Your brown, ambrosial, braided hair.
Mayhap you loved me at one time truly,
And I was jealous, and you were proud;
But mine the love of the king in Thule,
Till death; and yours—sleeps well in shroud.
So night came down like a sombre raven,
And southward ever the ship was borne,
Till glad green fields and lessening haven
Grew faint and faded like ghosts at morn.
As fields of Heaven eternal blooming,
Those flowerful fields of my mother-land
In midnight visions are still perfuming
All wild waste places and seas of sand.
And still in seasons of storm and thunder,
In strange lands under your land and mine,
And though our ways have been wide asunder,
In calm and tempest and shade and shine
Your face I see as I saw the last time—
As one borne space-ward on wings of light,
With eyes turned back to a sight of past time,
Beholds for ever that self-same sight.
But scorn has died on your lips, and through you
Shines out star-bright an immortal grace,
As though God then to His heaven drew you,
And sent an angel to take your place.
I plucked one rose from the tree you cherished,
My heart’s blood ebbing has kept it red,
And all my hopes with its scent have perished;
Why mourn them now—are the dead not dead?
And yet, God knows, as this rose I kiss, you
May feel the kisses across the sea;
And soul to soul for the larger issue
Your soul may stand with the soul of me,
Unknown to you—for the strings of Being
Are not so easily snapped or torn;
And we may journey with eyes unseeing
On paths that meet in the years unborn.
Farewell, dear heart. Warm sighs may sever
Ripe lips of love like a rose-leaf curled,
But you remain unto me for ever
The one fair woman in all the world.
The Two Keys
There was a Boy, long years ago,
Who hour by hour awake would lie,
And watch the white moon gliding slow
Along her pathway in the sky.
And every night as thus he lay
Entranced in lonely fantasy,
Borne swiftly on a bright moon-ray
There came to him a Golden Key.
And with that Golden Key the Boy
Oped every night a magic door
That to a melody of Joy
Turned on its hinges evermore.
Then, trembling with delight and awe,
When he the charmèd threshold crossed,
A radiant corridor he saw—
Its end in dazzling distance lost.
Great windows shining in a row
Lit up the wondrous corridor,
And each its own rich light did throw
In stream resplendent on the floor.
One window showed the Boy a scene
Within a forest old and dim,
Where fairies danced upon the green
And kissed their little hands to him.
Sweet strains of elfin harp and horn
He heard so clearly sounding there,
And he to Wonderland was borne
And breathed its soft enchanted air.
Then, passing onward with the years,
He turned his back on Elf and Fay,
And sadly sweet, as if in tears,
The fairy music died away.
The second window held him long:
It looked upon a field of fight
Whereon the countless hordes of Wrong
Fought fiercely with the friends of Right.
And, lo! upon that fateful field,
Where cannon thundered, banners streamed,
And rushing squadrons rocked and reeled,
His sword a star of battle gleamed.
And when the hordes of Wrong lay still,
And that great fight was fought and won,
He stood, bright-eyed, upon a hill,
His white plume shining in the sun.
A glorious vision! yet behind
He left it with its scarlet glow,
And faint and far upon the wind
He heard the martial trumpets blow.
For to his listening ear was borne
A music more entrancing far
Than strains of elfin harp or horn,
More thrilling than the trump of war.
No longer as a dreamy boy
He trod the radiant corridor:
His young man’s heart presaged a joy
More dear than all the joys of yore.
To that third window, half in awe,
He moved, and slowly raised his eyes—
And was it earth grown young he saw?
Or was it man’s lost Paradise?
For all the flowers that ever bloomed
Upon the earth, and all the rare
Sweet Loveliness by Time entombed,
Seemed blushing, blooming, glowing there.
And every mellow-throated bird
That ever sang the trees among
Seemed singing there, with one sweet word—
“Love! Love!” on every little tongue.
Then he by turns grew rosy-red,
And he by turns grew passion-pale.
“Sweet Love!” the lark sang overhead,
“Sweet Love!” sang Love’s own nightingale.
In mid-heart of the hawthorn-tree
The thrush sang all its buds to bloom;
“Love! Love! Love! Love! Sweet Love,” sang he
Amidst the soft green sun-flecked gloom.
She stood upon a lilied lawn,
With dreamful eyes that gazed afar:
A maiden tender as the Dawn
And lovely as the Morning Star.
She stooped and kissed him on the brow,
And in a low, sweet voice said she:
“I am this country’s queen—and thou?”
“I am thy vassal,” murmured he.
She hid him with her hair gold-red,
That flowed like sunshine to her knee;
She kissed him on the lips, and said:
“Dear heart! I’ve waited long for thee.”
And, oh, she was so fair, so fair,
So gracious was her beauty bright,
Around her the enamoured air
Pulsed tremulously with delight.
In passionate melody did melt
Bird-voices, scent of flower and tree,
And he within his bosom felt
The piercing thorn of ecstasy.
The years passed by in dark and light,
In storm and shine; the man grew old,
Yet never more by day or night
There came to him the Key of Gold.
But ever, ere the great sun flowers
In gold above the sky’s blue rim,
All in the dark and lonely hours
There comes an Iron Key to him.
And with that key he opes a wide
And gloomy door—the Door of Fate—
That makes, whene’er it swings aside,
A music sad and desolate,
A music sad from saddest source:
He sees beside the doorway set
The chill, gray figure of Remorse,
The pale, cold image of Regret.
For all the glory and the glow
Of Life are passed, and dead, and gone:
The Light and Life of Long Ago
Are memories only—moonlight wan.
There is no man of woman born
So brave, so good, so wise but he
Must sometimes in a night forlorn
Take up and use the Iron Key.
The River Maiden
Her gown was simple woven wool,
But, in repayment,
Her body sweet made beautiful
The simplest raiment:
For all its fine, melodious curves
With life a-quiver
Were graceful as the bends and swerves
Of her own river.
Her round arms, from the shoulders down
To sweet hands slender,
The sun had kissed them amber-brown
With kisses tender.
For though she loved the secret shades
Where ferns grow stilly,
And wild vines droop their glossy braids,
And gleams the lily,
And Nature, with soft eyes that glow
In gloom that glistens,
Unto her own heart, beating slow,
In silence listens:
She loved no less the meadows fair,
And green, and spacious;
The river, and the azure air,
And sunlight gracious.
I saw her first when tender, wan,
Green light enframed her;
And, in my heart, the Flower of Dawn
I softly named her.
The bright sun, like a king in state,
With banners streaming,
Rode through the fair auroral gate
In mail gold-gleaming.
The witch-eyed stars before him paled—
So high his scorning!—
And round the hills the rose-clouds sailed,
And it was morning.
The light mimosas bended low
To do her honour,
As in that rosy morning glow
I gazed upon her.
My boat swung bowward to the stream
Where tall reeds shiver;
We floated onward, in a dream,
Far down the River.
The River that full oft has told
To Ocean hoary
A many-coloured, sweet, and old
The story of the tall, young trees,
For ever sighing
To sail some day the rolling seas
’Neath banners flying.
The Ocean hears, and through his caves
Roars gusty laughter;
And takes the River, with his waves
To roll thereafter.
But Love deep waters cannot drown;
To its old fountains
The stream returns in clouds that crown
Its parent mountains.
The River was to her so dear
She seemed its daughter;
Her deep translucent eyes were clear
As sunlit water;
And in her bright veins seemed to run,
The music of the wind and sun,
And waters flowing.
The secrets of the trees she knew:
Their growth, their gladness,
And, when their time of death was due,
Their stately sadness.
Gray gums, like old men warped by time,
She knew their story;
And theirs that laughed in pride of prime
And leafy glory;
And theirs that, where clear waters run,
Drooped dreaming, dreaming;
And theirs that shook against the sun
Their green plumes gleaming.
All things of gladness that exist
Did seem to woo her,
And well that woodland satirist,
The lyre-bird, knew her.
And there were hidden mossy dells
That she knew only,
Where Beauty born of silence dwells
No sounds of toil their stillness taunt,
No hearth-smoke sullies
The air: the Mountain Muses haunt
Those lone, green gullies.
And there they weave a song of Fate
That never slumbers:
A song some bard shall yet translate
In golden numbers.
A blue haze veiled the hills’ huge shapes
A misty lustre—
Like rime upon the purple grapes,
When ripe they cluster:
’Twas noon, and all the Vale was gold—
An El Dorado:
The damask river seaward rolled,
Through shine and shadow.
And, gazing on its changing glow,
I saw, half-sighing,
The wondrous Fairyland below
Its surface lying.
There all things shone with paler sheen:
More softly shimmered
The fern-fronds, and with softer green
The myrtles glimmered:
And—like that Fisher gazing in
The sea-depths, pining
For days gone by, who saw Julin
Beneath him shining,
With many a wave-washed corridor,
And sea-filled portal,
And plunged below, and nevermore
Was seen of mortal—
So I, long gazing at the gleam
Of fern and flower,
Felt drawn down to that World of Dream
By magic power:
For there, I knew, in silence sat,
With breasts slow-heaving,
Illusion’s Queen Rabesquerat,
Her web a-weaving.
But when the moon shone, large and low,
Then, as from some pale portico
Might issue Dian,
She came through tall tree-pillars pale,
A silver vision,
A nymph strayed out of Ida’s vale
Or fields Elysian.
White stars shone out with mystic gleams
The woods illuming:
It seemed as if the trees in dreams
Once more were blooming.
And all beneath those starry blooms,
By bends and beaches,
We floated on through glassy glooms,
Down moonlit reaches.
Ah, that was in the glad years when
Joys ne’er were sifted,
But I on wilder floods since then
Have darkly drifted.
Yet, River of Romance, for me
With pictures glowing,
Through dim, green fields of Memory
Thou still art flowing.
And still I hear, thy shores along,
All faintly ringing,
The notes of ghosts of birds that long
Have ceased their singing.
Was she, who then my heart did use
To touch so purely,
A mortal maiden—or a Muse?
I know not, surely.
But still in dreams I see her stand,
A fairer Flora,
Serene, immortal, by the strand
Of clear Narora.
The night is young yet; an enchanted night
In early summer: calm and darkly bright.
I love the Night, and every little breeze
She brings, to soothe the sleep of dreaming trees.
Hearst thou the Voices? Sough! Susurrus!— Hark!
’Tis Mother Nature whispering in the dark!
Burden of cities, mad turmoil of men,
That vex the daylight—she forgets them then.
Her breasts are bare; Grief gains from them surcease:
She gives her restless sons the milk of Peace.
To sleep she lulls them—drawn from thoughts of pelf—
By telling sweet old stories of herself.
All secrets deep—yea, all I hear and see
Of things mysterious—Night reveals to me.
I know what every flower, with drowsy head
Down-drooping, dreams of—and the seeming dead.
I know how they, escaped from care and strife,
Ironically moralise on Life.
And know what—when the moon walks on the waves—
They whisper to each other in their graves.
I know that white clouds drifting from stark coasts
Across the sky at midnight are the ghosts
Of sailors drowned at sea, who yearn to win
A quiet grave beside their kith and kin
In still green graveyards, where they lie at ease
Far from the sound of surge and roar of seas.
I know the message of the mournful rain
That beats upon the widow’s window-pane.
I know the meaning of the roar of seas;
I know the glad Spring sap-song of the trees;
And that great chant to which in tuneful grooves
The green round earth upon its axis moves;
And that still greater chant the Bright Sun sings—
Fire-crowned Apollo—the great chant that brings
All things to life, and draws through spaces dim,
And star-sown realms, his planets after him.
I know the tune that led, since Life began,
The upward, downward, onward March of Man.
I hear the whispers that the Angels twain
Of Death and Life exchange in meeting—fain
Are they to pause and greet, yet may not stay.
“Never!” “For ever.” This is all they say.
I hear the twitterings inarticulate
Of souls unborn that press around the Gate
Of Birth, each striving which shall first escape
From formless vapour into human shape.
I know the tale the bird of passionate heart,
The nightingale, tries ever to impart
To men, though vainly—for I well believe
That in her brown breast beats the heart of Eve,
Who with her sweet, sad, wistful music tries
To tell her sons of their lost Paradise,
And solemn secrets Man had grace to know,
When God walked in the Garden long ago.
Yea, I have seen, methought, on nights of awe,
The vision terrible Lucretius saw:
The trembling Universe—suns, stars, grief, bliss—
Plunging for ever down a black abyss.
But more I love good Bishop Jeremy,
Who likens all the star-worlds that we see—
Which seem to run an everlasting race—
Unto a snowstorm sweeping on through space.
Suns, planets, stars, in glorious array
They march, melodious, on their unknown way.
Thought, seraph-winged and swifter than the light,
Unto the dim verge of the Infinite,
Pursues them, through that strange ethereal flood
In which they swim (mayhap it is the blood
Of Universal God wherein they are
But corpuscles—sun, satellite, and star—
And their great stream of glory but a dim,
Small pulse in the remotest vein of Him)
Pursues in vain, and from lone, awful glooms
Turns back to earth again with weary plumes.
Through glacial gulfs of Space the soul must roam
To feel the comfort of its earthly home.
Ah, Mother dear! broad-bosomed Mother Earth!
Mother of all our Joy, Grief, Madness, Mirth!—
Mother of flower and fruit, of stream and sea!—
We are thy children and must cling to thee.
I lay my head upon thy breast and hear—
Small, small and faint, yet strangely sweet and clear—
The hum and clash of little worlds below,
Each on its own path moving, swift or slow.
And listening, ever with intenter ear,
Through din of wars invisible I hear
A Homer—genius is not gauged by mass—
Singing his Iliad on a blade of grass.
And nations hearken: his great song resounds
Unto the tussock’s very utmost bounds.
States rise and fall, each blade of grass upon,
But still his song from blade to blade rolls on
Through all the tussock-world, and Helen still
Is Fairest Fair, and Ajax wild of will—
An Ajax whose huge size, when measured o’er,
Is full ten-thousandth of an inch or more—
Still hurls defiance at the gods whose home
Is in the distant, awful, dew-drop dome
That trembling hangs, suspended from a spray
An inch above him—worlds of space away.
Old prophecies foretell—but Time proves all—
The day will come when it, like Troy, shall fall.
Lo! through this small great wondrous song there runs
The marching melody of stars and suns.
I know these things, yet cannot speak and tell
Their meanings. Over all is cast a spell.
Secrets they are, sealed with a sevenfold seal;
My soul knows what my tongue may not reveal.
I love the Night! Bright Day the soul shuts in;
Night sends it soaring to its starry kin.
If I must leave at last my place of birth—
This homely, gracious, green, familiar Earth,
With all it holds of sorrow and delight—
I pray my parting-hour may be at night,
And that her curtain dark may softly fall
On scenes I love, ere I depart from all.
Then shall I haply, journeying through the Vast
Mysterious Silences, take one long, last
Fond look at Earth, and watch from depths afar
The dear old planet dwindling to a star;
And sigh farewell unto the friends of yore,
Whose kindly faces I shall see no more.
The Cruise Of The 'In Memoriam'
The wan light of a stormy dawn
Gleamed on a tossing ship:
It was the In Memoriam
Upon a mourning trip.
Wild waves were on the windward bow,
And breakers on the lee;
And through her sides the women heard
The seething of the sea.
“O Captain!” cried a widow fair,
Her plump white hands clasped she,
“Thinkst thou, if drowned in this dread storm,
That savèd we shall be?”
“You speak in riddles, lady dear,
How savèd can we be
If we are drowned?” “Alas, I mean
In Paradise!” said she.
“O I’ve sailed North, and I’ve sailed South”
(He was a godless wight),
“But boy or man, since my days began,
That shore I ne’er did sight!”
The Captain told the First Mate bold
What that fair lady said;
The First Mate sneered in his black beard—
His eyes burned in his head.
“Full forty souls are here aboard,
A-sailing on the wave—
Without the crew, and, ’twixt us two,
I think they’ve none to save—
“Full forty souls, and each one is
A mourner, as you know.
They weep the scuppers full; the ship
Is waterlogged with woe.”
Again he sneered in his black beard:
“The cruise is not so brief,
But, ere we land on earthly strand,
All will have found relief.”
“Nay, nay,” the Captain said, “First Mate,
You have forgotten one
With eyes of blue; the tears are true
From those dear eyes that run!
“She mourns her sweetheart drowned last year,
A seaman he, forsooth!
I would not drown for Christ his crown
If she were mine, Fair Ruth!”
“Brave words! but words,” the First Mate cried,
“Are wind! Behold in me
The warmest lover and the last!
Mine shall the maiden be.”
. . . . .
Fair Ruth stood by the taffrail high,
A cross dropped in the sea,
If you lie here, my sweetheart dear,
By this remember me!”
Fair Ruth stood by the taffrail high,
A ring dropped in the sea:
“Marry him not, ye false mermaids,
Married he’s now to me!”
The heavens flashed flame; a black cloud came,
Its wings the sky did span,
And hovered above the fated ship
Like death o’er a dying man.
Bended the spars and shrieked the shrouds,
The sails flew from the mast,
And, like a soul by fiends pursued,
The ship fled through the blast.
“More sail! more sail!” the First Mate cried
(The Captain stood aghast),
“More sail! more sail!” and he laughed in scorn,
All by the mizen mast.
“O brethren dear, there’s nought to fear,
The steward told me so!”
’Twas the parson meek who thus did speak,
Just come up from below:
“And were there,” he said, with upraised head,
And hands clasped piously,
“I have a sainted spouse in Heaven—
I trow she waits for me.”
Then grimly laughed the false First Mate
“Good parson, let her be!
I’ve a wife in every port but that—
And that we shall not see.”
“Oh, pardon seek!” cried the parson meek,
“And pray, if pray you can,
For much I fear, by your scornful sneer,
That you are a sinful man.”
Then louder laughed the false First Mate,
Louder and louder still,
And the wicked crew laughed loudly too,
As wicked seamen will.
“O Captain!” whispered a gentle dame,
“When shall we see the land?”
The Captain answered never a word,
But clasped her by the hand.
. . . . .
Day after day, night after night,
On, on the ship did reel:
The Captain drank with the second mate,
The First Mate held the wheel.
Down came a black cloud on the ship,
And wrapped her like a pall,
And horror of awful darkness fell
Upon them one and all.
The night had swallowed them utterly,
None could his fellow see,
But ghostly voices up and down
Went whispering fearsomely.
No faint ray shone from moon or sun,
The light of Heaven was gone,
But ever the First Mate held the wheel,
And ever the ship rushed on.
. . . . .
Fair Ruth knelt down in that grim gloom,
She prayed beneath her breath:
“God carry me o’er this dread sea
That seems the Sea of Death!”
She ceased—and lo! a lurid glow
O’er that dark water spread,
And in the blackness burned, afar,
A line of bloody red.
“What lights are yon?” the Captain said.
The First Mate answered then:
“No lights that ever shone upon
The world of living men.”
“Down on your knees!” the parson cried;
“Thank God, for all is well!”
The First Mate laughed: “Those lights, they are
The harbour lights of Hell.”
On flew the ship; to every lip
An ashen pallor came,
For all might see that suddenly
The sea had turned to flame.
The lights were near; the Sea of Fear,
Amid the silence dire,
On that dread shore broke evermore
In soundless foam of fire.
“Oh, what are yon gray ghosts and wan!”
The parson cried, “who seem
With coloured strings of beads to play,
As in a dreadful dream?”
“Damned souls;” the First Mate said; “they sit
And count, through endless years,
The moments of Eternity
On beads of burning tears.”
Then, “Who are you,” the parson said,
“That talk so free of Hell?”
“My name is Satan,” he replied,
“Have I not steered you well?”
“Back—back the yards!” the Captain cried
Then quoth the false First Mate:
“Like many more who sight this shore,
You back your yards too late.”
“There are the dear deceased you mourned
With such exceeding zest;
They call you—whoso freely goes
E’en yet may save the rest.”
One pale ghost waved the vessel back
With gestures sad and dumb—
Fair Ruth has plunged into the sea,
“My love, my love, I come!”
. . . . .
All in a moment shone the sun,
Blue gleamed the sky and sea,
The brave old ship upon the waves
Was dancing merrily.
And merrily to sound of bells
To her old port full soon
The In Memoriam that went forth
Returned the Honeymoon.
There o’er their grog sea-captains still
Her wondrous story tell,
And how her Captain backed his yards
A biscuit-throw from Hell.
The Dream Of Margaret
It fell upon a summer night
The village folk were soundly sleeping,
Unconscious of the glamour white
In which the moon all things was steeping;
One window only showed a light;
Behind it, silent vigil keeping,
Sat Margaret, as one in trance—
The dark-eyed daughter of the Manse.
A flood of strange, sweet thoughts was surging
Her passionate heart and brain within.
At last, some secret impulse urging,
She laid aside her garment thin,
And from its snowy folds emerging,
Like Lamia from the serpent-skin,
She stood before her mirror bright
Naked, and lovely as the night.
Her dark hair o’er her shoulders flowing
Might well have been a silken pall
O’er Galatea’s image glowing
To life and love: she was withal—
The lamplight o’er her radiance throwing—
With her high bosom virginal,
A woman made to madden men,
A Cleopatra born again.
Hers was the beauty dark and splendid,
Whose spell upon the heart of man
Falls swiftly as, when day is ended,
Night falls in lands Australian.
Her rich, ripe, scarlet lips, bow-bended,
Smiled as such ripe lips only can;
Her eyes, wherein strange lightnings shone,
Were deeper than Oblivion.
With round, white arms, whose warm caress
No lover knew, raised towards the ceiling,
She looked like some young Pythoness
The secrets dark of Fate revealing,
Or goddess in divine distress
To higher powers for help appealing.
This invocation, standing so,
She sang in clear, sweet tones, but low:
Soul, from this narrow,
Mean life we know,
Speed as an arrow
From bended bow!
Seek, and discover,
On land or sea,
My destined lover,
Where’er he be.
How shalt thou know him,
My heart’s desire?—
His mien will show him,
His glance of fire.
High is his bearing,
His pride is high,
His spirit daring
Burns in his eye.
Birds have done mating;
The Spring is past;
My arms are waiting,
My heart beats fast.
“Oh, why,” she sighed, “has Fate awarded
This lot to me whose heart is bold?
My days by trifles are recorded,
My suitors men whose God is gold.
Oh for the Heroes helmed and sworded,
The lovers of the days of old,
Who broke for ladies many a lance
In gallant days of old Romance!
“Would I had lived in that great time when
A lady’s love was knight’s best boon;
When sword with sword made ringing rhyme, when
Mailed sea-kings fought from noon to moon,
And thought the slaughter grim no crime, when
The prize was golden-haired Gudrun.
Then I might find swords, broad and bright
And keen as theirs, for me to fight.
“But narrow bounds my life environ,
And hold my eager spirit in.
The men I see no heart of fire in
Their bodies bear. My love to win
A man must have a will of iron,
A soul of flame. Then sweet were sin
Or Death for him!” With ardent glance
Thus spake the daughter of the Manse.
Then, with a smile, she fell asleep in
Her white and dainty maiden bed.
The chaste, cold moon alone could peep in,
And view her tresses dark outspread
Upon an arm whose clasp might keep in
The life of one given up for dead:
And, as she drifted down the stream
Of Slumber deep, she dreamt a dream.
. . . . .
It was a banquet rich and rare,
The wine of France was foaming madly;
The proud and great of earth were there,
And all were slaves to serve her gladly,
And yet on them with haughty air
She gazed, half-scornfully, half-sadly;
The Lady of the Feast was she—
So ran her strange dream-fantasy.
A Prince was at her fair right hand,
And at her left a famous leader
Of hosts, with look of high command,
And—blacker than the tents of Kedar—
An Eastern King, barbaric, grand,
Sat near—their Queen they had decreed her.
Below the proud, the brave, the wise,
Sat charmed by her mesmeric eyes.
Then thus she spake: “O Lords of Earth!
Than you I know none nobler, braver;
And yet your fame, and rank, and birth,
And wealth in my sight find small favour,
For all too well I know their worth—
Long since for me they lost their savour.
The Spirit, fit to mate with mine,
Must be demoniac—or divine.
“A toast!” she cried. The gallant throng
Sprang up, their foaming glasses clinking.
“Satan! The Spirit proud and strong!
The bravest lover to my thinking!
The Wine of Life I’ve drunk too long:
The Wine of death I now am drinking!” . . .
“Our Queen she was a moment since—
Bear forth the body!” said the Prince.
. . . . .
A ghostly wind arose, all wet
With tears, and full of cries and wailing,
And wringing hands, and faces set
In bitter anguish unavailing;
It bore the soul of Margaret
To where a voice, in tones of railing,
Cried, “Spirit proud, thou hast done well!
Thou art within the Gates of Hell!”
The soul of Margaret passed slowly,
Yet bravely, through the Hall of Dread,
The roof whereof was hidden wholly
By black clouds hanging overhead.
No sound disturbed the melancholy
Deep silence—which itself seemed dead.
No wailing of the damned was heard,
No voice the fearful stillness stirred.
But that deep silence held in keeping
The secret of Eternal Woe—
That yet seemed like a serpent creeping
Around the walls. It was as though
The cries of pain and hopeless weeping
Had died out ages long ago.
No face was seen, no figure dread. . . .
Were all the damned and devils dead?
No lustre known on earth was gleaming
In that dread Hall, but some weird light
Around the pillars vast was streaming,
And down the vistas infinite;
A light like that men see in dreaming,
And, waking, shudder with affright.
Its glare a baleful splendour shed
For ever through the Hall of Dread.
Then suddenly she was aware
That from the walls, and all around her,
In motionless and burning stare,
Millions of eyes glowed, that spellbound her:
The everlasting dumb despair
That spoke from them made Pity founder;
And, as she passed along the floor,
She trod on burning millions more.
For floor and pillar, roof and all,
Were full of eyes, for ever burning—
’Twas these that lit the Dreadful Hall,
These were the damned beyond returning,
Sealed up in pillar, floor, and wall,
Without a tongue to voice their yearning,
Or grief, or hate, so God might know:
Their eyes alone could speak their woe.
Her way lit by the weird light flowing
From those sad, awful eyes, she passed
To where—her terror ever growing—
Upon a Throne, in fire set fast,
And like a Rose of fire far-glowing,
She saw a Figure, Veiled and Vast.
She trembled, for she knew full well
She stood before the Lord of Hell.
And then, an instant courage taking,
She knelt before the burning throne,
And, all her hopes of heaven forsaking,
She cried, “O Lord, make me thine own!
For men, though they be of God’s making,
I love not. Thee I love alone.”
The figure veiled spake thus: “Arise,
O Spirit proud—and most unwise!”
And as It spake, unveiling slowly,
A brow of awful beauty shone
On Margaret’s soul—yet Melancholy
And Woe Eternal sat thereon.
But, lo! the form was woman wholly.
A faint smile played her lips upon,
As in a voice low, sweet, and level
She said: “My dear, I am the Devil!”
With one wild wail of bitter scorning
The stricken soul of Margaret fled,
Sore harrowed by that dreadful warning;
And, shrieking, through the Hall of Dread
She passed . . . and woke . . . and it was morning,
And she was in her own white bed.
Fragments Pts 1, 11, 111
These broken lines for pardon crave;
I cannot end the song with art:
My grief is gray and old—her grave
Is dug so deep within my heart.
I.—Her Last Day
IT was a day of sombre heat:
The still, dense air was void of sound
And life; no wing of bird did beat
A little breeze through it—the ground
Was like live ashes to the feet.
From the black hills that loomed around
The valley many a sudden spire
Of flame shot up, and writhed, and curled,
And sank again for heaviness:
And heavy seemed to men that day
The burden of the weary world.
For evermore the sky did press
Closer upon the earth that lay
Fainting beneath, as one in dire
Dreams of the night, upon whose breast
Sits a black phantom of unrest
That holds him down. The earth and sky
Appeared unto the troubled eye
A roof of smoke, a floor of fire.
There was no water in the land.
Deep in the night of each ravine
Men, vainly searching for it, found
Dry hollows in the gaping ground,
Like sockets where clear eyes had been,
Now burnt out with a burning brand.
There was no water in the land
But the salt sea tide, that did roll
Far past the places where, till then,
The sweet streams met and flung it back;
The beds of little brooks, that stole
In spring-time down each ferny glen,
And rippled over rock and sand,
Were drier than a cattle-track.
A dull, strange languor of disease,
That ever with the heat increased,
Fell upon man, and bird, and beast;
The thin-flanked cattle gasped for breath;
The birds dropped dead from drooping trees;
And men, who drank the muddy lees
From each near-dry though deep-dug well,
Grew faint; and over all things fell
A heavy stupor, dank as Death.
Fierce Nature, glaring with a face
Of savage scorn at my despair,
Withered my heart. From cone to base
The hills were full of hollow eyes
That rayed out darkness, dead and dull;
Gray rocks grinned under ridges bare,
Like dry teeth in a mouldered skull;
And ghastly gum-tree trunks did loom
Out of black clefts and rifts of gloom,
As sheeted spectres that arise
From yawning graves at dead of night
To fill the living with affright;
And, like to witches foul that bare
Their withered arms, and bend, and cast
Dread curses on the sleeping lands
In awful legends of the past,
Red gums, with outstretched bloody hands,
Shook maledictions in the air.
Fear was around me everywhere:
The wrinkled foreheads of the rocks
Frowned on me, and methought I saw—
Deep down in dismal gulfs of awe,
Where gray death-adders have their lair,
With the fiend-bat, the flying-fox,
And dim sun-rays, down-groping far,
Pale as a dead man’s fingers are—
The grisly image of Decay,
That at the root of Life doth gnaw,
Sitting alone upon a throne
Of rotting skull and bleaching bone.
“There is an end to all our griefs:
Little the red worm of the grave
Will vex us when our days are done.”
So changed my thought: up-gazing then
On gray-piled stones that seemed the cairns
Of dead and long-forgotten chiefs—
The men of old, the poor wild men
Who, under dim lights, fought a brave,
Sad fight of Life, where hope was none,
In the vague, voiceless, far-off years—
It changed again to present pain,
And I saw Sorrow everywhere:
In blackened trees and rust-red ferns,
Blasted by bush-fires and the sun;
And by the salt-flood—salt as tears—
Where the wild apple-trees hung low,
And evermore stooped down to stare
At their drowned shadows in the wave,
Wringing their knotted hands of woe;
And the dark swamp-oaks, row on row,
Lined either bank—a sombre train
Of mourners with down-streaming hair.
THE DAY and its delights are done;
So all delights and days expire:
Down in the dim, sad West the sun
Is dying like a dying fire.
The fiercest lances of his light
Are spent; I watch him droop and die
Like a great king who falls in fight;
None dared the duel of his eye
Living, but, now his eye is dim,
The eyes of all may stare at him.
How lovely in his strength at morn
He orbed along the burning blue!
The blown gold of his flying hair
Was tangled in green-tressèd trees,
And netted in the river sand
In gleaming links of amber clear;
But all his shining locks are shorn,
His brow of its bright crown is bare,
The golden sceptre leaves his hand,
And deeper, darker, grows the hue
Of the dim purple draperies
And cloudy banners round his bier.
O beautiful, rose-hearted dawn!—
O splendid noon of gold and blue!—
Is this wan glimmer all of you?
Where are the blush and bloom ye gave
To laughing land and smiling sea?—
The swift lights that did flash and shiver
In diamond rain upon the river,
And set a star in each blue wave?
Where are the merry lights and shadows
That danced through wood and over lawn,
And flew across the dewy meadows
Like white nymphs chased by satyr lovers?
Faded and perished utterly.
All delicate and all rich colour
In flower and cloud, on lawn and lea,
On butterfly, and bird, and bee,
A little space and all are gone—
And darkness, like a raven, hovers
Above the death-bed of the day.
So, when the long, last night draws on,
And all the world grows ghastly gray,
We see our beautiful and brave
Wither, and watch with heavy sighs
The life-light dying in their eyes,
The love-light slowly fading out,
Leaving no faint hope in their place,
But only on each dear wan face
The shadow of a weary doubt,
The ashen pallor of the grave.
O gracious morn and golden noon!
With what fair dreams did ye depart—
Beloved so well and lost so soon!
I could not fold you to my breast:
I could not hide you in my heart;
I saw the watchers in the West—
Sad, shrouded shapes, with hands that wring
And phantom fingers beckoning!
Fade off the ridges, rosy light,
Fade slowly from the last gray height,
And leave no gloomy cloud to grieve
The heart of this enchanted eve!
All things beneath the still sky seem
Bound by the spell of a sweet dream;
In the dusk forest, dreamingly,
Droops slowly down each plumèd head;
The river flowing softly by
Dreams of the sea; the quiet sea
Dreams of the unseen stars; and I
Am dreaming of the dreamless dead.
The river has a silken sheen,
But red rays of the sunset stain
Its pictures, from the steep shore caught,
Till shades of rock, and fern, and tree
Glow like the figures on a pane
Of some old church by twilight seen,
Or like the rich devices wrought
In mediaeval tapestry.
All lonely in a drifting boat
Through shine and shade I float and float,
Dreaming and dreaming, till I seem
Part of the picture and the dream.
There is no sound to break the spell,
No voice of bird or stir of bough;
Only the lisp of waters wreathing
In little ripples round the prow,
And a low air, like Silence breathing,
That hardly dusks the sleepy swell
Whereon I float to that strange deep
That sighs upon the shores of Sleep.
But in the silent heaven blooming
Behold the wondrous sunset flower
That blooms and fades within the hour—
The flower of fantasy, perfuming
With subtle melody of scent
The blue aisles of the firmament!
For colour, music, scent, are one;
From deeps of air to airless heights,
Lo! how he sweeps, the splendid sun,
His burning lyre of many lights!
See the clear golden lily blowing!
It shines as shone thy gentle soul,
O my most sweet, when from the goal
Of life, far-gazing, thou didst see—
While Death still feared to touch thine eyes,
Where such immortal light was glowing—
The vision of eternity,
The pearly gates of Paradise!
Now richer hues the skies illume:
The pale gold blushes into bloom,
Delicate as the flowering
Of first love in the tender spring
Of Life, when love is wizardry
That over narrow days can throw
A glamour and a glory! so
Did thine, my Beautiful, for me
So long ago; so long ago.
So long ago! so long ago!
Ah, who can Love and Grief estrange?
Or Memory and Sorrow part?
Lo, in the West another change—
A deeper glow: a rose of fire:
A rose of passionate desire
Lone burning in a lonely heart.
A lonely heart; a lonely flood.
The wave that glassed her gleaming head
And smiling passed, it does not know
That gleaming head lies dark and low;
The myrtle-tree that bends above,
I pray that it may early bud,
For under its green boughs sat we—
We twain, we only, hand in hand,
When Love was lord of all the land—
It does not know that she is dead
And all is over now with Love,
Is over now with Love and me.
Once more, once more, O shining years
Gone by; once more, O vanished days
Whose hours flew by on iris-wings,
Come back and bring my love to me!
My voice faints down the wooded ways
And dies along the darkling flood.
The past is past; I cry in vain,
For when did Death an answer deign
To Love’s heart-broken questionings?
The dead are deaf; dust chokes their ears;
Only the rolling river hears
Far off the calling of the sea—
A shiver strikes through all my blood,
Mine eyes are full of sudden tears.
. . . . .
The shadows gather over all,
The valley, and the mountains old;
Shadow on shadow fast they fall
On glooming green and waning gold;
And on my heart they gather drear,
Damp as with grave-damps, dark with fear.
O Sorrow, Sorrow, couldst thou leave me
Not one brief hour to dream alone?
Hast thou not all my days to grieve me?
My nights, are they not all thine own?
Thou hauntest me at morning light,
Thou blackenest the white moonbeams;
A hollow voice at noon; at night
A crowned ghost, sitting on a throne,
Ruling the kingdom of my dreams.
Maker of men, Thou gavest breath,
Thou gavest love to all that live,
Thou rendest loves and lives apart;
Allwise art Thou; who questioneth
Thy will, or who can read Thy heart?
But couldst Thou not in mercy give
A sign to us—one little spark
Of sure hope that the end of all
Is not concealed beneath the pall,
Or wound up with the winding-sheet?
Who heedeth aught the preacher saith
When eyes wax dim, and limbs grow stark,
And fear sits on the darkened bed?
The dying man turns to the wall.
What hope have we above our dead?—
Tense fingers clutching at the dark,
And hopeless hands that vainly beat
Against the iron doors of Death!