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Title: A Woman's Love Letters
Author: Hensley, Sophia Margaret, 1866-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Woman's Love Letters" ***

by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions

The Fleur de Lis Poets.








    A Dream,                         1
    Dream-Song,                      8
    Doubt,                           9
    Song,                           13
    Anticipation,                   14
    Song,                           18
    Misunderstanding,               19
    Shadow-Song,                    23
    Revulsion,                      24
    A Song of Dawn,                 27
    Weariness,                      28
    A Song of Rest,                 31
    Death,                          33
    Battle-Song,                    38
    Content,                        39
    Sea-Song,                       42
    Gratitude,                      44
    Song,                           48
    Prayer,                         49
    Song,                           53
    Loneliness,                     54
    Sea-Song,                       57
    Incompleteness,                 59
    Song,                           65
    Life's Joys,                    65
    Song,                           70
    Barter,                         72
    Song,                           76
    To-morrow,                      78
    Song,                           82

A Dream.

    I stood far off above the haunts of men
      Somewhere, I know not, when the sky was dim
      From some worn glory, and the morning hymn
    Of the gay oriole echoed from the glen.
      Wandering, I felt earth's peace, nor knew I sought
      A visioned face, a voice the wind had caught.

    I passed the waking things that stirred and gazed,
      Thought-bound, and heeded not; the waking flowers
      Drank in the morning mist, dawn's tender showers,
    And looked forth for the Day-god who had blazed
      His heart away and died at sundown. Far
      In the gray west faded a loitering star.

    It seemed that I had wandered through long years,
      A life of years, still seeking gropingly
      A thing I dared not name; now I could see
    In the still dawn a hope, in the soft tears
      Of the deep-hearted violets a breath
      Of kinship, like the herald voice of Death.

    Slow moved the morning; where the hill was bare
      Woke a reluctant breeze. Dimly I knew
      My Day was come. The wind-blown blossoms threw
    Their breath about me, and the pine-swept air
      Grew to a shape, a mighty, formless thing,
      A phantom of the wood's imagining.

    And as I gazed, spell-bound, it seemed to move
      Its tendril limbs, still swaying tremulously
      As if in spirit-doubt; then glad and free
    Crystalled the being won from waiting grove
      Into a human likeness. There he stood,
      The vine-browed shape of Nature's mortal mood.

    "Now have I found thee, Vision I have sought
      These years, unknowing; surely thou art fair
      And inly wise, and on thy tasselled hair
    Glows Heaven's own light. Passion and fame are naught
      To thy clear eyes, O Prince of many lands,--
      Grant me thy joy," I cried, and stretched my hands.

    No answer but the flourish of the breeze
      Through the black pines. Then, slowly, as the wind
      Parts the dense cloud-forms, leaving naught behind
    But shapeless vapor, through the budding trees
      Drifted some force unseen, and from my sight
      Faded my god into the morning light.

    Again alone. With wistful, straining eyes
      I waited, and the sunshine flecked the bank
      Happy with arbutus and violets where I sank
    Hearing, near by, a host of melodies,
      The rapture of the woodthrush; soft her mood
      The love-mate, with such golden numbers woo'd.

    He ceased; the fresh moss-odors filled the grove
      With a strange sweetness, the dark hemlock boughs
      Moved soft, as though they heard the brooklet rouse
    To its spring soul, and whisper low of love.
      The white-robed birches stood unbendingly
      Like royal maids, in proud expectancy.

    Athwart the ramage where the young leaves press
      It came to me, ah, call it what you will
      Vision or waking dream, I see it still!
    Again a form born of the woodland stress
      Grew to my gaze, and by some secret sign
      Though shadow-hid, I knew the form was thine.

    The glancing sunlight made thy ruddy hair
      A crown of gold, but on thy spirit-face
      There was no smile, only a tender grace
    Of love half doubt. Upon thy hand a rare
      Wild bird of Paradise perched fearlessly
      With radiant plumage and still, lustrous eye.

    And as I gazed I saw what I had deemed
      A shadow near thy hand, a dusky wing,
      A bird like last year's leaves, so dull a thing
    Beside its fellow; as the sunshine gleamed
    Each breast showed letters bright as crystalled rain,
      The fair bird bore "Delight," the other "Pain."

    Then came thy voice: "O Love, wilt have my gift?"
      I stretched my glad hands eagerly to grasp
      The heaven-blown bird, gold-hued, and longed to clasp
    It close and know it mine. Ere I might lift
      The shining thing and hold it to my breast
      Again I heard thy voice with vague unrest.

    "These are twin birds and may not parted be."
      Full in thine eyes I gazed, and read therein
      The paradox of life, of love, of sin,
    As on a night of cloud and mystery
      One darting flash makes bright the hidden ways,
      And feet tread knowingly though thick the haze.

    Thy gift, if so I chose,--no other hand
      Save thine.--I reached and gathered to my heart
      The quivering, sentient things.--Sometimes I start
    To know them hidden there.--If I should stand
      Idly, some day, and _one_,--God help me!--breast
      A homing breeze,--my _brown_ bird knows _its_ nest.


    Cam'st thou not nigh to me
    In that one glimpse of thee
    When thy lips, tremblingly,
        Said: "My Beloved."
    'Twas but a moment's space,
    And in that crowded place
    I dared not scan thy face
        O! my Beloved.

    Yet there may come a time
    (Though loving be a crime
    Only allowed in rhyme
        To us, Beloved),
    When safe 'neath sheltering arm
    I may, without alarm,
    Hear thy lips, close and warm,
        Murmur: "Beloved!"


    I do not know if all the fault be mine,
      Or why I may not think of thee and be
      At peace with mine own heart. Unceasingly
    Grim doubts beset me, bygone words of thine
      Take subtle meaning, and I cannot rest
      Till all my fears and follies are confessed.

    Perhaps the wild wind's questioning has brought
      My heart its melancholy, for, alone
      In the night stillness, I can hear him moan
    In sobbing gusts, as though he vainly sought
      Some bygone bliss. Against the dripping pane
      In storm-blown torrents beats the driving rain.

    Nay I will tell thee all, I will not hide
      One thought from thee, and if I do thee wrong
      So much the more must I be brave and strong
    To show my fault. And if thou then shouldst chide
      I will accept reproof most willingly
      So it but bringeth peace to thee and me.

    I dread thy past. Phantoms of other days
      Pursue my vision. There are other hands
      Which thou hast held, perchance some slender bands
    That draw thee still to other woodland ways
      Than those which _we_ have known, some blissful hours
      I do not share, of love, and June, and flowers.

    I dread her most, that woman whom thou knewest
      Those years ago,--I cannot bear to think
      That she can say: "My lover praised the pink
    Of palm, or ear," "The violets were bluest
      In that dear copse," and dream of some fair day
      When thou didst while her summer hours away.

    I dread them too, those light loves and desires
      That lie in the dim shadow of the years;
      I fain would cheat myself of all my fears
    And, as a child watching warm winter fires,
      Dream not of yesterday's black embers, nor
      To-morrow's ashes that may strew the floor.

    I did not dream of this while thou wert near,
      But now the thought that haunts me day by day
      Is that the things I love, the tender way
    Of mastery, the kisses that are dear
      As Heaven's best gifts, to other lips and arms
      Owe half their blessedness and all their charms.

    Tell me that I am wrong, O! Man of men,
      Surely it is not hard to comfort me,
      Laugh at my fears with dear persistency,
    Nay, if thou must, lie to me! There, again,
      I hear the rain, and the wind's wailing cry
      Stirs with wild life the night's monotony.


              If I had known
    That when the morrow dawned the roses would be dead
    I would have filled my hands with blossoms white and red.
              If I had known!

              If I had known
    That I should be to-day deaf to all happy birds
    I would have lain for hours to listen to your words.
              If I had known!

              If I had known
    That with the morning light you would be gone for aye
    I would have been more kind;--sweet Love had won his way
              If I had known.


    Let us peer forward through the dusk of years
      And force the silent future to reveal
      Her store of garnered joys; we may not kneel
    For ever, and entreat our bliss with tears.
      Somewhere on this drear earth the sunshine lies,
      Somewhere the air breathes Heaven-blown harmonies.

    Some day when you and I have fully learned
      Our waiting-lesson, wondering, hand in hand
      We shall gaze out upon an unknown land,
    Our thoughts and our desires forever turned
      From our old griefs, as swallows, home warding,
      Sweep ever southward with unwearied wing.

    We shall fare forth, comrades for evermore.
      Though the ill-omened bird Time loves to bear
      Has brushed this cheek and left an impress there
    I shall be fierce and dauntless as of yore,
      Free as a bird o'er the wide world to rove,
      And strong and fearless, O my Love, to love.

    What have we now? The haunting, vague unrest
      Of incompleted measures; and we dream
      Vainly, of the Musician and His theme,
    How the great Master in a day most blest
      Shall strike some mighty chords in harmony,
      And make an end, and set the music free!

    We snatch from Fate our moments of delight,
      Few as, in April hours, the wooing calls
      Of orioles, or when the twilight falls
    First o'er the forest ere the approach of night
      The eyes of evening;--and Love's song is sung
      But once, Dear Heart, but once, and we are young.

    Over the seas together, you and I,
      'Neath blue Italian skies, or on the hills
      Of storied Greece,--where the warm sunlight fills
    Spain's mellow vineyards,--wandering reverently
      O'er the green plains of Palestine,--our days
      A golden holiday in Old World ways.

    Yet would we linger not by southern shores;
      The bracing breath of Scandinavian snows
      Would draw us from our dreams. The North wind blows
    Upon thy cheek, my Norseman, and the roars
      Of the wild Baltic sound within my ears
      When to my dreams thy stalwart form appears.

    This will the future bring. See! Thou hast given
      From out the fulness of thy strength and will
      This courage to me. Though the rugged hill
    Looms high, and fronts our vision, yet our heaven
      (I see it when I sleep) with portals wide
      And shining towers, gleams on the farther side.


    "Tshirr!" scolds the oriole
      Where the elms stir,
    Flaunting her gourd-like nest
    On the tree's swaying crest:
    "May's here, I cannot rest,
      Go away; tshirr!"

    "Tshirr!" scolds the oriole
      Where the leaves blur,
    Giving her threads a jerk,
    Spying where rivals lurk,
    "May's here, and I'm at work.
      Go away, tshirr!"


    Spring's face is wreathed in smiles. She had been driven
      Hither and thither at the surly will
      Of treacherous winds till her sweet heart was chill.
    Into her grasp the sceptre has been given
      And now she touches with a proud young hand
      The earth, and turns to blossoms all the land.

    We catch the smile, the joyousness, the pride,
      And share them with her. Surely winter gloom
      Is for the old, and frost is for the tomb.
    Youth must have pleasure, and the tremulous tide
      Of sun-kissed waves, and all the golden fire
      Of Summer's noontide splendor of desire.

    I have forgotten,--for the breath of buds
      Is on my temples, if in former days
      I have known sorrow; I remember praise,
    And calm content, and joy's great ocean-floods,
      And many dreams so sweet that, in their place,
      We would not welcome even Truth's fair face.

    O Man to whom my heart hast leaned, dost know
      Aught of my life? Sometimes a strong despair
      Enters my soul and finds a lodging there;
    Thou dost not know me, and the years will go
      As these last months have gone, and I shall be
      Still far, still a strange woman unto thee.

    I do not blame thee. If there is a fault
      Let it be mine, for surely had I tried
      The door of my heart's home to open wide
    No need had been for even Love's assault.
      And yet, methinks, somewhere there is a key
      Thou mightest have found, and entered happily.

    I am no saint niched in a hallowed wall
      For men to worship, but I would compel
      A level gaze. You teachers who would tell
    A woman's place I do defy you all!
      While justice lives, and love with joy is crowned
      Woman and man must meet on equal ground.

    The deepest wrong is falsehood. She who sells
      Her soul and body for a little gain
      In ease, or the world's notice, has a stain
    Upon her soul no lighter for the bells
      Of marriage rites, and purer far is she
      Who gives her all for love's sad ecstasy.

    Canst thou not understand a nature strong
      And passionate, with impulses that sway,
      With yearning tenderness that must have way,
    Yet knows no ill desire, no touch of wrong?
      If thou canst not then in God's name I pray
      See me no more forever from this day.

Shadow Song.

    The night is long
      And there are no stars,--
        Let me but dream
        That the long fields gleam
    With sunlight and song,
    Then I shall not long
      For the light of stars.

    Let me but dream,--
      For there are no stars,--
        Dream that the ache
        And the wild heart-break
    Are but things that seem.
    Ah! let me dream
      For there are no stars.


    I see the starting buds, I catch the gleam
      In the near distance of a sun-kissed pool,
      The blessed April air blows soft and cool,
    Small wonder if all sorrow grows a dream,
      And we forget that close around us lie
      A city's poor, a city's misery.

    Of every outward vision there is some
      Internal counterpart. To-day I know
      The blessedness of living, and the glow
    Of life's dear spring-tide. I can bid thee come
      In thought and wander where the fields are fair
      With bursting life, and I, rejoicing, there.

    Yet have I passed, Beloved, through the vale
      Of dark dismay, and felt the dews of death
      Upon my brow, have measured out my breath
    Counting my hours of joy, as misers quail
      At every footfall in the quiet night
      And clutch their gold and count it in affright.

    I learned new lessons in that school of fear,
      Life took a fresh perspective; sad and brave
      The view is from the threshold of the grave.
    In that long, backward glance I saw her clear
      From fogs of gathering night, and all the show
      Of small things that seemed great a while ago.

    Our dreams of fame, the stubborn power we call
      Our self-respect, our hopes of worldly good,
      Our jealousies and fears, how in the flood
    Of this new light they faded, poor and small;
      Showing our pettiness beside God's truth,
      Besides His age our poor, unlearned youth.

    The earth yearns forth, impatient for the days
      Of its maturity, the ample sweets
      Of Summer's fulness; and its great heart beats
    With a fierce restlessness, for Spring delays
      Seeing her giddy reign end all too soon,
      Her bud-crown ravished by the hand of June.

    And I,--I shall be happy,--promise me
      This one small thing, Beloved, for I long
      For happiness as the caged bird for song.
    Not where four walls close in the melody
      I want the fresh, sweet air, the water's gush,
      The strong, sane life with thee, the summer hush.

A Song of Dawn.

    In the east a lightening;
    Where the woods are chill
    Moves an unseen finger,
    Wakes a sudden thrill;

    In my soul a glimmer,
    Hush! no words are heard!
    In heart-ambush hidden
    Chirrup of a bird;

    Tremble heart and forest
    Like a frightened fawn,
    Gleam the distant tree-tops,
    Hither comes the dawn!


    This April sun has wakened into cheer
      The wintry paths of thought, and tinged with gold
      These threadbare leaves of fancy brown and old.
    This is for us the wakening of the year
      And May's sweet breath will draw the waiting soul
      To where in distance lies the longed-for goal.

    The summer life will still all questioning,
      The leaves will whisper peace, and calm will be
      The wild, vast, blue, illimitable sea.
    And we shall hush our murmurings, and bring
      To Nature, green below and blue above,
      A whole life's worshipping, a whole life's love.

    We will not speak of sometime fretting fears,
      We will not think of aught that may arise
      In future hours to cloud our golden skies.
    Some souls there are who love their woes and tears,
      Gaining their joy by contrast, but for thee
      And me, Beloved, peace is ecstasy.

    It was not always so, there was a time
      When I would choose the rocky mountain way,
      And climb the hills of doubt to find the day.
    Fresh effort brought fresh zest, and winter's rime
      Chilled not but crowned endeavor, and the heat
      Of summer thrilled, and made the pulses beat.

    But now I am so weary that I turn
      From labor with a shudder, and from pain
      As from an enemy; I see no gain
    In suffering, and cleansing fires must burn
      As keenly as desire, so let me know
      Quiet with thee, and twilight's afterglow.

    I, who have boasted of my strength and will,
      And ventured daring flights, and stood alone
      In fearless, flushed defiance, I have grown
    Humble, and seek another hand to fill
      Life's cup, and other eyes to pierce the skies
      Of Wisdom's dear, sad, mighty mysteries.

    Ah! I will lie so quiet in thine arms
      I will not stir thee; and thy whisperings
      Shall teach me patience, and so many things
    I have not learned as yet. And all alarms
      Will melt in peace when, safe from tempest's rage
      My wind-tossed ship has found its anchorage.

A Song of Rest.

    The world may rage without,
        Quiet is here;
    Statesmen may toil and shout,
        Cynics may sneer;
    The great world--let it go--
    June warmth be March's snow,
    I care not--be it so
        Since I am here.

    Time was when war's alarm
        Called for a fear,
    When sorrow's seeming harm
        Hastened a tear;
    Naught care I now what foe
    Threatens, for scarce I know
    How the year's seasons go
        Since I am here.

    This is my resting-place
        Holy and dear,
    Where Pain's dejected face
        May not appear.
    This is the world to me,
    Earth's woes I will not see
    But rest contentedly
        Since I am here.

    Is't your voice chiding, Love,
        My mild career?
    My meek abiding, Love,
        Daily so near?
    "Danger and loss" to me?
    Ah, Sweet, I fear to see
    No loss but loss of _Thee_
        And I am here.


    If days should pass without a written word
      To tell me of thy welfare, and if days
      Should lengthen out to weeks, until the maze
    Of questioning fears confused me, and I heard.
      Life-sounds as echoes; and one came and said
      After these weeks of waiting: "He is dead!"

    Though the quick sword had found the vital part,
      And the life-blood must mingle with the tears,
      I think that, as the dying soldier hears
    The cries of victory, and feels his heart
      Surge with his country's triumph-hour, I could
      Hope bravely on, and feel that God was good.

    I could take up my thread of life again
      And weave my pattern though the colors were
      Faded forever. Though I might not dare
    Dream often of thee, I should know that when
      Death came to thee upon thy lips my name
      Lingered, and lingers ever without blame.

    Aye, lingers ever. Though we may not know
      Much that our spirits crave, yet is it given
      To us to feel that in the waiting Heaven
    Great souls are greater, and if God bestow
      A mighty love He will not let it die
      Through the vast ages of eternity.

    But if some day the bitter knowledge swept
      Down on my life,--bearing my treasured freight
      To founder on the shoals of scorn,--what Fate
    Smiling with awful irony had kept
      Till life grew sweeter,--that my god was clay,
      That 'neath thy strength a lurking weakness lay;

    That thou, whom I had deemed a man of men
      Faulty, as great men are, but with no taint
      Of baseness,--with those faults that shew the saint
    Of after days, perhaps,--wert even then
      When first I loved thee but a spreading tree
      Whose leaves shewed not its roots' deformity;

    I should not weep, for there are wounds that lie
      Too deep for tears,--and Death is but a friend
      Who loves too dearly, and the parting end
    Of Love's joy-day a paltry pain, a cry
      To God, then peace,--beside the torturing grief
      When honor dies, and trust, and soul's belief.

    Travellers have told that in the Java isles
      The upas-tree breathes its dread vapor out
      Into the air; there needs no hand about
    Its branches for the poison's deadly wiles
      To work a strong man's hurt, for there is death
      Envenomed, noisome, in his every breath.

    So would I breathe thy poison in my soul,
      Till all that had been wholesome, pure, and true
      Shewed its decay, and stained and wasted grew.
    Though sundered as the distant Northern Pole
      From his far sister, I should bear thy blight
      Upon me as I passed into the night.

    Didst dream thy truth and honor meant so much
      To me, Dear Heart? Oh! I am full of tears
      To-night, of longing, love and foolish fears.
    Would I might see thee, know thy tender touch,
      For Time is long, and though I may not will
      To question Fate, I am a woman still.

Battle Song.

    Clear sounds the call on high:
    "To arms and victory!"
    Brave hearts that win or die,
        Dying, may win;
    Proudly the banners wave,
    What though the goal's the grave?
    Death cannot harm the brave,--
        Through death they win.

    Softly the evening hush
    Stilling strife's maddened rush
    Cools the fierce battle flush,--
        See the day die;
    A thousand faces white
    Mirror the cold moonlight
    And glassy eyes are bright
        With Victory.


    I have been wandering where the daisies grow,
      Great fields of tall, white daisies, and I saw
      Them bend reluctantly, and seem to draw
    Away in pride when the fresh breeze would blow
      From timothy and yellow buttercup,
      So by their fearless beauty lifted up.

    Yet must they bend at the strong breeze's will,
      Bright, flawless things, whether in wrath he sweep
      Or, as oftimes, in mood caressing, creep
    Over the meadows and adown the hill.
      So Love in sport or truth, as Fates allow,
      Blows over proud young hearts, and bids them bow.

    So beautiful is it to live, so sweet
      To hear the ripple of the bobolink,
      To smell the clover blossoms white and pink,
    To feel oneself far from the dusty street,
      From dusty souls, from all the flare and fret
      Of living, and the fever of regret.

    I have grown younger; I can scarce believe
      It is the same sad woman full of dreams
      Of seven short weeks ago, for now it seems
    I am a child again, and can deceive
      My soul with daisies, plucking one by one
      The petals dazzling in the noonday sun.

    Almost with old-time eagerness I try
      My fate, and say: "un peu," a soft "beaucoup,"
      Then, lower, "passionément, pas du tout;"
    Quick the white petals fall, and lovingly
      I pluck the last, and drop with tender touch
      The knowing daisy, for he loves me "much."

    I can remember how, in childish days,
      I deemed that he who held my heart in thrall
      Must love me "passionately" or "not at all."
    Poor little wilful ignorant heart that prays
      It knows not what, and heedlessly demands
      The best that life can give with out-stretched hands!

    Now I am wiser, and have learned to prize
      Peace above passion, and the summer life
      Here with the flowers above the ceaseless strife
    Of armed ambitions. They alone are wise
      Who know the daisy-secrets, and can hold
      Fast in their eager hands her heart of gold.


    A dash of spray,
    A weed-browned way,--
    My ship's in the bay,
    In the glad blue bay,--
    The wind's from the west
    And the waves have a crest,
    But my bird's in the nest
    And my ship's in the bay!

    At dawn to stand
    Soft hand to hand,
    Bare feet on the sand,--
    On the hard brown sand,--
    To wait, dew-crowned,
    For the tarrying sound
    Of a keel that will ground
    On the scraping sand.

    A glad surprise
    In the wind-swept skies
    Of my wee one's eyes,--
    Those wondering eyes.
    He will come, my sweet,
    And will haste to meet
    Those hurrying feet
    And those sea-blue eyes.

    I know the day
    Must weary away,
    And my ship's in the bay,--
    In the clear, blue bay,--
    Ah! there's wind in the west,
    For the waves have a crest,
    But my bird's in the nest
    And my ship's in the bay!


    There are some things, dear Friend, are easier far
      To say in written words than when we sit
      Eye answering eye, or hand to hand close knit.
    Not that there is between us any bar
      Of shyness or reserve; the day is past
      For that, and utter trust has come at last.

    Only, when shut alone and safe inside
      These four white walls,--hearing no sound except
      Our own heart-beatings, silences have crept
    Stealthily round us,--as the incoming tide
      Quiet and unperceived creeps ever on
      Till mound and pebble, rock and reef are gone.

    Or out on the green hillside, even there
      There is a hush, and words and thoughts are still.
      For the trees speak, and myriad voices fill
    With wondrous echoes all the waiting air.
      We listen, and in listening must forget
    Our own hearts' murmur, and our spirits' fret;

    Even our joys,--thou knowest;--when the air
      Is full to overflowing with the sense
      Of hope fulfilled and passion's vehemence.
    There is no place for words; we do not dare
      To break Love's stillness, even though the power
      Were ours by speech to lengthen out the hour.

    But here in quietness I can recall
      All I would tell thee, how thou art to me
      Impulse and inspiration, and with thee
    I can but smile though all my idols fall.
      I wait my meed as others who have known
      Patience till to their utmost stature grown.

    As when the heavens are draped in gloomy gray
      And earth is tremulous with a vague unrest
      A glory fills the tender, troubled West
    That glads the closing of November's day,
      So breaks in sun-smiles my beclouded sky
      When day is over and I know thee nigh.

    Thou art so much, all this and more, to me,
      And what am I to thee? Can I repay
      These many gifts? Is there no royal way
    Of recompense, so I may proudly see
      The man my heart delights to praise renowned
      For wealth and honor, and with rapture crowned?

    Ah! though there is no recompense in love
      Yet have I paid thee, given these gifts to thee,
      Joy, riches, worship. Thou hast joy in me,
    Is it not so, Beloved? Who shall prove
      No worship of thee by my soul confessed?
      And riches? Ah! a wealth of love is best.


    I have known a thousand pleasures,--
            Love is best--
    Ocean's songs and forest treasures,
            Work and rest,
    Jewelled joys of dear existence,
    Triumph over Fate's resistance,
    But to prove, through Time's wide distance,
            Love is best.


    I stood upon a hill, and watched the death
      Of the day's turmoil. Still the glory spread
      Cloud-top to cloud-top, and each rearing head
    Trembled to crimson. So a mighty breath
      From some wild Titan in a rising ire
      Might kindle flame in voicing his desire.

    Soft stirred the evening air; the pine-crowned hills
      Glowed in an answering rapture where the flush
      Grew to a blood-drop, and the vesper hush
    Moved in my soul, while from my life all ills
      Faded and passed away. God's voice was there
      And in my heart the silence was a prayer.

    There was a day when to my fearfulness
      Was born a joy, when doubt was swept afar
      A shadow and a memory, and a star
    Gleamed in my sky more bright for the distress.
      The stillness breathed thanksgiving, and the air
      Wafted, methought, the incense of a prayer.

    Heaven sets no bounds of bead-roll or appeal;
      And when the fiery heart with mute embrace
      Bends, tremblingly, but for a moment's space
    It needs no words that cry, no limbs that kneel.
      As meteors flash, so, in a moment's light,
      Life, darting forth, touches the Infinite.

    All my prayers wordless? Nay, I can recall
      A night not so long past but that each thought
      Lives at this hour, and throbs again unsought
    When Silence broods, and Night's chill shadows fall;
      Then Darkness' thousand pulses thrilled and stirred
      With the dear grace of a remembered word;

    And I was still, thy voice enshrouding me.
      Like the strong sweep of ocean-breath the power
      Of one resistless thought transformed my hour
    Of love-dreams to a fear. All hopelessly
      I knew love's impotence, and my despair
      Stretched soul-hands forth, and quivered to a prayer.

    My passionate heart cried out: "If his dear life
      Through stress of keen temptation merits aught
      Of penance or requital, be it wrought
    Upon _my_ life. If only through the strife
      Is won the peace, through drudgery the gain,
      Give him the issue, and to me the pain!"

    Some day, in our soul's course o'er trackless lands,
      Swayed oft by adverse winds, or swept along
      In Fate's wild current with the fluttering throng
    Towards Sin's engulfing maelstrom, spirit hands
      Will brace our trembling wings, and through the night
      Point and upbear in our last trembling flight.


    Red gleams the mountain ridge,
      Slow the stream creeps
    Under the old bent bridge,
      And labor sleeps.

    There are no restless birds,
      No leaves that stir,
    Dusk her gray mantle girds,
      Night's harbinger.

    The storm-soul's change and start
      Pause, lull, and cease;
    In my unquiet heart
      Is born a peace.


    Dear, I am lonely, for the bay is still
      As any hill-girt lake; the long brown beach
      Lies bare and wet. As far as eye can reach
    There is no motion. Even on the hill
      Where the breeze loves to wander I can see
      No stir of leaves, nor any waving tree.

    There is a great red cliff that fronts my view
      A bare, unsightly thing; it angers me
      With its unswerving-grim monotony.
    The mackerel weir, with branching boughs askew
      Stands like a fire-swept forest, while the sea
      Laps it, with soothing sighs, continually.

    There are no tempests in this sheltered bay,
      The stillness frets me, and I long to be
      Where winds sweep strong and blow tempestuously,
    To stand upon some hill-top far away
      And face a gathering gale, and let the stress
      Of Nature's mood subdue my restlessness.

    An impulse seizes me, a mad desire
      To tear away that red-browed cliff, to sweep
      Its crest of trees and huts into the deep;
    To force a gap by axe, or storm, or fire,
      And let rush in with motion glad and free
      The rolling waves of the wild wondrous sea.

    Sometimes I wonder if I am the child
      Of calm, law-loving parents, or a stray
      From some wild gypsy camp. I cannot stay
    Quiet among my fellows; when this wild
      Longing for freedom takes me I must fly
      To my dear woods and know my liberty.

    It is this cringing to a social law
      That I despise, these changing, senseless forms
      Of fashion! And until a thousand storms
    Of God's impatience shall reveal the flaw
      In man's pet system, he will weave the spell
      About his heart and dream that all is well.

    Ah! Life is hard, Dear Heart, for I am left
      To battle with my old-time fears alone
      I must live calmly on, and make no moan
    Though of my hoped-for happiness bereft.
      Thou wilt not come, and still the red cliff lies
      Hiding my ocean from these longing eyes.


    It sings to me, it sings to me,
    The shore-blown voice of the blithesome sea!
      Of its world of gladness all untold,
      Of its heart of green, and its mines of gold,
    And desires that leap and flee.

    It moans to me, it moans to me!
    The storm-stirred voice of the restive sea!
      Of the vain dismay and the yearning pain
      For hopes that will never be born again
    From the womb of the wavering sea.

    It calls to me, it calls to me,
    The luring voice of the rebel sea!
      And I long with a love that is born of tears
      For the wild fresh life, and the glorying fears,
    For the quest and the mystery.

    It wails to me, it wails to me,
    Of the deep dark graves in the yawning sea;
      And I hear the voice of a boy that is gone.
      But the lad sleeps sound till the judgment-dawn
    In the heart of the wind-swept sea.


    Since first I met thee, Dear, and long before
      I knew myself beloved, save by the sense
      All women have, a shadowy confidence
    Half-fear, that _feels_ its bliss nor asks for more,
      I have learned new desires, known Love's distress
      Sounded the deepest depths of loneliness.

    I was a child at heart, and lived alone,
      Dreaming my dreams, as children may, at whiles,
      Between their hours of play, and Earth's broad smiles
    Allured my heart, and ocean's marvellous tone
      Woke no strange echoes, and the woods' complain
      Made chants sonorous, stirred no thoughts of pain.

    And if, sometimes, dear Nature spoke to me
      In tones mysterious, I had learned so much
      Dwelling beside her daily, that her touch
    Made me discerning. Though I might not see
      Her purpose nor her meaning, I had part
      In the proud throbbing of that mighty heart.

    But now the earth has put a tiring-cloth
      About her face; even in the mountains' cheer
      There is a lack, and in the sea a fear,
    The glad, rash sea, whose every mood, if wroth
      Or soothing mild, is dear to me as are
      Joy's new-born kisses on the lips of Care.

    Since I have known thee, Dear, all life has grown
      An expectation. As the swelling grain
      Trembles to harvesting, and earth in pain
    Travails till Spring is born, so felt alone
      Is the dumb reaching out of things unborn,
      The night's gray promise of the amber morn.

    I long to taste my pleasures through thy lips,
      To sail with thee o'er foaming waves and feel
      Our spirits rise together with the reel
    Of waters and the wavering land's eclipse;
      To see thy fair hair damp with salt sea-spray
      And in thine eyes the wildness of the way.

    I long to share my woods with thee, to fly
      To some black-hearted forest where the trail
      Of mortals lingers not,--to hear the gale.
    Sweep round us with a shuddering ecstasy,
      To feel, night's tumult passed, the cool soft hand
      Of the untroubled dawn move o'er the land.

    To swim with thee far out into the bay,
      A trembling glitter on the waves, the shore
      Glowing with noontide fervor, nevermore
    To fear the treacherous depths, though long the way.
      Sweet beyond words the sighs that breathe and blow,
      The moist salt kisses, and the glad warm glow.

    And when the unrest, the vague desires that rush
      Over our lives and may not be denied,--
      Gone in the tasting,--lure us where the tide
    Of men sweeps on, let us forget the hush
      Together, and in city madness drain
      Our cup of pleasure to its dregs of pain.

    Ever I need thee. Incomplete and poor
      This life of mine. Yet never dream my soul
      Craves the old peace. Till I may have the whole
    My joy is my abiding, and what more
      Of dreams and waking bliss the Fates allow
      Comes as a gift of Love's great overflow.


    Deep in the green bracken lying,
      Close by the welcoming sea,
    Dream I, and let all my dreaming
      Drift as it will, Love, to thee.

    Sated with splendid caresses
      Showered by the sun in his pride,
    Scorched by his passionate kisses
      Languidly ebbs the tide.

Life's Joys.

    I have been pondering what our teachers call
      The mystery of Pain; and lo! my thought
      After it's half-blind reaching out has caught
    This truth and held it fast. We may not fall
      Beyond our mounting; stung by life's annoy,
      Deeper we feel the mystery of Joy.

    Sometimes they steal across us like a breath
      Of Eastern perfume in a darkened room,
      These joys of ours; we grope on through the gloom
    Seeking some common thing, and from its sheath
      Unloose, unknowing, some bewildering scent
      Of spice-thronged memories of the Orient.

    Sometimes they dart across our turbid sky
      Like a quick flash after a heated day.
      A moment, where the sombrous shadows lay
    We see a glory. Though it passed us by
      No earthly power can filch that dazzling glow
      From memory's eye, that instant's shine and show.

    Life is so full of joys. The alluring sea,
      This morning clear and placid, may, ere night,
      Toss like a petulant child, and when the light
    Of a new morning dawns sweep grand and free
      A mighty power. If fierce, or mild, or bright,
      With every tide flows in a fresh delight.

    I can remember well when first I knew
      The fragrance of white clover. There I lay
      On the warm July grass and heard the play
    Of sun-browned insects, and the breezes blew
      To my drowsed sense the scent the blossoms had;
      The subtle sweetness stayed, and I was glad.

    Nor passed the gladness. Though the years have gone
      (A many years, Beloved, since that day,)
      Whenever by the roadside or away
    In radiant summer fields, wandering alone
      Or with glad children, to my restless sight
      Shows that pale head, comes back the old delight.

    Oh! the dark water, and the filling sail!
      The scudding like a sea-mew, with the hand
      Firm on the tiller! See, the red-shored land
    Receding, as we brave the hastening gale!
      White gleam the wave-tops, and the breakers' roar
      Sounds thunderingly on the far distant shore.

    This mad hair flying in the breeze blows wild
      Across my face. See, there, the gathering squall,
      That dark line to the eastward, watch it crawl
    Stealthily towards us o'er the snow-wreaths piled
      Close on each other! Ah! what joy to be
      Drunk with salt air, in battle with the sea!

    So many joys, and yet I have but told
      Of simple things, the joys of air and sea!
      Not all these things are worth one hour with thee,
    One moment, when thy daring arms enfold
      My body, and all other, meaner joys,
      Fade from me like a child's forgotten toys.

    One thought is ever with me, glorying all
      Life's common aims. Surely will dawn a day
      Bright with an unknown rapture, when thy way
    Will be _my_ journey-road, and I can call
      These joys _our_ joys, for thou wilt walk with me
      Down budding pathways to the abounding sea.


    Low laughed the Columbine,
    Trembled her petals fine
      As the breeze blew;
    In her dove-heart there stirred
    Murmurs the dull bee heard,
    And Love, Life's wild white bird,
      Straightway she knew.

    Resting her lilac cheek
    Gently, in aspect meek,
      On the gray stone,
    The morning-glory, free,
    Welcomed the yellow bee,
    Heard the near-rolling sea
      Murmur and moan.

    Calm lay the tawny sand
    Stretching a long wet hand
      To the far wave.
    Swift to her warm waiting breast
    Longing to be possessed
    Leaps 'neath his billowy crest
      Her Lover brave.


    There is a long thin line of fading gold
      In the far West, and the transfigured leaves
      On some slight, topmost bough that sways and heaves
    Hang limp and tremulous. Nor warm, nor cold
      The pungent air, and, 'neath the yellow haze,
      Show flushed and glad the wild, October ways.

    There is a soft enchantment in the air,
      A mystery the Summer knows not, nor
      The sturdy, frost-crowned Winter. Nature wore
    Her blandest smile to-day, as here and there
      I wandered, elf-beset, through wood and field
      And gleaned the glories of the autumn yield.

    A bunch of purple aster, golden-rod
      Darkened by the first frost, a drooping spray
      Of scarlet barberry, and tall and gray
    The silk-cored cotton with its bursting pod,
      Some tarnished maple-boughs, and, like a flash
      Of sudden flame, a branch of mountain ash.

    She smiled, but it was not the welcoming smile
      Of frank surrender. As a witching maid
      In gorgeous garments cunningly arrayed
    Might smile and draw them closer, hers the guile
      To let men hope, pray, labor in love's stress
      Ere they her hidden beauties may possess.

    Deep in the heart of earth where the springs rise,
      Down with the sweet linnæa and the moss,
      In the brown thrush's throat, where the pines toss
    In Winter's harrying storms her secret lies.
      Ours the chill night-dews and the waiting pain
      Ere we her fairy wealth may hope to gain.

    'Tis so with knowledge. Eagerly we turn
      Great Wisdom's page, and when our clear eyes grow
      Dim in the dusk of years, and heads bend low
    Weary at last, the truth we strove to learn
      Is ours forever. But its joy of sight
      Is dearly bought, methinks, with Youth's delight.

    Fate, too, with chaffering voice and beckoning hand
      Doles out our happiness; we snatch at wealth
      And pay with anxious care and fading health.
    We call for Love, and dream that we shall stand
      On ground enchanted, but, though sweet the way,
      The rocks are sharp, and grief comes with the Day.

    Even in love, Dear Heart, there is exchange
      Of gifts and griefs, and so I render thee
      Vows for thy vows, and pay unfalteringly
    What love demands, nor ever deem it strange.
      And when the snow drifts fast, and north-winds sting
      I make no murmur, but await the Spring.


    Joy came in youth as a humming-bird,
      (Sing hey! for the honey and bloom of life!)
    And it made a home in my summer bower
    With the honeysuckle and the sweet-pea flower.
      (Sing hey! for the blossoms and sweets of life!)

    Joy came as a lark when the years had gone,
      (Ah! hush, hush still, for the dream is short!)
    And I gazed far up to the melting blue
    Where the rare song dropped like a golden dew.
      (Ah! sweet is the song tho' the dream be short!)

    Joy hovers now in a far-off mist,
      (The night draws on and the air breathes snow!)
    And I reach, sometimes, with a trembling hand
    To the red-tipped cloud of the joy-bird's land.
      (Alas! for the days of the storm and the snow!)


    But one short night between my Love and me!
      I watch the soft-shod dusk creep wistfully
      Through the slow-moving curtains, pausing by
    And shrouding with its spirit-fingers free
      Each well-known chair. There is a growing grace
      Of tender magic in this little place.

    Comes through half-opened windows, soft and cool
      As Spring's young breath, the vagrant evening air,
      My day-worn soul is hushed. I fain would bear
    No burdens on my brain to-night, no rule
      Of anxious thought; the world has had my tears,
      My thoughts, my hopes, my aims these many years;

    This is Thy hour, and I shall sink to sleep
      With a glad weariness, to know that when
      The new day dawns I shall lay by my pen
    Needed no more. If I, perchance, should weep
      A few quick tears, so doing, who would guess
      'Twas the last throb of my soul's loneliness?

    Not even thou, Dear Heart, canst ever know
      How I have yearned these many months, these years
      For love, for thee. As the calm boatman steers
    His slender shallop where he fain would go,
      Tempests and rocks before, so through the dark
      To this dim, far-off day has set my bark.

    To-morrow! I can hear the quick-closed door,
      The approaching steps, my pained heart's fluttering,
      Thy voice, then Thee! And all the storm and sting
    Of bygone griefs are passed forevermore,
      Swept from my life as the resistless wind
      Scatters the chaff, nor leaves a mote behind.

    As long-imprisoned captives reach the light,
      And gaze with greedy eyes on field and tree,
      Drinking the beauties of the sky and sea
    Half fearful of their bliss; so from the night
      Of dreams and shades, half doubting, we awake
      And grasp the joy we almost fear to take.

    Thou hidest in thy warm ones my cold hand,
      Reading my soul in these unwavering eyes.
      Nay, thou hast known my hopes, my agonies
    Through written words, and thou canst understand.
      I have kept nothing back of all the streams
      Of my heart-flowings--doubts, nor fears, nor dreams.

    So long my life has followed no control
      But mine own impulse; now, I pray thee, bend
      My will to thine, and so, unhindered, tend
    My soul's wild garden. I have laid the whole
      Bare to thy sowing; and life's precious wine
      Is of thy pouring, and thy way is mine.


    Where is the waiting-time?
      Where are the fears?
    Gone with the winter's rime,
      The bygone years.

    O'er life's plain, lone and vast,
      Slow treads the morn,
    Night shades have moved and passed,
      Joy's day is born.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Woman's Love Letters" ***

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