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Title: Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I.
Author: Ingelow, Jean, 1820-1897
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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POEMS

BY

JEAN INGELOW

_IN TWO VOLUMES_



VOL. I.



BOSTON

ROBERTS BROTHERS

1896


AUTHOR'S COMPLETE EDITION



_DEDICATION_


TO

GEORGE KILGOUR INGELOW


YOUR LOVING SISTER

OFFERS YOU THESE POEMS, PARTLY AS

AN EXPRESSION OF HER AFFECTION, PARTLY FOR THE

PLEASURE OF CONNECTING HER EFFORTS

WITH YOUR NAME



KENSINGTON: _June_, 1863



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.


DIVIDED
HONORS.--PART I.
HONORS.--PART II.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE
SUPPER AT THE MILL
SCHOLAR AND CARPENTER
THE STAR'S MONUMENT
A DEAD YEAR
REFLECTIONS
THE LETTER L
THE HIGH TIDE ON THE COAST OF LINCOLNSHIRE (1571)
AFTERNOON AT A PARSONAGE
SONGS OF SEVEN
A COTTAGE IN A CHINE
PERSEPHONE
A SEA SONG
BROTHERS, AND A SERMON
A WEDDING SONG
THE FOUR BRIDGES
A MOTHER SHOWING THE PORTRAIT OF HER CHILD
STRIFE AND PEACE

THE DREAMS THAT CAME TRUE

SONGS ON THE VOICES OF BIRDS.
  INTRODUCTION.--CHILD AND BOATMAN
  THE NIGHTINGALE HEARD BY THE UNSATISFIED HEART
  SAND MARTINS
  A POET IN HIS YOUTH AND THE CUCKOO-BIRD
  A RAVEN IN A WHITE CHINE
  THE WARBLING OF BLACKBIRDS
  SEA-MEWS IN WINTER-TIME

LAURANCE

SONGS OF THE NIGHT WATCHES.
  INTRODUCTORY.--EVENING
  THE FIRST WATCH.--TIRED
  THE MIDDLE WATCH
  THE MORNING WATCH
  CONCLUDING.--EARLY DAWN

CONTRASTED SONGS.
  SAILING BEYOND SEAS
  REMONSTRANCE
  SONG FOR THE NIGHT OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION
  SONG OF MARGARET
  SONG OF THE GOING AWAY
  A LILY AND A LUTE

GLADYS AND HER ISLAND

SONGS WITH PRELUDES.
  WEDLOCK
  REGRET
  LAMENTATION
  DOMINION
  FRIENDSHIP

WINSTANLEY



DIVIDED.


I.

An empty sky, a world of heather,
  Purple of foxglove, yellow of broom;
We two among them wading together,
  Shaking out honey, treading perfume.

Crowds of bees are giddy with clover,
  Crowds of grasshoppers skip at our feet,
Crowds of larks at their matins hang over,
  Thanking the Lord for a life so sweet.

Flusheth the rise with her purple favor,
  Gloweth the cleft with her golden ring,
'Twixt the two brown butterflies waver,
  Lightly settle, and sleepily swing.

We two walk till the purple dieth
  And short dry grass under foot is brown.
But one little streak at a distance lieth
  Green like a ribbon to prank the down.


II.

Over the grass we stepped unto it,
  And God He knoweth how blithe we were!
Never a voice to bid us eschew it:
  Hey the green ribbon that showed so fair!

Hey the green ribbon! we kneeled beside it,
  We parted the grasses dewy and sheen;
Drop over drop there filtered and slided
  A tiny bright beck that trickled between.

Tinkle, tinkle, sweetly it sang to us,
  Light was our talk as of faëry bells--
Faëry wedding-bells faintly rung to us
  Down in their fortunate parallels.

Hand in hand, while the sun peered over,
  We lapped the grass on that youngling spring;
Swept back its rushes, smoothed its clover,
  And said, "Let us follow it westering."


III.

A dappled sky, a world of meadows,
  Circling above us the black rooks fly
Forward, backward; lo, their dark shadows
  Flit on the blossoming tapestry--

Flit on the beck, for her long grass parteth
  As hair from a maid's bright eyes blown back;
And, lo, the sun like a lover darteth
  His flattering smile on her wayward track.

Sing on! we sing in the glorious weather
  Till one steps over the tiny strand,
So narrow, in sooth, that still together
  On either brink we go hand in hand.

The beck grows wider, the hands must sever.
  On either margin, our songs all done,
We move apart, while she singeth ever,
  Taking the course of the stooping sun.

He prays, "Come over"--I may not follow;
  I cry, "Return"--but he cannot come:
We speak, we laugh, but with voices hollow;
  Our hands are hanging, our hearts are numb.


IV.

A breathing sigh, a sigh for answer,
  A little talking of outward things
The careless beck is a merry dancer,
  Keeping sweet time to the air she sings.

A little pain when the beck grows wider;
  "Cross to me now--for her wavelets swell."
"I may not cross,"--and the voice beside her
  Faintly reacheth, though heeded well.

No backward path; ah! no returning;
  No second crossing that ripple's flow:
"Come to me now, for the west is burning;
  Come ere it darkens;"--"Ah, no! ah, no!"

Then cries of pain, and arms outreaching--
  The beck grows wider and swift and deep:
Passionate words as of one beseeching--
  The loud beck drowns them; we walk, and weep.


V.

A yellow moon in splendor drooping,
  A tired queen with her state oppressed,
Low by rushes and swordgrass stooping,
  Lies she soft on the waves at rest.

The desert heavens have felt her sadness;
  Her earth will weep her some dewy tears;
The wild beck ends her tune of gladness,
  And goeth stilly as soul that fears.

We two walk on in our grassy places
  On either marge of the moonlit flood,
With the moon's own sadness in our faces,
  Where joy is withered, blossom and bud.


VI.

A shady freshness, chafers whirring,
  A little piping of leaf-hid birds;
A flutter of wings, a fitful stirring,
  A cloud to the eastward snowy as curds.

Bare grassy slopes, where kids are tethered
  Round valleys like nests all ferny-lined;
Round hills, with fluttering tree-tops feathered,
  Swell high in their freckled robes behind.

A rose-flush tender, a thrill, a quiver,
  When golden gleams to the tree-tops glide;
A flashing edge for the milk-white river,
  The beck, a river--with still sleek tide.

Broad and white, and polished as silver,
  On she goes under fruit-laden trees;
Sunk in leafage cooeth the culver,
  And 'plaineth of love's disloyalties.

Glitters the dew and shines the river,
  Up comes the lily and dries her bell;
But two are walking apart forever,
  And wave their hands for a mute farewell.


VII.

A braver swell, a swifter sliding;
  The river hasteth, her banks recede:
Wing-like sails on her bosom gliding
  Bear down the lily and drown the reed.

Stately prows are rising and bowing
  (Shouts of mariners winnow the air),
And level sands for banks endowing
  The tiny green ribbon that showed so fair.

While, O my heart! as white sails shiver,
  And crowds are passing, and banks stretch wide
How hard to follow, with lips that quiver,
  That moving speck on the far-off side!

Farther, farther--I see it--know it--
  My eyes brim over, it melts away:
Only my heart to my heart shall show it
  As I walk desolate day by day.


VII.

And yet I know past all doubting, truly--
  A knowledge greater than grief can dim--
I know, as he loved, he will love me duly--
  Yea better--e'en better than I love him.

And as I walk by the vast calm river,
  The awful river so dread to see,
I say, "Thy breadth and thy depth forever
  Are bridged by his thoughts that cross to me."



HONORS.--PART I.

(_A Scholar is musing on his want of success._)


To strive--and fail. Yes, I did strive and fail;
  I set mine eyes upon a certain night
To find a certain star--and could not hail
      With them its deep-set light.

Fool that I was! I will rehearse my fault:
  I, wingless, thought myself on high to lift
Among the winged--I set these feet that halt
      To run against the swift.

And yet this man, that loved me so, can write--
  That loves me, I would say, can let me see;
Or fain would have me think he counts but light
      These Honors lost to me.

         (_The letter of his friend._)
"What are they? that old house of yours which gave
  Such welcome oft to me, the sunbeams fall
Yet, down the squares of blue and white which pave
      Its hospitable hall.

"A brave old house! a garden full of bees,
  Large dropping poppies, and Queen hollyhocks,
With butterflies for crowns--tree peonies
      And pinks and goldilocks.

"Go, when the shadow of your house is long
  Upon the garden--when some new-waked bird.
Pecking and fluttering, chirps a sudden song,
      And not a leaf is stirred;

"But every one drops dew from either edge
  Upon its fellow, while an amber ray
Slants up among the tree-tops like a wedge
      Of liquid gold--to play

"Over and under them, and so to fall
  Upon that lane of water lying below--
That piece of sky let in, that you do call
      A pond, but which I know

"To be a deep and wondrous world; for I
  Have seen the trees within it--marvellous things
So thick no bird betwixt their leaves could fly
      But she would smite her wings;--

"Go there, I say; stand at the water's brink,
  And shoals of spotted barbel you shall see
Basking between the shadows--look, and think
      'This beauty is for me;

"'For me this freshness in the morning hours,
  For me the water's clear tranquillity;
For me the soft descent of chestnut flowers;
      The cushat's cry for me.

"'The lovely laughter of the wind-swayed wheat
  The easy slope of yonder pastoral hill;
The sedgy brook whereby the red kine meet
      And wade and drink their fill.'

"Then saunter down that terrace whence the sea
  All fair with wing-like sails you may discern;
Be glad, and say 'This beauty is for me--
      A thing to love and learn.

"'For me the bounding in of tides; for me
  The laying bare of sands when they retreat;
The purple flush of calms, the sparkling glee
      When waves and sunshine meet.'

"So, after gazing, homeward turn, and mount
  To that long chamber in the roof; there tell
Your heart the laid-up lore it holds to count
      And prize and ponder well.

"The lookings onward of the race before
  It had a past to make it look behind;
Its reverent wonder, and its doubting sore,
      Its adoration blind.

"The thunder of its war-songs, and the glow
  Of chants to freedom by the old world sung;
The sweet love cadences that long ago
      Dropped from the old-world tongue.

"And then this new-world lore that takes account
  Of tangled star-dust; maps the triple whirl
Of blue and red and argent worlds that mount
      And greet the IRISH EARL;

"Or float across the tube that HERSCHEL sways,
  Like pale-rose chaplets, or like sapphire mist;
Or hang or droop along the heavenly ways,
      Like scarves of amethyst.

"O strange it is and wide the new-world lore,
  For next it treateth of our native dust!
Must dig out buried monsters, and explore
      The green earth's fruitful crust;

"Must write the story of her seething youth--
  How lizards paddled in her lukewarm seas;
Must show the cones she ripened, and forsooth
      Count seasons on her trees;

"Must know her weight, and pry into her age,
  Count her old beach lines by their tidal swell;
Her sunken mountains name, her craters gauge,
      Her cold volcanoes tell;

"And treat her as a ball, that one might pass
  From this hand to the other--such a ball
As he could measure with a blade of grass,
      And say it was but small!

"Honors! O friend, I pray you bear with me:
  The grass hath time to grow in meadow lands,
And leisurely the opal murmuring sea
      Breaks on her yellow sands;

"And leisurely the ring-dove on her nest
  Broods till her tender chick will peck the shell
And leisurely down fall from ferny crest
      The dew-drops on the well;

"And leisurely your life and spirit grew,
  With yet the time to grow and ripen free:
No judgment past withdraws that boon from you,
      Nor granteth it to me.

"Still must I plod, and still in cities moil;
  From precious leisure, learned leisure far,
Dull my best self with handling common soil;
      Yet mine those honors are.

"Mine they are called; they are a name which means,
  'This man had steady pulses, tranquil nerves:
Here, as in other fields, the most he gleans
      Who works and never swerves.

"We measure not his mind; we cannot tell
  What lieth under, over, or beside
The test we put him to; he doth excel,
    We know, where he is tried;

"But, if he boast some farther excellence--
  Mind to create as well as to attain;
To sway his peers by golden eloquence,
    As wind doth shift a fane;

"'To sing among the poets--we are nought:
  We cannot drop a line into that sea
And read its fathoms off, nor gauge a thought,
    Nor map a simile.

"'It may be of all voices sublunar
  The only one he echoes we did try;
We may have come upon the only star
    That twinkles in his sky,'

"And so it was with me."
                         O false my friend!
  False, false, a random charge, a blame undue;
Wrest not fair reasoning to a crooked end:
    False, false, as you are true!

But I read on: "And so it was with me;
  Your golden constellations lying apart
They neither hailed nor greeted heartily,
    Nor noted on their chart.

"And yet to you and not to me belong
  Those finer instincts that, like second sight
And hearing, catch creation's undersong,
      And see by inner light.

"You are a well, whereon I, gazing, see
  Reflections of the upper heavens--a well
From whence come deep, deep echoes up to me--
      Some underwave's low swell.

"I cannot soar into the heights you show,
  Nor dive among the deeps that you reveal;
But it is much that high things ARE to know,
      That deep things ARE to feel.

"'Tis yours, not mine, to pluck out of your breast
  Some human truth, whose workings recondite
Were unattired in words, and manifest
      And hold it forth to light

"And cry, 'Behold this thing that I have found,'
  And though they knew not of it till that day,
Nor should have done with no man to expound
      Its meaning, yet they say,

"'We do accept it: lower than the shoals
  We skim, this diver went, nor did create,
But find it for us deeper in our souls
      Than we can penetrate.'

"You were to me the world's interpreter,
  The man that taught me Nature's unknown tongue,
And to the notes of her wild dulcimer
      First set sweet words, and sung.

"And what am I to you? A steady hand
  To hold, a steadfast heart to trust withal;
Merely a man that loves you, and will stand
      By you, whatever befall.

"But need we praise his tendance tutelar
  Who feeds a flame that warms him? Yet 'tis true
I love you for the sake of what you are,
      And not of what you do:--

"As heaven's high twins, whereof in Tyrian blue
  The one revolveth: through his course immense
Might love his fellow of the damask hue,
      For like, and difference.

"For different pathways evermore decreed
  To intersect, but not to interfere;
For common goal, two aspects, and one speed,
      One centre and one year;

"For deep affinities, for drawings strong,
  That by their nature each must needs exert;
For loved alliance, and for union long,
      That stands before desert.

"And yet desert makes brighter not the less,
  For nearest his own star he shall not fail
To think those rays unmatched for nobleness,
      That distance counts but pale.

"Be pale afar, since still to me you shine,
  And must while Nature's eldest law shall hold;"--
Ah, there's the thought which makes his random line
      Dear as refinèd gold!

Then shall I drink this draft of oxymel,
  Part sweet, part sharp? Myself o'erprized to know
Is sharp; the cause is sweet, and truth to tell
      Few would that cause forego,

Which is, that this of all the men on earth
  Doth love me well enough to count me great--
To think my soul and his of equal girth--
      O liberal estimate!

And yet it is so; he is bound to me,
  For human love makes aliens near of kin;
By it I rise, there is equality:
      I rise to thee, my twin.

"Take courage"--courage! ay, my purple peer
  I will take courage; for thy Tyrian rays
Refresh me to the heart, and strangely dear
      And healing is thy praise.

"Take courage," quoth he, "and respect the mind
  Your Maker gave, for good your fate fulfil;
The fate round many hearts your own to wind."
      Twin soul, I will! I will!

[Illustration]



HONORS.--PART II.

(_The Answer._)


As one who, journeying, checks the rein in haste
  Because a chasm doth yawn across his way
Too wide for leaping, and too steeply faced
      For climber to essay--

As such an one, being brought to sudden stand,
  Doubts all his foregone path if 'twere the true,
And turns to this and then to the other hand
      As knowing not what to do,--

So I, being checked, am with my path at strife
  Which led to such a chasm, and there doth end.
False path! it cost me priceless years of life,
      My well-beloved friend.

There fell a flute when Ganymede went up--
  The flute that he was wont to play upon:
It dropped beside the jonquil's milk-white cup,
      And freckled cowslips wan--

Dropped from his heedless hand when, dazed and mute,
  He sailed upon the eagle's quivering wing,
Aspiring, panting--aye, it dropped--the flute
      Erewhile a cherished thing.

Among the delicate grasses and the bells
  Of crocuses that spotted a rill side,
I picked up such a flute, and its clear swells
      To my young lips replied.

I played thereon, and its response was sweet;
  But lo, they took from me that solacing reed.
"O shame!" they said; "such music is not meet;
      Go up like Ganymede.

"Go up, despise these humble grassy things,
  Sit on the golden edge of yonder cloud."
Alas! though ne'er for me those eagle wings
      Stooped from their eyry proud.

My flute! and flung away its echoes sleep;
  But as for me, my life-pulse beateth low;
And like a last-year's leaf enshrouded deep
      Under the drifting snow,

Or like some vessel wrecked upon the sand
  Of torrid swamps, with all her merchandise,
And left to rot betwixt the sea and land,
      My helpless spirit lies.

Rueing, I think for what then was I made;
  What end appointed for--what use designed?
Now let me right this heart that was bewrayed--
      Unveil these eyes gone blind.

My well-beloved friend, at noon to-day
  Over our cliffs a white mist lay unfurled,
So thick, one standing on their brink might say,
      Lo, here doth end the world.

A white abyss beneath, and nought beside;
  Yet, hark! a cropping sound not ten feet down:
Soon I could trace some browsing lambs that hied
      Through rock-paths cleft and brown.

And here and there green tufts of grass peered through,
  Salt lavender, and sea thrift; then behold
The mist, subsiding ever, bared to view
      A beast of giant mould.

She seemed a great sea-monster lying content
  With all her cubs about her: but deep--deep--
The subtle mist went floating; its descent
      Showed the world's end was steep.

It shook, it melted, shaking more, till, lo,
  The sprawling monster was a rock; her brood
Were boulders, whereon sea-mews white as snow
      Sat watching for their food.

Then once again it sank, its day was done:
  Part rolled away, part vanished utterly,
And glimmering softly under the white sun,
      Behold! a great white sea.

O that the mist which veileth my To-come
  Would so dissolve and yield unto mine eyes
A worthy path! I'd count not wearisome
      Long toil, nor enterprise,

But strain to reach it; ay, with wrestlings stout
  And hopes that even in the dark will grow
(Like plants in dungeons, reaching feelers out),
      And ploddings wary and slow.

Is there such path already made to fit
  The measure of my foot? It shall atone
For much, if I at length may light on it
      And know it for mine own.

But is there none? why, then, 'tis more than well:
  And glad at heart myself will hew one out,
Let me he only sure; for, sooth to tell,
      The sorest dole is doubt--

Doubt, a blank twilight of the heart, which mars
  All sweetest colors in its dimness same;
A soul-mist, through whose rifts familiar stare
      Beholding, we misname.

A ripple on the inner sea, which shakes
  Those images that on its breast reposed;
A fold upon a wind-swayed flag, that breaks
      The motto it disclosed.

O doubt! O doubt! I know my destiny;
  I feel thee fluttering bird-like in my breast;
I cannot loose, but I will sing to thee,
      And flatter thee to rest.

There is no certainty, "my bosom's guest,"
  No proving for the things whereof ye wot;
For, like the dead to sight unmanifest,
      They are, and they are not.

But surely as they are, for God is truth,
  And as they are not, for we saw them die,
So surely from the heaven drops light for youth,
      If youth will walk thereby.

And can I see this light? It may be so;
  "But see it thus and thus," my fathers said.
The living do not rule this world; ah no!
      It is the dead, the dead.

Shall I be slave to every noble soul,
  Study the dead, and to their spirits bend;
Or learn to read my own heart's folded scroll,
      And make self-rule my end?

Thought from _without_--O shall I take on trust,
  And life from others modelled steal or win;
Or shall I heave to light, and clear of rust
      My true life from _within_?

O, let me be myself! But where, O where,
  Under this heap of precedent, this mound
Of customs, modes, and maxims, cumbrance rare,
      Shall the Myself be found?

O thou _Myself_, thy fathers thee debarred
  None of their wisdom, but their folly came
Therewith; they smoothed thy path, but made it hard
      For thee to quit the same.

With glosses they obscured God's natural truth,
  And with tradition tarnished His revealed;
With vain protections they endangered youth,
      With layings bare they sealed.

What aileth thee, myself? Alas! thy hands
  Are tied with old opinions--heir and son,
Thou hast inherited thy father's lands
      And all his debts thereon.

O that some power would give me Adam's eyes!
  O for the straight simplicity of Eve!
For I see nought, or grow, poor fool, too wise
      With seeing to believe.

Exemplars may be heaped until they hide
  The rules that they were made to render plain;
Love may be watched, her nature to decide,
      Until love's self doth wane.

Ah me! and when forgotten and foregone
  We leave the learning of departed days,
And cease the generations past to con,
      Their wisdom and their ways,--

When fain to learn we lean into the dark,
  And grope to feel the floor of the abyss,
Or find the secret boundary lines which mark
      Where soul and matter kiss--

Fair world! these puzzled souls of ours grow weak
  With beating their bruised wings against the rim
That bounds their utmost flying, when they seek
      The distant and the dim.

We pant, we strain like birds against their wires;
  Are sick to reach the vast and the beyond;--
And what avails, if still to our desires
      Those far-off gulfs respond?

Contentment comes not therefore; still there lies
  An outer distance when the first is hailed,
And still forever yawns before our eyes
      An UTMOST--that is veiled.

Searching those edges of the universe,
  We leave the central fields a fallow part;
To feed the eye more precious things amerce,
      And starve the darkened heart.

Then all goes wrong: the old foundations rock;
  One scorns at him of old who gazed unshod;
One striking with a pickaxe thinks the shock
      Shall move the seat of God.

A little way, a very little way
  (Life is so short), they dig into the rind,
And they are very sorry, so they say,--
      Sorry for what they find.

But truth is sacred--ay, and must be told:
  There is a story long beloved of man;
We must forego it, for it will not hold--
      Nature had no such plan.

And then, if "God hath said it," some should cry,
  We have the story from the fountain-head:
Why, then, what better than the old reply,
      The first "Yea, HATH God said?"

The garden, O the garden, must it go,
  Source of our hope and our most dear regret?
The ancient story, must it no more show
      How man may win it yet?

And all upon the Titan child's decree,
  The baby science, born but yesterday,
That in its rash unlearned infancy
      With shells and stones at play,

And delving in the outworks of this world,
  And little crevices that it could reach,
Discovered certain bones laid up, and furled
      Under an ancient beach,

And other waifs that lay to its young mind
  Some fathoms lower than they ought to lie,
By gain whereof it could not fail to find
      Much proof of ancientry,

Hints at a Pedigree withdrawn and vast,
  Terrible deeps, and old obscurities,
Or soulless origin, and twilight passed
      In the primeval seas,

Whereof it tells, as thinking it hath been
  Of truth not meant for man inheritor;
As if this knowledge Heaven had ne'er foreseen
      And not provided for!

Knowledge ordained to live! although the fate
  Of much that went before it was--to die,
And be called ignorance by such as wait
      Till the next drift comes by.

O marvellous credulity of man!
  If God indeed kept secret, couldst thou know
Or follow up the mighty Artisan
      Unless He willed it so?

And canst thou of the Maker think in sooth
  That of the Made He shall be found at fault,
And dream of wresting from Him hidden truth
      By force or by assault?

But if He keeps not secret--if thine eyes
  He openeth to His wondrous work of late--
Think how in soberness thy wisdom lies,
      And have the grace to wait.

Wait, nor against the half-learned lesson fret,
  Nor chide at old belief as if it erred,
Because thou canst not reconcile as yet
      The Worker and the word.

Either the Worker did in ancient days
  Give us the word, His tale of love and might;
(And if in truth He gave it us, who says
      He did not give it right?)

Or else He gave it not, and then indeed
  We know not if HE is--by whom our years
Are portioned, who the orphan moons doth lead,
      And the unfathered spheres.

We sit unowned upon our burial sod
  And know not whence we come or whose we be,
Comfortless mourners for the mount of God,
      The rocks of Calvary:

Bereft of heaven, and of the long-loved page
  Wrought us by some who thought with death to cope.
Despairing comforters, from age to age
      Sowing the seeds of hope:

Gracious deceivers, who have lifted us
  Out of the slough where passed our unknown youth.
Beneficent liars, who have gifted us
      With sacred love of truth!

Farewell to them: yet pause ere thou unmoor
  And set thine ark adrift on unknown seas;
How wert thou bettered so, or more secure
      Thou, and thy destinies?

And if thou searchest, and art made to fear
  Facing of unread riddles dark and hard,
And mastering not their majesty austere,
      Their meaning locked and barred:

How would it make the weight and wonder less,
  If, lifted from immortal shoulders down,
The worlds were cast on seas of emptiness
      In realms without a crown.

And (if there were no God) were left to rue
  Dominion of the air and of the fire?
Then if there be a God, "Let God be true,
      And every man a liar."

But as for me, I do not speak as one
  That is exempt: I am with life at feud:
My heart reproacheth me, as there were none
      Of so small gratitude.

Wherewith shall I console thee, heart o' mine.
  And still thy yearning and resolve thy doubt?
That which I know, and that which I divine,
      Alas! have left thee out.

I have aspired to know the might of God,
  As if the story of His love was furled,
Nor sacred foot the grasses e'er had trod
      Of this redeemèd world:--

Have sunk my thoughts as lead into the deep,
  To grope for that abyss whence evil grew,
And spirits of ill, with eyes that cannot weep,
      Hungry and desolate flew;

As if their legions did not one day crowd
  The death-pangs of the Conquering Good to see!
As if a sacred head had never bowed
      In death for man--for me;

Nor ransomed back the souls beloved, the sons
  Of men, from thraldom with the nether kings
In that dark country where those evil ones
      Trail their unhallowed wings.

And didst Thou love the race that loved not Thee,
  And didst Thou take to heaven a human brow?
Dost plead with man's voice by the marvellous sea?
      Art Thou his kinsman now?

O God, O kinsman loved, but not enough!
  O man, with eyes majestic after death,
Whose feet have toiled along our pathways rough,
     Whose lips drawn human breath!

By that one likeness which is ours and Thine,
  By that one nature which doth hold us kin,
By that high heaven where, sinless, Thou dost shine
      To draw us sinners in,

By Thy last silence in the judgment-hall,
  By long foreknowledge of the deadly tree,
By darkness, by the wormwood and the gall,
      I pray Thee visit me.

Come, lest this heart should, cold and cast away,
  Die ere the guest adored she entertain--
Lest eyes which never saw Thine earthly day
      Should miss Thy heavenly reign.

Come, weary-eyed from seeking in the night
  Thy wanderers strayed upon the pathless wold,
Who wounded, dying, cry to Thee for light,
      And cannot find their fold.

And deign, O Watcher, with the sleepless brow,
  Pathetic in its yearning--deign reply:
Is there, O is there aught that such as Thou
      Wouldst take from such as I?

Are there no briers across Thy pathway thrust?
  Are there no thorns that compass it about?
Nor any stones that Thou wilt deign to trust
      My hands to gather out?

O if Thou wilt, and if such bliss might be,
  It were a cure for doubt, regret, delay--
Let my lost pathway go--what aileth me?--
      There is a better way.

What though unmarked the happy workman toil,
  And break unthanked of man the stubborn clod?
It is enough, for sacred is the soil,
      Dear are the hills of God.

Far better in its place the lowliest bird
  Should sing aright to Him the lowliest song,
Than that a seraph strayed should take the word
      And sing His glory wrong.

Friend, it is time to work. I say to thee,
  Thou dost all earthly good by much excel;
Thou and God's blessing are enough for me:
       My work, my work--farewell!



REQUIESCAT IN PACE!


My heart is sick awishing and awaiting:
  The lad took up his knapsack, he went, he went his way;
And I looked on for his coming, as a prisoner through the grating
  Looks and longs and longs and wishes for its opening day.

On the wild purple mountains, all alone with no other,
  The strong terrible mountains he longed, he longed to be;
And he stooped to kiss his father, and he stooped to kiss his mother,
  And till I said, "Adieu, sweet Sir," he quite forgot me.

He wrote of their white raiment, the ghostly capes that screen them,
  Of the storm winds that beat them, their thunder-rents and scars,
And the paradise of purple, and the golden slopes atween them,
  And fields, where grow God's gentian bells, and His crocus stars.

He wrote of frail gauzy clouds, that drop on them like fleeces,
  And make green their fir forests, and feed their mosses hoar;
Or come sailing up the valleys, and get wrecked and go to pieces,
  Like sloops against their cruel strength: then he wrote no more.

O the silence that came next, the patience and long aching!
  They never said so much as "He was a dear loved son;"
Not the father to the mother moaned, that dreary stillness breaking:
  "Ah! wherefore did he leave us so--this, our only one."

They sat within, as waiting, until the neighbors prayed them,
  At Cromer, by the sea-coast, 'twere peace and change to be;
And to Cromer, in their patience, or that urgency affrayed them,
  Or because the tidings tarried, they came, and took me.

It was three months and over since the dear lad had started:
  On the green downs at Cromer I sat to see the view;
On an open space of herbage, where the ling and fern had parted,
  Betwixt the tall white lighthouse towers, the old and the new.

Below me lay the wide sea, the scarlet sun was stooping,
  And he dyed the waste water, as with a scarlet dye;
And he dyed the lighthouse towers; every bird with white wing swooping
  Took his colors, and the cliffs did, and the yawning sky.

Over grass came that strange flush, and over ling and heather,
  Over flocks of sheep and lambs, and over Cromer town;
And each filmy cloudlet crossing drifted like a scarlet feather
  Torn from the folded wings of clouds, while he settled down.

When I looked, I dared not sigh:--In the light of God's splendor,
  With His daily blue and gold, who am I? what am I?
But that passion and outpouring seemed an awful sign and tender,
  Like the blood of the Redeemer, shown on earth and sky.

O for comfort, O the waste of a long doubt and trouble!
  On that sultry August eve trouble had made me meek;
I was tired of my sorrow--O so faint, for it was double
  In the weight of its oppression, that I could not speak!

And a little comfort grew, while the dimmed eyes were feeding,
  And the dull ears with murmur of water satisfied;
But a dream came slowly nigh me, all my thoughts and fancy leading
  Across the bounds of waking life to the other side.

And I dreamt that I looked out, to the waste waters turning,
  And saw the flakes of scarlet from wave to wave tossed on;
And the scarlet mix with azure, where a heap of gold lay burning
  On the clear remote sea reaches; for the sun was gone.

Then I thought a far-off shout dropped across the still water--
  A question as I took it, for soon an answer came
From the tall white ruined lighthouse: "If it be the old man's daughter
  That we wot of," ran the answer, "what then--who's to blame?"

I looked up at the lighthouse all roofless and storm-broken:
  A great white bird sat on it, with neck stretched out to sea;
Unto somewhat which was sailing in a skiff the bird had spoken,
  And a trembling seized my spirit, for they talked of me.

I was the old man's daughter, the bird went on to name him;
  "He loved to count the starlings as he sat in the sun;
Long ago he served with Nelson, and his story did not shame him:
  Ay, the old man was a good man--and his work was done."

The skiff was like a crescent, ghost of some moon departed,
  Frail, white, she rocked and curtseyed as the red wave she crossed,
And the thing within sat paddling, and the crescent dipped and darted,
  Flying on, again was shouting, but the words were lost.

I said, "That thing is hooded; I could hear but that floweth
  The great hood below its mouth:" then the bird made reply.
"If they know not, more's the pity, for the little shrew-mouse knoweth,
  And the kite knows, and the eagle, and the glead and pye."

And he stooped to whet his beak on the stones of the coping;
  And when once more the shout came, in querulous tones he spake,
"What I said was 'more's the pity;' if the heart be long past hoping,
  Let it say of death, 'I know it,' or doubt on and break.

"Men must die--one dies by day, and near him moans his mother,
  They dig his grave, tread it down, and go from it full loth:
And one dies about the midnight, and the wind moans, and no other,
  And the snows give him a burial--and God loves them both.

"The first hath no advantage--it shall not soothe his slumber
  That a lock of his brown hair his father aye shall keep;
For the last, he nothing grudgeth, it shall nought his quiet cumber,
  That in a golden mesh of HIS callow eaglets sleep.

"Men must die when all is said, e'en the kite and glead know it,
  And the lad's father knew it, and the lad, the lad too;
It was never kept a secret, waters bring it and winds blow it,
  And he met it on the mountain--why then make ado?"

With that he spread his white wings, and swept across the water,
  Lit upon the hooded head, and it and all went down;
And they laughed as they went under, and I woke, "the old man's daughter."
  And looked across the slope of grass, and at Cromer town.

And I said, "Is that the sky, all gray and silver-suited?"
  And I thought, "Is that the sea that lies so white and wan?
I have dreamed as I remember: give me time--I was reputed
  Once to have a steady courage--O, I fear 'tis gone!"

And I said, "Is this my heart? if it be, low 'tis beating
  So he lies on the mountain, hard by the eagles' brood;
I have had a dream this evening, while the white and gold were fleeting,
  But I need not, need not tell it--where would be the good?

"Where would be the good to them, his father and his mother?
  For the ghost of their dead hope appeareth to them still.
While a lonely watch-fire smoulders, who its dying red would smother,
  That gives what little light there is to a darksome hill?"

I rose up, I made no moan, I did not cry nor falter,
  But slowly in the twilight I came to Cromer town.
What can wringing of the hands do that which is ordained to alter?
  He had climbed, had climbed the mountain, he would ne'er come down.

But, O my first, O my best, I could not choose but love thee:
  O, to be a wild white bird, and seek thy rocky bed!
From my breast I'd give thee burial, pluck the down and spread above thee;
  I would sit and sing thy requiem on the mountain head.

Fare thee well, my love of loves! would I had died before thee!
  O, to be at least a cloud, that near thee I might flow,
Solemnly approach the mountain, weep away my being o'er thee,
  And veil thy breast with icicles, and thy brow with snow!



SUPPER AT THE MILL.


_Mother._
Well, Frances.

_Frances._
Well, good mother, how are you?

  _M._ I'm hearty, lass, but warm; the weather's warm:
I think 'tis mostly warm on market days.
I met with George behind the mill: said he,
"Mother, go in and rest awhile."

  _F._                       Ay, do,
And stay to supper; put your basket down.

  _M._ Why, now, it is not heavy?

  _F._                       Willie, man,
Get up and kiss your Granny. Heavy, no!
Some call good churning luck; but, luck or skill,
Your butter mostly comes as firm and sweet
As if 'twas Christmas. So you sold it all?

  _M._ All but this pat that I put by for George;
He always loved my butter.

  _F._                     That he did.

  _M._ And has your speckled hen brought off her brood?

  _F._ Not yet; but that old duck I told you of,
She hatched eleven out of twelve to-day.

  _Child._ And, Granny, they're so yellow.

  _M._                                    Ay, my lad,
Yellow as gold--yellow as Willie's hair.

  _C._ They're all mine, Granny, father says they're mine.

  _M._ To think of that!

  _F._                  Yes, Granny, only think!
Why, father means to sell them when they're fat.
And put the money in the savings-bank,
And all against our Willie goes to school:
But Willie would not touch them--no, not he;
He knows that father would be angry else.

  _C._ But I want one to play with--O, I want
A little yellow duck to take to bed!

  _M._ What! would ye rob the poor old mother, then?

  _F._ Now, Granny, if you'll hold the babe awhile;
'Tis time I took up Willie to his crib.
                                      _[Exit FRANCES._

[_Mother sings to the infant_.]

    Playing on the virginals,
      Who but I? Sae glad, sae free,
    Smelling for all cordials,
      The green mint and marjorie;
    Set among the budding broom,
      Kingcup and daffodilly;
    By my side I made him room:
      O love my Willie!

    "Like me, love me, girl o' gowd,"
      Sang he to my nimble strain;
    Sweet his ruddy lips o'erflowed
      Till my heartstrings rang again:
    By the broom, the bonny broom,
      Kingcup and daffodilly,
    In my heart I made him room:
      O love my Willie!

    "Pipe and play, dear heart," sang he,
      "I must go, yet pipe and play;
    Soon I'll come and ask of thee
      For an answer yea or nay;"
    And I waited till the flocks
      Panted in yon waters stilly,
    And the corn stood in the shocks:
      O love my Willie!

    I thought first when thou didst come
      I would wear the ring for thee,
    But the year told out its sum,
      Ere again thou sat'st by me;
    Thou hadst nought to ask that day
      By kingcup and daffodilly;
    I said neither yea nor nay:
      O love my Willie!

_Enter_ GEORGE.

  _George_. Well, mother, 'tis a fortnight now, or more,
Since I set eyes on you.

  _M._             Ay, George, my dear,
I reckon you've been busy: so have we.

  _G._ And how does father?

  _M._                     He gets through his work.
But he grows stiff, a little stiff, my dear;
He's not so young, you know, by twenty years
As I am--not so young by twenty years,
And I'm past sixty.

  _G._         Yet he's hale and stout,
And seems to take a pleasure in his pipe;
And seems to take a pleasure in his cows,
And a pride, too.

  _M._       And well he may, my dear.

  _G._ Give me the little one, he tires your arm,
He's such a kicking, crowing, wakeful rogue,
He almost wears our lives out with his noise
Just at day-dawning, when we wish to sleep.
What! you young villain, would you clench your fist
In father's curls? a dusty father, sure,
And you're as clean as wax.
                           Ay, you may laugh;
But if you live a seven years more or so,
These hands of yours will all be brown and scratched
With climbing after nest-eggs. They'll go down
As many rat-holes as are round the mere;
And you'll love mud, all manner of mud and dirt,
As your father did afore you, and you'll wade
After young water-birds; and you'll get bogged
Setting of eel-traps, and you'll spoil your clothes,
And come home torn and dripping: then, you know,
You'll feel the stick--you'll feel the stick, my lad!

_Enter FRANCES._

  _F._ You should not talk so to the blessed babe--
How can you, George? why, he may be in heaven
Before the time you tell of.

  _M._                  Look at him:
So earnest, such an eager pair of eyes!
He thrives, my dear.

  _F._          Yes, that he does, thank God
My children are all strong.

  _M._                 'Tis much to say;
Sick children fret their mother's hearts to shreds,
And do no credit to their keep nor care.
Where is your little lass?

  _F._                Your daughter came
And begged her of us for a week or so.

  _M._ Well, well, she might be wiser, that she might,
For she can sit at ease and pay her way;
A sober husband, too--a cheerful man--
Honest as ever stepped, and fond of her;
Yet she is never easy, never glad,
Because she has not children. Well-a-day!
If she could know how hard her mother worked,
And what ado I had, and what a moil
With my half-dozen! Children, ay, forsooth,
They bring their own love with them when they come,
But if they come not there is peace and rest;
The pretty lambs! and yet she cries for more:
Why the world's full of them, and so is heaven--
They are not rare.

_G._          No, mother, not at all;
But Hannah must not keep our Fanny long--
She spoils her.

  _M._     Ah! folks spoil their children now;
When I was a young woman 'twas not so;
We made our children fear us, made them work,
Kept them in order.

  _G._         Were not proud of them--
Eh, mother?

  _M._   I set store by mine, 'tis true,
But then I had good cause.

  _G._                My lad, d'ye hear?
Your Granny was not proud, by no means proud!
She never spoilt your father--no, not she,
Nor ever made him sing at harvest-home,
Nor at the forge, nor at the baker's shop,
Nor to the doctor while she lay abed
Sick, and he crept upstairs to share her broth.

  _M._ Well, well, you were my youngest, and, what's more
Your father loved to hear you sing--he did,
Although, good man, he could not tell one tune
From the other.

  _F._     No, he got his voice from you:
Do use it, George, and send the child to sleep.

  _G._ What must I sing?

  _F._                   The ballad of the man
That is so shy he cannot speak his mind.

  _G._ Ay, of the purple grapes and crimson leaves;
But, mother, put your shawl and bonnet off.
And, Frances, lass, I brought some cresses in:
Just wash them, toast the bacon, break some eggs,
And let's to supper shortly.

[_Sings._]

    My neighbor White--we met to-day--
    He always had a cheerful way,
      As if he breathed at ease;
    My neighbor White lives down the glade,
    And I live higher, in the shade
      Of my old walnut-trees.

    So many lads and lasses small,
    To feed them all, to clothe them all,
      Must surely tax his wit;
    I see his thatch when I look out,
    His branching roses creep about,
      And vines half smother it.

    There white-haired urchins climb his eaves,
    And little watch-fires heap with leaves,
      And milky filberts hoard;
    And there his oldest daughter stands
    With downcast eyes and skilful hands
      Before her ironing-board.

    She comforts all her mother's days,
    And with her sweet obedient ways
      She makes her labor light;
    So sweet to hear, so fair to see!
    O, she is much too good for me,
      That lovely Lettice White!

    'Tis hard to feel one's self a fool!
    With that same lass I went to school--
      I then was great and wise;
    She read upon an easier book,
    And I--I never cared to look
      Into her shy blue eyes.

    And now I know they must be there
    Sweet eyes, behind those lashes fair
      That will not raise their rim:
    If maids be shy, he cures who can;
    But if a man be shy--a man--
      Why then the worse for him!

    My mother cries, "For such a lad
    A wife is easy to be had
      And always to be found;
    A finer scholar scarce can be,
    And for a foot and leg," says she,
      "He beats the country round!

    "My handsome boy must stoop his head
    To clear her door whom he would wed."
      Weak praise, but fondly sung!
    "O mother! scholars sometimes fail--
    And what can foot and leg avail
      To him that wants a tongue?"

    When by her ironing-board I sit,
    Her little sisters round me flit,
      And bring me forth their store;
    Dark cluster grapes of dusty blue,
    And small sweet apples bright of hue
      And crimson to the core.

    But she abideth silent, fair,
    All shaded by her flaxen hair
      The blushes come and go;
    I look, and I no more can speak
    Than the red sun that on her cheek
      Smiles as he lieth low.

    Sometimes the roses by the latch
    Or scarlet vine-leaves from her thatch
      Come sailing down like birds;
    When from their drifts her board I clear,
    She thanks me, but I scarce can hear
      The shyly uttered words.

    Oft have I wooed sweet Lettice White
    By daylight and by candlelight
      When we two were apart.
    Some better day come on apace,
    And let me tell her face to face,
      "Maiden, thou hast my heart."

    How gently rock yon poplars high
    Against the reach of primrose sky
      With heaven's pale candles stored!
    She sees them all, sweet Lettice White;
    I'll e'en go sit again to-night
      Beside her ironing-board!

Why, you young rascal! who would think it, now?
No sooner do I stop than you look up.
What would you have your poor old father do?
'Twas a brave song, long-winded, and not loud.

  _M._ He heard the bacon sputter on the fork,
And heard his mother's step across the floor.
Where did you get that song?--'tis new to me.

  _G._  I bought it of a peddler.

  _M._                          Did you so?
Well, you were always for the love-songs, George.

  _F._ My dear, just lay his head upon your arm.
And if you'll pace and sing two minutes more
He needs must sleep--his eyes are full of sleep.

  _G._ Do you sing, mother.

  _F._                      Ay, good mother, do;
'Tis long since we have heard you.

  _M._                        Like enough;
I'm an old woman, and the girls and lads
I used to sing to sleep o'ertop me now.
What should I sing for?

  _G._             Why, to pleasure us.
Sing in the chimney corner, where you sit,
And I'll pace gently with the little one.

[_Mother sings._]

    When sparrows build, and the leaves break forth,
      My old sorrow wakes and cries,
    For I know there is dawn in the far, far north,
      And a scarlet sun doth rise;
    Like a scarlet fleece the snow-field spreads,
      And the icy founts run free,
    And the bergs begin to bow their heads,
      And plunge, and sail in the sea.

    O my lost love, and my own, own love,
      And my love that loved me so!
    Is there never a chink in the world above
      Where they listen for words from below?
    Nay, I spoke once, and I grieved thee sore,
      I remember all that I said,
    And now thou wilt hear me no more--no more
      Till the sea gives up her dead.

    Thou didst set thy foot on the ship, and sail
      To the ice-fields and the snow;
    Thou wert sad, for thy love did not avail,
      And the end I could not know;
    How could I tell I should love thee to-day,
      Whom that day I held not dear?
    How could I know I should love thee away
      When I did not love thee anear?

    We shall walk no more through the sodden plain
      With the faded bents o'erspread,
    We shall stand no more by the seething main
      While the dark wrack drives overhead;
    We shall part no more in the wind and the rain,
      Where thy last farewell was said;
    But perhaps I shall meet thee and know thee again
      When the sea gives up her dead.

  _F._ Asleep at last, and time he was, indeed.
Turn back the cradle-quilt, and lay him in;
And, mother, will you please to draw your chair?--
The supper's ready.



SCHOLAR AND CARPENTER.


While ripening corn grew thick and deep,
And here and there men stood to reap,
One morn I put my heart to sleep,
  And to the lanes I took my way.
The goldfinch on a thistle-head
Stood scattering seedlets while she fed;
The wrens their pretty gossip spread,
  Or joined a random roundelay.

On hanging cobwebs shone the dew,
And thick the wayside clovers grew;
The feeding bee had much to do,
  So fast did honey-drops exude:
She sucked and murmured, and was gone,
And lit on other blooms anon,
The while I learned a lesson on
  The source and sense of quietude.

For sheep-bells chiming from a wold,
Or bleat of lamb within its fold,
Or cooing of love-legends old
  To dove-wives make not quiet less;
Ecstatic chirp of wingèd thing,
Or bubbling of the water-spring,
Are sounds that more than silence bring
  Itself and its delightsomeness.

While thus I went to gladness fain,
I had but walked a mile or twain
Before my heart woke up again,
  As dreaming she had slept too late;
The morning freshness that she viewed
With her own meanings she endued,
And touched with her solicitude
  The natures she did meditate.

"If quiet is, for it I wait;
To it, ah! let me wed my fate,
And, like a sad wife, supplicate
  My roving lord no more to flee;
If leisure is--but, ah! 'tis not--
'Tis long past praying for, God wot;
The fashion of it men forgot,
  About the age of chivalry.

"Sweet is the leisure of the bird;
She craves no time for work deferred;
Her wings are not to aching stirred
  Providing for her helpless ones.
Fair is the leisure of the wheat;
All night the damps about it fleet;
All day it basketh in the heat,
  And grows, and whispers orisons.

"Grand is the leisure of the earth;
She gives her happy myriads birth,
And after harvest fears not dearth,
  But goes to sleep in snow-wreaths dim.
Dread is the leisure up above
The while He sits whose name is Love,
And waits, as Noah did, for the dove,
  To wit if she would fly to him.

"He waits for us, while, houseless things,
We beat about with bruisèd wings
On the dark floods and water-springs,
  The ruined world, the desolate sea;
With open windows from the prime
All night, all day, He waits sublime,
Until the fulness of the time
  Decreed from His eternity.

"Where is OUR leisure?--give us rest.
Where is the quiet we possessed?
We must have had it once--were blest
  With peace whose phantoms yet entice.
Sorely the mother of mankind
Longed for the garden left behind;
For we prove yet some yearnings blind
  Inherited from Paradise."

"Hold, heart!" I cried; "for trouble sleeps;
I hear no sound of aught that weeps;
I will not look into thy deeps--
  I am afraid, I am afraid!"
"Afraid!" she saith; "and yet 'tis true
That what man dreads he still should view--
Should do the thing he fears to do,
  And storm the ghosts in ambuscade."

"What good?" I sigh. "Was reason meant
To straighten branches that are bent,
Or soothe an ancient discontent,
  The instinct of a race dethroned?
Ah! doubly should that instinct go
Must the four rivers cease to flow,
Nor yield those rumors sweet and low
  Wherewith man's life is undertoned."

"Yet had I but the past," she cries,
"And it was lost, I would arise
And comfort me some other wise.
  But more than loss about me clings:
I am but restless with my race;
The whispers from a heavenly place,
Once dropped among us, seem to chase
  Rest with their prophet-visitings.

"The race is like a child, as yet
Too young for all things to be set
Plainly before him with no let
  Or hindrance meet for his degree;
But nevertheless by much too old
Not to perceive that men withhold
More of the story than is told,
  And so infer a mystery.

"If the Celestials daily fly
With messages on missions high,
And float, our masts and turrets nigh,
  Conversing on Heaven's great intents;
What wonder hints of coming things,
Whereto man's hope and yearning clings,
Should drop like feathers from their wings
  And give us vague presentiments?

"And as the waxing moon can take
The tidal waters in her wake,
And lead them round and round to break
  Obedient to her drawings dim;
So may the movements of His mind,
The first Great Father of mankind,
Affect with answering movements blind,
  And draw the souls that breathe by Him.

"We had a message long ago
That like a river peace should flow,
And Eden bloom again below.
  We heard, and we began to wait:
Full soon that message men forgot;
Yet waiting is their destined lot,
And waiting for they know not what
  They strive with yearnings passionate.

"Regret and faith alike enchain;
There was a loss, there comes a gain;
We stand at fault betwixt the twain,
  And that is veiled for which we pant.
Our lives are short, our ten times seven;
We think the councils held in heaven
Sit long, ere yet that blissful leaven
  Work peace amongst the militant.

"Then we blame God that sin should be;
Adam began it at the tree,
'The woman whom THOU gavest me;
  And we adopt his dark device.
O long Thou tarriest! come and reign,
And bring forgiveness in Thy train,
And give us in our hands again
  The apples of Thy Paradise."

"Far-seeing heart! if that be all
The happy things that did not fall,"
I sighed, "from every coppice call
  They never from that garden went.
Behold their joy, so comfort thee,
Behold the blossom and the bee,
For they are yet as good and free
  As when poor Eve was innocent

"But reason thus: 'If we sank low,
If the lost garden we forego,
Each in his day, nor ever know
  But in our poet souls its face;
Yet we may rise until we reach
A height untold of in its speech--
A lesson that it could not teach
  Learn in this darker dwelling-place.

"And reason on: 'We take the spoil;
Loss made us poets, and the soil
Taught us great patience in our toil,
  And life is kin to God through death.
Christ were not One with us but so,
And if bereft of Him we go;
Dearer the heavenly mansions grow,
  HIS home, to man that wandereth.'

"Content thee so, and ease thy smart."
With that she slept again, my heart,
And I admired and took my part
  With crowds of happy things the while:
With open velvet butterflies
That swung and spread their peacock eyes,
As if they cared no more to rise
  From off their beds of camomile.

The blackcaps in an orchard met,
Praising the berries while they ate:
The finch that flew her beak to whet
  Before she joined them on the tree;
The water mouse among the reeds--
His bright eyes glancing black as beads,
So happy with a bunch of seeds--
  I felt their gladness heartily.

But I came on, I smelt the hay,
And up the hills I took my way,
And down them still made holiday,
  And walked, and wearied not a whit;
But ever with the lane I went
Until it dropped with steep descent,
Cut deep into the rock, a tent
  Of maple branches roofing it.

Adown the rock small runlets wept,
And reckless ivies leaned and crept,
And little spots of sunshine slept
  On its brown steeps and made them fair;
And broader beams athwart it shot,
Where martins cheeped in many a knot,
For they had ta'en a sandy plot
  And scooped another Petra there.

And deeper down, hemmed in and hid
From upper light and life amid
The swallows gossiping, I thrid
  Its mazes, till the dipping land
Sank to the level of my lane.
That was the last hill of the chain,
And fair below I saw the plain
  That seemed cold cheer to reprimand.

Half-drowned in sleepy peace it lay,
As satiate with the boundless play
Of sunshine in its green array.
  And clear-cut hills of gloomy blue,
To keep it safe rose up behind,
As with a charmèd ring to bind
The grassy sea, where clouds might find
  A place to bring their shadows to.

I said, and blest that pastoral grace,
"How sweet thou art, thou sunny place!
Thy God approves thy smiling face:"
  But straight my heart put in her word;
She said, "Albeit thy face I bless,
There have been times, sweet wilderness,
When I have wished to love thee less,
  Such pangs thy smile administered."

But, lo! I reached a field of wheat,
And by its gate full clear and sweet
A workman sang, while at his feet
  Played a young child, all life and stir--
A three years' child, with rosy lip,
Who in the song had partnership,
Made happy with each falling chip
  Dropped by the busy carpenter.

This, reared a new gate for the old,
And loud the tuneful measure rolled,
But stopped as I came up to hold
  Some kindly talk of passing things.
Brave were his eyes, and frank his mien;
Of all men's faces, calm or keen,
A better I have never seen
  In all my lonely wanderings.

And how it was I scarce can tell,
We seemed to please each other well;
I lingered till a noonday bell
  Had sounded, and his task was done.
An oak had screened us from the heat;
And 'neath it in the standing wheat,
A cradle and a fair retreat,
  Full sweetly slept the little one.

The workman rested from his stroke,
And manly were the words he spoke,
Until the smiling babe awoke
  And prayed to him for milk and food.
Then to a runlet forth he went,
And brought a wallet from the bent,
And bade me to the meal, intent
  I should not quit his neighborhood.

"For here," said he, "are bread and beer,
And meat enough to make good cheer;
Sir, eat with me, and have no fear,
  For none upon my work depend,
Saving this child; and I may say
That I am rich, for every day
I put by somewhat; therefore stay,
  And to such eating condescend."

We ate. The child--child fair to see--
Began to cling about his knee,
And he down leaning fatherly
  Received some softly-prattled prayer;
He smiled as if to list were balm,
And with his labor-hardened palm
Pushed from the baby-forehead calm
  Those shining locks that clustered there.

The rosy mouth made fresh essay--
"O would he sing, or would he play?"
I looked, my thought would make its way--
  "Fair is your child of face and limb,
The round blue eyes full sweetly shine."
He answered me with glance benign--
"Ay, Sir; but he is none of mine.
  Although I set great store by him."

With that, as if his heart was fain
To open--nathless not complain--
He let my quiet questions gain
  His story: "Not of kin to me,"
Repeating; "but asleep, awake,
For worse, for better, him I take,
To cherish for my dead wife's sake,
  And count him as her legacy.

"I married with the sweetest lass
That ever stepped on meadow grass;
That ever at her looking-glass
  Some pleasure took, some natural care;
That ever swept a cottage floor
And worked all day, nor e'er gave o'er
Till eve, then watched beside the door
  Till her good man should meet her there.

"But I lost all in its fresh prime;
My wife fell ill before her time--
Just as the bells began to chime
  One Sunday morn. By next day's light
Her little babe was born and dead,
And she, unconscious what she said,
With feeble hands about her spread,
  Sought it with yearnings infinite.

"With mother-longing still beguiled,
And lost in fever-fancies wild,
She piteously bemoaned her child
  That we had stolen, she said, away.
And ten sad days she sighed to me,
'I cannot rest until I see
My pretty one! I think that he
  Smiled in my face but yesterday.'

"Then she would change, and faintly try
To sing some tender lullaby;
And 'Ah!' would moan, 'if I should die,
  Who, sweetest babe, would cherish thee?'
Then weep, 'My pretty boy is grown;
With tender feet on the cold stone
He stands, for he can stand alone,
  And no one leads him motherly.'

"Then she with dying movements slow
Would seem to knit, or seem to sew:
'His feet are bare, he must not go
  Unshod:' and as her death drew on,
'O little baby,' she would sigh;
'My little child, I cannot die
Till I have you to slumber nigh--
  You, you to set mine eyes upon.'

"When she spake thus, and moaning lay,
They said, 'She cannot pass away,
So sore she longs:' and as the day
  Broke on the hills, I left her side.
Mourning along this lane I went;
Some travelling folk had pitched their tent
Up yonder: there a woman, bent
  With age, sat meanly canopied.

"A twelvemonths' child was at her side:
'Whose infant may that be?' I cried.
'His that will own him,' she replied;
  'His mother's dead, no worse could be.'
'Since you can give--or else I erred--
See, you are taken at your word,'
Quoth I; 'That child is mine; I heard,
  And own him! Rise, and give him me.'

"She rose amazed, but cursed me too;
She could not hold such luck for true,
But gave him soon, with small ado.
  I laid him by my Lucy's side:
Close to her face that baby crept,
And stroked it, and the sweet soul wept;
Then, while upon her arm he slept,
  She passed, for she was satisfied.

"I loved her well, I wept her sore,
And when her funeral left my door
I thought that I should never more
  Feel any pleasure near me glow;
But I have learned, though this I had,
'Tis sometimes natural to be glad,
And no man can be always sad
  Unless he wills to have it so.

"Oh, I had heavy nights at first,
And daily wakening was the worst:
For then my grief arose, and burst
  Like something fresh upon my head;
Yet when less keen it seemed to grow,
I was not pleased--I wished to go
Mourning adown this vale of woe,
  For all my life uncomforted.

"I grudged myself the lightsome air,
That makes man cheerful unaware;
When comfort came, I did not care
  To take it in, to feel it stir:
And yet God took with me his plan,
And now for my appointed span
I think I am a happier man
  For having wed and wept for her.

"Because no natural tie remains,
On this small thing I spend my gains;
God makes me love him for my pains,
  And binds me so to wholesome care
I would not lose from my past life
That happy year, that happy wife!
Yet now I wage no useless strife
  With feelings blithe and debonair.

"I have the courage to be gay,
Although she lieth lapped away
Under the daisies, for I say,
  'Thou wouldst be glad if thou couldst see':
My constant thought makes manifest
I have not what I love the best,
But I must thank God for the rest
  While I hold heaven a verity."

He rose, upon his shoulder set
The child, and while with vague regret
We parted, pleased that we had met,
  My heart did with herself confer;
With wholesome shame she did repent
Her reasonings idly eloquent,
And said, "I might be more content:
  But God go with the carpenter."



THE STAR'S MONUMENT.

IN THE CONCLUDING PART OF A DISCOURSE ON FAME.


(_He thinks._)

If there be memory in the world to come,
  If thought recur to SOME THINGS silenced here,
Then shall the deep heart be no longer dumb,
  But find expression in that happier sphere;
It shall not be denied their utmost sum
  Of love, to speak without or fault or fear,
But utter to the harp with changes sweet
Words that, forbidden still, then heaven were incomplete.

(_He speaks._)

Now let us talk about the ancient days,
  And things which happened long before our birth:
It is a pity to lament that praise
  Should be no shadow in the train of worth.
What is it, Madam, that your heart dismays?
  Why murmur at the course of this vast earth?
Think rather of the work than of the praise;
Come, we will talk about the ancient days.

There was a Poet, Madam, once (said he);
  I will relate his story to you now.
While through the branches of this apple-tree
  Some spots of sunshine flicker on your brow;
While every flower hath on its breast a bee,
  And every bird in stirring doth endow
The grass with falling blooms that smoothly glide,
As ships drop down a river with the tide.

For telling of his tale no fitter place
  Then this old orchard, sloping to the west;
Through its pink dome of blossom I can trace
  Some overlying azure; for the rest,
These flowery branches round us interlace;
  The ground is hollowed like a mossy nest:
Who talks of fame while the religious Spring
Offers the incense of her blossoming?

There was a Poet, Madam, once (said he),
  Who, while he walked at sundown in a lane,
Took to his heart the hope that destiny
  Had singled him this guerdon to obtain,
That by the power of his sweet minstrelsy
  Some hearts for truth and goodness he should gain.
And charm some grovellers to uplift their eyes
And suddenly wax conscious of the skies.

"Master, good e'en to ye!" a woodman said,
  Who the low hedge was trimming with his shears.
"This hour is fine"--the Poet bowed his head.
  "More fine," he thought, "O friend! to me appears
The sunset than to you; finer the spread
  Of orange lustre through these azure spheres,
Where little clouds lie still, like flocks of sheep,
Or vessels sailing in God's other deep.

"O finer far! What work so high as mine,
  Interpreter betwixt the world and man,
Nature's ungathered pearls to set and shrine,
  The mystery she wraps her in to scan;
Her unsyllabic voices to combine,
  And serve her with such love as poets can;
With mortal words, her chant of praise to bind,
Then die, and leave the poem to mankind?

"O fair, O fine, O lot to be desired!
  Early and late my heart appeals to me,
And says, 'O work, O will--Thou man, be fired
  To earn this lot,'--she says, 'I would not be
A worker for mine OWN bread, or one hired
  For mine OWN profit. O, I would be free
To work for others; love so earned of them
Should be my wages and my diadem.

"'Then when I died I should not fall,' says she,
  'Like dropping flowers that no man noticeth,
But like a great branch of some stately tree
  Rent in a tempest, and flung down to death,
Thick with green leafage--so that piteously
  Each passer by that ruin shuddereth,
And saith, The gap this branch hath left is wide;
The loss thereof can never be supplied.'"

But, Madam, while the Poet pondered so,
  Toward the leafy hedge he turned his eye,
And saw two slender branches that did grow,
  And from it rising spring and flourish high:
Their tops were twined together fast, and, lo,
  Their shadow crossed the path as he went by--
The shadow of a wild rose and a brier,
And it was shaped in semblance like a lyre.

In sooth, a lyre! and as the soft air played,
  Those branches stirred, but did not disunite.
"O emblem meet for me!" the Poet said;
  "Ay, I accept and own thee for my right;
The shadowy lyre across my feet is laid,
  Distinct though frail, and clear with crimson light,
Fast is it twined to bear the windy strain,
And, supple, it will bend and rise again.

"This lyre is cast across the dusty way,
  The common path that common men pursue,
I crave like blessing for my shadowy lay,
  Life's trodden paths with beauty to renew,
And cheer the eve of many a toil-stained day.
  Light it, old sun, wet it, thou common dew,
That 'neath men's feet its image still may be
While yet it waves above them, living lyre, like thee!"

But even as the Poet spoke, behold
  He lifted up his face toward the sky;
The ruddy sun dipt under the gray wold,
  His shadowy lyre was gone; and, passing by,
The woodman lifting up his shears, was bold
  Their temper on those branches twain to try,
And all their loveliness and leafage sweet
Fell in the pathway, at the Poet's feet.

"Ah! my fair emblem that I chose," quoth he,
  "That for myself I coveted but now,
Too soon, methinks, them hast been false to me;
  The lyre from pathway fades, the light from brow."
Then straightway turned he from it hastily,
As dream that waking sense will disallow;
And while the highway heavenward paled apace,
He went on westward to his dwelling-place.

He went on steadily, while far and fast
  The summer darkness dropped upon the world,
A gentle air among the cloudlets passed
  And fanned away their crimson; then it curled
The yellow poppies in the field, and cast
  A dimness on the grasses, for it furled
Their daisies, and swept out the purple stain
That eve had left upon the pastoral plain.

He reached his city. Lo! the darkened street
  Where he abode was full of gazing crowds;
He heard the muffled tread of many feet;
  A multitude stood gazing at the clouds.
"What mark ye there," said he, "and wherefore meet?
  Only a passing mist the heaven o'ershrouds;
It breaks, it parts, it drifts like scattered spars--
What lies behind it but the nightly stars?"

Then did the gazing crowd to him aver
  They sought a lamp in heaven whose light was hid:
For that in sooth an old Astronomer
  Down from his roof had rushed into their mid,
Frighted, and fain with others to confer,
  That he had cried, "O sirs!"--and upward bid
Them gaze--"O sirs, a light is quenched afar;
Look up, my masters, we have lost a star!"

The people pointed, and the Poet's eyes
  Flew upward, where a gleaming sisterhood
Swam in the dewy heaven. The very skies
  Were mutable; for all-amazed he stood
To see that truly not in any wise
  He could behold them as of old, nor could
His eyes receive the whole whereof he wot,
But when he told them over, one WAS NOT.

While yet he gazed and pondered reverently,
  The fickle folk began to move away.
"It is but one star less for us to see;
  And what does one star signify?" quoth they:
"The heavens are full of them." "But, ah!" said he,
  "That star was bright while yet she lasted." "Ay!"
They answered: "Praise her, Poet, an' ye will:
Some are now shining that are brighter still."

"Poor star! to be disparagèd so soon
  On her withdrawal," thus the Poet sighed;
"That men should miss, and straight deny her noon
  Its brightness!" But the people in their pride
Said, "How are we beholden? 'twas no boon
  She gave. Her nature 'twas to shine so wide:
She could not choose but shine, nor could we know
Such star had ever dwelt in heaven but so."

The Poet answered sadly, "That is true!"
  And then he thought upon unthankfulness;
While some went homeward; and the residue,
  Reflecting that the stars are numberless,
Mourned that man's daylight hours should be so few,
  So short the shining that his path may bless:
To nearer themes then tuned their willing lips,
And thought no more upon the star's eclipse.

But he, the Poet, could not rest content
  Till he had found that old Astronomer;
Therefore at midnight to his house he went
  And prayed him be his tale's interpreter.
And yet upon the heaven his eyes he bent,
  Hearing the marvel; yet he sought for her
That was a wanting, in the hope her face
Once more might fill its reft abiding-place.

Then said the old Astronomer: "My son.
  I sat alone upon my roof to-night;
I saw the stars come forth, and scarcely shun
  To fringe the edges of the western light;
I marked those ancient clusters one by one,
  The same that blessed our old forefather's sight
For God alone is older--none but He
Can charge the stars with mutability:

"The elders of the night, the steadfast stars,
  The old, old stars which God has let us see,
That they might be our soul's auxiliars,
  And help us to the truth how young we be--
God's youngest, latest born, as if, some spars
  And a little clay being over of them--He
Had made our world and us thereof, yet given,
To humble us, the sight of His great heaven.

"But ah! my son, to-night mine eyes have seen
  The death of light, the end of old renown;
A shrinking back of glory that had been,
  A dread eclipse before the Eternal's frown.
How soon a little grass will grow between
  These eyes and those appointed to look down
Upon a world that was not made on high
Till the last scenes of their long empiry!

"To-night that shining cluster now despoiled
  Lay in day's wake a perfect sisterhood;
Sweet was its light to me that long had toiled,
  It gleamed and trembled o'er the distant wood,
Blown in a pile the clouds from it recoiled,
  Cool twilight up the sky her way made good;
I saw, but not believed--it was so strange--
That one of those same stars had suffered change.

"The darkness gathered, and methought she spread,
  Wrapped in a reddish haze that waxed and waned;
But notwithstanding to myself I said--
  'The stars are changeless; sure some mote hath stained
Mine eyes, and her fair glory minishèd.'
  Of age and failing vision I complained,
And I bought 'some vapor in the heavens doth swim,
That makes her look so large and yet so dim.'

"But I gazed round, and all her lustrous peers
  In her red presence showed but wan and white
For like a living coal beheld through tears
  She glowed and quivered with a gloomy light:
Methought she trembled, as all sick through fears,
  Helpless, appalled, appealing to the night;
Like one who throws his arms up to the sky
And bows down suffering, hopeless of reply.

"At length, as if an everlasting Hand
  Had taken hold upon her in her place,
And swiftly, like a golden grain of sand,
  Through all the deep infinitudes of space
Was drawing her--God's truth as here I stand--
  Backward and inward to itself; her face
Fast lessened, lessened, till it looked no more
Than smallest atom on a boundless shore.

"And she that was so fair, I saw her lie,
  The smallest thing in God's great firmament,
Till night was lit the darkest, and on high
  Her sisters glittered, though her light was spent;
I strained, to follow her, each aching eye,
  So swiftly at her Maker's will she went;
I looked again--I looked--the star was gone,
And nothing marked in heaven where she had shone."

"Gone!" said the Poet, "and about to be
  Forgotten: O, how sad a fate is hers!"
"How is it sad, my son?" all reverently
  The old man answered; "though she ministers
No longer with her lamp to me and thee,
  She has fulfilled her mission. God transfers
Or dims her ray; yet was she blest as bright,
For all her life was spent in giving light."

"Her mission she fulfilled assuredly,"
  The Poet cried; "but, O unhappy star!
None praise and few will bear in memory
  The name she went by. O, from far, from far
Comes down, methinks, her mournful voice to me,
  Full of regrets that men so thankless are."
So said, he told that old Astronomer
All that the gazing crowd had said of her.

And he went on to speak in bitter wise,
  As one who seems to tell another's fate,
But feels that nearer meaning underlies,
  And points its sadness to his own estate:
"If such be the reward," he said with sighs,
  "Envy to earn for love, for goodness hate--
If such be thy reward, hard case is thine!
It had been better for thee not to shine.

"If to reflect a light that is divine
  Makes that which doth reflect it better seen,
And if to see is to contemn the shrine,
  'Twere surely better it had never been:
It had been better for her NOT TO SHINE,
  And for me NOT TO SING. Better, I ween,
For us to yield no more that radiance bright,
For them, to lack the light than scorn the light."

Strange words were those from Poet lips (said he);
  And then he paused and sighed, and turned to look
Upon the lady's downcast eyes, and see
  How fast the honey-bees in settling shook
Those apple blossoms on her from the tree:
  He watched her busy lingers as they took
And slipped the knotted thread, and thought how much
He would have given that hand to hold--to touch.

At length, as suddenly become aware
  Of this long pause, she lifted up her face,
And he withdrew his eyes--she looked so fair
  And cold, he thought, in her unconscious grace.
"Ah! little dreams she of the restless care,"
  He thought, "that makes my heart to throb apace:
Though we this morning part, the knowledge sends
No thrill to her calm pulse--we are but FRIENDS."

Ah! turret clock (he thought), I would thy hand
  Were hid behind yon towering maple-trees!
Ah! tell-tale shadow, but one moment stand--
  Dark shadow--fast advancing to my knees;
Ah! foolish heart (he thought), that vainly planned
  By feigning gladness to arrive at ease;
Ah! painful hour, yet pain to think it ends;
I must remember that we are but friends.

And while the knotted thread moved to and fro,
  In sweet regretful tones that lady said:
"It seemeth that the fame you would forego
  The Poet whom you tell of coveted;
But I would fain, methinks, his story know.
  And was he loved?" said she, "or was he wed?
And had he friends?" "One friend, perhaps," said he,
"But for the rest, I pray you let it be."

Ah! little bird (he thought), most patient bird,
  Breasting thy speckled eggs the long day through,
By so much as my reason is preferred
  Above thine instinct, I my work would do
Better than thou dost thine. Thou hast not stirred
  This hour thy wing. Ah! russet bird, I sue
For a like patience to wear through these hours--
Bird on thy nest among the apple-flowers.

I will not speak--I will not speak to thee,
  My star! and soon to be my lost, lost star.
The sweetest, first, that ever shone on me,
  So high above me and beyond so far;
I can forego thee, but not bear to see
  My love, like rising mist, thy lustre mar:
That were a base return for thy sweet light.
Shine, though I never more-shall see that thou art bright.

Never! 'Tis certain that no hope is--none!
  No hope for me, and yet for thee no fear.
The hardest part of my hard task is done;
  Thy calm assures me that I am not dear;
Though far and fast the rapid moments run,
  Thy bosom heaveth not, thine eyes are clear;
Silent, perhaps a little sad at heart
She is. I am her friend, and I depart.

Silent she had been, but she raised her face;
  "And will you end," said she, "this half-told tale?"
"Yes, it were best," he answered her. "The place
  Where I left off was where he felt to fail
His courage, Madam, through the fancy base
  That they who love, endure, or work, may rail
And cease--if all their love, the works they wrought,
And their endurance, men have set at nought."

"It had been better for me NOT to sing,"
  My Poet said, "and for her NOT to shine;"
But him the old man answered, sorrowing,
  "My son, did God who made her, the Divine
Lighter of suns, when down to yon bright ring
  He cast her, like some gleaming almandine,
And set her in her place, begirt with rays,
Say unto her 'Give light,' or say 'Earn praise?'"

The Poet said, "He made her to give light."
  "My son," the old man answered, "Blest are such;
A blessed lot is theirs; but if each night
  Mankind had praised her radiance, inasmuch
As praise had never made it wax more bright,
  And cannot now rekindle with its touch
Her lost effulgence, it is nought. I wot
That praise was not her blessing nor her lot."

"Ay," said the Poet, "I my words abjure,
  And I repent me that I uttered them;
But by her light and by its forfeiture
  She shall not pass without her requiem.
Though my name perish, yet shall hers endure;
  Though I should be forgotten, she, lost gem,
Shall be remembered; though she sought not fame,
It shall be busy with her beauteous name.

"For I will raise in her bright memory,
  Lost now on earth, a lasting monument,
And graven on it shall recorded be
  That all her rays to light mankind were spent;
And I will sing albeit none heedeth me,
  On her exemplar being still intent:
While in men's sight shall stand the record thus--
'So long as she did last she lighted us.'"

So said, he raised, according to his vow,
  On the green grass where oft his townsfolk met,
Under the shadow of a leafy bough
  That leaned toward a singing rivulet,
One pure white stone, whereon, like crown on brow,
  The image of the vanished star was set;
And this was graven on the pure white stone
In golden letters--"WHILE SHE LIVED SHE SHONE."

Madam, I cannot give this story well--
  My heart is beating to another chime;
My voice must needs a different cadence swell;
  It is yon singing bird, which all the time
Wooeth his nested mate, that doth dispel
  My thoughts. What, deem you, could a lover's rhyme
The sweetness of that passionate lay excel?
O soft, O low her voice--"I cannot tell."

(_He thinks_.)

The old man--ay, he spoke, he was not hard;
  "She was his joy," he said, "his comforter,
But he would trust me. I was not debarred
  Whate'er my heart approved to say to her."
Approved! O torn and tempted and ill-starred
  And breaking heart, approve not nor demur;
It is the serpent that beguileth thee
With "God doth know" beneath this apple-tree.

Yea, God DOTH know, and only God doth know.
  Have pity, God, my spirit groans to Thee!
I bear Thy curse primeval, and I go;
  But heavier than on Adam falls on me
My tillage of the wilderness; for lo,
  I leave behind the woman, and I see
As 'twere the gates of Eden closing o'er
To hide her from my sight for evermore.

(_He speaks_.)

I am a fool, with sudden start he cried,
  To let the song-bird work me such unrest:
If I break off again, I pray you chide,
  For morning neeteth, with my tale at best
Half told. That white stone, Madam, gleamed beside
  The little rivulet, and all men pressed
To read the lost one's story traced thereon,
The golden legend--"While she lived she shone."

And, Madam, when the Poet heard them read,
  And children spell the letters softly through,
It may be that he felt at heart some need,
  Some craving to be thus remembered too;
It may be that he wondered if indeed
  He must die wholly when he passed from view;
It may be, wished when death his eyes made dim,
That some kind hand would raise such stone for him.

But shortly, as there comes to most of us,
  There came to him the need to quit his home:
To tell you why were simply hazardous.
  What said I, Madam?--men were made to roam
My meaning is. It hath been always thus:
  They are athirst for mountains and sea-foam;
Heirs of this world, what wonder if perchance
They long to see their grand inheritance?

He left his city, and went forth to teach
  Mankind, his peers, the hidden harmony
That underlies God's discords, and to reach
  And touch the master-string that like a sigh
Thrills in their souls, as if it would beseech
  Some hand to sound it, and to satisfy
Its yearning for expression: but no word
Till poet touch it hath to make its music heard.

(_He thinks_.)

I know that God is good, though evil dwells
  Among us, and doth all things holiest share;
That there is joy in heaven, while yet our knells
  Sound for the souls which He has summoned there:
That painful love unsatisfied hath spells
  Earned by its smart to soothe its fellows care:
But yet this atom cannot in the whole
Forget itself--it aches a separate soul.

(_He speaks._)

But, Madam, to my Poet I return.
  With his sweet cadences of woven words
He made their rude untutored hearts to burn
  And melt like gold refined. No brooding birds
Sing better of the love that doth sojourn
  Hid in the nest of home, which softly girds
The beating heart of life; and, strait though it be,
Is straitness better than wide liberty.

He taught them, and they learned, but not the less
  Remained unconscious whence that lore they drew,
But dreamed that of their native nobleness
  Some lofty thoughts, that he had planted, grew;
His glorious maxims in a lowly dress
  Like seed sown broadcast sprung in all men's view.
The sower, passing onward, was not known,
And all men reaped the harvest as their own.

It may be, Madam, that those ballads sweet,
  Whose rhythmic words we sang but yesterday,
Which time and changes make not obsolete,
  But (as a river blossoms bears away
That on it drop) take with them while they fleet--
  It may be his they are, from him bear sway:
But who can tell, since work surviveth fame?--
The rhyme is left, but lost the Poet's name.

He worked, and bravely he fulfilled his trust--
  So long he wandered sowing worthy seed,
Watering of wayside buds that were adust,
  And touching for the common ear his reed--
So long to wear away the cankering rust
  That dulls the gold of life--so long to plead
With sweetest music for all souls oppressed,
That he was old ere he had thought of rest.

Old and gray-headed, leaning on a staff,
  To that great city of his birth he came,
And at its gates he paused with wondering laugh
  To think how changed were all his thoughts of fame
Since first he carved the golden epitaph
  To keep in memory a worthy name,
And thought forgetfulness had been its doom
But for a few bright letters on a tomb.

The old Astronomer had long since died;
  The friends of youth were gone and far dispersed,
Strange were the domes that rose on every side;
  Strange fountains on his wondering vision burst;
The men of yesterday their business plied;
  No face was left that he had known at first;
And in the city gardens, lo, he sees
The saplings that he set are stately trees.

Upon the grass beneath their welcome shade,
  Behold! he marks the fair white monument,
And on its face the golden words displayed,
  For sixty years their lustre have not spent;
He sitteth by it and is not afraid,
  But in its shadow he is well content;
And envies not, though bright their gleamings are,
The golden letters of the vanished star.

He gazeth up; exceeding bright appears
  That golden legend to his aged eyes,
For they are dazzled till they fill with tears,
  And his lost Youth doth like a vision rise;
She saith to him, "In all these toilsome years,
  What hast thou won by work or enterprise?
What hast thou won to make amends to thee,
As thou didst swear to do, for loss of me?

"O man! O white-haired man!" the vision said
  "Since we two sat beside this monument
Life's clearest hues are all evanishèd;
  The golden wealth thou hadst of me is spent;
The wind hath swept thy flowers, their leaves are shed
  The music is played out that with thee went."
"Peace, peace!" he cried, "I lost thee, but, in truth,
There are worse losses than the loss of youth."

He said not what those losses were--but I--
  But I must leave them, for the time draws near.
Some lose not ONLY joy, but memory
  Of how it felt: not love that was so dear
Lose only, but the steadfast certainty
  That once they had it; doubt comes on, then fear,
And after that despondency. I wis
The Poet must have meant such loss as this.

But while he sat and pondered on his youth,
  He said, "It did one deed that doth remain,
For it preserved the memory and the truth
  Of her that now doth neither set nor wane,
But shine in all men's thought; nor sink forsooth,
  And be forgotten like the summer rain.
O, it is good that man should not forget
Or benefits foregone or brightness set!"

He spoke and said, "My lot contented: me;
  I am right glad for this her worthy fame;
That which was good and great I fain would see
  Drawn with a halo round what rests--its name."
This while the Poet said, behold there came
  A workman with his tools anear the tree,
And when he read the words he paused awhile
And pondered on them with a wondering smile.

And then he said, "I pray you, Sir, what mean
  The golden letters of this monument?"
In wonder quoth the Poet, "Hast thou been
  A dweller near at hand, and their intent
Hast neither heard by voice of fame, nor seen
  The marble earlier?" "Ay," said he, and leant
Upon his spade to hear the tale, then sigh,
And say it was a marvel, and pass by.

Then said the Poet, "This is strange to me."
  But as he mused, with trouble in his mind,
A band of maids approached him leisurely,
  Like vessels sailing with a favoring wind;
And of their rosy lips requested he,
  As one that for a doubt would solving find,
The tale, if tale there were, of that white stone,
And those fair letters--"While she lived she shone."

Then like a fleet that floats becalmed they stay.
  "O, Sir," saith one, "this monument is old;
But we have heard our virtuous mothers say
  That by their mothers thus the tale was told:
A Poet made it; journeying then away,
  He left us; and though some the meaning hold
For other than the ancient one, yet we
Receive this legend for a certainty:--

"There was a lily once, most purely white,
  Beneath the shadow of these boughs it grew;
Its starry blossom it unclosed by night,
  And a young Poet loved its shape and hue.
He watched it nightly, 'twas so fair a sight,
  Until a stormy wind arose and blew,
And when he came once more his flower to greet
Its fallen petals drifted to his feet.

"And for his beautiful white lily's sake,
  That she might be remembered where her scent
Had been right sweet, he said that he would make
  In her dear memory a monument:
For she was purer than a driven flake
  Of snow, and in her grace most excellent;
The loveliest life that death did ever mar,
As beautiful to gaze on as a star."

"I thank you, maid," the Poet answered her.
  "And I am glad that I have heard your tale."
With that they passed; and as an inlander,
  Having heard breakers raging in a gale,
And falling down in thunder, will aver
  That still, when far away in grassy vale,
He seems to hear those seething waters bound,
So in his ears the maiden's voice did sound.

He leaned his face upon his hand, and thought,
  And thought, until a youth came by that way;
And once again of him the Poet sought
  The story of the star. But, well-a-day!
He said, "The meaning with much doubt is fraught,
  The sense thereof can no man surely say;
For still tradition sways the common ear,
That of a truth a star DID DISAPPEAR.

"But they who look beneath the outer shell
  That wraps the 'kernel of the people's lore,'
Hold THAT for superstition; and they tell
  That seven lovely sisters dwelt of yore
In this old city, where it so befell
  That one a Poet loved; that, furthermore,
As stars above us she was pure and good,
And fairest of that beauteous sisterhood.

"So beautiful they were, those virgins seven,
  That all men called them clustered stars in song,
Forgetful that the stars abide in heaven:
  But woman bideth not beneath it long;
For O, alas! alas! one fated even
  When stars their azure deeps began to throng,
That virgin's eyes of Poet loved waxed dim,
And all their lustrous shining waned to him.

"In summer dusk she drooped her head and sighed
  Until what time the evening star went down,
And all the other stars did shining bide
  Clear in the lustre of their old renown.
And then--the virgin laid her down and died:
  Forgot her youth, forgot her beauty's crown,
Forgot the sisters whom she loved before,
And broke her Poet's heart for evermore."

"A mournful tale, in sooth," the lady saith:
  "But did he truly grieve for evermore?"
"It may be you forget," he answereth,
  "That this is but a fable at the core
O' the other fable." "Though it be but breath,"
  She asketh, "was it true?"--then he, "This lore,
Since it is fable, either way may go;
Then, if it please you, think it might be so."

"Nay, but," she saith, "if I had told your tale,
  The virgin should have lived his home to bless,
Or, must she die, I would have made to fail
  His useless love." "I tell you not the less,"
He sighs, "because it was of no avail:
  His heart the Poet would not dispossess
Thereof. But let us leave the fable now.
My Poet heard it with an aching brow."

And he made answer thus: "I thank thee, youth;
  Strange is thy story to these aged ears,
But I bethink me thou hast told a truth
  Under the guise of fable. If my tears,
Thou lost belovèd star, lost now, forsooth,
  Indeed could bring thee back among thy peers,
So new thou should'st be deemed as newly seen,
For men forget that thou hast ever been.

"There was a morning when I longed for fame,
  There was a noontide when I passed it by,
There is an evening when I think not shame
  Its substance and its being to deny;
For if men bear in mind great deeds, the name
  Of him that wrought them shall they leave to die;
Or if his name they shall have deathless writ,
They change the deeds that first ennobled it.

"O golden letters of this monument!
  O words to celebrate a loved renown
Lost now or wrested! and to fancies lent,
  Or on a fabled forehead set for crown,
For my departed star, I am content,
  Though legends dim and years her memory drown:
For nought were fame to her, compared and set
By this great truth which ye make lustrous yet."

"Adieu!" the Poet said, "my vanished star,
  Thy duty and thy happiness were one.
Work is heaven's best; its fame is sublunar:
  The fame thou dost not need--the work is done.
For thee I am content that these things are;
  More than content were I, my race being run,
Might it be true of me, though none thereon
Should muse regretful--'While he lived he shone.'"

So said, the Poet rose and went his way,
  And that same lot he proved whereof he spake.
Madam, my story is told out; the day
  Draws out her shadows, time doth overtake
The morning. That which endeth call a lay,
  Sung after pause--a motto in the break
Between two chapters of a tale not new,
Nor joyful--but a common tale. Adieu!

And that same God who made your face so fair,
  And gave your woman's heart its tenderness,
So shield the blessing He implanted there,
  That it may never turn to your distress,
And never cost you trouble or despair,
  Nor granted leave the granter comfortless;
But like a river blest where'er it flows,
Be still receiving while it still bestows.

Adieu, he said, and paused, while she sat mute
  In the soft shadow of the apple-tree;
The skylark's song rang like a joyous flute,
  The brook went prattling past her restlessly:
She let their tongues be her tongue's substitute;
  It was the wind that sighed, it was not she:
And what the lark, the brook, the wind, had said,
We cannot tell, for none interpreted.

Their counsels might be hard to reconcile,
  They might not suit the moment or the spot.
She rose, and laid her work aside the while
  Down in the sunshine of that grassy plot;
She looked upon him with an almost smile,
  And held to him a hand that faltered not.
One moment--bird and brook went warbling on,
And the wind sighed again--and he was gone.

So quietly, as if she heard no more
  Or skylark in the azure overhead,
Or water slipping past the cressy shore,
  Or wind that rose in sighs, and sighing fled--
So quietly, until the alders hoar
  Took him beneath them; till the downward spread
Of planes engulfed him in their leafy seas--
She stood beneath her rose-flushed apple-trees.

And then she stooped toward the mossy grass,
  And gathered up her work and went her way;
Straight to that ancient turret she did pass,
  And startle back some fawns that were at play.
She did not sigh, she never said "Alas!"
  Although he was her friend: but still that day,
Where elm and hornbeam spread a towering dome,
She crossed the dells to her ancestral home.

And did she love him?--what if she did not?
  Then home was still the home of happiest years
Nor thought was exiled to partake his lot,
  Nor heart lost courage through forboding fears;
Nor echo did against her secret plot,
  Nor music her betray to painful tears;
Nor life become a dream, and sunshine dim,
And riches poverty, because of him.

But did she love him?--what and if she did?
  Love cannot cool the burning Austral sand,
Nor show the secret waters that lie hid
  In arid valleys of that desert land.
Love has no spells can scorching winds forbid,
  Or bring the help which tarries near to hand,
Or spread a cloud for curtaining faded eyes
That gaze up dying into alien skies.



A DEAD YEAR.


I took a year out of my life and story--
  A dead year, and said, "I will hew thee a tomb!
  'All the kings of the nations lie in glory;'
Cased in cedar, and shut in a sacred gloom;
Swathed in linen, and precious unguents old;
Painted with cinnabar, and rich with gold.

  "Silent they rest, in solemn salvatory,
Sealed from the moth and the owl and the flitter-mouse--
          Each with his name on his brow.
  'All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
Every one in his own house:'
          Then why not thou?

    "Year," I said, "thou shalt not lack
    Bribes to bar thy coming back;
    Doth old Egypt wear her best
    In the chambers of her rest?
    Doth she take to her last bed
    Beaten gold, and glorious red?
    Envy not! for thou wilt wear
    In the dark a shroud as fair;
    Golden with the sunny ray
    Thou withdrawest from my day;
    Wrought upon with colors fine,
    Stolen from this life of mine;
    Like the dusty Lybian kings,
    Lie with two wide open wings
    On thy breast, as if to say,
    On these wings hope flew away;
    And so housed, and thus adorned,
    Not forgotten, but not scorned,
    Let the dark for evermore
    Close thee when I close the door;
    And the dust for ages fall
    In the creases of thy pall;
    And no voice nor visit rude
    Break thy sealèd solitude."

  I took the year out of my life and story,
The dead year, and said, "I have hewed thee a tomb
  'All the kings of the nations lie in glory,'
Cased in cedar, and shut in a sacred gloom;
But for the sword, and the sceptre, and diadem,
Sure thou didst reign like them."
So I laid her with those tyrants old and hoary,
        According to my vow;
For I said, "The kings of the nations lie in glory,
        And so shalt thou!"

    "Rock," I said, "thy ribs are strong.
    That I bring thee guard it long;
    Hide the light from buried eyes--
    Hide it, lest the dead arise."
    "Year," I said, and turned away,
    "I am free of thee this day;
    All that we two only know,
    I forgive and I forego,
    So thy face no more I meet,
    In the field or in the street."

    Thus we parted, she and I;
    Life hid death, and put it by:
    Life hid death, and said, "Be free
    I have no more need of thee."
    No more need! O mad mistake,
    With repentance in its wake!
    Ignorant, and rash, and blind,
    Life had left the grave behind;
    But had locked within its hold
    With the spices and the gold,
    All she had to keep her warm
    In the raging of the storm.

    Scarce the sunset bloom was gone,
    And the little stars outshone,
    Ere the dead year, stiff and stark,
    Drew me to her in the dark;
    Death drew life to come to her,
    Beating at her sepulchre,
    Crying out, "How can I part
    With the best share of my heart?
    Lo, it lies upon the bier,
    Captive, with the buried year.
    O my heart!" And I fell prone,
    Weeping at the sealèd stone;
    "Year among the shades," I said,
    "Since I live, and thou art dead,
    Let my captive heart be free,
    Like a bird to fly to me."
    And I stayed some voice to win,
    But none answered from within;
    And I kissed the door--and night
    Deepened till the stars waxed bright
    And I saw them set and wane,
    And the world turn green again.

    "So," I whispered, "open door,
    I must tread this palace floor--
    Sealèd palace, rich and dim.
    Let a narrow sunbeam swim
    After me, and on me spread
    While I look upon my dead;
    Let a little warmth be free
    To come after; let me see
    Through the doorway, when I sit
    Looking out, the swallows flit,
    Settling not till daylight goes;
    Let me smell the wild white rose,
    Smell the woodbine and the may;
    Mark, upon a sunny day,
    Sated from their blossoms rise,
    Honey-bees and butterflies.
    Let me hear, O! let me hear,
    Sitting by my buried year,
    Finches chirping to their young,
    And the little noises flung
    Out of clefts where rabbits play,
    Or from falling water-spray;
    And the gracious echoes woke
    By man's work: the woodman's stroke,
    Shout of shepherd, whistlings blithe.
    And the whetting of the scythe;
    Let this be, lest shut and furled
    From the well-beloved world,
    I forget her yearnings old,
    And her troubles manifold,
    Strivings sore, submissions meet,
    And my pulse no longer beat,
    Keeping time and bearing part
    With the pulse of her great heart.

    "So; swing open door, and shade
    Take me; I am not afraid,
    For the time will not be long;
    Soon I shall have waxen strong--
    Strong enough my own to win
    From the grave it lies within."
    And I entered. On her bier
    Quiet lay the buried year;
    I sat down where I could see
    Life without and sunshine free,
    Death within. And I between,
    Waited my own heart to wean
    From the shroud that shaded her
    In the rock-hewn sepulchre--
    Waited till the dead should say,
    "Heart, be free of me this day"--
    Waited with a patient will--
    AND I WAIT BETWEEN THEM STILL.

  I take the year back to my life and story,
The dead year, and say, "I will share in thy tomb.
  'All the kings of the nations lie in glory;'
Cased in cedar, and shut in a sacred gloom!
They reigned in their lifetime with sceptre and diadem,
          But thou excellest them;
For life doth make thy grave her oratory,
      And the crown is still on thy brow;
'All the kings of the nations lie in glory,'
          And so dost thou."



REFLECTIONS.

LOOKING OVER A GATE AT A POOL IN A FIELD.


What change has made the pastures sweet
And reached the daisies at my feet,
  And cloud that wears a golden hem?
This lovely world, the hills, the sward--
They all look fresh, as if our Lord
  But yesterday had finished them.

And here's the field with light aglow;
How fresh its boundary lime-trees show,
  And how its wet leaves trembling shine!
Between their trunks come through to me
The morning sparkles of the sea
  Below the level browsing line

I see the pool more clear by half
Than pools where other waters laugh
  Up at the breasts of coot and rail.
There, as she passed it on her way,
I saw reflected yesterday
  A maiden with a milking-pail.

There, neither slowly nor in haste,
One hand upon her slender waist,
  The other lifted to her pail,
She, rosy in the morning light,
Among the water-daisies white,
  Like some fair sloop appeared to sail.

Against her ankles as she trod
The lucky buttercups did nod.
  I leaned upon the gate to see:
The sweet thing looked, but did not speak;
A dimple came in either cheek,
  And all my heart was gone from me.

Then, as I lingered on the gate,
And she came up like coming fate,
  I saw my picture in her eyes--
Clear dancing eyes, more black than sloes,
Cheeks like the mountain pink, that grows
  Among white-headed majesties.

I said, "A tale was made of old
That I would fain to thee unfold;
  Ah! let me--let me tell the tale."
But high she held her comely head;
"I cannot heed it now," she said,
  "For carrying of the milking-pail."

She laughed. What good to make ado?
I held the gate, and she came through,
  And took her homeward path anon.
From the clear pool her face had fled;
It rested on my heart instead,
  Reflected when the maid was gone.

With happy youth, and work content,
So sweet and stately on she went,
  Right careless of the untold tale.
Each step she took I loved her more,
And followed to her dairy door
  The maiden with the milking-pail.


II.

For hearts where wakened love doth lurk,
How fine, how blest a thing is work!
  For work does good when reasons fail--
Good; yet the axe at every stroke
The echo of a name awoke--
  Her name is Mary Martindale.

I'm glad that echo was not heard
Aright by other men: a bird
  Knows doubtless what his own notes tell;
And I know not, but I can say
I felt as shame-faced all that day
  As if folks heard her name right well.

And when the west began to glow
I went--I could not choose but go--
  To that same dairy on the hill;
And while sweet Mary moved about
Within, I came to her without.
  And leaned upon the window-sill.

The garden border where I stood
Was sweet with pinks and southernwood.
  I spoke--her answer seemed to fail:
I smelt the pinks--I could not see;
The dusk came down and sheltered me,
  And in the dusk she heard my tale.

And what is left that I should tell?
I begged a kiss, I pleaded well:
  The rosebud lips did long decline;
But yet I think, I think 'tis true,
That, leaned at last into the dew,
  One little instant they were mine.

O life! how dear thou hast become:
She laughed at dawn and I was dumb,
  But evening counsels best prevail.
Fair shine the blue that o'er her spreads,
Green be the pastures where she treads,
  The maiden with the milking-pail!



THE LETTER L.


ABSENT.

We sat on grassy slopes that meet
  With sudden dip the level strand;
The trees hung overhead--our feet
        Were on the sand.

Two silent girls, a thoughtful man,
  We sunned ourselves in open light,
And felt such April airs as fan
        The Isle of Wight;

And smelt the wall-flower in the crag
  Whereon that dainty waft had fed,
Which made the bell-hung cowslip wag
        Her delicate head;

And let alighting jackdaws fleet
  Adown it open-winged, and pass
Till they could touch with outstretched feet
        The warmèd grass.

The happy wave ran up and rang
  Like service bells a long way off,
And down a little freshet sprang
    From mossy trough,

And splashed into a rain of spray,
  And fretted on with daylight's loss,
Because so many bluebells lay
    Leaning across.

Blue martins gossiped in the sun,
  And pairs of chattering daws flew by,
And sailing brigs rocked softly on
    In company.

Wild cherry-boughs above us spread,
  The whitest shade was ever seen,
And flicker, flicker, came and fled
    Sun spots between.

Bees murmured in the milk-white bloom,
  As babes will sigh for deep content
When their sweet hearts for peace make room,
    As given, not lent.

And we saw on: we said no word,
  And one was lost in musings rare,
One buoyant as the waft that stirred
    Her shining hair.

His eyes were bent upon the sand,
  Unfathomed deeps within them lay.
A slender rod was in his hand--
        A hazel spray.

Her eyes were resting on his face,
  As shyly glad, by stealth to glean
Impressions of his manly grace
        And guarded mien;

The mouth with steady sweetness set,
  And eyes conveying unaware
The distant hint of some regret
        That harbored there.

She gazed, and in the tender flush
  That made her face like roses blown,
And in the radiance and the hush,
        Her thought was shown.

It was a happy thing to sit
  So near, nor mar his reverie;
She looked not for a part in it,
        So meek was she.

But it was solace for her eyes,
  And for her heart, that yearned to him,
To watch apart in loving wise
        Those musings dim.

Lost--lost, and gone! The Pelham woods
  Were full of doves that cooed at ease;
The orchis filled her purple hoods
        For dainty bees.

He heard not; all the delicate air
  Was fresh with falling water-spray:
It mattered not--he was not there,
        But far away.

Till with the hazel in his hand,
  Still drowned in thought it thus befell;
He drew a letter on the sand--
        The letter L.

And looking on it, straight there wrought
  A ruddy flush about his brow;
His letter woke him: absent thought
        Rushed homeward now.

And half-abashed, his hasty touch
  Effaced it with a tell-tale care,
As if his action had been much,
        And not his air.

And she? she watched his open palm
  Smooth out the letter from the sand,
And rose, with aspect almost calm,
        And filled her hand

With cherry-bloom, and moved away
  To gather wild forget-me-not,
And let her errant footsteps stray
        To one sweet spot,

As if she coveted the fair
  White lining of the silver-weed,
And cuckoo-pint that shaded there
        Empurpled seed.

She had not feared, as I divine,
  Because she had not hoped. Alas!
The sorrow of it! for that sign
        Came but to pass;

And yet it robbed her of the right
  To give, who looked not to receive,
And made her blush in love's despite
        That she should grieve.

A shape in white, she turned to gaze;
  Her eyes were shaded with her hand,
And half-way up the winding ways
       We saw her stand.

Green hollows of the fringèd cliff,
  Red rocks that under waters show,
Blue reaches, and a sailing skiff,
        Were spread below.

She stood to gaze, perhaps to sigh,
  Perhaps to think; but who can tell
How heavy on her heart must lie
        The letter L!

       *       *       *       *       *

She came anon with quiet grace;
  And "What," she murmured, "silent yet!"
He answered, "'Tis a haunted place,
        And spell-beset.

"O speak to us, and break the spell!"
  "The spell is broken," she replied.
"I crossed the running brook, it fell,
        It could not bide.

"And I have brought a budding world,
  Of orchis spires and daisies rank,
And ferny plumes but half uncurled,
        From yonder bank;

"And I shall weave of them a crown,
  And at the well-head launch it free,
That so the brook may float it down,
        And out to sea.

"There may it to some English hands
  From fairy meadow seem to come;
The fairyest of fairy lands--
        The land of home."

"Weave on," he said, and as she wove
  We told how currents in the deep,
With branches from a lemon grove,
        Blue bergs will sweep.

And messages from shipwrecked folk
  Will navigate the moon-led main,
And painted boards of splintered oak
        Their port regain.

Then floated out by vagrant thought,
  My soul beheld on torrid sand
The wasteful water set at nought
        Man's skilful hand,

And suck out gold-dust from the box,
  And wash it down in weedy whirls,
And split the wine-keg on the rocks,
        And lose the pearls.

"Ah! why to that which needs it not,"
  Methought, "should costly things be given?
How much is wasted, wrecked, forgot,
        On this side heaven!"

So musing, did mine ears awake
  To maiden tones of sweet reserve,
And manly speech that seemed to make
        The steady curve

Of lips that uttered it defer
  Their guard, and soften for the thought:
She listened, and his talk with her
        Was fancy fraught.

"There is not much in liberty"--
  With doubtful pauses he began;
And said to her and said to me,
        "There was a man--

"There was a man who dreamed one night
  That his dead father came to him;
And said, when fire was low, and light
        Was burning dim--

"'Why vagrant thus, my sometime pride,
  Unloved, unloving, wilt thou roam?
Sure home is best!' The son replied,
        'I have no home.'

"'Shall not I speak?' his father said,
  'Who early chose a youthful wife,
And worked for her, and with her led
        My happy life.

"'Ay, I will speak, for I was young
  As thou art now, when I did hold
The prattling sweetness of thy tongue
        Dearer than gold;

"'And rosy from thy noonday sleep
  Would bear thee to admiring kin,
And all thy pretty looks would keep
        My heart within.

"'Then after, mid thy young allies--
  For thee ambition flushed my brow--
I coveted the school-boy prize
        Far more than thou.

"'I thought for thee, I thought for all
  My gamesome imps that round me grew;
The dews of blessing heaviest fall
        Where care falls too.

"'And I that sent my boys away,
  In youthful strength to earn their bread,
And died before the hair was gray
        Upon my head--

"'I say to thee, though free from care,
  A lonely lot, an aimless life,
The crowning comfort is not there--
        Son, take a wife.'

"'Father beloved,' the son replied,
  And failed to gather to his breast,
With arms in darkness searching wide,
        The formless guest.

"'I am but free, as sorrow is,
  To dry her tears, to laugh, to talk;
And free, as sick men are, I wis
        To rise and walk.

"'And free, as poor men are, to buy
  If they have nought wherewith to pay;
Nor hope, the debt before they die,
        To wipe away.

"'What 'vails it there are wives to win,
  And faithful hearts for those to yearn,
Who find not aught thereto akin
        To make return?

"'Shall he take much who little gives,
  And dwells in spirit far away,
When she that in his presence lives
        Doth never stray,

"But waking, guideth as beseems
  The happy house in order trim,
And tends her babes; and sleeping, dreams
      Of them and him?

"'O base, O cold,'"--while thus he spake
  The dream broke off, the vision fled;
He carried on his speech awake
        And sighing said--

"'I had--ah happy man!--I had
  A precious jewel in my breast,
And while I kept it I was glad
        At work, at rest!

"'Call it a heart, and call it strong
  As upward stroke of eagle's wing;
Then call it weak, you shall not wrong
        The beating thing.

"'In tangles of the jungle reed,
  Whose heats are lit with tiger eyes,
In shipwreck drifting with the weed
        'Neath rainy skies,

"'Still youthful manhood, fresh and keen,
  At danger gazed with awed delight
As if sea would not drown, I ween,
        Nor serpent bite.

"'I had--ah happy! but 'tis gone,
  The priceless jewel; one came by,
And saw and stood awhile to con
        With curious eye,

"'And wished for it, and faintly smiled
  From under lashes black as doom,
With subtle sweetness, tender, mild,
        That did illume

"'The perfect face, and shed on it
  A charm, half feeling, half surprise,
And brim with dreams the exquisite
        Brown blessèd eyes.

"'Was it for this, no more but this,
  I took and laid it in her hand,
By dimples ruled, to hint submiss,
        By frown unmanned?

"'It was for this--and O farewell
  The fearless foot, the present mind,
And steady will to breast the swell
        And face the wind!

"'I gave the jewel from my breast,
  She played with it a little while
As I sailed down into the west,
        Fed by her smile;

"'Then weary of it--far from land,
  With sigh as deep as destiny,
She let it drop from her fair hand
        Into the sea,

"'And watched it sink; and I--and I,--
  What shall I do, for all is vain?
No wave will bring, no gold will buy,
        No toil attain;

"'Nor any diver reach to raise
  My jewel from the blue abyss;
Or could they, still I should but praise
        Their work amiss.

"'Thrown, thrown away! But I love yet
  The fair, fair hand which did the deed:
That wayward sweetness to forget
        Were bitter meed.

"'No, let it lie, and let the wave
  Roll over it for evermore;
Whelmed where the sailor hath his grave--
        The sea her store.

"'My heart, my sometime happy heart!
  And O for once let me complain,
I must forego life's better part--
        Man's dearer gain.

"'I worked afar that I might rear
  A peaceful home on English soil;
I labored for the gold and gear--
        I loved my toil.

"'Forever in my spirit spake
  The natural whisper, "Well 'twill be
When loving wife and children break
        Their bread with thee!"

"'The gathered gold is turned to dross,
  The wife hath faded into air,
My heart is thrown away, my loss
        I cannot spare.

"'Not spare unsated thought her food--
  No, not one rustle of the fold,
Nor scent of eastern sandal-wood,
        Nor gleam of gold;

"'Nor quaint devices of the shawl,
  Far less the drooping lashes meek;
The gracious figure, lithe and tall,
        The dimpled cheek;

"'And all the wonders of her eyes,
  And sweet caprices of her air,
Albeit, indignant reason cries,
        Fool! have a care.

"'Fool! join not madness to mistake;
  Thou knowest she loved thee not a whit;
Only that she thy heart might break--
        She wanted it,

"'Only the conquered thing to chain
  So fast that none might set it free,
Nor other woman there might reign
        And comfort thee.

"'Robbed, robbed of life's illusions sweet;
  Love dead outside her closèd door,
And passion fainting at her feet
        To wake no more;

"'What canst thou give that unknown bride
  Whom thou didst work for in the waste,
Ere fated love was born, and cried--
        Was dead, ungraced?

"'No more but this, the partial care,
  The natural kindness for its own,
The trust that waxeth unaware,
        As worth is known:

"'Observance, and complacent thought
  Indulgent, and the honor due
That many another man has brought
        Who brought love too.

"'Nay, then, forbid it Heaven!' he said,
  'The saintly vision fades from me;
O bands and chains! I cannot wed--
        I am not free.'"

With that he raised his face to view;
  "What think you," asking, "of my tale?
And was he right to let the dew
        Of morn exhale,

"And burdened in the noontide sun,
  The grateful shade of home forego--
Could he be right--I ask as one
        Who fain would know?"

He spoke to her and spoke to me;
  The rebel rose-hue dyed her cheek;
The woven crown lay on her knee;
        She would not speak.

And I with doubtful pause--averse
  To let occasion drift away--
I answered--"If his case were worse
        Than word can say,

"Time is a healer of sick hearts,
  And women have been known to choose,
With purpose to allay their smarts,
        And tend their bruise,

"These for themselves. Content to give,
  In their own lavish love complete,
Taking for sole prerogative
        Their tendance sweet.

"Such meeting in their diadem
  Of crowning love's ethereal fire,
Himself he robs who robbeth them
        Of their desire.

"Therefore the man who, dreaming, cried
  Against his lot that even-song,
I judge him honest, and decide
        That he was wrong."

"When I am judged, ah may my fate,"
  He whispered, "in thy code be read!
Be thou both judge and advocate."
        Then turned, he said--

"Fair weaver!" touching, while he spoke,
  The woven crown, the weaving hand,
"And do you this decree revoke,
        Or may it stand?

"This friend, you ever think her right--
  She is not wrong, then?" Soft and low
The little trembling word took flight:
        She answered, "No."


PRESENT.

A meadow where the grass was deep,
  Rich, square, and golden to the view,
A belt of elms with level sweep
        About it grew.

The sun beat down on it, the line
  Of shade was clear beneath the trees;
There, by a clustering eglantine,
        We sat at ease.

And O the buttercups! that field
  O' the cloth of gold, where pennons swam--
Where France set up his lilied shield,
        His oriflamb,

And Henry's lion-standard rolled:
  What was it to their matchless sheen,
Their million million drops of gold
        Among the green!

We sat at ease in peaceful trust,
  For he had written, "Let us meet;
My wife grew tired of smoke and dust,
        And London heat,

"And I have found a quiet grange,
  Set back in meadows sloping west,
And there our little ones can range
    And she can rest.

"Come down, that we may show the view,
  And she may hear your voice again,
And talk her woman's talk with you
    Along the lane."

Since he had drawn with listless hand
  The letter, six long years had fled,
And winds had blown about the sand,
    And they were wed.

Two rosy urchins near him played,
  Or watched, entranced, the shapely ships
That with his knife for them he made
    Of elder slips.

And where the flowers were thickest shed,
  Each blossom like a burnished gem,
A creeping baby reared its head,
    And cooed at them.

And calm was on the father's face,
  And love was in the mother's eyes;
She looked and listened from her place,
    In tender wise.

She did not need to raise her voice
  That they might hear, she sat so nigh;
Yet we could speak when 'twas our choice,
        And soft reply.

Holding our quiet talk apart
  Of household things; till, all unsealed,
The guarded outworks of the heart
        Began to yield;

And much that prudence will not dip
  The pen to fix and send away,
Passed safely over from the lip
        That summer day.

"I should be happy," with a look
  Towards her husband where he lay,
Lost in the pages of his book,
        Soft did she say.

"I am, and yet no lot below
  For one whole day eludeth care;
To marriage all the stories flow,
        And finish there:

"As if with marriage came the end,
  The entrance into settled rest,
The calm to which love's tossings tend,
        The quiet breast.

"For me love played the low preludes,
  Yet life began but with the ring,
Such infinite solicitudes
        Around it cling.

"I did not for my heart divine
  Her destiny so meek to grow;
The higher nature matched with mine
        Will have it so.

"Still I consider it, and still
  Acknowledge it my master made,
Above me by the steadier will
        Of nought afraid.

"Above me by the candid speech;
  The temperate judgment of its own;
The keener thoughts that grasp and reach
        At things unknown.

"But I look up and he looks down,
  And thus our married eyes can meet;
Unclouded his, and clear of frown,
        And gravely sweet.

"And yet, O good, O wise and true!
  I would for all my fealty,
That I could be as much to you
        As you to me;

"And knew the deep secure content
  Of wives who have been hardly won,
And, long petitioned, gave assent,
        Jealous of none.

"But proudly sure in all the earth
  No other in that homage shares,
Nor other woman's face or worth
        Is prized as theirs."

I said: "And yet no lot below
  For one whole day eludeth care.
Your thought." She answered, "Even so.
        I would beware

"Regretful questionings; be sure
  That very seldom do they rise,
Nor for myself do I endure--
        I sympathize.

"For once"--she turned away her head,
  Across the grass she swept her hand--
"There was a letter once," she said,
        "Upon the sand."

"There was, in truth, a letter writ
  On sand," I said, "and swept from view;
But that same hand which fashioned it
        Is given to you.

"Efface the letter; wherefore keep
  An image which the sands forego?"
"Albeit that fear had seemed to sleep,"
        She answered low,

"I could not choose but wake it now;
  For do but turn aside your face,
A house on yonder hilly brow
        Your eyes may trace.

"The chestnut shelters it; ah me,
  That I should have so faint a heart!
But yester-eve, as by the sea
        I sat apart,

"I heard a name, I saw a hand
  Of passing stranger point that way--
And will he meet her on the strand,
        When late we stray?

"For she is come, for she is there,
  I heard it in the dusk, and heard
Admiring words, that named her fair,
        But little stirred

"By beauty of the wood and wave,
  And weary of an old man's sway;
For it was sweeter to enslave
        Than to obey."

--The voice of one that near us stood,
  The rustle of a silken fold,
A scent of eastern sandal wood,
        A gleam of gold!

A lady! In the narrow space
  Between the husband and the wife,
But nearest him--she showed a face
        With dangers rife;

A subtle smile that dimpling fled,
  As night-black lashes rose and fell:
I looked, and to myself I said,
        "The letter L."

He, too, looked up, and with arrest
  Of breath and motion held his gaze,
Nor cared to hide within his breast
        His deep amaze;

Nor spoke till on her near advance
  His dark cheek flushed a ruddier hue;
And with his change of countenance
        Hers altered too.

"Lenore!" his voice was like the cry
  Of one entreating; and he said
But that--then paused with such a sigh
        As mourns the dead.

And seated near, with no demur
  Of bashful doubt she silence broke,
Though I alone could answer her
        When first she spoke.

She looked: her eyes were beauty's own;
  She shed their sweetness into his;
Nor spared the married wife one moan
        That bitterest is.

She spoke, and lo, her loveliness
  Methought she damaged with her tongue;
And every sentence made it less,
        All falsely rung.

The rallying voice, the light demand,
  Half flippant, half unsatisfied;
The vanity sincere and bland--
        The answers wide.

And now her talk was of the East,
  And next her talk was of the sea;
"And has the love for it increased
        You shared with me?"

He answered not, but grave and still
  With earnest eyes her face perused,
And locked his lips with steady will,
        As one that mused--

That mused and wondered. Why his gaze
  Should dwell on her, methought, was plain;
But reason that should wonder raise
        I sought in vain.

And near and near the children drew,
  Attracted by her rich array,
And gems that trembling into view
        Like raindrops lay.

He spoke: the wife her baby took
  And pressed the little face to hers;
What pain soe'er her bosom shook,
        What jealous stirs

Might stab her heart, she hid them so,
  The cooing babe a veil supplied;
And if she listened none might know,
        Or if she sighed;

Or if forecasting grief and care
  Unconscious solace thence she drew,
And lulled her babe, and unaware
        Lulled sorrow too.

The lady, she interpreter
  For looks or language wanted none,
If yet dominion stayed with her--
        So lightly won;

If yet the heart she wounded sore
  Could yearn to her, and let her see
The homage that was evermore
        Disloyalty;

If sign would yield that it had bled,
  Or rallied from the faithless blow,
Or sick or sullen stooped to wed,
        She craved to know.

Now dreamy deep, now sweetly keen,
  Her asking eyes would round him shine;
But guarded lips and settled mien
        Refused the sign.

And unbeguiled and unbetrayed,
  The wonder yet within his breast,
It seemed a watchful part he played
        Against her quest.

Until with accent of regret
  She touched upon the past once more,
As if she dared him to forget
        His dream of yore.

And words of little weight let fall
  The fancy of the lower mind;
How waxing life must needs leave all
        Its best behind;

How he had said that "he would fain
  (One morning on the halcyon sea)
That life would at a stand remain
        Eternally;

"And sails be mirrored in the deep,
  As then they were, for evermore,
And happy spirits wake and sleep
        Afar from shore:

"The well-contented heart be fed
  Ever as then, and all the world
(It were not small) unshadowèd
        When sails were furled.

"Your words"--a pause, and quietly
  With touch of calm self-ridicule:
"It may be so--for then," said he,
        "I was a fool."

With that he took his book, and left
  An awkward silence to my care,
That soon I filled with questions deft
        And debonair;

And slid into an easy vein,
  The favorite picture of the year;
The grouse upon her lord's domain--
        The salmon weir;

Till she could fain a sudden thought
  Upon neglected guests, and rise,
And make us her adieux, with nought
        In her dark eyes

Acknowledging or shame or pain;
  But just unveiling for our view
A little smile of still disdain
        As she withdrew.

Then nearer did the sunshine creep,
  And warmer came the wafting breeze;
The little babe was fast asleep
        On mother's knees.

Fair was the face that o'er it leant,
  The cheeks with beauteous blushes dyed;
The downcast lashes, shyly bent,
        That failed to hide

Some tender shame. She did not see;
  She felt his eyes that would not stir,
She looked upon her babe, and he
        So looked at her.

So grave, so wondering, so content,
  As one new waked to conscious life,
Whose sudden joy with fear is blent,
        He said, "My wife."

"My wife, how beautiful you are!"
  Then closer at her side reclined,
"The bold brown woman from afar
        Comes, to me blind.

"And by comparison, I see
  The majesty of matron grace,
And learn how pure, how fair can be
        My own wife's face:

"Pure with all faithful passion, fair
  With tender smiles that come and go,
And comforting as April air
        After the snow.

"Fool that I was! my spirit frets
  And marvels at the humbling truth,
That I have deigned to spend regrets
        On my bruised youth.

"Its idol mocked thee, seated nigh,
  And shamed me for the mad mistake;
I thank my God he could deny,
        And she forsake.

"Ah, who am I, that God hath saved
  Me from the doom I did desire,
And crossed the lot myself had craved,
        To set me higher?

"What have I done that He should bow
  From heaven to choose a wife for me?
And what deserved, He should endow
        My home with THEE?

"My wife!" With that she turned her face
  To kiss the hand about her neck;
And I went down and sought the place
        Where leaped the beck--

The busy beck, that still would run
  And fall, and falter its refrain;
And pause and shimmer in the sun,
        And fall again.

It led me to the sandy shore,
  We sang together, it and I--
"The daylight comes, the dark is o'er,
        The shadows fly."

I lost it on the sandy shore,
  "O wife!" its latest murmurs fell,
"O wife, be glad, and fear no more
        The letter L."



THE HIGH TIDE ON THE COAST OF LINCOLNSHIRE.

(1571.)


The old mayor climbed the belfry tower,
  The ringers ran by two, by three;
"Pull, if ye never pulled before;
  Good ringers, pull your best," quoth he.
"Play uppe, play uppe, O Boston bells!
Ply all your changes, all your swells,
    Play uppe 'The Brides of Enderby.'"

Men say it was a stolen tyde--
  The Lord that sent it, He knows all;
But in myne ears doth still abide
  The message that the bells let fall:
And there was nought of strange, beside
The nights of mews and peewits pied
    By millions crouched on the old sea wall.

I sat and spun within the doore,
  My thread brake off, I raised myne eyes;
The level sun, like ruddy ore,
  Lay sinking in the barren skies;
And dark against day's golden death
She moved where Lindis wandereth,
My sonne's faire wife, Elizabeth.

    "Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
    Ere the early dews were falling,
    Farre away I heard her song.
    "Cusha! Cusha!" all along;
    Where the reedy Lindis floweth,
         Floweth, floweth.
    From the meads where melick groweth
    Faintly came her milking song--

    "Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
    "For the dews will soone be falling;
    Leave your meadow grasses mellow,
        Mellow, mellow;
    Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
    Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot
    Quit the stalks of parsley hollow,
        Hollow, hollow;
    Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
    From the clovers lift your head;
    Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,
    Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
    Jetty, to the milking shed."

If it be long, ay, long ago,
  When I beginne to think howe long,
Againe I hear the Lindis flow,
  Swift as an arrowe, sharpe and strong;
And all the aire, it seemeth mee,
Bin full of floating bells (sayth shee),
That ring the tune of Enderby.

Alle fresh the level pasture lay,
  And not a shadowe mote be seene,
Save where full fyve good miles away
  The steeple towered from out the greene;
And lo! the great bell farre and wide
Was heard in all the country side
That Saturday at eventide.

The swanherds where their sedges are
  Moved on in sunset's golden breath.
The shepherde lads I heard afarre,
  And my sonne's wife, Elizabeth;
Till floating o'er the grassy sea
Came downe that kyndly message free,
The "Brides of Mavis Enderby."

Then some looked uppe into the sky,
  And all along where Lindis flows
To where the goodly vessels lie,
  And where the lordly steeple shows.
They sayde, "And why should this thing be?
What danger lowers by land or sea?
They ring the tune of Enderby!

"For evil news from Mablethorpe,
    Of pyrate galleys warping down;
For shippes ashore beyond the scorpe,
    They have not spared to wake the towne
But while the west bin red to see,
And storms be none, and pyrates flee,
Why ring 'The Brides of Enderby'?"

I looked without, and lo! my sonne
    Came riding downe with might and main
He raised a shout as he drew on,
    Till all the welkin rang again,
"Elizabeth! Elizabeth!"
(A sweeter woman ne'er drew breath
Than my sonne's wife, Elizabeth.)

"The olde sea wall (he cried) is downe,
    The rising tide comes on apace,
And boats adrift in yonder towne
    Go sailing uppe the market-place."
He shook as one that looks on death:
"God save you, mother!" straight he saith;
"Where is my wife, Elizabeth?"

"Good sonne, where Lindis winds away,
    With her two bairns I marked her long;
And ere yon bells beganne to play
    Afar I heard her milking song."
He looked across the grassy lea,
To right, to left, "Ho Enderby!"
They rang "The Brides of Enderby!"

With that he cried and beat his breast;
  For, lo! along the river's bed
A mighty eygre reared his crest,
  And uppe the Lindis raging sped.
It swept with thunderous noises loud;
Shaped like a curling snow-white cloud,
Or like a demon in a shroud.

And rearing Lindis backward pressed,
  Shook all her trembling bankes amaine;
Then madly at the eygre's breast
  Flung uppe her weltering walls again.
Then bankes came downe with ruin and rout--
Then beaten foam flew round about--
Then all the mighty floods were out.

So farre, so fast the eygre drave,
  The heart had hardly time to beat,
Before a shallow seething wave
  Sobbed in the grasses at oure feet:
The feet had hardly time to flee
Before it brake against the knee,
And all the world was in the sea.

Upon the roofe we sate that night,
  The noise of bells went sweeping by;
I marked the lofty beacon light
  Stream from the church tower, red and high--
A lurid mark and dread to see;
And awsome bells they were to mee,
That in the dark rang "Enderby."

They rang the sailor lads to guide
  From roofe to roofe who fearless rowed;
And I--my sonne was at my side,
  And yet the ruddy beacon glowed;
And yet he moaned beneath his breath,
"O come in life, or come in death!
O lost! my love, Elizabeth."

And didst thou visit him no more?
  Thou didst, thou didst, my daughter deare;
The waters laid thee at his doore,
  Ere yet the early dawn was clear.
Thy pretty bairns in fast embrace,
The lifted sun shone on thy face,
Downe drifted to thy dwelling-place.

That flow strewed wrecks about the grass,
  That ebbe swept out the flocks to sea;
A fatal ebbe and flow, alas!
  To manye more than myne and me:
But each will mourn his own (she saith).
And sweeter woman ne'er drew breath
Than my sonne's wife, Elizabeth.

I shall never hear her more
By the reedy Lindis shore,
"Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
Ere the early dews be falling;
I shall never hear her song,
"Cusha! Cusha!" all along
Where the sunny Lindis floweth,
  Goeth, floweth;
From the meads where melick groweth,
When the water winding down,
Onward floweth to the town.

I shall never see her more
Where the reeds and rushes quiver,
  Shiver, quiver;
Stand beside the sobbing river,
Sobbing, throbbing, in its falling
To the sandy lonesome shore;
I shall never hear her calling,
"Leave your meadow grasses mellow.
  Mellow, mellow;
Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot;
Quit your pipes of parsley hollow,
  Hollow, hollow;
Come uppe Lightfoot, rise and follow;
  Lightfoot, Whitefoot,
From your clovers lift the head;
Come uppe Jetty, follow, follow,
Jetty, to the milking shed."



AFTERNOON AT A PARSONAGE.

(THE PARSON'S BROTHER, SISTER, AND TWO CHILDREN)


_Preface_.

What wonder man should fail to stay
  A nursling wafted from above,
The growth celestial come astray,
  That tender growth whose name is Love!

It is as if high winds in heaven
  Had shaken the celestial trees,
And to this earth below had given
  Some feathered seeds from one of these.

O perfect love that 'dureth long!
  Dear growth, that shaded by the palms.
And breathed on by the angel's song,
  Blooms on in heaven's eternal calms!

How great the task to guard thee here,
  Where wind is rough and frost is keen,
And all the ground with doubt and fear
  Is checkered, birth and death between!

Space is against thee--it can part;
  Time is against thee--it can chill;
Words--they but render half the heart;
  Deeds--they are poor to our rich will.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Merton_. Though she had loved me, I had never bound
Her beauty to my darkness; that had been
Too hard for her. Sadder to look so near
Into a face all shadow, than to stand
Aloof, and then withdraw, and afterwards
Suffer forgetfulness to comfort her.
I think so, and I loved her; therefore I
Have no complaint; albeit she is not mine:
And yet--and yet, withdrawing I would fain
She would have pleaded duty--would have said
"My father wills it"; would have turned away,
As lingering, or unwillingly; for then
She would have done no damage to the past:
Now she has roughly used it--flung it down
And brushed its bloom away. If she had said,
"Sir, I have promised; therefore, lo! my hand"--
Would I have taken it? Ah no! by all
Most sacred, no!
                I would for my sole share
Have taken first her recollected blush
The day I won her; next her shining tears--
The tears of our long parting; and for all
The rest--her cry, her bitter heart-sick cry,
That day or night (I know not which it was,
The days being always night), that darkest night.
When being led to her I heard her cry,
"O blind! blind! blind!"
Go with thy chosen mate:
The fashion of thy going nearly cured
The sorrow of it. I am yet so weak
That half my thoughts go after thee; but not
So weak that I desire to have it so.

JESSIE, _seated at the piano, sings_.

When the dimpled water slippeth,
  Full of laughter, on its way,
And her wing the wagtail dippeth,
  Running by the brink at play;
When the poplar leaves atremble
  Turn their edges to the light,
And the far-up clouds resemble
  Veils of gauze most clear and white;
And the sunbeams fall and flatter
  Woodland moss and branches brown.
And the glossy finches chatter
  Up and down, up and down:
Though the heart be not attending,
  Having music of her own,
On the grass, through meadows wending,
  It is sweet to walk alone.

When the falling waters utter
  Something mournful on their way,
And departing swallows flutter,
  Taking leave of bank and brae;
When the chaffinch idly sitteth
  With her mate upon the sheaves,
And the wistful robin flitteth
  Over beds of yellow leaves;
When the clouds, like ghosts that ponder
  Evil fate, float by and frown,
And the listless wind doth wander
  Up and down, up and down:
Though the heart be not attending,
  Having sorrows of her own,
Through the fields and fallows wending,
  It is sad to walk alone.

_Merton_. Blind! blind! blind!
Oh! sitting in the dark for evermore,
And doing nothing--putting out a hand
To feel what lies about me, and to say
Not "This is blue or red," but "This is cold,
And this the sun is shining on, and this
I know not till they tell its name to me."

O that I might behold once more my God!
The shining rulers of the night and day;
Or a star twinkling; or an almond-tree,
Pink with her blossom and alive with bees,
Standing against the azure! O my sight!
Lost, and yet living in the sunlit cells
Of memory--that only lightsome place
Where lingers yet the dayspring of my youth:
The years of mourning for thy death are long.

Be kind, sweet memory! O desert me not!
For oft thou show'st me lucent opal seas,
Fringed with their cocoa-palms and dwarf red crags,
Whereon the placid moon doth "rest her chin",
For oft by favor of thy visitings
I feel the dimness of an Indian night,
And lo! the sun is coming. Red as rust
Between the latticed blind his presence burns,
A ruby ladder running up the wall;
And all the dust, printed with pigeons' feet,
Is reddened, and the crows that stalk anear
Begin to trail for heat their glossy wings,
And the red flowers give back at once the dew,
For night is gone, and day is born so fast,
And is so strong, that, huddled as in flight,
The fleeting darkness paleth to a shade,
And while she calls to sleep and dreams "Come on,"
Suddenly waked, the sleepers rub their eyes,
Which having opened, lo! she is no more.

O misery and mourning! I have felt--
Yes, I have felt like some deserted world
That God had done with, and had cast aside
To rock and stagger through the gulfs of space,
He never looking on it any more--
Untilled, no use, no pleasure, not desired,
Nor lighted on by angels in their flight
From heaven to happier planets, and the race
That once had dwelt on it withdrawn or dead
Could such a world have hope that some blest day
God would remember her, and fashion her
Anew?

_Jessie_. What, dearest? Did you speak to me?

_Child_. I think he spoke to us.

_M_.                                No, little elves,
You were so quiet that I half forgot
Your neighborhood. What are you doing there?

_J_. They sit together on the window-mat
Nursing their dolls.

_C_.                     Yes, Uncle, our new dolls--
Our best dolls, that you gave us.

_M_.                                  Did you say
The afternoon was bright?

_J_.                          Yes, bright indeed!
The sun is on the plane-tree, and it flames
All red and orange.

_C_.                    I can see my father--
Look! look! the leaves are falling on his gown.

_M_. Where?

_C_.                In the churchyard, Uncle--he is gone:
He passed behind the tower.

_M_.                            I heard a bell:
There is a funeral, then, behind the church.

_2d Child_. Are the trees sorry when their leaves drop off?

_1st Child_. You talk such silly words;--no, not at all.
There goes another leaf.

_2d Child_.                  I did not see.

_1st Child_. Look! on the grass, between the little hills.
Just where they planted Amy.

_J._  Amy died--
Dear little Amy! when you talk of her,
Say, she is gone to heaven.

_2d Child_. They planted her--
Will she come up next year?

_1st Child_. No, not so soon;
But some day God will call her to come up,
And then she will. Papa knows everything--
He said she would before he planted her.

_2d Child_. It was at night she went to heaven. Last night
We saw a star before we went to bed.

_1st Child_. Yes, Uncle, did you know? A large bright star,
And at her side she had some little ones--
Some young ones.

_M_. Young ones! no, my little maid,
Those stars are very old.

_1st Child_. What! all of them?

_M_. Yes.

_1st Child_. Older than our father?

_M_. Older, far.

_2d Child_. They must be tired of shining there so long.
Perhaps they wish they might come down.

_J_. Perhaps!
Dear children, talk of what you understand.
Come, I must lift the trailing creepers up
That last night's wind has loosened.

_1st Child_.          May we help?
Aunt, may we help to nail them?

_J._                We shall see.
Go, find and bring the hammer, and some shreds.

_[Steps outside the window, lifts a branch, and sings.]_

Should I change my allegiance for rancor
  If fortune changes her side?
Or should I, like a vessel at anchor,
  Turn with the turn of the tide?
Lift! O lift, thou lowering sky;
  An thou wilt, thy gloom forego!
An thou wilt not, he and I
  Need not part for drifts of snow.

 _M. [within_] Lift! no, thou lowering sky, thou wilt not lift--
Thy motto readeth, "Never."

_Children_.        Here they are!
Here are the nails! and may we help?

_J_.               You shall,
If I should want help.

_1st Child_.     Will you want it, then?
Please want it--we like nailing.

_2d Child_.         Yes, we do.

_J_. It seems I ought to want it: hold the bough,
And each may nail in turn.

[_Sings._]

Like a daisy I was, near him growing:
  Must I move because favors flag,
And be like a brown wall-flower blowing
  Far out of reach in a crag?
Lift! O lift, thou lowering sky;
  An thou canst, thy blue regain!
An thou canst not, he and I
  Need not part for drops of rain.

_1st Child_. Now, have we nailed enough?

_J. [trains the creepers_] Yes, you may go;
But do not play too near the churchyard path.

_M. [within_] Even misfortune does not strike so near
As my dependence. O, in youth and strength
To sit a timid coward in the dark,
And feel before I set a cautious step!
It is so very dark, so far more dark
Than any night that day comes after--night
In which there would be stars, or else at least
The silvered portion of a sombre cloud
Through which the moon is plunging.

_J. [entering]_         Merton!

_M_.                    Yes

_J_. Dear Merton, did you know that I could hear?

_M_. No: e'en my solitude is not mine now,
And if I be alone is ofttimes doubt.
Alas! far more than eyesight have I lost;
For manly courage drifteth after it--
E'en as a splintered spar would drift away
From some dismasted wreck. Hear, I complain--
Like a weak ailing woman I complain.

_J_. For the first time.

_M_. I cannot bear the dark.

_J_. My brother! you do bear it--bear it well--
Have borne it twelve long months, and not complained
Comfort your heart with music: all the air
Is warm with sunbeams where the organ stands.
You like to feel them on you. Come and play.

_M_. My fate, my fate is lonely!

_J_.                So it is--
I know it is.

_M_.    And pity breaks my heart.

_J_. Does it, dear Merton?

_M_.              Yes, I say it does.
What! do you think I am so dull of ear
That I can mark no changes in the tones
That reach me? Once I liked not girlish pride
And that coy quiet, chary of reply,
That held me distant: now the sweetest lips
Open to entertain me--fairest hands
Are proffered me to guide.

_J_.                That is not well?

_M_. No: give me coldness, pride, or still disdain,
Gentle withdrawal. Give me anything
But this--a fearless, sweet, confiding ease,
Whereof I may expect, I may exact,
Considerate care, and have it--gentle speech,
And have it. Give me anything but this!
For they who give it, give it in the faith
That I will not misdeem them, and forget
My doom so far as to perceive thereby
Hope of a wife. They make this thought too plain;
They wound me--O they cut me to the heart!
When have I said to any one of them,
"I am a blind and desolate man;--come here,
I pray you--be as eyes to me?" When said,
Even to her whose pitying voice is sweet
To my dark ruined heart, as must be hands
That clasp a lifelong captive's through the grate,
And who will ever lend her delicate aid
To guide me, dark encumbrance that I am!--
When have I said to her, "Comforting voice,
Belonging to a face unknown, I pray
Be my wife's voice?"

_J_.      Never, my brother--no,
You never have!

_M_.      What could she think of me
If I forgot myself so far? or what
Could she reply?

_J_.      You ask not as men ask
Who care for an opinion, else perhaps,
Although I am not sure--although, perhaps,
I have no right to give one--I should say
She would reply, "I will"

       *       *       *       *       *

_Afterthought_.

Man dwells apart, though not alone,
  He walks among his peers unread;
The best of thoughts which he hath known.
  For lack of listeners are not said.

Yet dreaming on earth's clustered isles,
  He saith "They dwell not lone like men,
Forgetful that their sunflecked smiles
  Flash far beyond each other's ken."

He looks on God's eternal suns
  That sprinkle the celestial blue,
And saith, "Ah! happy shining ones,
  I would that men were grouped like you!"

Yet this is sure, the loveliest star
  That clustered with its peers we see,
Only because from us so far
  Doth near its fellows seem to be.



SONGS OF SEVEN.


SEVEN TIMES ONE. EXULTATION.

There's no dew left on the daisies and clover,
  There's no rain left in heaven:
I've said my "seven times" over and over,
  Seven times one are seven.

I am old, so old, I can write a letter;
  My birthday lessons are done;
The lambs play always, they know no better;
  They are only one times one.

O moon! in the night I have seen you sailing
  And shining so round and low;
You were bright! ah bright! but your light is failing--
  You are nothing now but a bow.

You moon, have you done something wrong in heaven
  That God has hidden your face?
I hope if you have you will soon be forgiven,
  And shine again in your place.

O velvet bee, you're a dusty fellow,
  You've powdered your legs with gold!
O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,
  Give me your money to hold!

O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
  Where two twin turtle-doves dwell!
O cuckoo pint, toll me the purple clapper
  That hangs in your clear green bell!

And show me your nest with the young ones in it;
  I will not steal them away;
I am old! you may trust me, linnet, linnet--
  I am seven times one to-day.


SEVEN TIMES TWO. ROMANCE.

You bells in the steeple, ring, ring out your changes,
  How many soever they be,
And let the brown meadow-lark's note as he ranges
  Come over, come over to me.

Yet bird's clearest carol by fall or by swelling
  No magical sense conveys,
And bells have forgotten their old art of telling
  The fortune of future days.

"Turn again, turn again," once they rang cheerily,
  While a boy listened alone;
Made his heart yearn again, musing so wearily
  All by himself on a stone.

Poor bells! I forgive you; your good days are over,
  And mine, they are yet to be;
No listening, no longing shall aught, aught discover:
  You leave the story to me.

The foxglove shoots out of the green matted heather,
  And hangeth her hoods of snow;
She was idle, and slept till the sunshiny weather:
  O, children take long to grow.

I wish, and I wish that the spring would go faster,
  Nor long summer bide so late;
And I could grow on like the foxglove and aster,
  For some things are ill to wait.

I wait for the day when dear hearts shall discover,
  While dear hands are laid on my head;
"The child is a woman, the book may close over,
  For all the lessons are said."

I wait for my story--the birds cannot sing it,
  Not one, as he sits on the tree;
The bells cannot ring it, but long years, O bring it!
  Such as I wish it to be.


SEVEN TIMES THREE. LOVE.

I leaned out of window, I smelt the white clover,
  Dark, dark was the garden, I saw not the gate;
"Now, if there be footsteps, he comes, my one lover--
  Hush, nightingale, hush! O, sweet nightingale, wait
    Till I listen and hear
    If a step draweth near,
    For my love he is late!

"The skies in the darkness stoop nearer and nearer,
  A cluster of stars hangs like fruit in the tree,
The fall of the water comes sweeter, comes clearer:
  To what art thou listening, and what dost thou see?
    Let the star-clusters glow,
    Let the sweet waters flow,
    And cross quickly to me.

"You night-moths that hover where honey brims over
  From sycamore blossoms, or settle or sleep;
You glowworms, shine out, and the pathway discover
  To him that comes darkling along the rough steep.
    Ah, my sailor, make haste,
    For the time runs to waste,
    And my love lieth deep--

"Too deep for swift telling: and yet my one lover
  I've conned thee an answer, it waits thee to-night."

By the sycamore passed he, and through the white clover,
  Then all the sweet speech I had fashioned took flight:
    But I'll love him more, more
    Than e'er wife loved before,
    Be the days dark or bright.


SEVEN TIMES FOUR. MATERNITY.

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups,
  Fair yellow daffodils, stately and tall!
When the wind wakes how they rock in the grasses,
  And dance with the cuckoo-buds slender and small!
Here's two bonny boys, and here's mother's own lasses,
    Eager to gather them all.

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups!
  Mother shall thread them a daisy chain;
Sing them a song of the pretty hedge-sparrow,
  That loved her brown little ones, loved them full fain;
Sing, "Heart, thou art wide though the house be but narrow"--
    Sing once, and sing it again.

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups,
  Sweet wagging cowslips, they bend and they bow;
A ship sails afar over warm ocean waters,
  And haply one musing doth stand at her prow.
O bonny brown sons, and O sweet little daughters,
    Maybe he thinks on you now!

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups,
  Fair yellow daffodils, stately and tall--
A sunshiny world full of laughter and leisure,
  And fresh hearts unconscious of sorrow and thrall!
Send down on their pleasure smiles passing its measure,
    God that is over us all!


SEVEN TIMES FIVE. WIDOWHOOD.

I sleep and rest, my heart makes moan
  Before I am well awake;
"Let me bleed! O let me alone,
  Since I must not break!"

For children wake, though fathers sleep
  With a stone at foot and at head:
O sleepless God, forever keep,
  Keep both living and dead!

I lift mine eyes, and what to see
  But a world happy and fair!
I have not wished it to mourn with me--
  Comfort is not there.

O what anear but golden brooms,
  And a waste of reedy rills!
O what afar but the fine glooms
  On the rare blue hills!

I shall not die, but live forlore--
  How bitter it is to part!
O to meet thee, my love, once more!
  O my heart, my heart!

No more to hear, no more to see!
  O that an echo might wake
And waft one note of thy psalm to me
  Ere my heart-strings break!

I should know it how faint soe'er,
  And with angel voices blent;
O once to feel thy spirit anear,
  I could be content!

Or once between the gates of gold,
  While an angel entering trod,
But once--thee sitting to behold
  On the hills of God!


SEVEN TIMES SIX. GIVING IN MARRIAGE.

To bear, to nurse, to rear,
  To watch, and then to lose:
To see my bright ones disappear,
  Drawn up like morning dews--
To bear, to nurse, to rear,
  To watch, and then to lose:
This have I done when God drew near
  Among his own to choose.

To hear, to heed, to wed,
  And with thy lord depart
In tears that he, as soon as shed,
  Will let no longer smart.--
To hear, to heed, to wed,
  This while thou didst I smiled,
For now it was not God who said,
"Mother, give ME thy child."

O fond, O fool, and blind,
  To God I gave with tears;
But when a man like grace would find,
  My soul put by her fears--
O fond, O fool, and blind,
  God guards in happier spheres;
That man will guard where he did bind
  Is hope for unknown years.

To hear, to heed, to wed,
  Fair lot that maidens choose,
Thy mother's tenderest words are said,
  Thy face no more she views;
Thy mother's lot, my dear,
  She doth in nought accuse;
Her lot to bear, to nurse, to rear,
  To love--and then to lose.


SEVEN TIMES SEVEN. LONGING FOR HOME.

I.

        A song of a boat:--
    There was once a boat on a billow:
  Lightly she rocked to her port remote,
And the foam was white in her wake like snow,
And her frail mast bowed when the breeze would blow
    And bent like a wand of willow.

II.

  I shaded mine eyes one day when a boat
    Went curtseying over the billow,
  I marked her course till a dancing mote
She faded out on the moonlit foam,
And I stayed behind in the dear loved home;
  And my thoughts all day were about the boat,
    And my dreams upon the pillow.

III.

I pray you hear my song of a boat,
    For it is but short:--
My boat, you shall find none fairer afloat,
    In river or port.
Long I looked out for the lad she bore,
  On the open desolate sea,
And I think he sailed to the heavenly shore,
  For he came not back to me--
                                  Ah me!

IV.

        A song of a nest:--
    There was once a nest in a hollow:
Down in the mosses and knot-grass pressed,
  Soft and warm, and full to the brim--
  Vetches leaned over it purple and dim,
    With buttercup buds to follow.

V.

I pray you hear my song of a nest,
    For it is not long:--
You shall never light, in a summer quest
    The bushes among--
Shall never light on a prouder sitter,
  A fairer nestful, nor ever know
A softer sound than their tender twitter
  That wind-like did come and go.

VI.

  I had a nestful once of my own,
    Ah happy, happy I!
Right dearly I loved them: but when they were grown
    They spread out their wings to fly--
  O, one after one they flew away
    Far up to the heavenly blue,
  To the better country, the upper day,
    And--I wish I was going too.

VII.

I pray you, what is the nest to me,
    My empty nest?
And what is the shore where I stood to see
    My boat sail down to the west?
Can I call that home where I anchor yet,
    Though my good man has sailed?
Can I call that home where my nest was set,
    Now all its hope hath failed?
Nay, but the port where my sailor went,
    And the land where my nestlings be:
There is the home where my thoughts are sent,
    The only home for me--
                           Ah me!



A COTTAGE IN A CHINE.


We reached the place by night,
  And heard the waves breaking:
They came to meet us with candles alight
  To show the path we were taking.
A myrtle, trained on the gate, was white
  With tufted flowers down shaking.

With head beneath her wing,
  A little wren was sleeping--
So near, I had found it an easy thing
  To steal her for my keeping
From the myrtle-bough that with easy swing
  Across the path was sweeping.

Down rocky steps rough-hewed,
  Where cup-mosses flowered,
And under the trees, all twisted and rude,
  Wherewith the dell was dowered,
They led us, where deep in its solitude
  Lay the cottage, leaf-embowered.

The thatch was all bespread
  With climbing passion-flowers;
They were wet, and glistened with raindrops, shed
  That day in genial showers.
"Was never a sweeter nest," we said,
  "Than this little nest of ours."

We laid us down to sleep:
  But as for me--waking,
I marked the plunge of the muffled deep
  On its sandy reaches breaking;
For heart-joyance doth sometimes keep
  From slumber, like heart-aching.

And I was glad that night,
  With no reason ready,
To give my own heart for its deep delight,
  That flowed like some tidal eddy,
Or shone like a star that was rising bright
  With comforting radiance steady.

But on a sudden--hark!
  Music struck asunder
Those meshes of bliss, and I wept in the dark,
  So sweet was the unseen wonder;
So swiftly it touched, as if struck at a mark,
  The trouble that joy kept under.

I rose--the moon outshone:
  I saw the sea heaving,
And a little vessel sailing alone,
  The small crisp wavelet cleaving;
'Twas she as she sailed to her port unknown--
  Was that track of sweetness leaving.

We know they music made
  In heaven, ere man's creation;
But when God threw it down to us that strayed
  It dropt with lamentation,
And ever since doth its sweetness shade
  With sighs for its first station.

Its joy suggests regret--
  Its most for more is yearning;
And it brings to the soul that its voice hath met,
  No rest that cadence learning,
But a conscious part in the sighs that fret
  Its nature for returning.

O Eve, sweet Eve! methought
  When sometimes comfort winning,
As she watched the first children's tender sport,
  Sole joy born since her sinning,
If a bird anear them sang, it brought
  The pang as at beginning.

While swam the unshed tear,
  Her prattlers little heeding,
Would murmur, "This bird, with its carol clear.
  When the red clay was kneaden,
And God made Adam our father dear,
  Sang to him thus in Eden."

The moon went in--the sky
  And earth and sea hiding,
I laid me down, with the yearning sigh
  Of that strain in my heart abiding;
I slept, and the barque that had sailed so nigh
  In my dream was ever gliding.

I slept, but waked amazed,
  With sudden noise frighted,
And voices without, and a flash that dazed
  My eyes from candles lighted.
"Ah! surely," methought, "by these shouts upraised
  Some travellers are benighted."

A voice was at my side--
  "Waken, madam, waken!
The long prayed-for ship at her anchor doth ride.
  Let the child from its rest be taken,
For the captain doth weary for babe and for bride--
  Waken, madam, waken!

"The home you left but late,
  He speeds to it light-hearted;
By the wires he sent this news, and straight
  To you with it they started."
O joy for a yearning heart too great,
  O union for the parted!

We rose up in the night,
  The morning star was shining;
We carried the child in its slumber light
  Out by the myrtles twining:
Orion over the sea hung bright,
  And glorious in declining.

Mother, to meet her son,
  Smiled first, then wept the rather;
And wife, to bind up those links undone,
  And cherished words to gather,
And to show the face of her little one,
  That had never seen its father.

That cottage in a chine
  We were not to behold it;
But there may the purest of sunbeams shine,
  May freshest flowers enfold it,
For sake of the news which our hearts must twine
  With the bower where we were told it!

Now oft, left lone again,
  Sit mother and sit daughter,
And bless the good ship that sailed over the main,
  And the favoring winds that brought her;
While still some new beauty they fable and feign
  For the cottage by the water.



PERSEPHONE.

(Written for THE PORTFOLIO SOCIETY, January, 1862.

Subject given--"Light and Shade.")


She stepped upon Sicilian grass,
  Demeter's daughter fresh and fair,
A child of light, a radiant lass,
  And gamesome as the morning air.
The daffodils were fair to see,
They nodded lightly on the lea,
Persephone--Persephone!

Lo! one she marked of rarer growth
  Than orchis or anemone;
For it the maiden left them both,
  And parted from her company.
Drawn nigh she deemed it fairer still,
And stooped to gather by the rill
The daffodil, the daffodil.

What ailed the meadow that it shook?
  What ailed the air of Sicily?
She wondered by the brattling brook,
  And trembled with the trembling lea.
"The coal-black horses rise--they rise:
O mother, mother!" low she cries--
Persephone--Persephone!

"O light, light, light!" she cries, "farewell;
  The coal-black horses wait for me.
O shade of shades, where I must dwell,
  Demeter, mother, far from thee!
Ah, fated doom that I fulfil!
Ah, fateful flower beside the rill!
The daffodil, the daffodil!"

What ails her that she comes not home?
  Demeter seeks her far and wide,
And gloomy-browed doth ceaseless roam
  From many a morn till eventide.
"My life, immortal though it be,
Is nought," she cries, "for want of thee,
Persephone--Persephone!

"Meadows of Enna, let the rain
  No longer drop to feed your rills,
Nor dew refresh the fields again,
  With all their nodding daffodils!
Fade, fade and droop, O lilied lea,
Where thou, dear heart, wert reft from me--
Persephone--Persephone!"

She reigns upon her dusky throne,
  Mid shades of heroes dread to see;
Among the dead she breathes alone,
  Persephone--Persephone!
Or seated on the Elysian hill
She dreams of earthly daylight still,
And murmurs of the daffodil.

A voice in Hades soundeth clear,
  The shadows mourn and fill below;
It cries--"Thou Lord of Hades, hear,
  And let Demeter's daughter go.
The tender corn upon the lea
Droops in her goddess gloom when she
Cries for her lost Persephone.

"From land to land she raging flies,
  The green fruit falleth in her wake,
And harvest fields beneath her eyes
  To earth the grain unripened shake.
Arise, and set the maiden free;
Why should the world such sorrow dree
By reason of Persephone?"

He takes the cleft pomegranate seeds:
  "Love, eat with me this parting day;"
Then bids them fetch the coal-black steeds--
  "Demeter's daughter, wouldst away?"
The gates of Hades set her free:
"She will return full soon," saith he--
"My wife, my wife Persephone."

Low laughs the dark king on his throne--
  "I gave her of pomegranate seeds."
Demeter's daughter stands alone
  Upon the fair Eleusian meads.
Her mother meets her. "Hail!" saith she;
"And doth our daylight dazzle thee,
My love, my child Persephone?

"What moved thee, daughter, to forsake
  Thy fellow-maids that fatal morn,
And give thy dark lord power to take
  Thee living to his realm forlorn?"
Her lips reply without her will,
As one addressed who slumbereth still--
"The daffodil, the daffodil!"

Her eyelids droop with light oppressed,
  And sunny wafts that round her stir,
Her cheek upon her mother's breast--
  Demeter's kisses comfort her.
Calm Queen of Hades, art thou she
Who stepped so lightly on the lea--
Persephone, Persephone?

When, in her destined course, the moon
  Meets the deep shadow of this world,
And laboring on doth seem to swoon
  Through awful wastes of dimness whirled--
Emerged at length, no trace hath she
Of that dark hour of destiny,
Still silvery sweet--Persephone.

The greater world may near the less,
  And draw it through her weltering shade,
But not one biding trace impress
  Of all the darkness that she made;
The greater soul that draweth thee
Hath left his shadow plain to see
On thy fair face, Persephone!

Demeter sighs, but sure 'tis well
  The wife should love her destiny:
They part, and yet, as legends tell,
  She mourns her lost Persephone;
While chant the maids of Enna still--
"O fateful flower beside the rill--
The daffodil, the daffodil!"



A SEA SONG.


Old Albion sat on a crag of late.
  And sang out--"Ahoy! ahoy!
Long, life to the captain, good luck to the mate.
And this to my sailor boy!
      Come over, come home,
      Through the salt sea foam,
      My sailor, my sailor boy.

"Here's a crown to be given away, I ween,
  A crown for my sailor's head,
And all for the worth of a widowed queen,
  And the love of the noble dead;
      And the fear and fame
      Of the island's name
    Where my boy was born and bred.

"Content thee, content thee, let it alone,
  Thou marked for a choice so rare;
Though treaties be treaties, never a throne
  Was proffered for cause as fair.
      Yet come to me home,
      Through the salt sea foam,
      For the Greek must ask elsewhere.

"'Tis a pity, my sailor, but who can tell?
  Many lands they look to me;
One of these might be wanting a Prince as well,
  But that's as hereafter may be."
      She raised her white head
      And laughed; and she said
      "That's as hereafter may be."



BROTHERS, AND A SERMON.


It was a village built in a green rent,
Between two cliffs that skirt the dangerous bay
A reef of level rock runs out to sea,
And you may lie on it and look sheer down,
Just where the "Grace of Sunderland" was lost,
And see the elastic banners of the dulse
Rock softly, and the orange star-fish creep
Across the laver, and the mackerel shoot
Over and under it, like silver boats
Turning at will and plying under water.

There on that reef we lay upon our breasts,
My brother and I, and half the village lads,
For an old fisherman had called to us
With "Sirs, the syle be come." "And what are they?"
My brother said. "Good lack!" the old man cried,
And shook his head; "To think you gentlefolk
Should ask what syle be! Look you; I can't say
What syle be called in your fine dictionaries,
Nor what name God Almighty calls them by
When their food's ready and He sends them south:
But our folk call them syle, and nought but syle,
And when they're grown, why then we call them herring.
I tell you, Sir, the water is as full
Of them as pastures be of blades of grass;
You'll draw a score out in a landing net,
And none of them be longer than a pin.

"Syle! ay, indeed, we should be badly off,
I reckon, and so would God Almighty's gulls,"
He grumbled on in his quaint piety,
"And all His other birds, if He should say
I will not drive my syle into the south;
The fisher folk may do without my syle,
And do without the shoals of fish it draws
To follow and feed on it."
                            This said, we made
Our peace with him by means of two small coins,
And down we ran and lay upon the reef,
And saw the swimming infants, emerald green,
In separate shoals, the scarcely turning ebb
Bringing them in; while sleek, and not intent
On chase, but taking that which came to hand,
The full-fed mackerel and the gurnet swam
Between; and settling on the polished sea,
A thousand snow-white gulls sat lovingly
In social rings, and twittered while they fed.
The village dogs and ours, elate and brave,
Lay looking over, barking at the fish;
Fast, fast the silver creatures took the bait,
And when they heaved and floundered on the rock,
In beauteous misery, a sudden pat
Some shaggy pup would deal, then back away,
At distance eye them with sagacious doubt,
And shrink half frighted from the slippery things.

And so we lay from ebb-tide, till the flow
Rose high enough to drive us from the reef;
The fisher lads went home across the sand;
We climbed the cliff, and sat an hour or more,
Talking and looking down. It was not talk
Of much significance, except for this--
That we had more in common than of old,
For both were tired, I with overwork.
He with inaction; I was glad at heart
To rest, and he was glad to have an ear
That he could grumble to, and half in jest
Rail at entails, deplore the fate of heirs,
And the misfortune of a good estate--
Misfortune that was sure to pull him down,
Make him a dreamy, selfish, useless man:
Indeed he felt himself deteriorate
Already. Thereupon he sent down showers
Of clattering stones, to emphasize his words,
And leap the cliffs and tumble noisily
Into the seething wave. And as for me,
I railed at him and at ingratitude,
While rifling of the basket he had slung
Across his shoulders; then with right good will
We fell to work, and feasted like the gods,
Like laborers, or like eager workhouse folk
At Yuletide dinner; or, to say the whole
At once, like tired, hungry, healthy youth,
Until the meal being o'er, the tilted flask
Drained of its latest drop, the meat and bread
And ruddy cherries eaten, and the dogs
Mumbling the bones, this elder brother of mine--
This man, that never felt an ache or pain
In his broad, well-knit frame, and never knew
The trouble of an unforgiven grudge,
The sting of a regretted meanness, nor
The desperate struggle of the unendowed
For place and for possession--he began
To sing a rhyme that he himself had wrought;
Sending it out with cogitative pause,
As if the scene where he had shaped it first
Had rolled it back on him, and meeting it
Thus unaware, he was of doubtful mind
Whether his dignity it well beseemed
To sing of pretty maiden:

Goldilocks sat on the grass,
  Tying up of posies rare;
Hardly could a sunbeam pass
  Through the cloud that was her hair.
Purple orchis lasteth long,
  Primrose flowers are pale and clear;
O the maiden sang a song
  It would do you good to hear!

Sad before her leaned the boy,
  "Goldilocks that I love well,
Happy creature, fair and coy,
  Think o' me, sweet Amabel."
Goldilocks she shook apart,
  Looked with doubtful, doubtful eyes;
Like a blossom in her heart,
  Opened out her first surprise.

As a gloriole sign o' grace,
  Goldilocks, ah fall and flow,
On the blooming, childlike face,
  Dimple, dimple, come and go.
Give her time; on grass and sky
  Let her gaze if she be fain:
As they looked ere he drew nigh,
  They will never look again.

Ah! the playtime she has known,
  While her goldilocks grew long,
Is it like a nestling flown,
  Childhood over like a song?
Yes, the boy may clear his brow,
  Though she thinks to say him nay,
When she sighs, "I cannot now--
  Come again some other day."

"Hold! there," he cried, half angry with himself;
"That ending goes amiss:" then turned again
To the old argument that we had held--
"Now look you!" said my brother, "You may talk
Till, weary of the talk, I answer 'Ay,
There's reason in your words;' and you may talk
Till I go on to say, 'This should be so;'
And you may talk till I shall further own
'It _is_ so; yes, I am a lucky dog!'
Yet not the less shall I next morning wake.
And with a natural and fervent sigh,
Such as you never heaved, I shall exclaim
'What an unlucky dog I am!'" And here
He broke into a laugh. "But as for you--
You! on all hands you have the best of me;
Men have not robbed _you_ of your birthright--work,
Nor ravaged in old days a peaceful field,
Nor wedded heiresses against their will,
Nor sinned, nor slaved, nor stooped, nor overreached,
That you might drone a useless life away
'Mid half a score of bleak and barren farms
And half a dozen bogs."
                          "O rare!" I cried;
"His wrongs go nigh to make him eloquent:
Now we behold how far bad actions reach!
Because five hundred years ago a Knight
Drove geese and beeves out from a Franklin's yard
Because three hundred years ago a squire--
Against her will, and for her fair estate--
Married a very ugly red-haired maid,
The blest inheritor of all their pelf,
While in the full enjoyment of the same,
Sighs on his own confession every day.
He cracks no egg without a moral sigh,
Nor eats of beef, but thinking on that wrong;
Then, yet the more to be revenged on them,
And shame their ancient pride, if they should know,
Works hard as any horse for his degree,
And takes to writing verses."
                                  "Ay," he said,
Half laughing at himself. "Yet you and I,
But for those tresses which enrich us yet
With somewhat of the hue that partial fame
Calls auburn when it shines on heads of heirs,
But when it flames round brows of younger sons,
Just red--mere red; why, but for this, I say,
And but for selfish getting of the land,
And beggarly entailing it, we two,
To-day well fed, well grown, well dressed, well read,
We might have been two horny-handed boors--
Lean, clumsy, ignorant, and ragged boors--
Planning for moonlight nights a poaching scheme,
Or soiling our dull souls and consciences
With plans for pilfering a cottage roost.

"What, chorus! are you dumb? you should have cried,
'So good comes out of evil;'" and with that,
As if all pauses it was natural
To seize for songs, his voice broke out again:

    Coo, dove, to thy married mate--
      She has two warm eggs in her nest:
    Tell her the hours are few to wait
      Ere life shall dawn on their rest;
  And thy young shall peck at the shells, elate
    With a dream of her brooding breast.

  Coo, dove, for she counts the hours,
    Her fair wings ache for flight:
  By day the apple has grown in the flowers,
    And the moon has grown by night,
  And the white drift settled from hawthorn bowers,
    Yet they will not seek the light.

  Coo, dove; but what of the sky?
    And what if the storm-wind swell,
  And the reeling branch come down from on high
    To the grass where daisies dwell,
  And the brood beloved should with them lie
    Or ever they break the shell?

  Coo, dove; and yet black clouds lower,
    Like fate, on the far-off sea:
  Thunder and wind they bear to thy bower,
    As on wings of destiny.
  Ah, what if they break in an evil hour,
    As they broke over mine and me?

What next?--we started like to girls, for lo!
The creaking voice, more harsh than rusty crane,
Of one who stooped behind us, cried aloud
"Good lack! how sweet the gentleman does sing--
So loud and sweet, 'tis like to split his throat.
Why, Mike's a child to him, a two years child--
Chrisom child."
                    "Who's Mike?" my brother growled
A little roughly. Quoth the fisherman--
"Mike, Sir? he's just a fisher lad, no more;
But he can sing, when he takes on to sing,
So loud there's not a sparrow in the spire
But needs must hear. Sir, if I might make bold,
I'd ask what song that was you sung. My mate,
As we were shoving off the mackerel boats,
Said he, 'I'll wager that's the sort o' song
They kept their hearts up with in the Crimea,'"

"There, fisherman," quoth I, "he showed his wit,
Your mate; he marked the sound of savage war--
Gunpowder, groans, hot-shot, and bursting shells,
And 'murderous messages,' delivered by
Spent balls that break the heads of dreaming men."

"Ay, ay, Sir!" quoth the fisherman. "Have done!"
My brother. And I--"The gift belongs to few
Of sending farther than the words can reach
Their spirit and expression;" still--"Have done!"
He cried; and then "I rolled the rubbish out
More loudly than the meaning warranted,
To air my lungs--I thought not on the words."

Then said the fisherman, who missed the point,
"So Mike rolls out the psalm; you'll hear him, Sir,
Please God you live till Sunday."
      "Even so:
And you, too, fisherman; for here, they say,
You are all church-goers."
      "Surely, Sir," quoth he,
Took off his hat, and stroked his old white head
And wrinkled face; then sitting by us said,
As one that utters with a quiet mind
Unchallenged truth--"'Tis lucky for the boats."

The boats! 'tis lucky for the boats! Our eyes
Were drawn to him as either fain would say,
What! do they send the psalm up in the spire,
And pray because 'tis lucky for the boats?

But he, the brown old man, the wrinkled man,
That all his life had been a church-goer,
Familiar with celestial cadences,
Informed of all he could receive, and sure
Of all he understood--he sat content,
And we kept silence. In his reverend face
There was a simpleness we could not sound;
Much truth had passed him overhead; some error
He had trod under foot;--God comfort him!
He could not learn of us, for we were young
And he was old, and so we gave it up;
And the sun went into the west, and down
Upon the water stooped an orange cloud,
And the pale milky reaches flushed, as glad
To wear its colors; and the sultry air
Went out to sea, and puffed the sails of ships
With thymy wafts, the breath of trodden grass:
It took moreover music, for across
The heather belt and over pasture land
Came the sweet monotone of one slow bell,
And parted time into divisions rare,
Whereof each morsel brought its own delight.

"They ring for service," quoth the fisherman;
"Our parson preaches in the church to-night."

"And do the people go?" my brother asked.

"Ay, Sir; they count it mean to stay away,
He takes it so to heart. He's a rare man,
Our parson; half a head above us all"

"That's a great gift, and notable," said I.

"Ay, Sir; and when he was a younger man
He went out in the lifeboat very oft,
Before the 'Grace of Sunderland' was wrecked.
He's never been his own man since that hour:
For there were thirty men aboard of her,
Anigh as close as you are now to me,
And ne'er a one was saved.
                              They're lying now,
With two small children, in a row: the church
And yard are full of seamen's graves, and few
Have any names.
                        She bumped upon the reef;
Our parson, my young son, and several more
Were lashed together with a two-inch rope,
And crept along to her; their mates ashore
Ready to haul them in. The gale was high,
The sea was all a boiling seething froth,
And God Almighty's guns were going off,
And the land trembled.

                           "When she took the ground,
She went to pieces like a lock of hay
Tossed from a pitchfork. Ere it came to that,
The captain reeled on deck with two small things,
One in each arm--his little lad and lass.
Their hair was long, and blew before his face,
Or else we thought he had been saved; he fell,
But held them fast. The crew, poor luckless souls!
The breakers licked them off; and some were crushed,
Some swallowed in the yeast, some flung up dead,
The dear breath beaten out of them: not one
Jumped from the wreck upon the reef to catch
The hands that strained to reach, but tumbled back
With eyes wide open. But the captain lay
And clung--the only man alive. They prayed--
'For God's sake, captain, throw the children here!'
'Throw them!' our parson cried; and then she struck
And he threw one, a pretty two years child;
But the gale dashed him on the slippery verge,
And down he went. They say they heard him cry.

"Then he rose up and took the other one,
And all our men reached out their hungry arms,
And cried out, 'Throw her! throw her!' and he did:
He threw her right against the parson's breast,
And all at once a sea broke over them,
And they that saw it from the shore have said
It struck the wreck, and piecemeal scattered it,
Just as a woman might the lump of salt
That 'twixt her hands into the kneading pan
She breaks and crumbles on her rising bread.

"We hauled our men in: two of them were dead--
The sea had beaten them, their heads hung down;
Our parson's arms were empty, for the wave
Had torn away the pretty, pretty lamb;
We often see him stand beside her grave:
But 'twas no fault of his, no fault of his.

"I ask your pardon, Sirs, I prate and prate,
And never have I said what brought me here.
Sirs, if you want a boat to-morrow morn,
I'm bold to say there's ne'er a boat like mine."

"Ay, that was what we wanted," we replied;
"A boat, his boat;" and off he went, well pleased.

We, too, rose up (the crimson in the sky
Flushing our faces), and went sauntering on,
And thought to reach our lodging, by the cliff.
And up and down among the heather beds,
And up and down between the sheaves we sped,
Doubling and winding; for a long ravine
Ran up into the land and cut us off,
Pushing out slippery ledges for the birds.
And rent with many a crevice, where the wind
Had laid up drifts of empty eggshells, swept
From the bare berths of gulls and guillemots.

So as it chanced we lighted on a path
That led into a nutwood; and our talk
Was louder than beseemed, if we had known,
With argument and laughter; for the path,
As we sped onward, took a sudden turn
Abrupt, and we came out on churchyard grass,
And close upon a porch, and face to face
With those within, and with the thirty graves.
We heard the voice of one who preached within,
And stopped. "Come on," my brother whispered me;
"It were more decent that we enter now;
Come on! we'll hear this rare old demigod:
I like strong men and large; I like gray heads,
And grand gruff voices, hoarse though this may be
With shouting in the storm."
                                It was not hoarse,
The voice that preached to those few fishermen
And women, nursing mothers with the babes
Hushed on their breasts; and yet it held them not:
Their drowsy eyes were drawn to look at us,
Till, having leaned our rods against the wall,
And left the dogs at watch, we entered, sat,
And were apprised that, though he saw us not,
The parson knew that he had lost the eyes
And ears of those before him, for he made
A pause--a long dead pause, and dropped his arms,
And stood awaiting, till I felt the red
Mount to my brow.
                     And a soft fluttering stir
Passed over all, and every mother hushed
The babe beneath her shawl, and he turned round
And met our eyes, unused to diffidence,
But diffident of his; then with a sigh
Fronted the folk, lifted his grand gray head,
And said, as one that pondered now the words
He had been preaching on with new surprise,
And found fresh marvel in their sound, "Behold!
Behold!" saith He, "I stand at the door and knock."

Then said the parson: "What! and shall He wait,
And must He wait, not only till we say,
'Good Lord, the house is clean, the hearth is swept.
The children sleep, the mackerel-boats are in,
And all the nets are mended; therefore I
Will slowly to the door and open it:'
But must He also wait where still, behold!
He stands and knocks, while we do say, 'Good Lord.
The gentlefolk are come to worship here,
And I will up and open to Thee soon;
But first I pray a little longer wait,
For I am taken up with them; my eyes
Must needs regard the fashion of their clothes,
And count the gains I think to make by them;
Forsooth, they are of much account, good Lord!
Therefore have patience with me--wait, dear Lord
Or come again?'
                   What! must He wait for THIS--
For this? Ay, He doth wait for this, and still,
Waiting for this, He, patient, raileth not;
Waiting for this, e'en this He saith, 'Behold!
I stand at the door and knock,'
                                  O patient hand!
Knocking and waiting--knocking in the night
When work is done! I charge you, by the sea
Whereby you fill your children's mouths, and by
The might of Him that made it--fishermen!
I charge you, mothers! by the mother's milk
He drew, and by His Father, God over all.
Blessed forever, that ye answer Him!
Open the door with shame, if ye have sinned;
If ye be sorry, open it with sighs.
Albeit the place be bare for poverty,
And comfortless for lack of plenishing,
Be not abashed for that, but open it,
And take Him in that comes to sup with thee;
'Behold!' He saith, 'I stand at the door and knock.'

"Now, hear me: there be troubles in this world
That no man can escape, and there is one
That lieth hard and heavy on my soul,
Concerning that which is to come:--
               I say
As a man that knows what earthly trouble means,
I will not bear this ONE--I cannot bear
This ONE--I cannot bear the weight of you--
You--every one of you, body and soul;
You, with the care you suffer, and the loss
That you sustain; you, with the growing up
To peril, maybe with the growing old
To want, unless before I stand with you
At the great white throne, I may be free of all,
And utter to the full what shall discharge
Mine obligation: nay, I will not wait
A day, for every time the black clouds rise,
And the gale freshens, still I search my soul
To find if there be aught that can persuade
To good, or aught forsooth that can beguile
From evil, that I (miserable man!
If that be so) have left unsaid, undone.

"So that when any risen from sunken wrecks,
Or rolled in by the billows to the edge
Of the everlasting strand, what time the sea
Gives up her dead, shall meet me, they may say
Never, 'Old man, you told us not of this;
You left us fisher lads that had to toil
Ever in danger of the secret stab
Of rocks, far deadlier than the dagger; winds
Of breath more murderous than the cannon's; wave
Mighty to rock us to our death; and gulfs,
Ready beneath to suck and swallow us in:
This crime be on your head; and as for us--
What shall we do? 'but rather--nay, not so,
I will not think it; I will leave the dead,
Appealing but to life: I am afraid
Of you, but not so much if you have sinned
As for the doubt if sin shall be forgiven.
The day was, I have been afraid of pride--
Hard man's hard pride; but now I am afraid
Of man's humility, I counsel you,
By the great God's great humbleness, and by
His pity, be not humble over-much.
See! I will show at whose unopened doors
He stands and knocks, that you may never says
'I am too mean, too ignorant, too lost;
He knocks at other doors, but not at mine.'

"See here! it is the night! it is the night!
And snow lies thickly, white untrodden snow,
And the wan moon upon a casement shines--
A casement crusted o'er with frosty leaves,
That make her ray less bright along the floor.
A woman sits, with hands upon her knees,
Poor tired soul! and she has nought to do,
For there is neither fire nor candle-light:
The driftwood ash lies cold upon her hearth,
The rushlight flickered down an hour ago;
Her children wail a little in their sleep
For cold and hunger, and, as if that sound
Was not enough, another comes to her,
Over God's undefiled snow--a song--
Nay, never hang your heads--I say, a song.
  And doth she curse the alehouse, and the sots
That drink the night out and their earnings there,
And drink their manly strength and courage down,
And drink away the little children's bread,
And starve her, starving by the self-same act
Her tender suckling, that with piteous eye
Looks in her face, till scarcely she has heart
To work, and earn the scanty bit and drop
That feed the others?
                      Does she curse the song?
I think not, fishermen; I have not heard
Such women curse. God's curse is curse enough.
To-morrow she will say a bitter thing,
Pulling her sleeve down lest the bruises show--
A bitter thing, but meant for an excuse--
'My master is not worse than many men:'
But now, ay, now she sitteth dumb and still;
No food, no comfort, cold and poverty
Bearing her down.
                 My heart is sore for her;
How long, how long? When troubles come of God,
When men are frozen out of work, when wives
Are sick, when working fathers fail and die,
When boats go down at sea--then nought behoves
Like patience; but for troubles wrought of men
Patience is hard--I tell you it is hard.

"O thou poor soul! it is the night--the night;
Against thy door drifts up the silent snow,
Blocking thy threshold: 'Fall' thou sayest, 'fall, fall
Cold snow, and lie and be trod underfoot.
Am not I fallen? wake up and pipe, O wind,
Dull wind, and heat and bluster at my door:
Merciful wind, sing me a hoarse rough song,
For there is other music made to-night
That I would fain not hear. Wake, thou still sea,
Heavily plunge. Shoot on, white waterfall.
O, I could long like thy cold icicles
Freeze, freeze, and hang upon the frosty clift
And not complain, so I might melt at last
In the warm summer sun, as thou wilt do!

"'But woe is me! I think there is no sun;
My sun is sunken, and the night grows dark:
None care for me. The children cry for bread,
And I have none, and nought can comfort me;
Even if the heavens were free to such as I,
It were not much, for death is long to wait,
And heaven is far to go!'

                         "And speak'st thou thus,
Despairing of the sun that sets to thee,
And of the earthly love that wanes to thee,
And of the heaven that lieth far from thee?
Peace, peace, fond fool! One draweth near thy door
Whose footsteps leave no print across the snow;
Thy sun has risen with comfort in his face,
The smile of heaven, to warm thy frozen heart,
And bless with saintly hand. What! is it long
To wait, and far to go? Thou shalt not go;
Behold, across the snow to thee He comes,
Thy heaven descends, and is it long to wait?
Thou shalt not wait: 'This night, this night,' he saith,
'I stand at the door and knock.'

"It is enough--can such an one be here--
Yea, here? O God forgive you, fishermen!
One! is there only one? But do thou know,
O woman pale for want, if thou art here,
That on thy lot much thought is spent in heaven;
And, coveting the heart a hard man broke,
One standeth patient, watching in the night,
And waiting in the daytime.
                              What shall be
If thou wilt answer? He will smile on thee,
One smile of His shall be enough to heal
The wound of man's neglect; and He will sigh,
Pitying the trouble which that sigh shall cure;
And He will speak--speak in the desolate nigh
In the dark night: 'For me a thorny crown
Men wove, and nails were driven in my hands
And feet: there was an earthquake, and I died
I died, and am alive for evermore.

"'I died for thee; for thee I am alive,
And my humanity doth mourn for thee,
For thou art mine; and all thy little ones,
They, too, are mine, are mine. Behold, the house
Is dark, but there is brightness where the sons
Of God are singing, and, behold, the heart
Is troubled: yet the nations walk in white;
They have forgotten how to weep; and thou
Shalt also come, and I will foster thee
And satisfy thy soul; and thou shall warm
Thy trembling life beneath the smile of God.
A little while--it is a little while--
A little while, and I will comfort thee;
I go away, but I will come again.'

"But hear me yet. There was a poor old man
Who sat and listened to the raging sea,
And heard it thunder, lunging at the cliffs
As like to tear them down. He lay at night;
And 'Lord have mercy on the lads,' said he,
'That sailed at noon, though they be none of mine!
For when the gale gets up, and when the wind
Flings at the window, when it beats the roof,
And lulls and stops and rouses up again,
And cuts the crest clean off the plunging wave.
And scatters it like feathers up the field,
Why, then I think of my two lads: my lads
That would have worked and never let me want,
And never let me take the parish pay.
No, none of mine; my lads were drowned at sea--
My two--before the most of these wore born.
I know how sharp that cuts, since my poor wife
Walked up and down, and still walked up and down.
And I walked after, and one could not hear
A word the other said, for wind and sea
That raged and beat and thundered in the night--
The awfullest, the longest, lightest night
That ever parents had to spend--a moon
That shone like daylight on the breaking wave.
Ah me! and other men have lost their lads,
And other women wiped their poor dead mouths,
And got them home and dried them in the house,
And seen the driftwood lie along the coast,
That was a tidy boat but one day back.
And seen next tide the neighbors gather it
To lay it on their fires.
                         Ay, I was strong
And able-bodied--loved my work;--but now
I am a useless hull: 'tis time I sank;
I am in all men's way; I trouble them;
I am a trouble to myself: but yet
I feel for mariners of stormy nights,
And feel for wives that watch ashore. Ay, ay!
If I had learning I would pray the Lord
To bring them in: but I'm no scholar, no;
Book-learning is a world too hard for me:
But I make bold to say, 'O Lord, good Lord,
I am a broken-down poor man, a fool
To speak to Thee: but in the Book 'tis writ,
As I hear say from others that can read,
How, when Thou camest, Thou didst love the sea,
And live with fisherfolk, whereby 'tis sure
Thou knowest all the peril they go through.
And all their trouble.
                        As for me, good Lord,
I have no boat; I am too old, too old--
My lads are drowned; I buried my poor wife;
My little lasses died so long ago
That mostly I forget what they were like.
Thou knowest, Lord; they were such little ones.
I know they went to Thee, but I forget
Their faces, though I missed them sore.
                                        O Lord,
I was a strong man; I have drawn good food
And made good money out of Thy great sea:
But yet I cried for them at nights; and now,
Although I be so old, I miss my lads,
And there be many folk this stormy night
Heavy with fear for theirs. Merciful Lord,
Comfort them; save their honest boys, their pride,
And let them hear next ebb the blessedest,
Best sound--the boat-keels grating on the sand.
I cannot pray with finer words: I know
Nothing; I have no learning, cannot learn--
Too old, too old. They say I want for nought,
I have the parish pay; but I am dull
Of hearing, and the fire scarce warms me through.
God save me, I have been a sinful man--
And save the lives of them that still can work,
For they are good to me; ay, good to me.
But, Lord, I am a trouble! and I sit,
And I am lonesome, and the nights are few
That any think to come and draw a chair,
And sit in my poor place and talk a while.
Why should they come, forsooth? Only the wind
Knocks at my door, O long and loud it knocks,
The only thing God made that has a mind
To enter in.'

              "Yea, thus the old man spake:
These were the last words of his aged mouth--
BUT ONE DID KNOCK. One came to sup with him,
That humble, weak, old man; knocked at his door
In the rough pauses of the laboring wind.
I tell you that One knocked while it was dark.
Save where their foaming passion had made white
Those livid seething billows. What He said
In that poor place where He did talk a while,
I cannot tell: but this I am assured,
That when the neighbors came the morrow morn,
What time the wind had bated, and the sun
Shone on the old man's floor, they saw the smile
He passed away in, and they said, 'He looks
As he had woke and seen the face of Christ,
And with that rapturous smile held out his arms
To come to Him!'

                "Can such an one be here,
So old, so weak, so ignorant, so frail?
The Lord be good to thee, thou poor old man;
It would be hard with thee if heaven were shut
To such as have not learning! Nay, nay, nay,
He condescends to them of low estate;
To such as are despised He cometh down,
Stands at the door and knocks.

                               "Yet bear with me.
I have a message; I have more to say.
Shall sorrow win His pity, and not sin--
That burden ten times heavier to be borne?
What think you? Shall the virtuous have His care
Alone? O virtuous women, think not scorn.
For you may lift your faces everywhere;
And now that it grows dusk, and I can see
None though they front me straight, I fain would tell
A certain thing to you. I say to _you_;
And if it doth concern you, as methinks
It doth, then surely it concerneth all.
I say that there was once--I say not here--
I say that there was once a castaway,
And she was weeping, weeping bitterly;
Kneeling, and crying with a heart-sick cry
That choked itself in sobs--'O my good name!
Oh my good name!' And none did hear her cry!
Nay; and it lightened, and the storm-bolts fell,
And the rain splashed upon the roof, and still
She, storm-tost as the storming elements--
She cried with an exceeding bitter cry,
'O my good name!' And then the thunder-cloud
Stooped low and burst in darkness overhead,
And rolled, and rocked her on her knees, and shook
The frail foundations of her dwelling-place.
But she--if any neighbors had come in
(None did): if any neighbors had come in,
They might have seen her crying on her knees.
And sobbing 'Lost, lost, lost!' beating her breast--
Her breast forever pricked with cruel thorns.
The wounds whereof could neither balm assuage
Nor any patience heal--beating her brow,
Which ached, it had been bent so long to hide
From level eyes, whose meaning was contempt.

"O ye good women, it is hard to leave
The paths of virtue, and return again.
What if this sinner wept, and none of you
Comforted her? And what if she did strive
To mend, and none of you believed her strife.
Nor looked upon her? Mark, I do not say,
Though it was hard, you therefore were to blame;
That she had aught against you, though your feet
Never drew near her door. But I beseech
Your patience. Once in old Jerusalem
A woman kneeled at consecrated feet,
Kissed them, and washed them with her tears.
                                  What then?
I think that yet our Lord is pitiful:
I think I see the castaway e'en now!
And she is not alone: the heavy rain
Splashes without, and sullen thunder rolls,
But she is lying at the sacred feet
Of One transfigured.

                      "And her tears flow down,
Down to her lips,--her lips that kiss the print
Of nails; and love is like to break her heart!
Love and repentance--for it still doth work
Sore in her soul to think, to think that she,
Even she, did pierce the sacred, sacred feet.
And bruise the thorn-crowned head.

                               "O Lord, our Lord,
How great is Thy compassion. Come, good Lord,
For we will open. Come this night, good Lord;
Stand at the door and knock.

                             "And is this all?--
Trouble, old age and simpleness, and sin--
This all? It might be all some other night;
But this night, if a voice said 'Give account
Whom hast thou with thee?' then must I reply,
'Young manhood have I, beautiful youth and strength,
Rich with all treasure drawn up from the crypt
Where lies the learning of the ancient world--
Brave with all thoughts that poets fling upon
The strand of life, as driftweed after storms:
Doubtless familiar with Thy mountain heads,
And the dread purity of Alpine snows,
Doubtless familiar with Thy works concealed
For ages from mankind--outlying worlds,
And many moonèd spheres--and Thy great store
Of stars, more thick than mealy dust which here
Powders the pale leaves of Auriculas.
This do I know, but, Lord, I know not more.
Not more concerning them--concerning Thee,
I know Thy bounty; where Thou givest much
Standing without, if any call Thee in
Thou givest more.' Speak, then, O rich and strong:
Open, O happy young, ere yet the hand
Of Him that knocks, wearied at last, forbear;
The patient foot its thankless quest refrain,
The wounded heart for evermore withdraw."

I have heard many speak, but this one man--
So anxious not to go to heaven alone--
This one man I remember, and his look,
Till twilight overshadowed him. He ceased.
And out in darkness with the fisherfolk
We passed and stumbled over mounds of moss,
And heard, but did not see, the passing beck.
Ah, graceless heart, would that it could regain
From the dim storehouse of sensations past
The impress full of tender awe, that night,
Which fell on me! It was as if the Christ
Had been drawn down from heaven to track us home,
And any of the footsteps following us
Might have been His.



A WEDDING SONG.


Come up the broad river, the Thames, my Dane,
    My Dane with the beautiful eyes!
Thousands and thousands await thee full fain,
    And talk of the wind and the skies.
Fear not from folk and from country to part,
    O, I swear it is wisely done:
For (I said) I will bear me by thee, sweetheart,
    As becometh my father's son.

Great London was shouting as I went down.
    "She is worthy," I said, "of this;
What shall I give who have promised a crown?
    O, first I will give her a kiss."
So I kissed her and brought her, my Dane, my Dane,
    Through the waving wonderful crowd:
Thousands and thousands, they shouted amain,
    Like mighty thunders and loud.

And they said, "He is young, the lad we love,
    The heir of the Isles is young:
How we deem of his mother, and one gone above,
    Can neither be said nor sung.

"He brings us a pledge--he will do his part
    With the best of his race and name;"--
And I will, for I look to live, sweetheart,
    As may suit with my mother's fame.



THE FOUR BRIDGES.


I love this gray old church, the low, long nave,
    The ivied chancel and the slender spire;
No less its shadow on each heaving grave,
    With growing osier bound, or living brier;
I love those yew-tree trunks, where stand arrayed
So many deep-cut names of youth and maid.

A simple custom this--I love it well--
    A carved betrothal and a pledge of truth;
How many an eve, their linkèd names to spell,
    Beneath the yew-trees sat our village youth!
When work was over, and the new-cut hay
Sent wafts of balm from meadows where it lay.

Ah! many an eve, while I was yet a boy,
    Some village hind has beckoned me aside,
And sought mine aid, with shy and awkward joy,
    To carve the letters of his rustic bride,
And make them clear to read as graven stone,
Deep in the yew-tree's trunk beside his own.

For none could carve like me, and here they stand.
    Fathers and mothers of this present race:
And underscored by some less practised hand,
    That fain the story of its line would trace,
With children's names, and number, and the day
When any called to God have passed away.

I look upon them, and I turn aside,
    As oft when carving them I did erewhile;
And there I see those wooden bridges wide
    That cross the marshy hollow; there the stile
In reeds embedded, and the swelling down,
And the white road towards the distant town.

But those old bridges claim another look.
    Our brattling river tumbles through the one;
The second spans a shallow, weedy brook;
    Beneath the others, and beneath the sun,
Lie two long stilly pools, and on their breasts
Picture their wooden piles, encased in swallows' nests.

And round about them grows a fringe of reeds,
    And then a floating crown of lily-flowers,
And yet within small silver-budded weeds;
    But each clear centre evermore embowers
A deeper sky, where, stooping, you may see
The little minnows darting restlessly.

My heart is bitter, lilies, at your sweet;
    Why did the dewdrop fringe your chalices?
Why in your beauty are you thus complete,
    You silver ships--you floating palaces?
O! if need be, you must allure man's eye,
    Yet wherefore blossom here? O why? O why?

O! O! the world is wide, you lily flowers,
    It hath warm forests, cleft by stilly pools,
Where every night bathe crowds of stars; and bowers
    Of spicery hang over. Sweet air cools
And shakes the lilies among those stars that lie:
Why are not ye content to reign there? Why?

That chain of bridges, it were hard to tell
    How it is linked with all my early joy.
There was a little foot that I loved well,
    It danced across them when I was a boy;
There was a careless voice that used to sing;
There was a child, a sweet and happy thing.

Oft through that matted wood of oak and birch
    She came from yonder house upon the hill;
She crossed the wooden bridges to the church,
    And watched, with village girls, my boasted skill:
But loved to watch the floating lilies best,
Or linger, peering in a swallow's nest;

Linger and linger, with her wistful eyes
    Drawn to the lily-buds that lay so white
And soft on crimson water; for the skies
    Would crimson, and the little cloudlets bright
Would all be flung among the flowers sheer down,
To flush the spaces of their clustering crown.

Till the green rushes--O, so glossy green--
    The rushes, they would whisper, rustle, shake;
And forth on floating gauze, no jewelled queen
    So rich, the green-eyed dragon-flies would break,
And hover on the flowers--aërial things,
With little rainbows flickering on their wings.

Ah! my heart dear! the polished pools lie still,
    Like lanes of water reddened by the west,
Till, swooping down from yon o'erhanging hill,
    The bold marsh harrier wets her tawny breast;
We scared her oft in childhood from her prey,
And the old eager thoughts rise fresh as yesterday.

To yonder copse by moonlight I did go,
    In luxury of mischief, half afraid,
To steal the great owl's brood, her downy snow,
    Her screaming imps to seize, the while she preyed
With yellow, cruel eyes, whose radiant glare,
Fell with their mother rage, I might not dare.

Panting I lay till her great fanning wings
    Troubled the dreams of rock-doves, slumbering nigh,
And she and her fierce mate, like evil things,
    Skimmed the dusk fields; then rising, with a cry
Of fear, joy, triumph, darted on my prey.
    And tore it from the nest and fled away.

But afterward, belated in the wood,
  I saw her moping on the rifled tree,
And my heart smote me for her, while I stood
  Awakened from my careless reverie;
So white she looked, with moonlight round her shed.
So motherlike she drooped and hung her head.

O that mine eyes would cheat me! I behold
  The godwits running by the water edge,
Tim mossy bridges mirrored as of old;
  The little curlews creeping from the sedge,
But not the little foot so gayly light
O that mine eyes would cheat me, that I might!--

Would cheat me! I behold the gable ends--
  Those purple pigeons clustering on the cote;
The lane with maples overhung, that bends
  Toward her dwelling; the dry grassy moat,
Thick mullions, diamond-latticed, mossed and gray,
And walls bunked up with laurel and with bay.

And up behind them yellow fields of corn,
  And still ascending countless firry spires,
Dry slopes of hills uncultured, bare, forlorn,
  And green in rocky clefts with whins and briers;
Then rich cloud masses dyed the violet's hue,
With orange sunbeams dropping swiftly through.

Ay, I behold all this full easily;
  My soul is jealous of my happier eyes.
And manhood envies youth. Ah, strange to see,
  By looking merely, orange-flooded skies;
Nay, any dew-drop that may near me shine:
But never more the face of Eglantine!

She was my one companion, being herself
  The jewel and adornment of my days,
My life's completeness. O, a smiling elf,
  That I do but disparage with my praise--
My playmate; and I loved her dearly and long,
And she loved me, as the tender love the strong.

Ay, but she grew, till on a time there came
  A sudden restless yearning to my heart;
And as we went a-nesting, all for shame
  And shyness, I did hold my peace, and start;
Content departed, comfort shut me out,
And there was nothing left to talk about.

She had but sixteen years, and as for me,
  Four added made my life. This pretty bird,
This fairy bird that I had cherished--she,
  Content, had sung, while I, contented, heard.
The song had ceased; the bird, with nature's art,
Had brought a thorn and set it in my heart.

The restless birth of love my soul opprest,
  I longed and wrestled for a tranquil day,
And warred with that disquiet in my breast
  As one who knows there is a better way;
But, turned against myself, I still in vain
Looked for the ancient calm to come again.

My tired soul could to itself confess
  That she deserved a wiser love than mine;
To love more truly were to love her less,
  And for this truth I still awoke to pine;
I had a dim belief that it would be
A better thing for her, a blessed thing for me.

Good hast Thou made them--comforters right sweet;
  Good hast Thou made the world, to mankind lent;
Good are Thy dropping clouds that feed the wheat;
  Good are Thy stars above the firmament.
Take to Thee, take, Thy worship, Thy renown;
The good which Thou hast made doth wear Thy crown.

For, O my God, Thy creatures are so frail,
  Thy bountiful creation is so fair.
That, drawn before us like the temple veil,
  It hides the Holy Place from thought and care,
Giving man's eyes instead its sweeping fold,
Rich as with cherub wings and apples wrought of gold.

Purple and blue and scarlet--shimmering bells
  And rare pomegranates on its broidered rim,
Glorious with chain and fretwork that the swell
  Of incense shakes to music dreamy and dim,
Till on a day comes loss, that God makes gain,
And death and darkness rend the veil in twain.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, sweetest! my beloved! each outward thing
  Recalls my youth, and is instinct with thee;
Brown wood-owls in the dusk, with noiseless wing,
  Float from yon hanger to their haunted tree,
And hoot full softly. Listening, I regain
A flashing thought of thee with their remembered strain.

I will not pine--it is the careless brook.
  These amber sunbeams slanting down the vale;
It is the long tree-shadows, with their look
  Of natural peace, that make my heart to fail:
The peace of nature--No, I will not pine--
But O the contrast 'twixt her face and mine!

And still I changed--I was a boy no more;
  My heart was large enough to hold my kind,
And all the world. As hath been oft before
  With youth, I sought, but I could never find
Work hard enough to quiet my self-strife,
And use the strength of action-craving life.

She, too, was changed: her bountiful sweet eyes
  Looked out full lovingly on all the world.
O tender as the deeps in yonder skies
  Their beaming! but her rosebud lips were curled
With the soft dimple of a musing smile,
Which kept my gaze, but held me mute the while.

A cast of bees, a slowly moving wain,
  The scent of bean-flowers wafted up a dell,
Blue pigeons wheeling over fields of grain,
  Or bleat of folded lamb, would please her well;
Or cooing of the early coted dove;--
She sauntering mused of these; I, following, mused of love.

With her two lips, that one the other pressed
  So poutingly with such a tranquil air,
With her two eyes, that on my own would rest
  So dream-like, she denied my silent prayer,
Fronted unuttered words and said them nay,
And smiled down love till it had nought to say.

The words that through mine eyes would clearly shine
  Hovered and hovered on my lips in vain;
If after pause I said but "Eglantine,"
  She raised to me her quiet eyelids twain,
And looked me this reply--look calm, yet bland--
"I shall not know, I will not understand."

Yet she did know my story--knew my life
  Was wrought to hers with bindings many and strong
That I, like Israel, served for a wife,
  And for the love I bare her thought not long,
But only a few days, full quickly told,
My seven years' service strict as his of old.

I must be brief: the twilight shadows grow,
  And steal the rose-bloom genial summer sheds,
And scented wafts of wind that come and go
  Have lifted dew from honeyed clover-heads;
The seven stars shine out above the mill,
The dark delightsome woods lie veiled and still.

Hush! hush! the nightingale begins to sing,
  And stops, as ill-contented with her note;
Then breaks from out the bush with hurried wing.
  Restless and passionate. She tunes her throat,
Laments awhile in wavering trills, and then
Floods with a stream of sweetness all the glen.

The seven stars upon the nearest pool
  Lie trembling down betwixt the lily leaves,
And move like glowworms; wafting breezes cool
  Come down along the water, and it heaves
And bubbles in the sedge; while deep and wide
The dim night settles on the country side.

I know this scene by heart. O! once before
  I saw the seven stars float to and fro,
And stayed my hurried footsteps by the shore
  To mark the starry picture spread below:
Its silence made the tumult in my breast
More audible; its peace revealed my own unrest.

I paused, then hurried on; my heart beat quick;
  I crossed the bridges, reached the steep ascent,
And climbed through matted fern and hazels thick;
  Then darkling through the close green maples went
And saw--there felt love's keenest pangs begin--
An oriel window lighted from within--

I saw--and felt that they were scarcely cares
  Which I had known before; I drew more near,
And O! methought how sore it frets and wears
  The soul to part with that it holds so dear;
Tis hard two woven tendrils to untwine,
And I was come to part with Eglantine.

For life was bitter through those words repressed,
  And youth was burdened with unspoken vows;
Love unrequited brooded in my breast,
  And shrank, at glance, from the beloved brows:
And three long months, heart-sick, my foot withdrawn,
I had not sought her side by rivulet, copse, or lawn--

Not sought her side, yet busy thought no less
  Still followed in her wake, though far behind;
And I, being parted from her loveliness,
  Looked at the picture of her in my mind:
I lived alone, I walked with soul oppressed,
And ever sighed for her, and sighed for rest.

Then I had risen to struggle with my heart.
And said--"O heart! the world is fresh and fair,
And I am young; but this thy restless smart
  Changes to bitterness the morning air:
I will, I must, these weary fetters break--
I will be free, if only for her sake.

"O let me trouble her no more with sighs!
  Heart-healing comes by distance, and with time:
Then let me wander, and enrich mine eyes
  With the green forests of a softer clime,
Or list by night at sea the wind's low stave
And long monotonous rockings of the wave.

"Through open solitudes, unbounded meads,
  Where, wading on breast-high in yellow bloom,
Untamed of man, the shy white lama feeds--
  There would I journey and forget my doom;
Or far, O far as sunrise I would see
The level prairie stretch away from me!

"Or I would sail upon the tropic seas,
  Where fathom long the blood-red dulses grow,
Droop from the rock and waver in the breeze,
  Lashing the tide to foam; while calm below
The muddy mandrakes throng those waters warm,
And purple, gold, and green, the living blossoms swarm."

So of my father I did win consent,
  With importunities repeated long,
To make that duty which had been my bent,
  To dig with strangers alien tombs among,
And bound to them through desert leagues to pace.
Or track up rivers to their starting-place.

For this I had done battle and had won,
  But not alone to tread Arabian sands,
Measure the shadows of a southern sun,
  Or dig out gods in the old Egyptian lands;
But for the dream wherewith I thought to cope--
The grief of love unmated with love's hope.

And now I would set reason in array,
  Methought, and fight for freedom manfully,
Till by long absence there would come a day
  When this my love would not be pain to me;
But if I knew my rosebud fair and blest
I should not pine to wear it on my breast.

The days fled on; another week should fling
  A foreign shadow on my lengthening way;
Another week, yet nearness did not bring
  A braver heart that hard farewell to say.
I let the last day wane, the dusk begin,
Ere I had sought that window lighted from within.

Sinking and sinking, O my heart! my heart!
  Will absence heal thee whom its shade doth rend?
I reached the little gate, and soft within
  The oriel fell her shadow. She did lend
Her loveliness to me, and let me share
The listless sweetness of those features fair.

Among thick laurels in the gathering gloom,
  Heavy for this our parting, I did stand;
Beside her mother in the lighted room,
  She sitting leaned her cheek upon her hand
And as she read, her sweet voice floating through
The open casement seemed to mourn me an adieu.

Youth! youth! how buoyant are thy hopes! they turn,
  Like marigolds, toward the sunny side.
My hopes were buried in a funeral urn,
  And they sprung up like plants and spread them wide;
Though I had schooled and reasoned them away,
They gathered smiling near and prayed a holiday.

Ah, sweetest voice! how pensive were its tones,
  And how regretful its unconscious pause!
"Is it for me her heart this sadness owns,
  And is our parting of to-night the cause?
Ah, would it might be so!" I thought, and stood
Listening entranced among the underwood.

I thought it would be something worth the pain
  Of parting, to look once in those deep eyes,
And take from them an answering look again:
  "When eastern palms," I thought, "about me rise,
If I might carve our names upon the rind,
Betrothed, I would not mourn, though leaving thee behind."

I can be patient, faithful, and most fond
  To unacknowledged love; I can be true
To this sweet thraldom, this unequal bond,
  This yoke of mine that reaches not to you:
O, how much more could costly parting buy--
If not a pledge, one kiss, or, failing that, a sigh!

I listened, and she ceased to read; she turned
  Her face towards the laurels where I stood:
Her mother spoke--O wonder! hardly learned;
  She said, "There is a rustling in the wood;
Ah, child! if one draw near to bid farewell,
Let not thine eyes an unsought secret tell.

"My daughter, there is nothing held so dear
  As love, if only it be hard to win.
The roses that in yonder hedge appear
  Outdo our garden-buds which bloom within;
But since the hand may pluck them every day,
Unmarked they bud, bloom, drop, and drift away.

"My daughter, my beloved, be not you
  Like those same roses." O bewildering word!
My heart stood still, a mist obscured my view:
  It cleared; still silence. No denial stirred
The lips beloved; but straight, as one opprest,
She, kneeling, dropped her face upon her mother's breast.

This said, "My daughter, sorrow comes to all;
  Our life is checked with shadows manifold:
But woman has this more--she may not call
  Her sorrow by its name. Yet love not told,
And only born of absence and by thought,
With thought and absence may return to nought."

And my belovèd lifted up her face,
  And moved her lips as if about to speak;
She dropped her lashes with a girlish grace,
  And the rich damask mantled in her cheek:
I stood awaiting till she should deny
Her love, or with sweet laughter put it by.

But, closer nestling to her mother's heart,
  She, blushing, said no word to break my trance,
For I was breathless; and, with lips apart,
  Felt my breast pant and all my pulses dance,
And strove to move, but could not for the weight
Of unbelieving joy, so sudden and so great,

Because she loved me. With a mighty sigh
  Breaking away, I left her on her knees,
And blest the laurel bower, the darkened sky,
  The sultry night of August. Through the trees,
Giddy with gladness, to the porch I went,
And hardly found the way for joyful wonderment.

Yet, when I entered, saw her mother sit
  With both hands cherishing the graceful head,
Smoothing the clustered hair, and parting it
  From the fair brow; she, rising, only said,
In the accustomed tone, the accustomed word,
The careless greeting that I always heard;

And she resumed her merry, mocking smile,
  Though tear-drops on the glistening lashes hung.
O woman! thou wert fashioned to beguile:
  So have all sages said, all poets sung.
She spoke of favoring winds and waiting ships,
With smiles of gratulation on her lips!

And then she looked and faltered: I had grown
  So suddenly in life and soul a man:
She moved her lips, but could not find a tone
  To set her mocking music to; began
One struggle for dominion, raised her eyes,
And straight withdrew them, bashful through surprise

The color over cheek and bosom flushed;
  I might have heard the beating of her heart,
But that mine own beat louder; when she blushed,
  The hand within mine own I felt to start,
But would not change my pitiless decree
To strive with her for might and mastery.

She looked again, as one that, half afraid,
  Would fain be certain of a doubtful thing;
Or one beseeching "Do not me upbraid!"
  And then she trembled like the fluttering
Of timid little birds, and silent stood,
No smile wherewith to mock my hardihood.

She turned, and to an open casement moved
  With girlish shyness, mute beneath my gaze.
And I on downcast lashes unreproved
  Could look as long as pleased me; while, the rays
Of moonlight round her, she her fair head bent,
In modest silence to my words attent.

How fast the giddy whirling moments flew!
  The moon had set; I heard the midnight chime,
Hope is more brave than fear, and joy than dread.
  And I could wait unmoved the parting time.
It came; for, by a sudden impulse drawn,
She, risen, stepped out upon the dusky lawn.

A little waxen taper in her hand,
  Her feet upon the dry and dewless grass,
She looked like one of the celestial band,
  Only that on her cheeks did dawn and pass
Most human blushes; while, the soft light thrown
On vesture pure and white, she seemed yet fairer grown.

Her mother, looking out toward her, sighed,
  Then gave her hand in token of farewell.
And with her warning eyes, that seemed to chide,
  Scarce suffered that I sought her child to tell
The story of my life, whose every line
No other burden bore than--Eglantine.

Black thunder-clouds were rising up behind,
  The waxen taper burned full steadily;
It seemed as if dark midnight had a mind
  To hear what lovers say, and her decree
Had passed for silence, while she, dropped to ground
With raiment floating wide, drank in the sound.

O happiness! thou dost not leave a trace
  So well defined as sorrow. Amber light,
Shed like a glory on her angel face,
  I can remember fully, and the sight
Of her fair forehead and her shining eyes,
And lips that smiled in sweet and girlish wise.

I can remember how the taper played
  Over her small hands and her vesture white;
How it struck up into the trees, and laid
  Upon their under leaves unwonted light;
And when she held it low, how far it spread
O'er velvet pansies slumbering on their bed.

I can remember that we spoke full low,
  That neither doubted of the other's truth;
And that with footsteps slower and more slow,
  Hands folded close for love, eyes wet for ruth:
Beneath the trees, by that clear taper's flame,
We wandered till the gate of parting came.

But I forget the parting words she said,
  So much they thrilled the all-attentive soul;
For one short moment human heart and head
  May bear such bliss--its present is the whole:
I had that present, till in whispers fell
With parting gesture her subdued farewell.

Farewell! she said, in act to turn away,
  But stood a moment yet to dry her tears,
And suffered my enfolding arm to stay
  The time of her departure. O ye years
That intervene betwixt that day and this!
You all received your hue from that keen pain and bliss.

O mingled pain and bliss! O pain to break
  At once from happiness so lately found,
And four long years to feel for her sweet sake
  The incompleteness of all sight and sound!
But bliss to cross once more the foaming brine--
O bliss to come again and make her mine!

I cannot--O, I cannot more recall!
  But I will soothe my troubled thoughts to rest
With musing over journeyings wide, and all
  Observance of this active-humored west,
And swarming cities steeped in eastern day,
With swarthy tribes in gold and striped array.

I turn away from these, and straight there will succeed
  (Shifting and changing at the restless will),
Imbedded in some deep Circassian mead,
  White wagon-tilts, and flocks that eat their fill
Unseen above, while comely shepherds pass,
And scarcely show their heads above the grass.

--The red Sahara in an angry glow,
  With amber fogs, across its hollows trailed
Long strings of camels, gloomy-eyed and slow,
  And women on their necks, from gazers veiled,
And sun-swart guides who toil across the sand
To groves of date-trees on the watered land.

Again--the brown sails of an Arab boat,
  Flapping by night upon a glassy sea,
Whereon the moon and planets seem to float,
  More bright of hue than they were wont to be,
While shooting-stars rain down with crackling sound,
And, thick as swarming locusts, drop to ground.

Or far into the heat among the sands
  The gembok nations, snuffing up the wind,
Drawn by the scent of water--and the bands
  Of tawny-bearded lions pacing, blind
With the sun-dazzle in their midst, opprest
With prey, and spiritless for lack of rest!

What more? Old Lebanon, the frosty-browed,
  Setting his feet among oil-olive trees,
Heaving his bare brown shoulder through a cloud;
 And after, grassy Carmel, purple seas,
Flattering his dreams and echoing in his rocks,
Soft as the bleating of his thousand flocks.

Enough: how vain this thinking to beguile,
  With recollected scenes, an aching breast!
Did not I, journeying, muse on her the while?
  Ah, yes! for every landscape comes impressed--
Ay, written on, as by an iron pen--
With the same thought I nursed about her then.

Therefore let memory turn again to home;
  Feel, as of old, the joy of drawing near;
Watch the green breakers and the wind-tossed foam,
  And see the land-fog break, dissolve, and clear;
Then think a skylark's voice far sweeter sound
Than ever thrilled but over English ground;

And walk, glad, even to tears, among the wheat,
  Not doubting this to be the first of lands;
And, while in foreign words this murmuring, meet
  Some little village school-girls (with their hands
Full of forget-me-nots), who, greeting me,
I count their English talk delightsome melody;

And seat me on a bank, and draw them near,
  That I may feast myself with hearing it,
Till shortly they forget their bashful fear,
  Push back their flaxen curls, and round me sit--
Tell me their names, their daily tasks, and show
Where wild wood-strawberries in the copses grow.

So passed the day in this delightful land:
  My heart was thankful for the English tongue--
For English sky with feathery cloudlets spanned--
  For English hedge with glistening dewdrops hung.
I journeyed, and at glowing eventide
Stopped at a rustic inn by the wayside.

That night I slumbered sweetly, being right glad
  To miss the flapping of the shrouds; but lo!
A quiet dream of beings twain I had,
  Behind the curtain talking soft and low:
Methought I did not heed their utterance fine,
Till one of them said, softly, "Eglantine."

I started up awake, 'twas silence all:
  My own fond heart had shaped that utterance clear:
And "Ah!" methought, "how sweetly did it fall,
  Though but in dream, upon the listening ear!
How sweet from other lips the name well known--
That name, so many a year heard only from mine own!"

I thought awhile, then slumber came to me,
  And tangled all my fancy in her maze,
And I was drifting on a raft at sea.
  The near all ocean, and the far all haze;
Through the while polished water sharks did glide,
And up in heaven I saw no stars to guide.

"Have mercy, God!" but lo! my raft uprose;
  Drip, drip, I heard the water splash from it;
My raft had wings, and as the petrel goes,
  It skimmed the sea, then brooding seemed to sit
The milk-white mirror, till, with sudden spring,
She flew straight upward like a living thing.

But strange!--I went not also in that flight,
  For I was entering at a cavern's mouth;
Trees grew within, and screaming birds of night
  Sat on them, hiding from the torrid south.
On, on I went, while gleaming in the dark
Those trees with blanched leaves stood pale and stark.

The trees had flower-buds, nourished in deep night,
  And suddenly, as I went farther in,
They opened, and they shot out lambent light;
  Then all at once arose a railing din
That frighted me: "It is the ghosts," I said,
And they are railing for their darkness fled.

"I hope they will not look me in the face;
  It frighteth me to hear their laughter loud;"
I saw them troop before with jaunty pace,
  And one would shake off dust that soiled her shroud:
But now, O joy unhoped! to calm my dread,
Some moonlight filtered through a cleft o'erhead.

I climbed the lofty trees--the blanchèd trees--
  The cleft was wide enough to let me through;
I clambered out and felt the balmy breeze,
  And stepped on churchyard grasses wet with dew.
O happy chance! O fortune to admire!
I stood beside my own loved village spire.

And as I gazed upon the yew-tree's trunk,
  Lo, far-off music--music in the night!
So sweet and tender as it swelled and sunk;
  It charmed me till I wept with keen delight,
And in my dream, methought as it drew near
The very clouds in heaven stooped low to hear.

Beat high, beat low, wild heart so deeply stirred,
  For high as heaven runs up the piercing strain;
The restless music fluttering like a bird
  Bemoaned herself, and dropped to earth again,
Heaping up sweetness till I was afraid
That I should die of grief when it did fade.

And it DID fade; but while with eager ear
  I drank its last long echo dying away,
I was aware of footsteps that drew near,
  And round the ivied chancel seemed to stray:
O soft above the hallowed place they trod--
Soft as the fall of foot that is not shod!

I turned--'twas even so--yes, Eglantine!
  For at the first I had divined the same;
I saw the moon on her shut eyelids shine,
  And said, "She is asleep:" still on she came;
Then, on her dimpled feet, I saw it gleam,
And thought--"I know that this is but a dream."

My darling! O my darling! not the less
  My dream went on because I knew it such;
She came towards me in her loveliness--
  A thing too pure, methought, for mortal touch;
The rippling gold did on her bosom meet,
The long white robe descended to her feet.

The fringèd lids dropped low, as sleep-oppressed;
  Her dreamy smile was very fair to see,
And her two hands were folded to her breast,
  With somewhat held between them heedfully.
O fast asleep! and yet methought she knew
And felt my nearness those shut eyelids through.

She sighed: my tears ran down for tenderness--
  And have I drawn thee to me in my sleep?
Is it for me thou wanderest shelterless,
  Wetting thy steps in dewy grasses deep?
"O if this be!" I said--"yet speak to me;
I blame my very dream for cruelty."

Then from her stainless bosom she did take
  Two beauteous lily flowers that lay therein,
And with slow-moving lips a gesture make,
  As one that some forgotten words doth win:
"They floated on the pool," methought she said,
And water trickled from each lily's head.

It dropped upon her feet--I saw it gleam
  Along the ripples of her yellow hair.
And stood apart, for only in a dream
  She would have come, methought, to meet me there.
She spoke again--"Ah fair! ah fresh they shine!
And there are many left, and these are mine."

I answered her with flattering accents meet--
  "Love, they are whitest lilies e'er were blown."
"And sayest thou so?" she sighed in murmurs sweet;
  "I have nought else to give thee now, mine own!
For it is night. Then take them, love!" said she:
"They have been costly flowers to thee--and me."

While thus she said I took them from her hand,
  And, overcome with love and nearness, woke;
And overcome with ruth that she should stand
  Barefooted in the grass; that, when she spoke,
Her mystic words should take so sweet a tone,
And of all names her lips should choose "My own"

I rose, I journeyed, neared my home, and soon
  Beheld the spire peer out above the hill.
It was a sunny harvest afternoon.
  When by the churchyard wicket, standing still,
I cast my eager eyes abroad to know
If change had touched the scenes of long ago.

I looked across the hollow; sunbeams shone
  Upon the old house with the gable ends:
"Save that the laurel trees are taller grown,
  No change," methought, "to its gray wall extends
What clear bright beams on yonder lattice shine!
There did I sometime talk with Eglantine."

There standing with my very goal in sight,
  Over my haste did sudden quiet steal;
I thought to dally with my own delight,
  Nor rush on headlong to my garnered weal,
But taste the sweetness of a short delay,
And for a little moment hold the bliss at bay.

The church was open; it perchance might be
  That there to offer thanks I might essay,
Or rather, as I think, that I might see
  The place where Eglantine was wont to pray.
But so it was; I crossed that portal wide,
And felt my riot joy to calm subside.

The low depending curtains, gently swayed,
  Cast over arch and roof a crimson glow;
But, ne'ertheless, all silence and all shade
  It seemed, save only for the rippling flow
Of their long foldings, when the sunset air
Sighed through the casements of the house of prayer.

I found her place, the ancient oaken stall,
     Where in her childhood I had seen her sit,
Most saint-like and most tranquil there of all,
     Folding her hands, as if a dreaming fit--
A heavenly vision had before her strayed
Of the Eternal Child in lowly manger laid.

I saw her prayer-book laid upon the seat,
     And took it in my hand, and felt more near
in fancy to her, finding it most sweet
     To think how very oft, low kneeling there,
In her devout thoughts she had let me share,
And set my graceless name in her pure prayer.

My eyes were dazzled with delightful tears--
     In sooth they were the last I ever shed;
For with them fell the cherished dreams of years.
     I looked, and on the wall above my head,
Over her seat, there was a tablet placed,
With one word only on the marble traced.--


Ah well! I would not overstate that woe,
     For I have had some blessings, little care;
But since the falling of that heavy blow,
     God's earth has never seemed to me so fair;
Nor any of his creatures so divine,
Nor sleep so sweet;--the word was--EGLANTINE.



A MOTHER SHOWING THE PORTRAIT OF HER CHILD.

(F.M.L.)


Living child or pictured cherub,
  Ne'er o'ermatched its baby grace;
And the mother, moving nearer,
  Looked it calmly in the face;
Then with slight and quiet gesture,
  And with lips that scarcely smiled,
Said--"A Portrait of my daughter
  When she was a child."

Easy thought was hers to fathom,
  Nothing hard her glance to read,
For it seemed to say, "No praises
  For this little child I need:
If you see, I see far better,
  And I will not feign to care
For a stranger's prompt assurance
  That the face is fair."

Softly clasped and half extended,
  She her dimpled hands doth lay:
So they doubtless placed them, saying--
  "Little one, you must not play."
And while yet his work was growing,
  This the painter's hand hath shown,
That the little heart was making
  Pictures of its own.

Is it warm in that green valley,
  Vale of childhood, where you dwell?
Is it calm in that green valley,
  Round whose bournes such great hills swell?
Are there giants in the valley--
  Giants leaving footprints yet?
Are there angels in the valley?
  Tell me--I forget.

Answer, answer, for the lilies,
  Little one, o'ertop you much,
And the mealy gold within them
  You can scarcely reach to touch;
O how far their aspect differs,
  Looking up and looking down!
You look up in that green valley--
  Valley of renown.

Are there voices in the valley,
  Lying near the heavenly gate?
When it opens, do the harp-strings,
  Touched within, reverberate?
When, like shooting-stars, the angels
  To your couch at nightfall go,
Are their swift wings heard to rustle?
  Tell me! for you know.

Yes, you know; and you are silent,
  Not a word shall asking win;
Little mouth more sweet than rosebud,
  Fast it locks the secret in.
Not a glimpse upon your present
  You unfold to glad my view;
Ah, what secrets of your future
 I could tell to you!

Sunny present! thus I read it,
  By remembrance of my past:--
Its to-day and its to-morrow
  Are as lifetimes vague and vast;
And each face in that green valley
  Takes for you an aspect mild,
And each voice grows soft in saying--
  "Kiss me, little child!"

As a boon the kiss is granted:
  Baby mouth, your touch is sweet,
Takes the love without the trouble
  From those lips that with it meet;
Gives the love, O pure! O tender!
  Of the valley where it grows,
But the baby heart receiveth
  MORE THAN IT BESTOWS.

Comes the future to the present--
  "Ah!" she saith, "too blithe of mood;
Why that smile which seems to whisper--
  'I am happy, God is good?'
God is good: that truth eternal
  Sown for you in happier years,
I must tend it in my shadow,
  Water it with tears.

"Ah, sweet present! I must lead thee
  By a daylight more subdued;
There must teach thee low to whisper--
  'I am mournful, God is good!'"
Peace, thou future! clouds are coming,
  Stooping from the mountain crest,
But that sunshine floods the valley:
  Let her--let her rest.

Comes the future to the present--
  "Child," she saith, "and wilt thou rest?
How long, child, before thy footsteps
  Fret to reach yon cloudy crest?
Ah, the valley!--angels guard it,
  But the heights are brave to see;
Looking down were long contentment:
    Come up, child, to me."

So she speaks, but do not heed her,
  Little maid with wondrous eyes,
Not afraid, but clear and tender,
  Blue, and filled with prophecies;
Thou for whom life's veil unlifted
  Hangs, whom warmest valleys fold,
Lift the veil, the charm dissolveth--
    Climb, but heights are cold.

There are buds that fold within them,
  Closed and covered from our sight,
Many a richly tinted petal,
  Never looked on by the light:
Fain to see their shrouded faces,
  Sun and dew are long at strife,
Till at length the sweet buds open--
    Such a bud is life.

When the rose of thine own being
  Shall reveal its central fold,
Thou shalt look within and marvel,
  Fearing what thine eyes behold;
What it shows and what it teaches
  Are not things wherewith to part;
Thorny rose! that always costeth
    Beatings at the heart.

Look in fear, for there is dimness;
  Ills unshapen float anigh.
Look in awe, for this same nature
  Once the Godhead deigned to die.
Look in love, for He doth love it,
  And its tale is best of lore:
Still humanity grows dearer,
      Being learned the more.

Learn, but not the less bethink thee
  How that all can mingle tears;
But his joy can none discover,
  Save to them that are his peers;
And that they whose lips do utter
  Language such as bards have sung--
Lo! their speech shall be to many
    As an unknown tongue.

Learn, that if to thee the meaning
  Of all other eyes be shown,
Fewer eyes can ever front thee,
  That are skilled to read thine own;
And that if thy love's deep current
  Many another's far outflows,
Then thy heart must take forever,
    LESS THAN IT BESTOWS.



STRIFE AND PEACE.

(Written for THE PORTFOLIO SOCIETY, October 1861.)


The yellow poplar-leaves came down
  And like a carpet lay,
No waftings were in the sunny air
  To flutter them away;
And he stepped on blithe and debonair
  That warm October day.

"The boy," saith he, "hath got his own,
  But sore has been the fight,
For ere his life began the strife
  That ceased but yesternight;
For the will," he said, "the kinsfolk read,
  And read it not aright.

"His cause was argued in the court
  Before his christening day,
And counsel was heard, and judge demurred,
  And bitter waxed the fray;
Brother with brother spake no word
  When they met in the way.

"Against each one did each contend,
  And all against the heir.
I would not bend, for I knew the end--
  I have it for my share,
And nought repent, though my first friend
  From henceforth I must spare.

"Manor and moor and farm and wold
  Their greed begrudged him sore,
And parchments old with passionate hold
  They guarded heretofore;
And they carped at signature and seal,
  But they may carp no more.

"An old affront will stir the heart
  Through years of rankling pain,
And I feel the fret that urged me yet
  That warfare to maintain;
For an enemy's loss may well be set
  Above an infant's gain.

"An enemy's loss I go to prove,
  Laugh out, thou little heir!
Laugh in his face who vowed to chase
  Thee from thy birthright fair;
For I come to set thee in thy place:
  Laugh out, and do not spare."

A man of strife, in wrathful mood
  He neared the nurse's door;
With poplar-leaves the roof and eaves
  Were thickly scattered o'er,
And yellow as they a sunbeam lay
  Along the cottage floor.

"Sleep on, thou pretty, pretty lamb,"
  He hears the fond nurse say;
"And if angels stand at thy right hand,
  As now belike they may,
And if angels meet at thy bed's feet,
  I fear them not this day.

"Come wealth, come want to thee, dear heart,
  It was all one to me,
For thy pretty tongue far sweeter rung
  Than coinèd gold and fee;
And ever the while thy waking smile
  It was right fair to see.

"Sleep, pretty bairn, and never know
  Who grudged and who transgressed:
Thee to retain I was full fain,
  But God, He knoweth best!
And His peace upon thy brow lies plain
  As the sunshine on thy breast!"

The man of strife, he enters in,
  Looks, and his pride doth cease;
Anger and sorrow shall be to-morrow
  Trouble, and no release;
But the babe whose life awoke the strife
  Hath entered into peace.



THE

DREAMS THAT CAME TRUE

[Illustration.]



THE DREAMS THAT CAME TRUE.


I saw in a vision once, our mother-sphere
  The world, her fixed foredooméd oval tracing,
Rolling and rolling on and resting never,
  While like a phantom fell, behind her pacing
The unfurled flag of night, her shadow drear
  Fled as she fled and hung to her forever.

Great Heaven! methought, how strange a doom to share.
  Would I may never bear
  Inevitable darkness after me
(Darkness endowed with drawings strong,
  And shadowy hands that cling unendingly),
  Nor feel that phantom-wings behind me sweep,
As she feels night pursuing through the long
  Illimitable reaches of "the vasty deep."

       *       *       *       *       *

God save you, gentlefolks. There was a man
  Who lay awake at midnight on his bed,
Watching the spiral flame that feeding ran
  Among the logs upon his hearth, and shed
A comfortable glow, both warm and dim,
On crimson curtains that encompassed him.

Right stately was his chamber, soft and white
  The pillow, and his quilt was eider-down.
What mattered it to him though all that night
  The desolate driving cloud might lower and frown,
And winds were up the eddying sleet to chase,
That drave and drave and found no settling-place?

What mattered it that leafless trees might rock,
  Or snow might drift athwart his window-pane?
He bare a charméd life against their shock,
  Secure from cold, hunger, and weather stain;
Fixed in his right, and born to good estate,
From common ills set by and separate.

From work and want and fear of want apart,
  This man (men called him Justice Wilvermore),--
This man had comforted his cheerful heart
  With all that it desired from every shore.
He had a right,--the right of gold is strong,--
He stood upon his right his whole life long.

Custom makes all things easy, and content
  Is careless, therefore on the storm and cold,
As he lay waking, never a thought he spent,
  Albeit across the vale beneath the wold,
Along a reedy mere that frozen lay,
A range of sordid hovels stretched away.

What cause had he to think on them, forsooth?
  What cause that night beyond another night?
He was familiar even from his youth
  With their long ruin and their evil plight.
The wintry wind would search them like a scout,
The water froze within as freely as without.

He think upon them? No! They were forlorn,
  So were the cowering inmates whom they held;
A thriftless tribe, to shifts and leanness born,
  Ever complaining: infancy or eld
Alike. But there was rent, or long ago
Those cottage roofs had met with overthrow.

For this they stood; and what his thoughts might be
  That winter night, I know not; but I know
That, while the creeping flame fed silently
  And cast upon his bed a crimson glow,
The Justice slept, and shortly in his sleep
He fell to dreaming, and his dream was deep.

He dreamed that over him a shadow came;
  And when he looked to find the cause, behold
Some person knelt between him and the flame:--
  A cowering figure of one frail and old,--
A woman; and she prayed as he descried,
And spread her feeble hands, and shook and sighed.

"Good Heaven!" the Justice cried, and being distraught
  He called not to her, but he looked again:
She wore a tattered cloak, but she had naught
  Upon her head; and she did quake amain,
And spread her wasted hands and poor attire
To gather in the brightness of his fire.

"I know you, woman!" then the Justice cried;
  "I know that woman well," he cried aloud;
"The shepherd Aveland's widow: God me guide!
  A pauper kneeling on my hearth": and bowed
The hag, like one at home, its warmth to share!
"How dares she to intrude? What does she there?

"Ho, woman, ho!"--but yet she did not stir,
  Though from her lips a fitful plaining broke;
"I'll ring my people up to deal with her;
  I'll rouse the house," he cried; but while he spoke
He turned, and saw, but distant from his bed,
Another form,--a Darkness with a head.

Then in a rage, he shouted, "Who are you?"
  For little in the gloom he might discern.
"Speak out; speak now; or I will make you rue
  The hour!" but there was silence, and a stern,
Dark face from out the dusk appeared to lean,
And then again drew back, and was not seen.

"God!" cried the dreaming man, right impiously,
  "What have I done, that these my sleep affray?"
"God!" said the Phantom, "I appeal to Thee,
  Appoint Thou me this man to be my prey."
"God!" sighed the kneeling woman, frail and old,
"I pray Thee take me, for the world is cold."

Then said the trembling Justice, in affright,
  "Fiend, I adjure thee, speak thine errand here!"
And lo! it pointed in the failing light
  Toward the woman, answering, cold and clear,
"Thou art ordained an answer to thy prayer;
But first to tell _her_ tale that kneeleth there."

"_Her_ tale!" the Justice cried. "A pauper's tale!"
  And he took heart at this so low behest,
And let the stoutness of his will prevail,
  Demanding, "Is't for _her_ you break my rest?
She went to jail of late for stealing wood,
She will again for this night's hardihood.

"I sent her; and to-morrow, as I live,
  I will commit her for this trespass here."
"Thou wilt not!" quoth the Shadow, "thou wilt give
  Her story words"; and then it stalked anear
And showed a lowering face, and, dread to see,
A countenance of angered majesty.

Then said the Justice, all his thoughts astray,
  With that material Darkness chiding him,
"If this must be, then speak to her, I pray,
  And bid her move, for all the room is dim
By reason of the place she holds to-night:
She kneels between me and the warmth and light."

"With adjurations deep and drawings strong,
  And with the power," it said, "unto me given,
I call upon thee, man, to tell thy wrong,
  Or look no more upon the face of Heaven.
Speak! though she kneel throughout the livelong night,
And yet shall kneel between thee and the light."

This when the Justice heard, he raised his hands,
  And held them as the dead in effigy
Hold theirs, when carved upon a tomb. The bands
  Of fate had bound him fast: no remedy
Was left: his voice unto himself was strange,
And that unearthly vision did not change.

He said, "That woman dwells anear my door,
  Her life and mine began the selfsame day,
And I am hale and hearty: from my store
  I never spared her aught: she takes her way
Of me unheeded; pining, pinching care
Is all the portion that she has to share.

"She is a broken-down, poor, friendless wight,
  Through labor and through sorrow early old;
And I have known of this her evil plight,
  Her scanty earnings, and her lodgment cold;
A patienter poor soul shall ne'er be found:
She labored on my land the long year round.

"What wouldst thou have me say, thou fiend abhorred?
  Show me no more thine awful visage grim.
If thou obey'st a greater, tell thy lord
  That I have paid her wages. Cry to him!
He has not _much_ against me. None can say
I have not paid her wages day by day.

"The spell! It draws me. I must speak again;
  And speak against myself; and speak aloud.
The woman once approached me to complain,--
  'My wages are so low.' I may be proud;
It is a fault." "Ay," quoth the Phantom fell,
"Sinner! it is a fault: thou sayest well."

"She made her moan, 'My wages are so low.'"
  "Tell on!" "She said," he answered, "'My best days
Are ended, and the summer is but slow
  To come; and my good strength for work decays
By reason that I live so hard, and lie
On winter nights so bare for poverty.'"

"And you replied,"--began the lowering shade,
  "And I replied," the Justice followed on,
"That wages like to mine my neighbor paid;
  And if I raised the wages of the one
Straight should the others murmur; furthermore,
The winter was as winters gone before.

"No colder and not longer." "Afterward?"--
  The Phantom questioned. "Afterward," he groaned,
"She said my neighbor was a right good lord,
  Never a roof was broken that he owned;
He gave much coal and clothing. 'Doth he so?
Work for my neighbor, then,' I answered. 'Go!

"'You are full welcome.' Then she mumbled out
  She hoped I was not angry; hoped, forsooth,
I would forgive her: and I turned about,
  And said I should be angry in good truth
If this should be again, or ever more
She dared to stop me thus at the church door."

"Then?" quoth the Shade; and he, constrained, said on,
  "Then she, reproved, curtseyed herself away."
"Hast met her since?" it made demand anon;
  And after pause the Justice answered, "Ay;
Some wood was stolen; my people made a stir:
She was accused, and I did sentence her."

But yet, and yet, the dreaded questions came:
  "And didst thou weigh the matter,--taking thought
Upon her sober life and honest fame?"
  "I gave it," he replied, with gaze distraught;
"I gave it, Fiend, the usual care; I took
The usual pains; I could not nearer look,

"Because,--because their pilfering had got head.
  What wouldst thou more? The neighbors pleaded hard,
'Tis true, and many tears the creature shed;
  But I had vowed their prayers to disregard,
Heavily strike the first that robbed my land,
And put down thieving with a steady hand.

"She said she was not guilty. Ay, 'tis true
  She said so, but the poor are liars all.
O thou fell Fiend, what wilt thou? Must I view
  Thy darkness yet, and must thy shadow fall
Upon me miserable? I have done
No worse, no more than many a scathless one."

"Yet," quoth the Shade, "if ever to thine ears
  The knowledge of her blamelessness was brought,
Or others have confessed with dying tears
  The crime she suffered for, and thou hast wrought
All reparation in thy power, and told
Into her empty hand thy brightest gold:--

"If thou hast honored her, and hast proclaimed
  Her innocence and thy deplored wrong,
Still thou art nought; for thou shalt yet be blamed
  In that she, feeble, came before thee strong,
And thou, in cruel haste to deal a blow,
Because thou hadst been angered, worked her woe.

"But didst thou right her? Speak!" The Justice sighed,
  And beaded drops stood out upon his brow;
"How could I humble me," forlorn he cried,
  "To a base beggar? Nay, I will avow
That I did ill. I will reveal the whole;
I kept that knowledge in my secret soul."

"Hear him!" the Phantom muttered; "hear this man,
  O changeless God upon the judgment throne."
With that, cold tremors through his pulses ran,
  And lamentably he did make his moan;
While, with its arms upraised above his head,
The dim dread visitor approached his bed.

"Into these doors," it said, "which thou hast closed,
  Daily this woman shall from henceforth come;
Her kneeling form shall yet be interposed
  Till all thy wretched hours have told their sum;
Shall yet be interposed by day, by night,
Between thee, sinner, and the warmth and light.

"Remembrance of her want shall make thy meal
  Like ashes, and thy wrong thou shalt not right.
But what! Nay, verily, nor wealth nor weal
  From henceforth shall afford thy soul delight.
Till men shall lay thy head beneath the sod,
There shall be no deliverance, saith my God."

"Tell me thy name," the dreaming Justice cried;
  "By what appointment dost thou doom me thus?"
"'Tis well that thou shouldst know me," it replied,
  "For mine thou art, and nought shall sever us;
From thine own lips and life I draw my force:
The name thy nation give me is REMORSE."

This when he heard, the dreaming man cried out,
  And woke affrighted; and a crimson glow
The dying ember shed. Within, without,
  In eddying rings the silence seemed to flow;
The wind had lulled, and on his forehead shone
The last low gleam; he was indeed alone.

"O, I have had a fearful dream," said he;
  "I will take warning and for mercy trust;
The fiend Remorse shall never dwell with me:
  I will repair that wrong, I will be just,
I will be kind, I will my ways amend."
_Now the first dream is told unto its end._

Anigh the frozen mere a cottage stood,
  A piercing wind swept round and shook the door,
The shrunken door, and easy way made good,
  And drave long drifts of snow along the floor.
It sparkled there like diamonds, for the moon
Was shining in, and night was at the noon.

Before her dying embers, bent and pale,
  A woman sat because her bed was cold;
She heard the wind, the driving sleet and hail,
  And she was hunger-bitten, weak and old;
Yet while she cowered, and while the casement shook,
Upon her trembling knees she held a book,--

A comfortable book for them that mourn,
  And good to raise the courage of the poor;
It lifts the veil and shows, beyond the bourne,
  Their Elder Brother, from His home secure,
That for them desolate He died to win,
Repeating, "Come, ye blessed, enter in."

What thought she on, this woman? on her days
  Of toil, or on the supperless night forlorn?
I think not so; the heart but seldom weighs
  With conscious care a burden always borne;
And she was used to these things, had grown old
In fellowship with toil, hunger, and cold.

Then did she think how sad it was to live
  Of all the good this world can yield bereft?
No, her untutored thoughts she did not give
  To such a theme; but in their warp and weft
She wove a prayer: then in the midnight deep
Faintly and slow she fell away to sleep.

A strange, a marvellous sleep, which brought a dream.
  And it was this: that all at once she heard
The pleasant babbling of a little stream
  That ran beside her door, and then a bird
Broke out in songs. She looked, and lo! the rime
And snow had melted; it was summer time!

And all the cold was over, and the mere
  Full sweetly swayed the flags and rushes green;
The mellow sunlight poured right warm and clear
  Into her casement, and thereby were seen
Fair honeysuckle flowers, and wandering bees
Were hovering round the blossom-laden trees.

She said, "I will betake me to my door,
  And will look out and see this wondrous sight,
How summer is come back, and frost is o'er,
  And all the air warm waxen in a night."
With that she opened, but for fear she cried,
For lo! two Angels,--one on either side.

And while she looked, with marvelling measureless,
  The Angels stood conversing face to face,
But neither spoke to her. "The wilderness,"
  One Angel said, "the solitary place,
Shall yet be glad for Him." And then full fain
The other Angel answered, "He shall reign."

And when the woman heard, in wondering wise,
  She whispered, "They are speaking of my Lord."
And straightway swept across the open skies
  Multitudes like to these. They took the word,
That flock of Angels, "He shall come again,
My Lord, my Lord!" they sang, "and He shall reign!"

Then they, drawn up into the blue o'er-head,
  Right happy, shining ones, made haste to flee;
And those before her one to other said,
  "Behold He stands aneath yon almond-tree."
This when the woman heard, she fain had gazed,
But paused for reverence, and bowed down amazed.

After she looked, for this her dream was deep;
  She looked, and there was nought beneath the tree;
Yet did her love and longing overleap
  The fear of Angels, awful though they be,
And she passed out between the blessed things,
And brushed her mortal weeds against their wings.

O, all the happy world was in its best,
  The trees were covered thick with buds and flowers,
And these were dropping honey; for the rest,
  Sweetly the birds were piping in their bowers;
Across the grass did groups of Angels go,
And Saints in pairs were walking to and fro.

Then did she pass toward the almond-tree,
  And none she saw beneath it: yet each Saint
Upon his coming meekly bent the knee,
  And all their glory as they gazed waxed faint.
And then a 'lighting Angel neared the place,
And folded his fair wings before his face.

She also knelt, and spread her aged hands
  As feeling for the sacred human feet;
She said, "Mine eyes are held, but if He stands
  Anear, I will not let Him hence retreat
Except He bless me." Then, O sweet! O fair!
Some words were spoken, but she knew not where.

She knew not if beneath the boughs they woke,
  Or dropt upon her from the realms above;
"What wilt thou, woman?" in the dream He spoke,
  "Thy sorrow moveth Me, thyself I love;
Long have I counted up thy mournful years,
Once I did weep to wipe away thy tears."

She said: "My one Redeemer, only blest,
  I know Thy voice, and from my yearning heart
Draw out my deep desire, my great request,
  My prayer, that I might enter where Thou art.
Call me, O call from this world troublesome,
And let me see Thy face." He answered, "Come."

_Here is the ending of the second dream._
  It is a frosty morning, keen and cold,
Fast locked are silent mere and frozen stream,
  And snow lies sparkling on the desert wold;
With savory morning meats they spread the board,
But Justice Wilvermore will walk abroad.

"Bring me my cloak," quoth he, as one in haste.
  "Before you breakfast, sir?" his man replies.
"Ay," quoth he quickly, and he will not taste
  Of aught before him, but in urgent wise
As he would fain some carking care allay,
Across the frozen field he takes his way.

"A dream! how strange that it should move me so,
  'Twas but a dream," quoth Justice Wilvermore:
"And yet I cannot peace nor pleasure know,
  For wrongs I have not heeded heretofore;
Silver and gear the crone shall have of me,
And dwell for life in yonder cottage free.

"For visions of the night are fearful things,
  Remorse is dread, though merely in a dream;
I will not subject me to visitings
  Of such a sort again. I will esteem
My peace above my pride. From natures rude
A little gold will buy me gratitude.

"The woman shall have leave to gather wood,
  As much as she may need, the long year round;
She shall, I say,--moreover, it were good
  Yon other cottage roofs to render sound.
Thus to my soul the ancient peace restore,
And sleep at ease," quoth Justice Wilvermore.

With that he nears the door: a frosty rime
  Is branching over it, and drifts are deep
Against the wall. He knocks, and there is time,--
  (For none doth open),--time to list the sweep
And whistle of the wind along the mere
Through beds of stiffened reeds and rushes sere.

"If she be out, I have my pains for nought,"
  He saith, and knocks again, and yet once more,
But to his ear nor step nor stir is brought;
  And after pause, he doth unlatch the door
And enter. No: she is not out, for see
She sits asleep 'mid frost-work winterly.

Asleep, asleep before her empty grate,
  Asleep, asleep, albeit the landlord call.
"What, dame," he saith, and comes toward her straight,
  "Asleep so early!" But whate'er befall,
She sleepeth; then he nears her, and behold
He lays a hand on hers, and it is cold.

Then doth the Justice to his home return;
  From that day forth he wears a sadder brow;
His hands are opened, and his heart doth learn
  The patience of the poor. He made a vow
And keeps it, for the old and sick have shared
His gifts, their sordid homes he hath repaired.

And some he hath made happy, but for him
  Is happiness no more. He doth repent,
And now the light of joy is waxen dim,
  Are all his steps toward the Highest sent;
He looks for mercy, and he waits release
Above, for this world doth not yield him peace.

Night after night, night after desolate night,
  Day after day, day after tedious day,
Stands by his fire, and dulls its gleamy light,
  Paceth behind or meets him in the way;
Or shares the path by hedgerow, mere, or stream,
The visitor that doomed him in his dream.

    Thy kingdom come.
I heard a Seer cry,--"The wilderness,
    The solitary place,
Shall yet be glad for Him, and He shall bless
(Thy kingdom come) with his revealéd face
The forests; they shall drop their precious gum,
And shed for Him their balm: and He shall yield
The grandeur of His speech to charm the field.

"Then all the soothéd winds shall drop to listen,
    (Thy kingdom come,)
Comforted waters waxen calm shall glisten
With bashful tremblement beneath His smile:
    And Echo ever the while
Shall take, and in her awful joy repeat,
The laughter of His lips--(thy kingdom come):
And hills that sit apart shall be no longer dumb;
    No, they shall shout and shout,
Raining their lovely loyalty along the dewy plain:
    And valleys round about,

"And all the well-contented land, made sweet
    With flowers she opened at His feet,
Shall answer; shout and make the welkin ring
And tell it to the stars, shout, shout, and sing;
    Her cup being full to the brim,
    Her poverty made rich with Him,
Her yearning satisfied to its utmost sum,--
Lift up thy voice, O earth, prepare thy song,
    It shall not yet be long,
Lift up, O earth, for He shall come again,
Thy Lord; and He shall reign, and He SHALL reign,--
    Thy kingdom come."



SONGS

ON

THE VOICES OF BIRDS.

[Illustration]



SONGS ON THE VOICES OF BIRDS.


INTRODUCTION.

CHILD AND BOATMAN.

"Martin, I wonder who makes all the songs."
"You do, sir?"
               "Yes, I wonder how they come."
"Well, boy, I wonder what you'll wonder next!"
"But somebody must make them?"
                               "Sure enough."
"Does your wife know?"
                       "She never said she did."
"You told me that she knew so many things."
"I said she was a London woman, sir,
And a fine scholar, but I never said
She knew about the songs."
                           "I wish she did."
"And I wish no such thing; she knows enough,
She knows too much already. Look you now,
This vessel's off the stocks, a tidy craft."
"A schooner, Martin?"
                      "No, boy, no; a brig,
Only she's schooner rigged,--a lovely craft."
"Is she for me? O, thank you, Martin, dear.
What shall I call her?"
                        "Well, sir, what you please."
"Then write on her 'The Eagle.'"
                                 "Bless the child!
Eagle! why, you know naught of eagles, you.
When we lay off the coast, up Canada way,
And chanced to be ashore when twilight fell,
That was the place for eagles; bald they were,
With eyes as yellow as gold."
                              "O, Martin, dear,
Tell me about them."
                     "Tell! there's nought to tell,
Only they snored o' nights and frighted us."
"Snored?"
          "Ay, I tell you, snored; they slept upright
In the great oaks by scores; as true as time,
If I'd had aught upon my mind just then,
I wouldn't have walked that wood for unknown gold;
It was most awful. When the moon was full,
I've seen them fish at night, in the middle watch,
When she got low. I've seen them plunge like stones,
And come up fighting with a fish as long,
Ay, longer than my arm; and they would sail,--
When they had struck its life out,--they would sail
Over the deck, and show their fell, fierce eyes,
And croon for pleasure, hug the prey, and speed
Grand as a frigate on a wind."
                               "My ship,
She must be called 'The Eagle' after these.
And, Martin, ask your wife about the songs
When you go in at dinner-time."
                                "Not I."


THE NIGHTINGALE HEARD BY THE UNSATISFIED HEART.

        When in a May-day hush
        Chanteth the Missel-thrush
The harp o' the heart makes answer with murmurous stirs;
        When Robin-redbreast sings,
        We think on budding springs,
And Culvers when they coo are love's remembrancers.

        But thou in the trance of light
        Stayest the feeding night,
And Echo makes sweet her lips with the utterance wise,
        And casts at our glad feet,
        In a wisp of fancies fleet,
Life's fair, life's unfulfilled, impassioned prophecies.

        Her central thought full well
        Thou hast the wit to tell,
To take the sense o' the dark and to yield it so;
        The moral of moonlight
        To set in a cadence bright,
And sing our loftiest dream that we thought none did know.

        I have no nest as thou,
        Bird on the blossoming bough,
Yet over thy tongue outfloweth the song o' my soul,
        Chanting, "forego thy strife,
        The spirit out-acts the life,
But MUCH is seldom theirs who can perceive THE WHOLE.

        "Thou drawest a perfect lot
        All thine, but holden not,
Lie low, at the feet of beauty that ever shall bide;
        There might be sorer smart
        Than thine, far-seeing heart,
Whose fate is still to yearn, and not be satisfied."


SAND MARTINS.

I passed an inland-cliff precipitate;
  From tiny caves peeped many a soot-black poll;
In each a mother-martin sat elate,
  And of the news delivered her small soul.

Fantastic chatter! hasty, glad, and gay,
  Whereof the meaning was not ill to tell:
"Gossip, how wags the world with you to-day?"
  "Gossip, the world wags well, the world wags well."

And heark'ning, I was sure their little ones
  Were in the bird-talk, and discourse was made
Concerning hot sea-bights and tropic suns,
  For a clear sultriness the tune conveyed;--

And visions of the sky as of a cup
  Hailing down light on pagan Pharaoh's sand,
And quivering air-waves trembling up and up,
  And blank stone faces marvellously bland.

"When should the young be fledged and with them hie
  Where costly day drops down in crimson light?
(Fortunate countries of the firefly
  Swarm with blue diamonds all the sultry night,

"And the immortal moon takes turn with them.)
  When should they pass again by that red land,
Where lovely mirage works a broidered hem
  To fringe with phantom-palms a robe of sand?

"When should they dip their breasts again and play
  In slumberous azure pools, clear as the air,
Where rosy-winged flamingoes fish all day,
  Stalking amid the lotus blossom fair?

"Then, over podded tamarinds bear their flight,
  While cassias blossom in the zone of calms,
And so betake them to a south sea-bight,
  To gossip in the crowns of cocoa-palms

"Whose roots are in the spray. O, haply there
  Some dawn, white-winged they might chance to find
A frigate standing in to make more fair
  The loneliness unaltered of mankind.

"A frigate come to water: nuts would fall,
  And nimble feet would climb the flower-flushed strand,
While northern talk would ring, and there withal
  The martins would desire the cool north land.

"And all would be as it had been before;
  Again at eve there would be news to tell;
Who passed should hear them chant it o'er and o'er,
  Gossip, how wags the world?' 'Well, gossip, well.'"


A POET IN HIS YOUTH, AND THE CUCKOO-BIRD.

Once upon a time, I lay
Fast asleep at dawn of day;
Windows open to the south,
Fancy pouting her sweet mouth
To my ear.
           She turned a globe
In her slender hand, her robe
Was all spangled; and she said,
As she sat at my bed's head,
"Poet, poet, what, asleep!
Look! the ray runs up the steep
To your roof." Then in the golden
Essence of romances olden,
Bathed she my entrancéd heart.
And she gave a hand to me,
Drew me onward, "Come!" said she;
And she moved with me apart,
Down the lovely vale of Leisure.

Such its name was, I heard say,
For some Fairies trooped that way;
Common people of the place,
Taking their accustomed pleasure,
(All the clocks being stopped) to race
Down the slope on palfreys fleet.
Bridle bells made tinkling sweet;
And they said, "What signified
Faring home till eventide:
There were pies on every shelf,
And the bread would bake itself."
But for that I cared not, fed,
As it were, with angels' bread,
Sweet as honey; yet next day
All foredoomed to melt away;
Gone before the sun waxed hot,
Melted manna that _was not_.

Rock-doves' poetry of plaint,
Or the starling's courtship quaint,
Heart made much of; 'twas a boon
Won from silence, and too soon
Wasted in the ample air:
Building rooks far distant were.
Scarce at all would speak the rills,
And I saw the idle hills,
In their amber hazes deep,
Fold themselves and go to sleep,
Though it was not yet high noon.

Silence? Rather music brought
From the spheres! As if a thought,
Having taken wings, did fly
Through the reaches of the sky.
Silence? No, a sumptuous sigh
That had found embodiment,
That had come across the deep
After months of wintry sleep,
And with tender heavings went
Floating up the firmament.

"O," I mourned, half slumbering yet,
"'Tis the voice of _my_ regret,--
_Mine!_" and I awoke. Full sweet
Saffron sunbeams did me greet;
And the voice it spake again,
Dropped from yon blue cup of light
Or some cloudlet swan's-down white
On my soul, that drank full fain
The sharp joy--the sweet pain--
Of its clear, right innocent,
Unreprovéd discontent.

How it came--where it went--
Who can tell? The open blue
Quivered with it, and I, too,
Trembled. I remembered me
Of the springs that used to be,
When a dimpled white-haired child,
Shy and tender and half wild,
In the meadows I had heard
Some way off the talking bird,
And had felt it marvellous sweet,
For it laughed: it did me greet,
Calling me: yet, hid away
In the woods, it would not play.
No.

    And all the world about,
While a man will work or sing,
Or a child pluck flowers of spring,
Thou wilt scatter music out,
Rouse him with thy wandering note,
Changeful fancies set afloat,
Almost tell with thy clear throat,
But not quite,--the wonder-rife,
Most sweet riddle, dark and dim,
That he searcheth all his life,
Searcheth yet, and ne'er expoundeth;
And so winnowing of thy wings,
Touch and trouble his heart's strings.
That a certain music soundeth
In that wondrous instrument,
With a trembling upward sent,
That is reckoned sweet above
By the Greatness surnamed Love.

"O, I hear thee in the blue;
Would that I might wing it too!
O to have what hope hath seen!
O to be what might have been!

"O to set my life, sweet bird,
To a tune that oft I heard
When I used to stand alone
Listening to the lovely moan
Of the swaying pines o'erhead,
While, a-gathering of bee-bread
For their living, murmured round,
As the pollen dropped to ground,
All the nations from the hives;
And the little brooding wives
On each nest, brown dusky things,
Sat with gold-dust on their wings.
Then beyond (more sweet than all)
Talked the tumbling waterfall;
And there were, and there were not
(As might fall, and form anew
Bell-hung drops of honey-dew)
Echoes of--I know not what;
As if some right-joyous elf,
While about his own affairs,
Whistled softly otherwheres.
Nay, as if our mother dear,
Wrapped in sun-warm atmosphere,
Laughed a little to herself,
Laughed a little as she rolled,
Thinking on the days of old.

"Ah! there be some hearts, I wis,
To which nothing comes amiss.
Mine was one. Much secret wealth
I was heir to: and by stealth,
When the moon was fully grown,
And she thought herself alone,
I have heard her, ay, right well,
Shoot a silver message down
To the unseen sentinel
Of a still, snow-thatchéd town.

"Once, awhile ago, I peered
In the nest where Spring was reared.
There, she quivering her fair wings,
Flattered March with chirrupings;
And they fed her; nights and days,
Fed her mouth with much sweet food,
And her heart with love and praise,
Till the wild thing rose and flew
Over woods and water-springs,
Shaking off the morning dew
In a rainbow from her wings.

"Once (I will to you confide
More), O once in forest wide,
I, benighted, overheard
Marvellous mild echoes stirred,
And a calling half defined,
And an answering from afar;
Somewhat talkéd with a star,
And the talk was of mankind.

"'Cuckoo, cuckoo!'
Float anear in upper blue:
Art thou yet a prophet true?
Wilt thou say, 'And having seen
Things that be, and have not been,
Thou art free o' the world, for naught
Can despoil thee of thy thought'?
Nay, but make me music yet,
Bird, as deep as my regret,
For a certain hope hath set,
Like a star; and left me heir
To a crying for its light,
An aspiring infinite,
And a beautiful despair!

"Ah! no more, no more, no more
I shall lie at thy shut door,
Mine ideal, my desired,
Dreaming thou wilt open it,
And step out, thou most admired,
By my side to fare, or sit,
Quenching hunger and all drouth
With the wit of thy fair mouth,
Showing me the wishéd prize
In the calm of thy dove's eyes,
Teaching me the wonder-rife
Majesties of human life,
All its fairest possible sum,
And the grace of its to come.

"What a difference! Why of late
All sweet music used to say,
'She will come, and with thee stay
To-morrow, man, if not to-day.'
Now it murmurs, 'Wait, wait, wait!'"


A RAVEN IN A WHITE CHINE.

I saw when I looked up, on either hand,
  A pale high chalk-cliff, reared aloft in white;
A narrowing rent soon closed toward the land,--
  Toward the sea, an open yawning bight.

The polished tide, with scarce a hint of blue,
  Washed in the bight; above with angry moan
A raven, that was robbed, sat up in view,
  Croaking and crying on a ledge alone.

"Stand on thy nest, spread out thy fateful wings,
  With sullen hungry love bemoan thy brood,
For boys have wrung their necks, those imp-like things,
  Whose beaks dripped crimson daily at their food.

"Cry, thou black prophetess! cry, and despair,
  None love thee, none! Their father was thy foe,
Whose father in his youth did know thy lair,
  And steal thy little demons long ago.

"Thou madest many childless for their sake,
  And picked out many eyes that loved the light.
Cry, thou black prophetess! sit up, awake,
  Forebode; and ban them through the desolate night"

Lo! while I spake it, with a crimson hue
  The dipping sun endowed that silver flood,
And all the cliffs flushed red, and up she flew,
  The bird, as mad to bathe in airy blood.

"Nay, thou mayst cry, the omen is not thine,
  Thou aged priestess of fell doom, and fate.
It is not blood: thy gods are making wine,
  They spilt the must outside their city gate,

"And stained their azure pavement with the lees:
  They will not listen though thou cry aloud.
Old Chance, thy dame, sits mumbling at her ease,
  Nor hears; the fair hag, Luck, is in her shroud.

"They heed not, they withdraw the sky-hung sign,
  Thou hast no charm against the favorite race;
Thy gods pour out for it, not blood, but wine:
  There is no justice in their dwelling-place!

"Safe in their father's house the boys shall rest,
  Though thy fell brood doth stark and silent lie;
Their unborn sons may yet despoil thy nest:
  Cry, thou black prophetess! lift up! cry, cry!"


THE WARBLING OF BLACKBIRDS.

    When I hear the waters fretting,
    When I see the chestnut letting
All her lovely blossom falter down, I think, "Alas the day!"
    Once with magical sweet singing,
    Blackbirds set the woodland ringing,
That awakes no more while April hours wear themselves away.

    In our hearts fair hope lay smiling,
    Sweet as air, and all beguiling;
And there hung a mist of bluebells on the slope and down the dell;
    And we talked of joy and splendor
    That the years unborn would render,
And the blackbirds helped us with the story, for they knew it well.

    Piping, fluting, "Bees are humming,
    April's here, and summer's coming;
Don't forget us when you walk, a man with men, in pride and joy;
    Think on us in alleys shady,
    When you step a graceful lady;
For no fairer day have we to hope for, little girl and boy.

    "Laugh and play, O lisping waters,
    Lull our downy sons and daughters;
Come, O wind, and rock their leafy cradle in thy wanderings coy;
    When they wake we'll end the measure
    With a wild sweet cry of pleasure,
And a 'Hey down derry, let's be merry! little girl and boy!'"


SEA-MEWS IN WINTER TIME.

I walked beside a dark gray sea.
  And said, "O world, how cold thou art!
Thou poor white world, I pity thee,
  For joy and warmth from thee depart.

"Yon rising wave licks off the snow,
  Winds on the crag each other chase,
In little powdery whirls they blow
  The misty fragments down its face.

"The sea is cold, and dark its rim,
  Winter sits cowering on the wold,
And I beside this watery brim,
  Am also lonely, also cold."

I spoke, and drew toward a rock,
  Where many mews made twittering sweet;
Their wings upreared, the clustering flock
  Did pat the sea-grass with their feet.

A rock but half submerged, the sea
  Ran up and washed it while they fed;
Their fond and foolish ecstasy
  A wondering in my fancy bred.

Joy companied with every cry,
  Joy in their food, in that keen wind,
That heaving sea, that shaded sky,
  And in themselves, and in their kind.

The phantoms of the deep at play!
  What idless graced the twittering things;
Luxurious paddlings in the spray,
  And delicate lifting up of wings.

Then all at once a flight, and fast
  The lovely crowd flew out to sea;
If mine own life had been recast,
  Earth had not looked more changed to me.

"Where is the cold? Yon clouded skies
  Have only dropt their curtains low
To shade the old mother where she lies
  Sleeping a little, 'neath the snow.

"The cold is not in crag, nor scar,
  Not in the snows that lap the lea,
Not in yon wings that beat afar,
  Delighting, on the crested sea;

"No, nor in yon exultant wind
  That shakes the oak and bends the pine.
Look near, look in, and thou shalt find
  No sense of cold, fond fool, but thine!"

With that I felt the gloom depart,
  And thoughts within me did unfold,
Whose sunshine warmed me to the heart,--
  I walked in joy, and was not cold.



LAURANCE.


I.

He knew she did not love him; but so long
As rivals were unknown to him, he dwelt
At ease, and did not find his love a pain.

He had much deference in his nature, need
To honor--it became him; he was frank,
Fresh, hardy, of a joyous mind, and strong,--
Looked all things straight in the face. So when she came
Before him first, he looked at her, and looked
No more, but colored to his healthful brow,
And wished himself a better man, and thought
On certain things, and wished they were undone,
Because her girlish innocence, the grace
Of her unblemished pureness, wrought in him
A longing and aspiring, and a shame
To think how wicked was the world,--that world
Which he must walk in,--while from her (and such
As she was) it was hidden; there was made
A clean path, and the girl moved on like one
In some enchanted ring.

                               In his young heart
She reigned, with all the beauties that she had,
And all the virtues that he rightly took
For granted; there he set her with her crown,
And at her first enthronement he turned out
Much that was best away, for unaware
His thoughts grew noble. She was always there
And knew it not, and he grew like to her
And like to what he thought her.
                                 Now he dwelt
With kin that loved him well,--two fine old folk,
A rich, right honest yeoman, and his dame,--
Their only grandson he, their pride, their heir.

To these, one daughter had been born, one child,
And as she grew to woman, "Look," they said,
"She must not leave us; let us build a wing,
With cheerful rooms and wide, to our old grange;
There may she dwell, with her good man, and all
God sends them." Then the girl in her first youth
Married a curate,--handsome, poor in purse,
Of gentle blood and manners, and he lived
Under her father's roof, as they had planned.

Full soon, for happy years are short, they filled
The house with children; four were born to them.
Then came a sickly season; fever spread
  Among the poor. The curate, never slack
  In duty, praying by the sick, or worse,
Burying the dead, when all the air was clogged
With poisonous mist, was stricken; long he lay
Sick, almost to the death, and when his head
He lifted from the pillow, there was left
One only of that pretty flock: his girls,
His three, were cold beneath the sod; his boy,
Their eldest born, remained.

                            The drooping wife
Bore her great sorrow in such quiet wise,
That first they marvelled at her, then they tried
To rouse her, showing her their bitter grief,
Lamenting, and not sparing; but she sighed,
"Let me alone, it will not be for long."
Then did her mother tremble, murmuring out,
"Dear child, the best of comfort will be soon.
O, when you see this other little face,
You will, please God, be comforted."

                                    She said,
"I shall not live to see it"; but she did,--
little sickly face, a wan, thin face.
Then she grew eager, and her eyes were bright
When she would plead with them: "Take me away,
Let me go south; it is the bitter blast
That chills my tender babe; she cannot thrive
Under the desolate, dull, mournful cloud."
Then all they journeyed south together, mute
With past and coming sorrow, till the sun,
In gardens edging the blue tideless main,
Warmed them and calmed the aching at their hearts,
And all went better for a while; but not
For long. They sitting by the orange-trees
Once rested, and the wife was very still:
One woman with narcissus flowers heaped up
Let down her basket from her head, but paused
With pitying gesture, and drew near and stooped,
Taking a white wild face upon her breast,--
The little babe on its poor mother's knees,
None marking it, none knowing else, had died.

The fading mother could not stay behind,
Her heart was broken; but it awed them most
To feel they must not, dared not, pray for life,
Seeing she longed to go, and went so gladly.

After, these three, who loved each other well,
Brought their one child away, and they were best
Together in the wide old grange. Full oft
The father with the mother talked of her,
Their daughter, but the husband nevermore;
He looked for solace in his work, and gave
His mind to teach his boy. And time went on,
Until the grandsire prayed those other two
"Now part with him; it must be; for his good:
He rules and knows it; choose for him a school,
Let him have all advantages, and all
Good training that should make a gentleman."

With that they parted from their boy, and lived
Longing between his holidays, and time
Sped; he grew on till he had eighteen years.
His father loved him, wished to make of him
Another parson; but the farmer's wife
Murmured at that: "No, no, they learned bad ways,
They ran in debt at college; she had heard
That many rued the day they sent their boys
To college"; and between the two broke in
His grandsire: "Find a sober, honest man,
A scholar, for our lad should see the world
While he is young, that he may marry young.
He will not settle and be satisfied
Till he has run about the world awhile.
Good lack, I longed to travel in my youth,
And had no chance to do it. Send him off,
A sober man being found to trust him with,
One with the fear of God before his eyes."
And he prevailed; the careful father chose
A tutor, young,--the worthy matron thought,--
In truth, not ten years older than her boy,
And glad as he to range, and keen for snows,
Desert, and ocean. And they made strange choice
Of where to go, left the sweet day behind,
And pushed up north in whaling ships, to feel
What cold was, see the blowing whale come up,
And Arctic creatures, while a scarlet sun
Went round and round, crowd on the clear blue berg.

Then did the trappers have them; and they heard
Nightly the whistling calls of forest-men
That mocked the forest wonners; and they saw
Over the open, raging up like doom,
The dangerous dust-cloud, that was full of eyes,--
The bisons. So were three years gone like one;
And the old cities drew them for a while,
Great mothers, by the Tiber and the Seine;
They have hid many sons hard by their seats,
But all the air is stirring with them still,
The waters murmur of them, skies at eve
Are stained with their rich blood, and every sound
Means men.
           At last, the fourth year running out,
The youth came home. And all the cheerful house
Was decked in fresher colors, and the dame
Was full of joy. But in the father's heart
Abode a painful doubt. "It is not well;
He cannot spend his life with dog and gun.
I do not care that my one son should sleep
Merely for keeping him in breath, and wake
Only to ride to cover."
                        Not the less
The grandsire pondered. "Ay, the boy must WORK
Or SPEND; and I must let him spend; just stay
Awhile with us, and then from time to time
Have leave to be away with those fine folk
With whom, these many years, at school, and now,
During his sojourn in the foreign towns,
He has been made familiar." Thus a month
Went by. They liked the stirring ways of youth,
The quick elastic step, and joyous mind,
Ever expectant of it knew not what,
But something higher than has e'er been born
Of easy slumber and sweet competence.
And as for him,--the while they thought and thought
A comfortable instinct let him know
How they had waited for him, to complete
And give a meaning to their lives; and still
At home, but with a sense of newness there,
And frank and fresh as in the school-boy days,
He oft--invading of his father's haunts,
The study where he passed the silent morn--
Would sit, devouring with a greedy joy
The piled-up books, uncut as yet; or wake
To guide with him by night the tube, and search,
Ay, think to find new stars; then risen betimes,
Would ride about the farm, and list the talk
Of his hale grandsire.
                          But a day came round,
When, after peering in his mother's room,
Shaded and shuttered from the light, he oped
A door, and found the rosy grandmother
Ensconced and happy in her special pride,
Her storeroom. She was corking syrups rare,
And fruits all sparkling in a crystal coat.
Here after choice of certain cates well known,
He, sitting on her bacon-chest at ease,
Sang as he watched her, till right suddenly,
As if a new thought came, "Goody," quoth he,
"What, think you, do they want to do with me?
What have they planned for me that I should do?"

"Do, laddie!" quoth she faltering, half in tears;
"Are you not happy with us, not content?
Why would ye go away? There is no need
That ye should DO at all. O, bide at home.
Have we not plenty?"
                     "Even so," he said;
"I did not wish to go."
                        "Nay, then," quoth she,
"Be idle; let me see your blessed face.
What, is the horse your father chose for you
Not to your mind? He is? Well, well, remain;
Do as you will, so you but do it here.
You shall not want for money."
                               But, his arms
Folding, he sat and twisted up his mouth
With comical discomfiture.
                           "What, then,"
She sighed, "what is it, child, that you would like?"
"Why," said he, "farming."
                           And she looked at him,
Fond, foolish woman that she was, to find
Some fitness in the worker for the work,
And she found none. A certain grace there was
Of movement, and a beauty in the face,
Sun-browned and healthful beauty that had come
From his grave father; and she thought, "Good lack,
A farmer! he is fitter for a duke.
He walks; why, how he walks! if I should meet
One like him, whom I knew not, I should ask,
'And who may that be?'" So the foolish thought
Found words. Quoth she, half laughing, half ashamed,
"We planned to make of you--a gentleman."
And with engaging sweet audacity
She thought it nothing less,--he, looking up,
With a smile in his blue eyes, replied to her,
"And hav'n't you done it?" Quoth she, lovingly,
"I think we have, laddie; I think we have."

"Then," quoth he, "I may do what best I like;
It makes no matter. Goody, you were wise
To help me in it, and to let me farm;
I think of getting into mischief else!"
"No! do ye, laddie?" quoth the dame, and laughed.
"But ask my grandfather," the youth went on,
"To let me have the farm he bought last year,
The little one, to manage. I like land;
I want some." And she, womanlike, gave way
Convinced; and promised, and made good her word,
And that same night upon the matter spoke,
In presence of the father and the son.

"Roger," quoth she, "our Laurance wants to farm;
I think he might do worse." The father sat
Mute but right glad. The grandson breaking in
Set all his wish and his ambition forth;
But cunningly the old man hid his joy,
And made conditions with a faint demur.
Then pausing, "Let your father speak," quoth he;
"I am content if he is": at his word
The parson took him, ay, and, parson like,
Put a religious meaning in the work,
Man's earliest work, and wished his son God speed.


II.

Thus all were satisfied, and day by day,
For two sweet years a happy course was theirs;
Happy, but yet the fortunate, the young
Loved, and much cared-for, entered on his strife,--
A stirring of the heart, a quickening keen
Of sight and hearing to the delicate
Beauty and music of an altered world;
Began to walk in that mysterious light
Which doth reveal and yet transform; which gives
Destiny, sorrow, youth, and death, and life,
Intenser meaning; in disquieting
Lifts up; a shining light: men call it Love.

Fair, modest eyes had she, the girl he loved;
A silent creature, thoughtful, grave, sincere.
She never turned from him with sweet caprice,
Nor changing moved his soul to troublous hope,
Nor dropped for him her heavy lashes low,
But excellent in youthful grace came up;
And ere his words were ready, passing on,
Had left him all a-tremble; yet made sure
That by her own true will, and fixed intent,
She held him thus remote. Therefore, albeit
He knew she did not love him, yet so long
As of a rival unaware, he dwelt
All in the present, without fear, or hope,
Enthralled and whelmed in the deep sea of love,
And could not get his head above its wave
To reach the far horizon, or to mark
Whereto it drifted him.
                           So long, so long;
Then, on a sudden, came the ruthless fate,
Showed him a bitter truth, and brought him bale
All in the tolling out of noon.
                                'Twas thus:
Snow-time was come; it had been snowing hard;
Across the churchyard path he walked; the clock
Began to strike, and, as he passed the porch,
Half turning, through a sense that came to him
As of some presence in it, he beheld
His love, and she had come for shelter there;
And all her face was fair with rosy bloom,
The blush of happiness; and one held up
Her ungloved hand in both his own, and stooped
Toward it, sitting by her. O her eyes
Were full of peace and tender light: they looked
One moment in the ungraced lover's face
While he was passing in the snow; and he
Received the story, while he raised his hat
Retiring. Then the clock left off to strike,
And that was all. It snowed, and he walked on;
And in a certain way he marked the snow,
And walked, and came upon the open heath;
And in a certain way he marked the cold,
And walked as one that had no starting-place
Might walk, but not to any certain goal.

And he strode on toward a hollow part,
Where from the hillside gravel had been dug,
And he was conscious of a cry, and went
Dulled in his sense, as though he heard it not;
Till a small farmhouse drudge, a half-grown girl,
Rose from the shelter of a drift that lay
Against the bushes, crying, "God! O God,
O my good God, He sends us help at last."

Then looking hard upon her, came to him
The power to feel and to perceive. Her teeth
Chattered, and all her limbs with shuddering failed,
And in her threadbare shawl was wrapped a child
That looked on him with wondering, wistful eyes.

"I thought to freeze," the girl broke out with tears;
"Kind sir, kind sir," and she held out the child,
As praying him to take it; and he did;
And gave to her the shawl, and swathed his charge
In the foldings of his plaid; and when it thrust
Its small round face against his breast, and felt
With small red hands for warmth,--unbearable
Pains of great pity rent his straitened heart,
For the poor upland dwellers had been out
Since morning dawn, at early milking-time,
Wandering and stumbling in the drift. And now,
Lamed with a fall, half crippled by the cold,
Hardly prevailed his arm to drag her on,
That ill-clad child, who yet the younger child
Had motherly cared to shield. So toiling through
The great white storm coming, and coming yet.
And coming till the world confounded sat
With all her fair familiar features gone,
The mountains muffled in an eddying swirl,
He led or bore them, and the little one
Peered from her shelter, pleased; but oft would mourn
The elder, "They will beat me: O my can,
I left my can of milk upon the moor."
And he compared her trouble with his own,
And had no heart to speak. And yet 'twas keen;
It filled her to the putting down of pain
And hunger,--what could his do more?
                                     He brought
The children to their home, and suddenly
Regained himself, and wondering at himself,
That he had borne, and yet been dumb so long,
The weary wailing of the girl: he paid
Money to buy her pardon; heard them say,
"Peace, we have feared for you; forget the milk,
It is no matter!" and went forth again
And waded in the snow, and quietly
Considered in his patience what to do
With all the dull remainder of his days.

With dusk he was at home, and felt it good
To hear his kindred talking, for it broke
A mocking, endless echo in his soul,
"It is no matter!" and he could not choose
But mutter, though the weariness o'ercame
His spirit, "Peace, it is no matter; peace,
It is no matter!" For he felt that all
Was as it had been, and his father's heart
Was easy, knowing not how that same day
Hope with her tender colors and delight
(He should not care to have him know) were dead;
Yea, to all these, his nearest and most dear,
It was no matter. And he heard them talk
Of timber felled, of certain fruitful fields,
And profitable markets.
                            All for him
Their plans, and yet the echoes swarmed and swam
About his head, whenever there was pause;
"It is no matter!" And his greater self
Arose in him and fought. "It matters much,
It matters all to these, that not to-day
Nor ever they should know it. I will hide
The wound; ay, hide it with a sleepless care.
What! shall I make these three to drink of rue,
Because my cup is bitter?" And he thrust
Himself in thought away, and made his ears
Hearken, and caused his voice, that yet did seem
Another, to make answer, when they spoke,
As there had been no snowstorm, and no porch,
And no despair.
                So this went on awhile
Until the snow had melted from the wold,
And he, one noonday, wandering up a lane,
Met on a turn the woman whom he loved.
Then, even to trembling he was moved: his speech
Faltered; but when the common kindly words
Of greeting were all said, and she passed on,
He could not bear her sweetness and his pain,
"Muriel!" he cried; and when she heard her name,
She turned. "You know I love you," he broke out:
She answered "Yes," and sighed.
                                "O pardon me.
Pardon me," quoth the lover; "let me rest
In certainty, and hear it from your mouth:
Is he with whom I saw you once of late
To call you wife?" "I hope so," she replied;
And over all her face the rose-bloom came,
As thinking on that other, unaware
Her eyes waxed tender. When he looked on her,
Standing to answer him, with lovely shame,
Submiss, and yet not his, a passionate,
A quickened sense of his great impotence
To drive away the doom got hold on him;
He set his teeth to force the unbearable
Misery back, his wide-awakened eyes
Flashed as with flame.
                         And she, all overawed
And mastered by his manhood, waited yet,
And trembled at the deep she could not sound;
A passionate nature in a storm; a heart
Wild with a mortal pain, and in the grasp
Of an immortal love.
                       "Farewell," he said,
Recovering words, and when she gave her hand,
"My thanks for your good candor; for I feel
That it has cost you something." Then, the blush
Yet on her face, she said: "It was your due:
But keep this matter from your friends and kin,
We would not have it known." Then cold and proud,
Because there leaped from under his straight lids,
And instantly was veiled, a keen surprise,--
"He wills it, and I therefore think it well."
Thereon they parted; but from that time forth,
Whether they met on festal eve, in field,
Or at the church, she ever bore herself
Proudly, for she had felt a certain pain,
The disapproval hastily betrayed
And quickly hidden hurt her. "'T was a grace,"
She thought, "to tell this man the thing he asked,
And he rewards me with surprise. I like
No one's surprise, and least of all bestowed
Where he bestowed it."
                       But the spring came on:
Looking to wed in April all her thoughts
Grew loving; she would fain the world had waxed
More happy with her happiness, and oft
Walking among the flowery woods she felt
Their loveliness reach down into her heart,
And knew with them the ecstasies of growth,
The rapture that was satisfied with light,
The pleasure of the leaf in exquisite
Expansion, through the lovely longed-for spring.

And as for him,--(Some narrow hearts there are
That suffer blight when that they fed upon
As something to complete their being fails,
And they retire into their holds and pine,
And long restrained grow stern. But some there are,
That in a sacred want and hunger rise,
And draw the misery home and live with it,
And excellent in honor wait, and will
That somewhat good should yet be found in it,
Else wherefore were they born?),--and as for him,
He loved her, but his peace and welfare made
The sunshine of three lives. The cheerful grange
Threw open wide its hospitable doors
And drew in guests for him. The garden flowers,
Sweet budding wonders, all were set for him.
In him the eyes at home were satisfied,
And if he did but laugh the ear approved.
What then? He dwelt among them as of old,
And taught his mouth to smile.
                               And time went on,
Till on a morning, when the perfect spring
Rested among her leaves, he journeying home
After short sojourn in a neighboring town,
Stopped at the little station on the line
That ran between his woods; a lonely place
And quiet, and a woman and a child
Got out. He noted them, but walking on
Quickly, went back into the wood, impelled
By hope, for, passing, he had seen his love,
And she was sitting on a rustic seat
That overlooked the line, and he desired
With longing indescribable to look
Upon her face again. And he drew near.
She was right happy; she was waiting there.
He felt that she was waiting for her lord.
She cared no whit if Laurance went or stayed,
But answered when he spoke, and dropped her cheek
In her fair hand.
                  And he, not able yet
To force himself away, and never more
Behold her, gathered blossom, primrose flowers,
And wild anemone, for many a clump
Grew all about him, and the hazel rods
Were nodding with their catkins. But he heard
The stopping train, and felt that he must go;
His time was come. There was nought else to do
Or hope for. With the blossom he drew near
And would have had her take it from his hand;
But she, half lost in thought, held out her own,
And then remembering him and his long love,
She said, "I thank you; pray you now forget,
Forget me, Laurance," and her lovely eyes
Softened; but he was dumb, till through the trees
Suddenly broke upon their quietude
The woman and her child. And Muriel said,
"What will you?" She made answer quick and keen,
"Your name, my lady; 'tis your name I want,
Tell me your name." Not startled, not displeased,
But with a musing sweetness on her mouth,
As if considering in how short a while
It would be changed, she lifted up her face
And gave it, and the little child drew near
And pulled her gown, and prayed her for the flowers.
Then Laurance, not content to leave them so,
Nor yet to wait the coming lover, spoke,--
"Your errand with this lady?"--"And your right
To ask it?" she broke out with sudden heat
And passion: "What is that to you! Poor child!
Madam!" And Muriel lifted up her face
And looked,--they looked into each other's eyes.

"That man who comes," the clear-voiced woman cried,
"That man with whom you think to wed so soon,
You must not heed him. What! the world is full
Of men, and some are good, and most, God knows,
Better than he,--that I should say it!--far
Better." And down her face the large tears ran,
And Muriel's wild dilated eyes looked up,
Taking a terrible meaning from her words;
And Laurance stared about him half in doubt
If this were real, for all things were so blithe,
And soft air tossed the little flowers about;
The child was singing, and the blackbirds piped,
Glad in fair sunshine. And the women both
Were quiet, gazing in each other's eyes.

He found his voice, and spoke: "This is not well,
Though whom you speak of should have done you wrong;
A man that could desert and plan to wed
Will not his purpose yield to God and right,
Only to law. You, whom I pity so much,
If you be come this day to urge a claim,
You will not tell me that your claim will hold;
'Tis only, if I read aright, the old,
Sorrowful, hateful story!"
                           Muriel sighed,
With a dull patience that he marvelled at,
"Be plain with me. I know not what to think,
Unless you are his wife. Are you his wife?
Be plain with me." And all too quietly,
With running down of tears, the answer came,
"Ay, madam, ay! the worse for him and me."
Then Muriel heard her lover's foot anear,
And cried upon him with a bitter cry,
Sharp and despairing. And those two stood back,
With such affright, and violent anger stirred
He broke from out the thicket to her side,
Not knowing. But, her hands before her face,
She sat; and, stepping close, that woman came
And faced him. Then said Muriel, "O my heart,
Herbert!"--and he was dumb, and ground his teeth,
And lifted up his hand and looked at it,
And at the woman; but a man was there
Who whirled her from her place, and thrust himself
Between them; he was strong,--a stalwart man:
And Herbert thinking on it, knew his name.
"What good," quoth he, "though you and I should strive
And wrestle all this April day? A word,
And not a blow, is what these women want:
Master yourself, and say it." But he, weak
With passion and great anguish, flung himself
Upon the seat and cried, "O lost, my love!
O Muriel, Muriel!" And the woman spoke,
"Sir, 'twas an evil day you wed with me;
And you were young; I know it, sir, right well.
Sir, I have worked; I have not troubled you,
Not for myself, nor for your child. I know
We are not equal." "Hold!" he cried; "have done;
Your still, tame words are worse than hate or scorn.
Get from me! Ay, my wife, my wife, indeed!
All's done. You hear it, Muriel; if you can,
O sweet, forgive me."
                    Then the woman moved
Slowly away: her little singing child
Went in her wake: and Muriel dropped her hands,
And sat before these two that loved her so,
Mute and unheeding. There were angry words,
She knew, but yet she could not hear the words;
And afterwards the man she loved stooped down
And kissed her forehead once, and then withdrew
To look at her, and with a gesture pray
Her pardon. And she tried to speak, but failed,
And presently, and soon, O,--he was gone.

She heard him go, and Laurance, still as stone,
Remained beside her; and she put her hand
Before her face again, and afterward
She heard a voice, as if a long way off,
Some one entreated, but she could not heed.
Thereon he drew her hand away, and raised
Her passive from her seat. So then she knew
That he would have her go with him, go home,--
It was not far to go,--a dreary home.
A crippled aunt, of birth and lineage high,
Had in her youth, and for a place and home,
Married the stern old rector; and the girl
Dwelt with them: she was orphaned,--had no kin
Nearer than they. And Laurance brought her in,
And spared to her the telling of this woe.
He sought her kindred where they sat apart,
And laid before them all the cruel thing,
As he had seen it. After, he retired:
And restless, and not master of himself,
He day and night haunted the rectory lanes;
And all things, even to the spreading out
Of leaves, their flickering shadows on the ground,
Or sailing of the slow, white cloud, or peace
And glory and great light on mountain heads,--
All things were leagued against him,--ministered
By likeness or by contrast to his love.

But what was that to Muriel, though her peace
He would have purchased for her with all prayers,
And costly, passionate, despairing tears?
O what to her that he should find it worse
To bear her life's undoing than his own?

She let him see her, and she made no moan,
But talked full calmly of indifferent things,
Which when he heard, and marked the faded eyes
And lovely wasted cheek, he started up
With "This I cannot bear!" and shamed to feel
His manhood giving way, and utterly
Subdued by her sweet patience and his pain,
Made haste and from the window sprang, and paced,
Battling and chiding with himself, the maze.

She suffered, and he could not make her well
For all his loving;--he was naught to her.
And now his passionate nature, set astir,
Fought with the pain that could not be endured;
And like a wild thing suddenly aware
That it is caged, which flings and bruises all
Its body at the bars, he rose, and raged
Against the misery: then he made all worse
With tears. But when he came to her again,
Willing to talk as they had talked before,
She sighed, and said, with that strange quietness,
"I know you have been crying": and she bent
Her own fair head and wept.
                             She felt the cold--
The freezing cold that deadened all her life--
Give way a little; for this passionate
Sorrow, and all for her, relieved her heart,
And brought some natural warmth, some natural tears.


III.

And after that, though oft he sought her door,
He might not see her. First they said to him,
"She is not well"; and afterwards, "Her wish
Is ever to be quiet." Then in haste
They took her from the place, because so fast
She faded. As for him, though youth and strength
Can bear the weight as of a world, at last
The burden of it tells,--he heard it said,
When autumn came, "The poor sweet thing will die:
That shock was mortal." And he cared no more
To hide, if yet he could have hidden, the blight
That was laying waste his heart. He journeyed south
To Devon, where she dwelt with other kin,
Good, kindly women; and he wrote to them,
Praying that he might see her ere she died.

So in her patience she permitted him
To be about her, for it eased his heart;
And as for her that was to die so soon,
What did it signify? She let him weep
Some passionate tears beside her couch, she spoke
Pitying words, and then they made him go,
It was enough they said, her time was short,
And he had seen her. He HAD seen, and felt
The bitterness of death; but he went home,
Being satisfied in that great longing now,
And able to endure what might befall.

  And Muriel lay, and faded with the year;
She lay at the door of death, that opened not
To take her in; for when the days once more
Began a little to increase, she felt,--
And it was sweet to her, she was so young,--
She felt a longing for the time of flowers,
And dreamed that she was walking in that wood
With her two feet among the primroses.

Then when the violet opened, she rose up
And walked: the tender leaf and tender light
Did solace her; but she was white and wan,
The shadow of that Muriel, in the wood
Who listened to those deadly words.
                                    And now
Empurpled seas began to blush and bloom,
Doves made sweet moaning, and the guelder rose
In a great stillness dropped, and ever dropped,
Her wealth about her feet, and there it lay,
And drifted not at all. The lilac spread
Odorous essence round her; and full oft,
When Muriel felt the warmth her pulses cheer,
She, faded, sat among the Maytide bloom,
And with a reverent quiet in her soul,
Took back--it was His will--her time, and sat
Learning again to live.
                        Thus as she sat
Upon a day, she was aware of one
Who at a distance marked her. This again
Another day, and she was vexed, for yet
She longed for quiet; but she heard a foot
Pass once again, and beckoned through the trees.
"Laurance!" And all impatient of unrest
And strife, ay, even of the sight of them,
When he drew near, with tired, tired lips,
As if her soul upbraided him, she said,
"Why have you done this thing?" He answered her,
"I am not always master in the fight:
I could not help it."
                      "What!" she sighed, "not yet!
O, I am sorry"; and she talked to him
As one who looked to live, imploring him,--
"Try to forget me. Let your fancy dwell
Elsewhere, nor me enrich with it so long;
It wearies me to think of this your love.
Forget me!"

                He made answer, "I will try:
The task will take me all my life to learn,
Or were it learned, I know not how to live;
This pain is part of life and being now,--
It is myself; but yet--but I will try."
Then she spoke friendly to him,--of his home,
His father, and the old, brave, loving folk;
She bade him think of them. And not her words,
But having seen her, satisfied his heart.
He left her, and went home to live his life,
And all the summer heard it said of her,
"Yet, she grows stronger"; but when autumn came
Again she drooped.

                      A bitter thing it is
To lose at once the lover and the love;
For who receiveth not may yet keep life
In the spirit with bestowal. But for her,
This Muriel, all was gone. The man she loved,
Not only from her present had withdrawn,
But from her past, and there was no such man,
There never had been.

                          He was not as one
Who takes love in, like some sweet bird, and holds
The winged fluttering stranger to his breast,
Till, after transient stay, all unaware
It leaves him: it has flown. No; this may live
In memory,--loved till death. He was not vile;
For who by choice would part with that pure bird,
And lose the exaltation of its song?
He had not strength of will to keep it fast,
Nor warmth of heart to keep it warm, nor life
Of thought to make the echo sound for him
After the song was done. Pity that man:
His music is all flown, and he forgets
The sweetness of it, till at last he thinks
'Twas no great matter. But he was not vile,
Only a thing to pity most in man,
Weak,--only poor, and, if he knew it, undone.
But Herbert! When she mused on it, her soul
Would fain have hidden him forevermore,
Even from herself: so pure of speech, so frank,
So full of household kindness. Ah, so good
And true! A little, she had sometimes thought,
Despondent for himself, but strong of faith
In God, and faith in her, this man had seemed.

Ay, he was gone! and she whom he had wed,
As Muriel learned, was sick, was poor, was sad.
And Muriel wrote to comfort her, and send,
From her small store, money to help her need,
With, "Pray you keep it secret." Then the whole
Of the cruel tale was told.
                            What more? She died.
Her kin, profuse of thanks, not bitterly,
Wrote of the end. "Our sister fain had seen
Her husband; prayed him sore to come. But no.
And then she prayed him that he would forgive,
Madam, her breaking of the truth to you.
Dear madam, he was angry, yet we think
He might have let her see, before she died,
The words she wanted, but he did not write
Till she was gone--'I neither can forgive,
Nor would I if I could.'"
                            "Patience, my heart!
And this, then, is the man I loved!"
                                      But yet
He sought a lower level, for he wrote
Telling the story with a different hue,
Telling of freedom. He desired to come,
"For now," said he, "O love, may all be well."
And she rose up against it in her soul,
For she despised him. And with passionate tears
Of shame, she wrote, and only wrote these words,--
"Herbert, I will not see you."
                                 Then she drooped
Again; it is so bitter to despise;
And all her strength, when autumn leaves down dropped,
Fell from her. "Ah!" she thought, "I rose up once,
I cannot rise up now; here is the end."
And all her kinsfolk thought, "It is the end."

But when that other heard, "It is the end,"
His heart was sick, and he, as by a power
Far stronger than himself, was driven to her.
Reason rebelled against it, but his will
Required it of him with a craving strong
As life, and passionate though hopeless pain.

She, when she saw his face, considered him
Full quietly, let all excuses pass
Not answered, and considered yet again.

"He had heard that she was sick; what could he do
But come, and ask her pardon that he came?"
What could he do, indeed?--a weak white girl
Held all his heartstrings in her small white hand;
His youth, and power, and majesty were hers,
And not his own.

                 She looked, and pitied him.
Then spoke: "He loves me with a love that lasts.
Ah, me! that I might get away from it,
Or, better, hear it said that love IS NOT,
And then I could have rest. My time is short,
I think, so short." And roused against himself
In stormy wrath, that it should be his doom
Her to disquiet whom he loved; ay, her
For whom he would have given all his rest,
If there were any left to give; he took
Her words up bravely, promising once more
Absence, and praying pardon; but some tears
Dropped quietly upon her cheek.

                                   "Remain,"
She said, "for there is something to be told,
Some words that you must hear.

                               "And first hear this:
God has been good to me; you must not think
That I despair. There is a quiet time
Like evening in my soul. I have no heart,
For cruel Herbert killed it long ago,
And death strides on. Sit, then, and give your mind
To listen, and your eyes to look at me.
Look at my face, Laurance, how white it is;
Look at my hand,--my beauty is all gone."
And Laurance lifted up his eyes; he looked,
But answered, from their deeps that held no doubt,
Far otherwise than she had willed,--they said,
"Lovelier than ever."

                      Yet her words went on,
Cold and so quiet, "I have suffered much,
And I would fain that none who care for me
Should suffer a like pang that I can spare.
Therefore," said she, and not at all could blush,
"I have brought my mind of late to think of this:
That since your life is spoilt (not willingly,
My God, not willingly by me), 'twere well
To give you choice of griefs.

                              "Were it not best
To weep for a dead love, and afterwards
Be comforted the sooner, that she died
Remote, and left not in your house and life
Aught to remind you? That indeed were best.
But were it best to weep for a dead wife,
And let the sorrow spend and satisfy
Itself with all expression, and so end?
I think not so; but if for you 'tis best,
Then,--do not answer with too sudden words:
It matters much to you; not much, not much
To me,--then truly I will die your wife;
I will marry you."

                    What was he like to say,
But, overcome with love and tears, to choose
The keener sorrow,--take it to his heart,
Cherish it, make it part of him, and watch
Those eyes that were his light till they should close?

He answered her with eager, faltering words,
"I choose,--my heart is yours,--die in my arms."

But was it well? Truly, at first, for him
It was not well: he saw her fade, and cried,
"When may this be?" She answered, "When you will,"
And cared not much, for very faint she grew,
Tired and cold. Oft in her soul she thought,
"If I could slip away before the ring
Is on my hand, it were a blessed lot
For both,--a blessed thing for him, and me."

But it was not so; for the day had come,--
Was over: days and months had come, and Death,--
Within whose shadow she had lain, which made
Earth and its loves, and even its bitterness,
Indifferent,--Death withdrew himself, and life
Woke up, and found that it was folded fast,
Drawn to another life forevermore.
O, what a waking! After it there came
Great silence. She got up once more, in spring,
And walked, but not alone, among the flowers.
She thought within herself, "What have I done?
How shall I do the rest?" And he, who felt
Her inmost thought, was silent even as she.
"What have we done?" she thought. But as for him,
When she began to look him in the face,
Considering, "Thus and thus his features are,"
For she had never thought on them before,
She read their grave repose aright. She knew
That in the stronghold of his heart, held back,
Hidden reserves of measureless content
Kept house with happy thought, for her sake mute.

Most patient Muriel! when he brought her home,
She took the place they gave her,--strove to please
His kin, and did not fail; but yet thought on,
"What have I done? how shall I do the rest?
Ah! so contented, Laurance, with this wife
That loves you not, for all the stateliness
And grandeur of your manhood, and the deeps
In your blue eyes." And after that awhile
She rested from such thinking, put it by
And waited. She had thought on death before:
But no, this Muriel was not yet to die;
And when she saw her little tender babe,
She felt how much the happy days of life
Outweigh the sorrowful. A tiny thing,
Whom when it slept the lovely mother nursed
With reverent love, whom when it woke she fed
And wondered at, and lost herself in long
Rapture of watching, and contentment deep.

Once while she sat, this babe upon her knee,
Her husband and his father standing nigh,
About to ride, the grandmother, all pride
And consequence, so deep in learned talk
Of infants, and their little ways and wiles,
Broke off to say, "I never saw a babe
So like its father." And the thought was new
To Muriel; she looked up, and when she looked,
Her husband smiled. And she, the lovely bloom
Flushing her face, would fain he had not known,
Nor noticed her surprise. But he did know;
Yet there was pleasure in his smile, and love
Tender and strong. He kissed her, kissed his babe,
With "Goody, you are left in charge, take care "--
"As if I needed telling," quoth the dame;
And they were gone.

                   Then Muriel, lost in thought,
Gazed; and the grandmother, with open pride,
Tended the lovely pair; till Muriel said,
"Is she so like? Dear granny, get me now
The picture that his father has"; and soon
The old woman put it in her hand.

                                  The wife,
Considering it with deep and strange delight,
Forgot for once her babe, and looked and learned.

  A mouth for mastery and manful work,
A certain brooding sweetness in the eyes,
A brow the harbor of grave thought, and hair
Saxon of hue. She conned; then blushed again,
Remembering now, when she had looked on him,
The sudden radiance of her husband's smile.

But Muriel did not send the picture back;
She kept it; while her beauty and her babe
Flourished together, and in health and peace
She lived.

           Her husband never said to her,
"Love, are you happy?" never said to her,
"Sweet, do you love me?" and at first, whene'er
They rode together in the lanes, and paused,
Stopping their horses, when the day was hot,
In the shadow of a tree, to watch the clouds,
Ruffled in drifting on the jagged rocks
That topped the mountains,--when she sat by him,
Withdrawn at even while the summer stars
Came starting out of nothing, as new made,
She felt a little trouble, and a wish
That he would yet keep silence, and he did.
That one reserve he would not touch, but still
Respected.

             Muriel grew more brave in time,
And talked at ease, and felt disquietude
Fade. And another child was given to her.

"Now we shall do," the old great-grandsire cried,
"For this is the right sort, a boy." "Fie, fie,"
Quoth the good dame; "but never heed you, love,
He thinks them both as right as right can be."

But Laurance went from home, ere yet the boy
Was three weeks old. It fretted him to go,
But still he said, "I must": and she was left
Much with the kindly dame, whose gentle care
Was like a mother's; and the two could talk
Sweetly, for all the difference in their years.

But unaware, the wife betrayed a wish
That she had known why Laurance left her thus.
"Ay, love," the dame made answer; "for he said,
'Goody,' before he left, 'if Muriel ask
No question, tell her naught; but if she let
Any disquietude appear to you,
Say what you know.'" "What?" Muriel said, and laughed,
"I ask, then."

              "Child, it is that your old love,
Some two months past, was here. Nay, never start:
He's gone. He came, our Laurance met him near;
He said that he was going over seas,
'And might I see your wife this only once,
And get her pardon?'"

                      "Mercy!" Muriel cried,
"But Laurance does not wish it?"

                                 "Nay, now, nay,"
Quoth the good dame.
                     "I cannot," Muriel cried;
"He does not, surely, think I should."

                                       "Not he,"
The kind old woman said, right soothingly.
"Does not he ever know, love, ever do
What you like best?"

                     And Muriel, trembling yet,
Agreed. "I heard him say," the dame went on,
"For I was with him when they met that day,
'It would not be agreeable to my wife.'"

Then Muriel, pondering,--"And he said no more?
You think he did not add, 'nor to myself?'"
And with her soft, calm, inward voice, the dame
Unruffled answered, "No, sweet heart, not he:
What need he care?" "And why not?" Muriel cried,
Longing to hear the answer. "O, he knows,
He knows, love, very well": with that she smiled.
"Bless your fair face, you have not really thought
He did not know you loved him?"

                            Muriel said,
"He never told me, goody, that he knew."
"Well," quoth the dame, "but it may chance, my dear,
That he thinks best to let old troubles sleep:
Why need to rouse them? You are happy, sure?
But if one asks, 'Art happy?' why, it sets
The thoughts a-working. No, say I, let love,
Let peace and happy folk alone.

                                   "He said,
'It would not be agreeable to my wife.'
And he went on to add, in course of time
That he would ask you, when it suited you,
To write a few kind words."

                         "Yes," Muriel said,
"I can do that."

               "So Laurance went, you see,"
The soft voice added, "to take down that child.
Laurance had written oft about the child,
And now, at last, the father made it known
He could not take him. He has lost, they say,
His money, with much gambling; now he wants
To lead a good, true, working life. He wrote,
And let this so be seen, that Laurance went
And took the child, and took the money down
To pay."

          And Muriel found her talking sweet,
And asked once more, the rather that she longed
To speak again of Laurance, "And you think
He knows I love him?"

                         "Ay, good sooth, he knows
No fear; but he is like his father, love.
His father never asked my pretty child
One prying question; took her as she was;
Trusted her; she has told me so: he knew
A woman's nature. Laurance is the same.
He knows you love him; but he will not speak;
No, never. Some men are such gentlemen!"



SONGS

OF

THE NIGHT WATCHES.

[Illustration]



SONGS OF THE NIGHT WATCHES,

WITH AN INTRODUCTORY SONG OF EVENING, AND A
CONCLUDING SONG OF THE EARLY DAY.


INTRODUCTORY.

(_Old English Manner._)

APPRENTICED.

Come out and hear the waters shoot, the owlet hoot, the owlet hoot;
  Yon crescent moon, a golden boat, hangs dim behind the tree, O!
The dropping thorn makes white the grass, O sweetest lass, and sweetest
      lass;
  Come out and smell the ricks of hay adown the croft with me, O!"

"My granny nods before her wheel, and drops her reel, and drops her reel;
  My father with his crony talks as gay as gay can be, O!
But all the milk is yet to skim, ere light wax dim, ere light wax dim;
  How can I step adown the croft, my 'prentice lad, with
thee, O?"

"And must ye bide, yet waiting's long, and love is strong, and love is
      strong;
  And O! had I but served the time, that takes so long to flee, O!
And thou, my lass, by morning's light wast all in white, wast all in
      white,
  And parson stood within the rails, a-marrying me and thee, O."


THE FIRST WATCH.

TIRED.

I.

O, I would tell you more, but I am tired;
  For I have longed, and I have had my will;
I pleaded in my spirit, I desired:
  "Ah! let me only see him, and be still
All my days after."
                    Rock, and rock, and rock,
Over the falling, rising watery world,
  Sail, beautiful ship, along the leaping main;
The chirping land-birds follow flock on flock
  To light on a warmer plain.
White as weaned lambs the little wavelets curled,
      Fall over in harmless play,
      As these do far away;
Sail, bird of doom, along the shimmering sea,
All under thy broad wings that overshadow thee.

II.

          I am so tired,
If I would comfort me, I know not how,
  For I have seen thee, lad, as I desired,
And I have nothing left to long for now.

  Nothing at all. And did I wait for thee,
    Often and often, while the light grew dim,
  And through the lilac branches I could see,
    Under a saffron sky, the purple rim
O' the heaving moorland? Ay. And then would float
Up from behind as it were a golden boat,
Freighted with fancies, all o' the wonder of life,
  Love--such a slender moon, going up and up,
Waxing so fast from night to night,
And swelling like an orange flower-bud, bright,
  Fated, methought, to round as to a golden cup,
And hold to my two lips life's best of wine.
  Most beautiful crescent moon,
          Ship of the sky!
  Across the unfurrowed reaches sailing high.
    Methought that it would come my way full soon,
Laden with blessings that were all, all mine,--
  A golden ship, with balm and spiceries rife,
  That ere its day was done should hear thee call me wife.

III.

All over! the celestial sign hath failed;
The orange flower-bud shuts; the ship hath sailed,
  And sunk behind the long low-lying hills.
The love that fed on daily kisses dieth;
The love kept warm by nearness, lieth
    Wounded and wan;
  The love hope nourished bitter tears distils,
    And faints with naught to feed upon.
Only there stirreth very deep below
The hidden beating slow,
And the blind yearning, and the long-drawn breath
Of the love that conquers death.

IV.

Had we not loved full long, and lost all fear,
My ever, my only dear?
Yes; and I saw thee start upon thy way,
          So sure that we should meet
          Upon our trysting-day.
    And even absence then to me was sweet,
    Because it brought me time to brood
    Upon thy dearness in the solitude.
        But ah! to stay, and stay,
  And let that moon of April wane itself away,
        And let the lovely May
  Make ready all her buds for June;
  And let the glossy finch forego her tune
  That she brought with her in the spring,
  And never more, I think, to me can sing;
  And then to lead thee home another bride,
        In the sultry summer tide,
  And all forget me save for shame full sore,
That made thee pray me, absent, "See my face no more."

V.

O hard, most hard! But while my fretted heart
    Shut out, shut down, and full of pain,
        Sobbed to itself apart,
        Ached to itself in vain,
        One came who loveth me
            As I love thee....
  And let my God remember him for this,
  As I do hope He will forget thy kiss,
        Nor visit on thy stately head
Aught that thy mouth hath sworn, or thy two eyes have said....
He came, and it was dark. He came, and sighed
Because he knew the sorrow,--whispering low,
And fast, and thick, as one that speaks by rote:
    "The vessel lieth in the river reach,
          A mile above the beach,
    And she will sail at the turning o' the tide."
          He said, "I have a boat,
          And were it good to go,
    And unbeholden in the vessel's wake
    Look on the man thou lovedst, and forgive,
    As he embarks, a shamefaced fugitive.
              Come, then, with me."

VI.

    O, how he sighed! The little stars did wink,
    And it was very dark. I gave my hand,--
    He led me out across the pasture land,
        And through the narrow croft,
        Down to the river's brink.
When thou wast full in spring, thou little sleepy thing,
  The yellow flags that broidered thee would stand
  Up to their chins in water, and full oft
  WE pulled them and the other shining flowers,
           That all are gone to-day:
  WE two, that had so many things to say,
           So many hopes to render clear:
    And they are all gone after thee, my dear,--
      Gone after those sweet hours,
      That tender light, that balmy rain;
      Gone "as a wind that passeth away,
          And cometh not again."

VII.

    I only saw the stars,--I could not see
      The river,--and they seemed to lie
    As far below as the other stars were high.
      I trembled like a thing about to die:
    It was so awful 'neath the majesty
    Of that great crystal height, that overhung
          The blackness at our feet,
          Unseen to fleet and fleet
          The flocking stars among,
      And only hear the dipping of the oar,
And the small wave's caressing of the darksome shore.

VIII.

    Less real it was than any dream.
Ah me! to hear the bending willows shiver,
As we shot quickly from the silent river,
    And felt the swaying and the flow
That bore us down the deeper, wider stream,
    Whereto its nameless waters go:
O! I shall always, when I shut mine eyes,
    See that weird sight again;
  The lights from anchored vessels hung;
  The phantom moon, that sprung
Suddenly up in dim and angry wise,
    From the rim o' the moaning main,
    And touched with elfin light
    The two long oars whereby we made our flight,
        Along the reaches of the night;
    Then furrowed up a lowering cloud,
    Went in, and left us darker than before,
To feel our way as the midnight watches wore,
And lie in HER lee, with mournful faces bowed,
That should receive and bear with her away
The brightest portion of my sunniest day,--
The laughter of the land, the sweetness of the shore.

IX.

And I beheld thee: saw the lantern flash
Down on thy face, when thou didst climb the side.
And thou wert pale, pale as the patient bride
    That followed; both a little sad,
Leaving of home and kin. Thy courage glad,
    That once did bear thee on,
That brow of thine had lost; the fervor rash
Of unforeboding youth thou hadst foregone.
O, what a little moment, what a crumb
Of comfort for a heart to feed upon!
    And that was all its sum;
    A glimpse, and not a meeting,--
    A drawing near by night,
To sigh to thee an unacknowledged greeting,
And all between the flashing of a light
    And its retreating.

X.

Then after, ere she spread her wafting wings,
The ship,--and weighed her anchor to depart,
We stole from her dark lee, like guilty things;
    And there was silence in my heart,
And silence in the upper and the nether deep.
            O sleep! O sleep!
Do not forget me. Sometimes come and sweep,
Now I have nothing left, thy healing hand
Over the lids that crave thy visits bland,
        Thou kind, thou comforting one:
        For I have seen his face, as I desired,
        And all my story is done.
          O, I am tired!


THE MIDDLE WATCH.

I.

I woke in the night, and the darkness was heavy and deep:
    I had known it was dark in my sleep,
      And I rose and looked out,
And the fathomless vault was all sparkling, set thick round about
With the ancient inhabiters silent, and wheeling too far
For man's heart, like a voyaging frigate, to sail, where remote
    In the sheen of their glory they float,
Or man's soul, like a bird, to fly near, of their beams to partake,
      And dazed in their wake,
    Drink day that is born of a star.
I murmured, "Remoteness and greatness, how deep you are set,
  How afar in the rim of the whole;
You know nothing of me, nor of man, nor of earth, O, nor yet
  Of our light-bearer,--drawing the marvellous moons as they roll,
      Of our regent, the sun."
I look on you trembling, and think, in the dark with my soul,
"How small is our place 'mid the kingdoms and nations of God:
    These are greater than we, every one."
And there falls a great fear, and a dread cometh over, that cries,
      "O my hope! Is there any mistake?
Did He speak? Did I hear? Did I listen aright, if He spake?
Did I answer Him duly? For surely I now am awake,
      If never I woke until now."
And a light, baffling wind, that leads nowhither, plays on my brow.
As a sleep, I must think on my day, of my path as untrod,
Or trodden in dreams, in a dreamland whose coasts are a doubt;
Whose countries recede from my thoughts, as they grope round about,
      And vanish, and tell me not how.
Be kind to our darkness, O Fashioner, dwelling in light,
      And feeding the lamps of the sky;
Look down upon this one, and let it be sweet in Thy sight,
      I pray Thee, to-night.
O watch whom Thou madest to dwell on its soil, Thou Most High!
For this is a world full of sorrow (there may be but one);
Keep watch o'er its dust, else Thy children for aye are undone,
      For this is a world where we die.

II.

With that, a still voice in my spirit that moved and that yearned,
      (There fell a great calm while it spake,)
I had heard it erewhile, but the noises of life are so loud,
That sometimes it dies in the cry of the street and the crowd:
To the simple it cometh,--the child, or asleep, or awake,
And they know not from whence; of its nature the wise never learned
By his wisdom; its secret the worker ne'er earned
By his toil; and the rich among men never bought with his gold;
        Nor the times of its visiting monarchs controlled,
          Nor the jester put down with his jeers
        (For it moves where it will), nor its season the aged discerned
          By thought, in the ripeness of years.

O elder than reason, and stronger than will!
        A voice, when the dark world is still:
Whence cometh it?  Father Immortal, thou knowest! and we,--
We are sure of that witness, that sense which is sent us of Thee;
For it moves, and it yearns in its fellowship mighty and dread,
And let down to our hearts it is touched by the tears that we shed;
It is more than all meanings, and over all strife;
        On its tongue are the laws of our life,
        And it counts up the times of the dead.

III.

    I will fear you, O stars, never more.
I have felt it! Go on, while the world is asleep,
  Golden islands, fast moored in God's infinite deep.
Hark, hark to the words of sweet fashion, the harpings of yore!
How they sang to Him, seer and saint, in the far away lands:
      "The heavens are the work of Thy hands;
      They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure;
          Yea, they all shall wax old,--
But Thy throne is established, O God, and Thy years are made sure;
      They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure,--
      They shall pass like a tale that is told."

      Doth He answer, the Ancient of Days?
      Will He speak in the tongue and the fashion of men?
(Hist! hist! while the heaven-hung multitudes shine in His praise,
His language of old.) Nay, He spoke with them first; it was then
        They lifted their eyes to His throne;
"They shall call on Me, 'Thou art our Father, our God, Thou alone!'
For I made them, I led them in deserts and desolate ways;
        I have found them a Ransom Divine;
I have loved them with love everlasting, the children of men;
        I swear by Myself, they are Mine."


THE MORNING WATCH.

THE COMING IN OF THE "MERMAIDEN."

The moon is bleached as white as wool,
  And just dropping under;
Every star is gone but three,
  And they hang far asunder,--
There's a sea-ghost all in gray,
  A tall shape of wonder!

I am not satisfied with sleep,--
  The night is not ended.
But look how the sea-ghost comes,
  With wan skirts extended,
Stealing up in this weird hour,
  When light and dark are blended.

A vessel! To the old pier end
  Her happy course she's keeping;
I heard them name her yesterday:
  Some were pale with weeping;
Some with their heart-hunger sighed,
  She's in,--and they are sleeping.

O! now with fancied greetings blest,
  They comfort their long aching:
The sea of sleep hath borne to them
  What would not come with waking,
And the dreams shall most be true
  In their blissful breaking.

The stars are gone, the rose-bloom comes,--
  No blush of maid is sweeter;
The red sun, half way out of bed,
  Shall be the first to greet her.
None tell the news, yet sleepers wake,
  And rise, and run to meet her.

Their lost they have, they hold; from pain
  A keener bliss they borrow.
How natural is joy, my heart!
  How easy after sorrow!
For once, the best is come that hope
  Promised them "to-morrow."


CONCLUDING SONG OF DAWN.

(_Old English Manner._)

A MORN OF MAY.

All the clouds about the sun lay up in golden creases,
(Merry rings the maiden's voice that sings at dawn of day;)
Lambkins woke and skipped around to dry their dewy fleeces,
So sweetly as she carolled, all on a morn of May.

Quoth the Sergeant, "Here I'll halt; here's wine of joy for drinking;
To my heart she sets her hand, and in the strings doth play;
All among the daffodils, and fairer to my thinking,
And fresh as milk and roses, she sits this morn of May."

Quoth the Sergeant, "Work is work, but any ye might make me,
If I worked for you, dear lass, I'd count my holiday.
I'm your slave for good and all, an' if ye will but take me,
So sweetly as ye carol upon this morn of May."

"Medals count for worth," quoth she, "and scars are worn for honor;
But a slave an' if ye be, kind wooer, go your way."
All the nodding daffodils woke up and laughed upon her.
O! sweetly did she carol, all on that morn of May.

Gladsome leaves upon the bough, they fluttered fast and faster,
Fretting brook, till he would speak, did chide the dull delay:
"Beauty! when I said a slave, I think I meant a master;
So sweetly as ye carol all on this morn of May.

"Lass, I love you! Love is strong, and some men's hearts are tender."
Far she sought o'er wood and wold, but found not aught to say;
Mounting lark nor mantling cloud would any counsel render,
Though sweetly she had carolled upon that morn of May.

Shy, she sought the wooer's face, and deemed the wooing mended;
Proper man he was, good sooth, and one would have his way:
So the lass was made a wife, and so the song was ended.
O! sweetly she did carol all on that morn of May.



CONTRASTED SONGS.

[Illustration]



CONTRASTED SONGS.


SAILING BEYOND SEAS.

(_Old Style._)

Methought the stars were blinking bright,
  And the old brig's sails unfurled;
I said, "I will sail to my love this night
  At the other side of the world."
I stepped aboard,--we sailed so fast,--
  The sun shot up from the bourne;
But a dove that perched upon the mast
  Did mourn, and mourn, and mourn.
      O fair dove! O fond dove!
        And dove with the white breast,
      Let me alone, the dream is my own,
        And my heart is full of rest.

My true love fares on this great hill,
  Feeding his sheep for aye;
I looked in his hut, but all was still,
  My love was gone away.
I went to gaze in the forest creek,
  And the dove mourned on apace;
No flame did flash, nor fair blue reek
  Rose up to show me his place.
      O last love! O first love!
        My love with the true heart,
      To think I have come to this your home,
        And yet--we are apart!

My love! He stood at my right hand,
  His eyes were grave and sweet.
Methought he said, "In this far land,
  O, is it thus we meet!
Ah, maid most dear, I am not here;
  I have no place,--no part,--
No dwelling more by sea or shore,
  But only in thy heart."
      O fair dove! O fond dove!
        Till night rose over the bourne,
      The dove on the mast, as we sailed fast,
        Did mourn, and mourn, and mourn.


REMONSTRANCE.

Daughters of Eve! your mother did not well:
  She laid the apple in your father's hand,
And we have read, O wonder! what befell,--
  The man was not deceived, nor yet could stand:
He chose to lose, for love of her, his throne,--
  With her could die, but could not live alone.

Daughters of Eve! he did not fall so low,
  Nor fall so far, as that sweet woman fell;
For something better, than as gods to know,
  That husband in that home left off to dwell:
For this, till love be reckoned less than lore,
Shall man be first and best for evermore.

Daughters of Eve! it was for your dear sake
  The world's first hero died an uncrowned king;
But God's great pity touched the grand mistake,
  And made his married love a sacred thing:
For yet his nobler sons, if aught be true,
Find the lost Eden in their love to you.


SONG FOR THE NIGHT OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.

(_A Humble Imitation._)

"And birds of calm sit brooding on the charméd wave."

      It is the noon of night,
      And the world's Great Light
  Gone out, she widow-like doth carry her:
      The moon hath veiled her face,
      Nor looks on that dread place
  Where He lieth dead in sealéd sepulchre;
      And heaven and hades, emptied, lend
Their flocking multitudes to watch and wait the end.

      Tier above tier they rise,
      Their wings new line the skies,
  And shed out comforting light among the stars;
      But they of the other place
      The heavenly signs deface,
  The gloomy brand of hell their brightness mars;
      Yet high they sit in thronéd state,--
It is the hour of darkness to them dedicate.

      And first and highest set,
      Where the black shades are met,
  The lord of night and hades leans him down;
      His gleaming eyeballs show
      More awful than the glow,
  Which hangeth by the points of his dread crown;
      And at his feet, where lightnings play,
The fatal sisters sit and weep, and curse their day.

      Lo! one, with eyes all wide,
      As she were sight denied,
  Sits blindly feeling at her distaff old;
      One, as distraught with woe,
      Letting the spindle go,
  Her star y-sprinkled gown doth shivering fold;
      And one right mournful hangs her head,
Complaining, "Woe is me! I may not cut the thread.

      "All men of every birth,
      Yea, great ones of the earth,
  Kings and their councillors, have I drawn down;
      But I am held of Thee,--
      Why dost Thou trouble me,
  To bring me up, dead King, that keep'st Thy crown?
      Yet for all courtiers hast but ten
Lowly, unlettered, Galilean fishermen.

      "Olympian heights are bare
      Of whom men worshipped there,
  Immortal feet their snows may print no more;
      Their stately powers below
      Lie desolate, nor know
  This thirty years Thessalian grove or shore;
      But I am elder far than they;--
Where is the sentence writ that I must pass away?

      "Art thou come up for this,
      Dark regent, awful Dis?
  And hast thou moved the deep to mark our ending?
      And stirred the dens beneath,
      To see us eat of death,
  With all the scoffing heavens toward us bending?
      Help! powers of ill, see not us die!"
But neither demon dares, nor angel deigns, reply.

      Her sisters, fallen on sleep,
      Fade in the upper deep,
  And their grim lord sits on, in doleful trance;
      Till her black veil she rends,
      And with her death-shriek bends
  Downward the terrors of her countenance;
      Then, whelmed in night and no more seen,
They leave the world a doubt if ever such have been.

      And the winged armies twain
      Their awful watch maintain;
  They mark the earth at rest with her Great Dead.
      Behold, from antres wide,
      Green Atlas heave his side;
  His moving woods their scarlet clusters shed,
      The swathing coif his front that cools,
And tawny lions lapping at his palm-edged pools.

      Then like a heap of snow,
      Lying where grasses grow,
  See glimmering, while the moony lustres creep,
      Mild mannered Athens, dight
      In dewy marbles white,
  Among her goddesses and gods asleep;
      And swaying on a purple sea,
The many moored galleys clustering at her quay.

      Also, 'neath palm-trees' shade,
      Amid their camels laid,
  The pastoral tribes with all their flocks at rest;
      Like to those old-world folk,
      With whom two angels broke
  The bread of men at Abram's courteous 'quest,
      When, listening as they prophesied,
His desert princess, being reproved, her laugh denied.

      Or from the Morians' land
      See worshipped Nilus bland,
  Taking the silver road he gave the world,
      To wet his ancient shrine
      With waters held divine,
  And touch his temple steps with wavelets curled,
      And list, ere darkness change to gray,
Old minstrel-throated Memnon chanting in the day.

      Moreover, Indian glades,
      Where kneel the sun-swart maids,
  On Gunga's flood their votive flowers to throw,
      And launch i' the sultry night
      Their burning cressets bright,
  Most like a fleet of stars that southing go,
      Till on her bosom prosperously
She floats them shining forth to sail the lulléd sea.

      Nor bend they not their eyne
      Where the watch-fires shine,
  By shepherds fed, on hills of Bethlehem:
      They mark, in goodly wise,
      The city of David rise,
  The gates and towers of rare Jerusalem;
      And hear the 'scapéd Kedron fret,
And night dews dropping from the leaves of Olivet.

      But now the setting moon
      To curtained lands must soon,
  In her obedient fashion, minister;
      She first, as loath to go,
      Lets her last silver flow
  Upon her Master's sealéd sepulchre;
      And trees that in the gardens spread,
She kisseth all for sake of His low-lying head,

      Then 'neath the rim goes down;
      And night with darker frown
  Sinks on the fateful garden watched long;
      When some despairing eyes,
      Far in the murky skies,
  The unwishéd waking by their gloom foretell;
      And blackness up the welkin swings,
And drinks the mild effulgence from celestial wings.

      Last, with amazéd cry,
      The hosts asunder fly,
  Leaving an empty gulf of blackest hue;
      Whence straightway shooteth down,
      By the Great Father thrown,
  A mighty angel, strong and dread to view;
      And at his fall the rocks are rent,
The waiting world doth quake with mortal tremblement;

      The regions far and near
      Quail with a pause of fear,
  More terrible than aught since time began;
      The winds, that dare not fleet,
      Drop at his awful feet,
  And in its bed wails the wide oceán;
      The flower of dawn forbears to blow,
And the oldest running river cannot skill to flow.

      At stand, by that dread place,
      He lifts his radiant face,
  And looks to heaven with reverent love and fear;
      Then, while the welkin quakes,
      The muttering thunder breaks,
  And lightnings shoot and ominous meteors drear,
      And all the daunted earth doth moan,
He from the doors of death rolls back the sealéd stone.--

      --In regal quiet deep,
      Lo, One new waked from sleep!
  Behold, He standeth in the rock-hewn door!
      Thy children shall not die,--
      Peace, peace, thy Lord is by!
  He liveth!--they shall live for evermore.
      Peace! lo, He lifts a priestly hand,
And blesseth all the sons of men in every land.

      Then, with great dread and wail,
      Fall down, like storms of hail,
  The legions of the lost in fearful wise;
      And they whose blissful race
      Peoples the better place,
  Lift up their wings to cover their fair eyes,
      And through the waxing saffron brede,
Till they are lost in light, recede, and yet recede.

      So while the fields are dim,
      And the red sun his rim
  First heaves, in token of his reign benign,
      All stars the most admired,
      Into their blue retired,
  Lie hid,--the faded moon forgets to shine,--
      And, hurrying down the sphery way,
Night flies, and sweeps her shadows from the paths of day.

      But look! the Saviour blest,
      Calm after solemn rest,
  Stands in the garden 'neath His olive boughs;
      The earliest smile of day
      Doth on His vesture play,
  And light the majesty of His still brows;
      While angels hang with wings outspread,
Holding the new-won crown above His saintly head.


SONG OF MARGARET.

Ay, I saw her, we have met,--
  Married eyes how sweet they be,--
Are you happier, Margaret,
  Than you might have been with me?
Silence! make no more ado!
  Did she think I should forget?
Matters nothing, though I knew,
  Margaret, Margaret.

Once those eyes, full sweet, full shy,
  Told a certain thing to mine;
What they told me I put by,
  O, so careless of the sign.
Such an easy thing to take,
  And I did not want it then;
Fool! I wish my heart would break,
  Scorn is hard on hearts of men.

Scorn of self is bitter work,--
  Each of us has felt it now:
Bluest skies she counted mirk,
  Self-betrayed of eyes and brow;
As for me, I went my way,
  And a better man drew nigh,
Fain to earn, with long essay,
  What the winner's hand threw by.

Matters not in deserts old,
  What was born, and waxed, and yearned,
Year to year its meaning told,
  I am come,--its deeps are learned,--
Come, but there is naught to say,--
  Married eyes with mine have met.
Silence! O, I had my day,
  Margaret, Margaret.


SONG OF THE GOING AWAY.

"Old man, upon the green hillside,
  With yellow flowers besprinkled o'er,
How long in silence wilt thou bide
  At this low stone door?

"I stoop: within 'tis dark and still;
  But shadowy paths methinks there be,
And lead they far into the hill?"
  "Traveller, come and see."

"'Tis dark, 'tis cold, and hung with gloom;
  I care not now within to stay;
For thee and me is scarcely room,
  I will hence away."

"Not so, not so, thou youthful guest,
  Thy foot shall issue forth no more:
Behold the chamber of thy rest,
  And the closing door!"

"O, have I 'scaped the whistling ball,
  And striven on smoky fields of fight,
And scaled the 'leaguered city's wall
  In the dangerous night;

"And borne my life unharméd still
  Through foaming gulfs of yeasty spray,
To yield it on a grassy hill
  At the noon of day?"

"Peace! Say thy prayers, and go to sleep,
  Till _some time_, ONE my seal shall break,
And deep shall answer unto deep,
  When He crieth, 'AWAKE!'"


A LILY AND A LUTE.

(_Song of the uncommunicated Ideal._)

I.

I opened the eyes of my soul.
                              And behold,
A white river-lily: a lily awake, and aware,--
For she set her face upward,--aware how in scarlet and gold
A long wrinkled cloud, left behind of the wandering air,
        Lay over with fold upon fold,
          With fold upon fold.

And the blushing sweet shame of the cloud made her also ashamed,
The white river-lily, that suddenly knew she was fair;
And over the far-away mountains that no man hath named,
        And that no foot hath trod,
Flung down out of heavenly places, there fell, as it were,
A rose-bloom, a token of love, that should make them endure,
Withdrawn in snow silence forever, who keep themselves pure,
        And look up to God.
Then I said, "In rosy air,
Cradled on thy reaches fair,
While the blushing early ray
Whitens into perfect day,
River-lily, sweetest known,
Art thou set for me alone?
Nay, but I will bear thee far,
Where yon clustering steeples are,
And the bells ring out o'erhead,
And the stated prayers are said;
And the busy farmers pace,
Trading in the market-place;
And the country lasses sit,
By their butter, praising it;
And the latest news is told,
While the fruit and cream are sold;
And the friendly gossips greet,
Up and down the sunny street.
For," I said, "I have not met,
White one, any folk as yet
Who would send no blessing up,
Looking on a face like thine;
For thou art as Joseph's cup,
And by thee might they divine.

"Nay! but thou a spirit art;
Men shall take thee in the mart
For the ghost of their best thought,
Raised at noon, and near them brought;
Or the prayer they made last night,
Set before them all in white."

And I put out my rash hand,
For I thought to draw to land
The white lily. Was it fit
Such a blossom should expand,
Fair enough for a world's wonder,
And no mortal gather it?
No. I strove, and it went under,
And I drew, but it went down;
And the waterweeds' long tresses,
And the overlapping cresses,
Sullied its admired crown.
Then along the river strand,
Trailing, wrecked, it came to land,
Of its beauty half despoiled,
And its snowy pureness soiled:
O! I took it in my hand,--
You will never see it now,
White and golden as it grew:
No, I cannot show it you,
Nor the cheerful town endow
With the freshness of its brow.

If a royal painter, great
With the colors dedicate
To a dove's neck, a sea-bight,
And the flickering over white
Mountain summits far away,--
One content to give his mind
To the enrichment of mankind,
And the laying up of light
In men's houses,--on that day,
Could have passed in kingly mood,
Would he ever have endued
Canvas with the peerless thing,
In the grace that it did bring,
And the light that o'er it flowed,
With the pureness that it showed,
And the pureness that it meant?
Could he skill to make it seen
As he saw? For this, I ween,
He were likewise impotent.

II.

I opened the doors of my heart.
                                And behold,
There was music within and a song,
And echoes did feed on the sweetness, repeating it long.
I opened the doors of my heart: and behold,
There was music that played itself out in aeolian notes;
Then was heard, as a far-away bell at long intervals tolled,
        That murmurs and floats,
And presently dieth, forgotten of forest and wold,
And comes in all passion again, and a tremblement soft,
        That maketh the listener full oft
To whisper, "Ah! would I might hear it for ever and aye,
        When I toil in the heat of the day,
        When I walk in the cold."

  I opened the door of my heart. And behold,
  There was music within, and a song.
But while I was hearkening, lo, blackness without, thick and strong,
Came up and came over, and all that sweet fluting was drowned,
        I could hear it no more;
For the welkin was moaning, the waters were stirred on the shore,
        And trees in the dark all around
Were shaken. It thundered. "Hark, hark! there is thunder to-night!
The sullen long wave rears her head, and comes down with a will;
The awful white tongues are let loose, and the stars are all dead;--
There is thunder! it thunders! and ladders of light
        Run up. There is thunder!" I said,
"Loud thunder! it thunders! and up in the dark overhead,
A down-pouring cloud, (there is thunder!) a down-pouring cloud
Hails out her fierce message, and quivers the deep in its bed,
And cowers the earth held at bay; and they mutter aloud,
And pause with an ominous tremble, till, great in their rage,
The heavens and earth come together, and meet with a crash;
And the fight is so fell as if Time had come down with the flash,
        And the story of life was all read,
        And the Giver had turned the last page.

        "Now their bar the pent water-floods lash,
And the forest trees give out their language austere with great age;
        And there flieth o'er moor and o'er hill,
        And there heaveth at intervals wide,
The long sob of nature's great passion as loath to subside,
        Until quiet drop down on the tide,
        And mad Echo had moaned herself still."

            Lo! or ever I was 'ware,
            In the silence of the air,
            Through my heart's wide-open door,
            Music floated forth once more,
            Floated to the world's dark rim,
            And looked over with a hymn;
            Then came home with flutings fine,
            And discoursed in tones divine
            Of a certain grief of mine;
            And went downward and went in,
Glimpses of my soul to win,
And discovered such a deep
That I could not choose but weep,
For it lay, a land-locked sea,
Fathomless and dim to me.

O, the song! it came and went,
  Went and came.
                 I have not learned
Half the lore whereto it yearned,
Half the magic that it meant.
Water booming in a cave;
Or the swell of some long wave,
Setting in from unrevealed
Countries; or a foreign tongue,
Sweetly talked and deftly sung,
While the meaning is half sealed;
May be like it. You have heard
Also;--can you find a word
For the naming of such song?
No; a name would do it wrong.
You have heard it in the night,
In the dropping rain's despite,
In the midnight darkness deep,
When the children were asleep,
And the wife,--no, let that be;
SHE asleep! She knows right well
What the song to you and me,
While we breathe, can never tell;
She hath heard its faultless flow,
Where the roots of music grow.

While I listened, like young birds,
Hints were fluttering; almost words,--
Leaned and leaned, and nearer came;--
Everything had changed its name.

Sorrow was a ship, I found,
Wrecked with them that in her are,
On an island richer far
Than the port where they were bound.
Fear was but the awful boom
Of the old great bell of doom,
Tolling, far from earthly air,
For all worlds to go to prayer.
Pain, that to us mortal clings,
But the pushing of our wings,
That we have no use for yet,
And the uprooting of our feet
From the soil where they are set,
And the land we reckon sweet.
Love in growth, the grand deceit
Whereby men the perfect greet;
Love in wane, the blessing sent
To be (howsoe'er it went)
Never more with earth content.
O, full sweet, and O, full high,
Ran that music up the sky;
But I cannot sing it you,
More than I can make you view,
With my paintings labial,
Sitting up in awful row,
White old men majestical,
Mountains, in their gowns of snow,
Ghosts of kings; as my two eyes,
Looking over speckled skies,
See them now. About their knees,
Half in haze, there stands at ease
A great army of green hills,
Some bareheaded; and, behold,
Small green mosses creep on some.
Those be mighty forests old;
And white avalanches come
Through yon rents, where now distils
Sheeny silver, pouring down
To a tune of old renown,
Cutting narrow pathways through
Gentian belts of airy blue,
To a zone where starwort blows,
And long reaches of the rose.

So, that haze all left behind,
Down the chestnut forests wind,
Past yon jagged spires, where yet
Foot of man was never set;
Past a castle yawning wide,
With a great breach in its side,
To a nest-like valley, where,
Like a sparrow's egg in hue,
Lie two lakes, and teach the true
Color of the sea-maid's hair.

What beside? The world beside!
Drawing down and down, to greet
Cottage clusters at our feet,--
Every scent of summer tide,--
Flowery pastures all aglow
(Men and women mowing go
Up and down them); also soft
Floating of the film aloft,
Fluttering of the leaves alow.
Is this told? It is not told.
Where's the danger? where's the cold
Slippery danger up the steep?
Where yon shadow fallen asleep?
Chirping bird and tumbling spray,
Light, work, laughter, scent of hay,
Peace, and echo, where are they?

Ah, they sleep, sleep all untold;
Memory must their grace enfold
Silently; and that high song
Of the heart, it doth belong
To the hearers. Not a whit,
Though a chief musician heard,
Could he make a tune for it.

Though a bird of sweetest throat,
And some lute full clear of note,
Could have tried it,--O, the lute
For that wondrous song were mute,
And the bird would do her part,
Falter, fail, and break her heart,--
Break her heart, and furl her wings,
On those unexpressive strings.



GLADYS AND HER ISLAND.

(_On the Advantages of the Poetical Temperament_.)

AN IMPERFECT FABLE WITH A DOUBTFUL MORAL.


O happy Gladys! I rejoice with her,
For Gladys saw the island.
                               It was thus:
They gave a day for pleasure in the school
Where Gladys taught; and all the other girls
Were taken out, to picnic in a wood.
But it was said, "We think it were not well
That little Gladys should acquire a taste
For pleasure, going about, and needless change.
It would not suit her station: discontent
Might come of it; and all her duties now
She does so pleasantly, that we were best
To keep her humble." So they said to her,
"Gladys, we shall not want you, all to-day.
Look, you are free; you need not sit at work:
No, you may take a long and pleasant walk
Over the sea-cliff, or upon the beach
Among the visitors."
                      Then Gladys blushed
For joy, and thanked them. What! a holiday,
A whole one, for herself! How good, how kind!
With that, the marshalled carriages drove off;
And Gladys, sobered with her weight of joy,
Stole out beyond the groups upon the beach--
The children with their wooden spades, the band
That played for lovers, and the sunny stir
Of cheerful life and leisure--to the rocks,
For these she wanted most, and there was time
To mark them; how like ruined organs prone
They lay, or leaned their giant fluted pipes,
And let the great white-crested reckless wave
Beat out their booming melody.
                                  The sea
Was filled with light; in clear blue caverns curled
The breakers, and they ran, and seemed to romp,
As playing at some rough and dangerous game,
While all the nearer waves rushed in to help,
And all the farther heaved their heads to peep,
And tossed the fishing boats. Then Gladys laughed,
And said, "O, happy tide, to be so lost
In sunshine, that one dare not look at it;
And lucky cliffs, to be so brown and warm;
And yet how lucky are the shadows, too,
That lurk beneath their ledges. It is strange,
That in remembrance though I lay them up,
They are forever, when I come to them,
Better than I had thought. O, something yet
I had forgotten. Oft I say, 'At least
This picture is imprinted; thus and thus,
The sharpened serried jags run up, run out,
Layer on layer.' And I look--up--up--
High, higher up again, till far aloft
They cut into their ether,--brown, and clear,
And perfect. And I, saying, 'This is mine,
To keep,' retire; but shortly come again,
And they confound me with a glorious change.
The low sun out of rain-clouds stares at them;
They redden, and their edges drip with--what?
I know not, but 't is red. It leaves no stain,
For the next morning they stand up like ghosts
In a sea-shroud and fifty thousand mews
Sit there, in long white files, and chatter on,
Like silly school-girls in their silliest mood.

"There is the boulder where we always turn.
O! I have longed to pass it; now I will.
What would THEY say? for one must slip and spring;
'Young ladies! Gladys! I am shocked. My dears,
Decorum, if you please: turn back at once.
Gladys, we blame you most; you should have looked
Before you.' Then they sigh,--how kind they are!--
'What will become of you, if all your life
You look a long way off?--look anywhere,
And everywhere, instead of at your feet,
And where they carry you!' Ah, well, I know
It is a pity," Gladys said; "but then
We cannot all be wise: happy for me,
That other people are.

                        "And yet I wish,--
For sometimes very right and serious thoughts
Come to me,--I do wish that they would come
When they are wanted!--when I teach the sums
On rainy days, and when the practising
I count to, and the din goes on and on,
Still the same tune and still the same mistake,
Then I am wise enough: sometimes I feel
Quite old. I think that it will last, and say,
'Now my reflections do me credit! now
I am a woman!' and I wish they knew
How serious all my duties look to me.
And how, my heart hushed down and shaded lies,
Just like the sea when low, convenient clouds,
Come over, and drink all its sparkles up.
But does it last? Perhaps, that very day,
The front door opens: out we walk in pairs;
And I am so delighted with this world,
That suddenly has grown, being new washed,
To such a smiling, clean, and thankful world,
And with a tender face shining through tears,
Looks up into the sometime lowering sky,
That has been angry, but is reconciled,
And just forgiving her, that I,--that I,--
O, I forget myself: what matters how!
And then I hear (but always kindly said)
Some words that pain me so,--but just, but true;
'For if your place in this establishment
Be but subordinate, and if your birth
Be lowly, it the more behooves,--well, well,
No more. We see that you are sorry.' Yes!
I am always sorry THEN; but now,--O, now,
Here is a bight more beautiful than all."

"And did they scold her, then, my pretty one?
And did she want to be as wise as they,
To bear a bucklered heart and priggish mind?
Ay, you may crow; she did! but no, no, no,
The night-time will not let her, all the stars
Say nay to that,--the old sea laughs at her.
Why, Gladys is a child; she has not skill
To shut herself within her own small cell,
And build the door up, and to say, 'Poor me!
I am a prisoner'; then to take hewn stones,
And, having built the windows up, to say,
'O, it is dark! there is no sunshine here;
There never has been.'"

                            Strange! how very strange!
A woman passing Gladys with a babe,
To whom she spoke these words, and only looked
Upon the babe, who crowed and pulled her curls,
And never looked at Gladys, never once.
"A simple child," she added, and went by,
"To want to change her greater for their less;
But Gladys shall not do it, no, not she;
We love her--don't we?--far too well for that."

Then Gladys, flushed with shame and keen surprise,
"How could she be so near, and I not know?
And have I spoken out my thought aloud?
I must have done, forgetting. It is well
She walks so fast, for I am hungry now,
And here is water cantering down the cliff,
And here a shell to catch it with, and here
The round plump buns they gave me, and the fruit.
Now she is gone behind the rock. O, rare
To be alone!" So Gladys sat her down,
Unpacked her little basket, ate and drank,
Then pushed her hands into the warm dry sand,
And thought the earth was happy, and she too
Was going round with it in happiness,
That holiday. "What was it that she said?"
Quoth Gladys, cogitating; "they were kind,
The words that woman spoke. She does not know!
'Her greater for their less,'--it makes me laugh,--
But yet," sighed Gladys, "though it must be good
To look and to admire, one should not wish
To steal THEIR virtues, and to put them on,
Like feathers from another wing; beside,
That calm, and that grave consciousness of worth,
When all is said, would little suit with me,
Who am not worthy. When our thoughts are born,
Though they be good and humble, one should mind
How they are reared, or some will go astray
And shame their mother. Cain and Abel both
Were only once removed from innocence.
Why did I envy them? That was not good;
Yet it began with my humility."

But as she spake, lo, Gladys raised her eyes,
And right before her, on the horizon's edge,
Behold, an island! First, she looked away
Along the solid rocks and steadfast shore,
For she was all amazed, believing not,
And then she looked again, and there again
Behold, an island! And the tide had turned,
The milky sea had got a purple rim,
And from the rim that mountain island rose,
Purple, with two high peaks, the northern peak
The higher, and with fell and precipice,
It ran down steeply to the water's brink;
But all the southern line was long and soft,
Broken with tender curves, and, as she thought,
Covered with forest or with sward. But, look!
The sun was on the island; and he showed
On either peak a dazzling cap of snow.
Then Gladys held her breath; she said, "Indeed,
Indeed it is an island: how is this,
I never saw it till this fortunate
Rare holiday?" And while she strained her eyes,
She thought that it began to fade; but not
To change as clouds do, only to withdraw
And melt into its azure; and at last,
Little by little, from her hungry heart,
That longed to draw things marvellous to itself,
And yearned towards the riches and the great
Abundance of the beauty God hath made,
It passed away. Tears started in her eyes,
And when they dropt, the mountain isle was gone;
The careless sea had quite forgotten it,
And all was even as it had been before.

And Gladys wept, but there was luxury
In her self-pity, while she softly sobbed,
"O, what a little while! I am afraid
I shall forget that purple mountain isle,
The lovely hollows atween her snow-clad peaks,
The grace of her upheaval where she lay
Well up against the open. O, my heart,
Now I remember how this holiday
Will soon be done, and now my life goes on
Not fed; and only in the noonday walk
Let to look silently at what it wants,
Without the power to wait or pause awhile,
And understand and draw within itself
The richness of the earth. A holiday!
How few I have! I spend the silent time
At work, while all THEIR pupils are gone home,
And feel myself remote. They shine apart;
They are great planets, I a little orb;
My little orbit far within their own
Turns, and approaches not. But yet, the more
I am alone when those I teach return;
For they, as planets of some other sun,
Not mine, have paths that can but meet my ring
Once in a cycle. O, how poor I am!
I have not got laid up in this blank heart
Any indulgent kisses given me
Because I had been good, or yet more sweet,
Because my childhood was itself a good
Attractive thing for kisses, tender praise,
And comforting. An orphan-school at best
Is a cold mother in the winter time
('Twas mostly winter when new orphans came),
An unregarded mother in the spring.

"Yet once a year (I did mine wrong) we went
To gather cowslips. How we thought on it
Beforehand, pacing, pacing the dull street,
To that one tree, the only one we saw
From April,--if the cowslips were in bloom
So early; or if not, from opening May
Even to September. Then there came the feast
At Epping. If it rained that day, it rained
For a whole year to us; we could not think
Of fields and hawthorn hedges, and the leaves
Fluttering, but still it rained, and ever rained.

"Ah, well, but I am here; but I have seen
The gay gorse bushes in their flowering time;
I know the scent of bean-fields; I have heard
The satisfying murmur of the main."

The woman! She came round the rock again
With her fair baby, and she sat her down
By Gladys, murmuring, "Who forbade the grass
To grow by visitations of the dew?
Who said in ancient time to the desert pool,
'Thou shalt not wait for angel visitors
To trouble thy still water?' Must we bide
At home? The lore, beloved, shall fly to us
On a pair of sumptuous wings. Or may we breathe
Without? O, we shall draw to us the air
That times and mystery feed on. This shall lay
Unchidden hands upon the heart o' the world,
And feel it beating. Rivers shall run on,
Full of sweet language as a lover's mouth,
Delivering of a tune to make her youth
More beautiful than wheat when it is green.

"What else?--(O, none shall envy her!) The rain
And the wild weather will be most her own,
And talk with her o' nights; and if the winds
Have seen aught wondrous, they will tell it her
In a mouthful of strange moans,--will bring from far,
Her ears being keen, the lowing and the mad
Masterful tramping of the bison herds,
Tearing down headlong with their bloodshot eyes,
In savage rifts of hair; the crack and creak
Of ice-floes in the frozen sea, the cry
Of the white bears, all in a dim blue world
Mumbling their meals by twilight; or the rock
And majesty of motion, when their heads
Primeval trees toss in a sunny storm,
And hail their nuts down on unweeded fields.
No holidays," quoth she; "drop, drop, O, drop,
Thou tirèd skylark, and go up no more;
You lime-trees, cover not your head with bees,
Nor give out your good smell. She will not look;
No, Gladys cannot draw your sweetness in,
For lack of holidays." So Gladys thought,
"A most strange woman, and she talks of me."
With that a girl ran up; "Mother," she said,
"Come out of this brown bight, I pray you now,
It smells of fairies." Gladys thereon thought,
"The mother will not speak to me, perhaps
The daughter may," and asked her courteously,
"What do the fairies smell of?" But the girl
With peevish pout replied, "You know, you know."
"Not I," said Gladys; then she answered her,
"Something like buttercups. But, mother, come,
And whisper up a porpoise from the foam,
Because I want to ride."

                         Full slowly, then,
The mother rose, and ever kept her eyes
Upon her little child. "You freakish maid,"
Said she, "now mark me, if I call you one,
You shall not scold nor make him take you far."

"I only want,--you know I only want,"
The girl replied, "to go and play awhile
Upon the sand by Lagos." Then she turned
And muttered low, "Mother, is this the girl
Who saw the island?" But the mother frowned.
"When may she go to it?" the daughter asked.
And Gladys, following them, gave all her mind
To hear the answer. "When she wills to go;
For yonder comes to shore the ferry boat."
Then Gladys turned to look, and even so
It was; a ferry boat, and far away
Reared in the offing, lo, the purple peaks
Of her loved island.

                     Then she raised her arms,
And ran toward the boat, crying out, "O rare,
The island! fair befall the island; let
Me reach the island." And she sprang on board,
And after her stepped in the freakish maid
And the fair mother, brooding o'er her child;
And this one took the helm, and that let go
The sail, and off they flew, and furrowed up
A flaky hill before, and left behind
A sobbing snake-like tail of creamy foam;
And dancing hither, thither, sometimes shot
Toward the island; then, when Gladys looked,
Were leaving it to leeward. And the maid
Whistled a wind to come and rock the craft,
And would be leaning down her head to mew
At cat-fish, then lift out into her lap
And dandle baby-seals, which, having kissed,
She flung to their sleek mothers, till her own
Rebuked her in good English, after cried,
"Luff, luff, we shall be swamped." "I will not luff,"
Sobbed the fair mischief; "you are cross to me."
"For shame!" the mother shrieked; "luff, luff, my dear;
Kiss and be friends, and thou shalt have the fish
With the curly tail to ride on." So she did,
And presently a dolphin bouncing up,
She sprang upon his slippery back,--"Farewell,"
She laughed, was off, and all the sea grew calm.

Then Gladys was much happier, and was 'ware
In the smooth weather that this woman talked
Like one in sleep, and murmured certain thoughts
Which seemed to be like echoes of her own.
She nodded, "Yes, the girl is going now
To her own island. Gladys poor? Not she!
Who thinks so? Once I met a man in white,
Who said to me, 'The thing that might have been
Is called, and questioned why it hath not been;
And can it give good reason, it is set
Beside the actual, and reckoned in
To fill the empty gaps of life.' Ah, so
The possible stands by us ever fresh,
Fairer than aught which any life hath owned,
And makes divine amends. Now this was set
Apart from kin, and not ordained a home;
An equal;--and not suffered to fence in
A little plot of earthly good, and say,
'Tis mine'; but in bereavement of the part,
O, yet to taste the whole,--to understand
The grandeur of the story, not to feel
Satiate with good possessed, but evermore
A healthful hunger for the great idea,
The beauty and the blessedness of life.

"Lo, now, the shadow!" quoth she, breaking off,
"We are in the shadow." Then did Gladys turn,
And, O, the mountain with the purple peaks
Was close at hand. It cast a shadow out,
And they were in it: and she saw the snow,
And under that the rocks, and under that
The pines, and then the pasturage; and saw
Numerous dips, and undulations rare,
Running down seaward, all astir with lithe
Long canes, and lofty feathers; for the palms
And spice trees of the south, nay, every growth,
Meets in that island.

                      So that woman ran
The boat ashore, and Gladys set her foot
Thereon. Then all at once much laughter rose;
Invisible folk set up exultant shouts,
"It all belongs to Gladys"; and she ran
And hid herself among the nearest trees
And panted, shedding tears.

                            So she looked round,
And saw that she was in a banyan grove,
Full of wild peacocks,--pecking on the grass,
A flickering mass of eyes, blue, green, and gold,
Or reaching out their jewelled necks, where high
They sat in rows along the boughs. No tree
Cumbered with creepers let the sunshine through,
But it was caught in scarlet cups, and poured
From these on amber tufts of bloom, and dropped
Lower on azure stars. The air was still,
As if awaiting somewhat, or asleep,
And Gladys was the only thing that moved,
Excepting,--no, they were not birds,--what then?
Glorified rainbows with a living soul?
While they passed through a sunbeam they were seen,
Not otherwhere, but they were present yet
In shade. They were at work, pomegranate fruit
That lay about removing,--purple grapes,
That clustered in the path, clearing aside.
Through a small spot of light would pass and go,
The glorious happy mouth and two fair eyes
Of somewhat that made rustlings where it went;
But when a beam would strike the ground sheer down,
Behold them! they had wings, and they would pass
One after other with the sheeny fans,
Bearing them slowly, that their hues were seen,
Tender as russet crimson dropt on snows,
Or where they turned flashing with gold and dashed
With purple glooms. And they had feet, but these
Did barely touch the ground. And they took heed
Not to disturb the waiting quietness;
Nor rouse up fawns, that slept beside their dams;
Nor the fair leopard, with her sleek paws laid
Across her little drowsy cubs; nor swans,
That, floating, slept upon a glassy pool;
Nor rosy cranes, all slumbering in the reeds,
With heads beneath their wings. For this, you know,
Was Eden. She was passing through the trees
That made a ring about it, and she caught
A glimpse of glades beyond. All she had seen
Was nothing to them; but words are not made
To tell that tale. No wind was let to blow,
And all the doves were bidden to hold their peace.
Why? One was working in a valley near,
And none might look that way. It was understood
That He had nearly ended that His work;
For two shapes met, and one to other spake,
Accosting him with, "Prince, what worketh He?"
Who whispered, "Lo! He fashioneth red clay."
And all at once a little trembling stir
Was felt in the earth, and every creature woke,
And laid its head down, listening. It was known
Then that the work was done; the new-made king
Had risen, and set his feet upon his realm,
And it acknowledged him.

                         But in her path
Came some one that withstood her, and he said,
"What doest thou here?" Then she did turn and flee,
Among those colored spirits, through the grove,
Trembling for haste; it was not well with her
Till she came forth of those thick banyan-trees,
And set her feet upon the common grass,
And felt the common wind.

                          Yet once beyond,
She could not choose but cast a backward glance.
The lovely matted growth stood like a wall,
And means of entering were not evident,--
The gap had closed. But Gladys laughed for joy:
She said, "Remoteness and a multitude
Of years are counted nothing here. Behold,
To-day I have been in Eden. O, it blooms
In my own island."

                   And she wandered on,
Thinking, until she reached a place of palms,
And all the earth was sandy where she walked,--
Sandy and dry,--strewed with papyrus leaves,
Old idols, rings and pottery, painted lids
Of mummies (for perhaps it was the way
That leads to dead old Egypt), and withal
Excellent sunshine cut out sharp and clear
The hot prone pillars, and the carven plinths,--
Stone lotus cups, with petals dipped in sand,
And wicked gods, and sphinxes bland, who sat
And smiled upon the ruin. O how still!
Hot, blank, illuminated with the clear
Stare of an unveiled sky. The dry stiff leaves
Of palm-trees never rustled, and the soul
Of that dead ancientry was itself dead.
She was above her ankles in the sand,
When she beheld a rocky road, and, lo!
It bare in it the ruts of chariot wheels,
Which erst had carried to their pagan prayers
The brown old Pharaohs; for the ruts led on
To a great cliff, that either was a cliff
Or some dread shrine in ruins,--partly reared
In front of that same cliff, and partly hewn
Or excavate within its heart. Great heaps
Of sand and stones on either side there lay;
And, as the girl drew on, rose out from each,
As from a ghostly kennel, gods unblest,
Dog-headed, and behind them winged things
Like angels; and this carven multitude
Hedged in, to right and left, the rocky road.

At last, the cliff,--and in the cliff a door
Yawning: and she looked in, as down the throat
Of some stupendous giant, and beheld
No floor, but wide, worn, flights of steps, that led
Into a dimness. When the eyes could bear
That change to gloom, she saw flight after flight,
Flight after flight, the worn long stair go down,
Smooth with the feet of nations dead and gone.
So she did enter; also she went down
Till it was dark, and yet again went down,
Till, gazing upward at that yawning door,
It seemed no larger, in its height remote,
Than a pin's head. But while, irresolute,
She doubted of the end, yet farther down
A slender ray of lamplight fell away
Along the stair, as from a door ajar:
To this again she felt her way, and stepped
Adown the hollow stair, and reached the light;
But fear fell on her, fear; and she forbore
Entrance, and listened. Ay! 'twas even so,--
A sigh; the breathing as of one who slept
And was disturbed. So she drew back awhile,
And trembled; then her doubting hand she laid
Against the door, and pushed it; but the light
Waned, faded, sank; and as she came within--
Hark, hark! A spirit was it, and asleep?
A spirit doth not breathe like clay. There hung
A cresset from the roof, and thence appeared
A flickering speck of light, and disappeared;
Then dropped along the floor its elfish flakes,
That fell on some one resting, in the gloom,--
Somewhat, a spectral shadow, then a shape
That loomed. It was a heifer, ay, and white,
Breathing and languid through prolonged repose.

  Was it a heifer? all the marble floor
Was milk-white also, and the cresset paled,
And straight their whiteness grew confused and mixed.

  But when the cresset, taking heart, bloomed out,--
The whiteness,--and asleep again! but now
It was a woman, robed, and with a face
Lovely and dim. And Gladys while she gazed
Murmured, "O terrible! I am afraid
To breathe among these intermittent lives,
That fluctuate in mystic solitude,
And change and fade. Lo! where the goddess sits
Dreaming on her dim throne; a crescent moon
She wears upon her forehead. Ah! her frown
Is mournful, and her slumber is not sweet.
What dost thou hold, Isis, to thy cold breast?
A baby god with finger on his lips,
Asleep, and dreaming of departed sway?
Thy son. Hush, hush; he knoweth all the lore
And sorcery of old Egypt; but his mouth
He shuts; the secret shall be lost with him,
He will not tell."

                   The woman coming down!
"Child, what art doing here?" the woman said;
"What wilt thou of Dame Isis and her bairn?"
(_Ay, ay, we see thee breathing in thy shroud,--
pretty shroud, all frilled and furbelowed._)
The air is dim with dust of spiced bones.
I mark a crypt down there. Tier upon tier
Of painted coffers fills it. What if we,
Passing, should slip, and crash into their midst,--
Break the frail ancientry, and smothered lie,
Tumbled among the ribs of queens and kings,
And all the gear they took to bed with them!
Horrible! Let us hence.

                        And Gladys said,
"O, they are rough to mount, those stairs"; but she
Took her and laughed, and up the mighty flight
Shot like a meteor with her. "There," said she;
"The light is sweet when one has smelled of graves,
Down in unholy heathen gloom; farewell."
She pointed to a gateway, strong and high,
Reared of hewn stones; but, look! in lieu of gate,
There was a glittering cobweb drawn across,
And on the lintel there were writ these words:
"Ho, every one that cometh, I divide
What hath been from what might be, and the line
Hangeth before thee as a spider's web;
Yet, wouldst thou enter thou must break the line,
Or else forbear the hill."

                           The maiden said,
"So, cobweb, I will break thee." And she passed
Among some oak-trees on the farther side,
And waded through the bracken round their bolls,
Until she saw the open, and drew on
Toward the edge o' the wood, where it was mixed
With pines and heathery places wild and fresh.
Here she put up a creature, that ran on
Before her, crying, "Tint, tint, tint," and turned,
Sat up, and stared at her with elfish eyes,
Jabbering of gramarye, one Michael Scott,
The wizard that wonned somewhere underground,
With other talk enough to make one fear
To walk in lonely places. After passed
A man-at-arms, William of Deloraine;
He shook his head, "An' if I list to tell,"
Quoth he, "I know, but how it matters not";
Then crossed himself, and muttered of a clap
Of thunder, and a shape in amice gray,
But still it mouthed at him, and whimpered, "Tint,
Tint, tint." "There shall be wild work some day soon,"
Quoth he, "thou limb of darkness: he will come,
Thy master, push a hand up, catch thee, imp,
And so good Christians shall have peace, perdie."

Then Gladys was so frightened, that she ran,
And got away, towards a grassy down,
Where sheep and lambs were feeding, with a boy
To tend them. 'Twas the boy who wears that herb
Called heart's-ease in his bosom, and he sang
So sweetly to his flock, that she stole on
Nearer to listen. "O Content, Content,
Give me," sang he, "thy tender company.
I feed my flock among the myrtles; all
My lambs are twins, and they have laid them down
Along the slopes of Beulah. Come, fair love,
From the other side the river, where their harps
Thou hast been helping them to tune. O come,
And pitch thy tent by mine; let me behold
Thy mouth,--that even in slumber talks of peace,--
Thy well-set locks, and dove-like countenance."

And Gladys hearkened, couched upon the grass,
Till she had rested; then did ask the boy,
For it was afternoon, and she was fain
To reach the shore, "Which is the path, I pray,
That leads one to the water?" But he said,
"Dear lass, I only know the narrow way,
The path that leads one to the golden gate
Across the river." So she wandered on;
And presently her feet grew cool, the grass
Standing so high, and thyme being thick and soft.
The air was full of voices, and the scent
Of mountain blossom loaded all its wafts;
For she was on the slopes of a goodly mount,
And reared in such a sort that it looked down
Into the deepest valleys, darkest glades,
And richest plains o' the island. It was set
Midway between the snows majestical
And a wide level, such as men would choose
For growing wheat; and some one said to her,
"It is the hill Parnassus." So she walked
Yet on its lower slope, and she could hear
The calling of an unseen multitude
To some upon the mountain, "Give us more";
And others said, "We are tired of this old world:
Make it look new again." Then there were some
Who answered lovingly--(the dead yet speak
From that high mountain, as the living do);
But others sang desponding, "We have kept
The vision for a chosen few: we love
Fit audience better than a rough huzza
From the unreasoning crowd."

                             Then words came up:
"There was a time, you poets, was a time
When all the poetry was ours, and made
By some who climbed the mountain from our midst.
We loved it then, we sang it in our streets.
O, it grows obsolete! Be you as they:
Our heroes die and drop away from us;
Oblivion folds them 'neath her dusky wing,
Fair copies wasted to the hungering world.
Save them. We fall so low for lack of them,
That many of us think scorn of honest trade,
And take no pride in our own shops; who care
Only to quit a calling, will not make
The calling what it might be; who despise
Their work, Fate laughs at, and doth let the work
Dull, and degrade them."

                         Then did Gladys smile:
"Heroes!" quoth she; "yet, now I think on it,
There was the jolly goldsmith, brave Sir Hugh,
Certes, a hero ready-made. Methinks
I see him burnishing of golden gear,
Tankard and charger, and a-muttering low,
'London is thirsty'--(then he weighs a chain):
''Tis an ill thing, my masters. I would give
The worth of this, and many such as this,
To bring it water.'

                    "Ay, and after him
There came up Guy of London, lettered son
O' the honest lighterman. I'll think on him,
Leaning upon the bridge on summer eves,
After his shop was closed: a still, grave man,
With melancholy eyes. 'While these are hale,'
He saith, when he looks down and marks the crowd
Cheerily working; where the river marge
Is blocked with ships and boats; and all the wharves
Swarm, and the cranes swing in with merchandise,--
'While these are hale, 'tis well, 'tis very well.
But, O good Lord,' saith he, 'when these are sick,--
I fear me, Lord, this excellent workmanship
Of Thine is counted for a cumbrance then.
Ay, ay, my hearties! many a man of you,
Struck down, or maimed, or fevered, shrinks away,
And, mastered in that fight for lack of aid,
Creeps shivering to a corner, and there dies.'
Well, we have heard the rest.

                            "Ah, next I think
Upon the merchant captain, stout of heart
To dare and to endure. 'Robert,' saith he,
(The navigator Knox to his manful son,)
'I sit a captive from the ship detained;
This heathenry doth let thee visit her.
Remember, son, if thou, alas! shouldst fail
To ransom thy poor father, they are free
As yet, the mariners; have wives at home,
As I have; ay, and liberty is sweet
To all men. For the ship, she is not ours,
Therefore, 'beseech thee, son, lay on the mate
This my command, to leave me, and set sail.
As for thyself--' 'Good father,' saith the son;
'I will not, father, ask your blessing now,
Because, for fair, or else for evil, fate
We two shall meet again.' And so they did.
The dusky men, peeling off cinnamon,
And beating nutmeg clusters from the tree,
Ransom and bribe contemned. The good ship sailed,--
The son returned to share his father's cell.

"O, there are many such. Would I had wit
Their worth to sing!" With that, she turned her feet,
"I am tired now," said Gladys, "of their talk
Around this hill Parnassus." And, behold,
A piteous sight--an old, blind, graybeard king
Led by a fool with bells. Now this was loved
Of the crowd below the hill; and when he called
For his lost kingdom, and bewailed his age,
And plained on his unkind daughters, they were known
To say, that if the best of gold and gear
Could have bought him back his kingdom, and made kind
The hard hearts which had broken his erewhile,
They would have gladly paid it from their store
Many times over. What is done is done,
No help. The ruined majesty passed on.
And look you! one who met her as she walked
Showed her a mountain nymph lovely as light
Her name Oenone; and she mourned and mourned,
"O Mother Ida," and she could not cease,
No, nor be comforted.

                      And after this,
Soon there came by, arrayed in Norman cap
And kirtle, an Arcadian villager,
Who said, "I pray you, have you chanced to meet
One Gabriel?" and she sighed; but Gladys took
And kissed her hand: she could not answer her,
Because she guessed the end.

                             With that it drew
To evening; and as Gladys wandered on
In the calm weather, she beheld the wave,
And she ran down to set her feet again
On the sea margin, which was covered thick
With white shell-skeletons. The sky was red
As wine. The water played among bare ribs
Of many wrecks, that lay half buried there
In the sand. She saw a cave, and moved thereto
To ask her way, and one so innocent
Came out to meet her, that, with marvelling mute,
She gazed and gazed into her sea-blue eyes,
For in them beamed the untaught ecstasy
Of childhood, that lives on though youth be come,
And love just born.

She could not choose but name her shipwrecked prince,
All blushing. She told Gladys many things
That are not in the story,--things, in sooth,
That Prospero her father knew. But now
'Twas evening, and the sun drooped; purple stripes
In the sea were copied from some clouds that lay
Out in the west. And lo! the boat, and more,
The freakish thing to take fair Gladys home
She mowed at her, but Gladys took the helm:
"Peace, peace!" she said; "be good: you shall not steer,
For I am your liege lady." Then she sang
The sweetest songs she knew all the way home.

So Gladys set her feet upon the sand;
While in the sunset glory died away
The peaks of that blest island.

                                "Fare you well.
My country, my own kingdom," then she said,
"Till I go visit you again, farewell."

She looked toward their house with whom she dwelt,--
The carriages were coming. Hastening up,
She was in time to meet them at the door,
And lead the sleepy little ones within;
And some were cross and shivered, and her dames
Were weary and right hard to please; but she
Felt like a beggar suddenly endowed
With a warm cloak to 'fend her from the cold.
"For, come what will," she said, "I had _to-day_.
There is an island."

                     _The Moral._

What is the moral? Let us think awhile,
Taking the editorial WE to help,
It sounds respectable.

                       The moral; yes.
We always read, when any fable ends,
"Hence we may learn." A moral must be found.
What do you think of this? "Hence we may learn
That dolphins swim about the coast of Wales,
And Admiralty maps should now be drawn
By teacher-girls, because their sight is keen,
And they can spy out islands." Will that do?
No, that is far too plain,--too evident.

Perhaps a general moralizing vein--
(We know we have a happy knack that way.
We have observed, moreover, that young men
Are fond of good advice, and so are girls;
Especially of that meandering kind,
Which winding on so sweetly, treats of all
They ought to be and do and think and wear,
As one may say, from creeds to comforters.
Indeed, we much prefer that sort ourselves,
So soothing). Good, a moralizing vein;
That is the thing; but how to manage it?
"_Hence we may learn_," if we be so inclined,
That life goes best with those who take it best;
That wit can spin from work a golden robe
To queen it in; that who can paint at will
A private picture gallery, should not cry
For shillings that will let him in to look
At some by others painted. Furthermore,
Hence we may learn, you poets,--(_and we count
For poets all who ever felt that such
They were, and all who secretly have known
That such they could be; ay, moreover, all
Who wind the robes of ideality
About the bareness of their lives, and hang
Comforting curtains, knit of fancy's yarn,
Nightly betwixt them and the frosty world_),--
Hence we may learn, you poets, that of all
We should be most content. The earth is given
To us: we reign by virtue of a sense
Which lets us hear the rhythm of that old verse,
The ring of that old tune whereto she spins.
Humanity is given to us: we reign
By virtue of a sense, which lets us in
To know its troubles ere they have been told,
And take them home and lull them into rest
With mournfullest music. Time is given to us,--
Time past, time future. Who, good sooth, beside
Have seen it well, have walked this empty world
When she went steaming, and from pulpy hills
Have marked the spurting of their flamy crowns?

  Have we not seen the tabernacle pitched,
And peered between the linen curtains, blue,
Purple, and scarlet, at the dimness there,
And, frighted, have not dared to look again?
But, quaint antiquity! beheld, we thought,
A chest that might have held the manna pot
And Aaron's rod that budded. Ay, we leaned
Over the edge of Britain, while the fleet
Of Caesar loomed and neared; then, afterwards,
We saw fair Venice looking at herself
In the glass below her, while her Doge went forth
In all his bravery to the wedding.

                                   This,
However, counts for nothing to the grace
We wot of in time future:--therefore add,
And afterwards have done: "_Hence we may learn_,"
That though it be a grand and comely thing
To be unhappy,--(and we think it is,
Because so many grand and clever folk
Have found out reasons for unhappiness,
And talked about uncomfortable things,--
Low motives, bores, and shams, and hollowness,
The hollowness o' the world, till we at last
Have scarcely dared to jump or stamp, for fear,
Being so hollow, it should break some day,
And let us in),--yet, since we are not grand,
O, not at all, and as for cleverness,
That may be or may not be,--it is well
For us to be as happy as we can!

Agreed: and with a word to the noble sex,
As thus: we pray you carry not your guns
On the full-cock; we pray you set your pride
In its proper place, and never be ashamed
Of any honest calling,--let us add,
And end; for all the rest, hold up your heads
And mind your English.


Note to "GLADYS AND HER ISLAND."


The woman is Imagination; she is brooding over what she brought forth.

The two purple peaks represent the domains of Poetry and of History.

The girl is Fancy.



SONGS WITH PRELUDES.

[Illustration]



SONGS WITH PRELUDES.


WEDLOCK.

The sun was streaming in: I woke, and said,
"Where is my wife,--that has been made my wife
Only this year?" The casement stood ajar:
I did but lift my head: The pear-tree dropped,
The great white pear-tree dropped with dew from leaves
And blossom, under heavens of happy blue.

My wife had wakened first, and had gone down
Into the orchard. All the air was calm;
Audible humming filled it. At the roots
Of peony bushes lay in rose-red heaps,
Or snowy, fallen bloom. The crag-like hills
Were tossing down their silver messengers,
And two brown foreigners, called cuckoo-birds,
Gave them good answer; all things else were mute;
An idle world lay listening to their talk,
They had it to themselves.
                           What ails my wife?
I know not if aught ails her; though her step
Tell of a conscious quiet, lest I wake.
She moves atween the almond boughs, and bends
One thick with bloom to look on it. "O love!
A little while thou hast withdrawn thyself,
At unaware to think thy thoughts alone:
How sweet, and yet pathetic to my heart
The reason. Ah! thou art no more thine own.
Mine, mine, O love! Tears gather 'neath my lids,--
Sorrowful tears for thy lost liberty,
Because it was so sweet. Thy liberty,
That yet, O love, thou wouldst not have again.
No; all is right. But who can give, or bless,
Or take a blessing, but there comes withal
Some pain?"
            She walks beside the lily bed,
And holds apart her gown; she would not hurt
The leaf-enfolded buds, that have not looked
Yet on the daylight. O, thy locks are brown,--
Fairest of colors!--and a darker brown
The beautiful, dear, veiled, modest eyes.
A bloom as of blush roses covers her
Forehead, and throat, and cheek. Health breathes with her,
And graceful vigor. Fair and wondrous soul!
To think that thou art mine!
                             My wife came in,
And moved into the chamber. As for me,
I heard, but lay as one that nothing hears,
And feigned to be asleep.

I.

The racing river leaped, and sang
  Full blithely in the perfect weather,
All round the mountain echoes rang,
  For blue and green were glad together.

II.

This rained out light from every part,
  And that with songs of joy was thrilling;
But, in the hollow of my heart,
  There ached a place that wanted filling.

III.

Before the road and river meet,
  And stepping-stones are wet and glisten,
I heard a sound of laughter sweet,
  And paused to like it, and to listen.

IV.

I heard the chanting waters flow,
  The cushat's note, the bee's low humming,--
Then turned the hedge, and did not know,--
  How could I?--that my time was coming.

V.

A girl upon the nighest stone,
  Half doubtful of the deed, was standing,
So far the shallow flood had flown
  Beyond the 'customed leap of landing.

VI.

She knew not any need of me,
  Yet me she waited all unweeting;
We thought not I had crossed the sea,
  And half the sphere to give her meeting.

VII.

I waded out, her eyes I met,
  I wished the moment had been hours;
I took her in my arms, and set
  Her dainty feet among the flowers.

VIII.

Her fellow maids in copse and lane,
  Ah! still, methinks, I hear them calling;
The wind's soft whisper in the plain,
  The cushat's coo, the water's falling.

IX.

But now it is a year ago,
  But now possession crowns endeavor;
I took her in my heart, to grow
  And fill the hollow place forever.


REGRET.

O that word REGRET!
There have been nights and morns when we have sighed,
"Let us alone, Regret! We are content
To throw thee all our past, so thou wilt sleep
For aye." But it is patient, and it wakes;
It hath not learned to cry itself to sleep,
But plaineth on the bed that it is hard.

We did amiss when we did wish it gone
And over: sorrows humanize our race;
Tears are the showers that fertilize this world;
And memory of things precious keepeth warm
The heart that once did hold them.
                                   They are poor
That have lost nothing; they are poorer far
Who, losing, have forgotten; they most poor
Of all, who lose and wish they MIGHT forget.

For life is one, and in its warp and woof
There runs a thread of gold that glitters fair,
And sometimes in the pattern shows most sweet
Where there are sombre colors. It is true
That we have wept. But O! this thread of gold,
We would not have it tarnish; let us turn
Oft and look back upon the wondrous web,
And when it shineth sometimes we shall know
That memory is possession.

I.

When I remember something which I had,
  But which is gone, and I must do without,
I sometimes wonder how I can be glad,
  Even in cowslip time when hedges sprout;
It makes me sigh to think on it,--but yet
My days will not be better days, should I forget.

II.

When I remember something promised me,
  But which I never had, nor can have now,
Because the promiser we no more see
  In countries that accord with mortal vow;
When I remember this, I mourn,--but yet
My happier days are not the days when I forget.


LAMENTATION.

I read upon that book,
Which down the golden gulf doth let us look
On the sweet days of pastoral majesty;
        I read upon that book
    How, when the Shepherd Prince did flee
   (Red Esau's twin), he desolate took
The stone for a pillow: then he fell on sleep.
And lo! there was a ladder. Lo! there hung
A ladder from the star-place, and it clung
To the earth: it tied her so to heaven; and O!
        There fluttered wings;
Then were ascending and descending things
    That stepped to him where he lay low;
Then up the ladder would a-drifting go
(This feathered brood of heaven), and show
Small as white flakes in winter that are blown
Together, underneath the great white throne.

         When I had shut the book, I said,
"Now, as for me, my dreams upon my bed
         Are not like Jacob's dream;
Yet I have got it in my life; yes, I,
And many more: it doth not us beseem,
         Therefore, to sigh.
Is there not hung a ladder in our sky?
Yea; and, moreover, all the way up on high
Is thickly peopled with the prayers of men.
    We have no dream! What then?
Like wingéd wayfarers the height they scale
(By Him that offers them they shall prevail),--
        The prayers of men.
    But where is found a prayer for me;
        How should I pray?
    My heart is sick, and full of strife.
I heard one whisper with departing breath,
'Suffer us not, for any pains of death,
        To fall from Thee.'
But O, the pains of life! the pains of life!
    There is no comfort now, and naught to win,
        But yet,--I will begin."

I.

"Preserve to me my wealth," I do not say,
        For that is wasted away;
And much of it was cankered ere it went.
"Preserve to me my health." I cannot say,
        For that, upon a day,
Went after other delights to banishment.

II.

What can I pray? "Give me forgetfulness"?
        No, I would still possess
Past away smiles, though present fronts be stern.
"Give me again my kindred?" Nay; not so,
        Not idle prayers. We know
They that have crossed the river cannot return.

III.

I do not pray, "Comfort me! comfort me!"
        For how should comfort be?
O,--O that cooing mouth,--that little white head!
No; but I pray, "If it be not too late,
        Open to me the gate,
That I may find my babe when I am dead.

IV.

"Show me the path. I had forgotten Thee
        When I was happy and free,
Walking down here in the gladsome light o' the sun;
But now I come and mourn; O set my feet
        In the road to Thy blest seat,
And for the rest, O God, Thy will be done."


DOMINION.

When found the rose delight in her fair hue?
Color is nothing to this world; 'tis I
That see it. Farther, I have found, my soul,
That trees are nothing to their fellow trees;
It is but I that love their stateliness,
And I that, comforting my heart, do sit
At noon beneath their shadow. I will step
On the ledges of this world, for it is mine;
But the other world ye wot of, shall go too;
I will carry it in my bosom. O my world,
That was not built with clay!
                              Consider it
(This outer world we tread on) as a harp,--
A gracious instrument on whose fair strings
We learn those airs we shall be set to play
When mortal hours are ended. Let the wings,
Man, of thy spirit move on it as wind,
And draw forth melody. Why shouldst thou yet
Lie grovelling? More is won than e'er was lost:
Inherit. Let thy day be to thy night
A teller of good tidings. Let thy praise
Go up as birds go up that, when they wake,
Shake off the dew and soar.
                            So take Joy home,
And make a place in thy great heart for her,
And give her time to grow, and cherish her;
Then will she come, and oft will sing to thee,
When thou art working in the furrows; ay,
Or weeding in the sacred hour of dawn.
It is a comely fashion to be glad,--
Joy is the grace we say to God.
                                Art tired?
There is a rest remaining. Hast thou sinned?
There is a Sacrifice. Lift up thy head,
The lovely world, and the over-world alike,
Ring with a song eterne, a happy rede,
"THY FATHER LOVES THEE."

I.

Yon mooréd mackerel fleet
  Hangs thick as a swarm of bees,
Or a clustering village street
  Foundationless built on the seas.

II.

The mariners ply their craft,
  Each set in his castle frail;
His care is all for the draught,
  And he dries the rain-beaten sail.

III.

For rain came down in the night,
  And thunder muttered full oft,
But now the azure is bright.
  And hawks are wheeling aloft.

IV.

I take the land to my breast,
  In her coat with daisies fine;
For me are the hills in their best,
  And all that's made is mine.

V.

Sing high! "Though the red sun dip,
  There yet is a day for me;
Nor youth I count for a ship
  That long ago foundered at sea.

VI.

"Did the lost love die and depart?
  Many times since we have met;
For I hold the years in my heart,
  And all that was--is yet.

VII.

"I grant to the king his reign;
  Let us yield him homage due;
But over the lands there are twain,
  O king, I must rule as you.

VIII.

"I grant to the wise his meed,
  But his yoke I will not brook,
For God taught ME to read,--
  He lent me the world for a book."


FRIENDSHIP.

ON A SUN-PORTRAIT OF HER HUSBAND, SENT BY HIS
WIFE TO THEIR FRIEND.

Beautiful eyes,--and shall I see no more
The living thought when it would leap from them,
And play in all its sweetness 'neath their lids?

Here was a man familiar with fair heights
That poets climb. Upon his peace the tears
And troubles of our race deep inroads made,
Yet life was sweet to him; he kept his heart
At home. Who saw his wife might well have thought,--
"God loves this man. He chose a wife for him,--
The true one!" O sweet eyes, that seem to live,
I know so much of you, tell me the rest!
Eyes full of fatherhood and tender care
For small, young children. Is a message here
That you would fain have sent, but had not time?
If such there be, I promise, by long love
And perfect friendship, by all trust that comes
Of understanding, that I will not fail,
No, nor delay to find it.
                          O, my heart
Will often pain me as for some strange fault,--
Some grave defect in nature,--when I think
How I, delighted, 'neath those olive-trees,
Moved to the music of the tideless main,
While, with sore weeping, in an island home
They laid that much-loved head beneath the sod,
And I did not know.

I.

I stand on the bridge where last we stood
  When young leaves played at their best.
The children called us from yonder wood,
  And rock-doves crooned on the nest.

II.

Ah, yet you call,--in your gladness call,--
  And I hear your pattering feet;
It does not matter, matter at all,
  You fatherless children sweet,--

III.

It does not matter at all to you,
  Young hearts that pleasure besets;
The father sleeps, but the world is new,
  The child of his love forgets.

IV.

I too, it may be, before they drop,
  The leaves that flicker to-day,
Ere bountiful gleams make ripe the crop,
  Shall pass from my place away:

V.

Ere yon gray cygnet puts on her white,
  Or snow lies soft on the wold,
Shall shut these eyes on the lovely light,
  And leave the story untold.

VI.

Shall I tell it there? Ah, let that be,
  For the warm pulse beats so high;
To love to-day, and to breathe and see,--
  To-morrow perhaps to die,--

VII.

Leave it with God. But this I have known,
  That sorrow is over soon;
Some in dark nights, sore weeping alone,
  Forget by full of the moon.

VIII.

But if all loved, as the few can love,
  This world would seldom be well;
And who need wish, if he dwells above,
  For a deep, a long death knell.

IX.

There are four or five, who, passing this place,
  While they live will name me yet;
And when I am gone will think on my face,
  And feel a kind of regret.



WINSTANLEY.


_THE APOLOGY._

_Quoth the cedar to the reeds and rushes,
  "Water-grass, you know not what I do;
Know not of my storms, nor of my hushes.
      And--I know not you."

Quoth the reeds and rushes, "Wind! O waken!
  Breathe, O wind, and set our answer free,
For we have no voice, of you forsaken,
          For the cedar-tree."

Quoth the earth at midnight to the ocean,
  "Wilderness of water, lost to view,
Naught you are to me but sounds of motion;
          I am naught to you."

Quoth the ocean, "Dawn! O fairest, clearest,
  Touch me with thy golden fingers bland;
For I have no smile till thou appearest
          For the lovely land."_

_Quoth the hero dying, whelmed in glory
  "Many blame me, few have understood;
Ah, my folk, to you I leave a story,--
          Make its meaning good."

Quoth the folk, "Sing, poet! teach us, prove us
  Surely we shall learn the meaning then;
Wound us with a pain divine, O move us,
          For this man of men."_

       *       *       *       *       *

Winstanley's deed, you kindly folk,
  With it I fill my lay,
And a nobler man ne'er walked the world,
  Let his name be what it may.

The good ship "Snowdrop" tarried long,
  Up at the vane looked he;
"Belike," he said, for the wind had dropped,
  "She lieth becalmed at sea."

The lovely ladies flocked within,
  And still would each one say,
"Good mercer, be the ships come up?"
  But still he answered "Nay."

Then stepped two mariners down the street,
  With looks of grief and fear:
"Now, if Winstanley be your name,
  We bring you evil cheer!

"For the good ship 'Snowdrop' struck,--she struck
  On the rock,--the Eddystone,
And down she went with threescore men,
  We two being left alone.

"Down in the deep, with freight and crew,
  Past any help she lies,
And never a bale has come to shore
  Of all thy merchandise."

"For cloth o' gold and comely frieze,"
  Winstanley said, and sighed,
"For velvet coif, or costly coat,
  They fathoms deep may bide.

"O thou brave skipper, blithe and kind,
  O mariners, bold and true,
Sorry at heart, right sorry am I,
  A-thinking of yours and you.

"Many long days Winstanley's breast
  Shall feel a weight within,
For a waft of wind he shall be 'feared
  And trading count but sin.

"To him no more it shall be joy
  To pace the cheerful town,
And see the lovely ladies gay
  Step on in velvet gown."

The "Snowdrop" sank at Lammas tide,
  All under the yeasty spray;
On Christmas Eve the brig "Content"
  Was also cast away.

He little thought o' New Year's night,
  So jolly as he sat then,
While drank the toast and praised the roast
  The round-faced Aldermen,--

While serving lads ran to and fro,
  Pouring the ruby wine,
And jellies trembled on the board,
  And towering pasties fine,--

While loud huzzas ran up the roof
  Till the lamps did rock o'erhead,
And holly-boughs from rafters hung
  Dropped down their berries red,--

He little thought on Plymouth Hoe,
  With every rising tide,
How the wave washed in his sailor lads,
  And laid them side by side.

There stepped a stranger to the board:
  "Now, stranger, who be ye?"
He looked to right, he looked to left,
  And "Rest you merry," quoth he;

"For you did not see the brig go down,
  Or ever a storm had blown;
For you did not see the white wave rear
  At the rock,--the Eddystone.

"She drave at the rock with sternsails set;
  Crash went the masts in twain;
She staggered back with her mortal blow,
  Then leaped at it again.

"There rose a great cry, bitter and strong,
  The misty moon looked out!
And the water swarmed with seamen's heads,
  And the wreck was strewed about.

"I saw her mainsail lash the sea
  As I clung to the rock alone;
Then she heeled over, and down she went,
  And sank like any stone.

"She was a fair ship, but all's one!
  For naught could bide the shock."
"I will take horse," Winstanley said,
  "And see this deadly rock."

"For never again shall bark o' mine
  Sail over the windy sea,
Unless, by the blessing of God, for this
  Be found a remedy."

Winstanley rode to Plymouth town
  All in the sleet and the snow,
And he looked around on shore and sound
  As he stood on Plymouth Hoe.

Till a pillar of spray rose far away,
  And shot up its stately head,
Reared and fell over, and reared again:
  "'Tis the rock! the rock!" he said.

Straight to the Mayor he took his way,
  "Good Master Mayor," quoth he,
"I am a mercer of London town,
  And owner of vessels three,--

"But for your rock of dark renown,
  I had five to track the main."
"You are one of many," the old Mayor said,
  "That on the rock complain.

"An ill rock, mercer! your words ring right,
  Well with my thoughts they chime,
For my two sons to the world to come
  It sent before their time."

"Lend me a lighter, good Master Mayor,
  And a score of shipwrights free,
For I think to raise a lantern tower
  On this rock o' destiny."

The old Mayor laughed, but sighed alsó;
  "Ah, youth," quoth he, "is rash;
Sooner, young man, thou'lt root it out
  From the sea that doth it lash.

"Who sails too near its jagged teeth,
  He shall have evil lot;
For the calmest seas that tumble there
  Froth like a boiling pot.

"And the heavier seas few look on nigh,
  But straight they lay him in dead;
A seventy-gun-ship, sir!--they'll shoot
  Higher than her mast-head.

"O, beacons sighted in the dark,
  They are right welcome things,
And pitchpots flaming on the shore
  Show fair as angel wings.

"Hast gold in hand? then light the land,
  It 'longs to thee and me;
But let alone the deadly rock
  In God Almighty's sea."

Yet said he, "Nay,--I must away,
  On the rock to set my feet;
My debts are paid, my will I made,
  Or ever I did thee greet.

"If I must die, then let me die
  By the rock and not elsewhere;
If I may live, O let me live
  To mount my lighthouse stair."

The old Mayor looked him in the face,
  And answered, "Have thy way;
Thy heart is stout, as if round about
  It was braced with an iron stay:

"Have thy will, mercer! choose thy men,
  Put off from the storm-rid shore;
God with thee be, or I shall see
  Thy face and theirs no more."

Heavily plunged the breaking wave,
  And foam flew up the lea,
Morning and even the drifted snow
  Fell into the dark gray sea.

Winstanley chose him men and gear;
  He said, "My time I waste,"
For the seas ran seething up the shore,
  And the wrack drave on in haste.

But twenty days he waited and more,
  Pacing the strand alone,
Or ever he sat his manly foot
  On the rock,--the Eddystone.

Then he and the sea began their strife,
  And worked with power and might:
Whatever the man reared up by day
  The sea broke down by night.

He wrought at ebb with bar and beam,
  He sailed to shore at flow;
And at his side, by that same tide,
  Came bar and beam alsó.

"Give in, give in," the old Mayor cried,
  "Or thou wilt rue the day."
"Yonder he goes," the townsfolk sighed,
  "But the rock will have its way.

"For all his looks that are so stout,
  And his speeches brave and fair,
He may wait on the wind, wait on the wave,
  But he'll build no lighthouse there."

In fine weather and foul weather
  The rock his arts did flout,
Through the long days and the short days,
  Till all that year ran out.

With fine weather and foul weather
  Another year came in;
"To take his wage," the workmen said,
  "We almost count a sin."

Now March was gone, came April in,
  And a sea-fog settled down,
And forth sailed he on a glassy sea,
  He sailed from Plymouth town.

With men and stores he put to sea,
  As he was wont to do;
They showed in the fog like ghosts full faint,--
  A ghostly craft and crew.

And the sea-fog lay and waxed alway,
  For a long eight days and more;
"God help our men," quoth the women then;
  "For they bide long from shore."

They paced the Hoe in doubt and dread:
  "Where may our mariners be?"
But the brooding fog lay soft as down
  Over the quiet sea.

A Scottish schooner made the port,
  The thirteenth day at e'en;
"As I am a man," the captain cried,
  "A strange sight I have seen:

"And a strange sound heard, my masters all,
  At sea, in the fog and the rain,
Like shipwrights' hammers tapping low,
  Then loud, then low again.

"And a stately house one instant showed,
  Through a rift, on the vessel's lee;
What manner of creatures may be those
  That build upon the sea?"

Then sighed the folk, "The Lord be praised!"
  And they flocked to the shore amain;
All over the Hoe that livelong night,
  Many stood out in the rain.

It ceased, and the red sun reared his head,
  And the rolling fog did flee;
And, lo! in the offing faint and far
  Winstanley's house at sea!

In fair weather with mirth and cheer
  The stately tower uprose;
In foul weather, with hunger and cold,
  They were content to close;

Till up the stair Winstanley went,
  To fire the wick afar;
And Plymouth in the silent night
  Looked out, and saw her star.

Winstanley set his foot ashore;
  Said he, "My work is done;
I hold it strong to last as long
  As aught beneath the sun.

"But if it fail, as fail it may,
  Borne down with ruin and rout,
Another than I shall rear it high,
  And brace the girders stout.

"A better than I shall rear it high,
  For now the way is plain,
And tho' I were dead," Winstanley said,
  "The light would shine again.

"Yet, were I fain still to remain,
  Watch in my tower to keep,
And tend my light in the stormiest night
  That ever did move the deep;

"And if it stood, why then 'twere good,
  Amid their tremulous stirs,
To count each stroke when the mad waves broke,
  For cheers of mariners.

"But if it fell, then this were well,
  That I should with it fall;
Since, for my part, I have built my heart
  In the courses of its wall.

"Ay! I were fain, long to remain,
  Watch in my tower to keep,
And tend my light in the stormiest night
  That ever did move the deep."

With that Winstanley went his way,
  And left the rock renowned,
And summer and winter his pilot star
  Hung bright o'er Plymouth Sound.

But it fell out, fell out at last,
  That he would put to sea,
To scan once more his lighthouse tower
  On the rock o' destiny.

And the winds woke, and the storm broke,
  And wrecks came plunging in;
None in the town that night lay down
  Or sleep or rest to win.

The great mad waves were rolling graves,
  And each flung up its dead;
The seething flow was white below,
  And black the sky o'erhead.

And when the dawn, the dull, gray dawn,--
  Broke on the trembling town,
And men looked south to the harbor mouth,
  The lighthouse tower was down.

Down in the deep where he doth sleep,
  Who made it shine afar,
And then in the night that drowned its light,
  Set, with his pilot star.

_Many fair tombs in the glorious glooms
  At Westminster they show;
The brave and the great lie there in state:
  Winstanley lieth low._

[Illustration]



END OF VOL. I.





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