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Title: The Call of the Mountains - and other Poems
Author: Pickering, James E.
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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The Call of the Mountains

and other Poems


By

James E. Pickering

  Author of
  "The King's Temptation," "The Cap of Care," etc.



London

A. C. Fifield, Clifford's Inn, E.C.

1913



PRINTED BY

WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD.

PLYMOUTH



The Cap of Care

By

James E. Pickering

_Grey Board Series, No._ 18.  1_s. net_

"Mr. Pickering's metrical faculties are as deft and cunning as those of
anyone now writing verse."--_Athenæum_.

A. C. Fifield, 13 Clifford's Inn, E.C.



Contents


  The Call of the Mountains
  The Old Manor House
  The Science Master
  Through the Centuries
  Winter
  Pain and Death
  Switzerland
  Burial at Sea
  The Master of the Marionettes
  Love's Counterfeit
  The Most Precious Thing
  Autumn
  To L
  Duty


  Sonnets

  Glastonbury
  Galileo
  Stratford-on-Avon
  To a Daffodil
  The Appian Way
  From the Fields
  Vénus de Milo
  Fire



  The Call of the Mountains

  Under the shade of the Kursaal veranda
  Idly I follow the flight of the seagulls,
  Gleaming like snow when their wings catch the sunshine,
  While from the palm-house adjacent is wafted
  Music half drowned in a babel of voices,
  Fitting the mode of this temple of follies.

  Far though the mountains, their influence, ever
  Changeful in temper, from sombre to smiling,
  Constant in wileful and mystic allurement,
  Rouses unrest and a strange fascination.

  Limpid and blue are the waters of Leman
  Clear in the deepness, translucent and shining,
  Blue as the ether's ineffable azure,
  Bright in the glow of the midsummer sunshine.
  Cleaving the air with their palpitant pinions,
  Wheeling and drifting, the beautiful seagulls
  Fly with the grace of unconscious perfection,
  Crying exultant and wild in a chorus.

  Are you not fit for the realm of immortals,
  To float on the winds of the gardens Elysian?
  Or must you hover a little while longer--
  Wandering souls in a state of probation--
  Half-way uplifted beyond our defilement,
  Half-way removed from the land of the blessed?

  Far in the distance beyond the blue water,
  Rises the hoary old father of mountains,
  Rugged and scarred with antiquity's furrows,
  Crowned with the snows of a million winters.
  Low in the shade of his ponderous presence,
  Dappling the slopes, are the homesteads of peasants,
  Each with its cloud of blue vapour ascending:
  And sweetly the bells across the green pastures
  Answer each other with voices persistent,
  Telling the herdsman the tale of his charges.
  Grim is the smile of the white-headed mountain
  For toilers below in the slumbering valley,
  Grim is the glance with a touch of derision,
  Seeming to say to his towering brothers--
  Catogne and the broad-shouldered heights of the Midi,
  "Iguanodon,--Mastodon,--Man,--in their passing
  Serve but as signs on the path of the ages."
  Softly the plash of the waters of Leman
  Sounds from the rough-tumbled stones at its margin:
  Gently the zephyrs play over its surface,
  Making it glitter with myriads of sparklets.
  Swiftly the barques trim their sails in the sunshine--
  Sails high and slender that swell to the breezes,
  White as the snow on the breast of the Jungfrau--
  Mirrored in whiteness upon the blue water.

  As I sat watching the lake and the mountains,
  Slowly a haze like a curtain of muslin,
  Flimsy and fine like a texture of cobweb,
  Drifted and rose till it shut out the bases
  And bulk of the mountains across the still water,
  Whilst high above it the crests and sierras
  Stood out as castles and walls of enchantment,
  Raised in the air like king Solomon's city,
  Held up aloft by invisible genii.
  Then in the faintly drawn lines of escarpment,
  Battlements, pinnacles, turrets and bastions
  Sprang into being, and fancy, untrammelled,
  Pictured a palace with walls, and a fortress
  Beleaguered and stormed by a shadowy army,
  Massed under pennons seen dim through the vapour.

  Over the drawbridge a desperate sortie
  Made by the knights of the castle invested
  Brings the foes quickly in conflict together.
  Plumes white and restless like foam on the breakers
  Drift to and fro with the tide of the battle;
  Falchions and maces and curtaxes gleaming
  A moment aloft, strike sparks in descending
  On corslet and casque and dinted escutcheon,
  Whilst out of the contest, with stumbling footsteps
  The wounded are led sore stricken and helpless.
  Ladies in sarcenet, arabesque broidered
  With blossoms that climb fantastic in colour,--
  Stiff flowers of blazonry's formal convention
  That rise from the hem to the throat in profusion,
  Where carcanets flash on bosoms unquiet,--
  Look from their casements with eyes full of wonder,
  Down on the conflict that rages below them,
  Fierce in the shock and the heat of encounter,
  Hearing the war-cries and clashing of weapons,
  Winding of horns, and the groans of the dying.
  Till all was lost in the thickening curtain,
  Veiled by the mist were my golden romances.

  Once when a snowstorm swept over lake Leman
  Filling the distance with wildly tossed snowflakes,
  I pictured a scene in the heart of the mountains,
  Hidden in shadows, unknown to the climber,
  Out of the range of Humanity's footsteps.
  There is the cave where the slumbering ice god
  Hides from the gaze of the wandering stranger,
  Shut in the depths of the mountain's recesses,
  Rent long ago by the force of upheavals
  In the wild turmoil and labour of earthquake.
  There sits the god of the cold everlasting,
  Guarding the spirits of men who have perished
  In their endeavours to master the secrets
  Of paths that have never by footsteps been trodden.
  In the ice temple his figure majestic
  Looms from a throne that through aeons uncounted
  Has stood in the gloom and the silence eternal.
  Weird is the throng of the spirits in thraldom:
  Silent they steal from their icy sepulture,
  Slow-pacing figures unchanged and unchanging:
  By violent death, swift, ruthless and lonely,
  Sentenced to wander for ever in darkness,
  Pent in the masterful ice god's dominion.
  Primitive hunters with flint-headed arrows,
  Whose limited minds ignored the distinction
  Engendered by knowledge, of good and of evil:
  Acting by impulse and guided by instinct:
  Living in caves like the bears and the foxes,
  Facing with cunning and courage their quarry,
  Guarding their women and feeding their children,
  Almost as fierce as the creatures they hunted.
  Men who came later throughout the long ages,
  Wandering fugitives driven by fortune
  Far from their homes to the wild desolation,
  Slaves of illusion that lures to destruction:
  Some with a love for adventure and daring,
  Some to escape from the ills that pursued them,
  Some in response to the strong fascination
  That calls from the heights of the untrodden mountains,
  All destined by fate, that watches unceasing,
  To die in the darkness forgotten for ever,
  Pent in the ice god's immutable kingdom.

  Wafted by breezes, my white-sailed felucca
  Slipped through the blueness to where the grim stronghold
  Of Chillon keeps ever in grateful remembrance
  The patriot Bonivard, champion of freedom.
  The pillar of pain where, writhing in torment,
  The captives were scourged at cruelty's bidding,
  Is still to be seen, an eloquent witness.
  Tenantless now is the cavernous dungeon
  Where wretches awaited through darkness unending
  The dawn of their last and dreaded to-morrow.
  Stripped of its horrors, the chamber of torture
  Echoes no more to the shrieks of its victims,
  And death's grim abode where agony ended
  Is free from the crimes that redden its records.
  There by the column of stone in the dungeon
  Where Bonivard lay to pine through the seasons
  Of six weary years, I mused on his story.
  Undaunted by death's ever-threatening shadow,
  Unconquered though insolent tyranny triumphed,
  Chilled in the summer and frozen in winter,
  Famished, neglected and loaded with fetters,
  Yet borne up within by courage unflinching,
  Supported by Faith when Hope had departed,
  Scorning to murmur, he waited with patience.
  Morning's faint light through the narrow embrasure,
  The wandering cry of a sea-mew in freedom
  Heightened the gloom of his roughly hewn prison,
  Making a summons to death a deliverance.
  Night fell about him in Stygian darkness,
  While the faint lap of the waters of Leman,
  Beating the ramparts with madding persistence,
  Whispered despair in the still isolation.
  What were his thoughts when the vault of his prison
  Rang with glad cries in the glare of the torches?
  Breaking the silence, dispelling the shadows
  That darkened his life and threatened his reason,
  What were his thoughts at the moment of freedom?
  When round him a tempest of passion was raging,
  An unloosened storm of passionate feeling,
  When men incoherent and hoarse from the conflict
  Fought for the honour of breaking his fetters,
  Leaving him breathless with hearty embraces,
  Weak and unmanned in the sudden revulsion,
  Carried away by the flood of emotion,
  With something unknown that stifled expression,
  That silenced his voice and heaved in his bosom.

  Strong is the spell of the dream-haunted mountains,
  Ruddy with gold in the glory of sunrise,
  Purple and silver and blue in the daytime,
  Tinged by the amethyst splendours of sunset,
  Gloomy, majestic and dark in the twilight,
  Mystic by moonlight, ethereal, airy,
  Changeful and fickle in hues as the opal,
  Under the mutable lights and the shadows,
  Ever alluring with subtle attraction.

  Far, far away are the waters of Leman
  Whence I have fled at the call of the mountains.
  Here in the valley where rushes a torrent,
  Constant and cold, be it summer or winter,
  A village lies hid and hither the climbers,
  Strangely alike in their eager impatience,
  Wearing the look of enwrapped expectation,
  Pause ere they start on their perilous journey.
  Hemming me round, the implacable mountains
  Shut out the world and confine me in durance,
  Bending my soul to the yoke of their bondage,
  Dwarfing my self and my little emotions,
  Waking desire to escape limitations
  And barriers imposed by narrow horizons.
  Rugged, majestic, they tower above me,
  As lonely and pensive I gaze in the torrent,
  Wondering now at the summons insistent,
  No longer in dreams and rovings of fancy,
  But weighted with impulse, defying resistance,
  Rousing unrest like a spirit of evil.
  So, as I linger awhile in the village,
  Completely I know each day brings me nearer
  To what lies beyond, in the regions of silence.

  Now it is over.  The lights of the village,
  The children at play, the clink from the smithy,
  The gurgle and rush of the hurrying torrent,
  The rattle of wheels, the tinkle of cowbells,
  The inn's open window whence converse in fragments
  Floats out with the odours of beer and tobacco,
  All welcome me back with familiar voices.
  Here time moves onward with rhythmic precision:
  Breakfast and dinner, and bed for the darkness,
  With Sunday to part one week from another:
  Spring time and winter, the snow and the sunshine,
  And sooner or later a cross in the churchyard.
  Time lacks proportion away in the mountains.
  What is a day or an hour or a lifetime
  Gauged by the ebb and the flow of the ages
  Shown in the tidemarks on crags prehistoric?
  If, as men say, time is measured by heartbeats,
  I wandered through years of vivid emotions.
  Pelion and Ossa, by arrogant Titans
  Profanely uplifted to challenge Olympus,
  Repeated themselves in the blueness above me.
  Sunsets and dawns such as glowed on the marshes,
  Silurian haunts of the early creation,
  Long ere the age of humanity's advent,
  Gleamed through the vapours and red exhalations
  Rising from bottomless pits to encolour
  Weirdly the matrix, volcanic, primeval,
  Riven and torn in the birth-throes of Cosmos.
  Slippery ledges uneven and narrow,
  Through rarefied air that maddens the pulses,
  Treacherous footpaths inviting destruction,
  Where fear in the heart disorders the senses.
  Vertiginate chasms, abysmal, terrific,
  Unfathomed and sheer with never a foothold,
  Compelling the gaze with cold fascination.
  Stretches of billowy acres of whiteness
  Dimming the eyes with their endless expanses;
  Ridges upstanding in ice walls cemented
  By glacial pressure of slow-moving masses.
  Caverns with ice shapes, blue-tinted, translucent:
  Columns and altars and figures fantastic,
  Imagined in dreams or pictured in fever,
  Softly illumed by the moonlight's reflection.
  There is the haunt of the evil ice maidens,
  The servants of Death, who lure with their beauty,
  Who bathe in the stream of the glacier water,
  The glacial water that flows through the caverns,
  Silent and deep as the river of Lethe.
  These memories hold me.  I live in a fever.
  The air that I breathe, the influence round me
  Are charged with a strange and volatile essence
  That throbs in my veins and quickens my breathing.
  Held by the mountains, I languish in bondage
  Under the masterful sway of their presence.
  Restless though weary I dream of their perils,
  Slipping down chasms with death at the bottom,
  Or over the desolate ice fields I wander,
  Hopeless, forgotten and lost in the snowdrifts,
  Wandering ever past hope of redemption.
  Sometimes I swing with a pendulum's measure,
  Fitfully swayed by the wind o'er a chasm
  That gapes far below, relentless and cruel,
  Conscious of all in the terrible moments
  That pass till I drop to the doom that is waiting
  Far in the depths of the yawning crevasses,
  And wake at the instant supreme of destruction.

  To-morrow at dawn I fly from the village
  Back to the peace of the waters of Leman.

  Gone, gone at last, is the morbid obsession!
  Gone to the shade in the regions of Limbo.
  Far, far away, o'er the waters of Leman,
  Mistily outlined and faint in the distance,
  Threatening no longer, the dream-haunted mountains
  Lazily whisper of rest and contentment.

  Softly the plash of the glittering fountain
  Falls on the night with the scent of mimosa,
  Mingled with polyglot phrases and laughter,
  Marking the pause 'twixt a waltz and mazurka.
  Soft are the lamps in the Kursaal rotunda
  Lighting discreetly the hall of lost footsteps
  Whose gleaming mosaics are painted with garlands,
  Blossoms exotic, luxuriant, languid,
  Red as the souls of the people about them,
  Hinting at passions through crimson and purple,
  Fitting the vogue of this temple of pleasure.
  On a divan in the hall where the idlers
  Promenade slowly, in converse together,
  I sit all alone in calm contemplation,
  Hearing the orchestra faint in the distance
  And the croupier's voice from his chamber seductive,
  Parrot-like crying in stale iteration,
  Summons and challenge across the green table.
  Keen-eyed old gamesters who prowl round the players,
  Seeking a pigeon to pluck at their leisure:
  Black-whiskered barons with blurred reputations
  Smirking at B. and his girls from Chicago:
  Swaggering captains at best detrimental:
  A country-bred youth just come to a fortune,
  Trying in vain to conceal his amazement:
  Couples awaiting the Absolute's fiat,
  Now in pursuit of a flying illusion:
  Hebrews from Frankfort and bankers from Paris
  Chatting to ladies resplendent in diamonds;
  A burgess of London whose wife says: "Disgraceful,"
  But lingers to study Parisian fashions:
  Gamblers inveterate bent to a system,
  Silent, unheeding, absorbed in their figures:
  Well-groomed young fellows, light-hearted and careless,
  Come for the dance and the fun of flirtation,
  Bright-eyed and merry, unconsciously breathing
  The poisonous air of sepulchres whited.
  Perdita, watchful and guardedly smiling,
  Trying to lessen the distance between us,
  Wafts me a sign with a spray of verbena.
  Is she an angel, a beast or a demon,
  Or spirit incarnate that onward is passing
  To higher avatars by long transmigration?
  Ah! how it warms one, this human deflection,
  This touch with familiar follies and foibles,
  After the limitless space of the aeons,
  Out of the measure of time as we know it,
  Far in the distant and echoless ages,
  Austere, and untouched by our passing emotions,
  Where I have wandered in lonely remoteness
  Under the passionless spell of the mountains.

  Cold and relentless, eternally lasting!
  Silent inscriptions in cryptical cipher!
  Unbroken record of time since creation,
  Whose secret is hid from human conception.
  How small are the things humanity prizes,
  The feverish joys of passion and pleasure,
  That pass like a dream to dusky oblivion!
  How short is man's life compared with the ages
  That frown from the face of the mystical mountains,
  Far in the blue o'er the waters of Leman.



  The Old Manor House

  The rusted gates whose forgings fine
  Enlace a gilded coronet,
  Now dim in lustreless decline,
  Groaned as I passed the lichened shapes
  Of rampant griffin on each side,
  Stiff with heraldic, stony pride.
  Then through the grass-grown drive I passed
  With ancient oaks on either hand,
  Throwing their shadows dark and vast
  Upon the bracken at their feet
  Where rabbits peeped in fear and ran
  From the rare sound of living man.
  For here no more the sumptuous train
  Displays the pomp of falconry;
  No more, besprent with mire and rain,
  The messenger-at-arms rides in:
  Nor, with his retinue of knights
  Some great man at the house alights.

  Above the portico
  Of the great silent house,
  The quarterings' tinctures glow,
  Blazoning its history,
  From the old Sieur de Caulx,
  Whose heavy Norman sword
  Helped Harold's overthrow,
  And whose long line of sons
  Stretches, like a shadow,
  Thrown in the eventide,
  Through the old folio
  Where illumined pages
  Bravely the records show,
  Till the last, lonely heir
  Was carried down below,
  To the cold marble vaults
  A century ago.

  A gallery o'erlooks the hall,
  A gallery where minstrels played
  And with their lutes sweet music made,
  While from the weapons on the wall,
  Reflected shone the lights that glowed
  Above the hospitable board
  When each successive, generous lord
  His loyalty or grandeur showed.
  Kings feasted there with stately dames,
  Ambassadors and Cardinals
  Who, cheered with wine and madrigals,
  Fed with their fancies amorous flames.
  And at some great eventful scene
  Full many a dance the chamber graced,
  Pavanes and sarabands were paced,
  And minuets when Anne was queen.

  My footsteps echoing from the panelled walls,
  Stayed the long sleep of years,
  Stirring the thick, accumulated dust
  To movement in the ray of light that falls,
  From a half-shuttered oriel which appears
  Between the rafters, just
  Where a stone mullion its carved apex rears.
  Faint voices whispered round me as I stood
  Spellbound and listening there:
  The ghostly strains of melodies forgot,
  The happy laughter of fair womanhood:
  Children in noisy play, without a care:
  Fierce cries with passion hot,
  Triumphant some, and some wild with despair.

  Leaving the chamber so haunted by voices,
  Fearful, I hastened to where the great staircase
  Rears its proud height in a double ascension
  Till it is hid in the deepening shadows.
  Stiffly upstanding on each chief baluster,
  Absently gaze the historical griffins,
  Plunged in their silent and deep meditation.
  Many a Caulx have they seen pass before them,
  Long generations in motley procession,
  Halting and feeble, the sick and the aged:
  Sanguine and joyous, the young and the hopeful:
  Manhood triumphant, crestfallen or thoughtless:
  Urbane and discreet, my lady's confessor:
  Stealthily creeping, the villainous traitor:
  Quick and impatient, the fortunate lover:
  Children unconscious of aught but their playthings:
  Nobles in ermine, and simpering ladies:
  Then, the one end of all human emotions,
  Slow-pacing figures who bear on their shoulders,
  Silenced for ever, some lord of the staircase.

  The steward, from the all-pervading gloom,
  Flung wide the shutters of the drawing-room,
  Showing a terrace graced with urn and faun
  And steps that led to a neglected lawn,
  Whilst rounded hill and valley far were seen
  Lit by the summer's radiating sheen.
  The room's magnificence, its noble size
  And faded splendour filled me with surprise.
  A costly pierglass in its tarnished frame,
  Which once reflected gallant squire and dame,
  Now with fidelity displayed the clear
  And gleaming lustres of the chandelier,
  Pendent, with ten score sconces silver chased,
  From the high ceiling which a master graced
  With courtly scenes wherein could be descried
  Ancestral figures in their pomp and pride.
  The sunlight played on gilded girandole,
  On silver candlestick and stiff console,
  All of that period when here befell
  The scene on which the steward loves to dwell,
  Showing the floor's dark stain of sombre red
  And how it came about that blood was shed.
  I marked the punchbowls, full of leaves and dust,
  A slim sword, silver-hiked, flecked with rust:
  A daintily escutcheoned chiffonier,
  Inlaid with shell and finished with veneer:
  Timepieces silent, set in ormolu:
  The damask screens of faded red and blue.
  And, to enhance the chamber's stately air,
  Great Chippendale had made each slender chair.
  The stream of life, arrested, seemed to wait
  A magic word to set it flowing straight.

  Heated by wine and ombre-play,
  Two hundred years ago or more,
  Three gamblers, on a morning gray,
  Quarrelled about a questioned score.

  Two blades were soon engaged.  A tierce,
  Ill parried, stretched a swordsman low,
  Who lunged with failing point but fierce,
  And dying, dropped before his foe.

  And when the growing light of morn
  Lit the Venetian mirror's face,
  He died, 'twixt pain and passion torn,
  And left a curse upon the place.

  And from that day the records show
  A slowly creeping, sure decline
  That, just a hundred years ago,
  Ended the once illustrious line.

  Sometimes upon the dusky hour
  That comes before the sun's first rays,
  When things occult display their power,
  A strange light on the chamber plays

  That is not of the earth or sky,
  While hurrying footsteps come and go
  And then into the silence die
  With whispered mutterings hoarse and low.

  A sliding panel, by the wainscot hid,
  Showed, in the unmarked thickness of the walls,
  A narrow passage and a secret stair
  That brought us to the level of the moat.
  Long dry and choked with bracken and with brier,
  It made a rugged pathway to a court
  Where stands the ruin of an ancient tower,
  Fenced in with walls pierced by an entrance low.
  "Here," said my guide, "when James the first was king,
  "A daughter of the house, through three long years,
  "Was by her father close a prisoner kept
  "Because she would not wed the man he chose.
  "Stern and unyielding, as became her race,
  "She set her will against her father's strength.
  "Through all the time she saw no living face:
  "No sound of human voice, except her own,
  "Fell on her ear.  She nothing saw but clouds
  "That swept athwart the cold and pitiless sky,
  "And blinking stars at night that rose and set
  "Across the little window in the roof:
  "Then she went mad and on the stony walls
  "One day beat out her life in frenzied rage,
  "And refuge found beyond her father's power."

  Time passed, and it was late
  When once again I stood
  Outside the ancient gate,
  Where the stone griffins ramped,
  Cold as relentless fate
  Changeless as destiny.

  And I said: "'Tis in vain,
  Guardians impassible,
  That ye your watch maintain
  Over the ghosts of Caulx,
  While the years wax and wane
  Century by century.

  "For behold!  I have been
  Among them and have heard
  Their voices, I have seen
  With swift-discerning eyes
  Over their wide demesne
  Of human history."



  The Science Master

  "We build," he said, "on elemental things!"
  And paused to glance around the silent class.
  "On facts well ascertained which insight brings,
  "And which in due development must pass
  "From the first phase, remote, removed,
  "To the Effect.  Thus, link by link, we trace
  "The lengthening chain of Verity, full proved
  "By Knowledge, Reason, Logic, each in place."
  It seemed conclusive to us students then.
  The man's prestige had weight.  Authority
  Made him for us above all other men;
  He was the head of our academy.
  His calm assumption and incisive way,
  Admitting no alternative nor doubt,
  As he intoned his long familiar lay,
  Made his pronouncements clear as if cut out
  Of crystal, cold with mathematic test,
  Through which he viewed complacently the span
  And limit of all scientific quest,
  Quite heedless of the growing range of man.
  His narrow field so finished and complete,
  His standards and his logic's hampering line
  Look small where now the long perspectives meet,
  Converging in a new horizon's shine.
  All this was years ago.  What would he say,
  I wonder, if he could revisit us
  And, with the knowledge of the present day,
  See space and pain reduced to minimus,
  Electric currents hand in hand with steam,
  Men borne in ships across the trackless air,
  The widening story of the earth's old scheme
  Told in its strata, and, with arduous care,
  The age of man thrust back unfathomed years,
  New elements, a new chronology
  And growing lore that year by year appears
  To show how distant is finality?
  It sets my fancy roving and I try
  In idle hours to think what may befall.
  Naught seems impossible, no thought too high,
  No dream too mad, to realise it all.
  What, for example, is the human mind?
  Whence comes it, great or small, at some man's birth?
  A fool's or sage's, base or all refined!
  What holds it till his body turns to earth?
  And whither goes it with the failing breath?
  And is the Aura's essence to remain
  Ever elusive at the hour of death,
  To perish or another home attain?
  Or, with close knowledge of man's growing germ,
  Shall we not train it and direct its course,
  As now we cultivate the floral sperm,
  And simple weeds to complex beauty force?
  Life is a thing of phases manifold,
  By shades diminishing from high to low,
  Man, protoplasm, beast, all we are told,
  To perish in an equal overthrow.
  Our view of life at best is incomplete.
  We judge by its effect and action, blind
  To its real essence, as to that we meet,
  Acting unseen, when wire to wire we bind.
  Think of what might be, once this secret known,
  Full knowledge of Life's spark, and with the power
  To rescue from Death's dark and silent zone
  The souls of some great men whose natures tower
  Above their fellows and can ill be spared
  From some great task far-reaching and benign.
  I hear a reader say: "This man has dared
  "To claim for us an attribute divine!
  "Our times are in God's hands."  And I reply:
  We do not hesitate to take a life,
  The claims of social law to satisfy,
  And punish men whose minds with crime are rife.
  What then more fitting, given the knowledge there,
  To lengthen lives that worthy ends fulfil,
  And measure by new standards just and fair
  The worth of life as it is good or ill?
  Have we exhausted chemistry's domain?
  Squeezed dry the elements we say we know?
  And does the spinning universe contain
  No more our theories to overthrow?
  How far does gravitation serve our needs--
  The force that keeps each planet in its place,
  Resistless, constant, yet with varying speeds,
  For ever acting in unbounded space?
  Some day perhaps pent man will learn to brave
  An alien atmosphere, and, from afar,
  Of weight and distance master, not the slave,
  Bring us new wisdom from some distant star.



  Through the Centuries

  While yet the Saxons ruled, a puissant Thane
  Made with his unkempt band of mounted spears
  A seizin of a hide of forest land
  Whereon he built a house of ample size,
  With dining-hall and bowers and sleeping-lofts,
  And stables shutting in a stone-paved yard:
  And round the whole he set a ponderous fence
  Of sharpened stakes fast bound with metal bands.
  And "Yan, the Wulf," for thus the Thane was known,
  Called the place "Wulfden" in his savage tongue.
  And here, year after year, he lived at ease,
  Oft making sallies for a cattle raid,
  Or fighting with some other such as he,
  To come back weary at the fall of night,
  Driving a herd before him, and his men
  Sweating beneath the spoil of plundered foes.
  Once as he sat at supper in his hall,
  Bemused with mead and satisfied with food,
  There came a wandering bedesman to his gate
  Craving permission "in Fayre Jesu's name"
  To build a church of stone within the shade
  Of his protection.  And, in generous mood,
  The Thane gave gruff assent; and time slipped by.

  Then William swept the land, and, to reward
  One of his knights, gave him the Wulf's demesne
  To hold in fee, and on the Saxon's land
  Arose a fortress with embattled walls,
  With donjon, keep and moat and tilting-yard,
  To hold in thraldom all the country-side.
  But still was left the little Saxon church,
  Unchanged save that the Norman owner gave
  New consecration in his patron's name,
  St. Martinus of Tours, a warrior saint
  Who guarded through the centuries his race.

  Then in the War of Roses came the crash
  That brought extinction to the feudal name
  And desolation to its crumbling home.
  And yet, though scarred by time and gray with age,
  The little church of Saxon days remained
  The emblem of a never-dying faith.

  The years rolled by and then there came a day
  Which gave a new possessor to the place,
  A nobleman in favour with that queen
  Who loved a witty tongue and ready sword
  When coupled with good looks and brave attire.
  He built a great Elizabethan pile,
  The ground-plan shaped to form the royal E,
  Conforming to the fashion of the times
  When loyalty spoke even from silent stone.
  And he, to please his lady's pious whim,
  (Though ten years wed, he called her Sweetheart still)
  Forbore to raze the chapel to the ground,
  But stayed with flying buttress either side,
  Repaired the roof and made it to her mind.
  And there they lie, both in one marble tomb
  On which their effigies with clasping hands
  Bear witness to an everlasting love.

  And when vacation brings its hours of rest
  I sometimes sit within the Saxon church
  And muse upon the changes time has brought
  Save to the faith that reared the little shrine,
  And still builds churches "in Fayre Jesu's name."



  Winter

  'Tis winter and the darkening skies
  Awake regretful memories
  Of wooded hill and sunlit plain,
  Ringing with anthems to the sun
  Until his arching course was run
  And nightingales took up the strain.

  The trees, then dense with leaves and flowers,
  Stood through the long and smiling hours,
  Housing an honest little folk,
  Throbbing with life by day and night,
  Whose voices, vibrant with delight,
  Of happy labour ever spoke.

  The trees now spread their haggard arms,
  Bared of their pristine, leafy charms,
  To cold and unresponsive skies
  That neither smile nor weep, but chill
  With cold indifference, and kill
  Hope that all nature underlies.

  A dreary moan floats on the wind
  From the gaunt oaks, that, ill defined,
  Show spectral shapes against the sky
  From which the fleeting day has flown
  While dead leaves on the earth are strown
  To mark the summer's mortuary.

  Where are the thousand things of life
  That erstwhile made the place all rife
  With busy hum and restless wing
  And turmoil of a world of love?
  The blackbird on her nest above,
  Below, the beetle tunnelling.

  Gone with the happiness I knew
  Because the heavens were always blue,
  While the sun shone from day to day
  And winter was not.  'Twas as far
  And nebulous as yonder star
  That throws its cold and sickly ray

  Where once a glorious flood of light
  Ceased only with the falling night.
  Gloom hovers where triumphant joy
  Beatified each passing hour,
  For Winter now with ruthless power
  Fulfils its mission to destroy.

  _The Voice of Winter._

  "I bring not death but rest to flower and tree,
  "And nurse the flame divine, Vitality,
  "That burns immortal since primeval night
  "When the Creator said: 'Let there be light!'
  "And loosed the sun upon his blazing way
  "To roll for ever through an endless day."



  Pain and Death

  Amid the fields of Asphodel
  Musing one day by chance,
  Imperious Jove
  Let memory rove
  And turned his gaze austere
  To where Arcadian shepherds dwell,
  The land of song and dance,
  Where Death was not
  And Time forgot
  To send the rolling year:
  Where man, untried by trouble's test,
  Found the supreme of life in rest.

  Immortal man without a care
  Rivalled the gods above:
  Free, effortless,
  In sheer idlesse
  Aping divinity.
  So he was made by Jove to share
  A mortal life and love
  By anguish tried
  And purified
  For Death's cold sanctity.
  Thus 'twas ordained that Death and Pain
  Should raise man to a nobler plane.



  Switzerland

  Land of mountain, lake and river,
  Waterfalls, and rushing streams
  By the wayside where the cattle
  Gather with their bells a-ringing,
  In the day's departing beams.

  Land of glorious dawns and sunsets,
  Glowing shades of every hue,
  Mists enchanted, floating, rising,
  Fine-spun softness, tints Olympian,
  Regal purple, virgin blue.

  Tinkling zither, echoing jodel,
  Horns that loudly hail the morn
  From the upland's stony pathways
  Where the snowline meets the outposts
  Of the forest, sparse and lorn.

  Nether tracts by sunlight heated,
  Show the vines in serried rows,
  Basking through the drowsy summer
  Till their rich and generous vintage
  From the wine-press redly flows.

  Land of mountain peaks stupendous,
  Lakes that fade to meet the sky!
  Land for gods, for dreaming poets,
  Fit for men of soaring greatness,
  Sons of gifted ancestry.

  Gods I found not, neither poets,
  Only little men who toil
  To supply the passing stranger,
  Bound upon the wheel of pleasure,
  With the produce of the soil.

  What would Bonivard or Calvin
  Think of you, my little men,
  With your minds on money turning,
  While you strain with itching fingers
  Fast the golden calf to pen?

  Yet I love your honest peasants
  Dwelling on the mountain slope,
  Slow and stolid, yet the children
  Of the spirit born of freedom,
  Of the patience born of hope.

  For among these humble toilers,
  From the grasping instinct free,
  Still we find the cheerful-hearted,
  Earnest, honest Switzer people
  With the old simplicity.



  Burial at Sea

  'Twas midnight in the southern seas
  And windless.  On the placid deep
  Flashed sparkling phosphorescences,
  While moonbeams, bright in silver bars,
  Lay like a pathway to the stars.

  Tireless, our engines, day and night,
  A month had throbbed their endless round
  Without a pause to mark time's flight.
  We heard it all unconsciously
  Till suddenly it ceased to be.

  For now the slowing pulse that beat,
  Stopped in the vessel's iron breast
  And quickly changed my slumber sweet
  To wandering and uneasy thought
  Of what the midnight might have brought.

  Gaining the deck, I looked around
  With drowsy eyes and half asleep,
  And saw a something wrapped and bound
  And weighted.  I was standing near
  Some hapless seaman's simple bier.

  A shapeless form in canvas lay,
  Stretched on a wooden grating low,
  Waiting the word to pass away
  Into the silent depths of sea
  And boundless realm of fantasy.

  Before the bulwark's opening stood
  A group about a lantern's light
  Moveless like figures carved in wood,
  Whilst one with gruff solemnity,
  Read prayers for those who die at sea.

  Then at the end, with sudden leap,
  That sent the sparkling water high,
  The body plunged into the deep
  Amid a million points of light
  That glittered as it sank from sight.

  Scarce had a moment passed, before
  The men with silent haste had gone:
  The engines plied their task, once more,
  The ship her steady course pursued
  Across the moonlit solitude.

  The morning dawned, the hours passed by
  And life on board from day to day
  Was changeless as the sea and sky.
  And so unreal the memory seemed
  I wondered if I had not dreamed.



  The Master of the Marionettes

  'Twas at the fair of Epinetz,
  And all the country-side was there.
  Each booth gave out its blatant strains,
  And grinning came the sheepish swains,
  Who greeted with approving stare
  The movements of the marionettes,
  While from his place well hid from sight
  The master laboured, faint and white.

  A villain dark, with cloak and plume,
  Through two acts of imbroglio,
  Pursued a maid of laughing mien
  Who played a ribboned tambourine
  And loved a gay incognito,
  By whom the villain met his doom,
  While Pierrot, in a comic part,
  Danced to conceal a breaking heart.

  'Twas late.  The snow fell thick and still
  The market place in silence lay.
  The master, tired and overwrought,
  For troupe and self a lodging sought.
  The inn was full.  He went his way
  Across the heath; beyond the hill
  Dawn found him wrapped from head to feet
  In winter's snowy winding-sheet.

  And as he sank in deadly sleep,
  His spirit, like a floating haze,
  Wavered a moment o'er the snow,
  A valediction to bestow.
  And solemnly, with wistful gaze,
  The puppets bowed in reverence deep,
  Speeding with farewells and regrets
  The master of the Marionettes.



  Love's Counterfeit

  Old as mankind, yet with immortal youth:
  Unyielding, ardent, sinuous and bold,
  Alluring ever in the guise of truth.

  Where is the fire that warmed me yesterday?
  And where the flame that will to-morrow blaze
  To leave me shivering by its ashes gray?

  The wind that sweetly sings in ocean caves,
  Then dallies with the wallflowers on the tower
  May fan assassins and sweep over graves.

  What pleasure has a kiss that fever brings?
  Or one grown cold with satisfied desire?
  The love that on the senses fiercely plays,
  Comes like a wind and passes like a fire.



  The Most Precious Thing

  What do men rate at the highest in life?
  Diamonds that glow,
  The finest in water,
  In colour and form:
  Such as an eastern king's favourite wife
  Wears strung in a row,
  Or, as those that in slaughter,
  In sack or in storm
  Of a citadel's heights,
  Are torn from a Khalifah slain in the strife?
  No.  Diamonds decline when Love claims his own,
  And freely are bartered for kisses alone.

  Some say that virtue is prized more than all,
  Virtue that scorns
  The baseness and ill
  The decalogue cites
  And sternly forbids to great and to small.
  But when on the horns
  Of dilemma, men kill
  Compunction, whose lights
  Die in darkness profound,
  Where mortals are fated to stumble and fall,
  Renouncing for kisses the wisdom of time
  To find in the sacrifice something sublime.

  Rank, Riches and Fame have, each in their way,
  A hold on the mind
  That we think is supreme,
  And sweep man along
  To sated ambition's omnipotent sway:
  Till one day we find
  They are vain as a dream,
  Or a beautiful song
  Evanescently grand:
  And the value we see of the brave display
  Of Riches and Fame and Rank at their best,
  Is far below kisses when put to the test.



  Autumn

  A light mist creeps across the downs:
  A gleam through clouds is faintly seen:
  The grass is wet with heavy dew:
  Sear are the leaves that once were green.
  I walk at midday when the sun
  Throws still some welcome warmth and light:
  A chill comes with the afternoon,
  And icy is the air at night.
  Summer is dead.  Its shrouded form
  Lies on the logs that make its pyre,
  And fancy sees its ghost ascend,
  A shadowy wraith above the fire.



  To L

  Just at this time of great content
  Old memories come between the lights
  To chasten with their whispers faint
  The passing Christmas merriment.
  Yet through it all, one constant note
  Chimes with the season's higher sense,
  Love's influence unchanged remains,
  Fragrant and sweet as frankincense.



  Duty

  What is a year that comes and goes
  Unless it mark a noble deed?
  We sow the seed
  Of flower or weed:
  Thrice happy he who leaves a rose.

  What is a life in vainness spent,
  That will not bear the common test,
  When, laid to rest
  In earth's cold breast,
  We sleep at last, insentient?

  What is a gift bestowed on man,
  Unless he spreads abroad its light
  And turns its might
  To aid the right
  And strives to do the best he can?

  What matters it if all your toil
  Thankless for ever must remain?
  When by your pain
  One soul will gain
  Somewhat to calm its mortal coil.



  Sonnets



  Glastonbury

  Beacon of Christian truth! across the years
  Thy flame undying glows in Faith's clear sight,
  As once the Holy Grail's effulgence bright
  Shone on the pure in heart, the Saints' compeers,
  Who knew no more life's bitterness and fears
  But dwelt thenceforth upon a nobler height,
  Rapt in the radiance of Redemption's light
  That still to the elect of God appears.
  Each Christmas sees, before thy ancient shrine,
  Its sacred thorn burst into glorious flower,
  Of Heaven's immortal life a constant sign,
  Shown to mankind in graciousness benign,
  To make eternal with enlightening power
  The revelation of a truth divine.



  Galileo

  The medieval pomp and civic pride
  Which once made Pisa famous, long have lain
  Forgotten with her pageants brief and vain
  That flashed inconstant on the Arno's tide.
  But, toned to softened hues, her walls abide,
  Enclosing baptistery, tower, and fane
  Wherein yet swings the lamp with brazen chain
  That marked the pendulum's time-measured stride
  And though the centuries, in lengthening roll,
  Show ever fainter through perspective time
  The fame depicted in the mouldering scroll,
  They cannot dim the shining aureole
  Around Galileo's name.  Each hourly chime
  Proclaims the law that swung the girandole.



  Stratford-on-Avon

  The hushed repose of some fair temple's shade
  Falls on the pilgrim when he treads the ways
  Where first the world to Shakespeare's childish gaze
  Disclosed its wonders when his footsteps strayed;
  Where, fired with love, he roamed the forest glade,
  Storing clear memories for other days;
  And where, at last, acclaimed and crowned with bays,
  He dropped the lyre no other hand has played.
  Fame watches o'er the deathless poet's sleep,
  Her fanfares echoing still their wild applause,
  While sweet Melpomene and Thalia weep,
  For theirs no more the grandest flight that soars,
  But lower planes where smaller spirits sweep,
  Whose whispers sound like waves on distant shores.



  To a Daffodil

  Bright messenger of life renewed and love,
  Joy fills thy golden chalice to the brim,
  Fit symbol of the sacred seraphim
  Who with their blazing phalanx headlong drove
  The Star of Morning from his seat above,
  Scattering celestial sparks through voidness dim,
  To fall upon our planet's curving rim
  And bloom as thy fair flowers in mead and grove.
  As victory's anthem stirred the heavenly choir,
  Awaking rapture in triumphant praise,
  So thou in spring dost mortal souls inspire
  With new-born hope and consecrated fire,
  Reflected glory from ethereal rays,
  To make divine the human heart's desire.



  The Appian Way

  Road of the dead! whose stately avenue
  Of ruined tombs reveals the glorious past,
  When proud patrician chariots rolling fast
  And litters borne by slaves of ebon hue
  Breasted the throng that ever thicker grew
  And onward hurried where the portal vast
  Showed praetor, tribune and plebeian massed
  With traders from afar beyond the blue.
  Road of the dead! thy voices haunted me,
  Once as I lingered on a starlit night,
  Seeing thy restless ghosts in fantasy:
  And Peter paused again in act to flee:
  With downcast eyes and pale with sudden fright,
  Then whispered low: "Quo vadis Domine?"


_Note_.--Tradition has it that Peter in a moment of weakness fled to
escape martyrdom, but was turned back by a vision of his Master.  The
little church of Quo vadis Domine on the Appian Way commemorates this.



  From the Fields

  The village chime drifts on the summer breeze,
  In softened cadence o'er expanses green,
  Across the river, winding slow between
  Broad fields of clover where marauding bees
  Lighten their toil with murmured harmonies,
  Whilst corn in rolling waves of verdant sheen
  Lends rhythmic movement to the rural scene
  And sighs responsive to the wind-stirred trees.
  The mingled voices, like a poet's rhyme,
  Link with their music pensiveness and joy:
  Yet each has meaning in its wayward time:
  The wind of freedom sings in every clime,
  The bee, that labour's sweetness cannot cloy,
  And life is measured by the warning chime.



  Vénus de Milo

  Immortal beauty, touched by fire divine
  That glows as in thy pristine days, I see
  The white-robed priests and virgins joyfully
  Bearing their gifts of honey, flowers and wine,
  With sounding reed and timbrel, to thy shrine,
  Whilst thou, impassive, waitest the decree
  Of heaven, to speak with cold solemnity
  That which unfolds a deity's design.
  Gone are the gods and heroes of the past
  To shine in distant stars with pallid gleam,
  Subdued and faint beyond the darkness vast,
  Their power forgot, their glory overcast;
  Yet thou remainest in thy grace supreme
  And fadeless splendour that was ne'er surpassed.



  Fire

  To man primeval, the bright god of day
  Seemed lord of all things, and he bent the knee,
  To adoration moved unconsciously;
  And lo! the instinct which had made him pray,
  Showed him the mystic fire that latent lay
  Within the drying branches of the tree
  And brought the earth, in all its purity,
  The essence of the sun's benignant ray.
  Of Nature's elements the most refined,
  Free from pollution and corruption dire,
  Art thou, O strong and changeless spirit kind.
  Unfailing source of good, thou wast designed
  To be the first, man's reverence to inspire,
  And light the pathway of his groping mind.



  FINIS





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