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Title: Poems of the Past and the Present
Author: Hardy, Thomas
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Poems of the Past and the Present" ***

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PRESENT***


Transcribed from the 1919 Macmillan and Co. “Wessex Poems and Other
Verses; Poems of the Past and the Present” edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]



                            POEMS OF THE PAST
                             AND THE PRESENT


                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                               THOMAS HARDY

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                        MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
                       ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON
                                   1919

                                * * * * *

                                COPYRIGHT

   “_Wessex Poems_”: _First Edition_, _Crown_ 8vo, 1898.  _New Edition_
                                  1903.
    _First Pocket Edition June_ 1907.  _Reprinted January_ 1909, 1913

     “_Poems_, _Past and Present_”: _First edition_ 1901 (dated 1902)
         _Second Edition_ 1903.  _First Pocket Edition June_ 1907
                _Reprinted January_ 1908, 1913, 1918, 1919

                                * * * * *



CONTENTS

                                                                  PAGE
V.R.  1819–1901                                                    231
WAR POEMS—
                        EMBARCATION                                235
                        DEPARTURE                                  237
                        THE COLONEL’S SOLILOQUY                    239
                        THE GOING OF THE BATTERY                   242
                        AT THE WAR OFFICE                          245
                        A CHRISTMAS GHOST-STORY                    247
                        THE DEAD DRUMMER                           249
                        A WIFE IN LONDON                           251
                        THE SOULS OF THE SLAIN                     253
                        SONG OF THE SOLDIERS’ WIVES                260
                        THE SICK GOD                               263
POEMS OF PILGRIMAGE—
                        GENOA AND THE MEDITERRANEAN                269
                        SHELLEY’S SKYLARK                          272
                        IN THE OLD THEATRE, FIESOLE                274
                        ROME: ON THE PALATINE                      276
                           ,, BUILDING A NEW STREET IN THE         278
                        ANCIENT QUARTER
                           ,, THE VATICAN: SALA DELLE MUSE         280
                           ,, AT THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS            283
                        LAUSANNE: IN GIBBON’S OLD GARDEN           286
                        ZERMATT: TO THE MATTERHORN                 288
                        THE BRIDGE OF LODI                         290
                        ON AN INVITATION TO THE UNITED             295
                        STATES
MISCELLANEOUS POEMS—
                        THE MOTHER MOURNS                          299
                        “I SAID TO LOVE”                           305
                        A COMMONPLACE DAY                          307
                        AT A LUNAR ECLIPSE                         310
                        THE LACKING SENSE                          312
                        TO LIFE                                    316
                        DOOM AND SHE                               318
                        THE PROBLEM                                321
                        THE SUBALTERNS                             323
                        THE SLEEP-WORKER                           325
                        THE BULLFINCHES                            327
                        GOD-FORGOTTEN                              329
                        THE BEDRIDDEN PEASANT TO AN                333
                        UNKNOWING GOD
                        BY THE EARTH’S CORPSE                      336
                        MUTE OPINION                               339
                        TO AN UNBORN PAUPER CHILD                  341
                        TO FLOWERS FROM ITALY IN WINTER            344
                        ON A FINE MORNING                          346
                        TO LIZBIE BROWNE                           348
                        SONG OF HOPE                               352
                        THE WELL-BELOVED                           354
                        HER REPROACH                               358
                        THE INCONSISTENT                           360
                        A BROKEN APPOINTMENT                       362
                        “BETWEEN US NOW”                           364
                        “HOW GREAT MY GRIEF”                       366
                        “I NEED NOT GO”                            367
                        THE COQUETTE, AND AFTER                    369
                        A SPOT                                     371
                        LONG PLIGHTED                              373
                        THE WIDOW                                  375
                        AT A HASTY WEDDING                         378
                        THE DREAM-FOLLOWER                         379
                        HIS IMMORTALITY                            380
                        THE TO-BE-FORGOTTEN                        382
                        WIVES IN THE SERE                          385
                        THE SUPERSEDED                             387
                        AN AUGUST MIDNIGHT                         389
                        THE CAGED THRUSH FREED AND HOME            391
                        AGAIN
                        BIRDS AT WINTER NIGHTFALL                  393
                        THE PUZZLED GAME-BIRDS                     394
                        WINTER IN DURNOVER FIELD                   395
                        THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUM                     397
                        THE DARKLING THRUSH                        399
                        THE COMET AT YALBURY OR YELL’HAM           402
                        MAD JUDY                                   403
                        A WASTED ILLNESS                           405
                        A MAN                                      408
                        THE DAME OF ATHELHALL                      412
                        THE SEASONS OF HER YEAR                    416
                        THE MILKMAID                               418
                        THE LEVELLED CHURCHYARD                    420
                        THE RUINED MAID                            422
                        THE RESPECTABLE BURGHER ON “THE            425
                        HIGHER CRITICISM”
                        ARCHITECTURAL MASKS                        428
                        THE TENANT-FOR-LIFE                        430
                        THE KING’S EXPERIMENT                      432
                        THE TREE: AN OLD MAN’S STORY               435
                        HER LATE HUSBAND                           439
                        THE SELF-UNSEEING                          441
                        DE PROFUNDIS I.                            443
                        DE PROFUNDIS II.                           445
                        DE PROFUNDIS III.                          448
                        THE CHURCH-BUILDER                         451
                        THE LOST PYX: A MEDIÆVAL LEGEND            457
                        TESS’S LAMENT                              462
                        THE SUPPLANTER: A TALE                     465
IMITATIONS, ETC.—
                        SAPPHIC FRAGMENT                           473
                        CATULLUS: XXXI                             474
                        AFTER SCHILLER                             476
                        SONG: FROM HEINE                           477
                        FROM VICTOR HUGO                           479
                        CARDINAL BEMBO’S EPITAPH ON RAPHAEL        480
RETROSPECT—
                        “I HAVE LIVED WITH SHADES”                 483
                        MEMORY AND I                               486
                        ΑΓΝΩΣΤΩ.  ΘΕΩ                              489



V.R.  1819–1901
A REVERIE


   MOMENTS the mightiest pass uncalendared,
         And when the Absolute
      In backward Time outgave the deedful word
         Whereby all life is stirred:
   “Let one be born and throned whose mould shall constitute
   The norm of every royal-reckoned attribute,”
         No mortal knew or heard.
      But in due days the purposed Life outshone—
         Serene, sagacious, free;
      —Her waxing seasons bloomed with deeds well done,
         And the world’s heart was won . . .
   Yet may the deed of hers most bright in eyes to be
   Lie hid from ours—as in the All-One’s thought lay she—
         Till ripening years have run.

SUNDAY NIGHT,
         27_th_ _January_ 1901.



WAR POEMS


EMBARCATION
(_Southampton Docks_: _October_, 1899)


   HERE, where Vespasian’s legions struck the sands,
   And Cerdic with his Saxons entered in,
   And Henry’s army leapt afloat to win
   Convincing triumphs over neighbour lands,

   Vaster battalions press for further strands,
   To argue in the self-same bloody mode
   Which this late age of thought, and pact, and code,
   Still fails to mend.—Now deckward tramp the bands,
   Yellow as autumn leaves, alive as spring;
   And as each host draws out upon the sea
   Beyond which lies the tragical To-be,
   None dubious of the cause, none murmuring,

   Wives, sisters, parents, wave white hands and smile,
   As if they knew not that they weep the while.



DEPARTURE
(_Southampton Docks_: _October_, 1899)


   WHILE the far farewell music thins and fails,
   And the broad bottoms rip the bearing brine—
   All smalling slowly to the gray sea line—
   And each significant red smoke-shaft pales,

   Keen sense of severance everywhere prevails,
   Which shapes the late long tramp of mounting men
   To seeming words that ask and ask again:
   “How long, O striving Teutons, Slavs, and Gaels
   Must your wroth reasonings trade on lives like these,
   That are as puppets in a playing hand?—
   When shall the saner softer polities
   Whereof we dream, have play in each proud land,
   And patriotism, grown Godlike, scorn to stand
   Bondslave to realms, but circle earth and seas?”



THE COLONEL’S SOLILOQUY
(_Southampton Docks_: _October_, 1899)


   “THE quay recedes.   Hurrah!  Ahead we go! . . .
   It’s true I’ve been accustomed now to home,
   And joints get rusty, and one’s limbs may grow
      More fit to rest than roam.

   “But I can stand as yet fair stress and strain;
   There’s not a little steel beneath the rust;
   My years mount somewhat, but here’s to’t again!
      And if I fall, I must.

   “God knows that for myself I’ve scanty care;
   Past scrimmages have proved as much to all;
   In Eastern lands and South I’ve had my share
      Both of the blade and ball.

   “And where those villains ripped me in the flitch
   With their old iron in my early time,
   I’m apt at change of wind to feel a twitch,
      Or at a change of clime.

   “And what my mirror shows me in the morning
   Has more of blotch and wrinkle than of bloom;
   My eyes, too, heretofore all glasses scorning,
      Have just a touch of rheum . . .

   “Now sounds ‘The Girl I’ve left behind me,’—Ah,
   The years, the ardours, wakened by that tune!
   Time was when, with the crowd’s farewell ‘Hurrah!’
      ’Twould lift me to the moon.

   “But now it’s late to leave behind me one
   Who if, poor soul, her man goes underground,
   Will not recover as she might have done
      In days when hopes abound.

   “She’s waving from the wharfside, palely grieving,
   As down we draw . . . Her tears make little show,
   Yet now she suffers more than at my leaving
      Some twenty years ago.

   “I pray those left at home will care for her!
   I shall come back; I have before; though when
   The Girl you leave behind you is a grandmother,
      Things may not be as then.”



THE GOING OF THE BATTERY
WIVES’ LAMENT
(_November_ 2, 1899)


                                    I

   O IT was sad enough, weak enough, mad enough—
   Light in their loving as soldiers can be—
   First to risk choosing them, leave alone losing them
   Now, in far battle, beyond the South Sea! . . .

                                    II

   —Rain came down drenchingly; but we unblenchingly
   Trudged on beside them through mirk and through mire,
   They stepping steadily—only too readily!—
   Scarce as if stepping brought parting-time nigher.

                                   III

   Great guns were gleaming there, living things seeming there,
   Cloaked in their tar-cloths, upmouthed to the night;
   Wheels wet and yellow from axle to felloe,
   Throats blank of sound, but prophetic to sight.

                                    IV

   Gas-glimmers drearily, blearily, eerily
   Lit our pale faces outstretched for one kiss,
   While we stood prest to them, with a last quest to them
   Not to court perils that honour could miss.

                                    V

   Sharp were those sighs of ours, blinded these eyes of ours,
   When at last moved away under the arch
   All we loved.   Aid for them each woman prayed for them,
   Treading back slowly the track of their march.

                                    VI

   Someone said: “Nevermore will they come: evermore
   Are they now lost to us.”  O it was wrong!
   Though may be hard their ways, some Hand will guard their ways,
   Bear them through safely, in brief time or long.

                                   VII

   —Yet, voices haunting us, daunting us, taunting us,
   Hint in the night-time when life beats are low
   Other and graver things . . . Hold we to braver things,
   Wait we, in trust, what Time’s fulness shall show.



AT THE WAR OFFICE, LONDON
(_Affixing the Lists of Killed and Wounded_: _December_, 1899)


                                    I

   LAST year I called this world of gain-givings
   The darkest thinkable, and questioned sadly
   If my own land could heave its pulse less gladly,
   So charged it seemed with circumstance whence springs
      The tragedy of things.

                                    II

   Yet at that censured time no heart was rent
   Or feature blanched of parent, wife, or daughter
   By hourly blazoned sheets of listed slaughter;
   Death waited Nature’s wont; Peace smiled unshent
      From Ind to Occident.



A CHRISTMAS GHOST-STORY


   SOUTH of the Line, inland from far Durban,
   A mouldering soldier lies—your countryman.
   Awry and doubled up are his gray bones,
   And on the breeze his puzzled phantom moans
   Nightly to clear Canopus: “I would know
   By whom and when the All-Earth-gladdening Law
   Of Peace, brought in by that Man Crucified,
   Was ruled to be inept, and set aside?
   And what of logic or of truth appears
   In tacking ‘Anno Domini’ to the years?
   Near twenty-hundred livened thus have hied,
   But tarries yet the Cause for which He died.”

_Christmas-eve_, 1899.



THE DEAD DRUMMER


                                    I

   THEY throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
      Uncoffined—just as found:
   His landmark is a kopje-crest
      That breaks the veldt around;
   And foreign constellations west
      Each night above his mound.

                                    II

   Young Hodge the Drummer never knew—
      Fresh from his Wessex home—
   The meaning of the broad Karoo,
      The Bush, the dusty loam,
   And why uprose to nightly view
      Strange stars amid the gloam.

                                   III

   Yet portion of that unknown plain
      Will Hodge for ever be;
   His homely Northern breast and brain
      Grow up a Southern tree.
   And strange-eyed constellations reign
      His stars eternally.



A WIFE IN LONDON
(_December_, 1899)


                                    I
                               THE TRAGEDY

   SHE sits in the tawny vapour
         That the City lanes have uprolled,
         Behind whose webby fold on fold
   Like a waning taper
      The street-lamp glimmers cold.

   A messenger’s knock cracks smartly,
         Flashed news is in her hand
         Of meaning it dazes to understand
   Though shaped so shortly:
      _He—has fallen—in the far South Land_ . . .

                                    II
                                THE IRONY

   ’Tis the morrow; the fog hangs thicker,
         The postman nears and goes:
         A letter is brought whose lines disclose
   By the firelight flicker
      His hand, whom the worm now knows:

   Fresh—firm—penned in highest feather—
         Page-full of his hoped return,
         And of home-planned jaunts by brake and burn
   In the summer weather,
      And of new love that they would learn.



THE SOULS OF THE SLAIN


                                    I

      The thick lids of Night closed upon me
         Alone at the Bill
         Of the Isle by the Race {253}—
      Many-caverned, bald, wrinkled of face—
   And with darkness and silence the spirit was on me
         To brood and be still.

                                    II

      No wind fanned the flats of the ocean,
         Or promontory sides,
         Or the ooze by the strand,
      Or the bent-bearded slope of the land,
   Whose base took its rest amid everlong motion
         Of criss-crossing tides.

                                   III

      Soon from out of the Southward seemed nearing
         A whirr, as of wings
         Waved by mighty-vanned flies,
      Or by night-moths of measureless size,
   And in softness and smoothness well-nigh beyond hearing
         Of corporal things.

                                    IV

      And they bore to the bluff, and alighted—
         A dim-discerned train
         Of sprites without mould,
      Frameless souls none might touch or might hold—
   On the ledge by the turreted lantern, farsighted
         By men of the main.

                                    V

      And I heard them say “Home!” and I knew them
         For souls of the felled
         On the earth’s nether bord
      Under Capricorn, whither they’d warred,
   And I neared in my awe, and gave heedfulness to them
         With breathings inheld.

                                    VI

      Then, it seemed, there approached from the northward
         A senior soul-flame
         Of the like filmy hue:
      And he met them and spake: “Is it you,
   O my men?”  Said they, “Aye!  We bear homeward and hearthward
         To list to our fame!”

                                   VII

      “I’ve flown there before you,” he said then:
         “Your households are well;
         But—your kin linger less
      On your glory arid war-mightiness
   Than on dearer things.”—“Dearer?” cried these from the dead then,
         “Of what do they tell?”

                                   VIII

      “Some mothers muse sadly, and murmur
         Your doings as boys—
         Recall the quaint ways
      Of your babyhood’s innocent days.
   Some pray that, ere dying, your faith had grown firmer,
         And higher your joys.

                                    IX

      “A father broods: ‘Would I had set him
         To some humble trade,
         And so slacked his high fire,
      And his passionate martial desire;
   Had told him no stories to woo him and whet him
         To this due crusade!”

                                    X

      “And, General, how hold out our sweethearts,
         Sworn loyal as doves?”
         —“Many mourn; many think
      It is not unattractive to prink
   Them in sables for heroes.   Some fickle and fleet hearts
         Have found them new loves.”

                                    XI

      “And our wives?” quoth another resignedly,
         “Dwell they on our deeds?”
         —“Deeds of home; that live yet
      Fresh as new—deeds of fondness or fret;
   Ancient words that were kindly expressed or unkindly,
         These, these have their heeds.”

                                   XII

      —“Alas! then it seems that our glory
         Weighs less in their thought
         Than our old homely acts,
      And the long-ago commonplace facts
   Of our lives—held by us as scarce part of our story,
         And rated as nought!”

                                   XIII

      Then bitterly some: “Was it wise now
         To raise the tomb-door
         For such knowledge?  Away!”
      But the rest: “Fame we prized till to-day;
   Yet that hearts keep us green for old kindness we prize now
         A thousand times more!”

                                   XIV

      Thus speaking, the trooped apparitions
         Began to disband
         And resolve them in two:
      Those whose record was lovely and true
   Bore to northward for home: those of bitter traditions
         Again left the land,

                                    XV

      And, towering to seaward in legions,
         They paused at a spot
         Overbending the Race—
      That engulphing, ghast, sinister place—
   Whither headlong they plunged, to the fathomless regions
         Of myriads forgot.

                                   XVI

      And the spirits of those who were homing
         Passed on, rushingly,
         Like the Pentecost Wind;
      And the whirr of their wayfaring thinned
   And surceased on the sky, and but left in the gloaming
         Sea-mutterings and me.

_December_ 1899.



SONG OF THE SOLDIERS’ WIVES


                                    I

   AT last!  In sight of home again,
         Of home again;
   No more to range and roam again
      As at that bygone time?
   No more to go away from us
         And stay from us?—
   Dawn, hold not long the day from us,
      But quicken it to prime!

                                    II

   Now all the town shall ring to them,
         Shall ring to them,
   And we who love them cling to them
      And clasp them joyfully;
   And cry, “O much we’ll do for you
         Anew for you,
   Dear Loves!—aye, draw and hew for you,
      Come back from oversea.”

                                   III

   Some told us we should meet no more,
         Should meet no more;
   Should wait, and wish, but greet no more
      Your faces round our fires;
   That, in a while, uncharily
         And drearily
   Men gave their lives—even wearily,
      Like those whom living tires.

                                    IV

   And now you are nearing home again,
         Dears, home again;
   No more, may be, to roam again
      As at that bygone time,
   Which took you far away from us
         To stay from us;
   Dawn, hold not long the day from us,
      But quicken it to prime!



THE SICK GOD


                                    I

      IN days when men had joy of war,
   A God of Battles sped each mortal jar;
      The peoples pledged him heart and hand,
      From Israel’s land to isles afar.

                                    II

      His crimson form, with clang and chime,
   Flashed on each murk and murderous meeting-time,
      And kings invoked, for rape and raid,
      His fearsome aid in rune and rhyme.

                                   III

      On bruise and blood-hole, scar and seam,
   On blade and bolt, he flung his fulgid beam:
      His haloes rayed the very gore,
      And corpses wore his glory-gleam.

                                    IV

      Often an early King or Queen,
   And storied hero onward, knew his sheen;
      ’Twas glimpsed by Wolfe, by Ney anon,
      And Nelson on his blue demesne.

                                    V

      But new light spread.  That god’s gold nimb
   And blazon have waned dimmer and more dim;
      Even his flushed form begins to fade,
      Till but a shade is left of him.

                                    VI

      That modern meditation broke
   His spell, that penmen’s pleadings dealt a stroke,
      Say some; and some that crimes too dire
      Did much to mire his crimson cloak.

                                   VII

      Yea, seeds of crescive sympathy
   Were sown by those more excellent than he,
      Long known, though long contemned till then—
      The gods of men in amity.

                                   VIII

      Souls have grown seers, and thought out-brings
   The mournful many-sidedness of things
      With foes as friends, enfeebling ires
      And fury-fires by gaingivings!

                                    IX

      He scarce impassions champions now;
   They do and dare, but tensely—pale of brow;
      And would they fain uplift the arm
      Of that faint form they know not how.

                                    X

      Yet wars arise, though zest grows cold;
   Wherefore, at whiles, as ’twere in ancient mould
      He looms, bepatched with paint and lath;
      But never hath he seemed the old!

                                    XI

      Let men rejoice, let men deplore.
   The lurid Deity of heretofore
      Succumbs to one of saner nod;
      The Battle-god is god no more.



POEMS OF PILGRIMAGE


GENOA AND THE MEDITERRANEAN
(March, 1887)


      O EPIC-FAMED, god-haunted Central Sea,
      Heave careless of the deep wrong done to thee
   When from Torino’s track I saw thy face first flash on me.

      And multimarbled Genova the Proud,
      Gleam all unconscious how, wide-lipped, up-browed,
   I first beheld thee clad—not as the Beauty but the Dowd.

      Out from a deep-delved way my vision lit
      On housebacks pink, green, ochreous—where a slit
   Shoreward ’twixt row and row revealed the classic blue through it.

      And thereacross waved fishwives’ high-hung smocks,
      Chrome kerchiefs, scarlet hose, darned underfrocks;
   Since when too oft my dreams of thee, O Queen, that frippery mocks:

      Whereat I grieve, Superba! . . . Afterhours
      Within Palazzo Doria’s orange bowers
   Went far to mend these marrings of thy soul-subliming powers.

      But, Queen, such squalid undress none should see,
      Those dream-endangering eyewounds no more be
   Where lovers first behold thy form in pilgrimage to thee.



SHELLEY’S SKYLARK
(_The neighbourhood of Leghorn_: _March_, 1887)


   SOMEWHERE afield here something lies
   In Earth’s oblivious eyeless trust
   That moved a poet to prophecies—
   A pinch of unseen, unguarded dust

   The dust of the lark that Shelley heard,
   And made immortal through times to be;—
   Though it only lived like another bird,
   And knew not its immortality.

   Lived its meek life; then, one day, fell—
   A little ball of feather and bone;
   And how it perished, when piped farewell,
   And where it wastes, are alike unknown.

   Maybe it rests in the loam I view,
   Maybe it throbs in a myrtle’s green,
   Maybe it sleeps in the coming hue
   Of a grape on the slopes of yon inland scene.

   Go find it, faeries, go and find
   That tiny pinch of priceless dust,
   And bring a casket silver-lined,
   And framed of gold that gems encrust;

   And we will lay it safe therein,
   And consecrate it to endless time;
   For it inspired a bard to win
   Ecstatic heights in thought and rhyme.



IN THE OLD THEATRE, FIESOLE
(_April_, 1887)


   I TRACED the Circus whose gray stones incline
   Where Rome and dim Etruria interjoin,
   Till came a child who showed an ancient coin
   That bore the image of a Constantine.

   She lightly passed; nor did she once opine
   How, better than all books, she had raised for me
   In swift perspective Europe’s history
   Through the vast years of Cæsar’s sceptred line.

   For in my distant plot of English loam
   ’Twas but to delve, and straightway there to find
   Coins of like impress.  As with one half blind
   Whom common simples cure, her act flashed home
   In that mute moment to my opened mind
   The power, the pride, the reach of perished Rome.



ROME: ON THE PALATINE
(_April_, 1887)


   WE walked where Victor Jove was shrined awhile,
   And passed to Livia’s rich red mural show,
   Whence, thridding cave and Criptoportico,
   We gained Caligula’s dissolving pile.

   And each ranked ruin tended to beguile
   The outer sense, and shape itself as though
   It wore its marble hues, its pristine glow
   Of scenic frieze and pompous peristyle.

   When lo, swift hands, on strings nigh over-head,
   Began to melodize a waltz by Strauss:
   It stirred me as I stood, in Cæsar’s house,
   Raised the old routs Imperial lyres had led,

   And blended pulsing life with lives long done,
   Till Time seemed fiction, Past and Present one.



ROME
BUILDING A NEW STREET IN THE ANCIENT QUARTER
(_April_, 1887)


   THESE numbered cliffs and gnarls of masonry
   Outskeleton Time’s central city, Rome;
   Whereof each arch, entablature, and dome
   Lies bare in all its gaunt anatomy.

   And cracking frieze and rotten metope
   Express, as though they were an open tome
   Top-lined with caustic monitory gnome;
   “Dunces, Learn here to spell Humanity!”

   And yet within these ruins’ very shade
   The singing workmen shape and set and join
   Their frail new mansion’s stuccoed cove and quoin
   With no apparent sense that years abrade,
   Though each rent wall their feeble works invade
   Once shamed all such in power of pier and groin.



ROME
THE VATICAN—SALA DELLE MUSE
(1887)


   I SAT in the Muses’ Hall at the mid of the day,
   And it seemed to grow still, and the people to pass away,
   And the chiselled shapes to combine in a haze of sun,
   Till beside a Carrara column there gleamed forth One.

   She was nor this nor that of those beings divine,
   But each and the whole—an essence of all the Nine;
   With tentative foot she neared to my halting-place,
   A pensive smile on her sweet, small, marvellous face.

   “Regarded so long, we render thee sad?” said she.
   “Not you,” sighed I, “but my own inconstancy!
   I worship each and each; in the morning one,
   And then, alas! another at sink of sun.

   “To-day my soul clasps Form; but where is my troth
   Of yesternight with Tune: can one cleave to both?”
   —“Be not perturbed,” said she.  “Though apart in fame,
   As I and my sisters are one, those, too, are the same.

   —“But my loves go further—to Story, and Dance, and Hymn,
   The lover of all in a sun-sweep is fool to whim—
   Is swayed like a river-weed as the ripples run!”
   —“Nay, wight, thou sway’st not.  These are but phases of one;

   “And that one is I; and I am projected from thee,
   One that out of thy brain and heart thou causest to be—
   Extern to thee nothing.  Grieve not, nor thyself becall,
   Woo where thou wilt; and rejoice thou canst love at all!”



ROME
AT THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS
NEAR THE GRAVES OF SHELLEY AND KEATS
(1887)


         WHO, then, was Cestius,
         And what is he to me?—
   Amid thick thoughts and memories multitudinous
         One thought alone brings he.

         I can recall no word
         Of anything he did;
   For me he is a man who died and was interred
         To leave a pyramid

         Whose purpose was exprest
         Not with its first design,
   Nor till, far down in Time, beside it found their rest
         Two countrymen of mine.

         Cestius in life, maybe,
         Slew, breathed out threatening;
   I know not.  This I know: in death all silently
         He does a kindlier thing,

         In beckoning pilgrim feet
         With marble finger high
   To where, by shadowy wall and history-haunted street,
         Those matchless singers lie . . .

         —Say, then, he lived and died
         That stones which bear his name
   Should mark, through Time, where two immortal Shades abide;
         It is an ample fame.



LAUSANNE
IN GIBBON’S OLD GARDEN: 11–12 P.M.
_June_ 27, 1897


(_The_ 110_th_ _anniversary of the completion of the_ “_Decline and
Fall_” _at the same hour and place_)

         A SPIRIT seems to pass,
      Formal in pose, but grave and grand withal:
      He contemplates a volume stout and tall,
   And far lamps fleck him through the thin acacias.

         Anon the book is closed,
      With “It is finished!”  And at the alley’s end
      He turns, and soon on me his glances bend;
   And, as from earth, comes speech—small, muted, yet composed.

         “How fares the Truth now?—Ill?
      —Do pens but slily further her advance?
      May one not speed her but in phrase askance?
   Do scribes aver the Comic to be Reverend still?

         “Still rule those minds on earth
      At whom sage Milton’s wormwood words were hurled:
      ‘_Truth like a bastard comes into the world_
   _Never without ill-fame to him who gives her birth_’?”



ZERMATT
TO THE MATTERHORN
(_June_-_July_, 1897)


   THIRTY-TWO years since, up against the sun,
   Seven shapes, thin atomies to lower sight,
   Labouringly leapt and gained thy gabled height,
   And four lives paid for what the seven had won.

   They were the first by whom the deed was done,
   And when I look at thee, my mind takes flight
   To that day’s tragic feat of manly might,
   As though, till then, of history thou hadst none.

   Yet ages ere men topped thee, late and soon
   Thou watch’dst each night the planets lift and lower;
   Thou gleam’dst to Joshua’s pausing sun and moon,
   And brav’dst the tokening sky when Cæsar’s power
   Approached its bloody end: yea, saw’st that Noon
   When darkness filled the earth till the ninth hour.



THE BRIDGE OF LODI {290}
(_Spring_, 1887)


                                    I

   WHEN of tender mind and body
      I was moved by minstrelsy,
   And that strain “The Bridge of Lodi”
      Brought a strange delight to me.

                                    II

   In the battle-breathing jingle
      Of its forward-footing tune
   I could see the armies mingle,
      And the columns cleft and hewn

                                   III

   On that far-famed spot by Lodi
      Where Napoleon clove his way
   To his fame, when like a god he
      Bent the nations to his sway.

                                    IV

   Hence the tune came capering to me
      While I traced the Rhone and Po;
   Nor could Milan’s Marvel woo me
      From the spot englamoured so.

                                    V

   And to-day, sunlit and smiling,
      Here I stand upon the scene,
   With its saffron walls, dun tiling,
      And its meads of maiden green,

                                    VI

   Even as when the trackway thundered
      With the charge of grenadiers,
   And the blood of forty hundred
      Splashed its parapets and piers . . .

                                   VII

   Any ancient crone I’d toady
      Like a lass in young-eyed prime,
   Could she tell some tale of Lodi
      At that moving mighty time.

                                   VIII

   So, I ask the wives of Lodi
      For traditions of that day;
   But alas! not anybody
      Seems to know of such a fray.

                                    IX

   And they heed but transitory
      Marketings in cheese and meat,
   Till I judge that Lodi’s story
      Is extinct in Lodi’s street.

                                    X

   Yet while here and there they thrid them
      In their zest to sell and buy,
   Let me sit me down amid them
      And behold those thousands die . . .

                                    XI

   —Not a creature cares in Lodi
      How Napoleon swept each arch,
   Or where up and downward trod he,
      Or for his memorial March!

                                   XII

   So that wherefore should I be here,
      Watching Adda lip the lea,
   When the whole romance to see here
      Is the dream I bring with me?

                                   XIII

   And why sing “The Bridge of Lodi”
      As I sit thereon and swing,
   When none shows by smile or nod he
      Guesses why or what I sing? . . .

                                   XIV

   Since all Lodi, low and head ones,
      Seem to pass that story by,
   It may be the Lodi-bred ones
      Rate it truly, and not I.

                                    XV

   Once engrossing Bridge of Lodi,
      Is thy claim to glory gone?
   Must I pipe a palinody,
      Or be silent thereupon?

                                   XVI

   And if here, from strand to steeple,
      Be no stone to fame the fight,
   Must I say the Lodi people
      Are but viewing crime aright?

                                   XVII

   Nay; I’ll sing “The Bridge of Lodi”—
      That long-loved, romantic thing,
   Though none show by smile or nod he
      Guesses why and what I sing!



ON AN INVITATION TO THE UNITED STATES


                                    I

   MY ardours for emprize nigh lost
   Since Life has bared its bones to me,
   I shrink to seek a modern coast
   Whose riper times have yet to be;
   Where the new regions claim them free
   From that long drip of human tears
   Which peoples old in tragedy
   Have left upon the centuried years.

                                    II

   For, wonning in these ancient lands,
   Enchased and lettered as a tomb,
   And scored with prints of perished hands,
   And chronicled with dates of doom,
   Though my own Being bear no bloom
   I trace the lives such scenes enshrine,
   Give past exemplars present room,
   And their experience count as mine.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS


THE MOTHER MOURNS


   WHEN mid-autumn’s moan shook the night-time,
      And sedges were horny,
   And summer’s green wonderwork faltered
      On leaze and in lane,

   I fared Yell’ham-Firs way, where dimly
      Came wheeling around me
   Those phantoms obscure and insistent
      That shadows unchain.

   Till airs from the needle-thicks brought me
      A low lamentation,
   As ’twere of a tree-god disheartened,
      Perplexed, or in pain.

   And, heeding, it awed me to gather
      That Nature herself there
   Was breathing in aërie accents,
      With dirgeful refrain,

   Weary plaint that Mankind, in these late days,
      Had grieved her by holding
   Her ancient high fame of perfection
      In doubt and disdain . . .

   —“I had not proposed me a Creature
      (She soughed) so excelling
   All else of my kingdom in compass
      And brightness of brain

   “As to read my defects with a god-glance,
      Uncover each vestige
   Of old inadvertence, annunciate
      Each flaw and each stain!

   “My purpose went not to develop
      Such insight in Earthland;
   Such potent appraisements affront me,
      And sadden my reign!

   “Why loosened I olden control here
      To mechanize skywards,
   Undeeming great scope could outshape in
      A globe of such grain?

   “Man’s mountings of mind-sight I checked not,
      Till range of his vision
   Has topped my intent, and found blemish
      Throughout my domain.

   “He holds as inept his own soul-shell—
      My deftest achievement—
   Contemns me for fitful inventions
      Ill-timed and inane:

   “No more sees my sun as a Sanct-shape,
      My moon as the Night-queen,
   My stars as august and sublime ones
      That influences rain:

   “Reckons gross and ignoble my teaching,
      Immoral my story,
   My love-lights a lure, that my species
      May gather and gain.

   “‘Give me,’ he has said, ‘but the matter
      And means the gods lot her,
   My brain could evolve a creation
      More seemly, more sane.’

   —“If ever a naughtiness seized me
      To woo adulation
   From creatures more keen than those crude ones
      That first formed my train—

   “If inly a moment I murmured,
      ‘The simple praise sweetly,
   But sweetlier the sage’—and did rashly
      Man’s vision unrein,

   “I rue it! . . . His guileless forerunners,
      Whose brains I could blandish,
   To measure the deeps of my mysteries
      Applied them in vain.

   “From them my waste aimings and futile
      I subtly could cover;
   ‘Every best thing,’ said they, ‘to best purpose
      Her powers preordain.’—

   “No more such! . . . My species are dwindling,
      My forests grow barren,
   My popinjays fail from their tappings,
      My larks from their strain.

   “My leopardine beauties are rarer,
      My tusky ones vanish,
   My children have aped mine own slaughters
      To quicken my wane.

   “Let me grow, then, but mildews and mandrakes,
      And slimy distortions,
   Let nevermore things good and lovely
      To me appertain;

   “For Reason is rank in my temples,
      And Vision unruly,
   And chivalrous laud of my cunning
      Is heard not again!”



“I SAID TO LOVE”


         I SAID to Love,
   “It is not now as in old days
   When men adored thee and thy ways
         All else above;
   Named thee the Boy, the Bright, the One
   Who spread a heaven beneath the sun,”
         I said to Love.

         I said to him,
   “We now know more of thee than then;
   We were but weak in judgment when,
         With hearts abrim,
   We clamoured thee that thou would’st please
   Inflict on us thine agonies,”
         I said to him.

         I said to Love,
   “Thou art not young, thou art not fair,
   No faery darts, no cherub air,
         Nor swan, nor dove
   Are thine; but features pitiless,
   And iron daggers of distress,”
         I said to Love.

         “Depart then, Love! . . .
   —Man’s race shall end, dost threaten thou?
   The age to come the man of now
         Know nothing of?—
   We fear not such a threat from thee;
   We are too old in apathy!
   _Mankind shall cease_.—So let it be,”
         I said to Love.



A COMMONPLACE DAY


      THE day is turning ghost,
   And scuttles from the kalendar in fits and furtively,
      To join the anonymous host
   Of those that throng oblivion; ceding his place, maybe,
      To one of like degree.

      I part the fire-gnawed logs,
   Rake forth the embers, spoil the busy flames, and lay the ends
      Upon the shining dogs;
   Further and further from the nooks the twilight’s stride extends,
      And beamless black impends.

      Nothing of tiniest worth
   Have I wrought, pondered, planned; no one thing asking blame or
   praise,
      Since the pale corpse-like birth
   Of this diurnal unit, bearing blanks in all its rays—
      Dullest of dull-hued Days!

      Wanly upon the panes
   The rain slides as have slid since morn my colourless thoughts; and
   yet
      Here, while Day’s presence wanes,
   And over him the sepulchre-lid is slowly lowered and set,
      He wakens my regret.

      Regret—though nothing dear
   That I wot of, was toward in the wide world at his prime,
      Or bloomed elsewhere than here,
   To die with his decease, and leave a memory sweet, sublime,
      Or mark him out in Time . . .

      —Yet, maybe, in some soul,
   In some spot undiscerned on sea or land, some impulse rose,
      Or some intent upstole
   Of that enkindling ardency from whose maturer glows
      The world’s amendment flows;

      But which, benumbed at birth
   By momentary chance or wile, has missed its hope to be
      Embodied on the earth;
   And undervoicings of this loss to man’s futurity
      May wake regret in me.



AT A LUNAR ECLIPSE


   THY shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
   Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
   In even monochrome and curving line
   Of imperturbable serenity.

   How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
   With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
   That profile, placid as a brow divine,
   With continents of moil and misery?

   And can immense Mortality but throw
   So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
   Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

   Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
   Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
   Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?



THE LACKING SENSE


             SCENE.—_A sad-coloured landscape_, _Waddon Vale_

                                    I

   “O TIME, whence comes the Mother’s moody look amid her labours,
      As of one who all unwittingly has wounded where she loves?
      Why weaves she not her world-webs to according lutes and tabors,
   With nevermore this too remorseful air upon her face,
         As of angel fallen from grace?”

                                    II

   —“Her look is but her story: construe not its symbols keenly:
      In her wonderworks yea surely has she wounded where she loves.
      The sense of ills misdealt for blisses blanks the mien most
   queenly,
   Self-smitings kill self-joys; and everywhere beneath the sun
         Such deeds her hands have done.”

                                   III

   —“And how explains thy Ancient Mind her crimes upon her creatures,
      These fallings from her fair beginnings, woundings where she loves,
      Into her would-be perfect motions, modes, effects, and features
   Admitting cramps, black humours, wan decay, and baleful blights,
         Distress into delights?”

                                    IV

   —“Ah! know’st thou not her secret yet, her vainly veiled deficience,
      Whence it comes that all unwittingly she wounds the lives she
   loves?
      That sightless are those orbs of hers?—which bar to her omniscience
   Brings those fearful unfulfilments, that red ravage through her zones
         Whereat all creation groans.

                                    V

   “She whispers it in each pathetic strenuous slow endeavour,
      When in mothering she unwittingly sets wounds on what she loves;
      Yet her primal doom pursues her, faultful, fatal is she ever;
   Though so deft and nigh to vision is her facile finger-touch
         That the seers marvel much.

                                    VI

   “Deal, then, her groping skill no scorn, no note of malediction;
      Not long on thee will press the hand that hurts the lives it loves;
      And while she dares dead-reckoning on, in darkness of affliction,
   Assist her where thy creaturely dependence can or may,
         For thou art of her clay.”



TO LIFE


      O LIFE with the sad seared face,
         I weary of seeing thee,
   And thy draggled cloak, and thy hobbling pace,
         And thy too-forced pleasantry!

      I know what thou would’st tell
         Of Death, Time, Destiny—
   I have known it long, and know, too, well
         What it all means for me.

      But canst thou not array
         Thyself in rare disguise,
   And feign like truth, for one mad day,
         That Earth is Paradise?

      I’ll tune me to the mood,
         And mumm with thee till eve;
   And maybe what as interlude
         I feign, I shall believe!



DOOM AND SHE


                                    I

      THERE dwells a mighty pair—
      Slow, statuesque, intense—
      Amid the vague Immense:
   None can their chronicle declare,
      Nor why they be, nor whence.

                                    II

      Mother of all things made,
      Matchless in artistry,
      Unlit with sight is she.—
   And though her ever well-obeyed
      Vacant of feeling he.

                                   III

      The Matron mildly asks—
      A throb in every word—
      “Our clay-made creatures, lord,
   How fare they in their mortal tasks
      Upon Earth’s bounded bord?

                                    IV

      “The fate of those I bear,
      Dear lord, pray turn and view,
      And notify me true;
   Shapings that eyelessly I dare
      Maybe I would undo.

                                    V

      “Sometimes from lairs of life
      Methinks I catch a groan,
      Or multitudinous moan,
   As though I had schemed a world of strife,
      Working by touch alone.”

                                    VI

      “World-weaver!” he replies,
      “I scan all thy domain;
      But since nor joy nor pain
   Doth my clear substance recognize,
      I read thy realms in vain.

                                   VII

      “World-weaver! what _is_ Grief?
      And what are Right, and Wrong,
      And Feeling, that belong
   To creatures all who owe thee fief?
      What worse is Weak than Strong?” . . .

                                   VIII

      —Unlightened, curious, meek,
      She broods in sad surmise . . .
      —Some say they have heard her sighs
   On Alpine height or Polar peak
      When the night tempests rise.



THE PROBLEM


      SHALL we conceal the Case, or tell it—
         We who believe the evidence?
      Here and there the watch-towers knell it
         With a sullen significance,
   Heard of the few who hearken intently and carry an eagerly upstrained
   sense.

      Hearts that are happiest hold not by it;
         Better we let, then, the old view reign;
      Since there is peace in it, why decry it?
         Since there is comfort, why disdain?
   Note not the pigment the while that the painting determines humanity’s
   joy and pain!



THE SUBALTERNS


                                    I

   “POOR wanderer,” said the leaden sky,
      “I fain would lighten thee,
   But there be laws in force on high
      Which say it must not be.”

                                    II

   —“I would not freeze thee, shorn one,” cried
      The North, “knew I but how
   To warm my breath, to slack my stride;
      But I am ruled as thou.”

                                   III

   —“To-morrow I attack thee, wight,”
      Said Sickness.  “Yet I swear
   I bear thy little ark no spite,
      But am bid enter there.”

                                    IV

   —“Come hither, Son,” I heard Death say;
      “I did not will a grave
   Should end thy pilgrimage to-day,
      But I, too, am a slave!”

                                    V

   We smiled upon each other then,
      And life to me wore less
   That fell contour it wore ere when
      They owned their passiveness.



THE SLEEP-WORKER


   WHEN wilt thou wake, O Mother, wake and see—
   As one who, held in trance, has laboured long
   By vacant rote and prepossession strong—
   The coils that thou hast wrought unwittingly;

   Wherein have place, unrealized by thee,
   Fair growths, foul cankers, right enmeshed with wrong,
   Strange orchestras of victim-shriek and song,
   And curious blends of ache and ecstasy?—

   Should that morn come, and show thy opened eyes
   All that Life’s palpitating tissues feel,
   How wilt thou bear thyself in thy surprise?—

   Wilt thou destroy, in one wild shock of shame,
   Thy whole high heaving firmamental frame,
   Or patiently adjust, amend, and heal?



THE BULLFINCHES


      BROTHER Bulleys, let us sing
      From the dawn till evening!—
   For we know not that we go not
      When the day’s pale pinions fold
      Unto those who sang of old.

      When I flew to Blackmoor Vale,
      Whence the green-gowned faeries hail,
   Roosting near them I could hear them
      Speak of queenly Nature’s ways,
      Means, and moods,—well known to fays.

      All we creatures, nigh and far
      (Said they there), the Mother’s are:
   Yet she never shows endeavour
      To protect from warrings wild
      Bird or beast she calls her child.

      Busy in her handsome house
      Known as Space, she falls a-drowse;
   Yet, in seeming, works on dreaming,
      While beneath her groping hands
      Fiends make havoc in her bands.

      How her hussif’ry succeeds
      She unknows or she unheeds,
   All things making for Death’s taking!
      —So the green-gowned faeries say
      Living over Blackmoor way.

      Come then, brethren, let us sing,
      From the dawn till evening!—
   For we know not that we go not
      When the day’s pale pinions fold
      Unto those who sang of old.



GOD-FORGOTTEN


      I TOWERED far, and lo!  I stood within
      The presence of the Lord Most High,
   Sent thither by the sons of earth, to win
         Some answer to their cry.

      —“The Earth, say’st thou?  The Human race?
      By Me created?  Sad its lot?
   Nay: I have no remembrance of such place:
         Such world I fashioned not.”—

      —“O Lord, forgive me when I say
      Thou spak’st the word, and mad’st it all.”—
   “The Earth of men—let me bethink me . . . Yea!
         I dimly do recall

      “Some tiny sphere I built long back
      (Mid millions of such shapes of mine)
   So named . . . It perished, surely—not a wrack
         Remaining, or a sign?

      “It lost my interest from the first,
      My aims therefor succeeding ill;
   Haply it died of doing as it durst?”—
         “Lord, it existeth still.”—

      “Dark, then, its life!  For not a cry
      Of aught it bears do I now hear;
   Of its own act the threads were snapt whereby
         Its plaints had reached mine ear.

      “It used to ask for gifts of good,
      Till came its severance self-entailed,
   When sudden silence on that side ensued,
         And has till now prevailed.

      “All other orbs have kept in touch;
      Their voicings reach me speedily:
   Thy people took upon them overmuch
         In sundering them from me!

      “And it is strange—though sad enough—
      Earth’s race should think that one whose call
   Frames, daily, shining spheres of flawless stuff
         Must heed their tainted ball! . . .

      “But say’st thou ’tis by pangs distraught,
      And strife, and silent suffering?—
   Deep grieved am I that injury should be wrought
         Even on so poor a thing!

      “Thou should’st have learnt that _Not to Mend_
      For Me could mean but _Not to Know_:
   Hence, Messengers! and straightway put an end
         To what men undergo.” . . .

      Homing at dawn, I thought to see
      One of the Messengers standing by.
   —Oh, childish thought! . . . Yet oft it comes to me
         When trouble hovers nigh.



THE BEDRIDDEN PEASANT
TO AN UNKNOWING GOD


   MUCH wonder I—here long low-laid—
      That this dead wall should be
   Betwixt the Maker and the made,
      Between Thyself and me!

   For, say one puts a child to nurse,
      He eyes it now and then
   To know if better ’tis, or worse,
      And if it mourn, and when.

   But Thou, Lord, giv’st us men our clay
      In helpless bondage thus
   To Time and Chance, and seem’st straightway
      To think no more of us!

   That some disaster cleft Thy scheme
      And tore us wide apart,
   So that no cry can cross, I deem;
      For Thou art mild of heart,

   And would’st not shape and shut us in
      Where voice can not he heard:
   ’Tis plain Thou meant’st that we should win
      Thy succour by a word.

   Might but Thy sense flash down the skies
      Like man’s from clime to clime,
   Thou would’st not let me agonize
      Through my remaining time;

   But, seeing how much Thy creatures bear—
      Lame, starved, or maimed, or blind—
   Thou’dst heal the ills with quickest care
      Of me and all my kind.

   Then, since Thou mak’st not these things be,
      But these things dost not know,
   I’ll praise Thee as were shown to me
      The mercies Thou would’st show!



BY THE EARTH’S CORPSE


                                    I

      “O LORD, why grievest Thou?—
      Since Life has ceased to be
      Upon this globe, now cold
      As lunar land and sea,
   And humankind, and fowl, and fur
      Are gone eternally,
   All is the same to Thee as ere
      They knew mortality.”

                                    II

   “O Time,” replied the Lord,
      “Thou read’st me ill, I ween;
   Were all _the same_, I should not grieve
      At that late earthly scene,
   Now blestly past—though planned by me
      With interest close and keen!—
   Nay, nay: things now are _not_ the same
      As they have earlier been.

                                   III

      “Written indelibly
      On my eternal mind
      Are all the wrongs endured
      By Earth’s poor patient kind,
   Which my too oft unconscious hand
      Let enter undesigned.
   No god can cancel deeds foredone,
      Or thy old coils unwind!

                                    IV

      “As when, in Noë’s days,
      I whelmed the plains with sea,
      So at this last, when flesh
      And herb but fossils be,
   And, all extinct, their piteous dust
      Revolves obliviously,
   That I made Earth, and life, and man,
      It still repenteth me!”



MUTE OPINION


                                    I

   I TRAVERSED a dominion
   Whose spokesmen spake out strong
   Their purpose and opinion
   Through pulpit, press, and song.
   I scarce had means to note there
   A large-eyed few, and dumb,
   Who thought not as those thought there
   That stirred the heat and hum.

                                    II

   When, grown a Shade, beholding
   That land in lifetime trode,
   To learn if its unfolding
   Fulfilled its clamoured code,
   I saw, in web unbroken,
   Its history outwrought
   Not as the loud had spoken,
   But as the mute had thought.



TO AN UNBORN PAUPER CHILD


                                    I

      BREATHE not, hid Heart: cease silently,
      And though thy birth-hour beckons thee,
         Sleep the long sleep:
         The Doomsters heap
      Travails and teens around us here,
   And Time-wraiths turn our songsingings to fear.

                                    II

      Hark, how the peoples surge and sigh,
      And laughters fail, and greetings die:
         Hopes dwindle; yea,
         Faiths waste away,
      Affections and enthusiasms numb;
   Thou canst not mend these things if thou dost come.

                                   III

      Had I the ear of wombèd souls
      Ere their terrestrial chart unrolls,
         And thou wert free
         To cease, or be,
      Then would I tell thee all I know,
   And put it to thee: Wilt thou take Life so?

                                    IV

      Vain vow!  No hint of mine may hence
      To theeward fly: to thy locked sense
         Explain none can
         Life’s pending plan:
      Thou wilt thy ignorant entry make
   Though skies spout fire and blood and nations quake.

                                    V

      Fain would I, dear, find some shut plot
      Of earth’s wide wold for thee, where not
         One tear, one qualm,
         Should break the calm.
      But I am weak as thou and bare;
   No man can change the common lot to rare.

                                    VI

      Must come and bide.  And such are we—
      Unreasoning, sanguine, visionary—
         That I can hope
         Health, love, friends, scope
      In full for thee; can dream thou’lt find
   Joys seldom yet attained by humankind!



TO FLOWERS FROM ITALY IN WINTER


   SUNNED in the South, and here to-day;
      —If all organic things
   Be sentient, Flowers, as some men say,
      What are your ponderings?

   How can you stay, nor vanish quite
      From this bleak spot of thorn,
   And birch, and fir, and frozen white
      Expanse of the forlorn?

   Frail luckless exiles hither brought!
      Your dust will not regain
   Old sunny haunts of Classic thought
      When you shall waste and wane;

   But mix with alien earth, be lit
      With frigid Boreal flame,
   And not a sign remain in it
      To tell men whence you came.



ON A FINE MORNING


   WHENCE comes Solace?—Not from seeing
   What is doing, suffering, being,
   Not from noting Life’s conditions,
   Nor from heeding Time’s monitions;
      But in cleaving to the Dream,
      And in gazing at the gleam
      Whereby gray things golden seem.

                                    II

   Thus do I this heyday, holding
   Shadows but as lights unfolding,
   As no specious show this moment
   With its irisèd embowment;
      But as nothing other than
      Part of a benignant plan;
      Proof that earth was made for man.

_February_ 1899.



TO LIZBIE BROWNE


                                    I

   DEAR Lizbie Browne,
   Where are you now?
   In sun, in rain?—
   Or is your brow
   Past joy, past pain,
   Dear Lizbie Browne?

                                    II

   Sweet Lizbie Browne
   How you could smile,
   How you could sing!—
   How archly wile
   In glance-giving,
   Sweet Lizbie Browne!

                                   III

   And, Lizbie Browne,
   Who else had hair
   Bay-red as yours,
   Or flesh so fair
   Bred out of doors,
   Sweet Lizbie Browne?

                                    IV

   When, Lizbie Browne,
   You had just begun
   To be endeared
   By stealth to one,
   You disappeared
   My Lizbie Browne!

                                    V

   Ay, Lizbie Browne,
   So swift your life,
   And mine so slow,
   You were a wife
   Ere I could show
   Love, Lizbie Browne.

                                    VI

   Still, Lizbie Browne,
   You won, they said,
   The best of men
   When you were wed . . .
   Where went you then,
   O Lizbie Browne?

                                   VII

   Dear Lizbie Browne,
   I should have thought,
   “Girls ripen fast,”
   And coaxed and caught
   You ere you passed,
   Dear Lizbie Browne!

                                   VIII

   But, Lizbie Browne,
   I let you slip;
   Shaped not a sign;
   Touched never your lip
   With lip of mine,
   Lost Lizbie Browne!

                                    IX

   So, Lizbie Browne,
   When on a day
   Men speak of me
   As not, you’ll say,
   “And who was he?”—
   Yes, Lizbie Browne!



SONG OF HOPE


   O SWEET To-morrow!—
      After to-day
      There will away
   This sense of sorrow.
   Then let us borrow
   Hope, for a gleaming
   Soon will be streaming,
      Dimmed by no gray—
         No gray!

   While the winds wing us
      Sighs from The Gone,
      Nearer to dawn
   Minute-beats bring us;
   When there will sing us
   Larks of a glory
   Waiting our story
      Further anon—
         Anon!

   Doff the black token,
      Don the red shoon,
      Right and retune
   Viol-strings broken;
   Null the words spoken
   In speeches of rueing,
   The night cloud is hueing,
      To-morrow shines soon—
         Shines soon!



THE WELL-BELOVED


   I wayed by star and planet shine
      Towards the dear one’s home
   At Kingsbere, there to make her mine
      When the next sun upclomb.

   I edged the ancient hill and wood
      Beside the Ikling Way,
   Nigh where the Pagan temple stood
      In the world’s earlier day.

   And as I quick and quicker walked
      On gravel and on green,
   I sang to sky, and tree, or talked
      Of her I called my queen.

   —“O faultless is her dainty form,
      And luminous her mind;
   She is the God-created norm
      Of perfect womankind!”

   A shape whereon one star-blink gleamed
      Glode softly by my side,
   A woman’s; and her motion seemed
      The motion of my bride.

   And yet methought she’d drawn erstwhile
      Adown the ancient leaze,
   Where once were pile and peristyle
      For men’s idolatries.

   —“O maiden lithe and lone, what may
      Thy name and lineage be,
   Who so resemblest by this ray
      My darling?—Art thou she?”

   The Shape: “Thy bride remains within
      Her father’s grange and grove.”
   —“Thou speakest rightly,” I broke in,
      “Thou art not she I love.”

   —“Nay: though thy bride remains inside
      Her father’s walls,” said she,
   “The one most dear is with thee here,
      For thou dost love but me.”

   Then I: “But she, my only choice,
      Is now at Kingsbere Grove?”
   Again her soft mysterious voice:
      “I am thy only Love.”

   Thus still she vouched, and still I said,
      “O sprite, that cannot be!” . . .
   It was as if my bosom bled,
      So much she troubled me.

   The sprite resumed: “Thou hast transferred
      To her dull form awhile
   My beauty, fame, and deed, and word,
      My gestures and my smile.

   “O fatuous man, this truth infer,
      Brides are not what they seem;
   Thou lovest what thou dreamest her;
      I am thy very dream!”

   —“O then,” I answered miserably,
      Speaking as scarce I knew,
   “My loved one, I must wed with thee
      If what thou say’st be true!”

   She, proudly, thinning in the gloom:
      “Though, since troth-plight began,
   I’ve ever stood as bride to groom,
      I wed no mortal man!”

   Thereat she vanished by the Cross
      That, entering Kingsbere town,
   The two long lanes form, near the fosse
      Below the faneless Down.

   —When I arrived and met my bride,
      Her look was pinched and thin,
   As if her soul had shrunk and died,
      And left a waste within.



HER REPROACH


   CON the dead page as ’twere live love: press on!
   Cold wisdom’s words will ease thy track for thee;
   Aye, go; cast off sweet ways, and leave me wan
   To biting blasts that are intent on me.

   But if thy object Fame’s far summits be,
   Whose inclines many a skeleton o’erlies
   That missed both dream and substance, stop and see
   How absence wears these cheeks and dims these eyes!

   It surely is far sweeter and more wise
   To water love, than toil to leave anon
   A name whose glory-gleam will but advise
   Invidious minds to quench it with their own,

   And over which the kindliest will but stay
   A moment, musing, “He, too, had his day!”

WESTBOURNE PARK VILLAS,
         1867.



THE INCONSISTENT


   I SAY, “She was as good as fair,”
      When standing by her mound;
   “Such passing sweetness,” I declare,
      “No longer treads the ground.”
   I say, “What living Love can catch
      Her bloom and bonhomie,
   And what in newer maidens match
      Her olden warmth to me!”

   —There stands within yon vestry-nook
      Where bonded lovers sign,
   Her name upon a faded book
      With one that is not mine.
   To him she breathed the tender vow
      She once had breathed to me,
   But yet I say, “O love, even now
      Would I had died for thee!”



A BROKEN APPOINTMENT


         YOU did not come,
   And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.—
   Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
   Than that I thus found lacking in your make
   That high compassion which can overbear
   Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
   Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
         You did not come.

         You love not me,
   And love alone can lend you loyalty;
   —I know and knew it.  But, unto the store
   Of human deeds divine in all but name,
   Was it not worth a little hour or more
   To add yet this: Once, you, a woman, came
   To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
         You love not me?



“BETWEEN US NOW”


   BETWEEN us now and here—
      Two thrown together
   Who are not wont to wear
      Life’s flushest feather—
   Who see the scenes slide past,
   The daytimes dimming fast,
   Let there be truth at last,
      Even if despair.

   So thoroughly and long
      Have you now known me,
   So real in faith and strong
      Have I now shown me,
   That nothing needs disguise
   Further in any wise,
   Or asks or justifies
      A guarded tongue.

   Face unto face, then, say,
      Eyes mine own meeting,
   Is your heart far away,
      Or with mine beating?
   When false things are brought low,
   And swift things have grown slow,
   Feigning like froth shall go,
      Faith be for aye.



“HOW GREAT MY GRIEF”
(TRIOLET)


   HOW great my grief, my joys how few,
   Since first it was my fate to know thee!
   —Have the slow years not brought to view
   How great my grief, my joys how few,
   Nor memory shaped old times anew,
      Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
   How great my grief, my joys how few,
      Since first it was my fate to know thee?



“I NEED NOT GO”


   I NEED not go
   Through sleet and snow
   To where I know
   She waits for me;
   She will wait me there
   Till I find it fair,
   And have time to spare
   From company.

   When I’ve overgot
   The world somewhat,
   When things cost not
   Such stress and strain,
   Is soon enough
   By cypress sough
   To tell my Love
   I am come again.

   And if some day,
   When none cries nay,
   I still delay
   To seek her side,
   (Though ample measure
   Of fitting leisure
   Await my pleasure)
   She will riot chide.

   What—not upbraid me
   That I delayed me,
   Nor ask what stayed me
   So long?  Ah, no!—
   New cares may claim me,
   New loves inflame me,
   She will not blame me,
   But suffer it so.



THE COQUETTE, AND AFTER
(TRIOLETS)


                                    I

   FOR long the cruel wish I knew
   That your free heart should ache for me
   While mine should bear no ache for you;
   For, long—the cruel wish!—I knew
   How men can feel, and craved to view
   My triumph—fated not to be
   For long! . . . The cruel wish I knew
   That your free heart should ache for me!

                                    II

   At last one pays the penalty—
   The woman—women always do.
   My farce, I found, was tragedy
   At last!—One pays the penalty
   With interest when one, fancy-free,
   Learns love, learns shame . . . Of sinners two
   At last _one_ pays the penalty—
   The woman—women always do!



A SPOT


      IN years defaced and lost,
      Two sat here, transport-tossed,
      Lit by a living love
   The wilted world knew nothing of:
         Scared momently
         By gaingivings,
         Then hoping things
         That could not be.

      Of love and us no trace
      Abides upon the place;
      The sun and shadows wheel,
   Season and season sereward steal;
         Foul days and fair
         Here, too, prevail,
         And gust and gale
         As everywhere.

      But lonely shepherd souls
      Who bask amid these knolls
      May catch a faery sound
   On sleepy noontides from the ground:
         “O not again
         Till Earth outwears
         Shall love like theirs
         Suffuse this glen!”



LONG PLIGHTED


         IS it worth while, dear, now,
   To call for bells, and sally forth arrayed
   For marriage-rites—discussed, decried, delayed
            So many years?

         Is it worth while, dear, now,
   To stir desire for old fond purposings,
   By feints that Time still serves for dallyings,
            Though quittance nears?

         Is it worth while, dear, when
   The day being so far spent, so low the sun,
   The undone thing will soon be as the done,
         And smiles as tears?

         Is it worth while, dear, when
   Our cheeks are worn, our early brown is gray;
   When, meet or part we, none says yea or nay,
         Or heeds, or cares?

         Is it worth while, dear, since
   We still can climb old Yell’ham’s wooded mounds
   Together, as each season steals its rounds
         And disappears?

         Is it worth while, dear, since
   As mates in Mellstock churchyard we can lie,
   Till the last crash of all things low and high
         Shall end the spheres?



THE WIDOW


   BY Mellstock Lodge and Avenue
      Towards her door I went,
   And sunset on her window-panes
      Reflected our intent.

   The creeper on the gable nigh
      Was fired to more than red
   And when I came to halt thereby
      “Bright as my joy!” I said.

   Of late days it had been her aim
      To meet me in the hall;
   Now at my footsteps no one came;
      And no one to my call.

   Again I knocked; and tardily
      An inner step was heard,
   And I was shown her presence then
      With scarce an answering word.

   She met me, and but barely took
      My proffered warm embrace;
   Preoccupation weighed her look,
      And hardened her sweet face.

   “To-morrow—could you—would you call?
      Make brief your present stay?
   My child is ill—my one, my all!—
      And can’t be left to-day.”

   And then she turns, and gives commands
      As I were out of sound,
   Or were no more to her and hers
      Than any neighbour round . . .

   —As maid I wooed her; but one came
      And coaxed her heart away,
   And when in time he wedded her
      I deemed her gone for aye.

   He won, I lost her; and my loss
      I bore I know not how;
   But I do think I suffered then
      Less wretchedness than now.

   For Time, in taking him, had oped
      An unexpected door
   Of bliss for me, which grew to seem
      Far surer than before . . .

   Her word is steadfast, and I know
      That plighted firm are we:
   But she has caught new love-calls since
      She smiled as maid on me!



AT A HASTY WEDDING
(TRIOLET)


   IF hours be years the twain are blest,
   For now they solace swift desire
   By bonds of every bond the best,
   If hours be years.  The twain are blest
   Do eastern stars slope never west,
   Nor pallid ashes follow fire:
   If hours be years the twain are blest,
   For now they solace swift desire.



THE DREAM-FOLLOWER


   A DREAM of mine flew over the mead
      To the halls where my old Love reigns;
   And it drew me on to follow its lead:
      And I stood at her window-panes;

   And I saw but a thing of flesh and bone
      Speeding on to its cleft in the clay;
   And my dream was scared, and expired on a moan,
      And I whitely hastened away.



HIS IMMORTALITY


                                    I

      I SAW a dead man’s finer part
   Shining within each faithful heart
   Of those bereft.  Then said I: “This must be
         His immortality.”

                                    II

      I looked there as the seasons wore,
   And still his soul continuously upbore
   Its life in theirs.  But less its shine excelled
         Than when I first beheld.

                                   III

      His fellow-yearsmen passed, and then
   In later hearts I looked for him again;
   And found him—shrunk, alas! into a thin
         And spectral mannikin.

                                    IV

      Lastly I ask—now old and chill—
   If aught of him remain unperished still;
   And find, in me alone, a feeble spark,
         Dying amid the dark.

_February_ 1899.



THE TO-BE-FORGOTTEN


                                    I

      I HEARD a small sad sound,
   And stood awhile amid the tombs around:
   “Wherefore, old friends,” said I, “are ye distrest,
      Now, screened from life’s unrest?”

                                    II

      —“O not at being here;
   But that our future second death is drear;
   When, with the living, memory of us numbs,
      And blank oblivion comes!

                                   III

      “Those who our grandsires be
   Lie here embraced by deeper death than we;
   Nor shape nor thought of theirs canst thou descry
      With keenest backward eye.

                                    IV

      “They bide as quite forgot;
   They are as men who have existed not;
   Theirs is a loss past loss of fitful breath;
      It is the second death.

                                    V

      “We here, as yet, each day
   Are blest with dear recall; as yet, alway
   In some soul hold a loved continuance
      Of shape and voice and glance.

                                    VI

      “But what has been will be—
   First memory, then oblivion’s turbid sea;
   Like men foregone, shall we merge into those
      Whose story no one knows.

                                   VII

      “For which of us could hope
   To show in life that world-awakening scope
   Granted the few whose memory none lets die,
      But all men magnify?

                                   VIII

      “We were but Fortune’s sport;
   Things true, things lovely, things of good report
   We neither shunned nor sought . . . We see our bourne,
      And seeing it we mourn.”



WIVES IN THE SERE


                                    I

   NEVER a careworn wife but shows,
      If a joy suffuse her,
   Something beautiful to those
      Patient to peruse her,
   Some one charm the world unknows
      Precious to a muser,
   Haply what, ere years were foes,
      Moved her mate to choose her.

                                    II

   But, be it a hint of rose
      That an instant hues her,
   Or some early light or pose
      Wherewith thought renews her—
   Seen by him at full, ere woes
      Practised to abuse her—
   Sparely comes it, swiftly goes,
      Time again subdues her.



THE SUPERSEDED


                                    I

   AS newer comers crowd the fore,
      We drop behind.
   —We who have laboured long and sore
      Times out of mind,
   And keen are yet, must not regret
      To drop behind.

                                    II

   Yet there are of us some who grieve
      To go behind;
   Staunch, strenuous souls who scarce believe
      Their fires declined,
   And know none cares, remembers, spares
      Who go behind.

                                   III

   ’Tis not that we have unforetold
      The drop behind;
   We feel the new must oust the old
      In every kind;
   But yet we think, must we, must _we_,
      Too, drop behind?



AN AUGUST MIDNIGHT


                                    I

   A SHADED lamp and a waving blind,
   And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
   On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—
   A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
   While ’mid my page there idly stands
   A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .

                                    II

   Thus meet we five, in this still place,
   At this point of time, at this point in space.
   —My guests parade my new-penned ink,
   Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.
   “God’s humblest, they!” I muse.  Yet why?
   They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

MAX GATE, 1899.



THE CAGED THRUSH FREED AND HOME AGAIN
(VILLANELLE)


   “MEN know but little more than we,
   Who count us least of things terrene,
   How happy days are made to be!

   “Of such strange tidings what think ye,
   O birds in brown that peck and preen?
   Men know but little more than we!

   “When I was borne from yonder tree
   In bonds to them, I hoped to glean
   How happy days are made to be,

   “And want and wailing turned to glee;
   Alas, despite their mighty mien
   Men know but little more than we!

   “They cannot change the Frost’s decree,
   They cannot keep the skies serene;
   How happy days are made to be

   “Eludes great Man’s sagacity
   No less than ours, O tribes in treen!
   Men know but little more than we
   How happy days are made to be.”



BIRDS AT WINTER NIGHTFALL
(TRIOLET)


   AROUND the house the flakes fly faster,
   And all the berries now are gone
   From holly and cotoneaster
   Around the house.  The flakes fly!—faster
   Shutting indoors that crumb-outcaster
   We used to see upon the lawn
   Around the house.  The flakes fly faster,
   And all the berries now are gone!

MAX GATE.



THE PUZZLED GAME-BIRDS
(TRIOLET)


   THEY are not those who used to feed us
   When we were young—they cannot be—
   These shapes that now bereave and bleed us?
   They are not those who used to feed us,—
   For would they not fair terms concede us?
   —If hearts can house such treachery
   They are not those who used to feed us
   When we were young—they cannot be!



WINTER IN DURNOVER FIELD


SCENE.—A wide stretch of fallow ground recently sown with wheat, and
frozen to iron hardness.  Three large birds walking about thereon, and
wistfully eyeing the surface.  Wind keen from north-east: sky a dull
grey.

                                (TRIOLET)

   _Rook_.—Throughout the field I find no grain;
      The cruel frost encrusts the cornland!
   _Starling_.—Aye: patient pecking now is vain
      Throughout the field, I find . . .
   _Rook_.—No grain!
   _Pigeon_.—Nor will be, comrade, till it rain,
      Or genial thawings loose the lorn land
      Throughout the field.
   _Rook_.—I find no grain:
      The cruel frost encrusts the cornland!



THE LAST CHRYSANTHEMUM


   WHY should this flower delay so long
      To show its tremulous plumes?
   Now is the time of plaintive robin-song,
      When flowers are in their tombs.

   Through the slow summer, when the sun
      Called to each frond and whorl
   That all he could for flowers was being done,
      Why did it not uncurl?

   It must have felt that fervid call
      Although it took no heed,
   Waking but now, when leaves like corpses fall,
      And saps all retrocede.

   Too late its beauty, lonely thing,
      The season’s shine is spent,
   Nothing remains for it but shivering
      In tempests turbulent.

   Had it a reason for delay,
      Dreaming in witlessness
   That for a bloom so delicately gay
      Winter would stay its stress?

   —I talk as if the thing were born
      With sense to work its mind;
   Yet it is but one mask of many worn
      By the Great Face behind.



THE DARKLING THRUSH


   I LEANT upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-gray,
   And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
   The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings from broken lyres,
   And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

   The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
   His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
   The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
   And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

   At once a voice outburst among
      The bleak twigs overhead
   In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
   An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
   Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

   So little cause for carollings
      Of such ecstatic sound
   Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
   That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
   Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

_December_ 1900.



THE COMET AT YALBURY OR YELL’HAM


                                    I

   IT bends far over Yell’ham Plain,
      And we, from Yell’ham Height,
   Stand and regard its fiery train,
      So soon to swim from sight.

                                    II

   It will return long years hence, when
      As now its strange swift shine
   Will fall on Yell’ham; but not then
      On that sweet form of thine.



MAD JUDY


   WHEN the hamlet hailed a birth
      Judy used to cry:
   When she heard our christening mirth
      She would kneel and sigh.
   She was crazed, we knew, and we
   Humoured her infirmity.

   When the daughters and the sons
      Gathered them to wed,
   And we like-intending ones
      Danced till dawn was red,
   She would rock and mutter, “More
   Comers to this stony shore!”

   When old Headsman Death laid hands
      On a babe or twain,
   She would feast, and by her brands
      Sing her songs again.
   What she liked we let her do,
   Judy was insane, we knew.



A WASTED ILLNESS


         THROUGH vaults of pain,
   Enribbed and wrought with groins of ghastliness,
   I passed, and garish spectres moved my brain
         To dire distress.

         And hammerings,
   And quakes, and shoots, and stifling hotness, blent
   With webby waxing things and waning things
         As on I went.

         “Where lies the end
   To this foul way?” I asked with weakening breath.
   Thereon ahead I saw a door extend—
         The door to death.

         It loomed more clear:
   “At last!” I cried.  “The all-delivering door!”
   And then, I knew not how, it grew less near
         Than theretofore.

         And back slid I
   Along the galleries by which I came,
   And tediously the day returned, and sky,
         And life—the same.

         And all was well:
   Old circumstance resumed its former show,
   And on my head the dews of comfort fell
         As ere my woe.

         I roam anew,
   Scarce conscious of my late distress . . .  And yet
   Those backward steps through pain I cannot view
         Without regret.

         For that dire train
   Of waxing shapes and waning, passed before,
   And those grim aisles, must be traversed again
         To reach that door.



A MAN
(IN MEMORY OF H. OF M.)


                                    I

   IN Casterbridge there stood a noble pile,
   Wrought with pilaster, bay, and balustrade
   In tactful times when shrewd Eliza swayed.—
         On burgher, squire, and clown
   It smiled the long street down for near a mile

                                    II

   But evil days beset that domicile;
   The stately beauties of its roof and wall
   Passed into sordid hands.  Condemned to fall
         Were cornice, quoin, and cove,
   And all that art had wove in antique style.

                                   III

   Among the hired dismantlers entered there
   One till the moment of his task untold.
   When charged therewith he gazed, and answered bold:
         “Be needy I or no,
   I will not help lay low a house so fair!

                                    IV

   “Hunger is hard.  But since the terms be such—
   No wage, or labour stained with the disgrace
   Of wrecking what our age cannot replace
         To save its tasteless soul—
   I’ll do without your dole.  Life is not much!”

                                    V

   Dismissed with sneers he backed his tools and went,
   And wandered workless; for it seemed unwise
   To close with one who dared to criticize
         And carp on points of taste:
   To work where they were placed rude men were meant.

                                    VI

   Years whiled.  He aged, sank, sickened, and was not:
   And it was said, “A man intractable
   And curst is gone.”  None sighed to hear his knell,
         None sought his churchyard-place;
   His name, his rugged face, were soon forgot.

                                   VII

   The stones of that fair hall lie far and wide,
   And but a few recall its ancient mould;
   Yet when I pass the spot I long to hold
         As truth what fancy saith:
   “His protest lives where deathless things abide!”



THE DAME OF ATHELHALL


                                    I

   “SOUL!  Shall I see thy face,” she said,
      “In one brief hour?
   And away with thee from a loveless bed
   To a far-off sun, to a vine-wrapt bower,
   And be thine own unseparated,
      And challenge the world’s white glower?”

                                    II

   She quickened her feet, and met him where
      They had predesigned:
   And they clasped, and mounted, and cleft the air
   Upon whirling wheels; till the will to bind
   Her life with his made the moments there
      Efface the years behind.

                                   III

   Miles slid, and the sight of the port upgrew
      As they sped on;
   When slipping its bond the bracelet flew
   From her fondled arm.  Replaced anon,
   Its cameo of the abjured one drew
      Her musings thereupon.

                                    IV

   The gaud with his image once had been
      A gift from him:
   And so it was that its carving keen
   Refurbished memories wearing dim,
   Which set in her soul a throe of teen,
      And a tear on her lashes’ brim.

                                    V

   “I may not go!” she at length upspake,
      “Thoughts call me back—
   I would still lose all for your dear, dear sake;
   My heart is thine, friend!  But my track
   I home to Athelhall must take
      To hinder household wrack!”

                                    VI

   He appealed.  But they parted, weak and wan:
      And he left the shore;
   His ship diminished, was low, was gone;
   And she heard in the waves as the daytide wore,
   And read in the leer of the sun that shone,
      That they parted for evermore.

                                   VII

   She homed as she came, at the dip of eve
      On Athel Coomb
   Regaining the Hall she had sworn to leave . . .
   The house was soundless as a tomb,
   And she entered her chamber, there to grieve
      Lone, kneeling, in the gloom.

                                   VIII

   From the lawn without rose her husband’s voice
      To one his friend:
   “Another her Love, another my choice,
   Her going is good.  Our conditions mend;
   In a change of mates we shall both rejoice;
      I hoped that it thus might end!

                                    IX

   “A quick divorce; she will make him hers,
      And I wed mine.
   So Time rights all things in long, long years—
   Or rather she, by her bold design!
   I admire a woman no balk deters:
      She has blessed my life, in fine.

                                    X

   “I shall build new rooms for my new true bride,
      Let the bygone be:
   By now, no doubt, she has crossed the tide
   With the man to her mind.  Far happier she
   In some warm vineland by his side
      Than ever she was with me.”



THE SEASONS OF HER YEAR


                                    I

   WINTER is white on turf and tree,
      And birds are fled;
   But summer songsters pipe to me,
      And petals spread,
   For what I dreamt of secretly
      His lips have said!

                                    II

   O ’tis a fine May morn, they say,
      And blooms have blown;
   But wild and wintry is my day,
      My birds make moan;
   For he who vowed leaves me to pay
      Alone—alone!



THE MILKMAID


      UNDER a daisied bank
   There stands a rich red ruminating cow,
      And hard against her flank
   A cotton-hooded milkmaid bends her brow.

      The flowery river-ooze
   Upheaves and falls; the milk purrs in the pail;
      Few pilgrims but would choose
   The peace of such a life in such a vale.

      The maid breathes words—to vent,
   It seems, her sense of Nature’s scenery,
      Of whose life, sentiment,
   And essence, very part itself is she.

      She bends a glance of pain,
   And, at a moment, lets escape a tear;
      Is it that passing train,
   Whose alien whirr offends her country ear?—

      Nay!  Phyllis does not dwell
   On visual and familiar things like these;
      What moves her is the spell
   Of inner themes and inner poetries:

      Could but by Sunday morn
   Her gay new gown come, meads might dry to dun,
      Trains shriek till ears were torn,
   If Fred would not prefer that Other One.



THE LEVELLED CHURCHYARD


   “O PASSENGER, pray list and catch
      Our sighs and piteous groans,
   Half stifled in this jumbled patch
      Of wrenched memorial stones!

   “We late-lamented, resting here,
      Are mixed to human jam,
   And each to each exclaims in fear,
      ‘I know not which I am!’

   “The wicked people have annexed
      The verses on the good;
   A roaring drunkard sports the text
      Teetotal Tommy should!

   “Where we are huddled none can trace,
      And if our names remain,
   They pave some path or p-ing place
      Where we have never lain!

   “There’s not a modest maiden elf
      But dreads the final Trumpet,
   Lest half of her should rise herself,
      And half some local strumpet!

   “From restorations of Thy fane,
      From smoothings of Thy sward,
   From zealous Churchmen’s pick and plane
      Deliver us O Lord!  Amen!”

1882.



THE RUINED MAID


   “O ’Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
   Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
   And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?”—
   “O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

   —“You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
   Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
   And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!”—
   “Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

   —“At home in the barton you said ‘thee’ and ‘thou,’
   And ‘thik oon,’ and ‘theäs oon,’ and ‘t’other’; but now
   Your talking quite fits ’ee for high compa-ny!”—
   “Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

   —“Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak,
   But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
   And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!”—
   “We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

   —“You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
   And you’d sigh, and you’d sock; but at present you seem
   To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!”—
   “True.  There’s an advantage in ruin,” said she.

   —“I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
   And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!”—
   “My dear—a raw country girl, such as you be,
   Isn’t equal to that.  You ain’t ruined,” said she.

WESTBOURNE PARK VILLAS, 1866.



THE RESPECTABLE BURGHER
ON “THE HIGHER CRITICISM”


   SINCE Reverend Doctors now declare
   That clerks and people must prepare
   To doubt if Adam ever were;
   To hold the flood a local scare;
   To argue, though the stolid stare,
   That everything had happened ere
   The prophets to its happening sware;
   That David was no giant-slayer,
   Nor one to call a God-obeyer
   In certain details we could spare,
   But rather was a debonair
   Shrewd bandit, skilled as banjo-player:
   That Solomon sang the fleshly Fair,
   And gave the Church no thought whate’er;
   That Esther with her royal wear,
   And Mordecai, the son of Jair,
   And Joshua’s triumphs, Job’s despair,
   And Balaam’s ass’s bitter blare;
   Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace-flare,
   And Daniel and the den affair,
   And other stories rich and rare,
   Were writ to make old doctrine wear
   Something of a romantic air:
   That the Nain widow’s only heir,
   And Lazarus with cadaverous glare
   (As done in oils by Piombo’s care)
   Did not return from Sheol’s lair:
   That Jael set a fiendish snare,
   That Pontius Pilate acted square,
   That never a sword cut Malchus’ ear
   And (but for shame I must forbear)
   That — — did not reappear! . . .
   —Since thus they hint, nor turn a hair,
   All churchgoing will I forswear,
   And sit on Sundays in my chair,
   And read that moderate man Voltaire.



ARCHITECTURAL MASKS


                                    I

   THERE is a house with ivied walls,
   And mullioned windows worn and old,
   And the long dwellers in those halls
   Have souls that know but sordid calls,
      And daily dote on gold.

                                    II

   In blazing brick and plated show
   Not far away a “villa” gleams,
   And here a family few may know,
   With book and pencil, viol and bow,
      Lead inner lives of dreams.

                                   III

   The philosophic passers say,
   “See that old mansion mossed and fair,
   Poetic souls therein are they:
   And O that gaudy box!  Away,
      You vulgar people there.”



THE TENANT-FOR-LIFE


   THE sun said, watching my watering-pot
      “Some morn you’ll pass away;
   These flowers and plants I parch up hot—
      Who’ll water them that day?

   “Those banks and beds whose shape your eye
      Has planned in line so true,
   New hands will change, unreasoning why
      Such shape seemed best to you.

   “Within your house will strangers sit,
      And wonder how first it came;
   They’ll talk of their schemes for improving it,
      And will not mention your name.

   “They’ll care not how, or when, or at what
      You sighed, laughed, suffered here,
   Though you feel more in an hour of the spot
      Than they will feel in a year

   “As I look on at you here, now,
      Shall I look on at these;
   But as to our old times, avow
      No knowledge—hold my peace! . . .

   “O friend, it matters not, I say;
      Bethink ye, I have shined
   On nobler ones than you, and they
      Are dead men out of mind!”



THE KING’S EXPERIMENT


      IT was a wet wan hour in spring,
   And Nature met King Doom beside a lane,
   Wherein Hodge trudged, all blithely ballading
         The Mother’s smiling reign.

      “Why warbles he that skies are fair
   And coombs alight,” she cried, “and fallows gay,
   When I have placed no sunshine in the air
         Or glow on earth to-day?”

      “’Tis in the comedy of things
   That such should be,” returned the one of Doom;
   “Charge now the scene with brightest blazonings,
         And he shall call them gloom.”

      She gave the word: the sun outbroke,
   All Froomside shone, the hedgebirds raised a song;
   And later Hodge, upon the midday stroke,
         Returned the lane along,

      Low murmuring: “O this bitter scene,
   And thrice accurst horizon hung with gloom!
   How deadly like this sky, these fields, these treen,
         To trappings of the tomb!”

      The Beldame then: “The fool and blind!
   Such mad perverseness who may apprehend?”—
   “Nay; there’s no madness in it; thou shalt find
         Thy law there,” said her friend.

      “When Hodge went forth ’twas to his Love,
   To make her, ere this eve, his wedded prize,
   And Earth, despite the heaviness above,
         Was bright as Paradise.

      “But I sent on my messenger,
   With cunning arrows poisonous and keen,
   To take forthwith her laughing life from her,
         And dull her little een,

      “And white her cheek, and still her breath,
   Ere her too buoyant Hodge had reached her side;
   So, when he came, he clasped her but in death,
         And never as his bride.

      “And there’s the humour, as I said;
   Thy dreary dawn he saw as gleaming gold,
   And in thy glistening green and radiant red
         Funereal gloom and cold.”



THE TREE
AN OLD MAN’S STORY


                                    I

   Its roots are bristling in the air
   Like some mad Earth-god’s spiny hair;
   The loud south-wester’s swell and yell
   Smote it at midnight, and it fell.
      Thus ends the tree
      Where Some One sat with me.

                                    II

   Its boughs, which none but darers trod,
   A child may step on from the sod,
   And twigs that earliest met the dawn
   Are lit the last upon the lawn.
      Cart off the tree
      Beneath whose trunk sat we!

                                   III

   Yes, there we sat: she cooed content,
   And bats ringed round, and daylight went;
   The gnarl, our seat, is wrenched and sunk,
   Prone that queer pocket in the trunk
      Where lay the key
      To her pale mystery.

                                    IV

   “Years back, within this pocket-hole
   I found, my Love, a hurried scrawl
   Meant not for me,” at length said I;
   “I glanced thereat, and let it lie:
      The words were three—
      ‘_Beloved_, _I agree_.’

                                    V

   “Who placed it here; to what request
   It gave assent, I never guessed.
   Some prayer of some hot heart, no doubt,
   To some coy maiden hereabout,
      Just as, maybe,
      With you, Sweet Heart, and me.”

                                    VI

   She waited, till with quickened breath
   She spoke, as one who banisheth
   Reserves that lovecraft heeds so well,
   To ease some mighty wish to tell:
      “’Twas I,” said she,
      “Who wrote thus clinchingly.

                                   VII

   “My lover’s wife—aye, wife!—knew nought
   Of what we felt, and bore, and thought . . .
   He’d said: ‘_I wed with thee or die_:
   _She stands between_, ’_tis true_.  _But why_?
      _Do thou agree_,
      _And—she shalt cease to be_.’

                                   VIII

   “How I held back, how love supreme
   Involved me madly in his scheme
   Why should I say? . . . I wrote assent
   (You found it hid) to his intent . . .
      She—_died_ . . . But he
      Came not to wed with me.

                                    IX

   “O shrink not, Love!—Had these eyes seen
   But once thine own, such had not been!
   But we were strangers . . . Thus the plot
   Cleared passion’s path.—Why came he not
      To wed with me? . . .
      He wived the gibbet-tree.”

                                    X

   —Under that oak of heretofore
   Sat Sweetheart mine with me no more:
   By many a Fiord, and Strom, and Fleuve
   Have I since wandered . . . Soon, for love,
      Distraught went she—
      ’Twas said for love of me.



HER LATE HUSBAND
(KING’S-HINTOCK, 182–.)


   “No—not where I shall make my own;
      But dig his grave just by
   The woman’s with the initialed stone—
      As near as he can lie—
   After whose death he seemed to ail,
      Though none considered why.

   “And when I also claim a nook,
      And your feet tread me in,
   Bestow me, under my old name,
      Among my kith and kin,
   That strangers gazing may not dream
      I did a husband win.”

   “Widow, your wish shall be obeyed;
      Though, thought I, certainly
   You’d lay him where your folk are laid,
      And your grave, too, will be,
   As custom hath it; you to right,
      And on the left hand he.”

   “Aye, sexton; such the Hintock rule,
      And none has said it nay;
   But now it haps a native here
      Eschews that ancient way . . .
   And it may be, some Christmas night,
      When angels walk, they’ll say:

   “‘O strange interment!  Civilized lands
      Afford few types thereof;
   Here is a man who takes his rest
      Beside his very Love,
   Beside the one who was his wife
      In our sight up above!’”



THE SELF-UNSEEING


   HERE is the ancient floor,
   Footworn and hollowed and thin,
   Here was the former door
   Where the dead feet walked in.

   She sat here in her chair,
   Smiling into the fire;
   He who played stood there,
   Bowing it higher and higher.

   Childlike, I danced in a dream;
   Blessings emblazoned that day
   Everything glowed with a gleam;
   Yet we were looking away!



DE PROFUNDIS


I


    “Percussus sum sicut foenum, et aruit cor meum.”

                                                                 —_Ps._ ci

      WINTERTIME nighs;
   But my bereavement-pain
   It cannot bring again:
      Twice no one dies.

      Flower-petals flee;
   But, since it once hath been,
   No more that severing scene
      Can harrow me.

      Birds faint in dread:
   I shall not lose old strength
   In the lone frost’s black length:
      Strength long since fled!

      Leaves freeze to dun;
   But friends can not turn cold
   This season as of old
      For him with none.

      Tempests may scath;
   But love can not make smart
   Again this year his heart
      Who no heart hath.

      Black is night’s cope;
   But death will not appal
   One who, past doubtings all,
      Waits in unhope.


II


    “Considerabam ad dexteram, et videbam; et non erat qui cognosceret me
    . . . Non est qui requirat animam meam.”—_Ps._ cxli.

   WHEN the clouds’ swoln bosoms echo back the shouts of the many and
   strong
   That things are all as they best may be, save a few to be right ere
   long,
   And my eyes have not the vision in them to discern what to these is so
   clear,
   The blot seems straightway in me alone; one better he were not here.

   The stout upstanders say, All’s well with us: ruers have nought to
   rue!
   And what the potent say so oft, can it fail to be somewhat true?
   Breezily go they, breezily come; their dust smokes around their
   career,
   Till I think I am one horn out of due time, who has no calling here.

   Their dawns bring lusty joys, it seems; their eves exultance sweet;
   Our times are blessed times, they cry: Life shapes it as is most meet,
   And nothing is much the matter; there are many smiles to a tear;
   Then what is the matter is I, I say.  Why should such an one be here?
   . . .

   Let him to whose ears the low-voiced Best seems stilled by the clash
   of the First,
   Who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at
   the Worst,
   Who feels that delight is a delicate growth cramped by crookedness,
   custom, and fear,
   Get him up and be gone as one shaped awry; he disturbs the order here.

1895–96.

                                   III

    “Heu mihi, quia incolatus meus prolongatus est!  Habitavi cum
    habitantibus Cedar; multum incola fuit aninia mea.”—_Ps._ cxix.

   THERE have been times when I well might have passed and the ending
   have come—
   Points in my path when the dark might have stolen on me, artless,
   unrueing—
   Ere I had learnt that the world was a welter of futile doing:
   Such had been times when I well might have passed, and the ending have
   come!

   Say, on the noon when the half-sunny hours told that April was nigh,
   And I upgathered and cast forth the snow from the crocus-border,
   Fashioned and furbished the soil into a summer-seeming order,
   Glowing in gladsome faith that I quickened the year thereby.

   Or on that loneliest of eves when afar and benighted we stood,
   She who upheld me and I, in the midmost of Egdon together,
   Confident I in her watching and ward through the blackening heather,
   Deeming her matchless in might and with measureless scope endued.

   Or on that winter-wild night when, reclined by the chimney-nook quoin,
   Slowly a drowse overgat me, the smallest and feeblest of folk there,
   Weak from my baptism of pain; when at times and anon I awoke there—
   Heard of a world wheeling on, with no listing or longing to join.

   Even then! while unweeting that vision could vex or that knowledge
   could numb,
   That sweets to the mouth in the belly are bitter, and tart, and
   untoward,
   Then, on some dim-coloured scene should my briefly raised curtain have
   lowered,
   Then might the Voice that is law have said “Cease!” and the ending
   have come.

1896.



THE CHURCH-BUILDER


                                    I

   THE church flings forth a battled shade
      Over the moon-blanched sward;
   The church; my gift; whereto I paid
      My all in hand and hoard:
         Lavished my gains
         With stintless pains
      To glorify the Lord.

                                    II

   I squared the broad foundations in
      Of ashlared masonry;
   I moulded mullions thick and thin,
      Hewed fillet and ogee;
         I circleted
         Each sculptured head
      With nimb and canopy.

                                   III

   I called in many a craftsmaster
      To fix emblazoned glass,
   To figure Cross and Sepulchre
      On dossal, boss, and brass.
         My gold all spent,
         My jewels went
      To gem the cups of Mass.

                                    IV

   I borrowed deep to carve the screen
      And raise the ivoried Rood;
   I parted with my small demesne
      To make my owings good.
         Heir-looms unpriced
         I sacrificed,
      Until debt-free I stood.

                                    V

   So closed the task.  “Deathless the Creed
      Here substanced!” said my soul:
   “I heard me bidden to this deed,
      And straight obeyed the call.
         Illume this fane,
         That not in vain
      I build it, Lord of all!”

                                    VI

   But, as it chanced me, then and there
      Did dire misfortunes burst;
   My home went waste for lack of care,
      My sons rebelled and curst;
         Till I confessed
         That aims the best
      Were looking like the worst.

                                   VII

   Enkindled by my votive work
      No burning faith I find;
   The deeper thinkers sneer and smirk,
      And give my toil no mind;
         From nod and wink
         I read they think
      That I am fool and blind.

                                   VIII

   My gift to God seems futile, quite;
      The world moves as erstwhile;
   And powerful wrong on feeble right
      Tramples in olden style.
         My faith burns down,
         I see no crown;
      But Cares, and Griefs, and Guile.

                                    IX

   So now, the remedy?  Yea, this:
      I gently swing the door
   Here, of my fane—no soul to wis—
      And cross the patterned floor
         To the rood-screen
         That stands between
      The nave and inner chore.

                                    X

   The rich red windows dim the moon,
      But little light need I;
   I mount the prie-dieu, lately hewn
      From woods of rarest dye;
         Then from below
         My garment, so,
      I draw this cord, and tie

                                    XI

   One end thereof around the beam
      Midway ’twixt Cross and truss:
   I noose the nethermost extreme,
      And in ten seconds thus
         I journey hence—
         To that land whence
      No rumour reaches us.

                                   XII

   Well: Here at morn they’ll light on one
      Dangling in mockery
   Of what he spent his substance on
      Blindly and uselessly! . . .
         “He might,” they’ll say,
         “Have built, some way.
      A cheaper gallows-tree!”



THE LOST PYX
A MEDIÆVAL LEGEND {457}


   SOME say the spot is banned; that the pillar Cross-and-Hand
      Attests to a deed of hell;
   But of else than of bale is the mystic tale
      That ancient Vale-folk tell.

   Ere Cernel’s Abbey ceased hereabout there dwelt a priest,
      (In later life sub-prior
   Of the brotherhood there, whose bones are now bare
      In the field that was Cernel choir).

   One night in his cell at the foot of yon dell
      The priest heard a frequent cry:
   “Go, father, in haste to the cot on the waste,
      And shrive a man waiting to die.”

   Said the priest in a shout to the caller without,
      “The night howls, the tree-trunks bow;
   One may barely by day track so rugged a way,
      And can I then do so now?”

   No further word from the dark was heard,
      And the priest moved never a limb;
   And he slept and dreamed; till a Visage seemed
      To frown from Heaven at him.

   In a sweat he arose; and the storm shrieked shrill,
      And smote as in savage joy;
   While High-Stoy trees twanged to Bubb-Down Hill,
      And Bubb-Down to High-Stoy.

   There seemed not a holy thing in hail,
      Nor shape of light or love,
   From the Abbey north of Blackmore Vale
      To the Abbey south thereof.

   Yet he plodded thence through the dark immense,
      And with many a stumbling stride
   Through copse and briar climbed nigh and nigher
      To the cot and the sick man’s side.

   When he would have unslung the Vessels uphung
      To his arm in the steep ascent,
   He made loud moan: the Pyx was gone
      Of the Blessed Sacrament.

   Then in dolorous dread he beat his head:
      “No earthly prize or pelf
   Is the thing I’ve lost in tempest tossed,
      But the Body of Christ Himself!”

   He thought of the Visage his dream revealed,
      And turned towards whence he came,
   Hands groping the ground along foot-track and field,
      And head in a heat of shame.

   Till here on the hill, betwixt vill and vill,
      He noted a clear straight ray
   Stretching down from the sky to a spot hard by,
      Which shone with the light of day.

   And gathered around the illumined ground
      Were common beasts and rare,
   All kneeling at gaze, and in pause profound
      Attent on an object there.

   ’Twas the Pyx, unharmed ’mid the circling rows
      Of Blackmore’s hairy throng,
   Whereof were oxen, sheep, and does,
      And hares from the brakes among;

   And badgers grey, and conies keen,
      And squirrels of the tree,
   And many a member seldom seen
      Of Nature’s family.

   The ireful winds that scoured and swept
      Through coppice, clump, and dell,
   Within that holy circle slept
      Calm as in hermit’s cell.

   Then the priest bent likewise to the sod
      And thanked the Lord of Love,
   And Blessed Mary, Mother of God,
      And all the saints above.

   And turning straight with his priceless freight,
      He reached the dying one,
   Whose passing sprite had been stayed for the rite
      Without which bliss hath none.

   And when by grace the priest won place,
      And served the Abbey well,
   He reared this stone to mark where shone
      That midnight miracle.



TESS’S LAMENT


                                    I

   I WOULD that folk forgot me quite,
            Forgot me quite!
   I would that I could shrink from sight,
      And no more see the sun.
   Would it were time to say farewell,
   To claim my nook, to need my knell,
   Time for them all to stand and tell
      Of my day’s work as done.

                                    II

   Ah! dairy where I lived so long,
            I lived so long;
   Where I would rise up stanch and strong,
      And lie down hopefully.
   ’Twas there within the chimney-seat
   He watched me to the clock’s slow beat—
   Loved me, and learnt to call me sweet,
      And whispered words to me.

                                   III

   And now he’s gone; and now he’s gone; . . .
         And now he’s gone!
   The flowers we potted p’rhaps are thrown
      To rot upon the farm.
   And where we had our supper-fire
   May now grow nettle, dock, and briar,
   And all the place be mould and mire
      So cozy once and warm.

                                    IV

   And it was I who did it all,
            Who did it all;
   ’Twas I who made the blow to fall
      On him who thought no guile.
   Well, it is finished—past, and he
   Has left me to my misery,
   And I must take my Cross on me
      For wronging him awhile.

                                    V

   How gay we looked that day we wed,
         That day we wed!
   “May joy be with ye!” all o’m said
      A standing by the durn.
   I wonder what they say o’s now,
   And if they know my lot; and how
   She feels who milks my favourite cow,
      And takes my place at churn!

                                    VI

   It wears me out to think of it,
         To think of it;
   I cannot bear my fate as writ,
      I’d have my life unbe;
   Would turn my memory to a blot,
   Make every relic of me rot,
   My doings be as they were not,
      And what they’ve brought to me!



THE SUPPLANTER
A TALE


                                    I

   HE bends his travel-tarnished feet
      To where she wastes in clay:
   From day-dawn until eve he fares
      Along the wintry way;
   From day-dawn until eve repairs
      Unto her mound to pray.

                                    II

   “Are these the gravestone shapes that meet
      My forward-straining view?
   Or forms that cross a window-blind
      In circle, knot, and queue:
   Gay forms, that cross and whirl and wind
      To music throbbing through?”—

                                   III

   “The Keeper of the Field of Tombs
      Dwells by its gateway-pier;
   He celebrates with feast and dance
      His daughter’s twentieth year:
   He celebrates with wine of France
      The birthday of his dear.”—

                                    IV

   “The gates are shut when evening glooms:
      Lay down your wreath, sad wight;
   To-morrow is a time more fit
      For placing flowers aright:
   The morning is the time for it;
      Come, wake with us to-night!”—

                                    V

   He grounds his wreath, and enters in,
      And sits, and shares their cheer.—
   “I fain would foot with you, young man,
      Before all others here;
   I fain would foot it for a span
      With such a cavalier!”

                                    VI

   She coaxes, clasps, nor fails to win
      His first-unwilling hand:
   The merry music strikes its staves,
      The dancers quickly band;
   And with the damsel of the graves
      He duly takes his stand.

                                   VII

   “You dance divinely, stranger swain,
      Such grace I’ve never known.
   O longer stay!  Breathe not adieu
      And leave me here alone!
   O longer stay: to her be true
      Whose heart is all your own!”—

                                   VIII

   “I mark a phantom through the pane,
      That beckons in despair,
   Its mouth all drawn with heavy moan—
      Her to whom once I sware!”—
   “Nay; ’tis the lately carven stone
      Of some strange girl laid there!”—

                                    IX

   “I see white flowers upon the floor
      Betrodden to a clot;
   My wreath were they?”—“Nay; love me much,
      Swear you’ll forget me not!
   ’Twas but a wreath!  Full many such
      Are brought here and forgot.”

                              * * * * * * *

                                    X

   The watches of the night grow hoar,
      He rises ere the sun;
   “Now could I kill thee here!” he says,
      “For winning me from one
   Who ever in her living days
      Was pure as cloistered nun!”

                                    XI

   She cowers, and he takes his track
      Afar for many a mile,
   For evermore to be apart
      From her who could beguile
   His senses by her burning heart,
      And win his love awhile.

                                   XII

   A year: and he is travelling back
      To her who wastes in clay;
   From day-dawn until eve he fares
      Along the wintry way,
   From day-dawn until eve repairs
      Unto her mound to pray.

                                   XIII

   And there he sets him to fulfil
      His frustrate first intent:
   And lay upon her bed, at last,
      The offering earlier meant:
   When, on his stooping figure, ghast
      And haggard eyes are bent.

                                   XIV

   “O surely for a little while
      You can be kind to me!
   For do you love her, do you hate,
      She knows not—cares not she:
   Only the living feel the weight
      Of loveless misery!

                                    XV

   “I own my sin; I’ve paid its cost,
      Being outcast, shamed, and bare:
   I give you daily my whole heart,
      Your babe my tender care,
   I pour you prayers; and aye to part
      Is more than I can bear!”

                                   XVI

   He turns—unpitying, passion-tossed;
      “I know you not!” he cries,
   “Nor know your child.  I knew this maid,
      But she’s in Paradise!”
   And swiftly in the winter shade
      He breaks from her and flies.



IMITATIONS, ETC.


SAPPHIC FRAGMENT


    “Thou shalt be—Nothing.”—OMAR KHAYYÁM.

    “Tombless, with no remembrance.”—W. SHAKESPEARE.

   DEAD shalt thou lie; and nought
      Be told of thee or thought,
   For thou hast plucked not of the Muses’ tree:
      And even in Hades’ halls
      Amidst thy fellow-thralls
   No friendly shade thy shade shall company!



CATULLUS: XXXI
(After passing Sirmione, April 1887.)


   SIRMIO, thou dearest dear of strands
   That Neptune strokes in lake and sea,
   With what high joy from stranger lands
   Doth thy old friend set foot on thee!
   Yea, barely seems it true to me
   That no Bithynia holds me now,
   But calmly and assuringly
   Around me stretchest homely Thou.

   Is there a scene more sweet than when
   Our clinging cares are undercast,
   And, worn by alien moils and men,
   The long untrodden sill repassed,
   We press the pined for couch at last,
   And find a full repayment there?
   Then hail, sweet Sirmio; thou that wast,
   And art, mine own unrivalled Fair!



AFTER SCHILLER


   KNIGHT, a true sister-love
      This heart retains;
   Ask me no other love,
      That way lie pains!

   Calm must I view thee come,
      Calm see thee go;
   Tale-telling tears of thine
      I must not know!



SONG FROM HEINE


   I SCANNED her picture dreaming,
      Till each dear line and hue
   Was imaged, to my seeming,
      As if it lived anew.

   Her lips began to borrow
      Their former wondrous smile;
   Her fair eyes, faint with sorrow,
      Grew sparkling as erstwhile.

   Such tears as often ran not
      Ran then, my love, for thee;
   And O, believe I cannot
      That thou are lost to me!



FROM VICTOR HUGO


   CHILD, were I king, I’d yield my royal rule,
      My chariot, sceptre, vassal-service due,
   My crown, my porphyry-basined waters cool,
   My fleets, whereto the sea is but a pool,
      For a glance from you!

   Love, were I God, the earth and its heaving airs,
      Angels, the demons abject under me,
   Vast chaos with its teeming womby lairs,
   Time, space, all would I give—aye, upper spheres,
      For a kiss from thee!



CARDINAL BEMBO’S EPITAPH ON RAPHAEL


   HERE’S one in whom Nature feared—faint at such vying—
   Eclipse while he lived, and decease at his dying.



RETROSPECT


“I HAVE LIVED WITH SHADES”


                                    I

   I HAVE lived with shades so long,
   And talked to them so oft,
   Since forth from cot and croft
   I went mankind among,
      That sometimes they
      In their dim style
      Will pause awhile
      To hear my say;

                                    II

   And take me by the hand,
   And lead me through their rooms
   In the To-be, where Dooms
   Half-wove and shapeless stand:
      And show from there
      The dwindled dust
      And rot and rust
      Of things that were.

                                   III

   “Now turn,” spake they to me
   One day: “Look whence we came,
   And signify his name
   Who gazes thence at thee.”—
      —“Nor name nor race
      Know I, or can,”
      I said, “Of man
      So commonplace.

                                    IV

   “He moves me not at all;
   I note no ray or jot
   Of rareness in his lot,
   Or star exceptional.
      Into the dim
      Dead throngs around
      He’ll sink, nor sound
      Be left of him.”

                                    V

   “Yet,” said they, “his frail speech,
   Hath accents pitched like thine—
   Thy mould and his define
   A likeness each to each—
      But go!  Deep pain
      Alas, would be
      His name to thee,
      And told in vain!”

_Feb._ 2, 1899.



MEMORY AND I


   “O MEMORY, where is now my youth,
   Who used to say that life was truth?”

   “I saw him in a crumbled cot
      Beneath a tottering tree;
   That he as phantom lingers there
      Is only known to me.”

   “O Memory, where is now my joy,
   Who lived with me in sweet employ?”

   “I saw him in gaunt gardens lone,
      Where laughter used to be;
   That he as phantom wanders there
      Is known to none but me.”

   “O Memory, where is now my hope,
   Who charged with deeds my skill and scope?”

   “I saw her in a tomb of tomes,
      Where dreams are wont to be;
   That she as spectre haunteth there
      Is only known to me.”

   “O Memory, where is now my faith,
   One time a champion, now a wraith?”

   “I saw her in a ravaged aisle,
      Bowed down on bended knee;
   That her poor ghost outflickers there
      Is known to none but me.”

   “O Memory, where is now my love,
   That rayed me as a god above?”

   “I saw him by an ageing shape
      Where beauty used to be;
   That his fond phantom lingers there
      Is only known to me.”



ΑΓΝΩΣΤΩ.  ΘΕΩ.


   LONG have I framed weak phantasies of Thee,
      O Willer masked and dumb!
      Who makest Life become,—
   As though by labouring all-unknowingly,
      Like one whom reveries numb.

   How much of consciousness informs Thy will
      Thy biddings, as if blind,
      Of death-inducing kind,
   Nought shows to us ephemeral ones who fill
      But moments in Thy mind.

   Perhaps Thy ancient rote-restricted ways
      Thy ripening rule transcends;
      That listless effort tends
   To grow percipient with advance of days,
      And with percipience mends.

   For, in unwonted purlieus, far and nigh,
      At whiles or short or long,
      May be discerned a wrong
   Dying as of self-slaughter; whereat I
      Would raise my voice in song.



FOOTNOTES


{253}  The “Race” is the turbulent sea-area off the Bill of Portland,
where contrary tides meet.

{290}  Pronounce “Loddy.”

{457}  On a lonely table-land above the Vale of Blackmore, between
High-Stoy and Bubb-Down hills, and commanding in clear weather views that
extend from the English to the Bristol Channel, stands a pillar,
apparently mediæval, called Cross-and-Hand or Christ-in-Hand.  Among
other stories of its origin a local tradition preserves the one here
given.





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