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Title: Poems
Author: Henley, William Ernest
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" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcribed from the 1907 David Nutt edition by Diarmuid Pigott with some
additional material and proofing by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                 [Picture: Bust of William Ernest Henley]



                                  POEMS


                                   _By_

                          WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY

                                * * * * *

    _The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet_,
    _Though to itself it only live and die_.

                                                               SHAKESPEARE

                                * * * * *

                            _Tenth Impression_

                                * * * * *

                                  LONDON
                        _Published by DAVID NUTT_
                        at the Sign of the Phœnix
                               IN LONG ACRE
                                   1907

_First Edition printed January_           1898
_Second Edition printed March_            1898
_Third Edition printed September_         1898
_Fourth Edition printed January_          1900
_Fifth Edition printed December_          1901
_Sixth Impression printed August_         1903
_Seventh Impression printed               1904
February_
_Eighth Impression printed May_           1905
_Ninth Impresion printed April_           1906
_Tenth Impression printed Nov._           1907

                                * * * * *

         Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty



_TO MY WIFE_


   _Take_, _dear_, _my little sheaf of songs_,
      _For_, _old or new_,
   _All that is good in them belongs_
      _Only to you_;

   _And_, _singing as when all was young_,
      _They will recall_
   _Those others_, _lived but left unsung_—
      _The bent of all_.

                                                                   W. E. H

APRIL 1888
      SEPTEMBER 1897.



_ADVERTISEMENT_


_My friend and publisher_, _Mr. Alfred Nutt_, _asks me to introduce this
re-issue of old work in a new shape_.  _At his request_, _then_, _I have
to say that nearly all the numbers contained in the present volume are
reprinted from_ ‘_A Book of Verses_’ (1888) _and_ ‘_London Voluntaries_’
(1892–3).  _From the first of these I have removed some copies of verse
which seemed to me scarce worth keeping_; _and I have recovered for it
certain others from those publications which had made room for them_.  _I
have corrected where I could_, _added such dates as I might_, _and_, _by
re-arrangement and revision_, _done my best to give my book_, _such as it
is_, _its final form_.  _If any be displeased by the result_, _I can but
submit that my verses are my own_, _and that this is how I would have
them read_.

_The work of revision has reminded me that_, _small as is this book of
mine_, _it is all in the matter of verse that I have to show for the
years between_ 1872 _and_ 1897.  _A principal reason is that_, _after
spending the better part of my life in the pursuit of poetry_, _I found
myself_ (_about_ 1877) _so utterly unmarketable that I had to own myself
beaten in art_, _and to addict myself to journalism for the next ten
years_.  _Came the production by my old friend_, _Mr. H. B. Donkin_, _in
his little collection of_ ‘_Voluntaries_’ (1888), _compiled for that
East-End Hospital to which he has devoted so much time and energy and
skill_, _of those unrhyming rhythms in which I had tried to
quintessentialize_, _as_ (_I believe_) _one scarce can do in rhyme_, _my
impressions of the Old Edinburgh Infirmary_.  _They had long __since been
rejected by every editor of standing in London—I had well-nigh said in
the world_; _but as soon as Mr. Nutt had read them_, _he entreated me to
look for more_.  _I did as I was told_; _old dusty sheaves were dragged
to light_; _the work of selection and correction was begun_; _I burned
much_; _I found that_, _after all_, _the lyrical instinct had slept—not
died_; _I ventured_ (_in brief_) ‘_A Book of Verses_.’  _It was received
with so much interest that I took heart once more_, _and wrote the
numbers presently reprinted from_ ‘_The National Observer_’ _in the
collection first_ (1892) _called_ ‘_The Song of the Sword_’ _and
afterwards_ (1893), ‘_London voluntaries_.’  _If I have said nothing
since_, _it is that I have nothing to say which is not_, _as yet_, _too
personal—too personal and too a afflicting—for utterance_.

_For the matter of my book_, _it is there to speak for itself_:—

    ‘_Here’s a sigh to those who love me_
    _And a smile to those who hate_.’

_I refer to it for the simple pleasure of reflecting that it has made me
many friends and some enemies_.

                                                                _W. E. H._

_Muswell Hill_, 4_th_ _September_ 1897.



CONTENTS

                           IN HOSPITAL
                                                              PAGE
          I.  Enter Patient                                      3
         II.  Waiting                                            4
        III.  Interior                                           5
         IV.  Before                                             6
          V.  Operation                                          7
         VI.  After                                              9
        VII.  Vigil                                             10
       VIII.  Staff-Nurse: Old Style                            13
         IX.  Lady Probationer                                  14
          X.  Staff-Nurse: New Style                            15
         XI.  Clinical                                          16
        XII.  Etching                                           19
       XIII.  Casualty                                          21
        XIV.  Ave, Caeser!                                      23
         XV.  ‘The Chief’                                       24
        XVI.  House-Surgeon                                     25
       XVII.  Interlude                                         26
      XVIII.  Children: Private Ward                            28
        XIX.  Srcubber                                          29
         XX.  Visitor                                           30
        XXI.  Romance                                           31
       XXII.  Pastoral                                          33
      XXIII.  Music                                             35
       XXIV.  Suicide                                           37
        XXV.  Apparition                                        39
       XXVI.  Anterotics                                        40
      XXVII.  Nocturn                                           41
     XXVIII.  Discharged                                        42
ENVOY                                                           44
THE SONG OF THE SWORD                                           47
ARABIAN NIGHTS’ ENTERTAINMENTS                                  57
                           BRIC-À-BRAC
Ballade of the Toyokuni Colour-Print                            79
Ballade of Youth and Age                                        81
Ballade of Midsummer Days and Nights                            83
Ballade of Dead Actors                                          85
Ballade Made in the Hot Weather                                 87
Ballade of Truisms                                              89
Double Ballade of Life and Death                                91
Double Ballade of the Nothingness of Things                     94
At Queensferry                                                  98
Orientale                                                       99
In Fisherrow                                                   100
Back-View                                                      101
_Croquis_                                                      102
Attadale, West Highlands                                       103
From a Window in Princes Street                                104
In the Dials                                                   105
The gods are dead                                              106
Let us be drunk                                                107
When you are old                                               108
Beside the idle summer sea                                     109
The ways of Death are soothing and serene                      110
We shall surely die                                            111
What is to come                                                112
                              ECHOES
          I.  To my mother                                     115
         II.  Life is bitter                                   117
        III.  O, gather me the rose                            118
         IV.  Out of the night that covers me                  119
          V.  I am the Reaper                                  120
         VI.  Praise the generous gods                         122
        VII.  Fill a glass with golden wine                    123
       VIII.  We’ll go no more a-roving                        124
         IX.  Madam Life’s a piece in bloom                    126
          X.  The sea is full of wandering foam                127
         XI.  Thick is the darkness                            128
        XII.  To me at my fifth-floor window                   129
       XIII.  Bring her again, O western wind                  130
        XIV.  The wan sun westers, faint and slow              131
         XV.  There is a wheel inside my head                  133
        XVI.  While the west is paling                         134
       XVII.  The sands are alive with sunshine                135
      XVIII.  The nightingale has a lyre of gold               136
        XIX.  Your heart has trembled to my tongue             137
         XX.  The surges gushed and sounded                    138
        XXI.  We flash across the level                        139
       XXII.  The West a glimmering lake of light              140
      XXIII.  The skies are strown with stars                  142
       XXIV.  The full sea rolls and thunders                  143
        XXV.  In the year that’s come and gone                 144
       XXVI.  In the placid summer midnight                    146
      XXVII.  She sauntered by the swinging seas               148
     XXVIII.  Blithe dreams arise to greet us                  149
       XXIX.  A child                                          152
        XXX.  Kate-A-Whimsies, John-a-Dreams                   154
       XXXI.  O, have you blessed, behind the stars            155
      XXXII.  O, Falmouth is a fine town                       156
     XXXIII.  The ways are green                               158
      XXXIV.  Life in her creaking shoes                       169
       XXXV.  A late lark twitters from the quiet skies        161
      XXXVI.  I gave my heart to a woman                       163
     XXXVII.  Or ever the knightly years were gone             164
    XXXVIII.  On the way to Kew                                166
      XXXIX.  The past was goodly once                         168
         XL.  The spring, my dear                              169
        XLI.  The Spirit of Wine                               170
       XLII.  A Wink from Hesper                               172
      XLIII.  Friends. . . old friends                         173
       XLIV.  If it should come to be                          175
        XLV.  From the brake the Nightingale                   179
       XLVI.  In the waste hour                                178
      XLVII.  Crosses and troubles                             181
                        LONDON VOLUNTARIES
          I.  _Grave_                                          185
         II.  _Andante con Moto_                               187
        III.  _Scherzando_                                     192
         IV.  _Largo e Mesto_                                  186
          V.  _Allegro Maëstoso_                               200
                        RHYMES AND RHYTHMS
PROLOGUE                                                       207
          I.  Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade             209
         II.  We are the Choice of the Will                    211
        III.  A desolate shore                                 214
         IV.  It came with the threat of a waning moon         216
          V.  Why, my heart, do we love her so?                217
         VI.  One with the ruined sunset                       218
        VII.  There’s a regret                                 219
       VIII.  Time and the Earth                               221
         IX.  As like the Woman as you can                     223
          X.  Midsummer midnight skies                         225
         XI.  Gulls in an aery morrice                         227
        XII.  Some starlit garden grey with dew                228
       XIII.  Under a stagnant sky                             229
        XIV.  Fresh from his fastnesses                        231
         XV.  You played and sang a snatch of song             233
        XVI.  Space and dread and the dark                     234
       XVII.  Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Crook               236
      XVIII.  When you wake in your crib                       239
        XIX.  O, Time and Change                               242
         XX.  The shadow of Dawn                               243
        XXI.  When the wind storms by with a shout             244
       XXII.  Trees and the menace of night                    245
      XXIII.  Here they trysted, here they strayed             247
       XXIV.  Not to the staring Day                           249
        XXV.  What have I done for you                         251
EPILOGUE                                                       256



IN HOSPITAL


         _On ne saurait dire à quel point un homme_, _seul dans son_
                    _lit et malade_, _devient personnel_.—

                                   BALZAC.



I
ENTER PATIENT


   THE morning mists still haunt the stony street;
   The northern summer air is shrill and cold;
   And lo, the Hospital, grey, quiet, old,
   Where Life and Death like friendly chafferers meet.
   Thro’ the loud spaciousness and draughty gloom
   A small, strange child—so agèd yet so young!—
   Her little arm besplinted and beslung,
   Precedes me gravely to the waiting-room.
   I limp behind, my confidence all gone.
   The grey-haired soldier-porter waves me on,
   And on I crawl, and still my spirits fail:
   A tragic meanness seems so to environ
   These corridors and stairs of stone and iron,
   Cold, naked, clean—half-workhouse and half-jail.



II
WAITING


   A SQUARE, squat room (a cellar on promotion),
      Drab to the soul, drab to the very daylight;
      Plasters astray in unnatural-looking tinware;
      Scissors and lint and apothecary’s jars.

   Here, on a bench a skeleton would writhe from,
      Angry and sore, I wait to be admitted:
      Wait till my heart is lead upon my stomach,
      While at their ease two dressers do their chores.

   One has a probe—it feels to me a crowbar.
      A small boy sniffs and shudders after bluestone.
      A poor old tramp explains his poor old ulcers.
      Life is (I think) a blunder and a shame.



III
INTERIOR


         THE gaunt brown walls
   Look infinite in their decent meanness.
   There is nothing of home in the noisy kettle,
         The fulsome fire.

         The atmosphere
   Suggests the trail of a ghostly druggist.
   Dressings and lint on the long, lean table—
         Whom are they for?

         The patients yawn,
   Or lie as in training for shroud and coffin.
   A nurse in the corridor scolds and wrangles.
         It’s grim and strange.

         Far footfalls clank.
   The bad burn waits with his head unbandaged.
   My neighbour chokes in the clutch of chloral . . .
         O, a gruesome world!



IV
BEFORE


   BEHOLD me waiting—waiting for the knife.
   A little while, and at a leap I storm
   The thick, sweet mystery of chloroform,
   The drunken dark, the little death-in-life.
   The gods are good to me: I have no wife,
   No innocent child, to think of as I near
   The fateful minute; nothing all-too dear
   Unmans me for my bout of passive strife.
   Yet am I tremulous and a trifle sick,
   And, face to face with chance, I shrink a little:
   My hopes are strong, my will is something weak.
   Here comes the basket?  Thank you.  I am ready.
   But, gentlemen my porters, life is brittle:
   You carry Cæsar and his fortunes—steady!



V
OPERATION


   YOU are carried in a basket,
      Like a carcase from the shambles,
      To the theatre, a cockpit
      Where they stretch you on a table.

   Then they bid you close your eyelids,
      And they mask you with a napkin,
      And the anæsthetic reaches
      Hot and subtle through your being.

   And you gasp and reel and shudder
      In a rushing, swaying rapture,
      While the voices at your elbow
      Fade—receding—fainter—farther.

   Lights about you shower and tumble,
      And your blood seems crystallising—
      Edged and vibrant, yet within you
      Racked and hurried back and forward.

   Then the lights grow fast and furious,
      And you hear a noise of waters,
      And you wrestle, blind and dizzy,
      In an agony of effort,

   Till a sudden lull accepts you,
      And you sound an utter darkness . . .
      And awaken . . . with a struggle . . .
      On a hushed, attentive audience.



VI
AFTER


   LIKE as a flamelet blanketed in smoke,
   So through the anæsthetic shows my life;
   So flashes and so fades my thought, at strife
   With the strong stupor that I heave and choke
   And sicken at, it is so foully sweet.
   Faces look strange from space—and disappear.
   Far voices, sudden loud, offend my ear—
   And hush as sudden.  Then my senses fleet:
   All were a blank, save for this dull, new pain
   That grinds my leg and foot; and brokenly
   Time and the place glimpse on to me again;
   And, unsurprised, out of uncertainty,
   I wake—relapsing—somewhat faint and fain,
   To an immense, complacent dreamery.



VII
VIGIL


   LIVED on one’s back,
   In the long hours of repose,
   Life is a practical nightmare—
   Hideous asleep or awake.

   Shoulders and loins
   Ache - - - !
   Ache, and the mattress,
   Run into boulders and hummocks,
   Glows like a kiln, while the bedclothes—
   Tumbling, importunate, daft—
   Ramble and roll, and the gas,
   Screwed to its lowermost,
   An inevitable atom of light,
   Haunts, and a stertorous sleeper
   Snores me to hate and despair.

   All the old time
   Surges malignant before me;
   Old voices, old kisses, old songs
   Blossom derisive about me;
   While the new days
   Pass me in endless procession:
   A pageant of shadows
   Silently, leeringly wending
   On . . . and still on . . . still on!

   Far in the stillness a cat
   Languishes loudly.  A cinder
   Falls, and the shadows
   Lurch to the leap of the flame.  The next man to me
   Turns with a moan; and the snorer,
   The drug like a rope at his throat,
   Gasps, gurgles, snorts himself free, as the night-nurse,
   Noiseless and strange,
   Her bull’s eye half-lanterned in apron,
   (Whispering me, ‘Are ye no sleepin’ yet?’),
   Passes, list-slippered and peering,
   Round . . . and is gone.

   Sleep comes at last—
   Sleep full of dreams and misgivings—
   Broken with brutal and sordid
   Voices and sounds that impose on me,
   Ere I can wake to it,
   The unnatural, intolerable day.



VIII
STAFF-NURSE: OLD STYLE


   THE greater masters of the commonplace,
   REMBRANDT and good SIR WALTER—only these
   Could paint her all to you: experienced ease
   And antique liveliness and ponderous grace;
   The sweet old roses of her sunken face;
   The depth and malice of her sly, grey eyes;
   The broad Scots tongue that flatters, scolds, defies;
   The thick Scots wit that fells you like a mace.
   These thirty years has she been nursing here,
   Some of them under SYME, her hero still.
   Much is she worth, and even more is made of her.
   Patients and students hold her very dear.
   The doctors love her, tease her, use her skill.
   They say ‘The Chief’ himself is half-afraid of her.



IX
LADY-PROBATIONER


   SOME three, or five, or seven, and thirty years;
   A Roman nose; a dimpling double-chin;
   Dark eyes and shy that, ignorant of sin,
   Are yet acquainted, it would seem, with tears;
   A comely shape; a slim, high-coloured hand,
   Graced, rather oddly, with a signet ring;
   A bashful air, becoming everything;
   A well-bred silence always at command.
   Her plain print gown, prim cap, and bright steel chain
   Look out of place on her, and I remain
   Absorbed in her, as in a pleasant mystery.
   Quick, skilful, quiet, soft in speech and touch . . .
   ‘Do you like nursing?’  ‘Yes, Sir, very much.’
   Somehow, I rather think she has a history.



X
STAFF-NURSE: NEW STYLE


   BLUE-EYED and bright of face but waning fast
   Into the sere of virginal decay,
   I view her as she enters, day by day,
   As a sweet sunset almost overpast.
   Kindly and calm, patrician to the last,
   Superbly falls her gown of sober gray,
   And on her chignon’s elegant array
   The plainest cap is somehow touched with caste.
   She talks BEETHOVEN; frowns disapprobation
   At BALZAC’S name, sighs it at ‘poor GEORGE SAND’S’;
   Knows that she has exceeding pretty hands;
   Speaks Latin with a right accentuation;
   And gives at need (as one who understands)
   Draught, counsel, diagnosis, exhortation.



XI
CLINICAL


   HIST? . . .
   Through the corridor’s echoes,
   Louder and nearer
   Comes a great shuffling of feet.
   Quick, every one of you,
   Strighten your quilts, and be decent!
   Here’s the Professor.

   In he comes first
   With the bright look we know,
   From the broad, white brows the kind eyes
   Soothing yet nerving you.  Here at his elbow,
   White-capped, white-aproned, the Nurse,
   Towel on arm and her inkstand
   Fretful with quills.
   Here in the ruck, anyhow,
   Surging along,
   Louts, duffers, exquisites, students, and prigs—
   Whiskers and foreheads, scarf-pins and spectacles—
   Hustles the Class!  And they ring themselves
   Round the first bed, where the Chief
   (His dressers and clerks at attention),
   Bends in inspection already.

   So shows the ring
   Seen from behind round a conjurer
   Doing his pitch in the street.
   High shoulders, low shoulders, broad shoulders, narrow ones,
   Round, square, and angular, serry and shove;
   While from within a voice,
   Gravely and weightily fluent,
   Sounds; and then ceases; and suddenly
   (Look at the stress of the shoulders!)
   Out of a quiver of silence,
   Over the hiss of the spray,
   Comes a low cry, and the sound
   Of breath quick intaken through teeth
   Clenched in resolve.  And the Master
   Breaks from the crowd, and goes,
   Wiping his hands,
   To the next bed, with his pupils
   Flocking and whispering behind him.

   Now one can see.
   Case Number One
   Sits (rather pale) with his bedclothes
   Stripped up, and showing his foot
   (Alas for God’s Image!)
   Swaddled in wet, white lint
   Brilliantly hideous with red.



XII
ETCHING


   TWO and thirty is the ploughman.
   He’s a man of gallant inches,
   And his hair is close and curly,
         And his beard;
   But his face is wan and sunken,
   And his eyes are large and brilliant,
   And his shoulder-blades are sharp,
         And his knees.

   He is weak of wits, religious,
   Full of sentiment and yearning,
   Gentle, faded—with a cough
         And a snore.
   When his wife (who was a widow,
   And is many years his elder)
   Fails to write, and that is always,
         He desponds.

   Let his melancholy wander,
   And he’ll tell you pretty stories
   Of the women that have wooed him
         Long ago;
   Or he’ll sing of bonnie lasses
   Keeping sheep among the heather,
   With a crackling, hackling click
         In his voice.



XIII
CASUALTY


   AS with varnish red and glistening
      Dripped his hair; his feet looked rigid;
      Raised, he settled stiffly sideways:
      You could see his hurts were spinal.

   He had fallen from an engine,
      And been dragged along the metals.
      It was hopeless, and they knew it;
      So they covered him, and left him.

   As he lay, by fits half sentient,
      Inarticulately moaning,
      With his stockinged soles protruded
      Stark and awkward from the blankets,

   To his bed there came a woman,
      Stood and looked and sighed a little,
      And departed without speaking,
      As himself a few hours after.

   I was told it was his sweetheart.
      They were on the eve of marriage.
      She was quiet as a statue,
      But her lip was grey and writhen.



XIV
AVE CAESER!


   FROM the winter’s grey despair,
   From the summer’s golden languor,
   Death, the lover of Life,
   Frees us for ever.

   Inevitable, silent, unseen,
   Everywhere always,
   Shadow by night and as light in the day,
   Signs she at last to her chosen;
   And, as she waves them forth,
   Sorrow and Joy
   Lay by their looks and their voices,
   Set down their hopes, and are made
   One in the dim Forever.

   Into the winter’s grey delight,
   Into the summer’s golden dream,
   Holy and high and impartial,
   Death, the mother of Life,
   Mingles all men for ever.



XV
‘THE CHIEF’


   HIS brow spreads large and placid, and his eye
   Is deep and bright, with steady looks that still.
   Soft lines of tranquil thought his face fulfill—
   His face at once benign and proud and shy.
   If envy scout, if ignorance deny,
   His faultless patience, his unyielding will,
   Beautiful gentleness and splendid skill,
   Innumerable gratitudes reply.
   His wise, rare smile is sweet with certainties,
   And seems in all his patients to compel
   Such love and faith as failure cannot quell.
   We hold him for another Herakles,
   Battling with custom, prejudice, disease,
   As once the son of Zeus with Death and Hell.



XVI
HOUSE-SURGEON


   EXCEEDING tall, but built so well his height
   Half-disappears in flow of chest and limb;
   Moustache and whisker trooper-like in trim;
   Frank-faced, frank-eyed, frank-hearted; always bright
   And always punctual—morning, noon, and night;
   Bland as a Jesuit, sober as a hymn;
   Humorous, and yet without a touch of whim;
   Gentle and amiable, yet full of fight.
   His piety, though fresh and true in strain,
   Has not yet whitewashed up his common mood
   To the dead blank of his particular Schism.
   Sweet, unaggressive, tolerant, most humane,
   Wild artists like his kindly elderhood,
   And cultivate his mild Philistinism.



XVII
INTERLUDE


   O, THE fun, the fun and frolic
      That _The Wind that Shakes the Barley_
      Scatters through a penny-whistle
      Tickled with artistic fingers!

   Kate the scrubber (forty summers,
      Stout but sportive) treads a measure,
      Grinning, in herself a ballet,
      Fixed as fate upon her audience.

   Stumps are shaking, crutch-supported;
      Splinted fingers tap the rhythm;
      And a head all helmed with plasters
      Wags a measured approbation.

   Of their mattress-life oblivious,
      All the patients, brisk and cheerful,
      Are encouraging the dancer,
      And applauding the musician.

   Dim the gas-lights in the output
      Of so many ardent smokers,
      Full of shadow lurch the corners,
      And the doctor peeps and passes.

   There are, maybe, some suspicions
      Of an alcoholic presence . . .
      ‘Tak’ a sup of this, my wumman!’ . . .
      New Year comes but once a twelvemonth.



XVIII
CHILDREN: PRIVATE WARD


   HERE in this dim, dull, double-bedded room,
   I play the father to a brace of boys,
   Ailing but apt for every sort of noise,
   Bedfast but brilliant yet with health and bloom.
   Roden, the Irishman, is ‘sieven past,’
   Blue-eyed, snub-nosed, chubby, and fair of face.
   Willie’s but six, and seems to like the place,
   A cheerful little collier to the last.
   They eat, and laugh, and sing, and fight, all day;
   All night they sleep like dormice.  See them play
   At Operations:—Roden, the Professor,
   Saws, lectures, takes the artery up, and ties;
   Willie, self-chloroformed, with half-shut eyes,
   Holding the limb and moaning—Case and Dresser.



XIX
SCRUBBER


   SHE’S tall and gaunt, and in her hard, sad face
   With flashes of the old fun’s animation
   There lowers the fixed and peevish resignation
   Bred of a past where troubles came apace.
   She tells me that her husband, ere he died,
   Saw seven of their children pass away,
   And never knew the little lass at play
   Out on the green, in whom he’s deified.
   Her kin dispersed, her friends forgot and gone,
   All simple faith her honest Irish mind,
   Scolding her spoiled young saint, she labours on:
   Telling her dreams, taking her patients’ part,
   Trailing her coat sometimes: and you shall find
   No rougher, quainter speech, nor kinder heart.



XX
VISITOR


   HER little face is like a walnut shell
   With wrinkling lines; her soft, white hair adorns
   Her withered brows in quaint, straight curls, like horns;
   And all about her clings an old, sweet smell.
   Prim is her gown and quakerlike her shawl.
   Well might her bonnets have been born on her.
   Can you conceive a Fairy Godmother
   The subject of a strong religious call?
   In snow or shine, from bed to bed she runs,
   All twinkling smiles and texts and pious tales,
   Her mittened hands, that ever give or pray,
   Bearing a sheaf of tracts, a bag of buns:
   A wee old maid that sweeps the Bridegroom’s way,
   Strong in a cheerful trust that never fails.



XXI
ROMANCE


   ‘TALK of pluck!’ pursued the Sailor,
      Set at euchre on his elbow,
      ‘I was on the wharf at Charleston,
      Just ashore from off the runner.

   ‘It was grey and dirty weather,
      And I heard a drum go rolling,
      Rub-a-dubbing in the distance,
      Awful dour-like and defiant.

   ‘In and out among the cotton,
      Mud, and chains, and stores, and anchors,
      Tramped a squad of battered scarecrows—
      Poor old Dixie’s bottom dollar!

   ‘Some had shoes, but all had rifles,
      Them that wasn’t bald was beardless,
      And the drum was rolling _Dixie_,
      And they stepped to it like men, sir!

   ‘Rags and tatters, belts and bayonets,
      On they swung, the drum a-rolling,
      Mum and sour.  It looked like fighting,
      And they meant it too, by thunder!’



XXII
PASTORAL


   IT’S the Spring.
   Earth has conceived, and her bosom,
   Teeming with summer, is glad.

   Vistas of change and adventure,
   Thro’ the green land
   The grey roads go beckoning and winding,
   Peopled with wains, and melodious
   With harness-bells jangling:
   Jangling and twangling rough rhythms
   To the slow march of the stately, great horses
   Whistled and shouted along.

   White fleets of cloud,
   Argosies heavy with fruitfulness,
   Sail the blue peacefully.  Green flame the hedgerows.
   Blackbirds are bugling, and white in wet winds
   Sway the tall poplars.
   Pageants of colour and fragrance,
   Pass the sweet meadows, and viewless
   Walks the mild spirit of May,
   Visibly blessing the world.

   O, the brilliance of blossoming orchards!
   O, the savour and thrill of the woods,
   When their leafage is stirred
   By the flight of the Angel of Rain!
   Loud lows the steer; in the fallows
   Rooks are alert; and the brooks
   Gurgle and tinkle and trill.  Thro’ the gloamings,
   Under the rare, shy stars,
   Boy and girl wander,
   Dreaming in darkness and dew.

   It’s the Spring.
   A sprightliness feeble and squalid
   Wakes in the ward, and I sicken,
   Impotent, winter at heart.



XXIII
MUSIC


   DOWN the quiet eve,
   Thro’ my window with the sunset
   Pipes to me a distant organ
   Foolish ditties;

   And, as when you change
   Pictures in a magic lantern,
   Books, beds, bottles, floor, and ceiling
   Fade and vanish,

   And I’m well once more . . .
   August flares adust and torrid,
   But my heart is full of April
   Sap and sweetness.

   In the quiet eve
   I am loitering, longing, dreaming . . .
   Dreaming, and a distant organ
   Pipes me ditties.

   I can see the shop,
   I can smell the sprinkled pavement,
   Where she serves—her chestnut chignon
   Thrills my senses!

   O, the sight and scent,
   Wistful eve and perfumed pavement!
   In the distance pipes an organ . . .
   The sensation

   Comes to me anew,
   And my spirit for a moment
   Thro’ the music breathes the blessèd
   Airs of London.



XXIV
SUICIDE


   STARING corpselike at the ceiling,
      See his harsh, unrazored features,
      Ghastly brown against the pillow,
      And his throat—so strangely bandaged!

   Lack of work and lack of victuals,
      A debauch of smuggled whisky,
      And his children in the workhouse
      Made the world so black a riddle

   That he plunged for a solution;
      And, although his knife was edgeless,
      He was sinking fast towards one,
      When they came, and found, and saved him.

   Stupid now with shame and sorrow,
      In the night I hear him sobbing.
      But sometimes he talks a little.
      He has told me all his troubles.

   In his broad face, tanned and bloodless,
      White and wild his eyeballs glisten;
      And his smile, occult and tragic,
      Yet so slavish, makes you shudder!



XXV
APPARITION


   THIN-LEGGED, thin-chested, slight unspeakably,
   Neat-footed and weak-fingered: in his face—
   Lean, large-boned, curved of beak, and touched with race,
   Bold-lipped, rich-tinted, mutable as the sea,
   The brown eyes radiant with vivacity—
   There shines a brilliant and romantic grace,
   A spirit intense and rare, with trace on trace
   Of passion and impudence and energy.
   Valiant in velvet, light in ragged luck,
   Most vain, most generous, sternly critical,
   Buffoon and poet, lover and sensualist:
   A deal of Ariel, just a streak of Puck,
   Much Antony, of Hamlet most of all,
   And something of the Shorter-Catechist.



XXVI
ANTEROTICS


   LAUGHS the happy April morn
      Thro’ my grimy, little window,
      And a shaft of sunshine pushes
      Thro’ the shadows in the square.

   Dogs are tracing thro’ the grass,
      Crows are cawing round the chimneys,
      In and out among the washing
      Goes the West at hide-and-seek.

   Loud and cheerful clangs the bell.
      Here the nurses troop to breakfast.
      Handsome, ugly, all are women . . .
      O, the Spring—the Spring—the Spring!



XXVII
NOCTURN


   AT the barren heart of midnight,
      When the shadow shuts and opens
      As the loud flames pulse and flutter,
      I can hear a cistern leaking.

   Dripping, dropping, in a rhythm,
      Rough, unequal, half-melodious,
      Like the measures aped from nature
      In the infancy of music;

   Like the buzzing of an insect,
      Still, irrational, persistent . . .
      I must listen, listen, listen
      In a passion of attention;

   Till it taps upon my heartstrings,
      And my very life goes dripping,
      Dropping, dripping, drip-drip-dropping,
      In the drip-drop of the cistern.



XXVIII
DISCHARGED


   CARRY me out
   Into the wind and the sunshine,
   Into the beautiful world.

   O, the wonder, the spell of the streets!
   The stature and strength of the horses,
   The rustle and echo of footfalls,
   The flat roar and rattle of wheels!
   A swift tram floats huge on us . . .
   It’s a dream?
   The smell of the mud in my nostrils
   Blows brave—like a breath of the sea!

   As of old,
   Ambulant, undulant drapery,
   Vaguery and strangely provocative,
   Fluttersd and beckons.  O, yonder—
   Is it?—the gleam of a stocking!
   Sudden, a spire
   Wedged in the mist!  O, the houses,
   The long lines of lofty, grey houses,
   Cross-hatched with shadow and light!
   These are the streets . . .
   Each is an avenue leading
   Whither I will!

   Free . . . !
   Dizzy, hysterical, faint,
   I sit, and the carriage rolls on with me
   Into the wonderful world.

THE OLD INFIRMARY, EDINBURGH, 1873–75



ENVOY
_To_ CHARLES BAXTER


   DO you remember
   That afternoon—that Sunday afternoon!—
   When, as the kirks were ringing in,
   And the grey city teemed
   With Sabbath feelings and aspects,
   LEWIS—our LEWIS then,
   Now the whole world’s—and you,
   Young, yet in shape most like an elder, came,
   Laden with BALZACS
   (Big, yellow books, quite impudently French),
   The first of many times
   To that transformed back-kitchen where I lay
   So long, so many centuries—
   Or years is it!—ago?

   Dear CHARLES, since then
   We have been friends, LEWIS and you and I,
   (How good it sounds, ‘LEWIS and you and I!’):
   Such friends, I like to think,
   That in us three, LEWIS and me and you,
   Is something of that gallant dream
   Which old DUMAS—the generous, the humane,
   The seven-and-seventy times to be forgiven!—
   Dreamed for a blessing to the race,
   The immortal _Musketeers_.

   Our ATHOS rests—the wise, the kind,
   The liberal and august, his fault atoned,
   Rests in the crowded yard
   There at the west of Princes Street.  We three—
   You, I, and LEWIS!—still afoot,
   Are still together, and our lives,
   In chime so long, may keep
   (God bless the thought!)
   Unjangled till the end.

                                                                  W. E. H.

CHISWICK, _March_ 1888



THE SONG
OF THE SWORD


                          (_To_ Rudyard Kipling)

                                                                      1890

   _The Sword_
   _Singing_—
   _The voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword_
   _Clanging imperious_
   _Forth from Time’s battlements_
   _His ancient and triumphing Song_.

   In the beginning,
   Ere God inspired Himself
   Into the clay thing
   Thumbed to His image,
   The vacant, the naked shell
   Soon to be Man:
   Thoughtful He pondered it,
   Prone there and impotent,
   Fragile, inviting
   Attack and discomfiture;
   Then, with a smile—
   As He heard in the Thunder
   That laughed over Eden
   The voice of the Trumpet,
   The iron Beneficence,
   Calling his dooms
   To the Winds of the world—
   Stooping, He drew
   On the sand with His finger
   A shape for a sign
   Of his way to the eyes
   That in wonder should waken,
   For a proof of His will
   To the breaking intelligence.
   That was the birth of me:
   I am the Sword.

   Bleak and lean, grey and cruel,
   Short-hilted, long shafted,
   I froze into steel;
   And the blood of my elder,
   His hand on the hafts of me,
   Sprang like a wave
   In the wind, as the sense
   Of his strength grew to ecstasy;
   Glowed like a coal
   In the throat of the furnace;
   As he knew me and named me
   The War-Thing, the Comrade,
   Father of honour
   And giver of kingship,
   The fame-smith, the song-master,
   Bringer of women
   On fire at his hands
   For the pride of fulfilment,
   _Priest_ (saith the Lord)
   _Of his marriage with victory_
   Ho! then, the Trumpet,
   Handmaid of heroes,
   Calling the peers
   To the place of espousals!
   Ho! then, the splendour
   And glare of my ministry,
   Clothing the earth
   With a livery of lightnings!
   Ho! then, the music
   Of battles in onset,
   And ruining armours,
   And God’s gift returning
   In fury to God!
   Thrilling and keen
   As the song of the winter stars,
   Ho! then, the sound
   Of my voice, the implacable
   Angel of Destiny!—
   I am the Sword.

   Heroes, my children,
   Follow, O, follow me!
   Follow, exulting
   In the great light that breaks
   From the sacred Companionship!
   Thrust through the fatuous,
   Thrust through the fungous brood,
   Spawned in my shadow
   And gross with my gift!
   Thrust through, and hearken
   O, hark, to the Trumpet,
   The Virgin of Battles,
   Calling, still calling you
   Into the Presence,
   Sons of the Judgment,
   Pure wafts of the Will!
   Edged to annihilate,
   Hilted with government,
   Follow, O, follow me,
   Till the waste places
   All the grey globe over
   Ooze, as the honeycomb
   Drips, with the sweetness
   Distilled of my strength,
   And, teeming in peace
   Through the wrath of my coming,
   They give back in beauty
   The dread and the anguish
   They had of me visitant!
   Follow, O follow, then,
   Heroes, my harvesters!
   Where the tall grain is ripe
   Thrust in your sickles!
   Stripped and adust
   In a stubble of empire,
   Scything and binding
   The full sheaves of sovranty:
   Thus, O, thus gloriously,
   Shall you fulfil yourselves!
   Thus, O, thus mightily,
   Show yourselves sons of mine—
   Yea, and win grace of me:
   I am the Sword!

   I am the feast-maker:
   Hark, through a noise
   Of the screaming of eagles,
   Hark how the Trumpet,
   The mistress of mistresses,
   Calls, silver-throated
   And stern, where the tables
   Are spread, and the meal
   Of the Lord is in hand!
   Driving the darkness,
   Even as the banners
   And spears of the Morning;
   Sifting the nations,
   The slag from the metal,
   The waste and the weak
   From the fit and the strong;
   Fighting the brute,
   The abysmal Fecundity;
   Checking the gross,
   Multitudinous blunders,
   The groping, the purblind
   Excesses in service
   Of the Womb universal,
   The absolute drudge;
   Firing the charactry
   Carved on the World,
   The miraculous gem
   In the seal-ring that burns
   On the hand of the Master—
   Yea! and authority
   Flames through the dim,
   Unappeasable Grisliness
   Prone down the nethermost
   Chasms of the Void!—
   Clear singing, clean slicing;
   Sweet spoken, soft finishing;
   Making death beautiful,
   Life but a coin
   To be staked in the pastime
   Whose playing is more
   Than the transfer of being;
   Arch-anarch, chief builder,
   Prince and evangelist,
   I am the Will of God:
   I am the Sword.

   _The Sword_
   _Singing_—
   _The voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword_
   _Clanging majestical_,
   _As from the starry-staired_
   _Courts of the primal Supremacy_,
   _His high_, _irresistible song_.



ARABIAN NIGHTS’
ENTERTAINMENTS


                     (_To_ Elizabeth Robins Pennell)

                                                                      1893

               ‘O mes chères _Mille et Une Nuits_!’—_Fantasio_.

   ONCE on a time
   There was a little boy: a master-mage
   By virtue of a Book
   Of magic—O, so magical it filled
   His life with visionary pomps
   Processional!  And Powers
   Passed with him where he passed.  And Thrones
   And Dominations, glaived and plumed and mailed,
   Thronged in the criss-cross streets,
   The palaces pell-mell with playing-fields,
   Domes, cloisters, dungeons, caverns, tents, arcades,
   Of the unseen, silent City, in his soul
   Pavilioned jealously, and hid
   As in the dusk, profound,
   Green stillnesses of some enchanted mere.—

   I shut mine eyes . . . And lo!
   A flickering snatch of memory that floats
   Upon the face of a pool of darkness five
   And thirty dead years deep,
   Antic in girlish broideries
   And skirts and silly shoes with straps
   And a broad-ribanded leghorn, he walks
   Plain in the shadow of a church
   (St. Michael’s: in whose brazen call
   To curfew his first wails of wrath were whelmed),
   Sedate for all his haste
   To be at home; and, nestled in his arm,
   Inciting still to quiet and solitude,
   Boarded in sober drab,
   With small, square, agitating cuts
   Let in a-top of the double-columned, close,
   Quakerlike print, a Book! . . .
   What but that blessed brief
   Of what is gallantest and best
   In all the full-shelved Libraries of Romance?
   The Book of rocs,
   Sandalwood, ivory, turbans, ambergris,
   Cream-tarts, and lettered apes, and calendars,
   And ghouls, and genies—O, so huge
   They might have overed the tall Minster Tower
   Hands down, as schoolboys take a post!
   In truth, the Book of Camaralzaman,
   Schemselnihar and Sindbad, Scheherezade
   The peerless, Bedreddin, Badroulbadour,
   Cairo and Serendib and Candahar,
   And Caspian, and the dim, terrific bulk—
   Ice-ribbed, fiend-visited, isled in spells and storms—
   Of Kaf! . . . That centre of miracles,
   The sole, unparalleled Arabian Nights!

   Old friends I had a-many—kindly and grim
   Familiars, cronies quaint
   And goblin!  Never a Wood but housed
   Some morrice of dainty dapperlings.  No Brook
   But had his nunnery
   Of green-haired, silvry-curving sprites,
   To cabin in his grots, and pace
   His lilied margents.  Every lone Hillside
   Might open upon Elf-Land.  Every Stalk
   That curled about a Bean-stick was of the breed
   Of that live ladder by whose delicate rungs
   You climbed beyond the clouds, and found
   The Farm-House where the Ogre, gorged
   And drowsy, from his great oak chair,
   Among the flitches and pewters at the fire,
   Called for his Faëry Harp.  And in it flew,
   And, perching on the kitchen table, sang
   Jocund and jubilant, with a sound
   Of those gay, golden-vowered madrigals
   The shy thrush at mid-May
   Flutes from wet orchards flushed with the triumphing dawn;
   Or blackbirds rioting as they listened still,
   In old-world woodlands rapt with an old-world spring,
   For Pan’s own whistle, savage and rich and lewd,
   And mocked him call for call!

               I could not pass
   The half-door where the cobbler sat in view
   Nor figure me the wizen Leprechaun,
   In square-cut, faded reds and buckle-shoes,
   Bent at his work in the hedge-side, and know
   Just how he tapped his brogue, and twitched
   His wax-end this and that way, both with wrists
   And elbows.  In the rich June fields,
   Where the ripe clover drew the bees,
   And the tall quakers trembled, and the West Wind
   Lolled his half-holiday away
   Beside me lolling and lounging through my own,
   ’Twas good to follow the Miller’s Youngest Son
   On his white horse along the leafy lanes;
   For at his stirrup linked and ran,
   Not cynical and trapesing, as he loped
   From wall to wall above the espaliers,
   But in the bravest tops
   That market-town, a town of tops, could show:
   Bold, subtle, adventurous, his tail
   A banner flaunted in disdain
   Of human stratagems and shifts:
   King over All the Catlands, present and past
   And future, that moustached
   Artificer of fortunes, Puss-in-Boots!
   Or Bluebeard’s Closet, with its plenishing
   Of meat-hooks, sawdust, blood,
   And wives that hung like fresh-dressed carcases—
   Odd-fangled, most a butcher’s, part
   A faëry chamber hazily seen
   And hazily figured—on dark afternoons
   And windy nights was visiting of the best.
   Then, too, the pelt of hoofs
   Out in the roaring darkness told
   Of Herne the Hunter in his antlered helm
   Galloping, as with despatches from the Pit,
   Between his hell-born Hounds.
   And Rip Van Winkle . . . often I lurked to hear,
   Outside the long, low timbered, tarry wall,
   The mutter and rumble of the trolling bowls
   Down the lean plank, before they fluttered the pins;
   For, listening, I could help him play
   His wonderful game,
   In those blue, booming hills, with Mariners
   Refreshed from kegs not coopered in this our world.

   But what were these so near,
   So neighbourly fancies to the spell that brought
   The run of Ali Baba’s Cave
   Just for the saying ‘Open Sesame,’
   With gold to measure, peck by peck,
   In round, brown wooden stoups
   You borrowed at the chandler’s? . . . Or one time
   Made you Aladdin’s friend at school,
   Free of his Garden of Jewels, Ring and Lamp
   In perfect trim? . . . Or Ladies, fair
   For all the embrowning scars in their white breasts
   Went labouring under some dread ordinance,
   Which made them whip, and bitterly cry the while,
   Strange Curs that cried as they,
   Till there was never a Black Bitch of all
   Your consorting but might have gone
   Spell-driven miserably for crimes
   Done in the pride of womanhood and desire . . .
   Or at the ghostliest altitudes of night,
   While you lay wondering and acold,
   Your sense was fearfully purged; and soon
   Queen Labé, abominable and dear,
   Rose from your side, opened the Box of Doom,
   Scattered the yellow powder (which I saw
   Like sulphur at the Docks in bulk),
   And muttered certain words you could not hear;
   And there! a living stream,
   The brook you bathed in, with its weeds and flags
   And cresses, glittered and sang
   Out of the hearthrug over the nakedness,
   Fair-scrubbed and decent, of your bedroom floor! . . .

   I was—how many a time!—
   That Second Calendar, Son of a King,
   On whom ’twas vehemently enjoined,
   Pausing at one mysterious door,
   To pry no closer, but content his soul
   With his kind Forty.  Yet I could not rest
   For idleness and ungovernable Fate.
   And the Black Horse, which fed on sesame
   (That wonder-working word!),
   Vouchsafed his back to me, and spread his vans,
   And soaring, soaring on
   From air to air, came charging to the ground
   Sheer, like a lark from the midsummer clouds,
   And, shaking me out of the saddle, where I sprawled
   Flicked at me with his tail,
   And left me blinded, miserable, distraught
   (Even as I was in deed,
   When doctors came, and odious things were done
   On my poor tortured eyes
   With lancets; or some evil acid stung
   And wrung them like hot sand,
   And desperately from room to room
   Fumble I must my dark, disconsolate way),
   To get to Bagdad how I might.  But there
   I met with Merry Ladies.  O you three—
   Safie, Amine, Zobëidé—when my heart
   Forgets you all shall be forgot!
   And so we supped, we and the rest,
   On wine and roasted lamb, rose-water, dates,
   Almonds, pistachios, citrons.  And Haroun
   Laughed out of his lordly beard
   On Giaffar and Mesrour (_I_ knew the Three
   For all their Mossoul habits).  And outside
   The Tigris, flowing swift
   Like Severn bend for bend, twinkled and gleamed
   With broken and wavering shapes of stranger stars;
   The vast, blue night
   Was murmurous with peris’ plumes
   And the leathern wings of genies; words of power
   Were whispering; and old fishermen,
   Casting their nets with prayer, might draw to shore
   Dead loveliness: or a prodigy in scales
   Worth in the Caliph’s Kitchen pieces of gold:
   Or copper vessels, stopped with lead,
   Wherein some Squire of Eblis watched and railed,
   In durance under potent charactry
   Graven by the seal of Solomon the King . . .

   Then, as the Book was glassed
   In Life as in some olden mirror’s quaint,
   Bewildering angles, so would Life
   Flash light on light back on the Book; and both
   Were changed.  Once in a house decayed
   From better days, harbouring an errant show
   (For all its stories of dry-rot
   Were filled with gruesome visitants in wax,
   Inhuman, hushed, ghastly with Painted Eyes),
   I wandered; and no living soul
   Was nearer than the pay-box; and I stared
   Upon them staring—staring.  Till at last,
   Three sets of rafters from the streets,
   I strayed upon a mildewed, rat-run room,
   With the two Dancers, horrible and obscene,
   Guarding the door: and there, in a bedroom-set,
   Behind a fence of faded crimson cords,
   With an aspect of frills
   And dimities and dishonoured privacy
   That made you hanker and hesitate to look,
   A Woman with her litter of Babes—all slain,
   All in their nightgowns, all with Painted Eyes
   Staring—still staring; so that I turned and ran
   As for my neck, but in the street
   Took breath.  The same, it seemed,
   And yet not all the same, I was to find,
   As I went up!  For afterwards,
   Whenas I went my round alone—
   All day alone—in long, stern, silent streets,
   Where I might stretch my hand and take
   Whatever I would: still there were Shapes of Stone,
   Motionless, lifelike, frightening—for the Wrath
   Had smitten them; but they watched,
   This by her melons and figs, that by his rings
   And chains and watches, with the hideous gaze,
   The Painted Eyes insufferable,
   Now, of those grisly images; and I
   Pursued my best-belovéd quest,
   Thrilled with a novel and delicious fear.
   So the night fell—with never a lamplighter;
   And through the Palace of the King
   I groped among the echoes, and I felt
   That they were there,
   Dreadfully there, the Painted staring Eyes,
   Hall after hall . . . Till lo! from far
   A Voice!  And in a little while
   Two tapers burning!  And the Voice,
   Heard in the wondrous Word of God, was—whose?
   Whose but Zobëidé’s,
   The lady of my heart, like me
   A True Believer, and like me
   An outcast thousands of leagues beyond the pale! . . .

   Or, sailing to the Isles
   Of Khaledan, I spied one evenfall
   A black blotch in the sunset; and it grew
   Swiftly . . . and grew.  Tearing their beards,
   The sailors wept and prayed; but the grave ship,
   Deep laden with spiceries and pearls, went mad,
   Wrenched the long tiller out of the steersman’s hand,
   And, turning broadside on,
   As the most iron would, was haled and sucked
   Nearer, and nearer yet;
   And, all awash, with horrible lurching leaps
   Rushed at that Portent, casting a shadow now
   That swallowed sea and sky; and then,
   Anchors and nails and bolts
   Flew screaming out of her, and with clang on clang,
   A noise of fifty stithies, caught at the sides
   Of the Magnetic Mountain; and she lay,
   A broken bundle of firewood, strown piecemeal
   About the waters; and her crew
   Passed shrieking, one by one; and I was left
   To drown.  All the long night I swam;
   But in the morning, O, the smiling coast
   Tufted with date-trees, meadowlike,
   Skirted with shelving sands!  And a great wave
   Cast me ashore; and I was saved alive.
   So, giving thanks to God, I dried my clothes,
   And, faring inland, in a desert place
   I stumbled on an iron ring—
   The fellow of fifty built into the Quays:
   When, scenting a trap-door,
   I dug, and dug; until my biggest blade
   Stuck into wood.  And then,
   The flight of smooth-hewn, easy-falling stairs,
   Sunk in the naked rock!  The cool, clean vault,
   So neat with niche on niche it might have been
   Our beer-cellar but for the rows
   Of brazen urns (like monstrous chemist’s jars)
   Full to the wide, squat throats
   With gold-dust, but a-top
   A layer of pickled-walnut-looking things
   I knew for olives!  And far, O, far away,
   The Princess of China languished!  Far away
   Was marriage, with a Vizier and a Chief
   Of Eunuchs and the privilege
   Of going out at night
   To play—unkenned, majestical, secure—
   Where the old, brown, friendly river shaped
   Like Tigris shore for shore!  Haply a Ghoul
   Sat in the churchyard under a frightened moon,
   A thighbone in his fist, and glared
   At supper with a Lady: she who took
   Her rice with tweezers grain by grain.
   Or you might stumble—there by the iron gates
   Of the Pump Room—underneath the limes—
   Upon Bedreddin in his shirt and drawers,
   Just as the civil Genie laid him down.
   Or those red-curtained panes,
   Whence a tame cornet tenored it throatily
   Of beer-pots and spittoons and new long pipes,
   Might turn a caravansery’s, wherein
   You found Noureddin Ali, loftily drunk,
   And that fair Persian, bathed in tears,
   You’d not have given away
   For all the diamonds in the Vale Perilous
   You had that dark and disleaved afternoon
   Escaped on a roc’s claw,
   Disguised like Sindbad—but in Christmas beef!
   And all the blissful while
   The schoolboy satchel at your hip
   Was such a bulse of gems as should amaze
   Grey-whiskered chapmen drawn
   From over Caspian: yea, the Chief Jewellers
   Of Tartary and the bazaars,
   Seething with traffic, of enormous Ind.—

   Thus cried, thus called aloud, to the child heart
   The magian East: thus the child eyes
   Spelled out the wizard message by the light
   Of the sober, workaday hours
   They saw, week in week out, pass, and still pass
   In the sleepy Minster City, folded kind
   In ancient Severn’s arm,
   Amongst her water-meadows and her docks,
   Whose floating populace of ships—
   Galliots and luggers, light-heeled brigantines,
   Bluff barques and rake-hell fore-and-afters—brought
   To her very doorsteps and geraniums
   The scents of the World’s End; the calls
   That may not be gainsaid to rise and ride
   Like fire on some high errand of the race;
   The irresistible appeals
   For comradeship that sound
   Steadily from the irresistible sea.
   Thus the East laughed and whispered, and the tale,
   Telling itself anew
   In terms of living, labouring life,
   Took on the colours, busked it in the wear
   Of life that lived and laboured; and Romance,
   The Angel-Playmate, raining down
   His golden influences
   On all I saw, and all I dreamed and did,
   Walked with me arm in arm,
   Or left me, as one bediademed with straws
   And bits of glass, to gladden at my heart
   Who had the gift to seek and feel and find
   His fiery-hearted presence everywhere.
   Even so dear Hesper, bringer of all good things,
   Sends the same silver dews
   Of happiness down her dim, delighted skies
   On some poor collier-hamlet—(mound on mound
   Of sifted squalor; here a soot-throated stalk
   Sullenly smoking over a row
   Of flat-faced hovels; black in the gritty air
   A web of rails and wheels and beams; with strings
   Of hurtling, tipping trams)—
   As on the amorous nightingales
   And roses of Shíraz, or the walls and towers
   Of Samarcand—the Ineffable—whence you espy
   The splendour of Ginnistan’s embattled spears,
   Like listed lightnings.
                        Samarcand!
   That name of names!  That star-vaned belvedere
   Builded against the Chambers of the South!
   That outpost on the Infinite!
                        And behold!
   Questing therefrom, you knew not what wild tide
   Might overtake you: for one fringe,
   One suburb, is stablished on firm earth; but one
   Floats founded vague
   In lubberlands delectable—isles of palm
   And lotus, fortunate mains, far-shimmering seas,
   The promise of wistful hills—
   The shining, shifting Sovranties of Dream.



BRIC-À-BRAC


                                                                 1877–1888

             ‘_The tune of the time_.’—HAMLET, _concerning_ OSRIC



BALLADE OF A TOYOKUNI COLOUR-PRINT


                                _To_ W. A.

   WAS I a Samurai renowned,
   Two-sworded, fierce, immense of bow?
   A histrion angular and profound?
   A priest? a porter?—Child, although
   I have forgotten clean, I know
   That in the shade of Fujisan,
   What time the cherry-orchards blow,
   I loved you once in old Japan.

   As here you loiter, flowing-gowned
   And hugely sashed, with pins a-row
   Your quaint head as with flamelets crowned,
   Demure, inviting—even so,
   When merry maids in Miyako
   To feel the sweet o’ the year began,
   And green gardens to overflow,
   I loved you once in old Japan.

   Clear shine the hills; the rice-fields round
   Two cranes are circling; sleepy and slow,
   A blue canal the lake’s blue bound
   Breaks at the bamboo bridge; and lo!
   Touched with the sundown’s spirit and glow,
   I see you turn, with flirted fan,
   Against the plum-tree’s bloomy snow . . .
   I loved you once in old Japan!

                                 _Envoy_

   Dear, ’twas a dozen lives ago;
   But that I was a lucky man
   The Toyokuni here will show:
   I loved you—once—in old Japan.



BALLADE
(DOUBLE REFRAIN)
OF YOUTH AND AGE


                                  I. M.
                           Thomas Edward Brown
                               (1829–1896)

   SPRING at her height on a morn at prime,
   Sails that laugh from a flying squall,
   Pomp of harmony, rapture of rhyme—
   Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
   Winter sunsets and leaves that fall,
   An empty flagon, a folded page,
   A tumble-down wheel, a tattered ball—
   These are a type of the world of Age.

   Bells that clash in a gaudy chime,
   Swords that clatter in onsets tall,
   The words that ring and the fames that climb—
   Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
   Hymnals old in a dusty stall,
   A bald, blind bird in a crazy cage,
   The scene of a faded festival—
   These are a type of the world of Age.

   Hours that strut as the heirs of time,
   Deeds whose rumour’s a clarion-call,
   Songs where the singers their souls sublime—
   Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
   A staff that rests in a nook of wall,
   A reeling battle, a rusted gage,
   The chant of a nearing funeral—
   These are a type of the world of Age.

                                 _Envoy_

   Struggle and turmoil, revel and brawl—
   Youth is the sign of them, one and all.
   A smouldering hearth and a silent stage—
   These are a type of the world of Age.



BALLADE
(DOUBLE REFRAIN)
OF MIDSUMMER DAYS AND NIGHTS


                                _To_ W. H.

   WITH a ripple of leaves and a tinkle of streams
   The full world rolls in a rhythm of praise,
   And the winds are one with the clouds and beams—
   Midsummer days!  Midsummer days!
   The dusk grows vast; in a purple haze,
   While the West from a rapture of sunset rights,
   Faint stars their exquisite lamps upraise—
   Midsummer nights!  O midsummer nights!

   The wood’s green heart is a nest of dreams,
   The lush grass thickens and springs and sways,
   The rathe wheat rustles, the landscape gleams—
   Midsummer days!  Midsummer days!
   In the stilly fields, in the stilly ways,
   All secret shadows and mystic lights,
   Late lovers murmur and linger and gaze—
   Midsummer nights!  O midsummer nights!

   There’s a music of bells from the trampling teams,
   Wild skylarks hover, the gorses blaze,
   The rich, ripe rose as with incense steams—
   Midsummer days!  Midsummer days!
   A soul from the honeysuckle strays,
   And the nightingale as from prophet heights
   Sings to the Earth of her million Mays—
   Midsummer nights!  O midsummer nights!

                                 _Envoy_

   And it’s O, for my dear and the charm that stays—
   Midsummer days!  Midsummer days!
   It’s O, for my Love and the dark that plights—
   Midsummer nights!  O midsummer nights!



BALLADE
OF DEAD ACTORS


                                  I. M.
                            Edward John Henley
                               (1861–1898)

   WHERE are the passions they essayed,
   And where the tears they made to flow?
   Where the wild humours they portrayed
   For laughing worlds to see and know?
   Othello’s wrath and Juliet’s woe?
   Sir Peter’s whims and Timon’s gall?
   And Millamant and Romeo?
   Into the night go one and all.

   Where are the braveries, fresh or frayed?
   The plumes, the armours—friend and foe?
   The cloth of gold, the rare brocade,
   The mantles glittering to and fro?
   The pomp, the pride, the royal show?
   The cries of war and festival?
   The youth, the grace, the charm, the glow?
   Into the night go one and all.

   The curtain falls, the play is played:
   The Beggar packs beside the Beau;
   The Monarch troops, and troops the Maid;
   The Thunder huddles with the Snow.
   Where are the revellers high and low?
   The clashing swords?  The lover’s call?
   The dancers gleaming row on row?
   Into the night go one and all.

                                 _Envoy_

      Prince, in one common overthrow
   The Hero tumbles with the Thrall:
   As dust that drives, as straws that blow,
   Into the night go one and all.



BALLADE
MADE IN THE HOT WEATHER


                                _To_ C. M.

   FOUNTAINS that frisk and sprinkle
   The moss they overspill;
   Pools that the breezes crinkle;
   The wheel beside the mill,
   With its wet, weedy frill;
   Wind-shadows in the wheat;
   A water-cart in the street;
   The fringe of foam that girds
   An islet’s ferneries;
   A green sky’s minor thirds—
   To live, I think of these!

   Of ice and glass the tinkle,
   Pellucid, silver-shrill;
   Peaches without a wrinkle;
   Cherries and snow at will,
   From china bowls that fill
   The senses with a sweet
   Incuriousness of heat;
   A melon’s dripping sherds;
   Cream-clotted strawberries;
   Dusk dairies set with curds—
   To live, I think of these!

   Vale-lily and periwinkle;
   Wet stone-crop on the sill;
   The look of leaves a-twinkle
   With windlets clear and still;
   The feel of a forest rill
   That wimples fresh and fleet
   About one’s naked feet;
   The muzzles of drinking herds;
   Lush flags and bulrushes;
   The chirp of rain-bound birds—
   To live, I think of these!

                                 _Envoy_

   Dark aisles, new packs of cards,
   Mermaidens’ tails, cool swards,
   Dawn dews and starlit seas,
   White marbles, whiter words—
   To live, I think of these!



BALLADE OF TRUISMS


   GOLD or silver, every day,
            Dies to gray.
   There are knots in every skein.
   Hours of work and hours of play
            Fade away
   Into one immense Inane.
   Shadow and substance, chaff and grain,
            Are as vain
   As the foam or as the spray.
   Life goes crooning, faint and fain,
            One refrain:
   ‘If it could be always May!’

   Though the earth be green and gay,
            Though, they say,
   Man the cup of heaven may drain;
   Though, his little world to sway,
            He display
   Hoard on hoard of pith and brain:
   Autumn brings a mist and rain
            That constrain
   Him and his to know decay,
   Where undimmed the lights that wane
            Would remain,
   If it could be always May.

   _Yea_, alas, must turn to _Nay_,
            Flesh to clay.
   Chance and Time are ever twain.
   Men may scoff, and men may pray,
            But they pay
   Every pleasure with a pain.
   Life may soar, and Fortune deign
            To explain
   Where her prizes hide and stay;
   But we lack the lusty train
            We should gain,
   If it could be always May.

                                 _Envoy_

   Time, the pedagogue, his cane
            Might retain,
   But his charges all would stray
   Truanting in every lane—
            Jack with Jane—
   If it could be always May.



DOUBLE BALLADE
OF LIFE AND FATE


   FOOLS may pine, and sots may swill,
   Cynics gibe, and prophets rail,
   Moralists may scourge and drill,
   Preachers prose, and fainthearts quail.
   Let them whine, or threat, or wail!
   Till the touch of Circumstance
   Down to darkness sink the scale,
   Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.

   What if skies be wan and chill?
   What if winds be harsh and stale?
   Presently the east will thrill,
   And the sad and shrunken sail,
   Bellying with a kindly gale,
   Bear you sunwards, while your chance
   Sends you back the hopeful hail:—
   ‘Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.’

   Idle shot or coming bill,
   Hapless love or broken bail,
   Gulp it (never chew your pill!),
   And, if Burgundy should fail,
   Try the humbler pot of ale!
   Over all is heaven’s expanse.
   Gold’s to find among the shale.
   Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.

   Dull Sir Joskin sleeps his fill,
   Good Sir Galahad seeks the Grail,
   Proud Sir Pertinax flaunts his frill,
   Hard Sir Æger dints his mail;
   And the while by hill and dale
   Tristram’s braveries gleam and glance,
   And his blithe horn tells its tale:—
   ‘Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.’

   Araminta’s grand and shrill,
   Delia’s passionate and frail,
   Doris drives an earnest quill,
   Athanasia takes the veil:
   Wiser Phyllis o’er her pail,
   At the heart of all romance
   Reading, sings to Strephon’s flail:—
   ‘Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.’

   Every Jack must have his Jill
   (Even Johnson had his Thrale!):
   Forward, couples—with a will!
   This, the world, is not a jail.
   Hear the music, sprat and whale!
   Hands across, retire, advance!
   Though the doomsman’s on your trail,
   Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.

                                 _Envoy_

   Boys and girls, at slug and snail
   And their kindred look askance.
   Pay your footing on the nail:
   Fate’s a fiddler, Life’s a dance.



DOUBLE BALLADE
OF THE NOTHINGNESS OF THINGS


   THE big teetotum twirls,
   And epochs wax and wane
   As chance subsides or swirls;
   But of the loss and gain
   The sum is always plain.
   Read on the mighty pall,
   The weed of funeral
   That covers praise and blame,
   The —isms and the —anities,
   Magnificence and shame:—
   ‘O Vanity of Vanities!’

   The Fates are subtile girls!
   They give us chaff for grain.
   And Time, the Thunderer, hurls,
   Like bolted death, disdain
   At all that heart and brain
   Conceive, or great or small,
   Upon this earthly ball.
   Would you be knight and dame?
   Or woo the sweet humanities?
   Or illustrate a name?
   O Vanity of Vanities!

   We sound the sea for pearls,
   Or drown them in a drain;
   We flute it with the merles,
   Or tug and sweat and strain;
   We grovel, or we reign;
   We saunter, or we brawl;
   We answer, or we call;
   We search the stars for Fame,
   Or sink her subterranities;
   The legend’s still the same:—
   ‘O Vanity of Vanities!’

   Here at the wine one birls,
   There some one clanks a chain.
   The flag that this man furls
   That man to float is fain.
   Pleasure gives place to pain:
   These in the kennel crawl,
   While others take the wall.
   _She_ has a glorious aim,
   _He_ lives for the inanities.
   What comes of every claim?
   O Vanity of Vanities!

   Alike are clods and earls.
   For sot, and seer, and swain,
   For emperors and for churls,
   For antidote and bane,
   There is but one refrain:
   But one for king and thrall,
   For David and for Saul,
   For fleet of foot and lame,
   For pieties and profanities,
   The picture and the frame:—
   ‘O Vanity of Vanities!’

   Life is a smoke that curls—
   Curls in a flickering skein,
   That winds and whisks and whirls
   A figment thin and vain,
   Into the vast Inane.
   One end for hut and hall!
   One end for cell and stall!
   Burned in one common flame
   Are wisdoms and insanities.
   For this alone we came:—
   ‘O Vanity of Vanities!’

                                 _Envoy_

   Prince, pride must have a fall.
   What is the worth of all
   Your state’s supreme urbanities?
   Bad at the best’s the game.
   Well might the Sage exclaim:—
   ‘O Vanity of Vanities!’



AT QUEENSFERRY


                              _To_ W. G. S.

   THE blackbird sang, the skies were clear and clean
   We bowled along a road that curved a spine
   Superbly sinuous and serpentine
   Thro’ silent symphonies of summer green.
   Sudden the Forth came on us—sad of mien,
   No cloud to colour it, no breeze to line:
   A sheet of dark, dull glass, without a sign
   Of life or death, two spits of sand between.
   Water and sky merged blank in mist together,
   The Fort loomed spectral, and the Guardship’s spars
   Traced vague, black shadows on the shimmery glaze:
   We felt the dim, strange years, the grey, strange weather,
   The still, strange land, unvexed of sun or stars,
   Where Lancelot rides clanking thro’ the haze.



ORIENTALE


   SHE’S an enchanting little Israelite,
   A world of hidden dimples!—Dusky-eyed,
   A starry-glancing daughter of the Bride,
   With hair escaped from some Arabian Night,
   Her lip is red, her cheek is golden-white,
   Her nose a scimitar; and, set aside
   The bamboo hat she cocks with so much pride,
   Her dress a dream of daintiness and delight.
   And when she passes with the dreadful boys
   And romping girls, the cockneys loud and crude,
   My thought, to the Minories tied yet moved to range
   The Land o’ the Sun, commingles with the noise
   Of magian drums and scents of sandalwood
   A touch Sidonian—modern—taking—strange!



IN FISHERROW


   A HARD north-easter fifty winters long
   Has bronzed and shrivelled sere her face and neck;
   Her locks are wild and grey, her teeth a wreck;
   Her foot is vast, her bowed leg spare and strong.
   A wide blue cloak, a squat and sturdy throng
   Of curt blue coats, a mutch without a speck,
   A white vest broidered black, her person deck,
   Nor seems their picked, stern, old-world quaintness wrong.
   Her great creel forehead-slung, she wanders nigh,
   Easing the heavy strap with gnarled, brown fingers,
   The spirit of traffic watchful in her eye,
   Ever and anon imploring you to buy,
   As looking down the street she onward lingers,
   Reproachful, with a strange and doleful cry.



BACK-VIEW


                                _To_ D. F.

   I WATCHED you saunter down the sand:
   Serene and large, the golden weather
   Flowed radiant round your peacock feather,
   And glistered from your jewelled hand.
   Your tawny hair, turned strand on strand
   And bound with blue ribands together,
   Streaked the rough tartan, green like heather,
   That round your lissome shoulder spanned.
   Your grace was quick my sense to seize:
   The quaint looped hat, the twisted tresses,
   The close-drawn scarf, and under these
   The flowing, flapping draperies—
   My thought an outline still caresses,
   Enchanting, comic, Japanese!



CROLUIS


                                _To_ G. W.

   THE beach was crowded.  Pausing now and then,
   He groped and fiddled doggedly along,
   His worn face glaring on the thoughtless throng
   The stony peevishness of sightless men.
   He seemed scarce older than his clothes.  Again,
   Grotesquing thinly many an old sweet song,
   So cracked his fiddle, his hand so frail and wrong,
   You hardly could distinguish one in ten.
   He stopped at last, and sat him on the sand,
   And, grasping wearily his bread-winner,
   Stared dim towards the blue immensity,
   Then leaned his head upon his poor old hand.
   He may have slept: he did not speak nor stir:
   His gesture spoke a vast despondency.



ATTADALE WEST HIGHLANDS


                                _To_ A. J.

   A BLACK and glassy float, opaque and still,
   The loch, at furthest ebb supine in sleep,
   Reversing, mirrored in its luminous deep
   The calm grey skies; the solemn spurs of hill;
   Heather, and corn, and wisps of loitering haze;
   The wee white cots, black-hatted, plumed with smoke;
   The braes beyond—and when the ripple awoke,
   They wavered with the jarred and wavering glaze.
   The air was hushed and dreamy.  Evermore
   A noise of running water whispered near.
   A straggling crow called high and thin.  A bird
   Trilled from the birch-leaves.  Round the shingled shore,
   Yellow with weed, there wandered, vague and clear,
   Strange vowels, mysterious gutturals, idly heard.



FROM A WINDOW IN PRINCES STREET


                             _To_ M. M. M‘B.

   ABOVE the Crags that fade and gloom
   Starts the bare knee of Arthur’s Seat;
   Ridged high against the evening bloom,
   The Old Town rises, street on street;
   With lamps bejewelled, straight ahead,
   Like rampired walls the houses lean,
   All spired and domed and turreted,
   Sheer to the valley’s darkling green;
   Ranged in mysterious disarray,
   The Castle, menacing and austere,
   Looms through the lingering last of day;
   And in the silver dusk you hear,
   Reverberated from crag and scar,
   Bold bugles blowing points of war.



IN THE DIALS


   TO _Garryowen_ upon an organ ground
   Two girls are jigging.  Riotously they trip,
   With eyes aflame, quick bosoms, hand on hip,
   As in the tumult of a witches’ round.
   Youngsters and youngsters round them prance and bound.
   Two solemn babes twirl ponderously, and skip.
   The artist’s teeth gleam from his bearded lip.
   High from the kennel howls a tortured hound.
   The music reels and hurtles, and the night
   Is full of stinks and cries; a naphtha-light
   Flares from a barrow; battered and obtused
   With vices, wrinkles, life and work and rags,
   Each with her inch of clay, two loitering hags
   Look on dispassionate—critical—something ’mused.



THE GODS ARE DEAD


   THE gods are dead?  Perhaps they are!  Who knows?
   Living at least in Lemprière undeleted,
   The wise, the fair, the awful, the jocose,
   Are one and all, I like to think, retreated
   In some still land of lilacs and the rose.

   Once higeh they sat, and high o’er earthly shows
   With sacrificial dance and song were greeted.
   Once . . . long ago.  But now, the story goes,
                        The gods are dead.

   It must be true.  The world, a world of prose,
   Full-crammed with facts, in science swathed and sheeted,
   Nods in a stertorous after-dinner doze!
   Plangent and sad, in every wind that blows
   Who will may hear the sorry words repeated:—
                       ‘The Gods are Dead!’



_To_ F. W.


   LET us be drunk, and for a while forget,
   Forget, and, ceasing even from regret,
   Live without reason and despite of rhyme,
   As in a dream preposterous and sublime,
   Where place and hour and means for once are met.

   Where is the use of effort?  Love and debt
   And disappointment have us in a net.
   Let us break out, and taste the morning prime . . .
               Let us be drunk.

   In vain our little hour we strut and fret,
   And mouth our wretched parts as for a bet:
   We cannot please the tragicaster Time.
   To gain the crystal sphere, the silver dime,
   Where Sympathy sits dimpling on us yet,
               Let us be drunk!



WHEN YOU ARE OLD


   WHEN you are old, and I am passed away—
   Passed, and your face, your golden face, is gray—
   I think, whate’er the end, this dream of mine,
   Comforting you, a friendly star will shine
   Down the dim slope where still you stumble and stray.

   So may it be: that so dead Yesterday,
   No sad-eyed ghost but generous and gay,
   May serve you memories like almighty wine,
               When you are old!

   Dear Heart, it shall be so.  Under the sway
   Of death the past’s enormous disarray
   Lies hushed and dark.  Yet though there come no sign,
   Live on well pleased: immortal and divine
   Love shall still tend you, as God’s angels may,
               When you are old.



BESIDE THE IDLE SUMMER SEA


   BESIDE the idle summer sea
   And in the vacant summer days,
   Light Love came fluting down the ways,
   Where you were loitering with me.

   Who has not welcomed, even as we,
   That jocund minstrel and his lays
   Beside the idle summer sea
   And in the vacant summer days?

   We listened, we were fancy-free;
   And lo! in terror and amaze
   We stood alone—alone at gaze
   With an implacable memory
   Beside the idle summer sea.



I. M.
R. G. C. B.
1878


   THE ways of Death are soothing and serene,
   And all the words of Death are grave and sweet.
   From camp and church, the fireside and the street,
   She beckons forth—and strife and song have been.

   A summer night descending cool and green
   And dark on daytime’s dust and stress and heat,
   The ways of Death are soothing and serene,
   And all the words of Death are grave and sweet.

   O glad and sorrowful, with triumphant mien
   And radiant faces look upon, and greet
   This last of all your lovers, and to meet
   Her kiss, the Comforter’s, your spirit lean . . .
   The ways of Death are soothing and serene.



WE SHALL SURELY DIE


   WE shall surely die:
   Must we needs grow old?
   Grow old and cold,
   And we know not why?

   O, the By-and-By,
   And the tale that’s told!
   We shall surely die:
   Must we needs grow old?

   Grow old and sigh,
   Grudge and withhold,
   Resent and scold? . . .
   Not you and I?
   We shall surely die!



WHAT IS TO COME


   WHAT is to come we know not.  But we know
   That what has been was good—was good to show,
   Better to hide, and best of all to bear.
   We are the masters of the days that were:
   We have lived, we have loved, we have suffered . . . even so.

   Shall we not take the ebb who had the flow?
   Life was our friend.  Now, if it be our foe—
   Dear, though it spoil and break us!—need we care
               What is to come?

   Let the great winds their worst and wildest blow,
   Or the gold weather round us mellow slow:
   We have fulfilled ourselves, and we can dare
   And we can conquer, though we may not share
   In the rich quiet of the afterglow
               What is to come.



ECHOES


                                                                 1872–1889

         _Aquí está encerrada el alma del licenciado Pedro Garcías_.

                                                    GIL BLAS _AU LECTEUR_.



I
TO MY MOTHER


   CHIMING a dream by the way
      With ocean’s rapture and roar,
   I met a maiden to-day
      Walking alone on the shore:
   Walking in maiden wise,
      Modest and kind and fair,
   The freshness of spring in her eyes
      And the fulness of spring in her hair.

   Cloud-shadow and scudding sun-burst
      Were swift on the floor of the sea,
   And a mad wind was romping its worst,
      But what was their magic to me?
   Or the charm of the midsummer skies?
      I only saw she was there,
   A dream of the sea in her eyes
      And the kiss of the sea in her hair.

   I watched her vanish in space;
      She came where I walked no more;
   But something had passed of her grace
      To the spell of the wave and the shore;
   And now, as the glad stars rise,
      She comes to me, rosy and rare,
   The delight of the wind in her eyes
      And the hand of the wind in her hair.

                                                                      1872



II


   LIFE is bitter.  All the faces of the years,
   Young and old, are grey with travail and with tears.
      Must we only wake to toil, to tire, to weep?
   In the sun, among the leaves, upon the flowers,
   Slumber stills to dreamy death the heavy hours . . .
               Let me sleep.

   Riches won but mock the old, unable years;
   Fame’s a pearl that hides beneath a sea of tears;
      Love must wither, or must live alone and weep.
   In the sunshine, through the leaves, across the flowers,
   While we slumber, death approaches though the hours! . . .
               Let me sleep.

                                                                      1872



III


   O, GATHER me the rose, the rose,
      While yet in flower we find it,
   For summer smiles, but summer goes,
      And winter waits behind it!

   For with the dream foregone, foregone,
      The deed forborne for ever,
   The worm, regret, will canker on,
      And Time will turn him never.

   So well it were to love, my love,
      And cheat of any laughter
   The fate beneath us and above,
      The dark before and after.

   The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
      The sunshine and the swallow,
   The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
      The memories that follow!

                                                                      1874



IV
I. M.
R. T. HAMILTON BRUCE
(1846–1899)


   OUT of the night that covers me,
      Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
   I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

   In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
   Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

   Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
   And yet the menace of the years
      Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

   It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
   I am the master of my fate:
      I am the captain of my soul.

                                                                      1875



V


   I AM the Reaper.
   All things with heedful hook
   Silent I gather.
   Pale roses touched with the spring,
   Tall corn in summer,
   Fruits rich with autumn, and frail winter blossoms—
   Reaping, still reaping—
   All things with heedful hook
   Timely I gather.

   I am the Sower.
   All the unbodied life
   Runs through my seed-sheet.
   Atom with atom wed,
   Each quickening the other,
   Fall through my hands, ever changing, still changeless
   Ceaselessly sowing,
   Life, incorruptible life,
   Flows from my seed-sheet.

   Maker and breaker,
   I am the ebb and the flood,
   Here and Hereafter.
   Sped through the tangle and coil
   Of infinite nature,
   Viewless and soundless I fashion all being.
   Taker and giver,
   I am the womb and the grave,
   The Now and the Ever.

                                                                      1875



VI


   PRAISE the generous gods for giving
      In a world of wrath and strife
   With a little time for living,
      Unto all the joy of life.

   At whatever source we drink it,
      Art or love or faith or wine,
   In whatever terms we think it,
      It is common and divine.

   Praise the high gods, for in giving
      This to man, and this alone,
   They have made his chance of living
      Shine the equal of their own.

                                                                      1875



VII


   FILL a glass with golden wine,
      And the while your lips are wet
   Set their perfume unto mine,
            And forget,
   Every kiss we take and give
   Leaves us less of life to live.

   Yet again! Your whim and mine
      In a happy while have met.
   All your sweets to me resign,
            Nor regret
   That we press with every breath,
   Sighed or singing, nearer death.

                                                                      1875



VIII


   WE’LL go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.
   November glooms are barren beside the dusk of June.
   The summer flowers are faded, the summer thoughts are sere.
   We’ll go no more a-roving, lest worse befall, my dear.

   We’ll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.
   The song we sang rings hollow, and heavy runs the tune.
   Glad ways and words remembered would shame the wretched year.
   We’ll go no more a-roving, nor dream we did, my dear.

   We’ll go no more a-roving by the light of the moon.
   If yet we walk together, we need not shun the noon.
   No sweet thing left to savour, no sad thing left to fear,
   We’ll go no more a-roving, but weep at home, my dear.

                                                                      1875



IX
_To_ W. R.


   MADAM Life’s a piece in bloom
      Death goes dogging everywhere:
   She’s the tenant of the room,
      He’s the ruffian on the stair.

   You shall see her as a friend,
      You shall bilk him once and twice;
   But he’ll trap you in the end,
      And he’ll stick you for her price.

   With his kneebones at your chest,
      And his knuckles in your throat,
   You would reason—plead—protest!
      Clutching at her petticoat;

   But she’s heard it all before,
      Well she knows you’ve had your fun,
   Gingerly she gains the door,
      And your little job is done.

                                                                      1877



X


   THE sea is full of wandering foam,
      The sky of driving cloud;
   My restless thoughts among them roam . . .
      The night is dark and loud.

   Where are the hours that came to me
      So beautiful and bright?
   A wild wind shakes the wilder sea . . .
      O, dark and loud’s the night!

                                                                      1876



XI
_To_ W. R.


   THICK is the darkness—
      Sunward, O, sunward!
   Rough is the highway—
      Onward, still onward!

   Dawn harbours surely
      East of the shadows.
   Facing us somewhere
      Spread the sweet meadows.

   Upward and forward!
      Time will restore us:
   Light is above us,
      Rest is before us.

                                                                      1876



XII


   TO me at my fifth-floor window
      The chimney-pots in rows
   Are sets of pipes pandean
      For every wind that blows;

   And the smoke that whirls and eddies
      In a thousand times and keys
   Is really a visible music
      Set to my reveries.

   O monstrous pipes, melodious
      With fitful tune and dream,
   The clouds are your only audience,
      Her thought is your only theme!

                                                                      1875



XIII


   BRING her again, O western wind,
      Over the western sea:
   Gentle and good and fair and kind,
      Bring her again to me!

   Not that her fancy holds me dear,
      Not that a hope may be:
   Only that I may know her near,
      Wind of the western sea.

                                                                      1875



XIV


   THE wan sun westers, faint and slow;
   The eastern distance glimmers gray;
   An eerie haze comes creeping low
   Across the little, lonely bay;
   And from the sky-line far away
   About the quiet heaven are spread
   Mysterious hints of dying day,
   Thin, delicate dreams of green and red.

   And weak, reluctant surges lap
   And rustle round and down the strand.
   No other sound . . . If it should hap,
   The ship that sails from fairy-land!
   The silken shrouds with spells are manned,
   The hull is magically scrolled,
   The squat mast lives, and in the sand
   The gold prow-griffin claws a hold.

   It steals to seaward silently;
   Strange fish-folk follow thro’ the gloom;
   Great wings flap overhead; I see
   The Castle of the Drowsy Doom
   Vague thro’ the changeless twilight loom,
   Enchanted, hushed.  And ever there
   She slumbers in eternal bloom,
   Her cushions hid with golden hair.

                                                                      1875



XV


   THERE is a wheel inside my head
      Of wantonness and wine,
         An old, cracked fiddle is begging without,
   But the wind with scents of the sea is fed,
      And the sun seems glad to shine.

   The sun and the wind are akin to you,
      As you are akin to June.
         But the fiddle! . . . It giggles and twitters about,
   And, love and laughter! who gave him the cue?—
      He’s playing your favourite tune.

                                                                      1875



XVI


   WHILE the west is paling
      Starshine is begun.
   While the dusk is failing
      Glimmers up the sun.

   So, till darkness cover
      Life’s retreating gleam,
   Lover follows lover,
      Dream succeeds to dream.

   Stoop to my endeavour,
      O my love, and be
   Only and for ever
      Sun and stars to me.

                                                                      1876



XVII


   THE sands are alive with sunshine,
      The bathers lounge and throng,
   And out in the bay a bugle
      Is lilting a gallant song.

   The clouds go racing eastward,
      The blithe wind cannot rest,
   And a shard on the shingle flashes
      Like the shining soul of a jest;

   While children romp in the surges,
      And sweethearts wander free,
   And the Firth as with laughter dimples . . .
      I would it were deep over me!

                                                                      1875



XVIII
_To_ A. D.


   THE nightingale has a lyre of gold,
      The lark’s is a clarion-call,
   And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute,
      But I love him best of all.

   For his song is all of the joy of life,
      And we in the mad, spring weather,
   We two have listened till he sang
      Our hearts and lips together.

                                                                      1876



XIX


   YOUR heart has trembled to my tongue,
      Your hands in mine have lain,
   Your thought to me has leaned and clung,
               Again and yet again,
                  My dear,
               Again and yet again.

   Now die the dream, or come the wife,
      The past is not in vain,
   For wholly as it was your life
               Can never be again,
                  My dear,
               Can never be again.

                                                                      1876



XX


   THE surges gushed and sounded,
      The blue was the blue of June,
   And low above the brightening east
      Floated a shred of moon.

   The woods were black and solemn,
      The night winds large and free,
   And in your thought a blessing seemed
      To fall on land and sea.

                                                                      1877



XXI


   WE flash across the level.
      We thunder thro’ the bridges.
   We bicker down the cuttings.
      We sway along the ridges.

   A rush of streaming hedges,
      Of jostling lights and shadows,
   Of hurtling, hurrying stations,
      Of racing woods and meadows.

   We charge the tunnels headlong—
      The blackness roars and shatters.
   We crash between embankments—
      The open spins and scatters.

   We shake off the miles like water,
      We might carry a royal ransom;
   And I think of her waiting, waiting,
      And long for a common hansom.

                                                                      1876



XXII


   THE West a glimmering lake of light,
      A dream of pearly weather,
   The first of stars is burning white—
      The star we watch together.
   Is April dead?  The unresting year
      Will shape us our September,
   And April’s work is done, my dear—
      Do you not remember?

   O gracious eve!  O happy star,
      Still-flashing, glowing, sinking!—
   Who lives of lovers near or far
      So glad as I in thinking?
   The gallant world is warm and green,
      For May fulfils November.
   When lights and leaves and loves have been,
      Sweet, will you remember?

   O star benignant and serene,
      I take the good to-morrow,
   That fills from verge to verge my dream,
      With all its joy and sorrow!
   The old, sweet spell is unforgot
      That turns to June December;
   And, tho’ the world remembered not,
      Love, we would remember.

                                                                      1876



XXIII


   THE skies are strown with stars,
      The streets are fresh with dew
   A thin moon drifts to westward,
   The night is hushed and cheerful.
      My thought is quick with you.

   Near windows gleam and laugh,
      And far away a train
   Clanks glowing through the stillness:
   A great content’s in all things,
      And life is not in vain.

                                                                      1877



XXIV


   THE full sea rolls and thunders
      In glory and in glee.
   O, bury me not in the senseless earth
      But in the living sea!

   Ay, bury me where it surges
      A thousand miles from shore,
   And in its brotherly unrest
      I’ll range for evermore.

                                                                      1876



XXV


   IN the year that’s come and gone, love, his flying feather
   Stooping slowly, gave us heart, and bade us walk together.
   In the year that’s coming on, though many a troth be broken,
   We at least will not forget aught that love hath spoken.

   In the year that’s come and gone, dear, we wove a tether
   All of gracious words and thoughts, binding two together.
   In the year that’s coming on with its wealth of roses
   We shall weave it stronger, yet, ere the circle closes.

   In the year that’s come and gone, in the golden weather,
   Sweet, my sweet, we swore to keep the watch of life together.
   In the year that’s coming on, rich in joy and sorrow,
   We shall light our lamp, and wait life’s mysterious morrow.

                                                                      1877



XXVI


   IN the placid summer midnight,
      Under the drowsy sky,
   I seem to hear in the stillness
      The moths go glimmering by.

   One by one from the windows
      The lights have all been sped.
   Never a blind looks conscious—
      The street is asleep in bed!

   But I come where a living casement
      Laughs luminous and wide;
   I hear the song of a piano
      Break in a sparkling tide;

   And I feel, in the waltz that frolics
      And warbles swift and clear,
   A sudden sense of shelter
      And friendliness and cheer . . .

   A sense of tinkling glasses,
      Of love and laughter and light—
   The piano stops, and the window
      Stares blank out into the night.

   The blind goes out, and I wander
      To the old, unfriendly sea,
   The lonelier for the memory
      That walks like a ghost with me.



XXVII


   SHE sauntered by the swinging seas,
      A jewel glittered at her ear,
   And, teasing her along, the breeze
      Brought many a rounded grace more near.

   So passing, one with wave and beam,
      She left for memory to caress
   A laughing thought, a golden gleam,
      A hint of hidden loveliness.

                                                                      1876



XXVIII
_To_ S. C.


   BLITHE dreams arise to greet us,
      And life feels clean and new,
   For the old love comes to meet us
      In the dawning and the dew.
   O’erblown with sunny shadows,
      O’ersped with winds at play,
   The woodlands and the meadows
      Are keeping holiday.
   Wild foals are scampering, neighing,
      Brave merles their hautboys blow:
   Come! let us go a-maying
      As in the Long-Ago.

   Here we but peak and dwindle:
      The clank of chain and crane,
   The whir of crank and spindle
      Bewilder heart and brain;
   The ends of our endeavour
      Are merely wealth and fame,
   Yet in the still Forever
      We’re one and all the same;
   Delaying, still delaying,
      We watch the fading west:
   Come! let us go a-maying,
      Nor fear to take the best.

   Yet beautiful and spacious
      The wise, old world appears.
   Yet frank and fair and gracious
      Outlaugh the jocund years.
   Our arguments disputing,
      The universal Pan
   Still wanders fluting—fluting—
      Fluting to maid and man.
   Our weary well-a-waying
      His music cannot still:
   Come! let us go a-maying,
      And pipe with him our fill.

   When wanton winds are flowing
      Among the gladdening glass;
   Where hawthorn brakes are blowing,
      And meadow perfumes pass;
   Where morning’s grace is greenest,
      And fullest noon’s of pride;
   Where sunset spreads serenest,
      And sacred night’s most wide;
   Where nests are swaying, swaying,
      And spring’s fresh voices call,
   Come! let us go a-maying,
      And bless the God of all!

                                                                      1878



XXIX
_To_ R. L. S.


   A CHILD,
   Curious and innocent,
   Slips from his Nurse, and rejoicing
   Loses himself in the Fair.

   Thro’ the jostle and din
   Wandering, he revels,
   Dreaming, desiring, possessing;
   Till, of a sudden
   Tired and afraid, he beholds
   The sordid assemblage
   Just as it is; and he runs
   With a sob to his Nurse
   (Lighting at last on him),
   And in her motherly bosom
   Cries him to sleep.

   Thus thro’ the World,
   Seeing and feeling and knowing,
   Goes Man: till at last,
   Tired of experience, he turns
   To the friendly and comforting breast
   Of the old nurse, Death.

                                                                      1876



XXX


   KATE-A-WHIMSIES, John-a-Dreams,
      Still debating, still delay,
   And the world’s a ghost that gleams—
      Wavers—vanishes away!

   We must live while live we can;
      We should love while love we may.
   Dread in women, doubt in man . . .
      So the Infinite runs away.

                                                                      1876



XXXI


   O, HAVE you blessed, behind the stars,
      The blue sheen in the skies,
   When June the roses round her calls?—
   Then do you know the light that falls
      From her belovèd eyes.

   And have you felt the sense of peace
      That morning meadows give?—
   Then do you know the spirit of grace,
   The angel abiding in her face,
      Who makes it good to live.

   She shines before me, hope and dream,
      So fair, so still, so wise,
   That, winning her, I seem to win
   Out of the dust and drive and din
      A nook of Paradise.

                                                                      1877



XXXII
_To_ D. H.


   O, FALMOUTH is a fine town with ships in the bay,
   And I wish from my heart it’s there I was to-day;
   I wish from my heart I was far away from here,
   Sitting in my parlour and talking to my dear.
         For it’s home, dearie, home—it’s home I want to be.
         Our topsails are hoisted, and we’ll away to sea.
         O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree
         They’re all growing green in the old countrie.

   In Baltimore a-walking a lady I did meet
   With her babe on her arm, as she came down the street;
   And I thought how I sailed, and the cradle standing ready
   For the pretty little babe that has never seen its daddie.
         And it’s home, dearie, home . . .

   O, if it be a lass, she shall wear a golden ring;
   And if it be a lad, he shall fight for his king:
   With his dirk and his hat and his little jacket blue
   He shall walk the quarter-deck as his daddie used to do.
         And it’s home, dearie, home . . .

   O, there’s a wind a-blowing, a-blowing from the west,
   And that of all the winds is the one I like the best,
   For it blows at our backs, and it shakes our pennon free,
   And it soon will blow us home to the old countrie.
         For it’s home, dearie, home—it’s home I want to be.
         Our topsails are hoisted, and we’ll away to sea.
         O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree
         They’re all growing green in the old countrie.

                                                                      1878

             NOTE.—The burthen and the third stanza are old.



XXXIII


   THE ways are green with the gladdening sheen
      Of the young year’s fairest daughter.
   O, the shadows that fleet o’er the springing wheat!
      O, the magic of running water!
   The spirit of spring is in every thing,
      The banners of spring are streaming,
   We march to a tune from the fifes of June,
      And life’s a dream worth dreaming.

   It’s all very well to sit and spell
      At the lesson there’s no gainsaying;
   But what the deuce are wont and use
      When the whole mad world’s a-maying?
   When the meadow glows, and the orchard snows,
      And the air’s with love-motes teeming,
   When fancies break, and the senses wake,
      O, life’s a dream worth dreaming!

   What Nature has writ with her lusty wit
      Is worded so wisely and kindly
   That whoever has dipped in her manuscript
      Must up and follow her blindly.
   Now the summer prime is her blithest rhyme
      In the being and the seeming,
   And they that have heard the overword
      Know life’s a dream worth dreaming.

                                                                      1878



XXXIV
_To_ K. de M.


    _Love blows as the wind blows_,
    _Love blows into the heart_.—NILE BOAT-SONG.

   LIFE in her creaking shoes
   Goes, and more formal grows,
   A round of calls and cues:
   Love blows as the wind blows.
   Blows! . . . in the quiet close
   As in the roaring mart,
   By ways no mortal knows
   Love blows into the heart.

   The stars some cadence use,
   Forthright the river flows,
   In order fall the dews,
   Love blows as the wind blows:
   Blows! . . . and what reckoning shows
   The courses of his chart?
   A spirit that comes and goes,
   Love blows into the heart.

                                                                      1878



XXXV
I. M.
MARGARITÆ SORORI
(1886)


   A LATE lark twitters from the quiet skies;
   And from the west,
   Where the sun, his day’s work ended,
   Lingers as in content,
   There falls on the old, grey city
   An influence luminous and serene,
   A shining peace.

   The smoke ascends
   In a rosy-and-golden haze.  The spires
   Shine, and are changed.  In the valley
   Shadows rise.  The lark sings on.  The sun,
   Closing his benediction,
   Sinks, and the darkening air
   Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night—
   Night with her train of stars
   And her great gift of sleep.

   So be my passing!
   My task accomplished and the long day done,
   My wages taken, and in my heart
   Some late lark singing,
   Let me be gathered to the quiet west,
   The sundown splendid and serene,
   Death.

                                                                      1876



XXXVI


   I GAVE my heart to a woman—
      I gave it her, branch and root.
   She bruised, she wrung, she tortured,
      She cast it under foot.

   Under her feet she cast it,
      She trampled it where it fell,
   She broke it all to pieces,
      And each was a clot of hell.

   There in the rain and the sunshine
      They lay and smouldered long;
   And each, when again she viewed them,
      Had turned to a living song.



XXXVII
_To_ W. A.


   OR ever the knightly years were gone
      With the old world to the grave,
   I was a King in Babylon
      And you were a Christian Slave.

   I saw, I took, I cast you by,
      I bent and broke your pride.
   You loved me well, or I heard them lie,
      But your longing was denied.
   Surely I knew that by and by
      You cursed your gods and died.

   And a myriad suns have set and shone
      Since then upon the grave
   Decreed by the King in Babylon
      To her that had been his Slave.

   The pride I trampled is now my scathe,
      For it tramples me again.
   The old resentment lasts like death,
      For you love, yet you refrain.
   I break my heart on your hard unfaith,
      And I break my heart in vain.

   Yet not for an hour do I wish undone
      The deed beyond the grave,
   When I was a King in Babylon
      And you were a Virgin Slave.



XXXVIII


   ON the way to Kew,
   By the river old and gray,
   Where in the Long Ago
   We laughed and loitered so,
   I met a ghost to-day,
   A ghost that told of you—
   A ghost of low replies
   And sweet, inscrutable eyes
   Coming up from Richmond
   As you used to do.

   By the river old and gray,
   The enchanted Long Ago
   Murmured and smiled anew.
   On the way to Kew,
   March had the laugh of May,
   The bare boughs looked aglow,
   And old, immortal words
   Sang in my breast like birds,
   Coming up from Richmond
   As I used with you.

   With the life of Long Ago
   Lived my thought of you.
   By the river old and gray
   Flowing his appointed way
   As I watched I knew
   What is so good to know—
   Not in vain, not in vain,
   Shall I look for you again
   Coming up from Richmond
   On the way to Kew.



XXXIX


   THE Past was goodly once, and yet, when all is said,
   The best of it we know is that it’s done and dead.

   Dwindled and faded quite, perished beyond recall,
   Nothing is left at last of what one time was all.

   Coming back like a ghost, staring and lingering on,
   Never a word it speaks but proves it dead and gone.

   Duty and work and joy—these things it cannot give;
   And the Present is life, and life is good to live.

   Let it lie where it fell, far from the living sun,
   The Past that, goodly once, is gone and dead and done.



XL


   THE spring, my dear,
   Is no longer spring.
   Does the blackbird sing
   What he sang last year?
   Are the skies the old
   Immemorial blue?
   Or am I, or are you,
   Grown cold?

   Though life be change,
   It is hard to bear
   When the old sweet air
   Sounds forced and strange.
   To be out of tune,
   Plain You and I . . .
   It were better to die,
   And soon!



XLVI
_To_ R. A. M. S.


   _The Spirit of Wine_
   _Sang in my glass_, _and I listened_
   _With love to his odorous music_,
   _His flushed and magnificent song_.

   —‘I am health, I am heart, I am life!
   For I give for the asking
   The fire of my father, the Sun,
   And the strength of my mother, the Earth.
   Inspiration in essence,
   I am wisdom and wit to the wise,
   His visible muse to the poet,
   The soul of desire to the lover,
   The genius of laughter to all.

   ‘Come, lean on me, ye that are weary!
   Rise, ye faint-hearted and doubting!
   Haste, ye that lag by the way!
   I am Pride, the consoler;
   Valour and Hope are my henchmen;
   I am the Angel of Rest.

   ‘I am life, I am wealth, I am fame:
   For I captain an army
   Of shining and generous dreams;
   And mine, too, all mine, are the keys
   Of that secret spiritual shrine,
   Where, his work-a-day soul put by,
   Shut in with his saint of saints—
   With his radiant and conquering self—
   Man worships, and talks, and is glad.

   ‘Come, sit with me, ye that are lovely,
   Ye that are paid with disdain,
   Ye that are chained and would soar!
   I am beauty and love;
   I am friendship, the comforter;
   I am that which forgives and forgets.’—

   _The Spirit of Wine_
   _Sang in my heart_, _and I triumphed_
   _In the savour and scent of his music_,
   _His magnetic and mastering song_.



XLII


   A WINK from Hesper, falling
      Fast in the wintry sky,
   Comes through the even blue,
   Dear, like a word from you . . .
      Is it good-bye?

   Across the miles between us
      I send you sigh for sigh.
   Good-night, sweet friend, good-night:
   Till life and all take flight,
      Never good-bye.



XLII


   FRIENDS . . . old friends . . .
   One sees how it ends.
   A woman looks
   Or a man tells lies,
   And the pleasant brooks
   And the quiet skies,
   Ruined with brawling
   And caterwauling,
   Enchant no more
   As they did before.
   And so it ends
   With friends.

   Friends . . . old friends . . .
   And what if it ends?
   Shall we dare to shirk
   What we live to learn?
   It has done its work,
   It has served its turn;
   And, forgive and forget
   Or hanker and fret,
   We can be no more
   As we were before.
   When it ends, it ends
   With friends.

   Friends . . . old friends . . .
   So it breaks, so it ends.
   There let it rest!
   It has fought and won,
   And is still the best
   That either has done.
   Each as he stands
   The work of its hands,
   Which shall be more
   As he was before? . . .
   What is it ends
   With friends?



XLIV


   IF it should come to be,
   This proof of you and me,
         This type and sign
   Of hours that smiled and shone,
   And yet seemed dead and gone
         As old-world wine:

   Of Them Within the Gate
   Ask we no richer fate,
         No boon above,
   For girl child or for boy,
   My gift of life and joy,
         Your gift of love.



XLV
_To_ W. B.


   FROM the brake the Nightingale
      Sings exulting to the Rose;
   Though he sees her waxing pale
      In her passionate repose,
   While she triumphs waxing frail,
      Fading even while she glows;
            Though he knows
            How it goes—
   Knows of last year’s Nightingale
      Dead with last year’s Rose.

   Wise the enamoured Nightingale,
      Wise the well-belovèd Rose!
   Love and life shall still prevail,
      Nor the silence at the close
   Break the magic of the tale
      In the telling, though it shows—
            Who but knows
            How it goes!—
   Life a last year’s Nightingale,
      Love a last year’s Rose.



XLVI
MATRI DILECTISSIMÆ
I. M.


   IN the waste hour
   Between to-day and yesterday
   We watched, while on my arm—
   Living flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone—
   Dabbled in sweat the sacred head
   Lay uncomplaining, still, contemptuous, strange:
   Till the dear face turned dead,
   And to a sound of lamentation
   The good, heroic soul with all its wealth—
   Its sixty years of love and sacrifice,
   Suffering and passionate faith—was reabsorbed
   In the inexorable Peace,
   And life was changed to us for evermore.

   Was nothing left of her but tears
   Like blood-drops from the heart?
   Nought save remorse
   For duty unfulfilled, justice undone,
   And charity ignored?  Nothing but love,
   Forgiveness, reconcilement, where in truth,
   But for this passing
   Into the unimaginable abyss
   These things had never been?

   Nay, there were we,
   Her five strong sons!
   To her Death came—the great Deliverer came!—
   As equal comes to equal, throne to throne.
   She was a mother of men.

   The stars shine as of old.  The unchanging River,
   Bent on his errand of immortal law,
   Works his appointed way
   To the immemorial sea.
   And the brave truth comes overwhelmingly home:—
   That she in us yet works and shines,
   Lives and fulfils herself,
   Unending as the river and the stars.

   Dearest, live on
   In such an immortality
   As we thy sons,
   Born of thy body and nursed
   At those wild, faithful breasts,
   Can give—of generous thoughts,
   And honourable words, and deeds
   That make men half in love with fate!
   Live on, O brave and true,
   In us thy children, in ours whose life is thine—
   Our best and theirs!  What is that best but thee—
   Thee, and thy gift to us, to pass
   Like light along the infinite of space
   To the immitigable end?

   Between the river and the stars,
   O royal and radiant soul,
   Thou dost return, thine influences return
   Upon thy children as in life, and death
   Turns stingless!  What is Death
   But Life in act?  How should the Unteeming Grave
   Be victor over thee,
   Mother, a mother of men?



XLVII


   CROSSES and troubles a-many have proved me.
   One or two women (God bless them!) have loved me.
   I have worked and dreamed, and I’ve talked at will.
   Of art and drink I have had my fill.
   I’ve comforted here, and I’ve succoured there.
   I’ve faced my foes, and I’ve backed my friends.
   I’ve blundered, and sometimes made amends.
   I have prayed for light, and I’ve known despair.
   Now I look before, as I look behind,
   Come storm, come shine, whatever befall,
   With a grateful heart and a constant mind,
   For the end I know is the best of all.

                                                                 1888–1889



LONDON VOLUNTARIES


                          (_To_ Charles Whibley)

                                                                 1890–1892



I
_Grave_


   ST. MARGARET’S bells,
   Quiring their innocent, old-world canticles,
   Sing in the storied air,
   All rosy-and-golden, as with memories
   Of woods at evensong, and sands and seas
   Disconsolate for that the night is nigh.
   O, the low, lingering lights!  The large last gleam
   (Hark! how those brazen choristers cry and call!)
   Touching these solemn ancientries, and there,
   The silent River ranging tide-mark high
   And the callow, grey-faced Hospital,
   With the strange glimmer and glamour of a dream!
   The Sabbath peace is in the slumbrous trees,
   And from the wistful, the fast-widowing sky
   (Hark! how those plangent comforters call and cry!)
   Falls as in August plots late roseleaves fall.
   The sober Sabbath stir—
   Leisurely voices, desultory feet!—
   Comes from the dry, dust-coloured street,
   Where in their summer frocks the girls go by,
   And sweethearts lean and loiter and confer,
   Just as they did an hundred years ago,
   Just as an hundred years to come they will:—
   When you and I, Dear Love, lie lost and low,
   And sweet-throats none our welkin shall fulfil,
   Nor any sunset fade serene and slow;
   But, being dead, we shall not grieve to die.



II
_Andante con moto_


   FORTH from the dust and din,
   The crush, the heat, the many-spotted glare,
   The odour and sense of life and lust aflare,
   The wrangle and jangle of unrests,
   Let us take horse, Dear Heart, take horse and win—
   As from swart August to the green lap of May—
   To quietness and the fresh and fragrant breasts
   Of the still, delicious night, not yet aware
   In any of her innumerable nests
   Of that first sudden plash of dawn,
   Clear, sapphirine, luminous, large,
   Which tells that soon the flowing springs of day
   In deep and ever deeper eddies drawn
   Forward and up, in wider and wider way,
   Shall float the sands, and brim the shores,
   On this our lith of the World, as round it roars
   And spins into the outlook of the Sun
   (The Lord’s first gift, the Lord’s especial charge),
   With light, with living light, from marge to marge
   Until the course He set and staked be run.

   Through street and square, through square and street,
   Each with his home-grown quality of dark
   And violated silence, loud and fleet,
   Waylaid by a merry ghost at every lamp,
   The hansom wheels and plunges.  Hark, O, hark,
   Sweet, how the old mare’s bit and chain
   Ring back a rough refrain
   Upon the marked and cheerful tramp
   Of her four shoes!  Here is the Park,
   And O, the languid midsummer wafts adust,
   The tired midsummer blooms!
   O, the mysterious distances, the glooms
   Romantic, the august
   And solemn shapes!  At night this City of Trees
   Turns to a tryst of vague and strange
   And monstrous Majesties,
   Let loose from some dim underworld to range
   These terrene vistas till their twilight sets:
   When, dispossessed of wonderfulness, they stand
   Beggared and common, plain to all the land
   For stooks of leaves!  And lo! the Wizard Hour,
   His silent, shining sorcery winged with power!
   Still, still the streets, between their carcanets
   Of linking gold, are avenues of sleep.
   But see how gable ends and parapets
   In gradual beauty and significance
   Emerge!  And did you hear
   That little twitter-and-cheep,
   Breaking inordinately loud and clear
   On this still, spectral, exquisite atmosphere?
   ’Tis a first nest at matins!  And behold
   A rakehell cat—how furtive and acold!
   A spent witch homing from some infamous dance—
   Obscene, quick-trotting, see her tip and fade
   Through shadowy railings into a pit of shade!
   And now! a little wind and shy,
   The smell of ships (that earnest of romance),
   A sense of space and water, and thereby
   A lamplit bridge ouching the troubled sky,
   And look, O, look! a tangle of silver gleams
   And dusky lights, our River and all his dreams,
   His dreams that never save in our deaths can die.

   What miracle is happening in the air,
   Charging the very texture of the gray
   With something luminous and rare?
   The night goes out like an ill-parcelled fire,
   And, as one lights a candle, it is day.
   The extinguisher, that perks it like a spire
   On the little formal church, is not yet green
   Across the water: but the house-tops nigher,
   The corner-lines, the chimneys—look how clean,
   How new, how naked!  See the batch of boats,
   Here at the stairs, washed in the fresh-sprung beam!
   And those are barges that were goblin floats,
   Black, hag-steered, fraught with devilry and dream!
   And in the piles the water frolics clear,
   The ripples into loose rings wander and flee,
   And we—we can behold that could but hear
   The ancient River singing as he goes,
   New-mailed in morning, to the ancient Sea.
   The gas burns lank and jaded in its glass:
   The old Ruffian soon shall yawn himself awake,
   And light his pipe, and shoulder his tools, and take
   His hobnailed way to work!

                        Let us too pass—
   Pass ere the sun leaps and your shadow shows—
   Through these long, blindfold rows
   Of casements staring blind to right and left,
   Each with his gaze turned inward on some piece
   Of life in death’s own likeness—Life bereft
   Of living looks as by the Great Release—
   Pass to an exquisite night’s more exquisite close!

   Reach upon reach of burial—so they feel,
   These colonies of dreams!  And as we steal
   Homeward together, but for the buxom breeze,
   Fitfully frolicking to heel
   With news of dawn-drenched woods and tumbling seas,
   We might—thus awed, thus lonely that we are—
   Be wandering some dispeopled star,
   Some world of memories and unbroken graves,
   So broods the abounding Silence near and far:
   Till even your footfall craves
   Forgiveness of the majesty it braves.



III
_Scherzando_


   DOWN through the ancient Strand
   The spirit of October, mild and boon
   And sauntering, takes his way
   This golden end of afternoon,
   As though the corn stood yellow in all the land,
   And the ripe apples dropped to the harvest-moon.

   Lo! the round sun, half-down the western slope—
   Seen as along an unglazed telescope—
   Lingers and lolls, loth to be done with day:
   Gifting the long, lean, lanky street
   And its abounding confluences of being
   With aspects generous and bland;
   Making a thousand harnesses to shine
   As with new ore from some enchanted mine,
   And every horse’s coat so full of sheen
   He looks new-tailored, and every ’bus feels clean,
   And never a hansom but is worth the feeing;
   And every jeweller within the pale
   Offers a real Arabian Night for sale;
   And even the roar
   Of the strong streams of toil, that pause and pour
   Eastward and westward, sounds suffused—
   Seems as it were bemused
   And blurred, and like the speech
   Of lazy seas on a lotus-haunted beach—
   With this enchanted lustrousness,
   This mellow magic, that (as a man’s caress
   Brings back to some faded face, beloved before,
   A heavenly shadow of the grace it wore
   Ere the poor eyes were minded to beseech)
   Old things transfigures, and you hail and bless
   Their looks of long-lapsed loveliness once more:
   Till Clement’s, angular and cold and staid,
   Gleams forth in glamour’s very stuffs arrayed;
   And Bride’s, her aëry, unsubstantial charm
   Through flight on flight of springing, soaring stone
   Grown flushed and warm,
   Laughs into life full-mooded and fresh-blown;
   And the high majesty of Paul’s
   Uplifts a voice of living light, and calls—
   Calls to his millions to behold and see
   How goodly this his London Town can be!

   For earth and sky and air
   Are golden everywhere,
   And golden with a gold so suave and fine
   The looking on it lifts the heart like wine.
   Trafalgar Square
   (The fountains volleying golden glaze)
   Shines like an angel-market.  High aloft
   Over his couchant Lions, in a haze
   Shimmering and bland and soft,
   A dust of chrysoprase,
   Our Sailor takes the golden gaze
   Of the saluting sun, and flames superb,
   As once he flamed it on his ocean round.
   The dingy dreariness of the picture-place,
   Turned very nearly bright,
   Takes on a luminous transiency of grace,
   And shows no more a scandal to the ground.
   The very blind man pottering on the kerb,
   Among the posies and the ostrich feathers
   And the rude voices touched with all the weathers
   Of the long, varying year,
   Shares in the universal alms of light.
   The windows, with their fleeting, flickering fires,
   The height and spread of frontage shining sheer,
   The quiring signs, the rejoicing roofs and spires—
   ’Tis El Dorado—El Dorado plain,
   The Golden City!  And when a girl goes by,
   Look! as she turns her glancing head,
   A call of gold is floated from her ear!
   Golden, all golden!  In a golden glory,
   Long-lapsing down a golden coasted sky,
   The day, not dies but, seems
   Dispersed in wafts and drifts of gold, and shed
   Upon a past of golden song and story
   And memories of gold and golden dreams.



IV
_Largo e mesto_


   OUT of the poisonous East,
   Over a continent of blight,
   Like a maleficent Influence released
   From the most squalid cellarage of hell,
   The Wind-Fiend, the abominable—
   The Hangman Wind that tortures temper and light—
   Comes slouching, sullen and obscene,
   Hard on the skirts of the embittered night;
   And in a cloud unclean
   Of excremental humours, roused to strife
   By the operation of some ruinous change,
   Wherever his evil mandate run and range,
   Into a dire intensity of life,
   A craftsman at his bench, he settles down
   To the grim job of throttling London Town.

   So, by a jealous lightlessness beset
   That might have oppressed the dragons of old time
   Crunching and groping in the abysmal slime,
   A cave of cut-throat thoughts and villainous dreams,
   Hag-rid and crying with cold and dirt and wet,
   The afflicted City, prone from mark to mark
   In shameful occultation, seems
   A nightmare labyrinthine, dim and drifting,
   With wavering gulfs and antic heights, and shifting,
   Rent in the stuff of a material dark,
   Wherein the lamplight, scattered and sick and pale,
   Shows like the leper’s living blotch of bale:
   Uncoiling monstrous into street on street
   Paven with perils, teeming with mischance,
   Where man and beast go blindfold and in dread,
   Working with oaths and threats and faltering feet
   Somewhither in the hideousness ahead;
   Working through wicked airs and deadly dews
   That make the laden robber grin askance
   At the good places in his black romance,
   And the poor, loitering harlot rather choose
   Go pinched and pined to bed
   Than lurk and shiver and curse her wretched way
   From arch to arch, scouting some threepenny prey.

   Forgot his dawns and far-flushed afterglows,
   His green garlands and windy eyots forgot,
   The old Father-River flows,
   His watchfires cores of menace in the gloom,
   As he came oozing from the Pit, and bore,
   Sunk in his filthily transfigured sides,
   Shoals of dishonoured dead to tumble and rot
   In the squalor of the universal shore:
   His voices sounding through the gruesome air
   As from the Ferry where the Boat of Doom
   With her blaspheming cargo reels and rides:
   The while his children, the brave ships,
   No more adventurous and fair,
   Nor tripping it light of heel as home-bound brides,
   But infamously enchanted,
   Huddle together in the foul eclipse,
   Or feel their course by inches desperately,
   As through a tangle of alleys murder-haunted,
   From sinister reach to reach out—out—to sea.

   And Death the while—
   Death with his well-worn, lean, professional smile,
   Death in his threadbare working trim—
   Comes to your bedside, unannounced and bland,
   And with expert, inevitable hand
   Feels at your windpipe, fingers you in the lung,
   Or flicks the clot well into the labouring heart:
   Thus signifying unto old and young,
   However hard of mouth or wild of whim,
   ’Tis time—’tis time by his ancient watch—to part
   From books and women and talk and drink and art.
   And you go humbly after him
   To a mean suburban lodging: on the way
   To what or where
   Not Death, who is old and very wise, can say:
   And you—how should you care
   So long as, unreclaimed of hell,
   The Wind-Fiend, the insufferable,
   Thus vicious and thus patient, sits him down
   To the black job of burking London Town?



V
_Allegro maëstoso_


   SPRING winds that blow
   As over leagues of myrtle-blooms and may;
   Bevies of spring clouds trooping slow,
   Like matrons heavy bosomed and aglow
   With the mild and placid pride of increase!  Nay,
   What makes this insolent and comely stream
   Of appetence, this freshet of desire
   (Milk from the wild breasts of the wilful Day!),
   Down Piccadilly dance and murmur and gleam
   In genial wave on wave and gyre on gyre?
   Why does that nymph unparalleled splash and churn
   The wealth of her enchanted urn
   Till, over-billowing all between
   Her cheerful margents, grey and living green,
   It floats and wanders, glittering and fleeing,
   An estuary of the joy of being?
   Why should the lovely leafage of the Park
   Touch to an ecstasy the act of seeing?
   —Sure, sure my paramour, my Bride of Brides,
   Lingering and flushed, mysteriously abides
   In some dim, eye-proof angle of odorous dark,
   Some smiling nook of green-and-golden shade,
   In the divine conviction robed and crowned
   The globe fulfils his immemorial round
   But as the marrying-place of all things made!

   There is no man, this deifying day,
   But feels the primal blessing in his blood.
   There is no woman but disdains—
   The sacred impulse of the May
   Brightening like sex made sunshine through her veins—
   To vail the ensigns of her womanhood.
   None but, rejoicing, flaunts them as she goes,
   Bounteous in looks of her delicious best,
   On her inviolable quest:
   These with their hopes, with their sweet secrets those,
   But all desirable and frankly fair,
   As each were keeping some most prosperous tryst,
   And in the knowledge went imparadised!
   For look! a magical influence everywhere,
   Look how the liberal and transfiguring air
   Washes this inn of memorable meetings,
   This centre of ravishments and gracious greetings,
   Till, through its jocund loveliness of length
   A tidal-race of lust from shore to shore,
   A brimming reach of beauty met with strength,
   It shines and sounds like some miraculous dream,
   Some vision multitudinous and agleam,
   Of happiness as it shall be evermore!

   Praise God for giving
   Through this His messenger among the days
   His word the life He gave is thrice-worth living!
   For Pan, the bountiful, imperious Pan—
   Not dead, not dead, as impotent dreamers feigned,
   But the gay genius of a million Mays
   Renewing his beneficent endeavour!—
   Still reigns and triumphs, as he hath triumphed and reigned
   Since in the dim blue dawn of time
   The universal ebb-and-flow began,
   To sound his ancient music, and prevails,
   By the persuasion of his mighty rhyme,
   Here in this radiant and immortal street
   Lavishly and omnipotently as ever
   In the open hills, the undissembling dales,
   The laughing-places of the juvenile earth.
   For lo! the wills of man and woman meet,
   Meet and are moved, each unto each endeared,
   As once in Eden’s prodigal bowers befell,
   To share his shameless, elemental mirth
   In one great act of faith: while deep and strong,
   Incomparably nerved and cheered,
   The enormous heart of London joys to beat
   To the measures of his rough, majestic song;
   The lewd, perennial, overmastering spell
   That keeps the rolling universe ensphered,
   And life, and all for which life lives to long,
   Wanton and wondrous and for ever well.



RHYMES AND RHYTHMS


                                                                 1889–1892



_PROLOGUE_


   _Something is dead_ . . .
   _The grace of sunset solitudes_, _the march_
   _Of the solitary moon_, _the pomp and power_
   _Of round on round of shining soldier-stars_
   _Patrolling space_, _the bounties of the sun_—
   _Sovran_, _tremendous_, _unimaginable_—
   _The multitudinous friendliness of the sea_,
   _Possess no more—no more_.

   _Something is dead_ . . .
   _The Autumn rain-rot deeper and wider soaks_
   _And spreads_, _the burden of Winter heavier weighs_,
   _His melancholy close and closer yet_
   _Cleaves_, _and those incantations of the Spring_
   _That made the heart a centre of miracles_
   _Grow formal_, _and the wonder-working bours_
   _Arise no more—no more_.

   _Something is dead_ . . .
   _’Tis time to creep in close about the fire_
   _And tell grey tales of what we were_, _and dream_
   _Old dreams and faded_, _and as we may rejoice_
   _In the young life that round us leaps and laughs_,
   _A fountain in the sunshine_, _in the pride_
   _Of God’s best gift that to us twain returns_,
   _Dear Heart_, _no more—no more_.



I
_To_ H. B. M. W.


   WHERE forlorn sunsets flare and fade
      On desolate sea and lonely sand,
   Out of the silence and the shade
      What is the voice of strange command
   Calling you still, as friend calls friend
      With love that cannot brook delay,
   To rise and follow the ways that wend
      Over the hills and far away?

   Hark in the city, street on street
      A roaring reach of death and life,
   Of vortices that clash and fleet
      And ruin in appointed strife,
   Hark to it calling, calling clear,
      Calling until you cannot stay
   From dearer things than your own most dear
      Over the hills and far away.

   Out of the sound of the ebb-and-flow,
      Out of the sight of lamp and star,
   It calls you where the good winds blow,
      And the unchanging meadows are:
   From faded hopes and hopes agleam,
      It calls you, calls you night and day
   Beyond the dark into the dream
      Over the hills and far away



II
_To_ R. F. B.


   WE are the Choice of the Will: God, when He gave the word
   That called us into line, set in our hand a sword;

   Set us a sword to wield none else could lift and draw,
   And bade us forth to the sound of the trumpet of the Law.

   East and west and north, wherever the battle grew,
   As men to a feast we fared, the work of the Will to do.

   Bent upon vast beginnings, bidding anarchy cease—
   (Had we hacked it to the Pit, we had left it a place of peace!)—

   Marching, building, sailing, pillar of cloud or fire,
   Sons of the Will, we fought the fight of the Will, our sire.

   Road was never so rough that we left its purpose dark;
   Stark was ever the sea, but our ships were yet more stark;

   We tracked the winds of the world to the steps of their very thrones;
   The secret parts of the world were salted with our bones;

   Till now the name of names, England, the name of might,
   Flames from the austral fires to the bounds of the boreal night;

   And the call of her morning drum goes in a girdle of sound,
   Like the voice of the sun in song, the great globe round and round;

   And the shadow of her flag, when it shouts to the mother-breeze,
   Floats from shore to shore of the universal seas;

   And the loneliest death is fair with a memory of her flowers,
   And the end of the road to Hell with the sense of her dews and
   showers!

   Who says that we shall pass, or the fame of us fade and die,
   While the living stars fulfil their round in the living sky?

   For the sire lives in his sons, and they pay their father’s debt,
   And the Lion has left a whelp wherever his claw was set;

   And the Lion in his whelps, his whelps that none shall brave,
   Is but less strong than Time and the great, all-whelming Grave.



III


   A DESOLATE shore,
   The sinister seduction of the Moon,
   The menace of the irreclaimable Sea.

   Flaunting, tawdry and grim,
   From cloud to cloud along her beat,
   Leering her battered and inveterate leer,
   She signals where he prowls in the dark alone,
   Her horrible old man,
   Mumbling old oaths and warming
   His villainous old bones with villainous talk—
   The secrets of their grisly housekeeping
   Since they went out upon the pad
   In the first twilight of self-conscious Time:
   Growling, hideous and hoarse,
   Tales of unnumbered Ships,
   Goodly and strong, Companions of the Advance,
   In some vile alley of the night
   Waylaid and bludgeoned—
   Dead.

   Deep cellared in primeval ooze,
   Ruined, dishonoured, spoiled,
   They lie where the lean water-worm
   Crawls free of their secrets, and their broken sides
   Bulge with the slime of life.  Thus they abide,
   Thus fouled and desecrate,
   The summons of the Trumpet, and the while
   These Twain, their murderers,
   Unravined, imperturbable, unsubdued,
   Hang at the heels of their children—She aloft
   As in the shining streets,
   He as in ambush at some accomplice door.

   The stalwart Ships,
   The beautiful and bold adventurers!
   Stationed out yonder in the isle,
   The tall Policeman,
   Flashing his bull’s-eye, as he peers
   About him in the ancient vacancy,
   Tells them this way is safety—this way home.



IV


   IT came with the threat of a waning moon
      And the wail of an ebbing tide,
   But many a woman has lived for less,
      And many a man has died;
   For life upon life took hold and passed,
      Strong in a fate set free,
   Out of the deep into the dark
      On for the years to be.

   Between the gloom of a waning moon
      And the song of an ebbing tide,
   Chance upon chance of love and death
      Took wing for the world so wide.
   O, leaf out of leaf is the way of the land,
      Wave out of wave of the sea
   And who shall reckon what lives may live
      In the life that we bade to be?



V


   WHY, my heart, do we love her so?
      (Geraldine, Geraldine!)
   Why does the great sea ebb and flow?—
      Why does the round world spin?
   Geraldine, Geraldine,
      Bid me my life renew:
   What is it worth unless I win,
      Love—love and you?

   Why, my heart, when we speak her name
      (Geraldine, Geraldine!)
   Throbs the word like a flinging flame?—
      Why does the Spring begin?
   Geraldine, Geraldine,
      Bid me indeed to be:
   Open your heart, and take us in,
      Love—love and me.



VI


   ONE with the ruined sunset,
      The strange forsaken sands,
   What is it waits, and wanders,
      And signs with desparate hands?

   What is it calls in the twilight—
      Calls as its chance were vain?
   The cry of a gull sent seaward
      Or the voice of an ancient pain?

   The red ghost of the sunset,
      It walks them as its own,
   These dreary and desolate reaches . . .
      But O, that it walked alone!



VII


   THERE’S a regret
   So grinding, so immitigably sad,
   Remorse thereby feels tolerant, even glad . . .
   Do you not know it yet?

   For deeds undone
   Rankle and snarl and hunger for their due,
   Till there seems naught so despicable as you
   In all the grin o’ the sun.

   Like an old shoe
   The sea spurns and the land abhors, you lie
   About the beach of Time, till by and by
   Death, that derides you too—

   Death, as he goes
   His ragman’s round, espies you, where you stray,
   With half-an-eye, and kicks you out of his way;
   And then—and then, who knows

   But the kind Grave
   Turns on you, and you feel the convict Worm,
   In that black bridewell working out his term,
   Hanker and grope and crave?

   ‘Poor fool that might—
   That might, yet would not, dared not, let this be,
   Think of it, here and thus made over to me
   In the implacable night!’

   And writhing, fain
   And like a triumphing lover, he shall take
   His fill where no high memory lives to make
   His obscene victory vain.



VIII
_To_ A. J. H.


   TIME and the Earth—
   The old Father and Mother—
   Their teeming accomplished,
   Their purpose fulfilled,
   Close with a smile
   For a moment of kindness,
   Ere for the winter
   They settle to sleep.

   Failing yet gracious,
   Slow pacing, soon homing,
   A patriarch that strolls
   Through the tents of his children,
   The Sun, as he journeys
   His round on the lower
   Ascents of the blue,
   Washes the roofs
   And the hillsides with clarity;
   Charms the dark pools
   Till they break into pictures;
   Scatters magnificent
   Alms to the beggar trees;
   Touches the mist-folk,
   That crowd to his escort,
   Into translucencies
   Radiant and ravishing:
   As with the visible
   Spirit of Summer
   Gloriously vaporised,
   Visioned in gold!

   Love, though the fallen leaf
   Mark, and the fleeting light
   And the loud, loitering
   Footfall of darkness
   Sign to the heart
   Of the passage of destiny,
   Here is the ghost
   Of a summer that lived for us,
   Here is a promise
   Of summers to be.



IX


   ‘AS like the Woman as you can’—
      (_Thus the New Adam was beguiled_)—
   ‘So shall you touch the Perfect Man’—
      (_God in the Garden heard and smiled_).
   ‘Your father perished with his day:
      ‘A clot of passions fierce and blind,
   ‘He fought, he hacked, he crushed his way:
      ‘Your muscles, Child, must be of mind.

   ‘The Brute that lurks and irks within,
      ‘How, till you have him gagged and bound,
   ‘Escape the foullest form of Sin?’
      (_God in the Garden laughed and frowned_).
   ‘So vile, so rank, the bestial mood
      ‘In which the race is bid to be,
   ‘It wrecks the Rarer Womanhood:
      ‘Live, therefore, you, for Purity!

   ‘Take for your mate no gallant croup,
      ‘No girl all grace and natural will:
   ‘To work her mission were to stoop,
      ‘Maybe to lapse, from Well to Ill.
   ‘Choose one of whom your grosser make’—
      (_God in the Garden laughed outright_)—
   ‘The true refining touch may take,
      ‘Till both attain to Life’s last height.

   ‘There, equal, purged of soul and sense.
      ‘Beneficent, high-thinking, just,
   ‘Beyond the appeal of Violence,
      ‘Incapable of common Lust,
   ‘In mental Marriage still prevail’—
      (_God in the Garden hid His face_)—
   ‘Till you achieve that Female-Male
      ‘In Which shall culminate the race.’



X


   MIDSUMMER midnight skies,
   Midsummer midnight influences and airs,
   The shining, sensitive silver of the sea
   Touched with the strange-hued blazonings of dawn;
   And all so solemnly still I seem to hear
   The breathing of Life and Death,
   The secular Accomplices,
   Renewing the visible miracle of the world.

   The wistful stars
   Shine like good memories.  The young morning wind
   Blows full of unforgotten hours
   As over a region of roses.  Life and Death
   Sound on—sound on . . . And the night magical,
   Troubled yet comforting, thrills
   As if the Enchanted Castle at the heart
   Of the wood’s dark wonderment
   Swung wide his valves, and filled the dim sea-banks
   With exquisite visitants:
   Words fiery-hearted yet, dreams and desires
   With living looks intolerable, regrets
   Whose voice comes as the voice of an only child
   Heard from the grave: shapes of a Might-Have-Been—
   Beautiful, miserable, distraught—
   The Law no man may baffle denied and slew.

   The spell-bound ships stand as at gaze
   To let the marvel by.  The grey road glooms . . .
   Glimmers . . . goes out . . . and there, O, there where it fades,
   What grace, what glamour, what wild will,
   Transfigure the shadows?  Whose,
   Heart of my heart, Soul of my soul, but yours?

   Ghosts—ghosts—the sapphirine air
   Teems with them even to the gleaming ends
   Of the wild day-spring!  Ghosts,
   Everywhere—everywhere—till I and you
   At last—dear love, at last!—
   Are in the dreaming, even as Life and Death,
   Twin-ministers of the unoriginal Will.



XI


   GULLS in an aëry morrice
      Gleam and vanish and gleam . . .
   The full sea, sleepily basking,
      Dreams under skies of dream.

   Gulls in an aëry morrice
      Circle and swoop and close . . .
   Fuller and ever fuller
      The rose of the morning blows.

   Gulls, in an aëry morrice
      Frolicking, float and fade . . .
   O, the way of a bird in the sunshine,
      The way of a man with a maid!



XII


   SOME starlit garden grey with dew,
   Some chamber flushed with wine and fire,
   What matters where, so I and you
      Are worthy our desire?

   Behind, a past that scolds and jeers
   For ungirt loins and lamps unlit;
   In front, the unmanageable years,
      The trap upon the Pit;

   Think on the shame of dreams for deeds,
   The scandal of unnatural strife,
   The slur upon immortal needs,
      The treason done to life:

   Arise! no more a living lie,
   And with me quicken and control
   Some memory that shall magnify
      The universal Soul.



XIII
_To_ James McNeill Whistler


   UNDER a stagnant sky,
   Gloom out of gloom uncoiling into gloom,
   The River, jaded and forlorn,
   Welters and wanders wearily—wretchedly—on;
   Yet in and out among the ribs
   Of the old skeleton bridge, as in the piles
   Of some dead lake-built city, full of skulls,
   Worm-worn, rat-riddled, mouldy with memories,
   Lingers to babble to a broken tune
   (Once, O, the unvoiced music of my heart!)
   So melancholy a soliloquy
   It sounds as it might tell
   The secret of the unending grief-in-grain,
   The terror of Time and Change and Death,
   That wastes this floating, transitory world.

   What of the incantation
   That forced the huddled shapes on yonder shore
   To take and wear the night
   Like a material majesty?
   That touched the shafts of wavering fire
   About this miserable welter and wash—
   (River, O River of Journeys, River of Dreams!)—
   Into long, shining signals from the panes
   Of an enchanted pleasure-house,
   Where life and life might live life lost in life
   For ever and evermore?

   O Death!  O Change!  O Time!
   Without you, O, the insuperable eyes
   Of these poor Might-Have-Beens,
   These fatuous, ineffectual Yesterdays!



XIV
_To_ J. A. C.


   FRESH from his fastnesses
   Wholesome and spacious,
   The North Wind, the mad huntsman,
   Halloas on his white hounds
   Over the grey, roaring
   Reaches and ridges,
   The forest of ocean,
   The chace of the world.
   Hark to the peal
   Of the pack in full cry,
   As he thongs them before him,
   Swarming voluminous,
   Weltering, wide-wallowing,
   Till in a ruining
   Chaos of energy,
   Hurled on their quarry,
   They crash into foam!

   Old Indefatigable,
   Time’s right-hand man, the sea
   Laughs as in joy
   From his millions of wrinkles:
   Laughs that his destiny,
   Great with the greatness
   Of triumphing order,
   Shows as a dwarf
   By the strength of his heart
   And the might of his hands.

   Master of masters,
   O maker of heroes,
   Thunder the brave,
   Irresistible message:—
   ‘Life is worth Living
   Through every grain of it,
   From the foundations
   To the last edge
   Of the cornerstone, death.’



XV


   YOU played and sang a snatch of song,
      A song that all-too well we knew;
   But whither had flown the ancient wrong;
      And was it really I and you?
   O, since the end of life’s to live
      And pay in pence the common debt,
   What should it cost us to forgive
      Whose daily task is to forget?

   You babbled in the well-known voice—
      Not new, not new the words you said.
   You touched me off that famous poise,
      That old effect, of neck and head.
   Dear, was it really you and I?
      In truth the riddle’s ill to read,
   So many are the deaths we die
      Before we can be dead indeed.



XVI


   SPACE and dread and the dark—
   Over a livid stretch of sky
   Cloud-monsters crawling, like a funeral train
   Of huge, primeval presences
   Stooping beneath the weight
   Of some enormous, rudimentary grief;
   While in the haunting loneliness
   The far sea waits and wanders with a sound
   As of the trailing skirts of Destiny,
   Passing unseen
   To some immitigable end
   With her grey henchman, Death.

   What larve, what spectre is this
   Thrilling the wilderness to life
   As with the bodily shape of Fear?
   What but a desperate sense,
   A strong foreboding of those dim
   Interminable continents, forlorn
   And many-silenced, in a dusk
   Inviolable utterly, and dead
   As the poor dead it huddles and swarms and styes
   In hugger-mugger through eternity?

   Life—life—let there be life!
   Better a thousand times the roaring hours
   When wave and wind,
   Like the Arch-Murderer in flight
   From the Avenger at his heel,
   Storm through the desolate fastnesses
   And wild waste places of the world!

   Life—give me life until the end,
   That at the very top of being,
   The battle-spirit shouting in my blood,
   Out of the reddest hell of the fight
   I may be snatched and flung
   Into the everlasting lull,
   The immortal, incommunicable dream.



XVII
CARMEN PATIBULARE
_To_ H. S.


   TREE, Old Tree of the Triple Crook
      And the rope of the Black Election,
   ’Tis the faith of the Fool that a race you rule
      Can never achieve perfection:
   So ‘It’s O, for the time of the new Sublime
      And the better than human way,
   When the Rat (poor beast) shall come to his own
      And the Wolf shall have his day!’

   For Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Beam
      And the power of provocation,
   You have cockered the Brute with your dreadful fruit
      Till your fruit is mere stupration:
   And ‘It’s how should we rise to be pure and wise,
      And how can we choose but fall,
   So long as the Hangman makes us dread,
      And the Noose floats free for all?’

   So Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Coign
      And the trick there’s no recalling,
   They will haggle and hew till they hack you through
      And at last they lay you sprawling:
   When ‘Hey! for the hour of the race in flower
      And the long good-bye to sin!’
   And for the lack the fires of Hell gone out
      Of the fuel to keep them in!’

   But Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Bough
      And the ghastly Dreams that tend you,
   Your growth began with the life of Man,
      And only his death can end you.
   They may tug in line at your hempen twine,
      They may flourish with axe and saw;
   But your taproot drinks of the Sacred Springs
      In the living rock of Law.

   And Tree, Old Tree of the Triple Fork,
      When the spent sun reels and blunders
   Down a welkin lit with the flare of the Pit
      As it seethes in spate and thunders,
   Stern on the glare of the tortured air
      Your lines august shall gloom,
   And your master-beam be the last thing whelmed
      In the ruining roar of Doom.



XVIII
I. M.
MARGARET EMMA HENLEY
(1888–1894)


   WHEN you wake in your crib,
   You, an inch of experience—
   Vaulted about
   With the wonder of darkness;
   Wailing and striving
   To reach from your feebleness
   Something you feel
   Will be good to and cherish you,
   Something you know
   And can rest upon blindly:
   O, then a hand
   (Your mother’s, your mother’s!)
   By the fall of its fingers
   All knowledge, all power to you,
   Out of the dreary,
   Discouraging strangenesses
   Comes to and masters you,
   Takes you, and lovingly
   Woos you and soothes you
   Back, as you cling to it,
   Back to some comforting
   Corner of sleep.

   So you wake in your bed,
   Having lived, having loved;
   But the shadows are there,
   And the world and its kingdoms
   Incredibly faded;
   And you group through the Terror
   Above you and under
   For the light, for the warmth,
   The assurance of life;
   But the blasts are ice-born,
   And your heart is nigh burst
   With the weight of the gloom
   And the stress of your strangled
   And desperate endeavour:
   Sudden a hand—
   Mother, O Mother!—
   God at His best to you,
   Out of the roaring,
   Impossible silences,
   Falls on and urges you,
   Mightily, tenderly,
   Forth, as you clutch at it,
   Forth to the infinite
   Peace of the Grave.

                                                            _October_ 1891



XIX
I. M.
R. L. S.
(1850–1894)


   O, TIME and Change, they range and range
      From sunshine round to thunder!—
   They glance and go as the great winds blow,
      And the best of our dreams drive under:
   For Time and Change estrange, estrange—
      And, now they have looked and seen us,
   O, we that were dear, we are all-too near
      With the thick of the world between us.

   O, Death and Time, they chime and chime
      Like bells at sunset falling!—
   They end the song, they right the wrong,
      They set the old echoes calling:
   For Death and Time bring on the prime
      Of God’s own chosen weather,
   And we lie in the peace of the Great Release
      As once in the grass together.

                                                           _February_ 1891



XX


   THE shadow of Dawn;
   Stillness and stars and over-mastering dreams
   Of Life and Death and Sleep;
   Heard over gleaming flats, the old, unchanging sound
   Of the old, unchanging Sea.

   My soul and yours—
   O, hand in hand let us fare forth, two ghosts,
   Into the ghostliness,
   The infinite and abounding solitudes,
   Beyond—O, beyond!—beyond . . .

   Here in the porch
   Upon the multitudinous silences
   Of the kingdoms of the grave,
   We twain are you and I—two ghosts Omnipotence
   Can touch no more . . . no more!



XXI


   WHEN the wind storms by with a shout, and the stern sea-caves
   Rejoice in the tramp and the roar of onsetting waves,
   Then, then, it comes home to the heart that the top of life
   Is the passion that burns the blood in the act of strife—
   Till you pity the dead down there in their quiet graves.

   But to drowse with the fen behind and the fog before,
   When the rain-rot spreads and a tame sea mumbles the shore,
   Not to adventure, none to fight, no right and no wrong,
   Sons of the Sword heart-sick for a stave of your sire’s old song—
   O, you envy the blesséd death that can live no more!



XXII


   TREES and the menace of night;
   Then a long, lonely, leaden mere
   Backed by a desolate fell,
   As by a spectral battlement; and then,
   Low-brooding, interpenetrating all,
   A vast, gray, listless, inexpressive sky,
   So beggared, so incredibly bereft
   Of starlight and the song of racing worlds,
   It might have bellied down upon the Void
   Where as in terror Light was beginning to be.

   Hist!  In the trees fulfilled of night
   (Night and the wretchedness of the sky)
   Is it the hurry of the rain?
   Or the noise of a drive of the Dead,
   Streaming before the irresistible Will
   Through the strange dusk of this, the Debateable Land
   Between their place and ours?

   Like the forgetfulness
   Of the work-a-day world made visible,
   A mist falls from the melancholy sky.
   A messenger from some lost and loving soul,
   Hopeless, far wandered, dazed
   Here in the provinces of life,
   A great white moth fades miserably past.

   Thro’ the trees in the strange dead night,
   Under the vast dead sky,
   Forgetting and forgot, a drift of Dead
   Sets to the mystic mere, the phantom fell,
   And the unimagined vastitudes beyond.



XXIII
_To_ P. A. G.


   HERE they trysted, here they strayed,
      In the leafage dewy and boon,
   Many a man and many a maid,
      And the morn was merry June.
   ‘Death is fleet, Life is sweet,’
      Sang the blackbird in the may;
   And the hour with flying feet,
      While they dreamed, was yesterday.

   Many a maid and many a man
      Found the leafage close and boon;
   Many a destiny began—
      O, the morn was merry June!
   Dead and gone, dead and gone,
      (Hark the blackbird in the may!),
   Life and Death went hurrying on,
      Cheek on cheek—and where were they?

   Dust on dust engendering dust
      In the leafage fresh and boon,
   Man and maid fulfil their trust—
      Still the morn turns merry June.
   Mother Life, Father Death
      (O, the blackbird in the may!),
   Each the other’s breath for breath,
      Fleet the times of the world away.



XXIV
_To_ A. C.


   NOT to the staring Day,
   For all the importunate questionings he pursues
   In his big, violent voice,
   Shall those mild things of bulk and multitude,
   The Trees—God’s sentinels
   Over His gift of live, life-giving air,
   Yield of their huge, unutterable selves.
   Midsummer-manifold, each one
   Voluminous, a labyrinth of life,
   They keep their greenest musings, and the dim dreams
   That haunt their leafier privacies,
   Dissembled, baffling the random gapeseed still
   With blank full-faces, or the innocent guile
   Of laughter flickering back from shine to shade,
   And disappearances of homing birds,
   And frolicsome freaks
   Of little boughs that frisk with little boughs.

   But at the word
   Of the ancient, sacerdotal Night,
   Night of the many secrets, whose effect—
   Transfiguring, hierophantic, dread—
   Themselves alone may fully apprehend,
   They tremble and are changed.
   In each, the uncouth individual soul
   Looms forth and glooms
   Essential, and, their bodily presences
   Touched with inordinate significance,
   Wearing the darkness like the livery
   Of some mysterious and tremendous guild,
   They brood—they menace—they appal;
   Or the anguish of prophecy tears them, and they wring
   Wild hands of warning in the face
   Of some inevitable advance of the doom;
   Or, each to the other bending, beckoning, signing
   As in some monstrous market-place,
   They pass the news, these Gossips of the Prime,
   In that old speech their forefathers
   Learned on the lawns of Eden, ere they heard
   The troubled voice of Eve
   Naming the wondering folk of Paradise.

   Your sense is sealed, or you should hear them tell
   The tale of their dim life, with all
   Its compost of experience: how the Sun
   Spreads them their daily feast,
   Sumptuous, of light, firing them as with wine;
   Of the old Moon’s fitful solicitude
   And those mild messages the Stars
   Descend in silver silences and dews;
   Or what the sweet-breathing West,
   Wanton with wading in the swirl of the wheat,
   Said, and their leafage laughed;
   And how the wet-winged Angel of the Rain
   Came whispering . . . whispering; and the gifts of the Year—
   The sting of the stirring sap
   Under the wizardry of the young-eyed Spring,
   Their summer amplitudes of pomp,
   Their rich autumnal melancholy, and the shrill,
   Embittered housewifery
   Of the lean Winter: all such things,
   And with them all the goodness of the Master,
   Whose right hand blesses with increase and life,
   Whose left hand honours with decay and death.

   Thus under the constraint of Night
   These gross and simple creatures,
   Each in his scores of rings, which rings are years,
   A servant of the Will!
   And God, the Craftsman, as He walks
   The floor of His workshop, hearkens, full of cheer
   In thus accomplishing
   The aims of His miraculous artistry.



XXV


   WHAT have I done for you,
         England, my England?
   What is there I would not do,
         England, my own?
   With your glorious eyes austere,
   As the Lord were walking near,
   Whispering terrible things and dear
         As the Song on your bugles blown,
               England—
         Round the world on your bugles blown!

   Where shall the watchful Sun,
         England, my England,
   Match the master-work you’ve done,
         England, my own?
   When shall he rejoice agen
   Such a breed of mighty men
   As come forward, one to ten,
         To the Song on your bugles blown,
               England—
         Down the years on your bugles blown?

   Ever the faith endures,
         England, my England:—
   ‘Take and break us: we are yours,
         ‘England, my own!
   ‘Life is good, and joy runs high
   ‘Between English earth and sky:
   ‘Death is death; but we shall die
         ‘To the Song on your bugles blown,
               ‘England—
         ‘To the stars on your bugles blown!

   They call you proud and hard,
         England, my England:
   You with worlds to watch and ward,
         England, my own!
   You whose mailed hand keeps the keys
   Of such teeming destinies
   You could know nor dread nor ease
         Were the Song on your bugles blown,
               England,
         Round the Pit on your bugles blown!

   Mother of Ships whose might,
         England, my England,
   Is the fierce old Sea’s delight,
         England, my own,
   Chosen daughter of the Lord,
   Spouse-in-Chief of the ancient sword,
   There’s the menace of the Word
         In the Song on your bugles blown,
               England—
         Out of heaven on your bugles blown!



_EPILOGUE_


   _These_, _to you now_, _O_, _more than ever now_—
   _Now that the Ancient Enemy_
   _Has passed_, _and we_, _we two that are one_, _have seen_
   _A piece of perfect Life_
   _Turn to so ravishing a shape of Death_
   _The Arch-Discomforter might well have smiled_
   _In pity and pride_,
   _Even as he bore his lovely and innocent spoil_
   _From those home-kingdoms he left desolate_!

   _Poor windlestraws_
   _On the great_, _sullen_, _roaring pool of Time_
   _And Chance and Change_, _I know_!
   _But they are yours_, _as I am_, _till we attain_
   _That end for which me make_, _we two that are one_:
   _A little_, _exquisite Ghost_
   _Between us_, _smiling with the serenest eyes_
   _Seen in this world_, _and calling_, _calling still_
   _In that clear voice whose infinite subtleties_
   _Of sweetness_, _thrilling back across the grave_,
   _Break the poor heart to hear_:—
                  ‘Come, Dadsie, come!
   Mama, how long—how long!’

                                                              _July_ 1897.





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