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Title: Sweet Hours
Author: Sylva, Carmen
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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produced from scanned images of public domain material


      SWEET HOURS


           BY
      CARMEN SYLVA


         LONDON
R. A. EVERETT & CO., LTD.
  42 ESSEX STREET, W.C.

          1904

 [_All rights reserved_]



CONTENTS


                                         PAGE
  TO THE MEMORY OF QUEEN VICTORIA           1

  A FRIEND                                  4

  OUT OF THE DEEP                           7

  A CORONATION                             10

  DOWN THE STREAM                          13

  IN THE RUSHING WIND                      16

  UNDER THE SNOW                           19

  SOLITUDE                                 21

  THE GNAT                                 24

  REST                                     27

  THE SHADOW                               32

  THE GLOWWORM                             35

  A DREAM                                  37

  IN THE DARK                              40

  THE SENTINEL                             43

  LETHE                                    47

  A DEBTOR                                 51

  "VENGEANCE IS MINE," SAITH THE LORD      54

  NIGHT                                    58

  ROUSED                                   62

  SADNESS                                  66

  WHEN JOY IS DEAD                         68

  A ROOM                                   71

  UNREST                                   74



TO THE MEMORY OF QUEEN VICTORIA

[Illustration]


  These ever wakeful eyes are closed. They saw
  Such grief, that they could see no more. The heart--
  That quick'ning pulse of nations--could not bear
  Another throb of pain, and could not hear
  Another cry of tortur'd motherhood.
  Those uncomplaining lips, they sob no more
  The soundless sobs of dark and burning tears,
  That none have seen; they smile no more, to breathe
  A mother's comfort into aching hearts.
  The patriarchal Queen, the monument
  Of touching widowhood, of endless love,
  And childlike purity--she sleeps. This night
  Is watchful not. The restless hand, that slave
  To duty, to a mastermind, to wisdom
  That fathom'd history and saw beyond
  The times, lies still in marble whiteness. Love
  So great, so faithful, unforgetting and
  Unselfish--must it sleep? Or will that veil,
  That widow's veil unfold, and spread into
  The dovelike wings, that long were wont to hover
  In anxious care about her world-wide nest,
  And now will soar and sing, as harpchords sing,
  Whilst in their upward flight they breast the wind
  Of Destiny. No rest for her, no tomb,
  Nor ashes! Light eternal! Hymns of joy!
  No silence now for her, who, ever silent,
  Above misfortunes' storms and thund'ring billows,
  Would stand with clear and fearless brow, so calm,
  That men drew strength from out those dauntless eyes,
  And quiet from that hotly beating heart,
  Kept still by stern command and unbent will
  Beneath those tight shut lips. Not ashes, where
  A beacon e'er will burn, a fire, like
  The Altar's Soma, for the strong, the weak,
  The true, the brave, and for the quailing. No,
  Not ashes, but a light, that o'er the times
  Will shed a gentle ray, and show the haven,
  When all the world, stormshaken, rudderless, will pray:
  If but her century would shine again!
  Oh, Lord! Why hast thou ta'en thy peaceful Queen?



A FRIEND

[Illustration]


  Old age is gentle as an autumn morn;
  The harvest over, you will put the plough
  Into another, stronger hand, and watch
  The sowing you were wont to do.
                                    Old age
  Is like an alabaster room, with soft
  White curtains. All is light, but light so mild,
  So quiet, that it cannot hurt.
                                  The pangs
  Are hushed, for life is wild no more with strife,
  Nor breathless uphill work, nor heavy with
  The brewing tempests, which have torn away
  So much, that nothing more remains to fear.
  What once was hope, is gone. You know. You saw
  The worst, and not a sigh is left of all
  The heavy sighs that tore your heart, and not
  A tear of all those tears that burnt your cheeks,
  And ploughed the furrows into them.
                                You see
  How others work again and weep again,
  And hope and fear. Thy alabaster room
  With marble floor and dainty hangings has
  A look so still, that others wonder why
  They feel it churchlike. All thy life is here;
  Thy life hath built the vault and paved it, and
  Thy hands have woven yonder curtains that
  Surround thy seat, a shady sunshine.
                                      Age
  Is feeble not to thee, as all thy wishes
  Are silent and demand no effort. Age
  Is kind to thee, allows thee all the rest
  That never came, when life was hard and toilsome.
  Receive it with a smile and clothe thyself
  In white, in Nature's silver crown, and sing
  A lullaby of promise and of comfort.
  Tell them that life is precious, after work,
  And after grief and after all the deaths,
  And not a loathsome burden of a life.
  Old age is like a room of alabaster,
  The curtains silken; thou art priest and Druid!
  No mystery for thee, but Light from heaven!



OUT OF THE DEEP

[Illustration]


  Thy soul grows silent, when its accents are
  Disturbed, and low thy heart, when dark a burden
  Has deeply covered it. Thy soul is proud.
  When thou hast made it free of wants and wishes,
  Then art thou rich.
                      Our life is seldom open,
  For love and fear have shut it. When we lay
  It open, there is nought to show in it,
  But wounds and burning pain.
                              Mysterious is
  Thy power, great as it may be, a trial
  Of thine own will and of the curb upon
  Thyself; mysterious to thyself, the more,
  The greater it has grown, surrounded as
  We are by fear and pain.
                            And when the soul
  Lifts up her voice and speaks, then must she go
  Against the will of people, not her own,
  The will that is herself, the soul's own might.
  When heaven asks, we work with joy, a dear
  Beloved business put into our hands.
  We dream at first to make it daintily,
  Like Nature's work, so careful and so rich,
  And then the dream becomes a wish, then changes
  To action, to be called by us our own
  Free will. And when we feel alleviated
  Of suffering, we call it hope. In each
  Hard battle of our life, free will is quite
  The same, unbending and undone, and gave
  Us never yet a ray of satisfaction,
  Nor of real joy, the bleeding conqueror.
  And hope is e'er the same. It dwelleth not
  In hearts that are too great for hope, too great
  For wishes, and that fearless never ask
  Why will is but obedience, power worthless,
  The greatest strength a reed, and thought an echo.
  Great hearts are free of either want or wish;
  They may be proud and richly clothe themselves
  In lofty, burdenless, mysterious Silence.



A CORONATION

[Illustration]


  When in Bohemia there were kings and queens,
  The crown was laid upon the head that had
  To bear and to exalt it--on the King's,
  And then upon the shoulder of the Queen.
  The shoulder bears the weight, the head the burden;
  The shoulder lifts, the head must carry. Great
  For both the heaviness, the endless pain,
  For both the thorns, for both hard labour, thankless
  Unending work, the sorrow of their people,
  The care of each and all, the scorching tears
  Of all, that make their path a desert, and
  Their robe so heavy, as if dew had changed
  Into the icy hangings of the frost.
  The shoulder oftentimes is wounded by
  The crown, the head bowed low, the heart so heavy,
  Much heavier than all that heavy weight,
  And yet doth woman's frail and bending shoulder
  Resist the load, and still her smiling eyes
  And gentle lips make all the world believe
  Her shoulder bleedeth not, her toil is easy,
  The load they put upon her without asking
  How great her strength, is like a toy. Oh, smile!
  Ye heavy-laden Queens! Let not a sigh
  Escape your loving hearts, and no complaint
  Break from the lips God made to heal and bless!
  Oh, smile! The world doth not forgive its slaves
  For looking overworked. If thou canst bear
  No more, then change the shoulder, tired Queen!



DOWN THE STREAM

[Illustration]


  From whence the brook? From where the waters gather
  In mountains' deep recesses, stone-black lakes
  And dripping crevices. It ripples forth
  Into the shining day with scarce a voice,
  And with no strength at all, till mountain showers
  And winter's snow and spring storms pour their flood
  Into the dancing brook, that foams and starts
  And rushes headlong down the steeps and throws
  Into the Unknown all its youth and strength,
  And thunders into hell, to rise again
  In sheets of whiteness into dreamy veils,
  To kiss the flowers' feet and overflow
  The meadows; thence, o'erbridged and caught and fastened
  To wheels, to grind and grind with irksome noise,
  To lose all liberty, all winsome frolic,
  And work till doomsday. On and on the stream
  Goes widening into calm and mighty strength,
  A hero of a stream, that bears the ships
  Like toys, and carries legions.
                                  Wider still
  He grows, and stronger, as he drags the waters
  Of hundred rivers with him to the sea.
  At last his course is sluggish, tired, slow,
  A living death, till, blended with the sea,
  A rising tide will carry him away
  Into oblivion. Such is life! A stream
  From unknown heights through storm and dangerous fall,
  Through unknown land and never-ending work
  Unto Eternity's great, unknown sea.
  You cannot rise above the height you come from,
  You only widen and expand--but downwards,--
  Your strength is gone, your impetus is quenched.
  And then the world will call you great and grand,
  And make a fortune out of all those waters:
  Your tears, your blood, your work, and what you spent;
  The strength of all your aims and all your falls!



IN THE RUSHING WIND

[Illustration]


  The wind hath whirled the leaves from off the tree.
  The leaves were yellow, they had lived their time,
  And lie a golden heap or fly away,
  As if the butterflies had left their wings
  Behind, when love's short summertime had gone,
  And killed them. Lightly doth the leaves' great shower
  Whirl on and skim the ground, where ancient leaves
  Lie rotten, trampled on, so featureless,
  That you can hardly tell what formed that mould,
  That never-ending burial-place of leaves.
  And then the wind will shake and bend the tree,
  And twist its branches off, burst it asunder,
  Uproot the giant and bring low his head,
  Upheave the granite block round which the roots
  Had taken hold for countless centuries.
  On goes the wind! The corn is green and soft--
  Earth's wavy fur. It does but ripple lightly
  In childish laughter at the harmless fun
  That was a death-blow. But the sea awakes
  And frowns and foams and rises into anger
  So wild with wrath, and yet so powerless,
  As if a thousand chains had chained it down,
  To howl, to suffer, to rebel against
  The heartless merriment of stronger powers.
  On goes the wind, to shake the rock, to blow
  Into a flame, the wild incendiary,
  And never doth he look behind, to see,
  To feel, to understand the horror he
  Hath worked. The breath--the robe of Destiny--
  Sweeps on, sweeps past, and never lists that hell
  And heaven have awaked, in shrieking anguish,
  But blows the clouds away, laughs at the sun,
  And falls into unconscious, dreamless sleep.



UNDER THE SNOW

[Illustration]


  If green the corn and burning the volcano,
  Though snowclad, buried under rocks of ice,
  Why shall the heart not love and burn in waving
  Expectant green, or rising flames of hot
  Enthusiasm, or burst into a torrent
  Of wrath, though snow the summit long hath crowned?
  Behold! The field is green, the seed has risen
  That thou hast thrown into these aching furrows,
  Once ploughed by Destiny, and sown with sorrow
  And watered with the wells of tears, that dropped
  Upon each grain and flowed through all the furrows.
  They see the snow upon thine head, but not
  The corn and not the threat'ning furnace of
  Thy soul. They think it is extinct, they hope
  Thou hast forgotten, that the gentle warmth
  They feel is sunshine, not the stormy fire,
  That cannot cease to burn: for it remembers.



SOLITUDE

[Illustration]


  The greatest friend, the friend that dwells with thee,
  When the wild turmoil of the world is thrust
  Aside, when e'en thy smile may rest, that shield,
  That weapon, armour, gauntlet, laid aside,
  Will leave thy soul to sculpt thy features with
  Her own deep chisel; when before thyself
  Thou standest, as before thy judge and master,
  An outcry goeth forth from thee towards
  Thyself, then will great solitude enfold
  Thee, and her wings will hush the tempest.
  Fear not that angel's gravity, the look
  His searching eye will plunge into thy heart.
  Fear not the whisp'ring of his lips: Remember!
  For ev'ry word of thine, each working of
  Thy soul is booked, indelible the writing,
  It is encircled in the movement of
  The worlds and has its history. Thy soul,
  Itself a world, belongs to Solitude. It is
  So lonely that no crowd of friends, nor e'en
  One friend can take its loneliness away.
  There is but Solitude that can surround
  Thy soul with beings and thy heart with sight.
  It opens wide the floodgates of thy thought,
  And what the world repressed, hemmed in and stifled,
  Will rush like living waters through thy brain
  And sweep away the nothingness of things.
  Great Solitude will let thee listen. Hark!
  The voices of the Infinite are singing,
  The thoughts of thousands who have thought before thee
  Come crowding round thy brain and fill the air,
  And seek a new expression on thy lips.
  Thou art in such ennobling company,
  That Solitude becomes the gorgeous feast,
  For which thy soul is clothed in white and purple,
  Thy feet unshod tread on the holy ground
  Where God has spoken. Hark! Great Solitude
  Hath thousand voices and a flood of light,
  Be not afraid, enter the Sanctuary,
  Thou wilt be taken by the hand and led
  To Life's own fountain, never-ending Thought!



THE GNAT

[Illustration]


  A long-legged gnat with airy wings, a dart
  Sharp as a needle and a searching tusk,
  Was flutt'ring round my lamp, clung to my book-shelf,
  And wandered over papers. Then I blew
  On it, to chase it far away. But no,
  Beneath the tempest of my breath it clung
  Still faster to the paper's slender shelter
  And moved not, till I thought my breath had killed it.
  We watched each other; then it flew away.
  I thought how Fate and we thus ofttimes watch
  Each other, till Fate blow us into atoms,
  And we remain in some weak place, in Death's
  Suspense, not knowing if again the storm
  Will blow. But Fate is careless and will let
  Us go, if but the wings that are to take
  Us hence are still untorn, unsinged, uncrushed;
  Or else we creep along and die unseen,
  A wingless worm, not understanding what
  Those papers and those shelves contain that are
  No revelation, nought but a grave, whilst others
  Suck life and food, from where the storm of Fate
  Hath torn us, unresisting, meaningless,
  And watching with an instant's careless glance,
  If we are really dead, or still may fly.
  Cheat cruel Fate, keep still like death, move not,
  Flutter not; then unfold thy wings, and go
  Thy way, the coming morn is full of life,
  Bury thy head in flowers, in the dew,
  The sun is rising and thou art alive!



REST

[Illustration]


  And did they say that rest was not so sweet,
  Old age a sadness, no repose at all?
  Then have they quite forgotten. They remember
  No more the heartbreak of their early youth,
  The battle fought for life, the angry clouds
  That hid the sun, till he would shine no more,
  The anguish of their nights, that made their bed
  A furnace and a rack. They say: 'Twas but
  A nightmare! And they smile, and yet that smile
  Is sadder than a frown, much sadder than
  A tear, as it is hopeless. For a tear
  Has a bright spot, wherein the sun may sparkle.
  That smile is sunless, be it e'er so sweet.
  And know ye not how wildly ye have called
  On Death, and tried to catch him by the wing,
  Or let yourself be trodden under foot
  By him? And wrung your hands in agony,
  When he had passed you by. Ye dare not tell
  Your heart what it has suffered, dare not look
  Into the past again, for fear of turning
  To stone, for whitelipp'd fear of waking from
  Its sleep that heart to make it throb again,
  Like millstones. You remember! Ah! You see!
  You even try to do away with pity,
  For fear of being tortured yet again,
  And shaken yet again, and no more able
  To quiet that unruly heart, that learnt
  To fear. Oh! Have ye never known what fear
  Can make of you? The wandering of your clock,
  That hammers nails into your brain and hands,
  The coming of the dawn, that cruel dawn,
  With icy, deathlike eyes and hollow voice,
  Announcing mercilessly that the day
  Hath come? And were you not afraid, when night
  Set in again, with redhot eyeballs, with
  The lonely wringing of your soul between
  Her hands, like linen, that she washed in tears,
  In blood, in rivers of despair? Oh, see!
  Here comes with gentle wing and loving eye
  Sweet Rest, and lays her mantle round your shoulders,
  And bids you fear no more, but listen to
  The birds' first Alleluia to the morn,
  That dances o'er the dew, up to the dawn,
  And be it e'er so cold, so lifeless, like
  The last of all the dawn they sang to. Fear
  Is banished, anguish quenched in all the waters
  That grief has steeped you in. You know that ne'er
  Another day can be so dark again,
  As Rest forbids the cruel dawn to break
  With threat'ning eyes, as Rest shuts out the night,
  And leaves thee lonely not, but fills thy sight
  With loving faces at the gates of heaven.
  Sweet Rest is round thee, like an autumn sun,
  And sheds thy rays upon the striving young ones.
  Ye long for bed again, like little children;
  No longer doth the pillow seem on fire,
  Your couch a bed of coals. The weary head
  Is cool, the limbs lie still, and thought comes gently
  Like a nurse's well-known ditty, that will lull
  To sleep thee with its sameness. Rest hath come
  At last, and looks into thy room, into
  Thy heart, and sends forgetfulness, like balm,
  Like a flower's perfume through thy silent chamber.
  The clock is peaceful with its quiet beat,
  And night and morn are one; they bring no struggle.
  Sweet Rest hath come, great, wingèd, heaven-born,
  To lead thee to thy home with angels' hands.



THE SHADOW

[Illustration]


  The shadow of your threshold is so full
  Of meaning, that the stranger knows what home
  Is yours, if peace dwell here, or strife, or restless
  Unsatisfied ambition. As the tree's
  Deep shadow meaneth rest and comfort, or
  Is poison, sleep eternal, such the house
  That is a home's sweet shadow or a dark
  Abode of sin, of lurking lie and danger.
  The shadow of your life, that is so small
  In bright midday and summer's burning sun,
  Begins to lengthen when your evening comes,
  And shows the beauty of the tree in outline,
  Its graceful forms, its harmony and power;
  And never did its beauty strike before,
  As now, when lost in thought, you contemplate
  The shadow on the lawn. The golden rays
  That flood it, make it higher, nobler, and
  Its shadow ever greater, till the night
  Calls forth the moon, to make it deep and weird
  As if unspoken pain had darkened it,
  As if the silvery paleness of the moon
  Sharpened its features into hardness almost.
  Behold the shadow of thy life! Look well if
  It be a threshold that reveals the strong
  Unbending will, the height of all your aims,
  Your passions' darkness, and the harmony
  Of all the branches that were put into
  Your care! Look at the shadow when your day
  Is done, and winter's moon will draw its line
  In naked truth, without the flattering leaves
  Upon your windingsheet's unruffled snow.



THE GLOWWORM

[Illustration]


  The mountains lost in clouds, the giant firs
  Standing out 'gainst the never-ceasing lightning,
  Shaken by thunderpeals, in threefold strength,
  As all the valleys echoed through the night.
  The mighty heads stormbent, the branches tossed
  Into the sheets of water, sky and earth
  In lurid light, a never-ceasing flame.
  There in the grass, beneath a tiny leaf
  A firefly put forth its wondrous ray,
  As if no storm, no rain, no hail were nigh,
  A peaceful little flame, and yet so strong,
  That it outshone the lightning. It would say:
  I am the same as lightning! Storm thy life
  And threat'ning thunder, but thy flame O minstrel,
  Thy heart's own fire, is as strong, as true,
  As elementary as Fate's wild raving,
  And though it throws its light but on a leaf,
  That leaf may be eternal by the light
  Thy soul hath shed on it. That steady flame
  Burns on, when all the clouds have spent their fire,
  And when the bowels of the earth have ceased
  To growl in answer. Undisturbed, thy flame
  Will live, defying Fate's alarm, a fearless,
  Undying mighty word, as strong as lightning
  And love's own sheen, thy soul's unwavering beacon.



A DREAM

[Illustration]


  Methought that unto God I prayed: Oh, Lord!
  If thou wouldst deign to let poor me behold
  Thy greatness, so that with my human brain
  I understood it! Thus I spoke, and Lo!
  I stood alone upon a mountain rock,
  In utter darkness, towering rocks beyond
  The dread abyss, that at my feet lay black
  And fathomless, yielding no answer to
  The searching eye. And, measureless, the sky
  Above was dark'ning into endless night.
  Then, from the deep did vapours seem to rise
  In white procession, denser, and yet denser,
  Until into a rising column they
  Began to form--a column like a mountain,
  That rose and rose and rose up to the vaults
  Of darkness which it seemed to carry, all
  One mass of light. And when I looked again,
  That column built itself of millions and
  Millions of milk-white stars that moved and shone
  And seemed to lift the skies unto a height
  That human sight and human word could not
  Attain. And whilst I looked and wondered at
  The seething worlds, the column changed and formed
  Itself into the statue Buonarroti
  Has made of Moses, only reaching from
  The deep into the heavens, white and bright,
  As if three suns, themselves invisible,
  Had shed their light upon the statue, or
  As if an inner light shone out from it.
  The socle, not on earth, but far beyond,
  Was standing on the Parthenon, that shone
  As bright again with endless rows of columns.
  Here was the answer: Millions and yet millions
  Of rising worlds, and every people's art,
  And all religions may but serve to form
  My human likeness, so that men behold
  Me great as mortal eye and brain encompass.
  For days I walked on clouds, I lived my dream.
  I heard not, saw not, thought not, but beheld
  The world's Creator in the silent night,
  And felt the blessing so unspeakable
  Of God's own answer to my childish prayer.



IN THE DARK

[Illustration]


  The moon has but one side of light and beauty,
  The other, steeped in never-ending night,
  Seems worse than dead, as in the harmony
  Of spheres, she cannot even echo. And
  She died they say, for love of her great brother,
  The glorious Sun, whom she may never reach,
  Condemned to be apart, for that great sin
  Of love. He was the light and life and joy
  Of all her world, how could she then refrain
  And love not, when her brother was a god?
  But then she died, you see, and was forgiven.
  Wherefore is Earth so dark and yet alive?
  Wherefore doth fire still melt the gold in depths
  So fathomless, that not a spark may light
  The poor outside? She wanders through the worlds,
  Unknown, without a ray, and yet alive
  With foaming waters and with words as proud
  As flowing hair. Why art thou dark, O Earth?
  If thou wert sinless, would not dancing rays
  Laugh through the night and gladden other planets?
  Would not thy bosom's warmth give life again
  To yonder ghost, thy mate in misery?
  What hast thou done to be condemned to darkness,
  To be a living hell, wherein the souls
  Of millions suffer until death? Thy heart
  Is gold: hast thou betrayed the sun? Or hast
  Thou stolen wondrous goods, in gliding from
  The sun? Therefore is Death to be thy child,
  A curse to wander on thy lovely sides,
  That oft are torn and ever motherly
  Will comfort the offender with her off'rings.
  Or art thou dark because thy womb must be
  The grave of all thy children, Mother Earth?



THE SENTINEL

[Illustration]


  Each flower is a sentinel of God,
  And ev'ry tree and ev'ry grassblade. Not
  An unseen little stem, but that will stand
  And wait and shine, and never ask wherefore
  It came and why it has to wither. Thou
  Art such a sentinel, O Heart! Thou hast
  To stand and bloom and love beside the others,
  And wither when thy work is done, the spot
  Being given to another, whereupon
  Thou standest. And that other heart is growing
  And blooming into life beneath thy shade,
  As strong as thine, as ruby-red as thine,
  To wither and to fall beneath the scythe,
  As thine has done. Why ask and why despair?
  Why not be happy with the sun, the dew,
  The other flowery hearts that, full of life
  Unfold their petals, which are deep like thine,
  And rich as thine? Ye are to be a glorious
  And many-coloured meadow. Is it not
  Enough? And must ye grumble? Must ye strive
  To take away the light and dew, that fall
  Not to your share? Behold the scythe! And sow
  Thy seed and ask not where it falls. The wind
  Of fate has carried it away, to place
  Another sentinel, as unknown, as
  Unsought for as thyself, in a far land,
  To live when thou art gone, to bloom into
  Some unexpected beauty with thy strength,
  Thy blood, the thoughts that were companions once
  To thee and that the wind hath blown so far
  Away. Thou shalt not say unto thy seed:
  "Fly thither!" It obeyeth not thy will.
  Thou shalt not long to be another plant;
  Thy tragedy is useless, and thy will
  Is nought. With all thy strength thou art but what
  Is wanted--tree or grassblade--never ask
  Wherefore? Here is no answer. Fate itself
  Knows not wherefore it blows, or tells thee not,
  But takes thy noblest self to other climes
  And leaves thee to the scythe. Complain not! Mourn not!
  Long not to live another day, when thou
  Art called, but bow thy head without a sigh,
  In gentle acquiescence, sentinel!



LETHE

[Illustration]


  When dark thy childhood, tears and grief have filled
  Thy swelling heart, that understood too much,
  Yet not enough to be forgiving, when
  The sun was pale, and darkness lonely, when
  The fear of unknown evil made thy lips
  Turn cold, and wonder changed to horror, then
  To dumb despair, to childhood's hopelessness,
  More hopeless than old age's iron clutch
  Of unbelief, the shadow of the past
  Will cast a pall o'er all thy life, then say:
  Go down, Remembrance, into Lethe, go!
  When work was hard and sacrifice in vain,
  And stones were hurled at thee, thy flowers trodden
  Into the soil, that, soaked with all thy blood,
  Could not resist, and giving way would swallow
  Thy noblest thoughts, and teach thee to undo
  Thyself, gainsay thyself, as if a coward
  Were crouching on thy shoulders, making thee
  Believe that all thy heroism was
  A sham--then say: Go down to Lethe, Thought,
  And darken not the hour when I rise
  Out of myself, out of the past, into
  The open day of wide forgetfulness.
  When shame has crept into the rocky strength,
  Into the pure recess a spotless soul
  Had lent thee, and with fiery coals has burnt
  A mark no rivers wash away, no winds
  Can cool, that sends a shudder through thy heart,
  Like snakes of cold disgust, then say again:
  Go down to Lethe, not to rise and sting.
  But when those eyes, that were thy sun, are shut,
  When blind with tears thy gaze hath yet behold
  The angel wings that carried through unknown
  Untold of space thy life, thy heart, thy hope--
  No Lethe then! And no forgetfulness!
  But open wide thy soul: It is the sun,
  The sun that sends its beauteous rays into
  The dark, into the cold, into the night
  And terror of thy life. If grief hath ploughed
  The soil, fear not! The corn is rising, young
  And green and full of hope; the sun hath called;
  The sun shines full into that heart that was
  So torn, so weak, that could not lift itself
  Unto the heavens. They are open now,
  Flooded with light; take not thine eyes away,
  Bend not thy look unto the earth again,
  But rise on shining wings toward the rays
  That draw thee, call thee, bear thee to the light!



A DEBTOR

[Illustration]


  Oh, do not say that thanklessness has been
  Thy sole reward! What? Wouldst thou be rewarded?
  When God had laid the gift into thy heart,
  Thy hand, upon the road thou hadst to tread?
  Lay all thy thanks before the feet of him
  Who did not shun thy help, thy gift, thy love,
  But bore the humiliation and the weakness,
  And bared his heart before thy human gaze,
  The heart where none but God e'er read the truth,
  The burning record of despair. Be humble,
  Thyself, and touch not roughly, where the wound
  Is open, see the beads of anguish on
  The furrowed brow, the tightdrawn lips, and hear
  The tremor in the whispered words, that roll
  So heavily from off the heart, and leave
  It crushed, sometimes for ever. Dost thou know
  What lifeblood it hath cost to speak to thee,
  What tortured nights have gone before, what cry
  Of anguish rose towards that God, who seemed
  So merciless to him and overkind
  To thee, allowing thee to be his angel,
  To answer when a living word of love
  Had to be spoken, and a hand put out to help.
  Make him forget what he has told thee,
  Let him not feel that thou hast not forgotten,
  But make him help thee in his turn, when thine
  The pain, the care, the fear; allow him then
  To tend thee, and to pay his debt to thy
  Humility, and to thy thankfulness.



"VENGEANCE IS MINE," SAITH THE LORD

[Illustration]


  Thou wouldst not be avenged if thou hadst but
  Insight enough into the human heart,
  Into its frailty and its cowardice.
  Thou wouldst not be avenged if thou but sawest
  How mad, how childish and how selfish are
  The helpless ones, that did thee harm because
  They thought--Ah! What then thought they! That perchance
  You hated them, or trod them down, or took
  Their sun away; and e'en for love will they
  Destroy thee, meaning well with thee--so well,
  That they as lief would see thee dead, not to
  Belong to what they hate--thy work, thy friend,
  Thy strong ambition, or the gift that God
  Hath put into thy soul, that calleth thee
  Away to other heights and other temples,
  Then where they long have worshipped. They dislike
  Thy road, thy word, they call it strange and dark,
  And they would lead thee back to where they started
  So long ago with thee, and show the wrong
  Thou doest quite unwittingly. A sigh,
  A smile is all thine answer, but thy way
  Is chosen; then the hue and cry is raised
  Against thee, and thy staunchest friends will pile
  With eager hands the wood on which to burn
  Thy very soul, and not a tear will quench
  That fire, not a hand will save thee, for
  Thou art misunderstood, misjudged, despised,
  And hated by the friends, who once believed
  In thee as in their God. And what revenge
  Could help thee? Falling back on thee, thy arm
  Struck to the ground, thy heart a desert, not
  Devastated to bloom again, but burnt
  To lava by your heart's own flame of vengeance.
  And if forgiveness be too great for thee,
  Go past, turn not thy head, speak not a word
  That cannot be recalled, and that will bar
  The road for ever, that will cut the cloth
  Between thy foes and thee. The present hour
  Hath made that foe, who may come back to thee,
  And see thy truth. Be great and say: I have
  No foe! I smile, and they are nought! A breath
  May lay them low, so low that they must call
  To me for help! Then is thy vengeance ripe!
  Give help with gentle pity. Feel that thou
  Art ready with a well of living waters,
  With flowers still more lovely than before.
  Keep down the flames that make thee a volcano.
  Let lovely warmth be all their strength. For thou
  Art called upon to love and not to hate,
  To help and not to punish, as thine eyes
  Are far too weak to see the consequence
  Of human anger. Even the volcano
  Is aimless, powerless, like Fate itself,
  And thou canst not be Fate. Ah! Be thou then
  A human heart amongst poor human hearts!



NIGHT

[Illustration]


  O night! Thou friend of Thought, of Song, of winged
  Inspiration! So gentle is thy tread,
  Thy hand so soft, thy look so deep, the sea
  Is not so deep as thy mysterious gaze.
  Revealest thou what worlds have thought in distant,
  Unfathomable dream? Thou knowest wonders,
  And tellest them in whispers to the dreamer.
  Thou art alive with silence, gentle Night,
  The silence of the Past and of the Future,
  Of things untold, but not forgotten, dreams
  Unreal, yet full of burning truth, and clad
  In image, that they startle not our heart,
  Nor wake its nerveless beating till it sounds.
  In silence, wondrous Night, thou teachest what
  The noisy Day would never understand:
  Thou makest us descend into the mine
  Yet unexplorèd of our soul, that hoards
  The many destinies of thousand years
  And other thousand years it wandered through.
  Search in the darkness of that mine, behold!
  The gold that shineth forth into thine eyes,
  The treasures of those other lives that death
  Transformed and left them unremembered. In
  The stillness that surrounds thy search thy soul
  Will show thee all its strength and weakness, all
  Those errors that condemned it to another
  And yet another life, to die again,
  And rise again and wander, yet a stranger,
  Into the changing world, but laden with
  The knowledge of the past it seems to learn
  And calls it history, perchance its own
  Forgotten past, the very person that
  It seemed to be. And now it wonders why
  That person acted so and erred and wrought
  Such destinies. And all the time it is
  Itself that learns itself. Neglect not dreams
  Nor call them worthless. Great the truths they bring,
  Revealed in sights and legendary lore.
  When understood they are a blessing. Learn
  To understand the vision's soul, the thought
  Which it conveys, the future it reveals,
  The past it fetches out of yonder mine
  Thy brain was far too tired or far too weak
  To search. When plunged in sleep that brain that now
  Is thine will listen and may learn such things
  Thy soul will tell, as never book or school
  Or present life will teach. Oh, blessed Night!
  Spread o'er my soul thy wings and carry me
  Into those worlds my brain can never reach!
  Fathom not memories, but let me feel
  At one with all those lights that lie upon
  Thy bosom, breathing, shining there in silence.



ROUSED

[Illustration]


  Slumber not! Rest not! Dream not! Thou art called!
  The blast has rung out o'er thy living grave;
  The clouds that hung so low above thy head
  Poured out their flame into thy soul, and yet
  Left more, much more alive there than thou knewest of.
  Awake! the years stand at thy gate, and knock
  To call thee forth, the dead past comes to life,
  And drives thee, with its flood of whirling waters,
  Onward to action, not to idle dreaming.
  Arise! walk on those waves, for they will bear thee.
  Trust thine own strength, and tread the flakes of foam
  Lightly, with wingèd feet, with wingèd soul!
  And thou shalt see that gales have left untouched
  The springtime in thy heart, still breaking forth
  In admiration, thankfulness and love.
  Yes, not even love is quenched, and still undimmed
  Enthusiasm's banner waves on high above thee.
  Thou fearest the world? And what then is the world?
  The shadow of a cloud--no more. Thou wouldst not
  Suffer it to become a stone to crush thee?
  Up! Shake thy shining wings upon the Dawn,
  And laugh the world to shame. 'Tis but a pageant,
  A mockery; give up thy heart to life
  In all its fulness--never to the world!
  And though the world should crush thine heart and say
  "Behold! 'tis dust and ashes!"--though it scatter
  Those ashes to the winds--yet art thou still
  Pure and unconquerable, O my heart!
  Thou art of those to whom an open foe
  Is but a friend disguised; to whom each blow
  Serves as a force to send thee ever higher,
  Far above yawning gulf and raging whirlpool.
  O heart of mine, be strong! Doubt not, for doubt
  Was ever the one deadly foe, whose toils
  Might strangle thee. Up! fight that monster, trample
  Its venom under foot. The hour has come
  For thee to step forth, young again and free,
  A new Sir Galahad, brave, pure and strong,
  Around whom angels hover as he stretches
  His spotless shield to meet the early rays
  Of Heaven's bright, cloudless, joyous Morning-sun!



SADNESS

[Illustration]


  Thy sadness is a leaden shroud, a rock
  Of Sisyphus, which thou must upward roll
  By night and day, on, on. Its downward rush
  Is no relief, no help, since it but seems
  Heavier at each fresh start. And still thy strength
  Is waning, and thy heart aches with the tears--
  The unshed tears that lie like stones upon it,
  While those that flowed are rivers in thy path--
  Unfathomable, fordless, dark and deep.
  These thou must wade, with all thy burdens--wade
  And sink with every step as 'twere thy last,
  And feel such deadly weakness seize on thee
  As though some raging fever laid thee low.
  Thy sadness is a Nessus robe, that clings
  In burning folds about thee, sears thy flesh,
  And eats into thy bones. 'Tis like a weapon
  A man turns on himself, whose wound nought heals,
  Since it is dealt against his inmost soul.
  If, then, through clouds of sadness, thou perceivest
  The world, well mayst thou say of it: 'Tis hell!
  For spring itself is dark, the birds' sweet carol
  Cheerless and dull, thy life a very desert,
  Where human faces pass like spectral visions,
  And gladness is a thing so clean forgotten,
  As if it ne'er had been--its very name
  Become a soundless word, a ghostly whisper!



WHEN JOY IS DEAD

[Illustration]


  Be still! A corpse lies there, a poor dead thing,
  With upturned face, white-lipped, the haggard features,
  Whereon once played a smile that gladdened hearts,
  Now set and cold. Circled with black and sunken
  Are now the eyes where stars were wont to sparkle,
  And Fate has drawn deep lines between the brows,
  That but a short time since seemed arched for mischief,
  And full of childish mirth. Close to the temples
  The hair clings straight and dull and colourless.
  And it was golden once, like living rays,
  And waved about the head, a sunrise-halo!
  The hands are folded--rigid, waxen, cold,
  They that were once like rose-leaves, in whose veins
  The blood coursed swiftly, full of generous warmth
  And loving gifts, and flowers, and balm for sorrow.
  Cold are they now, as had they never yet
  Clasped children to the heart, nor with deft touch
  Broidered such fairy work, nor scattered broadcast
  Such fairy gifts. The feet that danced along,
  Leaving no trace upon the flower-petals,
  Lie stiff out-stretched, and round about them hang
  In heavy folds, as were they carved in marble,
  The robes that fluttered lightly in the breeze,
  Like opalescent wings.
                        Ah! cold and dark
  The grave to thee, thou Sun-child! ray of brightness!
  Beloved messenger of God! Arise!
  Canst thou be dead? and canst thou look so stern?
  Ah, no! not stern, but martyred! Cruel hands
  Have rent thy garments, dragged thee by the hair,
  Burnt out thine eyes, and filled thy cup with poison,
  As fit requital of thy priceless gifts,
  Kind Joy, true friend! And now they see thee dead
  With careless eyes, and point, and feign to think
  Thou ne'er hast been! Ah, Joy! sweet Joy! arise!
  Be stronger than thy foes! But no! 'tis vain!
  Poor Joy was deadly tired, and now she sleeps!



A ROOM

[Illustration]


  Whitewashed or panelled, filled with books, with light,
  With flowers, with trifles sacred to the heart,
  And work so pure and sweet that morning-dew
  Might settle there and feel itself at home
  As though 'mid garden fragrance; while the carol
  Of birds streams through the window joyously,
  Mistaking that abode of peace and love
  For their own woodland haunts! And in that room
  A woman's dainty hands ever at work,
  A woman's loving heart ever awake
  For others' happiness, a woman's thought
  Alive in tender memories that embalm
  The past in mute forgiveness. Enter then
  As 'twere a sanctuary, lay aside
  Thy load of care, and yield thy weary soul
  To the deep sense of comfort reigning there.
  Not many words--nay, not a single word--
  Need tremble through the stillness, not a sigh
  With untoward avowal break the peace
  That folds thee to its heart and asks no question.
  Such perfect peace pervades a room like this,
  'Twould seem the raging storm, the roaring sea,
  Might lay themselves to rest upon its threshold.
  The ghosts that haunt it come in guise of angels,
  With rosy finger-tips laid on their lips,
  To hush our voices to the whispered tones
  Of children's prayers. Enter, thou weary wanderer,
  Enter! and have no fear, for pain and anguish
  Have long been wept away, and have but left
  Their precious perfume and the healing balm
  Of self-forgetfulness to comfort thee!



UNREST

[Illustration]


  To toss with fevered brain and throbbing pulses
  Upon thy bed at night--thine aching eyes,
  Straining into the darkness, hot and weary,
  Thy heart like lead, yet ever wildly bounding
  Within thee, like a gun made loose in shipwreck,
  That rolls from side to side, an unchained danger,
  Thy pillows fire, thy couch a rack, whereon
  Thy tortured limbs seem cords strung by the storm,
  Thy thoughts a tangled skein, unclear, disordered,
  And all the past that should have been forgotten
  Rising up ghostly, in fantastic guise,
  To make the present worse, to slay all hope,
  To quench the beacon that till now has been
  Thy only stay in night's deep gloom and horror!
  This, O my soul! is Unrest, and thou knowest
  Its misery but too well! All the old scars
  Of former battles bleed once more within thee,
  As if thy life were oozing, drop by drop.
  And thou wert fain with trembling fingers seize
  That foolish heart, and fling it in thy path
  To trample under foot, or, further still,
  Sink it in sea-depths, and then turn away
  Calm and indifferent, deeming all were well
  Were but its restlessness thus stilled, and thou
  Free from its tumult.
                        Yet that heart of thine
  Has weathered may a gale, and still might stand
  Unshaken at the helm of life's wrecked craft,
  A gallant pilot, waiting for the sign
  That bids the clouds disperse, hushes the winds,
  And, having calmed the waves, shall guide thy course
  To sun-lit shores, sweet with immortal flowers.
  Be brave, poor heart, for thou drawest near the haven,
  And though thy beacon be extinguished, though
  Thy rudder has been snapped, thy compass lost,
  Thou still art safe, for the same Mighty Hand
  That sent thee forth upon the stormy sea
  Shall lead thee home and give thee rest at last!

       *       *       *       *       *

    _Colston & Coy. Limited, Printers, Edinburgh_





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