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Title: A Summer's Poems
Author: Lys, F. J.
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.

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Internet Archive)



  A SUMMER'S POEMS


  BY

  F. J. LYS


  LONDON
  SEELEY AND CO. LIMITED
  ESSEX STREET, STRAND
  1893


These poems were written,--except No. III., which was partly written two
or three weeks earlier,--during a stay of six weeks, in August and
September, at Hallstatt, among the mountains of Upper Austria.

They are published at once, not because I am unaware of their defects,
but in the hope that, in spite of these, they may give some small
pleasure to a few friends and other readers.

  F. J. L.

  OXFORD,
  _September 28th, 1893_.



A SUMMER'S POEMS.



I.

TO THE MUSE.


      Thy whispers float upon the liquid air,
        The sunbeams quiver by thy breath made quick,
        The myriad forest-branches thronging thick
      Thrill with delight thy mystic touch to bear,
      Like an enchanted harp to fingers fair
        Yielding a music that can soothe the sick,
      Waters and winds thy living spirit share;
        Thy wrath is in the thunder, and thy tears
      Weep for man's dulness in melodious rain.
        Mistress, forgive me if on deafened ears,
      Full of life's clamour and its harsh refrain,
        Thy words have fallen all these barren years,
      And take me for thy minister again.



II.

TO A FLOWER.


      Happy blossom that shinest,
        Lit by the smiles of the sun,
      Lavishing of thy finest
        Fragrance on every one;
      Happy that ne'er repinest
        For the day when the dusk is begun,
      But humbly thy head inclinest,
        Content that thy work is done.

      Sorrowing hearts thou cheerest,
        Bidding them live like thee,
      Who calmly the wild storm hearest
        Gathering threateningly,
      And never the dark night fearest,
        And trustest that, though they be
      Withered and dead, thy dearest
        Another summer shall see.



III.

LIFE'S VOYAGE.

[Greek: Ep êeroeidea ponton plazomenoi].


      Proudly the glad ships breast the buoyant wave,
        Touched by the radiant fingers of the sun,
      Exulting in the promise of dawn, and brave
        Over the deep their unknown race to run,
          From nothingness that none remembereth
          On to the undiscovered haven of death.

      Out of the impenetrable night they drew,
        Mist-curtained, moving darkly through the haze;
      And the East brightened and the breezes blew,
        And o'er life's widening waters now they gaze,
          Greet the companions of their voyage, and know
          Some dim awakening purpose in them grow.

      Lightly they sail beneath unclouded skies,
        Effortless gliding on their easy way,
      Till the winds gather and the wild floods rise,
        And tempests frown upon the forehead of day,
          And they that fared together lonelier drift,
          Sundered by driving storms and tides that shift.

      Quenched are the beacon lights that brightly burned,
        Distant the guiding voices that were near;
      The frolic temper of the prime is turned
        To weariness, and faith is dimmed with fear:
          What if one battle against the beating waves,
          Who knows if he shall win the haven he craves?

      Where lies the haven, or if there be in sooth
        Some haven of peace for them that wrestle and fight--
      Who shall be bold to take his trust for truth,
        The gleams he follows for the world's one light,
          When to his fellows' eyes as naught they seem,
          Or but false phantoms of a fading dream?

      This way or that on waves that rise and fall--
        Falling and rising aimlessly they drive--
      Haply some flash of light, some far-off call
        Wakes them a little while to struggle and strive
          Onward with hope, until it fades again,
          And leaves them drifting on the dreary main.

      Blindly the many drift, and drifting dream,--
        Dream idle dreams, or waking scarce descry
      Aught but the froth and foam and fitful gleam
        Of clashing cataracts as they thunder by:
          They feel some short-lived passion in them glow,
          Or wondering watch the bubbles come and go.

      And here is one undauntedly that steers--
        Or there another--steadfast through the surge,
      Through storm and darkness. What is that which cheers
        His spirit in danger? what beyond the verge
          Of vision leads him on his perilous path?
          Sure naught but God's own truth such following hath.

      Faint the gleams flicker through the earthborn cloud;
        Trust thou and follow where they seem to lead;
      Soon will thy sight be clearer, and the shroud
        Of night be shrivelled, and the day succeed:
          Light may be stained or hidden, yet 'tis light;
          Trust thou and follow--'tis not of the night.



IV.

ON RE-READING 'RUTH.'


      As one that in the sapless winter of life
        Feels the benumbing touch of icy death
      Chill his warm pulses, and no more for strife
        Against the foe that ever followeth
        Finds the old fire within, or power, or breath,
      But knows that soon the eternal frost shall bind
      These failing organs of his earthly mind:

      And looking backward through the misty years
        Beyond the harvest and the summer glow,
      Into awakening life's fresh springtide, hears
        Voices that rang around him long ago,--
        Strange sweet dream-music that he seems to know,
      And dimly sees old faces that made bright
      The days of childhood with love's softest light:

      Like one beneath the glimmering starlight treading
        Ways unfamiliar save in the full sun,
      He moves bewildered where remembrance, shedding
        Faint fitful gleams, illumines one by one
        Far-distant scenes where life was first begun,
      Quick with light-hearted fancies and fresh hope,
      Fearless and steadfast with all foes to cope:

      And as he looks he wonders if indeed
        That life beyond the years be truly his--
      His those high-soaring hopes, that simple creed,
        That buoyant spirit: till some light that is
        The lode-star of his life shines out in this
      Far-off child-world, some goal whereto his aim
      Has aye been set unchangingly the same.

      And so to eyes that through long-buried ages
        Look on that alien-seeming world, that glows
      Pictured in fire upon the sacred pages
        Where God his dealings with his children shows,--
        A larger life than our dwarfed spirit knows,--
      Man in the giant vigour of his prime
      Looming heroic even through guilt and crime;

      Creature in converse with Creator,--signs
        Of power writ large in heaven and on the earth,--
      Pillar of cloud by day and fire that shines
        In darkness,--plague and pestilence and dearth
        And deluge,--almost from our very birth
      Familiar,--yet how strange and far away
      From all the fever of our little day.

      Yet as we look on that mysterious story,
        Scarce feeling kinship with that primal race,
      We that with sin have marred and dimmed the glory
        Of God's own presence manifest by grace,
        Until he seems to hide afar his face,
      Find something in our deadened hearts that rings
      Responsive to those far-off echoings.

      Ours the old war with sin, the struggle of soul
        In passions' eddying waters, ours the choice
      To falter and fail, or battle towards the goal
        Unyielding; and at times our hearts rejoice,
        When borne from out the distance comes a voice
      Of brother-men that in the self-same strife
      Have fought through weakness and have won their life.

      And more than all, when haply shines above
        The clouds and heavy mists of low desire
      The perfect beauty of true human love,
        Beaconing through the darkness like a fire,
        And witnessing that hearts can yet aspire
      To kinship with the soul that shone in Ruth,
      Of woman's faithfulness and woman's truth.



V.

[Greek: Epous smikrou charin].


      Her eyes shone bright as the luminous star
      That breaks through the shadows of dusk from far,
      And the wavy tresses that floated and gleamed,
      Guarding her radiant temples, seemed
      As the faery fires that a vision enfold,
      Or light as the tremulous flames of gold
      That quiver and glance on the forehead of dawn,
      When the curtains of night are backward drawn;
      And her smile was like to the rippling sea
      Greeting the beams of the sun with glee;
      And her voice was the singing of springtide, heard
      In the orison chanted by soaring bird,
      And in the breath of the soft west breeze
      Wooing the buds of the wakened trees,
      And in the music of fountains free
      At last from their icy slavery;
      And she moved with a step as light and glad
      As ever a nymph or a goddess had.
          Could mortal eyes on a form divine
      Gaze for a moment, and then not pine
      With passionate hunger for that sweet food
      Of the beauteous blossom of maidenhood?
      To feed for ever on that soft light
      That conquered the gloom of the world's dark night,
      And shed in its lustre a mystic sense
      Of soothing solace and joy intense?
          Could ears drink once of the silver flow
      Of melody poured from her lips, nor know
      The thirst of a madman, rendering up
      Life for the pleasure of one sweet cup?
          Seeing and hearing, he scarce wist first
      What light on his sunless path had burst,
      But he felt about him a wondrous glow
      Flooding the field of his vision, so
      That the shadows shrank as in shame away,
      And hope rekindled her flickering ray;
      And over his spirit seemed to flow
      A quickening influence, even as though,
      Out of the heavy and poisoned air
      Of some dark city, a God might bear
      One that struggled with labouring breath,
      All but held in the grasp of death,
      And might set him high on the aery brink
      Of a loftily-bastioned Alp, to drink
      The strength of the mountains--a stronger draught
      Than ever of vintage fire was quaffed,
      Coursing exultantly through and through
      His veins, and giving him life anew.
          So awhile he rejoiced, scarce heedful why,
      And the days went sweetly and swiftly by;
      Alas! too swiftly over and lost,
      Like blossoms of summer seared by the frost,
      That feel more bitter the wintry spite
      Because of the fulness of past delight.
          'Twas but a parting, and oft before
      Parting of friends, though his heart was sore,
      Parting and loss he had known to bear--
      'Tis a lesson we learn from our cradle to share:
      But a sudden anguish upon him fell,
      As upon one cast from heaven to hell,
      For a moment showed what had lifted his life
      Out of the weary and sordid strife
      Of men that struggle and die for gold,
      And sell themselves as a chattel is sold.--
          And lo! it was over, and life once more
      Must sink to the depth where it groped before:
      To part;--and it might be, never again
      To know the joy of her presence; fain
      Was his heart to utter its secret woe,
      And all the strength of its love to show.
      Sure 'twas a strength that must prevail
      To win the world, or the heavens to scale;
      High above earth she seemed, yet heaven
      Is mingled with earth by love's sweet leaven,
      And even the goddess of dawn, 'tis said,
      Deignèd a mortal man to wed.
          Yet when he looked on the light divine
      That seemed in those lustrous orbs to shine,
      His lips would falter, and pale shame froze
      The fountain of love from his heart that rose:
      How could a spirit as free as air
      Brook to be fettered, or stoop to share
      An earthlier life from her range sublime?
      Even the fancy he deemed a crime,--
      As if one dreamt to win for his own
      The queen of night from her star-girt throne
      And enjoy the light of the world alone,--
      What if he spake could she feel or say?
      Words of scorn? or of anger? Nay,
      Pity belike for a mind distraught,
      That rashly to soar from its sphere had sought.
      Harder were pity to bear than scorn;
      Better to hide how his heart was torn:
      So might the thought of that sweet time be
      Ever a cloudless memory,
      As of a day that from break to close
      Never a film on its bright face shows.--
          And so she was gone from his life, and left
      His heart of joy and of light bereft,
      And tenanted only by blank despair,
      That finds no longer the sunshine fair,
      And knows no healing for its distress
      Except to pass into nothingness.
      'Tis but a word and the tale is o'er,--
      And haply the like has chanced before,
      And it wants not this poor art of mine,--
      For he sought as his sorrow's anodyne
      The blood-red riot of war, to sate
      All thought with the numbing opiate
      Of the frenzy of battle; and gave his life
      As a prodigal gives, in an alien strife:
      And under the shroud of the desert sand
      He lies at rest in a far-off land.
          And one there is that for many a year
      Hath mourned with many a secret tear;
      And the light of her eyes is dimmed with care,
      And age has silvered her sunny hair,
      And hollower rings the full rich flow
      Of her voice; and her step is weary and slow;
      And little, I ween, is understood
      The tale of her maiden-widowhood:
      And naught of her trouble of soul she saith,
      But ever beyond the river of death,
      Soothed as she draws to its margin nigher,
      She looks to the haven of her desire:
      And dimly her gaze through the mist descries
      One that waiteth with earthward eyes,
      Fired by a deathless love whose glow
      Spoke to her heart long years ago,
      When his lips were sealed and he thought her higher
      (Coward lips!) than he durst aspire;
      And when she hid in her woman's pride
      The love for which she had gladly died.



VI.

ON A ROCK IN THE WALDBACH TORRENT.


      The leaping waters thunder at my feet,
        Thunder, and rush upon white wings of foam
        Down from the fastness of their glacier home,
      Laving the limbs that lift this rocky seat:
      They part a moment, and again they meet
        Far down the gorge, from where my slow steps clomb
        The towering mountain: jubilant they roam,
      With eager voices, hurrying to greet
        Hearts grown aweary of the wasting strife
      Of low ambition,--brother trampling down
      The soul of brother for some tinsel crown;--
        They bear cool healing for our fevered life,
            And a sweet message of serene repose
            Fresh from the pure and everlasting snows.



VII.

BY THE WALDBACH.


      Here let me dream a little, while the day
        Wears not one cloud upon his lustrous brow,
        And care and coward fears their faces bow,
      And shrink before his searching light away,
      And only what is pure and true dares stay:
        For the strong spirit of the mountains now
        Steals on me, as I lie and listen how
      Far, far below the torrent-waters play,
        And near beside me slides a sheet of foam
      Precipitous; and high above those cold
      Gaunt sentinels their silent watches hold,
        And warn the dull world from their rocky home:
            And I will ponder upon thoughts untold
            Even to the poets of the age of gold.



VIII.

IBIDEM.


      Fresh from the mountain snow,
        And the cold blue glacier-field,
      Leaping and dancing the waters flow;
        Long have they been frost-fettered and sealed,
      And freed at last they are fain to go,
        And find what riches the world may yield
          Far in the plains below.

      First by its gray ice-walls
        Moaning the torrent swirled,
      And now 'tis a cataract sheer that falls
        Over the rocks by its rush down-hurled,
      And foaming in tumult of thunder, calls
        To the dumb stark pines; and shattered and whirled
          They bow their heads as its thralls.

      Ah! but ye little wot,
        Waters so strong and free,
      That the fuller life that ye seek is not
        Like to the dreams that your young hopes see:
      Liberty soon, too soon, may be got,
        But stained and troubled your course shall be,--
          'Tis life's common lot.



IX.

AUTUMN.


      Spirit, whose silent breath
        Teaches the withering leaves
      To rejoice at the coming of Death,
        Though man at his menace grieves,
      Would that mine ear might know
        The message thou bearest of good,
      That makes them to flush and glow
        More than the summer could.



X.

'JUSTITIA EXCEDENS TERRIS.'


      Of old upon the earth sat Justice crowned,
        And truth clear-flashing from her lucent eyes
        Withered the pale and festering jealousies
      That in diseased hearts a harbour found;
      But when the voice of hate and the shrill sound
        Of rancorous spite and greed gat strength to rise,
        Borne on the vaporous breath of poisoning lies,
      Through realms that had shone pure with peace profound,
        Then wintry grief upon her bright face froze,
      And her white wings she spread, and soaring high,
      Where the unsealed mountain meets the sky,
        Mantled her in a robe of ageless snows:
      Thence in the sobbing breeze is borne her sigh,
      Thence her far voice that once was heard anigh.



XI.

THE WAYS OF LIFE.


      Narrower day by day
        Shrinks the valley we thread;
      Once how many a way
        Into the unknown led!
      All in the morning light
        Beaded with pearls of dew,
      And each, to our wondering sight,
        Full of enchantment new.

      One on the easy plain
        Loitering, one on fire
      The topmost summit to gain,
        And to mount from high to higher;
      On by the sparkling brook,
        Or climbing the steep hill-side,
      Lightly our way we took,
        For the world before us was wide.

      Lightly the branching ways
        We passed, for the gains of each
      Seemed to our dreamy gaze
        To linger within our reach;
      And all that was bright whereon
        The desires of our youth were set,
      Gathered and fused in one,
        In the glory of manhood met.

      Little of all that we saw
        The goal of our vision hath,
      And closer the dark cliffs draw
        Frowning about our path;
      And seldom they part to disclose
        Issue or choice anew,
      But the track that the child once chose,
        The man must still pursue.



XII.

TO R. H. K. AND J. M. K.


      Summer is fled, and the skies are weeping
        For withered blossom and faded scent,
      And over the face of the forest is creeping
        A flush of fever with pale fear blent,
          And even the brows of the mountains borrow
          From the gray cloud-fleeces a scarf of sorrow.

      Summer is fled, and the fleeting swallows
        Gather in grief on his path to pursue,
      But not as the loss of one that follows,
        Follows to find, is the loss that I rue;
          For cold is the north, and from true friends parted,
          Few can I find not colder-hearted.



Transcriber's Notes


Words surrounded by _ are italicized.

Small capitals are presented as all capitals in this e-text.

Obvious printer's errors have been repaired, inconsistent or archaic
spellings have been kept.





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