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Title: Poems
Author: Bridges, Robert
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)



  POEMS

  BY
  ROBERT BRIDGES

  PRINTED AT THE PRIVATE PRESS OF
  H. DANIEL
  FELLOW OF WORCESTER COLLEGE
  OXFORD
  1884



_THE Author of these poems is too well aware of their demerits to allow
them to be republished thus without some apology. But it happens that
the Printer, at whose request this selection is made, is willing to
take so fair a share of the blame as to make any further explanation
unnecessary._



  _One Hundred and fifty copies printed._
  _This is No. ——_



CONTENTS


  FROM FIRST SERIES PUBLISHED 1873

  1 _Clear and gentle stream_                       page 1

  2 _Dear lady when thou frownest_                       4

  3 _Poor withered rose and dry_                         5

  4 _I found to-day out walking_                         7


  FROM SECOND SERIES PUBLISHED 1879

  5 _Will Love again awake_                              8

  6 _Whither, O splendid ship_                          10

  7 _I saw the Virgin-mother clad in green_             12

  8 _I know not how I came_                             14

  9 _There is a hill_                                   17

  10 _Again with pleasant green_                        21

  11 _Behold! the radiant Spring_                       25

  12 _I have loved flowers that fade_                   29

  13 _Wherefore to-night so full of care_               30


  FROM THIRD SERIES PUBLISHED 1880

  14 _Thou didst delight my eyes_                       32

  15 _When men were all asleep_                         33

  16 _I stand on the cliff_                             35

  17 _Perfect little body_                              37


  FOURTH SERIES, 1882. NOT PUBLISHED BEFORE

  18 _Joy, sweetest lifeborn joy_                       39

  19 _O my vague desires_ (_from_ PROMETHEUS)           42

  20 _The full moon from her cloudless skies_           43

  21 _I praise the tender flower_                       44

  22 _Awake my heart to be loved_                       45

  23 _Who that hath ever shot a shaft_                  46

  24 _O youth whose hope is high_                       52



ELEGY


      Clear and gentle stream,
      Known and loved so long,
      That hast heard the song
      And the idle dream
      Of my boyish day;
      While I once again
      Down thy margin stray,
      In the selfsame strain
      Still my voice is spent,
      With my old lament,
      And my idle dream,
      Clear and gentle stream!

      Where my old seat was
      Here again I sit,
      Where the long boughs knit
      Over stream and graís
      Thick translucent eaves:
      Where back eddies play
      Shipwreck with the leaves,
      And the proud swans stray,
      Sailing one by one
      Out of stream and sun,
      And the fish lie cool
      In their chosen pool.

      Many an afternoon
      Of the summer day
      Dreaming here I lay;
      And I know how soon
      Idly at its hour
      First the deep bell hums
      From the minster tower,
      And then evening comes,
      Creeping up the glade,
      With her lengthening shade,
      And the tardy boon
      Of her brightening moon.

      Clear and gentle stream,
      Ere again I go
      Where thou dost not flow,
      Well does it beseem
      Thee to hear again
      Once my youthful song,
      That familiar strain
      Silent now so long:
      Be as I content
      With my old lament,
      And my idle dream,
      Clear and gentle stream!

[Illustration]



      Dear lady, when thou frownest,
        And my true love despisest,
      And all thy vows disownest
        That sealed my venture wisest;
      I think thy pride’s displeasure
      Neglects a matchless treasure
      Exceeding price and measure.

      But when again thou smilest,
        And love for love returnest,
      And fear with joy beguilest,
        And takest truth in earnest;
      Then, though I most adore thee,
      The sum of my love for thee
      Seems poor, scant and unworthy.



      Poor withered rose and dry,
        Skeleton of a rose,
      Risen to testify
        To love’s sad close:

      Treasured for love’s sweet sake,
        That of joy past
      Thou might’st again awake
        Memory at last:

      Yet is thy perfume sweet,
        Thy petals red
      Yet tell of summer heat,
        And the gay bed:

      Yet yet recall the glow
        Of the gazing sun,
      When at thy bush we two
        Joined hands in one.

      But, rose, thou hast not seen,
        Thou hast not wept
      The change that passed between
        Whilst thou hast slept.

      To me thou seemest yet
        The dead dream’s thrall:
      While I live and forget
        Dream, truth and all.

      Thou art more fresh than I,
        Rose, sweet and red:
      Salt on my pale cheeks lie
        The tears I shed.

[Illustration]



      I found to-day out walking
        The flower my love loves best.
      What, when I stooped to pluck it,
        Could dare my hand arrest?

      Was it a snake lay curling
        About the root’s thick crown?
      Or did some hidden bramble
        Tear my hand reaching down?

      There was no snake uncurling,
        And no thorn wounded me;
      ’Twas my heart checked me, sighing
        She is beyond the sea.



        _Will Love again awake,
      That lies asleep so long?_
      O hush! ye tongues that shake
      The drowsy night with song.

        _It is a lady fair
      Whom once he deigned to praise,
      That at the door doth dare
      Her sad complaint to raise._

        She must be fair of face,
      As bold in heart she seems,
      If she would match her grace
      With the delight of dreams.

        _Her beauty would surprise
      Gazers on Autumn eves,
      Who watched the broad moon rise
      Upon the scattered sheaves._

        O sweet must be the voice
      He shall descend to hear,
      Who doth in Heaven rejoice
      His most enchanted ear.

        _The smile, that rests to play
      Upon her lip, foretells
      What musical array
      Tricks her sweet syllables._

        And yet her smiles have danced
      In vain, if her discourse
      Win not the soul entranced
      In divine intercourse.

        _She will encounter all
      This trial without shame,
      Her eyes men Beauty call,
      And Wisdom is her name._

        Throw back the portals then,
      Ye guards, your watch that keep,
      Love will awake again
      That lay so long asleep.



A PASSER BY


      Whither, O splendid ship, thy white sails crowding,
        Leaning across the bosom of the urgent West,
      That fearest nor sea rising, nor sky clouding,
        Whither away, fair rover, and what thy quest?
        Ah! soon, when Winter has all our vales opprest,
      When skies are cold and misty, and hail is hurling,
        Wilt thou glide on the blue Pacific, or rest
      In a summer haven asleep, thy white sails furling.

      I there before thee, in the country so well thou knowest,
        Already arrived am inhaling the odorous air:
      I watch thee enter unerringly where thou goest,
        And anchor queen of the strange shipping there,
        Thy sails for awning spread, thy masts bare:
      Nor is aught from the foaming reef to the snowcapped, grandest
        Peak, that is over the feathery palms more fair
      Than thou, so upright, so stately, and still thou standest.

      And yet, O splendid ship, unhailed and nameless,
        I know not if, aiming a fancy, I rightly divine
      That thou hast a purpose joyful, a courage blameless,
        Thy port assured in a happier land than mine.
        But for all I have given thee, beauty enough is thine,
      As thou, aslant with trim tackle and shrouding,
        From the proud nostril curve of a prow’s line
      In the offing scatterest foam, thy white sails crowding.

[Illustration]



LATE SPRING EVENING


      I saw the Virgin-mother clad in green,
      Walking the sprinkled meadows at sundown;
      While yet the moon’s cold flame was hung between
      The day and night, above the dusky town:
      I saw her brighter than the Western gold,
      Whereto she faced in splendour to behold.

      Her dress was greener than the tenderest leaf
      That trembled in the sunset glare aglow:
      Herself more delicate than is the brief,
      Pink apple-blossom, that May showers lay low,
      And more delicious than’s the earliest streak
      The blushing rose shows of her crimson cheek.

      With jealous grace her idle ears to please,
      A music entered, making passion fain:
      Three nightingales sat singing in the trees,
      And praised the Goddess for the fallen rain;
      Which yet their unseen motions did arouse,
      Or parting Zephyrs shook out from the boughs.

      And o’er the treetops, scattered in mid air,
      The exhausted clouds, laden with crimson light,
      Floated, or seemed to sleep; and, highest there,
      One planet broke the lingering ranks of night;
      Daring day’s company, so he might spy
      The Virgin-queen once with his watchful eye.

      And when I saw her, then I worshipped her,
      And said,—O bounteous Spring, O beauteous Spring,
      Mother of all my years, thou who dost stir
      My heart to adore thee and my tongue to sing,
      Flower of my fruit, of my heart’s blood the fire,
      Of all my satisfaction the desire!

      How art thou every year more beautiful,
      Younger for all the winters thou hast cast:
      And I, for all my love grows, grow more dull,
      Decaying with each season overpast!
      In vain to teach him love must man employ thee,
      The more he learns the less he can enjoy thee.



WOOING


        I know not how I came,
      New on my knightly journey,
        To win the fairest dame
      That graced my maiden tourney.

        Chivalry’s lovely prize
      With all men’s gaze upon her,
        Why did she free her eyes
      On me, to do me honour?

        Ah! ne’er had I my mind
      With such high hope delighted,
        Had she not first inclined,
      And with her eyes invited.

        But never doubt I knew,
      Having their glance to cheer me,
        Until the day joy grew
      Too great, too sure, too near me.

      When hope a fear became,
        And passion, grown too tender,
      Now trembled at the shame
        Of a despised surrender;

      And where my love at first
        Saw kindness in her smiling,
      I read her pride, and cursed
        The arts of her beguiling.

      Till winning less than won,
        And liker wooed than wooing,
      Too late I turned undone
        Away from my undoing;

      And stood beside the door,
        Whereto she followed, making
      My hard leave-taking more
        Hard by her sweet leave-taking.

        Her speech would have betrayed
      Her thought, had mine been colder:
        Her eyes distress had made
      A lesser lover bolder.

        But no! Fond heart distrust,
      Cried Wisdom, and consider:
        Go free, since go thou must,
      And so farewell I bid her.

        And brisk upon my way
      I smote the stroke to sever,
        And should have lost that day
      My life’s delight for ever;

        But when I saw her start
      And turn aside and tremble;—
        Ah! she was true, her heart
      I knew did not dissemble.



      There is a hill beside the silver Thames,
      Shady with birch and beech and odorous pine:
      And brilliant underfoot with thousand gems
      Steeply the thickets to his floods decline.
            Straight trees in every place
            Their thick tops interlace,
      And pendant branches trail their foliage fine
            Upon his watery face.

      Swift from the sweltering pasturage he flows:
      His stream, alert to seek the pleasant shade,
      Pictures his gentle purpose, as he goes
      Straight to the caverned pool his toil has made.
            His winter floods lay bare
            The stout roots in the air:
      His summer streams are cool, when they have played
            Among their fibrous hair.

      A rushy island guards the sacred bower,
      And hides it from the meadow, where in peace
      The lazy cows wrench many a scented flower,
      Robbing the golden market of the bees:
            And laden barges float
            By banks of myosote;
      And scented flags and golden flower-de-lys
            Delay the loitering boat.

      And on this side the island, where the pool
      Eddies away, are tangled mass on mass
      The water-weeds, that net the fishes cool
      And scarce allow a narrow stream to pass;
            Where spreading crowfoot mars
            The drowning nenuphars,
      Waving the tassels of her silken grass
            Below her silver stars.

      But in the purple pool there nothing grows,
      Not the white water-lily spoked with gold;
      Though best she loves the hollows, and well knows
      On quiet streams her broad shields to unfold:
            Yet should her roots but try
            Within these deeps to lie,
      Not her long reaching stalk could ever hold
            Her waxen head so high.

      Sometimes an angler comes, and drops his hook
      Within its hidden depths, and ’gainst a tree
      Leaning his rod, reads in some pleasant book,
      Forgetting soon his pride of fishery;
            And dreams, or falls asleep,
            While curious fishes peep
      About his nibbled bait, or scornfully
            Dart off and rise and leap.

      And sometimes by the pathway through the trees
      An aged dame at evening trudges home:
      And merry voices greet her, and she sees
      Her dear grandchildren, down the hill that come
            To meet her, and to bear
            Her basket home with care,
      Divining that, of all her treasures, some
            Will be for them to share.

      Else, he that wishes solitude is safe,
      Whether he bathe at morning in the stream:
      Or lead his love there when the hot hours chafe
      The meadows, busy with a blurring steam;
            Or watch, as fades the light,
            The gibbous moon grow bright,
      Until her magic rays dance in a dream,
            And glorify the night.

      Where is this bower beside the silver Thames?
      O pool and flowery thickets, hear my vow!
      O trees of freshest foliage and straight stems,
      No sharer of my secret I allow:
            Lest ere I come the while
            Strange feet your shades defile;
      Or lest the burly oarsman turn his prow
            Within your guardian isle.

[Illustration]



SPRING

INVITATION TO THE COUNTRY


        Again with pleasant green
      Has Spring renewed the wood,
      And where the bare trunks stood
      Are leafy arbours seen;
      And back on budding boughs
      Come birds, to court and pair,
      Whose rival amorous vows
      Amaze the scented air.

        The streams unbound anew
      Refill their mossy banks,
      The forward season pranks
      With flowers of varied hue:
      And scattered down the meads
      From hour to hour unfold
      A thousand buds and beads
      In stars and cups of gold.

        Now hear, and see, and note,
      The farms are all astir,
      And every labourer
      Has doffed his winter coat;
      And how with specks of white
      They dot the brown hillside,
      Or jaunt and sing outright
      As by their teams they stride.

        They sing to feel the Sun
      Regain his wanton strength;
      To know the year at length
      Rewards their labour done;
      To see the rootless stake
      They set bare in the ground,
      Burst into leaf, and shake
      Its grateful scent around.

        Ah now an evil lot
      Is his who toils for gain,
      Where crowded chimneys stain
      The heavens his choice forgot;
      ’Tis on the blighted trees
      That deck his garden dim,
      And in the tainted breeze
      That sweet spring comes to him.

        Far rather would I choose
      The grace of brutes that bask,
      Than in an eager task,
      My inborn honour lose:
      Would rather far enjoy
      The body, than invent
      A duty, to destroy
      The ease which nature sent;

        And country life I praise
      And lead, because I find
      The philosophic mind
      Can take no middle ways;
      She will not leave her love
      To mix with men, her art
      Is all to strive above
      The crowd, or stand apart.

        Thrice happy he, the rare
      Prometheus, who can play
      With hidden things, and lay
      New realms of nature bare:
      Whose venturous step has trod
      Hell underfoot, and won
      A crown from man and God
      For all that he has done.—

        That highest gift of all,
      Since crabbèd fate did flood
      My heart with sluggish blood,
      I look not mine to call;
      But, like a truant freed,
      Fly to the woods, and claim
      A pleasure for the deed
      Of my inglorious name.

        And am content, denied
      The best, in choosing right;
      For Nature can delight
      Fancies unoccupied
      With ecstasies so sweet
      As none can even guess,
      Who walk not with the feet
      Of joy in idleness.

        Then leave your joyless ways,
      My friend, my joys to see.
      The day you come shall be
      The choice of chosen days:
      You shall be lost, and learn
      New being, and forget
      The world, till your return
      Shall bring your first regret.



SPRING

REPLY


        Behold! the radiant Spring,
      In splendour decked anew,
      Down from her heaven of blue
      Returns on sunlit wing:
      The zephyrs of her train
      In fleecy clouds disport,
      And birds to greet her reign
      Summon their sylvan court.

        For even in street and square
      Her tardy trees relent,
      As some far-travell’d scent
      Kindles the morning air;
      And forth their buds provoke,
      Forgetting winter brown,
      And all the mire and smoke
      That wrapped the dingy town.

        Now he that loves indeed
      His pleasure must awake,
      Lest any pleasure take
      Its flight, and he not heed;
      For of his few short years
      Another now invites
      His hungry soul, and cheers
      His life with new delights.

        And who loves Nature more
      Than he, whose painful art
      Has taught and skilled his heart
      To read her skill and lore?
      Whose spirit leaps more high,
      Plucking the pale primrose,
      Than his whose feet must fly
      The pasture where it grows?

        One long in city pent
      Forgets, or must complain:
      But think not I can stain
      My heaven with discontent;
      Nor wallow with that sad,
      Backsliding herd, who cry
      That Truth must make man bad,
      And pleasure is a lie.

        Rather while Reason lives
      To mark me from the beast,
      I’ll teach her serve at least
      To heal the wound she gives:
      Nor need she strain her powers
      Beyond a common flight,
      To make the passing hours
      Happy from morn till night.

        Since health our toil rewards,
      And strength is labour’s prize,
      I hate not, nor despise
      The work my lot accords;
      Nor fret with fears unkind
      The tender joys, that bless
      My hard-won peace of mind,
      In hours of idleness.

        Then what charm company
      Can give, know I,—if wine
      Go round, or throats combine
      To set dumb music free.
      Or deep in wintertide
      When winds without make moan,
      I love my own fireside
      Not least when most alone.

        Then oft I turn the page
      In which our country’s name,
      Spoiling the Greek of fame,
      Shall sound in every age:
      Or some Terentian play
      Renew, whose excellent
      Adjusted folds betray
      How once Menander went.

        Or if grave study suit
      The yet unwearied brain,
      Plato can teach again,
      And Socrates dispute;
      Till fancy in a dream
      Confront their souls with mine,
      Crowning the mind supreme,
      And her delights divine.

        While pleasure yet can be
      Pleasant, and fancy sweet,
      I bid all care retreat
      From my philosophy;
      Which, when I come to try
      Your simpler life, will find,
      I doubt not, joys to vie
      With those I leave behind.



      I have loved flowers that fade,
      Within whose magic tents
      Rich hues have marriage made
      With sweet unmemoried scents:
      A honeymoon delight,—
      A joy of love at sight,
      That ages in an hour:—
      My song be like a flower!

      I have loved airs, that die
      Before their charm is writ
      Upon the liquid sky
      Trembling to welcome it.
      Notes, that with pulse of fire
      Proclaim the spirit’s desire,
      Then die, and are nowhere:—
      My song be like an air!

      Die, song, die like a breath,
      And wither as a bloom:
      Fear not a flowery death,
      Dread not an airy tomb!
      Fly with delight, fly hence!
      ’Twas thine love’s tender sense
      To feast, now on thy bier
      Beauty shall shed a tear.



      Wherefore to-night so full of care,
      My soul, revolving hopeless strife,
      Pointing at hindrance, and the bare
      Painful escapes of fitful life?

      Shaping the doom that may befall
      By precedent of terror past:
      By love dishonoured, and the call
      Of friendship slighted at the last?

      By treasured names, the little store
      That memory out of wreck could save
      Of loving hearts, that gone before
      Call their old comrade to the grave?

        O soul be patient: thou shalt find
      A little matter mend all this;
      Some strain of music to thy mind,
      Some praise for skill not spent amiss.

      Again shall pleasure overflow
      Thy cup with sweetness, thou shalt taste
      Nothing but sweetness, and shalt grow
      Half sad for sweetness run to waste.

      O happy life! I hear thee sing,
      O rare delight of mortal stuff!
      I praise my days for all they bring,
      Yet are they only not enough.

[Illustration]



        Thou didst delight my eyes:
      Yet who am I? nor first
      Nor last nor best that durst
      Once dream of thee for prize;
      Nor this the only time
      Thou shalt set love to rhyme.

        Thou didst delight my ear:
      Ah! little praise; thy voice
      Makes other hearts rejoice,
      Makes all ears glad that hear;
      And short my joy: but yet,
      O song, do not forget.

        For what wert thou to me?
      How shall I say? The moon,
      That poured her midnight noon
      Upon his wrecking sea;—
      A sail, that for a day
      Has cheered the castaway.



      When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
        In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
      Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
        Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
      Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
      Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
        Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
      Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
      Into angles and crevices softly drifting and failing.
        All night it fell, and when full inches seven
      It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
      Its clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
        And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
      Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
      The eye marvelled—marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
        The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
      No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
      And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.

        Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
      They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
      Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snow-balling;
        Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees;
      Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder,
      “O look at the trees!” they cried, “O look at the trees!”
        With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
      Following along the white deserted way,
      A country company long dispersed asunder:
        When now already the sun, in pale display
      Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below
      His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
        For now doors open and war is waged with the snow;
      And trains of sombre men, past tale of number,
      Tread long brown paths as towards their toil they go:
        But even for them no cares awhile encumber
      Their minds diverted; the daily word unspoken,
      The daily thoughts of labour and sorrow slumber
      At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they
                have broken.



      I stand on the cliff and watch the veiled sun paling
        A silver field afar in the mournful sea,
      The scourge of the surf, and plaintive gulls sailing
        At ease on the gale that smites the shuddering lea:
                    Whose smile severe and chaste
        June never hath stirred to vanity, nor age defaced.
      In lofty thought strive, O spirit, for ever:
      In courage and strength pursue thine own endeavour.

      Ah! if it were only for thee, thou restless ocean
        Of waves that follow and roar, the sweep of the tides;
      Were’t only for thee, impetuous wind, whose motion
        Precipitate all o’errides, and turns, nor abides:
                    For you sad birds and fair,
        Or only for thee, bleak cliff, erect in the air;
      Then well could I read wisdom in every feature,
      O well should I understand the voice of Nature.

      But far away, I think, in the Thames valley,
        The silent river glides by flowery banks:
      And birds sing sweetly in branches that arch an alley
        Of cloistered trees, moss-grown in their ancient ranks:
                    Where if a light air stray,
        ’Tis laden with hum of bees and scent of may.
      Love and peace be thine, O spirit, for ever:
      Serve thy sweet desire: despise endeavour.

      And if it were only for thee, entrancèd river,
        That scarce dost rock the lily on her airy stem,
      Or stir a wave to murmur, or a rush to quiver;
        Were’t but for the woods, and summer asleep in them:
                    For you my bowers green,
        My hedges of rose and woodbine, with walks between,
      Then well could I read wisdom in every feature,
      O well should I understand the voice of Nature.

[Illustration]



      Perfect little body, without fault or stain on thee,
        With promise of strength and manhood full and fair!
                Though cold and stark and bare,
      The bloom and the charm of life doth awhile remain on thee.

      Thy mother’s treasure wert thou;—alas! no longer
        To visit her heart with wonderous joy; to be
                Thy father’s pride;—ah, he
      Must gather his faith together, and his strength make stronger.

      To me, as I move thee now in the last duty,
        Dost thou with a turn or a gesture anon respond;
                Startling my fancy fond
      With a chance attitude of the head, a freak of beauty.

      Thy hand clasps, as ’twas wont, my finger, and holds it:
        But the grasp is the clasp of Death, heartbreaking and stiff;
                Yet feels to my hand as if
      ’Twas still thy will, thy pleasure and trust that enfolds it.

      So I lay thee there, thy sunken eyelids closing,—
        Go lie thou there in thy coffin, thy last little bed!—
                Propping thy wise, sad head,
      Thy firm, pale hands across thy chest disposing.

      So quiet! doth the change content thee?—Death, whither hath he
                      taken thee?
        To a world, do I think, that rights the disaster of this?
                The vision of which I miss,
      Who weep for the body, and wish but to warm thee and awaken thee?

      Ah! little at best can all our hopes avail us
        To lift this sorrow, or cheer us, when in the dark,
                Unwilling, alone we embark,
      And the things we have seen and have known and have heard of, fail
                     us.

[Illustration]



      Joy, sweetest lifeborn joy, where dost thou dwell?
      Upon the formless moments of our being
      Flitting, to mock the ear that heareth well,
      To escape the trained eye that strains in seeing,
      Dost thou fly with us whither we are fleeing;
      Or home in our creations, to withstand
      Blackwingèd death, that slays the making hand?

      The making mind, that must untimely perish
      Amidst its work which time may not destroy,
      The beauteous forms which man shall love to cherish,
      The glorious songs that combat earths annoy?
      Thou dost dwell here, I know, divinest Joy:
      But they who build thy towers fair and strong,
      Of all that toil, feel most of care and wrong.

      Sense is so tender, O and hope so high,
      That common pleasures mock their hope and sense;
      And swifter than doth lightning from the sky
      The ecstasy they pine for flashes hence,
      Leaving the darkness and the woe immense,
      Wherewith it seems no thread of light was woven,
      Nor doth the track remain where once ’twas cloven.

      And heaven and all the stable elements
      That guard God’s purpose mock us, though the mind
      Be spent in searching: for his old intents
      We see were never for our joy designed:
      They shine as doth the bright sun on the blind,
      Or like his pensioned stars, that hymn above
      His praise, but not toward us, that God is Love.

      For who so well hath wooed the maiden hours
      As quite to have won the worth of their rich show,
      To rob the night of mystery, or the flowers
      Of their sweet delicacy ere they go?
      Nay, even the dear occasion when we know
      We miss the joy, and on the gliding day
      The special glories float and pass away,

      Only life’s common plod: still to repair
      The body and the thing which perisheth:
      The soil, the smutch, the toil and ache and wear,
      The grinding enginry of blood and breath,
      Pain’s random darts, the heartless spade of death:
      All is but grief, and heavily we call
      On the last terror for the end of all.

      Then comes the happy moment: not a stir
      In any tree, no portent in the sky:
      The morn doth neither hasten nor defer,
      The morrow hath no name to call it by,
      But life and joy are one,—we know not why,—
      As though our very blood long breathless lain
      Had tasted of the breath of God again.

      And having tasted it I speak of it,
      And praise him telling how I trembled then
      When his touch strengthened me, as now I sit
      In wonder, reaching out beyond my ken,
      Reaching to turn the day back, and my pen
      Urging to tell a tale which told would seem
      The witless phantasy of them that dream.

      But O most blessèd truth, for truth thou art,
      Abide thou with me till my life shall end.
      Divinity hath surely touched my heart;
      I have possessed more joy than earth can lend:
      I may attain what time shall never spend.
      Only let not my duller days destroy
      The memory of thy witness and my joy.



      O My vague desires!
      Ye lambent flames of the soul, her offspring fires:
      That are my soul herself in pangs sublime
      Rising and flying to heaven before her time:

      What doth tempt you forth
      To drown in the south or shiver in the frosty north?
      What seek ye or find ye in your random flying,
      Ever soaring aloft, soaring and dying?

      Joy, the joy of flight!
      They hide in the sun, they flare and dance in the night;
      Gone up, gone out of sight: and ever again
      Follow fresh tongues of fire, fresh pangs of pain.

      Ah! they burn my soul,
      The fires, devour my soul that once was whole:
      She is scattered in fiery phantoms day by day,
      But whither, whither? ay whither? away, away!

      Could I but control
      These vague desires, these leaping flames of the soul:
      Could I but quench the fire: ah! could I stay
      My soul that flieth, alas, and dieth away!



      The full moon from her cloudless skies
      Turneth her face, I think, on me;
      And from the hour when she doth rise
      Till when she sets, none else will see.

      One only other ray she hath,
      That makes an angle close with mine,
      And glancing down its happy path
      Upon another spot doth shine.

      But that ray too is sent to me,
      For where it lights there dwells my heart:
      And if I were where I would be,
      Both rays would shine, love, where thou art.



        I praise the tender flower,
        That on a mournful day
        Bloomed in my garden bower
        And made the winter gay.
        Its loveliness contented
              My heart tormented.

        I praise the gentle maid
        Whose happy voice and smile
        To confidence betrayed
        My doleful heart awhile:
      And gave my spirit deploring
              Fresh wings for soaring.

        The maid for very fear
        Of love I durst not tell:
        The rose could never hear,
        Though I bespake her well:
      So in my song I bind them
              For all to find them.



      Awake my heart to be loved, awake, awake!
      The darkness silvers away, the morn doth break,
      It leaps in the sky: unrisen lustres slake
      The o’ertaken moon. Awake, O heart, awake!

      She too that loveth awaketh and hopes for thee:
      Her eyes already have sped the shades that flee,
      Already they watch the path thy feet shall take:
      Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake!

      And if thou tarry from her,—if this could be,—
      She cometh herself, O heart, to be loved, to thee;
      For thee would unashamèd herself forsake:
      Awake to be loved, my heart, awake, awake!

      Awake, the land is scattered with light, and see,
      Uncanopied sleep is flying from field and tree:
      And blossoming boughs of April in laughter shake;
      Awake, O heart, to be loved, awake, awake!

      Lo all things wake and tarry and look for thee:
      She looketh and saith, “O sun now bring him to me.
      Come more adored, O adored, for his coming’s sake,
      And awake my heart to be loved: awake, awake!”



      Who that hath ever shot a shaft at heaven
        Whether of wonder, praise or humble prayer,
      But hath not straight received his answer given,
        And been made strong with comforting, aware
      Of strength and beauty for his purpose meant,
      Whether it were a lark’s song or a scent
        That wanders on the quavering paths of the air?

      The sweetest of all birds, that fed my slumber
        With music through the thought-exalting night,
      Among forgotten fancies without number
        Transfigured sorrow to a heart’s delight.
      And uninvited memories, that stole
      With haunting trouble to their slavèd soul
        Were turned to wondrous joys and aspects bright.

      So intimate a part are we of Nature
        That even to call us best part doth us wrong,
      Being her mind, the meaning of her feature,
        To whom her varied forms wholly belong.
      So that what were not ours were worthless quite,
      And thus to me it happened on that night
        To be the love and joy of this bird’s song.

      As it came leaping on the dark unguarded
        Silence of midnight to the door of the ear:
      And finding the warm passages unwarded
        Sped up the spiral stair, and mounted near
      To where in unseen rooms the delicate sprite
      That never sleeps sat watching through the night
        Weaving the time in fancies strange and drear.

      Nor was it that the heavenly music fluttered
        The quick electric atoms; rarer far,
      The melody this bird of passion uttered
        Coloured the firmament where all thoughts are:
      As in the characters a poet’s hand
      Has traced, there lie—for poets understand—
        Heart-thrills that shoot through blackness like a star.

      And so, as summer eve will sweetly soften
        The wayward thoughts of all who forth may fare,
      To me there came the spirit who haunts not often
        My heart for sorrow of the sadness there:
      But now her face was lit with joy, her eyes
      Were eager messengers of her surprise
        That she was quit of her profound despair.

      Clothed was she like a nun, and yet her vesture
        Did sad despite unto her merry grace,
      As gaily she came forward with a gesture
        As gamesome as the childhood in her face,
      That I had seen so long downcast and sad,
      Robbed of the happy birthright which she had,
        Which earth may steal away but not replace.

      There is no sorrow like the slow heart-searing,
        When phantoms bred of earth spring up between
      Two loving hearts, who grew to their endearing,
        When all their pushing tendrils yet were green:
      No time-struck ruin is so sad to see
      As youth’s disease: than thus, O Love, to be,
        ’Twere better for thy honour not to have been.

      Had I not seen the servitude of folly,
        The mínute-measuring of days and nights,
      With superstition preaching melancholy
        And pleasure counterfeiting her own rights;
      Afraid to turn again and look behind,
      Lest truth should flame and overwhelm the mind,
        Fanning her red regret of old delights.

      The mimicry of woe that is a trouble
        To them that practise it, but which to those
      To whom the joy is owed makes sorrow double
        Seeing the debtor destitute that owes.
      The tinselling of cruel bars, to blind
      The cagèd bird to think the hand is kind
        Which liberty denies and food bestows.

      From which I hurried as a beast from burning,
        Nor cared in flying where my terror led;
      Only beyond recall and past returning,
        Nor now repent if then too far I fled.—
      So long, dear life, as in my flesh thou reign’st
      I will sin with thee rather than against,
        Let me die living rather than live dead.

      But neither is there human pleasure rarer
        Than love’s renewal after long disdain,
      Nor any touching tale for telling fairer
        Than that wherein lost lovers meet again:
      Such joy must happy souls beyond the grave,
      If once again they meet, in Heaven have,
        Without which all the joys of Heaven were vain.

      ’Twas even thus she came and in my dreaming,
        My pleasure was not less than Heaven’s may be:
      The spiritual and unearthly seeming
        So far outdid a touched reality:
      As glances sent in love do more than tell
      What words can never phrase or utter well,
        And which ’tis shame and blindness not to see.

      But now the joy was mine, for gentle pity
        Of her who wearily lived long alone
      With mopes and mummers in a sensuous city
        That held no passion equal to her own,
      For gentle pity, I say, constrained me well,
      As pains those separated souls they tell
        Prepare for Heaven, and mould their hearts of stone.

      But their sweet ecstasy is all abiding
        And cannot pall with time nor tire nor fade,
      Nor any more can day of death, dividing
        Their earthborn loves, those happy haunts invade.
      But joy for ever—if that joy compare
      With my best joy on earth, may I be there!
        Though even from that I shrink and am afraid.

      Now when I woke and thought upon this vision,
        Wherein she smiled on me and I on her,
      I could not quite be clear of all misprision
        Who of us most was changed: or if it were
      The song I heard not—sleeping as I heard—
      That shaped our empty dream, while sang the bird
        Regardless of his fond interpreter.

[Illustration]



      O youth whose hope is high,
      Who dost to Truth aspire,
      Whether thou live or die,
      O look not back nor tire.

      Thou that art bold to fly
      Through tempest, flood and fire,
      Nor dost not shrink to try
      Thy heart in torments dire:

      If thou canst Death defy,
      If thy Faith is entire,
      Press onward, for thine eye
      Shall see thy heart’s desire.

      Beauty and love are nigh,
      And with their deathless quire
      Soon shall their eager cry
      Be numbered and expire.



[Illustration]



Transcriber’s Note


The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the
public domain.

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected.

“entranced” (Pg. 9) and “entrancèd” (Pg 36) left as printed.

Poem titles of Contents page left as printed.

Poems with and without titles within the book were left as printed.





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