Poems by George Meredith - Volume 1
Part 2 out of 4
In the earth her feet are rooting! -
Breasts and limbs and lifted eyes,
Hair and lips and stretching fingers,
Fade away--and fadeless rise.
And the god whose fervent rapture
Clasps her finds his close embrace
Full of palpitating branches,
And new leaves that bud apace,
Bound his wonder-stricken forehead; -
While in ebbing measures slow
Sounds of softly dying pulses
Pause and quiver, pause and go;
Go, and come again, and flutter
On the verge of life,--then flee!
All the white ambrosial beauty
Is a lustrous Laurel Tree!
Still with the great panting love-chase
All its running sap is warmed; -
But from head to foot the virgin
Is transfigured and transformed.
Changed!--yet the green Dryad nature
Is instinct with human ties,
And above its anguish'd lover
Breathes pathetic sympathies;
Sympathies of love and sorrow;
Joy in her divine escape;
Breathing through her bursting foliage
Comfort to his bending shape.
Vainly now the floating Naiads
Seek to pierce the laurel maze,
Nought but laurel meets their glances,
Laurel glistens as they gaze.
Nought but bright prophetic laurel!
Laurel over eyes and brows,
Over limbs and over bosom,
Laurel leaves and laurel boughs!
And in vain the listening Dryad
Shells her hand against her ear! -
All is silence--save the echo
Travelling in the distance drear.
LONDON BY LAMPLIGHT
There stands a singer in the street,
He has an audience motley and meet;
Above him lowers the London night,
And around the lamps are flaring bright.
His minstrelsy may be unchaste -
'Tis much unto that motley taste,
And loud the laughter he provokes
From those sad slaves of obscene jokes.
But woe is many a passer by
Who as he goes turns half an eye,
To see the human form divine
Thus Circe-wise changed into swine!
Make up the sum of either sex
That all our human hopes perplex,
With those unhappy shapes that know
The silent streets and pale cock-crow.
And can I trace in such dull eyes
Of fireside peace or country skies?
And could those haggard cheeks presume
To memories of a May-tide bloom?
Those violated forms have been
The pride of many a flowering green;
And still the virgin bosom heaves
With daisy meads and dewy leaves.
But stygian darkness reigns within
The river of death from the founts of sin;
And one prophetic water rolls
Its gas-lit surface for their souls.
I will not hide the tragic sight -
Those drown'd black locks, those dead lips white,
Will rise from out the slimy flood,
And cry before God's throne for blood!
Those stiffened limbs, that swollen face, -
Pollution's last and best embrace,
Will call, as such a picture can,
For retribution upon man.
Hark! how their feeble laughter rings,
While still the ballad-monger sings,
And flatters their unhappy breasts
With poisonous words and pungent jests.
O how would every daisy blush
To see them 'mid that earthy crush!
O dumb would be the evening thrush,
And hoary look the hawthorn bush!
The meadows of their infancy
Would shrink from them, and every tree,
And every little laughing spot,
Would hush itself and know them not.
Precursor to what black despairs
Was that child's face which once was theirs!
And O to what a world of guile
Was herald that young angel smile!
That face which to a father's eye
Was balm for all anxiety;
That smile which to a mother's heart
Went swifter than the swallow's dart!
O happy homes! that still they know
At intervals, with what a woe
Would ye look on them, dim and strange,
Suffering worse than winter change!
And yet could I transplant them there,
To breathe again the innocent air
Of youth, and once more reconcile
Their outcast looks with nature's smile;
Could I but give them one clear day
Of this delicious loving May,
Release their souls from anguish dark,
And stand them underneath the lark; -
I think that Nature would have power
To graft again her blighted flower
Upon the broken stem, renew
Some portion of its early hue; -
The heavy flood of tears unlock,
More precious than the Scriptured rock;
At least instil a happier mood,
And bring them back to womanhood.
Alas! how many lost ones claim
This refuge from despair and shame!
How many, longing for the light,
Sink deeper in the abyss this night!
O, crying sin! O, blushing thought!
Not only unto those that wrought
The misery and deadly blight;
But those that outcast them this night!
O, agony of grief! for who
Less dainty than his race, will do
Such battle for their human right,
As shall awake this startled night?
Proclaim this evil human page
Will ever blot the Golden Age
That poets dream and saints invite,
If it be unredeemed this night?
This night of deep solemnity,
And verdurous serenity,
While over every fleecy field
The dews descend and odours yield.
This night of gleaming floods and falls,
Of forest glooms and sylvan calls,
Of starlight on the pebbly rills,
And twilight on the circling hills.
This night! when from the paths of men
Grey error steams as from a fen;
As o'er this flaring City wreathes
The black cloud-vapour that it breathes!
This night from which a morn will spring
Blooming on its orient wing;
A morn to roll with many more
Its ghostly foam on the twilight shore.
Morn! when the fate of all mankind
Hangs poised in doubt, and man is blind.
His duties of the day will seem
The fact of life, and mine the dream:
The destinies that bards have sung,
Regeneration to the young,
Reverberation of the truth,
And virtuous culture unto youth!
Youth! in whose season let abound
All flowers and fruits that strew the ground,
Voluptuous joy where love consents,
And health and pleasure pitch their tents:
All rapture and all pure delight;
A garden all unknown to blight;
But never the unnatural sight
That throngs the shameless song this night!
Under boughs of breathing May,
In the mild spring-time I lay,
Lonely, for I had no love;
And the sweet birds all sang for pity,
Cuckoo, lark, and dove.
Tell me, cuckoo, then I cried,
Dare I woo and wed a bride?
I, like thee, have no home-nest;
And the twin notes thus tuned their ditty, -
'Love can answer best.'
Nor, warm dove with tender coo,
Have I thy soft voice to woo,
Even were a damsel by;
And the deep woodland crooned its ditty, -
'Love her first and try.'
Nor have I, wild lark, thy wing,
That from bluest heaven can bring
Bliss, whatever fate befall;
And the sky-lyrist trilled this ditty, -
'Love will give thee all.'
So it chanced while June was young,
Wooing well with fervent song,
I had won a damsel coy;
And the sweet birds that sang for pity,
Jubileed for joy.
How sweet on sunny afternoons,
For those who journey light and well,
To loiter up a hilly rise
Which hides the prospect far beyond,
And fancy all the landscape lying
Beautiful and still;
Beneath a sky of summer blue,
Whose rounded cloudlets, folded soft,
Gaze on the scene which we await
And picture from their peacefulness;
So calmly to the earth inclining
Float those loving shapes!
Like airy brides, each singling out
A spot to love and bless with love,
Their creamy bosoms glowing warm,
Till distance weds them to the hills,
And with its latest gleam the river
Sinks in their embrace.
And silverly the river runs,
And many a graceful wind he makes,
By fields where feed the happy flocks,
And hedge-rows hushing pleasant lanes,
The charms of English home reflected
In his shining eye:
Ancestral oak, broad-foliaged elm,
Rich meadows sunned and starred with flowers,
The cottage breathing tender smoke
Against the brooding golden air,
With glimpses of a stately mansion
On a woodland sward;
And circling round, as with a ring,
The distance spreading amber haze,
Enclosing hills and pastures sweet;
A depth of soft and mellow light
Which fills the heart with sudden yearning
Aimless and serene!
No disenchantment follows here,
For nature's inspiration moves
The dream which she herself fulfils;
And he whose heart, like valley warmth,
Steams up with joy at scenes like this
Shall never be forlorn.
And O for any human soul
The rapture of a wide survey -
A valley sweeping to the West,
With all its wealth of loveliness,
Is more than recompense for days
That taught us to endure.
Yon upland slope which hides the sun
Ascending from his eastern deeps,
And now against the hues of dawn
One level line of tillage rears;
The furrowed brow of toil and time;
To many it is but a sweep of land!
To others 'tis an Autumn trust,
But unto me a mystery; -
An influence strange and swift as dreams;
A whispering of old romance;
A temple naked to the clouds;
Or one of nature's bosoms fresh revealed,
Heaving with adoration! there
The work of husbandry is done,
And daily bread is daily earned;
Nor seems there ought to indicate
The springs which move in me such thoughts,
But from my soul a spirit calls them up.
All day into the open sky,
All night to the eternal stars,
For ever both at morn and eve
Men mellow distances draw near,
And shadows lengthen in the dusk,
Athwart the heavens it rolls its glimmering line!
When twilight from the dream-hued West
Sighs hush! and all the land is still;
When, from the lush empurpling East,
The twilight of the crowing cock
Peers on the drowsy village roofs,
Athwart the heavens that glimmering line is seen.
And now beneath the rising sun,
Whose shining chariot overpeers
The irradiate ridge, while fetlock deep
In the rich soil his coursers plunge -
How grand in robes of light it looks!
How glorious with rare suggestive grace!
The ploughman mounting up the height
Becomes a glowing shape, as though
'Twere young Triptolemus, plough in hand,
While Ceres in her amber scarf
With gentle love directs him how
To wed the willing earth and hope for fruits!
The furrows running up are fraught
With meanings; there the goddess walks,
While Proserpine is young, and there -
'Mid the late autumn sheaves, her voice
Sobbing and choked with dumb despair -
The nights will hear her wailing for her child!
Whatever dim tradition tells,
Whatever history may reveal,
Or fancy, from her starry brows,
Of light or dreamful lustre shed,
Could not at this sweet time increase
The quiet consecration of the spot.
Blest with the sweat of labour, blest
With the young sun's first vigorous beams,
Village hope and harvest prayer, -
The heart that throbs beneath it holds
A bliss so perfect in itself
Men's thoughts must borrow rather than bestow.
Now standing on this hedgeside path,
Up which the evening winds are blowing
Wildly from the lingering lines
Of sunset o'er the hills;
Unaided by one motive thought,
My spirit with a strange impulsion
Rises, like a fledgling,
Whose wings are not mature, but still
Supported by its strong desire
Beats up its native air and leaves
The tender mother's nest.
Great music under heaven is made,
And in the track of rushing darkness
Comes the solemn shape of night,
And broods above the earth.
A thing of Nature am I now,
Abroad, without a sense or feeling
Born not of her bosom;
Content with all her truths and fates;
Ev'n as yon strip of grass that bows
Above the new-born violet bloom,
And sings with wood and field.
Lo, as a tree, whose wintry twigs
Drink in the sun with fibrous joy,
And down into its dampest roots
Thrills quickened with the draught of life,
I wake unto the dawn, and leave my griefs to drowse.
I rise and drink the fresh sweet air:
Each draught a future bud of Spring;
Each glance of blue a birth of green;
I will not mimic yonder oak
That dallies with dead leaves ev'n while the primrose peeps.
But full of these warm-whispering beams,
Like Memnon in his mother's eye, -
Aurora! when the statue stone
Moaned soft to her pathetic touch, -
My soul shall own its parent in the founts of day!
And ever in the recurring light,
True to the primal joy of dawn,
Forget its barren griefs; and aye
Like aspens in the faintest breeze
Turn all its silver sides and tremble into song.
Now from the meadow floods the wild duck clamours,
Now the wood pigeon wings a rapid flight,
Now the homeward rookery follows up its vanguard,
And the valley mists are curling up the hills.
Three short songs gives the clear-voiced throstle,
Sweetening the twilight ere he fills the nest;
While the little bird upon the leafless branches
Tweets to its mate a tiny loving note.
Deeper the stillness hangs on every motion;
Calmer the silence follows every call;
Now all is quiet save the roosting pheasant,
The bell-wether's tinkle and the watch-dog's bark.
Softly shine the lights from the silent kindling homestead,
Stars of the hearth to the shepherd in the fold;
Springs of desire to the traveller on the roadway;
Ever breathing incense to the ever-blessing sky!
How barren would this valley be,
Without the golden orb that gazes
On it, broadening to hues
Of rose, and spreading wings of amber;
Blessing it before it falls asleep.
How barren would this valley be,
Without the human lives now beating
In it, or the throbbing hearts
Far distant, who their flower of childhood
Cherish here, and water it with tears!
How barren should I be, were I
Without above that loving splendour,
Shedding light and warmth! without
Some kindred natures of my kind
To joy in me, or yearn towards me now!
Summer glows warm on the meadows, and speedwell, and gold-cups, and
Darken 'mid deepening masses of sorrel, and shadowy grasses
Show the ripe hue to the farmer, and summon the scythe and the hay-
Down from the village; and now, even now, the air smells of the
And the sharp song of the scythe whistles daily; from dawn, till the
Wears its cool star, sweet and welcome to all flaming faces afield
Heavily weighs the hot season, and drowses the darkening foliage,
Drooping with languor; the white cloud floats, but sails not, for
Heaven's blue tents it; no lark singing up in its fleecy white
Up in its fairy white valleys, once feathered with minstrels,
With the invisible joy that wakes dawn o'er the green fields of
Summer glows warm on the meadows; then come, let us roam thro' them
Heedless of heat, and the hot-kissing sun, and the fear of dark
Never one kiss will he give on a neck, or a lily-white forehead,
Chin, hand, or bosom uncovered, all panting, to take the chance
But full sure the fiery pressure leaves seal of espousal.
Heed him not; come, tho' he kiss till the soft little upper-lip
Half its pure whiteness; just speck'd where the curve of the rosy
Come, let him kiss, let him kiss, and his kisses shall make thee the
Thou art no nun, veiled and vowed; doomed to nourish a withering
City exotics beside thee would show like bleached linen at mid-day,
Hung upon hedges of eglantine! Thou in the freedom of nature,
Full of her beauty and wisdom, gentleness, joyance, and kindness!
Come, and like bees will we gather the rich golden honey of
Deep in the sweet summer meadows, border'd by hillside and river,
Lined with long trenches half-hidden, where smell of white meadow-
Blissfully hovers--O sweetest! but pluck it not! even in the
Grasp it will lose breath and wither; like many, not made for a
See, the sun slopes down the meadows, where all the flowers are
Falling unhymned; for the nightingale scarce ever charms the long
Mute with the cares of the nest; only known by a 'chuck, chuck,' and
Call of content, but the finch and the linnet and blackcap pipe
Round on the western hill-side warbles the rich-billed ouzel;
And the shrill throstle is filling the tangled thickening copses;
Singing o'er hyacinths hid, and most honey'd of flowers, white
Joy thus to revel all day in the grass of our own beloved country;
Revel all day, till the lark mounts at eve with his sweet 'tirra-
Trilling delightfully. See, on the river the slow-rippled surface
Shining; the slow ripple broadens in circles; the bright surface
Now it is flat as the leaves of the yet unseen water-lily.
There dart the lives of a day, ever-varying tactics fantastic.
There, by the wet-mirrored osiers, the emerald wing of the
Flashes, the fish in his beak! there the dab-chick dived, and the
Lazily undulates all thro' the tall standing army of rushes.
Joy thus to revel all day, till the twilight turns us homeward!
Till all the lingering deep-blooming splendour of sunset is over,
And the one star shines mildly in mellowing hues, like a spirit
Sent to assure us that light never dieth, tho' day is now buried.
Saying: to-morrow, to-morrow, few hours intervening, that interval
Tuned by the woodlark in heaven, to-morrow my semblance, far
Heralds the day 'tis my mission eternal to seal and to prophecy.
Come then, and homeward; passing down the close path of the meadows.
Home like the bees stored with sweetness; each with a lark in the
Trilling for ever, and oh! will yon lark ever cease to sing up
TO A SKYLARK
O skylark! I see thee and call thee joy!
Thy wings bear thee up to the breast of the dawn;
I see thee no more, but thy song is still
The tongue of the heavens to me!
Thus are the days when I was a boy;
Sweet while I lived in them, dear now they're gone:
I feel them no longer, but still, O still
They tell of the heavens to me.
When buds of palm do burst and spread
Their downy feathers in the lane,
And orchard blossoms, white and red,
Breathe Spring delight for Autumn gain;
And the skylark shakes his wings in the rain;
O then is the season to look for a bride!
Choose her warily, woo her unseen;
For the choicest maids are those that hide
Like dewy violets under the green.
When nuts behind the hazel-leaf
Are brown as the squirrel that hunts them free,
And the fields are rich with the sun-burnt sheaf,
'Mid the blue cornflower and the yellowing tree;
And the farmer glows and beams in his glee;
O then is the season to wed thee a bride!
Ere the garners are filled and the ale-cups foam;
For a smiling hostess is the pride
And flower of every Harvest Home.
SORROWS AND JOYS
Bury thy sorrows, and they shall rise
As souls to the immortal skies,
And there look down like mothers' eyes.
But let thy joys be fresh as flowers,
That suck the honey of the showers,
And bloom alike on huts and towers.
So shall thy days be sweet and bright;
Solemn and sweet thy starry night,
Conscious of love each change of light.
The stars will watch the flowers asleep,
The flowers will feel the soft stars weep,
And both will mix sensations deep.
With these below, with those above,
Sits evermore the brooding dove,
Uniting both in bonds of love.
For both by nature are akin;
Sorrow, the ashen fruit of sin,
And joy, the juice of life within.
Children of earth are these; and those
The spirits of divine repose -
Death radiant o'er all human woes.
O, think what then had been thy doom,
If homeless and without a tomb
They had been left to haunt the gloom!
O, think again what now they are -
Motherly love, tho' dim and far,
Imaged in every lustrous star.
For they, in their salvation, know
No vestige of their former woe,
While thro' them all the heavens do flow.
Thus art thou wedded to the skies,
And watched by ever-loving eyes,
And warned by yearning sympathies.
The flower unfolds its dawning cup,
And the young sun drinks the star-dews up,
At eve it droops with the bliss of day,
And dreams in the midnight far away.
So am I in thy sole, sweet glance
Pressed with a weight of utterance;
Lovingly all my leaves unfold,
And gleam to the beams of thirsty gold.
At eve I droop, for then the swell
Of feeling falters forth farewell; -
At midnight I am dreaming deep,
Of what has been, in blissful sleep.
When--ah! when will love's own fight
Wed me alike thro' day and night,
When will the stars with their linking charms
Wake us in each other's arms?
Thou to me art such a spring
As the Arab seeks at eve,
Thirsty from the shining sands;
There to bathe his face and hands,
While the sun is taking leave,
And dewy sleep is a delicious thing.
Thou to me art such a dream
As he dreams upon the grass,
While the bubbling coolness near
Makes sweet music in his ear;
And the stars that slowly pass
In solitary grandeur o'er him gleam.
Thou to me art such a dawn
As the dawn whose ruddy kiss
Wakes him to his darling steed;
And again the desert speed,
And again the desert bliss,
Lightens thro' his veins, and he is gone!
The buried voice bespake Antigone.
'O sister! couldst thou know, as thou wilt know,
The bliss above, the reverence below,
Enkindled by thy sacrifice for me;
Thou wouldst at once with holy ecstasy
Give thy warm limbs into the yearning earth.
Sleep, Sister! for Elysium's dawning birth, -
And faith will fill thee with what is to be!
Sleep, for the Gods are watching over thee!
Thy dream will steer thee to perform their will,
As silently their influence they instil.
O Sister! in the sweetness of thy prime,
Thy hand has plucked the bitter flower of death;
But this will dower thee with Elysian breath,
That fade into a never-fading clime.
Dear to the Gods are those that do like thee
A solemn duty! for the tyranny
Of kings is feeble to the soul that dares
Defy them to fulfil its sacred cares:
And weak against a mighty will are men.
O, Torch between two brothers! in whose gleam
Our slaughtered House doth shine as one again,
Tho' severed by the sword; now may thy dream
Kindle desire in thee for us, and thou,
Forgetting not thy lover and his vow,
Leaving no human memory forgot,
Shalt cross, not unattended, the dark stream
Which runs by thee in sleep and ripples not.
The large stars glitter thro' the anxious night,
And the deep sky broods low to look at thee:
The air is hush'd and dark o'er land and sea,
And all is waiting for the morrow light:
So do thy kindred spirits wait for thee.
O Sister! soft as on the downward rill,
Will those first daybeams from the distant hill
Fall on the smoothness of thy placid brow,
Like this calm sweetness breathing thro' me now:
And when the fated sounds shall wake thine eyes,
Wilt thou, confiding in the supreme will,
In all thy maiden steadfastness arise,
Firm to obey and earnest to fulfil;
Remembering the night thou didst not sleep,
And this same brooding sky beheld thee creep,
Defiant of unnatural decree,
To where I lay upon the outcast land;
Before the iron gates upon the plain;
A wretched, graveless ghost, whose wailing chill
Came to thy darkened door imploring thee;
Yearning for burial like my brother slain; -
And all was dared for love and piety!
This thought will nerve again thy virgin hand
To serve its purpose and its destiny.'
She woke, they led her forth, and all was still.
Swathed round in mist and crown'd with cloud,
O Mountain! hid from peak to base -
Caught up into the heavens and clasped
In white ethereal arms that make
Thy mystery of size sublime!
What eye or thought can measure now
Thy grand dilating loftiness!
What giant crest dispute with thee
Supremacy of air and sky!
What fabled height with thee compare!
Not those vine-terraced hills that seethe
The lava in their fiery cusps;
Nor that high-climbing robe of snow,
Whose summits touch the morning star,
And breathe the thinnest air of life;
Nor crocus-couching Ida, warm
With Juno's latest nuptial lure;
Nor Tenedos whose dreamy eye
Still looks upon beleaguered Troy;
Nor yet Olympus crown'd with gods
Can boast a majesty like thine,
O Mountain! hid from peak to base,
And image of the awful power
With which the secret of all things,
That stoops from heaven to garment earth,
Can speak to any human soul,
When once the earthly limits lose
Their pointed heights and sharpened lines,
And measureless immensity
Is palpable to sense and sight.
No, no, the falling blossom is no sign
Of loveliness destroy'd and sorrow mute;
The blossom sheds its loveliness divine; -
Its mission is to prophecy the fruit.
Nor is the day of love for ever dead,
When young enchantment and romance are gone;
The veil is drawn, but all the future dread
Is lightened by the finger of the dawn.
Love moves with life along a darker way,
They cast a shadow and they call it death:
But rich is the fulfilment of their day;
The purer passion and the firmer faith.
THE TWO BLACKBIRDS
A blackbird in a wicker cage,
That hung and swung 'mid fruits and flowers,
Had learnt the song-charm, to assuage
The drearness of its wingless hours.
And ever when the song was heard,
From trees that shade the grassy plot
Warbled another glossy bird,
Whose mate not long ago was shot.
Strange anguish in that creature's breast,
Unwept like human grief, unsaid,
Has quickened in its lonely nest
A living impulse from the dead.
Not to console its own wild smart, -
But with a kindling instinct strong,
The novel feeling of its heart
Beats for the captive bird of song.
And when those mellow notes are still,
It hops from off its choral perch,
O'er path and sward, with busy bill,
All grateful gifts to peck and search.
Store of ouzel dainties choice
To those white swinging bars it brings;
And with a low consoling voice
It talks between its fluttering wings.
Deeply in their bitter grief
Those sufferers reciprocate,
The one sings for its woodland life,
The other for its murdered mate.
But deeper doth the secret prove,
Uniting those sad creatures so;
Humanity's great link of love,
The common sympathy of woe.
Well divined from day to day
Is the swift speech between them twain;
For when the bird is scared away,
The captive bursts to song again.
Yet daily with its flattering voice,
Talking amid its fluttering wings,
Store of ouzel dainties choice
With busy bill the poor bird brings.
And shall I say, till weak with age
Down from its drowsy branch it drops,
It will not leave that captive cage,
Nor cease those busy searching hops?
Ah, no! the moral will not strain;
Another sense will make it range,
Another mate will soothe its pain,
Another season work a change.
But thro' the live-long summer, tried,
A pure devotion we may see;
The ebb and flow of Nature's tide;
A self-forgetful sympathy.
Blue July, bright July,
Month of storms and gorgeous blue;
Violet lightnings o'er thy sky,
Heavy falls of drenching dew;
Summer crown! o'er glen and glade
Shrinking hyacinths in their shade;
I welcome thee with all thy pride,
I love thee like an Eastern bride.
Though all the singing days are done
As in those climes that clasp the sun;
Though the cuckoo in his throat
Leaves to the dove his last twin note;
Come to me with thy lustrous eye,
Come with all thy shining blooms,
Thy rich red rose and rolling glooms.
Though the cuckoo doth but sing 'cuk, cuk,'
And the dove alone doth coo;
Though the cushat spins her coo-r-roo, r-r-roo -
To the cuckoo's halting 'cuk.'
Sweet July, warm July!
Month when mosses near the stream,
Soft green mosses thick and shy,
Are a rapture and a dream.
Summer Queen! whose foot the fern
Fades beneath while chestnuts burn;
I welcome thee with thy fierce love,
Gloom below and gleam above.
Though all the forest trees hang dumb,
With dense leafiness o'ercome;
Though the nightingale and thrush,
Pipe not from the bough or bush;
Come to me with thy lustrous eye,
The raptures of thy face unfold,
And welcome in thy robes of gold!
Tho' the nightingale broods--'sweet-chuck-sweet' -
And the ouzel flutes so chill,
Tho' the throstle gives but one shrilly trill
To the nightingale's 'sweet-sweet.'
I would I were the drop of rain
That falls into the dancing rill,
For I should seek the river then,
And roll below the wooded hill,
Until I reached the sea.
And O, to be the river swift
That wrestles with the wilful tide,
And fling the briny weeds aside
That o'er the foamy billows drift,
Until I came to thee!
I would that after weary strife,
And storm beneath the piping wind,
The current of my true fresh life
Might come unmingled, unimbrined,
To where thou floatest free.
Might find thee in some amber clime,
Where sunlight dazzles on the sail,
And dreaming of our plighted vale
Might seal the dream, and bless the time,
With maiden kisses three.
Come to me in any shape!
As a victor crown'd with vine,
In thy curls the clustering grape, -
Or a vanquished slave:
'Tis thy coming that I crave,
And thy folding serpent twine,
Close and dumb;
Ne'er from that would I escape;
Come to me in any shape!
Only come, and in my breast
Hide thy shame or show thy pride;
In my bosom be caressed,
Never more to part;
Come into my yearning heart;
I, the serpent, golden-eyed,
Twine round thee;
Twine thee with no venomed test;
Absence makes the venomed nest;
Come to me!
Come to me, my lover, come!
Violets on the tender stem
Die and wither in their bloom,
Under dewy grass;
Come, my lover, or, alas!
I shall die, shall die like them,
Frail and lone;
Come to me, my lover, come!
Let thy bosom be my tomb:
Come, my own!
THE SHIPWRECK OF IDOMENEUS
Swept from his fleet upon that fatal night
When great Poseidon's sudden-veering wrath
Scattered the happy homeward-floating Greeks
Like foam-flakes off the waves, the King of Crete
Held lofty commune with the dark Sea-god.
His brows were crowned with victory, his cheeks
Were flushed with triumph, but the mighty joy
Of Troy's destruction and his own great deeds
Passed, for the thoughts of home were dearer now,
And sweet the memory of wife and child,
And weary now the ten long, foreign years,
And terrible the doubt of short delay -
More terrible, O Gods! he cried, but stopped;
Then raised his voice upon the storm and prayed.
O thou, if injured, injured not by me,
Poseidon! whom sea-deities obey
And mortals worship, hear me! for indeed
It was our oath to aid the cause of Greece,
Not unespoused by Gods, and most of all
By thee, if gentle currents, havens calm,
Fair winds and prosperous voyage, and the Shape
Impersonate in many a perilous hour,
Both in the stately councils of the Kings,
And when the husky battle murmured thick,
May testify of services performed!
But now the seas are haggard with thy wrath,
Thy breath is tempest! never at the shores
Of hostile Ilium did thy stormful brows
Betray such fierce magnificence! not even
On that wild day when, mad with torch and glare,
The frantic crowds with eyes like starving wolves
Burst from their ports impregnable, a stream
Of headlong fury toward the hissing deep;
Where then full-armed I stood in guard, compact
Beside thee, and alone, with brand and spear,
We held at bay the swarming brood, and poured
Blood of choice warriors on the foot-ploughed sands!
Thou, meantime, dark with conflict, as a cloud
That thickens in the bosom of the West
Over quenched sunset, circled round with flame,
Huge as a billow running from the winds
Long distances, till with black shipwreck swoln,
It flings its angry mane about the sky.
And like that billow heaving ere it burst;
And like that cloud urged by impulsive storm
With charge of thunder, lightning, and the drench
Of torrents, thou in all thy majesty
Of mightiness didst fall upon the war!
Remember that great moment! Nor forget
The aid I gave thee; how my ready spear
Flew swiftly seconding thy mortal stroke,
Where'er the press was hottest; never slacked
My arm its duty, nor mine eye its aim,
Though terribly they compassed us, and stood
Thick as an Autumn forest, whose brown hair,
Lustrous with sunlight, by the still increase
Of heat to glowing heat conceives like zeal
Of radiance, till at the pitch of noon
'Tis seized with conflagration and distends
Horridly over leagues of doom'd domain;
Mingling the screams of birds, the cries of brutes,
The wail of creatures in the covert pent,
Howls, yells, and shrieks of agony, the hiss
Of seething sap, and crash of falling boughs
Together in its dull voracious roar.
So closely and so fearfully they throng'd,
Savage with phantasies of victory,
A sea of dusky shapes; for day had passed
And night fell on their darkened faces, red
With fight and torchflare; shrill the resonant air
With eager shouts, and hoarse with angry groans;
While over all the dense and sullen boom,
The din and murmur of the myriads,
Rolled with its awful intervals, as though
The battle breathed, or as against the shore
Waves gather back to heave themselves anew.
That night sleep dropped not from the dreary skies,
Nor could the prowess of our chiefs oppose
That sea of raging men. But what were they?
Or what is man opposed to thee? Its hopes
Are wrecks, himself the drowning, drifting weed
That wanders on thy waters; such as I
Who see the scattered remnants of my fleet,
Remembering the day when first we sailed,
Each glad ship shining like the morning star
With promise for the world. Oh! such as I
Thus darkly drifting on the drowning waves.
O God of waters! 'tis a dreadful thing
To suffer for an evil unrevealed;
Dreadful it is to hear the perishing cry
Of those we love; the silence that succeeds
How dreadful! Still my trust is fixed on thee
For those that still remain and for myself.
And if I hear thy swift foam-snorting steeds
Drawing thy dusky chariot, as in
The pauses of the wind I seem to hear,
Deaf thou art not to my entreating prayer!
Haste then to give us help, for closely now
Crete whispers in my ears, and all my blood
Runs keen and warm for home, and I have yearning,
Such yearning as I never felt before,
To see again my wife, my little son,
My Queen, my pretty nursling of five years,
The darling of my hopes, our dearest pledge
Of marriage, and our brightest prize of love,
Whose parting cry rings clearest in my heart.
O lay this horror, much-offended God!
And making all as fair and firm as when
We trusted to thy mighty depths of old, -
I vow to sacrifice the first whom Zeus
Shall prompt to hail us from the white seashore
And welcome our return to royal Crete,
An offering, Poseidon, unto thee!
Amid the din of elemental strife,
No voice may pierce but Deity supreme:
And Deity supreme alone can hear,
Above the hurricane's discordant shrieks,
The cry of agonized humanity.
Not unappeased was He who smites the waves,
When to his stormy ears the warrior's vow
Entered, and from his foamy pinnacle
Tumultuous he beheld the prostrate form,
And knew the mighty heart. Awhile he gazed,
As doubtful of his purpose, and the storm,
Conscious of that divine debate, withheld
Its fierce emotion, in the luminous gloom
Of those so dark irradiating eyes!
Beneath whose wavering lustre shone revealed
The tumult of the purpling deeps, and all
The throbbing of the tempest, as it paused,
Slowly subsiding, seeming to await
The sudden signal, as a faithful hound
Pants with the forepaws stretched before its nose,
Athwart the greensward, after an eager chase;
Its hot tongue thrust to cool, its foamy jaws
Open to let the swift breath come and go,
Its quick interrogating eyes fixed keen
Upon the huntsman's countenance, and ever
Lashing its sharp impatient tail with haste:
Prompt at the slightest sign to scour away,
And hang itself afresh by the bleeding fangs,
Upon the neck of some death-singled stag,
Whose royal antlers, eyes, and stumbling knees
Will supplicate the Gods in mute despair.
This time not mute, nor yet in vain this time!
For still the burden of the earnest voice
And all the vivid glories it revoked
Sank in the God, with that absorbed suspense
Felt only by the Olympians, whose minds
Unbounded like our mortal brain, perceive
All things complete, the end, the aim of all;
To whom the crown and consequence of deeds
Are ever present with the deed itself.
And now the pouring surges, vast and smooth,
Grew weary of restraint, and heaved themselves
Headlong beneath him, breaking at his feet
With wild importunate cries and angry wail;
Like crowds that shout for bread and hunger more.
And now the surface of their rolling backs
Was ridged with foam-topt furrows, rising high
And dashing wildly, like to fiery steeds,
Fresh from the Thracian or Thessalian plains,
High-blooded mares just tempering to the bit,
Whose manes at full-speed stream upon the winds,
And in whose delicate nostrils when the gust
Breathes of their native plains, they ramp and rear,
Frothing the curb, and bounding from the earth,
As though the Sun-god's chariot alone
Were fit to follow in their flashing track.
Anon with gathering stature to the height
Of those colossal giants, doomed long since
To torturous grief and penance, that assailed
The sky-throned courts of Zeus, and climbing, dared
For once in a world the Olympic wrath, and braved
The electric spirit which from his clenching hand
Pierces the dark-veined earth, and with a touch
Is death to mortals, fearfully they grew!
And with like purpose of audacity
Threatened Titanic fury to the God.
Such was the agitation of the sea
Beneath Poseidon's thought-revolving brows,
Storming for signal. But no signal came.
And as when men, who congregate to hear
Some proclamation from the regal fount,
With eager questioning and anxious phrase
Betray the expectation of their hearts,
Till after many hours of fretful sloth,
Weary with much delay, they hold discourse
In sullen groups and cloudy masses, stirred
With rage irresolute and whispering plot,
Known more by indication than by word,
And understood alone by those whose minds
Participate;--even so the restless waves
Began to lose all sense of servitude,
And worked with rebel passions, bursting, now
To right, and now to left, but evermore
Subdued with influence, and controlled with dread
Of that inviolate Authority.
Then, swiftly as he mused, the impetuous God
Seized on the pausing reins, his coursers plunged,
His brows resumed the grandeur of their ire;
Throughout his vast divinity the deeps
Concurrent thrilled with action, and away,
As sweeps a thunder-cloud across the sky
In harvest-time, preluded by dull blasts;
Or some black-visaged whirlwind, whose wide folds
Rush, wrestling on with all 'twixt heaven and earth,
Darkling he hurried, and his distant voice,
Not softened by delay, was heard in tones
Distinctly terrible, still following up
Its rapid utterance of tremendous wrath
With hoarse reverberations; like the roar
Of lions when they hunger, and awake
The sullen echoes from their forest sleep,
To speed the ravenous noise from hill to hill
And startle victims; but more awful, He,
Scudding across the hills that rise and sink,
With foam, and splash, and cataracts of spray,
Clothed in majestic splendour; girt about
With Sea-gods and swift creatures of the sea;
Their briny eyes blind with the showering drops;
Their stormy locks, salt tongues, and scaly backs,
Quivering in harmony with the tempest, fierce
And eager with tempestuous delight; -
He like a moving rock above them all
Solemnly towering while fitful gleams
Brake from his dense black forehead, which display'd
The enduring chiefs as their distracted fleets
Tossed, toiling with the waters, climbing high,
And plunging downward with determined beaks,
In lurid anguish; but the Cretan king
And all his crew were 'ware of under-tides,
That for the groaning vessel made a path,
On which the impending and precipitous waves
Fell not, nor suck'd to their abysmal gorge.
O, happy they to feel the mighty God,
Without his whelming presence near: to feel
Safety and sweet relief from such despair,
And gushing of their weary hopes once more
Within their fond warm hearts, tired limbs, and eyes
Heavy with much fatigue and want of sleep!
Prayers did not lack; like mountain springs they came,
After the earth has drunk the drenching rains,
And throws her fresh-born jets into the sun
With joyous sparkles;--for there needed not
Evidence more serene of instant grace,
Immortal mercy! and the sense which follows
Divine interposition, when the shock
Of danger hath been thwarted by the Gods,
Visibly, and through supplication deep, -
Rose in them, chiefly in the royal mind
Of him whose interceding vow had saved.
Tears from that great heroic soul sprang up;
Not painful as in grief, nor smarting keen
With shame of weeping; but calm, fresh, and sweet;
Such as in lofty spirits rise, and wed
The nature of the woman to the man;
A sight most lovely to the Gods! They fell
Like showers of starlight from his steadfast eyes,
As ever towards the prow he gazed, nor moved
One muscle, with firm lips and level lids,
Motionless; while the winds sang in his ears,
And took the length of his brown hair in streams
Behind him. Thus the hours passed, and the oars
Plied without pause, and nothing but the sound
Of the dull rowlocks and still watery sough,
Far off, the carnage of the storm, was heard.
For nothing spake the mariners in their toil,
And all the captains of the war were dumb:
Too much oppressed with wonder, too much thrilled
By their great chieftain's silence, to disturb
Such meditation with poor human speech.
Meantime the moon through slips of driving cloud
Came forth, and glanced athwart the seas a path
Of dusky splendour, like the Hadean brows,
When with Elysian passion they behold
Persephone's complacent hueless cheeks.
Soon gathering strength and lustre, as a ship
That swims into some blue and open bay
With bright full-bosomed sails, the radiant car
Of Artemis advanced, and on the waves
Sparkled like arrows from her silver bow
The keenness of her pure and tender gaze.
Then, slowly, one by one the chiefs sought rest;
The watches being set, and men to relieve
The rowers at midseason. Fair it was
To see them as they lay! Some up the prow,
Some round the helm, in open-handed sleep;
With casques unloosed, and bucklers put aside;
The ten years' tale of war upon their cheeks,
Where clung the salt wet locks, and on their breasts
Beards, the thick growth of many a proud campaign;
And on their brows the bright invisible crown
Victory sheds from her own radiant form,
As o'er her favourites' heads she sings and soars.
But dreams came not so calmly; as around
Turbulent shores wild waves and swamping surf
Prevail, while seaward, on the tranquil deeps,
Reign placid surfaces and solemn peace,
So, from the troubled strands of memory, they
Launched and were tossed, long ere they found the tides
That lead to the gentle bosoms of pure rest.
And like to one who from a ghostly watch
In a lone house where murder hath been done,
And secret violations, pale with stealth
Emerges, staggering on the first chill gust
Wherewith the morning greets him, feeling not
Its balmy freshness on his bloodless cheek, -
But swift to hide his midnight face afar,
'Mongst the old woods and timid-glancing flowers
Hastens, till on the fresh reviving breasts
Of tender Dryads folded he forgets
The pallid witness of those nameless things,
In renovated senses lapt, and joins
The full, keen joyance of the day, so they
From sights and sounds of battle smeared with blood,
And shrieking souls on Acheron's bleak tides,
And wail of execrating kindred, slid
Into oblivious slumber and a sense
Of satiate deliciousness complete.
Leave them, O Muse, in that so happy sleep!
Leave them to reap the harvest of their toil,
While fast in moonlight the glad vessel glides,
As if instinctive to its forest home.
O Muse, that in all sorrows and all joys,
Rapturous bliss and suffering divine,
Dwellest with equal fervour, in the calm
Of thy serene philosophy, albeit
Thy gentle nature is of joy alone,
And loves the pipings of the happy fields,
Better than all the great parade and pomp
Which forms the train of heroes and of kings,
And sows, too frequently, the tragic seeds
That choke with sobs thy singing,--turn away
Thy lustrous eyes back to the oath-bound man!
For as a shepherd stands above his flock,
The lofty figure of the king is seen,
Standing above his warriors as they sleep:
And still as from a rock grey waters gush,
While still the rock is passionless and dark,
Nor moves one feature of its giant face,
The tears fall from his eyes, and he stirs not.
And O, bright Muse! forget not thou to fold
In thy prophetic sympathy the thought
Of him whose destiny has heard its doom:
The Sacrifice thro' whom the ship is saved.
Haply that Sacrifice is sleeping now,
And dreams of glad tomorrows. Haply now,
His hopes are keenest, and his fervent blood
Richest with youth, and love, and fond regard!
Round him the circle of affections blooms,
And in some happy nest of home he lives,
One name oft uttering in delighted ears,
Mother! at which the heart of men are kin
With reverence and yearning. Haply, too,
That other name, twin holy, twin revered,
He whispers often to the passing winds
That blow toward the Asiatic coasts;
For Crete has sent her bravest to the war,
And multitudes pressed forward to that rank,
Men with sad weeping wives and little ones.
That other name--O Father! who art thou,
Thus doomed to lose the star of thy last days?
It may be the sole flower of thy life,
And that of all who now look up to thee!
O Father, Father! unto thee even now
Fate cries; the future with imploring voice
Cries 'Save me,' 'Save me,' though thou hearest not.
And O thou Sacrifice, foredoomed by Zeus;
Even now the dark inexorable deed
Is dealing its relentless stroke, and vain
Are prayers, and tears, and struggles, and despair!
The mother's tears, the nation's stormful grief,
The people's indignation and revenge!
Vain the last childlike pleading voice for life,
The quick resolve, the young heroic brow,
So like, so like, and vainly beautiful!
Oh! whosoe'er ye are the Muse says not,
And sees not, but the Gods look down on both.
THE LONGEST DAY
On yonder hills soft twilight dwells
And Hesper burns where sunset dies,
Moist and chill the woodland smells
From the fern-covered hollows uprise;
Darkness drops not from the skies,
But shadows of darkness are flung o'er the vale
From the boughs of the chestnut, the oak, and the elm,
While night in yon lines of eastern pines
Preserves alone her inviolate realm
Against the twilight pale.
Say, then say, what is this day,
That it lingers thus with half-closed eyes,
When the sunset is quenched and the orient ray
Of the roseate moon doth rise,
Like a midnight sun o'er the skies!
'Tis the longest, the longest of all the glad year,
The longest in life and the fairest in hue,
When day and night, in bridal light,
Mingle their beings beneath the sweet blue,
And bless the balmy air!
Upward to this starry height
The culminating seasons rolled;
On one slope green with spring delight,
The other with harvest gold,
And treasures of Autumn untold:
And on this highest throne of the midsummer now
The waning but deathless day doth dream,
With a rapturous grace, as tho' from the face
Of the unveiled infinity, lo, a far beam
Had fall'n on her dim-flushed brow!
Prolong, prolong that tide of song,
O leafy nightingale and thrush!
Still, earnest-throated blackcap, throng
The woods with that emulous gush
Of notes in tumultuous rush.
Ye summer souls, raise up one voice!
A charm is afloat all over the land;
The ripe year doth fall to the Spirit of all,
Who blesses it with outstretched hand;
Ye summer souls, rejoice!
TO ROBIN REDBREAST
Merrily 'mid the faded leaves,
O Robin of the bright red breast!
Cheerily over the Autumn eaves,
Thy note is heard, bonny bird;
Sent to cheer us, and kindly endear us
To what would be a sorrowful time
Without thee in the weltering clime:
Merry art thou in the boughs of the lime,
While thy fadeless waistcoat glows on thy breast,
In Autumn's reddest livery drest.
A merry song, a cheery song!
In the boughs above, on the sward below,
Chirping and singing the live day long,
While the maple in grief sheds its fiery leaf,
And all the trees waning, with bitter complaining,
Chestnut, and elm, and sycamore,
Catch the wild gust in their arms, and roar
Like the sea on a stormy shore,
Till wailfully they let it go,
And weep themselves naked and weary with woe.
Merrily, cheerily, joyously still
Pours out the crimson-crested tide.
The set of the season burns bright on the hill,
Where the foliage dead falls yellow and red,
Picturing vainly, but foretelling plainly
The wealth of cottage warmth that comes
When the frost gleams and the blood numbs,
And then, bonny Robin, I'll spread thee out crumbs
In my garden porch for thy redbreast pride,
The song and the ensign of dear fireside.
The daisy now is out upon the green;
And in the grassy lanes
The child of April rains,
The sweet fresh-hearted violet, is smelt and loved unseen.
Along the brooks and meads, the daffodil
Its yellow richness spreads,
And by the fountain-heads
Of rivers, cowslips cluster round, and over every hill.
The crocus and the primrose may have gone,
The snowdrop may be low,
But soon the purple glow
Of hyacinths will fill the copse, and lilies watch the dawn.
And in the sweetness of the budding year,
The cuckoo's woodland call,
The skylark over all,
And then at eve, the nightingale, is doubly sweet and dear.
My soul is singing with the happy birds,
And all my human powers
Are blooming with the flowers,
My foot is on the fields and downs, among the flocks and herds.
Deep in the forest where the foliage droops,
I wander, fill'd with joy.
Again as when a boy,
The sunny vistas tempt me on with dim delicious hopes.
The sunny vistas, dim with hurrying shade,
And old romantic haze:-
Again as in past days,
The spirit of immortal Spring doth every sense pervade.
Oh! do not say that this will ever cease; -
This joy of woods and fields,
This youth that nature yields,
Will never speak to me in vain, tho' soundly rapt in peace.
The clouds are withdrawn
And their thin-rippled mist,
That stream'd o'er the lawn
To the drowsy-eyed west.
Cold and grey
They slept in the way,
And shrank from the ray
Of the chariot East:
But now they are gone,
And the bounding light
Leaps thro' the bars
Of doubtful dawn;
Blinding the stars,
And blessing the sight;
On all below;
And wakening wealds,
And rising lark,
And meadows dark,
And idle rills,
And labouring mills,
And far-distant hills
Of the fawn and the doe.
The sun is cheered
And his path is cleared,
As he steps to the air
From his emerald cave,
His heel in the wave,
Most bright and bare;
In the tide of the sky
His radiant hair
From his temples fair
Blown back on high;
As forward he bends,
And upward ascends,
Timely and true,
To the breast of the blue;
His warm red lips
Kissing the dew,
Which sweetened drips
On his flower cupholders;
From his gleaming shoulders
With colour sky-born,
As it washes and dips
In the pride of the morn.
Robes of azure,
Fringed with amber,
Fold upon fold
Of purple and gold,
And the grape's ripe gloom,
When season deep
In noontide leisure,
With clustering heap
The tendrils clamber
Full in the face
Of his hot embrace,
Fill'd with the gleams
Of his firmest beams.
Of his flower cupholders,
O'er the clear ether
From his gleaming shoulders!
In a coronal rout,
And floating behind,
The way of the wind,
As forward he bends,
And upward ascends,
Timely and true,
To the breast of the blue.
His bright neck curved,
His clear limbs nerved,
On his front serene,
While each white arm strains
To the racing reins,
As plunging, eyes flashing,
Dripping, and dashing,
His steeds triple grown
Rear up to his throne,
Ruffling the rest
Of the sea's blue breast,
From his flooding, flaming crimson crest!
PICTURES OF THE RHINE
The spirit of Romance dies not to those
Who hold a kindred spirit in their souls:
Even as the odorous life within the rose
Lives in the scattered leaflets and controls
Mysterious adoration, so there glows
Above dead things a thing that cannot die;
Faint as the glimmer of a tearful eye,
Ere the orb fills and all the sorrow flows.
Beauty renews itself in many ways;
The flower is fading while the new bud blows;
And this dear land as true a symbol shows,
While o'er it like a mellow sunset strays
The legendary splendour of old days,
In visible, inviolate repose.
About a mile behind the viny banks,
How sweet it was, upon a sloping green,
Sunspread, and shaded with a branching screen,
To lie in peace half-murmuring words of thanks!
To see the mountains on each other climb,
With spaces for rich meadows flowery bright;
The winding river freshening the sight
At intervals, the trees in leafy prime;
The distant village-roofs of blue and white,
With intersections of quaint-fashioned beams
All slanting crosswise, and the feudal gleams
Of ruined turrets, barren in the light; -
To watch the changing clouds, like clime in clime;
Oh sweet to lie and bless the luxury of time.
Fresh blows the early breeze, our sail is full;
A merry morning and a mighty tide.
Cheerily O! and past St. Goar we glide,
Half hid in misty dawn and mountain cool.
The river is our own! and now the sun
In saffron clothes the warming atmosphere;
The sky lifts up her white veil like a nun,
And looks upon the landscape blue and clear; -
The lark is up; the hills, the vines in sight;
The river broadens with his waking bliss
And throws up islands to behold the light;
Voices begin to rise, all hues to kiss; -
Was ever such a happy morn as this!
Birds sing, we shout, flowers breathe, trees shine with one delight!
Between the two white breasts of her we love,
A dewy blushing rose will sometimes spring;
Thus Nonnenwerth like an enchanted thing
Rises mid-stream the crystal depths above.
On either side the waters heave and swell,
But all is calm within the little Isle;
Content it is to give its holy smile,
And bless with peace the lives that in it dwell.
Most dear on the dark grass beneath its bower
Of kindred trees embracing branch and bough,
To dream of fairy foot and sudden flower;
Or haply with a twilight on the brow,
To muse upon the legendary hour,
And Roland's lonely love and Hildegard's sad vow.
Hark! how the bitter winter breezes blow
Round the sharp rocks and o'er the half-lifted wave,
While all the rocky woodland branches rave
Shrill with the piercing cold, and every cave,
Along the icy water-margin low,
Rings bubbling with the whirling overflow;
And sharp the echoes answer distant cries
Of dawning daylight and the dim sunrise,
And the gloom-coloured clouds that stain the skies
With pictures of a warmth, and frozen glow
Spread over endless fields of sheeted snow;
And white untrodden mountains shining cold,
And muffled footpaths winding thro' the wold,
O'er which those wintry gusts cease not to howl and blow.
Rare is the loveliness of slow decay!
With youth and beauty all must be desired,
But 'tis the charm of things long past away,
They leave, alone, the light they have inspired:
The calmness of a picture; Memory now
Is the sole life among the ruins grey,
And like a phantom in fantastic play
She wanders with rank weeds stuck on her brow,
Over grass-hidden caves and turret-tops,
Herself almost as tottering as they;
While, to the steps of Time, her latest props
Fall stone by stone, and in the Sun's hot ray
All that remains stands up in rugged pride,
And bridal vines drink in his juices on each side.
TO A NIGHTINGALE
O nightingale! how hast thou learnt
The note of the nested dove?
While under thy bower the fern hangs burnt
And no cloud hovers above!
Rich July has many a sky
With splendour dim, that thou mightst hymn,
And make rejoice with thy wondrous voice,
And the thrill of thy wild pervading tone!
But instead of to woo, thou hast learnt to coo:
Thy song is mute at the mellowing fruit,
And the dirge of the flowers is sung by the hours
In silence and twilight alone.
O nightingale! 'tis this, 'tis this
That makes thee mock the dove!
That thou hast past thy marriage bliss,
To know a parent's love.
The waves of fern may fade and burn,
The grasses may fall, the flowers and all,
And the pine-smells o'er the oak dells
Float on their drowsy and odorous wings,
But thou wilt do nothing but coo,
Brimming the nest with thy brooding breast,
'Midst that young throng of future song,
Round whom the Future sings!
INVITATION TO THE COUNTRY
Now 'tis Spring on wood and wold,
Early Spring that shivers with cold,
But gladdens, and gathers, day by day,
A lovelier hue, a warmer ray,
A sweeter song, a dearer ditty;
Ouzel and throstle, new-mated and gay,
Singing their bridals on every spray -
Oh, hear them, deep in the songless City!
Cast off the yoke of toil and smoke,
As Spring is casting winter's grey,
As serpents cast their skins away:
And come, for the Country awaits thee with pity
And longs to bathe thee in her delight,
And take a new joy in thy kindling sight;
And I no less, by day and night,
Long for thy coming, and watch for, and wait thee,
And wonder what duties can thus berate thee.
Dry-fruited firs are dropping their cones,
And vista'd avenues of pines
Take richer green, give fresher tones,
As morn after morn the glad sun shines.
Primrose tufts peep over the brooks,
Fair faces amid moist decay!
The rivulets run with the dead leaves at play,
The leafless elms are alive with the rooks.
Over the meadows the cowslips are springing,
The marshes are thick with king-cup gold,
Clear is the cry of the lambs in the fold,
The skylark is singing, and singing, and singing.
Soon comes the cuckoo when April is fair,
And her blue eye the brighter the more it may weep:
The frog and the butterfly wake from their sleep,
Each to its element, water and air.
Mist hangs still on every hill,
And curls up the valleys at eve; but noon
Is fullest of Spring; and at midnight the moon
Gives her westering throne to Orion's bright zone,
As he slopes o'er the darkened world's repose;
And a lustre in eastern Sirius glows.
Come, in the season of opening buds;
Come, and molest not the otter that whistles
Unlit by the moon, 'mid the wet winter bristles
Of willow, half-drowned in the fattening floods.
Let him catch his cold fish without fear of a gun,
And the stars shall shield him, and thou wilt shun!
And every little bird under the sun
Shall know that the bounty of Spring doth dwell
In the winds that blow, in the waters that run,
And in the breast of man as well.
THE SWEET O' THE YEAR
Now the frog, all lean and weak,
Yawning from his famished sleep,
Water in the ditch doth seek,
Fast as he can stretch and leap:
Marshy king-cups burning near
Tell him 'tis the sweet o' the year.
Now the ant works up his mound
In the mouldered piny soil,
And above the busy ground
Takes the joy of earnest toil:
Dropping pine-cones, dry and sere,
Warn him 'tis the sweet o' the year.
Now the chrysalis on the wall
Cracks, and out the creature springs,
Raptures in his body small,
Wonders on his dusty wings:
Bells and cups, all shining clear,
Show him 'tis the sweet o' the year.
Now the brown bee, wild and wise,
Hums abroad, and roves and roams,
Storing in his wealthy thighs
Treasure for the golden combs:
Dewy buds and blossoms dear
Whisper 'tis the sweet o' the year.
Now the merry maids so fair
Weave the wreaths and choose the queen,
Blooming in the open air,
Like fresh flowers upon the green;
Spring, in every thought sincere,
Thrills them with the sweet o' the year.
Now the lads, all quick and gay,
Whistle to the browsing herds,
Or in the twilight pastures grey
Learn the use of whispered words:
First a blush, and then a tear,
And then a smile, i' the sweet o' the year.
Now the May-fly and the fish
Play again from noon to night;
Every breeze begets a wish,
Every motion means delight:
Heaven high over heath and mere
Crowns with blue the sweet o' the year.
Now all Nature is alive,
Bird and beetle, man and mole;
Bee-like goes the human hive,
Lark-like sings the soaring soul:
Hearty faith and honest cheer
Welcome in the sweet o' the year.
The long cloud edged with streaming grey
Soars from the West;
The red leaf mounts with it away,
Showing the nest
A blot among the branches bare:
There is a cry of outcasts in the air.
Swift little breezes, darting chill,
Pant down the lake;
A crow flies from the yellow hill,
And in its wake
A baffled line of labouring rooks:
Steel-surfaced to the light the river looks.
Pale on the panes of the old hall
Gleams the lone space
Between the sunset and the squall;
And on its face
Mournfully glimmers to the last:
Great oaks grow mighty minstrels in the blast.
Pale the rain-rutted roadways shine
In the green light
Behind the cedar and the pine:
Come, thundering night!
Blacken broad earth with hoards of storm:
For me yon valley-cottage beckons warm.
THE SONG OF COURTESY
When Sir Gawain was led to his bridal-bed,
By Arthur's knights in scorn God-sped:-
How think you he felt?
O the bride within
Was yellow and dry as a snake's old skin;
Loathly as sin!
With a hog's bristle on a hag's chin! -
Gentle Gawain felt as should we,
Little of Love's soft fire knew he:
But he was the Knight of Courtesy.
When that evil lady he lay beside
Bade him turn to greet his bride,
What think you he did?
O, to spare her pain,
And let not his loathing her loathliness vain
Mirror too plain,
Turned he and kissed her once and again.
Like Sir Gawain, gentles, should we?
SILENT, ALL! But for pattern agree
There's none like the Knight of Courtesy.
Sir Gawain sprang up amid laces and curls:
Kisses are not wasted pearls:-
What clung in his arms?
O, a maiden flower,
Burning with blushes the sweet bride-bower,
Beauty her dower!
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