Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I.
Part 4 out of 7
And sit in my poor place and talk a while.
Why should they come, forsooth? Only the wind
Knocks at my door, O long and loud it knocks,
The only thing God made that has a mind
To enter in.'
"Yea, thus the old man spake:
These were the last words of his aged mouth--
BUT ONE DID KNOCK. One came to sup with him,
That humble, weak, old man; knocked at his door
In the rough pauses of the laboring wind.
I tell you that One knocked while it was dark.
Save where their foaming passion had made white
Those livid seething billows. What He said
In that poor place where He did talk a while,
I cannot tell: but this I am assured,
That when the neighbors came the morrow morn,
What time the wind had bated, and the sun
Shone on the old man's floor, they saw the smile
He passed away in, and they said, 'He looks
As he had woke and seen the face of Christ,
And with that rapturous smile held out his arms
To come to Him!'
"Can such an one be here,
So old, so weak, so ignorant, so frail?
The Lord be good to thee, thou poor old man;
It would be hard with thee if heaven were shut
To such as have not learning! Nay, nay, nay,
He condescends to them of low estate;
To such as are despised He cometh down,
Stands at the door and knocks.
"Yet bear with me.
I have a message; I have more to say.
Shall sorrow win His pity, and not sin--
That burden ten times heavier to be borne?
What think you? Shall the virtuous have His care
Alone? O virtuous women, think not scorn.
For you may lift your faces everywhere;
And now that it grows dusk, and I can see
None though they front me straight, I fain would tell
A certain thing to you. I say to _you_;
And if it doth concern you, as methinks
It doth, then surely it concerneth all.
I say that there was once--I say not here--
I say that there was once a castaway,
And she was weeping, weeping bitterly;
Kneeling, and crying with a heart-sick cry
That choked itself in sobs--'O my good name!
Oh my good name!' And none did hear her cry!
Nay; and it lightened, and the storm-bolts fell,
And the rain splashed upon the roof, and still
She, storm-tost as the storming elements--
She cried with an exceeding bitter cry,
'O my good name!' And then the thunder-cloud
Stooped low and burst in darkness overhead,
And rolled, and rocked her on her knees, and shook
The frail foundations of her dwelling-place.
But she--if any neighbors had come in
(None did): if any neighbors had come in,
They might have seen her crying on her knees.
And sobbing 'Lost, lost, lost!' beating her breast--
Her breast forever pricked with cruel thorns.
The wounds whereof could neither balm assuage
Nor any patience heal--beating her brow,
Which ached, it had been bent so long to hide
From level eyes, whose meaning was contempt.
"O ye good women, it is hard to leave
The paths of virtue, and return again.
What if this sinner wept, and none of you
Comforted her? And what if she did strive
To mend, and none of you believed her strife.
Nor looked upon her? Mark, I do not say,
Though it was hard, you therefore were to blame;
That she had aught against you, though your feet
Never drew near her door. But I beseech
Your patience. Once in old Jerusalem
A woman kneeled at consecrated feet,
Kissed them, and washed them with her tears.
I think that yet our Lord is pitiful:
I think I see the castaway e'en now!
And she is not alone: the heavy rain
Splashes without, and sullen thunder rolls,
But she is lying at the sacred feet
Of One transfigured.
"And her tears flow down,
Down to her lips,--her lips that kiss the print
Of nails; and love is like to break her heart!
Love and repentance--for it still doth work
Sore in her soul to think, to think that she,
Even she, did pierce the sacred, sacred feet.
And bruise the thorn-crowned head.
"O Lord, our Lord,
How great is Thy compassion. Come, good Lord,
For we will open. Come this night, good Lord;
Stand at the door and knock.
"And is this all?--
Trouble, old age and simpleness, and sin--
This all? It might be all some other night;
But this night, if a voice said 'Give account
Whom hast thou with thee?' then must I reply,
'Young manhood have I, beautiful youth and strength,
Rich with all treasure drawn up from the crypt
Where lies the learning of the ancient world--
Brave with all thoughts that poets fling upon
The strand of life, as driftweed after storms:
Doubtless familiar with Thy mountain heads,
And the dread purity of Alpine snows,
Doubtless familiar with Thy works concealed
For ages from mankind--outlying worlds,
And many mooned spheres--and Thy great store
Of stars, more thick than mealy dust which here
Powders the pale leaves of Auriculas.
This do I know, but, Lord, I know not more.
Not more concerning them--concerning Thee,
I know Thy bounty; where Thou givest much
Standing without, if any call Thee in
Thou givest more.' Speak, then, O rich and strong:
Open, O happy young, ere yet the hand
Of Him that knocks, wearied at last, forbear;
The patient foot its thankless quest refrain,
The wounded heart for evermore withdraw."
I have heard many speak, but this one man--
So anxious not to go to heaven alone--
This one man I remember, and his look,
Till twilight overshadowed him. He ceased.
And out in darkness with the fisherfolk
We passed and stumbled over mounds of moss,
And heard, but did not see, the passing beck.
Ah, graceless heart, would that it could regain
From the dim storehouse of sensations past
The impress full of tender awe, that night,
Which fell on me! It was as if the Christ
Had been drawn down from heaven to track us home,
And any of the footsteps following us
Might have been His.
A WEDDING SONG.
Come up the broad river, the Thames, my Dane,
My Dane with the beautiful eyes!
Thousands and thousands await thee full fain,
And talk of the wind and the skies.
Fear not from folk and from country to part,
O, I swear it is wisely done:
For (I said) I will bear me by thee, sweetheart,
As becometh my father's son.
Great London was shouting as I went down.
"She is worthy," I said, "of this;
What shall I give who have promised a crown?
O, first I will give her a kiss."
So I kissed her and brought her, my Dane, my Dane,
Through the waving wonderful crowd:
Thousands and thousands, they shouted amain,
Like mighty thunders and loud.
And they said, "He is young, the lad we love,
The heir of the Isles is young:
How we deem of his mother, and one gone above,
Can neither be said nor sung.
"He brings us a pledge--he will do his part
With the best of his race and name;"--
And I will, for I look to live, sweetheart,
As may suit with my mother's fame.
THE FOUR BRIDGES.
I love this gray old church, the low, long nave,
The ivied chancel and the slender spire;
No less its shadow on each heaving grave,
With growing osier bound, or living brier;
I love those yew-tree trunks, where stand arrayed
So many deep-cut names of youth and maid.
A simple custom this--I love it well--
A carved betrothal and a pledge of truth;
How many an eve, their linked names to spell,
Beneath the yew-trees sat our village youth!
When work was over, and the new-cut hay
Sent wafts of balm from meadows where it lay.
Ah! many an eve, while I was yet a boy,
Some village hind has beckoned me aside,
And sought mine aid, with shy and awkward joy,
To carve the letters of his rustic bride,
And make them clear to read as graven stone,
Deep in the yew-tree's trunk beside his own.
For none could carve like me, and here they stand.
Fathers and mothers of this present race:
And underscored by some less practised hand,
That fain the story of its line would trace,
With children's names, and number, and the day
When any called to God have passed away.
I look upon them, and I turn aside,
As oft when carving them I did erewhile;
And there I see those wooden bridges wide
That cross the marshy hollow; there the stile
In reeds embedded, and the swelling down,
And the white road towards the distant town.
But those old bridges claim another look.
Our brattling river tumbles through the one;
The second spans a shallow, weedy brook;
Beneath the others, and beneath the sun,
Lie two long stilly pools, and on their breasts
Picture their wooden piles, encased in swallows' nests.
And round about them grows a fringe of reeds,
And then a floating crown of lily-flowers,
And yet within small silver-budded weeds;
But each clear centre evermore embowers
A deeper sky, where, stooping, you may see
The little minnows darting restlessly.
My heart is bitter, lilies, at your sweet;
Why did the dewdrop fringe your chalices?
Why in your beauty are you thus complete,
You silver ships--you floating palaces?
O! if need be, you must allure man's eye,
Yet wherefore blossom here? O why? O why?
O! O! the world is wide, you lily flowers,
It hath warm forests, cleft by stilly pools,
Where every night bathe crowds of stars; and bowers
Of spicery hang over. Sweet air cools
And shakes the lilies among those stars that lie:
Why are not ye content to reign there? Why?
That chain of bridges, it were hard to tell
How it is linked with all my early joy.
There was a little foot that I loved well,
It danced across them when I was a boy;
There was a careless voice that used to sing;
There was a child, a sweet and happy thing.
Oft through that matted wood of oak and birch
She came from yonder house upon the hill;
She crossed the wooden bridges to the church,
And watched, with village girls, my boasted skill:
But loved to watch the floating lilies best,
Or linger, peering in a swallow's nest;
Linger and linger, with her wistful eyes
Drawn to the lily-buds that lay so white
And soft on crimson water; for the skies
Would crimson, and the little cloudlets bright
Would all be flung among the flowers sheer down,
To flush the spaces of their clustering crown.
Till the green rushes--O, so glossy green--
The rushes, they would whisper, rustle, shake;
And forth on floating gauze, no jewelled queen
So rich, the green-eyed dragon-flies would break,
And hover on the flowers--aerial things,
With little rainbows flickering on their wings.
Ah! my heart dear! the polished pools lie still,
Like lanes of water reddened by the west,
Till, swooping down from yon o'erhanging hill,
The bold marsh harrier wets her tawny breast;
We scared her oft in childhood from her prey,
And the old eager thoughts rise fresh as yesterday.
To yonder copse by moonlight I did go,
In luxury of mischief, half afraid,
To steal the great owl's brood, her downy snow,
Her screaming imps to seize, the while she preyed
With yellow, cruel eyes, whose radiant glare,
Fell with their mother rage, I might not dare.
Panting I lay till her great fanning wings
Troubled the dreams of rock-doves, slumbering nigh,
And she and her fierce mate, like evil things,
Skimmed the dusk fields; then rising, with a cry
Of fear, joy, triumph, darted on my prey.
And tore it from the nest and fled away.
But afterward, belated in the wood,
I saw her moping on the rifled tree,
And my heart smote me for her, while I stood
Awakened from my careless reverie;
So white she looked, with moonlight round her shed.
So motherlike she drooped and hung her head.
O that mine eyes would cheat me! I behold
The godwits running by the water edge,
Tim mossy bridges mirrored as of old;
The little curlews creeping from the sedge,
But not the little foot so gayly light
O that mine eyes would cheat me, that I might!--
Would cheat me! I behold the gable ends--
Those purple pigeons clustering on the cote;
The lane with maples overhung, that bends
Toward her dwelling; the dry grassy moat,
Thick mullions, diamond-latticed, mossed and gray,
And walls bunked up with laurel and with bay.
And up behind them yellow fields of corn,
And still ascending countless firry spires,
Dry slopes of hills uncultured, bare, forlorn,
And green in rocky clefts with whins and briers;
Then rich cloud masses dyed the violet's hue,
With orange sunbeams dropping swiftly through.
Ay, I behold all this full easily;
My soul is jealous of my happier eyes.
And manhood envies youth. Ah, strange to see,
By looking merely, orange-flooded skies;
Nay, any dew-drop that may near me shine:
But never more the face of Eglantine!
She was my one companion, being herself
The jewel and adornment of my days,
My life's completeness. O, a smiling elf,
That I do but disparage with my praise--
My playmate; and I loved her dearly and long,
And she loved me, as the tender love the strong.
Ay, but she grew, till on a time there came
A sudden restless yearning to my heart;
And as we went a-nesting, all for shame
And shyness, I did hold my peace, and start;
Content departed, comfort shut me out,
And there was nothing left to talk about.
She had but sixteen years, and as for me,
Four added made my life. This pretty bird,
This fairy bird that I had cherished--she,
Content, had sung, while I, contented, heard.
The song had ceased; the bird, with nature's art,
Had brought a thorn and set it in my heart.
The restless birth of love my soul opprest,
I longed and wrestled for a tranquil day,
And warred with that disquiet in my breast
As one who knows there is a better way;
But, turned against myself, I still in vain
Looked for the ancient calm to come again.
My tired soul could to itself confess
That she deserved a wiser love than mine;
To love more truly were to love her less,
And for this truth I still awoke to pine;
I had a dim belief that it would be
A better thing for her, a blessed thing for me.
Good hast Thou made them--comforters right sweet;
Good hast Thou made the world, to mankind lent;
Good are Thy dropping clouds that feed the wheat;
Good are Thy stars above the firmament.
Take to Thee, take, Thy worship, Thy renown;
The good which Thou hast made doth wear Thy crown.
For, O my God, Thy creatures are so frail,
Thy bountiful creation is so fair.
That, drawn before us like the temple veil,
It hides the Holy Place from thought and care,
Giving man's eyes instead its sweeping fold,
Rich as with cherub wings and apples wrought of gold.
Purple and blue and scarlet--shimmering bells
And rare pomegranates on its broidered rim,
Glorious with chain and fretwork that the swell
Of incense shakes to music dreamy and dim,
Till on a day comes loss, that God makes gain,
And death and darkness rend the veil in twain.
* * * * *
Ah, sweetest! my beloved! each outward thing
Recalls my youth, and is instinct with thee;
Brown wood-owls in the dusk, with noiseless wing,
Float from yon hanger to their haunted tree,
And hoot full softly. Listening, I regain
A flashing thought of thee with their remembered strain.
I will not pine--it is the careless brook.
These amber sunbeams slanting down the vale;
It is the long tree-shadows, with their look
Of natural peace, that make my heart to fail:
The peace of nature--No, I will not pine--
But O the contrast 'twixt her face and mine!
And still I changed--I was a boy no more;
My heart was large enough to hold my kind,
And all the world. As hath been oft before
With youth, I sought, but I could never find
Work hard enough to quiet my self-strife,
And use the strength of action-craving life.
She, too, was changed: her bountiful sweet eyes
Looked out full lovingly on all the world.
O tender as the deeps in yonder skies
Their beaming! but her rosebud lips were curled
With the soft dimple of a musing smile,
Which kept my gaze, but held me mute the while.
A cast of bees, a slowly moving wain,
The scent of bean-flowers wafted up a dell,
Blue pigeons wheeling over fields of grain,
Or bleat of folded lamb, would please her well;
Or cooing of the early coted dove;--
She sauntering mused of these; I, following, mused of love.
With her two lips, that one the other pressed
So poutingly with such a tranquil air,
With her two eyes, that on my own would rest
So dream-like, she denied my silent prayer,
Fronted unuttered words and said them nay,
And smiled down love till it had nought to say.
The words that through mine eyes would clearly shine
Hovered and hovered on my lips in vain;
If after pause I said but "Eglantine,"
She raised to me her quiet eyelids twain,
And looked me this reply--look calm, yet bland--
"I shall not know, I will not understand."
Yet she did know my story--knew my life
Was wrought to hers with bindings many and strong
That I, like Israel, served for a wife,
And for the love I bare her thought not long,
But only a few days, full quickly told,
My seven years' service strict as his of old.
I must be brief: the twilight shadows grow,
And steal the rose-bloom genial summer sheds,
And scented wafts of wind that come and go
Have lifted dew from honeyed clover-heads;
The seven stars shine out above the mill,
The dark delightsome woods lie veiled and still.
Hush! hush! the nightingale begins to sing,
And stops, as ill-contented with her note;
Then breaks from out the bush with hurried wing.
Restless and passionate. She tunes her throat,
Laments awhile in wavering trills, and then
Floods with a stream of sweetness all the glen.
The seven stars upon the nearest pool
Lie trembling down betwixt the lily leaves,
And move like glowworms; wafting breezes cool
Come down along the water, and it heaves
And bubbles in the sedge; while deep and wide
The dim night settles on the country side.
I know this scene by heart. O! once before
I saw the seven stars float to and fro,
And stayed my hurried footsteps by the shore
To mark the starry picture spread below:
Its silence made the tumult in my breast
More audible; its peace revealed my own unrest.
I paused, then hurried on; my heart beat quick;
I crossed the bridges, reached the steep ascent,
And climbed through matted fern and hazels thick;
Then darkling through the close green maples went
And saw--there felt love's keenest pangs begin--
An oriel window lighted from within--
I saw--and felt that they were scarcely cares
Which I had known before; I drew more near,
And O! methought how sore it frets and wears
The soul to part with that it holds so dear;
Tis hard two woven tendrils to untwine,
And I was come to part with Eglantine.
For life was bitter through those words repressed,
And youth was burdened with unspoken vows;
Love unrequited brooded in my breast,
And shrank, at glance, from the beloved brows:
And three long months, heart-sick, my foot withdrawn,
I had not sought her side by rivulet, copse, or lawn--
Not sought her side, yet busy thought no less
Still followed in her wake, though far behind;
And I, being parted from her loveliness,
Looked at the picture of her in my mind:
I lived alone, I walked with soul oppressed,
And ever sighed for her, and sighed for rest.
Then I had risen to struggle with my heart.
And said--"O heart! the world is fresh and fair,
And I am young; but this thy restless smart
Changes to bitterness the morning air:
I will, I must, these weary fetters break--
I will be free, if only for her sake.
"O let me trouble her no more with sighs!
Heart-healing comes by distance, and with time:
Then let me wander, and enrich mine eyes
With the green forests of a softer clime,
Or list by night at sea the wind's low stave
And long monotonous rockings of the wave.
"Through open solitudes, unbounded meads,
Where, wading on breast-high in yellow bloom,
Untamed of man, the shy white lama feeds--
There would I journey and forget my doom;
Or far, O far as sunrise I would see
The level prairie stretch away from me!
"Or I would sail upon the tropic seas,
Where fathom long the blood-red dulses grow,
Droop from the rock and waver in the breeze,
Lashing the tide to foam; while calm below
The muddy mandrakes throng those waters warm,
And purple, gold, and green, the living blossoms swarm."
So of my father I did win consent,
With importunities repeated long,
To make that duty which had been my bent,
To dig with strangers alien tombs among,
And bound to them through desert leagues to pace.
Or track up rivers to their starting-place.
For this I had done battle and had won,
But not alone to tread Arabian sands,
Measure the shadows of a southern sun,
Or dig out gods in the old Egyptian lands;
But for the dream wherewith I thought to cope--
The grief of love unmated with love's hope.
And now I would set reason in array,
Methought, and fight for freedom manfully,
Till by long absence there would come a day
When this my love would not be pain to me;
But if I knew my rosebud fair and blest
I should not pine to wear it on my breast.
The days fled on; another week should fling
A foreign shadow on my lengthening way;
Another week, yet nearness did not bring
A braver heart that hard farewell to say.
I let the last day wane, the dusk begin,
Ere I had sought that window lighted from within.
Sinking and sinking, O my heart! my heart!
Will absence heal thee whom its shade doth rend?
I reached the little gate, and soft within
The oriel fell her shadow. She did lend
Her loveliness to me, and let me share
The listless sweetness of those features fair.
Among thick laurels in the gathering gloom,
Heavy for this our parting, I did stand;
Beside her mother in the lighted room,
She sitting leaned her cheek upon her hand
And as she read, her sweet voice floating through
The open casement seemed to mourn me an adieu.
Youth! youth! how buoyant are thy hopes! they turn,
Like marigolds, toward the sunny side.
My hopes were buried in a funeral urn,
And they sprung up like plants and spread them wide;
Though I had schooled and reasoned them away,
They gathered smiling near and prayed a holiday.
Ah, sweetest voice! how pensive were its tones,
And how regretful its unconscious pause!
"Is it for me her heart this sadness owns,
And is our parting of to-night the cause?
Ah, would it might be so!" I thought, and stood
Listening entranced among the underwood.
I thought it would be something worth the pain
Of parting, to look once in those deep eyes,
And take from them an answering look again:
"When eastern palms," I thought, "about me rise,
If I might carve our names upon the rind,
Betrothed, I would not mourn, though leaving thee behind."
I can be patient, faithful, and most fond
To unacknowledged love; I can be true
To this sweet thraldom, this unequal bond,
This yoke of mine that reaches not to you:
O, how much more could costly parting buy--
If not a pledge, one kiss, or, failing that, a sigh!
I listened, and she ceased to read; she turned
Her face towards the laurels where I stood:
Her mother spoke--O wonder! hardly learned;
She said, "There is a rustling in the wood;
Ah, child! if one draw near to bid farewell,
Let not thine eyes an unsought secret tell.
"My daughter, there is nothing held so dear
As love, if only it be hard to win.
The roses that in yonder hedge appear
Outdo our garden-buds which bloom within;
But since the hand may pluck them every day,
Unmarked they bud, bloom, drop, and drift away.
"My daughter, my beloved, be not you
Like those same roses." O bewildering word!
My heart stood still, a mist obscured my view:
It cleared; still silence. No denial stirred
The lips beloved; but straight, as one opprest,
She, kneeling, dropped her face upon her mother's breast.
This said, "My daughter, sorrow comes to all;
Our life is checked with shadows manifold:
But woman has this more--she may not call
Her sorrow by its name. Yet love not told,
And only born of absence and by thought,
With thought and absence may return to nought."
And my beloved lifted up her face,
And moved her lips as if about to speak;
She dropped her lashes with a girlish grace,
And the rich damask mantled in her cheek:
I stood awaiting till she should deny
Her love, or with sweet laughter put it by.
But, closer nestling to her mother's heart,
She, blushing, said no word to break my trance,
For I was breathless; and, with lips apart,
Felt my breast pant and all my pulses dance,
And strove to move, but could not for the weight
Of unbelieving joy, so sudden and so great,
Because she loved me. With a mighty sigh
Breaking away, I left her on her knees,
And blest the laurel bower, the darkened sky,
The sultry night of August. Through the trees,
Giddy with gladness, to the porch I went,
And hardly found the way for joyful wonderment.
Yet, when I entered, saw her mother sit
With both hands cherishing the graceful head,
Smoothing the clustered hair, and parting it
From the fair brow; she, rising, only said,
In the accustomed tone, the accustomed word,
The careless greeting that I always heard;
And she resumed her merry, mocking smile,
Though tear-drops on the glistening lashes hung.
O woman! thou wert fashioned to beguile:
So have all sages said, all poets sung.
She spoke of favoring winds and waiting ships,
With smiles of gratulation on her lips!
And then she looked and faltered: I had grown
So suddenly in life and soul a man:
She moved her lips, but could not find a tone
To set her mocking music to; began
One struggle for dominion, raised her eyes,
And straight withdrew them, bashful through surprise
The color over cheek and bosom flushed;
I might have heard the beating of her heart,
But that mine own beat louder; when she blushed,
The hand within mine own I felt to start,
But would not change my pitiless decree
To strive with her for might and mastery.
She looked again, as one that, half afraid,
Would fain be certain of a doubtful thing;
Or one beseeching "Do not me upbraid!"
And then she trembled like the fluttering
Of timid little birds, and silent stood,
No smile wherewith to mock my hardihood.
She turned, and to an open casement moved
With girlish shyness, mute beneath my gaze.
And I on downcast lashes unreproved
Could look as long as pleased me; while, the rays
Of moonlight round her, she her fair head bent,
In modest silence to my words attent.
How fast the giddy whirling moments flew!
The moon had set; I heard the midnight chime,
Hope is more brave than fear, and joy than dread.
And I could wait unmoved the parting time.
It came; for, by a sudden impulse drawn,
She, risen, stepped out upon the dusky lawn.
A little waxen taper in her hand,
Her feet upon the dry and dewless grass,
She looked like one of the celestial band,
Only that on her cheeks did dawn and pass
Most human blushes; while, the soft light thrown
On vesture pure and white, she seemed yet fairer grown.
Her mother, looking out toward her, sighed,
Then gave her hand in token of farewell.
And with her warning eyes, that seemed to chide,
Scarce suffered that I sought her child to tell
The story of my life, whose every line
No other burden bore than--Eglantine.
Black thunder-clouds were rising up behind,
The waxen taper burned full steadily;
It seemed as if dark midnight had a mind
To hear what lovers say, and her decree
Had passed for silence, while she, dropped to ground
With raiment floating wide, drank in the sound.
O happiness! thou dost not leave a trace
So well defined as sorrow. Amber light,
Shed like a glory on her angel face,
I can remember fully, and the sight
Of her fair forehead and her shining eyes,
And lips that smiled in sweet and girlish wise.
I can remember how the taper played
Over her small hands and her vesture white;
How it struck up into the trees, and laid
Upon their under leaves unwonted light;
And when she held it low, how far it spread
O'er velvet pansies slumbering on their bed.
I can remember that we spoke full low,
That neither doubted of the other's truth;
And that with footsteps slower and more slow,
Hands folded close for love, eyes wet for ruth:
Beneath the trees, by that clear taper's flame,
We wandered till the gate of parting came.
But I forget the parting words she said,
So much they thrilled the all-attentive soul;
For one short moment human heart and head
May bear such bliss--its present is the whole:
I had that present, till in whispers fell
With parting gesture her subdued farewell.
Farewell! she said, in act to turn away,
But stood a moment yet to dry her tears,
And suffered my enfolding arm to stay
The time of her departure. O ye years
That intervene betwixt that day and this!
You all received your hue from that keen pain and bliss.
O mingled pain and bliss! O pain to break
At once from happiness so lately found,
And four long years to feel for her sweet sake
The incompleteness of all sight and sound!
But bliss to cross once more the foaming brine--
O bliss to come again and make her mine!
I cannot--O, I cannot more recall!
But I will soothe my troubled thoughts to rest
With musing over journeyings wide, and all
Observance of this active-humored west,
And swarming cities steeped in eastern day,
With swarthy tribes in gold and striped array.
I turn away from these, and straight there will succeed
(Shifting and changing at the restless will),
Imbedded in some deep Circassian mead,
White wagon-tilts, and flocks that eat their fill
Unseen above, while comely shepherds pass,
And scarcely show their heads above the grass.
--The red Sahara in an angry glow,
With amber fogs, across its hollows trailed
Long strings of camels, gloomy-eyed and slow,
And women on their necks, from gazers veiled,
And sun-swart guides who toil across the sand
To groves of date-trees on the watered land.
Again--the brown sails of an Arab boat,
Flapping by night upon a glassy sea,
Whereon the moon and planets seem to float,
More bright of hue than they were wont to be,
While shooting-stars rain down with crackling sound,
And, thick as swarming locusts, drop to ground.
Or far into the heat among the sands
The gembok nations, snuffing up the wind,
Drawn by the scent of water--and the bands
Of tawny-bearded lions pacing, blind
With the sun-dazzle in their midst, opprest
With prey, and spiritless for lack of rest!
What more? Old Lebanon, the frosty-browed,
Setting his feet among oil-olive trees,
Heaving his bare brown shoulder through a cloud;
And after, grassy Carmel, purple seas,
Flattering his dreams and echoing in his rocks,
Soft as the bleating of his thousand flocks.
Enough: how vain this thinking to beguile,
With recollected scenes, an aching breast!
Did not I, journeying, muse on her the while?
Ah, yes! for every landscape comes impressed--
Ay, written on, as by an iron pen--
With the same thought I nursed about her then.
Therefore let memory turn again to home;
Feel, as of old, the joy of drawing near;
Watch the green breakers and the wind-tossed foam,
And see the land-fog break, dissolve, and clear;
Then think a skylark's voice far sweeter sound
Than ever thrilled but over English ground;
And walk, glad, even to tears, among the wheat,
Not doubting this to be the first of lands;
And, while in foreign words this murmuring, meet
Some little village school-girls (with their hands
Full of forget-me-nots), who, greeting me,
I count their English talk delightsome melody;
And seat me on a bank, and draw them near,
That I may feast myself with hearing it,
Till shortly they forget their bashful fear,
Push back their flaxen curls, and round me sit--
Tell me their names, their daily tasks, and show
Where wild wood-strawberries in the copses grow.
So passed the day in this delightful land:
My heart was thankful for the English tongue--
For English sky with feathery cloudlets spanned--
For English hedge with glistening dewdrops hung.
I journeyed, and at glowing eventide
Stopped at a rustic inn by the wayside.
That night I slumbered sweetly, being right glad
To miss the flapping of the shrouds; but lo!
A quiet dream of beings twain I had,
Behind the curtain talking soft and low:
Methought I did not heed their utterance fine,
Till one of them said, softly, "Eglantine."
I started up awake, 'twas silence all:
My own fond heart had shaped that utterance clear:
And "Ah!" methought, "how sweetly did it fall,
Though but in dream, upon the listening ear!
How sweet from other lips the name well known--
That name, so many a year heard only from mine own!"
I thought awhile, then slumber came to me,
And tangled all my fancy in her maze,
And I was drifting on a raft at sea.
The near all ocean, and the far all haze;
Through the while polished water sharks did glide,
And up in heaven I saw no stars to guide.
"Have mercy, God!" but lo! my raft uprose;
Drip, drip, I heard the water splash from it;
My raft had wings, and as the petrel goes,
It skimmed the sea, then brooding seemed to sit
The milk-white mirror, till, with sudden spring,
She flew straight upward like a living thing.
But strange!--I went not also in that flight,
For I was entering at a cavern's mouth;
Trees grew within, and screaming birds of night
Sat on them, hiding from the torrid south.
On, on I went, while gleaming in the dark
Those trees with blanched leaves stood pale and stark.
The trees had flower-buds, nourished in deep night,
And suddenly, as I went farther in,
They opened, and they shot out lambent light;
Then all at once arose a railing din
That frighted me: "It is the ghosts," I said,
And they are railing for their darkness fled.
"I hope they will not look me in the face;
It frighteth me to hear their laughter loud;"
I saw them troop before with jaunty pace,
And one would shake off dust that soiled her shroud:
But now, O joy unhoped! to calm my dread,
Some moonlight filtered through a cleft o'erhead.
I climbed the lofty trees--the blanched trees--
The cleft was wide enough to let me through;
I clambered out and felt the balmy breeze,
And stepped on churchyard grasses wet with dew.
O happy chance! O fortune to admire!
I stood beside my own loved village spire.
And as I gazed upon the yew-tree's trunk,
Lo, far-off music--music in the night!
So sweet and tender as it swelled and sunk;
It charmed me till I wept with keen delight,
And in my dream, methought as it drew near
The very clouds in heaven stooped low to hear.
Beat high, beat low, wild heart so deeply stirred,
For high as heaven runs up the piercing strain;
The restless music fluttering like a bird
Bemoaned herself, and dropped to earth again,
Heaping up sweetness till I was afraid
That I should die of grief when it did fade.
And it DID fade; but while with eager ear
I drank its last long echo dying away,
I was aware of footsteps that drew near,
And round the ivied chancel seemed to stray:
O soft above the hallowed place they trod--
Soft as the fall of foot that is not shod!
I turned--'twas even so--yes, Eglantine!
For at the first I had divined the same;
I saw the moon on her shut eyelids shine,
And said, "She is asleep:" still on she came;
Then, on her dimpled feet, I saw it gleam,
And thought--"I know that this is but a dream."
My darling! O my darling! not the less
My dream went on because I knew it such;
She came towards me in her loveliness--
A thing too pure, methought, for mortal touch;
The rippling gold did on her bosom meet,
The long white robe descended to her feet.
The fringed lids dropped low, as sleep-oppressed;
Her dreamy smile was very fair to see,
And her two hands were folded to her breast,
With somewhat held between them heedfully.
O fast asleep! and yet methought she knew
And felt my nearness those shut eyelids through.
She sighed: my tears ran down for tenderness--
And have I drawn thee to me in my sleep?
Is it for me thou wanderest shelterless,
Wetting thy steps in dewy grasses deep?
"O if this be!" I said--"yet speak to me;
I blame my very dream for cruelty."
Then from her stainless bosom she did take
Two beauteous lily flowers that lay therein,
And with slow-moving lips a gesture make,
As one that some forgotten words doth win:
"They floated on the pool," methought she said,
And water trickled from each lily's head.
It dropped upon her feet--I saw it gleam
Along the ripples of her yellow hair.
And stood apart, for only in a dream
She would have come, methought, to meet me there.
She spoke again--"Ah fair! ah fresh they shine!
And there are many left, and these are mine."
I answered her with flattering accents meet--
"Love, they are whitest lilies e'er were blown."
"And sayest thou so?" she sighed in murmurs sweet;
"I have nought else to give thee now, mine own!
For it is night. Then take them, love!" said she:
"They have been costly flowers to thee--and me."
While thus she said I took them from her hand,
And, overcome with love and nearness, woke;
And overcome with ruth that she should stand
Barefooted in the grass; that, when she spoke,
Her mystic words should take so sweet a tone,
And of all names her lips should choose "My own"
I rose, I journeyed, neared my home, and soon
Beheld the spire peer out above the hill.
It was a sunny harvest afternoon.
When by the churchyard wicket, standing still,
I cast my eager eyes abroad to know
If change had touched the scenes of long ago.
I looked across the hollow; sunbeams shone
Upon the old house with the gable ends:
"Save that the laurel trees are taller grown,
No change," methought, "to its gray wall extends
What clear bright beams on yonder lattice shine!
There did I sometime talk with Eglantine."
There standing with my very goal in sight,
Over my haste did sudden quiet steal;
I thought to dally with my own delight,
Nor rush on headlong to my garnered weal,
But taste the sweetness of a short delay,
And for a little moment hold the bliss at bay.
The church was open; it perchance might be
That there to offer thanks I might essay,
Or rather, as I think, that I might see
The place where Eglantine was wont to pray.
But so it was; I crossed that portal wide,
And felt my riot joy to calm subside.
The low depending curtains, gently swayed,
Cast over arch and roof a crimson glow;
But, ne'ertheless, all silence and all shade
It seemed, save only for the rippling flow
Of their long foldings, when the sunset air
Sighed through the casements of the house of prayer.
I found her place, the ancient oaken stall,
Where in her childhood I had seen her sit,
Most saint-like and most tranquil there of all,
Folding her hands, as if a dreaming fit--
A heavenly vision had before her strayed
Of the Eternal Child in lowly manger laid.
I saw her prayer-book laid upon the seat,
And took it in my hand, and felt more near
in fancy to her, finding it most sweet
To think how very oft, low kneeling there,
In her devout thoughts she had let me share,
And set my graceless name in her pure prayer.
My eyes were dazzled with delightful tears--
In sooth they were the last I ever shed;
For with them fell the cherished dreams of years.
I looked, and on the wall above my head,
Over her seat, there was a tablet placed,
With one word only on the marble traced.--
Ah well! I would not overstate that woe,
For I have had some blessings, little care;
But since the falling of that heavy blow,
God's earth has never seemed to me so fair;
Nor any of his creatures so divine,
Nor sleep so sweet;--the word was--EGLANTINE.
A MOTHER SHOWING THE PORTRAIT OF HER CHILD.
Living child or pictured cherub,
Ne'er o'ermatched its baby grace;
And the mother, moving nearer,
Looked it calmly in the face;
Then with slight and quiet gesture,
And with lips that scarcely smiled,
Said--"A Portrait of my daughter
When she was a child."
Easy thought was hers to fathom,
Nothing hard her glance to read,
For it seemed to say, "No praises
For this little child I need:
If you see, I see far better,
And I will not feign to care
For a stranger's prompt assurance
That the face is fair."
Softly clasped and half extended,
She her dimpled hands doth lay:
So they doubtless placed them, saying--
"Little one, you must not play."
And while yet his work was growing,
This the painter's hand hath shown,
That the little heart was making
Pictures of its own.
Is it warm in that green valley,
Vale of childhood, where you dwell?
Is it calm in that green valley,
Round whose bournes such great hills swell?
Are there giants in the valley--
Giants leaving footprints yet?
Are there angels in the valley?
Tell me--I forget.
Answer, answer, for the lilies,
Little one, o'ertop you much,
And the mealy gold within them
You can scarcely reach to touch;
O how far their aspect differs,
Looking up and looking down!
You look up in that green valley--
Valley of renown.
Are there voices in the valley,
Lying near the heavenly gate?
When it opens, do the harp-strings,
Touched within, reverberate?
When, like shooting-stars, the angels
To your couch at nightfall go,
Are their swift wings heard to rustle?
Tell me! for you know.
Yes, you know; and you are silent,
Not a word shall asking win;
Little mouth more sweet than rosebud,
Fast it locks the secret in.
Not a glimpse upon your present
You unfold to glad my view;
Ah, what secrets of your future
I could tell to you!
Sunny present! thus I read it,
By remembrance of my past:--
Its to-day and its to-morrow
Are as lifetimes vague and vast;
And each face in that green valley
Takes for you an aspect mild,
And each voice grows soft in saying--
"Kiss me, little child!"
As a boon the kiss is granted:
Baby mouth, your touch is sweet,
Takes the love without the trouble
From those lips that with it meet;
Gives the love, O pure! O tender!
Of the valley where it grows,
But the baby heart receiveth
MORE THAN IT BESTOWS.
Comes the future to the present--
"Ah!" she saith, "too blithe of mood;
Why that smile which seems to whisper--
'I am happy, God is good?'
God is good: that truth eternal
Sown for you in happier years,
I must tend it in my shadow,
Water it with tears.
"Ah, sweet present! I must lead thee
By a daylight more subdued;
There must teach thee low to whisper--
'I am mournful, God is good!'"
Peace, thou future! clouds are coming,
Stooping from the mountain crest,
But that sunshine floods the valley:
Let her--let her rest.
Comes the future to the present--
"Child," she saith, "and wilt thou rest?
How long, child, before thy footsteps
Fret to reach yon cloudy crest?
Ah, the valley!--angels guard it,
But the heights are brave to see;
Looking down were long contentment:
Come up, child, to me."
So she speaks, but do not heed her,
Little maid with wondrous eyes,
Not afraid, but clear and tender,
Blue, and filled with prophecies;
Thou for whom life's veil unlifted
Hangs, whom warmest valleys fold,
Lift the veil, the charm dissolveth--
Climb, but heights are cold.
There are buds that fold within them,
Closed and covered from our sight,
Many a richly tinted petal,
Never looked on by the light:
Fain to see their shrouded faces,
Sun and dew are long at strife,
Till at length the sweet buds open--
Such a bud is life.
When the rose of thine own being
Shall reveal its central fold,
Thou shalt look within and marvel,
Fearing what thine eyes behold;
What it shows and what it teaches
Are not things wherewith to part;
Thorny rose! that always costeth
Beatings at the heart.
Look in fear, for there is dimness;
Ills unshapen float anigh.
Look in awe, for this same nature
Once the Godhead deigned to die.
Look in love, for He doth love it,
And its tale is best of lore:
Still humanity grows dearer,
Being learned the more.
Learn, but not the less bethink thee
How that all can mingle tears;
But his joy can none discover,
Save to them that are his peers;
And that they whose lips do utter
Language such as bards have sung--
Lo! their speech shall be to many
As an unknown tongue.
Learn, that if to thee the meaning
Of all other eyes be shown,
Fewer eyes can ever front thee,
That are skilled to read thine own;
And that if thy love's deep current
Many another's far outflows,
Then thy heart must take forever,
LESS THAN IT BESTOWS.
STRIFE AND PEACE.
(Written for THE PORTFOLIO SOCIETY, October 1861.)
The yellow poplar-leaves came down
And like a carpet lay,
No waftings were in the sunny air
To flutter them away;
And he stepped on blithe and debonair
That warm October day.
"The boy," saith he, "hath got his own,
But sore has been the fight,
For ere his life began the strife
That ceased but yesternight;
For the will," he said, "the kinsfolk read,
And read it not aright.
"His cause was argued in the court
Before his christening day,
And counsel was heard, and judge demurred,
And bitter waxed the fray;
Brother with brother spake no word
When they met in the way.
"Against each one did each contend,
And all against the heir.
I would not bend, for I knew the end--
I have it for my share,
And nought repent, though my first friend
From henceforth I must spare.
"Manor and moor and farm and wold
Their greed begrudged him sore,
And parchments old with passionate hold
They guarded heretofore;
And they carped at signature and seal,
But they may carp no more.
"An old affront will stir the heart
Through years of rankling pain,
And I feel the fret that urged me yet
That warfare to maintain;
For an enemy's loss may well be set
Above an infant's gain.
"An enemy's loss I go to prove,
Laugh out, thou little heir!
Laugh in his face who vowed to chase
Thee from thy birthright fair;
For I come to set thee in thy place:
Laugh out, and do not spare."
A man of strife, in wrathful mood
He neared the nurse's door;
With poplar-leaves the roof and eaves
Were thickly scattered o'er,
And yellow as they a sunbeam lay
Along the cottage floor.
"Sleep on, thou pretty, pretty lamb,"
He hears the fond nurse say;
"And if angels stand at thy right hand,
As now belike they may,
And if angels meet at thy bed's feet,
I fear them not this day.
"Come wealth, come want to thee, dear heart,
It was all one to me,
For thy pretty tongue far sweeter rung
Than coined gold and fee;
And ever the while thy waking smile
It was right fair to see.
"Sleep, pretty bairn, and never know
Who grudged and who transgressed:
Thee to retain I was full fain,
But God, He knoweth best!
And His peace upon thy brow lies plain
As the sunshine on thy breast!"
The man of strife, he enters in,
Looks, and his pride doth cease;
Anger and sorrow shall be to-morrow
Trouble, and no release;
But the babe whose life awoke the strife
Hath entered into peace.
DREAMS THAT CAME TRUE
THE DREAMS THAT CAME TRUE.
I saw in a vision once, our mother-sphere
The world, her fixed foredoomed oval tracing,
Rolling and rolling on and resting never,
While like a phantom fell, behind her pacing
The unfurled flag of night, her shadow drear
Fled as she fled and hung to her forever.
Great Heaven! methought, how strange a doom to share.
Would I may never bear
Inevitable darkness after me
(Darkness endowed with drawings strong,
And shadowy hands that cling unendingly),
Nor feel that phantom-wings behind me sweep,
As she feels night pursuing through the long
Illimitable reaches of "the vasty deep."
* * * * *
God save you, gentlefolks. There was a man
Who lay awake at midnight on his bed,
Watching the spiral flame that feeding ran
Among the logs upon his hearth, and shed
A comfortable glow, both warm and dim,
On crimson curtains that encompassed him.
Right stately was his chamber, soft and white
The pillow, and his quilt was eider-down.
What mattered it to him though all that night
The desolate driving cloud might lower and frown,
And winds were up the eddying sleet to chase,
That drave and drave and found no settling-place?
What mattered it that leafless trees might rock,
Or snow might drift athwart his window-pane?
He bare a charmed life against their shock,
Secure from cold, hunger, and weather stain;
Fixed in his right, and born to good estate,
From common ills set by and separate.
From work and want and fear of want apart,
This man (men called him Justice Wilvermore),--
This man had comforted his cheerful heart
With all that it desired from every shore.
He had a right,--the right of gold is strong,--
He stood upon his right his whole life long.
Custom makes all things easy, and content
Is careless, therefore on the storm and cold,
As he lay waking, never a thought he spent,
Albeit across the vale beneath the wold,
Along a reedy mere that frozen lay,
A range of sordid hovels stretched away.
What cause had he to think on them, forsooth?
What cause that night beyond another night?
He was familiar even from his youth
With their long ruin and their evil plight.
The wintry wind would search them like a scout,
The water froze within as freely as without.
He think upon them? No! They were forlorn,
So were the cowering inmates whom they held;
A thriftless tribe, to shifts and leanness born,
Ever complaining: infancy or eld
Alike. But there was rent, or long ago
Those cottage roofs had met with overthrow.
For this they stood; and what his thoughts might be
That winter night, I know not; but I know
That, while the creeping flame fed silently
And cast upon his bed a crimson glow,
The Justice slept, and shortly in his sleep
He fell to dreaming, and his dream was deep.
He dreamed that over him a shadow came;
And when he looked to find the cause, behold
Some person knelt between him and the flame:--
A cowering figure of one frail and old,--
A woman; and she prayed as he descried,
And spread her feeble hands, and shook and sighed.
"Good Heaven!" the Justice cried, and being distraught
He called not to her, but he looked again:
She wore a tattered cloak, but she had naught
Upon her head; and she did quake amain,
And spread her wasted hands and poor attire
To gather in the brightness of his fire.
"I know you, woman!" then the Justice cried;
"I know that woman well," he cried aloud;
"The shepherd Aveland's widow: God me guide!
A pauper kneeling on my hearth": and bowed
The hag, like one at home, its warmth to share!
"How dares she to intrude? What does she there?
"Ho, woman, ho!"--but yet she did not stir,
Though from her lips a fitful plaining broke;
"I'll ring my people up to deal with her;
I'll rouse the house," he cried; but while he spoke
He turned, and saw, but distant from his bed,
Another form,--a Darkness with a head.
Then in a rage, he shouted, "Who are you?"
For little in the gloom he might discern.
"Speak out; speak now; or I will make you rue
The hour!" but there was silence, and a stern,
Dark face from out the dusk appeared to lean,
And then again drew back, and was not seen.
"God!" cried the dreaming man, right impiously,
"What have I done, that these my sleep affray?"
"God!" said the Phantom, "I appeal to Thee,
Appoint Thou me this man to be my prey."
"God!" sighed the kneeling woman, frail and old,
"I pray Thee take me, for the world is cold."
Then said the trembling Justice, in affright,
"Fiend, I adjure thee, speak thine errand here!"
And lo! it pointed in the failing light
Toward the woman, answering, cold and clear,
"Thou art ordained an answer to thy prayer;
But first to tell _her_ tale that kneeleth there."
"_Her_ tale!" the Justice cried. "A pauper's tale!"
And he took heart at this so low behest,
And let the stoutness of his will prevail,
Demanding, "Is't for _her_ you break my rest?
She went to jail of late for stealing wood,
She will again for this night's hardihood.
"I sent her; and to-morrow, as I live,
I will commit her for this trespass here."
"Thou wilt not!" quoth the Shadow, "thou wilt give
Her story words"; and then it stalked anear
And showed a lowering face, and, dread to see,
A countenance of angered majesty.
Then said the Justice, all his thoughts astray,
With that material Darkness chiding him,
"If this must be, then speak to her, I pray,
And bid her move, for all the room is dim
By reason of the place she holds to-night:
She kneels between me and the warmth and light."
"With adjurations deep and drawings strong,
And with the power," it said, "unto me given,
I call upon thee, man, to tell thy wrong,
Or look no more upon the face of Heaven.
Speak! though she kneel throughout the livelong night,
And yet shall kneel between thee and the light."
This when the Justice heard, he raised his hands,
And held them as the dead in effigy
Hold theirs, when carved upon a tomb. The bands
Of fate had bound him fast: no remedy
Was left: his voice unto himself was strange,
And that unearthly vision did not change.
He said, "That woman dwells anear my door,
Her life and mine began the selfsame day,
And I am hale and hearty: from my store
I never spared her aught: she takes her way
Of me unheeded; pining, pinching care
Is all the portion that she has to share.
"She is a broken-down, poor, friendless wight,
Through labor and through sorrow early old;
And I have known of this her evil plight,
Her scanty earnings, and her lodgment cold;
A patienter poor soul shall ne'er be found:
She labored on my land the long year round.
"What wouldst thou have me say, thou fiend abhorred?
Show me no more thine awful visage grim.
If thou obey'st a greater, tell thy lord
That I have paid her wages. Cry to him!
He has not _much_ against me. None can say
I have not paid her wages day by day.
"The spell! It draws me. I must speak again;
And speak against myself; and speak aloud.
The woman once approached me to complain,--
'My wages are so low.' I may be proud;
It is a fault." "Ay," quoth the Phantom fell,
"Sinner! it is a fault: thou sayest well."
"She made her moan, 'My wages are so low.'"
"Tell on!" "She said," he answered, "'My best days
Are ended, and the summer is but slow
To come; and my good strength for work decays
By reason that I live so hard, and lie
On winter nights so bare for poverty.'"
"And you replied,"--began the lowering shade,
"And I replied," the Justice followed on,
"That wages like to mine my neighbor paid;
And if I raised the wages of the one
Straight should the others murmur; furthermore,
The winter was as winters gone before.
"No colder and not longer." "Afterward?"--
The Phantom questioned. "Afterward," he groaned,
"She said my neighbor was a right good lord,
Never a roof was broken that he owned;
He gave much coal and clothing. 'Doth he so?
Work for my neighbor, then,' I answered. 'Go!
"'You are full welcome.' Then she mumbled out
She hoped I was not angry; hoped, forsooth,
I would forgive her: and I turned about,
And said I should be angry in good truth
If this should be again, or ever more
She dared to stop me thus at the church door."
"Then?" quoth the Shade; and he, constrained, said on,
"Then she, reproved, curtseyed herself away."
"Hast met her since?" it made demand anon;
And after pause the Justice answered, "Ay;
Some wood was stolen; my people made a stir:
She was accused, and I did sentence her."
But yet, and yet, the dreaded questions came:
"And didst thou weigh the matter,--taking thought
Upon her sober life and honest fame?"
"I gave it," he replied, with gaze distraught;
"I gave it, Fiend, the usual care; I took
The usual pains; I could not nearer look,
"Because,--because their pilfering had got head.
What wouldst thou more? The neighbors pleaded hard,
'Tis true, and many tears the creature shed;
But I had vowed their prayers to disregard,
Heavily strike the first that robbed my land,
And put down thieving with a steady hand.
"She said she was not guilty. Ay, 'tis true
She said so, but the poor are liars all.
O thou fell Fiend, what wilt thou? Must I view
Thy darkness yet, and must thy shadow fall
Upon me miserable? I have done
No worse, no more than many a scathless one."
"Yet," quoth the Shade, "if ever to thine ears
The knowledge of her blamelessness was brought,
Or others have confessed with dying tears
The crime she suffered for, and thou hast wrought
All reparation in thy power, and told
Into her empty hand thy brightest gold:--
"If thou hast honored her, and hast proclaimed
Her innocence and thy deplored wrong,
Still thou art nought; for thou shalt yet be blamed
In that she, feeble, came before thee strong,
And thou, in cruel haste to deal a blow,
Because thou hadst been angered, worked her woe.
"But didst thou right her? Speak!" The Justice sighed,
And beaded drops stood out upon his brow;
"How could I humble me," forlorn he cried,
"To a base beggar? Nay, I will avow
That I did ill. I will reveal the whole;
I kept that knowledge in my secret soul."
"Hear him!" the Phantom muttered; "hear this man,
O changeless God upon the judgment throne."
With that, cold tremors through his pulses ran,
And lamentably he did make his moan;
While, with its arms upraised above his head,
The dim dread visitor approached his bed.
"Into these doors," it said, "which thou hast closed,
Daily this woman shall from henceforth come;
Her kneeling form shall yet be interposed
Till all thy wretched hours have told their sum;
Shall yet be interposed by day, by night,
Between thee, sinner, and the warmth and light.
"Remembrance of her want shall make thy meal
Like ashes, and thy wrong thou shalt not right.
But what! Nay, verily, nor wealth nor weal
From henceforth shall afford thy soul delight.
Till men shall lay thy head beneath the sod,
There shall be no deliverance, saith my God."
"Tell me thy name," the dreaming Justice cried;
"By what appointment dost thou doom me thus?"
"'Tis well that thou shouldst know me," it replied,
"For mine thou art, and nought shall sever us;
From thine own lips and life I draw my force:
The name thy nation give me is REMORSE."
This when he heard, the dreaming man cried out,
And woke affrighted; and a crimson glow
The dying ember shed. Within, without,
In eddying rings the silence seemed to flow;
The wind had lulled, and on his forehead shone
The last low gleam; he was indeed alone.
"O, I have had a fearful dream," said he;
"I will take warning and for mercy trust;
The fiend Remorse shall never dwell with me:
I will repair that wrong, I will be just,
I will be kind, I will my ways amend."
_Now the first dream is told unto its end._
Anigh the frozen mere a cottage stood,
A piercing wind swept round and shook the door,
The shrunken door, and easy way made good,
And drave long drifts of snow along the floor.
It sparkled there like diamonds, for the moon
Was shining in, and night was at the noon.
Before her dying embers, bent and pale,
A woman sat because her bed was cold;
She heard the wind, the driving sleet and hail,
And she was hunger-bitten, weak and old;
Yet while she cowered, and while the casement shook,
Upon her trembling knees she held a book,--
A comfortable book for them that mourn,
And good to raise the courage of the poor;
It lifts the veil and shows, beyond the bourne,
Their Elder Brother, from His home secure,
That for them desolate He died to win,
Repeating, "Come, ye blessed, enter in."
What thought she on, this woman? on her days
Of toil, or on the supperless night forlorn?
I think not so; the heart but seldom weighs
With conscious care a burden always borne;
And she was used to these things, had grown old
In fellowship with toil, hunger, and cold.
Then did she think how sad it was to live
Of all the good this world can yield bereft?
No, her untutored thoughts she did not give
To such a theme; but in their warp and weft
She wove a prayer: then in the midnight deep
Faintly and slow she fell away to sleep.
A strange, a marvellous sleep, which brought a dream.
And it was this: that all at once she heard
The pleasant babbling of a little stream
That ran beside her door, and then a bird
Broke out in songs. She looked, and lo! the rime
And snow had melted; it was summer time!
And all the cold was over, and the mere
Full sweetly swayed the flags and rushes green;
The mellow sunlight poured right warm and clear
Into her casement, and thereby were seen
Fair honeysuckle flowers, and wandering bees
Were hovering round the blossom-laden trees.
She said, "I will betake me to my door,
And will look out and see this wondrous sight,
How summer is come back, and frost is o'er,
And all the air warm waxen in a night."
With that she opened, but for fear she cried,
For lo! two Angels,--one on either side.
And while she looked, with marvelling measureless,
The Angels stood conversing face to face,
But neither spoke to her. "The wilderness,"
One Angel said, "the solitary place,
Shall yet be glad for Him." And then full fain
The other Angel answered, "He shall reign."
And when the woman heard, in wondering wise,
She whispered, "They are speaking of my Lord."
And straightway swept across the open skies
Multitudes like to these. They took the word,
That flock of Angels, "He shall come again,
My Lord, my Lord!" they sang, "and He shall reign!"
Then they, drawn up into the blue o'er-head,
Right happy, shining ones, made haste to flee;
And those before her one to other said,
"Behold He stands aneath yon almond-tree."
This when the woman heard, she fain had gazed,
But paused for reverence, and bowed down amazed.
After she looked, for this her dream was deep;
She looked, and there was nought beneath the tree;
Yet did her love and longing overleap
The fear of Angels, awful though they be,
And she passed out between the blessed things,
And brushed her mortal weeds against their wings.
O, all the happy world was in its best,
The trees were covered thick with buds and flowers,
And these were dropping honey; for the rest,
Sweetly the birds were piping in their bowers;
Across the grass did groups of Angels go,
And Saints in pairs were walking to and fro.
Then did she pass toward the almond-tree,
And none she saw beneath it: yet each Saint
Upon his coming meekly bent the knee,
And all their glory as they gazed waxed faint.
And then a 'lighting Angel neared the place,
And folded his fair wings before his face.
She also knelt, and spread her aged hands
As feeling for the sacred human feet;
She said, "Mine eyes are held, but if He stands
Anear, I will not let Him hence retreat
Except He bless me." Then, O sweet! O fair!
Some words were spoken, but she knew not where.
She knew not if beneath the boughs they woke,
Or dropt upon her from the realms above;
"What wilt thou, woman?" in the dream He spoke,
"Thy sorrow moveth Me, thyself I love;
Long have I counted up thy mournful years,
Once I did weep to wipe away thy tears."
She said: "My one Redeemer, only blest,
I know Thy voice, and from my yearning heart
Draw out my deep desire, my great request,
My prayer, that I might enter where Thou art.
Call me, O call from this world troublesome,
And let me see Thy face." He answered, "Come."
_Here is the ending of the second dream._
It is a frosty morning, keen and cold,
Fast locked are silent mere and frozen stream,
And snow lies sparkling on the desert wold;
With savory morning meats they spread the board,
But Justice Wilvermore will walk abroad.
"Bring me my cloak," quoth he, as one in haste.
"Before you breakfast, sir?" his man replies.
"Ay," quoth he quickly, and he will not taste
Of aught before him, but in urgent wise
As he would fain some carking care allay,
Across the frozen field he takes his way.
"A dream! how strange that it should move me so,
'Twas but a dream," quoth Justice Wilvermore:
"And yet I cannot peace nor pleasure know,
For wrongs I have not heeded heretofore;
Silver and gear the crone shall have of me,
And dwell for life in yonder cottage free.
"For visions of the night are fearful things,
Remorse is dread, though merely in a dream;
I will not subject me to visitings
Of such a sort again. I will esteem
My peace above my pride. From natures rude
A little gold will buy me gratitude.
"The woman shall have leave to gather wood,
As much as she may need, the long year round;
She shall, I say,--moreover, it were good
Yon other cottage roofs to render sound.
Thus to my soul the ancient peace restore,
And sleep at ease," quoth Justice Wilvermore.
With that he nears the door: a frosty rime
Is branching over it, and drifts are deep
Against the wall. He knocks, and there is time,--
(For none doth open),--time to list the sweep
And whistle of the wind along the mere
Through beds of stiffened reeds and rushes sere.
"If she be out, I have my pains for nought,"
He saith, and knocks again, and yet once more,
But to his ear nor step nor stir is brought;
And after pause, he doth unlatch the door
And enter. No: she is not out, for see
She sits asleep 'mid frost-work winterly.
Asleep, asleep before her empty grate,
Asleep, asleep, albeit the landlord call.
"What, dame," he saith, and comes toward her straight,
"Asleep so early!" But whate'er befall,
She sleepeth; then he nears her, and behold
He lays a hand on hers, and it is cold.
Then doth the Justice to his home return;
From that day forth he wears a sadder brow;
His hands are opened, and his heart doth learn
The patience of the poor. He made a vow
And keeps it, for the old and sick have shared
His gifts, their sordid homes he hath repaired.
And some he hath made happy, but for him
Is happiness no more. He doth repent,
And now the light of joy is waxen dim,
Are all his steps toward the Highest sent;
He looks for mercy, and he waits release
Above, for this world doth not yield him peace.
Night after night, night after desolate night,
Day after day, day after tedious day,
Stands by his fire, and dulls its gleamy light,
Paceth behind or meets him in the way;
Or shares the path by hedgerow, mere, or stream,
The visitor that doomed him in his dream.
Thy kingdom come.
I heard a Seer cry,--"The wilderness,
The solitary place,
Shall yet be glad for Him, and He shall bless
(Thy kingdom come) with his revealed face
The forests; they shall drop their precious gum,
And shed for Him their balm: and He shall yield
The grandeur of His speech to charm the field.
"Then all the soothed winds shall drop to listen,
(Thy kingdom come,)
Comforted waters waxen calm shall glisten
With bashful tremblement beneath His smile:
And Echo ever the while
Shall take, and in her awful joy repeat,
The laughter of His lips--(thy kingdom come):
And hills that sit apart shall be no longer dumb;
No, they shall shout and shout,
Raining their lovely loyalty along the dewy plain:
And valleys round about,
"And all the well-contented land, made sweet
With flowers she opened at His feet,
Shall answer; shout and make the welkin ring
And tell it to the stars, shout, shout, and sing;
Her cup being full to the brim,
Her poverty made rich with Him,
Her yearning satisfied to its utmost sum,--
Lift up thy voice, O earth, prepare thy song,
It shall not yet be long,
Lift up, O earth, for He shall come again,
Thy Lord; and He shall reign, and He SHALL reign,--
Thy kingdom come."
THE VOICES OF BIRDS.
SONGS ON THE VOICES OF BIRDS.
CHILD AND BOATMAN.
"Martin, I wonder who makes all the songs."
"You do, sir?"
"Yes, I wonder how they come."
"Well, boy, I wonder what you'll wonder next!"
"But somebody must make them?"
"Does your wife know?"
"She never said she did."
"You told me that she knew so many things."
"I said she was a London woman, sir,
And a fine scholar, but I never said
She knew about the songs."
"I wish she did."
"And I wish no such thing; she knows enough,
She knows too much already. Look you now,
This vessel's off the stocks, a tidy craft."
"A schooner, Martin?"
"No, boy, no; a brig,
Only she's schooner rigged,--a lovely craft."
"Is she for me? O, thank you, Martin, dear.
What shall I call her?"
"Well, sir, what you please."
"Then write on her 'The Eagle.'"
"Bless the child!
Eagle! why, you know naught of eagles, you.
When we lay off the coast, up Canada way,
And chanced to be ashore when twilight fell,
That was the place for eagles; bald they were,
With eyes as yellow as gold."
"O, Martin, dear,
Tell me about them."
"Tell! there's nought to tell,
Only they snored o' nights and frighted us."
"Ay, I tell you, snored; they slept upright
In the great oaks by scores; as true as time,
If I'd had aught upon my mind just then,
I wouldn't have walked that wood for unknown gold;
It was most awful. When the moon was full,
I've seen them fish at night, in the middle watch,
When she got low. I've seen them plunge like stones,
And come up fighting with a fish as long,
Ay, longer than my arm; and they would sail,--
When they had struck its life out,--they would sail
Over the deck, and show their fell, fierce eyes,
And croon for pleasure, hug the prey, and speed
Grand as a frigate on a wind."
She must be called 'The Eagle' after these.
And, Martin, ask your wife about the songs
When you go in at dinner-time."
THE NIGHTINGALE HEARD BY THE UNSATISFIED HEART.
When in a May-day hush
Chanteth the Missel-thrush
The harp o' the heart makes answer with murmurous stirs;
When Robin-redbreast sings,
We think on budding springs,
And Culvers when they coo are love's remembrancers.
But thou in the trance of light
Stayest the feeding night,
And Echo makes sweet her lips with the utterance wise,
And casts at our glad feet,
In a wisp of fancies fleet,
Life's fair, life's unfulfilled, impassioned prophecies.
Her central thought full well
Thou hast the wit to tell,
To take the sense o' the dark and to yield it so;
The moral of moonlight
To set in a cadence bright,
And sing our loftiest dream that we thought none did know.
I have no nest as thou,
Bird on the blossoming bough,
Yet over thy tongue outfloweth the song o' my soul,
Chanting, "forego thy strife,
The spirit out-acts the life,
But MUCH is seldom theirs who can perceive THE WHOLE.
"Thou drawest a perfect lot
All thine, but holden not,
Lie low, at the feet of beauty that ever shall bide;
There might be sorer smart
Than thine, far-seeing heart,
Whose fate is still to yearn, and not be satisfied."
I passed an inland-cliff precipitate;
From tiny caves peeped many a soot-black poll;
In each a mother-martin sat elate,
And of the news delivered her small soul.
Fantastic chatter! hasty, glad, and gay,
Whereof the meaning was not ill to tell:
"Gossip, how wags the world with you to-day?"
"Gossip, the world wags well, the world wags well."
And heark'ning, I was sure their little ones
Were in the bird-talk, and discourse was made
Concerning hot sea-bights and tropic suns,
For a clear sultriness the tune conveyed;--
And visions of the sky as of a cup
Hailing down light on pagan Pharaoh's sand,
And quivering air-waves trembling up and up,
And blank stone faces marvellously bland.
"When should the young be fledged and with them hie
Where costly day drops down in crimson light?
(Fortunate countries of the firefly
Swarm with blue diamonds all the sultry night,
"And the immortal moon takes turn with them.)
When should they pass again by that red land,
Where lovely mirage works a broidered hem
To fringe with phantom-palms a robe of sand?
"When should they dip their breasts again and play
In slumberous azure pools, clear as the air,
Where rosy-winged flamingoes fish all day,
Stalking amid the lotus blossom fair?
"Then, over podded tamarinds bear their flight,
While cassias blossom in the zone of calms,
And so betake them to a south sea-bight,
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