Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I.
Part 6 out of 7
Daughters of Eve! your mother did not well:
She laid the apple in your father's hand,
And we have read, O wonder! what befell,--
The man was not deceived, nor yet could stand:
He chose to lose, for love of her, his throne,--
With her could die, but could not live alone.
Daughters of Eve! he did not fall so low,
Nor fall so far, as that sweet woman fell;
For something better, than as gods to know,
That husband in that home left off to dwell:
For this, till love be reckoned less than lore,
Shall man be first and best for evermore.
Daughters of Eve! it was for your dear sake
The world's first hero died an uncrowned king;
But God's great pity touched the grand mistake,
And made his married love a sacred thing:
For yet his nobler sons, if aught be true,
Find the lost Eden in their love to you.
SONG FOR THE NIGHT OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.
(_A Humble Imitation._)
"And birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave."
It is the noon of night,
And the world's Great Light
Gone out, she widow-like doth carry her:
The moon hath veiled her face,
Nor looks on that dread place
Where He lieth dead in sealed sepulchre;
And heaven and hades, emptied, lend
Their flocking multitudes to watch and wait the end.
Tier above tier they rise,
Their wings new line the skies,
And shed out comforting light among the stars;
But they of the other place
The heavenly signs deface,
The gloomy brand of hell their brightness mars;
Yet high they sit in throned state,--
It is the hour of darkness to them dedicate.
And first and highest set,
Where the black shades are met,
The lord of night and hades leans him down;
His gleaming eyeballs show
More awful than the glow,
Which hangeth by the points of his dread crown;
And at his feet, where lightnings play,
The fatal sisters sit and weep, and curse their day.
Lo! one, with eyes all wide,
As she were sight denied,
Sits blindly feeling at her distaff old;
One, as distraught with woe,
Letting the spindle go,
Her star y-sprinkled gown doth shivering fold;
And one right mournful hangs her head,
Complaining, "Woe is me! I may not cut the thread.
"All men of every birth,
Yea, great ones of the earth,
Kings and their councillors, have I drawn down;
But I am held of Thee,--
Why dost Thou trouble me,
To bring me up, dead King, that keep'st Thy crown?
Yet for all courtiers hast but ten
Lowly, unlettered, Galilean fishermen.
"Olympian heights are bare
Of whom men worshipped there,
Immortal feet their snows may print no more;
Their stately powers below
Lie desolate, nor know
This thirty years Thessalian grove or shore;
But I am elder far than they;--
Where is the sentence writ that I must pass away?
"Art thou come up for this,
Dark regent, awful Dis?
And hast thou moved the deep to mark our ending?
And stirred the dens beneath,
To see us eat of death,
With all the scoffing heavens toward us bending?
Help! powers of ill, see not us die!"
But neither demon dares, nor angel deigns, reply.
Her sisters, fallen on sleep,
Fade in the upper deep,
And their grim lord sits on, in doleful trance;
Till her black veil she rends,
And with her death-shriek bends
Downward the terrors of her countenance;
Then, whelmed in night and no more seen,
They leave the world a doubt if ever such have been.
And the winged armies twain
Their awful watch maintain;
They mark the earth at rest with her Great Dead.
Behold, from antres wide,
Green Atlas heave his side;
His moving woods their scarlet clusters shed,
The swathing coif his front that cools,
And tawny lions lapping at his palm-edged pools.
Then like a heap of snow,
Lying where grasses grow,
See glimmering, while the moony lustres creep,
Mild mannered Athens, dight
In dewy marbles white,
Among her goddesses and gods asleep;
And swaying on a purple sea,
The many moored galleys clustering at her quay.
Also, 'neath palm-trees' shade,
Amid their camels laid,
The pastoral tribes with all their flocks at rest;
Like to those old-world folk,
With whom two angels broke
The bread of men at Abram's courteous 'quest,
When, listening as they prophesied,
His desert princess, being reproved, her laugh denied.
Or from the Morians' land
See worshipped Nilus bland,
Taking the silver road he gave the world,
To wet his ancient shrine
With waters held divine,
And touch his temple steps with wavelets curled,
And list, ere darkness change to gray,
Old minstrel-throated Memnon chanting in the day.
Moreover, Indian glades,
Where kneel the sun-swart maids,
On Gunga's flood their votive flowers to throw,
And launch i' the sultry night
Their burning cressets bright,
Most like a fleet of stars that southing go,
Till on her bosom prosperously
She floats them shining forth to sail the lulled sea.
Nor bend they not their eyne
Where the watch-fires shine,
By shepherds fed, on hills of Bethlehem:
They mark, in goodly wise,
The city of David rise,
The gates and towers of rare Jerusalem;
And hear the 'scaped Kedron fret,
And night dews dropping from the leaves of Olivet.
But now the setting moon
To curtained lands must soon,
In her obedient fashion, minister;
She first, as loath to go,
Lets her last silver flow
Upon her Master's sealed sepulchre;
And trees that in the gardens spread,
She kisseth all for sake of His low-lying head,
Then 'neath the rim goes down;
And night with darker frown
Sinks on the fateful garden watched long;
When some despairing eyes,
Far in the murky skies,
The unwished waking by their gloom foretell;
And blackness up the welkin swings,
And drinks the mild effulgence from celestial wings.
Last, with amazed cry,
The hosts asunder fly,
Leaving an empty gulf of blackest hue;
Whence straightway shooteth down,
By the Great Father thrown,
A mighty angel, strong and dread to view;
And at his fall the rocks are rent,
The waiting world doth quake with mortal tremblement;
The regions far and near
Quail with a pause of fear,
More terrible than aught since time began;
The winds, that dare not fleet,
Drop at his awful feet,
And in its bed wails the wide ocean;
The flower of dawn forbears to blow,
And the oldest running river cannot skill to flow.
At stand, by that dread place,
He lifts his radiant face,
And looks to heaven with reverent love and fear;
Then, while the welkin quakes,
The muttering thunder breaks,
And lightnings shoot and ominous meteors drear,
And all the daunted earth doth moan,
He from the doors of death rolls back the sealed stone.--
--In regal quiet deep,
Lo, One new waked from sleep!
Behold, He standeth in the rock-hewn door!
Thy children shall not die,--
Peace, peace, thy Lord is by!
He liveth!--they shall live for evermore.
Peace! lo, He lifts a priestly hand,
And blesseth all the sons of men in every land.
Then, with great dread and wail,
Fall down, like storms of hail,
The legions of the lost in fearful wise;
And they whose blissful race
Peoples the better place,
Lift up their wings to cover their fair eyes,
And through the waxing saffron brede,
Till they are lost in light, recede, and yet recede.
So while the fields are dim,
And the red sun his rim
First heaves, in token of his reign benign,
All stars the most admired,
Into their blue retired,
Lie hid,--the faded moon forgets to shine,--
And, hurrying down the sphery way,
Night flies, and sweeps her shadows from the paths of day.
But look! the Saviour blest,
Calm after solemn rest,
Stands in the garden 'neath His olive boughs;
The earliest smile of day
Doth on His vesture play,
And light the majesty of His still brows;
While angels hang with wings outspread,
Holding the new-won crown above His saintly head.
SONG OF MARGARET.
Ay, I saw her, we have met,--
Married eyes how sweet they be,--
Are you happier, Margaret,
Than you might have been with me?
Silence! make no more ado!
Did she think I should forget?
Matters nothing, though I knew,
Once those eyes, full sweet, full shy,
Told a certain thing to mine;
What they told me I put by,
O, so careless of the sign.
Such an easy thing to take,
And I did not want it then;
Fool! I wish my heart would break,
Scorn is hard on hearts of men.
Scorn of self is bitter work,--
Each of us has felt it now:
Bluest skies she counted mirk,
Self-betrayed of eyes and brow;
As for me, I went my way,
And a better man drew nigh,
Fain to earn, with long essay,
What the winner's hand threw by.
Matters not in deserts old,
What was born, and waxed, and yearned,
Year to year its meaning told,
I am come,--its deeps are learned,--
Come, but there is naught to say,--
Married eyes with mine have met.
Silence! O, I had my day,
SONG OF THE GOING AWAY.
"Old man, upon the green hillside,
With yellow flowers besprinkled o'er,
How long in silence wilt thou bide
At this low stone door?
"I stoop: within 'tis dark and still;
But shadowy paths methinks there be,
And lead they far into the hill?"
"Traveller, come and see."
"'Tis dark, 'tis cold, and hung with gloom;
I care not now within to stay;
For thee and me is scarcely room,
I will hence away."
"Not so, not so, thou youthful guest,
Thy foot shall issue forth no more:
Behold the chamber of thy rest,
And the closing door!"
"O, have I 'scaped the whistling ball,
And striven on smoky fields of fight,
And scaled the 'leaguered city's wall
In the dangerous night;
"And borne my life unharmed still
Through foaming gulfs of yeasty spray,
To yield it on a grassy hill
At the noon of day?"
"Peace! Say thy prayers, and go to sleep,
Till _some time_, ONE my seal shall break,
And deep shall answer unto deep,
When He crieth, 'AWAKE!'"
A LILY AND A LUTE.
(_Song of the uncommunicated Ideal._)
I opened the eyes of my soul.
A white river-lily: a lily awake, and aware,--
For she set her face upward,--aware how in scarlet and gold
A long wrinkled cloud, left behind of the wandering air,
Lay over with fold upon fold,
With fold upon fold.
And the blushing sweet shame of the cloud made her also ashamed,
The white river-lily, that suddenly knew she was fair;
And over the far-away mountains that no man hath named,
And that no foot hath trod,
Flung down out of heavenly places, there fell, as it were,
A rose-bloom, a token of love, that should make them endure,
Withdrawn in snow silence forever, who keep themselves pure,
And look up to God.
Then I said, "In rosy air,
Cradled on thy reaches fair,
While the blushing early ray
Whitens into perfect day,
River-lily, sweetest known,
Art thou set for me alone?
Nay, but I will bear thee far,
Where yon clustering steeples are,
And the bells ring out o'erhead,
And the stated prayers are said;
And the busy farmers pace,
Trading in the market-place;
And the country lasses sit,
By their butter, praising it;
And the latest news is told,
While the fruit and cream are sold;
And the friendly gossips greet,
Up and down the sunny street.
For," I said, "I have not met,
White one, any folk as yet
Who would send no blessing up,
Looking on a face like thine;
For thou art as Joseph's cup,
And by thee might they divine.
"Nay! but thou a spirit art;
Men shall take thee in the mart
For the ghost of their best thought,
Raised at noon, and near them brought;
Or the prayer they made last night,
Set before them all in white."
And I put out my rash hand,
For I thought to draw to land
The white lily. Was it fit
Such a blossom should expand,
Fair enough for a world's wonder,
And no mortal gather it?
No. I strove, and it went under,
And I drew, but it went down;
And the waterweeds' long tresses,
And the overlapping cresses,
Sullied its admired crown.
Then along the river strand,
Trailing, wrecked, it came to land,
Of its beauty half despoiled,
And its snowy pureness soiled:
O! I took it in my hand,--
You will never see it now,
White and golden as it grew:
No, I cannot show it you,
Nor the cheerful town endow
With the freshness of its brow.
If a royal painter, great
With the colors dedicate
To a dove's neck, a sea-bight,
And the flickering over white
Mountain summits far away,--
One content to give his mind
To the enrichment of mankind,
And the laying up of light
In men's houses,--on that day,
Could have passed in kingly mood,
Would he ever have endued
Canvas with the peerless thing,
In the grace that it did bring,
And the light that o'er it flowed,
With the pureness that it showed,
And the pureness that it meant?
Could he skill to make it seen
As he saw? For this, I ween,
He were likewise impotent.
I opened the doors of my heart.
There was music within and a song,
And echoes did feed on the sweetness, repeating it long.
I opened the doors of my heart: and behold,
There was music that played itself out in aeolian notes;
Then was heard, as a far-away bell at long intervals tolled,
That murmurs and floats,
And presently dieth, forgotten of forest and wold,
And comes in all passion again, and a tremblement soft,
That maketh the listener full oft
To whisper, "Ah! would I might hear it for ever and aye,
When I toil in the heat of the day,
When I walk in the cold."
I opened the door of my heart. And behold,
There was music within, and a song.
But while I was hearkening, lo, blackness without, thick and strong,
Came up and came over, and all that sweet fluting was drowned,
I could hear it no more;
For the welkin was moaning, the waters were stirred on the shore,
And trees in the dark all around
Were shaken. It thundered. "Hark, hark! there is thunder to-night!
The sullen long wave rears her head, and comes down with a will;
The awful white tongues are let loose, and the stars are all dead;--
There is thunder! it thunders! and ladders of light
Run up. There is thunder!" I said,
"Loud thunder! it thunders! and up in the dark overhead,
A down-pouring cloud, (there is thunder!) a down-pouring cloud
Hails out her fierce message, and quivers the deep in its bed,
And cowers the earth held at bay; and they mutter aloud,
And pause with an ominous tremble, till, great in their rage,
The heavens and earth come together, and meet with a crash;
And the fight is so fell as if Time had come down with the flash,
And the story of life was all read,
And the Giver had turned the last page.
"Now their bar the pent water-floods lash,
And the forest trees give out their language austere with great age;
And there flieth o'er moor and o'er hill,
And there heaveth at intervals wide,
The long sob of nature's great passion as loath to subside,
Until quiet drop down on the tide,
And mad Echo had moaned herself still."
Lo! or ever I was 'ware,
In the silence of the air,
Through my heart's wide-open door,
Music floated forth once more,
Floated to the world's dark rim,
And looked over with a hymn;
Then came home with flutings fine,
And discoursed in tones divine
Of a certain grief of mine;
And went downward and went in,
Glimpses of my soul to win,
And discovered such a deep
That I could not choose but weep,
For it lay, a land-locked sea,
Fathomless and dim to me.
O, the song! it came and went,
Went and came.
I have not learned
Half the lore whereto it yearned,
Half the magic that it meant.
Water booming in a cave;
Or the swell of some long wave,
Setting in from unrevealed
Countries; or a foreign tongue,
Sweetly talked and deftly sung,
While the meaning is half sealed;
May be like it. You have heard
Also;--can you find a word
For the naming of such song?
No; a name would do it wrong.
You have heard it in the night,
In the dropping rain's despite,
In the midnight darkness deep,
When the children were asleep,
And the wife,--no, let that be;
SHE asleep! She knows right well
What the song to you and me,
While we breathe, can never tell;
She hath heard its faultless flow,
Where the roots of music grow.
While I listened, like young birds,
Hints were fluttering; almost words,--
Leaned and leaned, and nearer came;--
Everything had changed its name.
Sorrow was a ship, I found,
Wrecked with them that in her are,
On an island richer far
Than the port where they were bound.
Fear was but the awful boom
Of the old great bell of doom,
Tolling, far from earthly air,
For all worlds to go to prayer.
Pain, that to us mortal clings,
But the pushing of our wings,
That we have no use for yet,
And the uprooting of our feet
From the soil where they are set,
And the land we reckon sweet.
Love in growth, the grand deceit
Whereby men the perfect greet;
Love in wane, the blessing sent
To be (howsoe'er it went)
Never more with earth content.
O, full sweet, and O, full high,
Ran that music up the sky;
But I cannot sing it you,
More than I can make you view,
With my paintings labial,
Sitting up in awful row,
White old men majestical,
Mountains, in their gowns of snow,
Ghosts of kings; as my two eyes,
Looking over speckled skies,
See them now. About their knees,
Half in haze, there stands at ease
A great army of green hills,
Some bareheaded; and, behold,
Small green mosses creep on some.
Those be mighty forests old;
And white avalanches come
Through yon rents, where now distils
Sheeny silver, pouring down
To a tune of old renown,
Cutting narrow pathways through
Gentian belts of airy blue,
To a zone where starwort blows,
And long reaches of the rose.
So, that haze all left behind,
Down the chestnut forests wind,
Past yon jagged spires, where yet
Foot of man was never set;
Past a castle yawning wide,
With a great breach in its side,
To a nest-like valley, where,
Like a sparrow's egg in hue,
Lie two lakes, and teach the true
Color of the sea-maid's hair.
What beside? The world beside!
Drawing down and down, to greet
Cottage clusters at our feet,--
Every scent of summer tide,--
Flowery pastures all aglow
(Men and women mowing go
Up and down them); also soft
Floating of the film aloft,
Fluttering of the leaves alow.
Is this told? It is not told.
Where's the danger? where's the cold
Slippery danger up the steep?
Where yon shadow fallen asleep?
Chirping bird and tumbling spray,
Light, work, laughter, scent of hay,
Peace, and echo, where are they?
Ah, they sleep, sleep all untold;
Memory must their grace enfold
Silently; and that high song
Of the heart, it doth belong
To the hearers. Not a whit,
Though a chief musician heard,
Could he make a tune for it.
Though a bird of sweetest throat,
And some lute full clear of note,
Could have tried it,--O, the lute
For that wondrous song were mute,
And the bird would do her part,
Falter, fail, and break her heart,--
Break her heart, and furl her wings,
On those unexpressive strings.
GLADYS AND HER ISLAND.
(_On the Advantages of the Poetical Temperament_.)
AN IMPERFECT FABLE WITH A DOUBTFUL MORAL.
O happy Gladys! I rejoice with her,
For Gladys saw the island.
It was thus:
They gave a day for pleasure in the school
Where Gladys taught; and all the other girls
Were taken out, to picnic in a wood.
But it was said, "We think it were not well
That little Gladys should acquire a taste
For pleasure, going about, and needless change.
It would not suit her station: discontent
Might come of it; and all her duties now
She does so pleasantly, that we were best
To keep her humble." So they said to her,
"Gladys, we shall not want you, all to-day.
Look, you are free; you need not sit at work:
No, you may take a long and pleasant walk
Over the sea-cliff, or upon the beach
Among the visitors."
Then Gladys blushed
For joy, and thanked them. What! a holiday,
A whole one, for herself! How good, how kind!
With that, the marshalled carriages drove off;
And Gladys, sobered with her weight of joy,
Stole out beyond the groups upon the beach--
The children with their wooden spades, the band
That played for lovers, and the sunny stir
Of cheerful life and leisure--to the rocks,
For these she wanted most, and there was time
To mark them; how like ruined organs prone
They lay, or leaned their giant fluted pipes,
And let the great white-crested reckless wave
Beat out their booming melody.
Was filled with light; in clear blue caverns curled
The breakers, and they ran, and seemed to romp,
As playing at some rough and dangerous game,
While all the nearer waves rushed in to help,
And all the farther heaved their heads to peep,
And tossed the fishing boats. Then Gladys laughed,
And said, "O, happy tide, to be so lost
In sunshine, that one dare not look at it;
And lucky cliffs, to be so brown and warm;
And yet how lucky are the shadows, too,
That lurk beneath their ledges. It is strange,
That in remembrance though I lay them up,
They are forever, when I come to them,
Better than I had thought. O, something yet
I had forgotten. Oft I say, 'At least
This picture is imprinted; thus and thus,
The sharpened serried jags run up, run out,
Layer on layer.' And I look--up--up--
High, higher up again, till far aloft
They cut into their ether,--brown, and clear,
And perfect. And I, saying, 'This is mine,
To keep,' retire; but shortly come again,
And they confound me with a glorious change.
The low sun out of rain-clouds stares at them;
They redden, and their edges drip with--what?
I know not, but 't is red. It leaves no stain,
For the next morning they stand up like ghosts
In a sea-shroud and fifty thousand mews
Sit there, in long white files, and chatter on,
Like silly school-girls in their silliest mood.
"There is the boulder where we always turn.
O! I have longed to pass it; now I will.
What would THEY say? for one must slip and spring;
'Young ladies! Gladys! I am shocked. My dears,
Decorum, if you please: turn back at once.
Gladys, we blame you most; you should have looked
Before you.' Then they sigh,--how kind they are!--
'What will become of you, if all your life
You look a long way off?--look anywhere,
And everywhere, instead of at your feet,
And where they carry you!' Ah, well, I know
It is a pity," Gladys said; "but then
We cannot all be wise: happy for me,
That other people are.
"And yet I wish,--
For sometimes very right and serious thoughts
Come to me,--I do wish that they would come
When they are wanted!--when I teach the sums
On rainy days, and when the practising
I count to, and the din goes on and on,
Still the same tune and still the same mistake,
Then I am wise enough: sometimes I feel
Quite old. I think that it will last, and say,
'Now my reflections do me credit! now
I am a woman!' and I wish they knew
How serious all my duties look to me.
And how, my heart hushed down and shaded lies,
Just like the sea when low, convenient clouds,
Come over, and drink all its sparkles up.
But does it last? Perhaps, that very day,
The front door opens: out we walk in pairs;
And I am so delighted with this world,
That suddenly has grown, being new washed,
To such a smiling, clean, and thankful world,
And with a tender face shining through tears,
Looks up into the sometime lowering sky,
That has been angry, but is reconciled,
And just forgiving her, that I,--that I,--
O, I forget myself: what matters how!
And then I hear (but always kindly said)
Some words that pain me so,--but just, but true;
'For if your place in this establishment
Be but subordinate, and if your birth
Be lowly, it the more behooves,--well, well,
No more. We see that you are sorry.' Yes!
I am always sorry THEN; but now,--O, now,
Here is a bight more beautiful than all."
"And did they scold her, then, my pretty one?
And did she want to be as wise as they,
To bear a bucklered heart and priggish mind?
Ay, you may crow; she did! but no, no, no,
The night-time will not let her, all the stars
Say nay to that,--the old sea laughs at her.
Why, Gladys is a child; she has not skill
To shut herself within her own small cell,
And build the door up, and to say, 'Poor me!
I am a prisoner'; then to take hewn stones,
And, having built the windows up, to say,
'O, it is dark! there is no sunshine here;
There never has been.'"
Strange! how very strange!
A woman passing Gladys with a babe,
To whom she spoke these words, and only looked
Upon the babe, who crowed and pulled her curls,
And never looked at Gladys, never once.
"A simple child," she added, and went by,
"To want to change her greater for their less;
But Gladys shall not do it, no, not she;
We love her--don't we?--far too well for that."
Then Gladys, flushed with shame and keen surprise,
"How could she be so near, and I not know?
And have I spoken out my thought aloud?
I must have done, forgetting. It is well
She walks so fast, for I am hungry now,
And here is water cantering down the cliff,
And here a shell to catch it with, and here
The round plump buns they gave me, and the fruit.
Now she is gone behind the rock. O, rare
To be alone!" So Gladys sat her down,
Unpacked her little basket, ate and drank,
Then pushed her hands into the warm dry sand,
And thought the earth was happy, and she too
Was going round with it in happiness,
That holiday. "What was it that she said?"
Quoth Gladys, cogitating; "they were kind,
The words that woman spoke. She does not know!
'Her greater for their less,'--it makes me laugh,--
But yet," sighed Gladys, "though it must be good
To look and to admire, one should not wish
To steal THEIR virtues, and to put them on,
Like feathers from another wing; beside,
That calm, and that grave consciousness of worth,
When all is said, would little suit with me,
Who am not worthy. When our thoughts are born,
Though they be good and humble, one should mind
How they are reared, or some will go astray
And shame their mother. Cain and Abel both
Were only once removed from innocence.
Why did I envy them? That was not good;
Yet it began with my humility."
But as she spake, lo, Gladys raised her eyes,
And right before her, on the horizon's edge,
Behold, an island! First, she looked away
Along the solid rocks and steadfast shore,
For she was all amazed, believing not,
And then she looked again, and there again
Behold, an island! And the tide had turned,
The milky sea had got a purple rim,
And from the rim that mountain island rose,
Purple, with two high peaks, the northern peak
The higher, and with fell and precipice,
It ran down steeply to the water's brink;
But all the southern line was long and soft,
Broken with tender curves, and, as she thought,
Covered with forest or with sward. But, look!
The sun was on the island; and he showed
On either peak a dazzling cap of snow.
Then Gladys held her breath; she said, "Indeed,
Indeed it is an island: how is this,
I never saw it till this fortunate
Rare holiday?" And while she strained her eyes,
She thought that it began to fade; but not
To change as clouds do, only to withdraw
And melt into its azure; and at last,
Little by little, from her hungry heart,
That longed to draw things marvellous to itself,
And yearned towards the riches and the great
Abundance of the beauty God hath made,
It passed away. Tears started in her eyes,
And when they dropt, the mountain isle was gone;
The careless sea had quite forgotten it,
And all was even as it had been before.
And Gladys wept, but there was luxury
In her self-pity, while she softly sobbed,
"O, what a little while! I am afraid
I shall forget that purple mountain isle,
The lovely hollows atween her snow-clad peaks,
The grace of her upheaval where she lay
Well up against the open. O, my heart,
Now I remember how this holiday
Will soon be done, and now my life goes on
Not fed; and only in the noonday walk
Let to look silently at what it wants,
Without the power to wait or pause awhile,
And understand and draw within itself
The richness of the earth. A holiday!
How few I have! I spend the silent time
At work, while all THEIR pupils are gone home,
And feel myself remote. They shine apart;
They are great planets, I a little orb;
My little orbit far within their own
Turns, and approaches not. But yet, the more
I am alone when those I teach return;
For they, as planets of some other sun,
Not mine, have paths that can but meet my ring
Once in a cycle. O, how poor I am!
I have not got laid up in this blank heart
Any indulgent kisses given me
Because I had been good, or yet more sweet,
Because my childhood was itself a good
Attractive thing for kisses, tender praise,
And comforting. An orphan-school at best
Is a cold mother in the winter time
('Twas mostly winter when new orphans came),
An unregarded mother in the spring.
"Yet once a year (I did mine wrong) we went
To gather cowslips. How we thought on it
Beforehand, pacing, pacing the dull street,
To that one tree, the only one we saw
From April,--if the cowslips were in bloom
So early; or if not, from opening May
Even to September. Then there came the feast
At Epping. If it rained that day, it rained
For a whole year to us; we could not think
Of fields and hawthorn hedges, and the leaves
Fluttering, but still it rained, and ever rained.
"Ah, well, but I am here; but I have seen
The gay gorse bushes in their flowering time;
I know the scent of bean-fields; I have heard
The satisfying murmur of the main."
The woman! She came round the rock again
With her fair baby, and she sat her down
By Gladys, murmuring, "Who forbade the grass
To grow by visitations of the dew?
Who said in ancient time to the desert pool,
'Thou shalt not wait for angel visitors
To trouble thy still water?' Must we bide
At home? The lore, beloved, shall fly to us
On a pair of sumptuous wings. Or may we breathe
Without? O, we shall draw to us the air
That times and mystery feed on. This shall lay
Unchidden hands upon the heart o' the world,
And feel it beating. Rivers shall run on,
Full of sweet language as a lover's mouth,
Delivering of a tune to make her youth
More beautiful than wheat when it is green.
"What else?--(O, none shall envy her!) The rain
And the wild weather will be most her own,
And talk with her o' nights; and if the winds
Have seen aught wondrous, they will tell it her
In a mouthful of strange moans,--will bring from far,
Her ears being keen, the lowing and the mad
Masterful tramping of the bison herds,
Tearing down headlong with their bloodshot eyes,
In savage rifts of hair; the crack and creak
Of ice-floes in the frozen sea, the cry
Of the white bears, all in a dim blue world
Mumbling their meals by twilight; or the rock
And majesty of motion, when their heads
Primeval trees toss in a sunny storm,
And hail their nuts down on unweeded fields.
No holidays," quoth she; "drop, drop, O, drop,
Thou tired skylark, and go up no more;
You lime-trees, cover not your head with bees,
Nor give out your good smell. She will not look;
No, Gladys cannot draw your sweetness in,
For lack of holidays." So Gladys thought,
"A most strange woman, and she talks of me."
With that a girl ran up; "Mother," she said,
"Come out of this brown bight, I pray you now,
It smells of fairies." Gladys thereon thought,
"The mother will not speak to me, perhaps
The daughter may," and asked her courteously,
"What do the fairies smell of?" But the girl
With peevish pout replied, "You know, you know."
"Not I," said Gladys; then she answered her,
"Something like buttercups. But, mother, come,
And whisper up a porpoise from the foam,
Because I want to ride."
Full slowly, then,
The mother rose, and ever kept her eyes
Upon her little child. "You freakish maid,"
Said she, "now mark me, if I call you one,
You shall not scold nor make him take you far."
"I only want,--you know I only want,"
The girl replied, "to go and play awhile
Upon the sand by Lagos." Then she turned
And muttered low, "Mother, is this the girl
Who saw the island?" But the mother frowned.
"When may she go to it?" the daughter asked.
And Gladys, following them, gave all her mind
To hear the answer. "When she wills to go;
For yonder comes to shore the ferry boat."
Then Gladys turned to look, and even so
It was; a ferry boat, and far away
Reared in the offing, lo, the purple peaks
Of her loved island.
Then she raised her arms,
And ran toward the boat, crying out, "O rare,
The island! fair befall the island; let
Me reach the island." And she sprang on board,
And after her stepped in the freakish maid
And the fair mother, brooding o'er her child;
And this one took the helm, and that let go
The sail, and off they flew, and furrowed up
A flaky hill before, and left behind
A sobbing snake-like tail of creamy foam;
And dancing hither, thither, sometimes shot
Toward the island; then, when Gladys looked,
Were leaving it to leeward. And the maid
Whistled a wind to come and rock the craft,
And would be leaning down her head to mew
At cat-fish, then lift out into her lap
And dandle baby-seals, which, having kissed,
She flung to their sleek mothers, till her own
Rebuked her in good English, after cried,
"Luff, luff, we shall be swamped." "I will not luff,"
Sobbed the fair mischief; "you are cross to me."
"For shame!" the mother shrieked; "luff, luff, my dear;
Kiss and be friends, and thou shalt have the fish
With the curly tail to ride on." So she did,
And presently a dolphin bouncing up,
She sprang upon his slippery back,--"Farewell,"
She laughed, was off, and all the sea grew calm.
Then Gladys was much happier, and was 'ware
In the smooth weather that this woman talked
Like one in sleep, and murmured certain thoughts
Which seemed to be like echoes of her own.
She nodded, "Yes, the girl is going now
To her own island. Gladys poor? Not she!
Who thinks so? Once I met a man in white,
Who said to me, 'The thing that might have been
Is called, and questioned why it hath not been;
And can it give good reason, it is set
Beside the actual, and reckoned in
To fill the empty gaps of life.' Ah, so
The possible stands by us ever fresh,
Fairer than aught which any life hath owned,
And makes divine amends. Now this was set
Apart from kin, and not ordained a home;
An equal;--and not suffered to fence in
A little plot of earthly good, and say,
'Tis mine'; but in bereavement of the part,
O, yet to taste the whole,--to understand
The grandeur of the story, not to feel
Satiate with good possessed, but evermore
A healthful hunger for the great idea,
The beauty and the blessedness of life.
"Lo, now, the shadow!" quoth she, breaking off,
"We are in the shadow." Then did Gladys turn,
And, O, the mountain with the purple peaks
Was close at hand. It cast a shadow out,
And they were in it: and she saw the snow,
And under that the rocks, and under that
The pines, and then the pasturage; and saw
Numerous dips, and undulations rare,
Running down seaward, all astir with lithe
Long canes, and lofty feathers; for the palms
And spice trees of the south, nay, every growth,
Meets in that island.
So that woman ran
The boat ashore, and Gladys set her foot
Thereon. Then all at once much laughter rose;
Invisible folk set up exultant shouts,
"It all belongs to Gladys"; and she ran
And hid herself among the nearest trees
And panted, shedding tears.
So she looked round,
And saw that she was in a banyan grove,
Full of wild peacocks,--pecking on the grass,
A flickering mass of eyes, blue, green, and gold,
Or reaching out their jewelled necks, where high
They sat in rows along the boughs. No tree
Cumbered with creepers let the sunshine through,
But it was caught in scarlet cups, and poured
From these on amber tufts of bloom, and dropped
Lower on azure stars. The air was still,
As if awaiting somewhat, or asleep,
And Gladys was the only thing that moved,
Excepting,--no, they were not birds,--what then?
Glorified rainbows with a living soul?
While they passed through a sunbeam they were seen,
Not otherwhere, but they were present yet
In shade. They were at work, pomegranate fruit
That lay about removing,--purple grapes,
That clustered in the path, clearing aside.
Through a small spot of light would pass and go,
The glorious happy mouth and two fair eyes
Of somewhat that made rustlings where it went;
But when a beam would strike the ground sheer down,
Behold them! they had wings, and they would pass
One after other with the sheeny fans,
Bearing them slowly, that their hues were seen,
Tender as russet crimson dropt on snows,
Or where they turned flashing with gold and dashed
With purple glooms. And they had feet, but these
Did barely touch the ground. And they took heed
Not to disturb the waiting quietness;
Nor rouse up fawns, that slept beside their dams;
Nor the fair leopard, with her sleek paws laid
Across her little drowsy cubs; nor swans,
That, floating, slept upon a glassy pool;
Nor rosy cranes, all slumbering in the reeds,
With heads beneath their wings. For this, you know,
Was Eden. She was passing through the trees
That made a ring about it, and she caught
A glimpse of glades beyond. All she had seen
Was nothing to them; but words are not made
To tell that tale. No wind was let to blow,
And all the doves were bidden to hold their peace.
Why? One was working in a valley near,
And none might look that way. It was understood
That He had nearly ended that His work;
For two shapes met, and one to other spake,
Accosting him with, "Prince, what worketh He?"
Who whispered, "Lo! He fashioneth red clay."
And all at once a little trembling stir
Was felt in the earth, and every creature woke,
And laid its head down, listening. It was known
Then that the work was done; the new-made king
Had risen, and set his feet upon his realm,
And it acknowledged him.
But in her path
Came some one that withstood her, and he said,
"What doest thou here?" Then she did turn and flee,
Among those colored spirits, through the grove,
Trembling for haste; it was not well with her
Till she came forth of those thick banyan-trees,
And set her feet upon the common grass,
And felt the common wind.
Yet once beyond,
She could not choose but cast a backward glance.
The lovely matted growth stood like a wall,
And means of entering were not evident,--
The gap had closed. But Gladys laughed for joy:
She said, "Remoteness and a multitude
Of years are counted nothing here. Behold,
To-day I have been in Eden. O, it blooms
In my own island."
And she wandered on,
Thinking, until she reached a place of palms,
And all the earth was sandy where she walked,--
Sandy and dry,--strewed with papyrus leaves,
Old idols, rings and pottery, painted lids
Of mummies (for perhaps it was the way
That leads to dead old Egypt), and withal
Excellent sunshine cut out sharp and clear
The hot prone pillars, and the carven plinths,--
Stone lotus cups, with petals dipped in sand,
And wicked gods, and sphinxes bland, who sat
And smiled upon the ruin. O how still!
Hot, blank, illuminated with the clear
Stare of an unveiled sky. The dry stiff leaves
Of palm-trees never rustled, and the soul
Of that dead ancientry was itself dead.
She was above her ankles in the sand,
When she beheld a rocky road, and, lo!
It bare in it the ruts of chariot wheels,
Which erst had carried to their pagan prayers
The brown old Pharaohs; for the ruts led on
To a great cliff, that either was a cliff
Or some dread shrine in ruins,--partly reared
In front of that same cliff, and partly hewn
Or excavate within its heart. Great heaps
Of sand and stones on either side there lay;
And, as the girl drew on, rose out from each,
As from a ghostly kennel, gods unblest,
Dog-headed, and behind them winged things
Like angels; and this carven multitude
Hedged in, to right and left, the rocky road.
At last, the cliff,--and in the cliff a door
Yawning: and she looked in, as down the throat
Of some stupendous giant, and beheld
No floor, but wide, worn, flights of steps, that led
Into a dimness. When the eyes could bear
That change to gloom, she saw flight after flight,
Flight after flight, the worn long stair go down,
Smooth with the feet of nations dead and gone.
So she did enter; also she went down
Till it was dark, and yet again went down,
Till, gazing upward at that yawning door,
It seemed no larger, in its height remote,
Than a pin's head. But while, irresolute,
She doubted of the end, yet farther down
A slender ray of lamplight fell away
Along the stair, as from a door ajar:
To this again she felt her way, and stepped
Adown the hollow stair, and reached the light;
But fear fell on her, fear; and she forbore
Entrance, and listened. Ay! 'twas even so,--
A sigh; the breathing as of one who slept
And was disturbed. So she drew back awhile,
And trembled; then her doubting hand she laid
Against the door, and pushed it; but the light
Waned, faded, sank; and as she came within--
Hark, hark! A spirit was it, and asleep?
A spirit doth not breathe like clay. There hung
A cresset from the roof, and thence appeared
A flickering speck of light, and disappeared;
Then dropped along the floor its elfish flakes,
That fell on some one resting, in the gloom,--
Somewhat, a spectral shadow, then a shape
That loomed. It was a heifer, ay, and white,
Breathing and languid through prolonged repose.
Was it a heifer? all the marble floor
Was milk-white also, and the cresset paled,
And straight their whiteness grew confused and mixed.
But when the cresset, taking heart, bloomed out,--
The whiteness,--and asleep again! but now
It was a woman, robed, and with a face
Lovely and dim. And Gladys while she gazed
Murmured, "O terrible! I am afraid
To breathe among these intermittent lives,
That fluctuate in mystic solitude,
And change and fade. Lo! where the goddess sits
Dreaming on her dim throne; a crescent moon
She wears upon her forehead. Ah! her frown
Is mournful, and her slumber is not sweet.
What dost thou hold, Isis, to thy cold breast?
A baby god with finger on his lips,
Asleep, and dreaming of departed sway?
Thy son. Hush, hush; he knoweth all the lore
And sorcery of old Egypt; but his mouth
He shuts; the secret shall be lost with him,
He will not tell."
The woman coming down!
"Child, what art doing here?" the woman said;
"What wilt thou of Dame Isis and her bairn?"
(_Ay, ay, we see thee breathing in thy shroud,--
pretty shroud, all frilled and furbelowed._)
The air is dim with dust of spiced bones.
I mark a crypt down there. Tier upon tier
Of painted coffers fills it. What if we,
Passing, should slip, and crash into their midst,--
Break the frail ancientry, and smothered lie,
Tumbled among the ribs of queens and kings,
And all the gear they took to bed with them!
Horrible! Let us hence.
And Gladys said,
"O, they are rough to mount, those stairs"; but she
Took her and laughed, and up the mighty flight
Shot like a meteor with her. "There," said she;
"The light is sweet when one has smelled of graves,
Down in unholy heathen gloom; farewell."
She pointed to a gateway, strong and high,
Reared of hewn stones; but, look! in lieu of gate,
There was a glittering cobweb drawn across,
And on the lintel there were writ these words:
"Ho, every one that cometh, I divide
What hath been from what might be, and the line
Hangeth before thee as a spider's web;
Yet, wouldst thou enter thou must break the line,
Or else forbear the hill."
The maiden said,
"So, cobweb, I will break thee." And she passed
Among some oak-trees on the farther side,
And waded through the bracken round their bolls,
Until she saw the open, and drew on
Toward the edge o' the wood, where it was mixed
With pines and heathery places wild and fresh.
Here she put up a creature, that ran on
Before her, crying, "Tint, tint, tint," and turned,
Sat up, and stared at her with elfish eyes,
Jabbering of gramarye, one Michael Scott,
The wizard that wonned somewhere underground,
With other talk enough to make one fear
To walk in lonely places. After passed
A man-at-arms, William of Deloraine;
He shook his head, "An' if I list to tell,"
Quoth he, "I know, but how it matters not";
Then crossed himself, and muttered of a clap
Of thunder, and a shape in amice gray,
But still it mouthed at him, and whimpered, "Tint,
Tint, tint." "There shall be wild work some day soon,"
Quoth he, "thou limb of darkness: he will come,
Thy master, push a hand up, catch thee, imp,
And so good Christians shall have peace, perdie."
Then Gladys was so frightened, that she ran,
And got away, towards a grassy down,
Where sheep and lambs were feeding, with a boy
To tend them. 'Twas the boy who wears that herb
Called heart's-ease in his bosom, and he sang
So sweetly to his flock, that she stole on
Nearer to listen. "O Content, Content,
Give me," sang he, "thy tender company.
I feed my flock among the myrtles; all
My lambs are twins, and they have laid them down
Along the slopes of Beulah. Come, fair love,
From the other side the river, where their harps
Thou hast been helping them to tune. O come,
And pitch thy tent by mine; let me behold
Thy mouth,--that even in slumber talks of peace,--
Thy well-set locks, and dove-like countenance."
And Gladys hearkened, couched upon the grass,
Till she had rested; then did ask the boy,
For it was afternoon, and she was fain
To reach the shore, "Which is the path, I pray,
That leads one to the water?" But he said,
"Dear lass, I only know the narrow way,
The path that leads one to the golden gate
Across the river." So she wandered on;
And presently her feet grew cool, the grass
Standing so high, and thyme being thick and soft.
The air was full of voices, and the scent
Of mountain blossom loaded all its wafts;
For she was on the slopes of a goodly mount,
And reared in such a sort that it looked down
Into the deepest valleys, darkest glades,
And richest plains o' the island. It was set
Midway between the snows majestical
And a wide level, such as men would choose
For growing wheat; and some one said to her,
"It is the hill Parnassus." So she walked
Yet on its lower slope, and she could hear
The calling of an unseen multitude
To some upon the mountain, "Give us more";
And others said, "We are tired of this old world:
Make it look new again." Then there were some
Who answered lovingly--(the dead yet speak
From that high mountain, as the living do);
But others sang desponding, "We have kept
The vision for a chosen few: we love
Fit audience better than a rough huzza
From the unreasoning crowd."
Then words came up:
"There was a time, you poets, was a time
When all the poetry was ours, and made
By some who climbed the mountain from our midst.
We loved it then, we sang it in our streets.
O, it grows obsolete! Be you as they:
Our heroes die and drop away from us;
Oblivion folds them 'neath her dusky wing,
Fair copies wasted to the hungering world.
Save them. We fall so low for lack of them,
That many of us think scorn of honest trade,
And take no pride in our own shops; who care
Only to quit a calling, will not make
The calling what it might be; who despise
Their work, Fate laughs at, and doth let the work
Dull, and degrade them."
Then did Gladys smile:
"Heroes!" quoth she; "yet, now I think on it,
There was the jolly goldsmith, brave Sir Hugh,
Certes, a hero ready-made. Methinks
I see him burnishing of golden gear,
Tankard and charger, and a-muttering low,
'London is thirsty'--(then he weighs a chain):
''Tis an ill thing, my masters. I would give
The worth of this, and many such as this,
To bring it water.'
"Ay, and after him
There came up Guy of London, lettered son
O' the honest lighterman. I'll think on him,
Leaning upon the bridge on summer eves,
After his shop was closed: a still, grave man,
With melancholy eyes. 'While these are hale,'
He saith, when he looks down and marks the crowd
Cheerily working; where the river marge
Is blocked with ships and boats; and all the wharves
Swarm, and the cranes swing in with merchandise,--
'While these are hale, 'tis well, 'tis very well.
But, O good Lord,' saith he, 'when these are sick,--
I fear me, Lord, this excellent workmanship
Of Thine is counted for a cumbrance then.
Ay, ay, my hearties! many a man of you,
Struck down, or maimed, or fevered, shrinks away,
And, mastered in that fight for lack of aid,
Creeps shivering to a corner, and there dies.'
Well, we have heard the rest.
"Ah, next I think
Upon the merchant captain, stout of heart
To dare and to endure. 'Robert,' saith he,
(The navigator Knox to his manful son,)
'I sit a captive from the ship detained;
This heathenry doth let thee visit her.
Remember, son, if thou, alas! shouldst fail
To ransom thy poor father, they are free
As yet, the mariners; have wives at home,
As I have; ay, and liberty is sweet
To all men. For the ship, she is not ours,
Therefore, 'beseech thee, son, lay on the mate
This my command, to leave me, and set sail.
As for thyself--' 'Good father,' saith the son;
'I will not, father, ask your blessing now,
Because, for fair, or else for evil, fate
We two shall meet again.' And so they did.
The dusky men, peeling off cinnamon,
And beating nutmeg clusters from the tree,
Ransom and bribe contemned. The good ship sailed,--
The son returned to share his father's cell.
"O, there are many such. Would I had wit
Their worth to sing!" With that, she turned her feet,
"I am tired now," said Gladys, "of their talk
Around this hill Parnassus." And, behold,
A piteous sight--an old, blind, graybeard king
Led by a fool with bells. Now this was loved
Of the crowd below the hill; and when he called
For his lost kingdom, and bewailed his age,
And plained on his unkind daughters, they were known
To say, that if the best of gold and gear
Could have bought him back his kingdom, and made kind
The hard hearts which had broken his erewhile,
They would have gladly paid it from their store
Many times over. What is done is done,
No help. The ruined majesty passed on.
And look you! one who met her as she walked
Showed her a mountain nymph lovely as light
Her name Oenone; and she mourned and mourned,
"O Mother Ida," and she could not cease,
No, nor be comforted.
And after this,
Soon there came by, arrayed in Norman cap
And kirtle, an Arcadian villager,
Who said, "I pray you, have you chanced to meet
One Gabriel?" and she sighed; but Gladys took
And kissed her hand: she could not answer her,
Because she guessed the end.
With that it drew
To evening; and as Gladys wandered on
In the calm weather, she beheld the wave,
And she ran down to set her feet again
On the sea margin, which was covered thick
With white shell-skeletons. The sky was red
As wine. The water played among bare ribs
Of many wrecks, that lay half buried there
In the sand. She saw a cave, and moved thereto
To ask her way, and one so innocent
Came out to meet her, that, with marvelling mute,
She gazed and gazed into her sea-blue eyes,
For in them beamed the untaught ecstasy
Of childhood, that lives on though youth be come,
And love just born.
She could not choose but name her shipwrecked prince,
All blushing. She told Gladys many things
That are not in the story,--things, in sooth,
That Prospero her father knew. But now
'Twas evening, and the sun drooped; purple stripes
In the sea were copied from some clouds that lay
Out in the west. And lo! the boat, and more,
The freakish thing to take fair Gladys home
She mowed at her, but Gladys took the helm:
"Peace, peace!" she said; "be good: you shall not steer,
For I am your liege lady." Then she sang
The sweetest songs she knew all the way home.
So Gladys set her feet upon the sand;
While in the sunset glory died away
The peaks of that blest island.
"Fare you well.
My country, my own kingdom," then she said,
"Till I go visit you again, farewell."
She looked toward their house with whom she dwelt,--
The carriages were coming. Hastening up,
She was in time to meet them at the door,
And lead the sleepy little ones within;
And some were cross and shivered, and her dames
Were weary and right hard to please; but she
Felt like a beggar suddenly endowed
With a warm cloak to 'fend her from the cold.
"For, come what will," she said, "I had _to-day_.
There is an island."
What is the moral? Let us think awhile,
Taking the editorial WE to help,
It sounds respectable.
The moral; yes.
We always read, when any fable ends,
"Hence we may learn." A moral must be found.
What do you think of this? "Hence we may learn
That dolphins swim about the coast of Wales,
And Admiralty maps should now be drawn
By teacher-girls, because their sight is keen,
And they can spy out islands." Will that do?
No, that is far too plain,--too evident.
Perhaps a general moralizing vein--
(We know we have a happy knack that way.
We have observed, moreover, that young men
Are fond of good advice, and so are girls;
Especially of that meandering kind,
Which winding on so sweetly, treats of all
They ought to be and do and think and wear,
As one may say, from creeds to comforters.
Indeed, we much prefer that sort ourselves,
So soothing). Good, a moralizing vein;
That is the thing; but how to manage it?
"_Hence we may learn_," if we be so inclined,
That life goes best with those who take it best;
That wit can spin from work a golden robe
To queen it in; that who can paint at will
A private picture gallery, should not cry
For shillings that will let him in to look
At some by others painted. Furthermore,
Hence we may learn, you poets,--(_and we count
For poets all who ever felt that such
They were, and all who secretly have known
That such they could be; ay, moreover, all
Who wind the robes of ideality
About the bareness of their lives, and hang
Comforting curtains, knit of fancy's yarn,
Nightly betwixt them and the frosty world_),--
Hence we may learn, you poets, that of all
We should be most content. The earth is given
To us: we reign by virtue of a sense
Which lets us hear the rhythm of that old verse,
The ring of that old tune whereto she spins.
Humanity is given to us: we reign
By virtue of a sense, which lets us in
To know its troubles ere they have been told,
And take them home and lull them into rest
With mournfullest music. Time is given to us,--
Time past, time future. Who, good sooth, beside
Have seen it well, have walked this empty world
When she went steaming, and from pulpy hills
Have marked the spurting of their flamy crowns?
Have we not seen the tabernacle pitched,
And peered between the linen curtains, blue,
Purple, and scarlet, at the dimness there,
And, frighted, have not dared to look again?
But, quaint antiquity! beheld, we thought,
A chest that might have held the manna pot
And Aaron's rod that budded. Ay, we leaned
Over the edge of Britain, while the fleet
Of Caesar loomed and neared; then, afterwards,
We saw fair Venice looking at herself
In the glass below her, while her Doge went forth
In all his bravery to the wedding.
However, counts for nothing to the grace
We wot of in time future:--therefore add,
And afterwards have done: "_Hence we may learn_,"
That though it be a grand and comely thing
To be unhappy,--(and we think it is,
Because so many grand and clever folk
Have found out reasons for unhappiness,
And talked about uncomfortable things,--
Low motives, bores, and shams, and hollowness,
The hollowness o' the world, till we at last
Have scarcely dared to jump or stamp, for fear,
Being so hollow, it should break some day,
And let us in),--yet, since we are not grand,
O, not at all, and as for cleverness,
That may be or may not be,--it is well
For us to be as happy as we can!
Agreed: and with a word to the noble sex,
As thus: we pray you carry not your guns
On the full-cock; we pray you set your pride
In its proper place, and never be ashamed
Of any honest calling,--let us add,
And end; for all the rest, hold up your heads
And mind your English.
Note to "GLADYS AND HER ISLAND."
The woman is Imagination; she is brooding over what she brought forth.
The two purple peaks represent the domains of Poetry and of History.
The girl is Fancy.
SONGS WITH PRELUDES.
SONGS WITH PRELUDES.
The sun was streaming in: I woke, and said,
"Where is my wife,--that has been made my wife
Only this year?" The casement stood ajar:
I did but lift my head: The pear-tree dropped,
The great white pear-tree dropped with dew from leaves
And blossom, under heavens of happy blue.
My wife had wakened first, and had gone down
Into the orchard. All the air was calm;
Audible humming filled it. At the roots
Of peony bushes lay in rose-red heaps,
Or snowy, fallen bloom. The crag-like hills
Were tossing down their silver messengers,
And two brown foreigners, called cuckoo-birds,
Gave them good answer; all things else were mute;
An idle world lay listening to their talk,
They had it to themselves.
What ails my wife?
I know not if aught ails her; though her step
Tell of a conscious quiet, lest I wake.
She moves atween the almond boughs, and bends
One thick with bloom to look on it. "O love!
A little while thou hast withdrawn thyself,
At unaware to think thy thoughts alone:
How sweet, and yet pathetic to my heart
The reason. Ah! thou art no more thine own.
Mine, mine, O love! Tears gather 'neath my lids,--
Sorrowful tears for thy lost liberty,
Because it was so sweet. Thy liberty,
That yet, O love, thou wouldst not have again.
No; all is right. But who can give, or bless,
Or take a blessing, but there comes withal
She walks beside the lily bed,
And holds apart her gown; she would not hurt
The leaf-enfolded buds, that have not looked
Yet on the daylight. O, thy locks are brown,--
Fairest of colors!--and a darker brown
The beautiful, dear, veiled, modest eyes.
A bloom as of blush roses covers her
Forehead, and throat, and cheek. Health breathes with her,
And graceful vigor. Fair and wondrous soul!
To think that thou art mine!
My wife came in,
And moved into the chamber. As for me,
I heard, but lay as one that nothing hears,
And feigned to be asleep.
The racing river leaped, and sang
Full blithely in the perfect weather,
All round the mountain echoes rang,
For blue and green were glad together.
This rained out light from every part,
And that with songs of joy was thrilling;
But, in the hollow of my heart,
There ached a place that wanted filling.
Before the road and river meet,
And stepping-stones are wet and glisten,
I heard a sound of laughter sweet,
And paused to like it, and to listen.
I heard the chanting waters flow,
The cushat's note, the bee's low humming,--
Then turned the hedge, and did not know,--
How could I?--that my time was coming.
A girl upon the nighest stone,
Half doubtful of the deed, was standing,
So far the shallow flood had flown
Beyond the 'customed leap of landing.
She knew not any need of me,
Yet me she waited all unweeting;
We thought not I had crossed the sea,
And half the sphere to give her meeting.
I waded out, her eyes I met,
I wished the moment had been hours;
I took her in my arms, and set
Her dainty feet among the flowers.
Her fellow maids in copse and lane,
Ah! still, methinks, I hear them calling;
The wind's soft whisper in the plain,
The cushat's coo, the water's falling.
But now it is a year ago,
But now possession crowns endeavor;
I took her in my heart, to grow
And fill the hollow place forever.
O that word REGRET!
There have been nights and morns when we have sighed,
"Let us alone, Regret! We are content
To throw thee all our past, so thou wilt sleep
For aye." But it is patient, and it wakes;
It hath not learned to cry itself to sleep,
But plaineth on the bed that it is hard.
We did amiss when we did wish it gone
And over: sorrows humanize our race;
Tears are the showers that fertilize this world;
And memory of things precious keepeth warm
The heart that once did hold them.
They are poor
That have lost nothing; they are poorer far
Who, losing, have forgotten; they most poor
Of all, who lose and wish they MIGHT forget.
For life is one, and in its warp and woof
There runs a thread of gold that glitters fair,
And sometimes in the pattern shows most sweet
Where there are sombre colors. It is true
That we have wept. But O! this thread of gold,
We would not have it tarnish; let us turn
Oft and look back upon the wondrous web,
And when it shineth sometimes we shall know
That memory is possession.
When I remember something which I had,
But which is gone, and I must do without,
I sometimes wonder how I can be glad,
Even in cowslip time when hedges sprout;
It makes me sigh to think on it,--but yet
My days will not be better days, should I forget.
When I remember something promised me,
But which I never had, nor can have now,
Because the promiser we no more see
In countries that accord with mortal vow;
When I remember this, I mourn,--but yet
My happier days are not the days when I forget.
I read upon that book,
Which down the golden gulf doth let us look
On the sweet days of pastoral majesty;
I read upon that book
How, when the Shepherd Prince did flee
(Red Esau's twin), he desolate took
The stone for a pillow: then he fell on sleep.
And lo! there was a ladder. Lo! there hung
A ladder from the star-place, and it clung
To the earth: it tied her so to heaven; and O!
There fluttered wings;
Then were ascending and descending things
That stepped to him where he lay low;
Then up the ladder would a-drifting go
(This feathered brood of heaven), and show
Small as white flakes in winter that are blown
Together, underneath the great white throne.
When I had shut the book, I said,
"Now, as for me, my dreams upon my bed
Are not like Jacob's dream;
Yet I have got it in my life; yes, I,
And many more: it doth not us beseem,
Therefore, to sigh.
Is there not hung a ladder in our sky?
Yea; and, moreover, all the way up on high
Is thickly peopled with the prayers of men.
We have no dream! What then?
Like winged wayfarers the height they scale
(By Him that offers them they shall prevail),--
The prayers of men.
But where is found a prayer for me;
How should I pray?
My heart is sick, and full of strife.
I heard one whisper with departing breath,
'Suffer us not, for any pains of death,
To fall from Thee.'
But O, the pains of life! the pains of life!
There is no comfort now, and naught to win,
But yet,--I will begin."
"Preserve to me my wealth," I do not say,
For that is wasted away;
And much of it was cankered ere it went.
"Preserve to me my health." I cannot say,
For that, upon a day,
Went after other delights to banishment.
What can I pray? "Give me forgetfulness"?
No, I would still possess
Past away smiles, though present fronts be stern.
"Give me again my kindred?" Nay; not so,
Not idle prayers. We know
They that have crossed the river cannot return.
I do not pray, "Comfort me! comfort me!"
For how should comfort be?
O,--O that cooing mouth,--that little white head!
No; but I pray, "If it be not too late,
Open to me the gate,
That I may find my babe when I am dead.
"Show me the path. I had forgotten Thee
When I was happy and free,
Walking down here in the gladsome light o' the sun;
But now I come and mourn; O set my feet
In the road to Thy blest seat,
And for the rest, O God, Thy will be done."
When found the rose delight in her fair hue?
Color is nothing to this world; 'tis I
That see it. Farther, I have found, my soul,
That trees are nothing to their fellow trees;
It is but I that love their stateliness,
And I that, comforting my heart, do sit
At noon beneath their shadow. I will step
On the ledges of this world, for it is mine;
But the other world ye wot of, shall go too;
I will carry it in my bosom. O my world,
That was not built with clay!
(This outer world we tread on) as a harp,--
A gracious instrument on whose fair strings
We learn those airs we shall be set to play
When mortal hours are ended. Let the wings,
Man, of thy spirit move on it as wind,
And draw forth melody. Why shouldst thou yet
Lie grovelling? More is won than e'er was lost:
Inherit. Let thy day be to thy night
A teller of good tidings. Let thy praise
Go up as birds go up that, when they wake,
Shake off the dew and soar.
So take Joy home,
And make a place in thy great heart for her,
And give her time to grow, and cherish her;
Then will she come, and oft will sing to thee,
When thou art working in the furrows; ay,
Or weeding in the sacred hour of dawn.
It is a comely fashion to be glad,--
Joy is the grace we say to God.
There is a rest remaining. Hast thou sinned?
There is a Sacrifice. Lift up thy head,
The lovely world, and the over-world alike,
Ring with a song eterne, a happy rede,
"THY FATHER LOVES THEE."
Yon moored mackerel fleet
Hangs thick as a swarm of bees,
Or a clustering village street
Foundationless built on the seas.
The mariners ply their craft,
Each set in his castle frail;
His care is all for the draught,
And he dries the rain-beaten sail.
For rain came down in the night,
And thunder muttered full oft,
But now the azure is bright.
And hawks are wheeling aloft.
I take the land to my breast,
In her coat with daisies fine;
For me are the hills in their best,
And all that's made is mine.
Sing high! "Though the red sun dip,
There yet is a day for me;
Nor youth I count for a ship
That long ago foundered at sea.
"Did the lost love die and depart?
Many times since we have met;
For I hold the years in my heart,
And all that was--is yet.
"I grant to the king his reign;
Let us yield him homage due;
But over the lands there are twain,
O king, I must rule as you.
"I grant to the wise his meed,
But his yoke I will not brook,
For God taught ME to read,--
He lent me the world for a book."
ON A SUN-PORTRAIT OF HER HUSBAND, SENT BY HIS
WIFE TO THEIR FRIEND.
Beautiful eyes,--and shall I see no more
The living thought when it would leap from them,
And play in all its sweetness 'neath their lids?
Here was a man familiar with fair heights
That poets climb. Upon his peace the tears
And troubles of our race deep inroads made,
Yet life was sweet to him; he kept his heart
At home. Who saw his wife might well have thought,--
"God loves this man. He chose a wife for him,--
The true one!" O sweet eyes, that seem to live,
I know so much of you, tell me the rest!
Eyes full of fatherhood and tender care
For small, young children. Is a message here
That you would fain have sent, but had not time?
If such there be, I promise, by long love
And perfect friendship, by all trust that comes
Of understanding, that I will not fail,
No, nor delay to find it.
O, my heart
Will often pain me as for some strange fault,--
Some grave defect in nature,--when I think
How I, delighted, 'neath those olive-trees,
Moved to the music of the tideless main,
While, with sore weeping, in an island home
They laid that much-loved head beneath the sod,
And I did not know.
I stand on the bridge where last we stood
When young leaves played at their best.
The children called us from yonder wood,
And rock-doves crooned on the nest.
Ah, yet you call,--in your gladness call,--
And I hear your pattering feet;
It does not matter, matter at all,
You fatherless children sweet,--
It does not matter at all to you,
Young hearts that pleasure besets;
The father sleeps, but the world is new,
The child of his love forgets.
I too, it may be, before they drop,
The leaves that flicker to-day,
Ere bountiful gleams make ripe the crop,
Shall pass from my place away:
Ere yon gray cygnet puts on her white,
Or snow lies soft on the wold,
Shall shut these eyes on the lovely light,
And leave the story untold.
Shall I tell it there? Ah, let that be,
For the warm pulse beats so high;
To love to-day, and to breathe and see,--
To-morrow perhaps to die,--
Leave it with God. But this I have known,
That sorrow is over soon;
Some in dark nights, sore weeping alone,
Forget by full of the moon.
But if all loved, as the few can love,
This world would seldom be well;
And who need wish, if he dwells above,
For a deep, a long death knell.
There are four or five, who, passing this place,
While they live will name me yet;
And when I am gone will think on my face,
And feel a kind of regret.
_Quoth the cedar to the reeds and rushes,
"Water-grass, you know not what I do;
Know not of my storms, nor of my hushes.
And--I know not you."
Quoth the reeds and rushes, "Wind! O waken!
Breathe, O wind, and set our answer free,
For we have no voice, of you forsaken,
For the cedar-tree."
Quoth the earth at midnight to the ocean,
"Wilderness of water, lost to view,
Naught you are to me but sounds of motion;
I am naught to you."
Quoth the ocean, "Dawn! O fairest, clearest,
Touch me with thy golden fingers bland;
For I have no smile till thou appearest
For the lovely land."_
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