Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume II.
Part 3 out of 8
'I at dawn have prayed thee
Thou would'st tell o' the weird to me,
Sith I might some counsel find
Of my wit or in my mind
Thee to better.' 'Ay, e'en so,
But the telling shall let thee know,'
Quoth the king, 'is neither scope
For sweet counsel nor fair hope,
Nor is found for respite room,
Till the uttermost crack of doom.
Then the queen saith, 'Woman's wit
No man asketh aid of it,
Not wild hyssop on a wall
Is of less account; or small
Glossy gnats that flit i' the sun
Less worth weighing--light so light!
Yet when all's said--ay, all done,
Love, I love thee! By love's might
I will counsel thee aright,
Or would share the weird to-night.'
Then he answer'd 'Have thy way.
Know 't is two years gone and a day
Since I, walking lone and late,
Pondered sore mine ill estate;
Open murmurers, foes concealed,
Famines dire i' the marches round,
Neighbour kings unfriendly found,
Ay, and treacherous plots revealed
Where I trusted. I bid stay
All my knights at the high crossway,
And did down the forest fare
To bethink me, and despair.
'Ah! thou gilded toy a throne,
If one mounts to thee alone,
Quoth I, mourning while I went,
Haply he may drop content
As a lark wing-weary down
To the level, and his crown
Leave for another man to don;
Throne, thy gold steps raised upon.
But for me--O as for me
What is named I would not dree,
Earn, or conquer, or forego
For the barring of overthrow.'
'Aloud I spake, but verily
Never an answer looked should be.
But it came to pass from shade
Pacing to an open glade,
Which the oaks a mighty wall
Fence about, methought a call
Sounded, then a pale thin mist
Rose, a pillar, and fronted me,
Rose and took a form I wist,
And it wore a hood on 'ts head,
And a long white garment spread,
And I saw the eyes thereof.
Then my plumed cap I doff,
Stooping. 'T is the white-witch. 'Hail,'
Quoth the witch, 'thou shalt prevail
An thou wilt; I swear to thee
All thy days shall glorious shine,
Great and rich, ay, fair and fine,
So what followeth rest my fee,
So thou'lt give thy sleep to me.'
While she spake my heart did leap.
Waking is man's life, and sleep--
What is sleep?--a little death
Coming after, and methought
Life is mine and death is nought
Till it come,--so day is mine
I will risk the sleep to shine
In the waking.
And she saith,
In a soft voice clear and low,
'Give thy plumed cap also
For a token.'
'Didst thou give?'
Quoth the queen; and 'As I live
He makes answer 'none can tell.
I did will my sleep to sell,
And in token held to her
That she asked. And it fell
To the grass. I saw no stir
In her hand or in her face,
And no going; but the place
Only for an evening mist
Was made empty. There it lay,
That same plumed cap, alway
On the grasses--but I wist
Well, it must be let to lie,
And I left it. Now the tale
Ends, th' events do testify
Of her truth. The days go by
Better and better; nought doth ail
In the land, right happy and hale
Dwell the seely folk; but sleep
Brings a reckoning; then forth creep
Dreaded creatures, worms of might.
Crested with my plumed cap
Loll about my neck all night,
Bite me in the side, and lap
My heart's blood. Then oft the weird
Drives me, where amazed, afeard,
I do safe on a river strand
Mark one sinking hard at hand
While fierce sleuth-hounds that me track
Fly upon me, bear me back,
Fling me away, and he for lack
Of man's aid in piteous wise
Goeth under, drowns and dies.
'O sweet wife, I suffer sore--
O methinks aye more and more
Dull my day, my courage numb,
Shadows from the night to come.
But no counsel, hope, nor aid
Is to give; a crown being made
Power and rule, yea all good things
Yet to hang on this same weird
I must dree it, ever that brings
Chastening from the white-witch feared.
O that dreams mote me forsake,
Would that man could alway wake.'
Now good sooth doth counsel fail,
Ah this queen is pale, so pale.
'Love,' she sigheth, 'thou didst not well
Listening to the white-witch fell,
Leaving her doth thee advance
Thy plumed cap of maintenance.'
'She is white, as white snow flake,'
Quoth the king; 'a man shall make
Bargains with her and not sin.'
'Ay,' she saith, 'but an he win,
Let him look the right be done
Else the rue shall be his own.
No more words. The stars are bright,
For the feast high halls be dight
Late he coucheth. Night--'t is night.
_The dead king lying in state in the Minster holy._
Fifty candles burn at his head and burn at his feet,
A crown and royal apparel upon him lorn and lowly,
And the cold hands stiff as horn by their cold palms meet.
Two days dead. Is he dead? Nay, nay--but is he living?
The weary monks have ended their chantings manifold,
The great door swings behind them, night winds entrance giving,
The candles flare and drip on him, warm and he so cold.
Neither to move nor to moan, though sunk and though swallow'd
In earth he shall soon be trodden hard and no more seen.
Soft you the door again! Was it a footstep followed,
Falter'd, and yet drew near him?--Malva, Malva the queen!
One hand o' the dead king liveth (e'en so him seemeth)
On the purple robe, on the ermine that folds his breast
Cold, very cold. Yet e'en at that pass esteemeth
The king, it were sweet if she kissed the place of its rest.
Laid her warm face on his bosom, a fair wife grieved
For the lord and love of her youth, and bewailed him sore;
Laid her warm face on the bosom of her bereaved
Soon to go under, never to look on her more.
His candles guide her with pomp funereal flaring,
Out of the gulfy dark to the bier whereon he lies.
Cometh this queen i' the night for grief or for daring,
Out o' the dark to the light with large affrighted eyes?
The pale queen speaks in the Presence with fear upon her,
'Where is the ring I gave to thee, where is my ring?
I vowed--'t was an evil vow--by love, and by honour,
Come life or come death to be thine, thou poor dead king.'
The pale queen's honour! A low laugh scathing and sereing--
A mumbling as made by the dead in the tombs ye wot.
Braveth the dead this queen? 'Hear it, whoso hath hearing,
I vowed by my love, cold king, but I loved thee not.'
Honour! An echo in aisles and the solemn portals,
Low sinketh this queen by the bier with its freight forlorn;
Yet kneeling, 'Hear me!' she crieth, 'you just immortals,
You saints bear witness I vowed and am not forsworn.
I vowed in my youth, fool-king, when the golden fetter
Thy love that bound me and bann'd me full weary I wore,
But all poor men of thy menai I held them better,
All stalwart knights of thy train unto me were more.
Twenty years I have lived on earth and two beside thee,
Thirty years thou didst live on earth, and two on the throne:
Let it suffice there be none of thy rights denied thee,
Though I dare thy presence--I--come for my ring alone.'
She risen shuddereth, peering, afraid to linger
Behold her ring, it shineth! 'Now yield to me, thou dead,
For this do I dare the touch of thy stark stiff finger.'
The queen hath drawn her ring from his hand, the queen hath fled.
'O woman fearing sore, to whom my man's heart cleaved,
The faith enwrought with love and life hath mocks for its meed'--
The dead king lying in state, of his past bereaved,
Twice dead. Ay, this is death. Now dieth the king indeed.
'Wake, the seely gnomes do fly,
Drenched across yon rainy sky,
With the vex'd moon-mother'd elves,
And the clouds do weep themselves
All night long
Hath thy weird thee sore opprest;
Wake, I have found within my breast
Counsel.' Ah, the weird was strong,
But the time is told. Release
Openeth on him when his eyes
Lift them in dull desolate wise,
And behold he is at peace.
Ay, but silent. Of all done
And all suffer'd in the night,
Of all ills that do him spite
She shall never know that one.
Then he heareth accents bland,
Seeth the queen's ring on his hand,
And he riseth calmed withal.
Rain and wind on the palace wall
Beat and bluster, sob and moan,
When at noon he musing lone,
Comes the queen anigh his seat,
And she kneeleth at his feet.
Quoth the queen, 'My love, my lord,
Take thy wife and take thy sword,
We must forth in the stormy weather,
Thou and I to the witch together.
Thus I rede thee counsel deep,
Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep,
Turning so man's wholesome life
From its meaning. Thine intent
None shall hold for innocent.
Thou dost take thy good things first,
Then thou art cast into the worst;
First the glory, then the strife.
Nay, but first thy trouble dree,
So thy peace shall sweeter be.
First to work and then to rest,
Is the way for our humanity,
Ay, she sayeth that loves thee best,
We must forth and from this strife
Buy the best part of man's life;
Best and worst thou holdest still
Subject to a witch's will.
Thus I rede thee counsel deep,
Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep;
Take the crown from off thy head,
Give it the white-witch instead,
If in that she say thee nay,
Get the night,--and give the day.'
Then the king (amazed, mild,
As one reasoning with a child
All his speech): 'My wife! my fair!
And his hand on her brown hair
Trembles; 'Lady, dost indeed
Weigh the meaning of thy rede?
Would'st thou dare the dropping away
Of allegiance, should our sway
And sweet splendour and renown
All be risked? (methinks a crown
Doth become thee marvellous well).
We ourself are, truth to tell,
Kingly both of wont and kind,
Suits not such the craven mind.'
'Yet this weird thou can'st not dree.'
Quoth the queen, 'And live;' then he,
'I must die and leave the fair
Unborn, long-desired heir
To his rightful heritage.'
But this queen arisen doth high
Her two hands uplifting, sigh
'God forbid.' And he to assuage
Her keen sorrow, for his part
Searcheth, nor can find in his heart
Words. And weeping she will rest
Her sweet cheek upon his breast,
Whispering, 'Dost thou verily
Know thou art to blame? Ah me,
Come,' and yet beseecheth she,
'Ah me, come.'
For good for ill,
Whom man loveth hath her will.
Court and castle left behind,
Stolen forth in the rain and wind,
Soon they are deep in the forest, fain
The white-witch to raise again;
Down and deep where flat o'erhead
Layer on layer do cedars spread,
Down where lordly maples strain,
Wrestling with the storm amain.
Wide-wing'd eagles struck on high
Headlong fall'n break through, and lie
With their prey in piteous wise,
And no film on their dead eyes.
Matted branches grind and crash,
Into darkness dives the flash,
Stabs, a dread gold dirk of fire,
Loads the lift with splinters dire.
Then a pause i' the deadly feud--
And a sick cowed quietude.
Soh! A pillar misty and grey,
'T is the white-witch in the way.
Shall man deal with her and gain?
I trow not. Albeit the twain
Costly gear and gems and gold
Freely offer, she will hold
Sleep and token for the pay
She did get for greatening day.
'Or the night shall rest my fee
Or the day shall nought of me,'
Quoth the witch. 'An't thee beseem,
Sell thy kingdom for a dream.'
'Now what will be let it be!'
Quoth the queen; 'but choose the right.'
And the white-witch scorns at her,
Stately standing in their sight.
Then without or sound or stir
She is not. For offering meet
Lieth the token at their feet,
Which they, weary and sore bestead
In the storm, lift up, full fain
Ere the waning light hath fled
Those high towers they left to gain.
Deep among tree roots astray
Here a torrent tears its way,
There a cedar split aloft
Lies head downward. Now the oft
Muttering thunder, now the wind
Wakens. How the path to find?
How the turning? Deep ay deep,
Far ay far. She needs must weep,
This fair woman, lost, astray
In the forest; nought to say.
Yet the sick thoughts come and go,
'I, 't was I would have it so.'
Shelter at the last, a roof
Wrought of ling (in their behoof,
Foresters, that drive the deer).
What, and must they couch them here?
Ay, and ere the twilight fall
Gather forest berries small
And nuts down beaten for a meal.
Now the shy wood-wonners steal
Nearer, bright-eyed furry things,
Winking owls on silent wings
Glance, and float away. The light
In the wake o' the storm takes flight,
Day departeth: night--'t is night.
The crown'd king musing at morn by a clear sweet river.
Palms on the slope o' the valley, and no winds blow;
Birds blameless, dove-eyed, mystical talk deliver,
Oracles haply. The language he doth not know.
Bare, blue, are yon peaked hills for a rampart lying,
As dusty gold is the light in the palms o'erhead,
'What is the name o' the land? and this calm sweet sighing,
If it be echo, where first was it caught and spread?
I might--I might be at rest in some field Elysian,
If this be asphodel set in the herbage fair,
I know not how I should wonder, so sweet the vision,
So clear and silent the water, the field, the air.
Love, are you by me! Malva, what think you this meaneth?
Love, do you see the fine folk as they move over there?
Are they immortals? Look you a winged one leaneth
Down from yon pine to the river of us unaware.
All unaware; and the country is full of voices,
Mild strangers passing: they reck not of me nor of thee.
List! about and around us wondrous sweet noises,
Laughter of little children and maids that dreaming be.
Love, I can see their dreams.' A dim smile flitteth
Over her lips, and they move as in peace supreme,
And a small thing, silky haired, beside her sitteth,
'O this is thy dream atween us--this is thy dream.'
Was it then truly his dream with her dream that blended?
'Speak, dear child dear,' quoth the queen, 'and mine own little son.'
'Father,' the small thing murmurs; then all is ended,
He starts from that passion of peace--ay, the dream is done.
'I have been in a good land,'
Quoth the king: 'O sweet sleep bland,
Blessed! I am grown to more,
Now the doing of right hath moved
Me to love of right, and proved
If one doth it, he shall be
Twice the man he was before.
Verily and verily,
Thou fair woman, thou didst well;
I look back and scarce may tell
Those false days of tinsel sheen,
Flattery, feasting, that have been.
Shows of life that were but shows,
How they held me; being I ween
Like sand-pictures thin, that rose
Quivering, when our thirsty bands
Marched i' the hot Egyptian lands;
Shade of palms on a thick green plot,
Pools of water that was not,
Mocking us and melting away.
I have been a witch's prey,
Art mine enemy now by day,
Thou fell Fear? There comes an end
To the day; thou canst not wend
After me where I shall fare,
My foredoomed peace to share.
And awake with a better heart,
I shall meet thee and take my part
O' the dull world's dull spite; with thine
Hard will I strive for me and mine.'
A page and a palfrey pacing nigh,
Malva the queen awakes. A sigh--
One amazed moment--'Ay,
We remember yesterday,
Let us to the palace straight:
What! do all my ladies wait--
Is no zeal to find me? What!
No knights forth to meet the king;
Due observance, is it forgot?'
'Lady,' quoth the page, 'I bring
Evil news. Sir king, I say,
My good lord of yesterday,
Evil news,' This king saith low,
'Yesterday, and yesterday,
The queen's yesterday we know,
Tell us thine.' 'Sir king,' saith he,
Hear. Thy castle in the night
Was surprised, and men thy flight
Learned but then; thine enemy
Of old days, our new king, reigns;
And sith thou wert not at pains
To forbid it, hear also,
Marvelling whereto this should grow
How thy knights at break of morn
Have a new allegiance sworn,
And the men-at-arms rejoice,
And the people give their voice
For the conqueror. I, Sir king,
Rest thine only friend. I bring
Means of flight; now therefore fly,
A great price is on thy head.
Cast her jewel'd mantle by,
Mount thy queen i' the selle and hie
(Sith disguise ye need, and bread)
Down yon pleached track, down, down,
Till a tower shall on thee frown;
Him that holds it show this ring:
So farewell, my lord the king.'
Had one marked that palfrey led
To the tower, he sooth had said,
These are royal folk and rare--
Jewels in her plaited hair
Shine not clearer than her eyes,
And her lord in goodly wise
With his plumed cap in 's hand
Moves in the measure of command.
Had one marked where stole forth two
From the friendly tower anew,
'Common folk' he sooth had said,
Making for the mountain track.
Common, common, man and maid,
Clad in russet, and of kind
Meet for russet. On his back
A wallet bears the stalwart hind;
She, all shy, in rustic grace
Steps beside her man apace,
And wild roses match her face.
Whither speed they? Where are toss'd
Like sea foam the dwarfed pines
At the jagged sharp inclines;
To the country of the frost
Up the mountains to be lost,
Lost. No better now may be,
Lost where mighty hollows thrust
'Twixt the fierce teeth of the world,
Fill themselves with crimson dust
When the tumbling sun down hurl'd
Stares among them drearily,
As a' wondering at the lone
Gulfs that weird gaunt company
Fenceth in. Lost there unknown,
Lineage, nation, name, and throne.
Lo, in a crevice choked with ling
And fir, this man, not now the king,
This Sigismund, hath made a fire,
And by his wife in the dark night
He leans at watch, her guard and squire.
His wide eyes stare out for the light
Weary. He needs must chide on fate,
And she is asleep. 'Poor brooding mate,
What! wilt thou on the mountain crest
Slippery and cold scoop thy first nest?
Or must I clear some uncouth cave
That laired the mother wolf, and save--
Spearing her cubs--the grey pelt fine
To be a bed for thee and thine?
It is my doing. Ay,' quoth he,
'Mine; but who dares to pity thee
Shall pity, not for loss of all,
But that thou wert my wife perdie,
E'en wife unto a witch's thrall,--
A man beholden to the cold
Cloud for a covering, he being sold
And hunted for reward of gold.
But who shall chronicle the ways
Of common folk--the nights and days
Spent with rough goatherds on their snows,
Of travellers come whence no man knows,
Then gone aloft on some sharp height
In the dumb peace and the great light
Amid brown eagles and wild roes?
'Tis the whole world whereon they lie,
The rocky pastures hung on high
Shelve off upon an empty sky.
But they creep near the edge, look down--
Great heaven! another world afloat,
Moored as in seas of air; remote
As their own childhood; swooning away
Into a tenderer sweeter day,
Innocent, sunny. 'O for wings!
There lie the lands of other kings--
I Sigismund, my sometime crown
Forfeit; forgotten of renown
My wars, my rule; I fain would go
Down to yon peace obscure.'
Down to the country of the thyme,
Where young kids dance, and a soft chime
Of sheepbells tinkles; then at last
Down to a country of hollows, cast
Up at the mountains full of trees,
Down to fruit orchards and wide leas.
With name unsaid and fame unsunned
He walks that was King Sigismund.
With palmers holy and pilgrims brown,
New from the East, with friar and clown,
He mingles in a walled town,
And in the mart where men him scan
He passes for a merchant man.
For from his vest, where by good hap
He thrust it, he his plumed cap
Hath drawn and plucked the gems away,
And up and down he makes essay
To sell them; they are all his wares
And wealth. He is a man of cares,
A man of toil; no roof hath he
To shelter her full soon to be
The mother of his dispossessed
Few words are best.
He, once King Sigismund, saith few,
But makes good diligence and true.
Soon with the gold he gather'd so,
A little homestead lone and low
He buyeth: a field, a copse, with these
A melon patch and mulberry trees.
And is the man content? Nay, morn
Is toilsome, oft is noon forlorn,
Though right be done and life be won,
Yet hot is weeding in the sun,
Yea scythe to wield and axe to swing,
Are hard on sinews of a king.
And Malva, must she toil? E'en so.
Full patiently she takes her part,
All, all so new. But her deep heart
Forebodes more change than shall be shown
Betwixt a settle and a throne.
And lost in musing she will go
About the winding of her silk,
About the skimming her goat's milk,
About the kneading of her bread,
And water drawn from her well-head.
Then come the long nights dark and still,
Then come the leaves and cover the sill,
Then come the swift flocks of the stare,
Then comes the snow--then comes the heir.
If he be glad, if he be sad,
How should one question when the hand
Is full, the heart. That life he had,
While leisure was aside may stand,
Till he shall overtake the task
Of every day, then let him ask
(If he remember--if he will),
'When I could sit me down and muse,
And match my good against mine ill,
And weigh advantage dulled by use
At nothing, was it better with me?'
But Sigismund! It cannot be
But that he toil, nor pause, nor sigh,
A dreamer on a day gone by
The king is come.
His vassals two
Serve with all homage deep and due.
He is contented, he doth find
Belike the kingdom much to his mind.
And when the long months of his long
Reign are two years, and like a song
From some far sweeter world, a call
From the king's mouth for fealty,
Buds soon to blossom in language fall,
They listen and find not any plea
Left, for fine chiding at destiny.
Sigismund hath ricked the hay,
He sitteth at close o' a sultry day
Under his mulberry boughs at ease.
'Hey for the world, and the world is wide,
The world is mine, and the world is--these
Beautiful Malva leans at his side,
And the small babbler talks at his knees.
Riseth a waft as of summer air,
Floating upon it what moveth there?
Faint as the light of stars and wan
As snow at night when the moon is gone,
It is the white-witch risen once more.
The white-witch that tempted of yore
So utterly doth substance lack,
You may breathe her nearer and breathe her back.
Soft her eyes, her speech full clear:
'Hail, thou Sigismund my fere,
Bargain with me yea or nay.
NAY, I go to my true place,
And no more thou seest my face.
YEA, the good be all thine own,
For now will I advance thy day,
And yet will leave the night alone.
Sigismund makes answer 'NAY.
Though the Highest heaped on me
Trouble, yet the same should be
Welcomer than weal from thee.
Nay;--for ever and ever Nay.'
O, the white-witch floats away.
Look you, look! A still pure smile
Blossoms on her mouth the while,
White wings peaked high behind,
Bear her;--no, the wafting wind,
For they move not,--floats her back,
Floats her up. They scarce may track
Her swift rising, shot on high
Like a ray from the western sky,
Or a lark from some grey wold
Utterly whelm'd in sunset gold.
Then these two long silence hold,
And the lisping babe doth say
'White white bird, it flew away.'
And they marvel at these things,
For her ghostly visitings
Turn to them another face.
Haply she was sent, a friend
Trying them, and to good end
For their better weal and grace;
One more wonder let to be
In the might and mystery
Of the world, where verily
And good sooth a man may wend
All his life, and no more view
Than the one right next to do.
So, the welcome dusk is here,
Sweet is even, rest is dear;
Mountain heads have lost the light,
Soon they couch them. Night--'t is night.
Sigismund dreaming delightsomely after his haying.
('Sleep of the labouring man,' quoth King David, 'is sweet.')
'Sigismund, Sigismund'--'Who is this calling and saying
"Sigismund, Sigismund," O blessed night do not fleet.
Is it not dark--ay, methinks it is dark, I would slumber,
O I would rest till the swallow shall chirp 'neath mine eaves.'
'Sigismund, Sigismund,' multitudes now without number
Calling, the noise is as dropping of rain upon leaves.
'Ay,' quoth he dreaming, 'say on, for I, Sigismund, hear ye.'
'Sigismund, Sigismund, all the knights weary full sore.
Come back, King Sigismund, come, they shall love thee and fear thee,
The people cry out O come back to us, reign evermore.
The new king is dead, and we will not his son, no nor brother,
Come with thy queen, is she busy yet, kneading of cakes?
Sigismund, show us the boy, is he safe, and his mother,
Sigismund?'--dreaming he falls into laughter and wakes.
And men say this dream came true,
For he walking in the dew
Turned aside while yet was red
On the highest mountain head,
Looking how the wheat he set
Flourished. And the knights him met
And him prayed 'Come again,
Sigismund our king, and reign.'
But at first--at first they tell
How it liked not Malva well;
She must leave her belted bees
And the kids that she did rear.
When she thought on it full dear
Seemed her home. It did not please
Sigismund that he must go
From the wheat that he did sow;
When he thought on it his mind
Was not that should any bind
Into sheaves that wheat but he,
Only he; and yet they went,
And it may be were content.
And they won a nation's heart;
Very well they played their part.
They ruled with sceptre and diadem,
And their children after them.
Only you'd have me speak.
Whether to speak
Or whether to be silent is all one;
Whether to sleep and in my dreaming front
Her small scared face forlorn; whether to wake
And muse upon her small soft feet that paced
The hated, hard, inhospitable stone--
I say all's one. But you would have me speak,
And change one sorrow for the other. Ay,
Right reverend father, comfortable father,
Old, long in thrall, and wearied of the cell,
So will I here--here staring through the grate,
Whence, sheer beneath us lying the little town,
Her street appears a riband up the rise;
Where 't is right steep for carts, behold two ruts
Worn in the flat, smooth, stone.
That side I stood;
My head was down. At first I did but see
Her coming feet; they gleamed through my hot tears
As she walked barefoot up yon short steep hill.
Then I dared all, gazed on her face, the maid
Martyr and utterly, utterly broke my heart.
Her face, O! it was wonderful to me,
There was not in it what I look'd for--no,
I never saw a maid go to her death,
How should I dream that face and the dumb soul?
Her arms and head were bare, seemly she walked
All in her smock so modest as she might;
Upon her shoulders hung a painted cape
For horrible adornment, flames of fire
Portrayed upon it, and mocking demon heads.
Her eyes--she did not see me--opened wide,
Blue-black, gazed right before her, yet they marked
Nothing; and her two hands uplift as praying,
She yet prayed not, wept not, sighed not. O father,
She was past that, soft, tender, hunted thing;
But, as it seemed, confused from time to time,
She would half-turn her or to left or right
To follow other streets, doubting her way.
Then their base pikes they basely thrust at her,
And, like one dazed, obedient to her guides
She came; I knew not if 't was present to her
That death was her near goal; she was so lost,
And set apart from any power to think.
But her mouth pouted as one brooding, father,
Over a lifetime of forlorn fear. No,
Scarce was it fear; so looks a timid child
(Not more affrighted; ah! but not so pale)
That has been scolded or has lost its way.
Mother and father--father and mother kind,
She was alone, where were you hidden? Alone,
And I that loved her more, or feared death less,
Rushed to her side, but quickly was flung back,
And cast behind o' the pikemen following her
Into a yelling and a cursing crowd.
That bristled thick with monks and hooded friars;
Moreover, women with their cheeks ablaze,
Who swarmed after up the narrowing street.
Pitiful heaven! I knew she did not hear
In that last hour the cursing, nor the foul
Words; she had never heard like words, sweet soul,
In her life blameless; even at that pass,
That dreadful pass, I felt it had been worse,
Though nought I longed for as for death, to know
She did. She saw not 'neath their hoods those eyes
Soft, glittering, with a lust for cruelty;
Secret delight, that so great cruelty,
All in the sacred name of Holy Church,
Their meed to look on it should be anon.
Speak! O, I tell you this thing passeth word!
From roofs and oriels high, women looked down;
Men, maidens, children, and a fierce white sun
Smote blinding splinters from all spears aslant.
Lo! next a stand, so please you, certain priests
(May God forgive men sinning at their ease),
Whose duty 't was to look upon this thing,
Being mindful of thick pungent smoke to come,
Had caused a stand to rise hard by the stake,
Upon its windward side.
My life! my love!
She utter'd one sharp cry of mortal dread
While they did chain her. This thing passeth words,
Albeit told out for ever in my soul.
As the torch touched, thick volumes of black reek
Rolled out and raised the wind, and instantly
Long films of flaxen hair floated aloft,
Settled alow, in drifts upon the crowd.
The vile were merciful; heaped high, my dear,
Thou didst not suffer long. O! it was soon,
Soon over, and I knew not any more,
Till grovelling on the ground, beating my head,
I heard myself, and scarcely knew 't was I,
At Holy Church railing with fierce mad words,
Crying and craving for a stake, for me.
While fast the folk, as ever, such a work
Being over, fled, and shrieked 'A heretic!
More heretics; yon ashes smoking still.'
And up and almost over me came on
A robed--ecclesiastic--with his train
(I choose the words lest that they do some wrong)
Call him a robed ecclesiastic proud.
And I lying helpless, with my bruised face
Beat on his garnished shoon. But he stepped back,
Spurned me full roughly with them, called the pikes,
Delivering orders, 'Take the bruised wretch.
He raves. Fool! thou'lt hear more of this anon.
Bestow him there.' He pointed to a door.
With that some threw a cloth upon my face
Because it bled. I knew they carried me
Within his home, and I was satisfied;
Willing my death. Was it an abbey door?
Was 't entrance to a palace? or a house
Of priests? I say not, nor if abbot he,
Bishop or other dignity; enough
That he so spake. 'Take in the bruised wretch.'
And I was borne far up a turret stair
Into a peaked chamber taking form
O' the roof, and on a pallet bed they left
Me miserable. Yet I knew forsooth,
Left in my pain, that evil things were said
Of that same tower; men thence had disappeared,
Suspect of heresy had disappeared,
Deliver'd up, 't was whisper'd, tried and burned.
So be it methought, I would not live, not I.
But none did question me. A beldame old,
Kind, heedless of my sayings, tended me.
I raved at Holy Church and she was deaf,
And at whose tower detained me, she was dumb.
So had I food and water, rest and calm.
Then on the third day I rose up and sat
On the side of my low bed right melancholy,
All that high force of passion overpast,
I sick with dolourous thought and weak through tears
Spite of myself came to myself again
(For I had slept), and since I could not die
Looked through the window three parts overgrown
With leafage on the loftiest ivy ropes,
And saw at foot o' the rise another tower
In roof whereof a grating, dreary bare.
Lifetimes gone by, long, slow, dim, desolate,
I knew even there had been my lost love's cell.
So musing on the man that with his foot
Spurned me, the robed ecclesiastic stern,
'Would he had haled me straight to prison' methought,
'So made an end at once.'
My sufferings rose
Like billows closing over, beating down;
Made heavier far because of a stray, strange,
Sweet hope that mocked me at the last.
'T was thus,
I came from Oxford secretly, the news
Terrible of her danger smiting me,--
She was so young, and ever had been bred
With whom 't was made a peril now to name.
There had been worship in the night; some stole
To a mean chapel deep in woods, and heard
Preaching, and prayed. She, my betrothed, was there.
Father and mother, mother and father kind,
So young, so innocent, had ye no ruth,
No fear, that ye did bring her to her doom?
I know the chiefest Evil One himself
Sanded that floor. Their footsteps marking it
Betrayed them. How all came to pass let be.
Parted, in hiding some, other in thrall,
Father and mother, mother and father kind,
It may be yet ye know not this--not all.
I in the daytime lying perdue looked up
At the castle keep impregnable,--no foot
How rash so e'er might hope to scale it. Night
Descending, come I near, perplexedness,
Contempt of danger, to the door o' the keep
Drawing me. There a short stone bench I found,
And bitterly weeping sat and leaned my head
Against the hopeless hated massiveness
Of that detested hold. A lifting moon
Had made encroachment on the dark, but deep
Was shadow where I leaned. Within a while
I was aware, but saw no shape, of one
Who stood beside me, a dark shadow tall.
I cared not, disavowal mattered nought
Of grief to one so out of love with life.
But after pause I felt a hand let down
That rested kindly, firmly, a man's hand,
Upon my shoulder; there was cheer in it.
And presently a voice clear, whispering, low,
With pitifulness that faltered, spoke to me.
Was I, it asked, true son of Mother Church?
Coldly I answer'd 'Ay;' then blessed words
That danced into mine ears more excellent
Music than wedding bells had been were said,
With certitude that I might see my maid,
My dear one. He would give a paper, he
The man beside me. 'Do thy best endeavour,
Dear youth. Thy maiden being a right sweet child
Surely will hearken to thee; an she do,
And will recant, fair faultless heretic,
Whose knowledge is but scant of matters high
Which hard men spake on with her, hard men forced
From her mouth innocent, then shall she come
Before me; have good cheer, all may be well.
But an she will not she must burn, no power--
Not Solomon the Great on 's ivory throne
With all his wisdom could find out a way,
Nor I nor any to save her, she must burn.
Now hast thou till day dawn. The Mother of God
Speed thee.' A twisted scroll he gave; himself
Knocked at the door behind, and he was gone,
A darker pillar of darkness in the dark.
Straightway one opened and I gave the scroll.
He read, then thrust it in his lanthorn flame
Till it was ashes; 'Follow' and no more
Whisper'd, went up the giddy spiring way,
I after, till we reached the topmost door.
Then took a key, opened, and crying 'Delia,
Delia my sweetheart, I am come, I am come,'
I darted forward and he locked us in.
Two figures; one rose up and ran to me
Along the ladder of moonlight on the floor,
Fell on my neck. Long time we kissed and wept.
But for that other, while she stood appeased
For cruel parting past, locked in mine arms,
I had been glad, expecting a good end.
The cramped pale fellow prisoner; 'Courage' cried.
Then Delia lifting her fair face, the moon
Did show me its incomparable calms.
Her effluent thought needed no word of mine,
It whelmed my soul as in a sea of tears.
The warm enchantment leaning on my breast
Breathed as in air remote, and I was left
To infinite detachment, even with hers
To take cold kisses from the lips of doom,
Look in those eyes and disinherit hope
From that high place late won.
Then murmuring low
That other spake of Him on the cross, and soft
As broken-hearted mourning of the dove,
She 'One deep calleth to another' sighed.
'The heart of Christ mourns to my heart, "Endure.
There was a day when to the wilderness
My great forerunner from his thrall sent forth
Sad messengers, demanding _Art thou He_?
Think'st thou I knew no pang in that strange hour?
How could I hold the power, and want the will
Or want the love? That pang was his--and mine.
He said not, Save me an thou be the Son,
But only _Art thou He_? In my great way
It was not writ,--legions of Angels mine,
There was one Angel, one ordain'd to unlock
At my behest the doomed deadly door.
I could not tell him, tell not thee, why." Lord,
We know not why, but would not have Thee grieve,
Think not so deeply on 't; make us endure
For thy blest sake, hearing thy sweet voice mourn
"I will go forth, thy desolations meet,
And with my desolations solace them.
I will not break thy bonds but I am bound,
I feared. That speech deep furrows cut
In my afflicted soul. I whisper'd low,
'Thou wilt not heed her words, my golden girl.'
But Delia said not ought; only her hand
Laid on my cheek and on the other leaned
Her own. O there was comfort, father,
In love and nearness, e'en at the crack of doom.
Then spake I, and that other said no more,
For I appealed to God and to his Christ.
Unto the strait-barred window led my dear;
No table, bed, nor plenishing; no place
They had for rest: maugre two narrow chairs
By day, by night they sat thereon upright.
One drew I to the opening; on it set
My Delia, kneeled; upon its arm laid mine,
And prayed to God and prayed of her.
If you should ask e'en now, 'And art thou glad
Of what befell?' I could not say it, father,
I should be glad; therefore God make me glad,
Since we shall die to-morrow!
Think not sin,
O holy, harmless reverend man, to fear.
'T will be soon over. Now I know thou fear'st
Also for me, lest I be lost; but aye
Strong comfortable hope doth wrap me round,
A token of acceptance. I am cast
From Holy Church, and not received of thine;
But the great Advocate who knoweth all,
He whispers with me.
O my Delia wept
When I did plead; 'I have much feared to die,'
Answering. (The moonlight on her blue-black eyes
Fell; shining tears upon their lashes hung;
Fair showed the dimple that I loved; so young,
So very young.) 'But they did question me
Straitly, and make me many times to swear,
To swear of all alas, that I believed.
Truly, unless my soul I would have bound
With false oaths--difficult, innumerous, strong,
Way was not left me to get free.
Said she, I am happy; I have seen the place
Where I am going.
I will tell it you,
Love, Hubert. Do not weep; they said to me
That you would come, and it would not be long.
Thus was it, being sad and full of fear,
I was crying in the night; and prayed to God
And said, "I have not learned high things;" and said
To the Saviour, "Do not be displeased with me,
I am not crying to get back and dwell
With my good mother and my father fond,
Nor even with my love, Hubert--my love,
Hubert; but I am crying because I fear
Mine answers were not rightly given--so hard
Those questions. If I did not understand,
Wilt thou forgive me?" And the moon went down
While I did pray, and looking on the floor,
Behold a little diamond lying there,
So small it might have dropped from out a ring.
I could but look! The diamond waxed--it grew--
It was a diamond yet, and shot out rays,
And in the midst of it a rose-red point;
It waxed till I might see the rose-red point
Was a little Angel 'mid those oval rays,
With a face sweet as the first kiss, O love,
You gave me, and it meant that self-same thing.
Now was it tall as I, among the rays
Standing; I touched not. Through the window drawn,
This barred and narrow window,--but I know
Nothing of how, we passed, and seemed to walk
Upon the air, till on the roof we sat.
It spoke. The sweet mouth did not move, but all
The Angel spoke in strange words full and old,
It was my Angel sent to comfort me
With a message, and the message, "I might come,
And myself see if He forgave me." Then
Deliver'd he admonition, "Afterwards
I must return and die." But I being dazed,
Confused with love and joy that He so far
Did condescend, "Ay, Eminence," replied,
"Is the way great?" I knew not what I said.
The Angel then, "I know not far nor near,
But all the stars of God this side it shine."
And I forgetful wholly for this thing
My soul did pant in--a rapture and a pain,
So great as they would melt it quite away
To a vanishing like mist when sultry rays
Shot from the daystar reckon with it--I
Said in my simpleness, "But is there time?
For in three days I am to burn, and O
I would fain see that he forgiveth first.
Pray you make haste." "I know not haste," he said;
"I was not fashioned to be thrall of time.
What is it?" And I marvelled, saw outlying,
Shaped like a shield and of dimensions like
An oval in the sky beyond all stars,
And trembled with foreknowledge. We were bound
To that same golden holy hollow. I
Misdoubted how to go, but we were gone.
I set off wingless, walking empty air
Beside him. In a moment we were caught
Among thick swarms of lost ones, evil, fell
Of might, only a little less than gods,
And strong enough to tear the earth to shreds,
Set shoulders to the sun and rend it out
O' its place. Their wings did brush across my face,
Yet felt I nought; the place was vaster far
Than all this wholesome pastoral windy world.
Through it we spinning, pierced to its far brink,
Saw menacing frowns and we were forth again.
Time has no instant for the reckoning ought
So sudden; 't was as if a lightning flash
Threw us within it, and a swifter flash,
We riding harmless down its swordlike edge,
Shot us fast forth to empty nothingness.
All my soul trembled, and my body it seemed
Pleaded than such a sight rather to faint
To the last silence, and the eery grave
Inhabit, and the slow solemnities
Of dying faced, content me with my shroud.
And yet was lying athwart the morning star
That shone in front, that holy hollow; yet
It loomed, as hung atilt towards the world,
That in her time of sleep appeared to look
Up to it, into it.
We, though I wept,
Fearing and longing, knowing not how to go,
My heart gone first, both mine eyes dedicate
To its all-hallowed sweet desired gold,
We on the empty limitless abyss
Walked slowly. It was far;
And I feared much,
For lo! when I looked down deep under me
The little earth was such a little thing,
How in the vasty dark find her again?
The crescent moon a moored boat hard by,
Did wait on her and touch her ragged rims
With a small gift of silver.
Love! my life!
Hubert, while I yet wept, O we were there.
A menai of Angels first, a swarm of stars
Took us among them (all alive with stars
Shining and shouting each to each that place),
The feathered multitude did lie so thick
We walked upon them, walked on outspread wings,
And the great gates were standing open.
The country is not what you think; but oh!
When you have seen it nothing else contents.
The voice, the vision was not what you think--
But oh! it was all. It was the meaning of life,
Excellent consummation of desires
For ever, let into the heart with pain
Most sweet. That smile did take the feeding soul
Deeper and deeper into heaven. The sward
(For I had bowed my face on it) I found
Grew in my spirit's longed for native land--
At last I was at home.'
And here she paused:
I must needs weep. I have not been in heaven,
Therefore she could not tell me what she heard,
Therefore she might not tell me what she saw,
Only I understood that One drew near
Who said to her she should e'en come, 'Because,'
Said He, 'My Father loves Me. I will ask
He send, a guiding Angel for My sake,
Since the dark way is long, and rough, and hard,
So that I shall not lose whom I love--thee.'
Other words wonderful of things not known,
When she had uttered, I gave hope away,
Cried out, and took her in despairing arms,
Asking no more. Then while the comfortless
Dawn till night fainted grew, alas! a key
That with abhorred jarring probed the door.
We kissed, we looked, unlocked our arms. She sighed
'Remember,' 'Ay, I will remember. What?'
'To come to me.' Then I, thrust roughly forth--
I, bereft, dumb, forlorn, unremedied
My hurt for ever, stumbled blindly down,
And the great door was shut behind and chained.
The weird pathetic scarlet of day dawning,
More kin to death of night than birth of morn,
Peered o'er yon hill bristling with spires of pine.
I heard the crying of the men condemned,
Men racked, that should be martyr'd presently,
And my great grief met theirs with might; I held
All our poor earth's despairs in my poor breast,
The choking reek, the faggots were all mine.
Ay, and the partings they were all mine--mine.
Father, it will be very good methinks
To die so, to die soon. It doth appease
The soul in misery for its fellows, when
There is no help, to suffer even as they.
Father, when I had lost her, when I sat
After my sickness on the pallet bed,
My forehead dropp'd into my hand, behold
Some one beside me. A man's hand let down
With that same action kind, compassionate,
Upon my shoulder. And I took the hand
Between mine own, laying my face thereon.
I knew this man for him who spoke with me,
Letting me see my Delia. I looked up.
Lo! lo! the robed ecclesiastic proud,
He and this other one. Tell you his name?
Am I a fiend? No, he was good to me,
Almost he placed his life in my hand.
He with good pitying words long talked to me,
'Did I not strive to save her?' 'Ay,' quoth I.
'But sith it would not be, I also claim
Death, burning; let me therefore die--let me.
I am wicked, would be heretic, but, faith,
I know not how, and Holy Church I hate.
She is no mother of mine, she slew my love.'
What answer? 'Peace, peace, thou art hard on me.
Favour I forfeit with the Mother of God,
Lose rank among the saints, foresee my soul
Drenched in the unmitigated flame, and take
My payment in the lives snatched at all risk
From battling in it here. O, an thou turn
And tear from me, lost to that other world
My heart's reward in this, I am twice lost;
Now have I doubly failed.'
Father, I know
The Church would rail, hound forth, disgrace, try, burn,
Make his proud name, discover'd, infamy,
Tread underfoot his ashes, curse his soul.
But God is greater than the Church. I hope
He shall not, for that he loved men, lose God.
I hope to hear it said 'Thy sins are all
Forgiven; come in, thou hast done well.'
My chronicle comes down to its last page.
'Is not life sweet?' quoth he, and comforted
My sick heart with good words, 'duty' and 'home.'
Then took me at moonsetting down the stair
To the dark deserted midway of the street,
Gave me a purse of money, and his hand
Laid on my shoulder, holding me with words
A father might have said, bad me God speed,
So pushed me from him, turned, and he was gone.
There was a Pleiad lost; where is she now?
None knoweth,--O she reigns, it is my creed,
Otherwhere dedicate to making day.
The God of Gods, He doubtless looked to that
Who wasteth never ought He fashioned.
I have no vision, but where vision fails
Faith cheers, and truly, truly there is need,
The god of this world being so unkind.
O love! My girl for ever to the world
Wanting. Lost, not that any one should find,
But wasted for the sake of waste, and lost
For love of man's undoing, of man's tears,
By envy of the evil one; I mourn
For thee, my golden girl, I mourn, I mourn.
He set me free. And it befell anon
That I must imitate him. Then 't befell
That on the holy Book I read, and all,
The mediating Mother and her Babe,
God and the Church, and man and life and death,
And the dark gulfs of bitter purging flame,
Did take on alteration. Like a ship
Cast from her moorings, drifting from her port,
Not bound to any land, not sure of land,
My dull'd soul lost her reckoning on that sea
She sailed, and yet the voyage was nigh done.
This God was not the God I had known; this Christ
Was other. O, a gentler God, a Christ--
By a mother and a Father infinite--
In distance each from each made kin to me.
Blest Sufferer on the rood; but yet, I say
Other. Far gentler, and I cannot tell,
Father, if you, or she, my golden girl,
Or I, or any aright those mysteries read.
I cannot fathom them. There is not time,
So quickly men condemned me to this cell.
I quarrell'd not so much with Holy Church
For that she taught, as that my love she burned.
I die because I hid her enemies,
And read the Book.
But O, forgiving God,
I do elect to trust thee. I have thought,
What! are there set between us and the sun
Millions of miles, and did He like a tent
Rear up yon vasty sky? Is heaven less wide?
And dwells He there, but for His winged host,
Almost alone? Truly I think not so;
He has had trouble enough with this poor world
To make Him as an earthly father would,
Love it and value it more.
He did not give
So much to have us with Him, and yet fail.
And now He knows I would believe e'en so
As pleaseth Him, an there was time to learn
Or certitude of heart; but time fails, time.
He knoweth also 't were a piteous thing
Not to be sure of my love's welfare--not
To see her happy and good in that new home.
Most piteous. I could all forego but this.
O let me see her, Lord.
What, also I!
White ashes and a waft of vapour--I
To flutter on before the winds. No, no.
And yet for ever ay--my flesh shall hiss
And I shall hear 't. Dreadful, unbearable!
Is it to-morrow?
Ay, indeed, indeed,
To-morrow. But my moods are as great waves
That rise and break and thunder down on me,
And then fall'n back sink low.
I have waked long
And cannot hold my thoughts upon th' event;
They slip, they wander forth.
How the dusk grows.
This is the last moonrising we shall see.
Methought till morn to pray, and cannot pray.
Where is mine Advocate? let Him say all
And more was in my mind to say this night,
Because to-morrow--Ah! no more of that,
The tale is told. Father, I fain would sleep.
Truly my soul is silent unto God.
A VINE-ARBOUR IN THE FAR WEST.
Laura, my Laura! 'Yes, mother!' 'I want you, Laura; come down.'
'What is it, mother--what, dearest? O your loved face how it pales!
You tremble, alas and alas--you heard bad news from the town?'
'Only one short half hour to tell it. My poor courage fails--
Laura.' 'Where's Ronald?--O anything else but Ronald!' 'No, no,
Not Ronald, if all beside, my Laura, disaster and tears;
But you, it is yours to send them away, for you they will go,
One short half hour, and must it decide, it must for the years.
Laura, you think of your father sometimes?' 'Sometimes!' 'Ah, but how?'
'I think--that we need not think, sweet mother--the time is not yet,
He is as the wraith of a wraith, and a far off shadow now--
--But if you have heard he is dead?' 'Not that?' 'Then let me forget.'
'The sun is off the south window, draw back the curtain, my child.'
'But tell it, mother.' 'Answer you first what it is that you see.'
'The lambs on the mountain slope, and the crevice with blue ice piled.'
'Nearer.'--'But, mother!' 'Nearer!' 'My heifer she's lowing to me.'
'Nearer.' 'Nothing, sweet mother, O yes, for one sits in the bower.
Black the clusters hang out from the vine about his snow-white head,
And the scarlet leaves, where my Ronald leaned.' 'Only one half hour--
Laura'--'O mother, my mother dear, all known though nothing said.
O it breaks my heart, the face dejected that looks not on us,
A beautiful face--I remember now, though long I forgot.'
'Ay and I loved it. I love him to-day, and to see him thus!
Saying "I go if she bids it, for work her woe--I will not."
There! weep not, wring not your hands, but think, think with your heart
'Was he innocent, mother? If he was, I, sure had been told,
'He said so.' 'Ah, but they do.' 'And I hope--and long was his dole,
And all for the signing a name (if indeed he signed) for gold.'
'To find us again, in the far far West, where hid, we were free--
But if he was innocent--O my heart, it is riven in two,
If he goes how hard upon him--or stays--how harder on me,
For O my Ronald, my Ronald, my dear,--my best what of you!'
'Peace; think, my Laura--I say he will go there, weep not so sore.
And the time is come, Ronald knows nothing, your father will go,
As the shadow fades from its place will he, and be seen no more.'
'There 'll be time to think to-morrow, and after, but to-day, no.
I'm going down the garden, mother.' 'Laura!' 'I've dried my tears.'
'O how will this end!' 'I know not the end, I can but begin.'
'But what will you say?' 'Not "welcome, father," though long were those
But I'll say to him, "O my poor father, we wait you, come in."
LOVERS AT THE LAKE SIDE.
'And you brought him home.' 'I did, ay Ronald, it rested with me.'
'Love!' 'Yes.' 'I would fain you were not so calm.' 'I cannot weep. No.'
'What is he like, your poor father?' 'He is--like--this fallen tree
Prone at our feet, by the still lake taking on rose from the glow,
Now scarlet, O look! overcoming the blue both lake and sky,
While the waterfalls waver like smoke, then leap in and are not.
And shining snow-points of high sierras cast down, there they lie.'
'O Laura--I cannot bear it. Laura! as if I forgot.'
'No, you remember, and I remember that evening--like this
When we come forth from the gloomy Canyon, lo, a sinking sun.
And, Ronald, you gave to me your troth ring, I gave my troth kiss.'
'Give me another, I say that this makes no difference, none.
It hurts me keenly. It hurts to the soul that you thought it could.'
'I never thought so, my Ronald, my love, never thought you base.'
No, but I look for a nobler nobleness, loss understood,
Accepted, and not that common truth which can hold through disgrace.
O! we remember, and how ere that noon through deeps of the lake
We floating looked down and the boat's shadow followed on rocks below,
So clear the water. O all pathetic as if for love's sake
Our life that is but a fleeting shadow 't would under us show.
O we remember forget-me-not pale, and white columbine
You wreathed for my hair; because we remember this cannot be.
Ah! here is your ring--see, I draw it off--it must not be mine,
Put it on, love, if but for the moment and listen to me.
I look for the best, I look for the most, I look for the all
From you, it consoles this misery of mine, there is you to trust.
O if you can weep, let us weep together, tears may well fall
For that lost sunsetting and what it promised,--they may, they must.
Do you say nothing, mine own beloved, you know what I mean,
And whom.--To her pride and her love from YOU shall such blow be dealt...
...Silence uprisen, is like a presence, it comes us between...
As once there was darkness, now is there silence that may be felt.
Ronald, your mother, so gentle, so pure, and you are her best,
'T is she whom I think of, her quiet sweetness, her gracious way.
'How could she bear it?'--'Laura!' 'Yes, Ronald.' 'Let that matter rest.
You might give your name to my father's child?' 'My father's name. Ay,
Who died before it was soiled.' 'You mutter.' 'Why, love, are you here?'
'Because my mother fled forth to the West, her trouble to hide,
And I was so small, the lone pine forest, and tier upon tier,
Far off Mexican snowy sierras pushed England aside.'
'And why am I here?' 'But what did you mutter?' 'O pardon, sweet.
Why came I here and--my mother?' In truth then I cannot tell.'
'Yet you drew my ring from your finger--see--I kneel at your feet.'
'Put it on. 'T was for no fault of mine.' 'Love! I knew that full well.'
'And yet there be faults that long repented, are aye to deplore,
Wear my ring, Laura, at least till I choose some words I can say,
If indeed any word need be said.' 'No! wait, Ronald, no more;
What! is there respite? Give me a moment to think "nay" or "ay."
I know not, but feel there is. O pardon me, pardon me,--peace.
For nought is to say, and the dawn of hope is a solemn thing,
Let us have silence. Take me back, Ronald, full sweet is release.'
'Laura! but give me my troth kiss again.' 'And give me my ring.'
THE WHITE MOON WASTETH.
The white moon wasteth,
And cold morn hasteth
Athwart the snow,
The red east burneth
And the tide turneth,
And thou must go.
Think not, sad rover,
Their story all over
Who come from far--
Once, in the ages
Won goodly wages
Led by a star.
Once, for all duly
Guidance doth truly
Shine as of old,
Opens for me and thee
Her gates of gold.
Enter, thy star is out,
Traverse nor faint nor doubt
Earth's antres wild,
Thou shalt find good and rest
As found the Magi blest
That divine Child.
I clomb full high the belfry tower
Up to yon arrow-slit, up and away,
I said 'let me look on my heart's fair flower
In the walled garden where she doth play.'
My care she knoweth not, no nor the cause,
White rose, red rose about her hung,
And I aloft with the doves and the daws.
They coo and call to their callow young.
Sing, 'O an she were a white rosebud fair
Dropt, and in danger from passing feet,
'T is I would render her service tender,
Upraised on my bosom with reverence meet.'
Playing at the ball, my dearest of all,
When she grows older how will it be,
I dwell far away from her thoughts to-day
That heed not, need not, or mine or me.
Sing, 'O an my love were a fledgeling dove
That flutters forlorn o' her shallow nest,
'T is I would render her service tender,
And carry her, carry her on my breast.'
Uplifted and lone, set apart with our love
On the crest of a soft swelling down
Cloud shadows that meet on the grass at our feet
Sail on above Wendover town.
Wendover town takes the smile of the sun
As if yearning and strife were no more,
From her red roofs float high neither plaint neither sigh,
All the weight of the world is our own.
Would that life were more kind and that souls might have peace
As the wide mead from storm and from bale,
We bring up our own care, but how sweet over there
And how strange is their calm in the vale.
As if trouble at noon had achieved a deep sleep,
Lapped and lulled from the weariful fret,
Or shot down out of day, had a hint dropt away
As if grief might attain to forget.
Not if we two indeed had gone over the bourne
And were safe on the hills of the blest,
Not more strange they might show to us drawn from below,
Come up from long dolour to rest.
But the peace of that vale would be thine love and mine,
And sweeter the air than of yore,
And this life we have led as a dream that is fled
Might appear to our thought evermore.
'Was it life, was it life?' we might say ''twas scarce life,'
'Was it love? 'twas scarce love,' looking down,
'Yet we mind a sweet ray of the red sun one day
Low lying on Wendover town.
THE LOVER PLEADS.
When I had guineas many a one
Nought else I lacked 'neath the sun,
I had two eyes the bluest seen,
A perfect shape, a gracious mien,
I had a voice might charm the bale
From a two days widowed nightingale,
And if you ask how this I know
I had a love who told me so.
The lover pleads, the maid hearkeneth,
Her foot turns, his day darkeneth.
Love unkind, O can it be
'T was your foot false did turn from me.
The gear is gone, the red gold spent,
Favour and beauty with them went,
Eyes take the veil, their shining done,
Not fair to him is fair to none,
Sweet as a bee's bag 'twas to taste
His praise. O honey run to waste,
He loved not! spoiled is all my way
In the spoiling of that yesterday.
The shadows wax, the low light alters,
Gold west fades, and false heart falters.
The pity of it!--Love's a rover,
The last word said, and all over.
SONG IN THREE PARTS.
The white broom flatt'ring her flowers in calm June weather,
'O most sweet wear;
Forty-eight weeks of my life do none desire me,
Four am I fair,'
Quoth the brown bee
'In thy white wear
Four thou art fair.
Of honeyed snow
In scented air
The bee lines flow
Straight unto thee.
Great boon and bliss
All pure I wis,
And sweet to grow
Ay, so to give
That many live.
Now as for me,
I,' quoth the bee,
'Have not to give,
Through long hours sunny
Gathering I live:
Sailing sweet air
After my fare,
Bee-bread and honey.
In thy deep coombe,
O thou white broom,
Where no leaves shake,
Bent nor clover,
I a glad rover,
Thy calms partake,
While winds of might
From height to height
Go bodily over.
Till slanteth light,
And up the rise
Thy shadow lies,
A shadow of white,
Short is thy day?
Answer with 'Nay,'
Longer the hours
That wear thy flowers
Than all dull, cold
That gift withhold.
A long liver,
Thou by all showing
Art made, bestowing,
I envy not
Thy greater lot,
Nor thy white wear.
But, as for me,
I,' quoth the bee,
'Never am fair.'
The nightingale lorn of his note in darkness brooding
Deeply and long,
'Two sweet months spake the heart to the heart. Alas! all's over,
O lost my song.'
One in the tree,
'Hush now! Let be:
The song at ending
Left my long tending
Let be, let us go
Across the wan sea.
The little ones care not,
And I fare not
Amiss with thee.
Thou hast sung all,
This hast thou had.
Love, be not sad;
It shall befall
When the bush buddeth
And the bank studdeth--
Where grass is sweet
And damps do fleet,
Her delicate beds
With daisy heads
That the Stars Seven
Leaned down from heaven
Shall sparkling mark
In the warm dark
Thy most dear strain
Which ringeth aye true--
Piercing vale, croft
Dropt even as dew
With a sweet quest
To her on the nest
When damps we love
Fall from above.
"Art thou asleep?
Answer me, answer me,
Night is so deep
Thy right fair form
I cannot see;
Answer me, answer me,
Are the eggs warm?
Is't well with thee?"
Ay, this shall be
Ay, thou full fain
In the soft rain
Shalt sing again.'
A fair wife making her moan, despised, forsaken,
Her good days o'er;
'Seven sweet years of my life did I live beloved,
Then Echo woke--and spoke
'No more--no more,'
And a wave broke
On the sad shore
When Echo said
Nought else made reply,
Nor land, nor loch, nor sky
Did any comfort try,
But the wave spread
Echo's faint tone
All down the desolate shore,
'No more--no more.'
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