Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume II.
Part 5 out of 8
Echo--with a pause between!
And that pause?--a voice shall fill it--tones that blessed you daily,
Well beloved, but not sufficing, Sleepers, to awake you now,
Though so near he stand, that shadows from your trees may tremble lightly
On his book and on his brow!
Sleep then ever! Neither singing of sweet birds shall break your slumber,
Neither fall of dew, nor sunshine, dance of leaves, nor drift of snow,
Charm those dropt lids more to open, nor the tranquil bosoms cumber
With one care for things below!
It is something, the assurance, that _you_ ne'er shall feel like sorrow,
Weep no past and dread no future--know not sighing, feel not pain--
Nor a day that looketh forward to a mournfuller to-morrow--
"Clouds returning after rain!"
No, far off, the daylight breaketh, in its beams each soul awaketh:
"What though clouds," they sigh, "be gathered dark and stormy to the
Though the light our eyes forsaketh, fresh and sweet behold it breaketh
Into endless day for you!"
KATIE, AGED FIVE YEARS.
(ASLEEP IN THE DAYTIME.)
All rough winds are hushed and silent, golden light the meadow steepeth,
And the last October roses daily wax more pale and fair;
They have laid a gathered blossom on the breast of one who sleepeth
With a sunbeam on her hair.
Calm, and draped in snowy raiment she lies still, as one that dreameth,
And a grave sweet smile hath parted dimpled lips that may not speak;
Slanting down that narrow sunbeam like a ray of glory gleameth
On the sainted brow and cheek.
There is silence! They who watch her, speak no word of grief or wailing,
In a strange unwonted calmness they gaze on and cannot cease,
Though the pulse of life beat faintly, thought shrink back, and hope be
They, like Aaron, "hold their peace."
While they gaze on her, the deep bell with its long slow pauses soundeth;
Long they hearken--father--mother--love has nothing more to say:
Beating time to feet of Angels leading her where love aboundeth
Tolls the heavy bell this day.
Still in silence to its tolling they count over all her meetness
To lie near their hearts and soothe them in all sorrows and all fears;
Her short life lies spread before them, but they cannot tell her
Easily as tell her years.
Only daughter--Ah! how fondly Thought around that lost name lingers,
Oft when lone your mother sitteth, she shall weep and droop her head,
She shall mourn her baby-sempstress, with those imitative fingers,
Drawing out her aimless thread.
In your father's Future cometh many a sad uncheered to-morrow,
But in sleep shall three fair faces heavenly-calm towards him lean--
Like a threefold cord shall draw him through the weariness of sorrow,
Nearer to the things unseen.
With the closing of your eyelids close the dreams of expectation,
And so ends the fairest chapter in the records of their way:
Therefore--O thou God most holy--God of rest and consolation,
Be Thou near to them this day!
Be Thou near, when they shall nightly, by the bed of infant brothers,
Hear their soft and gentle breathing, and shall bless them on their
And shall think how coldly falleth the white moonlight on the others,
In their bed beneath the trees.
Be Thou near, when they, they _only_, bear those faces in remembrance,
And the number of their children strangers ask them with a smile;
And when other childlike faces touch them by the strong resemblance
To those turned to them erewhile.
Be Thou near, each chastened Spirit for its course and conflict nerving,
Let Thy voice say, "Father--mother--lo! thy treasures live above!
Now be strong, be strong, no longer cumbered over much with serving
At the shrine of human love."
Let them sleep! In course of ages e'en the Holy House shall crumble,
And the broad and stately steeple one day bend to its decline,
And high arches, ancient arches bowed and decked in clothing humble,
Creeping moss shall round them twine.
Ancient arches, old and hoary, sunny beams shall glimmer through them,
And invest them with a beauty we would fain they should not share,
And the moonlight slanting down them, the white moonlight shall imbue them
With a sadness dim and fair.
Then the soft green moss shall wrap you, and the world shall all forget
Life, and stir, and toil, and tumult unawares shall pass you by;
Generations come and vanish: but it shall not grieve nor fret you,
That they sin, or that they sigh.
And the world, grown old in sinning, shall deny her first beginning,
And think scorn of words which whisper how that all must pass away;
Time's arrest and intermission shall account a vain tradition,
And a dream, the reckoning day!
Till His blast, a blast of terror, shall awake in shame and sadness
Faithless millions to a vision of the failing earth and skies,
And more sweet than song of Angels, in their shout of joy and gladness,
Call the dead in Christ to rise!
Then, by One Man's intercession, standing clear from their transgression,
Father--mother--you shall meet them fairer than they were before,
And have joy with the Redeemed, joy ear hath not heard heart dreamed,
Ay for ever--evermore!
THE SNOWDROP MONUMENT (IN LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL).
Marvels of sleep, grown cold!
Who hath not longed to fold
With pitying ruth, forgetful of their bliss,
Those cherub forms that lie,
With none to watch them nigh,
Or touch the silent lips with one warm human kiss?
What! they are left alone
All night with graven stone,
Pillars and arches that above them meet;
While through those windows high
The journeying stars can spy,
And dim blue moonbeams drop on their uncovered feet?
O cold! yet look again,
There is a wandering vein
Traced in the hand where those white snowdrops lie.
Let her rapt dreamy smile
The wondering heart beguile,
That almost thinks to hear a calm contented sigh.
What silence dwells between
Those severed lips serene!
The rapture of sweet waiting breathes and grows.
What trance-like peace is shed
On her reclining head,
And e'en on listless feet what languor of repose!
Angels of joy and love
Lean softly from above
And whisper to her sweet and marvellous things;
Tell of the golden gate
That opened wide doth wait,
And shadow her dim sleep with their celestial wings.
Hearing of that blest shore
She thinks on earth no more,
Contented to forego this wintry land.
She has nor thought nor care
But to rest calmly there,
And hold the snowdrops pale that blossom in her hand.
But on the other face
Broodeth a mournful grace,
This had foreboding thoughts beyond her years,
While sinking thus to sleep
She saw her mother weep,
And could not lift her hand to dry those heart-sick tears.
Could not--but failing lay,
Sighed her young life away.
And let her arm drop down in listless rest,
Too weary on that bed
To turn her dying head,
Or fold the little sister nearer to her breast.
Yet this is faintly told
On features fair and cold,
A look of calm surprise, of mild regret,
As if with life oppressed
She turned her to her rest,
But felt her mother's love and looked not to forget.
How wistfully they close,
Sweet eyes, to their repose!
How quietly declines the placid brow!
The young lips seem to say,
"I have wept much to-day,
And felt some bitter pains, but they are over now."
Sleep! there are left below
Many who pine to go,
Many who lay it to their chastened souls,
That gloomy days draw nigh,
And they are blest who die,
For this green world grows worse the longer that she rolls.
And as for me I know
A little of her woe,
Her yearning want doth in my soul abide,
And sighs of them that weep,
"O put us soon to sleep,
For when we wake--with Thee--we shall be satisfied."
THE MEASURELESS GULFS OF AIR ARE FULL OF THEE.
"_In Him we live, and move, and have our being._"
The measureless gulfs of air are full of Thee:
Thou Art, and therefore hang the stars; they wait,
And swim, and shine in God who bade them be,
And hold their sundering voids inviolate.
A God concern'd (veil'd in pure light) to bless,
With sweet revealing of His love, the soul;
Toward things piteous, full of piteousness;
The Cause, the Life, and the continuing Whole.
He is more present to all things He made
Than anything unto itself can be;
Full-foliaged boughs of Eden could not shade
Afford, since God was also 'neath the tree.
Thou knowest me altogether; I knew not
Thy likeness till Thou mad'st it manifest.
There is no world but is Thy heaven; no spot
Remote; Creation leans upon Thy breast.
Thou art beyond all stars, yet in my heart
Wonderful whisperings hold Thy creature dumb;
I need no search afar; to me Thou art
Father, Redeemer, and Renewer--come.
THOU WERT FAR OFF AND IN THE SIGHT OF HEAVEN.
"_And fell on his neck, and kissed him._"
Thou wert far off, and in the sight of heaven
Dead. And thy Father would not this should be;
And now thou livest, it is all forgiven;
Think on it, O my soul, He kissed thee!
What now are gold and gear? thou canst afford
To cast them from thee at His sacred call,
As Mary, when she met her living Lord,
The burial spice she had prepared let fall.
O! what is death to life? One dead could well
Afford to waste his shroud, if he might wake;
Thou canst afford to waste the world, and sell
Thy footing in it, for the new world's sake.
What is the world? it is a waiting place,
Where men put on their robes for that above.
What is the new world? 'tis a Father's face
Beholden of His sons--the face of love.
THICK ORCHARDS ALL IN WHITE.
"_The time of the singing of birds is come._"
Thick orchards, all in white,
Stand 'neath blue voids of light,
And birds among the branches blithely sing,
For they have all they know;
There is no more, but so,
All perfectness of living, fair delight of spring.
Only the cushat dove
Makes answer as for love
To the deep yearning of man's yearning breast;
And mourneth, to his thought,
As in her notes were wrought
Fulfill'd in her sweet having, sense of his unrest.
Not with possession, not
With fairest earthly lot,
Cometh the peace assured, his spirit's quest;
With much it looks before,
With most it yearns for more;
And 'this is not our rest,' and 'this is not our rest.'
Give Thou us more. We look
For more. The heart that took
All spring-time for itself were empty still;
Its yearning is not spent
Nor silenced in content,
Till He that all things filleth doth it sweetly fill.
Give us Thyself. The May
Dureth so short a day;
Youth and the spring are over all too soon;
Content us while they last,
Console us for them past,
Thou with whom bides for ever life, and love, and noon.
SWEET ARE HIS WAYS WHO RULES ABOVE.
"_Though I take the wings of the morning_."
Sweet are His ways who rules above,
He gives from wrath a sheltering place;
But covert none is found from grace,
Man shall not hide himself from love.
What though I take to me the wide
Wings of the morning and forth fly,
Faster He goes, whoso care on high
Shepherds the stars and doth them guide.
What though the tents foregone, I roam
Till day wax dim lamenting me;
He wills that I shall sleep to see
The great gold stairs to His sweet home.
What though the press I pass before,
And climb the branch, He lifts his face;
I am not secret from His grace
Lost in the leafy sycamore.
What though denied with murmuring deep
I shame my Lord,--it shall not be;
For He will turn and look on me,
Then must I think thereon and weep.
The nether depth, the heights above,
Nor alleys pleach'd of Paradise,
Nor Herod's judgment-halls suffice:
Man shall not hide himself from love.
O NIGHT OF NIGHTS!
"_Let us now go even unto Bethlehem_."
O Night of nights! O night
Desired of man so long!
The ancient heavens fled forth in light
To sing thee thy new song;
And shooting down the steep,
To shepherd folk of old,
An angel, while they watch'd their sheep,
Set foot beside the fold.
Lo! while as like to die
Of that keen light he shed,
They look'd on his pure majesty,
Amazed, and sore bestead;
Lo! while with words of cheer
He bade their trembling cease,
The flocks of God swept sweetly near,
And sang to them of peace.
All on the hillside grass
That fulgent radiance fell,
So close those innocents did pass,
Their words were heard right well;
Among the sheep, their wings
Some folding, walk'd the sod
An order'd throng of shining things,
White, with the smile of God.
The waits of heaven to hear,
Oh! what it must have been!
Think, Christian people, think, and fear
For cold hearts, for unclean;
Think how the times go by,
How love and longing fail,
Think how we live and how we die,
As this were but a tale.
O tender tale of old,
Live in thy dear renown;
God's smile was in the dark, behold
That way His hosts came down;
Light up, great God, Thy Word,
Make the blest meaning strong,
As if our ears, indeed, had heard
The glory of their song.
It was so far away,
But Thou could'st make it near,
And all its living might display
And cry to it, "Be here,"
Here, in th' unresting town,
As once remote to them,
Who heard it when the heavens came down,
On pastoral Bethlehem.
It was so long ago,
But God can make it _now_,
And as with that sweet overflow,
Our empty hearts endow;
Take, Lord, those words outworn,
O! make them new for aye,
Speak--"Unto you a child is born,"
DEAR IS THE LOST WIFE TO A LONE MAN'S HEART.
"_I have loved thee with an everlasting love_."
Dear is the lost wife to a lone man's heart,
When in a dream he meets her at his door,
And, waked for joy, doth know she dwells apart,
All unresponsive on a silent shore;
Dearer, yea, more desired art thou--for thee
My divine heart yearns by the jasper sea.
More than the mother's for her sucking child;
She wants, with emptied arms and love untold,
Her most dear little one that on her smiled
And went; but more, I want Mine own. Behold,
I long for My redeem'd, where safe with Me
Twelve manner of fruits grow on th' immortal tree;
The tree of life that I won back for men,
And planted in the city of My God.
Lift up thy head, I love thee; wherefore, then,
Liest thou so long on thy memorial sod
Sleeping for sorrow? Rise, for dawn doth break--
I love thee, and I cry to thee "Awake."
Serve,--woman whom I love, ere noon be high,
Ere the long shadow lengthen at thy feet.
Work,--I have many poor, O man, that cry,
My little ones do languish in the street.
Love,--'tis a time for love, since I love thee.
Live,--'tis a time to live. Man, live in Me.
WEEPING AND WAILING NEEDS MUST BE.
"_Blessed are ye that weep now_."
Weeping and wailing needs must be
When Love His name shall disavow,
When christen'd men His wrath shall dree,
Who mercy scorn'd in this their day;
But what? He turns not yet away,
Not yet--not now.
Let me not, waken'd after sleep,
Behold a Judge with lowering brow,
The world must weep, and I must weep
Those sins that nail'd Thee on the tree,
Lord Jesu, of Thy clemency.
Let it be NOW.
Let us have weeping NOW for sin,
And not us only; let Thy tears
Avail the tears of many to win;
Weep with us, Jesu, kind art Thou;
We that have sinn'd many long years,
Let us weep NOW;
And then, waked up, behold Thy face,
Who did forgive us. See Thy brow--
Beautiful--learn Thy love and grace.
Then wilt Thou wipe away our tears,
And comfort in th' all-hallow'd spheres,
Them that weep now.
JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD.
"_Art Thou He that should come?_"
Jesus, the Lamb of God, gone forth to heal and bless.
Calm lie the desert pools in a fair wilderness;
Wind-shaken moves the reed, so moves His voice the soul,
Sick folk surprised of joy, wax when they hear it, whole.
Calm all His mastering might, calm smiles the desert waste;
Peace, peace, He shall not cry, nay, He shall not make haste;
Heaven gazes, hell beneath moved for Him, moans and stirs--
Lo, John lies fast in prison, sick for his messengers.
John, the forerunner, John, the desert's tameless son,
Cast into loathed thrall, his use and mission done;
John from his darkness sends a cry, but not a plea;
Not, "Hast Thou felt my need?" but only, "Art Thou He?"
Unspoken pines his hope, grown weak in lingering dole;
None know what pang that hour might pierce the Healer's soul;
Silence that faints to Him--but must e'en so be vain;
A word--the fetters fall--He will that word restrain.
Jesus, the Father's son, bound in a mighty plan,
Retired full oft in God, show'd not His mind to man;
Nor their great matters high His human lips confess;
He will His wonders work, and not make plain, but bless.
The bournes of His wide way kept secret from all thought,
Enring'd the outmost waste that evil power had wrought;
His measure none can take, His strife we are not shown,
Nor if He gathered then more sheaves than earth hath grown.
"John, from the Christ of God, an answer for all time,"
The proof of Sonship given in characters sublime;
Sad hope will He make firm, and fainting faith restore,
But yet with mortal eyes will see His face no more.
He bow'd His sacred head to exigence austere,
Unknown to us and dark, first piercings of the spear:
And to each martyr since 'tis even as if He said,
"Verily I am He--I live, and I was dead.
"The All-wise found a way--a dark way--dread, unknown;
I chose it, will'd it Mine, seal'd for My feet alone;
Thou canst not therein walk, yet thou hast part in Me,
I will not break thy bonds, but I am bound with thee.
"With thee and for thee bound, with thee and for thee given,
A mystery seal'd from hell, and wonder'd at in heaven;
I send thee rest at heart to love, and still believe;
But not for thee--nor Me--is found from death reprieve."
THOU HAST BEEN ALWAY GOOD TO ME.
"_He doeth all things well._"
Thou hast been alway good to me and mine
Since our first father by transgression fell.
Through all Thy sorest judgments love doth shine--
Lord, of a truth, Thou doest all things well.
Thou didst the food of immortality
Compass with flame, lest he thereto should win.
But what? his doom, yet eating of that tree,
Had been immortal life of shame and sin!
I would not last immortal in such wise;
Desired death, not life, is now my song.
Through death shall I go back to Paradise,
And sin no more--Sweet death, tarry not long!
One did prevail that closed gate to unseal,
Where yet th' immortalizing tree doth grow;
He shall there meet us, and once more reveal
The fruit of life, where crime is not, nor woe.
THOU THAT SLEEPEST NOT AFRAID.
"_Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ
shall give thee light_."
Thou that sleepest not afraid,
Men and angels thee upbraid;
Rise, cry, cry to God aloud,
Ere the swift hours weave thy shroud:
O, for Jesus' sake,
Thee full ill doth it beseem
Through the dark to drowse and dream;
In the dead-time of the night
Here is One can give thee light:
O, for Jesus' sake,
The year passeth--it and all
God shall take and shall let fall
Soon, into the whelming sea
Of His wide eternity:
O, for Jesus' sake,
Noiseless as the flakes of snow
The last moments falter and go;
The time-angel sent this way
Sweeps them like a drift away:
O, for Jesus' sake,
Loved and watch'd of heaven, for whom
The crowned Saviour there makes room,
Sleeper, hark! He calls thee, rise,
Lift thy head, and raise thine eyes!
Now, for Jesus' sake,
NOW WINTER PAST, THE WHITE-THORN BOWER.
"_Thy gentleness hath made me great_."
Now winter past, the white-thorn bower
Breaks forth and buds down all the glen;
Now spreads the leaf and grows the flower:
So grows the life of God, in men.
Oh, my child-God, most gentle King,
To me Thy waxing glory show;
Wake in my heart as wakes the spring,
Grow as the leaf and lily grow.
I was a child, when Thou a child
Didst make Thyself again to me;
And holy, harmless, undefiled,
Play'd at Thy mother Mary's knee.
Thou gav'st Thy pure example so,
The copy in my childish breast
Was a child's copy. I did know
God, made in childhood manifest.
Now I am grown, and Thou art grown
The God-man, strong to love, to will,
Who was alone, yet not alone,
Held in His Father's presence still.
Now do I know Thee for my cure,
My peace, the Absolver for me set;
Thy goings pass through deeps obscure,
But Thou with me art gentle yet.
Long-suffering Lord, to man reveal'd
As One that e'en the child doth wait,
Thy full salvation is my shield,
Thy gentleness hath made me great.
SUCH AS HAVE NOT GOLD TO BRING THEE.
"_Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house_."
Such as have not gold to bring Thee,
They bring thanks--Thy grateful sons;
Such as have no song to sing Thee,
Live Thee praise--Thy silent ones.
Such as have their unknown dwelling,
Secret from Thy children here,
Known of Thee, will Thee be telling
How Thy ways with them are dear.
None the place ordained refuseth,
They are one, and they are all
Living stones, the Builder chooseth
For the courses of His wall.
Now Thy work by us fulfilling,
Build us in Thy house divine;
Each one cries, "I, Lord, am willing,
Whatsoever place be mine."
Some, of every eye beholden,
Hewn to fitness for the height,
By Thy hand to beauty moulden,
Show Thy workmanship in light.
Other, Thou dost bless with station
Dark, and of the foot downtrod,
Sink them deep in the foundation--
Buried, hid with Christ in God.
A MORN OF GUILT, AN HOUR OF DOOM.
"_There was darkness_."
A Morn of guilt, an hour of doom--
Shocks and tremblings dread;
All the city sunk in gloom--
Thick darkness overhead.
An awful Sufferer straight and stark;
Mocking voices fell;
Tremblings--tremblings in the dark,
In heaven, and earth, and hell.
Groping, stumbling up the way,
They pass, whom Christ forgave;
They know not what they do--they say,
"Himself He cannot save.
On His head behold the crown
That alien hands did weave;
Let Him come down, let Him come down,
And we will believe!"
Fearsome dreams, a rending veil,
Cloven rocks down hurl'd;
God's love itself doth seem to fail
The Saviour of the world.
Dying thieves do curse and wail,
Either side is scorn;
Lo! He hangs while some cry "Hail!"
Of heaven and earth forlorn.
Still o'er His passion darkness lowers,
He nears the deathly goal;
But He shall see in His last hours
Of the travail of His soul;
Lo, a cry!--the firstfruits given
On the accursed tree--
"Dying Love of God in heaven,
Lord, remember me!"
By His sacrifice, foreknown
Long ages ere that day,
And by God's sparing of His own
Our debt of death to pay;
By the Comforter's consent,
With ardent flames bestow'd,
In this dear race when Jesus went
To make His mean abode--
By the pangs God look'd not on,
And the world dared not see;
By all redeeming wonders won
Through that dread mystery;--
Lord, receive once more the sigh
From the accursed tree--
"Sacred Love of God most high,
O remember me!"
MARY OF MAGDALA.
"_While it was yet dark_."
Mary of Magdala, when the moon had set,
Forth to the garden that was with night dews wet,
Fared in the dark--woe-wan and bent was she,
'Neath many pounds' weight of fragrant spicery.
Mary of Magdala, in her misery,
"Who shall roll the stone up from yon door?" quoth she;
And trembling down the steep she went, and wept sore,
Because her dearest Lord was, alas! no more.
Her burden she let fall, lo! the stone was gone;
Light was there within, out to the dark it shone;
With an angel's face the dread tomb was bright,
The which she beholding fell for sore affright.
Mary of Magdala, in her misery,
Heard the white vision speak, and did straightway flee;
And an idle tale seem'd the wild words she said,
And nought her heart received--nought was comforted.
"Nay," quoth the men He loved, when they came to see,
"Our eyes beheld His death, the Saint of Galilee;
Who have borne Him hence truly we cannot say;"
Secretly in fear, they turn'd and went their way.
Mary of Magdala, in her misery,
Follow'd to the tomb, and wept full bitterly,
Linger'd in the dark, where first the Lord was laid;
The white one spake again, she was no more afraid.
In a moment--dawn! solemn, and sweet, and clear,
Kneeling, yet she weeps, and some one stands anear;
Asketh of her grief--she, all her thoughts are dim,
"If thou hast borne Him hence, tell me," doth answer Him.
"Mary," He saith, no more, shades of night have fled
Under dewy leaves, behold Him!--death is dead;
"Mary," and "O my Master," sorrow speeds away,
Sunbeams touch His feet this earliest Easter day.
After the pains of death, in a place unknown,
Trembling, of visions haunted, and all alone,
I too shall want Thee, Jesus, my hope, my trust,
Fall'n low, and all unclothed, even of my poor dust.
I, too, shall hear Thee speak, Jesus, my life divine;
And call me by my name, Lord, for I am Thine;
Thou wilt stand and wait, I shall so look and SEE,
In the garden of God, I SHALL look up--on THEE.
WOULD I, TO SAVE MY DEAR CHILD?
"_Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself._"
Would I, to save my dear child dutiful,
Dare the white breakers on a storm-rent shore?
Ay, truly, Thou all good, all beautiful,
Truly I would,--then truly Thou would'st more.
Would I for my poor son, who desolate
After long sinning, sued without my door
For pardon, open it? Ay, fortunate
To hear such prayer, I would,--Lord, Thou would'st more.
Would I for e'en the stranger's weariness
And want divide, albeit 'twere scant, my store?
Ay, and mine enemy, sick, shelterless,
Dying, I would attend,--O, Lord, Thou more.
In dust and ashes my long infamy
Of unbelief I rue. My love before
Thy love I set: my heart's discovery,
Is sweet,--whate'er I would, Thou wouldest more.
I was Thy shelterless, sick enemy,
And Thou didst die for me, yet heretofore
I have fear'd; now learn I love's supremacy,--
Whate'er is known of love, Thou lovest more.
AT ONE AGAIN.
Two angry men--in heat they sever,
And one goes home by a harvest field:--
"Hope's nought," quoth he, "and vain endeavor;
I said and say it, I will not yield!
"As for this wrong, no art can mend it,
The bond is shiver'd that held us twain;
Old friends we be, but law must end it,
Whether for loss or whether for gain.
"Yon stream is small--full slow its wending;
But winning is sweet, but right is fine;
And shoal of trout, or willowy bending--
Though Law be costly--I'll prove them mine.
"His strawberry cow slipped loose her tether,
And trod the best of my barley down;
His little lasses at play together
Pluck'd the poppies my boys had grown.
"What then?--Why naught! _She_ lack'd of reason;
And _they_--my little ones match them well:--
But _this_--Nay all things have their season,
And 'tis my season to curb and quell."
So saith he, when noontide fervors flout him,
So thinks, when the West is amber and red,
When he smells the hop-vines sweet about him,
And the clouds are rosy overhead.
While slender and tall the hop-poles going
Straight to the West in their leafy lines,
Portion it out into chambers, glowing,
And bask in red day as the sun declines.
Between the leaves in his latticed arbor
He sees the sky, as they flutter and turn,
While moor'd like boats in a golden harbor
The fleets of feathery cloudlets burn.
Withdrawn in shadow, he thinketh over
Harsh thoughts, the fruit-laden trees among,
Till pheasants call their young to cover,
And cushats coo them a nursery song.
And flocks of ducks forsake their sedges,
Wending home to the wide barn-door,
And loaded wains between the hedges
Slowly creep to his threshing floor--
Slowly creep. And his tired senses,
Float him over the magic stream,
To a world where Fancy recompenses
Vengeful thoughts, with a troubled dream!
III. THE DREAM.
What's this? a wood--What's that? one calleth,
Calleth and cryeth in mortal dread--
He hears men strive--then somewhat falleth!--
"Help me, neighbor--I'm hard bestead."
The dream is strong--the voice he knoweth--
But when he would run, his feet are fast,
And death lies beyond, and no man goeth
To help, and he says the time is past.
His feet are held, and he shakes all over,--
Nay--they are free--he has found the place--
Green boughs are gather'd--what is't they cover?--
"I pray you, look on the dead man's face;
"You that stand by," he saith, and cowers--
"Man, or Angel, to guard the dead
With shadowy spear, and a brow that lowers,
And wing-points reared in the gloom o'erhead.--
"I dare not look. He wronged me never.
Men say we differ'd; they speak amiss:
This man and I were neighbors ever--
I would have ventured my life for his.
"But fast my feet were--fast with tangles--
Ay! words--but they were not sharp, I trow,
Though parish feuds and vestry wrangles--
O pitiful sight--I see thee now!--
"If we fell out, 'twas but foul weather,
After long shining! O bitter cup,--
What--dead?--why, man, we play'd together--
Art dead--ere a friend can make it up?"
IV. THE WAKING.
Over his head the chafer hummeth,
Under his feet shut daisies bend:
Waken, man! the enemy cometh,
Thy neighbor, counted so long a friend.
He cannot waken--and firm, and steady,
The enemy comes with lowering brow;
He looks for war, his heart is ready,
His thoughts are bitter--he will not bow.
He fronts the seat,--the dream is flinging
A spell that his footsteps may not break,--
But one in the garden of hops is singing--
The dreamer hears it, and starts awake.
V. A SONG.
Walking apart, she thinks none listen;
And now she carols, and now she stops;
And the evening star begins to glisten
Atween the lines of blossoming hops.
Sweetest Mercy, your mother taught you
All uses and cares that to maids belong;
Apt scholar to read and to sew she thought you--
She did not teach you that tender song--
"The lady sang in her charmed bower,
Sheltered and safe under roses blown--
'_Storm cannot touch me, hail, nor shower,
Where all alone I sit, all alone.
"My bower! The fair Fay twined it round me,
Care nor trouble can pierce it through;
But once a sigh from the warm world found me
Between two leaves that were bent with dew.
"And day to night, and night to morrow,
Though soft as slumber the long hours wore,
I looked for my dower of love, of sorrow--
Is there no more--no more--no more?_'
"Give her the sun-sweet light, and duly
To walk in shadow, nor chide her part;
Give her the rose, and truly, truly--
To wear its thorn with a patient heart--
"Misty as dreams the moonbeam lyeth
Chequered and faint on her charmed floor;
The lady singeth, the lady sigheth--
'_Is there no more_--no more--no more!_'"
A crash of boughs!--one through them breaking!
Mercy is startled, and fain would fly,
But e'en as she turns, her steps o'ertaking,
He pleads with her--"Mercy, it is but I!"
"Mercy!" he touches her hand unbidden--
"The air is balmy, I pray you stay--
Mercy?" Her downcast eyes are hidden,
And never a word she has to say.
Till closer drawn, her prison'd fingers
He takes to his lips with a yearning strong;
And she murmurs low, that late she lingers,
Her mother will want her, and think her long.
"Good mother is she, then honor duly
The lightest wish in her heart that stirs;
But there is a bond yet dearer truly,
And there is a love that passeth hers.
"Mercy, Mercy!" Her heart attendeth--
Love's birthday blush on her brow lies sweet;
She turns her face when his own he bendeth,
And the lips of the youth and the maiden meet.
Move through the bowering hops, O lovers,--
Wander down to the golden West,--
But two stand mute in the shade that covers
Your love and youth from their souls opprest.
A little shame on their spirits stealing,--
A little pride that is loth to sue,--
A little struggle with soften'd feeling,--
And a world of fatherly care for you.
One says: "To this same running water,
May be, Neighbor, your claim is best."
And one--"Your son has kissed my daughter:
Let the matters between us--rest."
O fancy, if thou flyest, come back anon,
Thy fluttering wings are soft as love's first word,
And fragrant as the feathers of that bird,
Which feeds upon the budded cinnamon.
I ask thee not to work, or sigh--play on,
From nought that was not, was, or is, deterred;
The flax that Old Fate spun thy flights have stirred,
And waved memorial grass of Marathon.
Play, but be gentle, not as on that day
I saw thee running down the rims of doom
With stars thou hadst been stealing--while they lay
Smothered in light and blue--clasped to thy breast;
Bring rather to me in the firelit room
A netted halcyon bird to sing of rest.
One launched a ship, but she was wrecked at sea;
He built a bridge, but floods have borne it down;
He meant much good, none came: strange destiny,
His corn lies sunk, his bridge bears none to town,
Yet good he had not meant became his crown;
For once at work, when even as nature free,
From thought of good he was, or of renown,
God took the work for good and let good be.
So wakened with a trembling after sleep,
Dread Mona Roa yields her fateful store;
All gleaming hot the scarlet rivers creep,
And fanned of great-leaved palms slip to the shore,
Then stolen to unplumbed wastes of that far deep,
Lay the foundations for one island more.
Mountains of sorrow, I have heard your moans,
And the moving of your pines; but we sit high
On your green shoulders, nearer stoops the sky,
And pure airs visit us from all the zones.
Sweet world beneath, too happy far to sigh,
Dost thou look thus beheld from heavenly thrones?
No; not for all the love that counts thy stones,
While sleepy with great light the valleys lie.
Strange, rapturous peace! its sunshine doth enfold
My heart; I have escaped to the days divine,
It seemeth as bygone ages back had rolled,
And all the eldest past was now, was mine;
Nay, even as if Melchizedec of old
Might here come forth to us with bread and wine.
Like coral insects multitudinous
The minutes are whereof our life is made.
They build it up as in the deep's blue shade
It grows, it comes to light, and then, and thus
For both there is an end. The populous
Sea-blossoms close, our minutes that have paid
Life's debt of work are spent; the work is laid
Before our feet that shall come after us.
We may not stay to watch if it will speed,
The bard if on some luter's string his song
Live sweetly yet; the hero if his star
Doth shine. Work is its own best earthly meed,
Else have we none more than the sea-born throng
Who wrought those marvellous isles that bloom afar.
When I reflect how little I have done,
And add to that how little I have seen,
Then furthermore how little I have won
Of joy, or good, how little known, or been:
I long for other life more full, more keen,
And yearn to change with such as well have run--
Yet reason mocks me--nay, the soul, I ween,
Granted her choice would dare to change with none;
No,--not to feel, as Blondel when his lay
Pierced the strong tower, and Richard answered it--
No,--not to do, as Eustace on the day
He left fair Calais to her weeping lit--
No,--not to be, Columbus, waked from sleep
When his new world rose from the charmed deep.
Strange was the doom of Heracles, whose shade
Had dwelling in dim Hades the unblest,
While yet his form and presence sat a guest
With the old immortals when the feast was made.
Thine like, thus differs; form and presence laid
In this dim chamber of enforced rest,
It is the unseen "shade" which, risen, hath pressed
Above all heights where feet Olympian strayed.
My soul admires to hear thee speak; thy thought
Falls from a high place like an August star,
Or some great eagle from his air-hung rings--
When swooping past a snow-cold mountain scar--
Down he steep slope of a long sunbeam brought,
He stirs the wheat with the steerage of his wings.
ON THE BORDERS OF CANNOCK CHASE.
A cottager leaned whispering by her hives,
Telling the bees some news, as they lit down,
And entered one by one their waxen town.
Larks passioning hung o'er their brooding wives,
And all the sunny hills where heather thrives
Lay satisfied with peace. A stately crown
Of trees enringed the upper headland brown,
And reedy pools, wherein the moor-hen dives,
Glittered and gleamed.
A resting-place for light,
They that were bred here love it; but they say,
"We shall not have it long; in three years' time
A hundred pits will cast out fires by night,
Down yon still glen their smoke shall trail its way,
And the white ash lie thick in lieu of rime."
AN ANCIENT CHESS KING.
Haply some Rajah first in the ages gone
Amid his languid ladies fingered thee,
While a black nightingale, sun-swart as he,
Sang his one wife, love's passionate oraison;
Haply thou may'st have pleased Old Prester John
Among his pastures, when full royally
He sat in tent, grave shepherds at his knee,
While lamps of balsam winked and glimmered on.
What doest thou here? Thy masters are all dead;
My heart is full of ruth and yearning pain
At sight of thee; O king that hast a crown
Outlasting theirs, and tell'st of greatness fled
Through cloud-hung nights of unabated rain
And murmurs of the dark majestic town.
COMFORT IN THE NIGHT.
She thought by heaven's high wall that she did stray
Till she beheld the everlasting gate:
And she climbed up to it to long, and wait,
Feel with her hands (for it was night), and lay
Her lips to it with kisses; thus to pray
That it might open to her desolate.
And lo! it trembled, lo! her passionate
Crying prevailed. A little little way
It opened: there fell out a thread of light,
And she saw winged wonders move within;
Also she heard sweet talking as they meant
To comfort her. They said, "Who comes to-night
Shall one day certainly an entrance win;"
Then the gate closed and she awoke content.
THOUGH ALL GREAT DEEDS.
Though all great deeds were proved but fables fine,
Though earth's old story could be told anew,
Though the sweet fashions loved of them that sue
Were empty as the ruined Delphian shrine--
Though God did never man, in words benign,
With sense of His great Fatherhood endue,
Though life immortal were a dream untrue,
And He that promised it were not divine--
Though soul, though spirit were not, and all hope
Reaching beyond the bourne, melted away;
Though virtue had no goal and good no scope,
But both were doomed to end with this our clay--
Though all these were not,--to the ungraced heir
Would this remain,--to live, as though they were.
A SNOW MOUNTAIN.
Can I make white enough my thought for thee,
Or wash my words in light? Thou hast no mate
To sit aloft in the silence silently
And twin those matchless heights undesecrate.
Reverend as Lear, when, lorn of shelter, he
Stood, with his old white head, surprised at fate;
Alone as Galileo, when, set free,
Before the stars he mused disconsolate.
Ay, and remote, as the dead lords of song,
Great masters who have made us what we are,
For thou and they have taught us how to long
And feel a sacred want of the fair and far:
Reign, and keep life in this our deep desire--
Our only greatness is that we aspire.
(A WOMAN SPEAKS.)
O sleep, we are beholden to thee, sleep,
Thou bearest angels to us in the night,
Saints out of heaven with palms. Seen by thy light
Sorrow is some old tale that goeth not deep;
Love is a pouting child. Once I did sweep
Through space with thee, and lo, a dazzling sight--
Stars! They came on, I felt their drawing and might;
And some had dark companions. Once (I weep
When I remember that) we sailed the tide,
And found fair isles, where no isles used to bide,
And met there my lost love, who said to me,
_That 'twas a long mistake: he had not died_.
Sleep, in the world to come how strange 'twill be
Never to want, never to wish for thee!
(A MAN SPEAKS.)
Once, a new world, the sunswart marinere,
Columbus, promised, and was sore withstood,
Ungraced, unhelped, unheard for many a year;
But let at last to make his promise good.
Promised and promising I go, most dear,
To better my dull heart with love's sweet feud,
My life with its most reverent hope and fear,
And my religion, with fair gratitude.
O we must part; the stars for me contend,
And all the winds that blow on all the seas.
Through wonderful waste places I must wend,
And with a promise my sad soul appease.
Promise then, promise much of far-off bliss;
But--ah, for present joy, give me one kiss.
Who veileth love should first have vanquished fate.
She folded up the dream in her deep heart,
Her fair full lips were silent on that smart,
Thick fringed eyes did on the grasses wait.
What good? one eloquent blush, but one, and straight
The meaning of a life was known; for art
Is often foiled in playing nature's part,
And time holds nothing long inviolate.
Earth's buried seed springs up--slowly, or fast:
The ring came home, that one in ages past
Flung to the keeping of unfathomed seas:
And golden apples on the mystic trees
Were sought and found, and borne away at last,
Though watched of the divine Hesperides.
We are much bound to them that do succeed;
But, in a more pathetic sense, are bound
To such as fail. They all our loss expound;
They comfort us for work that will not speed,
And life--itself a failure.
Ay, his deed,
Sweetest in story, who the dusk profound
Of Hades flooded with entrancing sound,
Music's own tears, was failure. Doth it read
Therefore the worse? Ah, no! so much, to dare,
He fronts the regnant Darkness on its throne.--
So much to do; impetuous even there,
He pours out love's disconsolate sweet moan--
He wins; but few for that his deed recall:
Its power is in the look which costs him all.
A BIRTHDAY WALK.
(WRITTEN FOR A FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY.)
"_The days of our life are threescore years and ten_."
A birthday:--and a day that rose
With much of hope, with meaning rife--
A thoughtful day from dawn to close:
The middle day of human life.
In sloping fields on narrow plains,
The sheep were feeding on their knees
As we went through the winding lanes,
Strewed with red buds of alder-trees.
So warm the day--its influence lent
To flagging thought a stronger wing;
So utterly was winter spent,
So sudden was the birth of spring.
Wild crocus flowers in copse and hedge--
In sunlight, clustering thick below,
Sighed for the firwood's shaded ledge,
Where sparkled yet a line of snow.
And crowded snowdrops faintly hung
Their fair heads lower for the heat,
While in still air all branches flung
Their shadowy doubles at our feet.
And through the hedge the sunbeams crept,
Dropped through the maple and the birch;
And lost in airy distance slept
On the broad tower of Tamworth Church.
Then, lingering on the downward way,
A little space we resting stood,
To watch the golden haze that lay
Adown that river by the wood.
A distance vague, the bloom of sleep
The constant sun had lent the scene,
A veiling charm on dingles deep
Lay soft those pastoral hills between.
There are some days that die not out,
Nor alter by reflection's power,
Whose converse calm, whose words devout,
For ever rest, the spirit's dower.
And they are days when drops a veil--
A mist upon the distance past;
And while we say to peace--"All hail!"
We hope that always it shall last.
Times when the troubles of the heart
Are hushed--as winds were hushed that day--
And budding hopes begin to start,
Like those green hedgerows on our way:
When all within and all around
Like hues on that sweet landscape blend,
And Nature's hand has made to sound
The heartstrings that her touch attend:
When there are rays within, like those
That streamed through maple and through birch,
And rested in such calm repose
On the broad tower of Tamworth Church.
NOT IN VAIN I WAITED.
She was but a child, a child,
And I a man grown;
Sweet she was, and fresh, and wild,
And, I thought, my own.
What could I do? The long grass groweth,
The long wave floweth with a murmur on:
The why and the wherefore of it all who knoweth?
Ere I thought to lose her she was grown--and gone.
This day or that day in warm spring weather.
The lamb that was tame will yearn to break its tether.
"But if the world wound thee," I said, "come back to me,
Down in the dell wishing--wishing, wishing for thee."
The dews hang on the white may,
Like a ghost it stands,
All in the dusk before day
That folds the dim lands:
Dark fell the skies when once belated,
Sad, and sorrow-fated, I missed the sun;
But wake, heart, and sing, for not in vain I waited.
O clear, O solemn dawning, lo, the maid is won!
Sweet dews, dry early on the grass and clover,
Lest the bride wet her feet while she walks over;
Shine to-day, sunbeams, and make all fair to see:
Down the dell she's coming--coming, coming with me.
A GLEANING SONG.
"Whither away, thou little eyeless rover?
(Kind Roger's true)
Whither away across yon bents and clover,
Wet, wet with dew?"
"Roger here, Roger there--
Roger--O, he sighed,
Yet let me glean among the wheat,
Nor sit kind Roger's bride."
"What wilt thou do when all the gleaning's ended,
What wilt thou do?
The cold will come, and fog and frost-work blended
(Kind Roger's true)."
"Sleet and rain, cloud and storm,
When they cease to frown
I'll bind me primrose bunches sweet,
And cry them up the town."
"What if at last thy careless heart awaking
This day thou rue?"
"I'll cry my flowers, and think for all its breaking,
Kind Roger's true;
Roger here, Roger there,
O, my true love sighed,
Sigh once, once more, I'll stay my feet
And rest kind Roger's bride."
WITH A DIAMOND.
While Time a grim old lion gnawing lay,
And mumbled with his teeth yon regal tomb,
Like some immortal tear undimmed for aye,
This gem was dropped among the dust of doom.
Dropped, haply, by a sad, forgotten queen,
A tear to outlast name, and fame, and tongue:
Her other tears, and ours, all tears terrene,
For great new griefs to be hereafter sung.
Take it,--a goddess might have wept such tears,
Or Dame Electra changed into a star,
That waxed so dim because her children's years
In leaguered Troy were bitter through long war.
Not till the end to end grow dull or waste,--
Ah, what a little while the light we share!
Hand after hand shall yet with this be graced,
Signing the Will that leaves it to an heir.
Come away, the clouds are high,
Put the flashing needles by.
Many days are not to spare,
Or to waste, my fairest fair!
All is ready. Come to-day,
For the nightingale her lay,
When she findeth that the whole
Of her love, and all her soul,
Cannot forth of her sweet throat,
Sobs the while she draws her breath,
And the bravery of her note
In a few days altereth.
Come, ere she despond, and see
In a silent ecstasy
Chestnuts heave for hours and hours
All the glory of their flowers
To the melting blue above,
That broods over them like love.
Leave the garden walls, where blow
Apple-blossoms pink, and low
Ordered beds of tulips fine.
Seek the blossoms made divine
With a scent that is their soul.
These are soulless. Bring the white
Of thy gown to bathe in light
Walls for narrow hearts. The whole
Earth is found, and air and sea,
Not too wide for thee and me.
Not too wide, and yet thy face
Gives the meaning of all space;
And thine eyes, with starbeams fraught,
Hold the measure of all thought;
For of them my soul besought,
And was shown a glimpse of thine--
A veiled vestal, with divine
Solace, in sweet love's despair,
For that life is brief as fair.
Who hath most, he yearneth most,
Sure, as seldom heretofore,
Somewhere of the gracious more.
Deepest joy the least shall boast,
Asking with new-opened eyes
The remainder; that which lies
O, so fair! but not all conned--
O, so near! and yet beyond.
Come, and in the woodland sit,
Seem a wonted part of it.
Then, while moves the delicate air,
And the glories of thy hair
Little flickering sun-rays strike,
Let me see what thou art like;
For great love enthralls me so,
That, in sooth, I scarcely know.
Show me, in a house all green,
Save for long gold wedges' sheen,
Where the flies, white sparks of fire,
Dart and hover and aspire,
And the leaves, air-stirred on high,
Feel such joy they needs must sigh,
And the untracked grass makes sweet
All fair flowers to touch thy feet,
And the bees about them hum.
All the world is waiting. Come!
A WINTER SONG.
Came the dread Archer up yonder lawn--
Night is the time for the old to die--
But woe for an arrow that smote the fawn,
When the hind that was sick unscathed went by.
Father lay moaning, "Her fault was sore
(Night is the time when the old must die),
Yet, ah to bless her, my child, once more,
For heart is failing: the end is nigh."
"Daughter, my daughter, my girl," I cried
(Night is the time for the old to die),
"Woe for the wish if till morn ye bide"--
Dark was the welkin and wild the sky.
Heavily plunged from the roof the snow--
(Night is the time when the old will die),
She answered, "My mother, 'tis well, I go."
Sparkled the north star, the wrack flew high.
First at his head, and last at his feet
(Night is the time when the old should die),
Kneeling I watched till his soul did fleet,
None else that loved him, none else were nigh.
I wept in the night as the desolate weep
(Night is the time for the old to die),
Cometh my daughter? the drifts are deep,
Across the cold hollows how white they lie.
I sought her afar through the spectral trees
(Night is the time when the old must die),
The fells were all muffled, the floods did freeze,
And a wrathful moon hung red in the sky.
By night I found her where pent waves steal
(Night is the time when the old should die),
But she lay stiff by the locked mill-wheel,
And the old stars lived in their homes on high.
Hark! a lover binding sheaves
To his maiden sings,
Flutter, flutter go the leaves,
Larks drop their wings.
Little brooks for all their mirth
Are not blythe as he.
"Give me what the love is worth
That I give thee.
"Speech that cannot be forborne
Tells the story through:
I sowed my love in with the corn,
And they both grew.
Count the world full wide of girth,
And hived honey sweet,
But count the love of more worth
Laid at thy feet.
"Money's worth is house and land,
Velvet coat and vest.
Work's worth is bread in hand,
Ay, and sweet rest.
Wilt thou learn what love is worth?
Ah! she sits above,
Sighing, 'Weigh me not with earth,
Love's worth is love.'"
THE MARINER'S CAVE.
Once on a time there walked a mariner,
That had been shipwrecked;--on a lonely shore,
And the green water made a restless stir,
And a great flock of mews sped on before.
He had nor food nor shelter, for the tide
Rose on the one, and cliffs on the other side.
Brown cliffs they were; they seemed to pierce the sky,
That was an awful deep of empty blue,
Save that the wind was in it, and on high
A wavering skein of wild-fowl tracked it through.
He marked them not, but went with movement slow,
Because his thoughts were sad, his courage low.
His heart was numb, he neither wept nor sighed,
But wearifully lingered by the wave;
Until at length it chanced that he espied,
Far up, an opening in the cliff, a cave,
A shelter where to sleep in his distress,
And lose his sorrow in forgetfulness.
With that he clambered up the rugged face
Of that steep cliff that all in shadow lay,
And, lo, there was a dry and homelike place,
Comforting refuge for the castaway;
And he laid down his weary, weary head,
And took his fill of sleep till dawn waxed red.
When he awoke, warm stirring from the south
Of delicate summer air did sough and flow;
He rose, and, wending to the cavern's mouth,
He cast his eyes a little way below
Where on the narrow ledges, sharp and rude,
Preening their wings the blue rock-pigeons cooed.
Then he looked lower and saw the lavender
And sea-thrift blooming in long crevices,
And the brown wallflower--April's messenger,
The wallflower marshalled in her companies.
Then lower yet he looked adown the steep,
And sheer beneath him lapped the lovely deep.
The laughing deep;--and it was pacified
As if it had not raged that other day.
And it went murmuring in the morningtide
Innumerable flatteries on its way,
Kissing the cliffs and whispering at their feet
With exquisite advancement, and retreat.
This when the mariner beheld he sighed,
And thought on his companions lying low.
But while he gazed with eyes unsatisfied
On the fair reaches of their overthow,
Thinking it strange he only lived of all,
But not returning thanks, he heard a call!
A soft sweet call, a voice of tender ruth,
He thought it came from out the cave. And, lo,
It whispered, "Man, look up!" But he, forsooth,
Answered, "I cannot, for the long waves flow
Across my gallant ship where sunk she lies
With all my riches and my merchandise.
"Moreover, I am heavy for the fate
Of these my mariners drowned in the deep;
I must lament me for their sad estate
Now they are gathered in their last long sleep.
O! the unpitying heavens upon me frown,
Then how should I look up?--I must look down."
And he stood yet watching the fair green sea
Till hunger reached him; then he made a fire,
A driftwood fire, and wandered listlessly
And gathered many eggs at his desire,
And dressed them for his meal, and then he lay
And slept, and woke upon the second day.
Whenas he said, "The cave shall be my home;
None will molest me, for the brown cliffs rise
Like castles of defence behind,--the foam
Of the remorseless sea beneath me lies;
'Tis easy from the cliff my food to win--
The nations of the rock-dove breed therein.
"For fuel, at the ebb yon fair expanse
Is strewed with driftwood by the breaking wave,
And in the sea is fish for sustenance.
I will build up the entrance of the cave,
And leave therein a window and a door,
And here will dwell and leave it nevermore."
Then even so he did: and when his task,
Many long days being over, was complete,
When he had eaten, as he sat to bask
In the red firelight glowing at his feet,
He was right glad of shelter, and he said,
"Now for my comrades am I comforted."
Then did the voice awake and speak again;
It murmured, "Man, look up!" But he replied,
"I cannot. O, mine eyes, mine eyes are fain
Down on the red wood-ashes to abide
Because they warm me." Then the voice was still,
And left the lonely mariner to his will.
And soon it came to pass that he got gain.
He had great flocks of pigeons which he fed,
And drew great store of fish from out the main,
And down from eiderducks; and then he said,
"It is not good that I should lead my life
In silence, I will take to me a wife."
He took a wife, and brought her home to him;
And he was good to her and cherished her
So that she loved him; then when light waxed dim
Gloom came no more; and she would minister
To all his wants; while he, being well content,
Counted her company right excellent.
But once as on the lintel of the door
She leaned to watch him while he put to sea,
This happy wife, down-gazing at the shore,
Said sweetly, "It is better now with me
Than it was lately when I used to spin
In my old father's house beside the lin."
And then the soft voice of the cave awoke--
The soft voice which had haunted it erewhile--
And gently to the wife it also spoke,
"Woman, look up!" But she, with tender guile,
Gave it denial, answering, "Nay, not so,
For all that I should look on lieth below.
"The great sky overhead is not so good
For my two eyes as yonder stainless sea,
The source and yielder of our livelihood,
Where rocks his little boat that loveth me."
This when the wife had said she moved away,
And looked no higher than the wave all day.
Now when the year ran out a child she bore,
And there was such rejoicing in the cave
As surely never had there been before
Since God first made it. Then full, sweet, and grave,
The voice, "God's utmost blessing brims thy cup,
O, father of this child, look up, look up!"
"Speak to my wife," the mariner replied.
"I have much work--right welcome work 'tis true--
Another mouth to feed." And then it sighed,
"Woman, look up!" She said, "Make no ado,
For I must needs look down, on anywise,
My heaven is in the blue of these dear eyes."
The seasons of the year did swiftly whirl,
They measured time by one small life alone;
On such a day the pretty pushing pearl,
That mouth they loved to kiss had sweetly shown,
That smiling mouth, and it had made essay
To give them names on such another day.
And afterward his infant history,
Whether he played with baubles on the floor,
Or crept to pat the rock-doves pecking nigh,
And feeding on the threshold of the door,
They loved to mark, and all his marvellings dim,
The mysteries that beguiled and baffled him.
He was so sweet, that oft his mother said,
"O, child, how was it that I dwelt content
Before thou camest? Blessings on thy head,
Thy pretty talk it is so innocent,
That oft for all my joy, though it be deep,
When thou art prattling, I am like to weep."
Summer and winter spent themselves again,
The rock-doves in their season bred, the cliff
Grew sweet, for every cleft would entertain
Its tuft of blossom, and the mariner's skiff,
Early and late, would linger in the bay,
Because the sea was calm and winds away.
The little child about that rocky height,
Led by her loving hand who gave him birth,
Might wander in the clear unclouded light,
And take his pastime in the beauteous earth;
Smell the fair flowers in stony cradles swung,
And see God's happy creatures feed their young.
And once it came to pass, at eventide,
His mother set him in the cavern door,
And filled his lap with grain, and stood aside
To watch the circling rock-doves soar, and soar,
Then dip, alight, and run in circling bands,
To take the barley from his open hands.
And even while she stood and gazed at him,
And his grave father's eyes upon him dwelt,
They heard the tender voice, and it was dim,
And seemed full softly in the air to melt;
"Father," it murmured, "Mother," dying away,
"Look up, while yet the hours are called to-day."
"I will," the father answered, "but not now;"
The mother said, "Sweet voice, O speak to me
At a convenient season." And the brow
Of the cliff began to quake right fearfully,
There was a rending crash, and there did leap
A riven rock and plunge into the deep.
They said, "A storm is coming;" but they slept
That night in peace, and thought the storm had passed,
For there was not a cloud to intercept
The sacred moonlight on the cradle cast;
And to his rocking boat at dawn of day,
With joy of heart the mariner took his way.
But when he mounted up the path at night,
Foreboding not of trouble or mischance,
His wife came out into the fading light,
And met him with a serious countenance;
And she broke out in tears and sobbings thick,
"The child is sick, my little child is sick."
They knelt beside him in the sultry dark,
And when the moon looked in his face was pale,
And when the red sun, like a burning barque,
Rose in a fog at sea, his tender wail
Sank deep into their hearts, and piteously
They fell to chiding of their destiny.
The doves unheeded cooed that livelong day,
Their pretty playmate cared for them no more;
The sea-thrift nodded, wet with glistening spray,
None gathered it; the long wave washed the shore;
He did not know, nor lift his eyes to trace,
The new fallen shadow in his dwelling-place.
The sultry sun beat on the cliffs all day,
And hot calm airs slept on the polished sea,
The mournful mother wore her time away,
Bemoaning of her helpless misery,
Pleading and plaining, till the day was done,
"O look on me, my love, my little one.
"What aileth thee, that thou dost lie and moan?
Ah would that I might bear it in thy stead!"
The father made not his forebodings known,
But gazed, and in his secret soul he said,
"I may have sinned, on sin waits punishment,
But as for him, sweet blameless innocent,
"What has he done that he is stricken down?
O it is hard to see him sink and fade,
When I, that counted him my dear life's crown,
So willingly have worked while he has played;
That he might sleep, have risen, come storm, come heat,
And thankfully would fast that he might eat."
My God, how short our happy days appear!
How long the sorrowful! They thought it long,
The sultry morn that brought such evil cheer,
And sat, and wished, and sighed for evensong;
It came, and cooling wafts about him stirred,
Yet when they spoke he answered not a word.
"Take heart," they cried, but their sad hearts sank low
When he would moan and turn his restless head,
And wearily the lagging morns would go,
And nights, while they sat watching by his bed,
Until a storm came up with wind and rain,
And lightning ran along the troubled main.
Over their heads the mighty thunders brake,
Leaping and tumbling down from rock to rock,
Then burst anew and made the cliffs to quake
As they were living things and felt the shock;
The waiting sea to sob as if in pain,
And all the midnight vault to ring again.
A lamp was burning in the mariner's cave,
But the blue lightning flashes made it dim;
And when the mother heard those thunders rave,
She took her little child to cherish him;
She took him in her arms, and on her breast
Full wearily she courted him to rest,
And soothed him long until the storm was spent,
And the last thunder peal had died away,
And stars were out in all the firmament.
Then did he cease to moan, and slumbering lay,
While in the welcome silence, pure and deep,
The care-worn parents sweetly fell asleep.
And in a dream, enwrought with fancies thick,
The mother thought she heard the rock-doves coo
(She had forgotten that her child was sick),
And she went forth their morning meal to strew;
Then over all the cliff with earnest care
She sought her child, and lo, he was not there!
But she was not afraid, though long she sought
And climbed the cliff, and set her feet in grass,
Then reached a river, broad and full, she thought,
And at its brink he sat. Alas! alas!
For one stood near him, fair and undefiled,
An innocent, a marvellous man-child.
In garments white as wool, and O, most fair,
A rainbow covered him with mystic light;
Upon the warmed grass his feet were bare,
And as he breathed, the rainbow in her sight
In passions of clear crimson trembling lay,
With gold and violet mist made fair the day.
Her little life! she thought, his little hands
Were full of flowers that he did play withal;
But when he saw the boy o' the golden lands,
And looked him in the face, he let them fall,
Held through a rapturous pause in wistful wise
To the sweet strangeness of those keen child-eyes.
"Ah, dear and awful God, who chastenest me,
How shall my soul to this be reconciled!
It is the Saviour of the world," quoth she,
"And to my child He cometh as a child."
Then on her knees she fell by that vast stream--
Oh, it was sorrowful, this woman's dream!
For lo, that Elder Child drew nearer now,
Fair as the light, and purer than the sun.
The calms of heaven were brooding on his brow,
And in his arms He took her little one,
Her child, that knew her, but with sweet demur
Drew back, nor held his hands to come to her.
With that in mother misery sore she wept--
"O Lamb of God, I love my child so MUCH!
He stole away to Thee while we two slept,
But give him back, for Thou hast many such;
And as for me I have but one. O deign,
Dear Pity of God, to give him me again."
His feet were on the river. Oh, his feet
Had touched the river now, and it was great;
And yet He hearkened when she did entreat,
And turned in quietness as He would wait--
Wait till she looked upon Him, and behold,
There lay a long way off a city of gold.
Like to a jasper and a sardine stone,
Whelmed in the rainbow stood that fair man-child,
Mighty and innocent, that held her own,
And as might be his manner at home he smiled,
Then while she looked and looked, the vision brake,
And all amazed she started up awake.
And lo, her little child was gone indeed!
The sleep that knows no waking he had slept,
Folded to heaven's own heart; in rainbow brede
Clothed and made glad, while they two mourned and wept,
But in the drinking of their bitter cup
The sweet voice spoke once more, and sighed, "Look up!"
They heard, and straightway answered, "Even so:
For what abides that we should look on here?
The heavens are better than this earth below,
They are of more account and far more dear.
We will look up, for all most sweet and fair,
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