Poetical Works of George MacDonald, Vol. 2
Part 5 out of 9
Why should she take a part
In every selfish blot,
In every greedy spot
That now doth ache and smart
Because she loves thee not--
Not, not at all, poor heart!
Thou art no such dove-cot
Of virtues--no such chart
Of highways, though the dart
Of love be through thee shot!
Why should she not love not
Thee, poor, pinched, selfish heart?
Lord, hear my discontent: all blank I stand,
A mirror polished by thy hand;
Thy sun's beams flash and flame from me--
I cannot help it: here I stand, there he!
To one of them I cannot say,
Go, and on yonder water play;
Nor one poor ragged daisy can I fashion--
I do not make the words of this my limping passion!
If I should say, Now I will think a thought,
Lo, I must wait, unknowing
What thought in me is growing,
Until the thing to birth be brought!
Nor know I then what next will come
From out the gulf of silence dumb:
I am the door the thing will find
To pass into the general mind!
I cannot say _I think_--
I only stand upon the thought-well's brink:
From darkness to the sun the water bubbles up--
lift it in my cup.
Thou only thinkest--I am thought;
Me and my thought thou thinkest. Nought
Am I but as a fountain spout
From which thy water welleth out.
Thou art the only one, the all in all.--
Yet when my soul on thee doth call
And thou dost answer out of everywhere,
I in thy allness have my perfect share.
Some men there are who cannot spare
A single tear until they feel
The last cold pressure, and the heel
Is stamped upon the outmost layer.
And, waking, some will sigh to think
The clouds have borrowed winter's wing,
Sad winter, when the grasses spring
No more about the fountain's brink.
And some would call me coward fool:
I lay a claim to better blood,
But yet a heap of idle mud
Hath power to make me sorrowful.
_TO MY MOTHER EARTH_.
0 Earth, Earth, Earth,
I am dying for love of thee,
For thou hast given me birth,
And thy hands have tended me.
I would fall asleep on thy breast
When its swelling folds are bare,
When the thrush dreams of its nest
And the life of its joy in the air;
When thy life is a vanished ghost,
And the glory hath left thy waves,
When thine eye is blind with frost,
And the fog sits on the graves;
When the blasts are shivering about,
And the rain thy branches beats,
When the damps of death are out,
And the mourners are in the streets.
Oh my sleep should be deep
In the arms of thy swiftening motion,
And my dirge the mystic sweep
Of the winds that nurse the ocean.
And my eye would slowly ope
With the voice that awakens thee,
And runs like a glance of hope
Up through the quickening tree;
When the roots of the lonely fir
Are dipt in thy veining heat,
And thy countless atoms stir
With the gather of mossy feet;
When the sun's great censer swings
In the hands that always be,
And the mists from thy watery rings
Go up like dust from the sea;
When the midnight airs are assembling
With a gush in thy whispering halls,
And the leafy air is trembling
Like a stream before it falls.
Thy shadowy hand hath found me
On the drifts of the Godhead's will,
And thy dust hath risen around me
With a life that guards me still.
O Earth! I have caught from thine
The pulse of a mystic chase;
O Earth! I have drunk like wine
The life of thy swiftening race.
Wilt miss me, mother sweet,
A life in thy milky veins?
Wilt miss the sound of my feet
In the tramp that shakes thy plains
When the jaws of darkness rend,
And the vapours fold away,
And the sounds of life ascend
Like dust in the blinding day?
I would know thy silver strain
In the shouts of the starry crowd
When the souls of thy changing men
Rise up like an incense cloud.
I would know thy brightening lobes
And the lap of thy watery bars
Though space were choked with globes
And the night were blind with stars!
From the folds of my unknown place,
When my soul is glad and free,
I will slide by my God's sweet grace
And hang like a cloud on thee.
When the pale moon sits at night
By the brink of her shining well,
Laving the rings of her widening light
On the slopes of the weltering swell,
I will fall like a wind from the west
On the locks of thy prancing streams,
And sow the fields of thy rest
With handfuls of sweet young dreams.
When the sound of thy children's cry
Hath stricken thy gladness dumb,
I will kindle thine upward eye
With a laugh from the years that come.
Far above where the loud wind raves,
On a wing as still as snow
I will watch the grind of the curly waves
As they bite the coasts below;
When the shining ranks of the frost
Draw down on the glistening wold
In the mail of a fairy host,
And the earth is mossed with cold,
Till the plates that shine about
Close up with a filmy din,
Till the air is frozen out,
And the stars are frozen in.
I will often stoop to range
On the fields where my youth was spent,
And my feet shall smite the cliffs of change
With the rush of a steep descent;
And my glowing soul shall burn
With a love that knows no pall,
And my eye of worship turn
Upon him that fashioned all--
When the sounding waves of strife
Have died on the Godhead's sea,
And thy life is a purer life
That nurses a life in me.
Make not of thy heart a casket,
Opening seldom, quick to close;
But of bread a wide-mouthed basket,
Or a cup that overflows.
_0 LORD, HOW HAPPY!_
_From the German of Dessler._
O Lord, how happy is the time
When in thy love I rest!
When from my weariness I climb
Even to thy tender breast!
The night of sorrow endeth there--
Thou art brighter than the sun;
And in thy pardon and thy care
The heaven of heaven is won.
Let the world call herself my foe,
Or let the world allure--
I care not for the world; I go
To this dear friend and sure.
And when life's fiercest storms are sent
Upon life's wildest sea,
My little bark is confident
Because it holds by thee.
When the law threatens endless death
Upon the dreadful hill,
Straightway from her consuming breath
My soul goeth higher still--
Goeth to Jesus, wounded, slain,
And maketh him her home,
Whence she will not go out again,
And where death cannot come.
I do not fear the wilderness
Where thou hast been before;
Nay rather will I daily press
After thee, near thee, more!
Thou art my food; on thee I lean,
Thou makest my heart sing;
And to thy heavenly pastures green
All thy dear flock dost bring.
And if the gate that opens there
Be dark to other men,
It is not dark to those who share
The heart of Jesus then:
That is not losing much of life
Which is not losing thee,
Who art as present in the strife
As in the victory.
Therefore how happy is the time
When in thy love I rest!
When from my weariness I climb
Even to thy tender breast!
The night of sorrow endeth there--
Thou art brighter than the sun!
And in thy pardon and thy care
The heaven of heaven is won!
O Lord, if on the wind, at cool of day,
I heard one whispered word of mighty grace;
If through the darkness, as in bed I lay,
But once had come a hand upon my face;
If but one sign that might not be mistook
Had ever been, since first thy face I sought,
I should not now be doubting o'er a book,
But serving thee with burning heart and thought.
So dreams that heart. But to my heart I say,
Turning my face to front the dark and wind:
Such signs had only barred anew his way
Into thee, longing heart, thee, wildered mind.
They asked the very Way, where lies the way?
The very Son, where is the Father's face?
How he could show himself, if not in clay,
Who was the lord of spirit, form, and space!
My being, Lord, will nevermore be whole
Until thou come behind mine ears and eyes,
Enter and fill the temple of my soul
With perfect contact--such a sweet surprise,
Such presence as, before it met the view,
The prophet-fancy could not once foresee,
Though every corner of the temple knew
By very emptiness its need of thee.
When I keep _all_ thy words, no favoured some,
Heedless of worldly winds or judgment's tide,
Then, Jesus, thou wilt with thy father come--
Oh, ended prayers!--and in my soul abide.
Ah, long delay! ah, cunning, creeping sin!
I shall but fail, and cease at length to try:
O Jesus, though thou wilt not yet come in,
Knock at my window as thou passest by!
What dost thou here, O soul,
Beyond thy own control,
Under the strange wild sky?
0 stars, reach down your hands,
And clasp me in your silver bands,
I tremble with this mystery!--
Flung hither by a chance
Of restless circumstance,
Thou art but here, and wast not sent;
Yet once more mayest thou draw
By thy own mystic law
To the centre of thy wonderment.
Why wilt thou stop and start?
Draw nearer, oh my heart,
And I will question thee most wistfully;
Gather thy last clear resolution
To look upon thy dissolution.
The great God's life throbs far and free,
And thou art but a spark
Known only in thy dark,
Or a foam-fleck upon the awful ocean,
Thyself thy slender dignity,
Thy own thy vexing mystery,
In the vast change that is not change but motion.
'Tis not so hard as it would seem;
Thy life is but a dream--
And yet thou hast some thoughts about the past;
Let go, let go thy memories,
They are not things but wandering cries--
Wave them each one a long farewell at last:
I hear thee say--"Take them, O tide,
And I will turn aside,
Gazing with heedlessness, nay, even with laughter!
Bind me, ye winds and storms,
Among the things that once had forms,
And carry me clean out of sight thereafter!"
Thou hast lived long enough
To know thy own weak stuff,
Laughing thy fondest joys to utter scorn;
Give up the idle strife--
It is but mockery of life;
The fates had need of thee and thou wast born!
They are, in sooth, but thou shalt die.
O wandering spark! O homeless cry!
O empty will, still lacking self-intent!
Look up among the autumn trees:
The ripened fruits fall through the breeze,
And they will shake thee even like these
Into the lap of an Accomplishment!
Thou hadst a faith, and voices said:--
"Doubt not _that_ truth, but bend thy head
Unto the God who drew thee from the night:"
Thou liftedst up thy eyes--and, lo!
A host of voices answered--"No;
A thousand things as good have seen the light!"
Look how the swarms arise
From every clod before thy eyes!
Are thine the only hopes that fade and fall
When to the centre of its action
One purpose draws each separate fraction,
And nothing but effects are left at all?
Aha, thy faith! what is thy faith?
The sleep that waits on coming death--
A blind delirious swoon that follows pain.
"True to thy nature!"--well! right well!
But what that nature is thou canst not tell--
It has a thousand voices in thy brain.
Danced all the leaflets to and fro?
--Thy feet have trod them long ago!
Sprung the glad music up the blue?
--The hawk hath cut the song in two.
All the mountains crumble,
All the forests fall,
All thy brethren stumble,
And rise no more at all!
In the dim woods there is a sound
When the winds begin to moan;
It is not of joy or yet of mirth,
But the mournful cry of our mother Earth,
As she calleth back her own.
Through the rosy air to-night
The living creatures play
Up and down through the rich faint light--
None so happy as they!
But the blast is here, and noises fall
Like the sound of steps in a ruined hall,
An icy touch is upon them all,
And they sicken and fade away.
The child awoke with an eye of gladness,
With a light on his head and a matchless grace,
And laughed at the passing shades of sadness
That chased the smiles on his mother's face;
And life with its lightsome load of youth
Swam like a boat on a shining lake--
Freighted with hopes enough, in sooth,
But he lived to trample on joy and truth,
And change his crown for a murder-stake!
Oh, a ruddy light went through the room,
Till the dark ran out to his mother Night!
And that little chamber showed through the gloom
Like a Noah's ark with its nest of light!
Right glad was the maiden there, I wis,
With the youth that held her hand in his!
Oh, sweet were the words that went and came
Through the light and shade of the leaping flame
That glowed on the cheerful faces!
So human the speech, so sunny and kind,
That the darkness danced on the wall behind,
And even the wail of the winter wind
Sang sweet through the window-cases!
But a mournful wail crept round and round,
And a voice cried:--"Come!" with a dreary sound,
And the circle wider grew;
The light flame sank, and sorrow fell
On the faces of those that loved so well;
Darker and wilder grew the tone;
Fainter and fainter the faces shone;
The wild night clasped them, and they were gone--
And thou art passing too!
Lo, the morning slowly springs
Like a meek white babe from the womb of night!
One golden planet sits and stings
The shifting gloom with his point of light!
Lo, the sun on its throne of flame!
--Wouldst thou climb and win a crown?
Oh, many a heart that pants for the same
Falls to the earth ere he goes down!
Thy heart is a flower with an open cup--
Sit and watch, if it pleaseth thee,
Till the melting twilight fill it up
With a crystal of tender sympathy;
So, gently will it tremble
The silent midnight through,
And flocks of stars assemble
By turns in its depths of dew;--
But look! oh, look again!
After the driving wind and rain!
When the day is up and the sun is strong,
And the voices of men are loud and long,
When the flower hath slunk to its rest again,
And love is lost in the strife of men!
Let the morning break with thoughts of love,
And the evening fall with dreams of bliss--
So vainly panteth the prisoned dove
For the depths of her sweet wilderness;
So stoops the eagle in his pride
From his rocky nest ere the bow is bent;
So sleeps the deer on the mountain-side
Ere the howling pack hath caught the scent!
The fire climbs high till its work is done;
The stalk falls down when the flower is gone;
And the stars of heaven when their course is run
Melt silently away!
There was a footfall on the snow,
A line of light on the ocean-flow,
And a billow's dash on the rocks below
That stand by the wintry bay:--
The snow was gone on the coming night;
Another wave arose in his might,
Uplifted his foaming breast of white,
And died like the rest for aye!
Oh, the stars were bright! and thyself in thee
Yearned for an immortality!
And the thoughts that drew from thy busy brain
Clasped the worlds like an endless chain--
When a moon arose, and her moving chime
Smote on thy soul, like a word in time,
Or a breathless wish, or a thought in rime,
And the truth that looked so gloomy and high
Leapt to thy arms with a joyful cry!
But what wert thou when a soulless Cause
Opened the book of its barren laws,
And thy spirit that was so glad and free
Was caught in the gin of necessity,
And a howl arose from the strife of things
Vexing each other with scorpion stings?
What wert thou but an orphan child
Thrust from the door when the night was wild?
Or a sailor on the toiling main
Looking blindly up through the wind and rain
As the hull of the vessel fell in twain!
Seals are on the book of fate,
Hands may not unbind it;
Eyes may search for truth till late,
But will never find it--!
Rising on the brow of night
Like a portent of dismay,
As the worlds in wild affright
Track it on its direful way;
Resting like a rainbow bar
Where the curve and level meet,
As the children chase it far
O'er the sands with blistered feet;
Sadly through the mist of ages
Gazing on this life of fear,
Doubtful shining on its pages,
Only seen to disappear!
Sit thee by the sounding shore
--Winds and waves of human breath!--
Learn a lesson from their roar,
Swelling, bursting evermore:
Live thy life and die thy death!
Die not like the writhing worm,
Rise and win thy highest stake;
Better perish in the storm
Than sit rotting on the lake!
Triumph in thy present youth,
Pulse of fire and heart of glee;
Leap at once into the truth,
If there is a truth for thee.
Shapeless thoughts and dull opinions,
Slow distinctions and degrees,--
Vex not thou thy weary pinions
With such leaden weights as these--
Through this mystic jurisdiction
Reaching out a hand by chance,
Resting on a dull conviction
Whetted but by ignorance;
Living ever to behold
Mournful eyes that watch and weep;
Spirit suns that flashed in gold
Failing from the vasty deep;
Starry lights that glowed like Truth
Gazing with unnumbered eyes,
Melting from the skies of youth,
Swallowed up of mysteries;
Cords of love that sweetly bound thee;
Faded writing on thy brow;
Presences that came around thee;
Hands of faith that fail thee now!
Groping hands will ever find thee
In the night with loads of chains!
Lift thy fetters and unbind thee,
Cast thee on the midnight plains:
Shapes of vision all-providing--
Famished cheeks and hungry cries!
Sound of crystal waters sliding--
Thirsty lips and bloodshot eyes!
Empty forms that send no gleaming
Through the mystery of this strife!--
Oh, in such a life of seeming,
Death were worth an endless life!
Hark the trumpet of the ocean
Where glad lands were wont to be!
Many voices of commotion
Break in tumult over thee!
Lo, they climb the frowning ages,
Marching o'er their level lands!
Far behind the strife that rages
Silence sits with clasped hands;
Undivided Purpose, freeing
His own steps from hindrances,
Sending out great floods of being,
Bathes thy steps in silentness.
Sit thee down in mirth and laughter--
One there is that waits for thee;
If there is a true hereafter
He will lend thee eyes to see.
Like a snowflake gently falling
On a quiet fountain,
Or a weary echo calling
From a distant mountain,
Drop thy hands in peace,--
_OF ONE WHO DIED IN SPRING_.
Loosener of springs, he died by thee!
Softness, not hardness, sent him home;
He loved thee--and thou mad'st him free
Of all the place thou comest from!
_AN AUTUMN SONG_.
Are the leaves falling round about
The churchyard on the hill?
Is the glow of autumn going out?
Is that the winter chill?
And yet through winter's noise, no doubt
The graves are very still!
Are the woods empty, voiceless, bare?
On sodden leaves do you tread?
Is nothing left of all those fair?
Is the whole summer fled?
Well, so from this unwholesome air
Have gone away these dead!
The seasons pierce me; like a leaf
I feel the autumn blow,
And tremble between nature's grief
And the silent death below.
O Summer, thou art very brief!
Where do these exiles go?
Few in joy's sweet riot
Able are to listen:
Thou, to make me quiet,
Quenchest the sweet riot,
Tak'st away my diet,
Puttest me in prison--
Quenchest joy's sweet riot
That the heart may listen.
_I SEE THEE NOT_.
Yes, Master, when thou comest thou shalt find
A little faith on earth, if I am here!
Thou know'st how oft I turn to thee my mind.
How sad I wait until thy face appear!
Hast thou not ploughed my thorny ground full sore,
And from it gathered many stones and sherds?
Plough, plough and harrow till it needs no more--
Then sow thy mustard-seed, and send thy birds.
I love thee, Lord; and if I yield to fears,
Nor trust with triumph that pale doubt defies,
Remember, Lord, 'tis nigh two thousand years,
And I have never seen thee with mine eyes!
And when I lift them from the wondrous tale,
See, all about me hath so strange a show!
Is that thy river running down the vale?
Is that thy wind that through the pines doth blow?
Could'st thou right verily appear again,
The same who walked the paths of Palestine,
And here in England teach thy trusting men
In church and field and house, with word and sign?
Here are but lilies, sparrows, and the rest!
My hands on some dear proof would light and stay!
But my heart sees John leaning on thy breast,
And sends them forth to do what thou dost say.
_A BROKEN PRAYER_.
0 Lord, my God, how long
Shall my poor heart pant for a boundless joy?
How long, O mighty Spirit, shall I hear
The murmur of Truth's crystal waters slide
From the deep caverns of their endless being,
But my lips taste not, and the grosser air
Choke each pure inspiration of thy will?
I am a denseness 'twixt me and the light;
1 cannot round myself; my purest thought,
Ere it is thought, hath caught the taint of earth,
And mocked me with hard thoughts beyond my will.
I would be a wind
Whose smallest atom is a viewless wing,
All busy with the pulsing life that throbs
To do thy bidding; yea, or the meanest thing
That has relation to a changeless truth,
Could I but be instinct with thee--each thought
The lightning of a pure intelligence,
And every act as the loud thunder-clap
Of currents warring for a vacuum.
Lord, clothe me with thy truth as with a robe;
Purge me with sorrow; I will bend my head
And let the nations of thy waves pass over,
Bathing me in thy consecrated strength;
And let thy many-voiced and silver winds
Pass through my frame with their clear influence,
O save me; I am blind; lo, thwarting shapes
Wall up the void before, and thrusting out
Lean arms of unshaped expectation, beckon
Down to the night of all unholy thoughts.
Oh, when at midnight one of thy strong angels
Stems back the waves of earthly influence
That shape unsteady continents around me,
And they draw off with the devouring gush
Of exile billows that have found a home,
Leaving me islanded on unseen points,
Hanging 'twixt thee and chaos--I have seen
Unholy shapes lop off my shining thoughts,
And they have lent me leathern wings of fear,
Of baffled pride and harrowing distrust;
And Godhead, with its crown of many stars,
Its pinnacles of flaming holiness,
And voice of leaves in the green summer-time,
Has seemed the shadowed image of a self!
Then my soul blackened; and I rose to find
And grasp my doom, and cleave the arching deeps
O Lord, my soul is a forgotten well
Clad round with its own rank luxuriance;
A fountain a kind sunbeam searches for,
Sinking the lustre of its arrowy finger
Through the long grass its own strange virtue
Hath blinded up its crystal eye withal:
Make me a broad strong river coming down
With shouts from its high hills, whose rocky hearts
Throb forth the joy of their stability
In watery pulses from their inmost deeps;
And I shall be a vein upon thy world,
Circling perpetual from the parent deep.
Most mighty One,
Confirm and multiply my thoughts of good;
Help me to wall each sacred treasure round
With the firm battlements of special action.
Alas, my holy happy thoughts of thee
Make not perpetual nest within my soul,
But like strange birds of dazzling colours stoop
The trailing glories of their sunward speed
For one glad moment, filling my blasted boughs
With the sunshine of their wings. Make me a forest
Of gladdest life wherein perpetual spring
Lifts up her leafy tresses in the wind.
Lo, now I see
Thy trembling starlight sit among my pines,
And thy young moon slide down my arching boughs
With a soft sound of restless eloquence!
And I can feel a joy as when thy hosts
Of trampling winds, gathering in maddened bands,
Roar upward through the blue and flashing day
Round my still depths of uncleft solitude.
Hear me, O Lord,
When the black night draws down upon my soul,
And voices of temptation darken down
The misty wind, slamming thy starry doors
With bitter jests:--"Thou fool!" they seem to say,
"Thou hast no seed of goodness in thee; all
Thy nature hath been stung right through and through;
Thy sin hath blasted thee and made thee old;
Thou hadst a will, but thou hast killed it dead,
And with the fulsome garniture of life
Built out the loathsome corpse; thou art a child
Of night and death, even lower than a worm;
Gather the skirts up of thy shadowy self,
And with what resolution thou hast left
Fall on the damned spikes of doom!"
Oh, take me like a child,
If thou hast made me for thyself, my God,
And lead me up thy hills. I shall not fear,
So thou wilt make me pure, and beat back sin
With the terrors of thine eye: it fears me not
As once it might have feared thine own good image,
But lays bold siege at my heart's doors.
Oh, I have seen a thing of beauty stand
In the young moonlight of its upward thoughts,
And the old earth came round it with its gifts
Of gladness, whispering leaves, and odorous plants,
Until its large and spiritual eye
Burned with intensest love: my God, I could
Have watched it evermore with Argus-eyes,
Lest when the noontide of the summer's sun
Let down the tented sunlight on the plain,
His flaming beams should scorch my darling flower;
And through the fruitless nights of leaden gloom,
Of plashing rains, and knotted winds of cold,
Yea, when thy lightnings ran across the sky,
And the loud stumbling blasts fell from the hills
Upon the mounds of death, I could have watched
Guarding such beauty like another life!
But, O my God, it changed!--
Yet methinks I know not if it was not I!
Its beauty turned to ghastly loathsomeness!
Then a hand spurned me backwards from the clouds,
And with the gather of a mighty whirlwind,
Drew in the glittering gifts of life.
How long, O Lord, how long?
I am a man lost in a rocky place!
Lo, all thy echoes smite me with confusion
Of varied speech,--the cry of vanished Life
Rolled upon nations' sighs--of hearts uplifted
Against despair--the stifled sounds of Woe
Sitting perpetual by its grey cold well--
Or wasted Toil climbing its endless hills
With quickening gasps--or the thin winds of Joy
That beat about the voices of the crowd!
Lord, hast thou sent
Thy moons to mock us with perpetual hope?
Lighted within our breasts the love of love
To make us ripen for despair, my God?
Oh, dost thou hold each individual soul
Strung clear upon thy flaming rods of purpose?
Or does thine inextinguishable will
Stand on the steeps of night with lifted hand
Filling the yawning wells of monstrous space
With mixing thought--drinking up single life
As in a cup? and from the rending folds
Of glimmering purpose, do all thy navied stars
Slide through the gloom with mystic melody,
Like wishes on a brow? Oh, is my soul,
Hung like a dewdrop in thy grassy ways,
Drawn up again into the rack of change
Even through the lustre which created it?
--O mighty one, thou wilt not smite me through
With scorching wrath, because my spirit stands
Bewildered in thy circling mysteries!
Oh lift the burdened gloom that chokes my soul
With dews of darkness; smite the lean winds of death
That run with howls around the ruined temples,
Blowing the souls of men about like leaves.
Lo, the broad life-lands widen overhead,
Star-galaxies arise like drifting snow,
And happy life goes whitening down the stream
Of boundless action, whilst my fettered soul
Sits, as a captive in a noisome dungeon
Watches the pulses of his withered heart
Lave out the sparkling minutes of his life
On the idle flags!
Come in the glory of thine excellence,
Rive the dense gloom with wedges of clear light,
And let the shimmer of thy chariot wheels
Burn through the cracks of night! So slowly, Lord,
To lift myself to thee with hands of toil,
Climbing the slippery cliffs of unheard prayer!
Lift up a hand among my idle days--
One beckoning finger: I will cast aside
The clogs of earthly circumstance and run
Up the broad highways where the countless worlds
Sit ripening in the summer of thy love.
Send a clear meaning sparkling through the years;
Burst all the prison-doors, and make men's hearts
Gush up like fountains with thy melody;
Brighten the hollow eyes; fill with life's fruits
The hands that grope and scramble down the wastes;
And let the ghastly troops of withered ones
Come shining o'er the mountains of thy love.
Lord, thy strange mysteries come thickening down
Upon my head like snowflakes, shutting out
The happy upper fields with chilly vapour.
Shall I content my soul with a weak sense
Of safety? or feed my ravenous hunger with
Sore purged hopes, that are not hopes but fears
Clad in white raiment?
The creeds lie in the hollow of men's hearts
Like festering pools glassing their own corruption;
The slimy eyes stare up with dull approval,
And answer not when thy bright starry feet
Move on the watery floors: oh, shake men's souls
Together like the gathering of all oceans
Rent from their hidden chambers, till the waves
Lift up their million voices of high joy
Along the echoing cliffs! come thus, O Lord,
With nightly gifts of stars, and lay a hand
Of mighty peace upon the quivering flood.
O wilt thou hear me when I cry to thee?
I am a child lost in a mighty forest;
The air is thick with voices, and strange hands
Reach through the dusk, and pluck me by the skirts.
There is a voice which sounds like words from home,
But, as I stumble on to reach it, seems
To leap from rock to rock: oh, if it is
Willing obliquity of sense, descend,
Heal all my wanderings, take me by the hand,
And lead me homeward through the shadows.
Let me not by my wilful acts of pride
Block up the windows of thy truth, and grow
A wasted, withered thing, that stumbles on
Down to the grave with folded hands of sloth
And leaden confidence.
Still am I haunting
Thy door with my prayers;
Still they are panting
Up thy steep stairs!
Wouldst thou not rather
Come down to my heart,
And there, O my Father,
Be what thou art?
My thoughts are like fire-flies, pulsing in moonlight;
My heart like a silver cup, filled with red wine;
My soul a pale gleaming horizon, whence soon light
Will flood the gold earth with a torrent divine.
0 Lord, at Joseph's humble bench
Thy hands did handle saw and plane;
Thy hammer nails did drive and clench,
Avoiding knot and humouring grain.
That thou didst seem, thou wast indeed,
In sport thy tools thou didst not use;
Nor, helping hind's or fisher's need,
The labourer's hire, too nice, refuse.
Lord, might I be but as a saw,
A plane, a chisel, in thy hand!--
No, Lord! I take it back in awe,
Such prayer for me is far too grand.
I pray, O Master, let me lie,
As on thy bench the favoured wood;
Thy saw, thy plane, thy chisel ply,
And work me into something good.
No, no; ambition, holy-high,
Urges for more than both to pray:
Come in, O gracious Force, I cry--
O workman, share my shed of clay.
Then I, at bench, or desk, or oar,
With knife or needle, voice or pen,
As thou in Nazareth of yore,
Shall do the Father's will again.
Thus fashioning a workman rare,
O Master, this shall be thy fee:
Home to thy father thou shall bear
Another child made like to thee.
_THE OLD GARDEN_.
I stood in an ancient garden
With high red walls around;
Over them grey and green lichens
In shadowy arabesque wound.
The topmost climbing blossoms
On fields kine-haunted looked out;
But within were shelter and shadow,
With daintiest odours about.
There were alleys and lurking arbours,
Deep glooms into which to dive.
The lawns were as soft as fleeces,
Of daisies I counted but five.
The sun-dial was so aged
It had gathered a thoughtful grace;
'Twas the round-about of the shadow
That so had furrowed its face.
The flowers were all of the oldest
That ever in garden sprung;
Red, and blood-red, and dark purple
The rose-lamps flaming hung.
Along the borders fringed
With broad thick edges of box
Stood foxgloves and gorgeous poppies
And great-eyed hollyhocks.
There were junipers trimmed into castles,
And ash-trees bowed into tents;
For the garden, though ancient and pensive,
Still wore quaint ornaments.
It was all so stately fantastic
Its old wind hardly would stir;
Young Spring, when she merrily entered,
Scarce felt it a place for her.
I stood in the summer morning
Under a cavernous yew;
The sun was gently climbing,
And the scents rose after the dew.
I saw the wise old mansion,
Like a cow in the noon-day heat,
Stand in a lake of shadows
That rippled about its feet.
Its windows were oriel and latticed,
Lowly and wide and fair;
And its chimneys like clustered pillars
Stood up in the thin blue air.
White doves, like the thoughts of a lady,
Haunted it all about;
With a train of green and blue comets
The peacock went marching stout.
The birds in the trees were singing
A song as old as the world,
Of love and green leaves and sunshine,
And winter folded and furled.
They sang that never was sadness
But it melted and passed away;
They sang that never was darkness
But in came the conquering day.
And I knew that a maiden somewhere,
In a low oak-panelled room,
In a nimbus of shining garments,
An aureole of white-browed bloom,
Looked out on the garden dreamy,
And knew not it was old;
Looked past the gray and the sombre,
Saw but the green and the gold,
I stood in the gathering twilight,
In a gently blowing wind;
Then the house looked half uneasy,
Like one that was left behind.
The roses had lost their redness,
And cold the grass had grown;
At roost were the pigeons and peacock,
The sun-dial seemed a head-stone.
The world by the gathering twilight
In a gauzy dusk was clad;
Something went into my spirit
And made me a little sad.
Grew and gathered the twilight,
It filled my heart and brain;
The sadness grew more than sadness,
It turned to a gentle pain.
Browned and brooded the twilight,
Pervaded, absorbed the calm,
Till it seemed for some human sorrows
There could not be any balm.
Then I knew that, up a staircase
Which untrod will yet creak and shake,
Deep in a distant chamber
A ghost was coming awake--
In the growing darkness growing,
Growing till her eyes appear
Like spots of a deeper twilight,
But more transparent clear:
Thin as hot air up-trembling,
Thin as sun-molten crape,
An ethereal shadow of something
Is taking a certain shape;
A shape whose hands hang listless,
Let hang its disordered hair;
A shape whose bosom is heaving
But draws not in the air.
And I know, what time the moonlight
On her nest of shadows will sit,
Out on the dim lawn gliding
That shadowy shadow will flit.
The moon is dreaming upward
From a sea of cloud and gleam;
She looks as if she had seen me
Never but in a dream.
Down the stair I know she is coming,
Bare-footed, lifting her train;
It creaks not--she hears it creaking
Where once there was a brain.
Out at yon side-door she's coming,
With a timid glance right and left;
Her look is hopeless yet eager,
The look of a heart bereft.
Across the lawn she is flitting,
Her thin gown feels the wind;
Are her white feet bending the grasses?
Her hair is lifted behind!
Shall I stay to look on her nearer?
Would she start and vanish away?
Oh, no, she will never see me,
Stand I near as I may!
It is not this wind she is feeling,
Not this cool grass below;
'Tis the wind and the grass of an evening
A hundred years ago.
She sees no roses darkling,
No stately hollyhocks dim;
She is only thinking and dreaming
The garden, the night, and him,
The unlit windows behind her,
The timeless dial-stone,
The trees, and the moon, and the shadows
A hundred years agone!
'Tis a night for a ghostly lover
To haunt the best-loved spot:
Is he come in his dreams to this garden?
I gaze, but I see him not.
I will not look on her nearer,
My heart would be torn in twain;
From my eyes the garden would vanish
In the falling of their rain.
I will not look on a sorrow
That darkens into despair,
On the surge of a heart that cannot
Yet cannot cease to bear.
My soul to hers would be calling:
She would hear no word it said!
If I cried aloud in the stillness
She would never turn her head!
She is dreaming the sky above her,
She is dreaming the earth below:--
This night she lost her lover
A hundred years ago.
_A NOONDAY MELODY_.
Everything goes to its rest;
The hills are asleep in the noon;
And life is as still in its nest
As the moon when she looks on a moon
In the depth of a calm river's breast
As it steals through a midnight in June.
The streams have forgotten the sea
In the dream of their musical sound;
The sunlight is thick on the tree,
And the shadows lie warm on the ground,--
So still, you may watch them and see
Every breath that awakens around.
The churchyard lies still in the heat,
With its handful of mouldering bone,
As still as the long stalk of wheat
In the shadow that sits by the stone,
As still as the grass at my feet
When I walk in the meadows alone.
The waves are asleep on the main,
And the ships are asleep on the wave;
And the thoughts are as still in my brain
As the echo that sleeps in the cave;
All rest from their labour and pain--
Then why should not I in my grave?
_WHO LIGHTS THE FIRE_?
Who lights the fire--that forth so gracefully
And freely frolicketh the fairy smoke?
Some pretty one who never felt the yoke--
Glad girl, or maiden more sedate than she.
Pedant it cannot, villain cannot be!
Some genius, may-be, his own symbol woke;
But puritan, nor rogue in virtue's cloke,
Nor kitchen-maid has done it certainly!
Ha, ha! you cannot find the lighter out
For all the blue smoke's pantomimic gesture--
His name or nature, sex or age or vesture!
The fire was lit by human care, no doubt--
But now the smoke is Nature's tributary,
Dancing 'twixt man and nothing like a fairy.
_WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT_?
Who would have thought that even an idle song
Were such a holy and celestial thing
That wickedness and envy cannot sing--
That music for no moment lives with wrong?
I know this, for a very grievous throng,
Dark thoughts, low wishes, round my bosom cling,
And, underneath, the hidden holy spring
Stagnates because of their enchantment strong.
Blow, breath of heaven, on all this poison blow!
And, heart, glow upward to this gracious breath!
Between them, vanish, mist of sin and death,
And let the life of life within me flow!
Love is the green earth, the celestial air,
And music runs like dews and rivers there!
_ON A DECEMBER DAY_.
This is the sweetness of an April day;
The softness of the spring is on the face
Of the old year. She has no natural grace,
But something comes to her from far away
Out of the Past, and on her old decay
The beauty of her childhood you can trace.--
And yet she moveth with a stormy pace,
And goeth quickly.--Stay, old year, oh, stay!
We do not like new friends, we love the old;
With young, fierce, hopeful hearts we ill agree;
But thou art patient, stagnant, calm, and cold,
And not like that new year that is to be;--
Life, promise, love, her eyes may fill, fair child!
We know the past, and will not be beguiled.
Yet the free heart will not be captive long;
And if she changes often, she is free.
But if she changes: One has mastery
Who makes the joy the last in every song.
And so to-day I blessed the breezes strong
That swept the blue; I blessed the breezes free
That rolled wet leaves like rivers shiningly;
I blessed the purple woods I stood among.
"And yet the spring is better!" Bitterness
Came with the words, but did not stay with them.
"Accomplishment and promise! field and stem
New green fresh growing in a fragrant dress!
And we behind with death and memory!"
--Nay, prophet-spring! but I will follow thee.
_CHRISTMAS DAY, 1850_.
Beautiful stories wed with lovely days
Like words and music:--what shall be the tale
Of love and nobleness that might avail
To express in action what this sweetness says--
The sweetness of a day of airs and rays
That are strange glories on the winter pale?
Alas, O beauty, all my fancies fail!
I cannot tell a story in thy praise!
Thou hast, thou hast one--set, and sure to chime
With thee, as with the days of "winter wild;"
For Joy like Sorrow loves his blessed feet
Who shone from Heaven on Earth this Christmas-time
A Brother and a Saviour, Mary's child!--
And so, fair day, thou _hast_ thy story sweet.
_TO A FEBRUARY PRIMROSE_.
I know not what among the grass thou art,
Thy nature, nor thy substance, fairest flower,
Nor what to other eyes thou hast of power
To send thine image through them to the heart;
But when I push the frosty leaves apart
And see thee hiding in thy wintry bower
Thou growest up within me from that hour,
And through the snow I with the spring depart.
I have no words. But fragrant is the breath,
Pale beauty, of thy second life within.
There is a wind that cometh for thy death,
But thou a life immortal dost begin,
Where in one soul, which is thy heaven, shall dwell
Thy spirit, beautiful Unspeakable!
Now in the dark of February rains,
Poor lovers of the sunshine, spring is born,
The earthy fields are full of hidden corn,
And March's violets bud along the lanes;
Therefore with joy believe in what remains.
And thou who dost not feel them, do not scorn
Our early songs for winter overworn,
And faith in God's handwriting on the plains.
"Hope" writes he, "Love" in the first violet,
"Joy," even from Heaven, in songs and winds and trees;
And having caught the happy words in these
While Nature labours with the letters yet,
Spring cannot cheat us, though her _hopes_ be broken,
Nor leave us, for we know what God hath spoken.
I envy the tree-tops that shake so high
In winds that fill them full of heavenly airs;
I envy every little cloud that shares
With unseen angels evening in the sky;
I envy most the youngest stars that lie
Sky-nested, and the loving heaven that bears,
And night that makes strong worlds of them unawares;
And all God's other beautiful and nigh!
Nay, nay, I envy not! And these are dreams,
Fancies and images of real heaven!
My longings, all my longing prayers are given
For that which is, and not for that which seems.
Draw me, O Lord, to thy true heaven above,
The Heaven of thy Thought, thy Rest, thy Love.
_THE DWELLERS THEREIN_.
Down a warm alley, early in the year,
Among the woods, with all the sunshine in
And all the winds outside it, I begin
To think that something gracious will appear,
If anything of grace inhabit here,
Or there be friendship in the woods to win.
Might one but find companions more akin
To trees and grass and happy daylight clear,
And in this wood spend one long hour at home!
The fairies do not love so bright a place,
And angels to the forest never come,
But I have dreamed of some harmonious race,
The kindred of the shapes that haunt the shore
Of Music's flow and flow for evermore.
Along the tops of all the yellow trees,
The golden-yellow trees, the sunshine lies;
And where the leaves are gone, long rays surprise
Lone depths of thicket with their brightnesses;
And through the woods, all waste of many a breeze,
Cometh more joy of light for Poet's eyes--
Green fields lying yellow underneath the skies,
And shining houses and blue distances.
By the roadside, like rocks of golden ore
That make the western river-beds so bright,
The briar and the furze are all alight!
Perhaps the year will be so fair no more,
But now the fallen, falling leaves are gay,
And autumn old has shone into a Day!
Mourner, that dost deserve thy mournfulness,
Call thyself punished, call the earth thy hell;
Say, "God is angry, and I earned it well--
I would not have him smile on wickedness:"
Say this, and straightway all thy grief grows less:--
"God rules at least, I find as prophets tell,
And proves it in this prison!"--then thy cell
Smiles with an unsuspected loveliness.
--"A prison--and yet from door and window-bar
I catch a thousand breaths of his sweet air!
Even to me his days and nights are fair!
He shows me many a flower and many a star!
And though I mourn and he is very far,
He does not kill the hope that reaches there!"
_SHEW US THE FATHER_.
"Shew us the Father." Chiming stars of space,
And lives that fit the worlds, and means and powers,
A Thought that holds them up reveal to ours--
A Wisdom we have been made wise to trace.
And, looking out from sweetest Nature's face,
From sunsets, moonlights, rivers, hills, and flowers,
Infinite love and beauty, all the hours,
Woo men that love them with divinest grace;
And to the depths of all the answering soul
High Justice speaks, and calls the world her own;
And yet we long, and yet we have not known
The very Father's face who means the whole!
Shew us the Father! Nature, conscience, love
Revealed in beauty, is there One above?
When peevish flaws his soul have stirred
To fretful tears for crossed desires,
Obedient to his mother's word
My child to banishment retires.
As disappears the moon, when wind
Heaps miles of mist her visage o'er,
So vanisheth his face behind
The cloud of his white pinafore.
I cannot then come near my child--
A gulf between of gainful loss;
He to the infinite exiled--
I waiting, for I cannot cross.
Ah then, what wonder, passing show,
The Isis-veil behind it brings--
Like that self-coffined creatures know,
Remembering legs, foreseeing wings!
Mysterious moment! When or how
Is the bewildering change begun?
Hid in far deeps the awful now
When turns his being to the sun!
A light goes up behind his eyes,
A still small voice behind his ears;
A listing wind about him sighs,
And lo the inner landscape clears!
Hid by that screen, a wondrous shine
Is gathering for a sweet surprise;
As Moses grew, in dark divine,
Too radiant for his people's eyes.
For when the garment sinks again,
Outbeams a brow of heavenly wile,
Clear as a morning after rain,
And sunny with a perfect smile.
Oh, would that I the secret knew
Of hiding from my evil part,
And turning to the lovely true
The open windows of my heart!
Lord, in thy skirt, love's tender gaol,
Hide thou my selfish heart's disgrace;
Fill me with light, and then unveil
To friend and foe a friendly face.
A pool of broken sunbeams lay
Upon the passage-floor,
Radiant and rich, profound and gay
As ever diamond bore.
Small, flitting hands a handkerchief
Spread like a cunning trap:
Prone lay the gorgeous jewel-sheaf
In the glory-gleaner's lap!
Deftly she folded up the prize,
With lovely avarice;
Like one whom having had made wise,
She bore it off in bliss.
But ah, when for her prisoned gems
She peeped, to prove them there,
No glories broken from their stems
Lay in the kerchief bare!
For still, outside the nursery door,
The bright persistency,
A molten diadem on the floor,
Lay burning wondrously.
How oft have I laid fold from fold
And peered into my mind--
To see of all the purple and gold
Not one gleam left behind!
The best of gifts will not be stored:
The manna of yesterday
Has filled no sacred miser-hoard
To keep new need away.
Thy grace, O Lord, it is thyself;
Thy presence is thy light;
I cannot lay it on my shelf,
Or take it from thy sight.
For daily bread we daily pray--
The want still breeds the cry;
And so we meet, day after day,
Thou, Father in heaven, and I.
Is my house dreary, wall and floor,
Will not the darkness flit,
I go outside my shadowy door
And in thy rainbow sit.
Oh! is it Death that comes
To have a foretaste of the whole?
To-night the planets and the stars
Will glimmer through my window-bars
But will not shine upon my soul!
For I shall lie as dead
Though yet I am above the ground;
All passionless, with scarce a breath,
With hands of rest and eyes of death,
I shall be carried swiftly round.
Or if my life should break
The idle night with doubtful gleams,
Through mossy arches will I go,
Through arches ruinous and low,
And chase the true and false in dreams.
Why should I fall asleep?
When I am still upon my bed
The moon will shine, the winds will rise
And all around and through the skies
The light clouds travel o'er my head!
O busy, busy things,
Ye mock me with your ceaseless life!
For all the hidden springs will flow
And all the blades of grass will grow
When I have neither peace nor strife.
And all the long night through
The restless streams will hurry by;
And round the lands, with endless roar,
The white waves fall upon the shore,
And bit by bit devour the dry.
Even thus, but silently,
Eternity, thy tide shall flow,
And side by side with every star
Thy long-drawn swell shall bear me far,
An idle boat with none to row.
My senses fail with sleep;
My heart beats thick; the night is noon;
And faintly through its misty folds
I hear a drowsy clock that holds
Its converse with the waning moon.
Oh, solemn mystery
That I should be so closely bound
With neither terror nor constraint,
Without a murmur of complaint,
And lose myself upon such ground!
On the far horizon there
Heaps of cloudy darkness rest;
Though the wind is in the air
There is stupor east and west.
For the sky no change is making,
Scarce we know it from the plain;
Droop its eyelids never waking,
Blinded by the misty rain;
Save on high one little spot,
Round the baffled moon a space
Where the tumult ceaseth not:
Wildly goes the midnight race!
And a joy doth rise in me
Upward gazing on the sight,
When I think that others see
In yon clouds a like delight;
How perchance an aged man
Struggling with the wind and rain,
In the moonlight cold and wan
Feels his heart grow young again;
As the cloudy rack goes by,
How the life-blood mantles up
Till the fountain deep and dry
Yields once more a sparkling cup.
Or upon the gazing child
Cometh down a thought of glory
Which will keep him undefiled
Till his head is old and hoary.
For it may be he hath woke
And hath raised his fair young form;
Strangely on his eyes have broke
All the splendours of the storm;
And his young soul forth doth leap
With the storm-clouds in the moon;
And his heart the light will keep
Though the vision passeth soon.
Thus a joy hath often laughed
On my soul from other skies,
Bearing on its wings a draught
From the wells of Paradise,
For that not to me alone
Comes a splendour out of fear;
Where the light of heaven hath shone
There is glory far and near.
Of the poor bird that cannot fly
Kindly you think and mournfully;
For prisoners and for exiles all
You let the tears of pity fall;
And very true the grief should be
That mourns the bondage of the free.
The soul--_she_ has a fatherland;
Binds _her_ not many a tyrant's hand?
And the winged spirit has a home,
But can she always homeward come?
Poor souls, with all their wounds and foes,
Will you not also pity those?
Father, I cry to thee for bread
With hungred longing, eager prayer;
Thou hear'st, and givest me instead
More hunger and a half-despair.
0 Lord, how long? My days decline,
My youth is lapped in memories old;
I need not bread alone, but wine--
See, cup and hand to thee I hold!
And yet thou givest: thanks, O Lord,
That still my heart with hunger faints!
The day will come when at thy board
I sit, forgetting all my plaints.
If rain must come and winds must blow,
And I pore long o'er dim-seen chart,
Yet, Lord, let not the hunger go,
And keep the faintness at my heart.
_NEW YEAR'S EVE: A WAKING DREAM_.
I have not any fearful tale to tell
Of fabled giant or of dragon-claw,
Or bloody deed to pilfer and to sell
To those who feed, with such, a gaping maw;
But what in yonder hamlet there befell,
Or rather what in it my fancy saw,
I will declare, albeit it may seem
Too simple and too common for a dream.
Two brothers were they, and they sat alone
Without a word, beside the winter's glow;
For it was many years since they had known
The love that bindeth brothers, till the snow
Of age had frozen it, and it had grown
An icy-withered stream that would not flow;
And so they sat with warmth about their feet
And ice about their hearts that would not beat.
And yet it was a night for quiet hope:--
A night the very last of all the year
To many a youthful heart did seem to ope
An eye within the future, round and clear;
And age itself, that travels down the slope,
Sat glad and waiting as the hour drew near,
The dreamy hour that hath the heaviest chime,
Jerking our souls into the coming time.
But they!--alas for age when it is old!
The silly calendar they did not heed;
Alas for age when in its bosom cold
There is not warmth to nurse a bladed weed!
They thought not of the morrow, but did hold
A quiet sitting as their hearts did feed
Inwardly on themselves, as still and mute
As if they were a-cold from head to foot.
O solemn kindly night, she looketh still
With all her moon upon us now and then!
And though she dwelleth most in craggy hill,
She hath an eye unto the hearts of men!
So past a corner of the window-sill
She thrust a long bright finger just as ten
Had struck, and on the dial-plate it came,
Healing each hour's raw edge with tender flame.
There is a something in the winds of heaven
That stirreth purposely and maketh men;
And unto every little wind is given
A thing to do ere it is still again;
So when the little clock had struck eleven,
The edging moon had drawn her silver pen
Across a mirror, making them aware
Of something ghostlier than their own grey hair.
Therefore they drew aside the window-blind
And looked upon the sleeping town below,
And on the little church which sat behind
As keeping watch upon the scanty row
Of steady tombstones--some of which inclined
And others upright, in the moon did show
Like to a village down below the waves--
It was so still and cool among the graves.
But not a word from either mouth did fall,
Except it were some very plain remark.
Ah! why should such as they be glad at all?
For years they had not listened to the lark!
The child was dead in them!--yet did there crawl
A wish about their hearts; and as the bark
Of distant sheep-dog came, they were aware
Of a strange longing for the open air.
Ah! many an earthy-weaving year had spun
A web of heavy cloud about their brain!
And many a sun and moon had come and gone
Since they walked arm in arm, these brothers twain!
But now with timéd pace their feet did stun
The village echoes into quiet pain:
The street appearéd very short and white,
And they like ghosts unquiet for the light.
"Right through the churchyard," one of them did say
--I knew not which was elder of the two--
"Right through the churchyard is our better way."
"Ay," said the other, "past the scrubby yew.
I have not seen her grave for many a day;
And it is in me that with moonlight too
It might be pleasant thinking of old faces,
And yet I seldom go into such places."
Strange, strange indeed to me the moonlight wan
Sitting about a solitary stone!
Stranger than many tales it is to scan
The earthy fragment of a human bone;
But stranger still to see a grey old man
Apart from all his fellows, and alone
With the pale night and all its giant quiet;
Therefore that stone was strange and those two by it.
It was their mother's grave, and here were hid
The priceless pulses of a mother's soul.
Full sixty years it was since she had slid
Into the other world through that deep hole.
But as they stood it seemed the coffin-lid
Grew deaf with sudden hammers!--'twas the mole
Niddering about its roots.--Be still, old men,
Be very still and ye will hear again.
Ay, ye will hear it! Ye may go away,
But it will stay with you till ye are dead!
It is but earthy mould and quiet clay,
But it hath power to turn the oldest head.
Their eyes met in the moon, and they did say
More than a hundred tongues had ever said.
So they passed onwards through the rapping wicket
Into the centre of a firry thicket.
It was a solemn meeting of Earth's life,
An inquest held upon the death of things;
And in the naked north full thick and rife
The snow-clouds too were meeting as on wings
Shorn round the edges by the frost's keen knife;
And the trees seemed to gather into rings,
Waiting to be made blind, as they did quail
Among their own wan shadows thin and pale.
Many strange noises are there among trees,
And most within the quiet moony light,
Therefore those aged men are on their knees
As if they listened somewhat:--Ye are right--
Upwards it bubbles like the hum of bees!
Although ye never heard it till to-night,
The mighty mother calleth ever so
To all her pale-eyed children from below.
Ay, ye have walked upon her paven ways,
And heard her voices in the market-place,
But ye have never listened what she says
When the snow-moon is pressing on her face!
One night like this is more than many days
To him who hears the music and the bass
Of deep immortal lullabies which calm
His troubled soul as with a hushing psalm.
I know not whether there is power in sleep
To dim the eyelids of the shining moon,
But so it seemed then, for still more deep
She grew into a heavy cloud, which, soon
Hiding her outmost edges, seemed to keep
A pressure on her; so there came a swoon
Among the shadows, which still lay together
But in their slumber knew not one another.
But while the midnight gropéd for the chime
As she were heavy with excess of dreams,
She from the cloud's thick web a second time
Made many shadows, though with minished beams;
And as she lookéd eastward through the rime
Of a thin vapour got of frosty steams,
There fell a little snow upon the crown
Of a near hillock very bald and brown.
And on its top they found a little spring,
A very helpful little spring indeed,
Which evermore unwound a tiny string
Of earnest water with continual speed--
And so the brothers stood and heard it sing;
For all was snowy-still, and not a seed
Had struck, and nothing came but noises light
Of the continual whitening of the night.
There is a kindness in the falling snow--
It is a grey head to the spring time mild;
So as the creamy vapour bowéd low
Crowning the earth with honour undefiled,
Within each withered man arose a glow
As if he fain would turn into a child:
There was a gladness somewhere in the ground
Which in his bosom nowhere could be found!
Not through the purple summer or the blush
Of red voluptuous roses did it come
That silent speaking voice, but through the slush
And snowy quiet of the winter numb!
It was a barren mound that heard the gush
Of living water from two fountains dumb--
Two rocky human hearts which long had striven
To make a pleasant noise beneath high heaven!
Now from the village came the onward shout
Of lightsome voices and of merry cheer;
It was a youthful group that wandered out
To do obeisance to the glad new year;
And as they passed they sang with voices stout
A song which I was very fain to hear,
But as they darkened on, away it died,
And the two men walked homewards side by side.
_FROM NORTH WALES: TO THE MOTHER_.
When the summer gave us a longer day,
And the leaves were thickest, I went away:
Like an isle, through dark clouds, of the infinite blue,
Was that summer-ramble from London and you.
It was but one burst into life and air,
One backward glance on the skirts of care,
A height on the hills with the smoke below--
And the joy that came quickly was quick to go.
But I know and I cannot forget so soon
How the Earth is shone on by Sun and Moon;
How the clouds hide the mountains, and how they move
When the morning sunshine lies warm above.
I know how the waters fall and run
In the rocks and the heather, away from the sun;
How they hang like garlands on all hill-sides,
And are the land's music, those crystal tides.
I know how they gather in valleys fair,
Meet valleys those beautiful waves to bear;
How they dance through the rocks, how they rest in the pool,
How they darken, how sparkle, and how they are cool.
I know how the rocks from their kisses climb
To keep the storms off with a front sublime;
And how on their platforms and sloping walls
The shadow of oak-tree and fir-tree falls.
I know how the valleys are bright from far,
Rocks, meadows, and waters, the wood and the scaur;
And how the roadside and the nearest hill
The foxglove and heather and harebell fill.
I know--but the joy that was quick to go
Gave more knowledge to me than words can shew;
And _you_ know the story, and how they fare
Who love the green earth and the heavenly air.
_COME TO ME_.
Come to me, come to me, O my God;
Come to me everywhere!
Let the trees mean thee, and the grassy sod,
And the water and the air!
For thou art so far that I often doubt,
As on every side I stare,
Searching within, and looking without,
If thou canst be anywhere.
How did men find thee in days of old?
How did they grow so sure?
They fought in thy name, they were glad and bold,
They suffered, and kept themselves pure!
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