Satires of Circumstance, Lyrics and Reveries, with
Part 1 out of 3
This etext was prepared by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org,
from the 1919 Macmillan and Co edition.
SATIRES OF CIRCUMSTANCE WITH MISCELLANEOUS PIECES
by Thomas Hardy
Lyrics and Reveries
In Front of the Landscape
The Convergence of the Twain
The Ghost of the Past
After the Visit
To Meet, or Otherwise
The Sun on the Bookcase
"When I set out for Lyonnesse"
A Thunderstorm in Town
The Torn Letter
Beyond the Last Lamp
The Face at the Casement
"My spirit will not haunt the mound"
In Death divided
The Place on the Map
Where the Picnic was
A Singer asleep
A Plaint to Man
Spectres that grieve
"Ah, are you digging on my grave?"
Satires of Circumstance
By her Aunt's Grave
In the Room of the Bride-elect
At the Watering-place
In the Cemetery
Outside the Window
In the Study
At the Altar-rail
In the Nuptial Chamber
In the Restaurant
At the Draper's
On the Death-bed
Over the Coffin
In the Moonlight
Before and after Summer
At Day-close in November
The Year's Awakening
Under the Waterfall
The Spell of the Rose
St. Launce's revisited
Poems of 1912-13-
Your Last Drive
Rain on a Grace
"I found her out there"
A Dream or No
After a Journey
A Death-ray recalled
At Castle Boterel
The Phantom Horsewoman
The Wistful Lady
The Woman in the Rye
"She charged me"
The Newcomer's Wife
A Conversation at Dawn
A King's Soliloquy
Seventy-four and Twenty
"I rose up as my custom is"
Had you wept
Bereft, she thinks she dreams
In the British Museum
In the Servants' Quarters
The Obliterate Tomb
"Regret not me"
Starlings on the Roof
The Moon looks in
The Sweet Hussy
Seen by the Waits
The Two Soldiers
The Death of Regret
In the Days of Crinoline
The Roman Gravemounds
The Abbey Mason
The Jubilee of a Magazine
The Satin Shoes
"Men who march away"
IN FRONT OF THE LANDSCAPE
Plunging and labouring on in a tide of visions,
Dolorous and dear,
Forward I pushed my way as amid waste waters
Through whose eddies there glimmered the customed landscape
Yonder and near,
Blotted to feeble mist. And the coomb and the upland
Ancient chalk-pit, milestone, rills in the grass-flat
Stroked by the light,
Seemed but a ghost-like gauze, and no substantial
Meadow or mound.
What were the infinite spectacles bulking foremost
Under my sight,
Hindering me to discern my paced advancement
Lengthening to miles;
What were the re-creations killing the daytime
As by the night?
O they were speechful faces, gazing insistent,
Some as with smiles,
Some as with slow-born tears that brinily trundled
Over the wrecked
Cheeks that were fair in their flush-time, ash now with anguish,
Harrowed by wiles.
Yes, I could see them, feel them, hear them, address them -
And, alas, onwards, shaken by fierce unreason,
Rigid in hate,
Smitten by years-long wryness born of misprision,
Then there would breast me shining sights, sweet seasons
Further in date;
Instruments of strings with the tenderest passion
Lamps long extinguished, robes, cheeks, eyes with the earth's crust
Also there rose a headland of hoary aspect
Gnawed by the tide,
Frilled by the nimb of the morning as two friends stood there
Guilelessly glad -
Wherefore they knew not--touched by the fringe of an ecstasy
Later images too did the day unfurl me,
Shadowed and sad,
Clay cadavers of those who had shared in the dramas,
Laid now at ease,
Passions all spent, chiefest the one of the broad brow
So did beset me scenes miscalled of the bygone,
Over the leaze,
Past the clump, and down to where lay the beheld ones;
--Yea, as the rhyme
Sung by the sea-swell, so in their pleading dumbness
Captured me these.
For, their lost revisiting manifestations
In their own time
Much had I slighted, caring not for their purport,
Things more coveted, reckoned the better worth calling
Sweet, sad, sublime.
Thus do they now show hourly before the intenser
Stare of the mind
As they were ghosts avenging their slights by my bypast
Show, too, with fuller translation than rested upon them
As living kind.
Hence wag the tongues of the passing people, saying
In their surmise,
"Ah--whose is this dull form that perambulates, seeing nought
Round him that looms
Whithersoever his footsteps turn in his farings,
Save a few tombs?"
That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgment-day
And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into the mounds,
The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, "No;
It's gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:
"All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christes sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.
"That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them's a blessed thing,
For if it were they'd have to scour
Hell's floor for so much threatening . . .
"Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need)."
So down we lay again. "I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,"
Said one, "than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!"
And many a skeleton shook his head.
"Instead of preaching forty year,"
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
"I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer."
Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.
THE CONVERGENCE OF THE TWAIN
(Lines on the loss of the "Titanic")
In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls--grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.
Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?" . . .
Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything
Prepared a sinister mate
For her--so gaily great -
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
Alien they seemed to be:
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,
Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,
Till the Spinner of the Years
Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.
THE GHOST OF THE PAST
We two kept house, the Past and I,
The Past and I;
I tended while it hovered nigh,
Leaving me never alone.
It was a spectral housekeeping
Where fell no jarring tone,
As strange, as still a housekeeping
As ever has been known.
As daily I went up the stair
And down the stair,
I did not mind the Bygone there -
The Present once to me;
Its moving meek companionship
I wished might ever be,
There was in that companionship
Something of ecstasy.
It dwelt with me just as it was,
Just as it was
When first its prospects gave me pause
In wayward wanderings,
Before the years had torn old troths
As they tear all sweet things,
Before gaunt griefs had torn old troths
And dulled old rapturings.
And then its form began to fade,
Began to fade,
Its gentle echoes faintlier played
At eves upon my ear
Than when the autumn's look embrowned
The lonely chambers here,
The autumn's settling shades embrowned
Nooks that it haunted near.
And so with time my vision less,
Yea, less and less
Makes of that Past my housemistress,
It dwindles in my eye;
It looms a far-off skeleton
And not a comrade nigh,
A fitful far-off skeleton
Dimming as days draw by.
AFTER THE VISIT
(To F. E. D.)
Come again to the place
Where your presence was as a leaf that skims
Down a drouthy way whose ascent bedims
The bloom on the farer's face.
Come again, with the feet
That were light on the green as a thistledown ball,
And those mute ministrations to one and to all
Beyond a man's saying sweet.
Until then the faint scent
Of the bordering flowers swam unheeded away,
And I marked not the charm in the changes of day
As the cloud-colours came and went.
Through the dark corridors
Your walk was so soundless I did not know
Your form from a phantom's of long ago
Said to pass on the ancient floors,
Till you drew from the shade,
And I saw the large luminous living eyes
Regard me in fixed inquiring-wise
As those of a soul that weighed,
The eternal question of what Life was,
And why we were there, and by whose strange laws
That which mattered most could not be.
TO MEET, OR OTHERWISE
Whether to sally and see thee, girl of my dreams,
Or whether to stay
And see thee not! How vast the difference seems
Of Yea from Nay
Just now. Yet this same sun will slant its beams
At no far day
On our two mounds, and then what will the difference weigh!
Yet I will see thee, maiden dear, and make
The most I can
Of what remains to us amid this brake Cimmerian
Through which we grope, and from whose thorns we ache,
While still we scan
Round our frail faltering progress for some path or plan.
By briefest meeting something sure is won;
It will have been:
Nor God nor Daemon can undo the done,
Unsight the seen,
Make muted music be as unbegun,
Though things terrene
Groan in their bondage till oblivion supervene.
So, to the one long-sweeping symphony
From times remote
Till now, of human tenderness, shall we
Supply one note,
Small and untraced, yet that will ever be
Amid the spheres, as part of sick Life's antidote.
Sinking down by the gate I discern the thin moon,
And a blackbird tries over old airs in the pine,
But the moon is a sorry one, sad the bird's tune,
For this spot is unknown to that Heartmate of mine.
Did my Heartmate but haunt here at times such as now,
The song would be joyous and cheerful the moon;
But she will see never this gate, path, or bough,
Nor I find a joy in the scene or the tune.
THE SUN ON THE BOOKCASE
Once more the cauldron of the sun
Smears the bookcase with winy red,
And here my page is, and there my bed,
And the apple-tree shadows travel along.
Soon their intangible track will be run,
And dusk grow strong
And they be fled.
Yes: now the boiling ball is gone,
And I have wasted another day . . .
But wasted--WASTED, do I say?
Is it a waste to have imaged one
Beyond the hills there, who, anon,
My great deeds done
Will be mine alway?
"WHEN I SET OUT FOR LYONNESSE"
When I set out for Lyonnesse,
A hundred miles away,
The rime was on the spray,
And starlight lit my lonesomeness
When I set out for Lyonnesse
A hundred miles away.
What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there
No prophet durst declare,
Nor did the wisest wizard guess
What would bechance at Lyonnesse
While I should sojourn there.
When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes,
None managed to surmise
What meant my godlike gloriousness,
When I came back from Lyonnesse
With magic in my eyes.
A THUNDERSTORM IN TOWN
She wore a new "terra-cotta" dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom's dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.
Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.
THE TORN LETTER
I tore your letter into strips
No bigger than the airy feathers
That ducks preen out in changing weathers
Upon the shifting ripple-tips.
In darkness on my bed alone
I seemed to see you in a vision,
And hear you say: "Why this derision
Of one drawn to you, though unknown?"
Yes, eve's quick mood had run its course,
The night had cooled my hasty madness;
I suffered a regretful sadness
Which deepened into real remorse.
I thought what pensive patient days
A soul must know of grain so tender,
How much of good must grace the sender
Of such sweet words in such bright phrase.
Uprising then, as things unpriced
I sought each fragment, patched and mended;
The midnight whitened ere I had ended
And gathered words I had sacrificed.
But some, alas, of those I threw
Were past my search, destroyed for ever:
They were your name and place; and never
Did I regain those clues to you.
I learnt I had missed, by rash unheed,
My track; that, so the Will decided,
In life, death, we should be divided,
And at the sense I ached indeed.
That ache for you, born long ago,
Throbs on; I never could outgrow it.
What a revenge, did you but know it!
But that, thank God, you do not know.
BEYOND THE LAST LAMP
(Near Tooting Common)
While rain, with eve in partnership,
Descended darkly, drip, drip, drip,
Beyond the last lone lamp I passed
Walking slowly, whispering sadly,
Two linked loiterers, wan, downcast:
Some heavy thought constrained each face,
And blinded them to time and place.
The pair seemed lovers, yet absorbed
In mental scenes no longer orbed
By love's young rays. Each countenance
As it slowly, as it sadly
Caught the lamplight's yellow glance
Held in suspense a misery
At things which had been or might be.
When I retrod that watery way
Some hours beyond the droop of day,
Still I found pacing there the twain
Just as slowly, just as sadly,
Heedless of the night and rain.
One could but wonder who they were
And what wild woe detained them there.
Though thirty years of blur and blot
Have slid since I beheld that spot,
And saw in curious converse there
Moving slowly, moving sadly
That mysterious tragic pair,
Its olden look may linger on -
All but the couple; they have gone.
Whither? Who knows, indeed . . . And yet
To me, when nights are weird and wet,
Without those comrades there at tryst
Creeping slowly, creeping sadly,
That lone lane does not exist.
There they seem brooding on their pain,
And will, while such a lane remain.
THE FACE AT THE CASEMENT
If ever joy leave
An abiding sting of sorrow,
So befell it on the morrow
Of that May eve . . .
The travelled sun dropped
To the north-west, low and lower,
The pony's trot grew slower,
And then we stopped.
"This cosy house just by
I must call at for a minute,
A sick man lies within it
Who soon will die.
"He wished to marry me,
So I am bound, when I drive near him,
To inquire, if but to cheer him,
How he may be."
A message was sent in,
And wordlessly we waited,
Till some one came and stated
And that the sufferer said,
For her call no words could thank her;
As his angel he must rank her
Till life's spark fled.
Slowly we drove away,
When I turned my head, although not
Called; why so I turned I know not
Even to this day.
And lo, there in my view
Pressed against an upper lattice
Was a white face, gazing at us
As we withdrew.
And well did I divine
It to be the man's there dying,
Who but lately had been sighing
For her pledged mine.
Then I deigned a deed of hell;
It was done before I knew it;
What devil made me do it
I cannot tell!
Yes, while he gazed above,
I put my arm about her
That he might see, nor doubt her
My plighted Love.
The pale face vanished quick,
As if blasted, from the casement,
And my shame and self-abasement
Began their prick.
And they prick on, ceaselessly,
For that stab in Love's fierce fashion
Which, unfired by lover's passion,
Was foreign to me.
She smiled at my caress,
But why came the soft embowment
Of her shoulder at that moment
She did not guess.
Long long years has he lain
In thy garth, O sad Saint Cleather:
What tears there, bared to weather,
Will cleanse that stain!
Love is long-suffering, brave,
Sweet, prompt, precious as a jewel;
But O, too, Love is cruel,
Cruel as the grave.
I play my sweet old airs -
The airs he knew
When our love was true -
But he does not balk
His determined walk,
And passes up the stairs.
I sing my songs once more,
And presently hear
His footstep near
As if it would stay;
But he goes his way,
And shuts a distant door.
So I wait for another morn
And another night
In this soul-sick blight;
And I wonder much
As I sit, why such
A woman as I was born!
"MY SPIRIT WILL NOT HAUNT THE MOUND"
My spirit will not haunt the mound
Above my breast,
But travel, memory-possessed,
To where my tremulous being found
Life largest, best.
My phantom-footed shape will go
When nightfall grays
Hither and thither along the ways
I and another used to know
In backward days.
And there you'll find me, if a jot
You still should care
For me, and for my curious air;
If otherwise, then I shall not,
For you, be there.
WESSEX HEIGHTS (1896)
There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand
For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand,
Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly,
I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man's friend -
Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to
Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where one's next neighbour is the sky.
In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways -
Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days:
They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things -
Men with a frigid sneer, and women with tart disparagings.
Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was,
And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause
Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this,
Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.
I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there's a figure against the
Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune;
I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now
For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There's a ghost at Yell'ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the
There's a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin lipped and vague, in a
shroud of white,
There is one in the railway-train whenever I do not want it near,
I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers,
I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers;
Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know;
Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west,
Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest,
Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me,
And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.
IN DEATH DIVIDED
I shall rot here, with those whom in their day
You never knew,
And alien ones who, ere they chilled to clay,
Met not my view,
Will in your distant grave-place ever neighbour you.
No shade of pinnacle or tree or tower,
While earth endures,
Will fall on my mound and within the hour
Steal on to yours;
One robin never haunt our two green covertures.
Some organ may resound on Sunday noons
By where you lie,
Some other thrill the panes with other tunes
Where moulder I;
No selfsame chords compose our common lullaby.
The simply-cut memorial at my head
Perhaps may take
A Gothic form, and that above your bed
Be Greek in make;
No linking symbol show thereon for our tale's sake.
And in the monotonous moils of strained, hard-run
The eternal tie which binds us twain in one
No eye will see
Stretching across the miles that sever you from me.
THE PLACE ON THE MAP
I look upon the map that hangs by me -
Its shires and towns and rivers lined in varnished artistry -
And I mark a jutting height
Coloured purple, with a margin of blue sea.
--'Twas a day of latter summer, hot and dry;
Ay, even the waves seemed drying as we walked on, she and I,
By this spot where, calmly quite,
She informed me what would happen by and by.
This hanging map depicts the coast and place,
And resuscitates therewith our unexpected troublous case
All distinctly to my sight,
And her tension, and the aspect of her face.
Weeks and weeks we had loved beneath that blazing blue,
Which had lost the art of raining, as her eyes to-day had too,
While she told what, as by sleight,
Shot our firmament with rays of ruddy hue.
For the wonder and the wormwood of the whole
Was that what in realms of reason would have joyed our double soul
Wore a torrid tragic light
Under order-keeping's rigorous control.
So, the map revives her words, the spot, the time,
And the thing we found we had to face before the next year's prime;
The charted coast stares bright,
And its episode comes back in pantomime.
WHERE THE PICNIC WAS
Where we made the fire,
In the summer time,
Of branch and briar
On the hill to the sea
I slowly climb
Through winter mire,
And scan and trace
The forsaken place
Now a cold wind blows,
And the grass is gray,
But the spot still shows
As a burnt circle--aye,
And stick-ends, charred,
Still strew the sward
Whereon I stand,
Last relic of the band
Who came that day!
Yes, I am here
Just as last year,
And the sea breathes brine
From its strange straight line
Up hither, the same
As when we four came.
- But two have wandered far
From this grassy rise
Into urban roar
Where no picnics are,
And one--has shut her eyes
(With thoughts of Leslie Stephen)
Aloof, as if a thing of mood and whim;
Now that its spare and desolate figure gleams
Upon my nearing vision, less it seems
A looming Alp-height than a guise of him
Who scaled its horn with ventured life and limb,
Drawn on by vague imaginings, maybe,
Of semblance to his personality
In its quaint glooms, keen lights, and rugged trim.
At his last change, when Life's dull coils unwind,
Will he, in old love, hitherward escape,
And the eternal essence of his mind
Enter this silent adamantine shape,
And his low voicing haunt its slipping snows
When dawn that calls the climber dyes them rose?
A SINGER ASLEEP
(Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1837-1909)
In this fair niche above the unslumbering sea,
That sentrys up and down all night, all day,
From cove to promontory, from ness to bay,
The Fates have fitly bidden that he should be Pillowed eternally.
- It was as though a garland of red roses
Had fallen about the hood of some smug nun
When irresponsibly dropped as from the sun,
In fulth of numbers freaked with musical closes,
Upon Victoria's formal middle time
His leaves of rhythm and rhyme.
O that far morning of a summer day
When, down a terraced street whose pavements lay
Glassing the sunshine into my bent eyes,
I walked and read with a quick glad surprise
New words, in classic guise, -
The passionate pages of his earlier years,
Fraught with hot sighs, sad laughters, kisses, tears;
Fresh-fluted notes, yet from a minstrel who
Blew them not naively, but as one who knew
Full well why thus he blew.
I still can hear the brabble and the roar
At those thy tunes, O still one, now passed through
That fitful fire of tongues then entered new!
Their power is spent like spindrift on this shore;
Thine swells yet more and more.
- His singing-mistress verily was no other
Than she the Lesbian, she the music-mother
Of all the tribe that feel in melodies;
Who leapt, love-anguished, from the Leucadian steep
Into the rambling world-encircling deep
Which hides her where none sees.
And one can hold in thought that nightly here
His phantom may draw down to the water's brim,
And hers come up to meet it, as a dim
Lone shine upon the heaving hydrosphere,
And mariners wonder as they traverse near,
Unknowing of her and him.
One dreams him sighing to her spectral form:
"O teacher, where lies hid thy burning line;
Where are those songs, O poetess divine
Whose very arts are love incarnadine?"
And her smile back: "Disciple true and warm,
Sufficient now are thine." . . .
So here, beneath the waking constellations,
Where the waves peal their everlasting strains,
And their dull subterrene reverberations
Shake him when storms make mountains of their plains -
Him once their peer in sad improvisations,
And deft as wind to cleave their frothy manes -
I leave him, while the daylight gleam declines
Upon the capes and chines.
A PLAINT TO MAN
When you slowly emerged from the den of Time,
And gained percipience as you grew,
And fleshed you fair out of shapeless slime,
Wherefore, O Man, did there come to you
The unhappy need of creating me -
A form like your own--for praying to?
My virtue, power, utility,
Within my maker must all abide,
Since none in myself can ever be,
One thin as a shape on a lantern-slide
Shown forth in the dark upon some dim sheet,
And by none but its showman vivified.
"Such a forced device," you may say, "is meet
For easing a loaded heart at whiles:
Man needs to conceive of a mercy-seat
Somewhere above the gloomy aisles
Of this wailful world, or he could not bear
The irk no local hope beguiles."
- But since I was framed in your first despair
The doing without me has had no play
In the minds of men when shadows scare;
And now that I dwindle day by day
Beneath the deicide eyes of seers
In a light that will not let me stay,
And to-morrow the whole of me disappears,
The truth should be told, and the fact be faced
That had best been faced in earlier years:
The fact of life with dependence placed
On the human heart's resource alone,
In brotherhood bonded close and graced
With loving-kindness fully blown,
And visioned help unsought, unknown.
I saw a slowly-stepping train -
Lined on the brows, scoop-eyed and bent and hoar -
Following in files across a twilit plain
A strange and mystic form the foremost bore.
And by contagious throbs of thought
Or latent knowledge that within me lay
And had already stirred me, I was wrought
To consciousness of sorrow even as they.
The fore-borne shape, to my blurred eyes,
At first seemed man-like, and anon to change
To an amorphous cloud of marvellous size,
At times endowed with wings of glorious range.
And this phantasmal variousness
Ever possessed it as they drew along:
Yet throughout all it symboled none the less
Potency vast and loving-kindness strong.
Almost before I knew I bent
Towards the moving columns without a word;
They, growing in bulk and numbers as they went,
Struck out sick thoughts that could be overheard:-
"O man-projected Figure, of late
Imaged as we, thy knell who shall survive?
Whence came it we were tempted to create
One whom we can no longer keep alive?
"Framing him jealous, fierce, at first,
We gave him justice as the ages rolled,
Will to bless those by circumstance accurst,
And longsuffering, and mercies manifold.
"And, tricked by our own early dream
And need of solace, we grew self-deceived,
Our making soon our maker did we deem,
And what we had imagined we believed.
"Till, in Time's stayless stealthy swing,
Uncompromising rude reality
Mangled the Monarch of our fashioning,
Who quavered, sank; and now has ceased to be.
"So, toward our myth's oblivion,
Darkling, and languid-lipped, we creep and grope
Sadlier than those who wept in Babylon,
Whose Zion was a still abiding hope.
"How sweet it was in years far hied
To start the wheels of day with trustful prayer,
To lie down liegely at the eventide
And feel a blest assurance he was there!
"And who or what shall fill his place?
Whither will wanderers turn distracted eyes
For some fixed star to stimulate their pace
Towards the goal of their enterprise?" . . .
Some in the background then I saw,
Sweet women, youths, men, all incredulous,
Who chimed as one: "This figure is of straw,
This requiem mockery! Still he lives to us!"
I could not prop their faith: and yet
Many I had known: with all I sympathized;
And though struck speechless, I did not forget
That what was mourned for, I, too, once had prized.
Still, how to bear such loss I deemed
The insistent question for each animate mind,
And gazing, to my growing sight there seemed
A pale yet positive gleam low down behind,
Whereof to lift the general night,
A certain few who stood aloof had said,
"See you upon the horizon that small light -
Swelling somewhat?" Each mourner shook his head.
And they composed a crowd of whom
Some were right good, and many nigh the best . . .
Thus dazed and puzzled 'twixt the gleam and gloom
Mechanically I followed with the rest.
SPECTRES THAT GRIEVE
"It is not death that harrows us," they lipped,
"The soundless cell is in itself relief,
For life is an unfenced flower, benumbed and nipped
At unawares, and at its best but brief."
The speakers, sundry phantoms of the gone,
Had risen like filmy flames of phosphor dye,
As if the palest of sheet lightnings shone
From the sward near me, as from a nether sky.
And much surprised was I that, spent and dead,
They should not, like the many, be at rest,
But stray as apparitions; hence I said,
"Why, having slipped life, hark you back distressed?
"We are among the few death sets not free,
The hurt, misrepresented names, who come
At each year's brink, and cry to History
To do them justice, or go past them dumb.
"We are stript of rights; our shames lie unredressed,
Our deeds in full anatomy are not shown,
Our words in morsels merely are expressed
On the scriptured page, our motives blurred, unknown."
Then all these shaken slighted visitants sped
Into the vague, and left me musing there
On fames that well might instance what they had said,
Until the New-Year's dawn strode up the air.
"AH, ARE YOU DIGGING ON MY GRAVE?"
"Ah, are you digging on my grave
My loved one?--planting rue?"
- "No: yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
'That I should not be true.'"
"Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?"
- "Ah, no; they sit and think, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death's gin.'"
"But some one digs upon my grave?
My enemy?--prodding sly?"
- "Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie."
"Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say--since I have not guessed!"
- "O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"
"Ah, yes! YOU dig upon my grave . . .
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog's fidelity!"
"Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting-place."
SATIRES OF CIRCUMSTANCES
IN FIFTEEN GLIMPSES
The kettle descants in a cozy drone,
And the young wife looks in her husband's face,
And then at her guest's, and shows in her own
Her sense that she fills an envied place;
And the visiting lady is all abloom,
And says there was never so sweet a room.
And the happy young housewife does not know
That the woman beside her was first his choice,
Till the fates ordained it could not be so . . .
Betraying nothing in look or voice
The guest sits smiling and sips her tea,
And he throws her a stray glance yearningly.
"And now to God the Father," he ends,
And his voice thrills up to the topmost tiles:
Each listener chokes as he bows and bends,
And emotion pervades the crowded aisles.
Then the preacher glides to the vestry-door,
And shuts it, and thinks he is seen no more.
The door swings softly ajar meanwhile,
And a pupil of his in the Bible class,
Who adores him as one without gloss or guile,
Sees her idol stand with a satisfied smile
And re-enact at the vestry-glass
Each pulpit gesture in deft dumb-show
That had moved the congregation so.
III--BY HER AUNT'S GRAVE
"Sixpence a week," says the girl to her lover,
"Aunt used to bring me, for she could confide
In me alone, she vowed. 'Twas to cover
The cost of her headstone when she died.
And that was a year ago last June;
I've not yet fixed it. But I must soon."
"And where is the money now, my dear?"
"O, snug in my purse . . . Aunt was SO slow
In saving it--eighty weeks, or near." . . .
"Let's spend it," he hints. "For she won't know.
There's a dance to-night at the Load of Hay."
She passively nods. And they go that way.
IV--IN THE ROOM OF THE BRIDE-ELECT
"Would it had been the man of our wish!"
Sighs her mother. To whom with vehemence she
In the wedding-dress--the wife to be -
"Then why were you so mollyish
As not to insist on him for me!"
The mother, amazed: "Why, dearest one,
Because you pleaded for this or none!"
"But Father and you should have stood out strong!
Since then, to my cost, I have lived to find
That you were right and that I was wrong;
This man is a dolt to the one declined . . .
Ah!--here he comes with his button-hole rose.
Good God--I must marry him I suppose!"
V--AT A WATERING-PLACE
They sit and smoke on the esplanade,
The man and his friend, and regard the bay
Where the far chalk cliffs, to the left displayed,
Smile sallowly in the decline of day.
And saunterers pass with laugh and jest -
A handsome couple among the rest.
"That smart proud pair," says the man to his friend,
"Are to marry next week . . . How little he thinks
That dozens of days and nights on end
I have stroked her neck, unhooked the links
Of her sleeve to get at her upper arm . . .
Well, bliss is in ignorance: what's the harm!"
VI --IN THE CEMETERY
"You see those mothers squabbling there?"
Remarks the man of the cemetery.
One says in tears, ''Tis mine lies here!'
Another, 'Nay, mine, you Pharisee!'
Another, 'How dare you move my flowers
And put your own on this grave of ours!'
But all their children were laid therein
At different times, like sprats in a tin.
"And then the main drain had to cross,
And we moved the lot some nights ago,
And packed them away in the general foss
With hundreds more. But their folks don't know,
And as well cry over a new-laid drain
As anything else, to ease your pain!"
VII--OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
"My stick!" he says, and turns in the lane
To the house just left, whence a vixen voice
Comes out with the firelight through the pane,
And he sees within that the girl of his choice
Stands rating her mother with eyes aglare
For something said while he was there.
"At last I behold her soul undraped!"
Thinks the man who had loved her more than himself;
"My God--'tis but narrowly I have escaped. -
My precious porcelain proves it delf."
His face has reddened like one ashamed,
And he steals off, leaving his stick unclaimed.
VIII--IN THE STUDY
He enters, and mute on the edge of a chair
Sits a thin-faced lady, a stranger there,
A type of decayed gentility;
And by some small signs he well can guess
That she comes to him almost breakfastless.
"I have called--I hope I do not err -
I am looking for a purchaser
Of some score volumes of the works
Of eminent divines I own, -
Left by my father--though it irks
My patience to offer them." And she smiles
As if necessity were unknown;
"But the truth of it is that oftenwhiles
I have wished, as I am fond of art,
To make my rooms a little smart."
And lightly still she laughs to him,
As if to sell were a mere gay whim,
And that, to be frank, Life were indeed
To her not vinegar and gall,
But fresh and honey-like; and Need
No household skeleton at all.
IX--AT THE ALTAR-RAIL
"My bride is not coming, alas!" says the groom,
And the telegram shakes in his hand. "I own
It was hurried! We met at a dancing-room
When I went to the Cattle-Show alone,
And then, next night, where the Fountain leaps,
And the Street of the Quarter-Circle sweeps.
"Ay, she won me to ask her to be my wife -
'Twas foolish perhaps!--to forsake the ways
Of the flaring town for a farmer's life.
She agreed. And we fixed it. Now she says:
'It's sweet of you, dear, to prepare me a nest,
But a swift, short, gay life suits me best.
What I really am you have never gleaned;
I had eaten the apple ere you were weaned.'"
X--IN THE NUPTIAL CHAMBER
"O that mastering tune?" And up in the bed
Like a lace-robed phantom springs the bride;
"And why?" asks the man she had that day wed,
With a start, as the band plays on outside.
"It's the townsfolks' cheery compliment
Because of our marriage, my Innocent."
"O but you don't know! 'Tis the passionate air
To which my old Love waltzed with me,
And I swore as we spun that none should share
My home, my kisses, till death, save he!
And he dominates me and thrills me through,
And it's he I embrace while embracing you!"
XI--IN THE RESTAURANT
"But hear. If you stay, and the child be born,
It will pass as your husband's with the rest,
While, if we fly, the teeth of scorn
Will be gleaming at us from east to west;
And the child will come as a life despised;
I feel an elopement is ill-advised!"
"O you realize not what it is, my dear,
To a woman! Daily and hourly alarms
Lest the truth should out. How can I stay here,
And nightly take him into my arms!
Come to the child no name or fame,
Let us go, and face it, and bear the shame."
XII--AT THE DRAPER'S
"I stood at the back of the shop, my dear,
But you did not perceive me.
Well, when they deliver what you were shown
_I_ shall know nothing of it, believe me!"
And he coughed and coughed as she paled and said,
"O, I didn't see you come in there -
Why couldn't you speak?"--"Well, I didn't. I left
That you should not notice I'd been there.
"You were viewing some lovely things. 'Soon required
For a widow, of latest fashion';
And I knew 'twould upset you to meet the man
Who had to be cold and ashen
"And screwed in a box before they could dress you
'In the last new note in mourning,'
As they defined it. So, not to distress you,
I left you to your adorning."
XIII--ON THE DEATH-BED
"I'll tell--being past all praying for -
Then promptly die . . . He was out at the war,
And got some scent of the intimacy
That was under way between her and me;
And he stole back home, and appeared like a ghost
One night, at the very time almost
That I reached her house. Well, I shot him dead,
And secretly buried him. Nothing was said.
"The news of the battle came next day;
He was scheduled missing. I hurried away,
Got out there, visited the field,
And sent home word that a search revealed
He was one of the slain; though, lying alone
And stript, his body had not been known.
"But she suspected. I lost her love,
Yea, my hope of earth, and of Heaven above;
And my time's now come, and I'll pay the score,
Though it be burning for evermore."
XIV--OVER THE COFFIN
They stand confronting, the coffin between,
His wife of old, and his wife of late,
And the dead man whose they both had been
Seems listening aloof, as to things past date.
--"I have called," says the first. "Do you marvel or not?"
"In truth," says the second, "I do--somewhat."
"Well, there was a word to be said by me! . . .
I divorced that man because of you -
It seemed I must do it, boundenly;
But now I am older, and tell you true,
For life is little, and dead lies he;
I would I had let alone you two!
And both of us, scorning parochial ways,
Had lived like the wives in the patriarchs' days."
XV--IN THE MOONLIGHT
"O lonely workman, standing there
In a dream, why do you stare and stare
At her grave, as no other grave there were?
"If your great gaunt eyes so importune
Her soul by the shine of this corpse-cold moon,
Maybe you'll raise her phantom soon!"
"Why, fool, it is what I would rather see
Than all the living folk there be;
But alas, there is no such joy for me!"
"Ah--she was one you loved, no doubt,
Through good and evil, through rain and drought,
And when she passed, all your sun went out?"
"Nay: she was the woman I did not love,
Whom all the others were ranked above,
Whom during her life I thought nothing of."
LYRICS AND REVERIES
Along the way
He walked that day,
Watching shapes that reveries limn,
And seldom he
Had eyes to see
The moment that encompassed him.
Made mirthful clamours,
And billed long straws with a bustling air,
And bearing their load
Flew up the road
That he followed, alone, without interest there.
From bank to ground
And over and round
They sidled along the adjoining hedge;
Sometimes to the gutter
Their yellow flutter
Would dip from the nearest slatestone ledge.
The smooth sea-line
With a metal shine,
And flashes of white, and a sail thereon,
He would also descry
With a half-wrapt eye
Between the projects he mused upon.
Yes, round him were these
But specious plans that came to his call
Did most engage
While himself he did not see at all.
Dead now as sherds
Are the yellow birds,
And all that mattered has passed away;
Yet God, the Elf,
Now shows him that self
As he was, and should have been shown, that day.
O it would have been good
Could he then have stood
At a focussed distance, and conned the whole,
But now such vision
Is mere derision,
Nor soothes his body nor saves his soul.
Not much, some may
Incline to say,
To see therein, had it all been seen.
Nay! he is aware
A thing was there
That loomed with an immortal mien.
I wandered to a crude coast
Like a ghost;
Upon the hills I saw fires -
Seemingly--and heard breaking
Waves like distant cannonades that set the land shaking.
And so I never once guessed
Bowered and candle-lit, lay
In my way,
Till I found a hid hollow,
Where I burst on her my heart could not but follow.
"It is a foolish thing," said I,
"To bear with such, and pass it by;
Yet so I do, I know not why!"
And at each clash I would surmise
That if I had acted otherwise
I might have saved me many sighs.
But now the only happiness
In looking back that I possess -
Whose lack would leave me comfortless -
Is to remember I refrained
From masteries I might have gained,
And for my tolerance was disdained;
For see, a tomb. And if it were
I had bent and broke, I should not dare
To linger in the shadows there.
BEFORE AND AFTER SUMMER
Looking forward to the spring
One puts up with anything.
On this February day,
Though the winds leap down the street,
Wintry scourgings seem but play,
And these later shafts of sleet
--Sharper pointed than the first -
And these later snows--the worst -
Are as a half-transparent blind
Riddled by rays from sun behind.
Shadows of the October pine
Reach into this room of mine:
On the pine there stands a bird;
He is shadowed with the tree.
Mutely perched he bills no word;
Blank as I am even is he.
For those happy suns are past,
Fore-discerned in winter last.
When went by their pleasure, then?
I, alas, perceived not when.
AT DAY-CLOSE IN NOVEMBER
The ten hours' light is abating,
And a late bird flies across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.
Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.
And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
A time when none will be seen.
THE YEAR'S AWAKENING
How do you know that the pilgrim track
Along the belting zodiac
Swept by the sun in his seeming rounds
Is traced by now to the Fishes' bounds
And into the Ram, when weeks of cloud
Have wrapt the sky in a clammy shroud,
And never as yet a tinct of spring
Has shown in the Earth's apparelling;
O vespering bird, how do you know,
How do you know?
How do you know, deep underground,
Hid in your bed from sight and sound,
Without a turn in temperature,
With weather life can scarce endure,
That light has won a fraction's strength,
And day put on some moments' length,
Whereof in merest rote will come,
Weeks hence, mild airs that do not numb;
O crocus root, how do you know,
How do you know?
UNDER THE WATERFALL
"Whenever I plunge my arm, like this,
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from its thickening shroud of gray.
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart,
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock,
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks."
"And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme?
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?
Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone,
Though where precisely none ever has known,
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized,
And by now with its smoothness opalized,
Is a drinking-glass:
For, down that pass
My lover and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-woven awning of green,
In the burn of August, to paint the scene,
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine;
And when we had drunk from the glass together,
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather,
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall,
Where it slipped, and sank, and was past recall,
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is.
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time,
And the glass both used, and the cascade's rhyme.
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge,
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.
By night, by day, when it shines or lours,
There lies intact that chalice of ours,
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above.
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turns therefrom sipped lovers' wine."
THE SPELL OF THE ROSE
"I mean to build a hall anon,
And shape two turrets there,
And a broad newelled stair,
And a cool well for crystal water;
Yes; I will build a hall anon,
Plant roses love shall feed upon,
And apple trees and pear."
He set to build the manor-hall,
And shaped the turrets there,
And the broad newelled stair,
And the cool well for crystal water;
He built for me that manor-hall,
And planted many trees withal,
But no rose anywhere.
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