The Poetical Works of George MacDonald in Two Volumes, Volume I
Part 7 out of 9
Love may be hurt, but shall not love be brave?--
Thy holy silence sinks in dews of balm;
Thou art my solitude, my mountain-calm!
_I KNOW WHAT BEAUTY IS_.
I know what beauty is, for thou
Hast set the world within my heart;
Of me thou madest it a part;
I never loved it more than now.
I know the Sabbath afternoons;
The light asleep upon the graves:
Against the sky the poplar waves;
The river murmurs organ tunes.
I know the spring with bud and bell;
The hush in summer woods at night;
Autumn, when trees let in more light;
Fantastic winter's lovely spell.
I know the rapture music gives,
Its mystery of ordered tones:
Dream-muffled soul, it loves and moans,
And, half-alive, comes in and lives.
And verse I know, whose concord high
Of thought and music lifts the soul
Where many a glimmering starry shoal
Glides through the Godhead's living sky.
Yea, Beauty's regnant All I know--
The imperial head, the thoughtful eyes;
The God-imprisoned harmonies
That out in gracious motions go.
But I leave all, O Son of man,
Put off my shoes, and come to thee!
Most lovely thou of all I see,
Most potent thou of all that can!
As child forsakes his favourite toy,
His sisters' sport, his new-found nest,
And, climbing to his mother's breast,
Enjoys yet more his late-left joy--
I lose to find. On fair-browed bride
Fair pearls their fairest light afford;
So, gathered round thy glory, Lord,
All glory else is glorified.
Grief held me silent in my seat;
I neither moved nor smiled:
Joy held her silent at my feet,
My shining lily-child.
She raised her face and looked in mine;
She deemed herself denied;
The door was shut, there was no shine;
Poor she was left outside!
Once, twice, three times, with infant grace
Her lips my name did mould;
Her face was pulling at my face--
She was but ten months old.
I saw; the sight rebuked my sighs;
It made me think--Does God
Need help from his poor children's eyes
To ease him of his load?
Ah, if he did, how seldom then
The Father would be glad!
If comfort lay in the eyes of men,
He little comfort had!
We cry to him in evil case,
When comfort sore we lack;
And when we troubled seek his face,
Consoled he sends us back;
Nor waits for prayer to rise and climb--
He wakes the sleeping prayer;
He is our father all the time,
And servant everywhere.
I looked not up; foreboding hid
Kept down my heart the while;
'Twas he looked up; my Father did
Smile in my infant's smile.
My Lily snatches not my gift;
Glad is she to be fed,
But to her mouth she will not lift
The piece of broken bread,
Till on my lips, unerring, swift,
The morsel she has laid.
This is her grace before her food,
This her libation poured;
Even thus his offering, Aaron good
Heaved up to thank the Lord,
When for the people all he stood,
And with a cake adored.
So, Father, every gift of thine
I offer at thy knee;
Else take I not the love divine
With which it comes to me;
Not else the offered grace is mine
Of sharing life with thee.
Yea, all my being I would bring,
Yielding it utterly,
Not yet a full-possessed thing
Till heaved again to thee:
Away, my self! away, and cling
To him that makes thee be!
We doubt the word that tells us: Ask,
And ye shall have your prayer;
We turn our thoughts as to a task,
With will constrained and rare.
And yet we have; these scanty prayers
Yield gold without alloy:
O God, but he that trusts and dares
Must have a boundless joy!
When round the earth the Father's hands
Have gently drawn the dark;
Sent off the sun to fresher lands,
And curtained in the lark;
'Tis sweet, all tired with glowing day,
To fade with fading light,
And lie once more, the old weary way,
Upfolded in the night.
If mothers o'er our slumbers bend,
And unripe kisses reap,
In soothing dreams with sleep they blend,
Till even in dreams we sleep.
And if we wake while night is dumb,
'Tis sweet to turn and say,
It is an hour ere dawning come,
And I will sleep till day.
There is a dearer, warmer bed,
Where one all day may lie,
Earth's bosom pillowing the head,
And let the world go by.
There come no watching mother's eyes,
The stars instead look down;
Upon it breaks, and silent dies,
The murmur of the town.
The great world, shouting, forward fares:
This chamber, hid from none,
Hides safe from all, for no one cares
For him whose work is done.
Cheer thee, my friend; bethink thee how
A certain unknown place,
Or here or there, is waiting now,
To rest thee from thy race.
Nay, nay, not there the rest from harms,
The still composed breath!
Not there the folding of the arms,
The cool, the blessed death!
_That_ needs no curtained bed to hide
The world with all its wars,
No grassy cover to divide
From sun and moon and stars.
It is a rest that deeper grows
In midst of pain and strife;
A mighty, conscious, willed repose,
The death of deepest life.
To have and hold the precious prize
No need of jealous bars;
But windows open to the skies,
And skill to read the stars!
Who dwelleth in that secret place,
Where tumult enters not,
Is never cold with terror base,
Never with anger hot.
For if an evil host should dare
His very heart invest,
God is his deeper heart, and there
He enters in to rest.
When mighty sea-winds madly blow,
And tear the scattered waves,
Peaceful as summer woods, below
Lie darkling ocean caves:
The wind of words may toss my heart,
But what is that to me!
Tis but a surface storm--thou art
My deep, still, resting sea.
_O DO NOT LEAVE ME_.
O do not leave me, mother, lest I weep;
Till I forget, be near me in that chair.
The mother's presence leads her down to sleep--
Leaves her contented there.
O do not leave me, lover, brother, friends,
Till I am dead, and resting in my place.
Love-compassed thus, the girl in peace ascends,
And leaves a raptured face.
Leave me not, God, until--nay, until when?
Not till I have with thee one heart, one mind;
Not till the Life is Light in me, and then
Leaving is left behind.
_BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH_.
A quiet heart, submissive, meek,
Father, do thou bestow,
Which more than granted, will not seek
To have, or give, or know.
Each little hill then holds its gift
Forth to my joying eyes;
Each mighty mountain then doth lift
My spirit to the skies.
Lo, then the running water sounds
With gladsome, secret things!
The silent water more abounds,
And more the hidden springs.
Live murmurs then the trees will blend
With all the feathered song;
The waving grass low tribute lend
Earth's music to prolong.
The sun will cast great crowns of light
On waves that anthems roar;
The dusky billows break at night
In flashes on the shore.
Each harebell, each white lily's cup,
The hum of hidden bee,
Yea, every odour floating up,
The insect revelry--
Each hue, each harmony divine
The holy world about,
Its soul will send forth into mine,
My soul to widen out.
And thus the great earth I shall hold,
A perfect gift of thine;
Richer by these, a thousandfold,
Than if broad lands were mine.
_HYMN FOR A SICK GIRL_.
Father, in the dark I lay,
Thirsting for the light,
Helpless, but for hope alway
In thy father-might.
Out of darkness came the morn,
Out of death came life,
I, and faith, and hope, new-born,
Out of moaning strife!
So, one morning yet more fair,
I shall, joyous-brave,
Sudden breathing loftier air,
Triumph o'er the grave.
Though this feeble body lie
Underneath the ground,
Wide awake, not sleeping, I
Shall in him be found.
But a morn yet fairer must
Quell this inner gloom--
Resurrection from the dust
Of a deeper tomb!
Father, wake thy little child;
Give me bread and wine
Till my spirit undefiled
Rise and live in thine.
_WRITTEN FOR ONE IN SORE PAIN_.
Shepherd, on before thy sheep,
Hear thy lamb that bleats behind!
Scarce the track I stumbling keep!
Through my thin fleece blows the wind!
Turn and see me, Son of Man!
Turn and lift thy Father's child;
Scarce I walk where once I ran:
Carry me--the wind is wild!
Thou art strong--thy strength wilt share;
My poor weight thou wilt not feel;
Weakness made thee strong to bear,
Suffering made thee strong to heal!
I were still a wandering sheep
But for thee, O Shepherd-man!
Following now, I faint, I weep,
Yet I follow as I can!
Shepherd, if I fall and lie
Moaning in the frosty wind,
Yet, I know, I shall not die--
Thou wilt miss me--and wilt find!
_A CHRISTMAS CAROL FOR 1862_,
THE YEAR OF THE TROUBLE IN LANCASHIRE.
The skies are pale, the trees are stiff,
The earth is dull and old;
The frost is glittering as if
The very sun were cold.
And hunger fell is joined with frost,
To make men thin and wan:
Come, babe, from heaven, or we are lost;
Be born, O child of man.
The children cry, the women shake,
The strong men stare about;
They sleep when they should be awake,
They wake ere night is out.
For they have lost their heritage--
No sweat is on their brow:
Come, babe, and bring them work and wage;
Be born, and save us now.
Across the sea, beyond our sight,
Roars on the fierce debate;
The men go down in bloody fight,
The women weep and hate;
And in the right be which that may,
Surely the strife is long!
Come, son of man, thy righteous way,
And right will have no wrong.
Good men speak lies against thine own--
Tongue quick, and hearing slow;
They will not let thee walk alone,
And think to serve thee so:
If they the children's freedom saw
In thee, the children's king,
They would be still with holy awe,
Or only speak to sing.
Some neither lie nor starve nor fight,
Nor yet the poor deny;
But in their hearts all is not right,--
They often sit and sigh.
We need thee every day and hour,
In sunshine and in snow:
Child-king, we pray with all our power--
Be born, and save us so.
We are but men and women, Lord;
Thou art a gracious child!
O fill our hearts, and heap our board,
Pray thee--the winter's wild!
The sky is sad, the trees are bare,
Hunger and hate about:
Come, child, and ill deeds and ill fare
Will soon be driven out.
_A CHRISTMAS CAROL_.
Babe Jesus lay in Mary's lap,
The sun shone in his hair;
And this was how she saw, mayhap,
The crown already there.
For she sang: "Sleep on, my little king;
Bad Herod dares not come;
Before thee sleeping, holy thing,
The wild winds would be dumb."
"I kiss thy hands, I kiss thy feet,
My child, so long desired;
Thy hands will never be soiled, my sweet;
Thy feet will never be tired."
"For thou art the king of men, my son;
Thy crown I see it plain!
And men shall worship thee, every one,
And cry, Glory! Amen!"
Babe Jesus he opened his eyes wide--
At Mary looked her lord.
Mother Mary stinted her song and sighed;
Babe Jesus said never a word.
_THE SLEEPLESS JESUS_.
'Tis time to sleep, my little boy:
Why gaze thy bright eyes so?
At night our children, for new joy
Home to thy father go,
But thou art wakeful! Sleep, my child;
The moon and stars are gone;
The wind is up and raving wild,
But thou art smiling on!
My child, thou hast immortal eyes
That see by their own light;
They see the children's blood--it lies
Red-glowing through the night!
Thou hast an ever-open ear
For sob or cry or moan:
Thou seemest not to see or hear,
Thou only smilest on!
When first thou camest to the earth,
All sounds of strife were still;
A silence lay about thy birth,
And thou didst sleep thy fill:
Thou wakest now--why weep'st thou not?
Thy earth is woe-begone;
Both babes and mothers wail their lot,
But still thou smilest on!
I read thy face like holy book;
No hurt is pictured there;
Deep in thine eyes I see the look
Of one who answers prayer.
Beyond pale grief and wild uproars,
Thou seest God's will well done;
Low prayers, through chambers' closed doors,
Thou hear'st--and smilest on.
Men say: "I will arise and go;"
God says: "I will go meet:"
Thou seest them gather, weeping low,
About the Father's feet;
And each for each begin to bear,
And standing lonely none:
Answered, O eyes, ye see all prayer!
Smile, Son of God, smile on.
Christmas-Days are still in store:--
Will they change--steal faded hither?
Or come fresh as heretofore,
Summering all our winter weather?
Surely they will keep their bloom
All the countless pacing ages:
In the country whence they come
Children only are the sages!
Hither, every hour and year,
Children come to cure our oldness--
Oft, alas, to gather sear
Unbelief, and earthy boldness!
Men they grow and women cold,
Selfish, passionate, and plaining!
Ever faster they grow old:--
On the world, ah, eld is gaining!
Child, whose childhood ne'er departs!
Jesus, with the perfect father!
Drive the age from parents' hearts;
To thy heart the children gather.
Send thy birth into our souls,
With its grand and tender story.
Hark! the gracious thunder rolls!--
News to men! to God old glory!
Though in my heart no Christmas glee,
Though my song-bird be dumb,
Jesus, it is enough for me
That thou art come.
What though the loved be scattered far,
Few at the board appear,
In thee, O Lord, they gathered are,
And thou art here.
And if our hearts be low with lack,
They are not therefore numb;
Not always will thy day come back--
Thyself will come!
_AN OLD STORY_.
In the ancient house of ages,
See, they cannot rest!
With a hope, which awe assuages,
Tremble all the blest.
For the son and heir eternal,
To be son yet more,
Leaves his stately chair supernal
For the earth's low floor;
Leaves the room so high and old,
Leaves the all-world hearth,
Seeks the out-air, frosty-cold,
Of the twilight earth--
To be throned in newer glory
In a mother's lap,
Gather up our broken story,
And right every hap.
There Earth's foster-baby lies,
Sleep-dimmed all his graces,
'Neath four stars of parents' eyes,
And two heavens of faces!
See! the cow and ass, dumb-staring,
Feel the skirts of good
Fold them in dull-blessed sharing
Make a little room betwixt you,
Pray you, Ass and Cow!
Sure we shall, if I kneel next you,
Know each other now!
To the pit-fallen comes salvation--
Love is never loath!
Here we are, thy whole creation,
Waiting, Lord, thy growth!
On the slopes of Bethlehem,
Round their resting sheep,
Shepherds sat, and went and came,
Guarding holy sleep;
But the silent, high dome-spaces,
Thronged they were with watching faces,
Thronged with open eyes.
Far across the desert floor,
Come, slow-drawing nigher,
Sages deep in starry lore,
Priests of burning Fire.
In the sky they read his story,
And, through starlight cool,
They come riding to the Glory,
To the Wonderful.
Babe and mother, coming Mage,
Shepherd, ass, and cow!
Angels watching the new age,
Time's intensest Now!
Heaven down-brooding, Earth upstraining,
Far ends closing in!
Sure the eternal tide is gaining
On the strand of sin!
See! but see! Heaven's chapel-master
Signs with lifted hand;
Winds divine blow fast and faster,
Swelling bosoms grand.
Hark the torrent-joy let slip!
Hark the great throats ring!
Glory! Peace! Good-fellowship!
And a Child for king!
_A SONG FOR CHRISTMAS_.
Hark, in the steeple the dull bell swinging
Over the furrows ill ploughed by Death!
Hark the bird-babble, the loud lark singing!
Hark, from the sky, what the prophet saith!
Hark, in the pines, the free Wind, complaining--
Moaning, and murmuring, "Life is bare!"
Hark, in the organ, the caught Wind, outstraining,
Jubilant rise in a soaring prayer!
Toll for the burying, sexton tolling!
Sing for the second birth, angel Lark!
Moan, ye poor Pines, with the Past condoling!
Burst out, brave Organ, and kill the Dark!
Sit on the ground, and immure thy sorrow;
I will give freedom to mine in song!
Haunt thou the tomb, and deny the morrow;
I will go watch in the dawning long!
For I shall see them, and know their faces--
Tenderer, sweeter, and shining more;
Clasp the old self in the new embraces;
Gaze through their eyes' wide open door.
Loved ones, I come to you: see my sadness;
I am ashamed--but you pardon wrong!
Smile the old smile, and my soul's new gladness
Straight will arise in sorrow and song!
_TO MY AGING FRIENDS_.
It is no winter night comes down
Upon our hearts, dear friends of old;
But a May evening, softly brown,
Whose wind is rather cold.
We are not, like yon sad-eyed West,
Phantoms that brood o'er Time's dust-hoard,
We are like yon Moon--in mourning drest,
But gazing on her lord.
Come nearer to the hearth, sweet friends,
Draw nigher, closer, hand and chair;
Ours is a love that never ends,
For God is dearest there!
We will not talk about the past,
We will not ponder ancient pain;
Those are but deep foundations cast
For peaks of soaring gain!
We, waiting Dead, will warm our bones
At our poor smouldering earthly fire;
And talk of wide-eyed living ones
Who have what we desire.
O Living, ye know what is death--
We, by and by, shall know it too!
Humble, with bated, hoping breath,
We are coming fast to you!
_CHRISTMAS SONG OF THE OLD CHILDREN_.
Well for youth to seek the strong,
Beautiful, and brave!
We, the old, who walk along
Gently to the grave,
Only pay our court to thee,
Child of all Eternity!
We are old who once were young,
And we grow more old;
Songs we are that have been sung,
Tales that have been told;
Yellow leaves, wind-blown to thee,
Childhood of Eternity!
If we come too sudden near,
Lo, Earth's infant cries,
For our faces wan and drear
Have such withered eyes!
Thou, Heaven's child, turn'st not away
From the wrinkled ones who pray!
Smile upon us with thy mouth
And thine eyes of grace;
On our cold north breathe thy south.
Thaw the frozen face:
Childhood all from thee doth flow--
Melt to song our age's snow.
Gray-haired children come in crowds,
Thee, their Hope, to greet:
Is it swaddling clothes or shrouds
Hampering so our feet?
Eldest child, the shadows gloom:
Take the aged children home.
We have had enough of play,
And the wood grows drear;
Many who at break of day
Companied us here--
They have vanished out of sight,
Gone and met the coming light!
Fair is this out-world of thine,
But its nights are cold;
And the sun that makes it fine
Makes us soon so old!
Long its shadows grow and dim--
Father, take us back with him!
He who by a mother's love
Made the wandering world his own,
Every year comes from above,
Comes the parted to atone,
Binding Earth to the Father's throne.
Nay, thou comest every day!
No, thou never didst depart!
Never hour hast been away!
Always with us, Lord, thou art,
Binding, binding heart to heart!
_THE OLD CASTLE_.
The brother knew well the castle old,
Every closet, each outlook fair,
Every turret and bartizan bold,
Every chamber, garnished or bare.
The brother was out in the heavenly air;
Little ones lost the starry way,
Wandered down the dungeon stair.
The brother missed them, and on the clay
Of the dungeon-floor he found them all.
Up they jumped when they heard him call!
He led the little ones into the day--
Out and up to the sunshine gay,
Up to the father's own door-sill--
In at the father's own room door,
There to be merry and work and play,
There to come and go at their will,
Good boys and girls to be lost no more!
Cold my heart, and poor, and low,
Like thy stable in the rock;
Do not let it orphan go,
It is of thy parent stock!
Come thou in, and it will grow
High and wide, a fane divine;
Like the ruby it will glow,
Like the diamond shine!
_SONG OF THE INNOCENTS_.
Merry, merry we well may be,
For Jesus Christ is come down to see:
Long before, at the top of the stair,
He set our angels a waiting there,
Waiting hither and thither to fly,
Tending the children of the sky,
Lest they dash little feet against big stones,
And tumble down and break little bones;
For the path is rough, and we must not roam;
We have learned to walk, and must follow him home!
_CHRISTMAS DAY AND EVERY DAY_.
'Twixt the two
Wise men go;
Find the baby,
Grasp the star--
Heirs of all things
Near and far!
THE CHILDREN'S HEAVEN.
The infant lies in blessed ease
Upon his mother's breast;
No storm, no dark, the baby sees
Invade his heaven of rest.
He nothing knows of change or death--
Her face his holy skies;
The air he breathes, his mother's breath;
His stars, his mother's eyes!
Yet half the soft winds wandering there
Are sighs that come of fears;
The dew slow falling through that air--
It is the dew of tears;
And ah, my child, thy heavenly home
Hath storms as well as dew;
Black clouds fill sometimes all its dome,
And quench the starry blue!
"My smile would win no smile again,
If baby saw the things
That ache across his mother's brain
The while to him she sings!
Thy faith in me is faith in vain--
I am not what I seem:
O dreary day, O cruel pain,
That wakes thee from thy dream!"
Nay, pity not his dreams so fair,
Fear thou no waking grief;
Oh, safer he than though thou were
Good as his vague belief!
There is a heaven that heaven above
Whereon he gazes now;
A truer love than in thy kiss;
A better friend than thou!
The Father's arms fold like a nest
Both thee and him about;
His face looks down, a heaven of rest,
Where comes no dark, no doubt.
Its mists are clouds of stars that move
On, on, with progress rife;
Its winds, the goings of his love;
Its dew, the dew of life.
We for our children seek thy heart,
For them we lift our eyes:
Lord, should their faith in us depart,
Let faith in thee arise.
When childhood's visions them forsake,
To women grown and men,
Back to thy heart their hearts oh take,
And bid them dream again.
"Rejoice," said the Sun; "I will make thee gay
With glory and gladness and holiday;
I am dumb, O man, and I need thy voice!"
But man would not rejoice.
"Rejoice in thyself," said he, "O Sun,
For thy daily course is a lordly one;
In thy lofty place rejoice if thou can:
For me, I am only a man."
"Rejoice," said the Wind; "I am free and strong,
And will wake in thy heart an ancient song;
Hear the roaring woods, my organ noise!"
But man would not rejoice.
"Rejoice, O Wind, in thy strength," said he,
"For thou fulfillest thy destiny;
Shake the forest, the faint flowers fan;
For me, I am only a man."
"Rejoice," said the Night, "with moon and star,
For the Sun and the Wind are gone afar;
I am here with rest and dreaming choice!"
But man would not rejoice;
For he said--"What is rest to me, I pray,
Whose labour leads to no gladsome day?
He only can dream who has hope behind:
Alas for me and my kind!"
Then a voice that came not from moon or star,
From the sun, or the wind that roved afar,
Said, "Man, I am with thee--hear my voice!"
And man said, "I rejoice."
_THE GRACE OF GRACE_.
Had I the grace to win the grace
Of some old man in lore complete,
My face would worship at his face,
And I sit lowly at his feet.
Had I the grace to win the grace
Of childhood, loving shy, apart,
The child should find a nearer place,
And teach me resting on my heart.
Had I the grace to win the grace
Of maiden living all above,
My soul would trample down the base,
That she might have a man to love.
A grace I had no grace to win
Knocks now at my half open door:
Ah, Lord of glory, come thou in!--
Thy grace divine is all, and more.
Daylight fades away.
Is the Lord at hand
In the shadows gray
Stealing on the land?
Gently from the east
Come the shadows gray;
But our lowly priest
Nearer is than they.
It is darkness quite.
Is the Lord at hand,
In the cloak of night
Stolen upon the land?
But I see no night,
For my Lord is here
With him dark is light,
With him far is near.
List! the cock's awake.
Is the Lord at hand?
Cometh he to make
Light in all the land?
Long ago he made
Morning in my heart;
Long ago he bade
Shadowy things depart.
Lo, the dawning hill!
Is the Lord at hand,
Come to scatter ill,
Ruling in the land?
He hath scattered ill,
Ruling in my mind;
Growing to his will,
Freedom comes, I find.
We will watch all day,
Lest the Lord should come;
All night waking stay
In the darkness dumb.
I will work all day,
For the Lord hath come;
Down my head will lay
All night, glad and dumb.
For we know not when
Christ may be at hand;
But we know that then
Joy is in the land.
For I know that where
Christ hath come again,
Quietness without care
Dwelleth in his men.
If I might guess, then guess I would
That, mid the gathered folk,
This gentle Dorcas one day stood,
And heard when Jesus spoke.
She saw the woven seamless coat--
Half envious, for his sake:
"Oh, happy hands," she said, "that wrought
The honoured thing to make!"
Her eyes with longing tears grow dim:
She never can come nigh
To work one service poor for him
For whom she glad would die!
But, hark, he speaks! Oh, precious word!
And she has heard indeed!
"When did we see thee naked, Lord,
And clothed thee in thy need?"
"The King shall answer, Inasmuch
As to my brethren ye
Did it--even to the least of such--
Ye did it unto me."
Home, home she went, and plied the loom,
And Jesus' poor arrayed.
She died--they wept about the room,
And showed the coats she made.
"They have no more wine!" she said.
But they had enough of bread;
And the vessels by the door
Held for thirst a plenteous store:
Yes, _enough_; but Love divine
Turned the water into wine!
When should wine like water flow,
But when home two glad hearts go!
When, in sacred bondage bound,
Soul in soul hath freedom found!
Such the time when, holy sign,
Jesus turned the water wine.
Good is all the feasting then;
Good the merry words of men;
Good the laughter and the smiles;
Good the wine that grief beguiles;--
Crowning good, the Word divine
Turning water into wine!
Friends, the Master with you dwell!
Daily work this miracle!
When fair things too common grow,
Bring again their heavenly show!
Ever at your table dine,
Turning water into wine!
So at last you shall descry
All the patterns of the sky:
Earth a heaven of short abode;
Houses temples unto God;
Water-pots, to vision fine,
Brimming full of heavenly wine.
As Jesus went into Jericho town,
Twas darkness all, from toe to crown,
About blind Bartimeus.
He said, "My eyes are more than dim,
They are no use for seeing him:
No matter--he can see us!"
"Cry out, cry out, blind brother--cry;
Let not salvation dear go by.--
Have mercy, Son of David."
Though they were blind, they both could hear--
They heard, and cried, and he drew near;
And so the blind were saved.
O Jesus Christ, I am very blind;
Nothing comes through into my mind;
'Tis well I am not dumb:
Although I see thee not, nor hear,
I cry because thou may'st be near:
O son of Mary, come!
I hear it through the all things blind:
Is it thy voice, so gentle and kind--
"Poor eyes, no more be dim"?
A hand is laid upon mine eyes;
I hear, and hearken, see, and rise;--
'Tis He! I follow him!
_COME UNTO ME_.
Come unto me, the Master says:--
But how? I am not good;
No thankful song my heart will raise,
Nor even wish it could.
I am not sorry for the past,
Nor able not to sin;
The weary strife would ever last
If once I should begin!
Hast thou no burden then to bear?
No action to repent?
Is all around so very fair?
Is thy heart quite content?
Hast thou no sickness in thy soul?
No labour to endure?
Then go in peace, for thou art whole;
Thou needest not his cure.
Ah, mock me not! I often sigh;
I have a nameless grief,
A faint sad pain--but such that I
Can look for no relief.
Come, come to him who made thy heart;
Come weary and oppressed;
To come to Jesus is thy part,
His part to give thee rest.
New grief, new hope he will bestow,
Thy grief and pain to quell;
Into thy heart himself will go,
And that will make thee well.
O Lord of life, thy quickening voice
Awakes my morning song!
In gladsome words I would rejoice
That I to thee belong.
I see thy light, I feel thy wind;
The world, it is thy word;
Whatever wakes my heart and mind,
Thy presence is, my Lord.
The living soul which I call me
Doth love, and long to know;
It is a thought of living thee,
Nor forth of thee can go.
Therefore I choose my highest part,
And turn my face to thee;
Therefore I stir my inmost heart
To worship fervently.
Lord, let me live and will this day--
Keep rising from the dead;
Lord, make my spirit good and gay--
Give me my daily bread.
Within my heart, speak, Lord, speak on,
My heart alive to keep,
Till comes the night, and, labour done,
In thee I fall asleep.
I love thy skies, thy sunny mists,
Thy fields, thy mountains hoar,
Thy wind that bloweth where it lists--
Thy will, I love it more.
I love thy hidden truth to seek
All round, in sea, on shore;
The arts whereby like gods we speak--
Thy will to me is more.
I love thy men and women, Lord,
The children round thy door;
Calm thoughts that inward strength afford--
Thy will than these is more.
But when thy will my life doth hold
Thine to the very core,
The world, which that same will doth mould,
I love, then, ten times more!
O God, whose daylight leadeth down
Into the sunless way,
Who with restoring sleep dost crown
The labour of the day!
What I have done, Lord, make it clean
With thy forgiveness dear;
That so to-day what might have been,
To-morrow may appear.
And when my thought is all astray,
Yet think thou on in me;
That with the new-born innocent day
My soul rise fresh and free.
Nor let me wander all in vain
Through dreams that mock and flee;
But even in visions of the brain,
Go wandering toward thee.
_THE HOLY MIDNIGHT_.
Ah, holy midnight of the soul,
When stars alone are high;
When winds are resting at their goal,
And sea-waves only sigh!
Ambition faints from out the will;
Asleep sad longing lies;
All hope of good, all fear of ill,
All need of action dies;
Because God is, and claims the life
He kindled in thy brain;
And thou in him, rapt far from strife,
Diest and liv'st again.
I follow, tottering, in the funeral train
That bears my body to the welcoming grave.
As those I mourn not, that entomb the brave,
But smile as those that lay aside the vain;
To me it is a thing of poor disdain,
A clod I would not give a sigh to save!
I follow, careless, in the funeral train,
My outworn raiment to the cleansing grave.
I follow to the grave with growing pain--
Then sudden cry: Let Earth take what she gave!
And turn in gladness from the yawning cave--
Glad even for those whose tears yet flow amain:
They also follow, in their funeral train,
Outworn necessities to the welcoming grave!
When I look back upon my life nigh spent,
Nigh spent, although the stream as yet flows on,
I more of follies than of sins repent,
Less for offence than Love's shortcomings moan.
With self, O Father, leave me not alone--
Leave not with the beguiler the beguiled;
Besmirched and ragged, Lord, take back thine own:
A fool I bring thee to be made a child.
_HOME FROM THE WARS_.
A tattered soldier, gone the glow and gloss,
With wounds half healed, and sorely trembling knee,
Homeward I come, to claim no victory-cross:
I only faced the foe, and did not flee.
_GOD; NOT GIFT_.
Gray clouds my heaven have covered o'er;
My sea ebbs fast, no more to flow;
Ghastly and dry, my desert shore
Parched, bare, unsightly things doth show.
'Tis thou, Lord, cloudest up my sky;
Stillest the heart-throb of my sea;
Tellest the sad wind not to sigh,
Yea, life itself to wait for thee!
Lord, here I am, empty enough!
My music but a soundless moan!
Blind hope, of all my household stuff,
Leaves me, blind hope, not quite alone!
Shall hope too go, that I may trust
Purely in thee, and spite of all?
Then turn my very heart to dust--
On thee, on thee, I yet will call.
List! list! his wind among the pines
Hark! hark! that rushing is his sea's!
O Father, these are but thy signs!--
For thee I hunger, not for these!
Not joy itself, though pure and high--
No gift will do instead of thee!
Let but my spirit know thee nigh,
And all the world may sleep for me!
_TO ANY FRIEND_.
If I did seem to you no more
Than to myself I seem,
Not thus you would fling wide the door,
And on the beggar beam!
You would not don your radiant best,
Or dole me more than half!
Poor palmer I, no angel guest;
A shaking reed my staff!
At home, no rich fruit, hanging low,
Have I for Love to pull;
Only unripe things that must grow
Till Autumn's maund be full!
But I forsake my niggard leas,
My orchard, too late hoar,
And wander over lands and seas
To find the Father's door.
When I have reached the ancestral farm,
Have clomb the steepy hill,
And round me rests the Father's arm,
Then think me what you will.
Summer is come again. The sun is bright,
And the soft wind is breathing. Airy joy
Is sparkling in thine eyes, and in their light
My soul is shining. Come; our day's employ
Shall be to revel in unlikely things,
In gayest hopes, fondest imaginings,
And make-believes of bliss. Come, we will talk
Of waning moons, low winds, and a dim sea;
Till this fair summer, deepening as we walk,
Has grown a paradise for you and me.
But ah, those leaves!--it was not summer's mouth
Breathed such a gold upon them. And look there--
That beech how red! See, through its boughs, half-bare,
How low the sun lies in the mid-day south!--
The sweetness is but one pined memory flown
Back from our summer, wandering alone!
See, see the dead leaves falling! Hear thy heart,
Which, with the year's pulse beating swift or slow,
Takes in the changing world its changing part,
Return a sigh, an echo sad and low,
To the faint, scarcely audible sound
With which the leaf goes whispering to the ground!
O love, sad winter lieth at the door--
Behind sad winter, age--we know no more.
Come round me, dear hearts. All of us will hold
Each of us compassed: we are growing old;
And if we be not as a ring enchanted,
Hearts around heart, with love to keep it gay,
The young, who claim the joy that haunted
Our visions once, will push us far away
Into the desolate regions, dim and gray,
Where the sea moans, and hath no other cry,
The clouds hang low, and have no tears,
Old dreams lie mouldering in a pit of years,
And hopes and songs all careless pass us by.
But if all each do keep,
The rising tide of youth will sweep
Around us with its laughter-joyous waves,
As ocean fair some palmy island laves,
To loneliness heaved slow from out the deep;
And our youth hover round us like the breath
Of one that sleeps, and sleepeth not to death.
Thus ringed eternally, to parted graves,
The sundered doors into one palace home,
Stumbling through age's thickets, we will go,
Faltering but faithful--willing to lie low,
Willing to part, not willing to deny
The lovely past, where all the futures lie.
Oh! if thou be, who of the live art lord,
Not of the dead--Lo, by that self-same word,
Thou art not lord of age, but lord of youth--
Because there is no age, in sooth,
Beyond its passing shows!
A mist o'er life's dimmed lantern grows;
Thou break'st the glass, out streams the light
That knows not youth nor age,
That fears no darkness nor the rage
Of windy tempests--burning still more bright
Than when glad youth was all about,
And summer winds were out!
When in the bosom of the eldest night
This body lies, cold as a sculptured rest;
When through its shaded windows comes no light,
And its pale hands are folded on its breast--
How shall I fare, who had to wander out,
And of the unknown land the frontier cross,
Peering vague-eyed, uncertain, all about,
Unclothed, mayhap unwelcomed, bathed in loss?
Shall I depart slow-floating like a mist,
Over the city murmuring beneath;
Over the trees and fields, where'er I list,
Seeking the mountain and the lonely heath?
Or will a darkness, o'er material shows
Descending, hide them from the spirit's sight;
As from the sun a blotting radiance flows
Athwart the stars all glorious through the night;
And the still spirit hang entranced, alone,
Like one in an exalted opium-dream--
Soft-flowing time, insisting space, o'erblown,
With form and colour, tone and touch and gleam,
Thought only waking--thought that may not own
The lapse of ages, or the change of spot;
Its doubt all cast on what it counted known,
Its faith all fixed on what appeareth not?
Or, worn with weariness, shall we sleep until,
Our life restored by long and dreamless rest,
Of God's oblivion we have drunk our fill,
And wake his little ones, peaceful and blest?
I nothing know, and nothing need to know.
God is; I shall be ever in his sight!
Give thou me strength to labour well, and so
Do my day's work ere fall my coming night.
I am weary, and very lonely,
And can but think--think.
If there were some water only
That a spirit might drink--drink,
With light in the eyes
And a crown of hope on the brow,
To walk abroad in the strength of gladness,
Not sit in the house, benumbed with sadness--
But, Lord, thy child will be sad--
As sad as it pleases thee;
Will sit, not seeking to be glad,
Till thou bid sadness flee,
And, drawing near,
With thy good cheer
Awake thy life in me.
_IF I WERE A MONK, AND THOU WERT A NUN_.
If I were a monk, and thou wert a nun,
Pacing it wearily, wearily,
Twixt chapel and cell till day were done--
How would it fare with these hearts of ours
That need the sunshine, and smiles, and flowers?
To prayer, to prayer, at the matins' call,
Morning foul or fair!--
Such prayer as from weary lips might fall--
Words, but hardly prayer--
The chapel's roof, like the law in stone,
Caging the lark that up had flown!
Thou, in the glory of cloudless noon,
Turning thy face from the boundless boon--
Or, in brown-shadowy solitude,
Bending thy head o'er the legend rude!
I, in a bare and lonely nook,
Poring over some musty book,
Or painting pictures of things of old
On parchment-margin in purple and gold!
Perchance in slow procession to meet,
In antique, narrow, high-gabled street,
Thine eyes dark-lifted to mine, and then
Heavily sinking to earth again!
Sunshine and air! bird-music and spring!
Back to its cell each weary thing,
Our poor hearts, withered and dry and old,
Most at home in the cloister cold!
Thou slow rising at vespers' call,
I looking up on the darkening wall,
The chime so sweet to the boat at sea,
Listless and dead to thee and me!
At length for sleep a weary assay,
On the lone couch wearily!
Rising at midnight again to pray,
And if through the dark dear eyes looked in,
Sending them far as a thought of sin!
And at last, thy tired soul passing away,
Its worn tent fluttering in slow decay,
Over thee held the crucified Best,
But no warm cheek to thy cold cheek pressed!
And then my passing from cell to clay,
My gray head lying on ashes gray,
But no woman-angel hovering above,
Ready to clasp me in deathless love!
Now, now, ah, now! thy hand in mine,
My arm round thee, and my lips on thine,
Oh! is not a better thing to us given
Than wearily going alone to heaven?
Night, with her power to silence day,
Filled up my lonely room,
Quenching all sounds but one that lay
Beyond her passing doom,
Where in his shed a workman gay
Went on despite the gloom.
I listened, and I knew the sound,
And the trade that he was plying;
For backwards, forwards, bound on bound,
A shuttle was flying, flying--
Weaving ever--till, all unwound,
The weft go out a sighing.
As hidden in thy chamber lowest
As in the sky the lark,
Thou, mystic thing, on working goest
Without the poorest spark,
And yet light's garment round me throwest,
Who else, as thou, were dark.
With body ever clothing me,
Thou mak'st me child of light;
I look, and, Lo, the earth and sea,
The sky's rejoicing height,
A woven glory, globed by thee,
Unknowing of thy might!
And when thy darkling labours fail,
And thy shuttle moveless lies,
My world will drop, like untied veil
From before a lady's eyes;
Or, all night read, a finished tale
That in the morning dies.
Yet not in vain dost thou unroll
The stars, the world, the seas--
A mighty, wonder-painted scroll
Of Patmos mysteries,
Thou mediator 'twixt my soul
And higher things than these!
Thy holy ephod bound on me,
I pass into a seer;
For still in things thou mak'st me see,
The unseen grows more clear;
Still their indwelling Deity
Speaks plainer in mine ear.
Divinely taught the craftsman is
Who waketh wonderings;
Whose web, the nursing chrysalis
Round Psyche's folded wings,
To them transfers the loveliness
Of its inwoven things.
Yet joy when thou shalt cease to beat!--
For a greater heart beats on,
Whose better texture follows fleet
On thy last thread outrun,
With a seamless-woven garment, meet
To clothe a death-born son.
Of old, with goodwill from the skies--
God's message to them given--
The angels came, a glad surprise,
And went again to heaven.
But now the angels are grown rare,
Needed no more as then;
Far lowlier messengers can bear
God's goodwill unto men.
Each year, the snowdrops' pallid dawn
Breaks from the earth below;
Light spreads, till, from the dark updrawn,
The noontide roses glow.
The snowdrops first--the dawning gray;
Then out the roses burn!
They speak their word, grow dim--away
To holy dust return.
Of oracles were little dearth,
Should heaven continue dumb;
From lowliest corners of the earth
God's messages will come.
In thy face his we see, O Lord,
And are no longer blind;
Need not so much his rarer word,
In flowers even read his mind.
_TO MY SISTER_,
ON HER TWENTY-FIRST BIRTHDAY.
Old fables are not all a lie
That tell of wondrous birth,
Of Titan children, father Sky,
And mighty mother Earth.
Yea, now are walking on the ground
Sons of the mingled brood;
Yea, now upon the earth are found
Such daughters of the Good.
Earth-born, my sister, thou art still
A daughter of the sky;
Oh, climb for ever up the hill
Of thy divinity!
To thee thy mother Earth is sweet,
Her face to thee is fair;
But thou, a goddess incomplete,
Must climb the starry stair.
Wouldst thou the holy hill ascend,
Wouldst see the Father's face?
To all his other children bend,
And take the lowest place.
Be like a cottage on a moor,
A covert from the wind,
With burning fire and open door,
And welcome free and kind.
Thus humbly doing on the earth
The things the earthly scorn,
Thou shalt declare the lofty birth
Of all the lowly born.
Be then thy sacred womanhood
A sign upon thee set,
A second baptism--understood--
For what thou must be yet.
For, cause and end of all thy strife,
And unrest as thou art,
Still stings thee to a higher life
The Father at thy heart.
_OH THOU OF LITTLE FAITH_!
Sad-hearted, be at peace: the snowdrop lies
Buried in sepulchre of ghastly snow;
But spring is floating up the southern skies,
And darkling the pale snowdrop waits below.
Let me persuade: in dull December's day
We scarce believe there is a month of June;
But up the stairs of April and of May
The hot sun climbeth to the summer's noon.
Yet hear me: I love God, and half I rest.
O better! God loves thee, so all rest thou.
He is our summer, our dim-visioned Best;--
And in his heart thy prayer is resting now.
With hearts at rest in your thick leaves' soft care,
Peeping as from his mother's lap the child
Who courts shy shelter from his own open air!--
Whose blue heaven to no wanderer ever closes,
Though thou still lookest earthward from thy domed cell!--
Anemone, so well
Named of the Wind, to whom thou, fettered-free,
Yieldest thee, helpless--wilfully,
With _Take me or leave me,
Sweet Wind, I am thine own Anemone_!--
Thirsty Arum, ever dreaming
Of lakes in wildernesses gleaming!--
Communing with some hidden well,
And secrets with the sun-god holding,
At fixed hour folding and unfolding!--
How is it with you, children all,
When human children on you fall,
Gather you in eager haste,
Spoil your plenty with their waste--
Fill and fill their dropping hands?
Feel you hurtfully disgraced
By their injurious demands?
Do you know them from afar,
Shuddering at their merry hum,
Growing faint as near they come?
Blind and deaf they think you are--
Is it only ye are dumb?
You alive at least, I think,
Trembling almost on the brink
Of our lonely consciousness:
If it be so,
Take this comfort for your woe,
For the breaking of your rest,
For the tearing in your breast,
For the blotting of the sun,
For the death too soon begun,
For all else beyond redress--
Or what seemeth so to be--
That the children's wonder-springs
Bubble high at sight of you,
Lovely, lowly, common things:
In you more than you they see!
Take this too--that, walking out,
Looking fearlessly about,
Ye rebuke our manhood's doubt,
And our childhood's faith renew;
So that we, with old age nigh,
Seeing you alive and well
Out of winter's crucible,
Hearing you, from graveyard crept,
Tell us that ye only slept--
Think we die not, though we die.
Thus ye die not, though ye die--
Only yield your being up,
Like a nectar-holding cup:
Deaf, ye give to them that hear,
With a greatness lovely-dear;
Blind, ye give to them that see--
Poor, but bounteous royally.
Lowly servants to the higher,
Burning upwards in the fire
Of Nature's endless sacrifice,
In great Life's ascent ye rise,
Leave the lowly earth behind,
Pass into the human mind,
Pass with it up into God,
Whence ye came though through the clod--
Pass, and find yourselves at home
Where but life can go and come;
Where all life is in its nest,
At loving one with holy Best;--
Who knows?--with shadowy, dawning sense
Of a past, age-long somnolence!
Days of old,
Ye are not dead, though gone from me;
Ye are not cold,
But like the summer-birds fled o'er some sea.
The sun brings back the swallows fast
O'er the sea;
When he cometh at the last,
The days of old come back to me.
"Murmuring, 'twixt a murmur and moan,
Many a tune in a single tone,
For every ear with a secret true--
The sea-shell wants to whisper to you."
"Yes--I hear it--far and faint,
Like thin-drawn prayer of drowsy saint;
Like the muffled sounds of a summer rain;
Like the wash of dreams in a weary brain."
"By smiling lip and fixed eye,
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