Duchess Agnes (2)

Home Up Poems by Isa Songs of Consolation Poems: a Miscellany The Argosy (1866) Tales on the Parables Tales on The Parables Poetry Reviews Cotton Famine Round the Court Peggy Oglivie Esther West Fanny's Fortune A Heroine of Home Little Folk's History Deepdale Vicarage Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

[Previous page]

ODE
ON THE CENTENARY OF BURNS.
___________________


    WE hail, this morn,
A century's noblest birth;
    A Poet peasant-born,
Who more of Fame's immortal dower .
        Unto his country brings,
        Than all her Kings!

    As lamps high set
Upon some earthly eminence,—
And to the gazer brighter thence
Than the sphere-lights they flout,—
    Dwindle in distance and die out,
    While no star waneth yet;
So through the past's far-reaching night,
Only the star-souls keep their light.

    A gentle boy,—
With moods of sadness and of mirth,
    Quick tears and sudden joy,—
Grew up beside the peasant's hearth.
    His father's toil he shares;
    But half his mother's cares
    From his dark searching eyes,
Too swift to sympathise,
        Hid in her heart she bears.

        At early morn,
His father calls him to the field;
    Through the stiff soil that clogs his feet,
        Chill rain, and harvest heat,
He plods all day; returns at eve outworn,
    To the rude fare a peasant's lot doth yield;
To what else was he born?

        The God-made King
        Of every living thing;
(For his great heart in love could hold them all;)
The dumb eyes meeting his by hearth and stall,—
        Gifted to understand!—
        Knew it and sought his hand;
And the most timorous creature had not fled,
        Could she his heart have read,
Which fain all feeble things had blessed and sheltered.

            To Nature's feast,—
        Who knew her noblest guest
        And entertained him best,—
Kingly he came.   Her chambers of the east
    She draped with crimson and with gold,
        And poured her pure joy-wines
                For him the poet-souled.
                For him her anthem rolled,
From the storm-wind among the winter pines,
                Down to the slenderest note
Of a love-warble from the linnet's throat.

                But when begins
The array for battle, and the trumpet blows,
A King must leave the feast, and lead the fight.
                And with its mortal foes,—
Grim gathering hosts of sorrows and of sins,—
                Each human soul must close.
                And Fame her trumpet blew
Before him; wrapped him in her purple state;
And made him mark for all the shafts of Fate,
                That henceforth round him flew.

                Though he may yield
Hard-pressed, and wounded fall
                Forsaken on the field;
            His regal vestments soiled;
            His crown of half its jewels spoiled;
                    He is a King for all.
            Had he but stood aloof!
Had he arrayed himself in armour proof
                Against temptation's darts!
So yearn the good;—so those the world calls wise,
                With vain presumptuous hearts,
                    Triumphant moralise.

            Of martyr-woe
A sacred shadow on his memory rests;
    Tears have not ceased to flow;
Indignant grief yet stirs impetuous breasts,
    To think, above that noble soul brought low,
That wise and soaring spirit fooled, enslaved,
    Thus, thus he had been saved!

            It might not be!
    That heart of harmony
    Had been too rudely rent:
Its silver chords, which any hand could wound,
          By no hand could be tuned,
    Save by the Maker of the instrument,
          Its every string who knew,
And from profaning touch His heavenly gift withdrew.

            Regretful love
        His country fain would prove,
By grateful honours lavished on his grave;
    Would fain redeem her blame
That He so little at her hands can claim,
    Who unrewarded gave
To her his life-bought gift of song and fame.

            The land he trod
Hath now become a place of pilgrimage;
    Where dearer are the daisies of the sod
    That could his song engage.
        The hoary hawthorn, wreathed
Above the bank on which his limbs he flung
    While some sweet plaint he breathed;
    The streams he wandered near;
The maidens whom he loved; the songs he sung;—
            All, all are dear!

            The arch blue eyes,—
    Arch but for love's disguise,—
Of Scotland's daughters, soften at his strain;
Her hardy sons, sent forth across the main
To drive the ploughshare through earth's virgin soils,
        Lighten with it their toils;
And sister-lands have learn'd to love the tongue
        In which such songs are sung.

        For doth not Song
        To the whole world belong?
Is it not given wherever tears can fall,
Wherever hearts can melt, or blushes glow,
Or mirth and sadness mingle as they flow,
        A heritage to all?

_________________

 

 

REST: AN ODE.
_________

"Give us, oh, give us rest!"


        BENEATH the hill
        The lake lies still;
A single cloudlet, sailing to the west,
        Moves in the boundless blue,
        Moves in that mirror too,
With motion most like rest.

        Beside the stream
        The blue flowers dream;
On banks grass-muffled, mute
To tread of any foot,
The trees stand back, that so
Their murmurs may be low;
Leaning together, by one whisper stirred,
To drown the voice of that audacious bird.

        The great sea lies,
        By tender skies
Embraced, till, lowering his foamy crest,
        Up to the shore he slips,
        A murmur on his lips,
As he too prayed for rest.
        "Give us, oh, give us rest!"

        In vain
Nature upon her child
With her fair face hath smiled;
She cannot ease his pain:
        She has no balm
        That throbbing heart to calm,
Or drive Thought's hurrying crowd from that
                distracted brain:
The mournful mother rocks him on her breast,
        She cannot give him rest.

        For rest
Have all men laboured, all the centuries round:
        O quest
By all men followed and by none yet found!
The task, like spell by wicked wizard bound,
Grows with the labour; with the boon the need;
The distance seems to lengthen with the speed;
        The goal still to recede.

        The camel kneels,
        With mute appeals
In her mild eyes against the crushing load;
        At the sharp-pricking goad,
        The ox, with mighty strain,
Lowers his broad front in menace vain,
His strong fierce neck is tugging at the yoke;
        And quivering to the stroke,
Upon his mission speeds the fiery horse,
Nor spares his generous life to close the headlong
                course.

        Nature at length,
        As fain that man should rest,
Gives up her deeper secrets to his prayer;
        To his behest
Her mighty forces shall obedience yield,
        Her empire he shall share,
        Yea! he shall wield
        All her resistless strength;
Even that which heaved the mountains, and which
                moves
The starry wheels in their unerring grooves.

        With grind and groan,
        With clank and moan,
Their task the prisoned forces ply,—
        The great wheels fly

As if they wove the web of Fate;
And to and fro, amid the roar,
Squalid creatures pace the floor;
Slaves of those iron wheels are they,
Bound their impulse to obey,
And upon their bidding wait;
While to their service dumb,
        Not only men are given,
        But childish troops are driven,
And women come,
Till every heart with weariness is numb.

        Still Nature grants
Fresh ministers of might man's needs to serve.
        Lo! a fierce creature pants
To do his bidding and his burdens bear;
        And its keen nerve
Hath the tamed lightning in his service spent,
As laden with his message forth it went,
        Nor moved the midnight air.

        But faster beat
The hearts to whom that message comes.
        "Haste! make the task complete;
        Haste let the rousing drums
Gather strong men to do the work of war!"
And wide and far,
As speeds the message, hands their labour ply
Faster; the forge upon the midnight sky
Sends up a steadier glare,
While instruments of death shriek bodings of despair.

        Now he shall rest!
The mighty mother takes him to her breast.
O mockery! this is not the rest he craves—
This dread, this utter stillness is the grave's.

        What voice doth dare
Say "I will" to the universal prayer?
        Above the din,
        The strife and sin,
Of toiling centuries, sounds the bidding blest!
        "Come, I will give you rest."
(Not to lay down your burdens; but to bear!
'Tis but to learn the yoke of love to wear,)
And weariest of the weary, as was meet,
Walking those centuries with bleeding feet,
Obeyed, and found that Rest unutterably sweet.

_________________

 

 

THE NEST.

-I.-


        THE place was called The Nest,
        Because the birds love best
To build in bowery and sequestered places;
        And jasmines round it creep,
        And roses come and peep
In at the windows, with their blushing faces.

        And thus it was half hid,
        Verdure and bloom amid,
And swallows had their nests beneath its eaves;
        Its walls were hardly seen
        For the embowering green,
With the birds twittering in among the leaves.

        And he, a stealthy look,
        Who with the roses took,
Within the casement-curtain, fluttering white,
        If weary, longed to rest
        In such a dainty nest,
So fresh and pure was all that met his sight;

        Breathing of sweet repose,
        With scents of thyme and rose,
From a wide china-basin filled with these,
        To visit which would come,
        With their industrious hum
Changing to scornful buzz, the wandering bees.

        Far richer sweets they found
        In their own garden ground;
Upon a gentle sunny bank it lay;
        Long alleys, grassy green,
        Ran sloping down between
The rows of apple-trees and borders gay.

        All simple sweets were there
        That load the summer air
With odour; every blossom-bearing tree,
        Stocks of the richest bloom,
        Carnations' spiced perfume,
Sweet lavender, sweet-william, and sweet pea.

        There too the scentless pea,
        Nigh her gay sister, she
With beauty wanting worth, her worth contrasted,
        Her sweet fruit glistening green,
        The other's black and lean,
Being sweet only while her blooming lasted.

        The vegetable race
        Were there with homely grace
And honest plainness, needing no adorning:
        In coarsest garb arrayed,
        The cabbage there displayed
The great dew-diamonds in her lap at morning.

        Around the garden-wall,—
        Laden with clusters small,
And jewel bright,—the viny currants spread;
        And myriad berries, full
        Of nectar sweet and cool,
Hung their ripe globes of yellow, green, and red.

        One window of The Nest,
        Higher than all the rest,
Yet cased amid the jasmine's thick dark green,
        This bright and bounteous store
        Of bloom and fruitage o'er,
From its perched nook, surveyed the spreading scene.



-II.-


        One day a stranger came,—
        Whom the kind pleasant dame
Saw lingering, and had bidden in to rest,—
        Saying he longed to meet
        With such a fair retreat:
He sought and found a lodging in The Nest.

        Over the stranger's head
        The days of summer sped,
Till shook the ripe ears at the reaping-hooks;
        In what was called the bower,
        Through many a sunny hour,
He sat with studious brow among his books.

        The bower was seated round,
        Leaf-clad, and woodbine-crowned,
And there a little maid his supper brought;
        For him would berries pull
        An osier-basket full,
And every way to serve the stranger sought.

        "She is a lovely child,"
        He thought, when first she smiled;
"A beauty somewhat rare 'mong country girls.
        When her faint smile full beamed,
        What gem-like lustre gleamed
From her brown eyes, and teeth like glancing pearls!"

        And sometimes he would trace
        The paths about the place;
But if beyond his ken he wished to stray,
        The matron he would ask­
        If free from household task—
To let her little daughter point the way.

        So these unequal two
        Into companions grew.
At first she kept a silence grave and shy;
        At length with eager talk
        She would beguile the walk,
Till all her thoughts unlocked before him lie.

        One day her light foot slipped
        As by his side she tripped,
And with a smile he caught her rosy hand;
        And as in his it lay,
        He kept it all the way,
Till at the garden gate again they stand.

        Then half in idle jest,
        Half of the thought possest,
"My little sweetheart, pretty Anne," said he,
        "Will you be sad at heart
        When you and I must part,
Or would you come, my pretty one, with me?"

        Her innocent clear eyes
        Lifting, she thus replies:
"Yes, if my mother had another child."
        And as they looked at him,
        The eyes began to swim,
And something smote him strangely though he smiled.

        And once, in tender mood,
        He kissed her as he stood
Upon the threshold: they were parting then.
        And so he went away
        One tearful autumn day,
Saying, "With summer I will come again."



-III.-


        And after he was gone,
        The stream of life flowed on.
Whether our hearts are full of grief or gladness,
        Life's river, day by day,
        Is lapsing still away,
Dancing in joy, or stealing on in sadness.

        When through the wintry vale
        The wind would shriek and wail,
Scattering with frantic breath the falling snows,
        And up the garden-path
        Come sweeping in his wrath,
And from their shelter tear the clinging boughs,

        The mother and the sire,
        Silent beside the fire,
Would listen to the howling winter night;
        While little Anne would sit,
        And by the hearth-flame lit
Pore o'er some page with ever new delight.

        Then disappeared the snow,
        And mild winds whispered low
Of spring, until the buds peeped from the bowers,
        And finding spring was there,
        Burst laughing on the air,
And beckoned to the blossoms and the flowers.

        She watched the buds appear,
        And thought his coming near;
Like tidings brought the apple-blush to her:
        The walls were in a flame
        Of roses when he came,—
And thus she kept a flowery calendar.

        At last the roses blew,
        The starry jasmines too,—
How long the roses lingered on the walls!—
        The summer fruits were gone,
        The ruddy apple shone,—
The garden fades—the latest apple falls!

        And thus the time was spent ;
        The seasons came and went,
And came and went in sunshine and in rain;
        But he returned not,
        And almost was forgot,
Who with the summer was to come again.



IV.


        When all within The Nest
        Were laid in quiet rest,
And silent slept the birds beneath the eaves;
        When in the beamy light
        Of the soft starry night
Shone the small window up among the leaves,—

        There with a cheek grown pale,
        Looking adown the vale
To where the swimming moon shone on the stream,—
        Whose murmur, ever near,
        Seemed whispering in her ear,—
A maiden wept o'er her dissolving dream.

        And as her youth went by,
        With many a tender sigh,
Came to sweet Anne more than one rustic lover;
        Who as they turned away
        From her cold looks would say,
That she was proud, and looked for one above her.

        One steadfast heart there was
        Which drew not back because
Unanswered were the silent prayers it made,
        But still loved on, nor thought,
        Though love by love is bought,
To give in love but what of love was paid.

        Till by a smile made bold,
        This heart its secret told,
'Twas only, "Anne, O Anne, I love you so!"
        No other speech would come,
        Leaving the poor heart dumb,
Till tears, more eloquent, began to flow.

        And Anne's dear loving eyes
        Did quickly sympathise
With his, and wept in pitying tenderness,
        As if she knew the pain
        It is to love in vain:
And thus these hearts were knit in one distress.



-V.-


        "And so once more I rest,
        In this most peaceful Nest,
Where I have longed to come from year to year,
        Leaving behind awhile
        The world and its turmoil—
The dust of the great conflict falls not here.

        "Each thing bath kept its place,
        Wearing the same bright face,
That dish the selfsame roses seem to fill;
        All else is undisturbed,
        As Time his steeds had curbed—
It feels as if the rushing world stood still,

        "As yet I have not been
        To the old bower, nor seen
The little girl who lost her heart to me;
        She was a pretty thing,
        A fresh young bud of spring;
I marvel if as fair the flower will be.

        "Most likely she has grown
        A country lass full-blown,
With bright sun-ripened cheeks, and rough red arms;
        Not the most slender shape,
        A smile grown to a gape—
What rustic lovers deem unrivalled charms."

        Just then our injured Anne
        With tripping step began
To bear a burden up the garden walk;
        Just then she came in sight,
        Bearing that burden light,
Bending as fair as lily on its stalk.

        A beauty most refined,
        The growth of heart and mind,
Mixed with the gloss and hue of sparkling health,
        Glowed in her face—as he
        Who held this reverie
Owned, as he watched her drawing near by stealth.

        And when, to her surprise,
        She met admiring eyes
Fixed on her as she stood a mother mild,
        A little warmer grew
        Her cheek, and then she drew
The closer to her breast the nestling child.

        And then the throb was past—
        He knew it was the last:
She came and welcomed back the stranger guest;
        Where, with a sober grace,
        She holds her sacred place,
The mother dove—now brooding o'er "The Nest."

_________________

 

 

THE MASTER'S DAUGHTER.

-I.-


WISE of heart and cunning of hand,
The Master Builder wrought and planned;
Many fair houses builded he,
That should still be stout and strong,
Standing after centuries long
Amidst the men that then should be.

The Master Builder wrought and planned,
Till he grew famous in the land,
And the high nobles on him wait:
He built them houses great and fair,
With spacious courts and carvings rare,
And turrets high and halls of state.

And when to God a house he made,
The Master Builder wrought and prayed;
Before they set a single stone,
Master and men to church repair,
To begin their work with prayer
To Him who giveth strength alone.

Then rose apace the holy pile,
Wall and buttress and pillared aisle,
Under the master's watchful eye;
But the chisel drove and the mallet fell,
And the busy trowel plied as well,
To work his will when he was not nigh.

And twice in every year, at least,
He called his workmen to a feast;
Freely they quaffed his ripe brown ale,
Freely they strove at stone or ring,
Or who the bravest song should sing,
Or who should tell the merriest tale.

The Master's daughter, his one child,
Sat at her father's board, and smiled
On him who held the highest place;
And so bold Robert, year by year,
Kept his seat the maiden near,—
For the best craftsman claimed the grace.

On the morrow of such an eve,
Ready as if to take his leave,
Robert before the Master stood;
With downcast eyes his cap he doffed,
He craved to speak, yet stammered oft:
The Master marvelled at his mood.

Robert, so frank and free of speech,
What doth his tongue confusion teach?
But more the Master marvelled yet,
When the youth, catching sudden breath,
Crushing his cap the meanwhile, saith,
"I love your daughter Margaret."

"Ay, faith, and is the maiden told?
Young man, I think thee over-bold."
"I told her not," the youth replies.
"Thou from my service must depart,
Thou shalt not trouble the maiden's heart,"
The Master answered, calm and wise.

Then said the youth, "I mean it so;
Ready am I this hour to go.
I only came farewell to say."
He strove to carry it with pride.
"Good Master, fare thee well," he cried;
"I may come back another day."

"And this is all I ask of thee,
If maiden Margaret still be free,
And I return a richer man,
And she, no more above my state,
May wed me as an equal mate,
That I may win her if I can."



-II.-


Brave Robert journeyed many a day;
To foreign parts he held his way;
He took the humblest task that came,
Upon the humblest food he fared,
And oft the beggar's straw he shared,
Travelling to cities great of fame.

And where the noblest works were wrought,
The masters of his craft he sought,
And there to try his skill would crave;
And when beneath his hands the stone
Grew fairer than their thought had known,
To him the foremost rank they gave.

And where the lofty churches stood
Open, inviting all who would,
Passing to work, he stopped to pray;
So early, he was oft alone
With the sweet angels carved in stone,—
And teachers to the youth were they.

And not one day did he forget
To think of his fair Margaret;
Such thoughts as guardian saint might claim;
And every night before he slept
His waking thoughts for her he kept,
And through his dreams he breathed her name.



-III.-


The Master, chief of all the guild,
A noble Minster now doth build,
Fair as any the sun shall see;
And much he lacked a skilful hand
The thing to work that he had planned:
"If Robert were but here!" thought he.

Where our hearts have open door,
Thoughts, like heralds, go before,
And bid our friends our coming hail.
The Master's thoughts on Robert ran,
And there before him stood the man,—
He deemed his eyes began to fail.

Yes, it was Robert, he could see;
But travel-soiled and worn was he.
He was no richer man, 'twas plain;
His cheek, once like the apple-skin,
Ruddy and smooth, was dark and thin:
"Master," he said, "I've come again."

A welcome to his native land
The Master gave, and wrung his hand;
But nought how he had fared did ask.
As but a night had come between
Since he the Master's face had seen,
The morrow saw him at his task.

Unto his care the Master gave
Twin pillars for the lofty nave,
By the high altar's hallowed space,
These to work in every part,
With excess of lavish art,
With wreath, and scroll, and cherub face.

Beneath his hand the flowers grew
As fair as those that feed on dew,
In wreaths around the pillars thrown;
And fairer than the Master's thought
Were the rich traceries he wrought,
And the sweet angels carved in stone.

And every face that there was set
Wore some sweet look of Margaret,
In pity, love, and sanctity.
As 'neath the finished work they stand,
The Master grasped brave Robert's hand;
"Then art the richer man," said he.

Thus did the good old Master hold
His noble craft more dear than gold,
And maiden Margaret's heart was free.

_________________

 

 

HAL OF THE HOLLOW.

-I.-


HAL of the Hollow held his land
    By a title good in law,
And never a lawyer of the band
    Could find therein a flaw.

He dwelt amid as sweet a scene
    As any on English ground;
And from "The Hollow" might be seen
    Three fair shires round and round;

With two fair rivers winding through
    Broad meads and orchard-ranks,
Traced by the gayer green that grew
    Along their willowed banks.

No foot of that wide vale was his,
    And yet his heart would swell
With pride, to think no land like this,
    Was worthy love so well.

'Twas English ground he looked upon,
    So dear, but dearer still
Were those few roods he held his own,
    In a hollow of the hill.

His home was there, the straggling fields
    His yearly lambs that fed;
"His orchard—in the hill-side's shield,
    His apples grew ripe and red.

Of wild-rose and of bramble twined,
    The fence his field that edged,
With primrose and with violet lined,
    Whence rose the lark new-fledged.

To till his own soil every day,
    All times he found it sweet;
And sweet it was in the time of May
    To hear his new lambs bleat:

And through his heart a living gush
    Of the summer joy would go,
The apple to see in its virgin blush,
    The pear in its bridal snow.



-II-.


With a request too like command,
    Though gold he offered well,
The lord who owned the neighbouring land
    Had asked him once to sell.

And Hal with sturdy pride had said,
    "The land shall ne'er be sold;
I hold it in my father's stead,
    And so my son shall hold."

He had touched his cap with manly grace
    To the manor's lord before;
But on field, or hill, or holler place,
    He touched it never more.

Whereas, in loyal days of old,
    Had more than one stout sire
Found of his line a leader bold,
    And served—but not for hire.

But then the yeoman and his lord
    Sat down to one good cheer;
Now strangers stand behind the board,
    And come and go each year.

Then would the yeoman and the knight
    As boyish equals meet;
Now ne'er the dainty lordling might
    Hal's sons so much as greet.



-III.-


'Tis the mother's happiest time and best
    When her babes are round her knee;
For when the birds outgrow the nest,
    'Tis time that they must flee.

Tall and stout was our hero Hal,
    Slender and tall his dame;
And the youths and maids were fair and tall
    Of their good blood that came.

One sailed for golden fields afar,
    And his ship ne'er reached the shore;
One maiden married, and to the war
    Went one out of their four.

The youngest heard of honours won
    In the red war with the Russ;
Hal grudged his one remaining son,
    And only yielded thus;

When still the youth was for the fight,
    And England's need was most
Of men to show her vaunted might
    Was more than empty boast,

Up in the yeoman's bosom then
    Burned the old warlike flame;
That England should lack Englishmen,
    In honour's need, were shame.

He went, and 'mong the brave—no few—
    A place did swiftly gain;
And of his name his country knew,—
    But in her list of slain.

His mother, from the evil day
    Whose tidings told him dead,
Went about mourning ,—as they say,
    "No more held up her head."

And soon was down the hill-side borne,
    And in the churchyard laid;
And Hal was left, a man forlorn,
    With but his youngest maid.



-IV.-


No longer was the cottage-door
    In the May noon his seat ;
Sad seemed the hue the blossom wore,
    And sad the lambkin's bleat.

But still as stately was his stride,
    With heart bowed to the dust,
As when, his brave sons by his side,
    He showed his title just

To the loved birth-soil of his race,
    To which it still beat true:
Alice, who fills her mother's place,
    Shall fill her brother's too,—

Shall wed one born to honest toil;
    And he she weds shall swear
Ne'er to forsake that spot of soil
    For land however fair.

One Sabbath noon, the service o'er,
    The squire and yeoman met;
Hal stood his wife's new grave before,
    His rough cheek plainly wet;

And 'twas the squire who bowed the head,
    And stretched the friendly hand,
"Between us and our strife," he said,
    "Christ and the dead shall stand.

"Your son and mine were in the fight,
    And mine returns to tell
How, shielding him when wounded slight,
    Your brave young Harry fell.

"Hal, I remember once you said
    What now I understand,
That I could never fill your stead
    While men are more than land."



-V.-


There sits by Hal's hearth frequent now
    A soldier young and pale,
Of noble mien and gentle brow,
    Who tells an oft-told tale,

Of siege and battle, tent and field,
    Where last, one bloody day,
Hal's stalwart son was nigh to shield
    His leader in the fray.

His leader! he, that slender youth,
    From whom in battle-hour
Soldier might turn his steel in ruth,
    Or as scarce worth its power,

But that where his clear summons rang
    Through smoke and iron hail,
And where his slight form fearless sprang,
    Men followed without fail.

And Alice, eager listener too,
    Sits, and with swimming eyes,
And quivering lip, and changing hue,
    Her task to follow tries.

In vain,—she hangs upon his breath,
    She hears the bugles blow,
She sees the scene of glorious death,—
    The blinding tears will flow.

Ah, Alice, Alice, far too sweet
    Is thy unconscious grace!
He comes more often than is meet
    To gaze upon her face!

He vests her with his poet-dreams
    In more than queenly state,
Until the simple maiden seems
    Too lofty for his mate.

Those tears, that glow, that tender light,
    Were for his tale, not him.
Beneath the orchard-blossoms white,
    All through the twilight dim,

Her tears through happy smiles will gleam,
    Her cheek will brighter glow,
And tenderer light her eyes will beam
    Than he can ever know.



-VI.-


Hal rises from his garden-seat,
    Beneath his orchard's pride,
Once more his youthful guest to greet,
    And place him by his side.

The old man's look is almost fond,—
    He loves that tale to hear;
Alice is in the field beyond,
    This is not for her ear.

The old man's hand is on his arm,
    The soldier's head is bowed,
The sun is shining on him warm,
    But all his life doth cloud.

"My Alice is a promised bride;
    But if it were not so,"
Saith Hal, with all his ancient pride,
    "Still, I had bid thee go.

"Rather I'd see the hill I love
    Laid level in my sight,
Than, raised her father's state above,
    My Alice wed a knight.

"Proud were the land if each would grow
    More lofty in his state;
For stand he high, or stand he low,
    A man may still be great.

"God bless thee, lad!—my gallant boy
    Gave not his life for nought;
And some fair lady give thee joy
    Of true heart truly sought."

The youthful soldier's step was quick
    Down the hill-side that day;
He stooped not, as he wont, to pick
    The flowerets on his way.

Nor long his presence blessed his home;
    And eased his mother's heart;
"A soldier's duty bade him roam,"
    He said, and would depart.

The day he sailed for India, Hal
    His Alice gave away,
And ere long in the Hollow shall
    He see her children play.

While lies her noble lover's grave
    On Indian field afar;
He was among the foremost brave
    Struck down in that wild war.

_________________

 

 

MAÏMEE.


        Maïmee! Maïmee!
The waves repeat thy name to me,
And the winds lament for thee,
Sighing, moaning, "Maïmee!"
When my head is on the pillow
Comes the dream of dread to me,
And I see thee on the billow,
Like a loose weed floating, drifted
Near me, and I cannot flee
From the lidless eyes uplifted
To the heaven above the sea.

        Maïmee! Maïmee!
Far amid the southern sea
Lay thy lovely island home.
Rising from the middle deep,
Spicy grove and verdant plain,
Guarded by no frowning steep,
Ocean threatened oft to sweep
Back into its gulfs again;
But the girdling belt of foam
Marked where on the barrier rock—
Proof against the tempest's shock—
Ceaseless raved the outer main.

When the gentle island race
Fled before the stranger's face,
And he sank with succour nigh,
From death rescued but to die,
O'er him stood a pitying child,
With her dark eyes moist and mild;
Daughter of the island chief
Thou the wretched didst not flee,
And the voice of human grief
Pleaded not in vain with thee;
Thou didst haste to bring relief,
Spread the mat beneath the tree,
Brought thy bread and fruit to me,
Ill-requited Maïmee!

        Maïmee! Maïmee!
By thy father given to me,
When, by simple healing art,
I had quenched the fever flame
That consumed his scorching frame.
"To the land beyond the sea
Let the white chief ne'er depart;
Thou shalt dwell in peace," said he,
"To thy empty but with thee,
Thou shalt lead my Maïmee."

In my lonely hut apart,
Lonely pined my dusky bride,
While my light canoe would dart
Swiftly o'er the surging tide,
To explore my prison's bound;
Still with vainly eager eye,
Searching the horizon round,
If a sail I might descry;
Watching billows burst afar,
On the watery desert-plain,
Till I saw the evening star
Hang above the darkening main,
Shoreward then I turn'd again,
Shoreward o'er the moonlit sea;
Thrice twelve moons with wax and wane
Measured my captivity.

        Maïmee! Maïmee!
Hopeless then I turned to thee.
Thou, like gentle creature dumb,
Crouching to my feet wouldst come;
But the human blood would speak
Through the clear dark of thy cheek,
And the human sadness rise
In thy softly glistening eyes.
And I took thee to my heart—
Gave thee in my thought a part—
Woke the mighty love in thee,
Loved and happy Maïmee!

        Maïmee! Maïmee!
Light the tasks were laid on thee
To those thy savage sisters bore;
Mine was every harsher toil,
Mine to ply the labouring oar,
And to bring thee home the store
Of the glittering finny spoil;
While for me thy form to deck—
Round thy wrists and round thy neck—
Gorgeous blossoms thou wouldst string.
From the grove where thou hast fled
At my coming in thy glee,
I would hear thy laughter ring,
And from tree to tree be led,
Till from ambush thou wouldst spring,
With thy dark locks floating free,
Wild and happy Maïmee!

Lo, the welcome sight at last!
On the waves majestic borne,
The proud ship goes gliding past,
All her white sails filling fast
With the freshening breeze of morn.
As the war-horse in the mead,
When in drowsy ease reclined,
Hears the trumpets on the wind,
Sees the banners of a host
By the prancing chargers tossed,
Thrills through every fiery vein,
And bounds to join the ranks again—
So impelled, with frantic speed,
Madly bounding to the shore,
Swift I launched the light canoe,
Swiftly through the surf it flew,
Lightly leapt the barrier o'er—
I was forth upon the sea,
And without a thought of thee,
Poor, forsaken Maïmee!

Then a wild despairing cry
Smote me, and I look'd behind;
Thou my purpose hadst divined,
And I saw thee—saw thee nigh,
Stretch imploring arms in vain—
Saw thee wildly tempt the deep,
Shouting, bade thee turn again;
Then with fiercer stroke and sweep
Strove upon the ship to gain;
And at length she slack'd her sail,
Answering to my frantic hail;
Then again a maddening wail
Came to me along the sea;
Back once more I looked and saw
That thou still hadst followed me—
Saw the billows round thee leap,
Mouths of the devouring deep,
Round thy sinking head they played,
Yawning wide each gloomy jaw;
Ah ! too late I turn to aid,
For the deep had swallowed thee,
Lost and hapless Maïmee!

Once again I trod the deck,
Tale of a disastrous wreck
Telling in my native tongue.
And the ship held on her way
O'er the storm-plains many a day,
While evermore my heart was wrung.
Again I mingle in the strife
Of the glorious van of life.
But when my head is on the pillow
Comes the dream I cannot flee:
Heaving with the heaving billow,
Like a weed thy form is drifted
Nearer, nearer unto me,
With the lidless eyes uplifted
To the heaven above the sea.

_________________

 

 

THE
BALLAD OF THE BRIDES OF QUAIR.


A STILLNESS crept about the house,
At evenfall, in noon-tide blare;
Upon the silent hills looked forth
The many-windowed House of Quair.

The peacock on the terrace screamed;
Browsed on the lawn the timid hare;
The great trees grew i' the avenue,
Calm by the sheltered House of Quair.

The pool was still; around its brim
The alders sickened all the air;
There came no murmur from the streams,
Though nigh flowed Leithen, Tweed, and Quair.

The days hold on their wonted pace,
And men to court and camp repair,
Their part to fill, of good or ill,
While women keep the House of Quair.

And one is clad in widow's weeds,
And one is maiden-like and fair,
And day by day they seek the paths
About the lonely fields of Quair.

To see the trout leap in the streams,
The summer clouds reflected there,
The maiden loves in pensive dreams
To hang o'er silver Tweed and Quair.

Within, in pall-black velvet clad,
Sits stately in her oaken chair—
A stately dame of ancient name—
The Mother of the House of Quair.

Her daughter broiders by her side,
With heavy drooping golden hair,
And listens to her frequent plaint,—
"Ill fare the Brides that come to Quair:"

"For more than one hath lived in pine,
And more than one hath died of care,
And more than one hath sorely sinned,
Left lonely in the House of Quair."

"Alas! and ere thy father died
I had not in his heart a share,
And now—may God forfend her ill—
Thy brother brings his Bride to Quair!"

She came: they kissed her in the hall,
They hissed her on the winding stair,
They led her to her chamber high,
The fairest in the House of Quair.

They bade her from the window look,
And mark the scene how passing fair,
Among whose ways the quiet days
Would linger o'er the Wife of Quair.

"'Tis fair," she said on looking forth,
"But what although 'twere bleak and bare—“
She looked the love she did not speak,
And broke the ancient curse of Quair—

"Where'er he dwells, where'er he goes,
His dangers and his toils I share."
What need be said—she was not one
Of the ill-fated Brides of Quair!

_________________

 

 

SONGS AND SKETCHES.

SONG.


            BLOW, breeze of spring!
            Blow soft and ring
The snowdrop bells, that they may bring,
From their beds, the flowerets fair!
Ringing soft—Prepare!   Prepare!
            'Tis time to rise,
            With smiling eyes,
The bridegroom sun is in the skies!

            Blow, breeze of spring!
            Blow soft and ring
The snowdrop bells, that they may bring
Flowers on her bride-path to fling;
Flowers to her who is my spring;
            To bid her rise
            With smiling eyes,
Her bridal sun is in the skies!

_________________

 

 

SONG.

 
TELL me maiden, maiden dear!
Tell me what is love ?
In thy brown eyes shining clear,
On thy lips, O maiden dear,
Can I see it move ?

It is two hearts, two hearts true,
Two hearts with one beat;
Two souls shining sighing through
Lips and eyes of morning dew,
With one wish between the two
And that wish to meet.

_________________

 

 

NEVER TO KNOW.


ONE within in a crimson glow,
                Silently sitting;
One without on the fallen snow,
                Wearily flitting;
                Never to know
That one looked out with yearning sighs,
While one looked in with wistful eyes,
                And went unwitting.

What came of the one without, that so
                Wearily wended?
Under the stars and under the snow
                His journey ended!
                Never to know
That the answer came to those wistful eyes,
But passed away in those yearning sighs,
                With night winds blended.

What came of the one within, that so
                Yearned forth with sighing?
More sad, to my thinking, her fate, the glow
                Drearily dying;
                Never to know
That for a moment her life was nigh,
And she knew it not and it passed her by,
                Recall denying.

These were two hearts that long ago—
                Dreaming and waking—
Each to a poet revealed its woe,
                Wasting and breaking;
                Never to know
That if each to other had but done so,
Both had rejoiced in the crimson glow,
And one had not lain 'neath the stars and snow
                Forsaken—forsaking!

_________________

 

 

THE WOODRUFFE.


THOU art the flower of grief to me,
    'Tis in thy flavor!
Thou keepest the scent of memory,
    A sickly savor.
In the moonlight, under the orchard tree,
Thou wert plucked and given to me,
    For a love favor.

In the moonlight, under the orchard tree,
    Ah, cruel flower!
Thou wert plucked and given to me,
    While a fruitless shower
Of blossoms rained on the ground where grew
The woodruffe bed all wet with dew,
    In the witching hour.

Under the orchard tree that night
    Thy scent was sweetness,
And thou, with thy small star clusters bright,
    Of pure completeness,
Shedding a pearly lustre bright,
Seemed as I gazed in the meek moonlight,
    A gift of meetness.

"It keeps the scent for years," said he
    (And thou hast kept it;)
"And when you scent it, think of me,"
(He could not mean thus bitterly.)
    Ah!   I had swept it
Into the dust where dead things rot,
Had I then believed his love was not
    What I have wept it.

Between the leaves of this holy book,
    O flower undying!
A worthless and withered weed in look,
    I keep thee lying.
The bloom of my life with thee was plucked,
And a close pressed grief its sap hath sucked,
    Its strength updrying.

Thy circles of leaves, like pointed spears,
    My heart pierce often;
They enter, it inly bleeds, no tears
    The hid wounds soften;
Yet one will I ask to bury thee
In the soft white folds of my shroud with me,
    Ere they close my coffin.

_________________

 

 

SONG.


LINGER yet 'neath the evening sky.
As the sunset flush grows pale,
Near the moon, like a small white cloud on high,
Watch the first star to hail.
The cloud isles lie in the glassy bays
Yonder above the sea,
And it seems behind you golden haze
That the gate of Heaven must be.
And a Heavenly light is in gentle eyes
Seen by the glow of the evening skies
Linger yet!

Linger yet by the voiceless stream
At the foot of the harvest-field,
Gliding along like the dim sweet dream
A maiden's slumbers yield.
The sound of the reaping was here all day,
Now silence from shore to hill;
The reaper hath gone to his rest away,
And the rustling ears lie still.
Where the willow bends its shadow to meet,
Heart listens to heart in the silence sweet—
Linger yet!

Linger yet in the dusky lane
Where the shadows close around,
And the first slow drops of the leafy rain
Are scatt'ring to the ground.
Through the scarce closed curtain of night there shines
A long gleam, faint yet clear,
While the dark trees stand in their close-ranked lines,
Whispering together here.
The sunset splendours have passed away,
But hand in hand through the dimness gray—
Linger yet!

_________________

 

 

A DREAM IN A DREAM.


            A MID May night,
            The full moon light,
The singing of the nightingale
Came through the casement, with perfumes
Shaken from nodding lilac plumes.

            The sweet bird sung,
            The fair light flung
Gleams on the laurels glistening:
O sweet, O bright, O tuneful night,
Among the orchard blossoms white.

            Old music streamed,
            Old moonlight gleamed,
As softly I lay listening:
The saddest things grown sweet at last,
Came blossom-laden from the past.

            'Tween prayer and sleep,
            Began to creep,
A dream upon me glimmering;
It deepened to a visioned noon,
Which was not of the sun or moon.

            'Tween sense and soul
            The vision stole,
A strange pale splendour shimmering
And I with one was walking slow
As in the moonlight long ago.

            It thrilled my brain
            With piercing pain,
It crushed my heart to perishing;
Until I dreamed it was a dream,
And woke and saw the moonlight gleam,
And heard the bird—the nightingale.

_________________

 

 

THE ROOT OF LOVE.


        UNTO a goodly tree—
A rose-tree—in the garden of my heart,
        Grew up my love for thee!

        Truth for its spreading root,
That drew the sweetest virtue of the soil
        Up to the freshest shoot.

        My tree was richly clad;
All generous thoughts and fancies burst the bud,
        And every leaf was glad.

        Then last of all, the flower,
The perfect flower of love, herself proclaimed
        And ruled from hour to hour.

        There came a thunder rain,
But for each full-blown bloom it scattered down,
        Fresh buds it opened twain.

        There came a wind that reft
Both leaf and flower, and broke both branch and stem;
        Only the root was left.

        The root was left, and so
The living rose lay hidden till the time
        When the sweet south should blow.

_________________

 

 

WIND AND STARS.


THE stars are shining fixt and bright,
I stand upon the windy height,
Alone with sorrow and the night.

O stars so high, from earth apart,
Ye are the hopes that stirred my heart;
O wind, its beating wings thou art.

The wind may rave, the starry spheres
Unheeding shine, nor moved by fears
Nor shaken into trembling tears.

O hush, wild heart, regarded not;
Sink to the level of thy lot,
In pity sink, and be forgot.

_________________

 

[Next Page]

 



[Home] [Up] [Poems by Isa] [Songs of Consolation] [Poems: a Miscellany] [The Argosy (1866)] [Tales on the Parables] [Tales on The Parables] [Poetry Reviews] [Cotton Famine] [Round the Court] [Peggy Oglivie] [Esther West] [Fanny's Fortune] [A Heroine of Home] [Little Folk's History] [Deepdale Vicarage] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk