The Monitions of the Unseen (II)

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THE MARINER'S CAVE.


ONCE on a time there walked a mariner,
    That had been shipwrecked; on a lonely shore,
And the green water made a restless stir,
    And a great flock of mews sped on before.
He had nor food nor shelter, for the tide
Rose on the one, and cliffs on the other side.

Brown cliffs they were; they seemed to pierce the
        sky,
    That was an awful deep of empty blue,
Save that the wind was in it, and on high
    A wavering skein of wild-fowl tracked it through.
He marked them not, but went with movement slow,
Because his thoughts were sad, his courage low.

His heart was numb, he neither wept nor sighed,
    But wearifully lingered by the wave;
Until at length it chanced that he espied,
    Far up, an opening in the cliff, a cave,
A shelter where to sleep in his distress,
And lose his sorrow in forgetfulness.

With that he clambered up the rugged face
    Of that steep cliff that all in shadow lay,
And, lo, there was a dry and homelike place,
    Comforting refuge for the castaway;
And he laid down his weary, weary head,
And took his fill of sleep till dawn waxed red.


5.


When he awoke, warm stirring from the south
    Of delicate summer air did sough and flow;
He rose, and, wending to the cavern's mouth,
    He cast his eyes a little way below
Where on the narrow ledges, sharp and rude,
Preening their wings the blue rock-pigeons cooed.

Then he looked lower and saw the lavender
    And sea-thrift blooming in long crevices,
And the brown wallflowerApril's messenger,
    The wallflower marshalled in her companies.
Then lower yet he looked adown the steep,
And sheer beneath him lapped the lovely deep.

The laughing deep;and it was pacified
    As if it had not raged that other day.
And it went murmuring in the morningtide
    Innumerable flatteries on its way,
Kissing the cliffs and whispering at their feet
With exquisite advancement, and retreat.

This when the mariner beheld he sighed,
    And thought on his companions lying low.
But while he gazed with eyes unsatisfied
    On the fair reaches of their overthrow,
Thinking it strange he only lived of all,
But not returning thanks, he heard a call!

A soft sweet call, a voice of tender ruth,
    He thought it came from out the cave.   And, lo,
It whispered, "Man, look up!"   But he, forsooth,
    Answered, "I cannot, for the long waves flow
Across my gallant ship where sunk she lies
With all my riches and my merchandise.


10.


"Moreover, I am heavy for the fate
    Of these my mariners drowned in the deep;
I must lament me for their sad estate
    Now they are gathered in their last long sleep.
O! the unpitying heavens upon me frown,
Then how should I look up?I must look down."

And he stood yet watching the fair green sea
    Till hunger reached him; then he made a fire,
A driftwood fire, and wandered listlessly
    And gathered many eggs at his desire,
And dressed them for his meal, and then he lay
And slept, and woke upon the second day.

When as he said, "The cave shall be my home;
    None will molest me, for the brown cliffs rise
Like castles of defence behind,the foam
    Of the remorseless sea beneath me lies;
'Tis easy from the cliff my food to win,
The nations of the rock-dove breed therein.

"For fuel, at the ebb yon fair expanse
    Is strewed with driftwood by the breaking wave,
And in the sea is fish for sustenance.
    I will build up the entrance of the cave,
And leave therein a window and a door,
And here will dwell and leave it nevermore."

Then even so he did; and when his task,
    Many long days being over, was complete;
When he had eaten, as he sat to bask
    In the red firelight glowing at his feet,
He was right glad of shelter, and he said,
"Now for my comrades am I comforted."


15.


Then did the voice awake and speak again;
    It murmured, "Man, look up!"   But he replied,
"I cannot.   O, mine eyes, mine eyes are fain
    Down on the red wood-ashes to abide
Because they warm me."   Then the voice was still,
And left the lonely mariner to his will.

And soon it came to pass that he got gain.
    He had great flocks of pigeons which he fed,
And drew great store of fish from out the main,
    And down from eiderducks; and then he said,
"It is not good that I should lead my life
In silence, I will take to me a wife."

He took a wife, and brought her home to him;
    And he was good to her and cherished her
So that she loved him; then when light waxed dim
    Gloom came no more; and she would minister
To all his wants; while he, being well content,
Counted her company right excellent.

But once as on the lintel of the door
    She leaned to watch him while he put to sea,
This happy wife, down-gazing at the shore,
    Said sweetly, "It is better now with me
Than it was lately when I used to spin
In my old father s house beside the lin."

And then the soft voice of the cave awoke
    The soft voice which had haunted it erewhile
And gently to the wife it also spoke,
    "Woman, look up!"   But she, with tender guile,
Gave it denial, answering, "Nay, not so,
For all that I should look on lieth below.


20.


"The great sky overhead is not so good
    For my two eyes as yonder stainless sea,
The source and yielder of our livelihood,
    Where rocks his little boat that loveth me."
This when the wife had said she moved away,
And looked no higher than the wave all day.

Now when the year ran out a child she bore,
    And there was such rejoicing in the cave
As surely never had there been before
    Since God first made it.   Then full, sweet, and
        grave,
The voice, "God's utmost blessing brims thy cup,
O, father of this child, look up, look up!"

"Speak to my wife," the mariner replied.
    "I have much workright welcome work 'tis true
Another mouth to feed."   And then it sighed,
    "Woman, look up!"   She said, "Make no ado,
For I must needs look down, on anywise,
My heaven is in the blue of these dear eyes."

The seasons of the year did swiftly whirl,
    They measured time by one small life alone;
On such a day the pretty pushing pearl
    That mouth they loved to kiss had sweetly shown,
That smiling mouth, and it had made essay
To give them names on such another day.

And afterward his infant history,
    Whether he played with baubles on the floor,
Or crept to pat the rock-doves pecking nigh,
    And feeding on the threshold of the door,
They loved to mark, and all his marvellings dim,
The mysteries that beguiled and baffled him.


25.


He was so sweet, that oft his mother said,
    "O, child, how was it that I dwelt content
Before thou camest?   Blessings on thy head,
    Thy pretty talk it is so innocent,
That oft for all my joy, though it be deep,
When thou art prattling, I am like to weep."

Summer and winter spent themselves again,
    The rock-doves in their season bred, the cliff
Grew sweet, for every cleft would entertain
    Its tuft of blossom, and the mariner's skiff,
Early and late, would linger in the bay,
Because the sea was calm and winds away.

The little child about that rocky height,
    Led by her loving hand who gave him birth,
Might wander in the clear unclouded light,
    And take his pastime in the beauteous earth;
Smell the fair flowers in stony cradles swung,
And see God's happy creatures feed their young.

And once it came to pass, at eventide,
    His mother set him in the cavern door,
And filled his lap with grain, and stood aside
    To watch the circling rock-doves soar, and soar,
Then dip, alight, and run in circling bands,
To take the barley from his open hands.

And even while she stood and gazed at him,
    And his grave father's eyes upon him dwelt,
They heard the tender voice, and it was dim,
    And seemed full softly in the air to melt;
"Father," it murmured, "Mother," dying away,
"Look up, while yet the hours are called to-day."


30.


"I will," the father answered, "but not now;"
    The mother said, "Sweet voice, O speak to me
At a convenient season."   And the brow
    Of the cliff began to quake right fearfully,
There was a rending crash, and there did leap
A riven rock and plunge into the deep.

They said, "A storm is coming;" but they slept
    That night in peace, and thought the storm had
        passed,
For there was not a cloud to intercept
    The sacred moonlight on the cradle cast;
And to his rocking boat at dawn of day,
With joy of heart the mariner took his way.

But when he mounted up the path at night,
    Foreboding not of trouble or mischance,
His wife came out into the fading light,
    And met him with a serious countenance;
And she broke out in tears and sobbings thick,
"The child is sick, my little child is sick."

They knelt beside him in the sultry dark,
    And when the moon looked in his face was pale,
And when the red sun, like a burning barque,
    Rose in a fog at sea, his tender wail
Sank deep into their hearts, and piteously
They fell to chiding of their destiny.

The doves unheeded cooed that livelong day,
    Their pretty playmate cared for them no more;
The sea-thrift nodded, wet with glistening spray,
    None gathered it; the long wave washed the shore;
He did not know, nor lift his eyes to trace,
The new fallen shadow in his dwelling-place.


35.


The sultry sun beat on the cliffs all day,
    And hot calm airs slept on the polished sea,
The mournful mother wore her time away,
    Bemoaning of her helpless misery,
Pleading and plaining, till the day was done,
"O look on me, my love, my little one.

"What aileth thee, that thou dost lie and moan?
    Ah would that I might bear it in thy stead."
The father made not his forebodings known,
    But gazed, and in his secret soul he said,
"I may have sinned, on sin waits punishment,
But as for him, sweet blameless innocent,

"What has he done that he is stricken down?
    O it is hard to see him sink and fade,
When I, that counted him my dear life's crown,
    So willingly have worked while he has played;
That he might sleep, have risen, come storm, come
        heat,
And thankfully would fast that he might eat."

My God, how short our happy days appear!
    How long the sorrowful!   They thought it long,
The sultry morn that brought such evil cheer,
    And sat, and wished, and sighed for evensong;
It came, and cooling wafts about him stirred,
Yet when they spoke he answered not a word.

"Take heart," they cried, but their sad hearts sank
        low
    When he would moan and turn his restless head,
And wearily the lagging morns would go,
    And nights, while they sat watching by his bed.
Until a storm came up with wind and rain,
And lightning ran along the troubled main.


40.


Over their heads the mighty thunders brake,
    Leaping and tumbling down from rock to rock;
Then burst anew and made the cliffs to quake
    As they were living things and felt the shock;
The waiting sea to sob as if in pain,
And all the midnight vault to ring again.

A lamp was burning in the mariner s cave,
    But the blue lightning flashes made it dim;
And when the mother heard those thunders rave,
    She took her little child to cherish him;
She took him in her arms, and on her breast
Full wearily she courted him to rest,

And soothed him long until the storm was spent,
    And the last thunder peal had died away,
And stars were out in all the firmament.
    Then did he cease to moan, and slumbering lay,
While in the welcome silence, pure and deep,
The care-worn parents sweetly fell asleep.

And in a dream, enwrought with fancies thick,
    The mother thought she heard the rock-doves coo
(She had forgotten that her child was sick),
    And she went forth their morning meal to strew;
Then over all the cliff with earnest care
She sought her child, and lo, he was not there!

But she was not afraid, though long she sought
    And climbed the cliff, and set her feet in grass,
Then reached a river, broad and full, she thought,
    And at its brink he sat.   Alas! alas!
For one stood near him, fair and undefiled,
An innocent, a marvellous man-child.


45.


In garments white as wool, and O, most fair,
    A rainbow covered him with mystic light;
Upon the warmed grass his feet were bare,
    And as he breathed, the rainbow in her sight
In passions of clear crimson trembling lay,
With gold and violet mist made fair the day.

Her little life! she thought, his little hands
    Were full of flowers that he did play withal;
But when he saw the boy o' the golden lands,
    And looked him in the face, he let them fall,
Held through a rapturous pause in wistful wise
To the sweet strangeness of those keen child-eyes.

"Ah, dear and awful God, who chastenest me,
    How shall my soul to this be reconciled.
It is the Saviour of the world," quoth she,
    "And to my child He cometh as a child."
Then on her knees she fell by that vast stream
Oh, it was sorrowful, this woman's dream!

For lo, that Elder Child drew nearer now,
    Fair as the light, and purer than the sun.
The calms of heaven were brooding on his brow,
    And in his arms He took her little one,
Her child, that knew her, but with sweet demur
Drew back, nor held his hands to come to her.

With that in mother misery sore she wept
    "O Lamb of God, I love my child so MUCH!
He stole away to Thee while we two slept,
    But give him back, for Thou hast many such;
And as for me I have but one.   O deign,
Dear Pity of God, to give him me again."


50.


His feet were on the river.   Oh, his feet
    Had touched the river now, and it was great;
And yet He hearkened when she did entreat,
    And turned in quietness as He would wait
Wait till she looked upon Him, and behold,
There lay a long way off a city of gold.

Like to a jasper and a sardine stone,
    Whelmed in the rainbow stood that fair man-child,
Mighty and innocent, that held her own,
    And as might be his manner at home he smiled,
Then while she looked and looked, the vision brake,
And all amazed she started up awake.

And lo, her little child was gone indeed!
    The sleep that knows no waking he had slept,
Folded to heaven's own heart; in rainbow brede
    Clothed and made glad, while they two mourned
        and wept,
But in the drinking of their bitter cup
The sweet voice spoke once more, and sighed,
        "Look up!"

They heard, and straightway answered, "Even so:
    For what abides that we should look on here?
The heavens are better than this earth below,
    They are of more account and far more dear.
We will look up, for all most sweet and fair,
Most pure, most excellent, is garnered there."


――――♦――――

 

A REVERIE.


        WHEN I do sit apart
        And commune with my heart,
She brings me forth the treasures once my own;
        Shows me a happy place
        Where leaf-bulbs swelled apace,
And wasting rims of snow in sunlight shone.

        Rock in a mossy glade,
        The larch-tree lend thee shade,
That just begin to feather with their leaves;
        From out thy crevice deep
        White tufts of snowdrops peep,
And melted rime drips softly from thine eaves.

        Ah, rock, I know, I know
        That yet thy snowdrops grow,
And yet doth sunshine fleck them through the tree,
        Whose sheltering branches hide
        The cottage at its side,
That nevermore will shade or shelter me.

        I know the stockdoves note
        Athwart the glen doth float;
With sweet foreknowledge of her twins oppressed,
        And longings onward sent,
        She broods before the event,
While leisurely she mends her shallow nest.

        Once to that cottage door,
        In happy days of yore,
My little love made footprints in the snow.
        She was so glad of spring,
        She helped the birds to sing,
I know she dwells there yetthe rest I do not know.

        They sang, and would not stop,
        While drop, and drop, and drop,
I heard the melted rime in sunshine fall;
        And narrow wandering rills,
        Where leaned the daffodils,
Murmured and murmured on, and that was all.

        I think, but cannot tell,
        I think she loved me well,
And some dear fancy with my future twined.
        But I shall never know,
        Hope faints, and lets it go,
That passionate want forbid to speak its mind.

 
――――♦――――


 

DEFTON WOOD.


I HELD my way through Defton Wood,
    And on to Wandor Hall;
The dancing leaf let down the light,
    In hovering spots to fall.
"O young, young leaves, you match me well,"
    My heart was merry, and sung
"Now wish me joy of my sweet youth;
    My loveshe, too, is young!

   "O so many, many, many
        Little homes above my head!
    O so many, many, many
        Dancing blossoms round me spread!
    O so many, many, many
        Maidens sighing yet for none!
    Speed, ye wooers, speed with any
        Speed with all but one."

I took my leave of Wandor Hall,
    And trod the woodland ways.
"What shall I do so long to bear
    The burden of my days?"
I sighed my heart into the boughs
    Whereby the culvers cooed;
For only I between them went
    Unwooing and unwooed.

   "O so many, many, many
        Lilies bending stately heads!
    O so many, many, many
        Strawberries ripened on their beds!
    O so many, many, many
        Maids, and yet my heart undone!
    What to me are all, are any
        I have lost myone."

 
――――♦――――

 

THE SNOWDROP MONUMENT.

(In Litchfield Cathedral.)


        MARVELS of sleep, grown cold!
        Who hath not longed to fold
With pitying ruth, forgetful of their bliss,
        Those cherub forms that lie,
        With none to watch them nigh,
Or touch the silent lips with one warm human kiss?

        What ! they are left alone
        All night with graven stone,
Pillars and arches that above them meet;
        While through those windows high
        The journeying stars can spy,
And dim blue moonbeams drop on their uncovered feet?

        O cold! yet look again,
        There is a wandering vein
Traced in the hand where those white snowdrops lie.
        Let her rapt dreamy smile
        The wondering heart beguile,
That almost thinks to hear a calm contented sigh.

        What silence dwells between
        Those severed lips serene!
The rapture of sweet waiting breathes and grows.
        What trance-like peace is shed
        On her reclining head,
And e'en on listless feet what languor of repose!

        Angels of joy and love
        Lean softly from above
And whisper to her sweet and marvellous things;
        Tell of the golden gate
        That opened wide doth wait,
And shadow her dim sleep with their celestial wings.

        Hearing of that blest shore
        She thinks on earth no more,
Contented to forego this wintry land.
        She has nor thought nor care
        But to rest calmly there,
And hold the snowdrops pale that blossom in her hand.

        But on the other face
        Broodeth a mournful grace,
This had foreboding thoughts beyond her years,
        While sinking thus to sleep
        She saw her mother weep,
And could not lift her hand to dry those heart-sick tears.

        Could notbut failing lay,
        Sighed her young life away,
And let her arm drop down in listless rest,
        Too weary on that bed
        To turn her dying head,
Or fold the little sister nearer to her breast.

        Yet this is faintly told
        On features fair and cold,
A look of calm surprise, of meek regret,
        As if with life oppressed
        She turned her to her rest,
But felt her mother's love and looked not to forget.

        How wistfully they close,
        Sweet eyes, to their repose!
How quietly declines the placid brow!
        The young lips seem to say,
        "I have wept much to-day,
And felt some bitter pains, but they are over now."

        Sleep! there are left below
        Many who pine to go,
Many who lay it to their chastened souls,
        That gloomy days draw nigh,
        And they are blest who die,
For this green world grows worse the longer that she
                rolls.

        And as for me I know
        A little of her woe,
Her yearning want doth in my soul abide,
        And sighs of them that weep,
        "O put us soon to sleep,
For when we wakewith Theewe shall be satisfied."

 
――――♦――――

 

AN ANCIENT CHESS KING.


HAPLY some Rajah first in the ages gone
    Amid his languid ladies fingered thee,
    While a black nightingale, sun-swart as he,
Sang his one wife, love's passionate oraison;
Haply thou may'st have pleased Old Prester John
    Among his pastures, when full royally
    He sat in tent, grave shepherds at his knee,
While lamps of balsam winked and glimmered on.
What doest thou here?   Thy masters are all dead;
    My heart is full of ruth and yearning pain
At sight of thee; O king that hast a crown
Outlasting theirs, and tell'st of greatness fled
    Through cloud-hung nights of unabated rain
And murmurs of the dark majestic town.

 
――――♦――――

 

COMFORT IN THE NIGHT.


SHE thought by heaven's high wall that she did stray
    Till she beheld the everlasting gate:
    And she climbed up to it to long, and wait,
Feel with her hands (for it was night), and lay
Her lips to it with kisses; thus to pray
    That it might open to her desolate.
    And lo! it trembled, lo! her passionate
Crying prevailed.   A little little way
It opened: there fell out a thread of light,
    And she saw wingd wonders move within;
Also she heard sweet talking as they meant
To comfort her.   They said, "Who comes to-night
    Shall one day certainly an entrance win;"
Then the gate closed and she awoke content.

 
――――♦――――


 

THOUGH ALL GREAT DEEDS.


THOUGH all great deeds were proved but fables fine,
    Though earth's old story could be told anew,
    Though the sweet fashions loved of them that sue
Were empty as the ruined Delphian shrine
Though God did never man, in words benign,
    With sense of His great Fatherhood endue,
    Though life immortal were a dream untrue,
And He that promised it were not divine
Though soul, though spirit were not, and all hope
    Reaching beyond the bourn, melted away;
Though virtue had no goal and good no scope,
    But both were doomed to end with this our clay
Though all these were not,to the ungraced heir
Would this remain, to live,as though they were.

 
――――♦――――
 

As I came round the harbour buoy.
 

THE LONG WHITE SEAM.


AS I came round the harbour buoy,
    The lights began to gleam,
No wave the land-locked water stirred,
    The crags were white as cream;
And I marked my love by candle-light
    Sewing her long white seam.
        It's aye sewing ashore, my dear,
            Watch and steer at sea,
        It's reef and furl, and haul the line,
            Set sail and think of thee.

I climbed to reach her cottage door;
    O sweetly my love sings!
Like a shaft of light her voice breaks forth,
    My soul to meet it springs
As the shining water leaped of old,
    When stirred by angel wings.
        Aye longing to list anew,
            Awake and in my dream,
        But never a song she sang like this,
            Sewing her long white seam.

Fair fall the lights, the harbour lights,
    That brought me in to thee,
And peace drop down on that low roof
    For the sight that I did see,
And the voice, my dear, that rang so clear
    All for the love of me.
        For O, for O, with brows bent low
            By the candle's flickering gleam,
        Her wedding gown it was she wrought,
            Sewing the long white seam.

 
――――♦――――

 

AN OLD WIFE S SONG.


AND what will ye hear, my daughters dear?
    Oh, what will ye hear this night?
Shall I sing you a song of the yuletide cheer,
    Or of lovers and ladies bright?

"Thou shalt sing," they say (for we dwell far away
    From the land where fain would we be),
"Thou shalt sing us again some old-world strain
    That is sung in our own countrie.

"Thou shalt mind us so of the times long ago,
    When we walked on the upland lea,
While the old harbour light waxed faint in the white,
    Long rays shooting out from the sea;

"While lambs were yet asleep, and the dew lay
        deep
    On the grass, and their fleeces clean and fair.
Never grass was seen so thick nor so green
    As the grass that grew up there!

"In the town was no smoke, for none there awoke
    At our feet it lay still as still could be;
And we saw far below the long river flow,
    And the schooners a-warping out to sea.

"Sing us now a strain shall make us feel again
    As we felt in that sacred peace of morn,
When we had the first view of the wet sparkling
        dew.
    In the shyness of a day just born."

So I sang an old song it was plain and not long
    I had sung it very oft when they were small;
And long ere it was done they wept every one:
    Yet this was all the songthis was all:

The snow lies white, and the moon gives light,
    I'll out to the freezing mere,
And ease my heart with one little song,
    For none will be nigh to hear.
    And it's O my love, my love!
    And it's O my dear, my dear!
It's of her that I'll sing till the wild woods ring,
    When nobody's nigh to hear.

My love is young, she is young, is young;
    When she laughs the dimple dips.
We walked in the wind, and her long locks blew
    Till sweetly they touched my lips.
    And I'll out to the freezing mere,
    Where the stiff reeds whistle so low,
And I'll tell my mind to the friendly wind,
    Because I have loved her so.

Ay, and she's true, my lady is true!
    And that's the best of it all;
And when she blushes my heart so yearns
    That tears are ready to fall.
    And it's O my love, my love!
    And it's O my dear, my dear!
It's of her that I'll sing till the wild woods ring,
    When nobody's nigh to hear.

 

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