Poems of the Old Days and the New (IV)

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THE MAID-MARTYR.


ONLY you'd have me speak.
                                                     Whether to speak
Or whether to be silent is all one;
Whether to sleep and in my dreaming front
Her small scared face forlorn; whether to wake
And muse upon her small soft feet that paced
The hated, hard, inhospitable stone—
I say all's one.   But you would have me speak,
And change one sorrow for the other.   Ay,
Right reverend father, comfortable father,
Old, long in thrall, and wearied of the cell,
So will I here—here staring through the grate,
Whence, sheer beneath us lying the little town,
Her street appears a riband up the rise;
Where 'tis right steep for carts, behold two ruts
Worn in the flat, smooth, stone.
                                                           That side I stood;
My head was down.   At first I did but see
Her coming feet; they gleamed through my hot tears
As she walked barefoot up yon short steep hill.
Then I dared all, gazed on her face, the maid-
Martyr, and utterly, utterly broke my heart.


2.


Her face, O! it was wonderful to me,
There was not in it what I look's for—no,
I never saw a maid go to her death,
How should I dream that face and the dumb soul?


3.


Her arms and head were bare, seemly she walked
All in her smock so modest as she might;
Upon her shoulders hung a painted cape
For horrible adornment, flames of fire
Portrayed upon it, and mocking demon heads.


4.


Her eyes—she did not see me—opened wide,
Blue-black, gazed right before her, yet they marked
Nothing; and her two hands uplift as praying,
She yet prayed not, wept not, sighed not.   O father,
She was past that, soft, tender, hunted thing;
But, as it seemed, confused from time to time,
She would half-turn her or to left or right
To follow other streets, doubting her way.


5.


Then their base pikes they basely thrust at her,
And, like one dazed, obedient to her guides
She came; I knew not if 'twas present to her
That death was her near goal; she was so lost,
And set apart from any power to think.
But her mouth pouted as one brooding, father,
Over a lifetime of forlorn fear.   No,
Scarce was it fear; so looks a timid child
(Not more affrighted; ah! but not so pale)
That has been scolded or has lost its way.


6.


Mother and father—father and mother kind,
She was alone, where were you hidden?   Alone,
And I that loved her more, or feared death less,
Rushed to her side, but quickly was flung back,
And cast behind o' the pikemen following her
Into a yelling and a cursing crowd,
That bristled thick with monks and hooded friars;
Moreover, women with their cheeks ablaze,
Who swarmèd after up the narrowing street.


7.


Pitiful heaven!   I knew she did not hear
In that last hour the cursing, nor the foul
Words; she had never heard like words, sweet soul,
In her life blameless; even at that pass,
That dreadful pass, I felt it had been worse,
Though nought I longed for as for death, to know
She did.   She saw not 'neath their hoods those eyes
Soft, glittering, with a lust for cruelty
Secret delight, that so great cruelty,
All in the sacred name of Holy Church,
Their meed to look on it should be anon.
Speak!   O, I tell you this thing passeth words!


8.


From roofs and oriels high, women looked down;
Men, maidens, children, and a fierce white sun
Smote blinding splinters from all spears aslant.


9.


Lo! next a stand, so please you, certain priests
(May God forgive men sinning at their ease),
Whose duty 'twas to look upon this thing,
Being mindful of thick pungent smoke to come,
Had caused a stand to rise hard by the stake,
Upon its windward side.
                                              My life! my love!
She utter'd one sharp cry of mortal dread
While they did chain her.   This thing passeth words,
Albeit told out for ever in my soul.
As the torch touched, thick volumes of black reek
Rolled out and raised the wind, and instantly
Long films of flaxen hair floated aloft,
Settled aloes, in drifts upon the crowd.
The vile were merciful; heaped high, my dear,
Thou didst not suffer long.   O! it was soon,
Soon over, and I knew not any more,
Till grovelling on the ground, beating my head,
I heard myself, and scarcely knew 'twas I,
At Holy Church railing with fierce mad words,
Crying and craving for a stake, for me.
While fast the folk, as ever, such a work
Being over, fled, and shrieked 'A heretic!
More heretics; yon ashes smoking still.'


10.


And up and almost over me came on
A robed— ecclesiastic—with his train
(I choose the words lest that they do some wrong),
Call him a robed ecclesiastic proud.
And I lying helpless, with my bruisèd face
Beat on his garnished shoon.   But he stepped back,
Spurned me full roughly with them, called the pikes,
Delivering orders, 'Take the bruisèd wretch.
He raves.   Fool! thou'lt hear more of this anon.
Bestow him there.'   He pointed to a door.
With that some threw a cloth upon my face
Because it bled.   I knew they carried me
Within his home, and I was satisfied;
Willing my death.   Was it an abbey door?
Was't entrance to a palace? or a house
Of priests?   I say not, nor if abbot he,
Bishop or other dignity; enough
That he so spake.   'Take in the bruisèd wretch.'
And I was borne far up a turret stair
Into a peakèd chamber taking form
O' the roof, and on a pallet bed they left
Me miserable.   Yet I knew forsooth,
Left in my pain, that evil things were said
Of that same tower; men thence had disappeared,
Suspect of heresy had disappeared,
Deliver'd up, 'twas whisper'd, tried and burned.
'So be it' methought, 'I would not live, not I.'
But none did question me.   A beldame old,
Kind, heedless of my sayings, tended me.
I raved at Holy Church and she was deaf,
And at whose tower detained me, she was dumb.
So had I food and water, rest and calm.
Then on the third day I rose up and sat
On the side of my low bed right melancholy,
All that high force of passion overpast,
I sick with dolourous thought and weak through tears
Spite of myself came to myself again
(For I had slept), and since I could not die
Looked through the window three parts overgrown
With leafage on the loftiest ivy ropes,
And saw at foot o' the rise another tower
In roof whereof a grating, dreary bare.
Lifetimes gone by, long, slow, dim, desolate,
I knew even there had been my lost love's cell.


11.


So musing on the man that with his foot
Spurned me, the robed ecclesiastic stern,
'Would he had haled me straight to prison,' methought,
'So made an end at once.'
                                                    My sufferings rose
Like billows closing over, beating down;
Made heavier far because of a stray, strange,
Hope which had mocked me at the last.
                                                                          'Twas thus,
I had come from Oxford secretly, the news
Terrible of her danger smiting me,—
She was so young, and ever had been bred
With whom 'twas made a peril now to name.
There had been worship in the night; some stole
To a mean chapel deep in woods, and heard
Preaching, and prayed.   She, my betrothed, was there.
Father and mother, mother and father kind,
So young, so innocent, had ye no ruth,
No fear, that ye did bring her to her doom?
I know the chiefest Evil One himself
Sanded that floor.   Their footsteps marking it
Betrayed them.   How all came to pass let be.
Parted, in hiding some, other in thrall,
Father and mother, mother and father kind,
It may be yet ye know not this—not all.


12.


I in the daytime lying perdue had gazed
At the castle keep impregnable,—no foot
How rash so e'er might hope to scale it.   Night
Descending, came I near, perplexedness,
Contempt of danger, to the door o' the keep
Drawing me.   There a short stone bench I found,
And bitterly weeping sat and leaned my head
Against the hopeless hated massiveness
Of that detested hold.   A lifting moon
Had made encroachment on the dark, but deep
Was shadow where I leaned.   Within a while
I was aware, but saw no shape, of one
Who stood beside me, a dark shadow tall.
I cared not, disavowal mattered nought
Of grief to one so out of love with life.
But after pause I felt a hand let down
That rested kindly, firmly, a man's hand,
Upon my shoulder; there was cheer in it.
And presently a voice clear, whispering, low,
With pitifulness that faltered, spoke to me.
Was I, it asked, true son of Mother Church?
Coldly I answer'd 'Ay;' then blessed words
That danced into mine ears more excellent
Music than wedding bells had been were said,
With certitude that I might see my maid,
My dear one.   He would give a paper, he
The man beside me.   'Do thy best endeavour,
Dear youth.   Thy maiden being a right sweet child
Surely will hearken to thee; an she do,
And will recant, fair faultless heretic,
Whose knowledge is but scant of matters high
Which hard men spake on with her, hard men forced
From her mouth innocent, then shall she come
Before me; have good cheer, all may be well.
But an she will not she must burn, no power—
Not Solomon the Great on's ivory throne
With all his wisdom could find out a way,
Nor I nor any to save her, she must burn.
Now hast thou till day dawn.   The Mother of God
Speed thee.'   A twisted scroll he gave; himself
Knocked at the door behind, and he was gone,
A darker pillar of darkness in the dark.
Straightway one opened and I gave the scroll.
He read, then thrust it in his lanthorn flame
Till it was ashes; 'Follow' and no more
Whisper'd, went up the giddy spiring way,
I after, till we reached the topmost door.
Then took a key, opened, and crying 'Delia,
Delia my sweetheart, I am come, I am come,'
I darted forward and he locked us in.
Two figures; one rose up and ran to me
Along the ladder of moonlight on the floor,
Fell on my neck.   Long time we kissed and wept.


13.


But for that other, while she stood appeased
For cruel parting past, locked in mine arms,
I had been glad, expecting a good end.
The cramped pale fellow prisoner 'Courage' cried.
Then Delia lifting her fair face, the moon
Did show me its incomparable calms.
Her effluent thought needed no word of mine,
It whelmed my soul as in a sea of tears.
The warm enchantment leaning on my breast
Breathed as in air remote, and I was left
To infinite detachment, even with hers
To take cold kisses from the lips of doom,
Look in those eyes and disinherit hope
From that high place late won.
                                                        Then murmuring low
That other spake of Him on the cross, and soft
As broken-hearted mourning of the dove,
She 'One deep calleth to another' sighed.
'The heart of Christ mourns to my heart, "Endure.
There was a day when to the wilderness
My great forerunner from his thrall sent forth
Sad messengers, demanding Art thou He?
Think'st thou I knew no pang in that strange hour?
How could I hold the power, and want the will
Or want the love?   That pang was his—and mine.
He said not, Save me an thou be the Son,
But only Art thou He?   In my great way
It was not writ,—legions of Angels mine,
There was one Angel, one ordain'd to unlock
At my behest the doomed deadly doors.
I could not tell him, tell not thee, why."   Lord,
We know not why, but would not have Thee grieve,
Think not so deeply on't; make us endure
For thy blest sake, hearing thy sweet voice mourn
"I will go forth, thy desolations meet,
And with my desolations solace them.
I will not break thy bonds, but I am bound,
With thee.'' '


14.


                       I feared.   That speech deep furrows cut
In my afflicted soul.   I whisper'd low,
'Thou wilt not heed her words, my golden girl.'
But Delia said not ought; only her hand
Laid on my cheek and on the other leaned
Her own.   O there was comfort, father,
In love and nearness, e'en at the crack of doom.


15.


Then spake I, and that other said no more,
For I appealed to God and to his Christ.
Unto the strait-barred window led my dear;
No table, bed, nor plenishing; no place
They had for rest: maugre two narrow chairs
By day, by night they sat thereon upright.
One drew I to the opening; on it set
My Delia, kneeled; upon its arm laid mine,
And prayed to God and prayed of her.
                                                                      Father,
If you should ask e'en now, 'And art thou glad
Of what befell?'   I could not say it, father,
I should be glad; therefore God make me glad,
Since we shall die to-morrow!
                                                         Think not sin,
O holy, harmless reverend man, to fear.
'Twill be soon over.   Now I know thou fear'st
Also for me, lest I be lost; but aye
Strong comfortable hope doth wrap me round,
A token of acceptance.   I am cast
From Holy Church, and not received of thine;
But the great Advocate who knoweth all,
He whispers with me.
                                          O my Delia wept
When I did plead; 'I have much feared to die,'
Answering. (The moonlight on her blue-black eyes
Fell; shining tears upon their lashes hung
Fair showed the dimple that I loved; so young,
So very young.)   'But they did question me
Straitly, and make me many times to swear,
To swear of all alas, that I believed.
Truly, unless my soul I would have bound
With false oaths—difficult, innumerous, strong,
Way was not left me to get free.
                                                         But now,'
Said she, 'I am happy; I have seen the place
Where I am going.
                                  I will tell it you,
Love, Hubert.   Do not weep; they said to me
That you would come, and it would not be long.
Thus was it, being sad and full of fear,
I was crying in the night; and prayed to God
And said, " I have not learned high things;" and said
To the Saviour, "Do not be displeased with me,
I am not crying to get back and dwell
With my good mother and my father fond,
Nor even with my love, Hubert—my love,
Hubert; but I am crying because I fear
Mine answers were not rightly given—so hard
Those questions.   If I did not understand,
Wilt Thou forgive me?"   And the moon went down
While I did pray, and looking on the floor,
Behold a little diamond lying there,
So small it might have dropped from out a ring.
I could but look!   The diamond waxed—it grew—
It was a diamond yet, and shot out rays,
And in the midst of it a rose-red point;
It waxed till I might see the rose-red point
Was a little Angel 'mid those oval rays,
With a face sweet as the first kiss, O love,
You gave me, and it meant that self-same thing.


16.


Now was it tall as I, among the rays
Standing; I touched not.   Through the window drawn,
This barred and narrow window,—but I know
Nothing of how, we passed, and seemed to walk
Upon the air, till on the roof we sat.


17.


It spoke.   The sweet mouth did not move, but all
The Angel spoke in strange words full and old,
It was my Angel sent to comfort me
With a message, and the message, "I might come,
And myself see if He forgave me."   Then
Deliver'd he admonition, "Afterwards
I must return and die."   But I being dazed,
Confused with love and joy that He so far
Did condescend, "Ay, Eminence," replied,
"Is the way great?" I knew not what I said.
The Angel then, "I know not far nor near,
But all the stars of God this side it shine."
And I forgetful wholly for this thing
My soul did pant in, a rapture and a pain,
So great as they would melt it quite away
To a vanishing like mist when sultry rays
Shot from the daystar reckon with it—I
Said in my simpleness, "But is there time?
For in three days I am to burn, and O
I would fain see that He forgiveth first.
Pray you make haste."   "I know not haste," he said;
"I was not fashioned to be thrall of time.
What is it?"   And I marvelled, saw outlying,
Shaped like a shield and of dimensions like
An oval in the sky beyond all stars,
And trembled with foreknowledge.   We were bound
To that same golden holy hollow.   I
Misdoubted how to go, but we were gone.
I set off wingless, walking empty air
Beside him.   In a moment we were caught
Among thick swarms of lost ones, evil, fell,
Of might, only a little less than gods,
And strong enough to tear the earth to shreds,
Set shoulders to the sun and rend it out
O' its place.   Their wings did brush across my face,
Yet felt I nought; the place was vaster far
Than all this wholesome pastoral windy world.
Through it we spinning, pierced to its far brink,
Saw menacing frowns and we were forth again.
Time has no instant for the reckoning ought
So sudden; 'twas as if a lightning flash
Threw us within it, and a swifter flash,
We riding harmless down its swordlike edge,
Shot us fast forth to empty nothingness.


18.


All my soul trembled, and my body it seemed
Pleaded than such a sight rather to faint
To the last silence, and the eery grave
Inhabit, and the slow solemnities
Of dying faced, content me with my shroud.


19.


And yet was lying athwart the morning star
That shone in front, that holy hollow; yet
It loomed, as hung atilt towards the world,
That in her time of sleep appeared to look
Up to it, into it.
                               We, though I wept,
Fearing and longing, knowing not how to go,
My heart gone first, both mine eyes dedicate
To its all-hallowed sweet desired gold,
We on the empty limitless abyss
Walked slowly.   It was far;
                                              And I feared much,
For lo! when I looked down deep under me
The little earth was such a little thing,
How in the vasty dark find her again?
The crescent moon a moored boat hard by,
Did wait on her and touch her ragged rims
With a small gift of silver.
                                                 Love! my life!
Hubert, while I yet wept, O we were there.
A menai of Angels first, a swarm of stars
Took us among them (all alive with stars
Shining and shouting each to each that place);
The feathered multitude did lie so thick
We walked upon them, walked on outspread wings,
And the great gates were standing open.
                                                                        Love!
The country is not what you think; but oh!
When you have seen it nothing else contents.
The voice, the vision was not what you think—
But oh! it was all.   It was the meaning of life,
Excellent consummation of desires
For ever, let into the heart with pain
Most sweet.   That smile did take the feeding soul
Deeper and deeper into heaven.   The sward
(For I had bowed my face on it) I found
Grew in my spirit's longed-for native land—
At last I was at home.'
                                          And here she paused:
I must needs weep.   I have not been in heaven,
Therefore she could not tell me what she heard,
Therefore she might not tell me what she saw,
Only I understood that One drew near
Whoa said to her she should e'en come, 'Because,'
Said He, 'My Father loves Me.   I will ask
He send, a guiding Angel for My sake,
Since the dark way is long, and rough, and hard,
So that I shall not lose whom I love—thee.


20.


Other words wonderful of things not known,
When she had uttered, I gave hope away,
Cried out, and took her in despairing arms,
Asking no more.   Then while the comfortless
Dawn till night fainted grew, alas! a key
That with abhorred jarring probed the door.
We kissed, we looked, unlocked our arms.   She sighed
'Remember.'   'Ay, I will remember.   What?'
'To come to me.'   Then I, thrust roughly forth—
I, bereft, dumb, forlorn, unremedied
My hurt for ever, stumbled blindly down,
And the great door was shut behind and chained.


21.


The weird pathetic scarlet of day dawning,
More kin to death of night than birth of morn,
Peered o'er yon hill bristling with spires of pine.
I heard the crying of the men condemned,
Men racked, that should be martyr'd presently,
And my great grief met theirs with might; I held
All our poor earth's despairs in my poor breast,
The choking reek, the faggots were all mine.
Ay, and the partings they were all mine—mine.
Father, it will be very good methinks
To die so, to die soon.   It doth appease
The soul in misery for its fellows, when
There is no help, to suffer even as they.


22.


Father, when I had lost her, when I sat
After my sickness on the pallet bed,
My forehead dropped into my hand, behold
Some one beside me.   A man's hand let down
With that same action kind, compassionate,
Upon my shoulder.   And I took the hand
Between mine own, laying my face thereon.
I knew this man for him who spoke with me,
Letting me see my Delia.   I looked up.
Lo! lo! the robed ecclesiastic proud,
He and this other one.   Tell you his name?
Am I a fiend?   No, he was good to me,
Almost he placed his life in my hand.
                                                                        Father,
He with good pitying words long talked to me,
'Did I not strive to save her?'   'Ay,' quoth I.
'But sith it would not be, I also claim
Death, burning; let me therefore die—let me.
I am wicked, would be heretic, but, faith,
I know not how, and Holy Church I hate.
She is no mother of mine, she slew my love.'
What answer?   'Peace, peace, thou art hard on me.
Favour I forfeit with the Mother of God,
Lose rank among the saints, foresee my soul
Drenched in the unmitigated flame, and take
My payment in the lives snatched at all risk
From battling in it here.   O, an thou turn
And tear from me, lost to that other world
My heart's reward in this, I am twice lost;
Now have I doubly failed.'
                                                     Father, I know
The Church would rail, hound forth, disgrace, try, burn,
Make his proud name, discover'd, infamy,
Tread underfoot his ashes, curse his soul.
But God is greater than the Church.   I hope
He shall not, for that he loved men, lose God.
I hope to hear it said 'Thy sins are all
Forgiven; come in, thou hast done well.'
                                                                             For me
My chronicle comes down to its last page.
'Is not life sweet?' quoth he, and comforted
My sick heart with good words, 'duty' and 'home.'
Then took me at moonsetting down the stair
To the dark deserted midway of the street,
Gave me a purse of money, and his hand
Laid on my shoulder, holding me with words
A father might have said, bad me God speed,
So pushed me from him, turned, and he was gone.


23.


There was a Pleiad lost; where is she now?
None knoweth,O she reigns, it is my creed,
Otherwhere dedicate to making day.
The God of Gods, He doubtless looked to that
Who wasteth never ought He fashionèd.
I have no vision, but where vision fails
Faith cheers, and truly, truly there is need,
The god of this world being so unkind.
O love I My girl forever to the world
Wanting.   Lost, not that any one should find,
But wasted for the sake of waste, and lost
For love of man's undoing, of man's tears,
By envy of the Evil One; I mourn
For thee, my golden girl, I mourn, I mourn.


24.


He set me free.   And it befell anon
That I must imitate him.   Then't befell
That on the holy Book I read, and all,
The mediating Mother and her Babe,
God and the Church, and man and life and death,
And the dark gulfs of bitter purging flame,
Did take on alteration.   Like a ship
Cast from her moorings, drifting from her port,
Not bound to any land, not sure of land,
My dull'd soul lost her reckoning on that sea
She sailed, and yet the voyage was nigh done.


25.


This God was not the God I had known; this Christ
Was other.   O, a gentler God, a Christ—
By a mother and a Father infinite—
In distance each from each made kin to me,
Blest Sufferer on the rood; but yet, I say
Other.   Far gentler, and I cannot tell,
Father, if you, or she, my golden girl,
Or I, or any aright those mysteries read.


26.


I cannot fathom them.   There is not time,
So quickly men condemned me to this cell.
I quarrell not so much with Holy Church
For that she taught, as that my love she burned.
I die because I hid her enemies,
And read the Book.
                                    But O, forgiving God,
I do elect to trust Thee.   I have thought,
What! are there set between us and the sun
Millions of miles, and did He like a tent
Rear up yon vasty sky?   Is heaven less wide?
And dwells He there, but for His wingèd host,
Almost alone?   Truly I think not so;
He has had trouble enough with this poor world
To make Him as an earthly father would,
Love it and value it more.
                                                 He did not give
So much to have us with Him, and yet fail.
And now He knows I would believe e'en so
As pleaseth Him, an there was time to learn
Or certitude of heart; but time fails, time.
He knoweth also 'twere a piteous thing
Not to be sure of my love's welfare—not
To see her happy and good in that new home.
Most piteous.   I could all forego but this.
O let me see her, Lord.
                                               What, also I!
White ashes and a waft of vapour—I
To flutter on before the winds.   No, no.
And yet for ever ay—my flesh shall hiss
And I shall hear't.   Dreadful, unbearable!
Is it to-morrow?
                                 Ay, indeed, indeed,
To-morrow.   But my moods are as great waves
That rise and break and thunder down on me,
And then fall'n back sink low.
                                                          I have waked long
And cannot hold my thoughts upon th' event;
They slip, they wander forth.
                                                        How the dusk grows.
This is the last moonrising we shall see.
Methought till morn to pray, and cannot pray.
Where is mine Advocate? let Him say all
And more was in my mind to say this night,
Because to-morrow— Ah! no more of that,
The tale is told.   Father, I fain would sleep,

Truly my soul is silent unto God.


――――♦――――

 

A VINE-ARBOUR IN THE FAR WEST.


'LAURA, my Laura!'   'Yes, mother!'   'I want you, Laura; come down.'
'What is it, mother—what, dearest?   O your loved face how it pales!
You tremble, alas and alas—you heard bad news from the town?'
'Only one short half hour to tell it.   My poor courage fails—


-II-


Laura.'   'Where's Ronald?—O anything else but Ronald!'   'No, no,
Not Ronald, if all beside, my Laura, disaster and tears;
But you, it is yours to send them away, for you they will go,
One short half hour, and must it decide, it must for the years.


-III-


Laura, you think of your father sometimes?'   'Sometimes!'   'Ah, but
        how?'
'I think—that we need not think, sweet mother—the time is not yet,
He is as the wraith of a wraith, and a far-off shadow now
—But if you have heard he is dead?'   'Not that.'   'Then let me forget.'


-IV-


'The sun is off the south window, draw back the curtain, my child.'
'But tell it, mother.'   'Answer you first what it is that you see.'
'The lambs on the mountain slope, and the crevice with blue ice piled.'
'Nearer.'—'But, mother!'   'Nearer!'   'My heifer she's lowing to me.'


-V-


'Nearer.'   'Nothing, sweet mother, O yes, for one sits in the bower.
Black the clusters hang out from the vine about his snow-white head,
And the scarlet leaves, where my Ronald leaned.'   'Only one half hour—
Laura'—'O mother, my mother dear, all known though nothing said.


-VI-


O it breaks my heart, the face dejected that looks not on us,
A beautiful face—I remember now, though long I forgot.'
'Ay and I loved it.   I love him to-day, and to see him thus!
Saying "I go if she bids it, for work her woe—I will not."


-VII-


There! weep not, wring not your hands, but think, think with your heart
        and soul.'
'Was he innocent, mother?   If he was, I, sure had been told.'
'He said so.'   'Ah, but they do.'   'And I hope—and long was his dole,
And all for the signing a name (if indeed he signed) for gold.'


-VIII-


'To find us again, in the far far West, where hid, we were free—
But if he was innocent—O my heart, it is riven in two,
If he goes how hard upon him —or stays—how harder on me,
For O my Ronald, my Ronald, my dear,—my best what of you!'


-IX-


'Peace; think, my Laura—I say he will go, there weep not so sore.
And the time is come, Ronald knows nothing, your father will go,
As the shadow fades from its place will he, and be seen no more.'
There'll be time to think to-morrow, and after, but today, no.


-X-


I'm going down the garden, mother.'   'Laura!'   'I've dried my tears.
'O how will this end?'   'I know not the end, I can but begin.'
'But what will you say?'   'Not "Welcome, father," though long were
        those years,
But I'll say to him, "O my poor father, we wait you, come in." '


――――♦――――

 

LOVERS AT THE LAKE SIDE.


'AND you brought him home?'   'I did, ay Ronald, it rested with me.'
'Love!'   'Yes.'  'I would fain you were not so calm.'   'I cannot weep.   No.'
'What is he like, your poor father?'   'He is—like—this fallen tree
Prone at our feet, by the still lake taking on rose from the glow,


-II-


Now scarlet, O look! overcoming the blue both lake and sky,
While the waterfalls waver like smoke, then leap in and are not.
And shining snow-points of high sierras cast down, there they lie.'
'O Laura—I cannot bear it.   Laura! as if I forgot.'


-III-


'No, you remember, and I remember that evening—like this
When we come forth from the gloomy Canyon, lo, a sinking sun.
And, Ronald, you gave to me your troth ring, I gave my troth kiss.'
'Give me another, I say that this makes no difference, none.


-IV-


It hurts me keenly.   It hurts to the soul that you thought it could.'
'I never thought so, my Ronald, my love, never thought you base.
No, but I look for a nobler nobleness, loss understood,
Accepted, and not that common truth which can hold through disgrace.


-V-


O! we remember, and how ere that noon through deeps of the lake
We floating looked down and the boat's shadow followed on rocks
        below,
So clear the water.   O all pathetic as if for love's sake
Our life that is but a fleeting shadow 't would under us show.


-VI-


O we remember forget-me-not pale, and white columbine
You wreathed for my hair; because we remember this cannot be.
Ah! here is your ring—see, I draw it off—it must not be mine,
Put it on, love, if but for the moment and listen to me.


-VII-


I look for the best, I look for the most, I look for the all
From you, it consoles this misery of mine, there is you to trust.
O if you can weep, let us weep together, tears may well fall
For that lost sunsetting and what it promised,—they may, they must.


-VIII-


Do you say nothing, mine own belovèd, you know what I mean,
And whom.—To her pride and her love from You shall such blow be
       dealt. . .
. . . Silence uprisen, is like a presence, it comes us between . . .
As once there was darkness, now is there silence that may be felt.


-IX-


Ronald, your mother, so gentle, so pure, and you are her best,
'Tis she whom I think of, her quiet sweetness, her gracious way.
How could she bear it?'—'Laura!'   'Yes, Ronald.'   'Let that matter rest.'
'You might give your name to my father's child?'   'My father's name.  Ay,


-X-


Who died before it was soiled.'   'You mutter.'   'Why, love, are you here?'
'Because my mother fled forth to the West, her trouble to hide,
And I was so small, the lone pine forest, and tier upon tier,
Far off-Mexican snowy sierras pushed England aside.'


-XI-


'And why am I here?'   'But what did you mutter?'   'O pardon, sweet.
Why came I here and—my mother?'   'In truth then I cannot tell.'
'Yet you drew my ring from your finger—see—I kneel at your feet.
Put it on.   'Twas for no fault of mine.'   'Love! I knew that full well.'


-XII-


'And yet there be faults that long repented, are aye to deplore,
Wear my ring, Laura, at least till I choose some words I can say,
If indeed any word need be said.'   'No! wait, Ronald, no more;
What! is there respite?   Give me a moment to think "nay" or "ay,"


-XIII-


I know not, but feel there is.   O pardon me, pardon me—peace;
For nought is to say, and the dawn of hope is a solemn thing,
Let us have silence.   Take me back, Ronald, full sweet is release.'
'Laura! but give me my troth kiss again.'   'And give me my ring.'


――――♦――――

 

THE WHITE MOON WASTETH.


THE white moon wasteth,
And cold morn hasteth
    Athwart the snow,
The red east burneth
And the tide turneth,
    And thou must go.

Think not, sad rover,
Their story all over
    Who come from far—
Once, in the ages
Won goodly wages
    Led by a star.

Once, for all duly
Guidance doth truly
    Shine as of old,
Opens for me and thee
Once, opportunity
    Her gates of gold.

Enter, thy star is out,
Traverse nor faint nor doubt
    Earth's antres wild,
Thou shalt find good and rest
As found the Magi blest
    That divine Child.


――――♦――――

 

AN ARROW-SLIT.


I CLOMB full high the belfry tower
    Up to yon arrow-slit, up and away,
I said 'let me look on my heart's fair flower
    In the wallèd garden where she doth play.'

My care she knoweth not, no nor the cause,
    White rose, red rose about her hung,
And I aloft with the doves and the daws,
    They coo and call to their callow young.

Sing, 'O an she were a white rosebud fair
    Dropt, and in danger from passing feet,
'Tis I would render her service tender,
    Upraised on my bosom with reverence meet.'

Playing at the ball, my dearest of all,
    When she grows older how will it be,
I dwell far away from her thoughts to-day
    That heed not, need not, or mine or me.

Sing, 'O an my love were a fledgeling dove
    That flutters forlorn o' her shallow nest,
'Tis I would render her service tender,
    And carry her, carry her on my breast.'


――――♦――――

 

WENDOVER.


UPLIFTED and lone, set apart with our love
    On the crest of a soft swelling down,
Cloud shadows that meet on the grass at our feet
    Sail on above Wendover town.

Wendover town takes the smile of the sun
    As if yearning and strife were unknown,
From her red roofs float high neither plaint neither
        sigh,
    All the weight of the world is our own.

Would that life were more kind and that souls might
        have peace
    As the wide mead from storm and from bale,
We bring up our own care, but how sweet over there
    And how strange is their calm in the vale.

As if trouble at noon had achieved a deep sleep,
    Lapped and lulled from the weariful fret,
Or shot down out of day, had a hint dropt away
    As if grief might attain to forget.

Not if we two indeed had gone over the bourne
    And were safe on the hills of the blest,
Not more strange they might show to us drawn from
        below,
    Come up from long dolour to rest.

But the peace of that vale would be thine, love, and
        mine,
    And sweeter the air than of yore,
And this life we have led as a dream that is fled
    Might appear to our thought evermore.

'Was it life, was it life?' we might say, ' 'twas scarce life,'
    'Was it love? 'twas scarce love,' looking down,
Yet we mind a sweet ray of the red sun one day
    Low lying on Wendover town.'


――――♦――――

 

THE LOVER PLEADS.

-I-


WHEN I had guineas many a one
Nought else I lackèd 'neath the sun,
I had two eyes the bluest seen,
A perfect shape, a gracious mien,
I had a voice might charm the bale
From a two days' widowed nightingale,
And if you ask how this I know
I had a love who told me so.

The lover pleads, the maid hearkeneth,
Her foot turns, his day darkeneth.
Love unkind, O can it be
'Twas your foot false did turn from me?


-II-


The gear is gone, the red gold spent,
Favour and beauty with them went,
Eyes take the veil, their shining done,
Not fair to him is fair to none,
Sweet as a bee's bag 'twas to taste
His praise.   O honey run to waste,
He loved not! spoiled is all my way
In the spoiling of that yesterday.

The shadows wax, the low light alters,
Gold west fades, and false heart falters.
The pity of it!—Love 's a rover,
The last word said, and all over.


――――♦――――

 

SONG IN THREE PARTS.


THE white broom flatt'ring her flowers in calm June weather,
                              'O most sweet wear;
Forty-eight weeks of my life do none desire me,
                              Four am I fair.'


Quoth the brown bee,
'In thy white wear
Four thou art fair.
A mystery
Of honeyed snow
In scented air
The bee lines flow
Straight unto thee.
Great boon and bliss
All pure I wis,
And sweet to grow
Ay, so to give
That many live.
Now as for me,
I,' quoth the bee,
'Have not to give,
Through long hours sunny
Gathering I live:
Aye debonair
Sailing sweet air
After my fare,
Bee-bread and honey
In thy deep coombe
O thou white broom,
Where no leaves shake,
Brake,
Bent nor clover,
I a glad rover
Thy calms partake,
While winds of might
From height to height
Go bodily over.
Till slanteth light,
And up the rise
Thy shadow lies,
A shadow of white,
A beauty-lender
Pathetic, tender.

Short is thy day?
Answer with "Nay,"
Longer the hours
That wear thy flowers
Than all dull, cold
Years manifold
That gift withhold.
A long liver,
O honey-giver,
Thou by all showing
Art made, bestowing,
I envy not
Thy greater lot,
Nor thy white wear.
But, as for me,
I,' quoth the bee,
'Never am fair.'


-II-


The nightingale lorn of his note in darkness brooding
                              Deeply and long,
'Two sweet months spake the heart to the heart.   Alas! all's
        over,
                              O lost my song.'


One in the tree,
'Hush now!   Let be:
The song at ending
Left my long tending
Over alsò.
Let be, let us go
Across the wan sea.
The little ones care not,
And I fare not
Amiss with thee.

Thou haste sung all,
This haste thou had.
Love, be not sad;
It shall befall
Assuredly,
When the bush buddeth
And the bank studdeth—
Where grass is sweet
And damps do fleet,
Her delicate beds
With daisy heads
That the Stars Seven
Leaned down from heaven
Shall sparkling mark
In the warm dark
Thy most dear strain
Which ringeth aye true—
Piercing vale, croft
Lifted aloft
Dropt even as dew
With a sweet quest
To her on the nest
When damps we love
Fall from above.
"Art thou asleep?
Answer me, answer me,
Night is so deep
Thy right fair form
I cannot see;
Answer me, answer me,
Are the eggs warm?
Is't well with thee?"

Ay, this shall be
Assuredly.
Ay, thou full fain
In the soft rain
Shalt sing again.'


-III-


A fair wife making her moan, despised, forsaken,
                              Her good days o'er;
'Seven sweet years of my life did I live belovèd,
                              Seven—no more.'


'Then Echo woke—and spoke
    'No more—no more,'
And a wave broke
    On the sad shore
When Echo said
    'No more.'
Nought else made reply,
Nor land, nor loch, nor sky
Did any comfort try,
But the wave spread
Echo's faint tone
Alone,
All down the desolate shore,
'No more—no more.'


――――♦――――

 

'IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM.'


OUT of the melancholy that is made,
Of ebbing sorrow that too slowly ebbs,
Comes back a sighing whisper of the reed,
A note in new love-pipings on the bough,
Grieving with grief till all the full-fed air
And shaken milky corn doth wot of it,
The pity of it trembling in the talk
Of the beforetime merrymaking brook—
Out of that melancholy will the soul,
In proof that life is not forsaken quite
Of the old trick and glamour which made glad,
Be cheated some good day and not perceive
How sorrow ebbing out is gone from view,
How tired trouble fall'n for once on sleep,
How keen self-mockery that youth's eager dream
Interpreted to mean so much is found
To mean and give so little—frets no more,
Floating apart as on a cloud—O then
Not e'en so much as murmuring 'Let this end,'
She will, no longer weighted, find escape,
Lift up herself as if on wings and flit
Back to the morning time.


2.


                                                  'O once with me
It was all one, such joy I had at heart,
As I heard sing the morning star, or God
Did hold me with an Everlasting Hand,
And dip me in the day.
                                            O once with me,'
Reflecting ' 'twas enough to live, to look
Wonder and love.   Now let that come again.
Rise!'   And ariseth first a tanglement
Of flowering bushes, peonies pale that drop
Upon a mossy lawn, rich iris spikes,
Bee-borage, mealy-stemmed auricula,
Brown wallflower, and the sweetbrier ever sweet
Her pink buds pouting from their green.
                                                                       To these
Add thick espaliers where the bullfinch came
To strew much budding wealth, and was not chid.
Then add wide pear trees on the warmèd wall,
The old red wall one cannot see beyond.
That is the garden.
                                      In the wall a door
Green, blistered with the sun.   You open it,
And lo! a sunny waste of tumbled hills
And a glad silence, and an open calm.
Infinite leisure, and a slope where rills
Dance down delightedly, in every crease,
And lambs stoop drinking and the finches dip.
Then shining waves upon a lonely beach.
That is the world.


3.


                                  An all-sufficient world,
And as it seems an undiscovered world,
So very few the folk that come to look.
Yet one has heard of towns; but they are far.
The world is undiscovered, and the child
Is undiscovered that with stealthy joy
Goes gathering like a bee who in dark cells
Hideth sweet food to live on in the cold.
What matters to the child?—it matters not
More than it mattered to the moons of Mars,
That they for ages undiscovered went
Marked not of man, attendant on their king.


4.


A shallow line of sand curved to the cliff,
There dwelt the fisherfolk, and there inland
Some scattered cottagers in thrift and calm.
Their talk full oft was of old days,—for here
Was once a fosse, and by this rock-hewn path
Our wild fore-elders as 'tis said would come
To gather jetsam from some Viking wreck,
Like a sea-beast wide breasted (her snake head
Reared up as staring while she rocked ashore)
That split, and all her ribs were on their fires
The red whereof at their wives' throats made bright
Gold gaudy which from the weed they picked ere
        yet
The tide had turned.
                                        'Many,' methought, 'and rich
They must have been, so long their chronicle.
Perhaps the world was fuller then of folk,
For ships at sea are few that near us now.'


5.


Yet sometimes when the clouds were torn to rags,
Flying black before a gale, we saw one rock
In the offing, and the mariner folk would cry,
'Look how she labours; those aboard may hear
Her timbers creak e'en as she'd break her heart.'


6.


'Twas then the grey gulls blown ashore would light
In flocks, and pace the lawn with flat cold feet.


7.


And so the world was sweet, and it was strange,
Sweet as a bee-kiss to the crocus flower,
Surprising, fresh, direct, but ever one.
The laughter of glad music did not yet
In its echo yearn, as hinting ought beyond,
Nor pathos tremble at the edge of bliss
Like a moon halo in a watery sky,
Nor the sweet pain alike of love and fear
In a world not comprehended touch the heart—
The poetry of life was not yet born.
'Twas a thing hidden yet that there be days
When some are known to feel 'God is about,'
As if that morn more than another morn
Virtue flowed forth from Him, the rolling world
Swam in a soothèd calm made resonant
And vital, swam as in the lap of God
Come down; until she slept and had a dream
(Because it was too much to bear awake),
That all the air shook with the might of Him
And whispered how she was the favourite world
That day, and bade her drink His essence in.


8.


'Tis on such days that seers prophesy
And poets sing, and many who are wise
Find out for man's wellbeing hidden things
Whereof the hint came in that Presence known
Yet unknown.   But a seer—what is he?
A poet is a name of long ago.


9.


Men love the largeness of the field—the wild
Quiet that soothes the moor.   In other days
They loved the shadow of the city wall,
In its stone ramparts read their poetry;
Safety and state, gold, and the arts of peace,
Law-giving, leisure, knowledge, all were there.


10.


This to excuse a child's allegiance and
A spirit's recurrence to the older way.
Orphan'd, with agèd guardians kind and true,
Things came to pass not told before to me.


11.


Thus, we did journey once when eve was near.
Through carriage windows I beheld the moors,
Then, churches, hamlets cresting of low hills.
The way was long, at last I, fall'n asleep,
Awoke to hear a rattling 'neath the wheels
And see the lamps alight.   This was the town.


12.


Then a wide inn received us, and full soon
Came supper, kisses, bed.
                                               The lamp without
Shone in; the door was shut, and I alone.
An ecstasy of exultation took
My soul, for there were voices heard and steps,
I was among so many,—none of them
Knew I was come!
                                      I rose, with small bare feet,
Across the carpet stole, a white-robed child,
And through the window peered.   Behold the town.


13.


There had been rain, the pavement glistened yet
In a soft lamplight down the narrow street;
The church was nigh at hand, a clear-toned clock
Chimed slowly, open shops across the way
Showed store of fruit, and store of bread,— and one
Many caged birds.   About were customers,
I saw them bargain, and a rich high voice
Was heard,—a woman sang, her little babe
Slept 'neath her shawl, and by her side a boy
Added wild notes and sweet to hers.
                                                                 Some passed
Who gave her money.   It was far from me
To pity her, she was a part of that
Admirèd town.   E'en so within the shop
A rosy girl, it may be ten years old,
Quaint, grave.   She helped her mother, deftly
        weighed
The purple plums, black mulberries rich and ripe
For boyish customers, and counted pence
And dropped them in an apron that she wore.
Methought a queen had ne'er so grand a lot,
She knew it, she looked up at me, and smiled.


14.


But yet the song went on, and in a while
The meaning came; the town was not enough
To satisfy that singer, for a sigh
With her wild music came.   What wanted she?
Whate'er she wanted wanted all.   O how
'Twas poignant, her rich voice; not like a bird's.
Could she not dwell content and let them be,
That they might take their pleasure in the town,
For—no, she was not poor, witness the pence.


15.


I saw her boy and that small saleswoman;
He wary, she with grave persuasive air,
Till he came forth with filberts in his cap,
And joined his mother, happy, triumphing.


16.


This was the town; and if you ask what else,
I say good sooth that it was poetry
Because it was the all, and something more,—
It was the life of man, it was the world
That made addition to the watching heart,
First conscious its own beating, first aware
How, beating it kept time with all the race;
Nay, 'twas a consciousness far down and dim
Of a Great Father watching too.


17.


But lo! the rich lamenting voice again;
She sang not for herself; it was a song
For me, for I had seen the town and knew,
Yearning I knew the town was not enough.


18.


What more?   To-day looks back on yesterday,
Life's yesterday, the waiting time, the dawn,
And reads a meaning into it, unknown
When it was with us.
                                         It is always so.
But when as ofttimes I remember me
Of the warm wind that moved the beggar's hair,
Of the wet pavement, and the lamps alit,
I know it was not pity that made yearn
My heart for her, and that same dimpled boy.
How grand methought to be abroad so late,
And barefoot dabble in the shining wet;
How fine to peer as other urchins did
At those pent huddled doves they let not rest;
No, it was almost envy.   Ay, how sweet
The clash of bells; they rang to boast that far
That cheerful street was from the cold sea-fog,
From dark ploughed field and narrow lonesome
        lane.
How sweet to hear the hum of voices kind,
To see the coach come up with din of horn,
Quick tramp of horses, mark the passers-by
Greet one another, and go on.


19.


                                                         But now
They closed the shops, the wild clear voice was still,
The beggars moved away—where was their home?
The coach which came from out dull darksome fells
Into the light, passed to the dark again
Like some old comet which knows well her way,
Whirled to the sun that as her fateful loop
She turns, forebodes the destined silences.
Yes, it was gone; the clattering coach was gone,
And those it bore I pitied even to tears,
Because they must go forth, nor see the lights,
Nor hear the chiming bells.
                                                    In after days,
Remembering of the childish envy and
The childish pity, it has cheered my heart
To think e'en now pity and envy both
It may be are misplaced, or needed not.
Heaven may look down in pity on some soul.
Half envied, on some wholly pitied smile,
For that it hath to wait as it were an hour
To see the lights that go not out by night,
To walk the golden street and hear a song;
Other-world poetry that is the all
And something more.


――――♦――――

 

NATURE, FOR NATURE'S SAKE.


WHITE as white butterflies that each one dons
    Her face their wide white wings to shade withal,
Many moon-daisies throng the water-spring,
    While couched in rising barley titlarks call,
And bees alit upon their martagons
Do hang a-murmuring, a-murmuring.

They chide, it may be, alien tribes that flew
    And rifled their best blossom, counted on
And dreamed on in the hive ere dangerous dew
    That clogs bee-wings had dried; but when outshone
Long shafts of gold (made all for them) of power
To charm it away, those thieves had sucked the flower.

Now must they go; a-murmuring they go,
    And little thrushes twitter in the nest;
The world is made for them, and even so
    The clouds are; they have seen no stars, the breast
Of their soft mother hid there the night,
Till her mate came to her in red dawn-light.

Eggs scribbled over with strange writing, signs,
    Prophecies, and their meaning (for you see
The yolk within) is life, 'neath yonder bines
    Lie among sedges; on a hawthorn tree
The slender lord and master perched hard by,
Scolds at all comers if they step too nigh.


5.


And our small river makes encompassment
    Of half the mead and holm: yon lime trees grow
All heeling over to it, diligent
    To cast green doubles of themselves below,
But shafts of sunshine reach its shallow floor
And warm the yellow sand it ripples o'er.

Ripples and ripples to a pool it made
    Turning.   The cows are there, one creamy white—
She should be painted with no touch of shade
    If any list to limn her—she the light
Above, about her, treads out circles wide,
And sparkling water flashes from her side.

The clouds have all retired to so great height
    As earth could have no dealing with them more
As they were lost, for all her drawing and might,
    And must be left behind; but down the shore
Lie lovelier clouds in ranks of lace-work frail,
Wild parsley with a myriad florets pale,

Another milky-way, more intricate
    And multitudinous, with every star
Perfect.   Long changeful sunbeams undulate
    Amid the stems where sparklike creatures are
That hover and hum for gladness, then the last
Tree rears her graceful head, the shade is passed.

And idle fish in warm wellbeing lie
    Each with his shadow under, while at ease
As clouds that keep their shape the darting fry
    Turn and are gone in company; o'er these
Strangers to them, strangers to us, from holes
Scooped in the bank peer out shy water-voles.


10.


Here, take for life and fly with innocent feet
    The brown-eyed fawns, from moving shadows clear;
There, down the lane with multitudinous bleat
    Plaining on shepherd lads a flock draws near;
A mild lamenting fills the morning air,
'Why to yon upland fold must we needs fare?'

These might be fabulous creatures every one,
    And this their world might be some other sphere
We had but heard of, for all said or done
    To know of them,—of what this many a year
They may have thought of man, or of his sway.
Or even if they have a God and pray,

The sweetest river bank can never more
    Home to its source tempt back the lapsèd stream,
Nor memory reach the ante-natal shore,
    Nor one awake behold a sleeper's dream,
Not easier 'twere that unbridged chasm to walk,
And share the strange lore of their wordless talk.

Like to a poet voice, remote from ken,
    That unregarded sings and undesired,
Like to a star unnamed by lips of men,
    That faints at dawn in saffron light retired,
Like to an echo in some desert deep
From age to age unwakened from its sleep,—

So falls unmarked that other world's great song,
    And lapsing wastes without interpreter.
Slave world! not man's to raise, yet man's to wrong,
    He cannot to a loftier place prefer,
But he can,—all its earlier rights forgot,
Reign reckless if its nations rue their lot;


15.


If they can sin or feel life's wear and fret,
    An men had loved them better, it may be
We had discovered.   But who e'er did yet,
    After the sage saints in their clemency,
Ponder in hope they had a heaven to win,
Or make a prayer with a dove's name therein?

As grave Augustine pleading in his day,
    'Have pity, Lord, upon the unfledged bird,
Lest such as pass do trample it in the way,
    Not marking, or not minding; give the word,
O bid an angel in the nest again
To place it, lest the mother's love be vain.

And let it live, Lord God, till it can fly.'
    This man dwelt yearning, fain to guess, to spell
The parable; all work of God Most High
    Took to his man's heart.   Surely this was well
To love is more than to be loved, by leave
Of Heaven, to give is more than to receive.

He made it so that said it.   As for us
    Strange is their case toward us, for they give
And we receive.   Made martyrs ever thus
    In deed but not in will, for us they live,
For us they die, we quench their little day,
Remaining blameless, and they pass away.

The world is better served than it is ruled,
    And not alone of them, for ever more
Ruleth the man, the woman serveth fooled
    Full oft of love, not knowing his yoke is sore.
Life's greatest Son nought from life's measure
        swerved,
He was among us 'as a man that served.'


20.


Have they another life, and was it won
    In the sore travail of another death,
Which loosed the manacles from our race undone
    And plucked the pang from dying?   If this breath
Be not their all, reproach no more debarred,
'O unkind lords, you made our bondage hard,'

May be their plaint when we shall meet again
    And make our peace with them; the sea of life
Find flowing, full, nor ought or lost or vain.
    Shall the vague hint whereof all thought is rife,
The sweet pathetic guess indeed come true,
And restored reach that great residue?

Shall we behold fair flights of phantom doves,
    Shall furrèd creatures couch in moly flowers,
Swan souls the rivers oar with their world-loves,
    In difference welcome as these souls of ours?
Yet soul of man from soul of man far more
May differ, even as thought did heretofore

That ranged and varied on th' undying gleam:
    From a pure breath of God aspiring, high,
Serving and reigning, to the tender dream,
    The wingèd Psyche and her butterfly
From thrones and powers, to—fresh from death
        alarms
Child spirits entering in an angel's arms.

Why must we think, begun in paradise,
    That their long line, cut off with severance fell,
Shall end in nothingness—the sacrifice
    Of their long service in a passing knell?
Could man be wholly blest if not to say
'Forgive'—nor make amends for ever and aye?


25.


Waste, waste on earth, and waste of God afar.
    Celestial flotsam, blazing spars on high,
Drifts in the meteor month from some wrecked
        star,
    Strew oft th' unwrinkled ocean of the sky,
And pass no more accounted of than be
Long dulses limp that stripe a mundane sea.

The sun his kingdom fills with light, but all
    Save where it strikes some planet and her moons
Across cold chartless gulfs ordained to fall,
    Void antres, reckoneth no man's nights or noons,
But feeling forth as for some outmost shore,
Faints in the blank of doom, and is no more.

God scattereth His abundance as forgot,
    And what then doth He gather?   If we know,
'Tis that One told us it was life.   'For not
    A sparrow,' quoth He, uttering long ago
The strangest words that e'er took earthly sound,
'Without your Father falleth to the ground.'


――――♦――――

 

PERDITA.


'I GO beyond the commandment.'  'So be it.   Then mine be the blame,
The loss, the lack, the yearning, till life's last sand be run,—
I go beyond the commandment, yet Honour stands fast with her claim,
And what I have rued I shall rue; for what I have done—I have done.

Hush, hush! for what of the future; you cannot the base exalt,
There is no bridging a chasm over, that yawns with so sheer incline;
I will not any sweet daughter's cheek should pale for this mother's fault,
Nor son take leave to lower his life a-thinking on mine.

'Will I tell you all?'   So! this, e'en this, will I do for your great love's sake;
Think what it costs.   'Then let there be silence—silence you'll count consent.'
No, and no, and for ever no: rather to cross and to break,
And to lower your passion I speak—that other it was I meant.

That other I meant (but I know not how) to speak of, nor April days,
Nor a man's sweet voice that pleadedO (but I promised this)—
He never talked of marriage, never; I grant him that praise;
And he bent his stately head, and I lost, and he won with a kiss.

He led me away—O, how poignant sweet the nightingale's note that noon—
I beheld, and each crispèd spire of grass to him for my sake was fair,
And warm winds flattered my soul, blowing straight from the soul of June,
And a lovely lie was spread on the fields, but the blue was bare.

When I looked up, he said: 'Love, fair love! O rather look in these eyes
With thine far sweeter than eyes of Eve when she stepped the valley unshod'—
For ONE might be looking through it, he thought, and he would not in any
        wise
I should mark it open, limitless, empty, bare 'neath the gaze of God.

Ah me! I was happy—yes, I was; 'tis fit you should know it all,
While love was warm and tender and yearning, the rough winds troubled me
        not;
I heard them moan without in the forest; heard the chill rains fall—
But I thought my place was sheltered with him—I forgot, I forgot.

After came news of a wife; I think he was glad I should know,
To stay my pleading, 'take me to church and give me my ring;'
'You should have spoken before,' he had sighed, when I prayed him so,
For his heart was sick for himself and me, and this bitter thing.

But my dream was over me still,—I was half beguiled,
And he in his kindness left me seldom, O seldom, alone,
And yet love waxed cold, and I saw the face of my little child,
And then at the last I knew what I was, and what I had done.

You will give me the name of wife.   You 'will give me a ring'—O peace
You are not let to ruin your life because I ruined mine;
You will go to your people at home.   There will be rest and release;
The bitter now will be sweet full soon—ay, and denial divine.

But spare me the ending.   I did not wait to be quite cast away
I left him asleep, and the bare sun rising shone red on my gown.
There was dust in the lane, I remember; prints of feet in it lay,
And honeysuckle trailed in the path that led on to the down.

I was going nowhere—I wandered up, then turned and dared to look back,
Where low in the valley he careless and quiet—quiet and careless slept.
'Did I love him yet?'   I loved him.   Ay, my heart on the upland track
Cried to him, sighed to him out by the wheat, as I walked, and I wept.

I knew of another alas, one that had been in my place,
Her little ones, she forsaken, were almost in need;
I went to her, and carried my babe, then all in my satins and lace
I sank at the step of her desolate door, a mourner indeed.

I cried, ' 'Tis the way of the world, would I had never been born!'
'Ay, 'tis the way of the world, but have you no sense to see
For all the way of the world,' she answers and laughs me to scorn,
'The world is made the world that it is by fools like you, like me?'

Right hard upon me, hard on herself, and cold as the cold stone,
But she took me in; and while I lay sick I knew I was lost,
Lost with the man I loved, or lost without him, making my moan
Blighted and rent of the bitter frost, wrecked, tempest tossed, lost, lost!

How am I fallen:—we that might make of the world what we would,
Some of us sink in deep waters.   Ah! 'you would raise me again?'
No, true heart,—you cannot, you cannot, and all in my soul that is good
Cries out against such a wrong.   Let be, your quest is for ever in vain.

For I feel with another heart, I think with another mind,
I have worsened life, I have wronged the world, I have lowered the light;
But as for him, his words and his ways were after his kind,
He did but spoil where he could, and waste where he might.

For he was let to do it; I let him and left his soul
To walk mid the ruins he made of home in remembrance of love's despairs,
Despairs that harden the hearts of men and shadow their heads with dole,
And woman's fault, though never on earth, may be healed,—but what of theirs?

'Twas fit you should hear it allWhat, tears? they comfort me; now you will go,
Nor wrong your life for the nought you call 'a pair of beautiful eyes,'
'I will not say l love you.'   Truly I will not, no.
'Will I pity you?'   Ay, but the pang will be short, you shall wake and be wise.

'Shall we meet?'   We shall meet on the other side, but not before.
I shall be pure and fair, I shall hear the sound of THE NAME,
And see the form of His face.   You too will walk on that shore,
In the garden of the Lord God, where neither is sorrow nor shame.

Farewell, I shall bide alone, for God took my one white lamb,
I work for such as she was, and I will the while I last,
But there's no beginning again, ever I am what I am,
And nothing, nothing, nothing, can do away with the past.


――――♦――――





University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.

 


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