A WEDDING SONG.
COME up the broad
river, the Thames, my Dane,
My Dane with the beautiful eyes!
Thousands and thousands await thee full fain,
And talk of the wind and the skies.
Fear not from folk and from country to part,
O, I swear it is wisely done:
For (I said) I will bear me by thee, sweetheart,
As becometh my father's son.
Great London was shouting as I went down.
'She is worthy,' I said, 'of this;
What shall I give who have promised a crown?
O, first I will give her a kiss.'
So I kissed her and brought her, my Dane, my Dane,
Through the waving wonderful crowd:
Thousands and thousands, they shouted amain,
Like mighty thunders and loud.
And they said, 'He is young, the lad we love,
The heir of the Isles is young:
How we deem of his mother, and one gone above,
Can neither be said nor sung.
He brings us a pledge—he will do his part
With the best of his race and name;'—
And I will, for I look to live, sweetheart,
As may suit with my mother's fame.
THE FOUR BRIDGES.
I LOVE this grey
old church, the low, long nave,
The ivied chancel and the slender spire;
No less its shadow on each heaving grave,
With growing osier bound, or living briar
I love those yew-tree trunks, where stand arrayed
So many deep-cut names of youth and maid.
A simple custom this—I love it well—
A carved betrothal and a pledge of truth;
How many an eve, their linkèd names
Beneath the yew-trees sat our village youth!
When work was over, and the new-cut hay
Sent wafts of balm from meadows where it lay.
Ah! many an eve, while I was yet a boy,
Some village hind has beckoned me aside,
And sought mine aid, with shy and awkward joy,
To carve the letters of his rustic bride,
And make them clear to read as graven stone,
Deep in the yew-tree's trunk beside his own.
For none could carve so well, and here they stand,
Fathers and mothers of this present race;
And underscored by some less practised hand,
That fain the story of its line would trace,
With children's names, and number, and the day
When any called to God have passed away.
I look upon them, and I turn aside,
As oft when carving them I did erewhile;
And there I see those wooden bridges wide
That cross the marshy hollow; there the stile
In reeds imbedded, and the swelling down,
And the white road toward the distant town.
But those old bridges claim another look.
Our brattling river tumbles through the one;
The second spans a shallow, weedy brook;
Beneath the others, and beneath the sun,
Lie two long stilly pools, and on their breasts
Picture their wooden piles, encased in swallows' nests.
And round about them grows a fringe of reeds,
And then a floating crown of lily flowers,
And yet within small silver-budded weeds;
But each clear centre evermore embowers
A deeper sky, where, stooping, you may see
The little minnows darting restlessly.
My heart is bitter, lilies, at your sweet;
Why did the dewdrop fringe your chalices?
Why in your beauty are you thus complete,
You silver ships--you floating palaces?
O! if need be, you must allure man's eye,
Yet wherefore blossom here? O why? O why?
O! O! the world is wide, you lily flowers,
It hath warm forests, cleft by stilly pools,
Where every night bathe crowds of stars; and bowers
Of spicery hang over. Sweet air cools
And shakes the lilies among those stars that lie:
Why are not ye content to reign there? Why?
That chain of bridges, it were hard to tell
How it is linked with all my early joy.
There was a little foot that I loved well,
It danced across them when I was a boy;
There was a careless voice that used to sing;
There was a child, a sweet and happy thing.
Oft through that matted wood of oak and birch
She came from yonder house upon the hill;
She crossed the wooden bridges to the church,
And watched, with village girls, my boasted skill:
But loved to watch the floating lilies best,
Or linger, peering in a swallow's nest;
Linger and linger, with her wistful eyes
Drawn to the lily-buds that lay so white
And soft on crimson water; for the skies
Would crimson, and the little cloudless bright
Would all be flung among the flowers sheer down,
To flush the spaces of their clustering crown.
Till the green rushes—O, so glossy green—
The rushes, they would whisper, rustle, shake
And forth on floating gauze, no jewelled queen
So rich, the green-eyed dragon-flies would break,
And hover on the flowers—aerial things,
With little rainbows flickering on their wings.
Ah! my heart dear! the polished pools lie still,
Like lanes of water reddened by the west,
Till, swooping down from yon overhanging hill,
The bold marsh harrier wets her tawny breast;
We scared her oft in childhood from her prey,
And the old eager thoughts rise fresh as yesterday.
To yonder copse by moonlight I did go,
In luxury of mischief, half afraid,
To steal the great owl's brood, her downy snow,
Her screaming imps to seize, the while she preyed
With yellow, cruel eyes, whose radiant glare,
Fell with their mother rage, I might not dare.
Panting I lay till her great fanning wings
Troubled the dreams of rock-doves, slumbering nigh
And she and her fierce mate, like evil things,
Skimmed the dusk fields; then rising, with a cry
Of fear, joy, triumph, darted on my prey,
And tore it from the nest and fled away.
But afterward, belated in the wood,
I saw her moping on the rifled tree,
And my heart smote me for her, while I stood
Awakened from my careless reverie;
So white she looked, with moonlight round her shed,
So motherlike she drooped and hung her head.
O that mine eyes would cheat me! I behold
The godwits running by the water edge,
The mossy bridges mirrored as of old;
The little curlews creeping from the sedge,
But not the little foot so gaily light:
O that mine eyes would cheat me, that I mighty!—
Would cheat me! I behold the gable-ends—
Those purple pigeons clustering on the cote,
The lane with maples overhung, that bends
Toward her dwelling the dry grassy moat,
Thick mullions, diamond-latticed, mossed and grey,
And walls banked up with laurel and with bay.
And up behind them yellow fields of corn,
And still ascending countless firry spires,
Dry slopes of hills uncultured, bare, forlorn,
And green in rocky clefts with whins and briars;
Then rich cloud masses dyed the violet's hue,
With orange sunbeams dropping swiftly through.
Ay, I behold all this full easily;
My soul is jealous of my happier eyes,
And manhood envies youth. Ah, strange to see,
By looking merely, orange-flooded skies;
Nay, any dew-drop that may near me shine:
But never more the face of Eglantine!
She was my one companion, being herself
The jewel and adornment of my days,
My life's completeness. O, a smiling elf,
That I do but disparage with my praise—
My playmate; and I loved her dearly and long,
And she loved me, as the tender love the strong.
Ay, but she grew, till on a time there came
A sudden restless yearning to my heart;
And as we went a-nesting, all for shame
And shyness, I did hold my peace, and start;
Content departed, comfort shut me out,
And there was nothing left to talk about.
She had but sixteen years, and as for me,
Four added made my life. This pretty bird,
This fairy bird that I had cherished—she,
Content, had sung, while I, contented, heard.
The song had ceased; the bird, with nature's art,
Had brought a thorn and set it in my heart.
The restless birth of love my soul opprest,
I longed and wrestled for a tranquil day,
And warred with that disquiet in my breast
As one who knows there is a better way;
But, turned against myself, I still in vain
Looked for the ancient calm to come again.
My tired soul could to itself confess
That she deserved a wiser love than mine;
To love more truly were to love her less,
And for this truth I still awoke to pine;
I had a dim belief that it would be
A better thing for her, a blessed thing for me.
Good haste Thou made them—comforters right sweet;
Good haste Thou made the world, to mankind lent;
Good are Thy dropping clouds that feed the wheat;
Good are Thy stars above the firmament.
Take to Thee, take, Thy worship, Thy renown;
The good which Thou haste made doth wear
For, O my God, Thy creatures are so frail,
Thy bountiful creation is so fair,
That, drawn before us like the temple veil,
It hides the Holy Place from thought and care,
Giving man's eyes instead its sweeping fold,
Rich as with cherub wings and apples wrought of
Purple and blue and scarlet—shimmering bells
And rare pomegranates on its bordered rim,
Glorious with chain and fret-work that the swell
Of incense shakes to music dreamy and dim,
Till on a day comes loss, that God makes gain,
And death and darkness rend the veil in twain.
Ah, sweetest! my beloved! each outward thing
Recalls my youth, and is instinct with thee;
Brown wood-owls in the dusk, with noiseless wing,
Float from yon hanger to their haunted tree,
And hoot full softly. Listening, I regain
A flashing thought of thee with their remembered
I will not pine—it is the careless brook;
These amber sunbeams slanting down the vale;
It is the long tree-shadows, with their look
Of natural peace, that make my heart to fail:
The peace of nature—No, I will not pine—
But O the contrast 'twixt her face and mine!
And still I changed—I was a boy no more:
My heart was large enough to hold my kind,
And all the world. As hath been oft before
With youth, I sought, but I could never find,
Work hard enough to quiet my self-strife,
And use the strength of action-craving life.
She, too, was changed: her bountiful sweet eyes
Looked out full lovingly on all the world.
O tender as the deeps in yonder skies
Their beaming! but her rosebud lips were curled
With the soft dimple of a musing smile,
Which kept my gaze, but held me mute the while.
A cast of bees, a slowly moving wain,
The scent of bean-flowers wafted up a dell,
Blue pigeons wheeling over fields of grain,
Or bleat of folded lamb, would please her well;
Or cooing of the early coted dove;—
She sauntering mused of these; I, following, mused
With her two lips, that one the other pressed
So poutingly with such a tranquil air,
With her two eyes, that on my own would rest
So dream-like, she denied my silent prayer,
Fronted unuttered words and said them nay,
And smiled down love till it had nought to say.
The words that through mine eyes would clearly shine
Hovered and hovered on my lips in vain;
If after pause I said but 'Eglantine,'
She raised for me her quiet eyelids twain,
And looked me this reply—look calm, yet bland—
'I shall not know, I will not understand.'
'Yet she did know my story—knew my life
Was wrought to hers with bindings many and strong:
That I, like Israel, servèd for a
And for the love I bare her thought not long,
But only a few days, full quickly told,
My seven years' service strict as his of old.
I must be brief: the twilight shadows grow,
And steal the rose-bloom genial summer sheds,
And scented wafts of wind that come and go
Have lifted dew from honeyed clover heads;
The seven stars shine out above the mill,
The dark delightsome woods lie veiled and still.
Hush! hush! the nightingale begins to sing,
And stops, as ill-contented with her note;
Then breaks from out the bush with hurried wing,
Restless and passionate. She tunes her throat,
Laments awhile in wavering trills, and then
Floods with a stream of sweetness all the glen.
The seven stars upon the nearest pool
Lie trembling down betwixt the lily leaves,
And move like glowworms; wafting breezes cool
Come down along the water, and it heaves
And bubbles in the sedge; while deep and wide
The dim night settles on the country side.
I know this scene by heart. O! once before
I saw the seven stars float to and fro,
And stayed my hurried footsteps by the shore
To mark the starry picture spread below;
Its silence made the tumult in my breast
More audible; its peace revealed my own unrest.
I paused, then hurried on; my heart beat quick;
I crossed the bridges, reached the steep ascent,
And climbed through matted fern and hazels thick;
Then darkling through the close green maples went
And saw—there felt love's keenest pangs begin—
An oriel window lighted from within—
I saw—and felt that they were scarcely cares
Which I had known before; I drew more near,
And O! methought how sore it frets and wears
The soul to part with that it holds so dear;
'Tis hard two woven tendrils to untwine,
And I was come to part with Eglantine.
For life was bitter through those words repressed,
And youth was burdened with unspoken vows;
Love unrequited brooded in my breast,
And shrank, at glance, from the belovèd
And three long months, heart-sick, my foot withdrawn,
I had not sought her side by rivulet, copse, or lawn—
Not sought her side, yet busy thought no less
Still followed in her wake, though far behind;
And I, being parted from her loveliness,
Looked at the picture of her in my mind:
I lived alone, I walked with soul oppress,
And ever sighed for her, and sighed for rest.
Then I had risen to struggle with my heart,
And said—'O heart! the world is fresh and fair,
And I am young; but this thy restless smart
Changes to bitterness the morning air:
I will, I must, these weary fetters break—
I will be free, if only for her sake.
'O let me trouble her no more with sighs!
Heart healing comes by distance, and with time:
Then let me wander, and enrich mine eyes
With the green forests of a softer clime,
Or list by night at sea the wind's low stave
And long monotonous rockings of the wave.
'Through open solitudes, unbounded meads,
Where, wading on breast-high in yellow bloom,
Untamed of man, the shy white llama feeds—
There would I journey and forget my doom;
Or far, O far as sunrise I would see
The level prairie stretch away from me!
'Or I would sail upon the tropic seas,
Where fathom long the blood-red dulses grow,
Droop from the rock and waver in the breeze,
Lashing the tide to foam; while calm below
The muddy mandrakes throng those waters warm,
And purple, gold, and green, the living blossoms
So of my father I did win consent,
With importunities repeated long,
To make that duty which had been my bent,
To dig with strangers alien tombs among,
And bound to them through desert leagues to pace,
Or track up rivers to their starting-place.
For this I had done battle and had won,
But not alone to tread Arabian sands,
Measure the shadows of a southern sun,
Or dig out gods in the old Egyptian lands;
But for the dream wherewith I thought to cope—
The grief of love unmated with love's hope.
And now I would set reason in array,
Methought, and fight for freedom manfully,
Till by long absence there would come a day
When this my love would not be pain to me;
But if I knew my rosebud fair and blest
I should not pine to wear it on my breast.
The days fled on; another week should fling
A foreign shadow on my lengthening way;
Another week, yet nearness did not bring
A braver heart that hard farewell to say.
I let the last day wane, the dusk begin,
Ere I had sought that window lighted from within.
Sinking and sinking, O my heart! my heart!
Will absence heal thee whom its shade doth rend?
I reached the little gate, and soft within
The oriel fell her shadow. She did lend
Her loveliness to me, and let me share
The listless sweetness of those features fair.
Among thick laurels in the gathering gloom.
Heavy for this our parting, I did stand;
Beside her mother in the lighted room,
She sitting leaned her cheek upon her hand;
And as she read, her sweet voice floating through
The open casement seemed to mourn me an adieu.
Youth! youth! how buoyant are thy hopes! they turn,
Like marigolds, toward the sunny side.
My hopes were buried in a funeral urn,
And they sprang up like plants and spread them wide;
Though I had schooled and reasoned them away,
They gathered smiling near and prayed a holiday.
Ah, sweetest voice! how pensive were its tones,
And how regretful its unconscious pause!
'Is it for me her heart this sadness owns,
And is our parting of to-night the cause?
Ah, would it might be so!' I thought, and stood
Listening entranced among the underwood.
I thought it would be something worth the pain
Of parting, to look once in those deep eyes,
And take from them an answering look again:
'When eastern palms,' I thought, 'about me rise,
If I might carve our names upon the rind,
Betrothed, I would not mourn, though leaving thee
I can be patient, faithful, and most fond
To unacknowledged love; I can be true
To this sweet thraldom, this unequal bond,
This yoke of mine that reaches not to you:
O, how much more could costly parting buy—
If not a pledge, one kiss, or, failing that, a sigh!
I listened, and she ceased to read; she turned
Her face toward the laurels where I stood:
Her mother spoke—O wonder! hardly learned;
She said, 'There is a rustling in the wood;
Ah, child! if one draw near to bid farewell,
Let not thine eyes an unsought secret tell.
'My daughter, there is nothing held so dear
As love, if only it be hard to win.
The roses that in yonder hedge appear
Outdo our garden-buds which bloom within;
But since the hand may pluck them every day,
Unmarked they bud, bloom, drop, and drift away.
'My daughter, my belovèd, be not
Like those same roses.' O bewildering word!
My heart stood still, a mist obscured my view:
It cleared; still silence. No denial stirred
The lips beloved; but straight, as one opprest,
She, kneeling, dropped her face upon her mother's
This said, 'My daughter, sorrow comes to all
Our life is checked with shadows manifold:
But woman has this more—she may not call
Her sorrow by its name. Yet love not told,
And only born of absence and by thought,
With thought and absence may return to nought.'
And my belovèd lifted up her face,
And moved her lips as if about to speak;
She dropped her lashes with a girlish grace,
And the rich damask mantled in her cheek.
I stood awaiting till she should deny
Her love, or with sweet laughter put it by.
But, closer nestling to her mother's heart,
She, blushing, said no word to break my trance,
For I was breathless; and, with lips apart,
Felt my breast pant and all my pulses dance,
And strove to move, but could not for the weight
Of unbelieving joy, so sudden and so great,
Because she loved me. With a mighty sigh
Breaking away, I left her on her knees,
And blest the laurel bower, the darkened sky,
The sultry night of August. Through the trees,
Giddy with gladness, to the porch I went,
And hardly found the way for joyful wonderment.
Yet, when I entered, saw her mother sit
With both hands cherishing the graceful head,
Smoothing the clustered hair, and parting it
From the fair brow; she, rising, only said,
In the accustomed tone, the accustomed word,
The careless greeting that I always heard;
And she resumed her merry, mocking smile,
Though tear-drops on the glistening lashes hung.
O woman! thou wert fashioned to beguile:
So have all sages said, all poets sung.
She spoke of favouring winds and waiting ships,
With smiles of gratulation on her lips!
And then she looked and faltered: I had grown
So suddenly in life and soul a man:
She moved her lips, but could not find a tone
To set her mocking music to; began
One struggle for dominion, raised her eyes,
And straight withdrew them, bashful through surprise.
The colour over cheek and bosom flushed;
I might have heard the beating of her heart,
But that mine own beat louder; when she blushed,
The hand within mine own I felt to start,
But would not change my pitiless decree
To strive with her for might and mastery.
She looked again, as one that, half afraid,
Would fain be certain of a doubtful thing;
Or one beseeching 'Do not me upbraid!'
And then she trembled like the fluttering
Of timid little birds, and silent stood,
No smile wherewith to mock my hardihood.
She turned, and to an open casement moved
With girlish shyness, mute beneath my gaze,
And I on downcast lashes unreproved
Could look as long as pleased me; while, the rays
Of moonlight round her, she her fair head bent,
In modest silence to my words attent.
How fast the giddy whirling moments flew!
The moon had set; I heard the midnight chime;
Hope is more brave than fear, and joy than dread,
And I could wait unmoved the parting time.
It came; for by a sudden impulse drawn,
She, risen, stepped out upon the dusky lawn.
A little waxen taper in her hand,
Her feet upon the dry and dewless grass,
She looked like one of the celestial band,
Only that on her cheeks did dawn and pass
Most human blushes; while, the soft light thrown
On vesture pure and white, she seemed yet fairer
Her mother, looking out toward her, sighed,
Then gave her hand in token of farewell,
And with her warning eyes, that seemed to chide,
Scarce suffered that I sought her child to tell
The story of my life, whose every line
No other burden bore than—Eglantine.
Black thunder-clouds were rising up behind,
The waxen taper burned full steadily;
It seemed as if dark midnight had a mind
To hear what lovers say, and her decree
Had passed for silence, while she, dropped to ground
With raiment floating wide, drank in the sound.
O happiness! thou doss not leave a trace
So well defined as sorrow. Amber light,
Shed like a glory on her angel face,
I can remember fully, and the sight
Of her fair forehead and her shining eyes,
And lips that smiled in sweet and girlish wise.
I can remember how the taper played
Over her small hands and her vesture white;
How it struck up into the trees, and laid
Upon their under leaves unwonted light;
And when she held it low, how far it spread
O'er velvet pansies slumbering on their bed.
I can remember that we spoke full low,
That neither doubted of the other's truth;
And that with footsteps slower and more slow,
Hands folded close for love, eyes wet for ruth:
Beneath the trees, by that clear taper's flame,
We wandered till the gate of parting came.
But I forget the parting words she said,
So much they thrilled the all-attentive soul;
For one short moment human heart and head
May bear such bliss—its present is the whole;
I had that present, till in whispers fell
With parting gesture her subdued farewell.
Farewell! she said, in act to turn away,
But stood a moment yet to dry her tears,
And suffered my enfolding arm to stay
The time of her departure. O ye years
That intervene betwixt that day and this!
You all received your line from that keen pain and
O mingled pain and bliss! O pain to break
At once from happiness so lately found,
And four long years to feel for her sweet sake
The incompleteness of all sight and sound!
But bliss to cross once more the foaming brine—
O bliss to come again and make her mine!
I cannot—O, I cannot more recall!
But I will soothe my troubled thoughts to rest
With musing over journeyings wide, and all
Observance of this active-humoured west,
And swarming cities steeped in eastern day,
With swarthy tribes in gold and striped array.
I turn from these, and straight there will succeed
(Shifting and changing at the restless will),
Imbedded in some deep Circassian mead,
White wagon-tilts, and flocks that eat their fill
Unseen above, while comely shepherds pass,
And scarcely show their heads above the grass.
—The red Sahara in an angry glow,
With amber fogs, across its hollows trailed
Long strings of camels, gloomy-eyed and slow,
And women on their necks, from gazers veiled,
And sun-swam guides who toil across the sand
To groves of date-trees on the watered land.
Again—the brown sails of an Arab boat,
Flashing by night upon a glassy sea,
Whereon the moon and planets seem to float,
More bright of hue than they were wont to be,
While shooting-stars rain down with crackling sound,
And, thick as swarming locusts, drop to ground.
Or far into the heat among the sands
The gembok nations, snuffing up the wind,
Drawn by the scent of water—and the bands
Of tawny-bearded lions pacing, blind
With the sun-dazzle in their midst, oppress
With prey, and spiritless for lack of rest!
What more? Old Lebanon, the frosty-browed,
Setting his feet among oil-olive trees,
Heaving his bare brown shoulder through a cloud;
And after, grassy Carmel, purple seas,
Flattering his dreams and echoing in his rocks,
Soft as the bleating of his thousand flocks.
Enough: how vain this thinking to beguile,
With recollected scenes, an aching breast!
Did not I, journeying, muse on her the while?
Ah, yes! for every landscape comes impressed—
Ay, written on, as by an iron pen—
With the same thought I nursed about her then.
Therefore let memory turn again to home;
Feel, as of old, the joy of drawing near;
Watch the green breakers and the wind tossed foam,
And see the land-fog break, dissolve, and clear;
Then think a skylark's voice far sweeter sound
Than ever thrilled but over English ground;
And walk, glad, even to tears, among the wheat,
Not doubting this to be the first of lands;
And, while in foreign words this murmuring, meet
Some little village schoolgirls (with their hands
Full of forget-me-nots), who greeting me,
I count their English talk delightsome melody;
And seat me on a bank, and draw them near,
That I may feast myself with hearing it,
Till shortly they forget their bashful fear,
Push back their flaxen curls, and round me sit—
Tell me their names, their daily tasks, and show
Where wild wood strawberries in the copses grow.
So passed the day in this delightsome land:
My heart was thankful for the English tongue—
For English sky with feathery cloudlets spanned—
For English hedge with glistering dewdrops hung.
I journeyed, and at glowing eventide
Stopped at a rustic inn by the wayside.
That night I slumbered sweetly, being right glad
To miss the flapping of the shrouds; but lo!
A quiet dream of beings twain I had,
Behind the curtain talking soft and low:
Methought I did not heed their utterance fine,
Till one of them said softly, 'Eglantine.'
I started up awake, 'twas silence all:
My own fond heart had shaped that utterance clear;
And 'Ah!' bethought, 'how sweetly did it fall,
Though but in dream, upon the listening ear!
How sweet from other lips the name well known—
That name, so many a year heard only from mine own!'
I thought awhile, then slumber came to me,
And tangled all my fancy in her maze,
And I was drifting on a raft at sea,
The near all ocean, and the far all haze;
Through the white polished water sharks did glide,
And up in heaven I saw no stars to guide.
'Have mercy, God!' but lo! my raft uprose;
Drip, drip, I heard the water splash from it;
My raft had wings, and as the petrel goes,
It skimmed the sea, then brooding seemed to sit
The milk-white mirror, till, with sudden spring,
It flew straight upward like a living thing.
But strange!—I went not also in that flight,
For I was entering at a cavern's mouth;
Trees grew within, and screaming birds of night
Sat on them, hiding from the torrid south.
On, on I went, while gleaming in the dark
Those trees with blanched leaves stood pale and stark.
The trees had flower-buds, nourished in deep night,
And suddenly, as I went farther in,
They opened, and they shot out lambent light;
Then all at once arose a railing din
'That frighted me: 'It is the ghosts,' I said,
'And they are railing for their darkness fled.
'I hope they will not look me in the face;
It frighteth me to hear their laughter loud;'
I saw them troop before with jaunty pace,
And one would shake off dust that soiled her shroud:
But now, O joy unhoped! to calm my dread,
Some moonlight filtered through a cleft overhead.
I climbed the lofty trees—the blanchèd
The cleft was wide enough to let me through;
I clambered out and felt the balmy breeze,
And stepped on churchyard grasses wet with dew.
O happy chance! O fortune to admire!
I stood beside my own loved village spire.
And as I gazed down the dimness blank,
Lo, far off music—music in the night!
So clear and tender as it swelled and sank
It charmed me till I wept with keen delight,
And in my dream, methought as it drew near
The very clouds in heaven stooped low to hear.
Beat high, beat low, wild heart so deeply stirred,
For high as heaven runs up the piercing strain;
The restless music fluttering like a bird
Bemoaned herself, and dropped to earth again,
Heaping up sweetness till I was afraid
That I should die of grief when it did fade.
And it DID fade; but while with eager ear
I drank its last long echo dying away,
I was aware of footsteps that drew near,
And round the ivied chancel seemed to stray:
O soft about the hallowed place they trod—
Soft as the fall of foot that is not shod!
I turned—'twas even so—yes, Eglantine!
For at the first I had divined the same;
I saw the moon on her shut eyelids shine,
And said 'She is asleep:' still on she came;
Then, on her dimpled feet, I saw it gleam,
And thought—'I know that this is but a dream.'
My darling! O my darling! not the less
My dream went on because I knew it such;
She came toward me in her loveliness—
A thing too pure, bethought, for mortal touch;
The rippling gold did on her bosom meet,
The long white robe descended to her feet.
The fringèd lids dropped low, as
Her dreamy smile was very fair to see,
And her two hands were folded to her breast,
With somewhat held between them heedfully.
O fast asleep! and yet methougbt she knew
And felt my nearness those shut eyelids through.
She sighed: my tears ran down for tenderness—
'And have I drawn thee to me in my sleep?
Is it for me thou wanderest shelterless,
Wetting thy steps in dewy grasses deep?
O if this be!' I said—'yet speak to me;
I blame my very dream for cruelty.'
Then from her stainless bosom she did take
Two beauteous lily flowers that lay therein,
And with slow-moving lips a gesture make,
As one that some forgotten words doth win:
'They floated on the pool,' bethought she said,
And water trickled from each lily's head.
It dropped upon her feet—I saw it gleam
Along the ripples of her yellow hair,
And stood apart, for only in a dream
She would have come, bethought, to meet me there.
She spoke again—'Ah fair! ah fresh they shine!
And there are many left, and these are mine.'
I answered her with flattering accents meet—
'Love, they are whitest lilies e'er were blown.'
'And sayest thou so?' she sighed in murmurs sweet;
'I have nought else to give thee now, mine own!
For it is night. Then take them, love!' said she:
'They have been costly flowers to thee—and me.'
While thus she said I took them from her hand,
And, overcome with love and nearness, woke;
And overcome with ruth that she should stand
Barefooted on the grass; that, when she spoke,
Her mystic words should take so sweet a tone,
And of all names her lips should choose 'My own.'
I rose, I journeyed, neared my home, and soon
Beheld the spire peer out above the hill:
It was a sunny harvest afternoon,
When by the churchyard wicket, standing still,
I cast my eager eyes abroad to know
If change had touched the scenes of long ago.
I looked across the hollow; sunbeams shone
Upon the old house with the gable-ends:
'Save that the laurel-trees are taller grown,
No change,' methought, 'to its grey wall extends,
What clear bright beams on yonder lattice shine!
There did I sometime talk with Eglantine.'
There standing with my very goal in sight,
Over my haste did sudden quiet steal;
I thought to dally with my own delight,
Nor rush on headlong to my garnered weal,
But taste the sweetness of a short delay,
And for a little moment hold the bliss at bay.
The church was open; it perchance might be
That there to offer thanks I might essay,
Or rather, as I think, that I might see
The place where Eglantine was wont to pray.
But so it was; I crossed that portal wide,
And felt my riot joy to calm subside.
The low depending curtains, gently swayed,
Cast over arch and roof a crimson glow;
But, ne'ertheless, all silence and all shade
It seemed, save only for the rippling flow
Of their long foldings, when the sunset air
Sighed through the casements of the house of prayer.
I found her place, the ancient oaken stall,
Where in her childhood I had seen her sit,
Most saint-like and most tranquil there of all,
Folding her hands, as if a dreaming fit—
A heavenly vision had before her strayed
Of the Eternal Child in lowly manger laid.
I saw her prayer-book laid upon the seat,
And took it in my hand, and felt more near
In fancy to her, finding it most sweet
To think how very oft, low kneeling there,
In her devout thoughts she had let me share,
And set my graceless name in her pure prayer.
My eyes were dazzled with delightful tears—
In sooth they were the last I ever shed;
For with them fell the cherished dreams of years.
I looked, and on the wall above my head,
Over her seat, there was a tablet placed,
With one word only on the marble traced,—
Ah, well! I would not overstate that woe,
For I have had some blessings, little care;
But since the falling of that heavy blow,
God's earth has never seemed to me so fair;
Nor any of His creatures so divine,
Nor sleep so sweet;—the word was—EGLANTINE.
A MOTHER SHOWING THE PORTRAIT
OF HER CHILD.
(F. M. L.)
CHILD or pictured
Ne'er o'ermatched its baby grace;
And the mother, moving nearer,
Looked it calmly in the face;
Then with slight and quiet gesture,
And with lips that scarcely smiled,
Said—'A Portrait of my daughter
When she was
Easy thought was hers to fathom,
Nothing hard her glance to read,
For it seemed to say, 'No praises
For this little child I need:
If you see, I see far better,
And I will not feign to care
For a stranger's prompt assurance
That the face
Softly clasped and half extended,
She her dimpled hands doth lay:
So they doubtless placed them, saying—
'Little one, you must not play.'
And while yet his work was growing,
This the painter's hand hath shown,
That the little heart was making
Is it warm in that green valley,
Vale of childhood, where you dwell?
Is it calm in that green valley,
Round whose bournes such great hills swell?
Are there giants in the valley—
Giants leaving footprints yet?
Are there angels in the valley?
Answer, answer, for the lilies,
Little one, o'ertop you much,
And the mealy gold within them
You can scarcely reach to touch;
O how far their aspect differs,
Looking up and looking down!
You look up in that green valley—
Are there voices in the valley,
Lying near the heavenly gate?
When it opens, do the harp-strings,
Touched within, reverberate?
When, like shooting-stars, the angels
To your couch at nightfall go,
Are their swift wings heard to rustle?
Tell me! for
Yes, you know; and you are silent,
Not a word shall asking win;
Little mouth more sweet than rosebud,
Fast it locks the secret in.
Not a glimpse upon your present
You unfold to glad my view;
Ah, what secrets of your future
I could tell
Sunny present! thus I read it,
By remembrance of my past:—
Its to-day and its to-morrow
Are as lifetimes vague and vast;
And each face in that green valley
Takes for you an aspect mild,
And each voice grows soft in saying—
As a boon the kiss is granted:
Baby mouth, your touch is sweet,
Takes the love without the trouble
From those lips that with it meet;
Gives the love, O pure! O tender!
Of the valley where it grows,
But the baby heart receiveth
THAN IT BESTOWS.
Comes the future to the present—
'Ah!' she saith, 'too blithe of mood;
Why that smile which seems to whisper—
"I am happy, God is good"?
God is good: that truth eternal
Sown for you in happier years,
I must tend it in my shadow,
Water it with
'Ah, sweet present! I must lead thee
By a daylight more subdued;
There must teach thee low to whisper—
"I am mournful, God is good!" '
Peace, thou future! clouds are coming,
Stooping from the mountain crest,
But that sunshine floods the valley
Comes the future to the present—
'Child,' she saith, 'and wilt thou rest?
How long, child, before thy footsteps
Fret to reach yon cloudy crest?
Ah, the valley!—angels guard it,
But the heights are brave to see;
Looking down were long contentment:
child, to me.'
So she speaks, but do not heed her,
Little maid with wondrous eyes,
Not afraid, but clear and tender,
Blue, and filled with prophecies;
Thou for whom life's veil uplifted
Hangs, whom warmest valleys fold,
Lift the veil, the charm dissolveth—
heights are cold.
There are buds that fold within them,
Closed and covered from our sight,
Many a richly-tinted petal,
Never looked on by the light:
Fain to see their shrouded faces,
Sun and dew are long at strife,
Till at length the sweet buds open—
Such a bud is
When the rose of thine own being
Shall reveal its central fold,
Thou shalt look within and marvel,
Fearing what thine eyes behold;
What it shows and what it teaches
Are not things wherewith to part;
Thorny rose! that always costeth
Look in fear, for there is dimness,
Ills unshapen float anigh,
Look in awe: for this same nature
Once the Godhead deigned to die.
Look in love, for He doth love it,
And its tale is best of lore:
Still humanity grows dearer,
Learn, but not the less bethink thee
How that all can mingle tears;
But his joy can none discover,
Save to them that are his peers;
And that they whose lips do utter
Language such as bards have sung—
Lo! their speech shall be to many
As an unknown
Learn, that if to thee the meaning
Of all other eyes be shown,
Fewer eyes can ever front thee
That are skilled to read thine own:
And that if thy love's deep current
Many another's far outflows,
Then thy heart must take for ever
THAN IT BESTOWS.
STRIFE ANDS PEACE.
(Written for THE
THE yellow poplar
leaves came down
And like a carpet lay,
No wafting were in the sunny air
To flutter them away;
And he stepped on blithe and debonair
That warm October day.
'The boy,' saith he, 'hath got his own,
But sore has been the fight,
For ere his life began the strife
That ceased but yesternight;
For the will,' he said, ' the kinsfolk read,
And read it not aright.
'His cause was argued in the court
Before his christening day,
And counsel was heard, and judge demurred,
And bitter waxed the fray;
Brother with brother spake no word
When they met in the way.
'Against each one did each contend,
And all against the heir.
I would not bend, for I knew the end—
I have it for my share,
And nought repent, though my first friend
From henceforth I must spare.
'Manor and moor and farm and wold
Their greed begrudged him sore,
And parchments old with passionate hold
They guarded heretofore;
And they carped at signature and seal,
But they may carp no more.
'An old affront will stir the heart
Through years of rankling pain,
And I feel the fret that urged me yet
That warfare to maintain;
For an enemy's loss may well be set
Above an infant's gain.
'An enemy's loss I go to prove
Laugh out, thou little heir!
Laugh in his face who vowed to chase
Thee from thy birthright fair;
For I come to set thee in thy place
Laugh out, and do not spare.'
A man of strife, in wrathful mood
He neared the nurse's door;
With poplar leaves the roof and eaves
Were thickly scattered o'er,
And yellow as they a sunbeam lay
Along the cottage floor.
Sleep on, thou pretty, pretty lamb,
He hears the fond nurse say;
And if angels stand at thy right hand,
As now belike they may,
And if angels meet at thy bed's feet,
I fear them not this day.
Come wealth, come want to thee, dear heart,
It was all one to me,
For thy pretty tongue far sweeter rung
Than coined gold and fee;
And ever the while thy waking smile
It was right fair to see.
Sleep, pretty bairn, and never know
Who grudged and who transgressed;
Thee to retain I was full fain,
But God, He knoweth best!
And His peace upon thy brow lies plain
As the sunshine on thy breast!'
The man of strife, he enters in,
Looks, and his pride doth cease;
Anger and sorrow shall be to-morrow
Trouble, and Do release;
But the babe whose life awoke the strife
Hath entered into peace.
LETTERS ON LIFE AND THE MORNING.
(First of a Series.)
A PARSON'S LETTER TO A YOUNG POET.
THEY said 'Too
late, too late, the work is done;
Great Homer sang of glory and strong men
And that fair Greek whose fault all these long years
Wins no forgetfulness nor ever can;
For yet cold eyes upon her frailty bend,
For yet the world waits in the victor's tent
Daily, and sees an old man honourable,
His white head bowed, surprise to passionate tears
Awestruck Achilles; sighing, "I have endured
The like whereof no soul hath yet endured,
To kiss the hand of him that slew my son." '
They said: 'We, rich by him, are rich by more;
One Æschylus found watchfires on a
That lit Old Night's three daughters to their work;
When the forlorn Fate leaned to their red light
And sat a-spinning, to her feet he came
And marked her till she span off all her thread.
O, it is late, good sooth, to cry for more:
The work once done, well done,' they said, 'forbear!
A Tuscan afterward discovered steps
Over the line of life in its mid-way;
He climbed the wall of Heaven, beheld his love
Safe at her singing, and he left his foes
In a vale of shadow weltering, unassoiled
Immortal sufferers henceforth in both worlds.
Who may inherit next or who shall match
The Swan of Avon and go float with him
Down the long river of life aneath a sun
Not veiled, and high at noon? —the river of life
That as it ran reflected all its lapse
And rippling on the plumage of his breast?
Thou haste them, heed them, for thy poets now,
Albeit of tongue full sweet and majesty
Like even to theirs, are fallen on evil days,
Are wronged by thee of life, wronged of the world,
Look back they must and show thee thy fair past,
Or, choosing thy to-day, they may but chant
As they behold.
"The mother-glowworm broods
Upon her young, fast folded in the egg
And long before they come to life they shine—
The mother-age broods on her shining thought
That liveth, but whose life is hid. He comes
Her poet son, and lo you, he can see
The shining, and he takes it to his breast
And fashions for it wings that it may fly
And show its sweet light in the dusky world.
Mother, O Mother of our dusk to-day,
What haste thou lived for bards to sing of thee?
Lapsed water cannot flow above its source;
'The kid must browse,' " they said, " 'where she is
Son of to-day, rise up, and answer them.
What! wilt thou let thy mother sit ashamed
And crownless?—Set the crown on her fair head:
She waited for thy birth, she cries to thee
'Thou art the man.' He that hath ears to hear,
To him the mother cries 'Thou art the man.'
She murmurs, for thy mother's voice is low—
'Methought the men of war were even as gods,
The old men of the ages. Now mine eyes
Retrieve the truth from ruined city walls
That buried it; from carved and curious homes
Full of rich garments and all goodly spoil,
Where having burned, battered, and wasted them,
They flung it. Give us, give us better gods
Than these that drink with blood upon their hands,
For I repent me that I worshipped them.
O that there might be yet a going up!
O to forget—and to begin again!'
Is not thy mother's rede at one with theirs
Who cry 'The work is done'? What though to thee,
Thee only, should the utterance shape itself
'O to forget, and to begin again,'
Only of thee be heard as that keen cry
Rending its way from some distracted heart
That yields it and so breaks? Yet list the cry
Begin for her again, and learn to sing;
But first, in all thy learning learn to be.
Is life a field? then plough it up—re-sow
With worthier seed—Is life a ship? O heed
The southing of thy stars—Is life a breath?
Breathe deeper, draw life up from hour to hour,
Aye, from the deepest deep in thy deep soul.
It may be God's first work is but to breathe
And fill the abysm with drifts of shining air
That slowly, slowly curdle into worlds.
A little space is measured out to us
Of His long leisure; breathe and grow therein,
For life, alas! is short, and 'when we die
It is not for a little while.'
'The work is done,' and is it therefore done?
Speak rather to thy mother thus: 'All-fair,
Lady of ages, beautiful To-day
And sorrowful To-day, thy children set
The crown of sorrow on their heads, their loss
Is like to be the loss of all: we hear
Lamenting, as of some that mourn in vain
Loss of high leadership, but where is he
That shall be great enough to lead thee now?
Where is thy Poet? thou hast wanted him.
Where? Thou hast wakened as a child in the night
And found thyself alone. The stars have set,
There is great darkness, and the dark is void
Of music. Who shall set thy life afresh
And sing thee thy new songs? Whom wilt thou love
And lean on to break silence worthily—
Discern the beauty in thy goings—feel
The glory of thy yearning,—thy self-scorn
Flatter to dim oblivion with a smile—
Own thy great want, that knew not its great name?
O who shall make to thee mighty amends
For thy lost childhood, joining two in one,
Thyself and Him? Behold Him, He is near:
God is thy Poet now.
A King sang once
Long years ago 'My soul is athirst for God,
Yea for the living God'—thy thirst and his
Are one. It is thy Poet whom thy hands
Grope for, not knowing. Life is not enough,
Nor love, nor learning,—Death is not enough
Even to them, happy, who forecast new life;
But give us now and satisfy us now,
Give us now, now, to live in the life of God,
Give us now, now, to be at one with Him.'
Would I had words—I have not words for her,
Only for thee; and thus I tell them out:
For every man the world is made afresh;
To God both it and he are young. There are
Who call upon Him night, and morn, and night
'Where is the kingdom? Give it us to-day.
We would be here with God, not there with God.
Make Thine abode with us, great Wayfarer,
And let our souls sink deeper into Thee'—
There are who send but yearnings forth, in quest
They know not why, of good they know not what.
The unknown life, and strange its stirring is.
The babe knows nought of life, yet clothed in it
And yearning only for its mother's breast
Feeds thus the unheeded thing—and as for thee,
That life thou hast is hidden from thine eyes,
And when it yearns, thou, knowing not for what,
Wouldst fain appease it with one grand, deep joy,
One draught of passionate peace—but wilt thou know
The other name of joy, the better name
Of peace? It is thy Father's name. Thy life
Yearns to its Source. The spirit thirsts for God,
Even the living God.
But 'No,' thou sayest,
'My heart is all in ruins with pain, my feet
Tread a dry desert where there is no way
Nor water. I look back, and deep through time
The old words come but faintly up the track
Trod by the sons of men. The man He sent,
The Prince of life, methinks I could have loved
If I had looked once in His deep man's eyes.
But long ago He died, and long ago
He is not dead, He cannot go.
Men's faith at first was like a mastering stream,
Like Jordan 'the descender' leaping down
Pure from his snow; and warmed of tropic heat
Hiding himself in verdure: then at last
In a Dead Sea absorbed, as faith of doubt.
But yet the snow lies thick on Hermon's breast
And daily at his source the stream is born.
Go up—go mark the whiteness of the snow—
Thy faith is not thy Saviour, not thy God,
Though faith waste fruitless down a desert old.
The living God is new, and He is near.
What need to look behind thee and to sigh?
When God left speaking He went on before
To draw men after, following up and on;
And thy heart fails because thy feet are slow;
Thou thinks of Him as one that will not wait.
A Father and not wait!—He waited long
For us, and yet perchance He thinks not long
And will not count the time. There are no dates
In His fine leisure.
Speak then as a son:
'Father, I come to satisfy Thy love
With mine, for I had held Thee as remote,
The background of the stars—Time's yesterday—
Illimitable Absence. Now my heart
Communes, methinks, with somewhat teaching me
Thou art the Great To-day. God, is it so?
Then for all love that WAS, I thank Thee, God,
It is and yet shall bide. And I have part
In all, for in Thine image I was made,
To Thee my spirit yearns, as Thou to mine.
If aught be stamped of Thy Divine on me,
And man be God-like, God is like to man.
Dear and dread Lord, I have not found it hard
To fear Thee, though Thy love in visible form
Bled 'neath a thorny crown—but since indeed,
For kindred's sake and likeness, Thou doss thirst
To draw men nigh, and make them one with Thee,
My soul shall answer 'Thou art what I want:
I am athirst for God, the living God.'
Then straightway flashes up athwart the words:
'And if I be a son I am very far
From my great Father's house; I am not clean.
I have not always willed it should be so,
And the gold of life is rusted with my tears.'
It is enough. He never said to men,
'Seek ye My face in vain.' And have they sought—
Beautiful children, well-belovèd
Opening wide eyes to ache among the moons
All night, and sighing because star multitudes
Fainted away as to a glittering haze,
And sparkled here and there like silver wings,
Confounding them with nameless, numberless,
Unbearable, fine flocks? It is not well
For them, for thee. Hast thou gone forth so far
To the unimaginable steeps on high
Trembling and seeking God? Yet now come home,
Cry, cry to Him: 'I cannot search Thee out,
But Thou and I must meet. O come, come down,
Come.' And that cry shall have the mastery.
Ay, He shall come in truth to visit thee,
And thou shalt mourn to Him, 'Unclean, unclean,'
But never more 'I will to have it so.'
From henceforth thou shalt learn that there is love
To long for, pureness to desire, a mount
Of consecration it were good to scale.
Look you, it is to-day as at the first.
When Adam first was 'ware his new-made eyes
And opened them, behold the light! And breath
Of God was misting yet about his mouth,
Whereof they had made his soul. Then he looked forth
And was a part of light; also he saw
Beautiful life, and it could move. But Eve—
Eve was the child of midnight and of sleep.
Lo, in the dark God led her to his side;
It may be in the dark she heard him breathe
Before God woke him. And she knew not light,
Nor life but as a voice that left his lips,
A warmth that clasped her; but the stars were out,
And she with wide child-eyes gazed up at them.
Haply she thought that always it was night;
Haply he, whispering to her in that reach
Of beauteous darkness, gave her unworn heart
A rumour of the dawn, and wakened it
To a trembling, and a wonder, and a want
Kin to his own; and as he longed to gaze
On his new fate, the gracious mystery
His wife, she may have longed, and felt not why,
After the light that never she had known.
So doth each age walk in the light beheld,
Nor think on light, if it be light or no;
Then comes the night to it, and in the night
The God-given, the most
Eve. And she is not seen for darkness' sake;
Yet, when she makes her gracious presence felt,
The age perceives how dark it is, and fain,
Fain would have daylight, fain would see her well,
A beauty half revealed, a helpmeet sent
To draw the soul away from valley clods;
Made from itself, yet now a better self—
Soul in the soulless, arrow tipped with fire
Let down into a careless breast; a pang
Sweeter than healing that cries out with it
For light all light, and is beheld at length—
The morning dawns.
Were not we born to light?
Ay, and we saw the men and women as saints
Walk in a garden. All our thoughts were fair;
Our simple hearts, as dovecotes full of doves,
Made home and nest for them. They fluttered forth,
And flocks of them flew white about the world.
And dreams were like to ships that floated us
Far out on silent floods, apart from earth,
From life—so far that we could see their lights
In heaven—and hear the everlasting tide,
All dappled with that fair reflected gold,
Wash up against the city wall, and sob
At the dark bows of vessels that drew on
Heavily freighted with departed souls
To whom did spirits sing; but on that song
Might none, albeit the meaning was right plain,
Impose the harsh captivity of words.
Afterward waking, sweet was early air,
Full excellent was morning: whether deep
The snow lay keenly white, and shrouds of hail
Blurred the grey breaker on a long foreshore,
And swarming plover ran, and wild white mews
And sea-pies printed with a thousand feet
The fallen whiteness, making shrill the storm;
Or whether, soothed of sunshine, throbbed and hummed
The mill atween its bowering maple trees,
And churned the leaping beck that reared, and urged
A diamond-dripping wheel.
The happy find
Equality of beauty everywhere
To feed on. All of shade and sheen is theirs,
All the strange fashions and the fair wise ways
Of lives beneath man's own. He breathes delight
Whose soul is fresh, whose feet are wet with dew
And the melted mist of morning when at watch
Sunk deep in fern he marks the stealthy roe,
Silent as sleep or shadow, cross the glade,
Or dart athwart his view as August stars
Shoot and are out—while gracefully pace on
The wild-eyed harts to their traditional tree
To clear the velvet from their budded horns.
There is no want, both God and life are kind;
It is enough to hear, it is enough
To see; the pale wide barley-field they love,
And its weird beauty, and the pale wide moon
That lowering seems to lurk between the sheaves.
So in the rustic hamlet at high noon
The white owl sailing drowsed and deaf with sleep
To hide her head in turrets browned of moss
That is the rust of time. Ay so the pinks
And mountain grass marked on a sharp sea-cliff
While far below the northern diver feeds;
She having ended settling while she sits,
As vessels water-logged that sink at sea
And quietly into the deep go down.
It is enough to wake, it is enough
To sleep:—With God and time he leaves the rest.
But on a day death on the doorstep sits
Waiting, or like a veilèd woman
Dogging his footsteps, or athwart his path
The splendid passion-flower love unfolds
Buds full of sorrow, not ordained to know
Appeasement through the answer of a sigh,
The kiss of pity with denial given,
The crown and blossom of accomplishment.
Or haply comes the snake with subtlety,
And tempts him with an apple to know all.
So,—Shut the gate; the story tells itself
Over and over; Eden must be lost
If after it be won. He stands at fault,
Not knowing at all how this should be—he feels
The great bare barrenness o' the outside world.
He thinks on Time and what it has to say;
He thinks on God, but God has changed His hand,
Sitting afar. And as the moon draws on
To cover the day-king in his eclipse,
And thin the last fine sickle of light, till all
Be gone, so fares it with his darkened soul.
The dark, but not Orion sparkling there
With his best stars; the dark, but not yet Eve.
And now the wellsprings of sweet natural joy
Lie, as the Genie sealed of Solomon,
Fast prisoned in his heart; he heath not learned
The spell whereby to loose and set them forth,
And all the glad delights that boyhood loved
Smell at Oblivion's poppy, and lie still.
Ah! they must sleep—'The mill can grind no more
With water that heath passed.' Let it run on.
For he hath caught a whisper in the night;
This old inheritance in darkness given,
The world, is widened, warmed, it is alive,
Comes to his beating heart and bids it wake,
Opens the door to youth, and bids it forth,
Exultant for expansion and release,
And bent to satisfy the mighty wish,
Comfort and satisfy the mighty wish,
Life of his life, the soul's immortal child
That is to him as Eve.
He cannot win,
Nor earn, nor see, nor hear, nor comprehend,
With all the watch, tender, impetuous,
That wastes him, this, whereof no less he feels
Infinite things; but yet the night is full
Of air-beats and of heart-beats for her sake.
Eve the aspirer, give her what she wants,
Or wherefore was he born?
O he was born
To wish—then turn away:—to wish again
And half forget his wish for earthlier joy;
He draws the net to land that brings red gold;
His dreams among the meshes tangled lie,
And learning hath him at her feet;—and love,
The sea-born creature fresh from her sea foam,
Touches the ruddiest veins in his young heart,
Makes it to sob in him and sigh in him,
Restless, repelled, dying, alive and keen,
Fainting away for the remorseless ALL
Gone by, gone up, or sweetly gone before,
But never in his arms. Then pity comes,
Knocks at his breast, it may be, and comes in,
Makes a wide wound that haply will not heal,
But bleeds for poverty, and crime, and pain,
Till for the dear kin's sake he grandly dares
Or wastes him, with a wise improvidence;
But who can stir the weighty world; or who
Can drink a sea of tears?
O love, and life,
O world, and can it be that this is all?
Leave him to tread expectance underfoot;
Let him alone to tame down his great hope
Before it breaks his heart: 'Give me my share
That I foresaw, my place, my draught of life.
This that I bear, what is it?—me no less
It binds, I cannot disenslave my soul.'
There is but halting for the wearied foot.
The better way is hidden; faith hath failed—
One stronger far than reason mastered her.
It is not reason makes faith hard, but life.
The husks of his dead creed, downtrod and dry,
Are powerless now as some dishonoured spell,
Some aged Pythia in her priestly clothes,
Some widow'd witch divining by the dead.
Or if he keep one shrine undesecrate
And go to it from time to time with tears,
What lies there? A dead Christ enswathed and cold,
A Christ that did not rise. The linen cloth
Is wrapped about His head, He lies embalmed
With myrrh and spices in His sepulchre,
The love of God that daily dies;—to them
That trust it the One Life, the all that lives.
O mother Eve, who wert beguiled of old,
Thy blood is in thy children, thou art yet
Their fate and copy; with thy milk they drew
The immortal want of morning; but thy day
Dawned and was over, and thy children know
Contentment never, nor continuance long.
For even thus it is with them: the day
Waxeth, to wane anon, and a long night
Leaves the dark heart unsatisfied with stars.
A soul in want and restless and bereft
To whom all life hath lied, shall it too lie?
Saying, 'I yield Thee thanks, most mighty God,
Thou hast been pleased to make me thus and thus.
I do submit me to Thy sovereign will
That I full oft should hunger and not have,
And vainly yearn after the perfect good,
Gladness and peace'?
No, rather dare think thus:
'Ere chaos first had being, earth, or time,
My Likeness was apparent in high heaven,
Divine and manlike, and his dwelling place
Was the bosom of the Father. By His hands
Were the worlds made and filled with diverse growths
And ordered lives. Then afterward they said,
Taking strange counsel, as if he who worked
Hitherto should not henceforth work alone,
"Let us make man;" and God did look upon
That Divine Word which was the form of God,
And it became a thought before the event.
There they foresaw my face, foreheard my speech,
God-like, God-loved, God-loving, God-derived.
And I was in a garden, and I fell
Through envy of God's evil son, but Love
Would not be robbed of me for ever—Love
For my sake passed into humanity,
And there for my first Father won me home.
How should I rest then? I have NOT
I feed on husks, and they given grudgingly,
While my great Father—Father—O my God,
What shall I do?'
Ay, I will dare think thus:
'I cannot rest because He doth not rest
In whom I have my being. THIS
My soul is conscious of His wondrous wish,
And my heart's hunger doth but answer His
Whose thought has met with mine.
I have not all;
He moves me thus to take of Him what lacks.
My want is God's desire to give,—He yearns
To add Himself to life and so for aye
Make it enough.'
A thought by night, a wish
After the morning, and behold it dawns
Pathetic in a still solemnity,
And mighty words are said for him once more,
'Let there be light.' Great heaven and earth have heard,
And God comes down to him, and Christ doth rise.