Poetical Works (10)

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ECHO AND THE FERRY.


AY, Oliver!   I was but seven, and he was eleven;
He looked at me pouting and rosy.   I blushed where I stood.
They had told us to play in the orchard (and I only seven!
A small guest at the farm); but he said, 'Oh, a girl was no good!'
So he whistled and went, he went over the stile to the wood.
It was sad, it was sorrowful!   Only a girl—only seven!
At home in the dark London smoke I had not found it out.
The pear-trees looked on in their white, and blue birds flash'd about,
And they too were angry as Oliver.   Were they eleven?
I thought so.   Yes, everyone else was eleven—eleven

So Oliver went, but the cowslips were tall at my feet,
And all the white orchard with fast-falling blossom was litter'd;
And under and over the branches those little birds twitter'd,
While hanging head downwards they scolded because I was seven.
A pity.   A very great pity.   One should be eleven.

But soon I was happy, the smell of the world was so sweet,
And I saw a round hole in an apple-tree rosy and old.
Then I knew! for I peeped, and I felt it was right they should scold!
Eggs small and eggs many.   For gladness I broke into laughter;
And then some one else—oh, how softly!—came after, came after
With laughter—with laughter came after.

And no one was near us to utter that sweet mocking call,
That soon very tired sank low with a mystical fall.
But this was the country—perhaps it was close under heaven;
Oh, nothing so likely; the voice might have come from it even.
I knew about heaven.   But this was the country, of this
Light, blossom, and piping, and flashing of wings not at all.
Not at all.   No.   But one little bird was an easy forgiver:
She peeped, she drew near as I moved from her domicile small,
Then flashed down her hole like a dart—like a dart from the quiver.
And I waded atween the long grasses and felt it was bliss.

—So this was the country; clear dazzle of azure and shiver
And whisper of leaves, and a humming all over the tall
White branches, a humming of bees.   And I came to the wall —
A little low wall— and looked over, and there was the river,
The lane that led on to the village, and then the sweet river
Clear shining and slow, she had far far to go from her snow;
But each rush gleamed a sword in the sunlight to guard her long flow,
And she murmur'd, methought, with a speech very soft —very low.
'The ways will be long, but the days will be long,' quoth the river,
'To me a long liver, long, long!' quoth the river—the river.

I dreamed of the country that night, of the orchard, the sky,
The voice that had mocked coming after and over and under.
But at last—in a day or two namely—Eleven and I
Were very fast friends, and to him I confided the wonder.
He said that was Echo.   'Was Echo a wise kind of bee
That had learned how to laugh: could it laugh in one's ear and then fly
And laugh again yonder?'   'No; Echo'—he whispered it low—
'Was a woman, they said, but a woman whom no one could see
And no one could find; and he did not believe it, not he,
But he could not get near for the river that held us asunder.
Yet I that had money—a shilling, a whole silver shilling—
We might cross if I thought I would spend it.'   'Oh yes, I was willing'—
And we ran hand in hand, we ran down to the ferry, the ferry,
And we heard how she mocked at the folk with a voice clear and merry
When they called for the ferry; but oh! she was very—was very
Swift-footed.   She spoke and was gone; and when Oliver cried,
'Hie over! hie over! you man of the ferry—the ferry!'
By the still water's side she was heard far and wide—she replied
And she mocked in her voice sweet and merry, 'You man of the ferry,
You man of—you man of the ferry!'

'Hie over!' he shouted.   The ferryman came at his calling,
Across the clear reed-border'd river he ferried us fast;—
Such a chase!   Hand in hand, foot to foot, we ran on it surpass'd
All measure her doubling—so close, then so far away falling,
Then gone, and no more.   Oh! to see her but once unaware,
And the mouth that had mocked, but we might not (yet sure she was
        there!),
Nor behold her wild eyes and her mystical countenance fair.

We sought in the wood, and we found the wood-wren in her stead;
In the field, and we found but the cuckoo that talked overhead;
By the brook, and we found the reed-sparrow deep-nested, in brown—
Not Echo, fair Echo! for Echo, sweet Echo! was flown.
So we came to the place where the dead people wait till God call.
The church was among them, grey moss over roof, over wall.
Very silent, so low.   And we stood on a green grassy mound
And looked in at a window, for Echo, perhaps, in her round
Might have come in to hide there.   But no; every oak-carven seat
Was empty.   We saw the great Bible—old, old, very old,
And the parson's great Prayer-book beside it; we heard the slow beat
Of the pendulum swing in the tower; we saw the clear gold
Of a sunbeam float down to the aisle and then waver and play
On the low chancel step and the railing, and Oliver said,
'Look, Katie! look, Katie! when Lettice came here to be wed
She stood where that sunbeam drops down, and all white was her
        gown;
And she stepped upon flowers they strewed for her.'   Then quoth
        small Seven:
'Shall I wear a white gown and have flowers to walk upon ever?'
All doubtful: 'It takes a long time to grow up,' quoth Eleven;
'You're so little, you know, and the church is so old, it can never
Last on till you're tall.'   And in whispers—because it was old
And holy, and fraught with strange meaning, half felt, but not told,
Full of old parsons' prayers, who were dead, of old days, of old folk,
Neither heard nor beheld, but about us, in whispers we spoke.
Then we went from it softly and ran hand in hand to the strand,
While bleating of flocks and birds' piping made sweeter the land.
And Echo came back e'en as Oliver drew to the ferry
'O Katie!'   'O Katie!'   'Come on, then!'   'Come on, then!'   'For, see,
The round sun, all red, lying low by the tree'—'by the tree.'
'By the tree.'   Ay, she mocked him again, with her voice sweet and
        merry:
'Hie over!'   'Hie over!'   You man of the ferry the ferry.'
                'You man of the ferry—
                 You man of—you man of—the ferry.'

    Ay, here—it was here that we woke her, the Echo of old;
All life of that day seems an echo, and many times told.
Shall I cross by the ferry to-morrow, and come in my white
To that little low church? and will Oliver meet me anon?
Will it all seem an echo from childhood pass'd over—pass'd on?
Will the grave parson bless us?   Hark, hark! in the dim failing light
I hear her!   As then the child's voice clear and high, sweet and merry
Now she mocks the man's tone with 'Hie over!   Hie over the ferry!'
'And Katie.'   'And Katie.'   'Art out with the glowworms to-night,
My Katie?'   'My Katie!'   For gladness I break into laughter
And tears.   Then it all comes again as from far-away years;
Again, some one else—oh, how softly!—with laughter comes after,
                Comes after—with laughter comes after.


――――♦――――
 

PRELUDES TO A PENNY READING.

A Schoolroom.

SCHOOLMASTER (not certificated), VICAR, and CHILD.


    VICAR.   Why did you send for me?   I hope all 's right?

    Schoolmaster.   Well, sir, we thought this end o' the room
        was dark.

    V.   Indeed!   So 'tis.   There's my new study lamp—

    S.   'Twould stand, sir, well beside yon laurel wreath.   Shall
        I go fetch it?

    V.   Do, we must not fail.
Bring candles also.
                        [Exit Schoolmaster. Vicar arranges chairs.
                                    Now, small six years old,
And why may you be here?

    Child.   I'm helping father;
But, father, why d'you take such pains?

    V.                                                              Sweet soul,
That's what I'm for!

    C.                             What, and for nothing else?

    V.   Yes!   I 'm to bring thee up to be a man.

    C.   And what am I for?

    V.                                     There, I 'm busy now.

    C.   Am I to bring you up to be a child?

    V.   Perhaps!   Indeed, I have heard it said thou art.

    C.   Then when may I begin?

    V.                                               I 'm busy, I say.
Begin to-morrow an thou canst, my son,
And mind to do it well.                   [Exit Vicar and Child.


Enter a group of women, and some children.


    Mrs. Thorpe.                     Fine lot o' lights!

    Mrs. Jillifer.   Should be!   Would folk put on their
        Sunday best
I' the week unless they looked to have it seen?
What, you here, neighbour!

    Mrs. Smith.                          Ay, you may say that.
Old Madam called; said she, 'My son would feel
So sorry if you did not come,' and slipped
The penny in my hand, she did; said I,
'Ma'am, that's not it.   In short, some say your last
Was worth the penny and more.   I know a man,
A sober man, who said, and stuck to it,
Worth a good twopence.   But I'm strange, I'm shy.'
'We hope you'll come for once,' said she.   In short,
I said I would to oblige 'em.

    Mrs. Green.                           Ah, 'twas well.

    Mrs. S.   But I feel strange, and music gets i' my throat,
It always did.   And singers be so smart,
Ladies and folk from other parishes,
Candles and cheering, greens and flowers and all,
I was not used to such in my young day;
We kept ourselves at home.

    Mrs. J.                                    Never say 'used,'
The most of us have many a thing to do
We were not used to.   If you come to that,
Why none of us are used to growing old,
It takes us by surprise, as one may say,
That work, when we begin't, and yet 'tis work
That all of us must do.

    Mrs. G.                       Nay, nay, not all.

    Mrs. J.   I ask your pardon, neighbour; you be right,
Not all.

    Mrs. G.   And my sweet maid scarce three months dead.

    Mrs. J.   I ask your pardon truly.

    Mrs. G.                                            No, my dear
Thou'lt never see old days.   I cannot stint
To fret, the maiden was but twelve years old,
So toward, such a scholar.

    Mrs. S.                               Ay, when God,
That knows, comes down to choose, He'll take the best.

    Mrs. T.   But I 'm right glad you came, it pleases them
My son, that loves his book, 'Mother,' said he,
'Go to the Reading when you have a chance,
For there you get a change, and you see life.'
But Reading or no Reading, I am slow
To learn.   When parson after comes his rounds,
'Did it,' to ask with a persuading smile,
'Open your mind?' the woman doth not live
Feels more a fool.

    Mrs. J.   I always tell him 'Yes,'
For he means well.   Ay, and I like the songs.
Have you heard say what they shall read to-night?

    Mrs. S.   Neighbour, I hear 'tis something of the East.
But what, I ask you, is the East to us,
And where d' ye think it lies?

    Mrs. J.                                       The children know,
At least they say they do; there 's nothing deep
Nor nothing strange but they get hold on it.


Enter SCHOOLMASTER and a dozen children.


    S.   Now ladies, ladies, you must please to sit
More close; the room fills fast, and all these lads
And maidens either have to sing before
The Reading, or else after.   By your leave
I'll have them in the front, I want them here.
                                                      [The women make room.


Enter ploughmen, villagers, servants, and children.


And mark me, boys, if I hear cracking o' nuts,
Or see you flicking acorns and what not
While folks from other parishes observe,
You'll hear on it when you don't look to.   Tom
And Jemmy and Roger, sing as loud's ye can,
Sing as the maidens do, are they afraid?
And now I'm stationed handy facing you,
Friends all, I'll drop a word by your good leave.

    Young ploughman.   Do, master, do, we like your
        words a vast.
Though there be nought to back 'em up, ye see,
As when we were smaller.

    S.                                          Mark me, then, my lads.
When Lady Laura sang, 'I don't think much,'
Says her fine coachman, 'of your manners here.
We drove eleven miles in the dark, it rained,
And ruts in your cross roads are deep.   We're here,
My lady sings, they sit all open-mouthed,
And when she's done they never give one cheer.'

    Old man.   Be folks to clap if they don't like the song?

    S.   Certain, for manners.

Enter VICAR, wife, various friends with violins and a flute.
    They come to a piano, and one begin softly to tine his violin,
    while the Vicar speaks.


    V.   Friends, since there is a place where you must hear
When I stand up to speak, I would not now
If there were any other found to bid
You welcome.   Welcome, then; these with me ask
No better than to please, and in good sooth
I ever find you willing to be pleased.
When I demand not more, but when we fain
Would lead you to some knowledge fresh, and ask
Your careful heed, I hear that some of you
Have said, 'What good to know, what good to us?
He puts us all to school, and our school days
Should be at end.   Nay, if they needs must teach,
Then let them teach us what shall mend our lot;
The laws are strict on us, the world is hard.'
You friends and neighbours, may I dare to speak?
I know the laws are strict, and the world hard,
For ever will the world help that man up
That is already coming up, and still
And ever help him down that's going down.
Yet say, 'I will take the words out of thy mouth,
O world, being yet more strict with mine own life.
Thou law, to gaze shall not be worth thy while
On whom beyond thy power doth rule himself.'
Yet seek to know, for whoso seek to know
They seek to rise, and best they mend their lot.
Methinks, if Adam and Eve in their garden days
Had scorned the serpent, and obediently
Continued God's good children, He Himself
Had led them to the Tree of Knowledge soon
And bid them eat the fruit thereof, and yet
Not find it apples of death.

    Vicar's wife (aside).   Now, dearest John,
We're ready.   Lucky too! you always go
Above the people's heads.


Young farmer stands forward, Vicar presenting him.

SONG.

-I-


Sparkle of snow and of frost,
    Blythe air and the joy of cold,
Their grace and good they have lost,
    As print o' her foot by the fold.
Let me back to yon desert sand,
    Rose-lipped love—from the fold,
Flower-fair girl—from the fold,
    Let me back to the sultry land.
The world is empty-of cheer,
    Forlorn, forlorn, and forlorn,
As the night-owl's sob of fear,
    As Memnon moaning at morn.
            For love of thee, my dear,
                I have lived a better man,
                O my Mary Anne,
                My Mary Anne.


-II-


Away, away, and away,
    To an old palm-land of tombs,
Washed clear of our yesterday
    And where never a snowdrop blooms,
Nor wild becks talk as they go
    Of tender hope we had known,
Nor mosses of memory grow
    All over the wayside stone.


-III-


Farewell, farewell, and farewell,
    As voice of a lover's sigh
In the wind let yon willow wave
    'Farewell, farewell, and farewell.'
The sparkling frost-stars brave
    On thy shrouded bosom lie;
Thou art gone apart to dwell,
    But I fain would have said good-bye.
            For love of thee in thy grave
                I have lived a better man,
                Oh my Mary Anne,
                My Mary Anne.


    Mr. Thorpe (aside).   O hearts! why, what a song!
To think on it, and he a married man!

    Mrs. Jollier (aside).   Bless you, that makes for nothing,
        nothing at all,
They take no heed upon the words.   His wife,
Look you, as pleased as may be, smiles on him.

    Mrs. T (aside).   Neighbours, there's one thing beats me.
We've enough
Of trouble in the world; I've cried my fill
Many and many a time by my own fire:
Now why, I'll ask you, should it comfort me
And ease my heart when, pitiful and sweet,
One sings of other souls and how they mourned?
A body would have thought that did not know
Songs must be merry, full of feast and mirth,
Or else would all folk flee away from them.

    Mrs. S. (aside).   'Tis strange, and I too love the sad ones best.

    Mrs. T. (aside).   Ay, how they clap him!   'Tis as who
        should say,
Sing! we were pleased sing us another song
As if they did not know he loves to sing.
Well may he, not an organ pipe they blow
On Sunday in the church is half so sweet
But he's a hard man.

    Mrs. J. (aside).   Mark me, neighbours all,
Hard though he be—ay, and the mistress hard—
If he do sing 'twill be a sorrowful
Sad tale of sweethearts, that shall make you wish
Your own time would come over again, although
Were partings in't and tears.   Hist! now he sings.


Young farmer sings again.


'Come hither, come hither.'   The broom was in blossom
            all over yon rise;
    There went a wide murmur of brown bees about it
            with songs from the wood.
'We shall never be younger!   O love, let us forth, for
            the world 'neath our eyes,
    Ay, the world is made young e'en as we, and right fair
            is her youth and right good.'

Then there fell the great yearning upon me, that never
            yet went into words;
    While lovesome and moansome thereon spake and
            falter'd the dove to the dove.
And I came at her calling, 'Inherit, inherit, and sing
            with the birds;'
    I went up to the wood with the child of my heart and
            the wife of my love.

O pure!   O pathetic!   Wild hyacinths drank it, the
            dream light, apace
    Not a leaf moved at all 'neath the blue, they hung
            waiting for messages kind;
Tall cherry-trees dropped their white blossom that drifted
            no whit from its place,
    For the south very far out to sea had the lulling low
            voice of the wind.

And the child's dancing foot gave us part in the
            ravishment almost a pain,
    An infinite tremor of life, a fond murmur that cried
            out on time,
Ah short! must all end in the doing and spend itself
            sweetly in vain,
    And the promise be only fulfilment to lean from the
            height of its prime?

'We shall never be younger;' nay, mock me not, fancy,
            none call from yon tree
    They have thrown me the world they went over, went
            up, and, alas! for my part
I am left to grow old, and to grieve, and to change; but
            they change not with me;
    They will never be older, the child of my love, and the
            wife of my heart.


    Mrs. J.   I told you so

    Mrs. T. (aside).   That did you, neighbour. Ay,
Partings, said you, and tears: I liked the song.

    Mrs. G.   Who be these coming to the front to sing?

    Mrs. J. (aside).   Why, neighbour, these be sweethearts, so
        'tis said,
And there was much ado to make her sing?
She would, and would not; and he wanted her,
And, mayhap, wanted to be seen with her.
'Tis Tomlin's pretty maid, his only one.

    Mrs. G. (aside).   I did not know the maid, so fair she looks.

    Mr. J. (aside).   He's a right proper man she has at last;
Walks over many a mile (and counts them nought)
To court her after work hours, that he doth,
Not like her other—why, he'd let his work
Go all to wrack, and lay it to his love,
While he would sit and look, and look and sigh.
Her father sent him to the right-about.
'If love,' said he, 'won't make a man of you,
Why, nothing will!   'Tis mainly that love's for.
The right sort makes,' said he, 'a lad a man;
The wrong sort makes,' said he, 'I man a fool.'


Vicar presents a young man and a girl.

DUET.


She. While he dreams, mine old grand-sire,

    And yon red logs glow,
Honey, whisper by the fire,
    Whisper, honey, low.


He.  Honey, high's yon weary hill,

    Stiff 's yon weary loam;
Lacks the work o' my goodwill,
    Fain I'd take thee home.


O how much longer, and longer, and longer,
    An' how much longer shall the waiting last?
Berries red are grown, April birds are flown,
    Martinmas gone over, ay, and harvest past.


She. Honey, bide, the time 's awry,

    Bide awhile, let be.

He.  Take my wage then, lay it by,

    Till't come back with thee.

The red money, the white money,
    Both to thee I bring—

She. Bring ye ought beside, honey?
He.      Honey, ay, the ring.


Duet. But how much longer, and longer, and longer,

    O how much longer shall the waiting last?
Berries red are grown, April birds are flown,
    Martinmas gone over, and the harvest past.

                                                                                   [Applause.

    Mrs. S (aside).   O she's a pretty maid, and sings so small
And high, 'tis like a flute.   And she must blush
Till all her face is roses newly blown.
How folks do clap!   She knows not where to look.
There now she 's off; he standing like a man
To face them.

    Mrs. G. (aside).   Makes his bow, and after her
But what's the good of clapping when they're gone?

    Mrs. T. (aside).   Why 'tis a London fashion as I'm told,
And means they'd have 'em back to sing again.

    Mrs. J. (aside).   Neighbours, look where her father, red as fire,
Sits pleased and 'shamed, smoothing his Sunday hat;
And Parson bustles out.   Clap on, clap on.
Coming?   Not she!   There comes her sweetheart though.


Vicar presents the young man again.

SONG.

-I-


Rain clouds flew beyond the fell,
    No more did thunders lower,
Patter, patter, on the beck
    Dropt a clearing shower.
Eddying floats of creamy foam
    Flecked the waters brown,
As we rode up to cross the ford,
    Rode up from yonder town.
            Waiting on the weather,
            She and I together,
            Waiting on the weather,
                Till the flood went down.


-II-


The sun came out, the wet leaf shone,
    Dripped the wildwood vine.
Betide me well, betide me woe,
    That hour's for ever mine.
With thee Mary, with thee Mary,
    Full oft I pace again,
Asleep, awake, up yonder glen,
    And hold thy bridle rein.
            Waiting on the weather,
            Thou and I together,
            Waiting on the weather,
                Till the flood shall wane.


-III-


And who, though hope did come to nought,
    Would memory give away?
I lighted down, she leaned full low,
    Nor chid that hour's delay.
With thee Mary, with thee Mary,
    Methought my life to crown,
But we ride up, but we ride up,
    No more from yonder town.
            Waiting on the weather,
            Thou and I together,
            Waiting on the weather,
                Till the flood go down.


    Mrs. J. (aside).   Well, very well; but what of fiddler Sam?
I ask you, neighbours, if't be not his turn.
An honest man, and ever pays his score
Born in the parish, old, blind as a bat,
And strangers sing before him; 'tis a shame!

    Mrs. S. (aside).   Ay, but his daughter

    Mrs. T (aside).   Why, the maid's a maid
One would not set to guide the chant in church,
But when she sings to earn her father's bread,
The mildest mother's son may cry 'Amen.'

    Mrs. S (aside).   They say he plays not always true.

    Mrs. J. (aside).   What then?

    Mrs. T. (aside).   Here comes my lady.   She 's too fat by half
For love songs.   O! the lace upon her gown,
I wish I had the getting of it up,
'Twould be a pretty penny in my pouch.

    Mrs. J. (aside).   Be quiet now for manners.


Vicar presents a lady, who sings.

-I-


Dark flocks of wildfowl riding out the storm
            Upon a pitching sea,
Beyond grey rollers vex'd that rear and form,
When piping winds urge on their destiny,
To fall back ruined in white continually.
            And I at our trysting stone,
            Whereto I came down alone,
            Was fain o' the wind's wild moan.
            O, welcome were wrack and were rain
            And beat of the battling main,
            For the sake of love's sweet pain,
            For the smile in two brown eyes,
            For the love in any wise,
            To bide though the last day dies;
            For a hand on my wet hair,
            For a kiss e'en yet I wear,
            For—bonny Jock was there.


-II-


Pale precipices while the sun lay low
            Tinct faintly of the rose,
And mountain islands mirror'd in a flow,
Forgotten of all winds (their manifold
Peaks reared into the glory and the glow),
            Floated in purple and gold.
            And I, o'er the rocks alone,
            Of a shore all silent grown,
            Came down to our trysting stone.
            And sighed when the solemn ray
            Paled in the wake o' the day.
            'Wellaway, wellaway—
            Comfort is not by the shore,
            Going the gold that it wore,
            Purple and rose are no more,
            World and waters are wan,
            And night will be here anon,
            And—bonny Jock's gone.'


                [Moderate applause, and calls for fiddler Sam.


    Mrs. Jillifer (aside).   Now, neighbours, call again and be
        not shamed;
Stand by the parish, and the parish folk,
Them that are poor.   I told you! here he comes,
Parson looks glum, but brings him and his girl.


The fiddler Sam plays, and his daughter sings.


Touch the sweet string.   Fly forth, my heart,
    Upon the music like a bird;
The silvery notes shall add their part,
    And haply yet thou shalt be heard.
        Touch the sweet string.

The youngest wren of nine
    Dimpled, dark, and merry,
Brown her locks, and her two eyrie
    Browner than a berry.

When I was not in love
    Maidens met I many;
Under sun now walks but one,
    Nor others mark I any.

Twin lambs, a mild-eyed ewe,
    That would her follow bleating,
A heifer white as snow
    I'll give to my sweet sweeting.

Touch the sweet string.   If yet too young,
    O love of loves, for this my song,
I'll pray thee count it all unsung,
    And wait thy leisure, wait it long.
        Touch the sweet string.

                                                                               [Much applause.

    Vicar.   You hear them, Sam.   You needs must play
again,
Your neighbours ask it.

    Fiddler.   Thank ye, neighbours all,
I have my feelings though I be but poor;
I've tanged the fiddle here this forty year,
And I should know the trick on't.


The fiddler plays, and his daughter sings.

 
For Exmoor—
For Exmoor, where the red deer run, my weary heart doth
        cry.
She that will a rover wed, far her foot shall hie.
Narrow, narrow, shows the street, dull the narrow sky.
(Buy my cherries, whiteheart cherries, good my masters, buy.)

For Exmoor—
O he left me, left alone, aye to think and sigh,
'Lambs feed down yon sunny coombe, hind and yearling
        shy,
Mid the shrouding vapours walk now like ghosts on high.'
(Buy my cherries, blackheart cherries, lads and lasses, buy.)

For Exmoor—
Dear my dear, why did ye so?   Evil days have I,
Mark no more the antler'd stag, hear the curlew cry.
Milking at my father's gate while he leans anigh.
(Buy my cherries, whiteheart, blackheart, golden girls, O buy.)


    Mr. T (aside).   I've known him play that Exmoor
        song afore.
Ah me! and I'm from Exmoor.   I could wish
To hear't no more.

    Mrs. S. (aside). Neighbours, 'tis mighty hot.
Ay, now they throw the window up, that's well,
A body could not breathe.

                                   [The fiddler and his daughter go away.

    Mrs. Jillifer (aside).   They'll hear no parson's preaching,
        no not they!
But innocenter songs, I do allow,
They could not well have sung than these to-night.
That man knows just so well as if he saw
They were not welcome.

[The Vicar stands up, on the point of beginning to read, when
    the tuning and twang of the fiddle is heard close outside the
    open window, and the daughter sings in a clear cheerful voice.
    A little tittering is heard in the room, and the Vicar pauses
    discomfited.


-I-


O my heart! what a coil is here!
Laurie, why will ye count me dear!
Laurie, Laurie, lad, make not wail,
With a wiser lass ye'll sure prevail,
For ye sing like a woodland nightingale.
And there's no sense in it under the sun;
For of three that woo I can take but one,
So what's to be done—what's to be done?
                 And
There's no sense in it under the sun.


-II-


Hal, brave Hal, from your foreign parts
Come home you'll choose among kinder hearts.
Forget, forget, you're too good to hold
A fancy 'twere best should faint, grow cold,
And fade like an August marigold;
For of three that woo I can take but one,
And what 's to be done—what's to be done?
There's no sense in it under the sun.
                 And
Of three that woo I can take but one.


-III-


Geordie, Geordie, I count you true,
Though language sweet I have none for you.
Nay, but take me home to the churning mill
When cherry boughs white on yon mounting hill
Hang over the tufts o' the daffodil.
For what's to be done—what's to be done?
Of three that woo I must e'en take one,
Or there 's no sense in it under the sun,
                 And
What's to be done—what's to be done?



    V. (aside).   What's to be done, indeed!

    Wife (aside).                                     Done! nothing, love.
Either the thing has done itself, or they
Must undo.   Did they call for fiddler Sam?
Well, now they have him. [More tuning heard outside.

    Mrs. J. (aside).   Live and let live's my motto.

    Mrs. T.                                                                 So 'tis mine.
Who's Sam, that he must fly in Parson's face?
He's had his turn.   He never gave these lights,
Cut his best flowers—

    Mrs. S. (aside).              He takes no pride in us.
Speak up, good neighbour, get the window shut.

    Mrs. J. (rising).   I ask your pardon truly, that I do—
La! but the window—there's a parlous draught;
The window punishes rheumatic folk—
We'd have it shut, sir.

    Others.   Truly, that we would.

    V.   Certainly, certainly, my friends, you shall.

    [The window is shut, and the Reading begins amid marked
      attention.]


――――♦――――

 

KISMET.


INTO the rock the road is cut full deep,
        At its low ledges village children play,
From its high rifts fountains of leafage weep,
        And silvery birches sway.

The boldest climbers have its face forsworn,
        Sheer as a wall it doth all daring flout;
But benchlike at its base, and weather-worn,
        A narrow ledge leans out.

There do they set forth feasts in dishes rude
        Wrought of the rush—wild strawberries on the
            bed
Left into August, apples brown and crude
        Cress from the cold well-head.

Shy gamesome girls, small daring imps of boys,
        But gentle, almost silent at their play
Their fledgling daws, for food, make far more noise
        Ranged on the ledge than they.

The children and the purple martins share
        (Loveliest of birds) possession of the place;
They veer and dart cream-breasted round the fair
        Faces with wild sweet grace.

Fresh haply from Palmyra desolate,
        Palmyra pale in light and storyless—
From perching in old Tadmor mate by mate
        In the waste wilderness.

These know the world; what do the children know?
        They know the woods, their groaning noises
            weird,
They climb in trees that overhang the slow
        Deep mill-stream, loved and feared.

Where shaken water-wheels go creak and clack,
        List while a lorn thrush calls and almost speaks;
See willow-wrens with elderberries black
        Staining their slender beaks.

They know full well how squirrels spend the day;
        They peeped when field-mice stole and stored the
                seeds,
And voles along their under-water way
        Donned collars of bright beads.

Still from the deep-cut road they love to mark
        Where set, as in a frame, the nearer shapes
Rise out of hill and wood; then long downs dark
        As purple bloom on grapes.

But farms whereon the tall wheat musters gold,
        High barley whitening, creases in bare hills
Reed-feathered, castle-like brown churches old,
        Nor churning water-mills,

Shall make ought seem so fair as that beyond—
        Beyond the down, which draws their fealty;
Blow high, blow low, some hearts do aye respond,
        The wind is from the sea.

Above the steep-cut steps as they did grow,
        The children's cottage homes embowered are
            seen;
Were this a world befallen, they scarce could show
        More beauteous red and green.

Milk-white and vestal-chaste the hollyhock
        Grows tall, clove, sweetgale nightly shed forth
                 spice,
Long woodbines leaning over scent the rock
        With airs of Paradise.

Here comforted of pilot stars they lie
        In charmèd dreams, but not of wold nor lea,
Behold a ship! her wide yards score the sky;
        She sails a steel-blue sea.

As turns the great amassment of the tide,
        Drawn of the silver despot to her throne,
So turn the destined souls, so far and wide
        The strong deep claims its own.

Still the old tale, these dreaming islanders,
        Each with hot Sunderbunds a somewhat owns
That calls, the grandsire's blood within them stirs
        Dutch Java guards his bones.

And these were orphan'd when a leak was sprung
        Far out from land when all the air was balm;
The shipmen saw their faces as they hung,
        And sank in the glassy calm.

These, in an orange-sloop their father plied,
        Deck-laden deep she sailed from Cadiz town;
A black squall rose, she turned upon her side,
        Drank water and went down.

They too shall sail.   High names of alien lands
        Are in the dream, great names their fathers knew;
Madras, the white surf rearing on her sands,
        E'en they shall breast it too.

See threads of scarlet down fell Roa creep,
        When moaning winds rend back her vapourous
                 veil;
Wild Orinoco wedge-like split the deep,
        Raging forth passion-pale:

Then a blue berg at sunrise glittering, tall,
        Great as a town adrift come shining on
With sharp spires, gemlike as the mystical
        Clear city of Saint John.

Still the old tale; but they are children yet;
        O let their mothers have them while they may!
Soon it shall work, the strange mysterious fret
        That mars both toil and play.

The sea will claim its own; and some shall mourn;
        They also, they, but yet will surely go;
So surely as the planet to its bourne,
        The chamois to his snow.

'Father, dear father, bid us now God-speed;
        We cannot choose but sail, it thus befell.'
'Mother, dear mother—'
                                               'Nay, 'tis all decreed.
        Dear hearts, farewell, farewell!'


――――♦――――

 

DORA.


WAXING moon that, crescent yet,
In all its silver beauty set,
And rose no more in the lonesome night
To shed full-orbed its longed-for light.

Then was it dark; on wold and lea,
   In home, in heart, the hours were drear.
Father and mother could no light see,
   And the hearts trembled and there was fear.
—So on the mount, Christ's chosen three,
Unaware that glory it did shroud,
Feared when they entered into the cloud.

She was the best part of love's fair
Adornment, life's God-given care,
As if He bade them guard His own,
Who should be soon anear His throne.
Dutiful, happy, and who say
When childhood smiles itself away,
'More fair than morn shall prove the day.'
Sweet souls so nigh to God that rest,
How shall be bettering of your best!
That promise heaven alone shall view,
That hope can ne'er with us come true,
That prophecy life hath not skill,
No, nor time leave that it fulfil.
There is but heaven, for childhood never
Can yield the all it meant, for ever.
Or is there earth, must wane to less
What dawned so close by perfectness.

How guileless sweet by gift divine,
How beautiful, dear child, was thine—
Spared all their grief of thee bereaven,
Winner, who had not greatly striven,
Hurts of sin shall not thee soil,
Carking care thy beauty spoil,
So early blest, so young forgiven.

Among the meadows fresh to view,
And in the woodland ways she grew,
On either side a hand to hold,
Nor the world's worst of evil knew,
Nor rued its miseries manifold,
Nor made discovery of its cold.
What more?—like one with morn content,
Or of the morrow diffident,
Unconscious, beautiful she stood,
Calm, in young stainless maidenhood;
Then, with the last steps childhood trod,
Took up her fifteen years to God.

Farewell, sweet hope, not long to last,
All life is better for thy past.
Farewell till love with sorrow meet,
To learn that tears are obsolete.


――――♦――――

 

SPERANZA.

Her younger sister, that Speranza hight.


ENGLAND puts on her purple, and pale, pale
    With too much light, the primrose doth but wait
To meet the hyacinth; then bower and dale
    Shall lose her and each fairy woodland mate.
April forgets them, for their utmost sum
Of gift was silent, and the birds are come.

The world is stirring, many voices blend,
    The English are at work in field and way;
All the good finches on their wives attend,
    And emmets their new towns lay out in clay;
Only the cuckoo-bird only doth say
Her beautiful name, and float at large all day.

Everywhere ring sweet clamours, chirruping,
    Chirping, that comes before the grasshopper;
The wide woods, flurried with the pulse of spring,
    Shake out their wrinkled buds with tremor and stir;
Small noises, little cries, the ear receives
Light as a rustling foot on last year's leaves.

All in deep dew the satisfied deep grass
    Looking straight upward stars itself with white,
Like ships in heaven full-sailed do long clouds pass
    Slowly o'er this great peace, and wide sweet light,
While through moist meads draws down yon rushy
        mere
Influent waters, sobbing, shining, clear.

Almost is rapture poignant; somewhat ails
    The heart and mocks the morning; somewhat sighs,
And those sweet foreigners, the nightingales,
    Made restless with their love, pay down its price,
Even the pain; then all the story unfold
Over and over again—yet 'tis not told.

The mystery of the world whose name is life
    (One of the names of God) all-conquering wends
And works for aye with rest and cold at strife.
    Its pedigree goes up to Him and ends.
For it the lucent heavens are clear overhead,
And all the meads are made its natal bed.

Dear is the light, and eye-sight ever sweet,
    What see they all fair lower things that nurse,
No wonder, and no doubt?   Truly their meat,
Their kind, their field, their foes; man's eyes are
        more;
    Sight is man's having of the universe,
His pass to the majestical far shore.

But it is not enough, ah not enough
    To look upon it and be held away,
And to be sure that, while we tread the rough,
    Remote dull paths of this dull world, no ray
Shall pierce to us from the inner soul of things,
Nor voice thrill out from its deep master-strings.

'To show the skies, and tether to the sod!
    A daunting gift!' we mourn in our long strife,
And God is more than all our thought of God;
    E'en life itself more than our thought of life,
And that is all we know—and it is noon,
Our little day will soon be done—how soon!

O let us to ourselves be dutiful:
    We are not satisfied, we have wanted all,
Not alone beauty, but that Beautiful;
    A lifted veil, an answering mystical.
Ever men plead, and plain, admire, implore,
'Why gavest Thou so much—and yet—not more?

We are but let to look, and Hope is weighed.'
    Yet, say the Indian words of sweet renown,
'The doomèd tree withholdeth not her shade
    From him that bears the axe to cut her down;'
Is hope cut down, dead, doomèd, all is vain:
The third day dawns, she too has risen again

(For Faith is ours by gift, but Hope by right),
    And walks among us whispering as of yore:
Glory and grace are thrown thee with the light;
    Search, if not yet thou touch the mystic shore;
Immanent beauty and good are nigh at hand,
For infants laugh and snowdrops bloom in the land.

Thou shalt have more anon.'   What more?   In sooth,
    The mother of to-morrow is to-day,
And brings forth after her kind.   There is no ruth
    On the heart's sigh, that 'more' is hidden away,
And man's to-morrow yet shall pine and yearn;
He shall surmise, and he shall not discern,

But list the lark, and want the rapturous cries
    And passioning of morning stars that sing
Together, mark the meadow-orchis rise
    And think it freckled after an angel's wing;
Absent desire his land, and feel this, one
With the great drawing of the central sun.

But not to all such dower, for there be eyes
    Are colour-blind, and souls are spirit-blind.
Those never saw the blush in sunset skies,
Nor the others caught a sense not made of words
    As if were spirits about, that sailed the wind
And sank and settled on the boughs like birds.

Yet such for aye divided from us are
    As other galaxies that seem no more
Than a little golden millet-seed afar.
    Divided; swarming down some flat lee shore,
Then risen, while all the air that takes no word
Tingles, and trembles as with cries not heard.

For they can come no nearer.   There is found
    No meeting point.   We have pierced the lodging-
        place
Of stars that cluster'd with their peers lie bound,
    Embedded thick, sunk in the seas of space,
Fortunate orbs that know not night, for all
Are suns;—but we have never heard that call,

Nor learned it in our world, our citadel
    With outworks of a Power about it traced;
Nor why we needs must sin who would do well,
    Nor why the want of love, nor why its waste,
Nor how by dying of One should all be sped,
Nor where, O Lord, Thou hast laid up our dead.

But Hope is ours by right, and Faith by gift.
    Though Time be as a moon upon the wane
Who walk with Faith far up the azure lift
    Oft hear her talk of lights to wax again.
'If man be lost,' she cries, 'in this vast sea
Of being,—lost—he would be lost with Thee

Who for his sake once, as he hears, lost all.
    For Thou wilt find him at the end of the days:
Then shall the flocking souls that thicker fall
    Than snowflakes on the everlasting ways
Be counted, gathered, claimed.—Will it be long?
Earth has begun already her swan-song.

Who, even that might, would dwell for ever pent
    In this fair frame that doth the spirit inhearse,
Nor at the last grow weary and content,
    Die, and break forth into the universe,
And yet man would not all things—all—were new.'
Then saith the other, that one robed in blue:

'What if with subtle change God touch their eyes
    When He awakes them,—not far off, but here
In a new earth, this: not in any wise
    Strange, but more homely sweet, more heavenly
        dear,
Or if He roll away, as clouds disperse
Somewhat, and lo, that other universe.

O how 'twere sweet new waked in some good hour,
    Long time to sit on a hillside green and high,
There like a honeybee domed in a flower
    To feed unneath the azure bell o' the sky,
Feed in the midmost home and fount of light
Sown thick with stars at noonday as by night

To watch the flying faultless ones wheel down,
    Alight, and run along some ridgèd peak,
Their feet adult from orbs of old renown,
    Procyon or Mazzaroth, haply;—when they speak
Other-world errands wondrous, all discern
That would be strange, there would be much to learn.

Ay, and it would be sweet to share unblamed
    Love's shining truths that tell themselves in tears,
Or to confess and be no more ashamed
    The wrongs that none can right through earthly
        years;
And seldom laugh, because the tenderness
Calm, perfect, would be more than joy—would bless.

I tell you it were sweet to have enough,
    And be enough.   Among the souls forgiven
In presence of all worlds, without rebuff
    To move, and feel the excellent safety leaven
With peace that awe must loss and the grave
        survive—
But palpitating moons that are alive

Nor shining fogs swept up together afar,
    Vast as a thought of God, in the firmament;
No, and to dart as light from star to star
    Would not long time man's yearning soul content:
Albeit were no more ships and no more sea,
He would desire his new earth presently.

Leisure to learn it.   Peoples would be here;
    They would come on in troops, and take at will
The forms, the faces they did use to wear
    With life's first splendours—raiment rich with skill
Of broidery, carved adornments, crowns of gold;
Still would be sweet to them the life of old.

Then might be gatherings under golden shade,
    Where dust of water drifts from some sheer fall,
Cooling day's ardour.   There be utterance made
    Of comforted love, dear freedom after thrall,
Large longings of the Seer, through earthly years
An everlasting burden, but no tears.

Egypt's adopted child might tell of lore
    They taught him underground in shrines all dim,
And of the live tame reptile gods that wore
    Gold anklets on their feet.   And after him,
With fairest eyes e'er met of mortal ken,
Glorious, forgiven, might speak the mother of men,

Talk of her apples gather'd by the marge
    Of lapsing Gihon.   "Thus one spoke, I stood,
I ate."   Or next the mariner-saint enlarge
    Right quaintly on his ark of gopher wood
To wandering men through high grass meads that ran
Or sailed the sea Mediterranean.

It might be common—earth afforested
    Newly, to follow her great ones to the sun,
When from transcendent aisles of gloom they sped
    Some work august (there would be work) now done.
And list, and their high matters strive to scan
The seekers after God, and lovers of man,

Sitting together in amity on a hill,
    The Saint of Visions from Greek Patmos come—
Aurelius, lordly, calm-eyed, as of will
    Austere, yet having rue on lost, lost Rome,
And with them one who drank a fateful bowl,
And to the unknown God trusted his soul.

The mitred Cranmer pitied even there
    (But could it be?) for that false hand which signed
O, all pathetic—no.   But it might bear
    To soothe him marks of fire—and gladsome kind
The man, as all of joy him well beseemed
Who "lighted on a certain place and dreamed."

And fair with the meaning of life their divine brows,
    The daughters of well-doing famed in song;
But what! could old-world love for child, for spouse,
    For land, content through lapsing eons long?
Oh for a watchword strong to bridge the deep
And satisfy of fulness after sleep.

What know we?   Whispers fall, "And the last first,
    And the first last."   The child before the king?
The slave before that man a master erst?
    The woman before her lord?   Shall glory fling
The rolls aside—time raze out triumphs past?
They sigh, "And the last first, and the first last."

Answers that other, 'Lady, sister, friend,
    It is enough, for I have worshipped Life;
With Him that is the Life man's life shall blend,
    E'en now the sacred heavens do help his strife,
There do they knead his bread and mix his cup,
And all the stars have leave to bear him up.

Yet must he sink and fall away to a sleep,
    As did his Lord, His Life his worshippèd
Religion, Life.   The silence may be deep,
    Life listening, watching, waiting by His dead,
Till at the end of days they wake full fain
Because their King, the Life, doth love and reign.

I know the King shall come to that new earth,
    And His feet stand again as once they stood,
In His Man's eyes will shine Time's end and worth
    The chiefest beauty and the chiefest good,
And all shall have the all and in it bide,
And every soul of man be satisfied.'


――――♦――――

 

THE BEGINNING.


'THEY tell strange things of the primeval earth,
But things that be are never strange to those
Among them.   And we know what it was like,
Many are sure they walked in it; the proof
This, the all gracious, all admired gift
Called life, called world, called thought, was all
        as one,
Nor yet divided more than that old earth
Among the tribes.   Self was not fully come—
Self was asleep, embedded in the whole.


2.


I too dwelt once in a primeval world,
Such as they tell of; all things wonderful,
Voices, ay visions, people grand and tall
Thronged in it, but their talk was overhead
And bore scant meaning, that one wanted not
Whose thought was sight as yet unbound of words,
This kingdom of heaven having entered through
Being a little child,


3.


                                       Such as can see,
Why should they doubt?   The childhood of a race,
The childhood of a soul, hath neither doubt
Nor fear.   Where all is super-natural
The guileless heart doth feed on it, no more
Afraid than angels are of heaven.
                                                             Who saith
Another life, the next one shall not have
Another childhood growing gently thus,
Able to bear the poignant sweetness, take
The rich long awful measure of its peace,
Endure the presences sublime?
                                                            I saw
Once in that earth primeval, once—a face,
A little face that yet I dream upon.'


4.


'Of this world was it?'
                                             'Not of this world—no,
In the beginning—for methinks it was
In the beginning, but an if you ask
How long ago, time was not then, nor date
For marking.   It was always long ago,
E'en from the first recalling of it, long
And long ago.
                             And I could walk, and went,
Led by the hand through a long mead at morn,
Bathed in a ravishing excess of light.
It throbbed, and as it were fresh fallen from heaven,
Sank deep into the meadow grass.   The sun
Gave every blade a bright and a dark side,
Glitter'd on buttercups that topped them, slipped
To soft red puffs, by some called holy-hay.


5.


The wide oaks in their early green stood still
And took delight in it.   Brown specks that made
Very sweet noises quivered in the blue;
Then they came down and ran along the brink
Of a long pool, and they were birds.
                                                                       The pool
Franked at the edges with pale peppermint,
A rare amassment of veined cuckoo flowers
And flags blue-green was lying below.   This all
Was sight, it condescended not to words
Till memory kissed the charmèd dream.
                                                                          The mead
Hollowing and heaving, in the hollows fair
With dropping roses fell away to it,
A strange sweet place; upon its further side
Some people gently walking took their way
Up to a wood beyond; and also bells
Sang, floated in the air, hummed—what you will.'


6.


'Then it was Sunday?'
                                            'Sunday was not yet;
It was a holiday, for all the days
Were holy.   It was not our day of rest
(The earth for all her rolling asks not rest,
For she was never weary).
                                                   It was sweet,
Full of dear leisure and perennial peace,
As very old days when life went easily,
Before mankind had lost the wise, the good
Habit of being happy.
                                             For the pool
A beauteous place it was as might be seen,
That led one down to other meads, and had
Clouds and another sky.   I thought to go
Deep down in it, and walk-that steep clear slope.


7.


Then she who led me reached the brink, her foot
Staying to talk with one who met her there.
Here were fresh marvels, sailing things whose vans
Floated them on above the flowering flags.
We moved a little onward, paused again,
And here there was a break in these, and here
There came the vision; for I stooped to gaze
So far as my small height would let me—gaze
Into that pool to see the fishes dart,
And in a moment from her under hills
Came forth a little child who lived down there,
Looked up at me and smiled.   We could not talk,
But looked and loved each other.   I a hand
Held out to her, so she to me, but ah,
She would not come.   Her home, her little bed,
Was doubtless under that soft shining thing
The water, and she wanted not to run
Among red sorrel spires, and fill her hand
In the dry warmèd grass with cowslip buds.


8.


Awhile our feeding hearts all satisfied,
Took in the blue of one another's eyes,
Two dimpled creatures, rose-lipped innocent.
But when we fain had kissed—O! the end came,
For snatched aloft, held in the nurse's arms,
She parting with her lover I was borne
Far from that little child.
                                                 And no one knew
She lived down there, but only I; and none
Sought for her, but I yearned for her and left
Part of myself behind, as the lambs leave
Their wool upon a thorn.'
                                                  'And was she seen
Never again, nor known for what she was?'


9.


'Never again, for we did leave anon
The pasture and the pool.   I know not where
They lie, and sleep a heaven on earth, but know
From thenceforth yearnings for a lost delight;
On certain days I dream about her still.'


――――♦――――

 

IN THE NURSERY.


'WHERE do you go, Bob, when you 're fast asleep?'

'Where?   O well, once I went into a deep
Mine, father told of, and a cross man said
He'd make me help to dig, and eat black bread.
I saw the Queen once, in her room, quite near.
She said, "You rude boy, Bob, how came you here?" '

'Was it like mother's boudoir?'

                                                               'Grander far,
Gold chairs and things—all over diamonds—Ah!'

'You 're sure it was the Queen?'

                                                           'Of course, a crown
Was on her, and a spangly purple gown.'

'I went to heaven last night.'

                                                   'O Lily, no,
How could you?'

                                   'Yes I did, they told me so,
And my best doll, my favourite, with the blue
Frock, jasmine, I took her to heaven too.'

'What was it like?'

                                      'A kind of—I can't tell—
A sort of orchard place in a long dell,
With trees all over flowers.   And there were birds
Who could do talking, say soft pretty words;
They let me stroke them, and I showed it all
To Jasmine.   And I heard a blue dove call,
"Child, this is heaven."   I was not frightened when
It spoke, I said "Where are the angels then?" '

'Well?'

             'So it said, "Look up and you shall see."
There were two angels sitting in the tree,
As tall as mother; they had long gold hair.
They let drop down the fruit they gather'd there
And little angels came for it—so sweet
Here they were beggar children in the street,
And the dove said they had the prettiest things,
And wore their best frocks every day.'

                                                                      'And wings,
Had they no wings?'

                                           'O yes, and lined with white
Like swallow wings, so soft—so very light
Fluttering about.'

                                   'Well?'

                                                   'Well, I did not stay,
So that was all.'

                                    'They made you go away?'

'I did not go—but—I was gone.'

                                                            'I know.'
'But it's a pity, Bob, we never go
Together.'

                      'Yes, and have no dreams to tell,
But the next day both know it all quite well.'

'And, Bob, if I could dream you came with me
You would be there perhaps.'

                                                         'Perhaps—we'll see.'


――――♦――――


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