Poetical Works (11)

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THE AUSTRALIAN BELL-BIRD.


 'TOLL
                   Toll.'   'The bell-bird sounding far away,
    Hid in a myall grove.'   He raised his head,
The bush glowed scarlet in descending day,
    A masterless wild country—and he said,
My father ('Toll.')   'Full oft by her to stray,
    As if a spirit called, have I been led;
Oft seems she as an echo in my soul
('Toll.') from my native towers by Avon ('Toll').

('Toll.')   Oft as in a dream I see full fain
    The bell-tower beautiful that I love well,
A seemly cluster with her churches twain.
    I hear adown the river faint and swell
And lift upon the air that sound again,
    It is, it is—how sweet no tongue can tell,
For all the world-wide breadth of shining foam,
The bells of Evesham chiming "Home, sweet home."

The mind hath mastery thus—it can defy
    The sense, and make all one as it DID HEAR
Nay, I mean more; the wraiths of sound gone by
    Rise; they are present 'neath this dome all clear.
ONE, sounds the bird—a pause—then doth supply
    Some ghost of chimes the void expectant ear;
Do they ring bells in heaven?   The learnedest soul
Shall not resolve me such a question. ('Toll.')

('Toll.')   Say I am a boy, and fishing stand
    By Avon ('Toll.') on line and rod intent,
How glitters deep in dew the meadow land—
    What, dost thou flit, thy ministry all spent,
Not many days we hail such visits bland,
    Why steal so soon the rare enravishment?
Ay gone! the soft deceptive echoes roll
Away, and faint into remoteness.'   ('Toll.')


5.


While thus he spoke the doom'd sun touched his bed,
    In scarlet all the palpitating air
Still loyal waited on.   He dipped his head,
    Then all was over, and the dark was there;
And northward, lo! a star, one likewise red
    But lurid, starts from out her day-long lair.
Her fellows trail behind; she bears her part,
The balefullest star that shines, the Scorpion's heart.

Or thus of old men feigned, and then did fear,
    Then straight crowd forth the great ones of the sky
In flashing flame at strife to reach more near.
    The little children of Infinity,
They next look down as to report them 'Here,'
    From deeps all thoughts despair and heights past high
Speeding, not sped, no rest, no goal, no shore,
Still to rush on till time shall be no more.

'Loved vale of Evesham, 'tis a long farewell
    Not laden orchards nor their April snow
These eyes shall light upon again; the swell
    And whisper of thy storied river know,
Nor climb the hill where great de Montfort fell
    In a good cause hundreds of years ago;
So fall's, elect to live till life's ally,
The river of recorded deeds, runs dry.

This land is very well, this air,' saith he,
    'Is very well, but we want echoes here.
Man's past to feed the air and move the sea;
    Ages of toil make English furrows dear,
Enriched by blood shed for his liberty,
    Sacred by love's first sigh and life's last fear,
We come of a good nest, for it shall yearn
Poor birds of passage, but may not return,

Spread younger wings, and beat the winds afar.
    There sing more poets in that one small isle
Than all isles else can show—of such you are;
    Remote things come to you unsought erewhile,
Near things a long way round as by a star.
    Wild dreams!'   He laughed, 'A sage right infantile;
With sacred fear behold life's waste deplored,
Undaunted by the leisure of the Lord.


10.


Ay go, the island dream with eyes make good,
    Where Freedom rose, a lodestar to your race;
And Hope that leaning on her anchor stood
    Did smile it to her feet: a right small place.
Call her a mother, high such motherhood,
    Home in her name and duty in her face;
Call her a ship, her wide arms rake the clouds,
And every wind of God pipes in her shrouds.

Ay, all the more go you.   But some have cried
    "The ship is breaking up;" they watch amazed
While urged toward the rocks by some that guide;
    Bad steering, reckless steering, she all dazed
Tempteth her doom; yet this have none denied
    Ships men have wrecked and palaces have razed.
But never was it known beneath the sun,
They of such wreckage built a goodlier one.

God help old England an't be thus, nor less
    God help the world.'   Therewith my mother spake,
'Perhaps He will!   By time, by faithlessness,
    By the world's want long in the dark awake,
I think He must be almost due: the stress
    Of the great tide of life, sharp misery's ache,
In a recluseness of the soul we rue
Far off, but yet—He must be almost due.

God manifest again, the coming King.'
    Then said my father, 'I beheld erewhile,
Sitting up dog-like to the sunrising,
    The giant doll in ruins by the Nile,
With hints of red that yet to it doth cling,
    Fell, battered, and bewigged its cheeks were vile,
A body of evil with its angel fled,
Whom and his fellow fiends men worshippèd.


The gods die not, long shrouded on their biers,
    Somewhere they live, and live in memory yet;
Were not the Israelites for forty years
    Hid from them in the desert to forget—
Did they forget? no more than their last feres
    Sons of to-day with faces southward set,
Who dig for buried lore long ages fled,
And sift for it the sand and search the dead.


15.


Brown Egypt gave not one great poet birth,
    But man was better than his gods, with lays
He soothed them restless, and they zoned the earth,
    And crossed the sea; there drank immortal praise;
Then from his own best self with glory and worth
    And beauty dowered he them for dateless days.
Ever "their sound goes forth" from shore to shore,
When was there known an hour that they lived more?

Because they are beloved and not believed,
    Admired not feared, they draw men to their feet;
All once, rejected, nothing now, received
    Where once found wanting, now the most complete;
Man knows to-day, though manhood stand achieved,
    His cradle-rockers made a rustling sweet;
That king reigns longest which did lose his crown,
Stars that by poets shine are stars gone down.

Still drawn obedient to an unseen hand,
    From purer heights comes down the yearning west,
Like to that eagle in the morning land,
    That swooping on her predatory quest,
Did from the altar steal a smouldering brand,
    The which she bearing home it burned her nest,
And her wide pinions of their plumes bereaven,
Spoiled for glad spiring up the steeps of heaven.

'I say the gods live, and that reign abhor,
    And will the nations it should dawn?   Will they
Who ride upon the perilous edge of war?
    Will such as delve for gold in this our day?
Neither the world will, nor the age will, nor
    The soul—and what, it cometh now?   Nay, nay,
The weighty sphere, unready for release,
Rolls far in front of that overmastering peace.

Wait and desire it; life waits not, free there
    To good, to evil, thy right perilous—
All shall be fair, and yet it is not fair.
    I thank my God He takes th' advantage thus;
He doth not greatly hide, but still declare
    Which side He is on and which He loves, to us,
While life impartial aid to both doth lend,
And heed not which the choice nor what the end.


20.


Among the few upright, O to be found,
    And ever search the nobler path, my son,
Nor say " 'tis sweet to find me common ground
    Too high, too good, shall leave the hours alone"—
Nay, though but one stood on the height renowned,
    Deny not hope or will, to be that one.
Is it the many fall'n shall lift the land,
The race, the age!—Nay, 'tis the few that stand.

While in the lamplight hearkening I sat mute,
    Bethought 'how soon this fire must needs burn out'
Among the passion flowers and passion fruit
    That from the wide verandah hung, misdoubt
Was mine.   'And wherefore made I thus long suit
    To leave this old white head?   His words devout,
His blessing not to hear who loves me so—
He that is old, right old—I will not go.'

But ere the dawn their counsels wrought with me,
    And I went forth; alas that I so went
Under the great gum-forest canopy,
    The light on every silken filament
Of every flower, a quivering ecstasy
    Of perfect paleness made it; sunbeams sent
Up to the leaves with sword-like flash endued
Each turn of that grey drooping multitude.

I sought to look as in the light of one
    Returned.   Will this be strange to me that day?
Flocks of green parrots clamorous in the sun
    Tearing out milky maize—stiff cacti grey
As old men's beards—here stony ranges lone,
    There dust of mighty flocks upon their way
To water, cloudlike on the bush afar,
Like smoke that hangs where old-world cities are.

Is it not made man's last endowment here
    To find a beauty in the wilderness;
Feel the lorn moor above his pastures dear,
    Mountains that may not house and will not bless
To draw him even to death?   He must insphere
    His spirit in the open, so doth less
Desire his feres, and more that unvex'd wold
Those fine afforested hills, his dower of old.


25.


But shall we lose again that new-found sense
    Which sees the earth less for our tillage fair?
Oh, let her speak with her best eloquence
    To me, but not her first and her right rare
Can equal what I may not take from hence.
    The gems are left: it is not otherwhere
The wild Nepèan cleaves her matchless way,
Nor Sydney harbour shall outdo the day.

Adding to day this—that she lighteth it.'
    But I beheld again, and as must be
With a world-record by a spirit writ,
    It was more beautiful than memory,
Than hope was more complete.
                                                           Tall brigs did sit
    Each in her berth the pure flood placidly,
Their topsails drooping 'neath the vast blue dome
Listlessly waiting to be sheeted home.

And the great ships with pulse-ilke throbbing clear,
    Majestical of mien did take their way
Like living creatures from some grander sphere,
    That having boarded ours thought good to stay,
Albeit enslaved.   They most divided here
    From God's great art and all his works in clay,
In that their beauty lacks, though fair it shows
That divine waste of beauty only He bestows.

The day was young, scarce out the harbour lights
    That morn I sailed: low sun-rays tremulous
On golden loops sped outward.   Yachts in flights
    Flutter'd the water air-like clear, while thus
It crept for shade among brown rocky bights
    With cassia crowned and palms diaphanous,
And boughs ripe fruitage dropping fitfully,
That on the shining ebb went out to sea.

'Home,' saith the man self-banishèd, 'my son
    Shall now go home.'   Therewith he sendeth him
Abroad, and knows it not, but thence is won,
    Rescued, the son's true home.   His mind doth limn
Beautiful pictures of it, there is none
    So dear, a new thought shines erewhile but dim,
'That was my home, a land past all compare,
Life, and the poetry of life, are there.


30.


But no such thought drew near to me that day;
    All the new worlds flock forth to greet the old,
All the young souls bow down to own its sway,
    Enamoured of strange richness manifold;
Not to be stored, albeit they seek for aye,
    Besieging it for its own life to hold,
E'en as Al Mamoun fain for treasures hid,
Stormed with an host th' inviolate pyramid,

And went back foiled but wise to walled Bagdad.
    So I, so all.   The treasure sought not found,
But some divine tears found to superadd
    Themselves to a long story.   The great round
Of yesterdays, their pathos sweet as sad,
    Found to be only as to-day, close bound
With us, we hope some good thing yet to know,
But God is not in haste, while the lambs grow

The Shepherd leadeth softly.   It is great
    The journey, and the flock forgets at last
(Earth ever working to obliterate
    The landmarks) when it halted, where it passed;
And words confuse, and time doth ruinate,
    And memory fail to hold a theme so vast;
There is request for light, but the flock feeds,
And slowly ever on the Shepherd leads.

'Home,' quoth my father, and a glassy sea
    Made for the stars a mirror of its breast,
While southing, pennon-like, in bravery
    Of long-drawn gold they trembled to their rest.
Strange the first night and morn, when Destiny
    Spread out to float on, all the mind oppressed;
Strange on their outer roof to speed forth thus,
And know th' uncouth sea-beasts stared up at us.

But yet more strange the nights of falling rain,
    That splashed without—a sea-coal fire within;
Life's old things gone astern, the mind's disdain,
    For murmurous London makes soft rhythmic din.
All courtier thoughts that wait on words would fain
    Express that sound.   The words are not to win
Till poet made, but mighty, yet so mild
Shall be as cooing of a cradle-child


35.


Sensation like a piercing arrow flies,
    Daily out-going thought.   This Adamhood,
This weltering river of mankind that hies
    Adown the street; it cannot be withstood.
The richest mundane miles not otherwise
    Than by a symbol keep possession good,
Mere symbol of division, and men hold
The clear pane sacred, the unminted gold

And wild outpouring of all wealth not less.
    Why this?   A million strong the multitude,
And safe, far safer than our wilderness
    The walls; for them it daunts with right at feud,
Itself declares for law; yet sore the stress
    On steeps of life: what power to ban and bless;
Saintly denial, waste inglorious,
Desperate want, and riches fabulous.

Of souls what beautiful embodiment
    For some; for some what homely housing writ;
What keen-eyed men who beggared of content
    Eat bread well earned as they had stolen it;
What flutterers after joy that forward went,
    And left them in the rear unqueened, unfit
For joy, with light that faints in strugglings drear
Of all things good the most awanting here.

Some in the welter of this surging tide
    Move like the mystic lamps, the Spirits Seven,
Their burning love runs kindling far and wide,
    That fire they needed not to steal from heaven,
'Twas a free gift flung down with them to bide,
    And be a comfort for the hearts bereaven,
A warmth, a glow, to make the failing store
And parsimony of emotion more.

What glorious dreams in that find harbourage,
    The phantom of a crime stalks this beside,
And those might well have writ on some past page,
    In such an hour, of such a year, we—died,
Put out our souls, took the mean way, false wage,
    Course cowardly; and if we be denied
The life once loved, we cannot alway rue
The loss; let be: what vails so sore ado?


40.


And faces pass of such as give consent
    To live because 'tis not worth while to die;
This never knew the awful tremblement
    When some great fear sprang forward suddenly,
Its other name being hope—and there forthwent
    As both confronted him a rueful cry
From the heart's core, one urging him to dare,
'Now! now!   Leap now.'   The other, 'Stand, forbear.'

A nation reared in brick, how shall this be?
    Nor by excess of life death overtake.
To die in brick of brick her destiny,
    And as the hamadryad eats the snake
His wife, and then the snake his son, so she.
    Air not enough, 'though everyone doth take
A little,' water scant, a plague of gold,
Light out of date—a multitude born old.

And then a three-day siege might be the end;
    E'en now the rays get muddied struggling down
Through heaven's vasty lofts, and still extend
    The miles of brick and none forbid, and none
Forbode; a great world-wonder that doth send
    High fame abroad, and fear no setting sun,
But helpless she through wealth that flouts the day
And through her little children, even as they.

But forth of London, and all visions dear
    To eastern poets of a watered land
Are made the commonplace of nature here,
    Sweet rivers always full, and always bland.
Beautiful, beautiful!   What runlets clear
    Twinkle among the grass.   On every hand
Fall in the common talk from lips around
The old names of old towns and famous ground.

It is not likeness only charms the sense,
    Not difference only sets the mind aglow,
It is the likeness in the difference,
    Familiar language spoken on the snow,
To have the Perfect in the Present tense,
    To hear the ploughboy whistling, and to know,
It smacks of the wild bush, that tune—'Tis ours,
And look! the bank is pale with primrose flowers,


45.


What veils of tender mist make soft the lea,
    What bloom of air the height; no veils confer
On warring thought or softness or degree
    Or rest.   Still falling, conquering, strife and stir.
For this religion pays indemnity.
    She pays her enemies for conquering her,
And then her friends; while ever, and in vain
Lots for a seamless coat are cast again

Whose it shall be; unless it shall endow
    Thousands of thousands it can fall to none,
But faith and hope are not so simple now,
    As in the year of our redemption—One.
The pencil of pure light must disallow
    Its name and scattering, many hues put on,
And faith and hope low in the valley fell,
There it is well with them, 'tis very well.

The land is full of vision, voices call.
    Can spirits cast a shadow?   Ay, I trove
Past is not done, and over is not all,
    Opinion dies to live and wanes to grow,
The gossamer of thought doth filmlike fall,
    On fallows after dawn make shimmering show,
And with old arrow-heads, her earliest prize,
Mix learning's latest guess and last surmise,

There heard I pipes of fame, saw wrens 'about
    That time when kings go forth to battle' dart,
Full valorous atoms pierced with song, and stout
    To dare, and down yclad; I shared the smart
Of grievèd cushats, bloom of love, devout
    Beyond man's thought of it.   Old song my heart
Rejoiced, but O mine own forelders' ways
To look on, and their fashions of past days.

The ponderous craft of arms I craved to see,
    Knights, burghers, filtering through those gates ajar,
Their age of serfdom with my spirit free;
    We cannot all have wisdom; some there are
Believe a star doth rule their destiny,
    And yet they think to overreach the star,
For thought can weld together things apart,
And contraries find meeting in the heart.


50.


In the deep dust at Suez without sound
    I saw the Arab children walk at eve,
Their dark untroubled eyes upon the ground,
    A part of Time's grave quiet.   I receive
Since then a sense, as nature might have found
    Love kin to man's that with the past doth grieve;
And lets on waste and dust of ages fall
Her tender silences that mean it all,

We have it of her, with her; it were ill
    For men, if thought were widowed of the world,
Or the world beggared of her sons, for still
    A crownèd sphere with many gems impearled
She rolls because of them.   We lend her will
    And she yields love.   The past shall not be hurled
In the abhorrèd limbo while the twain,
Mother and son, hold partnership and reign.

She hangs out omens, and doth burdens dree.
    Is she in league with heaven?   That knows but One.
For man is not, and yet his work we see
    Full of unconscious omen darkly done.
I saw the ring-stone wrought at Avebury
    To frame the face of the midwinter sun,
Good luck that hour they thought from him forth
        smiled,
At midwinter the Sun did rise—the Child.

Still would the world divine though man forbore,
    And what is beauty but an omen?—what
But life's deep divination cast before,
    Omen of coming love?   Hard were man's lot,
With love and toil together at his door,
    But all-convincing eyes hath beauty got;
His love is beautiful, and he shall sue.
Toil for her sake is sweet, the omen true.

Love, love, and come it must, then life is found
    Beforehand that was whole and fronting care,
A torn and broken half in durance bound
    That mourns and makes request for its right fair
Remainder, with forlorn eyes cast around
    To search for what is lost, that unaware
With not an hour's forebodement makes the day
From henceforth less or more for ever and aye.


55.


Her name—my love's—I knew it not; who says
    Of vagrant doubt for such a cause that stirs
His fancy shall not pay arrearages
    To all sweet names that might perhaps be hers?
The doubts of love are powers.   His heart obeys,
    The world is in them, still to love defers,
Will play with him for love, but when't begins
The play is high, and the world always wins.

For 'tis the maiden's world, and his no more.
    Now thus it was: with new found kin flew by
The temperate summer; every wheatfield wore
    Its gold, from house to house in ardency
Of heart for what they showed I westward bore—
    My mother's land, her native hills drew nigh;
I was—how green, how good old earth can be—
Beholden to that land for teaching me.

And parted from my fellows, and went on
    To feel the spiritual sadness spread
Adown long pastoral hollows.   And anon
    Did words recur in far remoteness said:
'See the deep vale ere dews are dried and gone,
    Where my so happy life in peace I led,
And the great shadow of the Beacon lies—
See little Ledbury trending up the rise,

With peakèd houses and high market hall—
    An oak each pillar—reared in the old days.'
And here was little Ledbury, quaint withal,
    The forest felled, her lair and sheltering place
She long time left in age pathetical.
    'Great oaks' methought, as I drew near to gaze,
'Were but of small account when these came down,
Drawn rough-hewn in to serve the tree-girt town.

And thus and thus of it will question be
    The other side the world.'   I paused awhile
To mark.   The old hall standeth utterly
    Without or floor or side, a comely pile,
A house on pillars, and by destiny
    Drawn under its deep roof I saw a file
Of children slowly through their way make good,
And lifted up mine eyesand there—SHE STOOD.


60.


She was so stately that her youthful grace
    Drew out, it seemed, my soul into the air,
Astonished out of breathing by her face
    So fain to nest itself in nut-brown hair
Lying loose about her throat.   But that old place
    Proved sacred, she just fully grown too fair
For such a thought.   The dimples that she had!
She was so truly sweet that it was sad.

I was all hers.   That moment gave her power—
    And whom, nay what she was, I scarce might know,
But felt I had been born for that good hour.
    The perfect creature did not move, but so
As if ordained to claim all grace for dower,
    She leaned against the pillar, and below
Three almost babes, her care, she watched the while
With downcast lashes and a musing smile.

I had been 'ware without a rustic treat,
    Waggons bedecked with greenery stood anigh,
A swarm of children in the cheerful street
    With girls to marshal them; but all went by
And none I noted save this only sweet:
    Too young her charge more venturous sport to try,
With whirling baubles still they played content,
And softly rose their lisping babblement.

'O what a pause! to be so near, to mark
    The locket rise and sink upon her breast;
The shadow of the lashes lieth dark
    Upon her cheek.   O fleeting time, O rest!
A slant ray finds the gold, and with a spark
    And flash it answers, now shall be the best.
Her eyes she raises, sets their light on mine,
They do not flash nor sparkle—no—but shine.'

As I for very hopelessness made bold
    Did off my hat ere time there was for thought,
She with a gracious sweetness, calm, not cold,
    Acknowledged me, but brought my chance to nought.
'This vale of imperfection doth not hold
    A lovelier bud among its loveliest wrought!
She turns,' methought 'O do not quite forget
To me remains for ever—that we met.'


65.


And straightway I went forth, I could no less,
    Another light unwot of fall'n on me,
And rare elation and high happiness;
    Some mighty power set hands of mastery
Among my heartstrings, and they did confess
    With wild throbs inly sweet, that minstrelsy
A nightingale might dream so rich a strain,
And pine to change her song for sleep again.

The harp thrilled ever: O with what a round
    And series of rich pangs fled forth each note
Oracular, that I had found, had found
    (Head waters of old Nile held less remote)
Golden Dorado, dearest, most renowned;
    But when as 'twere a sigh did overfloat,
Shaping 'how long, not long shall this endure,
Au jour le jour' methought, 'Au jour le jour.'

The minutes of that hour my heart knew well
    Were like the fabled pint of golden grain,
Each to be counted, paid for, till one fell,
    Grew, shot up to another world amain,
And he who dropped might climb it, there to dwell.
    I too, I clomb another world full fain,
But was she there?   O what would be the end,
Might she nor there appear, nor I descend?

All graceful as a palm the maiden stood;
    Men say the palm of palms in tropic Isles
Doth languish in her deep primeval wood,
    And want the voice of man, his home, his smiles,
Nor flourish but in his dear neighbourhood
    She too shall want a voice that reconciles,
A smile that charms—how sweet, would heaven so
        please—
To plant her at my door over far seas.

I paced without, nor ever liege in truth
    His sovran lady watched with more grave eyes
Of reverence, and she nothing ware forsooth,
    Did standing charm the soul with new surprise,
Moving flow on a dimpled dream of youth.
    Look! look! a sunbeam on her.   Ay, but lies
The shade more sweetly now she passeth through
To join her fellow maids returned anew.


70.


I saw (myself to bide unmarked intent)
    Their youthful ease and pretty airs sedate,
They are so good, they are so innocent,
    Those Islanders, they learn their part so late,
Of life's demand right careless, dwell content
    Till the first love's first kiss shall consecrate
Their future to a world that can but be
By their sweet martyrdom and ministry.

Most happy of God's creatures.   Afterward
    More than all women married thou wilt be,
E'en to the soul.   One glance desired afford,
    More than knight's service might'st thou ask of me.
Not any chance is mine, not the best word,
    No, nor the salt of life withouten thee.
Must this all end, is my day so soon o'er?
Untroubled violet eyes, look once,—once more.

No, not a glance: the low sun lay and burned,
    Now din of drum and cry of fife withal,
Blithe teachers mustering frolic swarms returned,
    And new-world ways in that old market hall,
Sweet girls, fair women, how my whole heart yearned
    Her to draw near who made my festival.
With others closing round, time speeding on,
How soon she would be gone, she would be gone!

Ay, but I thought to track the rustic wains,
    Their goal desired to note, but not anigh,
They creaking down long hop ycrested lanes
    'Neath the abiding flush of that north sky.
I ran, my horse I fetched, but fate ordains
    Love shall breed laughter when th' unloving spy.
As I drew rein to watch the gathered crowd,
With sudden mirth an old wife laughed aloud.

Her cheeks like winter apples red of hue,
    Her glance aside.   To whom her speech—to me?
'I know the thing you go about to do—
    The lady—'   'What! the lady—'   'Sir,' saith she,
('I thank you kindly, sir), I tell you true
    She's gone,' and here's a coil' methought 'will be.'
'Gone—where?'   'Tis past my wit forsooth to say
If they went Malvern way or Hereford way.


75.


A carriage took her upwhere three roads meet
    They needs must pass; you may o'ertake it yet.'
And 'Oyes, Oyez' peals adorn the street,
    'Lost, lost, a golden heart with pearls beset.'
'I know her, sir?—not I.   To help this treat,
    Many strange ladies from the country met.'
O heart beset with pearls! my hope was crost.
'Farewell, good dame.   Lost! oh my lady lost.'

And 'Oyez, Oyez' following after me
    On my great errand to the sundown went.
Lost, lost, and lost, when as the long roads flee
    Up tumbled hills, on each for eyes attent
A carriage creepeth.
                                   'Though in neither she,
    I ne'er shall know life's worst impoverishment
An empty heart.   No time, I stake my all,
To right! and chase the rose-red evenfall.

Fly up, good steed, fly on.   Take the sharp rise
    As 'twere a plain.   A lady sits; but one.
So fast the pace she turns in startled wise,
    She sets her gaze on mine and all is done.
"Persian Roxana" might have raised such eyes
    When Alexander sought her.   Now the sun
Dips, and my day is over; turn and fleet
The world fast flies, again do three roads meet.'

I took the left, and for some cause unknown
    Full fraught of hope and joy the way pursued,
Yet chose strong reasons speeding up alone
    To fortify me 'gainst a shock more rude.
E'en so the diver carrieth down a stone
    In hand, lest he float up before he would,
And end his walk upon the rich sea-floor,
Those pearls he failed to grasp never to look on more.

Then as the low moon heaveth waxen white,
    The carriage, and it turns into a gate.
Within sit three in pale pathetic light.
    O surely one of these my love, my fate.
But ere I pass they wind away from sight.
    Then cottage casements glimmer.   All elate
I cross a green, there yawns with opened latch
A village hostel capped in comely thatch.


80.


'The same world made for all is made for each.
    To match a heart's magnificence of hope,
How shall good reason best high action teach
    To win of custom, and with home to cope?
How warrantably may he look to win
    A star, that wants it?   Shall he lie and grope?
No, truly.—I will see her; tell my tale;
See her this once,—and if I fail—I fail.'

Thus with myself I spoke.   A rough brick floor
    Made the place homely; I would rest me there.
But how to sleep?   Forth of the unlocked door
    I passed at midnight, lustreless white air
Made strange the hour, that ecstasy not o'er
    I moved among the shadows, all my care—
Counted a shadowher drawn near to bless,
Impassioned out of fear, rapt, motionless.

Now a long pool and water-hens at rest
    (As doughty seafolk dusk, at Malabar),
A few pale stars lie trembling on its breast.
    'Hath the Most High of all His host afar
One most supremely beautiful, one best,
    Dearest of all the flock, one favourite star?
His Image given, in part the children know
They love one first and best.   It may be so.

Now a long hedge; here dream the woolly folk;
    A majesty of silence is about.
Transparent mist rolls off the pool like smoke,
    And Time is in his trance and Night devout.
Now the still house.   O an I knew she woke
    I could not look, the sacred moon sheds out
So many blessings on her rooftree low,
Each more pathetic that she nought doth know.

I would not love a little, nor my start
    Make with the multitude that love and cease.
He gives too much that giveth half a heart,
    Too much for liberty, too much for peace.
Let me the first and best and highest impart,
    The whole of it, and heaven the whole increase!
For that were not too much.
                                                     (In the moon's wake
How the grass glitters, for her sweetest sake.)


85.


I would toward her walk the silver floors.
    Love loathes an average—all extreme things deal
To love—sea-deep and dazzling height for stores.
    There are on Fortune's errant foot can steal,
Can guide her blindfold in at their own doors,
    Or dance elate upon her slippery wheel.
Courage! there are 'gainst hope can still advance,
Dowered with a sane, a wise extravagance.

A song
              To one a dreaming when the dew
    Falls, 'tis a time for rest and when the bird
Calls, 'tis a time to wake, to wake for you.
    A long-waking, aye, waking till a word
Come from her coral mouth to be the true
    Sum of all good heart wanted, ear hath heard.

Yet if, alas! might love thy dolour be,
Dream, dear heart dear, and do not dream of me.

I sing
             To one awakened, when the heart
    Cries't is a day for thought, and when the soul
Sighs choose thy part, O choose thy part, thy part.
    I bring to one belovèd, bring my whole
Store, make in loving, make O make mine art
    More.   Yet I ask no, ask no wishèd goal

But this—if loving might thy dolour be,
Wake, O my lady loved, and love not me.


90.


'That which the many win, love's niggard sum,
    I will not, if love's all be left behind.
That which I am I cannot unbecome,
    My past not unpossess, nor future blind.
Let me all risk, and leave the deep heart dumb
    For ever, if that maiden sits enshrined
The saint of one more happy.   She is she.
There is none other.   Give her then to me.

Or else to be the better for her face
    Beholding it no more.'   Then all night through
The shadow moves with infinite dark grace.
    The light is on her windows, and the dew
Comforts the world and me, till in my place
    At moonsetting, when stars flash out to view,
Comes 'neath the cedar boughs a great repose,
The peace of one renouncing, and then a doze.

There was no dream, yet waxed a sense in me
    Asleep, that patience was the better way,
Appeasement for a want that needs must be,
    Grew as the dominant mind forbore its sway
Till whistling sweet stirred in the cedar tree—
    I started—woke—it was the dawn of day.
That was the end.   'Slow solemn growth of light,
Come what come will, remains to me this night.'

It was the end, with dew ordained to melt,
    How easily was learned, how all too soon
Not there, not thereabout such maiden dwelt.
    What was it promised me so fair a boon?
Heart-hope is not less vain because heart-felt.
    Gone forth once more in search of her at noon
Through the sweet country side on hill, on plain,
I sought and sought many long days in vain.

To Malvern next, with feathery woodland hung,
    Whereto old Piers the Plowman came to teach,
On her green vasty hills the lay was sung,
    He too, it may be, lisping in his speech,
'To make the English sweet upon his tongue.'
    How many maidens beautiful, and each
Might him delight, that loved no other fair
But Malvern blessed not me,—she was not there.


95.


Then to that town, but still my fate the same,
    Crowned with old works that her right well beseem,
To gaze upon her field of ancient fame
    And muse on the sad thrall's most piteous dream,
By whom a 'shadow like an angel came,'
    Crying out on Clarence, its wild eyes agleam,
Accusing echoes here still falter and flee,
'That stabbed me on the field by Tewkesbury.'

It nothing 'vailed that yet I sought and sought,
    Part of my very self was left behind,
Till risen in wrath against th' o'ermastering thought,
    'Let me be thankful,' duoth the better mind,
Thankful for her, though utterly to nought
    She brings my heart's cry, and I live to find
A new self of the old self exigent
In the light of my divining discontent.

The picture of a maiden bidding "Arise,
    I am the Art of God.   He shows by me
His great idea, so well as sin-stained eyes
    Love aidant can behold it."
                                                         Is this she?
Or is it mine own love for her supplies
    The meaning and the power?   Howe'er this be,
She is the interpreter by whom most near
Man's soul is drawn to beauty and pureness here.

The sweet idea, invisible hitherto,
    Is in her face, unconscious delegate;
That thing she wots not of ordained to do:
    But also it shall be her votary's fate,
Through her his early days of ease to eschew,
    Struggle with life and prove its weary weight.
All the great storms that rising rend the soul,
Are life in little, imaging the whole.

Ay, so as life is, love is, in their ken
    Stars, infant yet, both thought to grasp, to keep,
Then came the morn of passionate splendour, when
    So sweet the light, none but for bliss could weep,
And then the strife, the toil; but we are men,
    Strong, brave to battle with the stormy deep;
Then fear—and then renunciation—then
Appeals unto the Infinite Pity—and sleep.


100.


But after life the sleep is long.   Not so
    With love.   Love buried lieth not straight, not still,
Love starts, and after lull awakes to know
    All the deep things again.   And next his will,
That dearest pang is, never to forego.
    He would all service, hardship, fret fulfil.
Unhappy love! and I of that great host
Unhappy love who cry, unhappy most.

Because renunciation was so short,
    The starvèd heart so easily awaked;
A dream could do it, a bud, a bird, a thought,
    But I betook me with that want which ached
To neighbour lands where strangeness with me
        wrought.
    The old work was so hale, its fitness slaked
Soul-thirst for truth.   'I knew not doubt nor fear,'
Its language, 'war or worship sure, sincere.'

Then where by Art the high did best translate
    Life's infinite pathos to the soul, set down
Beauty and mystery, that imperious hate
    On its best braveness doth and sainthood frown,
Nay more the MASTER'S manifest pity—'wait,
    Behold the palmgrove and the promised crown.
He suffers with thee, for thee.—Lo the Child!
Comfort thy heart; He certainly so smiled.'

Thus love and I wore through the winter time.
    Then saw her demon blush Vesuvius try,
Then evil ghosts white from the awful prime,
    Thrust up sharp peaks to tear the tender sky.
'No more to do but hear that English chime,'
    I to a kinsman wrote.   He made reply,
'As home I bring my girl and boy full soon,
I pass through Evesham,—meet me there at noon.

'The bells your father loved you needs must hear,
    Seek Oxford next with me,' and told the day.
'Upon the bridge I'll meet you.   What! how dear
    Soever was a dream, shall it bear sway
To mar the waking?'
                                       I set forth, drew near,
    Beheld a goodly tower, twin churches grey,
Evesham.   The bridge, and noon.   I nothing knew
What to my heart that fateful chime would do.


105.


For suddenly the sweet bells overcame
    A world unsouled; did all with man endow;
His yearning almost tell that passeth name
    And said they were full old, and they were now
And should be; and their sighing upon the same
    For our poor sake that pass they did avow,
While on clear Avon flowed like man's short day
The shining river of life lapsing away.

The stroke of noon.   The bell-bird! yes and no.
    Winds of remembrance swept as over the foam
Of anti-natal shores.   At home is it so,
    My country folk?   Ay, 'neath this pale blue dome,
Many of you in the moss lie low—lie low.
    Ah! since I have not HER, give me too, home.
A footstep near!   I turned; past likelihood,
Past hope, before me on the bridge—SHE STOOD.

A rosy urchin had her hand; this cried,
    'We think you are our cousinyes, you are;
I said so to Estelle.'   The violet-eyed,
    'If this be Geoffrey?' asked; and as from far
A doubt came floating up; but she denied
    Her thought, yet blushed.   O beautiful! my Star!
Then, with the lifting of my hat, each wore
That look which owned to each, 'We have met before.'

Then was the strangest bliss in life made mine;
    I saw the almost worshipped—all remote;
The Star so high above that used to shine,
    Translated from the void where it did float,
And brought into relation with the fine
    Charities earth hath grown.   A great joy smote
Me silent, and the child atween us tway,
We watched the lucent river stealing away.

While her deep eyes down on the ripple fell,
    Quoth the small imp, 'How fast you go and go,
You Avon.   Does it wish to stop, Estelle,
    And hear the clock, and see the orchards blow?
It does not care!   Not when the old big bell
    Makes a great buzzing noise?Who told you so?'
And then to me, 'I like to hear it hum.
Why do you think that father could not come?


110.


Estelle forgot her violin.   And he,
    O then he said: "How careless, child, of you;
I must send on for it.   'Twould pity be
    If that were lost."
                                       I want to learn it too;
And when I'm nine I shall.'
                                                   Then turning, she
    Let her sweet eyes unveil them to my view;
Her stately grace outmatched my dream of old,
But ah! the smile dull memory had not told.

My kinsman next, with care-worn kindly brow.
    'Well, father,' quoth the imp, 'we've done our part.
We found him.'
                               And she, wholly girlish now,
    Laid her young hand on his with lovely art
And sweet excuses.   O! I made my vow
    I would all dare, such life did warm my heart;
We journeyed, all the air with scents of price
Was laden, and the goal was Paradise.

When that the Moors betook them to their sand,
    Their domination over in fair Spain,
Each locked, men say, his door in that loved land.
    And took the key in hope to come again.
On Moorish walls yet hung, long dust each hand,
    The keys, but not the might to use, remain;
Is there such house in some blest land for me?
I can, I will, I do reach down the key.

A country conquered oft, and long before,
    Of generations aye ordained to win;
If mine the power, I will unlock the door.
    Enter, O light, I bear a sunbeam in.
What, did the crescent wane!   Yet man is more,
    And love achieves because to heaven akin.
O life! to hear again that wandering bell,
And hear it at thy feet, Estelle, Estelle.

Full oft I want the sacred throated bird,
    Over our limitless waste of light which spoke
The spirit of the call my fathers heard,
    Saying 'Let us pray,' and old world echoes woke
Ethereal minster bells that still averr'd,
    And with their phantom notes th' all silence broke
'The fanes are far, but whom they shrived is near
Thy God, the Island God, is here, is here.'


115.


To serve; to serve a thought, and serve apart
    To meet; a few short days, a maiden won.

'Ah, sweet, sweet home, I must divide my heart,
    Betaking me to countries of the sun.'

'What straight-hung leaves, what rays that twinkle
        and dart,
    Make me to like them.'
                                                  'Love, it shall be done.'

'What weird dawn-fire across the wide hill flies.'
'It is the flame-tree's challenge to yon scarlet skies.'

'Hark, hark, O hark! the spirit of a bell!
    What would it? ('Toll.')   An air-hung sacred call,
Athwart the forest shade it strangely fell'—
    'Toll'—'Toll.'
                             The longed-for voice, but ah, withal
I felt, I knew, it was my father's knell
    That touched and could the over-sense enthral.
Perfect his peace, a whispering pure and deep
As theirs who 'neath his native towers by Avon sleep.

If love and death are ever reconciled,
    'Tis when the old lie down for the great rest.
We rode across the bush, a sylvan wild
    That was an almost world, whose calm oppressed
With audible silence; and great hills inisled
    Rose out as from a sea.   Consoling, blest
And blessing spoke she, and the reedflower spread,
And tall rock lilies towered above her head.


_______________


Sweet is the light aneath our matchless blue,
    The shade below yon passion plant that lies,
And very sweet is love, and sweet are you,
    My little children dear, with violet eyes,
And sweet about the dawn to hear anew
    The sacred monotone of peace arise.
Love, 'tis thy welcome from the air-hung bell,
Congratulant and clear Estelle, Estelle.


――――♦――――

 

LOSS AND WASTE.


UP to far Osteroe and Suderoe
    The deep sea-floor lies strewn with Spanish
        wrecks,
O'er minted gold the fair-haired fishers go,
    O'er sunken bravery of high carvèd decks.

In earlier days great Carthage suffered bale
    (All her waste works choke under sandy shoals);
And reckless hands-tore down the temple veil;
    And Omar burned the Alexandrian rolls.

The Old World arts men suffered not to last,
    Flung down they trampled lie and sunk from view,
He lets wild forest for these ages past
    Grow over the lost cities of the New.

O for a life that shall not be refused
To see the lost things found, and waste things used.


――――♦――――

 

ON A PICTURE.


AS a forlorn soul waiting by the Styx
    Dimly expectant of lands yet more dim,
Might peer afraid where shadows change and
        mix
    Till the dark ferryman shall come for him;

And past all hope a long ray in his sight,
    Fall's trickling down the steep crag Hades-black
Reveals an upward path to life and light,
    Nor any let but he should mount that track:

As with the sudden shock of joy amazed,
    He might a motionless sweet moment stand,
So doth that mortal lover, silent, dazed,
    For hope had died and loss was near at hand.

'Wilt thou?' his quest.   Unready but for 'Nay,'
He stands at fault for joy, she whispering 'Ay.'


――――♦――――

 

THE SLEEP OF SIGISMUND.


THE doom'd king pacing all night through the windy fallow.
'Let me alone, mine enemy, let me alone,'
Never a Christian bell that dire thick gloom to hallow,
Or guide him, shelterless, succourless, thrust from his own.

Foul spirits riding the wind do flout at him friendless,
The rain and the storm on his head beat ever at will;
His weird is on him to grope in the dark with endless
Weariful feet for a goal that shifteth still.

A sleuth-hound baying!   The sleuth-hound bayeth behind
        him,
His head he flying and stumbling turns back to the sound,
Whom doth the sleuth-hound follow?   What if it find him;
Up! for the scent lieth thick, up from the level ground.

Up, on, he must on, to follow his weird essaying,
Lo you, a flood from the crag cometh raging past,
He falls, he fights in the water, no stop, no staying,
Soon the king's head goes under, the weird is dreed at
        last.

 

-I-


'Wake, O king, the best star worn
In the crown of night, forlorn
Blinks a fine white point—'tis morn.'
Soft!   The queen's voice, fair is she,
'Wake!'   He waketh, living, free,
In the chamber of arras lieth he.
Delicate dim shadows yield
Silken curtains over head
All abloom with work of neeld,
Martagon and milleflower spread.
On the wall his golden shield,
Dinted deep in battle field,
When the host o' the Khalif fled.
Gold to gold!   Long sunbeams flit
Upward, tremble and break on it.
'Ay, 'tis over, all things writ
Of my sleep shall end awake,
Now is joy, and all its bane
The dark shadow of after pain.'
Then the queen saith, 'Nay, but break
Unto me for dear love's sake
This thy matter.   Thou hast been
In great bitterness I ween
All the night-time.'   But 'My queen,
Life, love, lady, rest content,
Ill dreams fly, the night is spent,
Good day draweth on.   Lament
'Vaileth not,—yea peace,' quoth he;
'Sith this thing no better may be,
Best were held 'twixt thee and me.'
Then the fair queen, 'Even so
As thou wilt, O king, but know
Mickle nights have wrought thee woe,
Yet the last was troubled sore
Above all that went before.'
Quoth the king, 'No more, no more.'
Then he riseth, pale of blee,
As one spent, and utterly
Master'd of dark destiny.


-II-


Comes a day for glory famed
Tidings brought, the enemy shamed,
Fallen; now is peace proclaimed.
And a swarm of bells on high
Make their sweet din scale the sky,
'Hail! hail! hail!' the people cry
To the king his queen beside,
And the knights in armour ride
After until eventide.


-III-


All things great may life afford,
Praised, power, love, high pomp, fair
        gaud,
Till the banquet be toward
Hath this king.   Then day takes flight,
Sinketh sun and fadeth light,
Late he couchette—Night; 'tis night.

 

The proud king heading the host on his red-roan charger.
    Dust.   On a thicket of spears glares the Syrian sun,
The Saracens swarm to the onset, larger aye larger
    Loom their fierce cohorts, they shout as the day were won.

Brown faces fronting the steel-bright armour, and ever
    The crash o' the combat runs on with a mighty cry,
Fell tumult; trampling and carnage—then fails endeavour,
    O shame upon shame—the Christians falter and fly.

The foe upon them, the foe afore and behind them,
    The king borne back in the mêlée; all, all is vain;
They fly with death at their heels, fierce sun-rays blind them,
    Riderless steeds affrighted, tread down their ranks amain.

Disgrace, dishonour, no rally, ah no retrieving,
    The scorn of scorns shall his name and his nation brand,
'Tis a sword that smites from the rear, his helmet cleaving,
    That hurls him to earth, to his death on the desert sand.

Ever they fly, the cravens, and ever reviling
    Flies after.   Athirst, ashamèd, he yieldeth his breath,
While one looks down from his charger; a calm slow
        smiling
    Curleth his lip.   'Tis the Khalif.   And this is death.

 

-IV-


'Wake, yon purple peaks arise,
Jagged, bare, through saffron skies;
Now is heard a twittering sweet,
For the mother-martins meet,
Where wet ivies, dew-besprent,
Glisten on the battlement.
Now the lark at heaven's gold gate
Aiming, sweetly chides on fate
That his brown wings wearied were
When he, sure, was almost there.
Now the valley mist doth break,
Shifting sparkles edge the lake,
Love, Lord, Master, wake, O wake!'


-V-


Ay, he wakes,—and dull of cheer,
Though this queen be very dear,
Though a respite come with day
From th' abhorred flight and fray,
E'en though life be not the cost,
Nay, nor crown nor honour lost;
For in his soul abideth fear
Worse than of the Khalif's spear,
Smiting when perforce in flight
He was borne,— for that was night,
That his weird.   But now 'tis day,
'And good sooth I know not—nay,
Know not how this thing could be.
Never, more it seemeth me
Than when left the weird to dree,
I am I.   And it was I
Felt or ever they turned to fly,
How, like wind, a tremor ran,
The right hand of every man
Shaking.   Ay, all banners shook,
And the red all cheeks forsook,
Mine as theirs.   Since this was I,
Who my soul shall certify
When again I face the foe
Manful courage shall not go?
Ay, it is not thrust o' a spear,
Scorn of infidel eyes austere,
But mine own fear—is to fear.'


-VI-


After sleep thus sore bested,
Beaten about and buffeted,
Featly fares the morning spent
In high sport and tournament.


-VII-


Served within his sumptuous tent,
Looks the king in quiet wise,
Till this fair queen yield the prize
To the bravest; but when day
Falleth to the west away,
Unto her i' the silent hour,
While she sits in her rose-bower
Come, 'O love, full oft,' quoth she,
I at dawn have prayed thee
Thou would'st tell o' the weird to me,
Sith I might some counsel find
Of my wit or in my mind
Thee to better.'   'Ay, e'en so,
But the telling shall let thee know,'
Quoth the king, 'is neither scope
For sweet counsel nor fair hope,
Nor is found for respite room,
Till the uttermost crack of doom.


-VIII-


Then the queen saith, 'Woman's wit
No man asketh aid of it,
Not wild hyssop on a wall
Is of less account; or small
Glossy gnats that flit i' the sun
Less worth weighing—light so light!
Yet when all's said—ay, all done,
Love, I love thee!   By love's might
I will counsel thee aright,
Or would share the weird to-night.'
Then he answer'd, 'Have thy way.
Know 'tis two years gone and a day
Since I, walking lone and late,
Pondered sore mine ill estate;
Open murmurers, foes concealed,
Famines dire i' the marches round,
Neighbour kings unfriendly found,
Ay, and treacherous plots revealed
There I trusted.   I bid stay
All my knights at the high crossway,
And did down the forest fare
To bethink me, and despair.
"Ah! thou gilded toy a throne,
If one mounts to thee alone,"
Quoth I, mourning while I went,
"Haply he may drop content
As a lark wing-weary down
To the level, and his crown
Leave for another man to don;
Throne, thy gold steps raised upon.
But for me—O as for me
What is named I would not dree,
Earn, or conquer, or forego
For the barring of overthrow."


-IX-


'Aloud I spake, but verily
Never an answer looked should be.
But it came to pass from shade
Pacing to an open glade,
Which the oaks a mighty wall
Fence about, methought a call
Sounded, then a pale thin mist
Rose, a pillar, and fronted me,
Rose and took a form I wist,
And it wore a hood on'ts head,
And a long white garment spread,
And I saw the eyes thereof.


-X-


'Then my plumèd cap I doff,
Stooping.   'Tis the white-witch.   "Hail,"
Quoth the witch, "thou shalt prevail
An thou wilt; I swear to thee
All thy days shall glorious shine,
Great and rich, ay, fair and fine,
So what followeth rest my fee,
So thou'lt give thy sleep to me."


-XI-


'While she spake my heart did leap.
Waking is man's life, and sleep—
What is sleep?—a little death
Coming after, and methought
Life is mine and death is nought
Till it come,—so day is mine
I will risk the sleep to shine
In the waking.
                              And she saith,
In a soft voice clear and low,
"Give thy plumèd cap also
For a token." '
                              'Didst thou give?'
Quoth the queen; and 'As I live,'
He makes answer, 'none can tell.
I did will my sleep to sell,
And in token held to her
That she askèd.   And it fell
To the grass.   I saw no stir
In her hand or in her face,
And no going; but the place
Only for an evening mist
Was made empty.   There it lay
That same plumèd cap, alway
On the grasses—but I wist
Well, it must be let to lie,
And I left it.   Now the tale
Ends, th' events do testify
Of her truth.   The days go by
Better and better; nought doth ail
In the land, right happy and hale
Dwell the seely folk; but sleep
Brings a reckoning; then forth creep
Dreaded creatures, worms of might
Crested with my plumèd cap
Loll about my neck all night,
Bite me in the side, and lap
My heart's blood.   Then oft the weird
Drives me, where amazed, afeard,
I do safe on a river strand
Mark one sinking hard at hand
While fierce sleuth-hounds that me track
Fly upon me, bear me back,
Fling me away, and he for lack
Of man's aid in piteous wise
Goeth under, drowns and dies.


-XII-


'O sweet wife, I suffer sore—
O methinks aye more and more
Dull my day, my courage numb,
Shadows from the night to come.
But no counsel, hope, nor aid
Is to give; a crown being made
Power and rule, yea all good things
Yet to hang on this same weird
I must dree it, ever that brings
Chastening from the white-witch feared,
O that dreams mote me forsake,
Would that man could alway wake.'


-VIII-


Now good sooth doth counsel fail,
Ah this queen is pale, so pale.
'Love,' she sigheth, 'thous didst not well
Listening to the white-witch fell,
Leaving her doth thee advance
Thy plumèd cap of maintenance.'


-XIV-


'She is white, as white snow flake,'
Quoth the king; 'a man shall make
Bargains with her and not sin.'
'Ay,' she saith, 'but an he win,
Let him look the right be done
Else the rue shall be his own.'


-XV-


No more words.   The stars are bright,
For the feast high halls be dight,
Late he couchette.   Night—'tis night.

 

The dead king lying in state in the Minster holy.
    Fifty candles burn at his head and burn at his feet,
A crown and royal apparel upon him lorn and lowly,
    And the cold hands stiff as horn by their cold palms meet.

Two days dead.   Is he dead?   Nay, nay—but is he living?
    The weary monks have ended their chantings manifold,
The great door swings behind them, night winds entrance
        giving,
    The candles flare and drip on him, warm and he so cold.

Neither to move nor to moan, though sunk and though
        swallow'd
    In earth he shall soon be trodden hard and no more seen.
Soft you the door again!   Was it a footstep followed,
    Falter'd, and yet drew near him?—Malva, Malva the queen!

One hand o' the dead king liveth (e'en so him seemeth)
    On the purple robe, on the ermine that folds his breast
Cold, very cold.   Yet e'en at that pass esteemeth
    The king, it were sweet if she kissed the place of its rest.

Laid her warm face on his bosom, a fair wife grievèd
    For the lord and love of her youth, and bewailed him sore;
Laid her warm face on the bosom of her bereavèd
    Soon to go under, never to look on her more.

His candles guide her with pomp funereal flaring,
    Out of the gully dark to the bier whereon he lies.
Cometh this queen i' the night for grief or for daring,
    Out o' the dark to the light with large affrighted eyes?

The pale queen speaks in the Presence with fear upon her,
    'Where is the ring I gave to thee, where is my ring?
I vowed—'twas an evil vow—by love, and by honour,
    Come life or come death to be thine, thou poor dead king.'

The pale queen's honour!   A low laugh scathing and sereing—
    A mumbling as made by the dead in the tombs ye wot.
Braveth the dead this queen?   'Hear it, whoso hath hearing,
    I vowed by my love, cold king, but I loved thee not.'

Honour!   An echo in aisles and the solemn portals,
    Low sinketh this queen by the bier with its freight forlorn;
Yet kneeling, 'Hear me!' she crieth, 'you just immortals,
    You saints bear witness I vowed and am not forsworn.

I vowed in my youth, fool-king, when the golden fetter
    Thy love that bound me and bann'd me full weary I wore,
But all poor men of thy menai I held them better,
    All stalwart knights of thy train unto me were more.

Twenty years I have lived on earth and two beside thee,
    Thirty years thou didst live on earth, and two on the throne:
Let it suffice there be none of thy rights denied thee,
    Though I dare thy presence—I—come for my ring alone.'

She risen shuddereth, peering, afraid to linger.
    Behold her ring, it shineth!   'Now yield to me, thou dead,
For this do I dare the touch of thy stark stiff finger.'
    The queen hath drawn her ring from his hand, the queen
        hath fled.

'O woman fearing sore, to whom my man's heart cleavèd,
    The faith enwrought with love and life hath mocks for its
        meed'—
The dead king lying in state, of his past bereavèd,
    Twice dead.   Ay, this is death.   Now dieth the king indeed.

 


-XVI-


'Wake, the seely gnomes do fly,
Drenched across yon rainy sky,
With the vex'd moon-mother'd elves,
And the clouds do weep themselves
Into morning.
                             All night long
Hath thy weird thee sore opprest;
Wake, I have found within my breast
Counsel.'   Ah, the weird was strong,
But the time is told.   Release
Openeth on him when his eyes
Lift them in dull desolate wise.
And behold he is at peace.
Ay, but silent.   Of all done
And all suffered in the night,
Of all ills that do him spite
She shall never know that one.
Then he heareth accents bland,
Seeth the queen's ring on his hand,
And he riseth calmed withal.


-XVII-


Rain and wind on the palace wall
Beat and bluster, sob and moan,
When at noon he musing lone,
Comes the queen anigh his seat,
And she kneeleth at his feet.


-XVIII-


Quoth the queen, 'My love, my lord,
Take thy wife and take thy sword,
We must forth in the stormy weather,
Thou and I to the witch together.
Thus I rede thee counsel deep,
Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep,
Turning so man's wholesome life
From its meaning.   Thine intent
None shall hold for innocent.
Thou dost take thy good things first,
Then thou art cast into the worst;
First the glory, then the strife.
Nay, but first thy trouble dree,
So thy peace shall sweeter be.
First to work and then to rest,
Is the way for our humanity,
Ay, she sayeth that loves thee best,
We must forth and from this strife
Buy the best part of man's life;
Best and worst thou holdest still
Subject to a witch's will.
Thus I redo thee counsel deep,
Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep;
Take the crown from off thy head,
Give it the white-witch instead,
If in that she say thee nay,
Get the night,—and give the day.'


-XIX-


Then the king (amazèd, mild,
As one reasoning with a child
All his speech): 'My wife! my fair!
And his hand on her brown hair
Trembles; 'Lady, dost indeed
Weigh the meaning of thy rede?
Would'st thou dare the dropping away
Of allegiance, should our sway
And sweet splendour and renown
All be risked? (methinks a crown
Doth become thee marvellous well).
We ourself are, truth to tell,
Kingly both of wont and kind,
Suits not such the craven mind.'
'Yet this weird thou can'st not dree.'
Quoth the queen, 'And live; ' then he,
'I must die and leave the fair
Unborn, long-desirèd heir
To his rightful heritage.'


-XX-


But this queen arisen doth high
Her two hands uplifting, sigh
'God forbid.'   And he to assuage
Her keen sorrow, for his part
Searcheth, nor can find in his heart
Words.   And weeping she will rest
Her sweet cheek upon his breast,
Whispering, 'Dost thou verily
Know thou art to blame?   Ah me,
Come,' and yet beseecheth she,
'Ah me, come.'
                                  For good for ill,
Whom man loveth hath her will.
Court and castle left behind,
Stolen forth in the rain and wind,
Soon they are deep in the forest, fain
The white-witch to raise again;
Down and deep where flat o'erhead
Layer on layer do cedars spread,
Down where lordly maples strain,
Wrestling with the storm amain.


-XXI-


Wide-wing'd eagles struck on high
Headlong fall'n break through, and lie
With their prey in piteous wise,
And no film on their dead eyes.
Matted branches grind and crash,
Into darkness dives the flash,
Stabs, a dread gold dirk of fire,
Loads the lift with splinters dire.
Then a pause i' the deadly feud—
And a sick cowed quietude.


-XXII-


Soh!   A pillar misty and grey,
'Tis the white-witch in the way.
Shall man deal with her and gain?
I trow not.   Albeit the twain
Costly gear and gems and gold
Freely offer, she will hold
Sleep and token for the pay
She did get for greatening day.


-XXIII-


'Or the night shall rest my fee
Or the day shall nought of me,'
Quoth the witch.   'An't thee beseem,
Sell thy kingdom for a dream.'


-XXIV-


'Now what will be let it be!'
Quoth the queen; 'but choose the right.'
And the white-witch scorns at her,
Stately standing in their sight.
Then without or sound or stir
She is not.   For offering meet
Lieth the token at their feet,
Which they, weary and sore bestead
In the storm, lift up, full fain
Ere the waning light hath fled
Those high towers they left to gain.


-XXV-


Deep among tree roots astray
Here a torrent tears its way,
There a cedar split aloft
Lies head downward.   Now the oft
Muttering thunder, now the wind
Wakens.   How the path to find?
How the turning?   Deep ay deep,
Far ay far.   She needs must weep,
This fair woman, lost, astray
In the forest; nought to say.
Yet the sick thoughts come and go,
'I, 'twas I would have it so.'


-XXVI-


Shelter at the last, a roof
Wrought of ling (in their behoof,
Foresters, that drive the deer).
What, and must they couch them here?
Ay, and ere the twilight fall
Gather forest berries small
And nuts down beaten for a meal.


-XXVII-


Now the shy wood-wonners steal
Nearer, bright-eyed furry things,
Winking owls on silent wings
Glance, and float away.   The light
In the wake o' the storm takes flight,
Day departeth: night—'tis night.


 

The crown'd kingd musing at morn by a clear sweet river.
    Palms on the slope o' the valley, and no winds blow;
Birds blameless, dove-eyed, mystical talk deliver,
    Oracles haply.   The language he doth not know.

Bare, blue, are yon peakèd hills for a rampart lying,
    As dusty gold is the light in the palms overhead,
'What is the name o' the land? and this calm sweet sighing,
    If it be echo, where first was it caught and spread?

I might—I might be at rest in some field Elysian,
    If this be asphodel set in the herbage fair,
I know not how I should wonder, so sweet the vision,
    So clear and silent the water, the field, the air.

Love, are you by me!   Malva, what think you this
        meaneth?
    Love, do you see the fine folk as they move over there?
Are they immortals?   Look you a wingèd one leaneth
    Down from yon pine to the river of us unaware.

All unaware; and the country is full of voices,
    Mild strangers passing: they reck not of me nor of thee.
List! about and around us wondrous sweet noises,
    Laughter of little children and maids that dreaming be.

Love, I can see their dreams.'   A dim smile flitteth
    Over her lips, and they move as in peace supreme,
And a small thing, silky haired, beside her sitteth,
    O this is thy dream atween us—this is thy dream.'

Was it then truly his dream with her dream that blended?
    'Speak, dear child dear,' quoth the queen, 'and mine own
        little son.'
'Father,' the small thing murmurs; then all is ended,
    He starts from that passion of peace—ay, the dream is
        done.

 

-XXVIII-


I have been in a good land,'
Quoth the king: 'O sweet sleep bland,
Blessed!   I am grown to more;
Now the doing of right hath moved
Me to love of right, and proved
If one doth it, he shall be
Twice the man he was before.
Verily and verily,
Thou fair woman, thou didst well;
I look back and scarce may tell
Those false days of tinsel sheen,
Flattery, feasting, that have been.
Shows of life that were but shows,
How they held me; being I ween
Like sand-pictures thin, that rose
Quivering, when our thirsty bands
Marched i' the hot Egyptian lands;
Shade of palms on a thick green plot,
Pools of water that was not,
Mocking us and melting away.


-XXIX-


I have been a witch's prey,
Art mine enemy now by day,
Thou fell Fear?   There comes an end
To the day; thou canst not wend
After me where I shall fare,
My foredoomed peace to share.
And awake with a better heart,
I shall meet thee and take my part
O' the dull world's dull spite; with thine
Hard will I strive for me and mine.'


-XXX-


A page and a palfrey pacing nigh,
Malva the queen awakes.   A sigh—
One amazèd moment—'Ay,
We remember yesterday,
Let us to the palace straight:
What! do all my ladies wait—
Is no zeal to find me?   What!
No knights forth to meet the king;
Due observance, is it forgot?


-XXXI-


'Lady,' quoth the page, 'I bring
Evil news.   Sir king, I say,
My good lord of yesterday,
Evil news.'   This king saith low,
'Yesterday, and yesterday,
The queen's yesterday we know,
Tell us thine.'   'Sir king,' saith he,
'Hear.   Thy castle in the night
Was surprised, and men thy flight
Learned but then; thine enemy
Of old days, our new king, reigns;
And sith thou wert not at pains
To forbid it, hear alsò,
Marvelling whereto this should grow
How thy knights at break of morn
Have a new allegiance sworn,
And the men-at-arms rejoice,
And the people give their voice
For the conqueror.   I, sir king,
Rest thine only friend.   I bring
Means of flight; now therefore fly,
A great price is on thy head.
Cast her jewel'd mantle by,
Mount thy queen i' the selle and hie
(Sith disguise ye need, and bread)
Down yon pleachèd track, down, down,
Till a tower shall on thee frown;
Him that holds it show this ring:
So farewell, my lord the king.'


-XXXII-


Had one marked that palfrey led
To the tower, he smooth had said,
These are royal folk and rare—
Jewels in her plaited hair
Shine not clearer than her eyes,
And her lord in goodly wise
With his plumèd cap in's hand
Moves in the measure of command.


-XXXIII-


Had one marked where stole forth two
From the friendly tower anew,
'Common folk,' he sooth had said,
Making for the mountain track.
Common, common, man and maid,
Clad in russet, and of kind
Meet for russet.  On his back
A wallet bears the stalwart hind;
She, all shy, in rustic grace
Steps beside her man apace,
And wild roses match her face.


-XXXIV-


Whither speed they?   Where are toss'd
Like sea foam the dwarfed pines
At the jagged sharp inclines;
To the country of the frost
Up the mountains to be lost,
Lost.   No better now may be,
Lost where mighty hollows thrust
'Twixt the fierce teeth of the world,
Fill themselves with crimson dust
When the tumbling sun down hurl'd
Stares among them drearily,
As a' wondering at the lone
Gulfs that weird gaunt company
Fenceth in.   Lost there unknown,
Lineage, nation, name, and throne.


-XXXV-


Lo, in a crevice choked with ling
And fir, this man, not now the king,
This Sigismund, hath made a fire,
And by his wife in the dark night
He leans at watch, her guard and squire.
His wide eyes stare out for the light
Weary.   He needs must chide on fate,
And she is asleep.   'Poor brooding mate,
What! wilt thou on the mountain crest
Slippery and cold scoop thy first nest?
Or must I clear some uncouth cave
That laired the mother wolf, and save—
Spearing her cubs—the grey pelt fine
To be a bed for thee and thine?
It is my doing.   Ay,' quoth he,
'Mine; but who dares to pity thee
Shall pity, not for loss of all,
But that thou wert my wife perdie,
E'en wife unto a witch's thrall,—
A man beholden to the cold
Cloud for a covering, he being sold
And hunted for reward of gold.'


-XXXVI-


But who shall chronicle the ways
Of common folk—the nights and days
Spent with rough goatherds on their snows,
Of travellers come whence no man knows,
Then gone aloft on some sharp height
In the dumb peace and the great light
Amid brown eagles and wild roes?


-XXXVII-


'Tis the whole world whereon they lie,
The rocky pastures hung on high
Shelve off upon an empty sky.
But they creep near the edge, look down—
Great heaven! another world afloat,
Moored as in seas of air remote
As their own childhood swooning away
Into a tenderer sweeter day,
Innocent, sunny.   'O for wings!
There lie the lands of other kings—
I, Sigismund, my sometime crown
Forfeit; forgotten of renown
My wars, my rule; I fain would go
Down to yon peace obscure.'
                                                      Even so;
Down to the country of the thyme,
Where young kids dance, and a soft chime
Of sheepbells tinkles; then at last
Down to a country of hollows, cast
Up at the mountains full of trees,
Down to fruit orchards and wide leas.


-XXXVIII-


With name unsaid and fame unsunned
He walks that was King Sigismund.
With palmers holy and pilgrims brown,
New from the East, with friar and clown,
He mingles in a wallèd town,
And in the mart where men him scan
He passes for a merchant man.
For from his vest, where by good hap
He thrust it, he his plumèd cap
Hath drawn and plucked the gems away,
And up and down he makes essay
To sell them they are all his wares
And wealth.   He is a man of cares,
A man of toil no roof hath he
To shelter her full soon to be
The mother of his dispossessed
Desirèd heir.


-XXXIX-


                                          Few words are best.
He, once King Sigismund, saith few,
But makes good diligence and true.
Soon with the gold he gather'd so,
A little homestead lone and low
He buyeth: a field, a copse, with these
A melon patch and mulberry trees.
And is the man content?   Nay, morn
Is toilsome, oft is noon forlorn,
Though right be done and life be won,
Yet hot is weeding in the sun,
Yea scythe to wield and axe to swing,
Are hard on sinews of a king.


-XL-


And Malva, must she toil?   E'en so.
Full patiently she takes her part,
All, all so new.   But her deep heart
Forebodes more change than shall be
        shown
Betwixt a settle and a throne.
And lost in musing she will go
About the winding of her silk,
About the skimming her goat's milk,
About the kneading of her bread,
And water drawn from her well-head.


-XLI-


Then come the long nights dark and still,
Then come the leaves and cover the sill,
Then come the swift flocks of the stare,
Then comes the snow—then comes the
        heir.


-XLII-


If he be glad, if he be sad,
How should one question when the hand
Is full, the heart.   That life he had
While leisure was, aside may stand,
Till he shall overtake the task
Of every day, then let him ask
(If he remember—if he will),
'When I could sit me down and muse,
And match my good against mine ill,
And weigh advantage dulled by use
At nothing, was it better with me?'
But Sigismund!   It cannot be
But that he toil, nor pause, nor sigh,
A dreamer on a day gone by
The king is come.


XLIII


                                      His vassals two
Serve with all homage deep and due.
He is contented, he doth find
Belike the kingdom much to his mind.
And when the long months of his long
Reign are two years, and like a song
Or from some sweeter world, a call
From the king's mouth for fealty,
Buds soon to blossom in language fall,
They listen and find not any plea
Left, for fine chiding at destiny.


-XLIV-


Sigismund hath ricked the hay,
He sitteth at close o' a sultry day
Under his mulberry boughs at ease.
'Hey for the world, and the world is wide,
The world is mine, and the world is—
        these.'
Beautiful Malva leans at his side,
And the small babbler talks at his knees.


-XLV-


Riseth a waft as of summer air,
Floating upon it what moveth there?
Faint as the light of stars and wan
As snow at night when the moon is gone,
It is the white-witch risen once more.


-XLVI-


The white-witch that tempted of yore
So utterly doth substance lack,
You may breathe her nearer and breathe
        her back.
Soft her eyes, her speech full clear:
'Hail, thou Sigismund my fere,
Bargain with me yea or nay.
NAY, I go to my true place,
And no more thou seest my face.
YEA, the good be all thine own,
For now will I advance thy day,
And yet will leave the night alone.'


-XLVII-


Sigismund makes answer, 'NAY.
Though the Highest heaped on me
Trouble, yet the same should be
Welcomer than weal from thee.
Nay;—for ever and ever Nay.'
O, the white-witch floats away.
Look you, look!   A still pure smile
Blossoms on her mouth the while,
White wings peakèd high behind,
Bear her;—no, the wafting wind,
For they move not,—floats her back,
Floats her up.   They scarce may track
Her swift rising, shot one high
Like a ray from the western sky,
Or a lark from some grey wold
Utterly whelm'd in sunset gold.


-XLVIII-


Then these two long silence hold,
And the lisping babe doth say,
'White white bird, it flew away.'
And they marvel at these things,
For her ghostly visitings
Turn to them another face.
Haply she was sent, a friend
Trying them, and to good end
For their better weal and grace;
One more wonder let to be
In the might and mystery
Of the world, where verily
And good sooth a man may wend
All his life, and no more view
Than the one right next to do.


XLIX


So, the welcome dusk is here,
Sweet is even, rest is dear;
Mountain heads have lost the light,
Soon they couch them.   Night—'tis night.

 

Sigismund dreaming delightsomely after his haying.
    ('Sleep of the labouring man,' quoth King David, is sweet.')
'Sigismund, Sigismund'—'Who is this calling and saying
    "Sigismund, Sigismund"?   O blessed night do not fleet.

Is it not dark— ay, methinks it is dark, I would slumber,
    O I would rest till the swallow shall chirp 'neath mine eaves.'
Sigismund, Sigismund,' multitudes now without number
    Calling, the noise is as dropping of rain upon leaves.

'Ay,' quoth he dreaming, 'say on, for I, Sigismund, hear ye.'
    'Sigismund, Sigismund, all the knights weary full sore.
Come back, King Sigismund, come, they shall love thee and
        fear thee,
    The people cry out, O come back to us, reign evermore.

The new king is dead, and we will not his son, no nor brother,
    Come with thy queen, is she busy yet, kneading of cakes?
Sigismund, show us the boy, is he safe, and his mother,
    Sigismund?'—dreaming he falls into laughter and wakes,

 

-L-


And men say this dream came true,
For he walking in the dew
Turned aside while yet was red
On the highest mountain head,
Looking how the wheat he set
Flourished.   And the knights him met
And him prayèd 'Come again,
Sigismund our king, and reign.'
But at first—at first they tell
How it liked not Malva well;
She must leave her belted bees
And the kids that she did rear.
When she thought on it full dear
Seemed her home.   It did not please
Sigismund that he must go
From the wheat that he did sow;
When he thought on it his mind
Was not that should any bind
Into sheaves that wheat but he,
Only he; and yet they went,
And it may be were content.
And they won a nation's heart;
Very well they played their part.
They ruled with sceptre and diadem,
And their children after them.


――――♦――――


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