Claribel and Other Poems (2)
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THREE ENGLISHMEN
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KING ALFRED


WHAT need more seeming dire than Alfred's was,
Fleeing from Chippenham that winter night?
Poor comfort found he in the woods and fens.
In his sure heart alone might faith alight
To breathe and wait occasion for new strife. 

The snow fell softly over Wiltshire downs—
­Riding the horse of chalk out there by Calne—
When Alfred, having hunted Guthrun north,
Sat down to keep the feast of Epiphany
Within his walls, secure from all molest.
The Danish cavalry came o'er the snow
With noiseless speed; burst through the city gates,
And drove dismay through all the Saxon power
Or ever there was time to clutch a brand.
Right on the easy town that avalanche
Roll'd, whelming, crushing down the revelers;
Only some few, half-arm'd, escaped in the dark,
Across the Avon, out to the dreary wilds.

Seven years had Alfred waged unresting war:
Nine battles in one year the king had fought.
For ever, as one swarm of Danes was crush'd.
New swarms rode in upon the ocean-wind:
Much as, when one essays to outtread a fire,
Fast as this flame expires, yon scattering sparks
Inflame quick embers in some other place.
Even so those hydra-natured pirates throve.
Now all was ablaze again throughout the land:
Our first sea victories, Warham's promised peace,
And the late gain at Execester,— all nought:
Victorious Alfred a poor fugitive,
Counted as dead by both his foes and friends,
His friends dispersed—none daring look for him,
His wide realm narrow'd to a forest lair,
Nor power nor vantage-ground save in himself.

But whoso holds from God a steadfast will
May laugh in the teeth of the most gaunt Despair;
Nay, even yoke that beast to pull the car
Of his triumphal course above the years.

Follow, light Hope!—thou armourer to a king—
The hero's steps,—through all the thicket depth
Of his long hiding,—o'er the wild boar's track,
And the wide traces of the bounding deer;
Follow him through his lonesome wanderings,
By moor and dark morass and tangled dell,—
Glad if somewhile beside a swineherd's fire
His numb hands reinvigorate may trim
The arrows, once a terror to the Dane,
Now only used to bring the monarch's food.
Follow him day by day, night after night;
Speak to him in his lone and cheerless dreams;
Smile on his aimless path; till, one by one,
He meets some loyal subjects of his worth,
And breaks a way through the thin-frozen sludge
To Ethelingay's Isle—one solid space
In the vast breadth of slough, where he may build
A refuge from the overrunning Dane,
A sanctuary for what few hopes survive—
Rekindling in them patriot energy.
Follow him, Hope! tell him to bide his time.

There in his fastness, in the heart o' the waste
The monarch and his little band abode,
Enduring hardest shifts of outlawry,—
The winged arrows for their pillowing,
And sunlight startling them with hostile glance,
Making swift forays or for food or news,
Snatching such scant subsistence as they could,
Inquiring where the Danes, where English souls,—
Until they heard how Alfred's old renown
Had stirr'd some few brave spirits in the land.
To new achievement, and how Devon's Earl,
Besieged in Kinwith, fiercely sullying forth,
Had put to rout the Danish Hubba there
With mighty slaughter;— then the king arose,
And loosed his banner, and his war-cry flew
Through all the English heavens, and men look'd up,
And flung their swords on high to hail the shout
Of 'Alfred once again for England's war!'
Who needeth tell what every child repeats
How as a harper 'mong the enemy
The daring monarch pass'd,— amused their sloth
With idle song beside their dissolute boards,
Spied out their weakness, caught them out of guard,
And paid them back the trick of former days.
The sun is yet scarce risen on Ethandune,
The pirate watchers nod o'er their debauch;
At Egbert's stone by Selwood-side have met
The best of Wessex, Alfred at their head;
Before that sun the fallen wine-cup gilds
The Avon shall be red with Danish blood
And Chippenham's surprize have like revenge.
Thereafter the Defeated wins his way
From strife to strife, a crowned conqueror:
Taming his former victors, trampling down
Invasion on invasion: not without
Disaster and due costs of high reward,—
A long and weary tale of restless days,
Fatigues innumerable, ceaseless cares,
Sometimes discomfiture and falling back,
And baffled hope, and work to be redone,
Zeal forced to drudge like the worst-burden'd slave,
And Courage with its armour never off,
And Speed ill-yoked unto unequal help:
A work like that of Sisyphus—to roll
The rock of sure success to heaven height.
For year by year the foemen seemed subdued,
Swore peace, departed, and again return'd.
But nought can stand against determined will,
Stronger than Fate.   A ceaseless drip outwears
The granite: patient resolution so
Softens the stony heart of Destiny.
Though even the indomitable Hastings try
His subtilest sleights, and war, by genius led,
Put forth, Briareus-like, its hundred hands,
Striking the king on this side and on that,
Compelling his swift presence everywhere,
From Romney Marsh and Thames to Severn's mouth.
And from the southernmost cliffs to Chester walls,—
Though pestilence come in the invader's train,
And every form of difficulty strive
To farther aid accomplish'd generalship,—
Though inward pain, even from his early years
Gnawing out strength, conspire against his life,—
Defeat on Alfred never more shall press.
For he had met it, and had overcome,
In every shape it knows, save one—despair:
And in that guise it dared not look on him.
So stalwart Truth at last was olive-crown' d.

And now in his old days the king hath peace;
And the land rest,—its trust lain like a bride
Upon that royal heart, securely glad.
And he, who whilom at the swineherd's hearth
Bore chiding for the lowliest neglect,
Now leads the nation with his puissant will—
As valourous in peace as erst in war,
Seateth bright Justice with him on his throne,
Foundeth great universities, and rules
His own life with as scholarly discipline—
Making each hour his steward for good deeds.
He, who divided his last bit of bread
With some wayfarer, now sends costly gifts
Out of his treasury, to farthest Ind;
His ships, with Victory's breath to swell their sails,
Full-freighted with his fame for many lands,
Bring back the homage of the first of earth;
And from the heaven whereto his soul aspired
His glory beams on us along the years—
A star whose splendour may not be outshone.

Such is the life of Valour.   It persists.
Its proud defiance answereth Defeat.
It tramples on despondency.   It tholes
Under God's harrow; bides; and overcomes.
Why, the poor spider in Lord Robert's cell
Seven times repeats his foil'd endeavouring:
Shall Bruce do less?   Thence unto Bannockburn
Is but a journey, master'd step by step.
Rightly did Rome's great senate honour him
Who in his country's ruin slew despair.
Wait yet by Hope's lone altar, Poland! wait.
To-morrow's sun will rise for all these tears.

That 'Isle of Nobles' to the mainland now
Is join'd.   So to this isolated act
Of English worship let the continent
Of later worth adhere!   Till England be
An Isle of Nobles—the world's Athelney.


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GRENVILLE'S LAST FIGHT


OUR ships lay under Florez.   You will mind
'Twas three years after Effingham had chased
The Pope's Armada from our English side.
We had been cruizing in the Western Main,
Singeing some Spanish beards; and now we lay,
Light-ballasted, with empty water-casks,
And half our crews disabled; our six sail—
Beside two pinnaces and victuallers—
Pester'd and rommaging, all out of sorts.
My ship was Richard Grenville's, The Revenge.
They knew Sir Richard in the Spanish seas,
And told wild stories of him; their brown dames
Frighted the babes with fancies of his deeds.
So hard-complexion'd was he (they would say)
That, when a health was drunk, he crush'd the glass
Between his teeth and swallow'd cup and all.
And then his blood-draughts—Tush! such idle tales!
We only knew a gallant gentleman
Who never turn'd his back on friend or foe.

Well, lying by Florez—as I told you now,
The Spanish force unlook'd for hove in sight:
A force of fifty-three great men-of-war.
Lord Thomas, taking note of their array,
Deeming it vain to grapple with such odds,
Signall'd his company to weigh or cut;
And so all did except our Grenville's ship.
You see, we anchor'd nearest to the town, 
And half our men were sick on shore.
Beside, Sir Richard never hurried from a fight.
We got our sick on board and safely stow'd
Upon the ballast; and, that done, we weigh'd.
By this the Spaniard's on our weather-bow;
And some would fain the captain should be led
To back his mainsail, cast about, and trust
Our sailing.   Nothing of that mind was he.
He would not so—he said—for any fear
Disgrace his flag, his country, or himself;
But pass their squadrons through despite of all,
Forcing the Seville ships to give him way.
And thus he did on divers of the first,
So—as we mariners say—they sprang their luff,
And fell under our lee.   But windward bore
A huge high-cargéd ship—the Spaniards call'd
San Philip, took the breeze out of our sails,
And ran aboard us.   Then, entangled so,
Four others, two upon our starboard bow,
And two on the larboard, up and boarded us.
We help'd San Philip from our lower tier,
And flung her back; the other four closed in,—
Drove on us like so many hornet-nests,
Thinking their multitudes could swarm us down.
We brush'd them off and brush'd them off again.
The fight began at three o' the afternoon;
And all the night through we kept up the game:
Darkening the stars and the full harvest-moon
With the incessant vomit of our smoke.
Ship after ship came on at our Revenge,
Ne'er less than two big galleons on her side,
Boarding her, as the tides wash up a rock,
To fall off broken and foaming 'mid the roar
Of their own thunder.   They so ill approved
Our entertainment, that by break of day
They had lost appetite for new assaults;
And slunk far from as, like a ring of dogs
About a crippled lion, out of reach
Of daring that has taught them due respect,
Watching till his last agony spends itself:
Some fifteen of them grappled us in vain.
Two we had sunk, and finely maul'd the rest.
But, as day broaden'd out, it show'd our plight:
No sail in view—but the foes that hemm'd us round,
Save one of the pinnaces, which had hover'd near
To mark our chance, and now, like hare with hounds,
Was hunted by the Spaniards,—but escaped.
A bare one hundred men was our first count;
And each slew his fifteen.   But by this time
Our powder was all used, and not a pike
Left us unbroken.   All our rigging spoil'd;
Our masts gone by the side; our upper works
Shatter'd to pieces; and the ship herself
Began to settle slowly in the sea.
It was computed that eight hundred shot
Of great artillery had pierced through her sides.
Full forty of our men lay dead on deck;
And blood enough, be sure, the living miss'd.
Sir Richard, badly hurt at the very first,
Would never stand aside till mid of dark:
When, as they dress'd his wounds, he was shot through,
The surgeon falling on him.   Still he lived,—
Nor blench'd his courage when all hope was gone;
But, as the morning wore, he call'd to him
The master-gunner, a most resolute man,
And bade him split and sink the unconquer'd ship,
Trusting God's mercy, leaving to the foe,
Not even a plank to bear their victory.
What worth a few more hours of empty life,
To stint fall-handed Death of English fame?

Brave Gentleman!   I think we had no heart
To sink so rare a treasure.   Some of us
Were stiffening in our pain, and faintly cared
For loftier carriage; cowards were there none;
But so it was, that we among us chose
An honourable surrender,—the first time
Our captain's word refusing.   I must own
The Spaniard bore him very handsomely.
Well-pleased he was to give us soldier terms
Rather than tempt the touch of our last throe;
And courteously were the conditions kept.
The Spanish Admiral sent his own state-barge
To fetch our dying hero,—for our ship
Was marvellously unsavoury; and round
The Southern warriors reverently throng'd
To look upon the mighty in his death:
So much his worth compell'd acknowledgment.
And well nigh a new battle had burst out
'Twixt the Biscayans and the Portugals,
Disputing which had boarded The Revenge.

For him, he bade them do even as they would
With his unvalued body.   A few hours,
And Death bow'd down to crown him.   Never sign
Of faintness show'd he; but in Spanish said
These words, so they might be well heard by all.

'Here with a joyful and a quiet mind
I Richard Grenville die.   My life is closed
As a good soldier's should be, who hath fought
For country's sake, and for his faith and fame.
Whereby from this body gladly parts my soul,
Leaving behind the everlasting name
Of a true soldier and right-valiant man
Who did the work that duty bade him do.'

When he had finish'd these and other words
Of such-like grandeur, he gave up the ghost
With stoutest courage.   No man on his face
Could see the shade of any heaviness.
So He and Death went proudly on their way
Upon the errand of Almighty God;
And God's smile was the gladness of that path.

And now immediately on this great fight
So terrible a tempest there ensued
As never any saw or heard the like.
Nigh on a hundred sail of merchantmen
Join'd their Armada when the fight was done,—
Rich Indian argosies.   Of all the host
But thirty-two e'er reach'd a Spanish port.
Their men-of-war, so riddled by our shot,
Sank one by one; and our Revenge herself, 
Disdaining any foreign mastery,
Regarding else her captain's foil'd intent,
Went down, as soon as she was newly mann'd,
Under Saint Michael's Rocks, with all her crew.
The Spaniards said the Devil wrought their loss,
Helping the heretics.   But we know well
How God stands by the true man in his work;
And, if he helps not, surely will revenge
The boldly dutiful.   My tale is done.

Sir Walter Raleigh—Grenville's cousin, he—
Has given the tale in fitter words than mine.
My story looks like shabby beggar's rags
About a hero.   But you see the Man.
The diamond shines however meanly set.
Sir Walter laid his cloak before the Queen;
But Grenville threw his life upon that deck
For Honour's Self to walk on.   'Twas well done.
For fifteen hours our hundred kept at bay
Ten thousand: one poor ship 'gainst fifty-three.
The Spaniard proved that day our English pith.
No new Armada on our cliffs shall look
While English Valour echoes Grenville's fame.

I have some strength left.   I will hence to sail
With Master Davis.   Home is very calm;
But Honour rideth on the crested wave.


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HARRY MARTEN'S DUNGEON THOUGHTS


THOU flowest, Stream! beside old Chepstow's walls,
Hence to the Severn, and the Severn falls
To the wide ocean.   I have ceased to flow.
And yet thou listenest to the stagnant Woe
That overhangs thy banks, like some vain weed
Rooted in Chepstow's hoariness.   Indeed,—
Save that the veriest weed its hope may fling
Upon the winds, there as on certain wing
Borne to the mainland,—I but weed-like seem.

And yet my memory loves to watch the dream
Of Harry Marten's triumphs,—those brave days
When Vane outshone me with his steady rays,
When gravest Milton scorn'd not Harry's wit,
And fierce-will'd Cromwell had some heed of it;
When we stood in the breach against the world,
And from his folly's wall the Stuart hurl'd
Into the tide of ruin.   By this tower,
If all those glorious days were in my power,
I would not reconsider them again,
But shout my battle-song to the same high strain,
Take the same odds, the same gay daring strife,
And the same forfeit of a prison'd life
Past even the natural riddance of the grave.
Not for himself, O Freedom! would thy knave
Ask some poor wages.   Let my life be shent,
And this worn tomb be all my monument.

Dear Freedom! have we vainly toil'd for thee?
Our Rachel lost—and our apprentice-fee
This Leah, the Evil-favour'd.   Shall I laugh,
Write on her lips my jesting epitaph,
And hug Misfortune for another term?
Alas! if hope might set the slowest germ
In these old chinks.   But England's soil is dead
As Chepstow' stones.   The blue sky overhead
Is all the prisoner's hope in these wall'd years.

I need not wet this dungeon-mould with tears;
I will not tame my spirit to its cage;
As little would I stoop me to assuage
Captivity with foolish querulousness.
And yet my courage mourneth nonetheless
Our ruin'd cause, and that nor sword nor voice
Of mine may lead the time to worthier choice:
While I rust here like a forgotten blade,
And Scot and Vane in bloody tombs are laid.
And yet not so, friend Scot!—thy better doom
To wait by God until new chance may bloom
Out of the barren land men call thy grave:
That England which thy virtues could not save,
Nor pious Vane lift heavenward from the slough.

For me hard penance but atoneth now
My many a youthful folly: though the worst
Left me a patriot.   Wassails quench'd no thirst
For the full cup of England's liberty.
I never squander'd my great love for thee;
And though men call me loose of life and speech,
There was no public act they could impeach,
And my loose tongue was first which dared to say
What hinderance 'twas stood in the nation's way.
Or loose or not, it wagg'd to no ill tune
Nor out of time.   'Troth, I'll forswear no boon
Of this frank life; and now in living grave
Am thankful that I had.   And that I have:
While memory traces back the flow of mirth,
From here where it is driven under earth­—
As if the Wye had dived 'neath Chepstow's base.
God give the stream some outlet of his grace!—
­There is some reach of joy in looking back
On the lost river's current.   I can track
Its merry laughing gush among the reeds,
And how its ripplings lipp'd the blossomy weeds
In shallow passages, its songful strife
Swift bounding o'er the rocks of active life,
And see again the glorious forms whose worth
Its sometime deeper water imaged forth.
No idle image was reflected there:
Not in the stream but on the rock I bear
The impress of the Gods who stood by me.
Nor was I all unmeriting to be
Their chosen companion.   Arrows may hang loose:
The bowman yet be staunch and mind their use.

My England! never one of all thy brave
Whose love o'erpass'd my love.   I could be grave
Whene'er thy need required a solemn brow.
What was my task?   To give thee room to grow:
To give thee sober freedom, godly growth:
Freedom and sanctifying worship: both.
Milton and Vane and Scot and I at one
Were in this work.   And I am here alone.
And Milton in his darkness—If he lives.

O English hearts! are ye but Danaid sieves
Wherethrough like water noblest blood is pour'd?
O English sense! what is this word Restored?
Restore Heroic Virtue, Holy Strength,
Now, Agonistes-like, through all the length
Of this great England prostrate!   Gyved you lie,
Mock'd at by Dalila, your Royalty.
I set this dungeon-gloom against the May
Of all your Restoration.   I will say
Against it.   I, a pleasure-loving man,
Place every pleasure under Honour's ban,
And bid you give your country life, and death,
Rather than foul the land with slavish breath.
Am I a prisoner?   Difference between
Chepstow and England is not much, I ween.
'Tis but a cell a few more paces wide.
Year after year, and under Chepstow' side
The muddied Wye still flows.   My hair is grey;
My old bones cramp'd; my heart this many a day
O'ermoss'd with sorrow, like an ancient tomb.
Now the old man is harmless, he may roam
So far as falls the shadow of his jail.
Jail'd for his life.   I have not learn'd to quail.

Thou askest me—'Was it to do again?'
I tell thee—Yes! the tyrant should be slain.
Scot's word is mine: 'Not only was my hand
But my heart in it.'   Here I take my stand;
Nor twenty years of solitude can move
My conscience from its keep.   And so this love,
Your pity proffer'd me, must be withdrawn?
Well, Harry Marten never cared to fawn,
I am alone again, on my grave's edge.

And my long-suffering shall be as a wedge
To rive this tyranny.   I climb thy height,
Old feudal fastness! with my feeble might,
And see from thee, for all my age is dim,
The beautiful rich woods beyond the rim
Of Wye and Severn, and the meadows fair
Stretching into the distance; and the air
Is charged with fragrance; and the uncaged birds
Say blithely in the suit their liberal words,
Which yet shall wake the tillers of the ground.
And lo! the harvestmen are gathering round
The banner of God.   They put their sickles in;
The day of a new trial doth begin.
Thou saidst aright, my Vane! it had to be.
Nor jail nor scaffold stays futurity.

The twenty years have pass'd even as a mist;
And now the dying prisoner's brow is kiss'd
By his old comrades: Hampden, Pym, and Vane,
Fairfax, and Scot, and Ludlow, Cromwell fain
To hide old scars and holding Milton's hand,
Bradshaw and Ireton: at my side they stand,
And the old cheerful smile illumes my cell.
'There is no death nor bondage: we, who dwell
In higher realms of faith, assure thee this.'—
Friends! ye say sooth; this cell no longer is
A prison; England only is my bound,
This coward England all unworthy found.
Still you can smile.—'The resurrection-morn
Riseth o'er England's grave; and we forlorn.
Shall be triumphant.   Look thou forth and see
Our merry England, kingless, bold and free.
We have not lived, we have not died, for nought.
The victory we have lost shall yet be wrought:
We have not sown high deeds and hopes in vain.'

Bright lightning-flash of death! speed through my
          brain,
And sink into the grave my sacrifice:
A grave unhonour'd until England rise
To avenge the Regicide—
                                                       O Martyr Tomb!
Thou bear'st the seed of Triumph in thy womb.


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THE BATTLE OF NEWBURY

(20th of September, 1643.)


THAT harvest night we lay in the fields, impatient
        of the dark,
All eager for the trumpet's voice to rouse the slothful
        lark;
For the king had sent his challenge out to Essex and
        the Right,
And Essex flung his answer back—We meet at
        morning's light.

O many a sleepless eye, be sure! that night did
        watch the stars,
Their silent marches following, so high above
        our jars;
And many a thought might stoop toward the
        melancholy earth,
Whereto to soon we must return for all our martial
        worth.

Even they might ponder in such sort—those reckless
        cavaliers;
And our raw troopers be forgiven for some
        unharden'd fears:
Not fears! natheless we may be dull in the shadow
        of the fray,
With brothers in the hostile camp, dead brothers ere
        a day.

Now with the dawn King Charles' part on the
        hill-top stand array'd,
Their ordnance planted, horse and foot in their
        battalions made;
And many of their captains brave have thrown their
        doublets off,—
Not so intending battle-heat, but rather triumph-
        ­scoff.

Charge up the hill!—Prince Rupert's horse have met
        our first attack,
With mighty dint upon our force, the foremost
        pressing back;
The tide of our assault recoils, but the wave flows
        up again,
Another, and another yet, the foremost to sustain.

Right fiercely Rupert's cavalry salute our city bands;
But the blue-coat Londoners are staunch, their
        regiment firmly stands.
Repulsed, the horse wheel round again; charge
        back, and ours reply,—
Till they do not wheel but reel away from our sharp
        musketry.

And yet a third attempt they make, dashing in
        squadrons full,
Striving to break our serried ranks with valour
        masterful;
But the bullet-cloud athwart them bursts,
        o'erthrowing man and horse.
Methinks they will not dare again repeat so warm a
        course.

On swiftly now! Lord Essex leads; his white hat is
        our guide,
One single wreath of snowy foam upon the ocean's
        pride.
On sharply! drive them back once more! on! rally
        yet again!
Beat them from hedge to hedge until scarce two or
        three remain.

Meanwhile the fight holds otherwhere.   A mile below
        the hill
They have fallen on our rearmost guard: speed
        down to check their will!
But we pause in mid career, till some the opponent
        force have known;
For they too wear the furze and broom we took to
        mark our own.

Spur through the traitors!—Up again to Essex on
        the brow!
Where the royal ordnance was at dawn our ordnance
        climbeth now;
One with another they dispute, 'gainst cannon
        cannon's mouth,
As if the battle with the day but rose to sultrier
        growth.

And ever the sturdy Londoners oppose the hottest
        fray;
Open to horse and ordnance both, 'gainst odds they
        make their way;
And overmatch'd with mightier odds yet stand
        undauntedly:
The Rupert can not scatter them, they know not how
        to fly.

Even as a grove of pines, that doth the tempest-rage
        endure,
Their heads or branching arms may wave, they keep
        their footing sure:
So these are firmly rooted there, or, only honour-
        moved,
Step forward, gaining on the foe some vantage-
        ground approved.

And so, till darkness sundered us.   Yet neither host
        withdrew;
Only upon the hill's far side their horse safe distance
        knew,
With the broken remnant of their foot gather'd
        behind them there;
Our men no less too wearied are to give them much
        of care.

Another morning: we remain the masters of the
        field.
They drew off in the night: their chief a broken hope
        did wield.
We are marshall'd, ready; none appear to the
        challenge of our shot;
One shout—for Newbury field is ours!   Prince
        Rupert turneth not.

Four earls of Charles' part have fallen, and many
        hundred more
Of English-hearted foemen whom their brother foes
        deplore.
For either side like Englishmen did war with might
        and main.
God send such mournful victory be needed
        ne'er again!

And Falkland lieth there at peace, whose spirit was
        so sad—
That lofty spirit—for the wounds his hapless country
        had.
They say—he own'd him tired of life ere we began
        the fight.
Well might he be most sad, who knew he strove
        against the Right.

Shout we again for Newbury field—the righteous
        victory!
We shall hear an echoing triumph-shout before a
        month goes by.
Shine then on Cromwell's Waisby sheaf, O
        Newbury's harvest moon!
'Charge through!' ay, through! 'for Truth, and
        Peace'—the truthful conqueror's boon.


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THE OLD LEGEND OF

KING ARTHUR


'THOU knewest nor fear nor faltering; thy life­vow
Of patriot service thou didst well maintain:
Therefore, though Death may hide thy valour now,
When comes worst need thou shalt return again.'

So chaunted in low tones the fairy crew
Of that dark barge whereon King Arthur lay,
Drifting adown the misty river's flood,
After his latest fight.    So chaunted they,
Staunching his death-clefts; while he, sad of soul,
Ponder'd Sir Lukyn'd story wonder-fraught:
How when Excalibar, at Arthur's hest
Flung in the stream, had dipp'd toward the wave,
A hand had risen, and grasp'd and borne it down.
And thus King Arthur dream'd amid his wounds.
'Excalibar, the charmed sword, returns
Unto the hand that gave it,—sunk,—drawn in,—
Nor left such ripple as an autumn leaf
Reaching the water-marge on Evening's breath.
So sinks my life after its turmoil'd years
Without a trace: blown from its branch of power,—
And Time's dull stream flows o'er it heedlessly.
It should not be so.    I have served the Gods;
Kept myself pure; and stoutly grappled Hope,
Till, firm-embraced, our pulses were but one.
It is no braggart speech: yon gifted sword
Had courage for its handle, and as straight
My life was and close-hammer'd as the blade,—
True steel that never struck an idle blow.
Unto what end its stalwartness?   Defeat.
Lo, I lie here.   The sword hath left no mark.'

'Thou shalt return again!' the Ladies sang;
While the sore-hearted dream'd amid his wounds.

'Year after year I strove, and through the fight
Bare Hope upon my breast, as one would bear
His beautiful bride; and when they slew her there
I struggled on beneath her dearest form.
O Hope! beloved, best-beloved Hope!
That brought my Country's ransom as thy dower;
O Hope! that I have cherish'd 'mid my griefs
In long night-watches and through all the din
Of battle-storm; ay! even when toil was curst,
And knightliest endeavour by repulse
Was driven away, like chaff swept from the floor;
When field on field beheld me overthrown.
Yet never conquer'd: witness Dawn and Eve,
That ever found me rising from defeat
As clomb the Sun from yesternight's red couch!
Would I might battle yet!   Give way!   I will;
And pile our foes upon the last free space
Of British earth.   Why am I slumbering here,
And my good sword not ready to my hand?

'Year after year, and ever the same fierce strife
Without remission.  I was as a pass
Through which a host defiles with measured tramp:
Squadron hard-following squadron till the earth
Rejoices in the custom of sure steps.
Let me be buried in the shallowest tomb,
Beneath the march of heroes!   Death is nought,
If I may be a stair to Victory.
Where art thou?   Victory!—I am here, o'ercome.' 

And shame, more deep than spear-thrusts, draining life,
He lay entranced, nor heard the Fairies' song:—
'Calmly the sun drops in its, western grave,
The seed beneath the glebe, and life to death;
To-morrow comes in joy, ripe corn-fields wave,
And ever the heroic wears its wreath.'

'How have I fallen?   Has the fault been mine?
I have not flinch'd from peril, nor counted pains;
What adverse odds, what difficult steeps to climb,
What possible inconvenience or mishap,
Troubled me never.   I ask'd nought but this—
May it serve thee? my Country!   Welcome then.
Self-care was but a feather in the scale,
Or as a spark in one vast-soaring blaze—
The fiery passionate wish to rescue thee.
Thou wast my sacrificial altar; I
A bridegroom offering.   Do I boast? Ye Gods!
The boaster has done nothing.   Lived and died.
He boasts a failure.   Give him leave to say
He fell as a king falleth.'


Where again

The Chorus swell'd around him, as a pulse
Throbbing indignantly against reproach.
'Thou knewest nor fear nor faltering!'—still they
        sang
'Ho! who will follow Arthur to the war?
Methought when once our banner was display'd
The whole land should have risen as one man.
Behold your duty—Forward at the foe—
Had been enough.—The recreants!   Woe is me!
They cavil'd at the standard-bearer's name;
Doubted the leader could maintain his place;
Others were worthier, might be 'mong themselves;
'Twas an unlucky day to close with Doom;
You covert safest was for skirmishers;
Some little forethought till the rest came up
And so sate down on cowardice, a soft couch,
Where some would plan campaigns, as sluggards think
In morning sleeps they put their armour on,
And wake in bed.   But these would never wake:
Rotting amid their reveries till the land
Stank with the Cowards' Pestilence.   'Twas so—
Brave Hearts that fought by me from first to last!
That we were left to meet the invader's whelm:
Wrong ever active, while before these homes
Right humbly begg'd for alms some stealthy help
In her sore want.   Even that was oft denied.
False-lifed lip-servants! pillow'd warriors!
Whose crest should be a liar's cloven tongue,—
You barter'd Freedom for a dunghill ease,
And let the land of all our glorious sires
Be trampled underneath the ruffian heel
Of foreign tyranny.—My soul is drear.

'Do I forget you?   Arthur's trusty peers!
Proud comrades, lovely in your noble strength:
My Knights, my Royal Ones! whose words were
        deeds,
Whose deeds were hymns of triumph.   Let me die,
Since you are fallen.   Have the Powers betray'd
Your promise?   Worth is worthless.   Life itself
Is falsehood.—It may be the Powers are weak,
Since Valour wins not.   Is their own abode
Invaded by the Evil of our days?—
I am a king, and I may dare to ask.—
Are even the Gods grown false and dastardly?
I hear the smooth lush whispering of the stream,
And, blending with it, words as dreamy smooth.
What forms are these that hang above my bier?
Where do they carry me, throughout this night?
Defeat, and death, and all before me dark.'

But the white garments glimmer'd in his sight
For all the darkness,—like the first of dawn
To one lone-watching on some weary height;
And the sweet chaunt slid through his barren griefs
Like softest rain in fields long parch'd with drought.
Ever the Fairies sang, as glode the barge.

'Thou knewest nor fear nor faltering.   Thy sure life
    Has been an act devout, whose worth shall chain
The future to thy purpose.   When the strife
    Hath reach'd its height thou shalt return again.'

And one clear voice—whose echoes leap'd to shore
And stirr'd the dead upon the battle-ground—
Sang yet again: the King forgot his wounds.

'Thy true adventure was a living seed,
    The harvest of the Eternal can not fail:
Thy spirit shall return, at their worst need
    To help whom now thy arm may not avail.'

_________________


It is a fable of the meed of Truth:
Most knight-like Truth, that, scorning sloth or fear,
Hastens to meet the Evils of the time;
And, be he ne'er so poorly companied,
Dares all their force, copes with their fiercest tides,
Defies disaster and despair itself,
And leaves upon the sorriest place of death—
Where hopes are scatter'd like autumnal wrecks—
A memory that shall live and bring his name
In fire to the hearts of new endeavourers,—
Leading them from the gloomiest depth of care,
Even when their need shall be most desperate,
With power as if his Angel had return'd
To avenge the past defeat with victory.

True-soul'd and valiant!   Arthur! come again.
Is not our need enough?

What voice replies?


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_______________________

THRENODY
_______

IN MEMORY OF

ALBERT DARASZ

(London, 19 Sept., 1852.)


ANOTHER death! another Martyr lain
    In the Exiles' Tomb!—O Grief! thy fangs are
            sharp;
    And these heart-cleaving agonies threat to warp
The hopefullest spirit from its upward strain.
    Alas! the higher hope, the farther fall:
    And more than lofty hope must be thy pall.

O unaccomplish'd hope!   O grief of griefs,
    When the sap faileth ere the worth is ripe!
    Thou proud fruit-bearer, whom Decay doth wipe,
As a mere painting, from life's page!   The chiefs
    Of the world's worthiest look'd to thee for aid;
    And we to worship in thy branching shade.

The axe hath struck thee in thy manhood's prime:
    Thy purpose unmatured: so fairly blown
    Thy blossom, and the fruit set: all foreknown
The richness of thy virtue, the sublime
    Eternity enkernel'd in its growth.
    Thy life read to us certain as God's troth.

Far from thy home thou liest; strangers' ground
    Must pillow thy sad sleep.   Some two or three,
    Thy brother-exiles, doubly kin to thee,
Their tears long since exhausted, droop around
    Thy narrow deathbed: hearts that may not break,—
    Harden'd against thy loss for Poland's sake.

Over thy grave no tears; but death-like clasp
    Of hands that may not wave thee back to shore!
    Thy tomb is but one martyr-stair the more,
Whereon we mount the martyr's crown to grasp.
    O Friend! we dare not whisper Hope to lay
    Our bones by thine.   Our hope must turn away.

Must turn even from thy ashes, Well-beloved!
    Not thou, nor ought but our relentless task,
    May claim our thought.   And yet, if toil might ask
A guerdon for the toiler worth-approved,
    'T would be some weary hours, toil-spared, to gaze
    Back on thy life, re-studying all its praise.

In vain!   Recall the past!   Recall thy life!—
    The shadow followeth the vanish'd form;
    His grave is yet moist earth, their tears are warm:
But flowers spring up, new blossoming smiles are rife.
    Not unto us.   Thy shadow clouds the world,
    Deepening the gloom wherein our life was furl'd.

For we have lost thee; and, though round our brows
    The hastening hours entwine their dearest wreath,
    Our country's freedom and the world's, thy death
Would shade the laurel blossoms.   How carouse
    The full of joy above thy distant grave?
    Despair hath buried all in that sea cave.

Ah, no!   God's world is wider than our earth.
    What is this earth?   A narrow altar-stone,
    Which thou, brave friend! did'st lay thy life upon
For God: a sacrifice of endless worth.
    All worth is endless, then must live therefore:
    Part of the Eternal Work for evermore.

We look to see again thy form divine;
    We pray to follow on thy path.   What prayer?
    The vow that slayeth even grief's despair,
The prayer of deeds of the same high stamp as thine.
    Stay for us, Angel! within heaven's gate:
    Thy ancient comrades call on thee to wait.

Our arms again shall hold thee to our heart;
    Our eyes again shall read thy inmost soul;
    And foot by foot toward the higher goal
Our lives shall climb:— God! nevermore to part.
    Pray God to snatch us up to heaven's gate:
    Lest thy swift-soaring spirit should not wait.

The sun is down; but in the western clouds
    The lengthening trail of splendour grandly lies:
    The hem of Hope yet glistens in our eyes.
And what though night the sunniest memory shrouds?
    God hath a morrow for the loving.   We
    Will grieve no more for one lost utterly.

Memory and faith shall lift us to thy side.
    So shall our thought be wing'd, even as the dove
    Of comfort, that the weary ark may move
Toward the shore.   And whatsoe'er betide
    Our lives,—do we not know that thou art free
    From earth's lament, from earth's anxiety?

O blessed Dead! beyond all earthly pains;
    Beyond the calculation of low needs;
    Thy growth no longer choked by earthy weeds;
Thy spirit clear'd from care's corrosive chains!
    O blessed Dead!   O blessed Life-in-death,
    Transcending all life's poor decease of breath!

Thou walkest not upon some desolate moor
    In the storm-wildering midnight, when thine own,
    Thy trusted friend, hath lagg'd and left thee lone.
He knows not poverty who, being poor,
    Hath still one friend.   But he who fain had kept
    The comrade whom his zeal hath overstept.

Thou sufferest not the friendly caviling
    Impugning motive; nor that worse than spear
    Of foeman,—biting doubt of one most dear
Laid in thy deepest heart, a barbed sting
    Never to be withdrawn.   For we were friends:
    Alas! and neither to the other bends.

Thou hast escaped continual falling off
    Of old companions; and that aching void
    Of the proud heart which has been over-buoy'd
With friendship's idle breath; and now the scoff
    Of failure even as idly passeth by
    Thy poor remains:—Thou soaring through the sky.

Knowing no more that malady of hope—
    The sickness of deferral, thou canst look
    Thorough the heavens and, healthily patient, brook
Delay,—defeat.   For in thy vision's scope
    Most distant cometh.   We might see it too,
    But dizzying faintness overveils our view.

And when disaster flings us in the dust,—
    Or when we wearily drop on the highway-side,—
    Or when in prison'd, exiled depths the pride
Of suffering bows its head, as oft it must,—
    We can not, looking on thy wasted corse,
    Perceive the future.   Lend as of thy force!

No more of grief!—Thy voice comes to its now,
    Answering our invocation.   We uplift
    Our eyes; and, looking through the tempest-rift,
Behold the light of thy triumphant brow
    There in the line of God.   Lest we should miss
    His farthest throne, he neareth us with this.


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_______________________

EURYDICE

('Orpheus' Sweetest Son')


FROM out the thick shade of a laurel grove
(Crowning a little knoll of sacred ground,
Like to a wreath forlorn hung o'er an urn,)
Issued a dim and melancholy voice,
The tender air infecting with sad breath.
The yellow leaves dropp'd down the failing light,
The autumn wind crept slowly through the boughs
The wind and falling leaves with low sweet tones
Echoed that plaint, till the great pulse of life
Seem'd but the ebb and flow of one long sigh.
'Eurydice!  Eurydice!' was all
The burthen of that sorrow: but anon
These words came sobbing forth from a burst heart,
Gushing in full flow of abandon'd grief,
Like the low pining wail of Philomel.
'Eurydice! mine own Enrydice!—
O Earth o'er which her music footsteps moved;
O clear blue Sky, not deeper than her eyes;
Thou Forest-shade with sunlight leaping through,
Not sunnier than her laugh,—nor lovelier that
Than her thought-shadow'd depth of seriousness;
Ye Torrents, grandly falling, like her hair;
Ye honey-clefted Rocks, firm as her truth;
And ye sun-kissed Slopes of harvest land,
Smooth-rounded as the blessed globes above
Her fertile heart: O Earth and Sky, O Life,—
That speak to me of her in every tone,
That spoke to me of her in every word:—
Why are ye beautiful, and She no more?

'Ye Hamadryads, with brown arms enlaced,
Leaning against the gnarled trunks, half-veil'd
In flood of level sunshine, your bright eyes
Flashing amid green leaves; or ye who glide
Mistily down dim aisles, with gentle feet
Responsive to the gentle fall of rain
Dropping upon soft turf from lofty boughs,
And glistening in the moonlight, like quick tears
Upon a smiling face:— why do ye mock
My longing with vain phantoms, till mine eyes
Strain to the distant purple of warm eves,
To reach her form? why do ye play with grief?
Ye Naiads pure, calm-flowing in the cool
Of overhanging foliage, your lank hair
Trailing along the current,—why do ye
Babble with ripply lips that sweetest word—
Eurydice; until the blabbing reeds
That told King Midas' secret whisper mine
To every wind, till every trickling wave
Repeats my woe in more melodious tone?
Ye Nereids, with your coral crowns, and plumes
Of waving weed, and blue hair in the spray
Caught on the wave's edge by some eager breeze,—
Why do ye haunt the sea-board with your grace?
Still rusheth up the shingle and returns
The melody of dancing feet, and round
The smooth-cheek'd pebbles slides the creamy foam,
Eurydice!—O Presences and Powers
Of Nature, once so dear, my heart is deaf
To your best witcheries.   The strings are rent.
My lyre no more can answer your delight,
Nor with glad notes provoke your swift reply.

'Eurydice! my lost Eurydice!
No more thy bounding limbs are eloquent.
On the smooth beach our Greek girls, as of old,
Dance in the twilight: in the torches' glare,
Answering the passion of the westering sun,
Their warm cheeks flush more rosily; I see
The gleam of their uplifted arms, as each
Hastily in the mazes of the dance
Passes the flame unto some sister hand;
I hear the song, borne by the gentle-voiced,
Close-following upon the trail of fire
In all its windings,—that dear Freedom-song
Our youths and maidens love; and I can hear
The sweet time-beats of soft feet on the sand:—
Eurydice! Eurydice! no more
Thou lead'st the chorus.   Freedom, Fatherland:—
Eurydice! the future as the past
Is buried in thine urn.   I have no hymn.
The torches are extinguish'd; the drear sea
Moans in the gloomy hollows of its caves.

'O thou vast soul of Nature I once waked
With lightest touch!   O throbbing heart of Life
That used to listen fondly to my lyre
Made eloquent by her!   I do appeal
Unto thy grateful memories.   Alas!
The pulse of Life is no more audible.—
Dryads and Oreads! wherefore have we laid
Our oil and milk and honey at your feet?
O Nymphs of forest, mountain, plain, and flood!
Why have we pour'd our songs more honey-sweet,
Our oil-smooth songs, our rich and fruity songs,—
Why have we borne our Dionysian songs
To you, making you jocund with much mirth,
And ye are silent now?   O gentle Nymphs!
Have ye no drops left in your brimming cups?
Dear Echo! has thy sympathy no word,
No drained flavour of those richnesses,
To bring to my dry heart in her dear name?
Ye Satyrs! wont to troop around our path,
With rude, broad gambols, your most awkward
        speech
Were musical as Phoibos' golden tongue,
If you would tell me whither She is gone.
I pray to you, for all my household gods
Are scatter'd.   Unto you the Homeless prays,
Powers of the waste and solitude, once loved!

'Eurydice! my own Eurydice!—
Alas! no voice replies: the Earth is dead.—
My Beautiful! whose life was as the crown
Of festal days,—whose blush was as the bloom
On the full fruit,—whose days were as ripe grapes,
Clear and delicious on one cluster growing;
My Beautiful! whose smile moved o'er the earth
Like the first sunbeam of the year,—whose voice
Was the mild wind that whispereth odourously
Unto the yearning buds that Spring is come;
More beautiful than Eos rosy-brow'd,
Or than the arrow-bearing Artemis,—
Thou Dawn of my existence, Promiser
Of glorious days, thou pure Light-bearing One
Chasing the shadows from across my path
When night hung darkly o'er my clouded thought;
Thou spirit of my potent lyre, now mute;
Thou Genius of my life; thou Life; thou Song;
Eurydice! my own Eurydice!

'She is not dead: this death is but a dream.
Where art thou gone?   Eurydice!—Return,
Ere doubt hath grown to madness!—It is not.
The serpent did but coil around my sleep.
Eurydice!—Sweet Echo! she will come,
Prank'd in thy guise, out of the forest depth, 
And smile on me with that deep-hearted smile,
More radiant than Persephone's when closed
Her welcoming arms around Demeter's head
Bow'd with its sheaf of joy upon her breast.—
Alas! the mourning friends, the solemn priests,
The virgin train, the sobs that hid the cry
Of painful steps toward the funeral pyre,—
Alas! this little urn clasp'd to my heart,
This empty husk of life, this loneliness,
This death of life,—attest that thou art not;
That Sorrow lives, but not Eurydice.

'Thou shalt not die!   O Son of Zeus, who brought
Alcestis to this upper air, attend
My dearer quest!   I will descend to her,
And with my fervent song require from Dis
My own Eurydice.   She shall return
Unto this pleasant earth.   Persephone
Will listen as my words shall fill her lap
With Enna's flowers, and in her eyes shall look
Demeter's mother-glances till her own
O'erflow with ruth, and she shall wind her arms
Around the gloomy king and him conjure
To give me the Beloved to my song.
Or my whole life shall stand amid the shades,
Before the Fates, and with its chaunt enweave
Her thread of life anew.   I will bring back
Her beauty to the earth, and live again,
Strong in the sunlight of her summer love:
Even as a tree that lifteth up its head
After a storm, and, shaking off the weight
Of passed tears, laughs, freshly in the sun.
And yet again, her hand upon my heart,
My lyre shall speak unto the Life of things;
And the fair Nymphs crowd round us as of old;
And even Satyr shapes look beautiful,
­And the dumb Spirit of the Inanimate
Be stirr'd into expression; and the Earth,
Hearing the music of thy thoughts, Belovéd!
Grow beautiful as thou art, till the world
Resume the glory of the olden gods.

'Eurydice! my own Eurydice!
My grief is at my feet.   My will is strong.
My soul hath pass'd the ferry of despair;
My song pours forth resistless eloquence,
My voice is firm; the Inexorable Three
Relent.   Persephone amid her tears
Clingeth impassion'd to the knees of Power:
Thou canst not hold the Loved; she shall return.
There is no deed impossible to prayer,
To faithful will.—I hear thy following feet,
Most musical of echoes; step by step
I count those dearest of dear promises,
Conquering the steep ascent; I see the light
Of our old life; I hear thy eager pants
Closer and closer; now thy fragrant breath
Kisses my neck, thy passion-parted lips
Lean forward, and the music of thy curls
Touches my cheek,—Mine own Belovéd One,
Eurydice, mine own Eurydice———
O God!   O Sorrow!—'


Life is all a dream.

The Past returns not.   Look no more behind!
It is a phantom.   Rather let thy song
Mount as a pyre-flame up into the heavens.
O Constellated Beauty! thou art there.
Not on the earth, nor with the buried Past,
Lo, thy Eurydice awaiteth thee.

            Eurydice!


                                    Eurydice!


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_______________________

QUEEN LIBUSSA

(WHOSE LOVE SOUGHT THE LABOURER )


O THAT Queen Libussa!
    None so fair as she:
With the wisdom of her choice
    Ruling royally.
How her lieges did rejoice
    In their loyalty!

Beautiful Libussa!
    Queen in her own right
Of exceeding beauty,
    And that clear insight
Unto the heart of duty—
    Which makes toil delight.

White horse! in the sunshine
    Speed thou o'er the land,
Bounding like the Elbe's white spray
    Over the golden sand:—
Twelve proud nobles track his way,
    By the Queen's command.

Riderless he seeketh
    Whom the Queen would see:—
'On iron table dineth
    Under a lonely tree
He for whom fate designeth
    Bohemia's royalty.'

White horse! in the sunshine
    Speed thou o'er the land;
Through the broad Elbe, through the spray,
    Over the golden sand;
Through the wide fields choose thy way,
    Guided by no hand.

And the nobles follow;
    Slow their speed to his:
Never the white horse resteth,
    Never his way doth miss:
'By our Lady, if she jesteth;
    Wearisome jesting this!'

From her tower she watcheth:
    Her assuréd glance
Saith—My choosing may not drift
    On the waves of chance:
And now her sunniest smiles uplift
    Her perfect countenance.

Toil the milk-white bullocks,
    In the sultry air:
Rest they now in the pear-tree's shade;
    Rests the ploughman there;
Resting dines, the black crust laid
    On the bright plough-share.

Speed thou through the sunshine,
    White horse! to his side;
Stoop thy proud neck,—thou hast found him,
    Found the Prophesied:
And the nobles crowd around him,
    Heralds from his bride.

Bring the robe of purple,
    Golden spurs and sword!
This is he whom we have sought;
    This is Toil's reward.
So they to Libussa brought
    Her Bohemian lord.

First his staff he planteth,
    Heaps the earth around:
Lo! the hazel buds are springing;
    And his thoughts unbound
Seeds of prophecy are flinging
    O'er the furrow'd ground.

So doth Love enlighten;
    So doth Labour freed
All the golden story
    Of the future read:
But now, in the present glory,
    Is no prophet-need.

Swift as swiftest sunshine,
    Swift as lover's thanks,
Swift as the foaming Elbe's white spray
    Over the golden banks,—
Yet ever the golden rowels pray
    In the tireless courser's flanks.

O thou queenliest beauty,
    Beyond all compare!
Reverently he kneeleth,
    Soul-submissive there,—
Till his lips she sealeth,
    And his wild eyes veileth
Underneath her hair.

Ever so, Belovéd!
    Kneels my soul to thee,—
Evermore to render
    Life adoringly,
Thou pale star, whose splendour
    Crowns my poverty!

Yet shalt thou, Delightful!
    Hold the Future's chain,
When thou trusting loosest
    Labour's steed again,—
When the Poor thou choosest
    By thy side to reign.


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_______________________

THE
BRAVE WOMEN OF TANN


[There is a little town in the Vosges, where on all public occasions the
women take precedence of the men, in virtue of their conduct related
below.]


SATE the heavy burghers
    In their gloomy hall,
Pondering all the dangers
    Likely to befall,—
Ward they yet or yield the strangers
    Their beleaguer'd wall.

'All our trade is ruin'd:
    Saw I this afar,—
Said I not—our markets
    Month-long siege will mar?
Let not our good town embark its
    Fortunes on this war.

'Now our folly takes us:
    War first hath his share,
Famine now; who dreameth
    Bankrupts can repair
Double loss? or likely seemeth
    Victors should despair?

'And our trade is ruin'd:
    Little that remains
Let us save, to hearse us
    From these bloody pains,
Ere the wrathful foe amerce us
    Of our farthest gains!'

Up and speaks young Hermann
    With the flushing cheek—
'Shame were it to render:
    Though the wall be weak'——
Say the old men—'Let us end or
    Certain death we seek!'

In their gloomy chamber
    Thus their councils wend:—
'Five of our most trusted
    With the morn descend;
Say—So peace may be adjusted
    Chained lives we'll spend.

'Now home to our women!
    They'll be glad to learn
We have weigh'd so gravely
    "Peace" hath fill'd the urn:
Though in truth they've borne them bravely
    In this weary turn.'

Home unto their women;
    But each burgher found
Scorn in place of smiling:
    For each good-wife frown'd
On this coward reconciling,
    Peace with honour bound.

In their morrow's council
    Woman voices rise:
'Count ye babes and women
    But as merchandize,
To be traffick'd with the foemen,—
    Things of such a price?

'We will man your ramparts;
    Ye, who are not men,
Go hide in your coffers!
    We will call you when' —
Slid home 'mid the crowd of scoffers
    Those five heralds then.

In the morrow's danger
    Women take their share;
Many a sad grey morning
    Found them watching there:
Till we learn'd from their high scorning
    To make light of care.

Chief with our gaunt warders
    Hermann's young Betrothed
Pass'd, like Victory's Splendour,—
    In bright courage clothed:
Fear hid, fearful to offend her,
    Knowing himself loathed.

Blinding red the sunset!
    In that hopeful breast
Stay'd the foeman's arrow.
    So 'twas won.   The rest—
How Despair in strait most narrow
    Smote the Conqueror's crest—

Matters not.   Our women
    Drove him to his den.
'Twas his last invasion;
    We've had peace since then.—
This is why on State occasion
    They precede our men.


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_______________________

LOVE'S SHADOW


I LOVED, gave body and soul for dower,
    Then he flung me from his heart.
What else? he had gather'd and worn the flower:
    Let it fall! and so depart.

I was a loved and duteous wife—
    The wife of a worthy lord:
O never worthier, nobler life
    Deserved to be adored.

But I,—I daily, nightly pray'd,
    As the loving need not pray:
Dear God! vouchsafe to me thine aid
    To be true to him alway.

And he I loved was my husband's friend.
    I never loved man but him.
That passionate heaven so low did bend
    My wifely eyes grew dim.

Under the porch I stood alone
    As through the limes he came:
Or ever his hand had touch'd my own
    My blood was boiling flame.

O God, to lie on a loving breast,
    Unable to make return!
And O for the fire that knows no rest,
    That burneth, and aye must burn!

Or ever his breath had woo'd my cheek—
    Why doth the lady blush?
Or ever his love had time to speak
    My life toward him did rush.

Under the gnarled oaken boughs,
    On a grey moss'd stone we sate;
Silent were both.   What need of vows
    In the presence of Love and Fate?

It was but two or three days at most;
    He came, scarce spoke, and went:
The very sun was a mooned ghost
    In the dreary firmament.

And daily, nightly, ever I pray'd:
    Great need was now to pray:
O Truth! vouchsafe to me thine aid,
    Lest I should fall away.

    *             *             *             *

Again, in the hot and sultry June
    The Presence is at my gate;
And my pulses throb to a lofty time,
    And my heart is all elate.

For I will love him and do no wrong:
    O Truth! upstay me now.
Thou and I, Belovéd! are strong;—
    His lips were on my brow.

And so, weak heart! be brave awhile;
    Parch'd lips! hope not to kiss.
I met my lord with a loyal smile;
    But my soul was none of his.

'Take her, and love her more than I'——
    For ruth I could not move:
How I long'd to kiss him tenderly,—
    The man I did not love.

Take her——And wherefore didst thou take?
    My joy hath made me blind.
Love!   I have left him for thy sake;
    What welcome shall I find?

Or ever grey autumn bronzed the leaves,
    Poor Hope, that doubted ne'er,
Was cowering under her palace eaves;
    The winds play'd with her hair.

Mockingly then the Loved laugh'd out—
    My Beautiful! be content;
'Yes, I do worship thee, past all doubt;
    'But a Wife I never meant.

'Summer hath many a warm day yet
    'Ever must love be free.'
Carelessly laugh'd he—'Cheeks tear-wet
    'Will grow too pale for me!'

Had he tired, had love grown cold and dull,
    Had desire been satisfied;
But a flower for my lord Caprice to cull,
    And then to fling aside!

Had he loved another; but worse, far worse,
    The doom he brought me nigh,—
The sorrow, the shame, the clinging curse,
    Of loving unworthily.

Loving—O more than heaven above;
    And to feel that all return
Was the low desire which is not love—
    A 'love' which can seek and spurn.

Scornfully laugh'd he as I went
    'What would'st thou have?   Sweet Life!
'Little matters for love's content
    'That empty name of Wife.'

So a year pass'd by, and we two ne'er met;
    And I tried to loathe his name.
And no one cared for the cheeks tear-wet
    But the one I would not claim.

A long long year.   And then again
    We two were side by side.
By the death-bed of my lord we twain
    Were watching, till he died.

Then love's dark hate pass'd out of me,
    And I pray'd again—True Heart!
Love me and wed me.    'Love is free'—
    He answer'd; 'We will part.'

Scornfully laugh'd he as he went—
    ' 'Tis better we part, Sweet Life!
'Thou would'st hardly be more content
    'Even with the name of Wife.'

Ere I look'd through the mist of tears
    He, the Beloved, was gone.
How could I meet my widow'd years,
    Unlovely and alone?

Then Love stood manifest in Wrath:
    I cursed him franticly.
And slipt the Avenger on his path:—
    Who could avenge but I?

And step by step I follow'd him,
    I track'd him everywhere
In vain he hid,—the tigress grim
    Could never miss her lair.

And daily, nightly his gate before,
    I lean'd at the lintel-post—
O never, never I loved him more
    Than when I hated most.

And at length we met.   And gaze for gaze.
    He laugh'd, but his voice was kind:
The rich sweet voice of the summer days
    Till I grew sick and blind

And dizzy in Love's great glare of light.
    Then fell Love's shadow—Hate:
And e'er the cloud had left my sight
The Man, the Loved, my Life's Delight,
    Lay dead at his own gate.



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