Late Lyrics and Earlier
by Thomas Hardy
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

Why go the east road now? . . . That way a youth went on a morrow After mirth, and he brought back sorrow Painted upon his brow Why go the east road now?

Why go the north road now? Torn, leaf-strewn, as if scoured by foemen, Once edging fiefs of my forefolk yeomen, Fallows fat to the plough: Why go the north road now?

Why go the west road now? Thence to us came she, bosom-burning, Welcome with joyousness returning . . . —She sleeps under the bough: Why go the west road now?

Why go the south road now? That way marched they some are forgetting, Stark to the moon left, past regretting Loves who have falsed their vow . . . Why go the south road now?

Why go any road now? White stands the handpost for brisk on-bearers, "Halt!" is the word for wan-cheeked farers Musing on Whither, and How . . . Why go any road now?

"Yea: we want new feet now" Answer the stones. "Want chit-chat, laughter: Plenty of such to go hereafter By our tracks, we trow! We are for new feet now.

During the War.


"Why do you sit, O pale thin man, At the end of the room By that harpsichord, built on the quaint old plan? —It is cold as a tomb, And there's not a spark within the grate; And the jingling wires Are as vain desires That have lagged too late."

"Why do I? Alas, far times ago A woman lyred here In the evenfall; one who fain did so From year to year; And, in loneliness bending wistfully, Would wake each note In sick sad rote, None to listen or see!

"I would not join. I would not stay, But drew away, Though the winter fire beamed brightly . . . Aye! I do to-day What I would not then; and the chill old keys, Like a skull's brown teeth Loose in their sheath, Freeze my touch; yes, freeze."


I look in her face and say, "Sing as you used to sing About Love's blossoming"; But she hints not Yea or Nay.

"Sing, then, that Love's a pain, If, Dear, you think it so, Whether it be or no;" But dumb her lips remain.

I go to a far-off room, A faint song ghosts my ear; WHICH song I cannot hear, But it seems to come from a tomb.


Last Post sounded Across the mead To where he loitered With absent heed. Five years before In the evening there Had flown that call To him and his Dear. "You'll never come back; Good-bye!" she had said; "Here I'll be living, And my Love dead!"

Those closing minims Had been as shafts darting Through him and her pressed In that last parting; They thrilled him not now, In the selfsame place With the selfsame sun On his war-seamed face. "Lurks a god's laughter In this?" he said, "That I am the living And she the dead!"


If you had known When listening with her to the far-down moan Of the white-selvaged and empurpled sea, And rain came on that did not hinder talk, Or damp your flashing facile gaiety In turning home, despite the slow wet walk By crooked ways, and over stiles of stone; If you had known

You would lay roses, Fifty years thence, on her monument, that discloses Its graying shape upon the luxuriant green; Fifty years thence to an hour, by chance led there, What might have moved you?—yea, had you foreseen That on the tomb of the selfsame one, gone where The dawn of every day is as the close is, You would lay roses!



I've been thinking it through, as I play here to-night, to play never again, By the light of that lowering sun peering in at the window-pane, And over the back-street roofs, throwing shades from the boys of the chore In the gallery, right upon me, sitting up to these keys once more . . .

How I used to hear tongues ask, as I sat here when I was new: "Who is she playing the organ? She touches it mightily true!" "She travels from Havenpool Town," the deacon would softly speak, "The stipend can hardly cover her fare hither twice in the week." (It fell far short of doing, indeed; but I never told, For I have craved minstrelsy more than lovers, or beauty, or gold.)

'Twas so he answered at first, but the story grew different later: "It cannot go on much longer, from what we hear of her now!" At the meaning wheeze in the words the inquirer would shift his place Till he could see round the curtain that screened me from people below. "A handsome girl," he would murmur, upstaring, (and so I am). "But—too much sex in her build; fine eyes, but eyelids too heavy; A bosom too full for her age; in her lips too voluptuous a look." (It may be. But who put it there? Assuredly it was not I.)

I went on playing and singing when this I had heard, and more, Though tears half-blinded me; yes, I remained going on and on, Just as I used me to chord and to sing at the selfsame time! . . . For it's a contralto—my voice is; they'll hear it again here to- night In the psalmody notes that I love more than world or than flesh or than life.

Well, the deacon, in fact, that day had learnt new tidings about me; They troubled his mind not a little, for he was a worthy man. (He trades as a chemist in High Street, and during the week he had sought His fellow-deacon, who throve as a book-binder over the way.) "These are strange rumours," he said. "We must guard the good name of the chapel. If, sooth, she's of evil report, what else can we do but dismiss her?" "—But get such another to play here we cannot for double the price!" It settled the point for the time, and I triumphed awhile in their strait, And my much-beloved grand semibreves went living on under my fingers.

At length in the congregation more head-shakes and murmurs were rife, And my dismissal was ruled, though I was not warned of it then. But a day came when they declared it. The news entered me as a sword; I was broken; so pallid of face that they thought I should faint, they said. I rallied. "O, rather than go, I will play you for nothing!" said I. 'Twas in much desperation I spoke it, for bring me to forfeit I could not Those melodies chorded so richly for which I had laboured and lived. They paused. And for nothing I played at the chapel through Sundays anon, Upheld by that art which I loved more than blandishments lavished of men.

But it fell that murmurs again from the flock broke the pastor's peace. Some member had seen me at Havenpool, comrading close a sea-captain. (Yes; I was thereto constrained, lacking means for the fare to and fro.) Yet God knows, if aught He knows ever, I loved the Old-Hundredth, Saint Stephen's, Mount Zion, New Sabbath, Miles-Lane, Holy Rest, and Arabia, and Eaton, Above all embraces of body by wooers who sought me and won! . . . Next week 'twas declared I was seen coming home with a lover at dawn. The deacons insisted then, strong; and forgiveness I did not implore. I saw all was lost for me, quite, but I made a last bid in my throbs. High love had been beaten by lust; and the senses had conquered the soul, But the soul should die game, if I knew it! I turned to my masters and said: "I yield, Gentlemen, without parlance. But—let me just hymn you ONCE more! It's a little thing, Sirs, that I ask; and a passion is music with me!" They saw that consent would cost nothing, and show as good grace, as knew I, Though tremble I did, and feel sick, as I paused thereat, dumb for their words. They gloomily nodded assent, saying, "Yes, if you care to. Once more, And only once more, understand." To that with a bend I agreed. - "You've a fixed and a far-reaching look," spoke one who had eyed me awhile. "I've a fixed and a far-reaching plan, and my look only showed it," said I.

This evening of Sunday is come—the last of my functioning here. "She plays as if she were possessed!" they exclaim, glancing upward and round. "Such harmonies I never dreamt the old instrument capable of!" Meantime the sun lowers and goes; shades deepen; the lights are turned up, And the people voice out the last singing: tune Tallis: the Evening Hymn. (I wonder Dissenters sing Ken: it shows them more liberal in spirit At this little chapel down here than at certain new others I know.) I sing as I play. Murmurs some one: "No woman's throat richer than hers!" "True: in these parts, at least," ponder I. "But, my man, you will hear it no more." And I sing with them onward: "The grave dread as little do I as my bed."

I lift up my feet from the pedals; and then, while my eyes are still wet From the symphonies born of my fingers, I do that whereon I am set, And draw from my "full round bosom," (their words; how can I help its heave?) A bottle blue-coloured and fluted—a vinaigrette, they may conceive - And before the choir measures my meaning, reads aught in my moves to and fro, I drink from the phial at a draught, and they think it a pick-me-up; so. Then I gather my books as to leave, bend over the keys as to pray. When they come to me motionless, stooping, quick death will have whisked me away.

"Sure, nobody meant her to poison herself in her haste, after all!" The deacons will say as they carry me down and the night shadows fall, "Though the charges were true," they will add. "It's a case red as scarlet withal!" I have never once minced it. Lived chaste I have not. Heaven knows it above! . . . But past all the heavings of passion—it's music has been my life- love! . . . That tune did go well—this last playing! . . . I reckon they'll bury me here . . . Not a soul from the seaport my birthplace—will come, or bestow me . . . a tear.


An hour before the dawn, My friend, You lit your waiting bedside-lamp, Your breakfast-fire anon, And outing into the dark and damp You saddled, and set on.

Thuswise, before the day, My friend, You sought her on her surfy shore, To fetch her thence away Unto your own new-builded door For a staunch lifelong stay.

You said: "It seems to be, My friend, That I were bringing to my place The pure brine breeze, the sea, The mews—all her old sky and space, In bringing her with me!"

—But time is prompt to expugn, My friend, Such magic-minted conjurings: The brought breeze fainted soon, And then the sense of seamews' wings, And the shore's sibilant tune.

So, it had been more due, My friend, Perhaps, had you not pulled this flower From the craggy nook it knew, And set it in an alien bower; But left it where it grew!

"COULD I BUT WILL" (SONG: Verses 1, 3, key major; verse 2, key minor)

Could I but will, Will to my bent, I'd have afar ones near me still, And music of rare ravishment, In strains that move the toes and heels! And when the sweethearts sat for rest The unbetrothed should foot with zest Ecstatic reels.

Could I be head, Head-god, "Come, now, Dear girl," I'd say, "whose flame is fled, Who liest with linen-banded brow, Stirred but by shakes from Earth's deep core—" I'd say to her: "Unshroud and meet That Love who kissed and called thee Sweet! - Yea, come once more!"

Even half-god power In spinning dooms Had I, this frozen scene should flower, And sand-swept plains and Arctic glooms Should green them gay with waving leaves, Mid which old friends and I would walk With weightless feet and magic talk Uncounted eves.


I have come to the church and chancel, Where all's the same! - Brighter and larger in my dreams Truly it shaped than now, meseems, Is its substantial frame. But, anyhow, I made my vow, Whether for praise or blame, Here in this church and chancel Where all's the same.

Where touched the check-floored chancel My knees and his? The step looks shyly at the sun, And says, "'Twas here the thing was done, For bale or else for bliss!" Of all those there I least was ware Would it be that or this When touched the check-floored chancel My knees and his!

Here in this fateful chancel Where all's the same, I thought the culminant crest of life Was reached when I went forth the wife I was not when I came. Each commonplace one of my race, Some say, has such an aim - To go from a fateful chancel As not the same.

Here, through this hoary chancel Where all's the same, A thrill, a gaiety even, ranged That morning when it seemed I changed My nature with my name. Though now not fair, though gray my hair, He loved me, past proclaim, Here in this hoary chancel, Where all's the same.



Our songs went up and out the chimney, And roused the home-gone husbandmen; Our allemands, our heys, poussettings, Our hands-across and back again, Sent rhythmic throbbings through the casements On to the white highway, Where nighted farers paused and muttered, "Keep it up well, do they!"

The contrabasso's measured booming Sped at each bar to the parish bounds, To shepherds at their midnight lambings, To stealthy poachers on their rounds; And everybody caught full duly The notes of our delight, As Time unrobed the Youth of Promise Hailed by our sanguine sight.


We stand in the dusk of a pine-tree limb, As if to give ear to the muffled peal, Brought or withheld at the breeze's whim; But our truest heed is to words that steal From the mantled ghost that looms in the gray, And seems, so far as our sense can see, To feature bereaved Humanity, As it sighs to the imminent year its say:-

"O stay without, O stay without, Calm comely Youth, untasked, untired; Though stars irradiate thee about Thy entrance here is undesired. Open the gate not, mystic one; Must we avow what we would close confine? WITH THEE, GOOD FRIEND, WE WOULD HAVE CONVERSE NONE, Albeit the fault may not be thine."

December 31. During the War.


I travelled to where in her lifetime She'd knelt at morning prayer, To call her up as if there; But she paid no heed to my suing, As though her old haunt could win not A thought from her spirit, or care.

I went where my friend had lectioned The prophets in high declaim, That my soul's ear the same Full tones should catch as aforetime; But silenced by gear of the Present Was the voice that once there came!

Where the ocean had sprayed our banquet I stood, to recall it as then: The same eluding again! No vision. Shows contingent Affrighted it further from me Even than from my home-den.

When I found them no responders, But fugitives prone to flee From where they had used to be, It vouched I had been led hither As by night wisps in bogland, And bruised the heart of me!


The railway bore him through An earthen cutting out from a city: There was no scope for view, Though the frail light shed by a slim young moon Fell like a friendly tune.

Fell like a liquid ditty, And the blank lack of any charm Of landscape did no harm. The bald steep cutting, rigid, rough, And moon-lit, was enough For poetry of place: its weathered face Formed a convenient sheet whereon The visions of his mind were drawn.


I waited at home all the while they were boating together - My wife and my near neighbour's wife: Till there entered a woman I loved more than life, And we sat and sat on, and beheld the uprising dark weather, With a sense that some mischief was rife.

Tidings came that the boat had capsized, and that one of the ladies Was drowned—which of them was unknown: And I marvelled—my friend's wife?—or was it my own Who had gone in such wise to the land where the sun as the shade is? —We learnt it was HIS had so gone.

Then I cried in unrest: "He is free! But no good is releasing To him as it would be to me!" "—But it is," said the woman I loved, quietly. "How?" I asked her. "—Because he has long loved me too without ceasing, And it's just the same thing, don't you see."


I knew a lady when the days Grew long, and evenings goldened; But I was not emboldened By her prompt eyes and winning ways.

And when old Winter nipt the haws, "Another's wife I'll be, And then you'll care for me," She said, "and think how sweet I was!"

And soon she shone as another's wife: As such I often met her, And sighed, "How I regret her! My folly cuts me like a knife!"

And then, to-day, her husband came, And moaned, "Why did you flout her? Well could I do without her! For both our burdens you are to blame!"


There is a house in a city street Some past ones made their own; Its floors were criss-crossed by their feet, And their babblings beat From ceiling to white hearth-stone.

And who are peopling its parlours now? Who talk across its floor? Mere freshlings are they, blank of brow, Who read not how Its prime had passed before

Their raw equipments, scenes, and says Afflicted its memoried face, That had seen every larger phase Of human ways Before these filled the place.

To them that house's tale is theirs, No former voices call Aloud therein. Its aspect bears Their joys and cares Alone, from wall to wall.


I see the ghost of a perished day; I know his face, and the feel of his dawn: 'Twas he who took me far away To a spot strange and gray: Look at me, Day, and then pass on, But come again: yes, come anon!

Enters another into view; His features are not cold or white, But rosy as a vein seen through: Too soon he smiles adieu. Adieu, O ghost-day of delight; But come and grace my dying sight.

Enters the day that brought the kiss: He brought it in his foggy hand To where the mumbling river is, And the high clematis; It lent new colour to the land, And all the boy within me manned.

Ah, this one. Yes, I know his name, He is the day that wrought a shine Even on a precinct common and tame, As 'twere of purposed aim. He shows him as a rainbow sign Of promise made to me and mine.

The next stands forth in his morning clothes, And yet, despite their misty blue, They mark no sombre custom-growths That joyous living loathes, But a meteor act, that left in its queue A train of sparks my lifetime through.

I almost tremble at his nod - This next in train—who looks at me As I were slave, and he were god Wielding an iron rod. I close my eyes; yet still is he In front there, looking mastery.

In the similitude of a nurse The phantom of the next one comes: I did not know what better or worse Chancings might bless or curse When his original glossed the thrums Of ivy, bringing that which numbs.

Yes; trees were turning in their sleep Upon their windy pillows of gray When he stole in. Silent his creep On the grassed eastern steep . . . I shall not soon forget that day, And what his third hour took away!


In a heavy time I dogged myself Along a louring way, Till my leading self to my following self Said: "Why do you hang on me So harassingly?"

"I have watched you, Heart of mine," I cried, "So often going astray And leaving me, that I have pursued, Feeling such truancy Ought not to be."

He said no more, and I dogged him on From noon to the dun of day By prowling paths, until anew He begged: "Please turn and flee! - What do you see?"

"Methinks I see a man," said I, "Dimming his hours to gray. I will not leave him while I know Part of myself is he Who dreams such dree!"

"I go to my old friend's house," he urged, "So do not watch me, pray!" "Well, I will leave you in peace," said I, "Though of this poignancy You should fight free:

"Your friend, O other me, is dead; You know not what you say." - "That do I! And at his green-grassed door By night's bright galaxy I bend a knee."

- The yew-plumes moved like mockers' beards, Though only boughs were they, And I seemed to go; yet still was there, And am, and there haunt we Thus bootlessly.


There was a singing woman Came riding across the mead At the time of the mild May weather, Tameless, tireless; This song she sung: "I am fair, I am young!" And many turned to heed.

And the same singing woman Sat crooning in her need At the time of the winter weather; Friendless, fireless, She sang this song: "Life, thou'rt too long!" And there was none to heed.


It was what you bore with you, Woman, Not inly were, That throned you from all else human, However fair!

It was that strange freshness you carried Into a soul Whereon no thought of yours tarried Two moments at all.

And out from his spirit flew death, And bale, and ban, Like the corn-chaff under the breath Of the winnowing-fan.

"O I WON'T LEAD A HOMELY LIFE" (To an old air)

"O I won't lead a homely life As father's Jack and mother's Jill, But I will be a fiddler's wife, With music mine at will! Just a little tune, Another one soon, As I merrily fling my fill!"

And she became a fiddler's Dear, And merry all day she strove to be; And he played and played afar and near, But never at home played he Any little tune Or late or soon; And sunk and sad was she!


I lay in my bed and fiddled With a dreamland viol and bow, And the tunes flew back to my fingers I had melodied years ago. It was two or three in the morning When I fancy-fiddled so Long reels and country-dances, And hornpipes swift and slow.

And soon anon came crossing The chamber in the gray Figures of jigging fieldfolk - Saviours of corn and hay - To the air of "Haste to the Wedding," As after a wedding-day; Yea, up and down the middle In windless whirls went they!

There danced the bride and bridegroom, And couples in a train, Gay partners time and travail Had longwhiles stilled amain! . . . It seemed a thing for weeping To find, at slumber's wane And morning's sly increeping, That Now, not Then, held reign.


Creak, little wood thing, creak, When I touch you with elbow or knee; That is the way you speak Of one who gave you to me!

You, little table, she brought - Brought me with her own hand, As she looked at me with a thought That I did not understand.

- Whoever owns it anon, And hears it, will never know What a history hangs upon This creak from long ago.


Vagg Hollow is a marshy spot on the old Roman Road near Ilchester, where "things" are seen. Merchandise was formerly fetched inland from the canal-boats at Load-Bridge by waggons this way.

"What do you see in Vagg Hollow, Little boy, when you go In the morning at five on your lonely drive?" "—I see men's souls, who follow Till we've passed where the road lies low, When they vanish at our creaking!

"They are like white faces speaking Beside and behind the waggon - One just as father's was when here. The waggoner drinks from his flagon, (Or he'd flinch when the Hollow is near) But he does not give me any.

"Sometimes the faces are many; But I walk along by the horses, He asleep on the straw as we jog; And I hear the loud water-courses, And the drops from the trees in the fog, And watch till the day is breaking.

"And the wind out by Tintinhull waking; I hear in it father's call As he called when I saw him dying, And he sat by the fire last Fall, And mother stood by sighing; But I'm not afraid at all!"


I am laughing by the brook with her, Splashed in its tumbling stir; And then it is a blankness looms As if I walked not there, Nor she, but found me in haggard rooms, And treading a lonely stair.

With radiant cheeks and rapid eyes We sit where none espies; Till a harsh change comes edging in As no such scene were there, But winter, and I were bent and thin, And cinder-gray my hair.

We dance in heys around the hall, Weightless as thistleball; And then a curtain drops between, As if I danced not there, But wandered through a mounded green To find her, I knew where.

March 1913.


Little fogs were gathered in every hollow, But the purple hillocks enjoyed fine weather As we marched with our fiddles over the heather - How it comes back!—to their wedding that day.

Our getting there brought our neighbours and all, O! Till, two and two, the couples stood ready. And her father said: "Souls, for God's sake, be steady!" And we strung up our fiddles, and sounded out "A."

The groomsman he stared, and said, "You must follow!" But we'd gone to fiddle in front of the party, (Our feelings as friends being true and hearty) And fiddle in front we did—all the way.

Yes, from their door by Mill-tail-Shallow, And up Styles-Lane, and by Front-Street houses, Where stood maids, bachelors, and spouses, Who cheered the songs that we knew how to play.

I bowed the treble before her father, Michael the tenor in front of the lady, The bass-viol Reub—and right well played he! - The serpent Jim; ay, to church and back.

I thought the bridegroom was flurried rather, As we kept up the tune outside the chancel, While they were swearing things none can cancel Inside the walls to our drumstick's whack.

"Too gay!" she pleaded. "Clouds may gather, And sorrow come." But she gave in, laughing, And by supper-time when we'd got to the quaffing Her fears were forgot, and her smiles weren't slack.

A grand wedding 'twas! And what would follow We never thought. Or that we should have buried her On the same day with the man that married her, A day like the first, half hazy, half clear.

Yes: little fogs were in every hollow, Though the purple hillocks enjoyed fine weather, When we went to play 'em to church together, And carried 'em there in an after year.


If grief come early Joy comes late, If joy come early Grief will wait; Aye, my dear and tender!

Wise ones joy them early While the cheeks are red, Banish grief till surly Time has dulled their dread.

And joy being ours Ere youth has flown, The later hours May find us gone; Aye, my dear and tender!


Lonely her fate was, Environed from sight In the house where the gate was Past finding at night. None there to share it, No one to tell: Long she'd to bear it, And bore it well.

Elsewhere just so she Spent many a day; Wishing to go she Continued to stay. And people without Basked warm in the air, But none sought her out, Or knew she was there. Even birthdays were passed so, Sunny and shady: Years did it last so For this sad lady. Never declaring it, No one to tell, Still she kept bearing it - Bore it well.

The days grew chillier, And then she went To a city, familiar In years forespent, When she walked gaily Far to and fro, But now, moving frailly, Could nowhere go. The cheerful colour Of houses she'd known Had died to a duller And dingier tone. Streets were now noisy Where once had rolled A few quiet coaches, Or citizens strolled. Through the party-wall Of the memoried spot They danced at a ball Who recalled her not. Tramlines lay crossing Once gravelled slopes, Metal rods clanked, And electric ropes. So she endured it all, Thin, thinner wrought, Until time cured it all, And she knew nought.

Versified from a Diary.

Versified from a Diary.


What did it mean that noontide, when You bade me pluck the flower Within the other woman's bower, Whom I knew nought of then?

I thought the flower blushed deeplier—aye, And as I drew its stalk to me It seemed to breathe: "I am, I see, Made use of in a human play."

And while I plucked, upstarted sheer As phantom from the pane thereby A corpse-like countenance, with eye That iced me by its baleful peer - Silent, as from a bier . . .

When I came back your face had changed, It was no face for me; O did it speak of hearts estranged, And deadly rivalry

In times before I darked your door, To seise me of Mere second love, Which still the haunting first deranged?


I sat at dinner in my prime, And glimpsed my face in the sideboard-glass, And started as if I had seen a crime, And prayed the ghastly show might pass.

Wrenched wrinkled features met my sight, Grinning back to me as my own; I well-nigh fainted with affright At finding me a haggard crone.

My husband laughed. He had slily set A warping mirror there, in whim To startle me. My eyes grew wet; I spoke not all the eve to him.

He was sorry, he said, for what he had done, And took away the distorting glass, Uncovering the accustomed one; And so it ended? No, alas,

Fifty years later, when he died, I sat me in the selfsame chair, Thinking of him. Till, weary-eyed, I saw the sideboard facing there;

And from its mirror looked the lean Thing I'd become, each wrinkle and score The image of me that I had seen In jest there fifty years before.


There it stands, though alas, what a little of her Shows in its cold white look! Not her glance, glide, or smile; not a tittle of her Voice like the purl of a brook; Not her thoughts, that you read like a book.

It may stand for her once in November When first she breathed, witless of all; Or in heavy years she would remember When circumstance held her in thrall; Or at last, when she answered her call!

Nothing more. The still marble, date-graven, Gives all that it can, tersely lined; That one has at length found the haven Which every one other will find; With silence on what shone behind.

St. Juliot: September 8, 1916.



We are budding, Master, budding, We of your favourite tree; March drought and April flooding Arouse us merrily, Our stemlets newly studding; And yet you do not see!


We are fully woven for summer In stuff of limpest green, The twitterer and the hummer Here rest of nights, unseen, While like a long-roll drummer The nightjar thrills the treen.


We are turning yellow, Master, And next we are turning red, And faster then and faster Shall seek our rooty bed, All wasted in disaster! But you lift not your head.


- "I mark your early going, And that you'll soon be clay, I have seen your summer showing As in my youthful day; But why I seem unknowing Is too sunk in to say!"



Pet was never mourned as you, Purrer of the spotless hue, Plumy tail, and wistful gaze While you humoured our queer ways, Or outshrilled your morning call Up the stairs and through the hall - Foot suspended in its fall - While, expectant, you would stand Arched, to meet the stroking hand; Till your way you chose to wend Yonder, to your tragic end.

Never another pet for me! Let your place all vacant be; Better blankness day by day Than companion torn away. Better bid his memory fade, Better blot each mark he made, Selfishly escape distress By contrived forgetfulness, Than preserve his prints to make Every morn and eve an ache.

From the chair whereon he sat Sweep his fur, nor wince thereat; Rake his little pathways out Mid the bushes roundabout; Smooth away his talons' mark From the claw-worn pine-tree bark, Where he climbed as dusk embrowned, Waiting us who loitered round.

Strange it is this speechless thing, Subject to our mastering, Subject for his life and food To our gift, and time, and mood; Timid pensioner of us Powers, His existence ruled by ours, Should—by crossing at a breath Into safe and shielded death, By the merely taking hence Of his insignificance - Loom as largened to the sense, Shape as part, above man's will, Of the Imperturbable.

As a prisoner, flight debarred, Exercising in a yard, Still retain I, troubled, shaken, Mean estate, by him forsaken; And this home, which scarcely took Impress from his little look, By his faring to the Dim Grows all eloquent of him.

Housemate, I can think you still Bounding to the window-sill, Over which I vaguely see Your small mound beneath the tree, Showing in the autumn shade That you moulder where you played.

October 2, 1904.


And he is risen? Well, be it so . . . And still the pensive lands complain, And dead men wait as long ago, As if, much doubting, they would know What they are ransomed from, before They pass again their sheltering door.

I stand amid them in the rain, While blusters vex the yew and vane; And on the road the weary wain Plods forward, laden heavily; And toilers with their aches are fain For endless rest—though risen is he.


When a night in November Blew forth its bleared airs An infant descended His birth-chamber stairs For the very first time, At the still, midnight chime; All unapprehended His mission, his aim. - Thus, first, one November, An infant descended The stairs.

On a night in November Of weariful cares, A frail aged figure Ascended those stairs For the very last time: All gone his life's prime, All vanished his vigour, And fine, forceful frame: Thus, last, one November Ascended that figure Upstairs.

On those nights in November - Apart eighty years - The babe and the bent one Who traversed those stairs From the early first time To the last feeble climb - That fresh and that spent one - Were even the same: Yea, who passed in November As infant, as bent one, Those stairs.

Wise child of November! From birth to blanched hairs Descending, ascending, Wealth-wantless, those stairs; Who saw quick in time As a vain pantomime Life's tending, its ending, The worth of its fame. Wise child of November, Descending, ascending Those stairs!


I missed one night, but the next I went; It was gusty above, and clear; She was there, with the look of one ill-content, And said: "Do not come near!"

- "I am sorry last night to have failed you here, And now I have travelled all day; And it's long rowing back to the West-Hoe Pier, So brief must be my stay."

- "O man of mystery, why not say Out plain to me all you mean? Why you missed last night, and must now away Is—another has come between!"

- " O woman so mocking in mood and mien, So be it!" I replied: "And if I am due at a differing scene Before the dark has died,

"'Tis that, unresting, to wander wide Has ever been my plight, And at least I have met you at Cremyll side If not last eve, to-night."

- "You get small rest—that read I quite; And so do I, maybe; Though there's a rest hid safe from sight Elsewhere awaiting me!"

A mad star crossed the sky to the sea, Wasting in sparks as it streamed, And when I looked to where stood she She had changed, much changed, it seemed:

The sparks of the star in her pupils gleamed, She was vague as a vapour now, And ere of its meaning I had dreamed She'd vanished—I knew not how.

I stood on, long; each cliff-top bough, Like a cynic nodding there, Moved up and down, though no man's brow But mine met the wayward air.

Still stood I, wholly unaware Of what had come to pass, Or had brought the secret of my new Fair To my old Love, alas!

I went down then by crag and grass To the boat wherein I had come. Said the man with the oars: "This news of the lass Of Edgcumbe, is sharp for some!

"Yes: found this daybreak, stiff and numb On the shore here, whither she'd sped To meet her lover last night in the glum, And he came not, 'tis said.

"And she leapt down, heart-hit. Pity she's dead: So much for the faithful-bent!" . . . I looked, and again a star overhead Shot through the firmament.


"Did you see something within the house That made me call you before the red sunsetting? Something that all this common scene endows With a richened impress there can be no forgetting?"

"—I have found nothing to see therein, O Sage, that should have made you urge me to enter, Nothing to fire the soul, or the sense to win: I rate you as a rare misrepresenter!"

"—Go anew, Lady,—in by the right . . . Well: why does your face not shine like the face of Moses?" "—I found no moving thing there save the light And shadow flung on the wall by the outside roses."

"—Go yet once more, pray. Look on a seat." "—I go . . . O Sage, it's only a man that sits there With eyes on the sun. Mute,—average head to feet." "—No more?"—"No more. Just one the place befits there,

"As the rays reach in through the open door, And he looks at his hand, and the sun glows through his fingers, While he's thinking thoughts whose tenour is no more To me than the swaying rose-tree shade that lingers."

No more. And years drew on and on Till no sun came, dank fogs the house enfolding; And she saw inside, when the form in the flesh had gone, As a vision what she had missed when the real beholding.


"Why are you so bent down before your time, Old mason? Many have not left their prime So far behind at your age, and can still Stand full upright at will."

He pointed to the mansion-front hard by, And to the stones of the quoin against the sky; "Those upper blocks," he said, "that there you see, It was that ruined me."

There stood in the air up to the parapet Crowning the corner height, the stones as set By him—ashlar whereon the gales might drum For centuries to come.

"I carried them up," he said, "by a ladder there; The last was as big a load as I could bear; But on I heaved; and something in my back Moved, as 'twere with a crack.

"So I got crookt. I never lost that sprain; And those who live there, walled from wind and rain By freestone that I lifted, do not know That my life's ache came so.

"They don't know me, or even know my name, But good I think it, somehow, all the same To have kept 'em safe from harm, and right and tight, Though it has broke me quite.

"Yes; that I fixed it firm up there I am proud, Facing the hail and snow and sun and cloud, And to stand storms for ages, beating round When I lie underground."


"O whence do you come, Figure in the night-fog that chills me numb?"

"I come to you across from my house up there, And I don't mind the brine-mist clinging to me That blows from the quay, For I heard him in my chamber, and thought you unaware."

"But what did you hear, That brought you blindly knocking in this middle-watch so drear?"

"My sailor son's voice as 'twere calling at your door, And I don't mind my bare feet clammy on the stones, And the blight to my bones, For he only knows of THIS house I lived in before."

"Nobody's nigh, Woman like a skeleton, with socket-sunk eye."

"Ah—nobody's nigh! And my life is drearisome, And this is the old home we loved in many a day Before he went away; And the salt fog mops me. And nobody's come!"

From "To Please his Wife."


We sat in the room And praised her whom We saw in the portico-shade outside: She could not hear What was said of her, But smiled, for its purport we did not hide.

Then in was brought That message, fraught With evil fortune for her out there, Whom we loved that day More than any could say, And would fain have fenced from a waft of care.

And the question pressed Like lead on each breast, Should we cloak the tidings, or call her and tell? It was too intense A choice for our sense, As we pondered and watched her we loved so well.

Yea, spirit failed us At what assailed us; How long, while seeing what soon must come, Should we counterfeit No knowledge of it, And stay the stroke that would blanch and numb?

And thus, before For evermore Joy left her, we practised to beguile Her innocence when She now and again Looked in, and smiled us another smile.


He used to pass, well-trimmed and brushed, My window every day, And when I smiled on him he blushed, That youth, quite as a girl might; aye, In the shyest way.

Thus often did he pass hereby, That youth of bounding gait, Until the one who blushed was I, And he became, as here I sate, My joy, my fate.

And now he passes by no more, That youth I loved too true! I grieve should he, as here of yore, Pass elsewhere, seated in his view, Some maiden new!

If such should be, alas for her! He'll make her feel him dear, Become her daily comforter, Then tire him of her beauteous gear, And disappear!


I was the midmost of my world When first I frisked me free, For though within its circuit gleamed But a small company, And I was immature, they seemed To bend their looks on me.

She was the midmost of my world When I went further forth, And hence it was that, whether I turned To south, east, west, or north, Beams of an all-day Polestar burned From that new axe of earth.

Where now is midmost in my world? I trace it not at all: No midmost shows it here, or there, When wistful voices call "We are fain! We are fain!" from everywhere On Earth's bewildering ball!


"What do I catch upon the night-wind, husband? - What is it sounds in this house so eerily? It seems to be a woman's voice: each little while I hear it, And it much troubles me!"

"'Tis but the eaves dripping down upon the plinth-slopes: Letting fancies worry thee!—sure 'tis a foolish thing, When we were on'y coupled half-an-hour before the noontide, And now it's but evening."

"Yet seems it still a woman's voice outside the castle, husband, And 'tis cold to-night, and rain beats, and this is a lonely place. Didst thou fathom much of womankind in travel or adventure Ere ever thou sawest my face?"

"It may be a tree, bride, that rubs his arms acrosswise, If it is not the eaves-drip upon the lower slopes, Or the river at the bend, where it whirls about the hatches Like a creature that sighs and mopes."

"Yet it still seems to me like the crying of a woman, And it saddens me much that so piteous a sound On this my bridal night when I would get agone from sorrow Should so ghost-like wander round!"

"To satisfy thee, Love, I will strike the flint-and-steel, then, And set the rush-candle up, and undo the door, And take the new horn-lantern that we bought upon our journey, And throw the light over the moor."

He struck a light, and breeched and booted in the further chamber, And lit the new horn-lantern and went from her sight, And vanished down the turret; and she heard him pass the postern, And go out into the night.

She listened as she lay, till she heard his step returning, And his voice as he unclothed him: "'Twas nothing, as I said, But the nor'-west wind a-blowing from the moor ath'art the river, And the tree that taps the gurgoyle-head."

"Nay, husband, you perplex me; for if the noise I heard here, Awaking me from sleep so, were but as you avow, The rain-fall, and the wind, and the tree-bough, and the river, Why is it silent now?

"And why is thy hand and thy clasping arm so shaking, And thy sleeve and tags of hair so muddy and so wet, And why feel I thy heart a-thumping every time thou kissest me, And thy breath as if hard to get?"

He lay there in silence for a while, still quickly breathing, Then started up and walked about the room resentfully: "O woman, witch, whom I, in sooth, against my will have wedded, Why castedst thou thy spells on me?

"There was one I loved once: the cry you heard was her cry: She came to me to-night, and her plight was passing sore, As no woman . . . Yea, and it was e'en the cry you heard, wife, But she will cry no more!

"And now I can't abide thee: this place, it hath a curse on't, This farmstead once a castle: I'll get me straight away!" He dressed this time in darkness, unspeaking, as she listened, And went ere the dawn turned day.

They found a woman's body at a spot called Rocky Shallow, Where the Froom stream curves amid the moorland, washed aground, And they searched about for him, the yeoman, who had darkly known her, But he could not be found.

And the bride left for good-and-all the farmstead once a castle, And in a county far away lives, mourns, and sleeps alone, And thinks in windy weather that she hears a woman crying, And sometimes an infant's moan.


When your soft welcomings were said, This curl was waving on your head, And when we walked where breakers dinned It sported in the sun and wind, And when I had won your words of grace It brushed and clung about my face. Then, to abate the misery Of absentness, you gave it me.

Where are its fellows now? Ah, they For brightest brown have donned a gray, And gone into a caverned ark, Ever unopened, always dark!

Yet this one curl, untouched of time, Beams with live brown as in its prime, So that it seems I even could now Restore it to the living brow By bearing down the western road Till I had reached your old abode.

February 1913.


Who would have thought That, not having missed her Talks, tears, laughter In absence, or sought To recall for so long Her gamut of song; Or ever to waft her Signal of aught That she, fancy-fanned, Would well understand, I should have kissed her Picture when scanned Yawning years after!

Yet, seeing her poor Dim-outlined form Chancewise at night-time, Some old allure Came on me, warm, Fresh, pleadful, pure, As in that bright time At a far season Of love and unreason, And took me by storm Here in this blight-time!

And thus it arose That, yawning years after Our early flows Of wit and laughter, And framing of rhymes At idle times, At sight of her painting, Though she lies cold In churchyard mould, I took its feinting As real, and kissed it, As if I had wist it Herself of old.


There was a spell of leisure, No record vouches when; With honours, praises, pleasure To womankind from men.

But no such lures bewitched me, No hand was stretched to raise, No gracious gifts enriched me, No voices sang my praise.

Yet an iris at that season Amid the accustomed slight From denseness, dull unreason, Ringed me with living light.


That "Sacred to the Memory" Is clearly carven there I own, And all may think that on the stone The words have been inscribed by me In bare conventionality.

They know not and will never know That my full script is not confined To that stone space, but stands deep lined Upon the landscape high and low Wherein she made such worthy show.


Glad old house of lichened stonework, What I owed you in my lone work, Noon and night! Whensoever faint or ailing, Letting go my grasp and failing, You lent light.

How by that fair title came you? Did some forward eye so name you Knowing that one, Sauntering down his century blindly, Would remark your sound, so kindly, And be won?

Smile in sunlight, sleep in moonlight, Bask in April, May, and June-light, Zephyr-fanned; Let your chambers show no sorrow, Blanching day, or stuporing morrow, While they stand.


My father was the whipper-in, - Is still—if I'm not misled? And now I see, where the hedge is thin, A little spot of red; Surely it is my father Going to the kennel-shed!

"I cursed and fought my father—aye, And sailed to a foreign land; And feeling sorry, I'm back, to stay, Please God, as his helping hand. Surely it is my father Near where the kennels stand?"

"—True. Whipper-in he used to be For twenty years or more; And you did go away to sea As youths have done before. Yes, oddly enough that red there Is the very coat he wore.

"But he—he's dead; was thrown somehow, And gave his back a crick, And though that is his coat, 'tis now The scarecrow of a rick; You'll see when you get nearer - 'Tis spread out on a stick.

"You see, when all had settled down Your mother's things were sold, And she went back to her own town, And the coat, ate out with mould, Is now used by the farmer For scaring, as 'tis old."


"So back you have come from the town, Nan, dear! And have you seen him there, or near - That soldier of mine - Who long since promised to meet me here?"

"—O yes, Nell: from the town I come, And have seen your lover on sick-leave home - That soldier of yours - Who swore to meet you, or Strike-him-dumb;

"But has kept himself of late away; Yet,—in short, he's coming, I heard him say - That lover of yours - To this very spot on this very day."

"—Then I'll wait, I'll wait, through wet or dry! I'll give him a goblet brimming high - This lover of mine - And not of complaint one word or sigh!"

"—Nell, him I have chanced so much to see, That—he has grown the lover of me! - That lover of yours - And it's here our meeting is planned to be."


In my loamy nook As I dig my hole I observe men look At a stone, and sigh As they pass it by To some far goal.

Something it says To their glancing eyes That must distress The frail and lame, And the strong of frame Gladden or surprise.

Do signs on its face Declare how far Feet have to trace Before they gain Some blest champaign Where no gins are?


Words from the mirror softly pass To the curtains with a sigh: "Why should I trouble again to glass These smileless things hard by, Since she I pleasured once, alas, Is now no longer nigh!"

"I've imaged shadows of coursing cloud, And of the plying limb On the pensive pine when the air is loud With its aerial hymn; But never do they make me proud To catch them within my rim!

"I flash back phantoms of the night That sometimes flit by me, I echo roses red and white - The loveliest blooms that be - But now I never hold to sight So sweet a flower as she."


They parted—a pallid, trembling I pair, And rushing down the lane He left her lonely near me there; —I asked her of their pain.

"It is for ever," at length she said, "His friends have schemed it so, That the long-purposed day to wed Never shall we two know."

"In such a cruel case," said I, "Love will contrive a course?" "—Well, no . . . A thing may underlie, Which robs that of its force;

"A thing I could not tell him of, Though all the year I have tried; This: never could I have given him love, Even had I been his bride.

"So, when his kinsfolk stop the way Point-blank, there could not be A happening in the world to-day More opportune for me!

"Yet hear—no doubt to your surprise - I am sorry, for his sake, That I have escaped the sacrifice I was prepared to make!"


'Twas to greet the new rector I called I here, But in the arm-chair I see My old friend, for long years installed here, Who palely nods to me.

The new man explains what he's planning In a smart and cheerful tone, And I listen, the while that I'm scanning The figure behind his own.

The newcomer urges things on me; I return a vague smile thereto, The olden face gazing upon me Just as it used to do!

And on leaving I scarcely remember Which neighbour to-day I have seen, The one carried out in September, Or him who but entered yestreen.


"[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]"

"A woman for whom great gods might strive!" I said, and kissed her there: And then I thought of the other five, And of how charms outwear.

I thought of the first with her eating eyes, And I thought of the second with hers, green-gray, And I thought of the third, experienced, wise, And I thought of the fourth who sang all day.

And I thought of the fifth, whom I'd called a jade, And I thought of them all, tear-fraught; And that each had shown her a passable maid, Yet not of the favour sought.

So I traced these words on the bark of a beech, Just at the falling of the mast: "After scanning five; yes, each and each, I've found the woman desired—at last!"

"—I feel a strange benumbing spell, As one ill-wished!" said she. And soon it seemed that something fell Was starving her love for me.

"I feel some curse. O, FIVE were there?" And wanly she swerved, and went away. I followed sick: night numbed the air, And dark the mournful moorland lay.

I cried: "O darling, turn your head!" But never her face I viewed; "O turn, O turn!" again I said, And miserably pursued.

At length I came to a Christ-cross stone Which she had passed without discern; And I knelt upon the leaves there strown, And prayed aloud that she might turn.

I rose, and looked; and turn she did; I cried, "My heart revives!" "Look more," she said. I looked as bid; Her face was all the five's.

All the five women, clear come back, I saw in her—with her made one, The while she drooped upon the track, And her frail term seemed well-nigh run.

She'd half forgot me in her change; "Who are you? Won't you say Who you may be, you man so strange, Following since yesterday?"

I took the composite form she was, And carried her to an arbour small, Not passion-moved, but even because In one I could atone to all.

And there she lies, and there I tend, Till my life's threads unwind, A various womanhood in blend - Not one, but all combined.


Sir John was entombed, and the crypt was closed, and she, Like a soul that could meet no more the sight of the sun, Inclined her in weepings and prayings continually, As his widowed one.

And to pleasure her in her sorrow, and fix his name As a memory Time's fierce frost should never kill, She caused to be richly chased a brass to his fame, Which should link them still;

For she bonded her name with his own on the brazen page, As if dead and interred there with him, and cold, and numb, (Omitting the day of her dying and year of her age Till her end should come;)

And implored good people to pray "Of their Charytie For these twaine Soules,"—yea, she who did last remain Forgoing Heaven's bliss if ever with spouse should she Again have lain.

Even there, as it first was set, you may see it now, Writ in quaint Church text, with the date of her death left bare, In the aged Estminster aisle, where the folk yet bow Themselves in prayer.

Thereafter some years slid, till there came a day When it slowly began to be marked of the standers-by That she would regard the brass, and would bend away With a drooping sigh.

Now the lady was fair as any the eye might scan Through a summer day of roving—a type at whose lip Despite her maturing seasons, no meet man Would be loth to sip.

And her heart was stirred with a lightning love to its pith For a newcomer who, while less in years, was one Full eager and able to make her his own forthwith, Restrained of none.

But she answered Nay, death-white; and still as he urged She adversely spake, overmuch as she loved the while, Till he pressed for why, and she led with the face of one scourged To the neighbouring aisle,

And showed him the words, ever gleaming upon her pew, Memorizing her there as the knight's eternal wife, Or falsing such, debarred inheritance due Of celestial life.

He blenched, and reproached her that one yet undeceased Should bury her future—that future which none can spell; And she wept, and purposed anon to inquire of the priest If the price were hell

Of her wedding in face of the record. Her lover agreed, And they parted before the brass with a shudderful kiss, For it seemed to flash out on their impulse of passionate need, "Mock ye not this!"

Well, the priest, whom more perceptions moved than one, Said she erred at the first to have written as if she were dead Her name and adjuration; but since it was done Nought could be said

Save that she must abide by the pledge, for the peace of her soul, And so, by her life, maintain the apostrophe good, If she wished anon to reach the coveted goal Of beatitude.

To erase from the consecrate text her prayer as there prayed Would aver that, since earth's joys most drew her, past doubt, Friends' prayers for her joy above by Jesu's aid Could be done without.

Moreover she thought of the laughter, the shrug, the jibe That would rise at her back in the nave when she should pass As another's avowed by the words she had chosen to inscribe On the changeless brass.

And so for months she replied to her Love: "No, no"; While sorrow was gnawing her beauties ever and more, Till he, long-suffering and weary, grew to show Less warmth than before.

And, after an absence, wrote words absolute: That he gave her till Midsummer morn to make her mind clear; And that if, by then, she had not said Yea to his suit, He should wed elsewhere.

Thence on, at unwonted times through the lengthening days She was seen in the church—at dawn, or when the sun dipt And the moon rose, standing with hands joined, blank of gaze, Before the script.

She thinned as he came not; shrank like a creature that cowers As summer drew nearer; but still had not promised to wed, When, just at the zenith of June, in the still night hours, She was missed from her bed.

"The church!" they whispered with qualms; "where often she sits." They found her: facing the brass there, else seeing none, But feeling the words with her finger, gibbering in fits; And she knew them not one.

And so she remained, in her handmaids' charge; late, soon, Tracing words in the air with her finger, as seen that night - Those incised on the brass—till at length unwatched one noon, She vanished from sight.

And, as talebearers tell, thence on to her last-taken breath Was unseen, save as wraith that in front of the brass made moan; So that ever the way of her life and the time of her death Remained unknown.

And hence, as indited above, you may read even now The quaint church-text, with the date of her death left bare, In the aged Estminster aisle, where folk yet bow Themselves in prayer.

October 30, 1907.


I reach the marble-streeted town, Whose "Sound" outbreathes its air Of sharp sea-salts; I see the movement up and down As when she was there. Ships of all countries come and go, The bandsmen boom in the sun A throbbing waltz; The schoolgirls laugh along the Hoe As when she was one.

I move away as the music rolls: The place seems not to mind That she—of old The brightest of its native souls - Left it behind! Over this green aforedays she On light treads went and came, Yea, times untold; Yet none here knows her history - Has heard her name.

PLYMOUTH (1914?).


How she held up the horses' heads, Firm-lipped, with steady rein, Down that grim steep the coastguard treads, Till all was safe again!

With form erect and keen contour She passed against the sea, And, dipping into the chine's obscure, Was seen no more by me.

To others she appeared anew At times of dusky light, But always, so they told, withdrew From close and curious sight.

Some said her silent wheels would roll Rutless on softest loam, And even that her steeds' footfall Sank not upon the foam.

Where drives she now? It may be where No mortal horses are, But in a chariot of the air Towards some radiant star.


If he should live a thousand years He'd find it not again That scorn of him by men Could less disturb a woman's trust In him as a steadfast star which must Rise scathless from the nether spheres: If he should live a thousand years He'd find it not again.

She waited like a little child, Unchilled by damps of doubt, While from her eyes looked out A confidence sublime as Spring's When stressed by Winter's loiterings. Thus, howsoever the wicked wiled, She waited like a little child Unchilled by damps of doubt.

Through cruel years and crueller Thus she believed in him And his aurore, so dim; That, after fenweeds, flowers would blow; And above all things did she show Her faith in his good faith with her; Through cruel years and crueller Thus she believed in him!


We went a day's excursion to the stream, Basked by the bank, and bent to the ripple-gleam, And I did not know That life would show, However it might flower, no finer glow.

I walked in the Sunday sunshine by the road That wound towards the wicket of your abode, And I did not think That life would shrink To nothing ere it shed a rosier pink.

Unlooked for I arrived on a rainy night, And you hailed me at the door by the swaying light, And I full forgot That life might not Again be touching that ecstatic height.

And that calm eve when you walked up the stair, After a gaiety prolonged and rare, No thought soever That you might never Walk down again, struck me as I stood there.

Rewritten from an old draft.


While he was here in breath and bone, To speak to and to see, Would I had known—more clearly known - What that man did for me

When the wind scraped a minor lay, And the spent west from white To gray turned tiredly, and from gray To broadest bands of night!

But I saw not, and he saw not What shining life-tides flowed To me-ward from his casual jot Of service on that road.

He would have said: "'Twas nothing new; We all do what we can; 'Twas only what one man would do For any other man."

Now that I gauge his goodliness He's slipped from human eyes; And when he passed there's none can guess, Or point out where he lies.


What curious things we said, What curious things we did Up there in the world we walked till dead Our kith and kin amid!

How we played at love, And its wildness, weakness, woe; Yes, played thereat far more than enough As it turned out, I trow!

Played at believing in gods And observing the ordinances, I for your sake in impossible codes Right ready to acquiesce.

Thinking our lives unique, Quite quainter than usual kinds, We held that we could not abide a week The tether of typic minds.

—Yet people who day by day Pass by and look at us From over the wall in a casual way Are of this unconscious.

And feel, if anything, That none can be buried here Removed from commonest fashioning, Or lending note to a bier:

No twain who in heart-heaves proved Themselves at all adept, Who more than many laughed and loved, Who more than many wept,

Or were as sprites or elves Into blind matter hurled, Or ever could have been to themselves The centre of the world.


Why does she turn in that shy soft way Whenever she stirs the fire, And kiss to the chimney-corner wall, As if entranced to admire Its whitewashed bareness more than the sight Of a rose in richest green? I have known her long, but this raptured rite I never before have seen.

- Well, once when her son cast his shadow there, A friend took a pencil and drew him Upon that flame-lit wall. And the lines Had a lifelike semblance to him. And there long stayed his familiar look; But one day, ere she knew, The whitener came to cleanse the nook, And covered the face from view.

"Yes," he said: "My brush goes on with a rush, And the draught is buried under; When you have to whiten old cots and brighten, What else can you do, I wonder?" But she knows he's there. And when she yearns For him, deep in the labouring night, She sees him as close at hand, and turns To him under his sheet of white.


I sat. It all was past; Hope never would hail again; Fair days had ceased at a blast, The world was a darkened den.

The beauty and dream were gone, And the halo in which I had hied So gaily gallantly on Had suffered blot and died!

I went forth, heedless whither, In a cloud too black for name: - People frisked hither and thither; The world was just the same.


The kiss had been given and taken, And gathered to many past: It never could reawaken; But you heard none say: "It's the last!"

The clock showed the hour and the minute, But you did not turn and look: You read no finis in it, As at closing of a book.

But you read it all too rightly When, at a time anon, A figure lay stretched out whitely, And you stood looking thereon.


The dark was thick. A boy he seemed at that time Who trotted by me with uncertain air; "I'll tell my tale," he murmured, "for I fancy A friend goes there? . . . "

Then thus he told. "I reached—'twas for the first time - A dwelling. Life was clogged in me with care; I thought not I should meet an eyesome maiden, But found one there.

"I entered on the precincts for the second time - 'Twas an adventure fit and fresh and fair - I slackened in my footsteps at the porchway, And found her there.

"I rose and travelled thither for the third time, The hope-hues growing gayer and yet gayer As I hastened round the boscage of the outskirts, And found her there.

"I journeyed to the place again the fourth time (The best and rarest visit of the rare, As it seemed to me, engrossed about these goings), And found her there.

"When I bent me to my pilgrimage the fifth time (Soft-thinking as I journeyed I would dare A certain word at token of good auspice), I found her there.

"That landscape did I traverse for the sixth time, And dreamed on what we purposed to prepare; I reached a tryst before my journey's end came, And found her there.

"I went again—long after—aye, the seventh time; The look of things was sinister and bare As I caught no customed signal, heard no voice call, Nor found her there.

"And now I gad the globe—day, night, and any time, To light upon her hiding unaware, And, maybe, I shall nigh me to some nymph-niche, And find her there!"

" But how," said I, "has your so little lifetime Given roomage for such loving, loss, despair? A boy so young!" Forthwith I turned my lantern Upon him there.

His head was white. His small form, fine aforetime, Was shrunken with old age and battering wear, An eighty-years long plodder saw I pacing Beside me there.


The sun threw down a radiant spot On the face in the winding-sheet - The face it had lit when a babe's in its cot; And the sun knew not, and the face knew not That soon they would no more meet.

Now that the grave has shut its door, And lets not in one ray, Do they wonder that they meet no more - That face and its beaming visitor - That met so many a day?

December 1915.



"You look like a widower," she said Through the folding-doors with a laugh from the bed, As he sat by the fire in the outer room, Reading late on a night of gloom, And a cab-hack's wheeze, and the clap of its feet In its breathless pace on the smooth wet street, Were all that came to them now and then . . . "You really do!" she quizzed again.


And the Spirits behind the curtains heard, And also laughed, amused at her word, And at her light-hearted view of him. "Let's get him made so—just for a whim!" Said the Phantom Ironic. "'Twould serve her right If we coaxed the Will to do it some night." "O pray not!" pleaded the younger one, The Sprite of the Pities. "She said it in fun!"


But so it befell, whatever the cause, That what she had called him he next year was; And on such a night, when she lay elsewhere, He, watched by those Phantoms, again sat there, And gazed, as if gazing on far faint shores, At the empty bed through the folding-doors As he remembered her words; and wept That she had forgotten them where she slept.


I hear the bell-rope sawing, And the oil-less axle grind, As I sit alone here drawing What some Gothic brain designed; And I catch the toll that follows From the lagging bell, Ere it spreads to hills and hollows Where the parish people dwell.

I ask not whom it tolls for, Incurious who he be; So, some morrow, when those knolls for One unguessed, sound out for me, A stranger, loitering under In nave or choir, May think, too, "Whose, I wonder?" But care not to inquire.


Yes; since she knows not need, Nor walks in blindness, I may without unkindness A true thing tell:

Which would be truth, indeed, Though worse in speaking, Were her poor footsteps seeking A pauper's cell.

I judge, then, better far She now have sorrow, Than gladness that to-morrow Might know its knell. -

It may be men there are Could make of union A lifelong sweet communion - A passioned spell;

But I, to save her name And bring salvation By altar-affirmation And bridal bell;

I, by whose rash unshame These tears come to her:- My faith would more undo her Than my farewell!

Chained to me, year by year My moody madness Would wither her old gladness Like famine fell.

She'll take the ill that's near, And bear the blaming. 'Twill pass. Full soon her shaming They'll cease to yell.

Our unborn, first her moan, Will grow her guerdon, Until from blot and burden A joyance swell;

In that therein she'll own My good part wholly, My evil staining solely My own vile vell.

Of the disgrace, may be "He shunned to share it, Being false," they'll say. I'll bear it; Time will dispel

The calumny, and prove This much about me, That she lives best without me Who would live well.

That, this once, not self-love But good intention Pleads that against convention We two rebel.

For, is one moonlight dance, One midnight passion, A rock whereon to fashion Life's citadel?

Prove they their power to prance Life's miles together From upper slope to nether Who trip an ell?

- Years hence, or now apace, May tongues be calling News of my further falling Sinward pell-mell:

Then this great good will grace Our lives' division, She's saved from more misprision Though I plumb hell.


THE COLOUR (The following lines are partly made up, partly remembered from a Wessex folk-rhyme)

"What shall I bring you? Please will white do Best for your wearing The long day through?" "—White is for weddings, Weddings, weddings, White is for weddings, And that won't do."

"What shall I bring you? Please will red do Best for your wearing The long day through?" " —Red is for soldiers, Soldiers, soldiers, Red is for soldiers, And that won't do."

"What shall I bring you? Please will blue do Best for your wearing The long day through?" "—Blue is for sailors, Sailors, sailors, Blue is for sailors, And that won't do.

"What shall I bring you? Please will green do Best for your wearing The long day through?" "—Green is for mayings, Mayings, mayings, Green is for mayings, And that won't do."

"What shall I bring you Then? Will black do Best for your wearing The long day through?" "—Black is for mourning, Mourning, mourning, Black is for mourning, And black will do."


I wayfared at the nadir of the sun Where populations meet, though seen of none; And millions seemed to sigh around As though their haunts were nigh around, And unknown throngs to cry around Of things late done.

"O Seers, who well might high ensample show" (Came throbbing past in plainsong small and slow), "Leaders who lead us aimlessly, Teachers who train us shamelessly, Why let ye smoulder flamelessly The truths ye trow?

"Ye scribes, that urge the old medicament, Whose fusty vials have long dried impotent, Why prop ye meretricious things, Denounce the sane as vicious things, And call outworn factitious things Expedient?

"O Dynasties that sway and shake us so, Why rank your magnanimities so low That grace can smooth no waters yet, But breathing threats and slaughters yet Ye grieve Earth's sons and daughters yet As long ago?

"Live there no heedful ones of searching sight, Whose accents might be oracles that smite To hinder those who frowardly Conduct us, and untowardly; To lead the nations vawardly From gloom to light?"

September 22, 1899.


I never cared for Life: Life cared for me, And hence I owed it some fidelity. It now says, "Cease; at length thou hast learnt to grind Sufficient toll for an unwilling mind, And I dismiss thee—not without regard That thou didst ask no ill-advised reward, Nor sought in me much more than thou couldst find."


Where once we danced, where once sang, Gentlemen, The floors are sunken, cobwebs hang, And cracks creep; worms have fed upon The doors. Yea, sprightlier times were then Than now, with harps and tabrets gone, Gentlemen!

Where once we rowed, where once we sailed, Gentlemen, And damsels took the tiller, veiled Against too strong a stare (God wot Their fancy, then or anywhen!) Upon that shore we are clean forgot, Gentlemen!

We have lost somewhat, afar and near, Gentlemen, The thinning of our ranks each year Affords a hint we are nigh undone, That we shall not be ever again The marked of many, loved of one, Gentlemen.

In dance the polka hit our wish, Gentlemen, The paced quadrille, the spry schottische, "Sir Roger."—And in opera spheres The "Girl" (the famed "Bohemian"), And "Trovatore," held the ears, Gentlemen.

This season's paintings do not please, Gentlemen, Like Etty, Mulready, Maclise; Throbbing romance has waned and wanned; No wizard wields the witching pen Of Bulwer, Scott, Dumas, and Sand, Gentlemen.

The bower we shrined to Tennyson, Gentlemen, Is roof-wrecked; damps there drip upon Sagged seats, the creeper-nails are rust, The spider is sole denizen; Even she who read those rhymes is dust, Gentlemen!

We who met sunrise sanguine-souled, Gentlemen, Are wearing weary. We are old; These younger press; we feel our rout Is imminent to Aides' den, - That evening's shades are stretching out, Gentlemen!

And yet, though ours be failing frames, Gentlemen, So were some others' history names, Who trode their track light-limbed and fast As these youth, and not alien From enterprise, to their long last, Gentlemen.

Sophocles, Plato, Socrates, Gentlemen, Pythagoras, Thucydides, Herodotus, and Homer,—yea, Clement, Augustin, Origen, Burnt brightlier towards their setting-day, Gentlemen.

And ye, red-lipped and smooth-browed; list, Gentlemen; Much is there waits you we have missed; Much lore we leave you worth the knowing, Much, much has lain outside our ken: Nay, rush not: time serves: we are going, Gentlemen.


Simple was I and was young; Kept no gallant tryst, I; Even from good words held my tongue, Quoniam Tu fecisti!

Through my youth I stirred me not, High adventure missed I, Left the shining shrines unsought; Yet—me deduxisti!

At my start by Helicon Love-lore little wist I, Worldly less; but footed on; Why? Me suscepisti!

When I failed at fervid rhymes, "Shall," I said, "persist I?" "Dies" (I would add at times) "Meos posuisti!"

So I have fared through many suns; Sadly little grist I Bring my mill, or any one's, Domine, Tu scisti!

And at dead of night I call: "Though to prophets list I, Which hath understood at all? Yea: Quem elegisti?"


SURVIEW "Cogitavi vias meas"

A cry from the green-grained sticks of the fire Made me gaze where it seemed to be: 'Twas my own voice talking therefrom to me On how I had walked when my sun was higher - My heart in its arrogancy.

"You held not to whatsoever was true," Said my own voice talking to me: "Whatsoever was just you were slack to see; Kept not things lovely and pure in view," Said my own voice talking to me.

"You slighted her that endureth all," Said my own voice talking to me; "Vaunteth not, trusteth hopefully; That suffereth long and is kind withal," Said my own voice talking to me.

"You taught not that which you set about," Said my own voice talking to me; "That the greatest of things is Charity. . . " - And the sticks burnt low, and the fire went out, And my voice ceased talking to me.


{1} Quadrilles danced early in the nineteenth century.

{2} It was said her real name was Eve Trevillian or Trevelyan; and that she was the handsome mother of two or three illegitimate children, circa 1784-95.


Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse