"Nothing regrets to see thee go— Not one voice sobs' farewell;' And where thy heart has suffered so, Canst thou desire to dwell?"
"Alas! the countless links are strong That bind us to our clay; The loving spirit lingers long, And would not pass away!
"And rest is sweet, when laurelled fame Will crown the soldier's crest; But a brave heart, with a tarnished name, Would rather fight than rest.
"Well, thou hast fought for many a year, Hast fought thy whole life through, Hast humbled Falsehood, trampled Fear; What is there left to do?
"'Tis true, this arm has hotly striven, Has dared what few would dare; Much have I done, and freely given, But little learnt to bear!
"Look on the grave where thou must sleep Thy last, and strongest foe; It is endurance not to weep, If that repose seem woe.
"The long war closing in defeat— Defeat serenely borne,— Thy midnight rest may still be sweet, And break in glorious morn!"
Death! that struck when I was most confiding. In my certain faith of joy to be— Strike again, Time's withered branch dividing From the fresh root of Eternity!
Leaves, upon Time's branch, were growing brightly, Full of sap, and full of silver dew; Birds beneath its shelter gathered nightly; Daily round its flowers the wild bees flew.
Sorrow passed, and plucked the golden blossom; Guilt stripped off the foliage in its pride But, within its parent's kindly bosom, Flowed for ever Life's restoring tide.
Little mourned I for the parted gladness, For the vacant nest and silent song— Hope was there, and laughed me out of sadness; Whispering, "Winter will not linger long!"
And, behold! with tenfold increase blessing, Spring adorned the beauty-burdened spray; Wind and rain and fervent heat, caressing, Lavished glory on that second May!
High it rose—no winged grief could sweep it; Sin was scared to distance with its shine; Love, and its own life, had power to keep it From all wrong—from every blight but thine!
Cruel Death! The young leaves droop and languish; Evening's gentle air may still restore— No! the morning sunshine mocks my anguish- Time, for me, must never blossom more!
Strike it down, that other boughs may flourish Where that perished sapling used to be; Thus, at least, its mouldering corpse will nourish That from which it sprung—Eternity.
STANZAS TO ——
Well, some may hate, and some may scorn, And some may quite forget thy name; But my sad heart must ever mourn Thy ruined hopes, thy blighted fame! 'Twas thus I thought, an hour ago, Even weeping o'er that wretch's woe; One word turned back my gushing tears, And lit my altered eye with sneers. Then "Bless the friendly dust," I said, "That hides thy unlamented head! Vain as thou wert, and weak as vain, The slave of Falsehood, Pride, and Pain— My heart has nought akin to thine; Thy soul is powerless over mine." But these were thoughts that vanished too; Unwise, unholy, and untrue: Do I despise the timid deer, Because his limbs are fleet with fear? Or, would I mock the wolf's death-howl, Because his form is gaunt and foul? Or, hear with joy the leveret's cry, Because it cannot bravely die? No! Then above his memory Let Pity's heart as tender be; Say, "Earth, lie lightly on that breast, And, kind Heaven, grant that spirit rest!"
The moon is full this winter night; The stars are clear, though few; And every window glistens bright With leaves of frozen dew.
The sweet moon through your lattice gleams, And lights your room like day; And there you pass, in happy dreams, The peaceful hours away!
While I, with effort hardly quelling The anguish in my breast, Wander about the silent dwelling, And cannot think of rest.
The old clock in the gloomy hall Ticks on, from hour to hour; And every time its measured call Seems lingering slow and slower:
And, oh, how slow that keen-eyed star Has tracked the chilly gray! What, watching yet! how very far The morning lies away!
Without your chamber door I stand; Love, are you slumbering still? My cold heart, underneath my hand, Has almost ceased to thrill.
Bleak, bleak the east wind sobs and sighs, And drowns the turret bell, Whose sad note, undistinguished, dies Unheard, like my farewell!
To-morrow, Scorn will blight my name, And Hate will trample me, Will load me with a coward's shame— A traitor's perjury.
False friends will launch their covert sneers; True friends will wish me dead; And I shall cause the bitterest tears That you have ever shed.
The dark deeds of my outlawed race Will then like virtues shine; And men will pardon their disgrace, Beside the guilt of mine.
For, who forgives the accursed crime Of dastard treachery? Rebellion, in its chosen time, May Freedom's champion be;
Revenge may stain a righteous sword, It may be just to slay; But, traitor, traitor,—from THAT word All true breasts shrink away!
Oh, I would give my heart to death, To keep my honour fair; Yet, I'll not give my inward faith My honour's NAME to spare!
Not even to keep your priceless love, Dare I, Beloved, deceive; This treason should the future prove, Then, only then, believe!
I know the path I ought to go I follow fearlessly, Inquiring not what deeper woe Stern duty stores for me.
So foes pursue, and cold allies Mistrust me, every one: Let me be false in others' eyes, If faithful in my own.
I'll not weep that thou art going to leave me, There's nothing lovely here; And doubly will the dark world grieve me, While thy heart suffers there.
I'll not weep, because the summer's glory Must always end in gloom; And, follow out the happiest story— It closes with a tomb!
And I am weary of the anguish Increasing winters bear; Weary to watch the spirit languish Through years of dead despair.
So, if a tear, when thou art dying, Should haply fall from me, It is but that my soul is sighing, To go and rest with thee.
Well hast thou spoken, and yet not taught A feeling strange or new; Thou hast but roused a latent thought, A cloud-closed beam of sunshine brought To gleam in open view.
Deep down, concealed within my soul, That light lies hid from men; Yet glows unquenched—though shadows roll, Its gentle ray cannot control— About the sullen den.
Was I not vexed, in these gloomy ways To walk alone so long? Around me, wretches uttering praise, Or howling o'er their hopeless days, And each with Frenzy's tongue;—
A brotherhood of misery, Their smiles as sad as sighs; Whose madness daily maddened me, Distorting into agony The bliss before my eyes!
So stood I, in Heaven's glorious sun, And in the glare of Hell; My spirit drank a mingled tone, Of seraph's song, and demon's moan; What my soul bore, my soul alone Within itself may tell!
Like a soft, air above a sea, Tossed by the tempest's stir; A thaw-wind, melting quietly The snow-drift on some wintry lea; No: what sweet thing resembles thee, My thoughtful Comforter?
And yet a little longer speak, Calm this resentful mood; And while the savage heart grows meek, For other token do not seek, But let the tear upon my cheek Evince my gratitude!
THE OLD STOIC.
Riches I hold in light esteem, And Love I laugh to scorn; And lust of fame was but a dream, That vanished with the morn:
And if I pray, the only prayer That moves my lips for me Is, "Leave the heart that now I bear, And give me liberty!"
Yes, as my swift days near their goal: 'Tis all that I implore; In life and death a chainless soul, With courage to endure.
POEMS BY ACTON BELL,
Yes, thou art gone! and never more Thy sunny smile shall gladden me; But I may pass the old church door, And pace the floor that covers thee,
May stand upon the cold, damp stone, And think that, frozen, lies below The lightest heart that I have known, The kindest I shall ever know.
Yet, though I cannot see thee more, 'Tis still a comfort to have seen; And though thy transient life is o'er, 'Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;
To think a soul so near divine, Within a form so angel fair, United to a heart like thine, Has gladdened once our humble sphere.
I'll rest me in this sheltered bower, And look upon the clear blue sky That smiles upon me through the trees, Which stand so thick clustering by;
And view their green and glossy leaves, All glistening in the sunshine fair; And list the rustling of their boughs, So softly whispering through the air.
And while my ear drinks in the sound, My winged soul shall fly away; Reviewing lone departed years As one mild, beaming, autumn day;
And soaring on to future scenes, Like hills and woods, and valleys green, All basking in the summer's sun, But distant still, and dimly seen.
Oh, list! 'tis summer's very breath That gently shakes the rustling trees— But look! the snow is on the ground— How can I think of scenes like these?
'Tis but the FROST that clears the air, And gives the sky that lovely blue; They're smiling in a WINTER'S sun, Those evergreens of sombre hue.
And winter's chill is on my heart— How can I dream of future bliss? How can my spirit soar away, Confined by such a chain as this?
How brightly glistening in the sun The woodland ivy plays! While yonder beeches from their barks Reflect his silver rays.
That sun surveys a lovely scene From softly smiling skies; And wildly through unnumbered trees The wind of winter sighs:
Now loud, it thunders o'er my head, And now in distance dies. But give me back my barren hills Where colder breezes rise;
Where scarce the scattered, stunted trees Can yield an answering swell, But where a wilderness of heath Returns the sound as well.
For yonder garden, fair and wide, With groves of evergreen, Long winding walks, and borders trim, And velvet lawns between;
Restore to me that little spot, With gray walls compassed round, Where knotted grass neglected lies, And weeds usurp the ground.
Though all around this mansion high Invites the foot to roam, And though its halls are fair within— Oh, give me back my HOME!
VANITAS VANITATUM, OMNIA VANITAS.
In all we do, and hear, and see, Is restless Toil and Vanity. While yet the rolling earth abides, Men come and go like ocean tides;
And ere one generation dies, Another in its place shall rise; THAT, sinking soon into the grave, Others succeed, like wave on wave;
And as they rise, they pass away. The sun arises every day, And hastening onward to the West, He nightly sinks, but not to rest:
Returning to the eastern skies, Again to light us, he must rise. And still the restless wind comes forth, Now blowing keenly from the North;
Now from the South, the East, the West, For ever changing, ne'er at rest. The fountains, gushing from the hills, Supply the ever-running rills;
The thirsty rivers drink their store, And bear it rolling to the shore, But still the ocean craves for more. 'Tis endless labour everywhere! Sound cannot satisfy the ear,
Light cannot fill the craving eye, Nor riches half our wants supply, Pleasure but doubles future pain, And joy brings sorrow in her train;
Laughter is mad, and reckless mirth— What does she in this weary earth? Should Wealth, or Fame, our Life employ, Death comes, our labour to destroy;
To snatch the untasted cup away, For which we toiled so many a day. What, then, remains for wretched man? To use life's comforts while he can,
Enjoy the blessings Heaven bestows, Assist his friends, forgive his foes; Trust God, and keep His statutes still, Upright and firm, through good and ill;
Thankful for all that God has given, Fixing his firmest hopes on Heaven; Knowing that earthly joys decay, But hoping through the darkest day.
I mourn with thee, and yet rejoice That thou shouldst sorrow so; With angel choirs I join my voice To bless the sinner's woe.
Though friends and kindred turn away, And laugh thy grief to scorn; I hear the great Redeemer say, "Blessed are ye that mourn."
Hold on thy course, nor deem it strange That earthly cords are riven: Man may lament the wondrous change, But "there is joy in heaven!"
MUSIC ON CHRISTMAS MORNING.
Music I love—but never strain Could kindle raptures so divine, So grief assuage, so conquer pain, And rouse this pensive heart of mine— As that we hear on Christmas morn, Upon the wintry breezes borne.
Though Darkness still her empire keep, And hours must pass, ere morning break; From troubled dreams, or slumbers deep, That music KINDLY bids us wake: It calls us, with an angel's voice, To wake, and worship, and rejoice;
To greet with joy the glorious morn, Which angels welcomed long ago, When our redeeming Lord was born, To bring the light of Heaven below; The Powers of Darkness to dispel, And rescue Earth from Death and Hell.
While listening to that sacred strain, My raptured spirit soars on high; I seem to hear those songs again Resounding through the open sky, That kindled such divine delight, In those who watched their flocks by night.
With them I celebrate His birth— Glory to God, in highest Heaven, Good-will to men, and peace on earth, To us a Saviour-king is given; Our God is come to claim His own, And Satan's power is overthrown!
A sinless God, for sinful men, Descends to suffer and to bleed; Hell MUST renounce its empire then; The price is paid, the world is freed, And Satan's self must now confess That Christ has earned a RIGHT to bless:
Now holy Peace may smile from heaven, And heavenly Truth from earth shall spring: The captive's galling bonds are riven, For our Redeemer is our king; And He that gave his blood for men Will lead us home to God again.
Oh, weep not, love! each tear that springs In those dear eyes of thine, To me a keener suffering brings Than if they flowed from mine.
And do not droop! however drear The fate awaiting thee; For MY sake combat pain and care, And cherish life for me!
I do not fear thy love will fail; Thy faith is true, I know; But, oh, my love! thy strength is frail For such a life of woe.
Were 't not for this, I well could trace (Though banished long from thee) Life's rugged path, and boldly face The storms that threaten me.
Fear not for me—I've steeled my mind Sorrow and strife to greet; Joy with my love I leave behind, Care with my friends I meet.
A mother's sad reproachful eye, A father's scowling brow— But he may frown and she may sigh: I will not break my vow!
I love my mother, I revere My sire, but fear not me— Believe that Death alone can tear This faithful heart from thee.
IF THIS BE ALL.
O God! if this indeed be all That Life can show to me; If on my aching brow may fall No freshening dew from Thee;
If with no brighter light than this The lamp of hope may glow, And I may only dream of bliss, And wake to weary woe;
If friendship's solace must decay, When other joys are gone, And love must keep so far away, While I go wandering on,—
Wandering and toiling without gain, The slave of others' will, With constant care, and frequent pain, Despised, forgotten still;
Grieving to look on vice and sin, Yet powerless to quell The silent current from within, The outward torrent's swell
While all the good I would impart, The feelings I would share, Are driven backward to my heart, And turned to wormwood there;
If clouds must EVER keep from sight The glories of the Sun, And I must suffer Winter's blight, Ere Summer is begun;
If Life must be so full of care, Then call me soon to thee; Or give me strength enough to bear My load of misery.
Brightly the sun of summer shone Green fields and waving woods upon, And soft winds wandered by; Above, a sky of purest blue, Around, bright flowers of loveliest hue, Allured the gazer's eye.
But what were all these charms to me, When one sweet breath of memory Came gently wafting by? I closed my eyes against the day, And called my willing soul away, From earth, and air, and sky;
That I might simply fancy there One little flower—a primrose fair, Just opening into sight; As in the days of infancy, An opening primrose seemed to me A source of strange delight.
Sweet Memory! ever smile on me; Nature's chief beauties spring from thee; Oh, still thy tribute bring Still make the golden crocus shine Among the flowers the most divine, The glory of the spring.
Still in the wallflower's fragrance dwell; And hover round the slight bluebell, My childhood's darling flower. Smile on the little daisy still, The buttercup's bright goblet fill With all thy former power.
For ever hang thy dreamy spell Round mountain star and heather bell, And do not pass away From sparkling frost, or wreathed snow, And whisper when the wild winds blow, Or rippling waters play.
Is childhood, then, so all divine? Or Memory, is the glory thine, That haloes thus the past? Not ALL divine; its pangs of grief (Although, perchance, their stay be brief) Are bitter while they last.
Nor is the glory all thine own, For on our earliest joys alone That holy light is cast. With such a ray, no spell of thine Can make our later pleasures shine, Though long ago they passed.
Sweet are thy strains, celestial Bard; And oft, in childhood's years, I've read them o'er and o'er again, With floods of silent tears.
The language of my inmost heart I traced in every line; MY sins, MY sorrows, hopes, and fears, Were there-and only mine.
All for myself the sigh would swell, The tear of anguish start; I little knew what wilder woe Had filled the Poet's heart.
I did not know the nights of gloom, The days of misery; The long, long years of dark despair, That crushed and tortured thee.
But they are gone; from earth at length Thy gentle soul is pass'd, And in the bosom of its God Has found its home at last.
It must be so, if God is love, And answers fervent prayer; Then surely thou shalt dwell on high, And I may meet thee there.
Is He the source of every good, The spring of purity? Then in thine hours of deepest woe, Thy God was still with thee.
How else, when every hope was fled, Couldst thou so fondly cling To holy things and help men? And how so sweetly sing,
Of things that God alone could teach? And whence that purity, That hatred of all sinful ways— That gentle charity?
Are THESE the symptoms of a heart Of heavenly grace bereft— For ever banished from its God, To Satan's fury left?
Yet, should thy darkest fears be true, If Heaven be so severe, That such a soul as thine is lost,— Oh! how shall I appear?
THE DOUBTER'S PRAYER.
Eternal Power, of earth and air! Unseen, yet seen in all around, Remote, but dwelling everywhere, Though silent, heard in every sound;
If e'er thine ear in mercy bent, When wretched mortals cried to Thee, And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent, To save lost sinners such as me:
Then hear me now, while kneeling here, I lift to thee my heart and eye, And all my soul ascends in prayer, OH, GIVE ME—GIVE ME FAITH! I cry.
Without some glimmering in my heart, I could not raise this fervent prayer; But, oh! a stronger light impart, And in Thy mercy fix it there.
While Faith is with me, I am blest; It turns my darkest night to day; But while I clasp it to my breast, I often feel it slide away.
Then, cold and dark, my spirit sinks, To see my light of life depart; And every fiend of Hell, methinks, Enjoys the anguish of my heart.
What shall I do, if all my love, My hopes, my toil, are cast away, And if there be no God above, To hear and bless me when I pray?
If this be vain delusion all, If death be an eternal sleep, And none can hear my secret call, Or see the silent tears I weep!
Oh, help me, God! For thou alone Canst my distracted soul relieve; Forsake it not: it is thine own, Though weak, yet longing to believe.
Oh, drive these cruel doubts away; And make me know, that Thou art God! A faith, that shines by night and day, Will lighten every earthly load.
If I believe that Jesus died, And waking, rose to reign above; Then surely Sorrow, Sin, and Pride, Must yield to Peace, and Hope, and Love.
And all the blessed words He said Will strength and holy joy impart: A shield of safety o'er my head, A spring of comfort in my heart.
A WORD TO THE "ELECT."
You may rejoice to think YOURSELVES secure; You may be grateful for the gift divine— That grace unsought, which made your black hearts pure, And fits your earth-born souls in Heaven to shine.
But, is it sweet to look around, and view Thousands excluded from that happiness Which they deserved, at least, as much as you.— Their faults not greater, nor their virtues less?
And wherefore should you love your God the more, Because to you alone his smiles are given; Because He chose to pass the MANY o'er, And only bring the favoured FEW to Heaven?
And, wherefore should your hearts more grateful prove, Because for ALL the Saviour did not die? Is yours the God of justice and of love? And are your bosoms warm with charity?
Say, does your heart expand to all mankind? And, would you ever to your neighbour do— The weak, the strong, the enlightened, and the blind— As you would have your neighbour do to you?
And when you, looking on your fellow-men, Behold them doomed to endless misery, How can you talk of joy and rapture then?— May God withhold such cruel joy from me!
That none deserve eternal bliss I know; Unmerited the grace in mercy given: But, none shall sink to everlasting woe, That have not well deserved the wrath of Heaven.
And, oh! there lives within my heart A hope, long nursed by me; (And should its cheering ray depart, How dark my soul would be!)
That as in Adam all have died, In Christ shall all men live; And ever round his throne abide, Eternal praise to give.
That even the wicked shall at last Be fitted for the skies; And when their dreadful doom is past, To life and light arise.
I ask not, how remote the day, Nor what the sinners' woe, Before their dross is purged away; Enough for me to know—
That when the clip of wrath is drained, The metal purified, They'll cling to what they once disdained, And live by Him that died.
'Tis strange to think there WAS a time When mirth was not an empty name, When laughter really cheered the heart, And frequent smiles unbidden came, And tears of grief would only flow In sympathy for others' woe;
When speech expressed the inward thought, And heart to kindred heart was bare, And summer days were far too short For all the pleasures crowded there; And silence, solitude, and rest, Now welcome to the weary breast—
Were all unprized, uncourted then— And all the joy one spirit showed, The other deeply felt again; And friendship like a river flowed, Constant and strong its silent course, For nought withstood its gentle force:
When night, the holy time of peace, Was dreaded as the parting hour; When speech and mirth at once must cease, And silence must resume her power; Though ever free from pains and woes, She only brought us calm repose.
And when the blessed dawn again Brought daylight to the blushing skies, We woke, and not RELUCTANT then, To joyless LABOUR did we rise; But full of hope, and glad and gay, We welcomed the returning day.
Though bleak these woods, and damp the ground With fallen leaves so thickly strown, And cold the wind that wanders round With wild and melancholy moan;
There IS a friendly roof, I know, Might shield me from the wintry blast; There is a fire, whose ruddy glow Will cheer me for my wanderings past.
And so, though still, where'er I go, Cold stranger-glances meet my eye; Though, when my spirit sinks in woe, Unheeded swells the unbidden sigh;
Though solitude, endured too long, Bids youthful joys too soon decay, Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue, And overclouds my noon of day;
When kindly thoughts that would have way, Flow back discouraged to my breast; I know there is, though far away, A home where heart and soul may rest.
Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine, The warmer heart will not belie; While mirth, and truth, and friendship shine In smiling lip and earnest eye.
The ice that gathers round my heart May there be thawed; and sweetly, then, The joys of youth, that now depart, Will come to cheer my soul again.
Though far I roam, that thought shall be My hope, my comfort, everywhere; While such a home remains to me, My heart shall never know despair!
LINES COMPOSED IN A WOOD ON A WINDY DAY.
My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring And carried aloft on the wings of the breeze; For above and around me the wild wind is roaring, Arousing to rapture the earth and the seas.
The long withered grass in the sunshine is glancing, The bare trees are tossing their branches on high; The dead leaves beneath them are merrily dancing, The white clouds are scudding across the blue sky
I wish I could see how the ocean is lashing The foam of its billows to whirlwinds of spray; I wish I could see how its proud waves are dashing, And hear the wild roar of their thunder to-day!
VIEWS OF LIFE.
When sinks my heart in hopeless gloom, And life can show no joy for me; And I behold a yawning tomb, Where bowers and palaces should be;
In vain you talk of morbid dreams; In vain you gaily smiling say, That what to me so dreary seems, The healthy mind deems bright and gay.
I too have smiled, and thought like you, But madly smiled, and falsely deemed: TRUTH led me to the present view,— I'm waking now—'twas THEN I dreamed.
I lately saw a sunset sky, And stood enraptured to behold Its varied hues of glorious dye: First, fleecy clouds of shining gold;
These blushing took a rosy hue; Beneath them shone a flood of green; Nor less divine, the glorious blue That smiled above them and between.
I cannot name each lovely shade; I cannot say how bright they shone; But one by one, I saw them fade; And what remained when they were gone?
Dull clouds remained, of sombre hue, And when their borrowed charm was o'er, The azure sky had faded too, That smiled so softly bright before.
So, gilded by the glow of youth, Our varied life looks fair and gay; And so remains the naked truth, When that false light is past away.
Why blame ye, then, my keener sight, That clearly sees a world of woes Through all the haze of golden light That flattering Falsehood round it throws?
When the young mother smiles above The first-born darling of her heart, Her bosom glows with earnest love, While tears of silent transport start.
Fond dreamer! little does she know The anxious toil, the suffering, The blasted hopes, the burning woe, The object of her joy will bring.
Her blinded eyes behold not now What, soon or late, must be his doom; The anguish that will cloud his brow, The bed of death, the dreary tomb.
As little know the youthful pair, In mutual love supremely blest, What weariness, and cold despair, Ere long, will seize the aching breast.
And even should Love and Faith remain, (The greatest blessings life can show,) Amid adversity and pain, To shine throughout with cheering glow;
They do not see how cruel Death Comes on, their loving hearts to part: One feels not now the gasping breath, The rending of the earth-bound heart,—
The soul's and body's agony, Ere she may sink to her repose. The sad survivor cannot see The grave above his darling close;
Nor how, despairing and alone, He then must wear his life away; And linger, feebly toiling on, And fainting, sink into decay.
* * * *
Oh, Youth may listen patiently, While sad Experience tells her tale, But Doubt sits smiling in his eye, For ardent Hope will still prevail!
He hears how feeble Pleasure dies, By guilt destroyed, and pain and woe; He turns to Hope—and she replies, "Believe it not-it is not so!"
"Oh, heed her not!" Experience says; "For thus she whispered once to me; She told me, in my youthful days, How glorious manhood's prime would be.
"When, in the time of early Spring, Too chill the winds that o'er me pass'd, She said, each coming day would bring a fairer heaven, a gentler blast.
"And when the sun too seldom beamed, The sky, o'ercast, too darkly frowned, The soaking rain too constant streamed, And mists too dreary gathered round;
"She told me, Summer's glorious ray Would chase those vapours all away, And scatter glories round; With sweetest music fill the trees, Load with rich scent the gentle breeze, And strew with flowers the ground
"But when, beneath that scorching ray, I languished, weary through the day, While birds refused to sing, Verdure decayed from field and tree, And panting Nature mourned with me The freshness of the Spring.
"'Wait but a little while,' she said, 'Till Summer's burning days are fled; And Autumn shall restore, With golden riches of her own, And Summer's glories mellowed down, The freshness you deplore.'
And long I waited, but in vain: That freshness never came again, Though Summer passed away, Though Autumn's mists hung cold and chill. And drooping nature languished still, And sank into decay.
"Till wintry blasts foreboding blew Through leafless trees—and then I knew That Hope was all a dream. But thus, fond youth, she cheated me; And she will prove as false to thee, Though sweet her words may seem.
Stern prophet! Cease thy bodings dire— Thou canst not quench the ardent fire That warms the breast of youth. Oh, let it cheer him while it may, And gently, gently die away— Chilled by the damps of truth!
Tell him, that earth is not our rest; Its joys are empty—frail at best; And point beyond the sky. But gleams of light may reach us here; And hope the ROUGHEST path can cheer: Then do not bid it fly!
Though hope may promise joys, that still Unkindly time will ne'er fulfil; Or, if they come at all, We never find them unalloyed,— Hurtful perchance, or soon destroyed, They vanish or they pall;
Yet hope ITSELF a brightness throws O'er all our labours and our woes; While dark foreboding Care A thousand ills will oft portend, That Providence may ne'er intend The trembling heart to bear.
Or if they come, it oft appears, Our woes are lighter than our fears, And far more bravely borne. Then let us not enhance our doom But e'en in midnight's blackest gloom Expect the rising morn.
Because the road is rough and long, Shall we despise the skylark's song, That cheers the wanderer's way? Or trample down, with reckless feet, The smiling flowerets, bright and sweet, Because they soon decay?
Pass pleasant scenes unnoticed by, Because the next is bleak and drear; Or not enjoy a smiling sky, Because a tempest may be near?
No! while we journey on our way, We'll smile on every lovely thing; And ever, as they pass away, To memory and hope we'll cling.
And though that awful river flows Before us, when the journey's past, Perchance of all the pilgrim's woes Most dreadful—shrink not—'tis the last!
Though icy cold, and dark, and deep; Beyond it smiles that blessed shore, Where none shall suffer, none shall weep, And bliss shall reign for evermore!
Oh, I am very weary, Though tears no longer flow; My eyes are tired of weeping, My heart is sick of woe;
My life is very lonely My days pass heavily, I'm weary of repining; Wilt thou not come to me?
Oh, didst thou know my longings For thee, from day to day, My hopes, so often blighted, Thou wouldst not thus delay!
THE STUDENT'S SERENADE.
I have slept upon my couch, But my spirit did not rest, For the labours of the day Yet my weary soul opprest;
And before my dreaming eyes Still the learned volumes lay, And I could not close their leaves, And I could not turn away.
But I oped my eyes at last, And I heard a muffled sound; 'Twas the night-breeze, come to say That the snow was on the ground.
Then I knew that there was rest On the mountain's bosom free; So I left my fevered couch, And I flew to waken thee!
I have flown to waken thee— For, if thou wilt not arise, Then my soul can drink no peace From these holy moonlight skies.
And this waste of virgin snow To my sight will not be fair, Unless thou wilt smiling come, Love, to wander with me there.
Then, awake! Maria, wake! For, if thou couldst only know How the quiet moonlight sleeps On this wilderness of snow,
And the groves of ancient trees, In their snowy garb arrayed, Till they stretch into the gloom Of the distant valley's shade;
I know thou wouldst rejoice To inhale this bracing air; Thou wouldst break thy sweetest sleep To behold a scene so fair.
O'er these wintry wilds, ALONE, Thou wouldst joy to wander free; And it will not please thee less, Though that bliss be shared with me.
THE CAPTIVE DOVE.
Poor restless dove, I pity thee; And when I hear thy plaintive moan, I mourn for thy captivity, And in thy woes forget mine own.
To see thee stand prepared to fly, And flap those useless wings of thine, And gaze into the distant sky, Would melt a harder heart than mine.
In vain—in vain! Thou canst not rise: Thy prison roof confines thee there; Its slender wires delude thine eyes, And quench thy longings with despair.
Oh, thou wert made to wander free In sunny mead and shady grove, And far beyond the rolling sea, In distant climes, at will to rove!
Yet, hadst thou but one gentle mate Thy little drooping heart to cheer, And share with thee thy captive state, Thou couldst be happy even there.
Yes, even there, if, listening by, One faithful dear companion stood, While gazing on her full bright eye, Thou mightst forget thy native wood
But thou, poor solitary dove, Must make, unheard, thy joyless moan; The heart that Nature formed to love Must pine, neglected, and alone.
Ellen, you were thoughtless once Of beauty or of grace, Simple and homely in attire, Careless of form and face; Then whence this change? and wherefore now So often smoothe your hair? And wherefore deck your youthful form With such unwearied care?
Tell us, and cease to tire our ears With that familiar strain; Why will you play those simple tunes So often o'er again? "Indeed, dear friends, I can but say That childhood's thoughts are gone; Each year its own new feelings brings, And years move swiftly on:
"And for these little simple airs— I love to play them o'er So much—I dare not promise, now, To play them never more." I answered—and it was enough; They turned them to depart; They could not read my secret thoughts, Nor see my throbbing heart.
I've noticed many a youthful form, Upon whose changeful face The inmost workings of the soul The gazer well might trace; The speaking eye, the changing lip, The ready blushing cheek, The smiling, or beclouded brow, Their different feelings speak.
But, thank God! you might gaze on mine For hours, and never know The secret changes of my soul From joy to keenest woe. Last night, as we sat round the fire Conversing merrily, We heard, without, approaching steps Of one well known to me!
There was no trembling in my voice, No blush upon my cheek, No lustrous sparkle in my eyes, Of hope, or joy, to speak; But, oh! my spirit burned within, My heart beat full and fast! He came not nigh—he went away— And then my joy was past.
And yet my comrades marked it not: My voice was still the same; They saw me smile, and o'er my face No signs of sadness came. They little knew my hidden thoughts; And they will NEVER know The aching anguish of my heart, The bitter burning woe!
What though the Sun had left my sky; To save me from despair The blessed Moon arose on high, And shone serenely there.
I watched her, with a tearful gaze, Rise slowly o'er the hill, While through the dim horizon's haze Her light gleamed faint and chill.
I thought such wan and lifeless beams Could ne'er my heart repay For the bright sun's most transient gleams That cheered me through the day:
But, as above that mist's control She rose, and brighter shone, I felt her light upon my soul; But now—that light is gone!
Thick vapours snatched her from my sight, And I was darkling left, All in the cold and gloomy night, Of light and hope bereft:
Until, methought, a little star Shone forth with trembling ray, To cheer me with its light afar— But that, too, passed away.
Anon, an earthly meteor blazed The gloomy darkness through; I smiled, yet trembled while I gazed— But that soon vanished too!
And darker, drearier fell the night Upon my spirit then;— But what is that faint struggling light? Is it the Moon again?
Kind Heaven! increase that silvery gleam And bid these clouds depart, And let her soft celestial beam Restore my fainting heart!
SELECTIONS FROM THE LITERARY REMAINS OF ELLIS AND ACTON BELL.
By Currer Bell
SELECTIONS FROM POEMS BY ELLIS BELL.
It would not have been difficult to compile a volume out of the papers left by my sisters, had I, in making the selection, dismissed from my consideration the scruples and the wishes of those whose written thoughts these papers held. But this was impossible: an influence, stronger than could be exercised by any motive of expediency, necessarily regulated the selection. I have, then, culled from the mass only a little poem here and there. The whole makes but a tiny nosegay, and the colour and perfume of the flowers are not such as fit them for festal uses.
It has been already said that my sisters wrote much in childhood and girlhood. Usually, it seems a sort of injustice to expose in print the crude thoughts of the unripe mind, the rude efforts of the unpractised hand; yet I venture to give three little poems of my sister Emily's, written in her sixteenth year, because they illustrate a point in her character.
At that period she was sent to school. Her previous life, with the exception of a single half-year, had been passed in the absolute retirement of a village parsonage, amongst the hills bordering Yorkshire and Lancashire. The scenery of these hills is not grand—it is not romantic it is scarcely striking. Long low moors, dark with heath, shut in little valleys, where a stream waters, here and there, a fringe of stunted copse. Mills and scattered cottages chase romance from these valleys; it is only higher up, deep in amongst the ridges of the moors, that Imagination can find rest for the sole of her foot: and even if she finds it there, she must be a solitude-loving raven—no gentle dove. If she demand beauty to inspire her, she must bring it inborn: these moors are too stern to yield any product so delicate. The eye of the gazer must ITSELF brim with a "purple light," intense enough to perpetuate the brief flower-flush of August on the heather, or the rare sunset-smile of June; out of his heart must well the freshness, that in latter spring and early summer brightens the bracken, nurtures the moss, and cherishes the starry flowers that spangle for a few weeks the pasture of the moor-sheep. Unless that light and freshness are innate and self-sustained, the drear prospect of a Yorkshire moor will be found as barren of poetic as of agricultural interest: where the love of wild nature is strong, the locality will perhaps be clung to with the more passionate constancy, because from the hill-lover's self comes half its charm.
My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hill-side her mind could make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the least and best loved was—liberty.
Liberty was the breath of Emily's nostrils; without it, she perished. The change from her own home to a school, and from her own very noiseless, very secluded, but unrestricted and inartificial mode of life, to one of disciplined routine (though under the kindliest auspices), was what she failed in enduring. Her nature proved here too strong for her fortitude. Every morning when she woke, the vision of home and the moors rushed on her, and darkened and saddened the day that lay before her. Nobody knew what ailed her but me—I knew only too well. In this struggle her health was quickly broken: her white face, attenuated form, and failing strength, threatened rapid decline. I felt in my heart she would die, if she did not go home, and with this conviction obtained her recall. She had only been three months at school; and it was some years before the experiment of sending her from home was again ventured on. After the age of twenty, having meantime studied alone with diligence and perseverance, she went with me to an establishment on the Continent: the same suffering and conflict ensued, heightened by the strong recoil of her upright, heretic and English spirit from the gentle Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish system. Once more she seemed sinking, but this time she rallied through the mere force of resolution: with inward remorse and shame she looked back on her former failure, and resolved to conquer in this second ordeal. She did conquer: but the victory cost her dear. She was never happy till she carried her hard-won knowledge back to the remote English village, the old parsonage-house, and desolate Yorkshire hills. A very few years more, and she looked her last on those hills, and breathed her last in that house, and under the aisle of that obscure village church found her last lowly resting-place. Merciful was the decree that spared her when she was a stranger in a strange land, and guarded her dying bed with kindred love and congenial constancy.
The following pieces were composed at twilight, in the school-room, when the leisure of the evening play-hour brought back in full tide the thoughts of home.
A LITTLE while, a little while, The weary task is put away, And I can sing and I can smile, Alike, while I have holiday.
Where wilt thou go, my harassed heart— What thought, what scene invites thee now What spot, or near or far apart, Has rest for thee, my weary brow?
There is a spot, 'mid barren hills, Where winter howls, and driving rain; But, if the dreary tempest chills, There is a light that warms again.
The house is old, the trees are bare, Moonless above bends twilight's dome; But what on earth is half so dear— So longed for—as the hearth of home?
The mute bird sitting on the stone, The dank moss dripping from the wall, The thorn-trees gaunt, the walks o'ergrown, I love them—how I love them all!
Still, as I mused, the naked room, The alien firelight died away; And from the midst of cheerless gloom, I passed to bright, unclouded day.
A little and a lone green lane That opened on a common wide; A distant, dreamy, dim blue chain Of mountains circling every side.
A heaven so clear, an earth so calm, So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air; And, deepening still the dream-like charm, Wild moor-sheep feeding everywhere.
THAT was the scene, I knew it well; I knew the turfy pathway's sweep, That, winding o'er each billowy swell, Marked out the tracks of wandering sheep.
Could I have lingered but an hour, It well had paid a week of toil; But Truth has banished Fancy's power: Restraint and heavy task recoil.
Even as I stood with raptured eye, Absorbed in bliss so deep and dear, My hour of rest had fleeted by, And back came labour, bondage, care.
II. THE BLUEBELL.
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower That waves in summer air: Its blossoms have the mightiest power To soothe my spirit's care.
There is a spell in purple heath Too wildly, sadly dear; The violet has a fragrant breath, But fragrance will not cheer,
The trees are bare, the sun is cold, And seldom, seldom seen; The heavens have lost their zone of gold, And earth her robe of green.
And ice upon the glancing stream Has cast its sombre shade; And distant hills and valleys seem In frozen mist arrayed.
The Bluebell cannot charm me now, The heath has lost its bloom; The violets in the glen below, They yield no sweet perfume.
But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell, 'Tis better far away; I know how fast my tears would swell To see it smile to-day.
For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall Adown that dreary sky, And gild yon dank and darkened wall With transient brilliancy;
How do I weep, how do I pine For the time of flowers to come, And turn me from that fading shine, To mourn the fields of home!
Loud without the wind was roaring Through th'autumnal sky; Drenching wet, the cold rain pouring, Spoke of winter nigh. All too like that dreary eve, Did my exiled spirit grieve. Grieved at first, but grieved not long, Sweet—how softly sweet!—it came; Wild words of an ancient song, Undefined, without a name.
"It was spring, and the skylark was singing:" Those words they awakened a spell; They unlocked a deep fountain, whose springing, Nor absence, nor distance can quell.
In the gloom of a cloudy November They uttered the music of May; They kindled the perishing ember Into fervour that could not decay.
Awaken, o'er all my dear moorland, West-wind, in thy glory and pride! Oh! call me from valley and lowland, To walk by the hill-torrent's side!
It is swelled with the first snowy weather; The rocks they are icy and hoar, And sullenly waves the long heather, And the fern leaves are sunny no more.
There are no yellow stars on the mountain The bluebells have long died away From the brink of the moss-bedded fountain— From the side of the wintry brae.
But lovelier than corn-fields all waving In emerald, and vermeil, and gold, Are the heights where the north-wind is raving, And the crags where I wandered of old.
It was morning: the bright sun was beaming; How sweetly it brought back to me The time when nor labour nor dreaming Broke the sleep of the happy and free!
But blithely we rose as the dawn-heaven Was melting to amber and blue, And swift were the wings to our feet given, As we traversed the meadows of dew.
For the moors! For the moors, where the short grass Like velvet beneath us should lie! For the moors! For the moors, where each high pass Rose sunny against the clear sky!
For the moors, where the linnet was trilling Its song on the old granite stone; Where the lark, the wild sky-lark, was filling Every breast with delight like its own!
What language can utter the feeling Which rose, when in exile afar, On the brow of a lonely hill kneeling, I saw the brown heath growing there?
It was scattered and stunted, and told me That soon even that would be gone: It whispered, "The grim walls enfold me, I have bloomed in my last summer's sun."
But not the loved music, whose waking Makes the soul of the Swiss die away, Has a spell more adored and heartbreaking Than, for me, in that blighted heath lay.
The spirit which bent 'neath its power, How it longed—how it burned to be free! If I could have wept in that hour, Those tears had been heaven to me.
Well—well; the sad minutes are moving, Though loaded with trouble and pain; And some time the loved and the loving Shall meet on the mountains again!
The following little piece has no title; but in it the Genius of a solitary region seems to address his wandering and wayward votary, and to recall within his influence the proud mind which rebelled at times even against what it most loved.
Shall earth no more inspire thee, Thou lonely dreamer now? Since passion may not fire thee, Shall nature cease to bow?
Thy mind is ever moving, In regions dark to thee; Recall its useless roving, Come back, and dwell with me.
I know my mountain breezes Enchant and soothe thee still, I know my sunshine pleases, Despite thy wayward will.
When day with evening blending, Sinks from the summer sky, I've seen thy spirit bending In fond idolatry.
I've watched thee every hour; I know my mighty sway: I know my magic power To drive thy griefs away.
Few hearts to mortals given, On earth so wildly pine; Yet few would ask a heaven More like this earth than thine.
Then let my winds caress thee Thy comrade let me be: Since nought beside can bless thee, Return—and dwell with me.
Here again is the same mind in converse with a like abstraction. "The Night-Wind," breathing through an open window, has visited an ear which discerned language in its whispers.
In summer's mellow midnight, A cloudless moon shone through Our open parlour window, And rose-trees wet with dew.
I sat in silent musing; The soft wind waved my hair; It told me heaven was glorious, And sleeping earth was fair.
I needed not its breathing To bring such thoughts to me; But still it whispered lowly, How dark the woods will be!
"The thick leaves in my murmur Are rustling like a dream, And all their myriad voices Instinct with spirit seem."
I said, "Go, gentle singer, Thy wooing voice is kind: But do not think its music Has power to reach my mind.
"Play with the scented flower, The young tree's supple bough, And leave my human feelings In their own course to flow."
The wanderer would not heed me; Its kiss grew warmer still. "O come!" it sighed so sweetly; "I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.
"Were we not friends from childhood? Have I not loved thee long? As long as thou, the solemn night, Whose silence wakes my song.
"And when thy heart is resting Beneath the church-aisle stone, I shall have time for mourning, And THOU for being alone."
In these stanzas a louder gale has roused the sleeper on her pillow: the wakened soul struggles to blend with the storm by which it is swayed:—
Ay—there it is! it wakes to-night Deep feelings I thought dead; Strong in the blast—quick gathering light— The heart's flame kindles red.
"Now I can tell by thine altered cheek, And by thine eyes' full gaze, And by the words thou scarce dost speak, How wildly fancy plays.
"Yes—I could swear that glorious wind Has swept the world aside, Has dashed its memory from thy mind Like foam-bells from the tide:
"And thou art now a spirit pouring Thy presence into all: The thunder of the tempest's roaring, The whisper of its fall:
"An universal influence, From thine own influence free; A principle of life—intense— Lost to mortality.
"Thus truly, when that breast is cold, Thy prisoned soul shall rise; The dungeon mingle with the mould— The captive with the skies. Nature's deep being, thine shall hold, Her spirit all thy spirit fold, Her breath absorb thy sighs. Mortal! though soon life's tale is told; Who once lives, never dies!"
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP.
Love is like the wild rose-briar; Friendship like the holly-tree. The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms, But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring, Its summer blossoms scent the air; Yet wait till winter comes again, And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then, scorn the silly rose-wreath now, And deck thee with the holly's sheen, That, when December blights thy brow, He still may leave thy garland green.
THE ELDER'S REBUKE.
"Listen! When your hair, like mine, Takes a tint of silver gray; When your eyes, with dimmer shine, Watch life's bubbles float away:
When you, young man, have borne like me The weary weight of sixty-three, Then shall penance sore be paid For those hours so wildly squandered; And the words that now fall dead On your ear, be deeply pondered— Pondered and approved at last: But their virtue will be past!
"Glorious is the prize of Duty, Though she be 'a serious power'; Treacherous all the lures of Beauty, Thorny bud and poisonous flower!
"Mirth is but a mad beguiling Of the golden-gifted time; Love—a demon-meteor, wiling Heedless feet to gulfs of crime.
"Those who follow earthly pleasure, Heavenly knowledge will not lead; Wisdom hides from them her treasure, Virtue bids them evil-speed!
"Vainly may their hearts repenting. Seek for aid in future years; Wisdom, scorned, knows no relenting; Virtue is not won by fears."
Thus spake the ice-blooded elder gray; The young man scoffed as he turned away, Turned to the call of a sweet lute's measure, Waked by the lightsome touch of pleasure: Had he ne'er met a gentler teacher, Woe had been wrought by that pitiless preacher.
THE WANDERER FROM THE FOLD.
How few, of all the hearts that loved, Are grieving for thee now; And why should mine to-night be moved With such a sense of woe?
Too often thus, when left alone, Where none my thoughts can see, Comes back a word, a passing tone From thy strange history.
Sometimes I seem to see thee rise, A glorious child again; All virtues beaming from thine eyes That ever honoured men:
Courage and truth, a generous breast Where sinless sunshine lay: A being whose very presence blest Like gladsome summer-day.
O, fairly spread thy early sail, And fresh, and pure, and free, Was the first impulse of the gale Which urged life's wave for thee!
Why did the pilot, too confiding, Dream o'er that ocean's foam, And trust in Pleasure's careless guiding To bring his vessel home?
For well he knew what dangers frowned, What mists would gather, dim; What rocks and shelves, and sands lay round Between his port and him.
The very brightness of the sun The splendour of the main, The wind which bore him wildly on Should not have warned in vain.
An anxious gazer from the shore— I marked the whitening wave, And wept above thy fate the more Because—I could not save.
It recks not now, when all is over: But yet my heart will be A mourner still, though friend and lover Have both forgotten thee!
WARNING AND REPLY.
In the earth—the earth—thou shalt be laid, A grey stone standing over thee; Black mould beneath thee spread, And black mould to cover thee.
"Well—there is rest there, So fast come thy prophecy; The time when my sunny hair Shall with grass roots entwined be."
But cold—cold is that resting-place, Shut out from joy and liberty, And all who loved thy living face Will shrink from it shudderingly,
"Not so. HERE the world is chill, And sworn friends fall from me: But THERE—they will own me still, And prize my memory."
Farewell, then, all that love, All that deep sympathy: Sleep on: Heaven laughs above, Earth never misses thee.
Turf-sod and tombstone drear Part human company; One heart breaks only—here, But that heart was worthy thee!
I knew not 'twas so dire a crime To say the word, "Adieu;" But this shall be the only time My lips or heart shall sue.
That wild hill-side, the winter morn, The gnarled and ancient tree, If in your breast they waken scorn, Shall wake the same in me.
I can forget black eyes and brows, And lips of falsest charm, If you forget the sacred vows Those faithless lips could form.
If hard commands can tame your love, Or strongest walls can hold, I would not wish to grieve above A thing so false and cold.
And there are bosoms bound to mine With links both tried and strong: And there are eyes whose lightning shine Has warmed and blest me long:
Those eyes shall make my only day, Shall set my spirit free, And chase the foolish thoughts away That mourn your memory.
THE LADY TO HER GUITAR.
For him who struck thy foreign string, I ween this heart has ceased to care; Then why dost thou such feelings bring To my sad spirit—old Guitar?
It is as if the warm sunlight In some deep glen should lingering stay, When clouds of storm, or shades of night, Have wrapt the parent orb away.
It is as if the glassy brook Should image still its willows fair, Though years ago the woodman's stroke Laid low in dust their Dryad-hair.
Even so, Guitar, thy magic tone Hath moved the tear and waked the sigh: Hath bid the ancient torrent moan, Although its very source is dry.
THE TWO CHILDREN.
Heavy hangs the rain-drop From the burdened spray; Heavy broods the damp mist On uplands far away.
Heavy looms the dull sky, Heavy rolls the sea; And heavy throbs the young heart Beneath that lonely tree.
Never has a blue streak Cleft the clouds since morn; Never has his grim fate Smiled since he was born.
Frowning on the infant, Shadowing childhood's joy Guardian-angel knows not That melancholy boy.
Day is passing swiftly Its sad and sombre prime; Boyhood sad is merging In sadder manhood's time:
All the flowers are praying For sun, before they close, And he prays too—unconscious— That sunless human rose.
Blossom—that the west-wind Has never wooed to blow, Scentless are thy petals, Thy dew is cold as snow!
Soul—where kindred kindness, No early promise woke, Barren is thy beauty, As weed upon a rock.
Wither—soul and blossom! You both were vainly given; Earth reserves no blessing For the unblest of heaven!
Child of delight, with sun-bright hair, And sea-blue, sea-deep eyes! Spirit of bliss! What brings thee here Beneath these sullen skies?
Thou shouldst live in eternal spring, Where endless day is never dim; Why, Seraph, has thine erring wing Wafted thee down to weep with him?
"Ah! not from heaven am I descended, Nor do I come to mingle tears; But sweet is day, though with shadows blended; And, though clouded, sweet are youthful years.
"I—the image of light and gladness— Saw and pitied that mournful boy, And I vowed—if need were—to share his sadness, And give to him my sunny joy.
"Heavy and dark the night is closing; Heavy and dark may its biding be: Better for all from grief reposing, And better for all who watch like me—
"Watch in love by a fevered pillow, Cooling the fever with pity's balm Safe as the petrel on tossing billow, Safe in mine own soul's golden calm!
"Guardian-angel he lacks no longer; Evil fortune he need not fear: Fate is strong, but love is stronger; And MY love is truer than angel-care."
Silent is the house: all are laid asleep: One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep, Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.
Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor; Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door; The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far: I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding-star.
Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame! Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame: But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know, What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.
What I love shall come like visitant of air, Safe in secret power from lurking human snare; What loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray, Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay
Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear— Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air: He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me; Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.
I do not weep; I would not weep; Our mother needs no tears: Dry thine eyes, too; 'tis vain to keep This causeless grief for years.
What though her brow be changed and cold, Her sweet eyes closed for ever? What though the stone—the darksome mould Our mortal bodies sever?
What though her hand smooth ne'er again Those silken locks of thine? Nor, through long hours of future pain, Her kind face o'er thee shine?
Remember still, she is not dead; She sees us, sister, now; Laid, where her angel spirit fled, 'Mid heath and frozen snow.
And from that world of heavenly light Will she not always bend To guide us in our lifetime's night, And guard us to the end?
Thou knowest she will; and thou mayst mourn That WE are left below: But not that she can ne'er return To share our earthly woe.
Often rebuked, yet always back returning To those first feelings that were born with me, And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning For idle dreams of things which cannot be:
To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region; Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear; And visions rising, legion after legion, Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces, And not in paths of high morality, And not among the half-distinguished faces, The clouded forms of long-past history.
I'll walk where my own nature would be leading: It vexes me to choose another guide: Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding; Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.
What have those lonely mountains worth revealing? More glory and more grief than I can tell: The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.
The following are the last lines my sister Emily ever wrote:—
No coward soul is mine, No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere: I see Heaven's glories shine, And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast, Almighty, ever-present Deity! Life—that in me has rest, As I—undying Life—have power in thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds That move men's hearts: unutterably vain; Worthless as withered weeds, Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one Holding so fast by thine infinity; So surely anchored on The stedfast rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love Thy spirit animates eternal years, Pervades and broods above, Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone, And suns and universes ceased to be, And Thou were left alone, Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death, Nor atom that his might could render void: Thou—THOU art Being and Breath, And what THOU art may never be destroyed.
SELECTIONS FROM POEMS BY ACTON BELL.
In looking over my sister Anne's papers, I find mournful evidence that religious feeling had been to her but too much like what it was to Cowper; I mean, of course, in a far milder form. Without rendering her a prey to those horrors that defy concealment, it subdued her mood and bearing to a perpetual pensiveness; the pillar of a cloud glided constantly before her eyes; she ever waited at the foot of a secret Sinai, listening in her heart to the voice of a trumpet sounding long and waxing louder. Some, perhaps, would rejoice over these tokens of sincere though sorrowing piety in a deceased relative: I own, to me they seem sad, as if her whole innocent life had been passed under the martyrdom of an unconfessed physical pain: their effect, indeed, would be too distressing, were it not combated by the certain knowledge that in her last moments this tyranny of a too tender conscience was overcome; this pomp of terrors broke up, and passing away, left her dying hour unclouded. Her belief in God did not then bring to her dread, as of a stern Judge,—but hope, as in a Creator and Saviour: and no faltering hope was it, but a sure and stedfast conviction, on which, in the rude passage from Time to Eternity, she threw the weight of her human weakness, and by which she was enabled to bear what was to be borne, patiently—serenely—victoriously.
I have gone backward in the work; The labour has not sped; Drowsy and dark my spirit lies, Heavy and dull as lead.
How can I rouse my sinking soul From such a lethargy? How can I break these iron chains And set my spirit free?
There have been times when I have mourned! In anguish o'er the past, And raised my suppliant hands on high, While tears fell thick and fast;
And prayed to have my sins forgiven, With such a fervent zeal, An earnest grief, a strong desire As now I cannot feel.
And I have felt so full of love, So strong in spirit then, As if my heart would never cool, Or wander back again.
And yet, alas! how many times My feet have gone astray! How oft have I forgot my God! How greatly fallen away!
My sins increase—my love grows cold, And Hope within me dies: Even Faith itself is wavering now; Oh, how shall I arise?
I cannot weep, but I can pray, Then let me not despair: Lord Jesus, save me, lest I die! Christ, hear my humble prayer!
My God (oh, let me call Thee mine, Weak, wretched sinner though I be), My trembling soul would fain be Thine; My feeble faith still clings to Thee.
Not only for the Past I grieve, The Future fills me with dismay; Unless Thou hasten to relieve, Thy suppliant is a castaway.
I cannot say my faith is strong, I dare not hope my love is great; But strength and love to Thee belong; Oh, do not leave me desolate!
I know I owe my all to Thee; Oh, TAKE the heart I cannot give! Do Thou my strength—my Saviour be, And MAKE me to Thy glory live.
IN MEMORY OF A HAPPY DAY IN FEBRUARY.
Blessed be Thou for all the joy My soul has felt to-day! Oh, let its memory stay with me, And never pass away!
I was alone, for those I loved Were far away from me; The sun shone on the withered grass, The wind blew fresh and free.
Was it the smile of early spring That made my bosom glow? 'Twas sweet; but neither sun nor wind Could cheer my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight All vague and undefined? No; 'twas a rapture deep and strong, Expanding in the mind.
Was it a sanguine view of life, And all its transient bliss, A hope of bright prosperity? Oh, no! it was not this.
It was a glimpse of truth divine Unto my spirit given, Illumined by a ray of light That shone direct from heaven.
I felt there was a God on high, By whom all things were made; I saw His wisdom and His power In all his works displayed.
But most throughout the moral world, I saw his glory shine; I saw His wisdom infinite, His mercy all divine.
Deep secrets of His providence, In darkness long concealed, Unto the vision of my soul Were graciously revealed.
But while I wondered and adored His Majesty divine, I did not tremble at His power: I felt that God was mine;
I knew that my Redeemer lived; I did not fear to die; Full sure that I should rise again To immortality.
I longed to view that bliss divine, Which eye hath never seen; Like Moses, I would see His face Without the veil between.
Oppressed with sin and woe, A burdened heart I bear, Opposed by many a mighty foe; But I will not despair.
With this polluted heart, I dare to come to Thee, Holy and mighty as Thou art, For Thou wilt pardon me.
I feel that I am weak, And prone to every sin; But Thou who giv'st to those who seek, Wilt give me strength within.
Far as this earth may be From yonder starry skies; Remoter still am I from Thee: Yet Thou wilt not despise.
I need not fear my foes, I deed not yield to care; I need not sink beneath my woes, For Thou wilt answer prayer.
In my Redeemer's name, I give myself to Thee; And, all unworthy as I am, My God will cherish me.
My sister Anne had to taste the cup of life as it is mixed for the class termed "Governesses."
The following are some of the thoughts that now and then solace a governess:—
LINES WRITTEN FROM HOME.
Though bleak these woods, and damp the ground, With fallen leaves so thickly strewn, And cold the wind that wanders round With wild and melancholy moan;
There is a friendly roof I know, Might shield me from the wintry blast; There is a fire whose ruddy glow Will cheer me for my wanderings past.
And so, though still where'er I go Cold stranger glances meet my eye; Though, when my spirit sinks in woe, Unheeded swells the unbidden sigh;
Though solitude, endured too long, Bids youthful joys too soon decay, Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue, And overclouds my noon of day;
When kindly thoughts that would have way Flow back, discouraged, to my breast, I know there is, though far away, A home where heart and soul may rest.
Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine, The warmer heart will not belie; While mirth and truth, and friendship shine In smiling lip and earnest eye.
The ice that gathers round my heart May there be thawed; and sweetly, then, The joys of youth, that now depart, Will come to cheer my soul again.
Though far I roam, that thought shall be My hope, my comfort everywhere; While such a home remains to me, My heart shall never know despair.
THE NARROW WAY.
Believe not those who say The upward path is smooth, Lest thou shouldst stumble in the way, And faint before the truth.
It is the only road Unto the realms of joy; But he who seeks that blest abode Must all his powers employ.
Bright hopes and pure delight Upon his course may beam, And there, amid the sternest heights, The sweetest flowerets gleam.
On all her breezes borne, Earth yields no scents like those; But he that dares not gasp the thorn Should never crave the rose.
Arm—arm thee for the fight! Cast useless loads away; Watch through the darkest hours of night; Toil through the hottest day.
Crush pride into the dust, Or thou must needs be slack; And trample down rebellious lust, Or it will hold thee back.
Seek not thy honour here; Waive pleasure and renown; The world's dread scoff undaunted bear, And face its deadliest frown.
To labour and to love, To pardon and endure, To lift thy heart to God above, And keep thy conscience pure;
Be this thy constant aim, Thy hope, thy chief delight; What matter who should whisper blame Or who should scorn or slight?
What matter, if thy God approve, And if, within thy breast, Thou feel the comfort of His love, The earnest of His rest?
Why should such gloomy silence reign, And why is all the house so drear, When neither danger, sickness, pain, Nor death, nor want, have entered here?
We are as many as we were That other night, when all were gay And full of hope, and free from care; Yet is there something gone away.
The moon without, as pure and calm, Is shining as that night she shone; But now, to us, she brings no balm, For something from our hearts is gone.
Something whose absence leaves a void— A cheerless want in every heart; Each feels the bliss of all destroyed, And mourns the change—but each apart.
The fire is burning in the grate As redly as it used to burn; But still the hearth is desolate, Till mirth, and love, and PEACE return.
'Twas PEACE that flowed from heart to heart, With looks and smiles that spoke of heaven, And gave us language to impart The blissful thoughts itself had given.
Domestic peace! best joy of earth, When shall we all thy value learn? White angel, to our sorrowing hearth, Return—oh, graciously return!
THE THREE GUIDES. [First published in FRASER'S MAGAZINE.]
Spirit of Earth! thy hand is chill: I've felt its icy clasp; And, shuddering, I remember still That stony-hearted grasp. Thine eye bids love and joy depart: Oh, turn its gaze from me! It presses down my shrinking heart; I will not walk with thee!
"Wisdom is mine," I've heard thee say: "Beneath my searching eye All mist and darkness melt away, Phantoms and fables fly. Before me truth can stand alone, The naked, solid truth; And man matured by worth will own, If I am shunned by youth.
"Firm is my tread, and sure though slow; My footsteps never slide; And he that follows me shall know I am the surest guide." Thy boast is vain; but were it true That thou couldst safely steer Life's rough and devious pathway through, Such guidance I should fear.
How could I bear to walk for aye, With eyes to earthward prone, O'er trampled weeds and miry clay, And sand and flinty stone; Never the glorious view to greet Of hill and dale, and sky; To see that Nature's charms are sweet, Or feel that Heaven is nigh?
If in my heart arose a spring, A gush of thought divine, At once stagnation thou wouldst bring With that cold touch of thine. If, glancing up, I sought to snatch But one glimpse of the sky, My baffled gaze would only catch Thy heartless, cold grey eye.
If to the breezes wandering near, I listened eagerly, And deemed an angel's tongue to hear That whispered hope to me, That heavenly music would be drowned In thy harsh, droning voice; Nor inward thought, nor sight, nor sound, Might my sad soul rejoice.
Dull is thine ear, unheard by thee The still, small voice of Heaven; Thine eyes are dim and cannot see The helps that God has given. There is a bridge o'er every flood Which thou canst not perceive; A path through every tangled wood, But thou wilt not believe.
Striving to make thy way by force, Toil-spent and bramble-torn, Thou'lt fell the tree that checks thy course, And burst through brier and thorn: And, pausing by the river's side, Poor reasoner! thou wilt deem, By casting pebbles in its tide, To cross the swelling stream.
Right through the flinty rock thou'lt try Thy toilsome way to bore, Regardless of the pathway nigh That would conduct thee o'er Not only art thou, then, unkind, And freezing cold to me, But unbelieving, deaf, and blind: I will not walk with thee!
Spirit of Pride! thy wings are strong, Thine eyes like lightning shine; Ecstatic joys to thee belong, And powers almost divine. But 'tis a false, destructive blaze Within those eyes I see; Turn hence their fascinating gaze; I will not follow thee.
"Coward and fool!" thou mayst reply, Walk on the common sod; Go, trace with timid foot and eye The steps by others trod. 'Tis best the beaten path to keep, The ancient faith to hold; To pasture with thy fellow-sheep, And lie within the fold.
"Cling to the earth, poor grovelling worm; 'Tis not for thee to soar Against the fury of the storm, Amid the thunder's roar! There's glory in that daring strife Unknown, undreamt by thee; There's speechless rapture in the life Of those who follow me.
Yes, I have seen thy votaries oft, Upheld by thee their guide, In strength and courage mount aloft The steepy mountain-side; I've seen them stand against the sky, And gazing from below, Beheld thy lightning in their eye Thy triumph on their brow.
Oh, I have felt what glory then, What transport must be theirs! So far above their fellow-men, Above their toils and cares; Inhaling Nature's purest breath, Her riches round them spread, The wide expanse of earth beneath, Heaven's glories overhead!
But I have seen them helpless, dash'd Down to a bloody grave, And still thy ruthless eye has flash'd, Thy strong hand did not save; I've seen some o'er the mountain's brow Sustain'd awhile by thee, O'er rocks of ice and hills of snow Bound fearless, wild, and free.
Bold and exultant was their mien, While thou didst cheer them on; But evening fell,—and then, I ween, Their faithless guide was gone. Alas! how fared thy favourites then,— Lone, helpless, weary, cold? Did ever wanderer find again The path he left of old?
Where is their glory, where the pride That swelled their hearts before? Where now the courage that defied The mightiest tempest's roar? What shall they do when night grows black, When angry storms arise? Who now will lead them to the track Thou taught'st them to despise?
Spirit of Pride, it needs not this To make me shun thy wiles, Renounce thy triumph and thy bliss, Thy honours and thy smiles! Bright as thou art, and bold, and strong, That fierce glance wins not me, And I abhor thy scoffing tongue— I will not follow thee!
Spirit of Faith! be thou my guide, O clasp my hand in thine, And let me never quit thy side; Thy comforts are divine! Earth calls thee blind, misguided one,— But who can shew like thee Forgotten things that have been done, And things that are to be?
Secrets conceal'd from Nature's ken, Who like thee can declare? Or who like thee to erring men God's holy will can bear? Pride scorns thee for thy lowly mien,— But who like thee can rise Above this toilsome, sordid scene, Beyond the holy skies?
Meek is thine eye and soft thy voice, But wondrous is thy might, To make the wretched soul rejoice, To give the simple light! And still to all that seek thy way This magic power is given,— E'en while their footsteps press the clay, Their souls ascend to heaven.
Danger surrounds them,—pain and woe Their portion here must be, But only they that trust thee know What comfort dwells with thee; Strength to sustain their drooping pow'rs, And vigour to defend,— Thou pole-star of my darkest hours Affliction's firmest friend!
Day does not always mark our way, Night's shadows oft appal, But lead me, and I cannot stray,— Hold me, I shall not fall; Sustain me, I shall never faint, How rough soe'er may be My upward road,—nor moan, nor plaint Shall mar my trust in thee.
Narrow the path by which we go, And oft it turns aside From pleasant meads where roses blow, And peaceful waters glide; Where flowery turf lies green and soft, And gentle gales are sweet, To where dark mountains frown aloft, Hard rocks distress the feet,—
Deserts beyond lie bleak and bare, And keen winds round us blow; But if thy hand conducts me there, The way is right, I know. I have no wish to turn away; My spirit does not quail,— How can it while I hear thee say, "Press forward and prevail!"
Even above the tempest's swell I hear thy voice of love,— Of hope and peace, I hear thee tell, And that blest home above; Through pain and death I can rejoice. If but thy strength be mine,— Earth hath no music like thy voice, Life owns no joy like thine!
Spirit of Faith, I'll go with thee! Thou, if I hold thee fast, Wilt guide, defend, and strengthen me, And bear me home at last; By thy help all things I can do, In thy strength all things bear,— Teach me, for thou art just and true, Smile on me, thou art fair!
I have given the last memento of my sister Emily; this is the last of my sister Anne:—
I hoped, that with the brave and strong, My portioned task might lie; To toil amid the busy throng, With purpose pure and high.
But God has fixed another part, And He has fixed it well; I said so with my bleeding heart, When first the anguish fell.
Thou, God, hast taken our delight, Our treasured hope away: Thou bid'st us now weep through the night And sorrow through the day.
These weary hours will not be lost, These days of misery, These nights of darkness, anguish-tost, Can I but turn to Thee.
With secret labour to sustain In humble patience every blow; To gather fortitude from pain, And hope and holiness from woe.
Thus let me serve Thee from my heart, Whate'er may be my written fate: Whether thus early to depart, Or yet a while to wait.
If Thou shouldst bring me back to life, More humbled I should be; More wise—more strengthened for the strife— More apt to lean on Thee.
Should death be standing at the gate, Thus should I keep my vow: But, Lord! whatever be my fate, Oh, let me serve Thee now!
These lines written, the desk was closed, the pen laid aside—for ever.