Ay, all the more go you. But some have cried "The ship is breaking up;" they watch amazed While urged toward the rocks by some that guide; Bad steering, reckless steering, she all dazed Tempteth her doom; yet this have none denied Ships men have wrecked and palaces have razed, But never was it known beneath the sun, They of such wreckage built a goodlier one.
God help old England an't be thus, nor less God help the world.' Therewith my mother spake, 'Perhaps He will! by time, by faithlessness, By the world's want long in the dark awake, I think He must be almost due: the stress Of the great tide of life, sharp misery's ache, In a recluseness of the soul we rue Far off, but yet—He must be almost due.
God manifest again, the coming King.' Then said my father, 'I beheld erewhile, Sitting up dog-like to the sunrising, The giant doll in ruins by the Nile, With hints of red that yet to it doth cling, Fell, battered, and bewigged its cheeks were vile, A body of evil with its angel fled, Whom and his fellow fiends men worshipped.
The gods die not, long shrouded on their biers, Somewhere they live, and live in memory yet; Were not the Israelites for forty years Hid from them in the desert to forget— Did they forget? no more than their lost feres Sons of to-day with faces southward set, Who dig for buried lore long ages fled, And sift for it the sand and search the dead.
Brown Egypt gave not one great poet birth, But man was better than his gods, with lay He soothed them restless, and they zoned the earth, And crossed the sea; there drank immortal praise; Then from his own best self with glory and worth And beauty dowered he them for dateless days. Ever "their sound goes forth" from shore to shore, When was there known an hour that they lived more.
Because they are beloved and not believed, Admired not feared, they draw men to their feet; All once, rejected, nothing now, received Where once found wanting, now the most complete; Man knows to-day, though manhood stand achieved, His cradle-rockers made a rustling sweet; That king reigns longest which did lose his crown, Stars that by poets shine are stars gone down.
Still drawn obedient to an unseen hand, From purer heights comes down the yearning west, Like to that eagle in the morning land, That swooping on her predatory quest, Did from the altar steal a smouldering brand, The which she bearing home it burned her nest, And her wide pinions of their plumes bereaven. Spoiled for glad spiring up the steeps of heaven.
I say the gods live, and that reign abhor, And will the nations it should dawn? Will they Who ride upon the perilous edge of war? Will such as delve for gold in this our day? Neither the world will, nor the age will, nor The soul—and what, it cometh now? Nay, nay, The weighty sphere, unready for release, Rolls far in front of that o'ermastering peace.
Wait and desire it; life waits not, free there To good, to evil, thy right perilous— All shall be fair, and yet it is not fair. I thank my God He takes th'advantage thus; He doth not greatly hide, but still declare Which side He is on and which He loves, to us, While life impartial aid to both doth lend, And heed not which the choice nor what the end.
Among the few upright, O to be found, And ever search the nobler path, my son, Nor say 'tis sweet to find me common ground Too high, too good, shall leave the hours alone— Nay, though but one stood on the height renowned, Deny not hope or will, to be that one. Is it the many fall'n shall lift the land, The race, the age!—Nay, 't is the few that stand.'
While in the lamplight hearkening I sat mute, Methought 'How soon this fire must needs burn out' Among the passion flowers and passion fruit That from the wide verandah hung, misdoubt Was mine. 'And wherefore made I thus long suit To leave this old white head? His words devout, His blessing not to hear who loves me so— He that is old, right old—I will not go.'
But ere the dawn their counsels wrought with me, And I went forth; alas that I so went Under the great gum-forest canopy, The light on every silken filament Of every flower, a quivering ecstasy Of perfect paleness made it; sunbeams sent Up to the leaves with sword-like flash endued Each turn of that grey drooping multitude.
I sought to look as in the light of one Returned. 'Will this be strange to me that day? Flocks of green parrots clamorous in the sun Tearing out milky maize—stiff cacti grey As old men's beards—here stony ranges lone, Their dust of mighty flocks upon their way To water, cloudlike on the bush afar, Like smoke that hangs where old-world cities are.
Is it not made man's last endowment here To find a beauty in the wilderness; Feel the lorn moor above his pastures dear, Mountains that may not house and will not bless To draw him even to death? He must insphere His spirit in the open, so doth less Desire his feres, and more that unvex'd wold And fine afforested hills, his dower of old.
But shall we lose again that new-found sense Which sees the earth less for our tillage fair? Oh, let her speak with her best eloquence To me, but not her first and her right rare Can equal what I may not take from hence. The gems are left: it is not otherwhere The wild Nepean cleaves her matchless way, Nor Sydney harbour shall outdo the day.
Adding to day this—that she lighteth it.' But I beheld again, and as must be With a world-record by a spirit writ, It was more beautiful than memory, Than hope was more complete. Tall brigs did sit Each in her berth the pure flood placidly, Their topsails drooping 'neath the vast blue dome Listless, as waiting to be sheeted home.
And the great ships with pulse-like throbbing clear, Majestical of mien did take their way Like living creatures from some grander sphere, That having boarded ours thought good to stay, Albeit enslaved. They most divided here From God's great art and all his works in clay, In that their beauty lacks, though fair it shows That divine waste of beauty only He bestows.
The day was young, scarce out the harbour lights That morn I sailed: low sun-rays tremulous On golden loops sped outward. Yachts in flights Flutter'd the water air-like clear, while thus It crept for shade among brown rocky bights With cassia crowned and palms diaphanous, And boughs ripe fruitage dropping fitfully, That on the shining ebb went out to sea.
'Home,' saith the man self-banished, 'my son Shall now go home.' Therewith he sendeth him Abroad, and knows it not, but thence is won, Rescued, the son's true home. His mind doth limn Beautiful pictures of it, there is none So dear, a new thought shines erewhile but dim, 'That was my home, a land past all compare, Life, and the poetry of life, are there.'
But no such thought drew near to me that day; All the new worlds flock forth to greet the old, All the young souls bow down to own its sway, Enamoured of strange richness manifold; Not to be stored, albeit they seek for aye, Besieging it for its own life to hold, E'en as Al Mamoun fain for treasures hid, Stormed with an host th' inviolate pyramid.
And went back foiled but wise to walled Bagdad. So I, so all. The treasure sought not found, But some divine tears found to superadd Themselves to a long story. The great round Of yesterdays, their pathos sweet as sad, Found to be only as to-day, close bound With us, we hope some good thing yet to know, But God is not in haste, while the lambs grow
The Shepherd leadeth softly. It is great The journey, and the flock forgets at last (Earth ever working to obliterate The landmarks) when it halted, where it passed; And words confuse, and time doth ruinate, And memory fail to hold a theme so vast; There is request for light, but the flock feeds, And slowly ever on the Shepherd leads.
'Home,' quoth my father, and a glassy sea Made for the stars a mirror of its breast, While southing, pennon-like, in bravery Of long drawn gold they trembled to their rest. Strange the first night and morn, when Destiny Spread out to float on, all the mind oppressed; Strange on their outer roof to speed forth thus, And know th' uncouth sea-beasts stared up at us.
But yet more strange the nights of falling rain, That splashed without—a sea-coal fire within; Life's old things gone astern, the mind's disdain, For murmurous London makes soft rhythmic din. All courtier thoughts that wait on words would fain Express that sound. The words are not to win Till poet made, but mighty, yet so mild Shall be as cooing of a cradle-child.
Sensation like a piercing arrow flies, Daily out-going thought. This Adamhood, This weltering river of mankind that hies Adown the street; it cannot be withstood. The richest mundane miles not otherwise Than by a symbol keep possession good, Mere symbol of division, and they hold The clear pane sacred, the unminted gold
And wild outpouring of all wealth not less. Why this? A million strong the multitude, And safe, far safer than our wilderness The walls; for them it daunts with right at feud, Itself declares for law; yet sore the stress On steeps of life: what power to ban and bless, Saintly denial, waste inglorious, Desperate want, and riches fabulous.
Of souls what beautiful embodiment For some; for some what homely housing writ; What keen-eyed men who beggared of content Eat bread well earned as they had stolen it; What flutterers after joy that forward went, And left them in the rear unqueened, unfit For joy, with light that faints in strugglings drear Of all things good the most awanting here.
Some in the welter of this surging tide Move like the mystic lamps, the Spirits Seven, Their burning love runs kindling far and wide, That fire they needed not to steal from heaven, 'Twas a free gift flung down with them to bide, And be a comfort for the hearts bereaven, A warmth, a glow, to make the failing store And parsimony of emotion more.
What glorious dreams in that find harbourage, The phantom of a crime stalks this beside, And those might well have writ on some past page, In such an hour, of such a year, we—died, Put out our souls, took the mean way, false wage, Course cowardly; and if we be denied The life once loved, we cannot alway rue The loss; let be: what vails so sore ado.
And faces pass of such as give consent To live because 'tis not worth while to die; This never knew the awful tremblement When some great fear sprang forward suddenly, Its other name being hope—and there forthwent As both confronted him a rueful cry From the heart's core, one urging him to dare, 'Now! now! Leap now.' The other, 'Stand, forbear.'
A nation reared in brick. How shall this be? Nor by excess of life death overtake. To die in brick of brick her destiny, And as the hamadryad eats the snake His wife, and then the snake his son, so she Air not enough, 'though everyone doth take A little,' water scant, a plague of gold, Light out of date—a multitude born old.
And then a three-day siege might be the end; E'en now the rays get muddied struggling down Through heaven's vasty lofts, and still extend The miles of brick and none forbid, and none Forbode; a great world-wonder that doth send High fame abroad, and fear no setting sun, But helpless she through wealth that flouts the day And through her little children, even as they.
But forth of London, and all visions dear To eastern poets of a watered land Are made the commonplace of nature here, Sweet rivers always full, and always bland. Beautiful, beautiful! What runlets clear Twinkle among the grass. On every hand Fall in the common talk from lips around The old names of old towns and famous ground.
It is not likeness only charms the sense, Not difference only sets the mind aglow, It is the likeness in the difference, Familiar language spoken on the snow, To have the Perfect in the Present tense, To hear the ploughboy whistling, and to know, It smacks of the wild bush, that tune—'Tis ours, And look! the bank is pale with primrose flowers,
What veils of tender mist make soft the lea, What bloom of air the height; no veils confer On warring thought or softness or degree Or rest. Still falling, conquering, strife and stir. For this religion pays indemnity. She pays her enemies for conquering her. And then her friends; while ever, and in vain Lots for a seamless coat are cast again.
Whose it shall be; unless it shall endow Thousands of thousands it can fall to none, But faith and hope are not so simple now, As in the year of our redemption—One. The pencil of pure light must disallow Its name and scattering, many hues put on, And faith and hope low in the valley feel, There it is well with them, 'tis very well.
The land is full of vision, voices call. Can spirits cast a shadow? Ay, I trow Past is not done, and over is not all, Opinion dies to live and wanes to grow, The gossamer of thought doth filmlike fall, On fallows after dawn make shimmering show, And with old arrow-heads, her earliest prize, Mix learning's latest guess and last surmise.
There heard I pipes of fame, saw wrens 'about That time when kings go forth to battle' dart, Full valorous atoms pierced with song, and stout To dare, and down yclad; I shared the smart Of grieved cushats, bloom of love, devout Beyond man's thought of it. Old song my heart Rejoiced, but O mine own forelders' ways To look on, and their fashions of past days.
The ponderous craft of arms I craved to see, Knights, burghers, filtering through those gates ajar, Their age of serfdom with my spirit free; We cannot all have wisdom; some there are Believe a star doth rule their destiny, And yet they think to overreach the star, For thought can weld together things apart, And contraries find meeting in the heart.
In the deep dust at Suez without sound I saw the Arab children walk at eve, Their dark untroubled eyes upon the ground, A part of Time's grave quiet. I receive Since then a sense, as nature might have found Love kin to man's that with the past doth grieve; And lets on waste and dust of ages fall Her tender silences that mean it all.
We have it of her, with her; it were ill For men, if thought were widowed of the world, Or the world beggared of her sons, for still A crowned sphere with many gems impearled She rolls because of them. We lend her will And she yields love. The past shall not be hurled In the abhorred limbo while the twain, Mother and son, hold partnership and reign.
She hangs out omens, and doth burdens dree. Is she in league with heaven? That knows but One. For man is not, and yet his work we see Full of unconscious omen darkly done. I saw the ring-stone wrought at Avebury To frame the face of the midwinter sun, Good luck that hour they thought from him forth smiled At midwinter the Sun did rise—the Child.
Still would the world divine though man forbore, And what is beauty but an omen?—what But life's deep divination cast before, Omen of coming love? Hard were man's lot, With love and toil together at his door, But all-convincing eyes hath beauty got; His love is beautiful, and he shall sue. Toil for her sake is sweet, the omen true.
Love, love, and come it must, then life is found Beforehand that was whole and fronting care, A torn and broken half in durance bound That mourns and makes request for its right fair Remainder, with forlorn eyes cast around To search for what is lost, that unaware With not an hour's forebodement makes the day From henceforth less or more for ever and aye.
Her name—my love's—I knew it not; who says Of vagrant doubt for such a cause that stirs His fancy shall not pay arrearages To all sweet names that might perhaps be hers? The doubts of love are powers. His heart obeys, The world is in them, still to love defers, Will play with him for love, but when 't begins The play is high, and the world always wins.
For 'tis the maiden's world, and his no more. Now thus it was: with new found kin flew by The temperate summer; every wheatfield wore Its gold, from house to house in ardency Of heart for what they showed I westward bore— My mother's land, her native hills drew nigh; I was—how green, how good old earth can be— Beholden to that land for teaching me.
And parted from my fellows, and went on To feel the spiritual sadness spread Adown long pastoral hollows. And anon Did words recur in far remoteness said: 'See the deep vale ere dews are dried and gone, Where my so happy life in peace I led, And the great shadow of the Beacon lies— See little Ledbury trending up the rise.
With peaked houses and high market hall— An oak each pillar—reared in the old days. And here was little Ledbury, quaint withal, The forest felled, her lair and sheltering place She long time left in age pathetical. 'Great oaks' methought, as I drew near to gaze, 'Were but of small account when these came down, Drawn rough-hewn in to serve the tree-girt town.
And thus and thus of it will question be The other side the world.' I paused awhile To mark. 'The old hall standeth utterly Without or floor or side, a comely pile, A house on pillars, and by destiny Drawn under its deep roof I saw a file Of children slowly through their way make good, And lifted up mine eyes—and there—SHE STOOD.
She was so stately that her youthful grace Drew out, it seemed, my soul unto the air, Astonished out of breathing by her face So fain to nest itself in nut-brown hair Lying loose about her throat. But that old place Proved sacred, she just fully grown too fair For such a thought. The dimples that she had! She was so truly sweet that it was sad.
I was all hers. That moment gave her power— And whom, nay what she was, I scarce might know, But felt I had been born for that good hour. The perfect creature did not move, but so As if ordained to claim all grace for dower. She leaned against the pillar, and below Three almost babes, her care, she watched the while With downcast lashes and a musing smile.
I had been 'ware without a rustic treat, Waggons bedecked with greenery stood anigh, A swarm of children in the cheerful street With girls to marshal them; but all went by And none I noted save this only sweet: Too young her charge more venturous sport to try, With whirling baubles still they play content, And softly rose their lisping babblement.
'O what a pause! to be so near, to mark The locket rise and sink upon her breast; The shadow of the lashes lieth dark Upon her cheek. O fleeting time, O rest! A slant ray finds the gold, and with a spark And flash it answers, now shall be the best. Her eyes she raises, sets their light on mine, They do not flash nor sparkle—no—but shine.'
As I for very hopelessness made bold Did off my hat ere time there was for thought, She with a gracious sweetness, calm, not cold, Acknowledged me, but brought my chance to nought 'This vale of imperfection doth not hold A lovelier bud among its loveliest wrought! She turns,' methought 'O do not quite forget To me remains for ever—that we met.'
And straightway I went forth, I could no less, Another light unwot of fall'n on me, And rare elation and high happiness Some mighty power set hands of mastery Among my heartstrings, and they did confess With wild throbs inly sweet, that minstrelsy A nightingale might dream so rich a strain, And pine to change her song for sleep again.
The harp thrilled ever: O with what a round And series of rich pangs fled forth each note Oracular, that I had found, had found (Head waters of old Nile held less remote) Golden Dorado, dearest, most renowned; But when as 't were a sigh did overfloat, Shaping 'how long, not long shall this endure, Au jour le jour' methought, 'Aujour le jour'.
The minutes of that hour my heart knew well Were like the fabled pint of golden grain, Each to be counted, paid for, till one fell, Grew, shot up to another world amain, And he who dropped might climb it, there to dwell. I too, I clomb another world full fain, But was she there? O what would be the end, Might she nor there appear, nor I descend?
All graceful as a palm the maiden stood; Men say the palm of palms in tropic Isles Doth languish in her deep primeval wood, And want the voice of man, his home, his smiles, Nor flourish but in his dear neighborhood; She too shall want a voice that reconciles, A smile that charms—how sweet would heaven so please— To plant her at my door over far seas.
I paced without, nor ever liege in truth His sovran lady watched with more grave eyes Of reverence, and she nothing ware forsooth, Did standing charm the soul with new surprise. Moving flow on a dimpled dream of youth. Look! look! a sunbeam on her. Ay, but lies The shade more sweetly now she passeth through To join her fellow maids returned anew.
I saw (myself to bide unmarked intent) Their youthful ease and pretty airs sedate, They are so good, they are so innocent, Those Islanders, they learn their part so late, Of life's demand right careless, dwell content Till the first love's first kiss shall consecrate Their future to a world that can but be By their sweet martyrdom and ministry.
Most happy of God's creatures. Afterward More than all women married thou wilt be, E'en to the soul. One glance desired afford, More than knight's service might'st thou ask of me. Not any chance is mine, not the best word, No, nor the salt of life withouten thee. Must this all end, is my day so soon o'er? Untroubled violet eyes, look once,—once more.
No, not a glance: the low sun lay and burned, Now din of drum and cry of fife withal, Blithe teachers mustering frolic swarms returned, And new-world ways in that old market hall, Sweet girls, fair women, how my whole heart yearned Her to draw near who made my festival. With others closing round, time speeding on, How soon she would be gone, she would be gone!
Ay, but I thought to track the rustic wains, Their goal desired to note, but not anigh, They creaking down long hop ycrested lanes 'Neath the abiding flush of that north sky. I ran, my horse I fetched, but fate ordains Love shall breed laughter when th' unloving spy. As I drew rein to watch the gathered crowd, With sudden mirth an old wife laughed aloud.
Her cheeks like winter apples red of hue, Her glance aside. To whom her speech—to me? 'I know the thing you go about to do— The lady—' 'What! the lady—' 'Sir,' saith she, ('I thank you kindly, sir), I tell you true She's gone,' and 'here's a coil' methought 'will be.' 'Gone—where?' ''Tis past my wit forsooth to say If they went Malvern way or Hereford way.
A carriage took her up—where three roads meet They needs must pass; you may o'ertake it yet.' And 'Oyez, Oyez' peals adown the street, 'Lost, lost, a golden heart with pearls beset.' 'I know her, sir?—not I. To help this treat, Many strange ladies from the country met.' 'O heart beset with pearls! my hope was crost. Farewell, good dame. Lost! oh my lady lost.'
And 'Oyez, Oyez' following after me On my great errand to the sundown went. Lost, lost, and lost, whenas the cross road flee Up tumbled hills, on each for eyes attent A carriage creepeth.
'Though in neither she, I ne'er shall know life's worst impoverishment, An empty heart. No time, I stake my all, To right! and chase the rose-red evenfall.
Fly up, good steed, fly on. Take the sharp rise As't were a plain. A lady sits; but one. So fast the pace she turns in startled wise, She sets her gaze on mine and all is done. "Persian Roxana" might have raised such eyes When Alexander sought her. Now the sun Dips, and my day is over; turn and fleet The world fast flies, again do three roads meet.'
I took the left, and for some cause unknown Full fraught of hope and joy the way pursued, Yet chose strong reasons speeding up alone To fortify me 'gainst a shock more rude. E'en so the diver carrieth down a stone In hand, lest he float up before he would, And end his walk upon the rich sea-floor, Those pearls he failed to grasp never to look on more.
Then as the low moon heaveth, waxen white, The carriage, and it turns into a gate. Within sit three in pale pathetic light. O surely one of these my love, my fate. But ere I pass they wind away from sight. Then cottage casements glimmer. All elate I cross a green, there yawns with opened latch A village hostel capped in comely thatch.
'The same world made for all is made for each. To match a heart's magnificence of hope. How shall good reason best high action teach To win of custom, and with home to cope How warrantably may he hope to win A star, that wants it? Shall he lie and grope, No, truly.—I will see her; tell my tale, See her this once,—and if I fail—I fail.'
Thus with myself I spoke. A rough brick floor Made the place homely; I would rest me there. But how to sleep? Forth of the unlocked door I passed at midnight, lustreless white air Made strange the hour, that ecstasy not o'er I moved among the shadows, all my care— Counted a shadow—her drawn near to bless, Impassioned out of fear, rapt, motionless.
Now a long pool and water-hens at rest (As doughty seafolk dusk, at Malabar) A few pale stars lie trembling on its breast. Hath the Most High of all His host afar One most supremely beautiful, one best, Dearest of all the flock, one favourite star? His Image given, in part the children know They love one first and best. It may be so.
Now a long hedge; here dream the woolly folk; A majesty of silence is about. Transparent mist rolls off the pool like smoke, And Time is in his trance and night devout. Now the still house. O an I knew she woke I could not look, the sacred moon sheds out So many blessings on her rooftree low, Each more pathetic that she nought doth know.
I would not love a little, nor my start Make with the multitude that love and cease. He gives too much that giveth half a heart, Too much for liberty, too much for peace. Let me the first and best and highest impart, The whole of it, and heaven the whole increase! For that were not too much.
(In the moon's wake How the grass glitters, for her sweetest sake.)
I would toward her walk the silver floors. Love loathes an average—all extreme things deal To love—sea-deep and dazzling height for stores. There are on Fortune's errant foot can steal, Can guide her blindfold in at their own doors, Or dance elate upon her slippery wheel. Courage! there are 'gainst hope can still advance, Dowered with a sane, a wise extravagance.
A song To one a dreaming: when the dew Falls, 'tis a time for rest; and when the bird Calls, 'tis a time to wake, to wake for you. A long-waking, aye, waking till a word Come from her coral mouth to be the true Sum of all good heart wanted, ear hath heard.
Yet if alas! might love thy dolour be, Dream, dear heart dear, and do not dream of me.
I sing To one awakened, when the heart Cries 'tis a day for thought, and when the soul Sighs choose thy part, O choose thy part, thy part. I bring to one beloved, bring my whole Store, make in loving, make O make mine art More. Yet I ask no, ask no wished goal
But this—if loving might thy dolour be, Wake, O my lady loved, and love not me.
'That which the many win, love's niggard sum, I will not, if love's all be left behind. That which I am I cannot unbecome, My past not unpossess, nor future blind. Let me all risk, and leave the deep heart dumb For ever, if that maiden sits enshrined The saint of one more happy. She is she. There is none other. Give her then to me.
Or else to be the better for her face Beholding it no more.' Then all night through The shadow moves with infinite dark grace. The light is on her windows, and the dew Comforts the world and me, till in my place At moonsetting, when stars flash out to view, Comes 'neath the cedar boughs a great repose, The peace of one renouncing, and then a doze.
There was no dream, yet waxed a sense in me Asleep that patience was the better way, Appeasement for a want that needs must be, Grew as the dominant mind forbore its sway, Till whistling sweet stirred in the cedar tree— I started—woke—it was the dawn of day. That was the end. 'Slow solemn growth of light, Come what come will, remains to me this night.'
It was the end, with dew ordained to melt, How easily was learned, how all too soon Not there, not thereabout such maiden dwelt. What was it promised me so fair a boon? Heart-hope is not less vain because heart-felt, Gone forth once more in search of her at noon Through the sweet country side on hill, on plain, I sought and sought many long days in vain.
To Malvern next, with feathery woodland hung, Whereto old Piers the Plowman came to teach, On her green vasty hills the lay was sung, He too, it may be, lisping in his speech, 'To make the English sweet upon his tongue.' How many maidens beautiful, and each Might him delight, that loved no other fair; But Malvern blessed not me,—she was not there.
Then to that town, but still my fate the same. Crowned with old works that her right well beseem, To gaze upon her field of ancient fame And muse on the sad thrall's most piteous dream, By whom a 'shadow like an angel came,' Crying out on Clarence, its wild eyes agleam, Accusing echoes here still falter and flee, 'That stabbed me on the field by Tewkesbury.'
It nothing 'vailed that yet I sought and sought, Part of my very self was left behind, Till risen in wrath against th' o'ermastering thought, 'Let me be thankful,' quoth the better mind, Thankful for her, though utterly to nought She brings my heart's cry, and I live to find A new self of the old self exigent In the light of my divining discontent.
The picture of a maiden bidding 'Arise, I am the Art of God. He shows by me His great idea, so well as sin-stained eyes Love aidant can behold it.' Is this she? Or is it mine own love for her supplies The meaning and the power? Howe'er this be, She is the interpreter by whom most near Man's soul is drawn to beauty and pureness here.
The sweet idea, invisible hitherto, Is in her face, unconscious delegate; That thing she wots not of ordained to do: But also it shall be her votary's fate, Through her his early days of ease to eschew, Struggle with life and prove its weary weight. All the great storms that rising rend the soul, Are life in little, imaging the whole.
Ay, so as life is, love is, in their ken Stars, infant yet, both thought to grasp, to keep, Then came the morn of passionate splendour, when So sweet the light, none but for bliss could weep, And then the strife, the toil; but we are men, Strong, brave to battle with the stormy deep; Then fear—and then renunciation—then Appeals unto the Infinite Pity—and sleep.
But after life the sleep is long. Not so With love. Love buried lieth not straight, not still, Love starts, and after lull awakes to know All the deep things again. And next his will, That dearest pang is, never to forego. He would all service, hardship, fret fulfill. Unhappy love! and I of that great host Unhappy love who cry, unhappy most.
Because renunciation was so short, The starved heart so easily awaked; A dream could do it, a bud, a bird, a thought, But I betook me with that want which ached To neighbour lands where strangeness with me wrought. The old work was so hale, its fitness slaked Soul-thirst for truth. 'I knew not doubt nor fear,' Its language, 'war or worship, sure sincere.'
Then where by Art the high did best translate Life's infinite pathos to the soul, set down Beauty and mystery, that imperious hate On its best braveness doth and sainthood frown, Nay more the MASTER'S manifest pity—'wait, Behold the palmgrove and the promised crown. He suffers with thee, for thee.—Lo the Child! Comfort thy heart; he certainly so smiled.'
Thus love and I wore through the winter time. Then saw her demon blush Vesuvius try, Then evil ghosts white from the awful prime, Thrust up sharp peaks to tear the tender sky. 'No more to do but hear that English chime' I to a kinsman wrote. He made reply, 'As home I bring my girl and boy full soon, I pass through Evesham,—meet me there at noon.
'The bells your father loved you needs must hear, Seek Oxford next with me,' and told the day. 'Upon the bridge I'll meet you. What! how dear Soever was a dream, shall it bear sway To mar the waking?' I set forth, drew near, Beheld a goodly tower, twin churches grey, Evesham. The bridge, and noon. I nothing knew What to my heart that fateful chime would do.
For suddenly the sweet bells overcame A world unsouled; did all with man endow; His yearning almost tell that passeth name And said they were full old, and they were now And should be; and their sighing upon the same For our poor sake that pass they did avow, While on clear Avon flowed like man's short day The shining river of life lapsing away.
The stroke of noon. The bell-bird! yes and no. Winds of remembrance swept as over the foam Of anti-natal shores. At home is it so, My country folk? Ay, 'neath this pale blue dome, Many of you in the moss lie low—lie low. Ah! since I have not HER, give me too, home. A footstep near! I turned; past likelihood, Past hope, before me on the bridge—SHE STOOD.
A rosy urchin had her hand; this cried, 'We think you are our cousin—yes, you are; I said so to Estelle.' The violet-eyed, 'If this be Geoffrey?' asked; and as from far A doubt came floating up; but she denied Her thought, yet blushed. O beautiful! my Star! Then, with the lifting of my hat, each wore That look which owned to each, 'We have met before.'
Then was the strangest bliss in life made mine; I saw the almost worshipped—all remote; The Star so high above that used to shine, Translated from the void where it did float, And brought into relation with the fine Charities earth hath grown. A great joy smote Me silent, and the child atween us tway, We watched the lucent river stealing away.
While her deep eyes down on the ripple fell, Quoth the small imp, '"How fast you go and go, You Avon. Does it wish to stop, Estelle, And hear the clock, and see the orchards blow? It does not care! Not when the old big bell Makes a great buzzing noise?—Who told you so?" And then to me, "I like to hear it hum. Why do you think that father could not come?"
Estelle forgot her violin. And he, O then he said: "How careless, child, of you; I must send on for it. 'T would pity be If that were lost. I want to learn it too; And when I'm nine I shall." Then turning, she Let her sweet eyes unveil them to my view; Her stately grace outmatched my dream of old, But ah! the smile dull memory had not told.
My kinsman next, with care-worn kindly brow. 'Well, father,' quoth the imp, 'we've done our part. We found him.' And she, wholly girlish now, Laid her young hand on his with lovely art And sweet excuses. O! I made my vow I would all dare, such life did warm my heart; We journeyed, all the air with scents of price Was laden, and the goal was Paradise.
When that the Moors betook them to their sand, Their domination over in fair Spain, Each locked, men say, his door in that loved land, And took the key in hope to come again. On Moorish walls yet hung, long dust each hand, The keys, but not the might to use, remain; Is there such house in some blest land for me? I can, I will, I do reach down the key.
A country conquered oft, and long before, Of generations aye ordained to win; If mine the power, I will unlock the door. Enter, O light, I bear a sunbeam in. What, did the crescent wane! Yet man is more, And love achieves because to heaven akin. O life! to hear again that wandering bell, And hear it at thy feet, Estelle, Estelle.
Full oft I want the sacred throated bird, Over our limitless waste of light which spoke The spirit of the call my fathers heard, Saying 'Let us pray,' and old world echoes woke Ethereal minster bells that still averr'd, And with their phantom notes th' all silence broke. 'The fanes are far, but whom they shrined is near. Thy God, the Island God, is here, is here.'
To serve; to serve a thought, and serve apart To meet; a few short days, a maiden won. 'Ah, sweet, sweet home, I must divide my heart, Betaking me to countries of the sun.' 'What straight-hung leaves, what rays that twinkle and dart, Make me to like them.' 'Love, it shall be done,' 'What weird dawn-fire across the wide hill flies.' 'It is the flame-tree's challenge to yon scarlet skies.'
'Hark, hark, O hark! the spirit of a bell! What would it? ('Toll.') An air-hung sacred call, Athwart the forest shade it strangely fell'— 'Toll'—'Toll.' The longed-for voice, but ah, withal I felt, I knew, it was my father's knell That touched and could the over-sense enthrall. Perfect his peace, a whispering pure and deep As theirs who 'neath his native towers by Avon sleep.
If love and death are ever reconciled, 'T is when the old lie down for the great rest. We rode across the bush, a sylvan wild That was an almost world, whose calm oppressed With audible silence; and great hills inisled Rose out as from a sea. Consoling, blest And blessing spoke she, and the reedflower spread, And tall rock lilies towered above her head.
* * * * *
Sweet is the light aneath our matchless blue, The shade below yon passion plant that lies, And very sweet is love, and sweet are you, My little children dear, with violet eyes, And sweet about the dawn to hear anew The sacred monotone of peace arise. Love, 't is thy welcome from the air-hung bell, Congratulant and clear, Estelle, Estelle.
LOSS AND WASTE.
Up to far Osteroe and Suderoe The deep sea-floor lies strewn with Spanish wrecks, O'er minted gold the fair-haired fishers go, O'er sunken bravery of high carved decks.
In earlier days great Carthage suffered bale (All her waste works choke under sandy shoals); And reckless hands tore down the temple veil; And Omar burned the Alexandrian rolls. The Old World arts men suffered not to last, Flung down they trampled lie and sunk from view, He lets wild forest for these ages past Grow over the lost cities of the New.
O for a life that shall not be refused To see the lost things found, and waste things used.
ON A PICTURE.
As a forlorn soul waiting by the Styx Dimly expectant of lands yet more dim, Might peer afraid where shadows change and mix Till the dark ferryman shall come for him.
And past all hope a long ray in his sight, Fall'n trickling down the steep crag Hades-black Reveals an upward path to life and light, Nor any let but he should mount that track.
As with the sudden shock of joy amazed, He might a motionless sweet moment stand, So doth that mortal lover, silent, dazed, For hope had died and loss was near at hand.
'Wilt thou?' his quest. Unready but for 'Nay,' He stands at fault for joy, she whispering 'Ay.'
THE SLEEP OF SIGISMUND.
The doom'd king pacing all night through the windy fallow. 'Let me alone, mine enemy, let me alone,' Never a Christian bell that dire thick gloom to hallow, Or guide him, shelterless, succourless, thrust from his own.
Foul spirits riding the wind do flout at him friendless, The rain and the storm on his head beat ever at will; His weird is on him to grope in the dark with endless Weariful feet for a goal that shifteth still.
A sleuth-hound baying! The sleuth-hound bayeth behind him, His head, he flying and stumbling turns back to the sound, Whom doth the sleuth-hound follow? What if it find him; Up! for the scent lieth thick, up from the level ground.
Up, on, he must on, to follow his weird essaying, Lo you, a flood from the crag cometh raging past, He falls, he fights in the water, no stop, no staying, Soon the king's head goes under, the weird is dreed at last.
'Wake, O king, the best star worn In the crown of night, forlorn Blinks a fine white point—'t is morn.' Soft! The queen's voice, fair is she, 'Wake!' He waketh, living, free, In the chamber of arras lieth he. Delicate dim shadows yield Silken curtains over head All abloom with work of neeld, Martagon and milleflower spread. On the wall his golden shield, Dinted deep in battle field, When the host o' the Khalif fled. Gold to gold. Long sunbeams flit Upward, tremble and break on it. 'Ay, 't is over, all things writ Of my sleep shall end awake, Now is joy, and all its bane The dark shadow of after pain.' Then the queen saith, 'Nay, but break Unto me for dear love's sake This thy matter. Thou hast been In great bitterness I ween All the night-time.' But 'My queen, Life, love, lady, rest content, Ill dreams fly, the night is spent, Good day draweth on. Lament 'Vaileth not,—yea peace,' quoth he; 'Sith this thing no better may be, Best were held 'twixt thee and me.' Then the fair queen, 'Even so As thou wilt, O king, but know Mickle nights have wrought thee woe, Yet the last was troubled sore Above all that went before.' Quoth the king, 'No more, no more.' Then he riseth, pale of blee, As one spent, and utterly Master'd of dark destiny.
Comes a day for glory famed Tidings brought the enemy shamed, Fallen; now is peace proclaimed. And a swarm of bells on high Make their sweet din scale the sky, 'Hail! hail! hail!' the people cry To the king his queen beside, And the knights in armour ride After until eventide.
All things great may life afford, Praise, power, love, high pomp, fair gaud, Till the banquet be toward Hath this king. Then day takes flight, Sinketh sun and fadeth light, Late he coucheth—Night; 't is night.
The proud king heading the host on his red roan charger. Dust. On a thicket of spears glares the Syrian sun, The Saracens swarm to the onset, larger aye larger Loom their fierce cohorts, they shout as the day were won.
Brown faces fronting the steel-bright armour, and ever The crash o' the combat runs on with a mighty cry, Fell tumult; trampling and carnage—then fails endeavour, O shame upon shame—the Christians falter and fly.
The foe upon them, the foe afore and behind them, The king borne back in the melee; all, all is vain; They fly with death at their heels, fierce sun-rays blind them, Riderless steeds affrighted, tread down their ranks amain.
Disgrace, dishonour, no rally, ah no retrieving, The scorn of scorns shall his name and his nation brand, 'T is a sword that smites from the rear, his helmet cleaving, That hurls him to earth, to his death on the desert sand.
Ever they fly, the cravens, and ever reviling Flies after. Athirst, ashamed, he yieldeth his breath, While one looks down from his charger; and calm slow smiling, Curleth his lip. 'T is the Khalif. And this is death.
'Wake, yon purple peaks arise, Jagged, bare, through saffron skies; Now is heard a twittering sweet, For the mother-martins meet, Where wet ivies, dew-besprent, Glisten on the battlement. Now the lark at heaven's gold gate Aiming, sweetly chides on fate That his brown wings wearied were When he, sure, was almost there. Now the valley mist doth break, Shifting sparkles edge the lake, Love, Lord, Master, wake, O wake!'
Ay, he wakes,—and dull of cheer, Though this queen be very dear, Though a respite come with day From th' abhorred flight and fray, E'en though life be not the cost, Nay, nor crown nor honour lost; For in his soul abideth fear Worse than of the Khalif's spear, Smiting when perforce in flight He was borne,—for that was night, That his weird. But now 't is day, 'And good sooth I know not—nay, Know not how this thing could be. Never, more it seemeth me Than when left the weird to dree, I am I. And it was I Felt or ever they turned to fly, How, like wind, a tremor ran, The right hand of every man Shaking. Ay, all banners shook, And the red all cheeks forsook, Mine as theirs. Since this was I, Who my soul shall certify When again I face the foe Manful courage shall not go. Ay, it is not thrust o' a spear, Scorn of infidel eyes austere, But mine own fear—is to fear.'
After sleep thus sore bestead, Beaten about and buffeted, Featly fares the morning spent In high sport and tournament.
Served within his sumptuous tent, Looks the king in quiet wise, Till this fair queen yield the prize To the bravest; but when day Falleth to the west away, Unto her i' the silent hour, While she sits in her rose-bower. Come, 'O love, full oft,' quoth she, 'I at dawn have prayed thee Thou would'st tell o' the weird to me, Sith I might some counsel find Of my wit or in my mind Thee to better.' 'Ay, e'en so, But the telling shall let thee know,' Quoth the king, 'is neither scope For sweet counsel nor fair hope, Nor is found for respite room, Till the uttermost crack of doom.
Then the queen saith, 'Woman's wit No man asketh aid of it, Not wild hyssop on a wall Is of less account; or small Glossy gnats that flit i' the sun Less worth weighing—light so light! Yet when all's said—ay, all done, Love, I love thee! By love's might I will counsel thee aright, Or would share the weird to-night.' Then he answer'd 'Have thy way. Know 't is two years gone and a day Since I, walking lone and late, Pondered sore mine ill estate; Open murmurers, foes concealed, Famines dire i' the marches round, Neighbour kings unfriendly found, Ay, and treacherous plots revealed Where I trusted. I bid stay All my knights at the high crossway, And did down the forest fare To bethink me, and despair. 'Ah! thou gilded toy a throne, If one mounts to thee alone, Quoth I, mourning while I went, Haply he may drop content As a lark wing-weary down To the level, and his crown Leave for another man to don; Throne, thy gold steps raised upon. But for me—O as for me What is named I would not dree, Earn, or conquer, or forego For the barring of overthrow.'
'Aloud I spake, but verily Never an answer looked should be. But it came to pass from shade Pacing to an open glade, Which the oaks a mighty wall Fence about, methought a call Sounded, then a pale thin mist Rose, a pillar, and fronted me, Rose and took a form I wist, And it wore a hood on 'ts head, And a long white garment spread, And I saw the eyes thereof.
Then my plumed cap I doff, Stooping. 'T is the white-witch. 'Hail,' Quoth the witch, 'thou shalt prevail An thou wilt; I swear to thee All thy days shall glorious shine, Great and rich, ay, fair and fine, So what followeth rest my fee, So thou'lt give thy sleep to me.'
While she spake my heart did leap. Waking is man's life, and sleep— What is sleep?—a little death Coming after, and methought Life is mine and death is nought Till it come,—so day is mine I will risk the sleep to shine In the waking. And she saith, In a soft voice clear and low, 'Give thy plumed cap also For a token.' 'Didst thou give?' Quoth the queen; and 'As I live He makes answer 'none can tell. I did will my sleep to sell, And in token held to her That she asked. And it fell To the grass. I saw no stir In her hand or in her face, And no going; but the place Only for an evening mist Was made empty. There it lay, That same plumed cap, alway On the grasses—but I wist Well, it must be let to lie, And I left it. Now the tale Ends, th' events do testify Of her truth. The days go by Better and better; nought doth ail In the land, right happy and hale Dwell the seely folk; but sleep Brings a reckoning; then forth creep Dreaded creatures, worms of might. Crested with my plumed cap Loll about my neck all night, Bite me in the side, and lap My heart's blood. Then oft the weird Drives me, where amazed, afeard, I do safe on a river strand Mark one sinking hard at hand While fierce sleuth-hounds that me track Fly upon me, bear me back, Fling me away, and he for lack Of man's aid in piteous wise Goeth under, drowns and dies.
'O sweet wife, I suffer sore— O methinks aye more and more Dull my day, my courage numb, Shadows from the night to come. But no counsel, hope, nor aid Is to give; a crown being made Power and rule, yea all good things Yet to hang on this same weird I must dree it, ever that brings Chastening from the white-witch feared. O that dreams mote me forsake, Would that man could alway wake.'
Now good sooth doth counsel fail, Ah this queen is pale, so pale. 'Love,' she sigheth, 'thou didst not well Listening to the white-witch fell, Leaving her doth thee advance Thy plumed cap of maintenance.'
'She is white, as white snow flake,' Quoth the king; 'a man shall make Bargains with her and not sin.' 'Ay,' she saith, 'but an he win, Let him look the right be done Else the rue shall be his own.
No more words. The stars are bright, For the feast high halls be dight Late he coucheth. Night—'t is night.
The dead king lying in state in the Minster holy. Fifty candles burn at his head and burn at his feet, A crown and royal apparel upon him lorn and lowly, And the cold hands stiff as horn by their cold palms meet.
Two days dead. Is he dead? Nay, nay—but is he living? The weary monks have ended their chantings manifold, The great door swings behind them, night winds entrance giving, The candles flare and drip on him, warm and he so cold.
Neither to move nor to moan, though sunk and though swallow'd In earth he shall soon be trodden hard and no more seen. Soft you the door again! Was it a footstep followed, Falter'd, and yet drew near him?—Malva, Malva the queen!
One hand o' the dead king liveth (e'en so him seemeth) On the purple robe, on the ermine that folds his breast Cold, very cold. Yet e'en at that pass esteemeth The king, it were sweet if she kissed the place of its rest.
Laid her warm face on his bosom, a fair wife grieved For the lord and love of her youth, and bewailed him sore; Laid her warm face on the bosom of her bereaved Soon to go under, never to look on her more.
His candles guide her with pomp funereal flaring, Out of the gulfy dark to the bier whereon he lies. Cometh this queen i' the night for grief or for daring, Out o' the dark to the light with large affrighted eyes?
The pale queen speaks in the Presence with fear upon her, 'Where is the ring I gave to thee, where is my ring? I vowed—'t was an evil vow—by love, and by honour, Come life or come death to be thine, thou poor dead king.'
The pale queen's honour! A low laugh scathing and sereing— A mumbling as made by the dead in the tombs ye wot. Braveth the dead this queen? 'Hear it, whoso hath hearing, I vowed by my love, cold king, but I loved thee not.'
Honour! An echo in aisles and the solemn portals, Low sinketh this queen by the bier with its freight forlorn; Yet kneeling, 'Hear me!' she crieth, 'you just immortals, You saints bear witness I vowed and am not forsworn.
I vowed in my youth, fool-king, when the golden fetter Thy love that bound me and bann'd me full weary I wore, But all poor men of thy menai I held them better, All stalwart knights of thy train unto me were more.
Twenty years I have lived on earth and two beside thee, Thirty years thou didst live on earth, and two on the throne: Let it suffice there be none of thy rights denied thee, Though I dare thy presence—I—come for my ring alone.'
She risen shuddereth, peering, afraid to linger Behold her ring, it shineth! 'Now yield to me, thou dead, For this do I dare the touch of thy stark stiff finger.' The queen hath drawn her ring from his hand, the queen hath fled.
'O woman fearing sore, to whom my man's heart cleaved, The faith enwrought with love and life hath mocks for its meed'— The dead king lying in state, of his past bereaved, Twice dead. Ay, this is death. Now dieth the king indeed.
'Wake, the seely gnomes do fly, Drenched across yon rainy sky, With the vex'd moon-mother'd elves, And the clouds do weep themselves Into morning.
All night long Hath thy weird thee sore opprest; Wake, I have found within my breast Counsel.' Ah, the weird was strong, But the time is told. Release Openeth on him when his eyes Lift them in dull desolate wise, And behold he is at peace.
Ay, but silent. Of all done And all suffer'd in the night, Of all ills that do him spite She shall never know that one. Then he heareth accents bland, Seeth the queen's ring on his hand, And he riseth calmed withal.
Rain and wind on the palace wall Beat and bluster, sob and moan, When at noon he musing lone, Comes the queen anigh his seat, And she kneeleth at his feet.
Quoth the queen, 'My love, my lord, Take thy wife and take thy sword, We must forth in the stormy weather, Thou and I to the witch together. Thus I rede thee counsel deep, Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep, Turning so man's wholesome life From its meaning. Thine intent None shall hold for innocent. Thou dost take thy good things first, Then thou art cast into the worst; First the glory, then the strife. Nay, but first thy trouble dree, So thy peace shall sweeter be. First to work and then to rest, Is the way for our humanity, Ay, she sayeth that loves thee best, We must forth and from this strife Buy the best part of man's life; Best and worst thou holdest still Subject to a witch's will. Thus I rede thee counsel deep, Thou didst ill to sell thy sleep; Take the crown from off thy head, Give it the white-witch instead, If in that she say thee nay, Get the night,—and give the day.'
Then the king (amazed, mild, As one reasoning with a child All his speech): 'My wife! my fair! And his hand on her brown hair Trembles; 'Lady, dost indeed Weigh the meaning of thy rede? Would'st thou dare the dropping away Of allegiance, should our sway And sweet splendour and renown All be risked? (methinks a crown Doth become thee marvellous well). We ourself are, truth to tell, Kingly both of wont and kind, Suits not such the craven mind.' 'Yet this weird thou can'st not dree.' Quoth the queen, 'And live;' then he, 'I must die and leave the fair Unborn, long-desired heir To his rightful heritage.'
But this queen arisen doth high Her two hands uplifting, sigh 'God forbid.' And he to assuage Her keen sorrow, for his part Searcheth, nor can find in his heart Words. And weeping she will rest Her sweet cheek upon his breast, Whispering, 'Dost thou verily Know thou art to blame? Ah me, Come,' and yet beseecheth she, 'Ah me, come.'
For good for ill, Whom man loveth hath her will. Court and castle left behind, Stolen forth in the rain and wind, Soon they are deep in the forest, fain The white-witch to raise again; Down and deep where flat o'erhead Layer on layer do cedars spread, Down where lordly maples strain, Wrestling with the storm amain.
Wide-wing'd eagles struck on high Headlong fall'n break through, and lie With their prey in piteous wise, And no film on their dead eyes. Matted branches grind and crash, Into darkness dives the flash, Stabs, a dread gold dirk of fire, Loads the lift with splinters dire. Then a pause i' the deadly feud— And a sick cowed quietude.
Soh! A pillar misty and grey, 'T is the white-witch in the way. Shall man deal with her and gain? I trow not. Albeit the twain Costly gear and gems and gold Freely offer, she will hold Sleep and token for the pay She did get for greatening day.
'Or the night shall rest my fee Or the day shall nought of me,' Quoth the witch. 'An't thee beseem, Sell thy kingdom for a dream.'
'Now what will be let it be!' Quoth the queen; 'but choose the right.' And the white-witch scorns at her, Stately standing in their sight. Then without or sound or stir She is not. For offering meet Lieth the token at their feet, Which they, weary and sore bestead In the storm, lift up, full fain Ere the waning light hath fled Those high towers they left to gain.
Deep among tree roots astray Here a torrent tears its way, There a cedar split aloft Lies head downward. Now the oft Muttering thunder, now the wind Wakens. How the path to find? How the turning? Deep ay deep, Far ay far. She needs must weep, This fair woman, lost, astray In the forest; nought to say. Yet the sick thoughts come and go, 'I, 't was I would have it so.'
Shelter at the last, a roof Wrought of ling (in their behoof, Foresters, that drive the deer). What, and must they couch them here? Ay, and ere the twilight fall Gather forest berries small And nuts down beaten for a meal.
Now the shy wood-wonners steal Nearer, bright-eyed furry things, Winking owls on silent wings Glance, and float away. The light In the wake o' the storm takes flight, Day departeth: night—'t is night.
The crown'd king musing at morn by a clear sweet river. Palms on the slope o' the valley, and no winds blow; Birds blameless, dove-eyed, mystical talk deliver, Oracles haply. The language he doth not know.
Bare, blue, are yon peaked hills for a rampart lying, As dusty gold is the light in the palms o'erhead, 'What is the name o' the land? and this calm sweet sighing, If it be echo, where first was it caught and spread?
I might—I might be at rest in some field Elysian, If this be asphodel set in the herbage fair, I know not how I should wonder, so sweet the vision, So clear and silent the water, the field, the air.
Love, are you by me! Malva, what think you this meaneth? Love, do you see the fine folk as they move over there? Are they immortals? Look you a winged one leaneth Down from yon pine to the river of us unaware.
All unaware; and the country is full of voices, Mild strangers passing: they reck not of me nor of thee. List! about and around us wondrous sweet noises, Laughter of little children and maids that dreaming be.
Love, I can see their dreams.' A dim smile flitteth Over her lips, and they move as in peace supreme, And a small thing, silky haired, beside her sitteth, 'O this is thy dream atween us—this is thy dream.'
Was it then truly his dream with her dream that blended? 'Speak, dear child dear,' quoth the queen, 'and mine own little son.' 'Father,' the small thing murmurs; then all is ended, He starts from that passion of peace—ay, the dream is done.
'I have been in a good land,' Quoth the king: 'O sweet sleep bland, Blessed! I am grown to more, Now the doing of right hath moved Me to love of right, and proved If one doth it, he shall be Twice the man he was before. Verily and verily, Thou fair woman, thou didst well; I look back and scarce may tell Those false days of tinsel sheen, Flattery, feasting, that have been. Shows of life that were but shows, How they held me; being I ween Like sand-pictures thin, that rose Quivering, when our thirsty bands Marched i' the hot Egyptian lands; Shade of palms on a thick green plot, Pools of water that was not, Mocking us and melting away.
I have been a witch's prey, Art mine enemy now by day, Thou fell Fear? There comes an end To the day; thou canst not wend After me where I shall fare, My foredoomed peace to share. And awake with a better heart, I shall meet thee and take my part O' the dull world's dull spite; with thine Hard will I strive for me and mine.'
A page and a palfrey pacing nigh, Malva the queen awakes. A sigh— One amazed moment—'Ay, We remember yesterday, Let us to the palace straight: What! do all my ladies wait— Is no zeal to find me? What! No knights forth to meet the king; Due observance, is it forgot?'
'Lady,' quoth the page, 'I bring Evil news. Sir king, I say, My good lord of yesterday, Evil news,' This king saith low, 'Yesterday, and yesterday, The queen's yesterday we know, Tell us thine.' 'Sir king,' saith he, Hear. Thy castle in the night Was surprised, and men thy flight Learned but then; thine enemy Of old days, our new king, reigns; And sith thou wert not at pains To forbid it, hear also, Marvelling whereto this should grow How thy knights at break of morn Have a new allegiance sworn, And the men-at-arms rejoice, And the people give their voice For the conqueror. I, Sir king, Rest thine only friend. I bring Means of flight; now therefore fly, A great price is on thy head. Cast her jewel'd mantle by, Mount thy queen i' the selle and hie (Sith disguise ye need, and bread) Down yon pleached track, down, down, Till a tower shall on thee frown; Him that holds it show this ring: So farewell, my lord the king.'
Had one marked that palfrey led To the tower, he sooth had said, These are royal folk and rare— Jewels in her plaited hair Shine not clearer than her eyes, And her lord in goodly wise With his plumed cap in 's hand Moves in the measure of command.
Had one marked where stole forth two From the friendly tower anew, 'Common folk' he sooth had said, Making for the mountain track. Common, common, man and maid, Clad in russet, and of kind Meet for russet. On his back A wallet bears the stalwart hind; She, all shy, in rustic grace Steps beside her man apace, And wild roses match her face.
Whither speed they? Where are toss'd Like sea foam the dwarfed pines At the jagged sharp inclines; To the country of the frost Up the mountains to be lost, Lost. No better now may be, Lost where mighty hollows thrust 'Twixt the fierce teeth of the world, Fill themselves with crimson dust When the tumbling sun down hurl'd Stares among them drearily, As a' wondering at the lone Gulfs that weird gaunt company Fenceth in. Lost there unknown, Lineage, nation, name, and throne.
Lo, in a crevice choked with ling And fir, this man, not now the king, This Sigismund, hath made a fire, And by his wife in the dark night He leans at watch, her guard and squire. His wide eyes stare out for the light Weary. He needs must chide on fate, And she is asleep. 'Poor brooding mate, What! wilt thou on the mountain crest Slippery and cold scoop thy first nest? Or must I clear some uncouth cave That laired the mother wolf, and save— Spearing her cubs—the grey pelt fine To be a bed for thee and thine? It is my doing. Ay,' quoth he, 'Mine; but who dares to pity thee Shall pity, not for loss of all, But that thou wert my wife perdie, E'en wife unto a witch's thrall,— A man beholden to the cold Cloud for a covering, he being sold And hunted for reward of gold.
But who shall chronicle the ways Of common folk—the nights and days Spent with rough goatherds on their snows, Of travellers come whence no man knows, Then gone aloft on some sharp height In the dumb peace and the great light Amid brown eagles and wild roes?
'Tis the whole world whereon they lie, The rocky pastures hung on high Shelve off upon an empty sky. But they creep near the edge, look down— Great heaven! another world afloat, Moored as in seas of air; remote As their own childhood; swooning away Into a tenderer sweeter day, Innocent, sunny. 'O for wings! There lie the lands of other kings— I Sigismund, my sometime crown Forfeit; forgotten of renown My wars, my rule; I fain would go Down to yon peace obscure.'
Even so; Down to the country of the thyme, Where young kids dance, and a soft chime Of sheepbells tinkles; then at last Down to a country of hollows, cast Up at the mountains full of trees, Down to fruit orchards and wide leas.
With name unsaid and fame unsunned He walks that was King Sigismund. With palmers holy and pilgrims brown, New from the East, with friar and clown, He mingles in a walled town, And in the mart where men him scan He passes for a merchant man. For from his vest, where by good hap He thrust it, he his plumed cap Hath drawn and plucked the gems away, And up and down he makes essay To sell them; they are all his wares And wealth. He is a man of cares, A man of toil; no roof hath he To shelter her full soon to be The mother of his dispossessed Desired heir.
Few words are best. He, once King Sigismund, saith few, But makes good diligence and true. Soon with the gold he gather'd so, A little homestead lone and low He buyeth: a field, a copse, with these A melon patch and mulberry trees. And is the man content? Nay, morn Is toilsome, oft is noon forlorn, Though right be done and life be won, Yet hot is weeding in the sun, Yea scythe to wield and axe to swing, Are hard on sinews of a king.
And Malva, must she toil? E'en so. Full patiently she takes her part, All, all so new. But her deep heart Forebodes more change than shall be shown Betwixt a settle and a throne. And lost in musing she will go About the winding of her silk, About the skimming her goat's milk, About the kneading of her bread, And water drawn from her well-head.
Then come the long nights dark and still, Then come the leaves and cover the sill, Then come the swift flocks of the stare, Then comes the snow—then comes the heir.
If he be glad, if he be sad, How should one question when the hand Is full, the heart. That life he had, While leisure was aside may stand, Till he shall overtake the task Of every day, then let him ask (If he remember—if he will), 'When I could sit me down and muse, And match my good against mine ill, And weigh advantage dulled by use At nothing, was it better with me?' But Sigismund! It cannot be But that he toil, nor pause, nor sigh, A dreamer on a day gone by The king is come.
His vassals two Serve with all homage deep and due. He is contented, he doth find Belike the kingdom much to his mind. And when the long months of his long Reign are two years, and like a song From some far sweeter world, a call From the king's mouth for fealty, Buds soon to blossom in language fall, They listen and find not any plea Left, for fine chiding at destiny.
Sigismund hath ricked the hay, He sitteth at close o' a sultry day Under his mulberry boughs at ease. 'Hey for the world, and the world is wide, The world is mine, and the world is—these Beautiful Malva leans at his side, And the small babbler talks at his knees.
Riseth a waft as of summer air, Floating upon it what moveth there? Faint as the light of stars and wan As snow at night when the moon is gone, It is the white-witch risen once more.
The white-witch that tempted of yore So utterly doth substance lack, You may breathe her nearer and breathe her back. Soft her eyes, her speech full clear: 'Hail, thou Sigismund my fere, Bargain with me yea or nay. NAY, I go to my true place, And no more thou seest my face. YEA, the good be all thine own, For now will I advance thy day, And yet will leave the night alone.
Sigismund makes answer 'NAY. Though the Highest heaped on me Trouble, yet the same should be Welcomer than weal from thee. Nay;—for ever and ever Nay.' O, the white-witch floats away. Look you, look! A still pure smile Blossoms on her mouth the while, White wings peaked high behind, Bear her;—no, the wafting wind, For they move not,—floats her back, Floats her up. They scarce may track Her swift rising, shot on high Like a ray from the western sky, Or a lark from some grey wold Utterly whelm'd in sunset gold.
Then these two long silence hold, And the lisping babe doth say 'White white bird, it flew away.' And they marvel at these things, For her ghostly visitings Turn to them another face. Haply she was sent, a friend Trying them, and to good end For their better weal and grace; One more wonder let to be In the might and mystery Of the world, where verily And good sooth a man may wend All his life, and no more view Than the one right next to do.
So, the welcome dusk is here, Sweet is even, rest is dear; Mountain heads have lost the light, Soon they couch them. Night—'t is night.
Sigismund dreaming delightsomely after his haying. ('Sleep of the labouring man,' quoth King David, 'is sweet.') 'Sigismund, Sigismund'—'Who is this calling and saying "Sigismund, Sigismund," O blessed night do not fleet.
Is it not dark—ay, methinks it is dark, I would slumber, O I would rest till the swallow shall chirp 'neath mine eaves.' 'Sigismund, Sigismund,' multitudes now without number Calling, the noise is as dropping of rain upon leaves.
'Ay,' quoth he dreaming, 'say on, for I, Sigismund, hear ye.' 'Sigismund, Sigismund, all the knights weary full sore. Come back, King Sigismund, come, they shall love thee and fear thee, The people cry out O come back to us, reign evermore.
The new king is dead, and we will not his son, no nor brother, Come with thy queen, is she busy yet, kneading of cakes? Sigismund, show us the boy, is he safe, and his mother, Sigismund?'—dreaming he falls into laughter and wakes.
And men say this dream came true, For he walking in the dew Turned aside while yet was red On the highest mountain head, Looking how the wheat he set Flourished. And the knights him met And him prayed 'Come again, Sigismund our king, and reign.' But at first—at first they tell How it liked not Malva well; She must leave her belted bees And the kids that she did rear. When she thought on it full dear Seemed her home. It did not please Sigismund that he must go From the wheat that he did sow; When he thought on it his mind Was not that should any bind Into sheaves that wheat but he, Only he; and yet they went, And it may be were content. And they won a nation's heart; Very well they played their part. They ruled with sceptre and diadem, And their children after them.
Only you'd have me speak. Whether to speak Or whether to be silent is all one; Whether to sleep and in my dreaming front Her small scared face forlorn; whether to wake And muse upon her small soft feet that paced The hated, hard, inhospitable stone— I say all's one. But you would have me speak, And change one sorrow for the other. Ay, Right reverend father, comfortable father, Old, long in thrall, and wearied of the cell, So will I here—here staring through the grate, Whence, sheer beneath us lying the little town, Her street appears a riband up the rise; Where 't is right steep for carts, behold two ruts Worn in the flat, smooth, stone. That side I stood; My head was down. At first I did but see Her coming feet; they gleamed through my hot tears As she walked barefoot up yon short steep hill. Then I dared all, gazed on her face, the maid Martyr and utterly, utterly broke my heart.
Her face, O! it was wonderful to me, There was not in it what I look'd for—no, I never saw a maid go to her death, How should I dream that face and the dumb soul?
Her arms and head were bare, seemly she walked All in her smock so modest as she might; Upon her shoulders hung a painted cape For horrible adornment, flames of fire Portrayed upon it, and mocking demon heads.
Her eyes—she did not see me—opened wide, Blue-black, gazed right before her, yet they marked Nothing; and her two hands uplift as praying, She yet prayed not, wept not, sighed not. O father, She was past that, soft, tender, hunted thing; But, as it seemed, confused from time to time, She would half-turn her or to left or right To follow other streets, doubting her way.
Then their base pikes they basely thrust at her, And, like one dazed, obedient to her guides She came; I knew not if 't was present to her That death was her near goal; she was so lost, And set apart from any power to think. But her mouth pouted as one brooding, father, Over a lifetime of forlorn fear. No, Scarce was it fear; so looks a timid child (Not more affrighted; ah! but not so pale) That has been scolded or has lost its way.
Mother and father—father and mother kind, She was alone, where were you hidden? Alone, And I that loved her more, or feared death less, Rushed to her side, but quickly was flung back, And cast behind o' the pikemen following her Into a yelling and a cursing crowd. That bristled thick with monks and hooded friars; Moreover, women with their cheeks ablaze, Who swarmed after up the narrowing street.
Pitiful heaven! I knew she did not hear In that last hour the cursing, nor the foul Words; she had never heard like words, sweet soul, In her life blameless; even at that pass, That dreadful pass, I felt it had been worse, Though nought I longed for as for death, to know She did. She saw not 'neath their hoods those eyes Soft, glittering, with a lust for cruelty; Secret delight, that so great cruelty, All in the sacred name of Holy Church, Their meed to look on it should be anon. Speak! O, I tell you this thing passeth word! From roofs and oriels high, women looked down; Men, maidens, children, and a fierce white sun Smote blinding splinters from all spears aslant.
Lo! next a stand, so please you, certain priests (May God forgive men sinning at their ease), Whose duty 't was to look upon this thing, Being mindful of thick pungent smoke to come, Had caused a stand to rise hard by the stake, Upon its windward side.
My life! my love! She utter'd one sharp cry of mortal dread While they did chain her. This thing passeth words, Albeit told out for ever in my soul. As the torch touched, thick volumes of black reek Rolled out and raised the wind, and instantly Long films of flaxen hair floated aloft, Settled alow, in drifts upon the crowd. The vile were merciful; heaped high, my dear, Thou didst not suffer long. O! it was soon, Soon over, and I knew not any more, Till grovelling on the ground, beating my head, I heard myself, and scarcely knew 't was I, At Holy Church railing with fierce mad words, Crying and craving for a stake, for me. While fast the folk, as ever, such a work Being over, fled, and shrieked 'A heretic! More heretics; yon ashes smoking still.'
And up and almost over me came on A robed—ecclesiastic—with his train (I choose the words lest that they do some wrong) Call him a robed ecclesiastic proud. And I lying helpless, with my bruised face Beat on his garnished shoon. But he stepped back, Spurned me full roughly with them, called the pikes, Delivering orders, 'Take the bruised wretch. He raves. Fool! thou'lt hear more of this anon. Bestow him there.' He pointed to a door. With that some threw a cloth upon my face Because it bled. I knew they carried me Within his home, and I was satisfied; Willing my death. Was it an abbey door? Was 't entrance to a palace? or a house Of priests? I say not, nor if abbot he, Bishop or other dignity; enough That he so spake. 'Take in the bruised wretch.' And I was borne far up a turret stair Into a peaked chamber taking form O' the roof, and on a pallet bed they left Me miserable. Yet I knew forsooth, Left in my pain, that evil things were said Of that same tower; men thence had disappeared, Suspect of heresy had disappeared, Deliver'd up, 't was whisper'd, tried and burned. So be it methought, I would not live, not I. But none did question me. A beldame old, Kind, heedless of my sayings, tended me. I raved at Holy Church and she was deaf, And at whose tower detained me, she was dumb. So had I food and water, rest and calm. Then on the third day I rose up and sat On the side of my low bed right melancholy, All that high force of passion overpast, I sick with dolourous thought and weak through tears Spite of myself came to myself again (For I had slept), and since I could not die Looked through the window three parts overgrown With leafage on the loftiest ivy ropes, And saw at foot o' the rise another tower In roof whereof a grating, dreary bare. Lifetimes gone by, long, slow, dim, desolate, I knew even there had been my lost love's cell.
So musing on the man that with his foot Spurned me, the robed ecclesiastic stern, 'Would he had haled me straight to prison' methought, 'So made an end at once.'
My sufferings rose Like billows closing over, beating down; Made heavier far because of a stray, strange, Sweet hope that mocked me at the last. 'T was thus, I came from Oxford secretly, the news Terrible of her danger smiting me,— She was so young, and ever had been bred With whom 't was made a peril now to name. There had been worship in the night; some stole To a mean chapel deep in woods, and heard Preaching, and prayed. She, my betrothed, was there. Father and mother, mother and father kind, So young, so innocent, had ye no ruth, No fear, that ye did bring her to her doom? I know the chiefest Evil One himself Sanded that floor. Their footsteps marking it Betrayed them. How all came to pass let be. Parted, in hiding some, other in thrall, Father and mother, mother and father kind, It may be yet ye know not this—not all.
I in the daytime lying perdue looked up At the castle keep impregnable,—no foot How rash so e'er might hope to scale it. Night Descending, come I near, perplexedness, Contempt of danger, to the door o' the keep Drawing me. There a short stone bench I found, And bitterly weeping sat and leaned my head Against the hopeless hated massiveness Of that detested hold. A lifting moon Had made encroachment on the dark, but deep Was shadow where I leaned. Within a while I was aware, but saw no shape, of one Who stood beside me, a dark shadow tall. I cared not, disavowal mattered nought Of grief to one so out of love with life. But after pause I felt a hand let down That rested kindly, firmly, a man's hand, Upon my shoulder; there was cheer in it. And presently a voice clear, whispering, low, With pitifulness that faltered, spoke to me. Was I, it asked, true son of Mother Church? Coldly I answer'd 'Ay;' then blessed words That danced into mine ears more excellent Music than wedding bells had been were said, With certitude that I might see my maid, My dear one. He would give a paper, he The man beside me. 'Do thy best endeavour, Dear youth. Thy maiden being a right sweet child Surely will hearken to thee; an she do, And will recant, fair faultless heretic, Whose knowledge is but scant of matters high Which hard men spake on with her, hard men forced From her mouth innocent, then shall she come Before me; have good cheer, all may be well. But an she will not she must burn, no power— Not Solomon the Great on 's ivory throne With all his wisdom could find out a way, Nor I nor any to save her, she must burn. Now hast thou till day dawn. The Mother of God Speed thee.' A twisted scroll he gave; himself Knocked at the door behind, and he was gone, A darker pillar of darkness in the dark. Straightway one opened and I gave the scroll. He read, then thrust it in his lanthorn flame Till it was ashes; 'Follow' and no more Whisper'd, went up the giddy spiring way, I after, till we reached the topmost door. Then took a key, opened, and crying 'Delia, Delia my sweetheart, I am come, I am come,' I darted forward and he locked us in. Two figures; one rose up and ran to me Along the ladder of moonlight on the floor, Fell on my neck. Long time we kissed and wept.
But for that other, while she stood appeased For cruel parting past, locked in mine arms, I had been glad, expecting a good end. The cramped pale fellow prisoner; 'Courage' cried. Then Delia lifting her fair face, the moon Did show me its incomparable calms. Her effluent thought needed no word of mine, It whelmed my soul as in a sea of tears. The warm enchantment leaning on my breast Breathed as in air remote, and I was left To infinite detachment, even with hers To take cold kisses from the lips of doom, Look in those eyes and disinherit hope From that high place late won. Then murmuring low That other spake of Him on the cross, and soft As broken-hearted mourning of the dove, She 'One deep calleth to another' sighed. 'The heart of Christ mourns to my heart, "Endure. There was a day when to the wilderness My great forerunner from his thrall sent forth Sad messengers, demanding Art thou He? Think'st thou I knew no pang in that strange hour? How could I hold the power, and want the will Or want the love? That pang was his—and mine. He said not, Save me an thou be the Son, But only Art thou He? In my great way It was not writ,—legions of Angels mine, There was one Angel, one ordain'd to unlock At my behest the doomed deadly door. I could not tell him, tell not thee, why." Lord, We know not why, but would not have Thee grieve, Think not so deeply on 't; make us endure For thy blest sake, hearing thy sweet voice mourn "I will go forth, thy desolations meet, And with my desolations solace them. I will not break thy bonds but I am bound, With thee."'
I feared. That speech deep furrows cut In my afflicted soul. I whisper'd low, 'Thou wilt not heed her words, my golden girl.' But Delia said not ought; only her hand Laid on my cheek and on the other leaned Her own. O there was comfort, father, In love and nearness, e'en at the crack of doom.
Then spake I, and that other said no more, For I appealed to God and to his Christ. Unto the strait-barred window led my dear; No table, bed, nor plenishing; no place They had for rest: maugre two narrow chairs By day, by night they sat thereon upright. One drew I to the opening; on it set My Delia, kneeled; upon its arm laid mine, And prayed to God and prayed of her. Father, If you should ask e'en now, 'And art thou glad Of what befell?' I could not say it, father, I should be glad; therefore God make me glad, Since we shall die to-morrow! Think not sin, O holy, harmless reverend man, to fear. 'T will be soon over. Now I know thou fear'st Also for me, lest I be lost; but aye Strong comfortable hope doth wrap me round, A token of acceptance. I am cast From Holy Church, and not received of thine; But the great Advocate who knoweth all, He whispers with me. O my Delia wept When I did plead; 'I have much feared to die,' Answering. (The moonlight on her blue-black eyes Fell; shining tears upon their lashes hung; Fair showed the dimple that I loved; so young, So very young.) 'But they did question me Straitly, and make me many times to swear, To swear of all alas, that I believed. Truly, unless my soul I would have bound With false oaths—difficult, innumerous, strong, Way was not left me to get free.
But now,' Said she, I am happy; I have seen the place Where I am going.
I will tell it you, Love, Hubert. Do not weep; they said to me That you would come, and it would not be long. Thus was it, being sad and full of fear, I was crying in the night; and prayed to God And said, "I have not learned high things;" and said To the Saviour, "Do not be displeased with me, I am not crying to get back and dwell With my good mother and my father fond, Nor even with my love, Hubert—my love, Hubert; but I am crying because I fear Mine answers were not rightly given—so hard Those questions. If I did not understand, Wilt thou forgive me?" And the moon went down While I did pray, and looking on the floor, Behold a little diamond lying there, So small it might have dropped from out a ring. I could but look! The diamond waxed—it grew— It was a diamond yet, and shot out rays, And in the midst of it a rose-red point; It waxed till I might see the rose-red point Was a little Angel 'mid those oval rays, With a face sweet as the first kiss, O love, You gave me, and it meant that self-same thing.
Now was it tall as I, among the rays Standing; I touched not. Through the window drawn, This barred and narrow window,—but I know Nothing of how, we passed, and seemed to walk Upon the air, till on the roof we sat.
It spoke. The sweet mouth did not move, but all The Angel spoke in strange words full and old, It was my Angel sent to comfort me With a message, and the message, "I might come, And myself see if He forgave me." Then Deliver'd he admonition, "Afterwards I must return and die." But I being dazed, Confused with love and joy that He so far Did condescend, "Ay, Eminence," replied, "Is the way great?" I knew not what I said. The Angel then, "I know not far nor near, But all the stars of God this side it shine." And I forgetful wholly for this thing My soul did pant in—a rapture and a pain, So great as they would melt it quite away To a vanishing like mist when sultry rays Shot from the daystar reckon with it—I Said in my simpleness, "But is there time? For in three days I am to burn, and O I would fain see that he forgiveth first. Pray you make haste." "I know not haste," he said; "I was not fashioned to be thrall of time. What is it?" And I marvelled, saw outlying, Shaped like a shield and of dimensions like An oval in the sky beyond all stars, And trembled with foreknowledge. We were bound To that same golden holy hollow. I Misdoubted how to go, but we were gone. I set off wingless, walking empty air Beside him. In a moment we were caught Among thick swarms of lost ones, evil, fell Of might, only a little less than gods, And strong enough to tear the earth to shreds, Set shoulders to the sun and rend it out O' its place. Their wings did brush across my face, Yet felt I nought; the place was vaster far Than all this wholesome pastoral windy world. Through it we spinning, pierced to its far brink, Saw menacing frowns and we were forth again. Time has no instant for the reckoning ought So sudden; 't was as if a lightning flash Threw us within it, and a swifter flash, We riding harmless down its swordlike edge, Shot us fast forth to empty nothingness.
All my soul trembled, and my body it seemed Pleaded than such a sight rather to faint To the last silence, and the eery grave Inhabit, and the slow solemnities Of dying faced, content me with my shroud.
And yet was lying athwart the morning star That shone in front, that holy hollow; yet It loomed, as hung atilt towards the world, That in her time of sleep appeared to look Up to it, into it. We, though I wept, Fearing and longing, knowing not how to go, My heart gone first, both mine eyes dedicate To its all-hallowed sweet desired gold, We on the empty limitless abyss Walked slowly. It was far; And I feared much, For lo! when I looked down deep under me The little earth was such a little thing, How in the vasty dark find her again? The crescent moon a moored boat hard by, Did wait on her and touch her ragged rims With a small gift of silver. Love! my life! Hubert, while I yet wept, O we were there. A menai of Angels first, a swarm of stars Took us among them (all alive with stars Shining and shouting each to each that place), The feathered multitude did lie so thick We walked upon them, walked on outspread wings, And the great gates were standing open. Love! The country is not what you think; but oh! When you have seen it nothing else contents. The voice, the vision was not what you think— But oh! it was all. It was the meaning of life, Excellent consummation of desires For ever, let into the heart with pain Most sweet. That smile did take the feeding soul Deeper and deeper into heaven. The sward (For I had bowed my face on it) I found Grew in my spirit's longed for native land— At last I was at home.' And here she paused: I must needs weep. I have not been in heaven, Therefore she could not tell me what she heard, Therefore she might not tell me what she saw, Only I understood that One drew near Who said to her she should e'en come, 'Because,' Said He, 'My Father loves Me. I will ask He send, a guiding Angel for My sake, Since the dark way is long, and rough, and hard, So that I shall not lose whom I love—thee.'
Other words wonderful of things not known, When she had uttered, I gave hope away, Cried out, and took her in despairing arms, Asking no more. Then while the comfortless Dawn till night fainted grew, alas! a key That with abhorred jarring probed the door. We kissed, we looked, unlocked our arms. She sighed 'Remember,' 'Ay, I will remember. What?' 'To come to me.' Then I, thrust roughly forth— I, bereft, dumb, forlorn, unremedied My hurt for ever, stumbled blindly down, And the great door was shut behind and chained.
The weird pathetic scarlet of day dawning, More kin to death of night than birth of morn, Peered o'er yon hill bristling with spires of pine. I heard the crying of the men condemned, Men racked, that should be martyr'd presently, And my great grief met theirs with might; I held All our poor earth's despairs in my poor breast, The choking reek, the faggots were all mine. Ay, and the partings they were all mine—mine. Father, it will be very good methinks To die so, to die soon. It doth appease The soul in misery for its fellows, when There is no help, to suffer even as they.
Father, when I had lost her, when I sat After my sickness on the pallet bed, My forehead dropp'd into my hand, behold Some one beside me. A man's hand let down With that same action kind, compassionate, Upon my shoulder. And I took the hand Between mine own, laying my face thereon. I knew this man for him who spoke with me, Letting me see my Delia. I looked up. Lo! lo! the robed ecclesiastic proud, He and this other one. Tell you his name? Am I a fiend? No, he was good to me, Almost he placed his life in my hand. Father, He with good pitying words long talked to me, 'Did I not strive to save her?' 'Ay,' quoth I. 'But sith it would not be, I also claim Death, burning; let me therefore die—let me. I am wicked, would be heretic, but, faith, I know not how, and Holy Church I hate. She is no mother of mine, she slew my love.' What answer? 'Peace, peace, thou art hard on me. Favour I forfeit with the Mother of God, Lose rank among the saints, foresee my soul Drenched in the unmitigated flame, and take My payment in the lives snatched at all risk From battling in it here. O, an thou turn And tear from me, lost to that other world My heart's reward in this, I am twice lost; Now have I doubly failed.' Father, I know The Church would rail, hound forth, disgrace, try, burn, Make his proud name, discover'd, infamy, Tread underfoot his ashes, curse his soul. But God is greater than the Church. I hope He shall not, for that he loved men, lose God. I hope to hear it said 'Thy sins are all Forgiven; come in, thou hast done well.' For me My chronicle comes down to its last page. 'Is not life sweet?' quoth he, and comforted My sick heart with good words, 'duty' and 'home.' Then took me at moonsetting down the stair To the dark deserted midway of the street, Gave me a purse of money, and his hand Laid on my shoulder, holding me with words A father might have said, bad me God speed, So pushed me from him, turned, and he was gone.