There was a Pleiad lost; where is she now? None knoweth,—O she reigns, it is my creed, Otherwhere dedicate to making day. The God of Gods, He doubtless looked to that Who wasteth never ought He fashioned. I have no vision, but where vision fails Faith cheers, and truly, truly there is need, The god of this world being so unkind. O love! My girl for ever to the world Wanting. Lost, not that any one should find, But wasted for the sake of waste, and lost For love of man's undoing, of man's tears, By envy of the evil one; I mourn For thee, my golden girl, I mourn, I mourn.
He set me free. And it befell anon That I must imitate him. Then 't befell That on the holy Book I read, and all, The mediating Mother and her Babe, God and the Church, and man and life and death, And the dark gulfs of bitter purging flame, Did take on alteration. Like a ship Cast from her moorings, drifting from her port, Not bound to any land, not sure of land, My dull'd soul lost her reckoning on that sea She sailed, and yet the voyage was nigh done.
This God was not the God I had known; this Christ Was other. O, a gentler God, a Christ— By a mother and a Father infinite— In distance each from each made kin to me. Blest Sufferer on the rood; but yet, I say Other. Far gentler, and I cannot tell, Father, if you, or she, my golden girl, Or I, or any aright those mysteries read.
I cannot fathom them. There is not time, So quickly men condemned me to this cell. I quarrell'd not so much with Holy Church For that she taught, as that my love she burned. I die because I hid her enemies, And read the Book. But O, forgiving God, I do elect to trust thee. I have thought, What! are there set between us and the sun Millions of miles, and did He like a tent Rear up yon vasty sky? Is heaven less wide? And dwells He there, but for His winged host, Almost alone? Truly I think not so; He has had trouble enough with this poor world To make Him as an earthly father would, Love it and value it more. He did not give So much to have us with Him, and yet fail. And now He knows I would believe e'en so As pleaseth Him, an there was time to learn Or certitude of heart; but time fails, time. He knoweth also 't were a piteous thing Not to be sure of my love's welfare—not To see her happy and good in that new home. Most piteous. I could all forego but this. O let me see her, Lord. What, also I! White ashes and a waft of vapour—I To flutter on before the winds. No, no. And yet for ever ay—my flesh shall hiss And I shall hear 't. Dreadful, unbearable! Is it to-morrow? Ay, indeed, indeed, To-morrow. But my moods are as great waves That rise and break and thunder down on me, And then fall'n back sink low. I have waked long And cannot hold my thoughts upon th' event; They slip, they wander forth. How the dusk grows. This is the last moonrising we shall see. Methought till morn to pray, and cannot pray. Where is mine Advocate? let Him say all And more was in my mind to say this night, Because to-morrow—Ah! no more of that, The tale is told. Father, I fain would sleep.
Truly my soul is silent unto God.
A VINE-ARBOUR IN THE FAR WEST.
Laura, my Laura! 'Yes, mother!' 'I want you, Laura; come down.' 'What is it, mother—what, dearest? O your loved face how it pales! You tremble, alas and alas—you heard bad news from the town?' 'Only one short half hour to tell it. My poor courage fails—
Laura.' 'Where's Ronald?—O anything else but Ronald!' 'No, no, Not Ronald, if all beside, my Laura, disaster and tears; But you, it is yours to send them away, for you they will go, One short half hour, and must it decide, it must for the years.
Laura, you think of your father sometimes?' 'Sometimes!' 'Ah, but how?' 'I think—that we need not think, sweet mother—the time is not yet, He is as the wraith of a wraith, and a far off shadow now— —But if you have heard he is dead?' 'Not that?' 'Then let me forget.'
'The sun is off the south window, draw back the curtain, my child.' 'But tell it, mother.' 'Answer you first what it is that you see.' 'The lambs on the mountain slope, and the crevice with blue ice piled.' 'Nearer.'—'But, mother!' 'Nearer!' 'My heifer she's lowing to me.'
'Nearer.' 'Nothing, sweet mother, O yes, for one sits in the bower. Black the clusters hang out from the vine about his snow-white head, And the scarlet leaves, where my Ronald leaned.' 'Only one half hour— Laura'—'O mother, my mother dear, all known though nothing said.
O it breaks my heart, the face dejected that looks not on us, A beautiful face—I remember now, though long I forgot.' 'Ay and I loved it. I love him to-day, and to see him thus! Saying "I go if she bids it, for work her woe—I will not."
There! weep not, wring not your hands, but think, think with your heart and soul.' 'Was he innocent, mother? If he was, I, sure had been told, 'He said so.' 'Ah, but they do.' 'And I hope—and long was his dole, And all for the signing a name (if indeed he signed) for gold.'
'To find us again, in the far far West, where hid, we were free— But if he was innocent—O my heart, it is riven in two, If he goes how hard upon him—or stays—how harder on me, For O my Ronald, my Ronald, my dear,—my best what of you!'
'Peace; think, my Laura—I say he will go there, weep not so sore. And the time is come, Ronald knows nothing, your father will go, As the shadow fades from its place will he, and be seen no more.' 'There 'll be time to think to-morrow, and after, but to-day, no.
I'm going down the garden, mother.' 'Laura!' 'I've dried my tears.' 'O how will this end!' 'I know not the end, I can but begin.' 'But what will you say?' 'Not "welcome, father," though long were those years, But I'll say to him, "O my poor father, we wait you, come in."
LOVERS AT THE LAKE SIDE.
'And you brought him home.' 'I did, ay Ronald, it rested with me.' 'Love!' 'Yes.' 'I would fain you were not so calm.' 'I cannot weep. No.' 'What is he like, your poor father?' 'He is—like—this fallen tree Prone at our feet, by the still lake taking on rose from the glow,
Now scarlet, O look! overcoming the blue both lake and sky, While the waterfalls waver like smoke, then leap in and are not. And shining snow-points of high sierras cast down, there they lie.' 'O Laura—I cannot bear it. Laura! as if I forgot.'
'No, you remember, and I remember that evening—like this When we come forth from the gloomy Canyon, lo, a sinking sun. And, Ronald, you gave to me your troth ring, I gave my troth kiss.' 'Give me another, I say that this makes no difference, none.
It hurts me keenly. It hurts to the soul that you thought it could.' 'I never thought so, my Ronald, my love, never thought you base.' No, but I look for a nobler nobleness, loss understood, Accepted, and not that common truth which can hold through disgrace.
O! we remember, and how ere that noon through deeps of the lake We floating looked down and the boat's shadow followed on rocks below, So clear the water. O all pathetic as if for love's sake Our life that is but a fleeting shadow 't would under us show.
O we remember forget-me-not pale, and white columbine You wreathed for my hair; because we remember this cannot be. Ah! here is your ring—see, I draw it off—it must not be mine, Put it on, love, if but for the moment and listen to me.
I look for the best, I look for the most, I look for the all From you, it consoles this misery of mine, there is you to trust. O if you can weep, let us weep together, tears may well fall For that lost sunsetting and what it promised,—they may, they must.
Do you say nothing, mine own beloved, you know what I mean, And whom.—To her pride and her love from YOU shall such blow be dealt... ...Silence uprisen, is like a presence, it comes us between... As once there was darkness, now is there silence that may be felt.
Ronald, your mother, so gentle, so pure, and you are her best, 'T is she whom I think of, her quiet sweetness, her gracious way. 'How could she bear it?'—'Laura!' 'Yes, Ronald.' 'Let that matter rest. You might give your name to my father's child?' 'My father's name. Ay,
Who died before it was soiled.' 'You mutter.' 'Why, love, are you here?' 'Because my mother fled forth to the West, her trouble to hide, And I was so small, the lone pine forest, and tier upon tier, Far off Mexican snowy sierras pushed England aside.'
'And why am I here?' 'But what did you mutter?' 'O pardon, sweet. Why came I here and—my mother?' In truth then I cannot tell.' 'Yet you drew my ring from your finger—see—I kneel at your feet.' 'Put it on. 'T was for no fault of mine.' 'Love! I knew that full well.'
'And yet there be faults that long repented, are aye to deplore, Wear my ring, Laura, at least till I choose some words I can say, If indeed any word need be said.' 'No! wait, Ronald, no more; What! is there respite? Give me a moment to think "nay" or "ay."
I know not, but feel there is. O pardon me, pardon me,—peace. For nought is to say, and the dawn of hope is a solemn thing, Let us have silence. Take me back, Ronald, full sweet is release.' 'Laura! but give me my troth kiss again.' 'And give me my ring.'
THE WHITE MOON WASTETH.
The white moon wasteth, And cold morn hasteth Athwart the snow, The red east burneth And the tide turneth, And thou must go.
Think not, sad rover, Their story all over Who come from far— Once, in the ages Won goodly wages Led by a star.
Once, for all duly Guidance doth truly Shine as of old, Opens for me and thee Once, opportunity Her gates of gold.
Enter, thy star is out, Traverse nor faint nor doubt Earth's antres wild, Thou shalt find good and rest As found the Magi blest That divine Child.
I clomb full high the belfry tower Up to yon arrow-slit, up and away, I said 'let me look on my heart's fair flower In the walled garden where she doth play.'
My care she knoweth not, no nor the cause, White rose, red rose about her hung, And I aloft with the doves and the daws. They coo and call to their callow young.
Sing, 'O an she were a white rosebud fair Dropt, and in danger from passing feet, 'T is I would render her service tender, Upraised on my bosom with reverence meet.'
Playing at the ball, my dearest of all, When she grows older how will it be, I dwell far away from her thoughts to-day That heed not, need not, or mine or me.
Sing, 'O an my love were a fledgeling dove That flutters forlorn o' her shallow nest, 'T is I would render her service tender, And carry her, carry her on my breast.'
Uplifted and lone, set apart with our love On the crest of a soft swelling down Cloud shadows that meet on the grass at our feet Sail on above Wendover town.
Wendover town takes the smile of the sun As if yearning and strife were no more, From her red roofs float high neither plaint neither sigh, All the weight of the world is our own.
Would that life were more kind and that souls might have peace As the wide mead from storm and from bale, We bring up our own care, but how sweet over there And how strange is their calm in the vale.
As if trouble at noon had achieved a deep sleep, Lapped and lulled from the weariful fret, Or shot down out of day, had a hint dropt away As if grief might attain to forget.
Not if we two indeed had gone over the bourne And were safe on the hills of the blest, Not more strange they might show to us drawn from below, Come up from long dolour to rest.
But the peace of that vale would be thine love and mine, And sweeter the air than of yore, And this life we have led as a dream that is fled Might appear to our thought evermore.
'Was it life, was it life?' we might say ''twas scarce life,' 'Was it love? 'twas scarce love,' looking down, 'Yet we mind a sweet ray of the red sun one day Low lying on Wendover town.
THE LOVER PLEADS.
When I had guineas many a one Nought else I lacked 'neath the sun, I had two eyes the bluest seen, A perfect shape, a gracious mien, I had a voice might charm the bale From a two days widowed nightingale, And if you ask how this I know I had a love who told me so. The lover pleads, the maid hearkeneth, Her foot turns, his day darkeneth. Love unkind, O can it be 'T was your foot false did turn from me.
The gear is gone, the red gold spent, Favour and beauty with them went, Eyes take the veil, their shining done, Not fair to him is fair to none, Sweet as a bee's bag 'twas to taste His praise. O honey run to waste, He loved not! spoiled is all my way In the spoiling of that yesterday.
The shadows wax, the low light alters, Gold west fades, and false heart falters. The pity of it!—Love's a rover, The last word said, and all over.
SONG IN THREE PARTS.
The white broom flatt'ring her flowers in calm June weather, 'O most sweet wear; Forty-eight weeks of my life do none desire me, Four am I fair,'
Quoth the brown bee 'In thy white wear Four thou art fair. A mystery Of honeyed snow In scented air The bee lines flow Straight unto thee. Great boon and bliss All pure I wis, And sweet to grow Ay, so to give That many live. Now as for me, I,' quoth the bee, 'Have not to give, Through long hours sunny Gathering I live: Aye debonair Sailing sweet air After my fare, Bee-bread and honey. In thy deep coombe, O thou white broom, Where no leaves shake, Brake, Bent nor clover, I a glad rover, Thy calms partake, While winds of might From height to height Go bodily over. Till slanteth light, And up the rise Thy shadow lies, A shadow of white, A beauty-lender Pathetic, tender.
Short is thy day? Answer with 'Nay,' Longer the hours That wear thy flowers Than all dull, cold Years manifold That gift withhold. A long liver, O honey-giver, Thou by all showing Art made, bestowing, I envy not Thy greater lot, Nor thy white wear. But, as for me, I,' quoth the bee, 'Never am fair.'
The nightingale lorn of his note in darkness brooding Deeply and long, 'Two sweet months spake the heart to the heart. Alas! all's over, O lost my song.'
One in the tree, 'Hush now! Let be: The song at ending Left my long tending Over also. Let be, let us go Across the wan sea.
The little ones care not, And I fare not Amiss with thee.
Thou hast sung all, This hast thou had. Love, be not sad; It shall befall Assuredly, When the bush buddeth And the bank studdeth— Where grass is sweet And damps do fleet, Her delicate beds With daisy heads That the Stars Seven Leaned down from heaven Shall sparkling mark In the warm dark Thy most dear strain Which ringeth aye true— Piercing vale, croft Lifted aloft Dropt even as dew With a sweet quest To her on the nest When damps we love Fall from above.
"Art thou asleep? Answer me, answer me, Night is so deep Thy right fair form I cannot see; Answer me, answer me, Are the eggs warm? Is't well with thee?"
Ay, this shall be Assuredly. Ay, thou full fain In the soft rain Shalt sing again.'
A fair wife making her moan, despised, forsaken, Her good days o'er; 'Seven sweet years of my life did I live beloved, Seven—no more.'
Then Echo woke—and spoke 'No more—no more,' And a wave broke On the sad shore When Echo said 'No more,'
Nought else made reply, Nor land, nor loch, nor sky Did any comfort try, But the wave spread Echo's faint tone Alone, All down the desolate shore, 'No more—no more.'
'IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM.'
Out of the melancholy that is made Of ebbing sorrow that too slowly ebbs, Comes back a sighing whisper of the reed, A note in new love-pipings on the bough, Grieving with grief till all the full-fed air And shaken milky corn doth wot of it, The pity of it trembling in the talk Of the beforetime merrymaking brook— Out of that melancholy will the soul, In proof that life is not forsaken quite Of the old trick and glamour which made glad; Be cheated some good day and not perceive How sorrow ebbing out is gone from view, How tired trouble fall'n for once on sleep, How keen self-mockery that youth's eager dream Interpreted to mean so much is found To mean and give so little—frets no more, Floating apart as on a cloud—O then Not e'en so much as murmuring 'Let this end,' She will, no longer weighted, find escape, Lift up herself as if on wings and flit Back to the morning time. 'O once with me It was all one, such joy I had at heart, As I heard sing the morning star, or God Did hold me with an Everlasting Hand, And dip me in the day. O once with me,' Reflecting ''twas enough to live, to look Wonder and love. Now let that come again. Rise!' And ariseth first a tanglement Of flowering bushes, peonies pale that drop Upon a mossy lawn, rich iris spikes, Bee-borage, mealy-stemmed auricula, Brown wallflower, and the sweetbriar ever sweet, Her pink buds pouting from their green. To these Add thick espaliers where the bullfinch came To strew much budding wealth, and was not chid. Then add wide pear trees on the warmed wall, The old red wall one cannot see beyond. That is the garden. In the wall a door Green, blistered with the sun. You open it, And lo! a sunny waste of tumbled hills And a glad silence, and an open calm. Infinite leisure, and a slope where rills Dance down delightedly, in every crease, And lambs stoop drinking and the finches dip, Then shining waves upon a lonely beach. That is the world.
An all-sufficient world, And as it seems an undiscovered world, So very few the folk that come to look. Yet one has heard of towns; but they are far The world is undiscovered, and the child Is undiscovered that with stealthy joy Goes gathering like a bee who in dark cells Hideth sweet food to live on in the cold. What matters to the child, it matters not More than it mattered to the moons of Mars, That they for ages undiscovered went Marked not of man, attendant on their king.
A shallow line of sand curved to the cliff, There dwelt the fisherfolk, and there inland Some scattered cottagers in thrift and calm, Their talk full oft was of old days,—for here Was once a fosse, and by this rock-hewn path Our wild fore-elders as 't is said would come To gather jetsam from some Viking wreck, Like a sea-beast wide breasted (her snake head Reared up as staring while she rocked ashore) That split, and all her ribs were on their fires The red whereof at their wives' throats made bright Gold gauds which from the weed they picked ere yet The tide had turned.
'Many,' methought, 'and rich They must have been, so long their chronicle. Perhaps the world was fuller then of folk, For ships at sea are few that near us now.'
Yet sometimes when the clouds were torn to rags, Flying black before a gale, we saw one rock In the offing, and the mariner folk would cry, 'Look how she labours; those aboard may hear Her timbers creak e'en as she'd break her heart.'
'Twas then the grey gulls blown ashore would light In flocks, and pace the lawn with flat cold feet.
And so the world was sweet, and it was strange, Sweet as a bee-kiss to the crocus flower, Surprising, fresh, direct, but ever one. The laughter of glad music did not yet In its echo yearn, as hinting ought beyond, Nor pathos tremble at the edge of bliss Like a moon halo in a watery sky, Nor the sweet pain alike of love and fear In a world not comprehended touch the heart— The poetry of life was not yet born. 'T was a thing hidden yet that there be days When some are known to feel 'God is about,' As if that morn more than another morn Virtue flowed forth from Him, the rolling world Swam in a soothed calm made resonant And vital, swam as in the lap of God Come down; until she slept and had a dream (Because it was too much to bear awake), That all the air shook with the might of Him And whispered how she was the favourite world That day, and bade her drink His essence in.
'Tis on such days that seers prophesy And poets sing, and many who are wise Find out for man's wellbeing hidden things Whereof the hint came in that Presence known Yet unknown. But a seer—what is he? A poet is a name of long ago.
Men love the largeness of the field—the wild Quiet that soothes the moor. In other days They loved the shadow of the city wall, In its stone ramparts read their poetry, Safety and state, gold, and the arts of peace, Law-giving, leisure, knowledge, all were there This to excuse a child's allegiance and A spirit's recurrence to the older way. Orphan'd, with aged guardians kind and true, Things came to pass not told before to me.
Thus, we did journey once when eve was near. Through carriage windows I beheld the moors, Then, churches, hamlets cresting of low hills. The way was long, at last I, fall'n asleep, Awoke to hear a rattling 'neath the wheels And see the lamps alight. This was the town.
Then a wide inn received us, and full soon Came supper, kisses, bed. The lamp without Shone in; the door was shut, and I alone. An ecstasy of exultation took My soul, for there were voices heard and steps, I was among so many,—none of them Knew I was come! I rose, with small bare feet, Across the carpet stole, a white-robed child, And through the window peered. Behold the town.
There had been rain, the pavement glistened yet In a soft lamplight down the narrow street; The church was nigh at hand, a clear-toned clock Chimed slowly, open shops across the way Showed store of fruit, and store of bread,—and one Many caged birds. About were customers, I saw them bargain, and a rich high voice Was heard,—a woman sang, her little babe Slept 'neath her shawl, and by her side a boy Added wild notes and sweet to hers. Some passed Who gave her money. It was far from me To pity her, she was a part of that Admired town. E'en so within the shop A rosy girl, it may be ten years old, Quaint, grave. She helped her mother, deftly weighed The purple plums, black mulberries rich and ripe For boyish customers, and counted pence And dropped them in an apron that she wore. Methought a queen had ne'er so grand a lot, She knew it, she looked up at me, and smiled.
But yet the song went on, and in a while The meaning came; the town was not enough To satisfy that singer, for a sigh With her wild music came. What wanted she? Whate'er she wanted wanted all. O how 'T was poignant, her rich voice; not like a bird's. Could she not dwell content and let them be, That they might take their pleasure in the town, For—no, she was not poor, witness the pence. I saw her boy and that small saleswoman; He wary, she with grave persuasive air, Till he came forth with filberts in his cap, And joined his mother, happy, triumphing.
This was the town; and if you ask what else, I say good sooth that it was poetry Because it was the all, and something more,— It was the life of man, it was the world That made addition to the watching heart, First conscious its own beating, first aware How, beating it kept time with all the race; Nay, 't was a consciousness far down and dim Of a Great Father watching too.
But lo! the rich lamenting voice again; She sang not for herself; it was a song For me, for I had seen the town and knew, Yearning I knew the town was not enough.
What more? To-day looks back on yesterday, Life's yesterday, the waiting time, the dawn, And reads a meaning into it, unknown When it was with us. It is always so. But when as ofttimes I remember me Of the warm wind that moved the beggar's hair, Of the wet pavement, and the lamps alit, I know it was not pity that made yearn My heart for her, and that same dimpled boy How grand methought to be abroad so late. And barefoot dabble in the shining wet; How fine to peer as other urchins did At those pent huddled doves they let not rest; No, it was almost envy. Ay, how sweet The clash of bells; they rang to boast that far That cheerful street was from the cold sea-fog, From dark ploughed field and narrow lonesome lane. How sweet to hear the hum of voices kind, To see the coach come up with din of horn. Quick tramp of horses, mark the passers-by Greet one another, and go on. But now They closed the shops, the wild clear voice was still, The beggars moved away—where was their home. The coach which came from out dull darksome fells Into the light; passed to the dark again Like some old comet which knows well her way, Whirled to the sun that as her fateful loop She turns, forebodes the destined silences. Yes, it was gone; the clattering coach was gone, And those it bore I pitied even to tears, Because they must go forth, nor see the lights, Nor hear the chiming bells. In after days, Remembering of the childish envy and The childish pity, it has cheered my heart To think e'en now pity and envy both It may be are misplaced, or needed not. Heaven may look down in pity on some soul Half envied, or some wholly pitied smile, For that it hath to wait as it were an hour To see the lights that go not out by night, To walk the golden street and hear a song; Other-world poetry that is the all And something more.
NATURE, FOR NATURE'S SAKE.
White as white butterflies that each one dons Her face their wide white wings to shade withal, Many moon-daisies throng the water-spring. While couched in rising barley titlarks call, And bees alit upon their martagons Do hang a-murmuring, a-murmuring.
They chide, it may be, alien tribes that flew And rifled their best blossom, counted on And dreamed on in the hive ere dangerous dew That clogs bee-wings had dried; but when outshone Long shafts of gold (made all for them) of power To charm it away, those thieves had sucked the flower.
Now must they go; a-murmuring they go, And little thrushes twitter in the nest; The world is made for them, and even so The clouds are; they have seen no stars, the breast Of their soft mother hid them all the night, Till her mate came to her in red dawn-light.
Eggs scribbled over with strange writing, signs, Prophecies, and their meaning (for you see The yolk within) is life, 'neath yonder bines Lie among sedges; on a hawthorn tree The slender-lord and master perched hard by, Scolds at all comers if they step too nigh.
And our small river makes encompassment Of half the mead and holm: yon lime-trees grow All heeling over to it, diligent To cast green doubles of themselves below, But shafts of sunshine reach its shallow floor And warm the yellow sand it ripples o'er.
Ripples and ripples to a pool it made Turning. The cows are there, one creamy white— She should be painted with no touch of shade If any list to limn her—she the light Above, about her, treads out circles wide, And sparkling water flashes from her side.
The clouds have all retired to so great height As earth could have no dealing with them more, As they were lost, for all her drawing and might, And must be left behind; but down the shore Lie lovelier clouds in ranks of lace-work frail, Wild parsley with a myriad florets pale,
Another milky-way, more intricate And multitudinous, with every star Perfect. Long changeful sunbeams undulate Amid the stems where sparklike creatures are That hover and hum for gladness, then the last Tree rears her graceful head, the shade is passed.
And idle fish in warm wellbeing lie Each with his shadow under, while at ease As clouds that keep their shape the darting fry Turn and are gone in company; o'er these Strangers to them, strangers to us, from holes Scooped in the bank peer out shy water-voles.
Here, take for life and fly with innocent feet The brown-eyed fawns, from moving shadows clear; There, down the lane with multitudinous bleat Plaining on shepherd lads a flock draws near; A mild lamenting fills the morning air, 'Why to yon upland fold must we needs fare?'
These might be fabulous creatures every one, And this their world might be some other sphere We had but heard of, for all said or done To know of them,—of what this many a year They may have thought of man, or of his sway, Or even if they have a God and pray,
The sweetest river bank can never more Home to its source tempt back the lapsed stream, Nor memory reach the ante-natal shore, Nor one awake behold a sleeper's dream, Not easier 't were that unbridged chasm to walk, And share the strange lore of their wordless talk.
Like to a poet voice, remote from ken, That unregarded sings and undesired, Like to a star unnamed by lips of men, That faints at dawn in saffron light retired, Like to an echo in some desert deep From age to age unwakened from its sleep—
So falls unmarked that other world's great song, And lapsing wastes without interpreter. Slave world! not man's to raise, yet man's to wrong, He cannot to a loftier place prefer, But he can,—all its earlier rights forgot, Reign reckless if its nations rue their lot.
If they can sin or feel life's wear and fret, An men had loved them better, it may be We had discovered. But who e'er did yet, After the sage saints in their clemency, Ponder in hope they had a heaven to win, Or make a prayer with a dove's name therein.
As grave Augustine pleading in his day, 'Have pity, Lord, upon the unfledged bird, Lest such as pass do trample it in the way, Not marking, or not minding; give the word, O bid an angel in the nest again To place it, lest the mother's love be vain.
And let it live, Lord God, till it can fly.' This man dwelt yearning, fain to guess, to spell The parable; all work of God Most High Took to his man's heart. Surely this was well; To love is more than to be loved, by leave Of Heaven, to give is more than to receive.
He made it so that said it. As for us Strange is their case toward us, for they give And we receive. Made martyrs ever thus In deed but not in will, for us they live, For us they die, we quench their little day, Remaining blameless, and they pass away.
The world is better served than it is ruled, And not alone of them, for ever Ruleth the man, the woman serveth fooled Full oft of love, not knowing his yoke is sore. Life's greatest Son nought from life's measure swerved, He was among us 'as a man that served.'
Have they another life, and was it won In the sore travail of another death, Which loosed the manacles from our race undone And plucked the pang from dying? If this breath Be not their all, reproach no more debarred, 'O unkind lords, you made our bondage hard'
May be their plaint when we shall meet again And make our peace with them; the sea of life Find flowing, full, nor ought or lost or vain. Shall the vague hint whereof all thought is rife, The sweet pathetic guess indeed come true, And things restored reach that great residue?
Shall we behold fair flights of phantom doves, Shall furred creatures couch in moly flowers, Swan souls the rivers oar with their world-loves, In difference welcome as these souls of ours? Yet soul of man from soul of man far more May differ, even as thought did heretofore
That ranged and varied on th' undying gleam: From a pure breath of God aspiring, high, Serving and reigning, to the tender dream, The winged Psyche and her butterfly— From thrones and powers, to—fresh from death alarms Child spirits entering in an angel's arms.
Why must we think, begun in paradise, That their long line, cut off with severance fell, Shall end in nothingness—the sacrifice Of their long service in a passing knell? Could man be wholly blest if not to say 'Forgive'—nor make amends for ever and aye?
Waste, waste on earth, and waste of God afar. Celestial flotsam, blazing spars on high, Drifts in the meteor month from some wrecked star, Strew oft th' unwrinkled ocean of the sky, And pass no more accounted of than be Long dulses limp that stripe a mundane sea.
The sun his kingdom fills with light, but all Save where it strikes some planet and her moons Across cold chartless gulfs ordained to fall, Void antres, reckoneth no man's nights or noons, But feeling forth as for some outmost shore, Faints in the blank of doom, and is no more.
God scattereth His abundance as forgot, And what then doth he gather? If we know, 'Tis that One told us it was life. 'For not A sparrow,' quoth he, uttering long ago The strangest words that e'er took earthly sound, 'Without your Father falleth to the ground.'
I go beyond the commandment.' So be it. Then mine be the blame, The loss, the lack, the yearning, till life's last sand be run,— I go beyond the commandment, yet honour stands fast with her claim, And what I have rued I shall rue; for what I have done—I have done.
Hush, hush! for what of the future; you cannot the base exalt, There is no bridging a chasm over, that yawns with so sheer incline; I will not any sweet daughter's cheek should pale for this mother's fault, Nor son take leave to lower his life a-thinking on mine.
' Will I tell you all?' So! this, e'en this, will I do for your great love's sake; Think what it costs. 'Then let there be silence—silence you'll count consent.' No, and no, and for ever no: rather to cross and to break, And to lower your passion I speak—that other it was I meant.
That other I meant (but I know not how) to speak of, nor April days, Nor a man's sweet voice that pleaded—O (but I promised this)— He never talked of marriage, never; I grant him that praise; And he bent his stately head, and I lost, and he won with a kiss.
He led me away—O, how poignant sweet the nightingale's note that noon— I beheld, and each crisped spire of grass to him for my sake was fair, And warm winds flattered my soul blowing straight from the soul of June, And a lovely lie was spread on the fields, but the blue was bare.
When I looked up, he said: 'Love, fair love! O rather look in these eyes With thine far sweeter than eyes of Eve when she stepped the valley unshod'— For ONE might be looking through it, he thought, and he would not in any wise I should mark it open, limitless, empty, bare 'neath the gaze of God.
Ah me! I was happy—yes, I was; 't is fit you should know it all, While love was warm and tender and yearning, the rough winds troubled me not; I heard them moan without in the forest; heard the chill rains fall— But I thought my place was sheltered with him—I forgot, I forgot.
After came news of a wife; I think he was glad I should know. To stay my pleading, 'take me to church and give me my ring'; 'You should have spoken before,' he had sighed, when I prayed him so, For his heart was sick for himself and me, and this bitter thing.
But my dream was over me still,—I was half beguiled, And he in his kindness left me seldom, O seldom, alone, And yet love waxed cold, and I saw the face of my little child, And then at the last I knew what I was, and what I had done.
'YOU will give me the name of wife. YOU will give me a ring.'—O peace! You are not let to ruin your life because I ruined mine; You will go to your people at home. There will be rest and release; The bitter now will be sweet full soon—ay, and denial divine.
But spare me the ending. I did not wait to be quite cast away; I left him asleep, and the bare sun rising shone red on my gown. There was dust in the lane, I remember; prints of feet in it lay, And honeysuckle trailed in the path that led on to the down.
I was going nowhere—I wandered up, then turned and dared to look back, Where low in the valley he careless and quiet—quiet and careless slept. 'Did I love him yet?' I loved him. Ay, my heart on the upland track Cried to him, sighed to him out by the wheat, as I walked, and I wept.
I knew of another alas, one that had been in my place, Her little ones, she forsaken, were almost in need; I went to her, and carried my babe, then all in my satins and lace I sank at the step of her desolate door, a mourner indeed.
I cried, ''T is the way of the world, would I had never been born!' 'Ay, 't is the way of the world, but have you no sense to see For all the way of the world,' she answers and laughs me to scorn, 'The world is made the world that it is by fools like you, like me.'
Right hard upon me, hard on herself, and cold as the cold stone, But she took me in; and while I lay sick I knew I was lost, Lost with the man I loved, or lost without him, making my moan Blighted and rent of the bitter frost, wrecked, tempest tossed, lost, lost!
How am I fallen:—we that might make of the world what we would, Some of us sink in deep waters. Ah! 'you would raise me again?' No true heart,—you cannot, you cannot, and all in my soul that is good Cries out against such a wrong. Let be, your quest is for ever in vain.
For I feel with another heart, I think with another mind, I have worsened life, I have wronged the world, I have lowered the light; But as for him, his words and his ways were after his kind, He did but spoil where he could, and waste where he might.
For he was let to do it; I let him and left his soul To walk mid the ruins he made of home in remembrance of love's despairs, Despairs that harden the hearts of men and shadow their heads with dole, And woman's fault, though never on earth, may be healed,—but what of theirs.
'T was fit you should hear it all—What, tears? they comfort me; now you will go, Nor wrong your life for the nought you call 'a pair of beautiful eyes,' 'I will not say I love you.' Truly I will not, no. 'Will, I pity you?' Ay, but the pang will be short, you shall wake and be wise.
'Shall we meet? We shall meet on the other side, but not before. I shall be pure and fair, I shall hear the sound of THE NAME, And see the form of His face. You too will walk on that shore, In the garden of the Lord God, where neither is sorrow nor shame.
Farewell, I shall bide alone, for God took my one white lamb, I work for such as she was, and I will the while I last, But there's no beginning again, ever I am what I am, And nothing, nothing, nothing, can do away with the past.
SONGS AND POEMS
LOVE AND CHILDHOOD.
LETTERS ON LIFE AND THE MORNING.
(First of a Series.)
A PARSON'S LETTER TO A YOUNG POET.
They said "Too late, too late, the work is done; Great Homer sang of glory and strong men And that fair Greek whose fault all these long years Wins no forgetfulness nor ever can; For yet cold eyes upon her frailty bend, For yet the world waits in the victor's tent Daily, and sees an old man honourable, His white head bowed, surprise to passionate tears Awestruck Achilles; sighing, 'I have endured, The like whereof no soul hath yet endured, To kiss the hand of him that slew my son.'"
They said: "We, rich by him, are rich by more; One Aeschylus found watchfires on a hill That lit Old Night's three daughters to their work; When the forlorn Fate leaned to their red light And sat a-spinning, to her feet he came And marked her till she span off all her thread.
"O, it is late, good sooth, to cry for more: The work once done, well done," they said, "forbear! A Tuscan afterward discovered steps Over the line of life in its mid-way; He climbed the wall of Heaven, beheld his love Safe at her singing, and he left his foes In a vale of shadow weltering, unassoiled Immortal sufferers henceforth in both worlds.
"Who may inherit next or who shall match The Swan of Avon and go float with him Down the long river of life aneath a sun Not veiled, and high at noon?—the river of life That as it ran reflected all its lapse And rippling on the plumage of his breast?
"Thou hast them, heed them, for thy poets now, Albeit of tongue full sweet and majesty Like even to theirs, are fallen on evil days, Are wronged by thee of life, wronged of the world. Look back they must and show thee thy fair past, Or, choosing thy to-day, they may but chant As they behold.
"The mother-glowworm broods Upon her young, fast-folded in the egg And long before they come to life they shine— The mother-age broods on her shining thought That liveth, but whose life is hid. He comes Her poet son, and lo you, he can see The shining, and he takes it to his breast And fashions for it wings that it may fly And show its sweet light in the dusky world.
"Mother, O Mother of our dusk to-day, What hast thou lived for bards to sing of thee? Lapsed water cannot flow above its source; 'The kid must browse,'" they said, "'where she is tied.'"
Son of to-day, rise up, and answer them. What! wilt thou let thy mother sit ashamed And crownless?—Set the crown on her fair head: She waited for thy birth, she cries to thee "Thou art the man." He that hath ears to hear, To him the mother cries "Thou art the man."
She murmurs, for thy mother's voice is low— "Methought the men of war were even as gods The old men of the ages. Now mine eyes Retrieve the truth from ruined city walls That buried it; from carved and curious homes Full of rich garments and all goodly spoil, Where having burned, battered, and wasted them, They flung it. Give us, give us better gods Than these that drink with blood upon their hands, For I repent me that I worshipped them. O that there might be yet a going up! O to forget—and to begin again!"
Is not thy mother's rede at one with theirs Who cry "The work is done"? What though to thee, Thee only, should the utterance shape itself "O to forget, and to begin again," Only of thee be heard as that keen cry Rending its way from some distracted heart That yields it and so breaks? Yet list the cry Begin for her again, and learn to sing; But first, in all thy learning learn to be. Is life a field? then plough it up—re-sow With worthier seed—Is life a ship? O heed The southing of thy stars—Is life a breath? Breathe deeper, draw life up from hour to hour, Aye, from the deepest deep in thy deep soul.
It may be God's first work is but to breathe And fill the abysm with drifts of shining air That slowly, slowly curdle into worlds. A little space is measured out to us Of His long leisure; breathe and grow therein, For life, alas! is short, and "When we die It is not for a little while."
They said, "The work is done," and is it therefore done? Speak rather to thy mother thus: "All-fair, Lady of ages, beautiful To-day And sorrowful To-day, thy children set The crown of sorrow on their heads, their loss Is like to be the loss of all: we hear Lamenting, as of some that mourn in vain Loss of high leadership, but where is he That shall be great enough to lead thee now? Where is thy Poet? thou hast wanted him. Where? Thou hast wakened as a child in the night And found thyself alone. The stars have set, There is great darkness, and the dark is void Of music. Who shall set thy life afresh And sing thee thy new songs? Whom wilt thou love And lean on to break silence worthily— Discern the beauty in thy goings—feel The glory of thy yearning,—thy self-scorn Matter to dim oblivion with a smile— Own thy great want, that knew not its great name? O who shall make to thee mighty amends For thy lost childhood, joining two in one, Thyself and Him? Behold Him, He is near: God is thy Poet now.
"A King sang once Long years ago 'My soul is athirst for God, Yea for the living God'—thy thirst and his Are one. It is thy Poet whom thy hands Grope for, not knowing. Life is not enough, Nor love, nor learning,—Death is not enough Even to them, happy, who forecast new life; But give us now and satisfy us now, Give us now, now, to live in the life of God, Give us now, now, to be at one with Him."
Would I had words—I have not words for her, Only for thee; and thus I tell them out: For every man the world is made afresh; To God both it and he are young. There are Who call upon Him night, and morn, and night "Where is the kingdom? Give it us to-day. We would be here with God, not there with God. Make Thine abode with us, great Wayfarer, And let our souls sink deeper into Thee"— There are who send but yearnings forth, in quest They know not why, of good they know not what.
The unknown life, and strange its stirring is. The babe knows nought of life, yet clothed in it And yearning only for its mother's breast Feeds thus the unheeded thing—and as for thee, That life thou hast is hidden from thine eyes, And when it yearns, thou, knowing not for what, Wouldst fain appease it with one grand, deep joy, One draught of passionate peace—but wilt thou know The other name of joy, the better name Of peace? It is thy Father's name. Thy life Yearns to its Source. The spirit thirsts for God, Even the living God.
But "No," thou sayest, "My heart is all in ruins with pain, my feet Tread a dry desert where there is no way Nor water. I look back, and deep through time The old words come but faintly up the track Trod by the sons of men. The man He sent, The Prince of life, methinks I could have loved If I had looked once in His deep man's eyes. But long ago He died, and long ago Is gone."
He is not dead, He cannot go. Men's faith at first was like a mastering stream, Like Jordan "the descender" leaping down Pure from his snow; and warmed of tropic heat Hiding himself in verdure: then at last In a Dead Sea absorbed, as faith of doubt. But yet the snow lies thick on Hermon's breast And daily at his source the stream is born. Go up—go mark the whiteness of the snow—Thy faith is not thy Saviour, not thy God, Though faith waste fruitless down a desert old. The living God is new, and He is near.
What need to look behind thee and to sigh? When God left speaking He went on before To draw men after, following up and on; And thy heart fails because thy feet are slow; Thou think'st of Him as one that will not wait, A Father and not wait!—He waited long For us, and yet perchance He thinks not long And will not count the time. There are no dates In His fine leisure.
Speak then as a son: "Father, I come to satisfy Thy love With mine, for I had held Thee as remote, The background of the stars—Time's yesterday— Illimitable Absence. Now my heart Communes, methinks, with somewhat teaching me Thou art the Great To-day. God, is it so? Then for all love that WAS, I thank Thee, God, It is and yet shall hide. And I have part In all, for in Thine image I was made, To Thee my spirit yearns, as Thou to mine. If aught be stamped of Thy Divine on me, And man be God-like, God is like to man.
"Dear and dread Lord, I have not found it hard To fear Thee, though Thy love in visible form Bled 'neath a thorny crown—but since indeed, For kindred's sake and likeness, Thou dost thirst To draw men nigh, and make them one with Thee, My soul shall answer 'Thou art what I want: I am athirst for God, the living God.'"
Then straightway flashes up athwart the words: "And if I be a son I am very far From my great Father's house; I am not clean. I have not always willed it should be so, And the gold of life is rusted with my tears."
It is enough. He never said to men, "Seek ye My face in vain." And have they sought— Beautiful children, well-beloved sons, Opening wide eyes to ache among the moons All night, and sighing because star multitudes Fainted away as to a glittering haze, And sparkled here and there like silver wings, Confounding them with nameless, numberless, Unbearable, fine flocks? It is not well For them, for thee. Hast thou gone forth so far To the unimaginable steeps on high Trembling and seeking God? Yet now come home, Cry, cry to Him: "I cannot search Thee out, But Thou and I must meet. O come, come down, Come." And that cry shall have the mastery. Ay, He shall come in truth to visit thee, And thou shalt mourn to Him, "Unclean, unclean," But never more "I will to have it so." From henceforth thou shalt learn that there is love To long for, pureness to desire, a mount Of consecration it were good to scale.
Look you, it is to-day as at the first. When Adam first was 'ware his new-made eyes And opened them, behold the light! And breath Of God was misting yet about his mouth, Whereof they had made his soul. Then he looked forth And was a part of light; also he saw Beautiful life, and it could move. But Eve—Eve was the child of midnight and of sleep. Lo, in the dark God led her to his side; It may be in the dark she heard him breathe Before God woke him. And she knew not light, Nor life but as a voice that left his lips, A warmth that clasped her; but the stars were out, And she with wide child-eyes gazed up at them.
Haply she thought that always it was night; Haply he, whispering to her in that reach Of beauteous darkness, gave her unworn heart A rumour of the dawn, and wakened it To a trembling, and a wonder, and a want Kin to his own; and as he longed to gaze On his new fate, the gracious mystery His wife, she may have longed, and felt not why, After the light that never she had known.
So doth each age walk in the light beheld, Nor think on light, if it be light or no; Then comes the night to it, and in the night Eve.
The God-given, the most beautiful Eve. And she is not seen for darkness' sake; Yet, when she makes her gracious presence felt, The age perceives how dark it is, and fain, Fain would have daylight, fain would see her well, A beauty half revealed, a helpmeet sent To draw the soul away from valley clods; Made from itself, yet now a better self— Soul in the soulless, arrow tipped with fire Let down into a careless breast; a pang Sweeter than healing that cries out with it For light all light, and is beheld at length— The morning dawns.
Were not we born to light? Ay, and we saw the men and women as saints Walk in a garden. All our thoughts were fair; Our simple hearts, as dovecotes full of doves, Made home and nest for them. They fluttered forth. And flocks of them flew white about the world. And dreams were like to ships that floated us Far out on silent floods, apart from earth, From life—so far that we could see their lights In heaven—and hear the everlasting tide, All dappled with that fair reflected gold, Wash up against the city wall, and sob At the dark bows of vessels that drew on Heavily freighted with departed souls To whom did spirits sing; but on that song Might none, albeit the meaning was right plain, Impose the harsh captivity of words.
Afterward waking, sweet was early air, Full excellent was morning: whether deep The snow lay keenly white, and shrouds of hail Blurred the grey breaker on a long foreshore, And swarming plover ran, and wild white mews And sea-pies printed with a thousand feet The fallen whiteness, making shrill the storm; Or whether, soothed of sunshine, throbbed and hummed The mill atween its bowering maple trees, And churned the leaping beck that reared, and urged A diamond-dripping wheel.
The happy find Equality of beauty everywhere To feed on. All of shade and sheen is theirs, All the strange fashions and the fair wise ways Of lives beneath man's own. He breathes delight Whose soul is fresh, whose feet are wet with dew And the melted mist of morning, when at watch Sunk deep in fern he marks the stealthy roe, Silent as sleep or shadow, cross the glade, Or dart athwart his view as August stars Shoot and are out—while gracefully pace on The wild-eyed harts to their traditional tree To clear the velvet from their budded horns. There is no want, both God and life are kind; It is enough to hear, it is enough To see; the pale wide barley-field they love, And its weird beauty, and the pale wide moon That lowering seems to lurk between the sheaves. So in the rustic hamlet at high noon The white owl sailing drowsed and deaf with sleep To hide her head in turrets browned of moss That is the rust of time. Ay so the pinks And mountain grass marked on a sharp sea-cliff While far below the northern diver feeds; She having ended settling while she sits, As vessels water-logged that sink at sea And quietly into the deep go down.
It is enough to wake, it is enough To sleep:—With God and time he leaves the rest. But on a day death on the doorstep sits Waiting, or like a veiled woman walks Dogging his footsteps, or athwart his path The splendid passion-flower love unfolds Buds full of sorrow, not ordained to know Appeasement through the answer of a sigh, The kiss of pity with denial given, The crown and blossom of accomplishment. Or haply comes the snake with subtlety, And tempts him with an apple to know all.
So,—Shut the gate; the story tells itself Over and over; Eden must be lost If after it be won. He stands at fault, Not knowing at all how this should be—he feels The great bare barrenness o' the outside world. He thinks on Time and what it has to say; He thinks on God, but God has changed His hand, Sitting afar. And as the moon draws on To cover the day-king in his eclipse, And thin the last fine sickle of light, till all Be gone, so fares it with his darkened soul.
The dark, but not Orion sparkling there With his best stars; the dark, but not yet Eve. And now the wellsprings of sweet natural joy Lie, as the Genie sealed of Solomon, Fast prisoned in his heart; he hath not learned The spell whereby to loose and set them forth, And all the glad delights that boyhood loved Smell at Oblivion's poppy, and lie still.
Ah! they must sleep—"The mill can grind no more With water that hath passed." Let it run on. For he hath caught a whisper in the night; This old inheritance in darkness given, The world, is widened, warmed, it is alive, Comes to his beating heart and bids it wake, Opens the door to youth, and bids it forth, Exultant for expansion and release, And bent to satisfy the mighty wish, Comfort and satisfy the mighty wish, Life of his life, the soul's immortal child That is to him as Eve.
He cannot win, Nor earn, nor see, nor hear, nor comprehend, With all the watch, tender, impetuous, That wastes him, this, whereof no less he feels Infinite things; but yet the night is full Of air-beats and of heart-beats for her sake. Eve the aspirer, give her what she wants, Or wherefore was he born?
O he was born To wish—then turn away:—to wish again And half forget his wish for earthlier joy; He draws the net to land that brings red gold; His dreams among the meshes tangled lie, And learning hath him at her feet;—and love, The sea-born creature fresh from her sea foam, Touches the ruddiest veins in his young heart, Makes it to sob in him and sigh in him, Restless, repelled, dying, alive and keen, Fainting away for the remorseless ALL Gone by, gone up, or sweetly gone before, But never in his arms. Then pity comes, Knocks at his breast, it may be, and comes in, Makes a wide wound that haply will not heal, But bleeds for poverty, and crime, and pain, Till for the dear kin's sake he grandly dares Or wastes him, with a wise improvidence; But who can stir the weighty world; or who Can drink a sea of tears?
O love, and life, O world, and can it be that this is all? Leave him to tread expectance underfoot; Let him alone to tame down his great hope Before it breaks his heart: "Give me my share That I foresaw, my place, my draught of life. This that I bear, what is it?—me no less It binds, I cannot disenslave my soul."
There is but halting for the wearied foot. The better way is hidden; faith hath failed— One stronger far than reason mastered her. It is not reason makes faith hard, but life. The husks of his dead creed, downtrod and dry, Are powerless now as some dishonoured spell, Some aged Pythia in her priestly clothes, Some widow'd witch divining by the dead. Or if he keep one shrine undesecrate And go to it from time to time with tears, What lies there? A dead Christ enswathed and cold, A Christ that did not rise. The linen cloth Is wrapped about His head, He lies embalmed With myrrh and spices in His sepulchre, The love of God that daily dies;—to them That trust it the One Life, the all that lives.
O mother Eve, who wert beguiled of old, Thy blood is in thy children, thou art yet Their fate and copy; with thy milk they drew The immortal want of morning; but thy day Dawned and was over, and thy children know Contentment never, nor continuance long. For even thus it is with them: the day Waxeth, to wane anon, and a long night Leaves the dark heart unsatisfied with stars.
A soul in want and restless and bereft To whom all life hath lied, shall it too lie? Saying, "I yield Thee thanks, most mighty God, Thou hast been pleased to make me thus and thus. I do submit me to Thy sovereign will That I full oft should hunger and not have, And vainly yearn after the perfect good, Gladness and peace"?
No, rather dare think thus: "Ere chaos first had being, earth, or time, My Likeness was apparent in high heaven, Divine and manlike, and his dwelling place Was the bosom of the Father. By His hands Were the worlds made and filled with diverse growths And ordered lives. Then afterward they said, Taking strange counsel, as if he who worked Hitherto should not henceforth work alone, 'Let us make man;' and God did look upon That Divine Word which was the form of God, And it became a thought before the event. There they foresaw my face, foreheard my speech, God-like, God-loved, God-loving, God-derived.
"And I was in a garden, and I fell Through envy of God's evil son, but Love Would not be robbed of me for ever—Love For my sake passed into humanity, And there for my first Father won me home. How should I rest then? I have NOT gone home; I feed on husks, and they given grudgingly, While my great Father—Father—O my God, What shall I do?"
Ay, I will dare think thus: "I cannot rest because He doth not rest In whom I have my being. THIS is GOD— My soul is conscious of His wondrous wish, And my heart's hunger doth but answer His Whose thought has met with mine.
"I have not all; He moves me thus to take of Him what lacks. My want is God's desire to give,—He yearns To add Himself to life and so for aye Make it enough." A thought by night, a wish After the morning, and behold it dawns Pathetic in a still solemnity, And mighty words are said for him once more, "Let there be light." Great heaven and earth have heard, And God comes down to him, and Christ doth rise.
THE MONITIONS OF THE UNSEEN.
There are who give themselves to work for men,— To raise the lost, to gather orphaned babes And teach them, pitying of their mean estate, To feel for misery, and to look on crime With ruth, till they forget that they themselves Are of the race, themselves among the crowd Under the sentence and outside the gate, And of the family and in the doom. Cold is the world; they feel how cold it is, And wish that they could warm it. Hard is life For some. They would that they could soften it; And, in the doing of their work, they sigh As if it was their choice and not their lot; And, in the raising of their prayer to God, They crave his kindness for the world he made, Till they, at last, forget that he, not they, Is the true lover of man.
* * * * *
Now, in an ancient town, that had sunk low,— Trade having drifted from it, while there stayed Too many, that it erst had fed, behind,— There walked a curate once, at early day.
It was the summer-time; but summer air Came never, in its sweetness, down that dark And crowded alley,—never reached the door Whereat he stopped,—the sordid, shattered door.
He paused, and, looking right and left, beheld Dirt and decay, the lowering tenements That leaned toward each other; broken panes Bulging with rags, and grim with old neglect; And reeking hills of formless refuse, heaped To fade and fester in a stagnant air. But he thought nothing of it: he had learned To take all wretchedness for granted,—he, Reared in a stainless home, and radiant yet With the clear hues of healthful English youth, Had learned to kneel by beds forlorn, and stoop Under foul lintels. He could touch, with hand Unshrinking, fevered fingers; he could hear The language of the lost, in haunt and den,— So dismal, that the coldest passer-by Must needs be sorry for them, and, albeit They cursed, would dare to speak no harder words Than these,—"God help them!"
Ay! a learned man The curate in all woes that plague mankind,— Too learned, for he was but young. His heart Had yearned till it was overstrained, and now He—plunged into a narrow slough unblest, Had struggled with its deadly waters, till His own head had gone under, and he took Small joy in work he could not look to aid Its cleansing.
Yet, by one right tender tie, Hope held him yet. The fathers coarse and dull, Vile mothers hard, and boys and girls profane, His soul drew back from. He had worked for them,— Work without joy: but, in his heart of hearts, He loved the little children; and whene'er He heard their prattle innocent, and heard Their tender voices lisping sacred words That he had taught them,—in the cleanly calm Of decent school, by decent matron held,— Then would he say, "I shall have pleasure yet, In these."
But now, when he pushed back that door And mounted up a flight of ruined stairs, He said not that. He said, "Oh! once I thought The little children would make bright for me The crown they wear who have won many souls For righteousness; but oh, this evil place! Hard lines it gives them, cold and dirt abhorred,— Hunger and nakedness, in lieu of love, And blows instead of care.
"And so they die, The little children that I love,—they die,—They turn their wistful faces to the wall, And slip away to God."
With that, his hand He laid upon a latch and lifted it, Looked in full quietly, and entered straight.
What saw he there? He saw a three-years child, That lay a-dying on a wisp of straw Swept up into a corner. O'er its brow The damps of death were gathering: all alone, Uncared for, save that by its side was set A cup, it waited. And the eyes had ceased To look on things at hand. He thought they gazed In wistful wonder, or some faint surmise Of coming change,—as though they saw the gate Of that fair land that seems to most of us Very far off. When he beheld the look, He said, "I knew, I knew how this would be! Another! Ay, and but for drunken blows And dull forgetfulness of infant need, This little one had lived." And thereupon The misery of it wrought upon him so, That, unaware, he wept. Oh! then it was That, in the bending of his manly head, It came between the child and that whereon He gazed, and, when the curate glanced again, Those dying eyes, drawn back to earth once more, Looked up into his own, and smiled. He drew More near, and kneeled beside the small frail thing, Because the lips were moving; and it raised Its baby hand, and stroked away his tears, And whispered, "Master! master!" and so died.
Now, in that town there was an ancient church, A minster of old days which these had turned To parish uses: there the curate served. It stood within a quiet swarded Close, Sunny and still, and, though it was not far From those dark courts where poor humanity Struggled and swarmed, it seemed to wear its own Still atmosphere about it, and to hold That old-world calm within its precincts pure And that grave rest which modern life foregoes.
When the sad curate, rising from his knees, Looked from the dead to heaven,—as, unaware, Men do when they would track departed life,—He heard the deep tone of the minster-bell Sounding for service, and he turned away So heavy at heart, that, when he left behind That dismal habitation, and came out In the clear sunshine of the minster-yard, He never marked it. Up the aisle he moved, With his own gloom about him; then came forth, And read before the folk grand words and calm,—Words full of hope; but into his dull heart Hope came not. As one talketh in a dream, And doth not mark the sense of his own words, He read; and, as one walketh in a dream, He after walked toward the vestment-room, And never marked the way he went by,—no, Nor the gray verger that before him stood, The great church-keys depending from his hand, Ready to follow him out and lock the door.
At length, aroused to present things, but not Content to break the sequence of his thought, Nor ready for the working day that held Its busy course without, he said, "Good friend, Leave me the keys: I would remain a while." And, when the verger gave, he moved with him Toward the door distraught, then shut him out, And locked himself within the church alone. The minster-church was like a great brown cave, Fluted and fine with pillars, and all dim With glorious gloom; but, as the curate turned, Suddenly shone the sun,—and roof and walls, Also the clustering shafts from end to end, Were thickly sown all over, as it were, With seedling rainbows. And it went and came And went, that sunny beam, and drifted up Ethereal bloom to flush the open wings And carven cheeks of dimpled cherubim, And dropped upon the curate as he passed, And covered his white raiment and his hair.
Then did look down upon him from their place, High in the upper lights, grave mitred priests, And grand old monarchs in their flowered gowns And capes of miniver; and therewithal (A veiling cloud gone by) the naked sun Smote with his burning splendor all the pile, And in there rushed, through half-translucent panes, A sombre glory as of rusted gold, Deep ruby stains, and tender blue and green, That made the floor a beauty and delight, Strewed as with phantom blossoms, sweet enough To have been wafted there the day they dropt On the flower-beds in heaven. The curate passed Adown the long south aisle, and did not think Upon this beauty, nor that he himself— Excellent in the strength of youth, and fair With all the majesty that noble work And stainless manners give—did add his part To make it fairer. In among the knights That lay with hands uplifted, by the lute And palm of many a saint,—'neath capitals Whereon our fathers had been bold to carve With earthly tools their ancient childlike dream Concerning heavenly fruit and living bowers, And glad full-throated birds that sing up there Among the branches of the tree of life— Through all the ordered forest of the shafts, Shooting on high to enter into light, That swam aloft,—he took his silent way, And in the southern transept sat him down, Covered his face, and thought. He said, "No pain, No passion, and no aching, heart o' mine, Doth stir within thee. Oh! I would there did: Thou art so dull, so tired. I have lost I know not what. I see the heavens as lead: They tend no whither. Ah! the world is bared Of her enchantment now: she is but earth And water. And, though much hath passed away, There may be more to go. I may forget The joy and fear that have been: there may live No more for me the fervency of hope Nor the arrest of wonder.
"Once I said, 'Content will wait on work, though work appear Unfruitful.' Now I say, 'Where is the good? What is the good? A lamp when it is lit Must needs give light; but I am like a man Holding his lamp in some deserted place Where no foot passeth. Must I trim my lamp, And ever painfully toil to keep it bright, When use for it is none? I must; I will. Though God withhold my wages, I must work, And watch the bringing of my work to nought,— Weed in the vineyard through the heat o' the day, And, overtasked, behold the weedy place Grow ranker yet in spite of me.
"Oh! yet My meditated words are trodden down Like a little wayside grass. Castaway shells, Lifted and tossed aside by a plunging wave, Have no more force against it than have I Against the sweeping, weltering wave of life, That, lifting and dislodging me, drives on, And notes not mine endeavor."
Afterward, He added more words like to these; to wit, That it was hard to see the world so sad: He would that it were happier. It was hard To see the blameless overborne; and hard To know that God, who loves the world, should yet Let it lie down in sorrow, when a smile From him would make it laugh and sing,—a word From him transform it to a heaven. He said, Moreover, "When will this be done? My life Hath not yet reached the noon, and I am tired; And oh! it may be that, uncomforted By foolish hope of doing good and vain Conceit of being useful, I may live, And it may be my duty to go on Working for years and years, for years and years."
But, while the words were uttered, in his heart There dawned a vague alarm. He was aware That somewhat touched him, and he lifted up His face. "I am alone," the curate said,— "I think I am alone. What is it, then? I am ashamed! My raiment is not clean. My lips,—I am afraid they are not clean. My heart is darkened and unclean. Ah me, To be a man, and yet to tremble so! Strange, strange!" And there was sitting at his feet— He could not see it plainly—at his feet A very little child. And, while the blood Drave to his heart, he set his eye on it, Gazing, and, lo! the loveliness from heaven Took clearer form and color. He beheld The strange, wise sweetness of a dimpled mouth,— The deep serene of eyes at home with bliss, And perfect in possession. So it spoke, "My master!" but he answered not a word; And it went on: "I had a name, a name. He knew my name; but here they can forget." The curate answered: "Nay, I know thee well. I love thee. Wherefore art thou come?" It said, "They sent me;" and he faltered, "Fold thy hand, O most dear little one! for on it gleams A gem that is so bright I cannot look Thereon." It said, "When I did leave this world, That was a tear. But that was long ago; For I have lived among the happy folk, You wot of, ages, ages." Then said he, "Do they forget us, while beneath the palms They take their infinite leisure?" And, with eyes That seemed to muse upon him, looking up In peace the little child made answer, "Nay;" And murmured, in the language that he loved, "How is it that his hair is not yet white; For I and all the others have been long Waiting for him to come." "And was it long?" The curate answered, pondering. "Time being done, Shall life indeed expand, and give the sense, In our to-come, of infinite extension?" Then said the child, "In heaven we children talk Of the great matters, and our lips are wise; But here I can but talk with thee in words That here I knew." And therewithal, arisen, It said, "I pray you take me in your arms." Then, being afraid but willing, so he did; And partly drew about the radiant child, For better covering its dread purity, The foldings of his gown. And he beheld Its beauty, and the tremulous woven light That hung upon its hair; withal, the robe, "Whiter than fuller of this world can white," That clothed its immortality. And so The trembling came again, and he was dumb, Repenting his uncleanness: and he lift His eyes, and all the holy place was full Of living things; and some were faint and dim, As if they bore an intermittent life, Waxing and waning; and they had no form, But drifted on like slowly trailed clouds, Or moving spots of darkness, with an eye Apiece. And some, in guise of evil birds, Came by in troops, and stretched their naked necks, And some were men-like, but their heads hung down; And he said, "O my God! let me find grace Not to behold their faces, for I know They must be wicked and right terrible." But while he prayed, lo! whispers; and there moved Two shadows on the wall. He could not see The forms of them that cast them: he could see Only the shadows as of two that sat Upon the floor, where, clad in women's weeds, They lisped together. And he shuddered much: There was a rustling near him, and he feared Lest they should touch him, and he feel their touch.
"It is not great," quoth one, "the work achieved. We do, and we delight to do, our best: But that is little; for, my dear," quoth she, "This tower and town have been infested long With angels."—"Ay," the other made reply, "I had a little evil-one, of late, That I picked up as it was crawling out O' the pit, and took and cherished in my breast. It would divine for me, and oft would moan, 'Pray thee, no churches,' and it spake of this. But I was harried once,—thou know'st by whom,— And fled in here; and, when he followed me, I crouching by this pillar, he let down His hand,—being all too proud to send his eyes In its wake,—and, plucking forth my tender imp, Flung it behind him. It went yelping forth; And, as for me, I never saw it more. Much is against us,—very much: the times Are hard." She paused: her fellow took the word, Plaining on such as preach and them that plead. "Even such as haunt the yawning mouths of hell," Quoth she, "and pluck them back that run thereto." Then, like a sudden blow, there fell on him The utterance of his name. "There is no soul That I loathe more, and oftener curse. Woe's me, That cursing should be vain! Ay, he will go Gather the sucking children, that are yet Too young for us, and watch and shelter them. Till the strong Angels—pitiless and stern, But to them loving ever—sweep them in, By armsful, to the unapproachable fold.
"We strew his path with gold: it will not lie. 'Deal softly with him,' was the master's word. We brought him all delights: his angel came And stood between them and his eyes. They spend Much pains upon him,—keep him poor and low And unbeloved; and thus he gives his mind To fill the fateful, the impregnable Child-fold, and sow on earth the seed of stars.
"Oh! hard is serving against love,—the love Of the Unspeakable; for if we soil The souls He openeth out a washing-place; And if we grudge, and snatch away the bread, Then will He save by poverty, and gain By early giving up of blameless life; And if we shed out gold, He even will save In spite of gold,—of twice-refined gold."
With that the curate set his daunted eyes To look upon the shadows of the fiends. He was made sure they could not see the child That nestled in his arms; he also knew They were unconscious that his mortal ears Had new intelligence, which gave their speech Possible entrance through his garb of clay.
He was afraid, yet awful gladness reached His soul: the testimony of the lost Upbraided him; but while he trembled yet, The heavenly child had lifted up its head And left his arms, and on the marble floor Stood beckoning.
And, its touch withdrawn, the place Was silent, empty; all that swarming tribe Of evil ones concealed behind the veil, And shut into their separate world, were closed From his observance. He arose, and paced After the little child,—as half in fear That it would leave him,—till they reached a door; And then said he,—but much distraught he spoke, Laying his hand across the lock,—"This door Shuts in the stairs whereby men mount the tower. Wouldst thou go up, and so withdraw to heaven?" It answered, "I will mount them." Then said he, "And I will follow."—"So thou shalt do well," The radiant thing replied, and it went up, And he, amazed, went after; for the stairs, Otherwhile dark, were lightened by the rays Shed out of raiment woven in high heaven, And hair whereon had smiled the light of God.
With that, they, pacing on, came out at last Into a dim, weird place,—a chamber formed Betwixt the roofs: for you shall know that all The vaulting of the nave, fretted and fine, Was covered with the dust of ages, laid Thick with those chips of stone which they had left Who wrought it; but a high-pitched roof was reared Above it, and the western gable pierced With three long narrow lights. Great tie-beams loomed Across, and many daws frequented there, The starling and the sparrow littered it With straw, and peeped from many a shady nook; And there was lifting up of wings, and there Was hasty exit when the curate came. But sitting on a beam and moving not For him, he saw two fair gray turtle-doves Bowing their heads, and cooing; and the child Put forth a hand to touch his own, but straight He, startled, drew it back, because, forsooth, A stirring fancy smote him, and he thought That language trembled on their innocent tongues, And floated forth in speech that man could hear. Then said the child, "Yet touch, my master dear." And he let down his hand, and touched again; And so it was. "But if they had their way," One turtle cooed, "how should this world go on?"
Then he looked well upon them, as he stood Upright before them. They were feathered doves, And sitting close together; and their eyes Were rounded with the rim that marks their kind. Their tender crimson feet did pat the beam,— No phantoms they; and soon the fellow-dove Made answer, "Nay they count themselves so wise, There is no task they shall be set to do But they will ask God why. What mean they so? The glory is not in the task, but in The doing it for Him. What should he think, Brother, this man that must, forsooth, be set Such noble work, and suffered to behold Its fruit, if he knew more of us and ours?" With that the other leaned, as if attent: "I am not perfect, brother, in his thought." The mystic bird replied. "Brother, he saith, 'But it is nought: the work is overhard.' Whose fault is that? God sets not overwork. He saith the world is sorrowful, and he Is therefore sorrowful. He cannot set The crooked straight;—but who demands of him, O brother, that he should? What! thinks he, then, His work is God's advantage, and his will More bent to aid the world than its dread Lord's? Nay, yet there live amongst us legions fair, Millions on millions, who could do right well What he must fail in; and 'twas whispered me, That chiefly for himself the task is given,— His little daily task." With that he paused.
Then said the other, preening its fair wing, "Men have discovered all God's islands now, And given them names; whereof they are as proud, And deem themselves as great, as if their hands Had made them. Strange is man, and strange his pride. Now, as for us, it matters not to learn What and from whence we be: How should we tell? Our world is undiscovered in these skies, Our names not whispered. Yet, for us and ours, What joy it is,—permission to come down, Not souls, as he, to the bosom of their God, To guide, but to their goal the winged fowls, His lovely lower-fashioned lives to help To take their forms by legions, fly, and draw With us the sweet, obedient, flocking things That ever hear our message reverently, And follow us far. How should they know their way, Forsooth, alone? Men say they fly alone; Yet some have set on record, and averred, That they, among the flocks, had duly marked A leader." Then his fellow made reply: "They might divine the Maker's heart. Come forth, Fair dove, to find the flocks, and guide their wings, For Him that loveth them." With that, the child Withdrew his hand, and all their speech was done. He moved toward them, but they fluttered forth And fled into the sunshine. "I would fain," Said he, "have heard some more. And wilt thou go?" He added to the child, for this had turned. "Ay," quoth he, gently, "to the beggar's place; For I would see the beggar in the porch."
So they went down together to the door, Which, when the curate opened, lo! without The beggar sat; and he saluted him: "Good morrow, master." "Wherefore art thou here?" The curate asked: "it is not service time, And none will enter now to give thee alms." Then said the beggar, "I have hope at heart That I shall go to my poor house no more." "Art thou so sick that thou dost think to die?" The curate said. With that the beggar laughed, And under his dim eyelids gathered tears, And he was all a-tremble with a strange And moving exaltation. "Ay," quoth he, And set his face toward high heaven: "I think The blessing that I wait on must be near." Then said the curate, "God be good to thee." And, straight, the little child put forth his hand, And touched him. "Master, master, hush! You should not, master, speak so carelessly In this great presence." But the touch so wrought, That, lo! the dazzled curate staggered back, For dread effulgence from the beggar's eyes Smote him, and from the crippled limbs shot forth Terrible lights, as pure long blades of fire. "Withdraw thy touch! withdraw thy touch!" he cried, "Or else shall I be blinded." Then the child Stood back from him; and he sat down apart, Recovering of his manhood: and he heard The beggar and the child discourse of things Dreadful for glory, till his spirits came Anew; and, when the beggar looked on him, He said, "If I offend not, pray you tell Who and what are you—I behold a face Marred with old age, sickness, and poverty,— A cripple with a staff, who long hath sat Begging, and ofttimes moaning, in the porch, For pain and for the wind's inclemency. What are you?" Then the beggar made reply, "I was a delegate, a living power; My work was bliss, for seeds were in my hand To plant a new-made world. O happy work! It grew and blossomed; but my dwelling-place Was far remote from heaven. I have not seen; I knew no wish to enter there. But lo! There went forth rumors, running out like rays, How some, that were of power like even to mine, Had made request to come and find a place Within its walls. And these were satisfied With promises, and sent to this far world To take the weeds of your mortality, And minister, and suffer grief and pain, And die like men. Then were they gathered in. They saw a face, and were accounted kin To Whom thou knowest, for he is kin to men.
"Then I did wait; and oft, at work, I sang, 'To minister! oh, joy, to minister!' And, it being known, a message came to me: 'Whether is best, thou forest-planter wise, To minister to others, or that they Should minister to thee?' Then, on my face Low lying, I made answer: 'It is best, Most High, to minister;' and thus came back The answer,—'Choose not for thyself the best: Go down, and, lo! my poor shall minister, Out of their poverty, to thee; shall learn Compassion by thy frailty; and shall oft Turn back, when speeding home from work, to help Thee, weak and crippled, home. My little ones, Thou shalt importune for their slender mite, And pray, and move them that they give it up For love of Me.'" The curate answered him, "Art thou content, O great one from afar! If I may ask, and not offend?" He said, "I am. Behold! I stand not all alone, That I should think to do a perfect work. I may not wish to give; for I have heard 'Tis best for me that I receive. For me, God is the only giver, and His gift Is one." With that, the little child sighed out, "O master! master! I am out of heaven Since noonday, and I hear them calling me. If you be ready, great one, let us go:— Hark! hark! they call." Then did the beggar lift His face to heaven, and utter forth a cry As of the pangs of death, and every tree Moved as if shaken by a sudden wind. He cried again, and there came forth a hand From some invisible form, which, being laid A little moment on the curate's eyes, It dazzled him with light that brake from it, So that he saw no more. "What shall I do?" The curate murmured, when he came again To himself and looked about him. "This is strange! My thoughts are all astray; and yet, methinks, A weight is taken from my heart. Lo! lo! There lieth at my feet, frail, white, and dead, The sometime beggar. He is happy now. There was a child; but he is gone, and he Is also happy. I am glad to think I am not bound to make the wrong go right; But only to discover, and to do With cheerful heart, the work that God appoints."
With that, he did compose, with reverent care, The dead; continuing, "I will trust in Him, THAT HE CAN HOLD HIS OWN; and I will take His will, above the work He sendeth me, To be my chiefest good." Then went he forth, "I shall die early," thinking: "I am warned, By this fair vision, that I have not long To live." Yet he lived on to good old age;— Ay, he lives yet, and he is working still.
* * * * *
It may be there are many in like case: They give themselves, and are in misery Because the gift is small, and doth not make The world by so much better as they fain Would have it. 'Tis a fault; but, as for us, Let us not blame them. Maybe, 'tis a fault More kindly looked on by The Majesty Than our best virtues are. Why, what are we? What have we given, and what have we desired To give, the world? There must be something wrong Look to it: let us mend our ways. Farewell.
THE SHEPHERD LADY.
Who pipes upon the long green hill, Where meadow grass is deep? The white lamb bleats but followeth on— Follow the clean white sheep. The dear white lady in yon high tower, She hearkeneth in her sleep.
All in long grass the piper stands, Goodly and grave is he; Outside the tower, at dawn of day, The notes of his pipe ring free. A thought from his heart doth reach to hers: "Come down, O lady! to me."
She lifts her head, she dons her gown: Ah! the lady is fair; She ties the girdle on her waist, And binds her flaxen hair, And down she stealeth, down and down, Down the turret stair.
Behold him! With the flock he wons Along yon grassy lea. "My shepherd lord, my shepherd love, What wilt thou, then, with me? My heart is gone out of my breast, And followeth on to thee."
"The white lambs feed in tender grass: With them and thee to bide, How good it were," she saith at noon; "Albeit the meads are wide. Oh! well is me," she saith when day Draws on to eventide.
Hark! hark! the shepherd's voice. Oh, sweet! Her tears drop down like rain. "Take now this crook, my chosen, my fere, And tend the flock full fain; Feed them, O lady, and lose not one, Till I shall come again."
Right soft her speech: "My will is thine, And my reward thy grace!" Gone are his footsteps over the hill, Withdrawn his goodly face; The mournful dusk begins to gather, The daylight wanes apace.
On sunny slopes, ah! long the lady Feedeth her flock at noon; She leads it down to drink at eve Where the small rivulets croon. All night her locks are wet with dew, Her eyes outwatch the moon.
Beyond the hills her voice is heard, She sings when light doth wane: "My longing heart is full of love, Nor shall my watch be vain. My shepherd lord. I see him not, But he will come again."
WRITTEN ON THE DEATHS OF THREE LOVELY CHILDREN WHO WERE TAKEN FROM THEIR PARENTS WITHIN A MONTH OF ONE ANOTHER.
AGED EIGHT YEARS.
Yellow leaves, how fast they flutter—woodland hollows thickly strewing, Where the wan October sunbeams scantly in the mid-day win, While the dim gray clouds are drifting, and in saddened hues imbuing All without and all within!
All within! but winds of autumn, little Henry, round their dwelling Did not load your father's spirit with those deep and burdened sighs;— Only echoed thoughts of sadness, in your mother's bosom swelling, Fast as tears that dim her eyes.
Life is fraught with many changes, checked with sorrow and mutation, But no grief it ever lightened such a truth before to know:— I behold them—father, mother—as they seem to contemplation, Only three short weeks ago!
Saddened for the morrow's parting—up the stairs at midnight stealing— As with cautious foot we glided past the children's open door,— "Come in here," they said, the lamplight dimpled forms at last revealing, "Kiss them in their sleep once more."
You were sleeping, little Henry, with your eyelids scarcely closing, Two sweet faces near together, with their rounded arms entwined:— And the rose-bud lips were moving, as if stirred in their reposing By the movements of the mind!
And your mother smoothed the pillow, and her sleeping treasures numbered, Whispering fondly—"He is dreaming"—as you turned upon your bed— And your father stooped to kiss you, happy dreamer, as you slumbered, With his hand upon your head!
Did he know the true deep meaning of his blessing? No! he never Heard afar the summons uttered—"Come up hither"—Never knew How the awful Angel faces kept his sleeping boy for ever, And for ever in their view.
Awful Faces, unimpassioned, silent Presences were by us, Shrouding wings—majestic beings—hidden by this earthly veil— Such as we have called on, saying, "Praise the Lord, O Ananias, Azarias and Misael!"
But we saw not, and who knoweth, what the missioned Spirits taught him, To that one small bed drawn nearer, when we left him to their will? While he slumbered, who can answer for what dreams they may have brought him, When at midnight all was still?
Father! Mother! must you leave him on his bed, but not to slumber? Are the small hands meekly folded on his breast, but not to pray? When you count your children over, must you tell a different number, Since that happier yesterday?
Father! Mother! weep if need be, since this is a "time" for weeping, Comfort comes not for the calling, grief is never argued down— Coldly sounds the admonition, "Why lament? in better keeping Rests the child than in your own."
"Truth indeed! but, oh! compassion! Have you sought to scan my sorrow?" (Mother, you shall meekly ponder, list'ning to that common tale) "Does your heart repeat its echo, or by fellow-feeling borrow Even a tone that might avail?
"Might avail to steal it from me, by its deep heart-warm affection? Might perceive by strength of loving how the fond words to combine? Surely no! I will be silent, in your soul is no reflection Of the care that burdens mine!"
When the winter twilight gathers, Father, and your thoughts shall wander, Sitting lonely you shall blend him with your listless reveries, Half forgetful what division holds the form whereon you ponder From its place upon your knees—
With a start of recollection, with a half-reproachful wonder, Of itself the heart shall question, "Art Thou then no longer here? Is it so, my little Henry? Are we set so far asunder Who were wont to be so near?"
While the fire-light dimly flickers, and the lengthened shades are meeting, To itself the heart shall answer, "He shall come to me no more: I shall never hear his footsteps nor the child's sweet voice entreating For admission at my door."
But upon your fair, fair forehead, no regrets nor griefs are dwelling, Neither sorrow nor disquiet do the peaceful features know; Nor that look, whose wistful beauty seemed their sad hearts to be telling, "Daylight breaketh, let me go!"
Daylight breaketh, little Henry; in its beams your soul awaketh— What though night should close around us, dim and dreary to the view— Though our souls should walk in darkness, far away that morning breaketh Into endless day for you!
AGED NINE YEARS.
They have left you, little Henry, but they have not left you lonely— Brothers' hearts so knit together could not, might not separate dwell. Fain to seek you in the mansions far away—One lingered only To bid those behind farewell!
Gentle Boy!—His childlike nature in most guileless form was moulded, And it may be that his spirit woke in glory unaware, Since so calmly he resigned it, with his hands still meekly folded, Having said his evening prayer.
Or—if conscious of that summons—"Speak, O Lord, Thy servant heareth"— As one said, whose name they gave him, might his willing answer be, "Here am I"—like him replying—"At Thy gates my soul appeareth, For behold Thou calledst me!"
A deep silence—utter silence, on his earthly home descendeth:— Reading, playing, sleeping, waking—he is gone, and few remain! "O the loss!"—they utter, weeping—every voice its echo lendeth— "O the loss!"—But, O the gain!
On that tranquil shore his spirit was vouchsafed an early landing, Lest the toils of crime should stain it, or the thrall of guilt control— Lest that "wickedness should alter the yet simple understanding, Or deceit beguile his soul!"
"Lay not up on earth thy treasure"—they have read that sentence duly, Moth and rust shall fret thy riches—earthly good hath swift decay— "Even so," each heart replieth—"As for me, my riches truly Make them wings and flee away!"
"O my riches!—O my children!—dearest part of life and being, Treasures looked to for the solace of this life's declining years,— Were our voices cold to hearing—or our faces cold to seeing, That ye left us to our tears?"
"We inherit conscious silence, ceasing of some merry laughter, And the hush of two sweet voices—(healing sounds for spirits bruised!) Of the tread of joyous footsteps in the pathway following after, Of two names no longer used!"
Question for them, little Sister, in your sweet and childish fashion— Search and seek them, Baby Brother, with your calm and asking eyes— Dimpled lips that fail to utter fond appeal or sad compassion, Mild regret or dim surprise!
There are two tall trees above you, by the high east window growing, Underneath them, slumber sweetly, lapt in silence deep, serene; Save, when pealing in the distance, organ notes towards you flowing Echo—with a pause between!
And that pause?—a voice shall fill it—tones that blessed you daily, nightly, Well beloved, but not sufficing, Sleepers, to awake you now, Though so near he stand, that shadows from your trees may tremble lightly On his book and on his brow!
Sleep then ever! Neither singing of sweet birds shall break your slumber, Neither fall of dew, nor sunshine, dance of leaves, nor drift of snow, Charm those dropt lids more to open, nor the tranquil bosoms cumber With one care for things below!
It is something, the assurance, that you ne'er shall feel like sorrow, Weep no past and dread no future—know not sighing, feel not pain— Nor a day that looketh forward to a mournfuller to-morrow— "Clouds returning after rain!"
No, far off, the daylight breaketh, in its beams each soul awaketh: "What though clouds," they sigh, "be gathered dark and stormy to the view, Though the light our eyes forsaketh, fresh and sweet behold it breaketh Into endless day for you!"
KATIE, AGED FIVE YEARS.
(ASLEEP IN THE DAYTIME.)
All rough winds are hushed and silent, golden light the meadow steepeth, And the last October roses daily wax more pale and fair; They have laid a gathered blossom on the breast of one who sleepeth With a sunbeam on her hair.
Calm, and draped in snowy raiment she lies still, as one that dreameth, And a grave sweet smile hath parted dimpled lips that may not speak; Slanting down that narrow sunbeam like a ray of glory gleameth On the sainted brow and cheek.
There is silence! They who watch her, speak no word of grief or wailing, In a strange unwonted calmness they gaze on and cannot cease, Though the pulse of life beat faintly, thought shrink back, and hope be failing, They, like Aaron, "hold their peace."