While they gaze on her, the deep bell with its long slow pauses soundeth; Long they hearken—father—mother—love has nothing more to say: Beating time to feet of Angels leading her where love aboundeth Tolls the heavy bell this day.
Still in silence to its tolling they count over all her meetness To lie near their hearts and soothe them in all sorrows and all fears; Her short life lies spread before them, but they cannot tell her sweetness, Easily as tell her years.
Only daughter—Ah! how fondly Thought around that lost name lingers, Oft when lone your mother sitteth, she shall weep and droop her head, She shall mourn her baby-sempstress, with those imitative fingers, Drawing out her aimless thread.
In your father's Future cometh many a sad uncheered to-morrow, But in sleep shall three fair faces heavenly-calm towards him lean— Like a threefold cord shall draw him through the weariness of sorrow, Nearer to the things unseen.
With the closing of your eyelids close the dreams of expectation, And so ends the fairest chapter in the records of their way: Therefore—O thou God most holy—God of rest and consolation, Be Thou near to them this day!
Be Thou near, when they shall nightly, by the bed of infant brothers, Hear their soft and gentle breathing, and shall bless them on their knees; And shall think how coldly falleth the white moonlight on the others, In their bed beneath the trees.
Be Thou near, when they, they only, bear those faces in remembrance, And the number of their children strangers ask them with a smile; And when other childlike faces touch them by the strong resemblance To those turned to them erewhile.
Be Thou near, each chastened Spirit for its course and conflict nerving, Let Thy voice say, "Father—mother—lo! thy treasures live above! Now be strong, be strong, no longer cumbered over much with serving At the shrine of human love."
Let them sleep! In course of ages e'en the Holy House shall crumble, And the broad and stately steeple one day bend to its decline, And high arches, ancient arches bowed and decked in clothing humble, Creeping moss shall round them twine.
Ancient arches, old and hoary, sunny beams shall glimmer through them, And invest them with a beauty we would fain they should not share, And the moonlight slanting down them, the white moonlight shall imbue them With a sadness dim and fair.
Then the soft green moss shall wrap you, and the world shall all forget you, Life, and stir, and toil, and tumult unawares shall pass you by; Generations come and vanish: but it shall not grieve nor fret you, That they sin, or that they sigh.
And the world, grown old in sinning, shall deny her first beginning, And think scorn of words which whisper how that all must pass away; Time's arrest and intermission shall account a vain tradition, And a dream, the reckoning day!
Till His blast, a blast of terror, shall awake in shame and sadness Faithless millions to a vision of the failing earth and skies, And more sweet than song of Angels, in their shout of joy and gladness, Call the dead in Christ to rise!
Then, by One Man's intercession, standing clear from their transgression, Father—mother—you shall meet them fairer than they were before, And have joy with the Redeemed, joy ear hath not heard heart dreamed, Ay for ever—evermore!
THE SNOWDROP MONUMENT (IN LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL).
Marvels of sleep, grown cold! Who hath not longed to fold With pitying ruth, forgetful of their bliss, Those cherub forms that lie, With none to watch them nigh, Or touch the silent lips with one warm human kiss?
What! they are left alone All night with graven stone, Pillars and arches that above them meet; While through those windows high The journeying stars can spy, And dim blue moonbeams drop on their uncovered feet?
O cold! yet look again, There is a wandering vein Traced in the hand where those white snowdrops lie. Let her rapt dreamy smile The wondering heart beguile, That almost thinks to hear a calm contented sigh.
What silence dwells between Those severed lips serene! The rapture of sweet waiting breathes and grows. What trance-like peace is shed On her reclining head, And e'en on listless feet what languor of repose!
Angels of joy and love Lean softly from above And whisper to her sweet and marvellous things; Tell of the golden gate That opened wide doth wait, And shadow her dim sleep with their celestial wings.
Hearing of that blest shore She thinks on earth no more, Contented to forego this wintry land. She has nor thought nor care But to rest calmly there, And hold the snowdrops pale that blossom in her hand.
But on the other face Broodeth a mournful grace, This had foreboding thoughts beyond her years, While sinking thus to sleep She saw her mother weep, And could not lift her hand to dry those heart-sick tears.
Could not—but failing lay, Sighed her young life away. And let her arm drop down in listless rest, Too weary on that bed To turn her dying head, Or fold the little sister nearer to her breast.
Yet this is faintly told On features fair and cold, A look of calm surprise, of mild regret, As if with life oppressed She turned her to her rest, But felt her mother's love and looked not to forget.
How wistfully they close, Sweet eyes, to their repose! How quietly declines the placid brow! The young lips seem to say, "I have wept much to-day, And felt some bitter pains, but they are over now."
Sleep! there are left below Many who pine to go, Many who lay it to their chastened souls, That gloomy days draw nigh, And they are blest who die, For this green world grows worse the longer that she rolls.
And as for me I know A little of her woe, Her yearning want doth in my soul abide, And sighs of them that weep, "O put us soon to sleep, For when we wake—with Thee—we shall be satisfied."
THE MEASURELESS GULFS OF AIR ARE FULL OF THEE.
"In Him we live, and move, and have our being."
The measureless gulfs of air are full of Thee: Thou Art, and therefore hang the stars; they wait, And swim, and shine in God who bade them be, And hold their sundering voids inviolate.
A God concern'd (veil'd in pure light) to bless, With sweet revealing of His love, the soul; Toward things piteous, full of piteousness; The Cause, the Life, and the continuing Whole.
He is more present to all things He made Than anything unto itself can be; Full-foliaged boughs of Eden could not shade Afford, since God was also 'neath the tree.
Thou knowest me altogether; I knew not Thy likeness till Thou mad'st it manifest. There is no world but is Thy heaven; no spot Remote; Creation leans upon Thy breast.
Thou art beyond all stars, yet in my heart Wonderful whisperings hold Thy creature dumb; I need no search afar; to me Thou art Father, Redeemer, and Renewer—come.
THOU WERT FAR OFF AND IN THE SIGHT OF HEAVEN.
"And fell on his neck, and kissed him."
Thou wert far off, and in the sight of heaven Dead. And thy Father would not this should be; And now thou livest, it is all forgiven; Think on it, O my soul, He kissed thee!
What now are gold and gear? thou canst afford To cast them from thee at His sacred call, As Mary, when she met her living Lord, The burial spice she had prepared let fall.
O! what is death to life? One dead could well Afford to waste his shroud, if he might wake; Thou canst afford to waste the world, and sell Thy footing in it, for the new world's sake.
What is the world? it is a waiting place, Where men put on their robes for that above. What is the new world? 'tis a Father's face Beholden of His sons—the face of love.
THICK ORCHARDS ALL IN WHITE.
"The time of the singing of birds is come."
Thick orchards, all in white, Stand 'neath blue voids of light, And birds among the branches blithely sing, For they have all they know; There is no more, but so, All perfectness of living, fair delight of spring.
Only the cushat dove Makes answer as for love To the deep yearning of man's yearning breast; And mourneth, to his thought, As in her notes were wrought Fulfill'd in her sweet having, sense of his unrest.
Not with possession, not With fairest earthly lot, Cometh the peace assured, his spirit's quest; With much it looks before, With most it yearns for more; And 'this is not our rest,' and 'this is not our rest.'
Give Thou us more. We look For more. The heart that took All spring-time for itself were empty still; Its yearning is not spent Nor silenced in content, Till He that all things filleth doth it sweetly fill.
Give us Thyself. The May Dureth so short a day; Youth and the spring are over all too soon; Content us while they last, Console us for them past, Thou with whom bides for ever life, and love, and noon.
SWEET ARE HIS WAYS WHO RULES ABOVE.
"Though I take the wings of the morning."
Sweet are His ways who rules above, He gives from wrath a sheltering place; But covert none is found from grace, Man shall not hide himself from love.
What though I take to me the wide Wings of the morning and forth fly, Faster He goes, whoso care on high Shepherds the stars and doth them guide.
What though the tents foregone, I roam Till day wax dim lamenting me; He wills that I shall sleep to see The great gold stairs to His sweet home.
What though the press I pass before, And climb the branch, He lifts his face; I am not secret from His grace Lost in the leafy sycamore.
What though denied with murmuring deep I shame my Lord,—it shall not be; For He will turn and look on me, Then must I think thereon and weep.
The nether depth, the heights above, Nor alleys pleach'd of Paradise, Nor Herod's judgment-halls suffice: Man shall not hide himself from love.
O NIGHT OF NIGHTS!
"Let us now go even unto Bethlehem."
O Night of nights! O night Desired of man so long! The ancient heavens fled forth in light To sing thee thy new song; And shooting down the steep, To shepherd folk of old, An angel, while they watch'd their sheep, Set foot beside the fold.
Lo! while as like to die Of that keen light he shed, They look'd on his pure majesty, Amazed, and sore bestead; Lo! while with words of cheer He bade their trembling cease, The flocks of God swept sweetly near, And sang to them of peace.
All on the hillside grass That fulgent radiance fell, So close those innocents did pass, Their words were heard right well; Among the sheep, their wings Some folding, walk'd the sod An order'd throng of shining things, White, with the smile of God.
The waits of heaven to hear, Oh! what it must have been! Think, Christian people, think, and fear For cold hearts, for unclean; Think how the times go by, How love and longing fail, Think how we live and how we die, As this were but a tale.
O tender tale of old, Live in thy dear renown; God's smile was in the dark, behold That way His hosts came down; Light up, great God, Thy Word, Make the blest meaning strong, As if our ears, indeed, had heard The glory of their song.
It was so far away, But Thou could'st make it near, And all its living might display And cry to it, "Be here," Here, in th' unresting town, As once remote to them, Who heard it when the heavens came down, On pastoral Bethlehem.
It was so long ago, But God can make it now, And as with that sweet overflow, Our empty hearts endow; Take, Lord, those words outworn, O! make them new for aye, Speak—"Unto you a child is born," To-day—to-day—to-day.
DEAR IS THE LOST WIFE TO A LONE MAN'S HEART.
"I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
Dear is the lost wife to a lone man's heart, When in a dream he meets her at his door, And, waked for joy, doth know she dwells apart, All unresponsive on a silent shore; Dearer, yea, more desired art thou—for thee My divine heart yearns by the jasper sea.
More than the mother's for her sucking child; She wants, with emptied arms and love untold, Her most dear little one that on her smiled And went; but more, I want Mine own. Behold, I long for My redeem'd, where safe with Me Twelve manner of fruits grow on th' immortal tree;
The tree of life that I won back for men, And planted in the city of My God. Lift up thy head, I love thee; wherefore, then, Liest thou so long on thy memorial sod Sleeping for sorrow? Rise, for dawn doth break— I love thee, and I cry to thee "Awake."
Serve,—woman whom I love, ere noon be high, Ere the long shadow lengthen at thy feet. Work,—I have many poor, O man, that cry, My little ones do languish in the street. Love,—'tis a time for love, since I love thee. Live,—'tis a time to live. Man, live in Me.
WEEPING AND WAILING NEEDS MUST BE.
"Blessed are ye that weep now."
Weeping and wailing needs must be When Love His name shall disavow, When christen'd men His wrath shall dree, Who mercy scorn'd in this their day; But what? He turns not yet away, Not yet—not now.
Let me not, waken'd after sleep, Behold a Judge with lowering brow, The world must weep, and I must weep Those sins that nail'd Thee on the tree, Lord Jesu, of Thy clemency. Let it be NOW.
Let us have weeping NOW for sin, And not us only; let Thy tears Avail the tears of many to win; Weep with us, Jesu, kind art Thou; We that have sinn'd many long years, Let us weep NOW;
And then, waked up, behold Thy face, Who did forgive us. See Thy brow— Beautiful—learn Thy love and grace. Then wilt Thou wipe away our tears, And comfort in th' all-hallow'd spheres, Them that weep now.
JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD.
"Art Thou He that should come?"
Jesus, the Lamb of God, gone forth to heal and bless. Calm lie the desert pools in a fair wilderness; Wind-shaken moves the reed, so moves His voice the soul, Sick folk surprised of joy, wax when they hear it, whole.
Calm all His mastering might, calm smiles the desert waste; Peace, peace, He shall not cry, nay, He shall not make haste; Heaven gazes, hell beneath moved for Him, moans and stirs— Lo, John lies fast in prison, sick for his messengers.
John, the forerunner, John, the desert's tameless son, Cast into loathed thrall, his use and mission done; John from his darkness sends a cry, but not a plea; Not, "Hast Thou felt my need?" but only, "Art Thou He?"
Unspoken pines his hope, grown weak in lingering dole; None know what pang that hour might pierce the Healer's soul; Silence that faints to Him—but must e'en so be vain; A word—the fetters fall—He will that word restrain.
Jesus, the Father's son, bound in a mighty plan, Retired full oft in God, show'd not His mind to man; Nor their great matters high His human lips confess; He will His wonders work, and not make plain, but bless.
The bournes of His wide way kept secret from all thought, Enring'd the outmost waste that evil power had wrought; His measure none can take, His strife we are not shown, Nor if He gathered then more sheaves than earth hath grown.
"John, from the Christ of God, an answer for all time," The proof of Sonship given in characters sublime; Sad hope will He make firm, and fainting faith restore, But yet with mortal eyes will see His face no more.
He bow'd His sacred head to exigence austere, Unknown to us and dark, first piercings of the spear: And to each martyr since 'tis even as if He said, "Verily I am He—I live, and I was dead.
"The All-wise found a way—a dark way—dread, unknown; I chose it, will'd it Mine, seal'd for My feet alone; Thou canst not therein walk, yet thou hast part in Me, I will not break thy bonds, but I am bound with thee.
"With thee and for thee bound, with thee and for thee given, A mystery seal'd from hell, and wonder'd at in heaven; I send thee rest at heart to love, and still believe; But not for thee—nor Me—is found from death reprieve."
THOU HAST BEEN ALWAY GOOD TO ME.
"He doeth all things well."
Thou hast been alway good to me and mine Since our first father by transgression fell. Through all Thy sorest judgments love doth shine— Lord, of a truth, Thou doest all things well.
Thou didst the food of immortality Compass with flame, lest he thereto should win. But what? his doom, yet eating of that tree, Had been immortal life of shame and sin!
I would not last immortal in such wise; Desired death, not life, is now my song. Through death shall I go back to Paradise, And sin no more—Sweet death, tarry not long!
One did prevail that closed gate to unseal, Where yet th' immortalizing tree doth grow; He shall there meet us, and once more reveal The fruit of life, where crime is not, nor woe.
THOU THAT SLEEPEST NOT AFRAID.
"Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
Thou that sleepest not afraid, Men and angels thee upbraid; Rise, cry, cry to God aloud, Ere the swift hours weave thy shroud: O, for Jesus' sake, Wake!
Thee full ill doth it beseem Through the dark to drowse and dream; In the dead-time of the night Here is One can give thee light: O, for Jesus' sake, Wake!
The year passeth—it and all God shall take and shall let fall Soon, into the whelming sea Of His wide eternity: O, for Jesus' sake, Wake!
Noiseless as the flakes of snow The last moments falter and go; The time-angel sent this way Sweeps them like a drift away: O, for Jesus' sake, Wake!
Loved and watch'd of heaven, for whom The crowned Saviour there makes room, Sleeper, hark! He calls thee, rise, Lift thy head, and raise thine eyes! Now, for Jesus' sake, Wake!
NOW WINTER PAST, THE WHITE-THORN BOWER.
"Thy gentleness hath made me great."
Now winter past, the white-thorn bower Breaks forth and buds down all the glen; Now spreads the leaf and grows the flower: So grows the life of God, in men.
Oh, my child-God, most gentle King, To me Thy waxing glory show; Wake in my heart as wakes the spring, Grow as the leaf and lily grow.
I was a child, when Thou a child Didst make Thyself again to me; And holy, harmless, undefiled, Play'd at Thy mother Mary's knee.
Thou gav'st Thy pure example so, The copy in my childish breast Was a child's copy. I did know God, made in childhood manifest.
Now I am grown, and Thou art grown The God-man, strong to love, to will, Who was alone, yet not alone, Held in His Father's presence still.
Now do I know Thee for my cure, My peace, the Absolver for me set; Thy goings pass through deeps obscure, But Thou with me art gentle yet.
Long-suffering Lord, to man reveal'd As One that e'en the child doth wait, Thy full salvation is my shield, Thy gentleness hath made me great.
SUCH AS HAVE NOT GOLD TO BRING THEE.
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house."
Such as have not gold to bring Thee, They bring thanks—Thy grateful sons; Such as have no song to sing Thee, Live Thee praise—Thy silent ones.
Such as have their unknown dwelling, Secret from Thy children here, Known of Thee, will Thee be telling How Thy ways with them are dear.
None the place ordained refuseth, They are one, and they are all Living stones, the Builder chooseth For the courses of His wall.
Now Thy work by us fulfilling, Build us in Thy house divine; Each one cries, "I, Lord, am willing, Whatsoever place be mine."
Some, of every eye beholden, Hewn to fitness for the height, By Thy hand to beauty moulden, Show Thy workmanship in light.
Other, Thou dost bless with station Dark, and of the foot downtrod, Sink them deep in the foundation— Buried, hid with Christ in God.
A MORN OF GUILT, AN HOUR OF DOOM.
"There was darkness."
A Morn of guilt, an hour of doom— Shocks and tremblings dread; All the city sunk in gloom— Thick darkness overhead. An awful Sufferer straight and stark; Mocking voices fell; Tremblings—tremblings in the dark, In heaven, and earth, and hell.
Groping, stumbling up the way, They pass, whom Christ forgave; They know not what they do—they say, "Himself He cannot save. On His head behold the crown That alien hands did weave; Let Him come down, let Him come down, And we will believe!"
Fearsome dreams, a rending veil, Cloven rocks down hurl'd; God's love itself doth seem to fail The Saviour of the world. Dying thieves do curse and wail, Either side is scorn; Lo! He hangs while some cry "Hail!" Of heaven and earth forlorn.
Still o'er His passion darkness lowers, He nears the deathly goal; But He shall see in His last hours Of the travail of His soul; Lo, a cry!—the firstfruits given On the accursed tree— "Dying Love of God in heaven, Lord, remember me!"
By His sacrifice, foreknown Long ages ere that day, And by God's sparing of His own Our debt of death to pay; By the Comforter's consent, With ardent flames bestow'd, In this dear race when Jesus went To make His mean abode—
By the pangs God look'd not on, And the world dared not see; By all redeeming wonders won Through that dread mystery;— Lord, receive once more the sigh From the accursed tree— "Sacred Love of God most high, O remember me!"
MARY OF MAGDALA.
"While it was yet dark."
Mary of Magdala, when the moon had set, Forth to the garden that was with night dews wet, Fared in the dark—woe-wan and bent was she, 'Neath many pounds' weight of fragrant spicery.
Mary of Magdala, in her misery, "Who shall roll the stone up from yon door?" quoth she; And trembling down the steep she went, and wept sore, Because her dearest Lord was, alas! no more.
Her burden she let fall, lo! the stone was gone; Light was there within, out to the dark it shone; With an angel's face the dread tomb was bright, The which she beholding fell for sore affright.
Mary of Magdala, in her misery, Heard the white vision speak, and did straightway flee; And an idle tale seem'd the wild words she said, And nought her heart received—nought was comforted.
"Nay," quoth the men He loved, when they came to see, "Our eyes beheld His death, the Saint of Galilee; Who have borne Him hence truly we cannot say;" Secretly in fear, they turn'd and went their way.
Mary of Magdala, in her misery, Follow'd to the tomb, and wept full bitterly, Linger'd in the dark, where first the Lord was laid; The white one spake again, she was no more afraid.
In a moment—dawn! solemn, and sweet, and clear, Kneeling, yet she weeps, and some one stands anear; Asketh of her grief—she, all her thoughts are dim, "If thou hast borne Him hence, tell me," doth answer Him.
"Mary," He saith, no more, shades of night have fled Under dewy leaves, behold Him!—death is dead; "Mary," and "O my Master," sorrow speeds away, Sunbeams touch His feet this earliest Easter day.
After the pains of death, in a place unknown, Trembling, of visions haunted, and all alone, I too shall want Thee, Jesus, my hope, my trust, Fall'n low, and all unclothed, even of my poor dust.
I, too, shall hear Thee speak, Jesus, my life divine; And call me by my name, Lord, for I am Thine; Thou wilt stand and wait, I shall so look and SEE, In the garden of God, I SHALL look up—on THEE.
WOULD I, TO SAVE MY DEAR CHILD?
"Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself."
Would I, to save my dear child dutiful, Dare the white breakers on a storm-rent shore? Ay, truly, Thou all good, all beautiful, Truly I would,—then truly Thou would'st more.
Would I for my poor son, who desolate After long sinning, sued without my door For pardon, open it? Ay, fortunate To hear such prayer, I would,—Lord, Thou would'st more.
Would I for e'en the stranger's weariness And want divide, albeit 'twere scant, my store? Ay, and mine enemy, sick, shelterless, Dying, I would attend,—O, Lord, Thou more.
In dust and ashes my long infamy Of unbelief I rue. My love before Thy love I set: my heart's discovery, Is sweet,—whate'er I would, Thou wouldest more.
I was Thy shelterless, sick enemy, And Thou didst die for me, yet heretofore I have fear'd; now learn I love's supremacy,— Whate'er is known of love, Thou lovest more.
AT ONE AGAIN.
Two angry men—in heat they sever, And one goes home by a harvest field:— "Hope's nought," quoth he, "and vain endeavor; I said and say it, I will not yield!
"As for this wrong, no art can mend it, The bond is shiver'd that held us twain; Old friends we be, but law must end it, Whether for loss or whether for gain.
"Yon stream is small—full slow its wending; But winning is sweet, but right is fine; And shoal of trout, or willowy bending— Though Law be costly—I'll prove them mine.
"His strawberry cow slipped loose her tether, And trod the best of my barley down; His little lasses at play together Pluck'd the poppies my boys had grown.
"What then?—Why naught! She lack'd of reason; And they—my little ones match them well:— But this—Nay all things have their season, And 'tis my season to curb and quell."
So saith he, when noontide fervors flout him, So thinks, when the West is amber and red, When he smells the hop-vines sweet about him, And the clouds are rosy overhead.
While slender and tall the hop-poles going Straight to the West in their leafy lines, Portion it out into chambers, glowing, And bask in red day as the sun declines.
Between the leaves in his latticed arbor He sees the sky, as they flutter and turn, While moor'd like boats in a golden harbor The fleets of feathery cloudlets burn.
Withdrawn in shadow, he thinketh over Harsh thoughts, the fruit-laden trees among, Till pheasants call their young to cover, And cushats coo them a nursery song.
And flocks of ducks forsake their sedges, Wending home to the wide barn-door, And loaded wains between the hedges Slowly creep to his threshing floor—
Slowly creep. And his tired senses, Float him over the magic stream, To a world where Fancy recompenses Vengeful thoughts, with a troubled dream!
III. THE DREAM.
What's this? a wood—What's that? one calleth, Calleth and cryeth in mortal dread— He hears men strive—then somewhat falleth!— "Help me, neighbor—I'm hard bestead."
The dream is strong—the voice he knoweth— But when he would run, his feet are fast, And death lies beyond, and no man goeth To help, and he says the time is past.
His feet are held, and he shakes all over,— Nay—they are free—he has found the place— Green boughs are gather'd—what is't they cover?— "I pray you, look on the dead man's face;
"You that stand by," he saith, and cowers— "Man, or Angel, to guard the dead With shadowy spear, and a brow that lowers, And wing-points reared in the gloom o'erhead.—
"I dare not look. He wronged me never. Men say we differ'd; they speak amiss: This man and I were neighbors ever— I would have ventured my life for his.
"But fast my feet were—fast with tangles— Ay! words—but they were not sharp, I trow, Though parish feuds and vestry wrangles— O pitiful sight—I see thee now!—
"If we fell out, 'twas but foul weather, After long shining! O bitter cup,— What—dead?—why, man, we play'd together— Art dead—ere a friend can make it up?"
IV. THE WAKING.
Over his head the chafer hummeth, Under his feet shut daisies bend: Waken, man! the enemy cometh, Thy neighbor, counted so long a friend.
He cannot waken—and firm, and steady, The enemy comes with lowering brow; He looks for war, his heart is ready, His thoughts are bitter—he will not bow.
He fronts the seat,—the dream is flinging A spell that his footsteps may not break,— But one in the garden of hops is singing— The dreamer hears it, and starts awake.
V. A SONG.
Walking apart, she thinks none listen; And now she carols, and now she stops; And the evening star begins to glisten Atween the lines of blossoming hops.
Sweetest Mercy, your mother taught you All uses and cares that to maids belong; Apt scholar to read and to sew she thought you— She did not teach you that tender song—
"The lady sang in her charmed bower, Sheltered and safe under roses blown— '_Storm cannot touch me, hail, nor shower, Where all alone I sit, all alone.
"My bower! The fair Fay twined it round me, Care nor trouble can pierce it through; But once a sigh from the warm world found me Between two leaves that were bent with dew.
"And day to night, and night to morrow, Though soft as slumber the long hours wore, I looked for my dower of love, of sorrow— Is there no more—no more—no more?_'
"Give her the sun-sweet light, and duly To walk in shadow, nor chide her part; Give her the rose, and truly, truly— To wear its thorn with a patient heart—
"Misty as dreams the moonbeam lyeth Chequered and faint on her charmed floor; The lady singeth, the lady sigheth— '_Is there no more_—no more—no more!_'"
A crash of boughs!—one through them breaking! Mercy is startled, and fain would fly, But e'en as she turns, her steps o'ertaking, He pleads with her—"Mercy, it is but I!"
"Mercy!" he touches her hand unbidden— "The air is balmy, I pray you stay— Mercy?" Her downcast eyes are hidden, And never a word she has to say.
Till closer drawn, her prison'd fingers He takes to his lips with a yearning strong; And she murmurs low, that late she lingers, Her mother will want her, and think her long.
"Good mother is she, then honor duly The lightest wish in her heart that stirs; But there is a bond yet dearer truly, And there is a love that passeth hers.
"Mercy, Mercy!" Her heart attendeth— Love's birthday blush on her brow lies sweet; She turns her face when his own he bendeth, And the lips of the youth and the maiden meet.
Move through the bowering hops, O lovers,— Wander down to the golden West,— But two stand mute in the shade that covers Your love and youth from their souls opprest.
A little shame on their spirits stealing,— A little pride that is loth to sue,— A little struggle with soften'd feeling,— And a world of fatherly care for you.
One says: "To this same running water, May be, Neighbor, your claim is best." And one—"Your son has kissed my daughter: Let the matters between us—rest."
O fancy, if thou flyest, come back anon, Thy fluttering wings are soft as love's first word, And fragrant as the feathers of that bird, Which feeds upon the budded cinnamon. I ask thee not to work, or sigh—play on, From nought that was not, was, or is, deterred; The flax that Old Fate spun thy flights have stirred, And waved memorial grass of Marathon. Play, but be gentle, not as on that day I saw thee running down the rims of doom With stars thou hadst been stealing—while they lay Smothered in light and blue—clasped to thy breast; Bring rather to me in the firelit room A netted halcyon bird to sing of rest.
One launched a ship, but she was wrecked at sea; He built a bridge, but floods have borne it down; He meant much good, none came: strange destiny, His corn lies sunk, his bridge bears none to town, Yet good he had not meant became his crown; For once at work, when even as nature free, From thought of good he was, or of renown, God took the work for good and let good be. So wakened with a trembling after sleep, Dread Mona Roa yields her fateful store; All gleaming hot the scarlet rivers creep, And fanned of great-leaved palms slip to the shore, Then stolen to unplumbed wastes of that far deep, Lay the foundations for one island more.
Mountains of sorrow, I have heard your moans, And the moving of your pines; but we sit high On your green shoulders, nearer stoops the sky, And pure airs visit us from all the zones. Sweet world beneath, too happy far to sigh, Dost thou look thus beheld from heavenly thrones? No; not for all the love that counts thy stones, While sleepy with great light the valleys lie. Strange, rapturous peace! its sunshine doth enfold My heart; I have escaped to the days divine, It seemeth as bygone ages back had rolled, And all the eldest past was now, was mine; Nay, even as if Melchizedec of old Might here come forth to us with bread and wine.
Like coral insects multitudinous The minutes are whereof our life is made. They build it up as in the deep's blue shade It grows, it comes to light, and then, and thus For both there is an end. The populous Sea-blossoms close, our minutes that have paid Life's debt of work are spent; the work is laid Before our feet that shall come after us. We may not stay to watch if it will speed, The bard if on some luter's string his song Live sweetly yet; the hero if his star Doth shine. Work is its own best earthly meed, Else have we none more than the sea-born throng Who wrought those marvellous isles that bloom afar.
When I reflect how little I have done, And add to that how little I have seen, Then furthermore how little I have won Of joy, or good, how little known, or been: I long for other life more full, more keen, And yearn to change with such as well have run— Yet reason mocks me—nay, the soul, I ween, Granted her choice would dare to change with none; No,—not to feel, as Blondel when his lay Pierced the strong tower, and Richard answered it— No,—not to do, as Eustace on the day He left fair Calais to her weeping lit— No,—not to be, Columbus, waked from sleep When his new world rose from the charmed deep.
Strange was the doom of Heracles, whose shade Had dwelling in dim Hades the unblest, While yet his form and presence sat a guest With the old immortals when the feast was made. Thine like, thus differs; form and presence laid In this dim chamber of enforced rest, It is the unseen "shade" which, risen, hath pressed Above all heights where feet Olympian strayed. My soul admires to hear thee speak; thy thought Falls from a high place like an August star, Or some great eagle from his air-hung rings— When swooping past a snow-cold mountain scar— Down he steep slope of a long sunbeam brought, He stirs the wheat with the steerage of his wings.
ON THE BORDERS OF CANNOCK CHASE.
A cottager leaned whispering by her hives, Telling the bees some news, as they lit down, And entered one by one their waxen town. Larks passioning hung o'er their brooding wives, And all the sunny hills where heather thrives Lay satisfied with peace. A stately crown Of trees enringed the upper headland brown, And reedy pools, wherein the moor-hen dives, Glittered and gleamed. A resting-place for light, They that were bred here love it; but they say, "We shall not have it long; in three years' time A hundred pits will cast out fires by night, Down yon still glen their smoke shall trail its way, And the white ash lie thick in lieu of rime."
AN ANCIENT CHESS KING.
Haply some Rajah first in the ages gone Amid his languid ladies fingered thee, While a black nightingale, sun-swart as he, Sang his one wife, love's passionate oraison; Haply thou may'st have pleased Old Prester John Among his pastures, when full royally He sat in tent, grave shepherds at his knee, While lamps of balsam winked and glimmered on. What doest thou here? Thy masters are all dead; My heart is full of ruth and yearning pain At sight of thee; O king that hast a crown Outlasting theirs, and tell'st of greatness fled Through cloud-hung nights of unabated rain And murmurs of the dark majestic town.
COMFORT IN THE NIGHT.
She thought by heaven's high wall that she did stray Till she beheld the everlasting gate: And she climbed up to it to long, and wait, Feel with her hands (for it was night), and lay Her lips to it with kisses; thus to pray That it might open to her desolate. And lo! it trembled, lo! her passionate Crying prevailed. A little little way It opened: there fell out a thread of light, And she saw winged wonders move within; Also she heard sweet talking as they meant To comfort her. They said, "Who comes to-night Shall one day certainly an entrance win;" Then the gate closed and she awoke content.
THOUGH ALL GREAT DEEDS.
Though all great deeds were proved but fables fine, Though earth's old story could be told anew, Though the sweet fashions loved of them that sue Were empty as the ruined Delphian shrine— Though God did never man, in words benign, With sense of His great Fatherhood endue, Though life immortal were a dream untrue, And He that promised it were not divine— Though soul, though spirit were not, and all hope Reaching beyond the bourne, melted away; Though virtue had no goal and good no scope, But both were doomed to end with this our clay— Though all these were not,—to the ungraced heir Would this remain,—to live, as though they were.
A SNOW MOUNTAIN.
Can I make white enough my thought for thee, Or wash my words in light? Thou hast no mate To sit aloft in the silence silently And twin those matchless heights undesecrate. Reverend as Lear, when, lorn of shelter, he Stood, with his old white head, surprised at fate; Alone as Galileo, when, set free, Before the stars he mused disconsolate.
Ay, and remote, as the dead lords of song, Great masters who have made us what we are, For thou and they have taught us how to long And feel a sacred want of the fair and far: Reign, and keep life in this our deep desire— Our only greatness is that we aspire.
(A WOMAN SPEAKS.)
O sleep, we are beholden to thee, sleep, Thou bearest angels to us in the night, Saints out of heaven with palms. Seen by thy light Sorrow is some old tale that goeth not deep; Love is a pouting child. Once I did sweep Through space with thee, and lo, a dazzling sight— Stars! They came on, I felt their drawing and might; And some had dark companions. Once (I weep When I remember that) we sailed the tide, And found fair isles, where no isles used to bide, And met there my lost love, who said to me, That 'twas a long mistake: he had not died. Sleep, in the world to come how strange 'twill be Never to want, never to wish for thee!
(A MAN SPEAKS.)
Once, a new world, the sunswart marinere, Columbus, promised, and was sore withstood, Ungraced, unhelped, unheard for many a year; But let at last to make his promise good. Promised and promising I go, most dear, To better my dull heart with love's sweet feud, My life with its most reverent hope and fear, And my religion, with fair gratitude. O we must part; the stars for me contend, And all the winds that blow on all the seas. Through wonderful waste places I must wend, And with a promise my sad soul appease. Promise then, promise much of far-off bliss; But—ah, for present joy, give me one kiss.
Who veileth love should first have vanquished fate. She folded up the dream in her deep heart, Her fair full lips were silent on that smart, Thick fringed eyes did on the grasses wait. What good? one eloquent blush, but one, and straight The meaning of a life was known; for art Is often foiled in playing nature's part, And time holds nothing long inviolate. Earth's buried seed springs up—slowly, or fast: The ring came home, that one in ages past Flung to the keeping of unfathomed seas: And golden apples on the mystic trees Were sought and found, and borne away at last, Though watched of the divine Hesperides.
We are much bound to them that do succeed; But, in a more pathetic sense, are bound To such as fail. They all our loss expound; They comfort us for work that will not speed, And life—itself a failure. Ay, his deed, Sweetest in story, who the dusk profound Of Hades flooded with entrancing sound, Music's own tears, was failure. Doth it read Therefore the worse? Ah, no! so much, to dare, He fronts the regnant Darkness on its throne.— So much to do; impetuous even there, He pours out love's disconsolate sweet moan— He wins; but few for that his deed recall: Its power is in the look which costs him all.
A BIRTHDAY WALK.
(WRITTEN FOR A FRIEND'S BIRTHDAY.)
"The days of our life are threescore years and ten."
A birthday:—and a day that rose With much of hope, with meaning rife— A thoughtful day from dawn to close: The middle day of human life.
In sloping fields on narrow plains, The sheep were feeding on their knees As we went through the winding lanes, Strewed with red buds of alder-trees.
So warm the day—its influence lent To flagging thought a stronger wing; So utterly was winter spent, So sudden was the birth of spring.
Wild crocus flowers in copse and hedge— In sunlight, clustering thick below, Sighed for the firwood's shaded ledge, Where sparkled yet a line of snow.
And crowded snowdrops faintly hung Their fair heads lower for the heat, While in still air all branches flung Their shadowy doubles at our feet.
And through the hedge the sunbeams crept, Dropped through the maple and the birch; And lost in airy distance slept On the broad tower of Tamworth Church.
Then, lingering on the downward way, A little space we resting stood, To watch the golden haze that lay Adown that river by the wood.
A distance vague, the bloom of sleep The constant sun had lent the scene, A veiling charm on dingles deep Lay soft those pastoral hills between.
There are some days that die not out, Nor alter by reflection's power, Whose converse calm, whose words devout, For ever rest, the spirit's dower.
And they are days when drops a veil— A mist upon the distance past; And while we say to peace—"All hail!" We hope that always it shall last.
Times when the troubles of the heart Are hushed—as winds were hushed that day— And budding hopes begin to start, Like those green hedgerows on our way:
When all within and all around Like hues on that sweet landscape blend, And Nature's hand has made to sound The heartstrings that her touch attend:
When there are rays within, like those That streamed through maple and through birch, And rested in such calm repose On the broad tower of Tamworth Church.
NOT IN VAIN I WAITED.
She was but a child, a child, And I a man grown; Sweet she was, and fresh, and wild, And, I thought, my own. What could I do? The long grass groweth, The long wave floweth with a murmur on: The why and the wherefore of it all who knoweth? Ere I thought to lose her she was grown—and gone. This day or that day in warm spring weather. The lamb that was tame will yearn to break its tether. "But if the world wound thee," I said, "come back to me, Down in the dell wishing—wishing, wishing for thee."
The dews hang on the white may, Like a ghost it stands, All in the dusk before day That folds the dim lands:
Dark fell the skies when once belated, Sad, and sorrow-fated, I missed the sun; But wake, heart, and sing, for not in vain I waited. O clear, O solemn dawning, lo, the maid is won! Sweet dews, dry early on the grass and clover, Lest the bride wet her feet while she walks over; Shine to-day, sunbeams, and make all fair to see: Down the dell she's coming—coming, coming with me.
A GLEANING SONG.
"Whither away, thou little eyeless rover? (Kind Roger's true) Whither away across yon bents and clover, Wet, wet with dew?" "Roger here, Roger there— Roger—O, he sighed, Yet let me glean among the wheat, Nor sit kind Roger's bride."
"What wilt thou do when all the gleaning's ended, What wilt thou do? The cold will come, and fog and frost-work blended (Kind Roger's true)." "Sleet and rain, cloud and storm, When they cease to frown I'll bind me primrose bunches sweet, And cry them up the town."
"What if at last thy careless heart awaking This day thou rue?" "I'll cry my flowers, and think for all its breaking, Kind Roger's true; Roger here, Roger there, O, my true love sighed, Sigh once, once more, I'll stay my feet And rest kind Roger's bride."
WITH A DIAMOND.
While Time a grim old lion gnawing lay, And mumbled with his teeth yon regal tomb, Like some immortal tear undimmed for aye, This gem was dropped among the dust of doom.
Dropped, haply, by a sad, forgotten queen, A tear to outlast name, and fame, and tongue: Her other tears, and ours, all tears terrene, For great new griefs to be hereafter sung.
Take it,—a goddess might have wept such tears, Or Dame Electra changed into a star, That waxed so dim because her children's years In leaguered Troy were bitter through long war.
Not till the end to end grow dull or waste,— Ah, what a little while the light we share! Hand after hand shall yet with this be graced, Signing the Will that leaves it to an heir.
Come away, the clouds are high, Put the flashing needles by. Many days are not to spare, Or to waste, my fairest fair! All is ready. Come to-day, For the nightingale her lay, When she findeth that the whole Of her love, and all her soul, Cannot forth of her sweet throat, Sobs the while she draws her breath, And the bravery of her note In a few days altereth.
Come, ere she despond, and see In a silent ecstasy Chestnuts heave for hours and hours All the glory of their flowers To the melting blue above, That broods over them like love. Leave the garden walls, where blow Apple-blossoms pink, and low Ordered beds of tulips fine. Seek the blossoms made divine With a scent that is their soul. These are soulless. Bring the white Of thy gown to bathe in light Walls for narrow hearts. The whole Earth is found, and air and sea, Not too wide for thee and me.
Not too wide, and yet thy face Gives the meaning of all space; And thine eyes, with starbeams fraught, Hold the measure of all thought; For of them my soul besought, And was shown a glimpse of thine— A veiled vestal, with divine Solace, in sweet love's despair, For that life is brief as fair. Who hath most, he yearneth most, Sure, as seldom heretofore, Somewhere of the gracious more. Deepest joy the least shall boast, Asking with new-opened eyes The remainder; that which lies O, so fair! but not all conned— O, so near! and yet beyond.
Come, and in the woodland sit, Seem a wonted part of it. Then, while moves the delicate air, And the glories of thy hair Little flickering sun-rays strike, Let me see what thou art like; For great love enthralls me so, That, in sooth, I scarcely know. Show me, in a house all green, Save for long gold wedges' sheen, Where the flies, white sparks of fire, Dart and hover and aspire, And the leaves, air-stirred on high, Feel such joy they needs must sigh, And the untracked grass makes sweet All fair flowers to touch thy feet, And the bees about them hum. All the world is waiting. Come!
A WINTER SONG.
Came the dread Archer up yonder lawn— Night is the time for the old to die— But woe for an arrow that smote the fawn, When the hind that was sick unscathed went by.
Father lay moaning, "Her fault was sore (Night is the time when the old must die), Yet, ah to bless her, my child, once more, For heart is failing: the end is nigh."
"Daughter, my daughter, my girl," I cried (Night is the time for the old to die), "Woe for the wish if till morn ye bide"— Dark was the welkin and wild the sky.
Heavily plunged from the roof the snow— (Night is the time when the old will die), She answered, "My mother, 'tis well, I go." Sparkled the north star, the wrack flew high.
First at his head, and last at his feet (Night is the time when the old should die), Kneeling I watched till his soul did fleet, None else that loved him, none else were nigh.
I wept in the night as the desolate weep (Night is the time for the old to die), Cometh my daughter? the drifts are deep, Across the cold hollows how white they lie.
I sought her afar through the spectral trees (Night is the time when the old must die), The fells were all muffled, the floods did freeze, And a wrathful moon hung red in the sky.
By night I found her where pent waves steal (Night is the time when the old should die), But she lay stiff by the locked mill-wheel, And the old stars lived in their homes on high.
Hark! a lover binding sheaves To his maiden sings, Flutter, flutter go the leaves, Larks drop their wings. Little brooks for all their mirth Are not blythe as he. "Give me what the love is worth That I give thee.
"Speech that cannot be forborne Tells the story through: I sowed my love in with the corn, And they both grew. Count the world full wide of girth, And hived honey sweet, But count the love of more worth Laid at thy feet.
"Money's worth is house and land, Velvet coat and vest. Work's worth is bread in hand, Ay, and sweet rest. Wilt thou learn what love is worth? Ah! she sits above, Sighing, 'Weigh me not with earth, Love's worth is love.'"
THE MARINER'S CAVE.
Once on a time there walked a mariner, That had been shipwrecked;—on a lonely shore, And the green water made a restless stir, And a great flock of mews sped on before. He had nor food nor shelter, for the tide Rose on the one, and cliffs on the other side.
Brown cliffs they were; they seemed to pierce the sky, That was an awful deep of empty blue, Save that the wind was in it, and on high A wavering skein of wild-fowl tracked it through. He marked them not, but went with movement slow, Because his thoughts were sad, his courage low.
His heart was numb, he neither wept nor sighed, But wearifully lingered by the wave; Until at length it chanced that he espied, Far up, an opening in the cliff, a cave, A shelter where to sleep in his distress, And lose his sorrow in forgetfulness.
With that he clambered up the rugged face Of that steep cliff that all in shadow lay, And, lo, there was a dry and homelike place, Comforting refuge for the castaway; And he laid down his weary, weary head, And took his fill of sleep till dawn waxed red.
When he awoke, warm stirring from the south Of delicate summer air did sough and flow; He rose, and, wending to the cavern's mouth, He cast his eyes a little way below Where on the narrow ledges, sharp and rude, Preening their wings the blue rock-pigeons cooed.
Then he looked lower and saw the lavender And sea-thrift blooming in long crevices, And the brown wallflower—April's messenger, The wallflower marshalled in her companies. Then lower yet he looked adown the steep, And sheer beneath him lapped the lovely deep.
The laughing deep;—and it was pacified As if it had not raged that other day. And it went murmuring in the morningtide Innumerable flatteries on its way, Kissing the cliffs and whispering at their feet With exquisite advancement, and retreat.
This when the mariner beheld he sighed, And thought on his companions lying low. But while he gazed with eyes unsatisfied On the fair reaches of their overthow, Thinking it strange he only lived of all, But not returning thanks, he heard a call!
A soft sweet call, a voice of tender ruth, He thought it came from out the cave. And, lo, It whispered, "Man, look up!" But he, forsooth, Answered, "I cannot, for the long waves flow Across my gallant ship where sunk she lies With all my riches and my merchandise.
"Moreover, I am heavy for the fate Of these my mariners drowned in the deep; I must lament me for their sad estate Now they are gathered in their last long sleep. O! the unpitying heavens upon me frown, Then how should I look up?—I must look down."
And he stood yet watching the fair green sea Till hunger reached him; then he made a fire, A driftwood fire, and wandered listlessly And gathered many eggs at his desire, And dressed them for his meal, and then he lay And slept, and woke upon the second day.
Whenas he said, "The cave shall be my home; None will molest me, for the brown cliffs rise Like castles of defence behind,—the foam Of the remorseless sea beneath me lies; 'Tis easy from the cliff my food to win— The nations of the rock-dove breed therein.
"For fuel, at the ebb yon fair expanse Is strewed with driftwood by the breaking wave, And in the sea is fish for sustenance. I will build up the entrance of the cave, And leave therein a window and a door, And here will dwell and leave it nevermore."
Then even so he did: and when his task, Many long days being over, was complete, When he had eaten, as he sat to bask In the red firelight glowing at his feet, He was right glad of shelter, and he said, "Now for my comrades am I comforted."
Then did the voice awake and speak again; It murmured, "Man, look up!" But he replied, "I cannot. O, mine eyes, mine eyes are fain Down on the red wood-ashes to abide Because they warm me." Then the voice was still, And left the lonely mariner to his will.
And soon it came to pass that he got gain. He had great flocks of pigeons which he fed, And drew great store of fish from out the main, And down from eiderducks; and then he said, "It is not good that I should lead my life In silence, I will take to me a wife."
He took a wife, and brought her home to him; And he was good to her and cherished her So that she loved him; then when light waxed dim Gloom came no more; and she would minister To all his wants; while he, being well content, Counted her company right excellent.
But once as on the lintel of the door She leaned to watch him while he put to sea, This happy wife, down-gazing at the shore, Said sweetly, "It is better now with me Than it was lately when I used to spin In my old father's house beside the lin."
And then the soft voice of the cave awoke— The soft voice which had haunted it erewhile— And gently to the wife it also spoke, "Woman, look up!" But she, with tender guile, Gave it denial, answering, "Nay, not so, For all that I should look on lieth below.
"The great sky overhead is not so good For my two eyes as yonder stainless sea, The source and yielder of our livelihood, Where rocks his little boat that loveth me." This when the wife had said she moved away, And looked no higher than the wave all day.
Now when the year ran out a child she bore, And there was such rejoicing in the cave As surely never had there been before Since God first made it. Then full, sweet, and grave, The voice, "God's utmost blessing brims thy cup, O, father of this child, look up, look up!"
"Speak to my wife," the mariner replied. "I have much work—right welcome work 'tis true— Another mouth to feed." And then it sighed, "Woman, look up!" She said, "Make no ado, For I must needs look down, on anywise, My heaven is in the blue of these dear eyes."
The seasons of the year did swiftly whirl, They measured time by one small life alone; On such a day the pretty pushing pearl, That mouth they loved to kiss had sweetly shown, That smiling mouth, and it had made essay To give them names on such another day.
And afterward his infant history, Whether he played with baubles on the floor, Or crept to pat the rock-doves pecking nigh, And feeding on the threshold of the door, They loved to mark, and all his marvellings dim, The mysteries that beguiled and baffled him.
He was so sweet, that oft his mother said, "O, child, how was it that I dwelt content Before thou camest? Blessings on thy head, Thy pretty talk it is so innocent, That oft for all my joy, though it be deep, When thou art prattling, I am like to weep."
Summer and winter spent themselves again, The rock-doves in their season bred, the cliff Grew sweet, for every cleft would entertain Its tuft of blossom, and the mariner's skiff, Early and late, would linger in the bay, Because the sea was calm and winds away.
The little child about that rocky height, Led by her loving hand who gave him birth, Might wander in the clear unclouded light, And take his pastime in the beauteous earth; Smell the fair flowers in stony cradles swung, And see God's happy creatures feed their young.
And once it came to pass, at eventide, His mother set him in the cavern door, And filled his lap with grain, and stood aside To watch the circling rock-doves soar, and soar, Then dip, alight, and run in circling bands, To take the barley from his open hands.
And even while she stood and gazed at him, And his grave father's eyes upon him dwelt, They heard the tender voice, and it was dim, And seemed full softly in the air to melt; "Father," it murmured, "Mother," dying away, "Look up, while yet the hours are called to-day."
"I will," the father answered, "but not now;" The mother said, "Sweet voice, O speak to me At a convenient season." And the brow Of the cliff began to quake right fearfully, There was a rending crash, and there did leap A riven rock and plunge into the deep.
They said, "A storm is coming;" but they slept That night in peace, and thought the storm had passed, For there was not a cloud to intercept The sacred moonlight on the cradle cast; And to his rocking boat at dawn of day, With joy of heart the mariner took his way.
But when he mounted up the path at night, Foreboding not of trouble or mischance, His wife came out into the fading light, And met him with a serious countenance; And she broke out in tears and sobbings thick, "The child is sick, my little child is sick."
They knelt beside him in the sultry dark, And when the moon looked in his face was pale, And when the red sun, like a burning barque, Rose in a fog at sea, his tender wail Sank deep into their hearts, and piteously They fell to chiding of their destiny.
The doves unheeded cooed that livelong day, Their pretty playmate cared for them no more; The sea-thrift nodded, wet with glistening spray, None gathered it; the long wave washed the shore; He did not know, nor lift his eyes to trace, The new fallen shadow in his dwelling-place.
The sultry sun beat on the cliffs all day, And hot calm airs slept on the polished sea, The mournful mother wore her time away, Bemoaning of her helpless misery, Pleading and plaining, till the day was done, "O look on me, my love, my little one.
"What aileth thee, that thou dost lie and moan? Ah would that I might bear it in thy stead!" The father made not his forebodings known, But gazed, and in his secret soul he said, "I may have sinned, on sin waits punishment, But as for him, sweet blameless innocent,
"What has he done that he is stricken down? O it is hard to see him sink and fade, When I, that counted him my dear life's crown, So willingly have worked while he has played; That he might sleep, have risen, come storm, come heat, And thankfully would fast that he might eat."
My God, how short our happy days appear! How long the sorrowful! They thought it long, The sultry morn that brought such evil cheer, And sat, and wished, and sighed for evensong; It came, and cooling wafts about him stirred, Yet when they spoke he answered not a word.
"Take heart," they cried, but their sad hearts sank low When he would moan and turn his restless head, And wearily the lagging morns would go, And nights, while they sat watching by his bed, Until a storm came up with wind and rain, And lightning ran along the troubled main.
Over their heads the mighty thunders brake, Leaping and tumbling down from rock to rock, Then burst anew and made the cliffs to quake As they were living things and felt the shock; The waiting sea to sob as if in pain, And all the midnight vault to ring again.
A lamp was burning in the mariner's cave, But the blue lightning flashes made it dim; And when the mother heard those thunders rave, She took her little child to cherish him; She took him in her arms, and on her breast Full wearily she courted him to rest,
And soothed him long until the storm was spent, And the last thunder peal had died away, And stars were out in all the firmament. Then did he cease to moan, and slumbering lay, While in the welcome silence, pure and deep, The care-worn parents sweetly fell asleep.
And in a dream, enwrought with fancies thick, The mother thought she heard the rock-doves coo (She had forgotten that her child was sick), And she went forth their morning meal to strew; Then over all the cliff with earnest care She sought her child, and lo, he was not there!
But she was not afraid, though long she sought And climbed the cliff, and set her feet in grass, Then reached a river, broad and full, she thought, And at its brink he sat. Alas! alas! For one stood near him, fair and undefiled, An innocent, a marvellous man-child.
In garments white as wool, and O, most fair, A rainbow covered him with mystic light; Upon the warmed grass his feet were bare, And as he breathed, the rainbow in her sight In passions of clear crimson trembling lay, With gold and violet mist made fair the day.
Her little life! she thought, his little hands Were full of flowers that he did play withal; But when he saw the boy o' the golden lands, And looked him in the face, he let them fall, Held through a rapturous pause in wistful wise To the sweet strangeness of those keen child-eyes.
"Ah, dear and awful God, who chastenest me, How shall my soul to this be reconciled! It is the Saviour of the world," quoth she, "And to my child He cometh as a child." Then on her knees she fell by that vast stream— Oh, it was sorrowful, this woman's dream!
For lo, that Elder Child drew nearer now, Fair as the light, and purer than the sun. The calms of heaven were brooding on his brow, And in his arms He took her little one, Her child, that knew her, but with sweet demur Drew back, nor held his hands to come to her.
With that in mother misery sore she wept— "O Lamb of God, I love my child so MUCH! He stole away to Thee while we two slept, But give him back, for Thou hast many such; And as for me I have but one. O deign, Dear Pity of God, to give him me again."
His feet were on the river. Oh, his feet Had touched the river now, and it was great; And yet He hearkened when she did entreat, And turned in quietness as He would wait— Wait till she looked upon Him, and behold, There lay a long way off a city of gold.
Like to a jasper and a sardine stone, Whelmed in the rainbow stood that fair man-child, Mighty and innocent, that held her own, And as might be his manner at home he smiled, Then while she looked and looked, the vision brake, And all amazed she started up awake.
And lo, her little child was gone indeed! The sleep that knows no waking he had slept, Folded to heaven's own heart; in rainbow brede Clothed and made glad, while they two mourned and wept, But in the drinking of their bitter cup The sweet voice spoke once more, and sighed, "Look up!"
They heard, and straightway answered, "Even so: For what abides that we should look on here? The heavens are better than this earth below, They are of more account and far more dear. We will look up, for all most sweet and fair, Most pure, most excellent, is garnered there."
When I do sit apart And commune with my heart, She brings me forth the treasures once my own; Shows me a happy place Where leaf-buds swelled apace, And wasting rims of snow in sunlight shone.
Rock, in a mossy glade, The larch-trees lend thee shade, That just begin to feather with their leaves; From out thy crevice deep White tufts of snowdrops peep, And melted rime drips softly from thine eaves.
Ah, rock, I know, I know That yet thy snowdrops grow, And yet doth sunshine fleck them through the tree, Whose sheltering branches hide The cottage at its side, That nevermore will shade or shelter me.
I know the stockdoves' note Athwart the glen doth float: With sweet foreknowledge of her twins oppressed, And longings onward sent, She broods before the event, While leisurely she mends her shallow nest.
Once to that cottage door, In happy days of yore, My little love made footprints in the snow. She was so glad of spring, She helped the birds to sing, I know she dwells there yet—the rest I do not know.
They sang, and would not stop, While drop, and drop, and drop, I heard the melted rime in sunshine fall; And narrow wandering rills, Where leaned the daffodils, Murmured and murmured on, and that was all.
I think, but cannot tell, I think she loved me well, And some dear fancy with my future twined. But I shall never know, Hope faints, and lets it go, That passionate want forbid to speak its mind.
I held my way through Defton Wood, And on to Wandor Hall; The dancing leaf let down the light, In hovering spots to fall. "O young, young leaves, you match me well," My heart was merry, and sung— "Now wish me joy of my sweet youth; My love—she, too, is young! O so many, many, many Little homes above my head! O so many, many, many Dancing blossoms round me spread! O so many, many, many Maidens sighing yet for none! Speed, ye wooers, speed with any— Speed with all but one."
I took my leave of Wandor Hall, And trod the woodland ways. "What shall I do so long to bear The burden of my days?" I sighed my heart into the boughs Whereby the culvers cooed; For only I between them went Unwooing and unwooed. "O so many, many, many Lilies bending stately heads! O so many, many, many Strawberries ripened on their beds! O so many, many, many Maids, and yet my heart undone! What to me are all, are any— I have lost my—one."
THE LONG WHITE SEAM.
As I came round the harbor buoy, The lights began to gleam, No wave the land-locked water stirred, The crags were white as cream; And I marked my love by candle-light Sewing her long white seam. It's aye sewing ashore, my dear, Watch and steer at sea, It's reef and furl, and haul the line, Set sail and think of thee.
I climbed to reach her cottage door; O sweetly my love sings! Like a shaft of light her voice breaks forth, My soul to meet it springs As the shining water leaped of old, When stirred by angel wings. Aye longing to list anew, Awake and in my dream, But never a song she sang like this, Sewing her long white seam.
Fair fall the lights, the harbor lights, That brought me in to thee, And peace drop down on that low roof For the sight that I did see, And the voice, my dear, that rang so clear All for the love of me. For O, for O, with brows bent low By the candle's flickering gleam, Her wedding gown it was she wrought, Sewing the long white seam.
AN OLD WIFE'S SONG.
And what will ye hear, my daughters dear?— Oh, what will ye hear this night? Shall I sing you a song of the yuletide cheer, Or of lovers and ladies bright?
"Thou shalt sing," they say (for we dwell far away From the land where fain would we be), "Thou shalt sing us again some old-world strain That is sung in our own countrie.
"Thou shalt mind us so of the times long ago, When we walked on the upland lea, While the old harbor light waxed faint in the white, Long rays shooting out from the sea;
"While lambs were yet asleep, and the dew lay deep On the grass, and their fleeces clean and fair. Never grass was seen so thick nor so green As the grass that grew up there!
"In the town was no smoke, for none there awoke— At our feet it lay still as still could be; And we saw far below the long river flow, And the schooners a-warping out to sea.
"Sing us now a strain shall make us feel again As we felt in that sacred peace of morn, When we had the first view of the wet sparkling dew, In the shyness of a day just born."
So I sang an old song—it was plain and not long— I had sung it very oft when they were small; And long ere it was done they wept every one: Yet this was all the song—this was all:—
The snow lies white, and the moon gives light, I'll out to the freezing mere, And ease my heart with one little song, For none will be nigh to hear. And it's O my love, my love! And it's O my dear, my dear! It's of her that I'll sing till the wild woods ring, When nobody's nigh to hear.
My love is young, she is young, is young; When she laughs the dimple dips. We walked in the wind, and her long locks blew Till sweetly they touched my lips. And I'll out to the freezing mere, Where the stiff reeds whistle so low. And I'll tell my mind to the friendly wind, Because I have loved her so.
Ay, and she's true, my lady is true! And that's the best of it all; And when she blushes my heart so yearns That tears are ready to fall. And it's O my love, my love! And it's O my dear, my dear! It's of her that I'll sing till the wild woods ring, When nobody's nigh to hear.
COLD AND QUIET.
Cold, my dear,—cold and quiet. In their cups on yonder lea, Cowslips fold the brown bee's diet; So the moss enfoldeth thee. "Plant me, plant me, O love, a lily flower— Plant at my head, I pray you, a green tree; And when our children sleep," she sighed, "at the dusk hour, And when the lily blossoms, O come out to me!"
Lost, my dear? Lost! nay deepest Love is that which loseth least; Through the night-time while thou sleepest, Still I watch the shrouded east. Near thee, near thee, my wife that aye liveth, "Lost" is no word for such a love as mine; Love from her past to me a present giveth, And love itself doth comfort, making pain divine. Rest, my dear, rest. Fair showeth That which was, and not in vain Sacred have I kept, God knoweth, Love's last words atween us twain. "Hold by our past, my only love, my lover; Fall not, but rise, O love, by loss of me!" Boughs from our garden, white with bloom hang over. Love, now the children slumber, I come out to thee.
The logs burn red; she lifts her head, For sledge-bells tinkle and tinkle, O lightly swung. "Youth was a pleasant morning, but ah! to think 'tis fled, Sae lang, lang syne," quo' her mother, "I, too, was young."
No guides there are but the North star, And the moaning forest tossing wild arms before, The maiden murmurs, "O sweet were yon bells afar, And hark! hark! hark! for he cometh, he nears the door."
Swift north-lights show, and scatter and go. How can I meet him, and smile not, on this cold shore? Nay, I will call him, "Come in from the night and the snow, And love, love, love in the wild wood, wander no more."
MIDSUMMER NIGHT, NOT DARK, NOT LIGHT.
Midsummer night, not dark, not light, Dusk all the scented air, I'll e'en go forth to one I love, And learn how he doth fare. O the ring, the ring, my dear, for me, The ring was a world too fine, I wish it had sunk in a forty-fathom sea, Or ever thou mad'st it mine.
Soft falls the dew, stars tremble through, Where lone he sits apart, Would I might steal his grief away To hide in mine own heart. Would, would 'twere shut in yon blossom fair, The sorrow that bows thy head, Then—I would gather it, to thee unaware, And break my heart in thy stead.
That charmed flower, far from thy bower, I'd bear the long hours through, Thou should'st forget, and my sad breast The sorrows twain should rue. O sad flower, O sad, sad ring to me. The ring was a world too fine; And would it had sunk in a forty-fathom sea, Ere the morn that made it mine.
THE BRIDEGROOM TO HIS BRIDE.
Fairest fair, best of good, Too high for hope that stood; White star of womanhood shining apart O my liege lady, And O my one lady, And O my loved lady, come down to my heart.
Reach me life's wine and gold, What is man's best all told, If thou thyself withhold, sweet, from thy throne? O my liege lady, And O my loved lady, And O my heart's lady, come, reign there alone.
THE FAIRY WOMAN'S SONG.
The fairy woman maketh moan, "Well-a-day, and well-a-day, Forsooth I brought thee one rose, one, And thou didst cast my rose away." Hark! Oh hark, she mourneth yet, "One good ship—the good ship sailed, One bright star, at last it set, One, one chance, forsooth it failed."
Clear thy dusk hair from thy veiled eyes, Show thy face as thee beseems, For yet is starlight in the skies, Weird woman piteous through my dreams. "Nay," she mourns, "forsooth not now, Veiled I sit for evermore, Rose is shed, and charmed prow Shall not touch the charmed shore."
There thy sons that were to be, Thy small gamesome children play; There all loves that men foresee Straight as wands enrich the way. Dove-eyed, fair, with me they worm Where enthroned I reign a queen, In the lovely realms foregone, In the lives that might have been.
ABOVE THE CLOUDS.
And can this be my own world? 'Tis all gold and snow, Save where scarlet waves are hurled Down yon gulf below. 'Tis thy world, 'tis my world, City, mead, and shore, For he that hath his own world Hath many worlds more.
[Footnote 1: "Above the Clouds," and thirteen poems following, are from "Mopsa the Fairy."]
SLEEP AND TIME.
"Wake, baillie, wake! the crafts are out; Wake!" said the knight, "be quick! For high street, bye street, over the town They fight with poker and stick." Said the squire, "A fight so fell was ne'er In all my bailliewick." What said the old clock in the tower? "Tick, tick, tick!"
"Wake, daughter, wake! the hour draws on; Wake!" quoth the dame, "be quick! The meats are set, the guests are coming, The fiddler waxing his stick." She said, "The bridegroom waiting and waiting To see thy face is sick." What said the new clock in her bower? "Tick, tick, tick!"
BEES AND OTHER FELLOW-CREATURES.
The dove laid some little sticks, Then began to coo; The gnat took his trumpet up To play the day through; The pie chattered soft and long— But that she always does; The bee did all he had to do, And only said, "Buzz."
THE GYPSY'S SELLING SONG.
My good man—he's an old, old man— And my good man got a fall, To buy me a bargain so fast he ran When he heard the gypsies call: "Buy, buy brushes, Baskets wrought o' rushes. Buy them, buy them, take them, try them, Buy, dames all."
My old man, he has money and land, And a young, young wife am I. Let him put the penny in my white hand When he hears the gypsies cry: "Buy, buy laces, Veils to screen your faces. Buy them, buy them, take and try them. Buy, maids, buy."
A WOOING SONG.
My fair lady's a dear, dear lady— I walked by her side to woo. In a garden alley, so sweet and shady, She answered, "I love not you, John, John Brady," Quoth my dear lady, "Pray now, pray now, go your way now, Do, John, do!"
Yet my fair lady's my own, own lady, For I passed another day; While making her moan, she sat all alone, And thus, and thus did she say: "John, John Brady," Quoth my dear lady, "Do now, do now, once more woo now. Pray, John, pray!"
A COURTING SONG.
"Master," quoth the auld hound "Where will ye go?" "Over moss, over muir, To court my new jo." "Master, though the night be merk, I'se follow through the snow.
"Court her, master, court her, So shall ye do weel; But and ben she'll guide the house, I'se get milk and meal. Ye'se get lilting while she sits With her rock and reel."
"For, oh! she has a sweet tongue, And een that look down, A gold girdle for her waist, And a purple gown. She has a good word forbye Fra a' folk in the town."
LOVE'S THREAD OF GOLD.
In the night she told a story, In the night and all night through, While the moon was in her glory, And the branches dropped with dew.
'Twas my life she told, and round it Rose the years as from a deep; In the world's great heart she found it, Cradled like a child asleep.
In the night I saw her weaving By the misty moonbeam cold, All the weft her shuttle cleaving With a sacred thread of gold.
Ah! she wept me tears of sorrow, Lulling tears so mystic sweet; Then she wove my last to-morrow, And her web lay at my feet.
Of my life she made the story: I must weep—so soon 'twas told! But your name did lend it glory, And your love its thread of gold!
THE LEAVES OF LIGN ALOES.
Drop, drop from the leaves of lign aloes, O honey-dew! drop from the tree. Float up through your clear river shallows, White lilies, beloved of the bee.
Let the people, O Queen! say, and bless thee, Her bounty drops soft as the dew, And spotless in honor confess thee, As lilies are spotless in hue.
On the roof stands yon white stork awaking, His feathers flush rosy the while, For, lo! from the blushing east breaking, The sun sheds the bloom of his smile.
Let them boast of thy word, "It is certain; We doubt it no more," let them say, "Than to-morrow that night's dusky curtain Shall roll back its folds for the day."
THE DAYS WITHOUT ALLOY.
When I sit on market-days amid the comers and the goers, Oh! full oft I have a vision of the days without alloy, And a ship comes up the river with a jolly gang of towers, And a "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
There is busy talk around me, all about mine ears it hummeth, But the wooden wharves I look on, and a dancing, heaving buoy, For 'tis tidetime in the river, and she cometh—oh, she cometh! With a "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
Then I hear the water washing, never golden waves were brighter, And I hear the capstan creaking—'tis a sound that cannot cloy. Bring her to, to ship her lading, brig or schooner, sloop or lighter, With a "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
"Will ye step aboard, my dearest? for the high seas lie before us." So I sailed adown the river in those days without alloy. We are launched! But when, I wonder, shall a sweeter sound float o'er us Than yon "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
FEATHERS AND MOSS.
The marten flew to the finch's nest, Feathers, and moss, and a wisp of hay: "The arrow it sped to thy brown mate's breast; Low in the broom is thy mate to-day."
"Liest thou low, love? low in the broom? Feathers and moss, and a wisp of hay, Warm the white eggs till I learn his doom." She beateth her wings, and away, away.
"Ah, my sweet singer, thy days are told (Feathers and moss, and a wisp of hay)! Thine eyes are dim, and the eggs grow cold. O mournful morrow! O dark to-day!"
The finch flew back to her cold, cold nest, Feathers and moss, and a wisp of hay, Mine is the trouble that rent her breast, And home is silent, and love is clay.
ON THE ROCKS BY ABERDEEN.
On the rocks by Aberdeen, Where the whislin' wave had been, As I wandered and at e'en Was eerie;
There I saw thee sailing west, And I ran with joy opprest— Ay, and took out all my best, My dearie.
Then I busked mysel' wi' speed, And the neighbors cried "What need? 'Tis a lass in any weed Aye bonny!"
Now my heart, my heart is sair. What's the good, though I be fair, For thou'lt never see me mair, Man Johnnie!
LIKE A LAVEROCK IN THE LIFT.
It's we two, it's we two, it's we two for aye, All the world and we two, and Heaven be our stay. Like a laverock in the lift, sing, O bonny bride! All the world was Adam once, with Eve by his side.
What's the world, my lass, my love!—what can it do? I am thine, and thou art mine; life is sweet and new. If the world have missed the mark, let it stand by, For we two have gotten leave, and once more we'll try.
Like a laverock in the lift, sing, O bonny bride! It's we two, it's we two, happy side by side. Take a kiss from me thy man; now the song begins: "All is made afresh for us, and the brave heart wins."
When the darker days come, and no sun will shine, Thou shalt dry my tears, lass, and I'll dry thine. It's we two, it's we two, while the world's away, Sitting by the golden sheaves on our wedding-day.
SONG FOR A BABE.
Little babe, while burns the west, Warm thee, warm thee in my breast; While the moon doth shine her best, And the dews distil not.
All the land so sad, so fair— Sweet its toils are, blest its care. Child, we may not enter there! Some there are that will not.
Fain would I thy margins know, Land of work, and land of snow; Land of life, whose rivers flow On, and on, and stay not.
Fain would I thy small limbs fold, While the weary hours are told, Little babe in cradle cold. Some there are that may not.
GIVE US LOVE AND GIVE US PEACE.
One morning, oh! so early, my beloved, my beloved, All the birds were singing blithely, as if never they would cease; 'Twas a thrush sang in my garden, "Hear the story, hear the story!" And the lark sang, "Give us glory!" And the dove said, "Give us peace!"
Then I listened, oh! so early, my beloved, my beloved, To that murmur from the woodland of the dove, my dear, the dove; When the nightingale came after, "Give us fame to sweeten duty!" When the wren sang, "Give us beauty!" She made answer, "Give us love!"
Sweet is spring, and sweet the morning, my beloved, my beloved; Now for us doth spring, doth morning, wait upon the year's increase, And my prayer goes up, "Oh, give us, crowned in youth with marriage glory, Give for all our life's dear story, Give us love, and give us peace!"
THE TWO MARGARETS.
MARGARET BY THE MERE SIDE.
Lying imbedded in the green champaign That gives no shadow to thy silvery face, Open to all the heavens, and all their train, The marshalled clouds that cross with stately pace, No steadfast hills on thee reflected rest, Nor waver with the dimpling of thy breast.
O, silent Mere! about whose marges spring Thick bulrushes to hide the reed-bird's nest; Where the shy ousel dips her glossy wing, And balanced in the water takes her rest: While under bending leaves, all gem-arrayed, Blue dragon-flies sit panting in the shade:
Warm, stilly place, the sundew loves thee well, And the green sward comes creeping to thy brink, And golden saxifrage and pimpernel Lean down to thee their perfumed heads to drink; And heavy with the weight of bees doth bend White clover, and beneath thy wave descend:
While the sweet scent of bean-fields, floated wide On a long eddy of the lightsome air Over the level mead to thy lone side, Doth lose itself among thy zephyrs rare, With wafts from hawthorn bowers and new-cut hay, And blooming orchards lying far away.
Thou hast thy Sabbaths, when a deeper calm Descends upon thee, quiet Mere, and then There is a sound of bells, a far off psalm From gray church towers, that swims across the fen; And the light sigh where grass and waters meet, Is thy meek welcome to the visit sweet.
Thou hast thy lovers. Though the angler's rod Dimple thy surface seldom; though the oar Fill not with silvery globes thy fringing sod, Nor send long ripples to thy lonely shore; Though few, as in a glass, have cared to trace The smile of nature moving on thy face;
Thou hast thy lovers truly. 'Mid the cold Of northern tarns the wild-fowl dream of thee, And, keeping thee in mind, their wings unfold, And shape their course, high soaring, till they see Down in the world, like molten silver, rest Their goal, and screaming plunge them in thy breast.
Fair Margaret, who sittest all day long On the gray stone beneath the sycamore, The bowering tree with branches lithe and strong, The only one to grace the level shore, Why dost thou wait? for whom with patient cheer Gaze yet so wistfully adown the Mere?
Thou canst not tell, thou dost not know, alas! Long watchings leave behind them little trace; And yet how sweetly must the mornings pass, That bring that dreamy calmness to thy face! How quickly must the evenings come that find Thee still regret to leave the Mere behind!
Thy cheek is resting on thy hand; thine eyes Are like twin violets but half unclosed, And quiet as the deeps in yonder skies. Never more peacefully in love reposed A mother's gaze upon her offspring dear, Than thine upon the long far-stretching Mere.
Sweet innocent! Thy yellow hair floats low In rippling undulations on thy breast, Then stealing down the parted love-locks flow, Bathed in a sunbeam on thy knees to rest, And touch those idle hands that folded lie, Having from sport and toil a like immunity.
Through thy life's dream with what a touching grace Childhood attends thee, nearly woman grown; Her dimples linger yet upon thy face, Like dews upon a lily this day blown; Thy sighs are born of peace, unruffled, deep; So the babe sighs on mother's breast asleep.
It sighs, and wakes,—but thou! thy dream is all, And thou wert born for it, and it for thee; Morn doth not take thy heart, nor evenfall Charm out its sorrowful fidelity, Nor noon beguile thee from the pastoral shore, And thy long watch beneath the sycamore.
No, down the Mere as far as eye can see, Where its long reaches fade into the sky, Thy constant gaze, fair child, rests lovingly; But neither thou nor any can descry Aught but the grassy banks, the rustling sedge, And flocks of wild-fowl splashing at their edge.
And yet 'tis not with expectation hushed That thy mute rosy mouth doth pouting close; No fluttering hope to thy young heart e'er rushed, Nor disappointment troubled its repose; All satisfied with gazing evermore Along the sunny Mere and reedy shore.
The brooding wren flies pertly near thy seat, Thou wilt not move to mark her glancing wing; The timid sheep browse close before thy feet, And heedless at thy side do thrushes sing. So long amongst them thou hast spent thy days, They know that harmless hand thou wilt not raise.
Thou wilt not lift it up—not e'en to take The foxglove bells that nourish in the shade, And put them in thy bosom; not to make A posy of wild hyacinth inlaid Like bright mosaic in the mossy grass, With freckled orchis and pale sassafras.
Gaze on;—take in the voices of the Mere. The break of shallow water at thy feet, Its plash among long weeds and grasses sere, And its weird sobbing,—hollow music meet For ears like thine; listen and take thy till, And dream on it by night when all is still.
Full sixteen years have slowly passed away, Young Margaret, since thy fond mother here Came down, a six month's wife, one April day, To see her husband's boat go down the Mere, And track its course, till, lost in distance blue, In mellow light it faded from her view.
It faded, and she never saw it more;— Nor any human eye;—oh, grief! oh, woe! It faded,—and returned not to the shore; But far above it still the waters flow— And none beheld it sink, and none could tell Where coldly slept the form she loved so well!
But that sad day, unknowing of her fate, She homeward turn'd her still reluctant feet; And at her wheel she spun, till dark and late The evening fell—the time when they should meet; Till the stars paled that at deep midnight burned— And morning dawned, and he was not returned.
And the bright sun came up—she thought too soon— And shed his ruddy light along the Mere; And day wore on too quickly, and at noon She came and wept beside the waters clear. "How could he be so late?"—and then hope fled; And disappointment darkened into dread.
He NEVER came, and she with weepings sore Peered in the water-nags unceasingly; Through all the undulations of the shore, Looking for that which most she feared to see. And then she took home sorrow to her heart, And brooded over its cold cruel smart.
And after, desolate she sat alone And mourned, refusing to be comforted, On the gray stone, the moss-embroidered stone, With the great sycamore above her head; Till after many days a broken oar Hard by her seat was drifted to the shore.
It came,—a token of his fate,—the whole, The sum of her misfortune to reveal; As if sent up in pity to her soul, The tidings of her widowhood to seal; And put away the pining hope forlorn, That made her grief more bitter to be borne.
And she was patient; through the weary day She toiled; though none was there her work to bless; And did not wear the sullen months away, Nor call on death to end her wretchedness, But lest the grief should overflow her breast, She toiled as heretofore, and would not rest.
But, her work done, what time the evening star Rose over the cool water, then she came To the gray stone, and saw its light from far Drop down the misty Mere white lengths of flame, And wondered whether there might be the place Where the soft ripple wandered o'er HIS face.
Unfortunate! In solitude forlorn She dwelt, and thought upon her husband's grave, Till when the days grew short a child was born To the dead father underneath the wave; And it brought back a remnant of delight, A little sunshine to its mother's sight;
A little wonder to her heart grown numb, And a sweet yearning pitiful and keen: She took it as from that poor father come, Her and the misery to stand between; Her little maiden babe, who day by day Sucked at her breast and charmed her woes away.
But years flew on; the child was still the same, Nor human language she had learned to speak: Her lips were mute, and seasons went and came, And brought fresh beauty to her tender cheek; And all the day upon the sunny shore She sat and mused beneath the sycamore.
Strange sympathy! she watched and wearied not, Haply unconscious what it was she sought; Her mother's tale she easily forgot, And if she listened no warm tears it brought; Though surely in the yearnings of her heart The unknown voyager must have had his part.
Unknown to her; like all she saw unknown, All sights were fresh as when they first began, All sounds were new; each murmur and each tone And cause and consequence she could not scan, Forgot that night brought darkness in its train, Nor reasoned that the day would come again.
There is a happiness in past regret; And echoes of the harshest sound are sweet. The mother's soul was struck with grief, and yet, Repeated in her child, 'twas not unmeet That echo-like the grief a tone should take Painless, but ever pensive for her sake.
For her dear sake, whose patient soul was linked By ties so many to the babe unborn; Whose hope, by slow degrees become extinct, For evermore had left her child forlorn, Yet left no consciousness of want or woe, Nor wonder vague that these things should be so.