POEMS BY JEAN INGELOW
_TO JEAN INGELOW.
When youth was high, and life was new And days sped musical and fleet, She stood amid the morning dew, And sang her earliest measures sweet,— Sang as the lark sings, speeding fair To touch and taste the purer air, To gain a nearer view of Heaven; 'Twas then she sang "The Songs of Seven."
Now, farther on in womanhood, With trained voice and ripened art, She gently stands where once she stood, And sings from out her deeper heart. Sing on, dear Singer! sing again; And we will listen to the strain, Till soaring earth greets bending Heaven, And seven-fold songs grow seventy-seven.
IN TWO VOLUMES
AUTHOR'S COMPLETE EDITION.
CONTENTS OF VOL. II.
ROSAMUND ECHO AND THE FERRY PRELUDES TO A PENNY READING KISMET DORA SPERANZA THE BEGINNING IN THE NURSERY THE AUSTRALIAN BELL-BIRD LOSS AND WASTE ON A PICTURE THE SLEEP OF SIGISMUND A MAID-MARTYR A VINE-ARBOUR IN THE FAR WEST LOVERS AT THE LAKE SIDE THE WHITE MOON AN ARROW-SLIT WENDOVER THE LOVER PLEADS SONG IN THREE PARTS 'IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM' NATURE, FOR NATURE'S SAKE PERDITA
SERIOUS POEMS, AND SONGS AND POEMS OF LOVE AND CHILDHOOD.
LETTERS ON LIFE AND THE MORNING THE MONITIONS OF THE UNSEEN THE SHEPHERD LADY
POEMS ON THE DEATHS OF THREE CHILDREN. HENRY SAMUEL KATIE
THE SNOWDROP MONUMENT (IN LICHFIELD CATHEDRAL)
HYMNS. THE MEASURELESS GULFS OF AIR ARE FULL OF THEE THOU WERT FAR OFF AND IN THE SIGHT OF HEAVEN THICK ORCHARDS ALL IN WHITE SWEET ARE HIS WAYS WHO RULES ABOVE O NIGHT OF NIGHTS DEAR IS THE LOST WIFE TO A LONE MAN'S HEART WEEPING AND WAILING NEEDS MUST BE JESUS, THE LAMB OF GOD THOU HAST BEEN ALWAY GOOD TO ME THOU THAT SLEEPEST NOT AFRAID NOW WINTER PAST, THE WHITE-THORN BOWER SUCH AS HAVE NOT GOLD TO BRING THEE A MORN OF GUILT, AN HOUR OF DOOM MARY OF MAGDALA WOULD I, TO SAVE MY DEAR CHILD?
AT ONE AGAIN
SONNETS. FANCY COMPENSATION LOOKING DOWN WORK WISHING TO —— ON THE BORDERS OF CANNOCK CHASE AN ANCIENT CHESS KING COMFORT IN THE NIGHT THOUGH ALL GREAT DEEDS A SNOW MOUNTAIN SLEEP PROMISING LOVE FAILURE
A BIRTHDAY WALK NOT IN VAIN I WAITED A GLEANING SONG WITH A DIAMOND MARRIED LOVERS A WINTER SONG BINDING SHEAVES THE MARINER'S CAVE A REVERIE DEFTON WOOD THE LONG WHITE SEAM AN OLD WIFE'S SONG COLD AND QUIET SLEDGE BELLS MIDSUMMER NIGHT, NOT DARK, NOT LIGHT THE BRIDEGROOM TO HIS BRIDE THE FAIRY WOMAN'S SONG ABOVE THE CLOUDS SLEEP AND TIME BEES AND OTHER-FELLOW-CREATURES THE GYPSY'S SELLING SONG A WOOING SONG A COURTING SONG LOVE'S THREAD OF GOLD THE LEAVES OF LIGN ALOES THE DAYS WITHOUT ALLOY FEATHERS AND MOSS ON THE ROCKS BY ABERDEEN LIKE A LAVEROCK IN THE LIFT SONG FOR A BABE GIVE US LOVE AND GIVE US PEACE
THE TWO MARGARETS MARGARET BY THE MERE SIDE MARGARET IN THE XEBEC
A STORY OF DOOM
His blew His winds, and they were scattered.
'One soweth and another reapeth.' Ay, Too true, too true. One soweth—unaware Cometh a reaper stealthily while he dreams— Bindeth the golden sheaf, and in his bosom As 't were between the dewfall and the dawn Bears it away. Who other was to blame? Is it I? Is it I?—No verily, not I, 'T was a good action, and I smart therefore; Oblivion of a righteous enmity Wrought me this wrong. I pay with my self ruth That I had ruth toward mine enemy; It needed not to slay mine enemy, Only to let him lie and succourless Drift to the foot o' the Everlasting Throne; Being mine enemy, he had not accused One of my nation there of unkind deeds Or ought the way of war forbids. Let be! I will not think upon it. Yet she was— O, she was dear; my dutiful, dear child. One soweth—Nay, but I will tell this out, The first fyte was the best, I call it such For now as some old song men think on it.
I dwell where England narrows running north; And while our hay was cut came rumours up Humming and swarming round our heads like bees:
'Drake from the bay of Cadiz hath come home, And they are forth, the Spaniards with a force Invincible.' 'The Prince of Parma, couched At Dunkirk, e'en by torchlight makes to toil His shipwright thousands—thousands in the ports Of Flanders and Brabant. An hundred hendes Transports to his great squadron adding, all For our confusion.' 'England's great ally Henry of France, by insurrection fallen, Of him the said Prince Parma mocking cries, He shall not help the Queen of England now Not even with his tears, more needing them To weep his own misfortune.' Was that all The truth? Not half, and yet it was enough (Albeit not half that half was well believed), For all the land stirred in the half belief As dreamers stir about to wake; and now Comes the Queen's message, all her lieges bid To rise, 'lieftenants, and the better sort Of gentlemen' whereby the Queen's grace meant, As it may seem the sort that willed to rise And arm, and come to aid her. Distance wrought Safety for us, my neighbours and near friends, The peril lay along our channel coast And marked the city, undefended fair Rich London. O to think of Spanish mail Ringing—of riotous conquerors in her street, Chasing and frighting (would there were no more To think on) her fair wives and her fair maids. —But hope is fain to deem them forth of her.
Then Spain to the sacking; then they tear away Arras and carved work. O then they break And toss, and mar her quaint orfeverie Priceless—then split the wine kegs, spill the mead, Trail out the pride of ages in the dust; Turn over with pikes her silken merchandise, Strip off the pictures of her kings, and spoil Their palaces that nigh five hundred years Have rued no alien footsteps on the floor, And work—for the days of miracle are gone— All unimaginable waste and woe.
Some cried, 'But England hath the better cause; We think not those good days indeed are done; We look to Heaven for aid on England's side.' Then other, 'Nay, the harvest is above, God comforts there His own, and ill men leaves To run long scores up in this present world, And pay in another. Look not here for aid. Latimer, poor old saint, died in the street With nigh, men say, three hundred of his kind, All bid to look for worse death after death, Succourless, comfortless, unfriended, curst. Mary, and Gardiner, and the Pope's man Pole Died upon down, lulled in a silken shade, Soothed with assurance of a waiting heaven, And Peter peering through the golden gate, With his gold key in 's hand to let them in.'
'Nay, leave,' quoth I, 'the martyrs to their heaven, And all who live the better that they died. But look you now, a nation hath no heaven, A nation's life and work and wickedness And punishment—or otherwise, I say A nation's life and goodness and reward Are here. And in my nation's righteous cause I look for aid, and cry, SO HELP ME GOD As I will help my righteous nation now With all the best I have, and know, and am, I trust Thou wilt not let her light be quenched; I go to aid, and if I fall—I fall, And, God of nations, leave my soul to Thee.'
Many did say like words, and all would give Of gold, of weapons, and of horses that They had to hand or on the spur o' the time Could gather. My fair dame did sell her rings, So others. And they sent us well equipped Who minded to be in the coming fray Whether by land or sea; my hope the last, For I of old therewith was conversant.
Then as we rode down southward all the land Was at her harvesting. The oats were cut Ere we were three days down, and then the wheat, And the wide country spite of loathed threat Was busy. There was news to hearten us: The Hollanders were coming roundly in With sixty ships of war, all fierce, and full Of spleen, for not alone our sake but theirs Willing to brave encounter where they might.
So after five days we did sight the Sound, And look on Plymouth harbour from the hill. Then I full glad drew bridle, lighted straight, Ran down and mingled with a waiting crowd.
Many stood gazing on the level deep That scarce did tremble; 't was in hue as sloes That hang till winter on a leafless bough, So black bulged down upon it a great cloud And probed it through and through with forked stabs Incessant, and rolled on it thunder bursts Till the dark water lowered as one afraid.
That was afar. The land and nearer sea Lay sweltering in hot sunshine. The brown beach Scarce whispered, for a soft incoming tide Was gentle with it. Green the water lapped And sparkled at all edges. The night-heavens Are not more thickly speckled o'er with stars Than that fair harbour with its fishing craft. And crowds of galleys shooting to and fro Did feed the ships of war with their stout crews, And bear aboard fresh water, furniture Of war, much lesser victual, sallets, fruit, All manner equipment for the squadron, sails, Long spars. Also was chaffering on the Hoe, Buying and bargaining, taking of leave With tears and kisses, while on all hands pushed Tall lusty men with baskets on their heads Piled of fresh bread, and biscuit newly drawn.
Then shouts, 'The captains!' Raleigh, Hawkins, Drake, Old Martin Frobisher, and many more; Howard, the Lord High Admiral, headed them— They coming leisurely from the bowling green, Elbowed their way. For in their stoutness loth To hurry when ill news first brake on them, They playing a match ashore—ill news I say, 'The Spaniards are toward'—while panic-struck The people ran about them, Drake cries out, Knowing their fear should make the danger worse, 'Spaniards, my masters! Let the Spaniards wait. Fall not a-shouting for the boats; is time To play the match out, ay to win, and then To beat the Spaniards.' So the rest gave way At his insistance, playing that afternoon The bravest match (one saith) was ever scored.
'T was no time lost; nay, not a moment lost; For look you, when the winning cast was made, The town was calm, the anchors were all up, The boats were manned to row them each to his ship, The lowering cloud in the offing had gone south Against the wind, and all was work, stir, heed, Nothing forgot, nor grudged, nor slurred, and most Men easy at heart as those brave sailors seemed.
And specially the women had put by On a sudden their deep dread; yon Cornish coast Neared of his insolency by the foe, With his high seacastles numerous, seaforts Many, his galleys out of number, manned Each by three hundred slaves chained to the oar; All his strong fleet of lesser ships, but great As any of ours—why that same Cornish coast Might have lain farther than the far west land, So had a few stout-hearted looks and words Wasted the meaning, chilled the menace of That frightful danger, imminent, hard at hand.
'The captains come, the captains!' and I turned As they drew on. I marked the urgency Flashing in each man's eye: fain to be forth But willing to be held at leisure. Then Cried a fair woman of the better sort To Howard, passing by her pannier'd ass, 'Apples, Lord Admiral, good captains all, Look you, red apples sharp and sweet are these,'
Quoth he a little chafed, 'Let be, let be, No time is this for bargaining, good dame. Let be;' and pushing past, 'Beshrew thy heart (And mine that I should say it), bargain! nay. I meant not bargaining,' she falters; crying, 'I brought them my poor gift. Pray you now take, Pray you.' He stops, and with a childlike smile That makes the dame amend, stoops down to choose, While I step up that love not many words, 'What should he do,' quoth I, 'to help this need That hath a bag of money, and good will?' 'Charter a ship,' he saith, nor e'er looks up, 'And put aboard her victual, tackle, shot, Ought he can lay his hand on—look he give Wide sea room to the Spanish hounds, make sail For ships of ours, to ease of wounded men, And succour with that freight he brings withal.'
His foot, yet speaking, was aboard his boat, His comrades, each red apples in the hand, Come after, and with blessings manifold Cheering, and cries, 'Good luck, good luck!' they speed.
'T was three years three months past. O yet methinks I hear that thunder crash i' the offing; hear Their words who when the crowd melted away Gathered together. Comrades we of old, About to adventure us at Howard's best On the unsafe sea. For he, a Catholic, As is my wife, and therefore my one child, Detested and defied th' most Catholic King Philip. He, trusted of her grace—and cause She had, the nation following suit—he deemed, 'T was whisper'd, ay and Raleigh, and Francis Drake No less, the event of battle doubtfuller Than English tongue might own; the peril dread As ought in this world ever can be deemed That is not yet past praying for. So far So good. As birds awaked do stretch their wings The ships did stretch forth sail, full clad they towered And right into the sunset went, hull down E'en with the sun. To us in twilight left, Glory being over, came despondent thought That mocked men's eager act. From many a hill, As if the land complained to Heaven, they sent A towering shaft of murky incense high, Livid with black despair in lieu of praise. The green wood hissed at every beacon's edge That widen'd fear. The smell of pitchpots fled Far over the field, and tongues of fire leaped up, Ay, till all England woke, and knew, and wailed.
But we i' the night through that detested reek Rode eastward. Every mariner's voice was given 'Gainst any fear for the western shires. The cry Was all, 'They sail for Calais roads, and thence, The goal is London.' Nought slept, man nor beast. Ravens and rooks flew forth, and with black wings, Affrighted, swept our eyes. Pale eddying moths Came by in crowds and whirled them on the flames.
We rode till pierced those beacon fires the shafts O' the sun, and their red smouldering ashes dulled. Beside them, scorched, smoke-blackened, weary, leaned Men that had fed them, dropped their tired arms And dozed. And also through that day we rode, Till reapers at their nooning sat awhile On the shady side of corn-shocks: all the talk Of high, of low, or them that went or stayed Determined but unhopeful; desperate To strike a blow for England ere she fell.
And ever loomed the Spaniard to our thought, Still waxed the fame of that great Armament— New horsemen joining, swelled it more and more— Their bulky ship galleons having five decks, Zabraes, pataches, galleys of Portugal, Caravels rowed with oars, their galliasses Vast, and complete with chapels, chambers, towers. And in the said ships of free mariners Eight thousand, and of slaves two thousand more, An army twenty thousand strong. O then Of culverin, of double culverin, Ordnance and arms, all furniture of war, Victual, and last their fierceness and great spleen, Willing to founder, burn, split, wreck themselves, But they would land, fight, overcome, and reign.
Then would we count up England. Set by theirs, Her fleet as walnut shells. And a few pikes Stored in the belfries, and a few brave men For wielding them. But as the morning wore, And we went ever eastward, ever on, Poured forth, poured down, a marching multitude With stir about the towns; and waggons rolled With offerings for the army and the fleet. Then to our hearts valour crept home again, The loathed name of Alva fanning it; Alva who did convert from our old faith With many a black deed done for a white cause (So spake they erewhile to it dedicate) Them whom not death could change, nor fire, nor sword, To thirst for his undoing.
Ay, as I am a Christian man, our thirst Was comparable with Queen Mary's. All The talk was of confounding heretics, The heretics the Spaniards. Yet methought, 'O their great multitude! Not harbour room On our long coast for that great multitude. They land—for who can let them—give us battle, And after give us burial. Who but they, For he that liveth shall be flying north To bear off wife and child. Our very graves Shall Spaniards dig, and in the daisied grass Trample them down.' Ay, whoso will be brave, Let him be brave beforehand. After th' event If by good pleasure of God it go as then He shall be brave an' liketh him. I say Was no man but that deadly peril feared.
Nights riding two. Scant rest. Days riding three, Then Foulkstone. Need is none to tell all forth The gathering stores and men, the charter'd ship That I, with two, my friends, got ready for sea. Ready she was, so many another, small But nimble; and we sailing hugged the shore, Scarce venturing out, so Drake had willed, a league, And running westward aye as best we might, When suddenly—behold them! On they rocked, Majestical, slow, sailing with the wind. O such a sight! O such a sight, mine eyes, Never shall you see more! In crescent form, A vasty crescent nigh two leagues across From horn to horn, the lesser ships within, The great without, they did bestride as 't were And make a township on the narrow seas.
It was about the point of dawn: and light. All grey the sea, and ghostly grey the ships; And after in the offing rocked our fleet, Having lain quiet in the summer dark.
O then methought, 'Flash, blessed gold of dawn, And touch the topsails of our Admiral, That he may after guide an emulous flock, Old England's innocent white bleating lambs. Let Spain within a pike's length hear them bleat, Delivering of their pretty talk in a tongue Whose meaning cries not for interpreter.'
And while I spoke, their topsails, friend and foe, Glittered—and there was noise of guns; pale smoke Lagged after, curdling on the sun-fleck'd main. And after that? What after that, my soul? Who ever saw weakling white butterflies Chasing of gallant swans, and charging them, And spitting at them long red streaks of flame? We saw the ships of England even so As in my vaunting wish that mocked itself With 'Fool, O fool, to brag at the edge of loss.' We saw the ships of England even so Run at the Spaniards on a wind, lay to, Bespatter them with hail of battle, then Take their prerogative of nimble steerage, Fly off, and ere the enemy, heavy in hand, Delivered his reply to the wasteful wave That made its grave of foam, race out of range, Then tack and crowd all sail, and after them Again. So harassed they that mighty foe, Moving in all its bravery to the east. And some were fine with pictures of the saints, Angels with flying hair and peaked wings, And high red crosses wrought upon their sails; From every mast brave flag or ensign flew, And their long silken pennons serpented Loose to the morning. And the galley slaves, Albeit their chains did clink, sang at the oar.
The sea was striped e'en like a tiger skin With wide ship wakes. And many cried, amazed, 'What means their patience?' 'Lo you,' others said, 'They pay with fear for their great costliness. Some of their costliest needs must other guard; Once guarded and in port look to yourselves, They count one hundred and fifty. It behoves Better they suffer this long running fight— Better for them than that they give us battle, And so delay the shelter of their roads.
'Two of their caravels we sank, and one (Fouled with her consort in the rigging) took Ere she could catch the wind when she rode free. And we have riddled many a sail, and split Of spars a score or two. What then? To-morrow They look to straddle across the strait, and hold Having aye Calais for a shelter—hold Our ships in fight. To-morrow shall give account For our to-day. They will not we pass north To meddle with Parma's flotilla; their hope Being Parma, and a convoy they would be For his flat boats that bode invasion to us; And if he reach to London—ruin, defeat.'
Three fleets the sun went down on, theirs of fame Th' Armada. After space old England's few; And after that our dancing cockle-shells, The volunteers. They took some pride in us, For we were nimble, and we brought them powder, Shot, weapons. They were short of these. Ill found, Ill found. The bitter fruit of evil thrift. But while obsequious, darting here and there, We took their messages from ship to ship, From ship to shore, the moving majesties Made Calais Roads, cast anchor, all their less In the middle ward; their greater ships outside Impregnable castles fearing not assault.
So did we read their thought, and read it wrong, While after the running fight we rode at ease, For many (as is the way of Englishmen) Having made light of our stout deeds, and light O' the effects proceeding, saw these spread To view. The Spanish Admiral's mighty host, Albeit not broken, harass'd. Some did tow Others that we had plagued, disabled, rent; Many full heavily damaged made their berths.
Then did the English anchor out of range. To close was not their wisdom with such foe, Rather to chase him, following in the rear. Ay, truly they were giants in our eyes And in our own. They took scant heed of us, And we looked on, and knew not what to think, Only that we were lost men, a lost Isle, In every Spaniard's mind, both great and small.
But no such thought had place in Howard's soul, And when 't was dark, and all their sails were furled, When the wind veered a few points to the west, And the tide turned ruffling along the roads, He sent eight fireships forging down to them.
Terrible! Terrible! Blood-red pillars of reek They looked on that vast host and troubled it, As on th' Egyptian host One looked of old.
Then all the heavens were rent with a great cry, The red avengers went right on, right on, For none could let them; then was ruin, reek, flame; Against th' unwieldy huge leviathans They drave, they fell upon them as wild beasts, And all together they did plunge and grind, Their reefed sails set a-blazing, these flew loose And forth like banners of destruction sped. It was to look on as the body of hell Seething; and some, their cables cut, ran foul Of one the other, while the ruddy fire Sped on aloft. One ship was stranded. One Foundered, and went down burning; all the sea Red as an angry sunset was made fell With smoke and blazing spars that rode upright, For as the fireships burst they scattered forth Full dangerous wreckage. All the sky they scored With flying sails and rocking masts, and yards Licked of long flames. And flitting tinder sank In eddies on the plagued mixed mob of ships That cared no more for harbour, and were fain At any hazard to be forth, and leave Their berths in the blood-red haze.
It was at twelve O' the clock when this fell out, for as the eight Were towed, and left upon the friendly tide To stalk like evil angels over the deep And stare upon the Spaniards, we did hear Their midnight bells. It was at morning dawn After our mariners thus had harried them I looked my last upon their fleet,—and all, That night had cut their cables, put to sea, And scattering wide towards the Flemish coast Did seem to make for Greveline.
As for us, The captains told us off to wait on them, Bearers of wounded enemies and friends, Bearers of messages, bearers of store.
We saw not ought, but heard enough: we heard (And God be thanked) of that long scattering chase And driving of Sidonia from his hope, Parma, who could not ought without his ships And looked for them to break the Dutch blockade, He meanwhile chafing lion-like in his lair. We heard—and he—for all one summer day, Fenning and Drake and Raynor, Fenton, Cross, And more, by Greveline, where they once again Did get the wind o' the Spaniards, noise of guns. For coming with the wind, wielding themselves Which way they listed (while in close array The Spaniards stood but on defence), our own Went at them, charged them high and charged them sore, And gave them broadside after broadside. Ay, Till all the shot was spent both great and small. It failed; and in regard of that same want They thought it not convenient to pursue Their vessels farther. They were huge withal, And might not be encountered one to one, But close conjoined they fought, and poured great store Of ordnance at our ships, though many of theirs, Shot thorow and thorow, scarce might keep afloat.
Many were captured fighting, many sank. This news they brought returned perforce, and left The Spaniards forging north. Themselves did watch The river mouth, till Howard, his new store Gathered, encounter coveting, once more Made after them with Drake. And lo! the wind Got up to help us. He yet flying north (Their doughty Admiral) made all his wake To smoke, and would not end to fight, but strewed The ocean with his wreckage. And the wind Drave him before it, and the storm was fell, And he went up to th' uncouth northern sea. There did our mariners leave him. Then did joy Run like a sunbeam over the land, and joy Rule in the stout heart of a regnant Queen.
But now the counsel came, 'Every man home, For after Scotland rounded, when he curves Southward, and all the batter'd armament, What hinders on our undefended coast To land where'er he listeth? Every man Home.' And we mounted and did open forth Like a great fan, to east, to north, to west, And rumour met us flying, filtering Down through the border. News of wicked joy, The wreckers rich in the Faroes, and the Isles Orkney, and all the clansmen full of gear Gathered from helpless mariners tempted in To their undoing; while a treacherous crew Let the storm work upon their lives its will, Spoiled them and gathered all their riches up. Then did they meet like fate from Irish kernes, Who dealt with them according to their wont.
In a great storm of wind that tore green leaves And dashed them wet upon me, came I home. Then greeted me my dame, and Rosamund, Our one dear child, the heir of these my fields— That I should sigh to think it! There, no more.
Being right weary I betook me straight To longed-for sleep, and I did dream and dream Through all that dolourous storm; though noise of guns Daunted the country in the moonless night, Yet sank I deep and deeper in the dream And took my fill of rest. A voice, a touch, 'Wake.' Lo! my wife beside me, her wet hair She wrung with her wet hands, and cried, 'A ship! I have been down the beach. O pitiful! A Spanish ship ashore between the rocks, And none to guide our people. Wake.' Then I Raised on mine elbow looked; it was high day; In the windy pother seas came in like smoke That blew among the trees as fine small rain, And then the broken water sun-besprent Glitter'd, fell back and showed her high and fast A caravel, a pinnace that methought To some great ship had longed; her hap alone Of all that multitude it was to drive Between this land of England her right foe, And that most cruel, where (for all their faith Was one) no drop of water mote they drink For love of God nor love of gold. I rose And hasted; I was soon among the folk, But late for work. The crew, spent, faint, and bruised Saved for the most part of our men, lay prone In grass, and women served them bread and mead, Other the sea laid decently alone Ready for burial. And a litter stood In shade. Upon it lying a goodly man, The govourner or the captain as it seemed, Dead in his stiff gold-broider'd bravery, And epaulet and sword. They must have loved That man, for many had died to bring him in, Their boats stove in were stranded here and there. In one—but how I know not—brought they him, And he was laid upon a folded flag, Many times doubled for his greater ease, That was our thought—and we made signs to them He should have sepulture. But when they knew They must needs leave him, for some marched them off For more safe custody, they made great moan.
After, with two my neighbours drawing nigh, One of them touched the Spaniard's hand and said, 'Dead is he but not cold;' the other then, 'Nay in good truth methinks he be not dead.' Again the first, 'An' if he breatheth yet He lies at his last gasp.' And this went off, And left us two, that by the litter stayed, Looking on one another, and we looked (For neither willed to speak), and yet looked on. Then would he have me know the meet was fixed For nine o' the clock, and to be brief with you He left me. And I had the Spaniard home. What other could be done? I had him home. Men on his litter bare him, set him down In a fair chamber that was nigh the hall.
And yet he waked not from his deathly swoon, Albeit my wife did try her skill, and now Bad lay him on a bed, when lo the folds Of that great ensign covered store of gold, Rich Spanish ducats, raiment, Moorish blades Chased in right goodly wise, and missals rare, And other gear. I locked it for my part Into an armoury, and that fair flag (While we did talk full low till he should end) Spread over him. Methought, the man shall die Under his country's colours; he was brave, His deadly wound to that doth testify.
And when 't was seemly order'd, Rosamund, My daughter, who had looked not yet on death, Came in, a face all marvel, pity, and dread— Lying against her shoulder sword-long flowers, White hollyhocks to cross upon his breast. Slowly she turned as of that sight afeard, But while with daunted heart she moved anigh, His eyelids quiver'd, quiver'd then the lip, And he, reviving, with a sob looked up And set on her the midnight of his eyes.
Then she, in act to place the burial gift Bending above him, and her flaxen hair Fall'n to her hand, drew back and stood upright Comely and tall, her innocent fair face Cover'd with blushes more of joy than shame. 'Father,' she cried, 'O father, I am glad. Look you! the enemy liveth.' ''T is enough, My maiden,' quoth her mother, 'thou may'st forth, But say an Ave first for him with me.'
Then they with hands upright at foot o' his bed Knelt, his dark dying eyes at gaze on them, Till as I think for wonder at them, more Than for his proper strength, he could not die.
So in obedient wise my daughter risen, And going, let a smile of comforting cheer Lift her sweet lip, and that was all of her For many a night and day that he beheld.
And then withal my dame, a leech of skill, Tended the Spaniard fain to heal his wound, Her women aiding at their best. And he 'Twixt life and death awaken'd in the night Full oft in his own tongue would make his moan, And when he whisper'd any word I knew, If I was present, for to pleasure him, Then made I repetition of the same. 'Cordova,' quoth he faintly, 'Cordova,' 'T was the first word he mutter'd. 'Ay, we know,' Quoth I, 'the stoutness of that fight ye made Against the Moors and their Mahometry, And dispossess'd the men of fame, the fierce Khalifs of Cordova—thy home belike, Thy city. A fair city Cordova.'
Then after many days, while his wound healed, He with abundant seemly sign set forth His thanks, but as for language had we none, And oft he strove and failed to let us know Some wish he had, but could not, so a week, Two weeks went by. Then Rosamund my girl, Hearing her mother plain on this, she saith, 'So please you, madam, show the enemy A Psalter in our English tongue, and fetch And give him that same book my father found Wrapped in the ensign. Are they not the same Those holy words? The Spaniard being devout, He needs must know them.' 'Peace, thou pretty fool! Is this a time to teach an alien tongue?' Her mother made for answer. 'He is sick, The Spaniard.' 'Cry you mercy,' quoth my girl, 'But I did think 't were easy to let show How both the Psalters are of meaning like; If he know Latin, and 't is like he doth, So might he choose a verse to tell his thought.'
Then said I (ay, I did!) 'The girl shall try,' And straight I took her to the Spaniard's side, And he, admiring at her, all his face Changed to a joy that almost showed as fear, So innocent holy she did look, so grave Her pitiful eyes. She sat beside his bed, He covered with the ensign yet; and took And showed the Psalters both, and she did speak Her English words, but gazing was enough For him at her sweet dimple, her blue eyes That shone, her English blushes. Rosamund, My beautiful dear child. He did but gaze, And not perceive her meaning till she touched His hand, and in her Psalter showed the word.
Then was all light to him; he laughed for joy, And took the Latin Missal. O full soon, Alas, how soon, one read the other's thought! Before she left him, she had learned his name Alonzo, told him hers, and found the care Made night and day uneasy—Cordova, There dwelt his father, there his kin, nor knew Whether he lived or died, whether in thrall To the Islanders for lack of ransom pined Or rued the galling yoke of slavery.
So did he cast him on our kindness. I— And care not who may know it—I was kind, And for that our stout Queen did think foul scorn To kill the Spanish prisoners, and to guard So many could not, liefer being to rid Our country of them than to spite their own, I made him as I might that matter learn, Eking scant Latin with my daughter's wit, And told him men let forth and driven forth Did crowd our harbours for the ports of Spain, By one of whom, he, with good aid of mine, Should let his tidings go, and I plucked forth His ducats that a meet reward might be. Then he, the water standing in his eyes, Made old King David's words due thanks convey.
Then Rosamund, this all made plain, arose And curtsey'd to the Spaniard. Ah, methinks I yet behold her, gracious, innocent, And flaxen-haired, and blushing maidenly, When turning she retired, and his black eyes, That hunger'd after her, did follow on; And I bethought me, 'Thou shalt see no more, Thou goodly enemy, my one ewe lamb.'
O, I would make short work of this. The wound Healed, and the Spaniard rose, then could he stand, And then about his chamber walk at ease.
Now we had counsell'd how to have him home, And that same trading vessel beating up The Irish Channel at my will, that same I charter'd for to serve me in the war, Next was I minded should mine enemy Deliver to his father, and his land. Daily we looked for her, till in our cove, Upon that morn when first the Spaniard walked, Behold her rocking; and I hasted down And left him waiting in the house. Woe 's me! All being ready speed I home, and lo My Rosamund, that by the Spaniard sat Upon a cushion'd settle, book in hand. I needs must think how in the deep alcove Thick chequer'd shadows of the window-glass Did fall across her kirtle and her locks, For I did see her thus no more. She held Her Psalter, and he his, and slowly read Till he would stop her at the needed word. 'O well is thee,' she read, my Rosamund, 'O well is thee, and happy shalt thou be. Thy wife—' and there he stopped her, and he took And kissed her hand, and show'd in 's own a ring, Taking no heed of me, no heed at all.
Then I burst forth, the choler red i' my face When I did see her blush, and put it on. 'Give me,' quoth I, and Rosamund, afraid, Gave me the ring. I set my heel on it, Crushed it, and sent the rubies scattering forth, And did in righteous anger storm at him. 'What! what!' quoth I, 'before her father's eyes, Thou universal villain, thou ingrate, Thou enemy whom I shelter'd, fed, restored, Most basest of mankind!' And Rosamund, Arisen, her forehead pressed against mine arm, And 'Father,' cries she, 'father.' And I stormed At him, while in his Spanish he replied As one would speak me fair. 'Thou Spanish hound!' 'Father,' she pleaded. 'Alien vile,' quoth I, 'Plucked from the death, wilt thou repay me thus? It is but three times thou hast set thine eyes On this my daughter.' 'Father,' moans my girl; And I, not willing to be so withstood, Spoke roughly to her. Then the Spaniard's eyes Blazed—then he stormed at me in his own tongue, And all his Spanish arrogance and pride Broke witless on my wrathful English. Then He let me know, for I perceived it well, He reckon'd him mine equal, thought foul scorn Of my displeasure, and was wroth with me As I with him. 'Father,' sighed Rosamund. 'Go, get thee to thy mother, girl,' quoth I. And slowly, slowly, she betook herself Down the long hall; in lowly wise she went And made her moans. But when my girl was gone I stood at fault, th' occasion master'd me; Belike it master'd him, for both felt mute. I calmed me, and he calmed him as he might. For I bethought me I was yet an host, And he bethought him on the worthiness Of my first deeds. So made I sign to him. The tide was up, and soon I had him forth, Delivered him his goods, commended him To the captain o' the vessel, then plucked off My hat, in seemly fashion taking leave, And he was not outdone, but every way Gave me respect, and on the deck we two Parted, as I did hope, to meet no more.
Alas! my Rosamund, my Rosamund! She did not weep, no. Plain upon me, no. Her eyes mote well have lost the trick of tears: As new-washed flowers shake off the down-dropt rain, And make denial of it, yet more blue And fair of favour afterward, so they. The wild woodrose was not more fresh of blee Than her soft dimpled cheek: but I beheld, Come home, a token hung about her neck, Sparkling upon her bosom for his sake, Her love, the Spaniard, she denied it not, All unaware, good sooth, such love was bale.
And all that day went like another day, Ay, all the next; then was I glad at heart; Methought, 'I am glad thou wilt not waste thy youth Upon an alien man, mine enemy, Thy nation's enemy. In truth, in truth, This likes me very well. My most dear child, Forget yon grave dark mariner. The Lord Everlasting,' I besought, 'bring it to pass.'
Stealeth a darker day within my hall, A winter day of wind and driving foam. They tell me that my girl is sick—and yet Not very sick. I may not hour by hour, More than one watching of a moon that wanes, Make chronicle of change. A parlous change When he looks back to that same moon at full.
Ah! ah! methought, 't will pass. It did not pass, Though never she made moan. I saw the rings Drop from her small white wasted hand. And I, Her father, tamed of grief, I would have given My land, my name to have her as of old. Ay, Rosamund I speak of with the small White face. Ay, Rosamund. O near as white, And mournfuller by much, her mother dear Drooped by her couch; and while of hope and fear Lifted or left, as by a changeful tide, We thought 'The girl is better,' or we thought 'The girl will die,' that jewel from her neck She drew, and prayed me send it to her love; A token she was true e'en to the end. What matter'd now? But whom to send, and how To reach the man? I found an old poor priest, Some peril 't was for him and me, she writ My pretty Rosamund her heart's farewell, She kissed the letter, and that old poor priest, Who had eaten of my bread, and shelter'd him Under my roof in troublous times, he took, And to content her on this errand went, While she as done with earth did wait the end.
Mankind bemoan them on the bitterness Of death. Nay, rather let them chide the grief Of living, chide the waste of mother-love For babes that joy to get away to God; The waste of work and moil and thought and thrift And father-love for sons that heed it not, And daughters lost and gone. Ay, let them chide These. Yet I chide not. That which I have done Was rightly done; and what thereon befell Could make no right a wrong, e'en were 't to do Again. I will be brief. The days drag on, My soul forebodes her death, my lonely age. Once I despondent in the moaning wood Look out, and lo a caravel at sea, A man that climbs the rock, and presently The Spaniard! I did greet him, proud no more. He had braved durance, as I knew, ay death, To land on th' Island soil. In broken words Of English he did ask me how she fared. Quoth I, 'She is dying, Spaniard; Rosamund My girl will die;' but he is fain, saith he, To talk with her, and all his mind to speak; I answer, 'Ay, my whilome enemy, But she is dying.' 'Nay, now nay,' quoth he, 'So be she liveth,' and he moved me yet For answer; then quoth I, 'Come life, come death, What thou wilt, say.' Soon made we Rosamund Aware, she lying on the settle, wan As a lily in the shade, and while she not Believed for marvelling, comes he roundly in, The tall grave Spaniard, and with but one smile, One look of ruth upon her small pale face, All slowly as with unaccustom'd mouth, Betakes him to that English he hath conned, Setting the words out plain: 'Child! Rosamund! Love! An so please thee, I would be thy man. By all the saints will I be good to thee. Come.' Come! what think you, would she come? Ay, ay. They love us, but our love is not their life. For the dark mariner's love lived Rosamund. Soon for his kiss she bloomed, smiled for his smile. (The Spaniard reaped e'en as th' Evangel saith, And bore in 's bosom forth my golden sheaf.) She loved her father and her mother well, But loved the Spaniard better. It was sad To part, but she did part; and it was far To go, but she did go. The priest was brought, The ring was bless'd that bound my Rosamund, She sailed, and I shall never see her more.
One soweth and another reapeth. Ay, Too true! too true!
ECHO AND THE FERRY.
Ay, Oliver! I was but seven, and he was eleven; He looked at me pouting and rosy. I blushed where I stood. They had told us to play in the orchard (and I only seven! A small guest at the farm); but he said, 'Oh, a girl was no good!' So he whistled and went, he went over the stile to the wood. It was sad, it was sorrowful! Only a girl—only seven! At home in the dark London smoke I had not found it out. The pear-trees looked on in their white, and blue birds flash'd about, And they too were angry as Oliver. Were they eleven? I thought so. Yes, everyone else was eleven—eleven!
So Oliver went, but the cowslips were tall at my feet, And all the white orchard with fast-falling blossom was litter'd; And under and over the branches those little birds twitter'd, While hanging head downwards they scolded because I was seven. A pity. A very great pity. One should be eleven.
But soon I was happy, the smell of the world was so sweet, And I saw a round hole in an apple-tree rosy and old. Then I knew! for I peeped, and I felt it was right they should scold! Eggs small and eggs many. For gladness I broke into laughter; And then some one else—oh, how softly!—came after, came after With laughter—with laughter came after.
And no one was near us to utter that sweet mocking call, That soon very tired sank low with a mystical fall. But this was the country—perhaps it was close under heaven; Oh, nothing so likely; the voice might have come from it even. I knew about heaven. But this was the country, of this Light, blossom, and piping, and flashing of wings not at all. Not at all. No. But one little bird was an easy forgiver: She peeped, she drew near as I moved from her domicile small, Then flashed down her hole like a dart—like a dart from the quiver. And I waded atween the long grasses and felt it was bliss.
—So this was the country; clear dazzle of azure and shiver And whisper of leaves, and a humming all over the tall White branches, a humming of bees. And I came to the wall— A little low wall—and looked over, and there was the river, The lane that led on to the village, and then the sweet river Clear shining and slow, she had far far to go from her snow; But each rush gleamed a sword in the sunlight to guard her long flow, And she murmur'd, methought, with a speech very soft—very low. 'The ways will be long, but the days will be long,' quoth the river, 'To me a long liver, long, long!' quoth the river—the river.
I dreamed of the country that night, of the orchard, the sky, The voice that had mocked coming after and over and under. But at last—in a day or two namely—Eleven and I Were very fast friends, and to him I confided the wonder. He said that was Echo. 'Was Echo a wise kind of bee That had learned how to laugh: could it laugh in one's ear and then fly And laugh again yonder?' 'No; Echo'—he whispered it low— 'Was a woman, they said, but a woman whom no one could see And no one could find; and he did not believe it, not he, But he could not get near for the river that held us asunder. Yet I that had money—a shilling, a whole silver shilling— We might cross if I thought I would spend it.' 'Oh yes, I was willing'— And we ran hand in hand, we ran down to the ferry, the ferry, And we heard how she mocked at the folk with a voice clear and merry When they called for the ferry; but oh! she was very—was very Swift-footed. She spoke and was gone; and when Oliver cried, 'Hie over! hie over! you man of the ferry—the ferry!' By the still water's side she was heard far and wide—she replied And she mocked in her voice sweet and merry, 'You man of the ferry, You man of—you man of the ferry!'
'Hie over!' he shouted. The ferryman came at his calling, Across the clear reed-border'd river he ferried us fast;— Such a chase! Hand in hand, foot to foot, we ran on; it surpass'd All measure her doubling—so close, then so far away falling, Then gone, and no more. Oh! to see her but once unaware, And the mouth that had mocked, but we might not (yet sure she was there!), Nor behold her wild eyes and her mystical countenance fair.
We sought in the wood, and we found the wood-wren in her stead; In the field, and we found but the cuckoo that talked overhead; By the brook, and we found the reed-sparrow deep-nested, in brown— Not Echo, fair Echo! for Echo, sweet Echo! was flown. So we came to the place where the dead people wait till God call. The church was among them, grey moss over roof, over wall. Very silent, so low. And we stood on a green grassy mound And looked in at a window, for Echo, perhaps, in her round Might have come in to hide there. But no; every oak-carven seat Was empty. We saw the great Bible—old, old, very old, And the parson's great Prayer-book beside it; we heard the slow beat Of the pendulum swing in the tower; we saw the clear gold Of a sunbeam float down to the aisle and then waver and play On the low chancel step and the railing, and Oliver said, 'Look, Katie! look, Katie! when Lettice came here to be wed She stood where that sunbeam drops down, and all white was her gown; And she stepped upon flowers they strew'd for her.' Then quoth small Seven: 'Shall I wear a white gown and have flowers to walk upon ever?' All doubtful: 'It takes a long time to grow up,' quoth Eleven; 'You're so little, you know, and the church is so old, it can never Last on till you're tall.' And in whispers—because it was old And holy, and fraught with strange meaning, half felt, but not told, Full of old parsons' prayers, who were dead, of old days, of old folk, Neither heard nor beheld, but about us, in whispers we spoke. Then we went from it softly and ran hand in hand to the strand, While bleating of flocks and birds' piping made sweeter the land. And Echo came back e'en as Oliver drew to the ferry, 'O Katie!' 'O Katie!' 'Come on, then!' 'Come on, then!' 'For, see, The round sun, all red, lying low by the tree'—'by the tree.' 'By the tree.' Ay, she mocked him again, with her voice sweet and merry: 'Hie over!' 'Hie over!' 'You man of the ferry'—'the ferry.' 'You man of the ferry— You man of—you man of—the ferry.'
Ay, here—it was here that we woke her, the Echo of old; All life of that day seems an echo, and many times told. Shall I cross by the ferry to-morrow, and come in my white To that little low church? and will Oliver meet me anon? Will it all seem an echo from childhood pass'd over—pass'd on? Will the grave parson bless us? Hark, hark! in the dim failing light I hear her! As then the child's voice clear and high, sweet and merry Now she mocks the man's tone with 'Hie over! Hie over the ferry!' 'And, Katie.' 'And, Katie.' 'Art out with the glow-worms to-night, My Katie?' 'My Katie?' For gladness I break into laughter And tears. Then it all comes again as from far-away years; Again, some one else—oh, how softly!—with laughter comes after, Comes after—with laughter comes after.
PRELUDES TO A PENNY READING.
_SCHOOLMASTER (_not certificated_), VICAR, _and_ CHILD.
VICAR. Why did you send for me? I hope all's right?
Schoolmaster. Well, sir, we thought this end o' the room was dark.
V. Indeed! So 't is. There's my new study lamp—
S. 'T would stand, sir, well beside yon laurel wreath. Shall I go fetch it?
V. Do, we must not fail. Bring candles also.
[Exit Schoolmaster. Vicar arranges chairs.
Now, small six years old, And why may you be here?
Child. I'm helping father; But, father, why d'you take such pains?
V. Sweet soul, That's what I'm for!
C. What, and for nothing else?
V. Yes! I'm to bring thee up to be a man.
C. And what am I for?
V. There, I'm busy now.
C. Am I to bring you up to be a child?
V. Perhaps! Indeed, I have heard it said thou art.
C. Then when may I begin?
V. I'm busy, I say. Begin to-morrow an thou canst, my son, And mind to do it well.
[Exit Vicar and Child.
Enter a group of women, and some children.
Mrs. Thorpe. Fine lot o' lights!
Mrs. Jillifer. Should be! Would folk put on their Sunday best I' the week unless they looked to have it seen? What, you here, neighbour!
Mrs. Smith. Ay, you may say that. Old Madam called; said she, 'My son would feel So sorry if you did not come,' and slipped The penny in my hand, she did; said I, 'Ma'am, that's not it. In short, some say your last Was worth the penny and more. I know a man, A sober man, who said, and stuck to it, Worth a good twopence. But I'm strange, I'm shy.' 'We hope you'll come for once,' said she. In short, I said I would to oblige 'em.
Mrs. Green. Ah, 't was well.
Mrs. S. But I feel strange, and music gets i' my throat, It always did. And singers be so smart, Ladies and folk from other parishes, Candles and cheering, greens and flowers and all I was not used to such in my young day; We kept ourselves at home.
Mrs. J. Never say 'used,' The most of us have many a thing to do We were not used to. If you come to that, Why none of us are used to growing old, It takes us by surprise, as one may say, That work, when we begin 't, and yet 't is work That all of us must do.
Mrs. G. Nay, nay, not all.
Mrs. J. I ask your pardon, neighbour; you be right. Not all.
Mrs. G. And my sweet maid scarce three months dead.
Mrs. J. I ask your pardon truly.
Mrs. G. No, my dear, Thou'lt never see old days. I cannot stint To fret, the maiden was but twelve years old, So toward, such a scholar.
Mrs. S. Ay, when God, That knows, comes down to choose, He'll take the best.
Mrs. T. But I'm right glad you came, it pleases them. My son, that loves his book, 'Mother,' said he, 'Go to the Reading when you have a chance, For there you get a change, and you see life.' But Reading or no Reading, I am slow To learn. When parson after comes his rounds, 'Did it,' to ask with a persuading smile, 'Open your mind?' the woman doth not live Feels more a fool.
Mrs. J. I always tell him 'Yes,' For he means well. Ay, and I like the songs. Have you heard say what they shall read to-night?
Mrs. S.. Neighbour, I hear 'tis something of the East. But what, I ask you, is the East to us, And where d'ye think it lies?
Mrs. J. The children know, At least they say they do; there's nothing deep Nor nothing strange but they get hold on it.
Enter Schoolmaster and a dozen children.
S. Now ladies, ladies, you must please to sit More close; the room fills fast, and all these lads And maidens either have to sing before The Reading, or else after. By your leave I'll have them in the front, I want them here.
[The women make room.
Enter ploughmen, villagers, servants, and children.
And mark me, boys, if I hear cracking o' nuts, Or see you flicking acorns and what not While folks from other parishes observe, You'll hear on it when you don't look to. Tom And Jemmy and Roger, sing as loud's ye can, Sing as the maidens do, are they afraid? And now I'm stationed handy facing you, Friends all, I'll drop a word by your good leave.
Young ploughman. Do, master, do, we like your words a vast. Though there be nought to back 'em up, ye see, As when we were smaller.
S. Mark me, then, my lads. When Lady Laura sang, 'I don't think much,' Says her fine coachman, 'of your manners here. We drove eleven miles in the dark, it rained, And ruts in your cross roads are deep. We're here, My lady sings, they sit all open-mouthed, And when she's done they never give one cheer.'
Old man. Be folks to clap if they don't like the song?
S. Certain, for manners.
Enter VICAR, wife, various friends with violins and a flute. They come to a piano, and one begins softly to tune his violin, while the Vicar speaks.
V. Friends, since there is a place where you must hear When I stand up to speak, I would not now If there were any other found to bid You welcome. Welcome, then; these with me ask No better than to please, and in good sooth I ever find you willing to be pleased. When I demand not more, but when we fain Would lead you to some knowledge fresh, and ask Your careful heed, I hear that some of you Have said, 'What good to know, what good to us? He puts us all to school, and our school days Should be at end. Nay, if they needs must teach, Then let them teach us what shall mend our lot; The laws are strict on us, the world is hard.' You friends and neighbours, may I dare to speak? I know the laws are strict, and the world hard, For ever will the world help that man up That is already coming up, and still And ever help him down that's going down. Yet say, 'I will take the words out of thy mouth, O world, being yet more strict with mine own life. Thou law, to gaze shall not be worth thy while On whom beyond thy power doth rule himself.' Yet seek to know, for whoso seek to know They seek to rise, and best they mend their lot. Methinks, if Adam and Eve in their garden days Had scorned the serpent, and obediently Continued God's good children, He Himself Had led them to the Tree of Knowledge soon And bid them eat the fruit thereof, and yet Not find it apples of death.
Vicar's wife (aside). Now, dearest John, We're ready. Lucky too! you always go Above the people's heads.
Young farmer stands forward. Vicar presenting him.
Sparkle of snow and of frost, Blythe air and the joy of cold, Their grace and good they have lost, As print o' her foot by the fold. Let me back to yon desert sand, Rose-lipped love—from the fold, Flower-fair girl—from the fold, Let me back to the sultry land. The world is empty of cheer, Forlorn, forlorn, and forlorn, As the night-owl's sob of fear, As Memnon moaning at morn. For love of thee, my dear, I have lived a better man, O my Mary Anne, My Mary Anne.
Away, away, and away, To an old palm-land of tombs, Washed clear of our yesterday And where never a snowdrop blooms, Nor wild becks talk as they go Of tender hope we had known, Nor mosses of memory grow All over the wayside stone.
Farewell, farewell, and farewell, As voice of a lover's sigh In the wind let yon willow wave 'Farewell, farewell, and farewell.' The sparkling frost-stars brave On thy shrouded bosom lie; Thou art gone apart to dwell, But I fain would have said good-bye. For love of thee in thy grave I have lived a better man, O my Mary Anne, My Mary Anne.
Mrs. Thorpe (aside). O hearts! why, what a song! To think on it, and he a married man!
Mrs. Jillifer (aside). Bless you, that makes for nothing, nothing at all, They take no heed upon the words. His wife, Look you, as pleased as may be, smiles on him.
Mrs. T. (aside). Neighbours, there's one thing beats me. We've enough O' trouble in the world; I've cried my fill Many and many a time by my own fire: Now why, I'll ask you, should it comfort me And ease my heart when, pitiful and sweet, One sings of other souls and how they mourned? A body would have thought that did not know Songs must be merry, full of feast and mirth. Or else would all folk flee away from them.
Mrs. S. (aside). 'Tis strange, and I too love the sad ones best.
Mrs. T. (aside). Ay, how they clap him! 'Tis as who should say, Sing! we were pleased; sing us another song; As if they did not know he loves to sing. Well may he, not an organ pipe they blow On Sunday in the church is half so sweet; But he's a hard man.
Mrs. J. (aside). Mark me, neighbours all, Hard though he be—ay, and the mistress hard— If he do sing 'twill be a sorrowful Sad tale of sweethearts, that shall make you wish Your own time would come over again, although Were partings in 't and tears. Hist! now he sings.
Young farmer sings again.
'Come hither, come hither.' The broom was in blossom all over yon rise; There went a wide murmur of brown bees about it with songs from the wood. 'We shall never be younger! O love, let us forth, for the world 'neath our eyes, Ay, the world is made young e'en as we, and right fair is her youth and right good.'
Then there fell the great yearning upon me, that never yet went into words; While lovesome and moansome thereon spake and falter'd the dove to the dove. And I came at her calling, 'Inherit, inherit, and sing with the birds;' I went up to the wood with the child of my heart and the wife of my love.
O pure! O pathetic! Wild hyacinths drank it, the dream light, apace Not a leaf moved at all 'neath the blue, they hung waiting for messages kind; Tall cherry-trees dropped their white blossom that drifted no whit from its place, For the south very far out to sea had the lulling low voice of the wind.
And the child's dancing foot gave us part in the ravishment almost a pain, An infinite tremor of life, a fond murmur that cried out on time, Ah short! must all end in the doing and spend itself sweetly in vain, And the promise be only fulfilment to lean from the height of its prime?
'We shall never be younger;' nay, mock me not, fancy, none call from yon tree; They have thrown me the world they went over, went up, and, alas! For my part I am left to grow old, and to grieve, and to change; but they change not with me; They will never be older, the child of my love, and the wife of my heart.
Mrs. J. I told you so!
Mrs. T. (aside). That did you, neighbour. Ay, Partings, said you, and tears: I liked the song.
Mrs. G. Who be these coming to the front to sing?
Mrs. J. (aside). Why, neighbour, these be sweethearts, so 'tis said, And there was much ado to make her sing; She would, and would not; and he wanted her, And, mayhap, wanted to be seen with her. 'Tis Tomlin's pretty maid, his only one.
Mrs. G. (aside). I did not know the maid, so fair she looks.
Mrs. J. (aside). He's a right proper man she has at last; Walks over many a mile (and counts them nought) To court her after work hours, that he doth, Not like her other—why, he'd let his work Go all to wrack, and lay it to his love, While he would sit and look, and look and sigh. Her father sent him to the right-about. 'If love,' said he, 'won't make a man of you, Why, nothing will! 'Tis mainly that love's for. The right sort makes,' said he, 'a lad a man; The wrong sort makes,' said he, 'a man a fool.'
Vicar presents a young man and a girl.
She. While he dreams, mine old grand sire, And yon red logs glow, Honey, whisper by the fire, Whisper, honey low.
He. Honey, high's yon weary hill, Stiff's yon weary loam; Lacks the work o' my goodwill, Fain I'd take thee home. O how much longer, and longer, and longer, An' how much longer shall the waiting last? Berries red are grown, April birds are flown, Martinmas gone over, ay, and harvest past.
She. Honey, bide, the time's awry, Bide awhile, let be. He. Take my wage then, lay it by, Till 't come back with thee. The red money, the white money, Both to thee I bring— She. Bring ye ought beside, honey? He. Honey, ay, the ring.
Duet. But how much longer, and longer, and longer, O how much longer shall the waiting last? Berries red are grown, April birds are flown, Martinmas gone over, and the harvest past.
Mrs. S. (aside). O she's a pretty maid, and sings so small And high, 'tis like a flute. And she must blush Till all her face is roses newly blown. How folks do clap. She knows not where to look. There now she's off; he standing like a man To face them.
Mrs. G. (aside). Makes his bow, and after her; But what's the good of clapping when they're gone?
Mrs. T. (aside). Why 'tis a London fashion as I'm told, And means they'd have 'em back to sing again.
Mrs. J. (aside). Neighbours, look where her father, red as fire, Sits pleased and 'shamed, smoothing his Sunday hat; And Parson bustles out. Clap on, clap on. Coming? Not she! There comes her sweetheart though.
Vicar presents the young man again.
Rain clouds flew beyond the fell, No more did thunders lower, Patter, patter, on the beck Dropt a clearing shower. Eddying floats of creamy foam Flecked the waters brown, As we rode up to cross the ford, Rode up from yonder town. Waiting on the weather, She and I together, Waiting on the weather, Till the flood went down.
The sun came out, the wet leaf shone, Dripped the wild wood vine. Betide me well, betide me woe, That hour's for ever mine. With thee Mary, with thee Mary, Full oft I pace again, Asleep, awake, up yonder glen, And hold thy bridle rein. Waiting on the weather, Thou and I together, Waiting on the weather, Till the flood shall wane.
And who, though hope did come to nought, Would memory give away? I lighted down, she leaned full low, Nor chid that hour's delay. With thee Mary, with thee Mary, Methought my life to crown, But we ride up, but we ride up, No more from yonder town. Waiting on the weather, Thou and I together, Waiting on the weather, Till the flood go down.
Mrs. J. (aside). Well, very well; but what of fiddler Sam? I ask you, neighbours, if't be not his turn. An honest man, and ever pays his score; Born in the parish, old, blind as a bat, And strangers sing before him; 't is a shame!
Mrs. S. (aside). Ay, but his daughter—
Mrs. J. (aside). Why, the maid's a maid One would not set to guide the chant in church, But when she sings to earn her father's bread, The mildest mother's son may cry 'Amen.'
Mrs. S. (aside). They say he plays not always true.
Mrs. J. (aside) What then?
Mrs. T. (aside). Here comes my lady. She's too fat by half For love songs. O! the lace upon her gown, I wish I had the getting of it up, 'T would be a pretty penny in my pouch.
Mrs. J. (aside). Be quiet now for manners.
Vicar presents a lady, who sings.
Dark flocks of wildfowl riding out the storm Upon a pitching sea, Beyond grey rollers vex'd that rear and form, When piping winds urge on their destiny, To fall back ruined in white continually. And I at our trysting stone, Whereto I came down alone, Was fain o' the wind's wild moan. O, welcome were wrack and were rain And beat of the battling main, For the sake of love's sweet pain, For the smile in two brown eyes, For the love in any wise, To bide though the last day dies; For a hand on my wet hair, For a kiss e'en yet I wear, For—bonny Jock was there.
Pale precipices while the sun lay low Tinct faintly of the rose, And mountain islands mirror'd in a flow, Forgotten of all winds (their manifold Peaks, reared into the glory and the glow), Floated in purple and gold. And I, o'er the rocks alone, Of a shore all silent grown, Came down to our trysting stone, And sighed when the solemn ray Paled in the wake o' the day. 'Wellaway, wellaway,— Comfort is not by the shore, Going the gold that it wore, Purple and rose are no more, World and waters are wan, And night will be here anon, And—bonny Jock's gone.'
[Moderate applause, and calls for fiddler Sam.
Mrs. Jillifer (aside). Now, neighbours, call again and be not shamed; Stand by the parish, and the parish folk, Them that are poor. I told you! here he comes. Parson looks glum, but brings him and his girl.
The fiddler Sam plays, and his daughter sings.
Touch the sweet string. Fly forth, my heart, Upon the music like a bird; The silvery notes shall add their part, And haply yet thou shalt be heard. Touch the sweet string.
The youngest wren of nine Dimpled, dark, and merry, Brown her locks, and her two eyne Browner than a berry.
When I was not in love Maidens met I many; Under sun now walks but one, Nor others mark I any.
Twin lambs, a mild-eyed ewe, That would her follow bleating, A heifer white as snow I'll give to my sweet sweeting.
Touch the sweet string. If yet too young, O love of loves, for this my song, I'll pray thee count it all unsung, And wait thy leisure, wait it long. Touch the sweet string.
Vicar. You hear them, Sam. You needs must play again, Your neighbours ask it.
Fiddler. Thank ye, neighbours all, I have my feelings though I be but poor; I've tanged the fiddle here this forty year, And I should know the trick on 't.
The fiddler plays, and his daughter sings.
For Exmoor— For Exmoor, where the red deer run, my weary heart doth cry. She that will a rover wed, far her foot shall his. Narrow, narrow, shows the street, dull the narrow sky. (Buy my cherries, whiteheart cherries, good my masters, buy.)
For Exmoor— O he left me, left alone, aye to think and sigh, 'Lambs feed down yon sunny coombe, hind and yearling shy, Mid the shrouding vapours walk now like ghosts on high.' (Buy my cherries, blackheart cherries, lads and lassies, buy.)
For Exmoor— Dear my dear, why did ye so? Evil days have I, Mark no more the antler'd stag, hear the curlew cry. Milking at my father's gate while he leans anigh. (Buy my cherries, whiteheart, blackheart, golden girls, O buy.)
Mrs. T. (aside). I've known him play that Exmoor song afore. 'Ah me! and I'm from Exmoor. I could wish To hear 't no more.
Mrs. S. (aside). Neighbours, 't is mighty hot. Ay, now they throw the window up, that's well, A body could not breathe.
[The fiddler and his daughter go away.
Mrs. Jillifer (aside). They'll hear no parson's preaching, no not they! But innocenter songs, I do allow, They could not well have sung than these to-night. That man knows just so well as if he saw They were not welcome.
The Vicar stands up, on the point of beginning to read, when the tuning and twang of the fiddle is heard close outside the open window, and the daughter sings in a clear cheerful voice. A little tittering is heard in the room, and the Vicar pauses discomfited.
O my heart! what a coil is here! Laurie, why will ye hold me dear? Laurie, Laurie, lad, make not wail, With a wiser lass ye'll sure prevail, For ye sing like a woodland nightingale. And there's no sense in it under the sun; For of three that woo I can take but one, So what's to be done—what's to be done? And There's no sense in it under the sun.
Hal, brave Hal, from your foreign parts Come home you'll choose among kinder hearts. Forget, forget, you're too good to hold A fancy 't were best should faint, grow cold, And fade like an August marigold; For of three that woo I can take but one, And what's to be done—what's to be done? There's no sense in it under the sun, And Of three that woo I can take but one.
Geordie, Geordie, I count you true, Though language sweet I have none for you. Nay, but take me home to the churning mill When cherry boughs white on yon mounting hill Hang over the tufts o' the daffodil. For what's to be done—what's to be done? Of three that woo I must e'en take one, Or there's no sense in it under the sun, And What's to be done—what's to be done?
V. (aside). What's to be done, indeed!
Wife (aside). Done! nothing, love. Either the thing has done itself, or they Must undo. Did they call for fiddler Sam? Well, now they have him.
[More tuning heard outside.
Mrs. J. (aside). Live and let live's my motto.
Mrs. T. So 't is mine. Who's Sam, that he must fly in Parson's face? He's had his turn. He never gave these lights, Cut his best flowers—
Mrs. S. (aside). He takes no pride in us. Speak up, good neighbour, get the window shut.
Mrs. J. (rising). I ask your pardon truly, that I do— La! but the window—there's a parlous draught; The window punishes rheumatic folk— We'd have it shut, sir.
Others. Truly, that we would.
V. Certainly, certainly, my friends, you shall.
[The window is shut, and the Reading begins amid marked attention.
Into the rock the road is cut full deep, At its low ledges village children play, From its high rifts fountains of leafage weep, And silvery birches sway.
The boldest climbers have its face forsworn, Sheer as a wall it doth all daring flout; But benchlike at its base, and weather-worn, A narrow ledge leans out.
There do they set forth feasts in dishes rude Wrought of the rush—wild strawberries on the bed Left into August, apples brown and crude, Cress from the cold well-head.
Shy gamesome girls, small daring imps of boys, But gentle, almost silent at their play— Their fledgling daws, for food, make far more noise Ranged on the ledge than they.
The children and the purple martins share (Loveliest of birds) possession of the place; They veer and dart cream-breasted round the fair Faces with wild sweet grace.
Fresh haply from Palmyra desolate, Palmyra pale in light and storyless— From perching in old Tadmor mate by mate In the waste wilderness.
These know the world; what do the children know? They know the woods, their groaning noises weird, They climb in trees that overhang the slow Deep mill-stream, loved and feared.
Where shaken water-wheels go creak and clack, List while a lorn thrush calls and almost speaks; See willow-wrens with elderberries black Staining their slender beaks.
They know full well how squirrels spend the day; They peeped when field-mice stole and stored the seed, And voles along their under-water way Donned collars of bright beads.
Still from the deep-cut road they love to mark Where set, as in a frame, the nearer shapes Rise out of hill and wood; then long downs dark As purple bloom on grapes.
But farms whereon the tall wheat musters gold, High barley whitening, creases in bare hills, Reed-feathered, castle-like brown churches old, Nor churning water-mills,
Shall make ought seem so fair as that beyond— Beyond the down, which draws their fealty; Blow high, blow low, some hearts do aye respond The wind is from the sea.
Above the steep-cut steps as they did grow, The children's cottage homes embowered are seen; Were this a world unfallen, they scarce could show More beauteous red and green.
Milk-white and vestal-chaste the hollyhock Grows tall, clove, sweetgale nightly shed forth spice, Long woodbines leaning over scent the rock With airs of Paradise.
Here comforted of pilot stars they lie In charmed dreams, but not of wold nor lea. Behold a ship! her wide yards score the sky; She sails a steel-blue sea.
As turns the great amassment of the tide, Drawn of the silver despot to her throne, So turn the destined souls, so far and wide The strong deep claims its own.
Still the old tale; these dreaming islanders, Each with hot Sunderbunds a somewhat owns That calls, the grandsire's blood within them stirs Dutch Java guards his bones.
And these were orphan'd when a leak was sprung Far out from land when all the air was balm; The shipmen saw their faces as they hung, And sank in the glassy calm.
These, in an orange-sloop their father plied, Deck-laden deep she sailed from Cadiz town, A black squall rose, she turned upon her side, Drank water and went down.
They too shall sail. High names of alien lands Are in the dream, great names their fathers knew; Madras, the white surf rearing on her sands, E'en they shall breast it too.
See threads of scarlet down fell Roa creep, When moaning winds rend back her vapourous veil; Wild Orinoco wedge-like split the deep, Raging forth passion-pale;
Or a blue berg at sunrise glittering tall, Great as a town adrift come shining on With sharp spires, gemlike as the mystical Clear city of Saint John.
Still the old tale; but they are children yet; O let their mothers have them while they may! Soon it shall work, the strange mysterious fret That mars both toil and play.
The sea will claim its own; and some shall mourn; They also, they, but yet will surely go; So surely as the planet to its bourne, The chamois to his snow.
'Father, dear father, bid us now God-speed; We cannot choose but sail, it thus befell.' 'Mother, dear mother—' 'Nay, 't is all decreed. Dear hearts, farewell, farewell!'
A waxing moon that, crescent yet, In all its silver beauty set, And rose no more in the lonesome night To shed full-orbed its longed-for light. Then was it dark; on wold and lea, In home, in heart, the hours were drear. Father and mother could no light see, And the hearts trembled and there was fear. —So on the mount, Christ's chosen three, Unware that glory it did shroud, Feared when they entered into the cloud.
She was the best part of love's fair Adornment, life's God-given care, As if He bade them guard His own, Who should be soon anear His throne. Dutiful, happy, and who say When childhood smiles itself away, 'More fair than morn shall prove the day.' Sweet souls so nigh to God that rest, How shall be bettering of your best! That promise heaven alone shall view, That hope can ne'er with us come true, That prophecy life hath not skill, No, nor time leave that it fulfil.
There is but heaven, for childhood never Can yield the all it meant, for ever. Or is there earth, must wane to less What dawned so close by perfectness.
How guileless, sweet, by gift divine, How beautiful, dear child, was thine— Spared all their grief of thee bereaven. Winner, who had not greatly striven, Hurts of sin shall not thee soil, Carking care thy beauty spoil. So early blest, so young forgiven.
Among the meadows fresh to view, And in the woodland ways she grew, On either side a hand to hold, Nor the world's worst of evil knew, Nor rued its miseries manifold, Nor made discovery of its cold. What more, like one with morn content. Or of the morrow diffident, Unconscious, beautiful she stood, Calm, in young stainless maidenhood. Then, with the last steps childhood trod, Took up her fifteen years to God.
Farewell, sweet hope, not long to last, All life is better for thy past. Farewell till love with sorrow meet, To learn that tears are obsolete.
Her younger sister, that Speranza hight.
England puts on her purple, and pale, pale With too much light, the primrose doth but wait To meet the hyacinth; then bower and dale Shall lose her and each fairy woodland mate. April forgets them, for their utmost sum Of gift was silent, and the birds are come.
The world is stirring, many voices blend, The English are at work in field and way; All the good finches on their wives attend, And emmets their new towns lay out in clay; Only the cuckoo-bird only doth say Her beautiful name, and float at large all day.
Everywhere ring sweet clamours, chirrupping, Chirping, that comes before the grasshopper; The wide woods, flurried with the pulse of spring, Shake out their wrinkled buds with tremor and stir; Small noises, little cries, the ear receives Light as a rustling foot on last year's leaves.
All in deep dew the satisfied deep grass Looking straight upward stars itself with white, Like ships in heaven full-sailed do long clouds pass Slowly o'er this great peace, and wide sweet light. While through moist meads draws down yon rushy mere Influent waters, sobbing, shining, clear.
Almost is rapture poignant; somewhat ails The heart and mocks the morning; somewhat sighs, And those sweet foreigners, the nightingales, Made restless with their love, pay down its price, Even the pain; then all the story unfold Over and over again—yet 't is not told.
The mystery of the world whose name is life (One of the names of God) all-conquering wends And works for aye with rest and cold at strife. Its pedigree goes up to Him and ends. For it the lucent heavens are clear o'erhead, And all the meads are made its natal bed.
Dear is the light, and eye-sight ever sweet, What see they all fair lower things that nurse, No wonder, and no doubt? Truly their meat, Their kind, their field, their foes; man's eyes are more; Sight is man's having of the universe, His pass to the majestical far shore.
But it is not enough, ah! not enough To look upon it and be held away, And to be sure that, while we tread the rough, Remote, dull paths of this dull world, no ray Shall pierce to us from the inner soul of things, Nor voice thrill out from its deep master-strings.
'To show the skies, and tether to the sod! A daunting gift!' we mourn in our long strife. And God is more than all our thought of God; E'en life itself more than our thought of life, And that is all we know—and it is noon, Our little day will soon be done—how soon!
O let us to ourselves be dutiful: We are not satisfied, we have wanted all, Not alone beauty, but that Beautiful; A lifted veil, an answering mystical. Ever men plead, and plain, admire, implore, 'Why gavest Thou so much—and yet—not more?
We are but let to look, and Hope is weighed.' Yet, say the Indian words of sweet renown, 'The doomed tree withholdeth not her shade From him that bears the axe to cut her down;' Is hope cut down, dead, doomed, all is vain: The third day dawns, she too has risen again
(For Faith is ours by gift, but Hope by right), And walks among us whispering as of yore: 'Glory and grace are thrown thee with the light; Search, if not yet thou touch the mystic shore; Immanent beauty and good are nigh at hand, For infants laugh and snowdrops bloom in the land.
Thou shalt have more anon.' What more? in sooth, The mother of to-morrow is to-day, And brings forth after her kind. There is no ruth On the heart's sigh, that 'more' is hidden away, And man's to-morrow yet shall pine and yearn; He shall surmise, and he shall not discern,
But list the lark, and want the rapturous cries And passioning of morning stars that sing Together; mark the meadow-orchis rise And think it freckled after an angel's wing; Absent desire his land, and feel this, one With the great drawing of the central sun.
But not to all such dower, for there be eyes Are colour-blind, and souls are spirit-blind. Those never saw the blush in sunset skies, Nor the others caught a sense not made of words As if were spirits about, that sailed the wind And sank and settled on the boughs like birds.
Yet such for aye divided from us are As other galaxies that seem no more Than a little golden millet-seed afar. Divided; swarming down some flat lee shore, Then risen, while all the air that takes no word Tingles, and trembles as with cries not heard.
For they can come no nearer. There is found No meeting point. We have pierced the lodging-place Of stars that cluster'd with their peers lie bound, Embedded thick, sunk in the seas of space, Fortunate orbs that know not night, for all Are suns;—but we have never heard that call,
Nor learned it in our world, our citadel With outworks of a Power about it traced; Nor why we needs must sin who would do well, Nor why the want of love, nor why its waste, Nor how by dying of One should all be sped, Nor where, O Lord, thou hast laid up our dead.
But Hope is ours by right, and Faith by gift. Though Time be as a moon upon the wane, Who walk with Faith far up the azure lift Oft hear her talk of lights to wax again. 'If man be lost,' she cries, 'in this vast sea Of being,—lost—he would be lost with Thee
Who for his sake once, as he hears, lost all. For Thou wilt find him at the end of the days: Then shall the flocking souls that thicker fall Than snowflakes on the everlasting ways Be counted, gathered, claimed.—Will it be long? Earth has begun already her swan-song.
Who, even that might, would dwell for ever pent In this fair frame that doth the spirit inhearse, Nor at the last grow weary and content, Die, and break forth into the universe, And yet man would not all things—all—were new.' Then saith the other, that one robed in blue:
'What if with subtle change God touch their eyes When he awakes them,—not far off, but here In a new earth, this: not in any wise Strange, but more homely sweet, more heavenly dear, Or if He roll away, as clouds disperse Somewhat, and lo, that other universe.
O how 't were sweet new waked in some good hour, Long time to sit on a hillside green and high There like a honeybee domed in a flower To feed unneath the azure bell o' the sky, Feed in the midmost home and fount of light Sown thick with stars at noonday as by night
To watch the flying faultless ones wheel down, Alight, and run along some ridged peak, Their feet adust from orbs of old renown, Procyon or Mazzaroth, haply;—when they speak Other-world errands wondrous, all discern That would be strange, there would be much to learn.
Ay, and it would be sweet to share unblamed Love's shining truths that tell themselves in tears, Or to confess and be no more ashamed The wrongs that none can right through earthly years; And seldom laugh, because the tenderness Calm, perfect, would be more than joy—would bless.
I tell you it were sweet to have enough, And be enough. Among the souls forgiven In presence of all worlds, without rebuff To move, and feel the excellent safety leaven With peace that awe must loss and the grave survive— But palpitating moons that are alive
Nor shining fogs swept up together afar, Vast as a thought of God, in the firmament; No, and to dart as light from star to star Would not long time man's yearning soul content: Albeit were no more ships and no more sea, He would desire his new earth presently.
Leisure to learn it. Peoples would be here; They would come on in troops, and take at will The forms, the faces they did use to wear With life's first splendours—raiment rich with skill Of broidery, carved adornments, crowns of gold; Still would be sweet to them the life of old.
Then might be gatherings under golden shade, Where dust of water drifts from some sheer fall, Cooling day's ardour. There be utterance made Of comforted love, dear freedom after thrall, Large longings of the Seer, through earthly years An everlasting burden, but no tears.
Egypt's adopted child might tell of lore They taught him underground in shrines all dim, And of the live tame reptile gods that wore Gold anklets on their feet. And after him, With fairest eyes ere met of mortal ken, Glorious, forgiven, might speak the mother of men.
Talk of her apples gather'd by the marge Of lapsing Gihon. 'Thus one spoke, I stood, I ate.' Or next the mariner-saint enlarge Right quaintly on his ark of gopher wood To wandering men through high grass meads that ran Or sailed the sea Mediterranean.
It might be common—earth afforested Newly, to follow her great ones to the sun, When from transcendent aisles of gloom they sped Some work august (there would be work) now done. And list, and their high matters strive to scan The seekers after God, and lovers of man,
Sitting together in amity on a hill, The Saint of Visions from Greek Patmos come— Aurelius, lordly, calm-eyed, as of will Austere, yet having rue on lost, lost Rome, And with them One who drank a fateful bowl, And to the unknown God trusted his soul.
The mitred Cranmer pitied even there (But could it be?) for that false hand which signed O, all pathetic—no. But it might bear To soothe him marks of fire—and gladsome kind The man, as all of joy him well beseemed Who 'lighted on a certain place and dreamed.'
And fair with the meaning of life their divine brows, The daughters of well-doing famed in song; But what! could old-world love for child, for spouse, For land, content through lapsing eons long? Oh for a watchword strong to bridge the deep And satisfy of fulness after sleep.
What know we? Whispers fall, 'And the last first, And the first last.' The child before the king? The slave before that man a master erst? The woman before her lord? Shall glory fling The rolls aside—time raze out triumphs past? They sigh, 'And the last first, and the first last.'
Answers that other, 'Lady, sister, friend, It is enough, for I have worshipped Life; With Him that is the Life man's life shall blend, E'en now the sacred heavens do help his strife. There do they knead his bread and mix his cup, And all the stars have leave to bear him up.
Yet must he sink and fall away to a sleep, As did his Lord. This Life his worshipped Religion, Life. The silence may be deep, Life listening, watching, waiting by His dead, Till at the end of days they wake full fain Because their King, the Life, doth love and reign.
I know the King shall come to that new earth, And His feet stand again as once they stood, In His man's eyes will shine Time's end and worth The chiefest beauty and the chiefest good, And all shall have the all and in it bide, And every soul of man be satisfied.
They tell strange things of the primeval earth, But things that be are never strange to those Among them. And we know what it was like, Many are sure they walked in it; the proof This, the all gracious, all admired whole Called life, called world, called thought, was all as one. Nor yet divided more than that old earth Among the tribes. Self was not fully come— Self was asleep, embedded in the whole.
I too dwelt once in a primeval world, Such as they tell of, all things wonderful; Voices, ay visions, people grand and tall Thronged in it, but their talk was overhead And bore scant meaning, that one wanted not Whose thought was sight as yet unbound of words, This kingdom of heaven having entered through Being a little child.
Such as can see, Why should they doubt? The childhood of a race. The childhood of a soul, hath neither doubt Nor fear. Where all is super-natural The guileless heart doth feed on it, no more Afraid than angels are of heaven.
Who saith Another life, the next one shall not have Another childhood growing gently thus, Able to bear the poignant sweetness, take The rich long awful measure of its peace, Endure the presence sublime.
I saw Once in that earth primeval, once—a face, A little face that yet I dream upon.'
'Of this world was it?' 'Not of this world—no, In the beginning—for methinks it was In the beginning but an if you ask How long ago, time was not then, nor date For marking. It was always long ago, E'en from the first recalling of it, long And long ago.
And I could walk, and went, Led by the hand through a long mead at morn, Bathed in a ravishing excess of light. It throbbed, and as it were fresh fallen from heaven, Sank deep into the meadow grass. The sun Gave every blade a bright and a dark side, Glitter'd on buttercups that topped them, slipped To soft red puffs, by some called holy-hay. The wide oaks in their early green stood still And took delight in it. Brown specks that made Very sweet noises quivered in the blue; Then they came down and ran along the brink Of a long pool, and they were birds.
The pool Pranked at the edges with pale peppermint, A rare amassment of veined cuckoo flowers And flags blue-green was lying below. This all Was sight it condescended not to words Till memory kissed the charmed dream.
The mead Hollowing and heaving, in the hollows fair With dropping roses fell away to it, A strange sweet place; upon its further side Some people gently walking took their way Up to a wood beyond; and also bells Sang, floated in the air, hummed—what you will.'
'Then it was Sunday?' 'Sunday was not yet; It was a holiday, for all the days Were holy. It was not our day of rest (The earth for all her rolling asks not rest, For she was never weary).
It was sweet, Full of dear leisure and perennial peace, As very old days when life went easily, Before mankind had lost the wise, the good Habit of being happy.
For the pool A beauteous place it was as might be seen, That led one down to other meads, and had Clouds and another sky. I thought to go Deep down in it, and walk that steep clear slope.
Then she who led me reached the brink, her foot Staying to talk with one who met her there. Here were fresh marvels, sailing things whose vans Floated them on above the flowering flags. We moved a little onward, paused again, And here there was a break in these, and here There came the vision; for I stooped to gaze So far as my small height would let me—gaze Into that pool to see the fishes dart, And in a moment from her under hills Came forth a little child who lived down there, Looked up at me and smiled. We could not talk, But looked and loved each other. I a hand Held out to her, so she to me, but ah, She would not come. Her home, her little bed, Was doubtless under that soft shining thing The water, and she wanted not to run Among red sorrel spires, and fill her hand In the dry warmed grass with cowslip buds. Awhile our feeding hearts all satisfied, Took in the blue of one another's eyes, Two dimpled creatures, rose-lipped innocent. But when we fain had kissed—O! the end came, For snatched aloft, held in the nurse's arms, She parting with her lover I was borne Far from that little child.
And no one knew She lived down there, but only I; and none Sought for her, but I yearned for her and left Part of myself behind, as the lambs leave Their wool upon a thorn.'
'And was she seen Never again, nor known for what she was?'
'Never again, for we did leave anon The pasture and the pool. I know not where They lie, and sleep a heaven on earth, but know From thenceforth yearnings for a lost delight; On certain days I dream about her still.'
IN THE NURSERY.
Where do you go, Bob, when you 're fast asleep?' 'Where? O well, once I went into a deep Mine, father told of, and a cross man said He'd make me help to dig, and eat black bread. I saw the Queen once, in her room, quite near. She said, "You rude boy, Bob, how came you here?"'
'Was it like mother's boudoir?'
'Grander far, Gold chairs and things—all over diamonds—Ah!'
'You're sure it was the Queen?' 'Of course, a crown Was on her, and a spangly purple gown.'
'I went to heaven last night.'
'O Lily, no, How could you?'
'Yes I did, they told me so, And my best doll, my favourite, with the blue Frock, Jasmine, I took her to heaven too.' 'What was it like?'
'A kind of—I can't tell— A sort of orchard place in a long dell, With trees all over flowers. And there were birds Who could do talking, say soft pretty words; They let me stroke them, and I showed it all To Jasmine. And I heard a blue dove call, "Child, this is heaven." I was not frightened when It spoke, I said "Where are the angels then?"'
'So it said, "Look up and you shall see." There were two angels sitting in the tree, As tall as mother; they had long gold hair. They let drop down the fruit they gather'd there And little angels came for it—so sweet. Here they were beggar children in the street, And the dove said they had the prettiest things, And wore their best frocks every day.'
'And wings, Had they no wings?'
'O yes, and lined with white Like swallow wings, so soft—so very light Fluttering about.'
'Well, I did not stay, So that was all.'
'They made you go away?'
'I did not go—but—I was gone.'
'But it's a pity, Bob, we never go Together.'
'Yes, and have no dreams to tell, But the next day both know it all quite well.'
'And, Bob, if I could dream you came with me You would be there perhaps.'
THE AUSTRALIAN BELL-BIRD.
Toll— Toll.' 'The bell-bird sounding far away, Hid in a myall grove.' He raised his head, The bush glowed scarlet in descending day, A masterless wild country—and he said, My father ('Toll.') 'Full oft by her to stray, As if a spirit called, have I been led; Oft seems she as an echo in my soul ('Toll.') from my native towers by Avon ('Toll').
('Toll.') Oft as in a dream I see full fain The bell-tower beautiful that I love well, A seemly cluster with her churches twain. I hear adown the river faint and swell And lift upon the air that sound again, It is, it is—how sweet no tongue can tell, For all the world-wide breadth of shining foam, The bells of Evesham chiming "Home, sweet home."
The mind hath mastery thus—it can defy The sense, and make all one as it DID HEAR— Nay, I mean more; the wraiths of sound gone by Rise; they are present 'neath this dome all clear. ONE, sounds the bird—a pause—then doth supply Some ghost of chimes the void expectant ear; Do they ring bells in heaven? The learnedest soul Shall not resolve me such a question. ('Toll.')
('Toll.') Say I am a boy, and fishing stand By Avon ('Toll.') on line and rod intent, How glitters deep in dew the meadow land— What, dost thou flit, thy ministry all spent, Not many days we hail such visits bland, Why steal so soon the rare enravishment? Ay gone! the soft deceptive echoes roll Away, and faint into remoteness.' ('Toll.')
While thus he spoke the doom'd sun touched his bed In scarlet, all the palpitating air Still loyal waited on. He dipped his head, Then all was over, and the dark was there; And northward, lo! a star, one likewise red But lurid, starts from out her day-long lair, Her fellows trail behind; she bears her part, The balefullest star that shines, the Scorpion's heart
Or thus of old men feigned, and then did fear, Then straight crowd forth the great ones of the sky In flashing flame at strife to reach more near. The little children of Infinity, They next look down as to report them 'Here,' From deeps all thoughts despair and heights past high, Speeding, not sped, no rest, no goal, no shore, Still to rush on till time shall be no more.
'Loved vale of Evesham, 'tis a long farewell, Not laden orchards nor their April snow These eyes shall light upon again; the swell And whisper of thy storied river know, Nor climb the hill where great old Montfort fell In a good cause hundreds of years ago; So fall'n, elect to live till life's ally, The river of recorded deeds, runs dry.
This land is very well, this air,' saith he, 'Is very well, but we want echoes here. Man's past to feed the air and move the sea; Ages of toil make English furrows dear, Enriched by blood shed for his liberty, Sacred by love's first sigh and life's last fear, We come of a good nest, for it shall yearn Poor birds of passage, but may not return,
Spread younger wings, and beat the winds afar. There sing more poets in that one small isle Than all isles else can show—of such you are; Remote things come to you unsought erewhile, Near things a long way round as by a star. Wild dreams!' He laughed, 'A sage right infantile; With sacred fear behold life's waste deplored, Undaunted by the leisure of the Lord.
Ay go, the island dream with eyes make good, Where Freedom rose, a lodestar to your race; And Hope that leaning on her anchor stood Did smile it to her feet: a right small place. Call her a mother, high such motherhood, Home in her name and duty in her face; Call her a ship, her wide arms rake the clouds, And every wind of God pipes in her shrouds.