"Your priests have trampled the dust of mine without rueing, Despising the joys of man whom I so much loved, Though my springs boil on by your Gothic arcades and pewing, And sculptures crude . . . Would Jove they could be removed!"
"—Repress, O lady proud, your traditional ires; You know not by what a frail thread we equally hang; It is said we are images both—twitched by people's desires; And that I, like you, fail as a song men yesterday sang!"
* * *
And the olden dark hid the cavities late laid bare, And all was suspended and soundless as before, Except for a gossamery noise fading off in the air, And the boiling voice of the waters' medicinal pour.
SEVENTY-FOUR AND TWENTY
Here goes a man of seventy-four, Who sees not what life means for him, And here another in years a score Who reads its very figure and trim.
The one who shall walk to-day with me Is not the youth who gazes far, But the breezy wight who cannot see What Earth's ingrained conditions are.
"A woman never agreed to it!" said my knowing friend to me. "That one thing she'd refuse to do for Solomon's mines in fee: No woman ever will make herself look older than she is." I did not answer; but I thought, "you err there, ancient Quiz."
It took a rare one, true, to do it; for she was surely rare - As rare a soul at that sweet time of her life as she was fair. And urging motives, too, were strong, for ours was a passionate case, Yea, passionate enough to lead to freaking with that young face.
I have told no one about it, should perhaps make few believe, But I think it over now that life looms dull and years bereave, How blank we stood at our bright wits' end, two frail barks in distress, How self-regard in her was slain by her large tenderness.
I said: "The only chance for us in a crisis of this kind Is going it thorough!"—"Yes," she calmly breathed. "Well, I don't mind." And we blanched her dark locks ruthlessly: set wrinkles on her brow; Ay—she was a right rare woman then, whatever she may be now.
That night we heard a coach drive up, and questions asked below. "A gent with an elderly wife, sir," was returned from the bureau. And the wheels went rattling on, and free at last from public ken We washed all off in her chamber and restored her youth again.
How many years ago it was! Some fifty can it be Since that adventure held us, and she played old wife to me? But in time convention won her, as it wins all women at last, And now she is rich and respectable, and time has buried the past.
"I ROSE UP AS MY CUSTOM IS"
I rose up as my custom is On the eve of All-Souls' day, And left my grave for an hour or so To call on those I used to know Before I passed away.
I visited my former Love As she lay by her husband's side; I asked her if life pleased her, now She was rid of a poet wrung in brow, And crazed with the ills he eyed;
Who used to drag her here and there Wherever his fancies led, And point out pale phantasmal things, And talk of vain vague purposings That she discredited.
She was quite civil, and replied, "Old comrade, is that you? Well, on the whole, I like my life. - I know I swore I'd be no wife, But what was I to do?
"You see, of all men for my sex A poet is the worst; Women are practical, and they Crave the wherewith to pay their way, And slake their social thirst.
"You were a poet—quite the ideal That we all love awhile: But look at this man snoring here - He's no romantic chanticleer, Yet keeps me in good style.
"He makes no quest into my thoughts, But a poet wants to know What one has felt from earliest days, Why one thought not in other ways, And one's Loves of long ago."
Her words benumbed my fond frail ghost; The nightmares neighed from their stalls The vampires screeched, the harpies flew, And under the dim dawn I withdrew To Death's inviolate halls.
On Monday night I closed my door, And thought you were not as heretofore, And little cared if we met no more.
I seemed on Tuesday night to trace Something beyond mere commonplace In your ideas, and heart, and face.
On Wednesday I did not opine Your life would ever be one with mine, Though if it were we should well combine.
On Thursday noon I liked you well, And fondly felt that we must dwell Not far apart, whatever befell.
On Friday it was with a thrill In gazing towards your distant vill I owned you were my dear one still.
I saw you wholly to my mind On Saturday—even one who shrined All that was best of womankind.
As wing-clipt sea-gull for the sea On Sunday night I longed for thee, Without whom life were waste to me!
HAD YOU WEPT
Had you wept; had you but neared me with a frail uncertain ray, Dewy as the face of the dawn, in your large and luminous eye, Then would have come back all the joys the tidings had slain that day, And a new beginning, a fresh fair heaven, have smoothed the things awry. But you were less feebly human, and no passionate need for clinging Possessed your soul to overthrow reserve when I came near; Ay, though you suffer as much as I from storms the hours are bringing Upon your heart and mine, I never see you shed a tear.
The deep strong woman is weakest, the weak one is the strong; The weapon of all weapons best for winning, you have not used; Have you never been able, or would you not, through the evil times and long? Has not the gift been given you, or such gift have you refused? When I bade me not absolve you on that evening or the morrow, Why did you not make war on me with those who weep like rain? You felt too much, so gained no balm for all your torrid sorrow, And hence our deep division, and our dark undying pain.
BEREFT, SHE THINKS SHE DREAMS
I dream that the dearest I ever knew Has died and been entombed. I am sure it's a dream that cannot be true, But I am so overgloomed By its persistence, that I would gladly Have quick death take me, Rather than longer think thus sadly; So wake me, wake me!
It has lasted days, but minute and hour I expect to get aroused And find him as usual in the bower Where we so happily housed. Yet stays this nightmare too appalling, And like a web shakes me, And piteously I keep on calling, And no one wakes me!
IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
"What do you see in that time-touched stone, When nothing is there But ashen blankness, although you give it A rigid stare?
"You look not quite as if you saw, But as if you heard, Parting your lips, and treading softly As mouse or bird.
"It is only the base of a pillar, they'll tell you, That came to us From a far old hill men used to name Areopagus."
- "I know no art, and I only view A stone from a wall, But I am thinking that stone has echoed The voice of Paul,
"Paul as he stood and preached beside it Facing the crowd, A small gaunt figure with wasted features, Calling out loud
"Words that in all their intimate accents Pattered upon That marble front, and were far reflected, And then were gone.
"I'm a labouring man, and know but little, Or nothing at all; But I can't help thinking that stone once echoed The voice of Paul."
IN THE SERVANTS' QUARTERS
"Man, you too, aren't you, one of these rough followers of the criminal? All hanging hereabout to gather how he's going to bear Examination in the hall." She flung disdainful glances on The shabby figure standing at the fire with others there, Who warmed them by its flare.
"No indeed, my skipping maiden: I know nothing of the trial here, Or criminal, if so he be.—I chanced to come this way, And the fire shone out into the dawn, and morning airs are cold now; I, too, was drawn in part by charms I see before me play, That I see not every day."
"Ha, ha!" then laughed the constables who also stood to warm themselves, The while another maiden scrutinized his features hard, As the blaze threw into contrast every line and knot that wrinkled them, Exclaiming, "Why, last night when he was brought in by the guard, You were with him in the yard!"
"Nay, nay, you teasing wench, I say! You know you speak mistakenly. Cannot a tired pedestrian who has footed it afar Here on his way from northern parts, engrossed in humble marketings, Come in and rest awhile, although judicial doings are Afoot by morning star?"
"O, come, come!" laughed the constables. "Why, man, you speak the dialect He uses in his answers; you can hear him up the stairs. So own it. We sha'n't hurt ye. There he's speaking now! His syllables Are those you sound yourself when you are talking unawares, As this pretty girl declares."
"And you shudder when his chain clinks!" she rejoined. "O yes, I noticed it. And you winced, too, when those cuffs they gave him echoed to us here. They'll soon be coming down, and you may then have to defend yourself Unless you hold your tongue, or go away and keep you clear When he's led to judgment near!"
"No! I'll be damned in hell if I know anything about the man! No single thing about him more than everybody knows! Must not I even warm my hands but I am charged with blasphemies?" . . . - His face convulses as the morning cock that moment crows, And he stops, and turns, and goes.
THE OBLITERATE TOMB
"More than half my life long Did they weigh me falsely, to my bitter wrong, But they all have shrunk away into the silence Like a lost song.
"And the day has dawned and come For forgiveness, when the past may hold it dumb On the once reverberate words of hatred uttered Half in delirium . . .
"With folded lips and hands They lie and wait what next the Will commands, And doubtless think, if think they can: 'Let discord Sink with Life's sands!'
"By these late years their names, Their virtues, their hereditary claims, May be as near defacement at their grave-place As are their fames."
—Such thoughts bechanced to seize A traveller's mind—a man of memories - As he set foot within the western city Where had died these
Who in their lifetime deemed Him their chief enemy—one whose brain had schemed To get their dingy greatness deeplier dingied And disesteemed.
So, sojourning in their town, He mused on them and on their once renown, And said, "I'll seek their resting-place to-morrow Ere I lie down,
"And end, lest I forget, Those ires of many years that I regret, Renew their names, that men may see some liegeness Is left them yet."
Duly next day he went And sought the church he had known them to frequent, And wandered in the precincts, set on eyeing Where they lay pent,
Till by remembrance led He stood at length beside their slighted bed, Above which, truly, scarce a line or letter Could now be read.
"Thus years obliterate Their graven worth, their chronicle, their date! At once I'll garnish and revive the record Of their past state,
"That still the sage may say In pensive progress here where they decay, 'This stone records a luminous line whose talents Told in their day.'"
While speaking thus he turned, For a form shadowed where they lay inurned, And he beheld a stranger in foreign vesture, And tropic-burned.
"Sir, I am right pleased to view That ancestors of mine should interest you, For I have come of purpose here to trace them . . . They are time-worn, true,
"But that's a fault, at most, Sculptors can cure. On the Pacific coast I have vowed for long that relics of my forbears I'd trace ere lost,
"And hitherward I come, Before this same old Time shall strike me numb, To carry it out."—"Strange, this is!" said the other; "What mind shall plumb
"Coincident design! Though these my father's enemies were and mine, I nourished a like purpose—to restore them Each letter and line."
"Such magnanimity Is now not needed, sir; for you will see That since I am here, a thing like this is, plainly, Best done by me."
The other bowed, and left, Crestfallen in sentiment, as one bereft Of some fair object he had been moved to cherish, By hands more deft.
And as he slept that night The phantoms of the ensepulchred stood up-right Before him, trembling that he had set him seeking Their charnel-site.
And, as unknowing his ruth, Asked as with terrors founded not on truth Why he should want them. "Ha," they hollowly hackered, "You come, forsooth,
"By stealth to obliterate Our graven worth, our chronicle, our date, That our descendant may not gild the record Of our past state,
"And that no sage may say In pensive progress near where we decay: 'This stone records a luminous line whose talents Told in their day.'"
Upon the morrow he went And to that town and churchyard never bent His ageing footsteps till, some twelvemonths onward, An accident
Once more detained him there; And, stirred by hauntings, he must needs repair To where the tomb was. Lo, it stood still wasting In no man's care.
"The travelled man you met The last time," said the sexton, "has not yet Appeared again, though wealth he had in plenty. —Can he forget?
"The architect was hired And came here on smart summons as desired, But never the descendant came to tell him What he required."
And so the tomb remained Untouched, untended, crumbling, weather-stained, And though the one-time foe was fain to right it He still refrained.
"I'll set about it when I am sure he'll come no more. Best wait till then." But so it was that never the stranger entered That city again.
And the well-meaner died While waiting tremulously unsatisfied That no return of the family's foreign scion Would still betide.
And many years slid by, And active church-restorers cast their eye Upon the ancient garth and hoary building The tomb stood nigh.
And when they had scraped each wall, Pulled out the stately pews, and smartened all, "It will be well," declared the spruce church-warden, "To overhaul
"And broaden this path where shown; Nothing prevents it but an old tombstone Pertaining to a family forgotten, Of deeds unknown.
"Their names can scarce be read, Depend on't, all who care for them are dead." So went the tomb, whose shards were as path-paving Distributed.
Over it and about Men's footsteps beat, and wind and water-spout, Until the names, aforetime gnawed by weathers, Were quite worn out.
So that no sage can say In pensive progress near where they decay, "This stone records a luminous line whose talents Told in their day."
"REGRET NOT ME"
Regret not me; Beneath the sunny tree I lie uncaring, slumbering peacefully.
Swift as the light I flew my faery flight; Ecstatically I moved, and feared no night.
I did not know That heydays fade and go, But deemed that what was would be always so.
I skipped at morn Between the yellowing corn, Thinking it good and glorious to be born.
I ran at eves Among the piled-up sheaves, Dreaming, "I grieve not, therefore nothing grieves."
Now soon will come The apple, pear, and plum And hinds will sing, and autumn insects hum.
Again you will fare To cider-makings rare, And junketings; but I shall not be there.
Yet gaily sing Until the pewter ring Those songs we sang when we went gipsying.
And lightly dance Some triple-timed romance In coupled figures, and forget mischance;
And mourn not me Beneath the yellowing tree; For I shall mind not, slumbering peacefully.
Let us off and search, and find a place Where yours and mine can be natural lives, Where no one comes who dissects and dives And proclaims that ours is a curious case, That its touch of romance can scarcely grace.
You would think it strange at first, but then Everything has been strange in its time. When some one said on a day of the prime He would bow to no brazen god again He doubtless dazed the mass of men.
None will recognize us as a pair whose claims To righteous judgment we care not making; Who have doubted if breath be worth the taking, And have no respect for the current fames Whence the savour has flown while abide the names.
We have found us already shunned, disdained, And for re-acceptance have not once striven; Whatever offence our course has given The brunt thereof we have long sustained. Well, let us away, scorned unexplained.
STARLINGS ON THE ROOF
"No smoke spreads out of this chimney-pot, The people who lived here have left the spot, And others are coming who knew them not.
If you listen anon, with an ear intent, The voices, you'll find, will be different From the well-known ones of those who went."
"Why did they go? Their tones so bland Were quite familiar to our band; The comers we shall not understand."
"They look for a new life, rich and strange; They do not know that, let them range Wherever they may, they will get no change.
"They will drag their house-gear ever so far In their search for a home no miseries mar; They will find that as they were they are,
"That every hearth has a ghost, alack, And can be but the scene of a bivouac Till they move perforce—no time to pack!"
THE MOON LOOKS IN
I have risen again, And awhile survey By my chilly ray Through your window-pane Your upturned face, As you think, "Ah-she Now dreams of me In her distant place!"
I pierce her blind In her far-off home: She fixes a comb, And says in her mind, "I start in an hour; Whom shall I meet? Won't the men be sweet, And the women sour!"
THE SWEET HUSSY
In his early days he was quite surprised When she told him she was compromised By meetings and lingerings at his whim, And thinking not of herself but him; While she lifted orbs aggrieved and round That scandal should so soon abound, (As she had raised them to nine or ten Of antecedent nice young men) And in remorse he thought with a sigh, How good she is, and how bad am I! - It was years before he understood That she was the wicked one—he the good.
"O he's suffering—maybe dying—and I not there to aid, And smooth his bed and whisper to him! Can I nohow go? Only the nurse's brief twelve words thus hurriedly conveyed, As by stealth, to let me know.
"He was the best and brightest!—candour shone upon his brow, And I shall never meet again a soldier such as he, And I loved him ere I knew it, and perhaps he's sinking now, Far, far removed from me!"
- The yachts ride mute at anchor and the fulling moon is fair, And the giddy folk are strutting up and down the smooth parade, And in her wild distraction she seems not to be aware That she lives no more a maid,
But has vowed and wived herself to one who blessed the ground she trod To and from his scene of ministry, and thought her history known In its last particular to him—aye, almost as to God, And believed her quite his own.
So great her absentmindedness she droops as in a swoon, And a movement of aversion mars her recent spousal grace, And in silence we two sit here in our waning honeymoon At this idle watering-place . . .
What now I see before me is a long lane overhung With lovelessness, and stretching from the present to the grave. And I would I were away from this, with friends I knew when young, Ere a woman held me slave.
THE MOTH-SIGNAL (On Egdon Heath)
"What are you still, still thinking," He asked in vague surmise, "That stare at the wick unblinking With those great lost luminous eyes?"
"O, I see a poor moth burning In the candle-flame," said she, Its wings and legs are turning To a cinder rapidly."
"Moths fly in from the heather," He said, "now the days decline." "I know," said she. "The weather, I hope, will at last be fine.
"I think," she added lightly, "I'll look out at the door. The ring the moon wears nightly May be visible now no more."
She rose, and, little heeding, Her husband then went on With his attentive reading In the annals of ages gone.
Outside the house a figure Came from the tumulus near, And speedily waxed bigger, And clasped and called her Dear.
"I saw the pale-winged token You sent through the crack," sighed she. "That moth is burnt and broken With which you lured out me.
"And were I as the moth is It might be better far For one whose marriage troth is Shattered as potsherds are!"
Then grinned the Ancient Briton From the tumulus treed with pine: "So, hearts are thwartly smitten In these days as in mine!"
SEEN BY THE WAITS
Through snowy woods and shady We went to play a tune To the lonely manor-lady By the light of the Christmas moon.
We violed till, upward glancing To where a mirror leaned, We saw her airily dancing, Deeming her movements screened;
Dancing alone in the room there, Thin-draped in her robe of night; Her postures, glassed in the gloom there, Were a strange phantasmal sight.
She had learnt (we heard when homing) That her roving spouse was dead; Why she had danced in the gloaming We thought, but never said.
THE TWO SOLDIERS
Just at the corner of the wall We met—yes, he and I - Who had not faced in camp or hall Since we bade home good-bye, And what once happened came back—all - Out of those years gone by.
And that strange woman whom we knew And loved—long dead and gone, Whose poor half-perished residue, Tombless and trod, lay yon! But at this moment to our view Rose like a phantom wan.
And in his fixed face I could see, Lit by a lurid shine, The drama re-enact which she Had dyed incarnadine For us, and more. And doubtless he Beheld it too in mine.
A start, as at one slightly known, And with an indifferent air We passed, without a sign being shown That, as it real were, A memory-acted scene had thrown Its tragic shadow there.
THE DEATH OF REGRET
I opened my shutter at sunrise, And looked at the hill hard by, And I heartily grieved for the comrade Who wandered up there to die.
I let in the morn on the morrow, And failed not to think of him then, As he trod up that rise in the twilight, And never came down again.
I undid the shutter a week thence, But not until after I'd turned Did I call back his last departure By the upland there discerned.
Uncovering the casement long later, I bent to my toil till the gray, When I said to myself, "Ah—what ails me, To forget him all the day!"
As daily I flung back the shutter In the same blank bald routine, He scarcely once rose to remembrance Through a month of my facing the scene.
And ah, seldom now do I ponder At the window as heretofore On the long valued one who died yonder, And wastes by the sycamore.
IN THE DAYS OF CRINOLINE
A plain tilt-bonnet on her head She took the path across the leaze. - Her spouse the vicar, gardening, said, "Too dowdy that, for coquetries, So I can hoe at ease.
But when she had passed into the heath, And gained the wood beyond the flat, She raised her skirts, and from beneath Unpinned and drew as from a sheath An ostrich-feathered hat.
And where the hat had hung she now Concealed and pinned the dowdy hood, And set the hat upon her brow, And thus emerging from the wood Tripped on in jaunty mood.
The sun was low and crimson-faced As two came that way from the town, And plunged into the wood untraced . . . When separately therefrom they paced The sun had quite gone down.
The hat and feather disappeared, The dowdy hood again was donned, And in the gloom the fair one neared Her home and husband dour, who conned Calmly his blue-eyed blonde.
"To-day," he said, "you have shown good sense, A dress so modest and so meek Should always deck your goings hence Alone." And as a recompense He kissed her on the cheek.
THE ROMAN GRAVEMOUNDS
By Rome's dim relics there walks a man, Eyes bent; and he carries a basket and spade; I guess what impels him to scrape and scan; Yea, his dreams of that Empire long decayed.
"Vast was Rome," he must muse, "in the world's regard, Vast it looms there still, vast it ever will be;" And he stoops as to dig and unmine some shard Left by those who are held in such memory.
But no; in his basket, see, he has brought A little white furred thing, stiff of limb, Whose life never won from the world a thought; It is this, and not Rome, that is moving him.
And to make it a grave he has come to the spot, And he delves in the ancient dead's long home; Their fames, their achievements, the man knows not; The furred thing is all to him—nothing Rome!
"Here say you that Caesar's warriors lie? - But my little white cat was my only friend! Could she but live, might the record die Of Caesar, his legions, his aims, his end!"
Well, Rome's long rule here is oft and again A theme for the sages of history, And the small furred life was worth no one's pen; Yet its mourner's mood has a charm for me.
"See, here's the workbox, little wife, That I made of polished oak." He was a joiner, of village life; She came of borough folk.
He holds the present up to her As with a smile she nears And answers to the profferer, "'Twill last all my sewing years!"
"I warrant it will. And longer too. 'Tis a scantling that I got Off poor John Wayward's coffin, who Died of they knew not what.
"The shingled pattern that seems to cease Against your box's rim Continues right on in the piece That's underground with him.
"And while I worked it made me think Of timber's varied doom; One inch where people eat and drink, The next inch in a tomb.
"But why do you look so white, my dear, And turn aside your face? You knew not that good lad, I fear, Though he came from your native place?"
"How could I know that good young man, Though he came from my native town, When he must have left there earlier than I was a woman grown?"
"Ah no. I should have understood! It shocked you that I gave To you one end of a piece of wood Whose other is in a grave?"
"Don't, dear, despise my intellect, Mere accidental things Of that sort never have effect On my imaginings."
Yet still her lips were limp and wan, Her face still held aside, As if she had known not only John, But known of what he died.
THE SACRILEGE A BALLAD-TRAGEDY (Circa 182-)
"I have a Love I love too well Where Dunkery frowns on Exon Moor; I have a Love I love too well, To whom, ere she was mine, 'Such is my love for you,' I said, 'That you shall have to hood your head A silken kerchief crimson-red, Wove finest of the fine.'
"And since this Love, for one mad moon, On Exon Wild by Dunkery Tor, Since this my Love for one mad moon Did clasp me as her king, I snatched a silk-piece red and rare From off a stall at Priddy Fair, For handkerchief to hood her hair When we went gallanting.
"Full soon the four weeks neared their end Where Dunkery frowns on Exon Moor; And when the four weeks neared their end, And their swift sweets outwore, I said, 'What shall I do to own Those beauties bright as tulips blown, And keep you here with me alone As mine for evermore?'
"And as she drowsed within my van On Exon Wild by Dunkery Tor - And as she drowsed within my van, And dawning turned to day, She heavily raised her sloe-black eyes And murmured back in softest wise, 'One more thing, and the charms you prize Are yours henceforth for aye.
"'And swear I will I'll never go While Dunkery frowns on Exon Moor To meet the Cornish Wrestler Joe For dance and dallyings. If you'll to yon cathedral shrine, And finger from the chest divine Treasure to buy me ear-drops fine, And richly jewelled rings.'
"I said: 'I am one who has gathered gear From Marlbury Downs to Dunkery Tor, Who has gathered gear for many a year From mansion, mart and fair; But at God's house I've stayed my hand, Hearing within me some command - Curbed by a law not of the land From doing damage there.'
"Whereat she pouts, this Love of mine, As Dunkery frowns on Exon Moor, And still she pouts, this Love of mine, So cityward I go. But ere I start to do the thing, And speed my soul's imperilling For one who is my ravishing And all the joy I know,
"I come to lay this charge on thee - On Exon Wild by Dunkery Tor - I come to lay this charge on thee With solemn speech and sign: Should things go ill, and my life pay For botchery in this rash assay, You are to take hers likewise—yea, The month the law takes mine.
"For should my rival, Wrestler Joe, Where Dunkery frowns on Exon Moor - My reckless rival, Wrestler Joe, My Love's possessor be, My tortured spirit would not rest, But wander weary and distrest Throughout the world in wild protest: The thought nigh maddens me!"
Thus did he speak—this brother of mine - On Exon Wild by Dunkery Tor, Born at my birth of mother of mine, And forthwith went his way To dare the deed some coming night . . . I kept the watch with shaking sight, The moon at moments breaking bright, At others glooming gray.
For three full days I heard no sound Where Dunkery frowns on Exon Moor, I heard no sound at all around Whether his fay prevailed, Or one malign the master were, Till some afoot did tidings bear How that, for all his practised care, He had been caught and jailed.
They had heard a crash when twelve had chimed By Mendip east of Dunkery Tor, When twelve had chimed and moonlight climbed; They watched, and he was tracked By arch and aisle and saint and knight Of sculptured stonework sheeted white In the cathedral's ghostly light, And captured in the act.
Yes; for this Love he loved too well Where Dunkery sights the Severn shore, All for this Love he loved too well He burst the holy bars, Seized golden vessels from the chest To buy her ornaments of the best, At her ill-witchery's request And lure of eyes like stars . . .
When blustering March confused the sky In Toneborough Town by Exon Moor, When blustering March confused the sky They stretched him; and he died. Down in the crowd where I, to see The end of him, stood silently, With a set face he lipped to me - "Remember." "Ay!" I cried.
By night and day I shadowed her From Toneborough Deane to Dunkery Tor, I shadowed her asleep, astir, And yet I could not bear - Till Wrestler Joe anon began To figure as her chosen man, And took her to his shining van - To doom a form so fair!
He made it handsome for her sake - And Dunkery smiled to Exon Moor - He made it handsome for her sake, Painting it out and in; And on the door of apple-green A bright brass knocker soon was seen, And window-curtains white and clean For her to sit within.
And all could see she clave to him As cleaves a cloud to Dunkery Tor, Yea, all could see she clave to him, And every day I said, "A pity it seems to part those two That hourly grow to love more true: Yet she's the wanton woman who Sent one to swing till dead!"
That blew to blazing all my hate, While Dunkery frowned on Exon Moor, And when the river swelled, her fate Came to her pitilessly . . . I dogged her, crying: "Across that plank They use as bridge to reach yon bank A coat and hat lie limp and dank; Your goodman's, can they be?"
She paled, and went, I close behind - And Exon frowned to Dunkery Tor, She went, and I came up behind And tipped the plank that bore Her, fleetly flitting across to eye What such might bode. She slid awry; And from the current came a cry, A gurgle; and no more.
How that befell no mortal knew From Marlbury Downs to Exon Moor; No mortal knew that deed undue But he who schemed the crime, Which night still covers . . . But in dream Those ropes of hair upon the stream He sees, and he will hear that scream Until his judgment-time.
THE ABBEY MASON (Inventor of the "Perpendicular" Style of Gothic Architecture)
The new-vamped Abbey shaped apace In the fourteenth century of grace;
(The church which, at an after date, Acquired cathedral rank and state.)
Panel and circumscribing wall Of latest feature, trim and tall,
Rose roundabout the Norman core In prouder pose than theretofore,
Encasing magically the old With parpend ashlars manifold.
The trowels rang out, and tracery Appeared where blanks had used to be.
Men toiled for pleasure more than pay, And all went smoothly day by day,
Till, in due course, the transept part Engrossed the master-mason's art.
- Home-coming thence he tossed and turned Throughout the night till the new sun burned.
"What fearful visions have inspired These gaingivings?" his wife inquired;
"As if your tools were in your hand You have hammered, fitted, muttered, planned;
"You have thumped as you were working hard: I might have found me bruised and scarred.
"What then's amiss. What eating care Looms nigh, whereof I am unaware?"
He answered not, but churchward went, Viewing his draughts with discontent;
And fumbled there the livelong day Till, hollow-eyed, he came away.
- 'Twas said, "The master-mason's ill!" And all the abbey works stood still.
Quoth Abbot Wygmore: "Why, O why Distress yourself? You'll surely die!"
The mason answered, trouble-torn, "This long-vogued style is quite outworn!
"The upper archmould nohow serves To meet the lower tracery curves:
"The ogees bend too far away To give the flexures interplay.
"This it is causes my distress . . . So it will ever be unless
"New forms be found to supersede The circle when occasions need.
"To carry it out I have tried and toiled, And now perforce must own me foiled!
"Jeerers will say: 'Here was a man Who could not end what he began!'"
- So passed that day, the next, the next; The abbot scanned the task, perplexed;
The townsmen mustered all their wit To fathom how to compass it,
But no raw artistries availed Where practice in the craft had failed . . .
- One night he tossed, all open-eyed, And early left his helpmeet's side.
Scattering the rushes of the floor He wandered from the chamber door
And sought the sizing pile, whereon Struck dimly a cadaverous dawn
Through freezing rain, that drenched the board Of diagram-lines he last had scored -
Chalked phantasies in vain begot To knife the architectural knot -
In front of which he dully stood, Regarding them in hopeless mood.
He closelier looked; then looked again: The chalk-scratched draught-board faced the rain,
Whose icicled drops deformed the lines Innumerous of his lame designs,
So that they streamed in small white threads From the upper segments to the heads
Of arcs below, uniting them Each by a stalactitic stem.
- At once, with eyes that struck out sparks, He adds accessory cusping-marks,
Then laughs aloud. The thing was done So long assayed from sun to sun . . .
- Now in his joy he grew aware Of one behind him standing there,
And, turning, saw the abbot, who The weather's whim was watching too.
Onward to Prime the abbot went, Tacit upon the incident.
- Men now discerned as days revolved The ogive riddle had been solved;
Templates were cut, fresh lines were chalked Where lines had been defaced and balked,
And the work swelled and mounted higher, Achievement distancing desire;
Here jambs with transoms fixed between, Where never the like before had been -
There little mullions thinly sawn Where meeting circles once were drawn.
"We knew," men said, "the thing would go After his craft-wit got aglow,
"And, once fulfilled what he has designed, We'll honour him and his great mind!"
When matters stood thus poised awhile, And all surroundings shed a smile,
The master-mason on an eve Homed to his wife and seemed to grieve . . .
- "The abbot spoke to me to-day: He hangs about the works alway.
"He knows the source as well as I Of the new style men magnify.
"He said: 'You pride yourself too much On your creation. Is it such?
"'Surely the hand of God it is That conjured so, and only His! -
"'Disclosing by the frost and rain Forms your invention chased in vain;
"'Hence the devices deemed so great You copied, and did not create.'
"I feel the abbot's words are just, And that all thanks renounce I must.
"Can a man welcome praise and pelf For hatching art that hatched itself? . . .
"So, I shall own the deft design Is Heaven's outshaping, and not mine."
"What!" said she. "Praise your works ensure To throw away, and quite obscure
"Your beaming and beneficent star? Better you leave things as they are!
"Why, think awhile. Had not your zest In your loved craft curtailed your rest -
"Had you not gone there ere the day The sun had melted all away!"
- But, though his good wife argued so, The mason let the people know
That not unaided sprang the thought Whereby the glorious fane was wrought,
But that by frost when dawn was dim The method was disclosed to him.
"Yet," said the townspeople thereat, "'Tis your own doing, even with that!"
But he—chafed, childlike, in extremes - The temperament of men of dreams -
Aloofly scrupled to admit That he did aught but borrow it,
And diffidently made request That with the abbot all should rest.
- As none could doubt the abbot's word, Or question what the church averred,
The mason was at length believed Of no more count than he conceived,
And soon began to lose the fame That late had gathered round his name . . .
- Time passed, and like a living thing The pile went on embodying,
And workmen died, and young ones grew, And the old mason sank from view
And Abbots Wygmore and Staunton went And Horton sped the embellishment.
But not till years had far progressed Chanced it that, one day, much impressed,
Standing within the well-graced aisle, He asked who first conceived the style;
And some decrepit sage detailed How, when invention nought availed,
The cloud-cast waters in their whim Came down, and gave the hint to him
Who struck each arc, and made each mould; And how the abbot would not hold
As sole begetter him who applied Forms the Almighty sent as guide;
And how the master lost renown, And wore in death no artist's crown.
- Then Horton, who in inner thought Had more perceptions than he taught,
Replied: "Nay; art can but transmute; Invention is not absolute;
"Things fail to spring from nought at call, And art-beginnings most of all.
"He did but what all artists do, Wait upon Nature for his cue."
- "Had you been here to tell them so Lord Abbot, sixty years ago,
"The mason, now long underground, Doubtless a different fate had found.
"He passed into oblivion dim, And none knew what became of him!
"His name? 'Twas of some common kind And now has faded out of mind."
The Abbot: "It shall not be hid! I'll trace it." . . . But he never did.
- When longer yet dank death had wormed The brain wherein the style had germed
From Gloucester church it flew afar - The style called Perpendicular. -
To Winton and to Westminster It ranged, and grew still beautifuller:
From Solway Frith to Dover Strand Its fascinations starred the land,
Not only on cathedral walls But upon courts and castle halls,
Till every edifice in the isle Was patterned to no other style,
And till, long having played its part, The curtain fell on Gothic art.
- Well: when in Wessex on your rounds, Take a brief step beyond its bounds,
And enter Gloucester: seek the quoin Where choir and transept interjoin,
And, gazing at the forms there flung Against the sky by one unsung -
The ogee arches transom-topped, The tracery-stalks by spandrels stopped,
Petrified lacework—lightly lined On ancient massiveness behind -
Muse that some minds so modest be As to renounce fame's fairest fee,
(Like him who crystallized on this spot His visionings, but lies forgot,
And many a mediaeval one Whose symmetries salute the sun)
While others boom a baseless claim, And upon nothing rear a name.
THE JUBILEE OF A MAGAZINE (To the Editor)
Yes; your up-dated modern page - All flower-fresh, as it appears - Can claim a time-tried lineage,
That reaches backward fifty years (Which, if but short for sleepy squires, Is much in magazines' careers).
- Here, on your cover, never tires The sower, reaper, thresher, while As through the seasons of our sires
Each wills to work in ancient style With seedlip, sickle, share and flail, Though modes have since moved many a mile!
The steel-roped plough now rips the vale, With cog and tooth the sheaves are won, Wired wheels drum out the wheat like hail;
But if we ask, what has been done To unify the mortal lot Since your bright leaves first saw the sun,
Beyond mechanic furtherance—what Advance can rightness, candour, claim? Truth bends abashed, and answers not.
Despite your volumes' gentle aim To straighten visions wry and wrong, Events jar onward much the same!
- Had custom tended to prolong, As on your golden page engrained, Old processes of blade and prong,
And best invention been retained For high crusades to lessen tears Throughout the race, the world had gained! . . . But too much, this, for fifty years.
THE SATIN SHOES
"If ever I walk to church to wed, As other maidens use, And face the gathered eyes," she said, "I'll go in satin shoes!"
She was as fair as early day Shining on meads unmown, And her sweet syllables seemed to play Like flute-notes softly blown.
The time arrived when it was meet That she should be a bride; The satin shoes were on her feet, Her father was at her side.
They stood within the dairy door, And gazed across the green; The church loomed on the distant moor, But rain was thick between.
"The grass-path hardly can be stepped, The lane is like a pool!" - Her dream is shown to be inept, Her wish they overrule.
"To go forth shod in satin soft A coach would be required!" For thickest boots the shoes were doffed - Those shoes her soul desired . . .
All day the bride, as overborne, Was seen to brood apart, And that the shoes had not been worn Sat heavy on her heart.
From her wrecked dream, as months flew on, Her thought seemed not to range. What ails the wife?" they said anon, "That she should be so strange?" . . .
Ah—what coach comes with furtive glide - A coach of closed-up kind? It comes to fetch the last year's bride, Who wanders in her mind.
She strove with them, and fearfully ran Stairward with one low scream: "Nay—coax her," said the madhouse man, "With some old household theme."
"If you will go, dear, you must fain Put on those shoes—the pair Meant for your marriage, which the rain Forbade you then to wear."
She clapped her hands, flushed joyous hues; "O yes—I'll up and ride If I am to wear my satin shoes And be a proper bride!"
Out then her little foot held she, As to depart with speed; The madhouse man smiled pleasantly To see the wile succeed.
She turned to him when all was done, And gave him her thin hand, Exclaiming like an enraptured one, "This time it will be grand!"
She mounted with a face elate, Shut was the carriage door; They drove her to the madhouse gate, And she was seen no more . . .
Yet she was fair as early day Shining on meads unmown, And her sweet syllables seemed to play Like flute-notes softly blown.
Everybody else, then, going, And I still left where the fair was? . . . Much have I seen of neighbour loungers Making a lusty showing, Each now past all knowing.
There is an air of blankness In the street and the littered spaces; Thoroughfare, steeple, bridge and highway Wizen themselves to lankness; Kennels dribble dankness.
Folk all fade. And whither, As I wait alone where the fair was? Into the clammy and numbing night-fog Whence they entered hither. Soon do I follow thither!
June 2, 1913.
Attentive eyes, fantastic heed, Assessing minds, he does not need, Nor urgent writs to sup or dine, Nor pledges in the roseate wine.
For loud acclaim he does not care By the august or rich or fair, Nor for smart pilgrims from afar, Curious on where his hauntings are.
But soon or later, when you hear That he has doffed this wrinkled gear, Some evening, at the first star-ray, Come to his graveside, pause and say:
"Whatever the message his to tell, Two bright-souled women loved him well." Stand and say that amid the dim: It will be praise enough for him.
POSTSCRIPT "MEN WHO MARCH AWAY" (SONG OF THE SOLDIERS)
What of the faith and fire within us Men who march away Ere the barn-cocks say Night is growing gray, To hazards whence no tears can win us; What of the faith and fire within us Men who march away?
Is it a purblind prank, O think you, Friend with the musing eye, Who watch us stepping by With doubt and dolorous sigh? Can much pondering so hoodwink you! Is it a purblind prank, O think you, Friend with the musing eye?
Nay. We well see what we are doing, Though some may not see - Dalliers as they be - England's need are we; Her distress would leave us rueing: Nay. We well see what we are doing, Though some may not see!
In our heart of hearts believing Victory crowns the just, And that braggarts must Surely bite the dust, Press we to the field ungrieving, In our heart of hearts believing Victory crowns the just.
Hence the faith and fire within us Men who march away Ere the barn-cocks say Night is growing gray, To hazards whence no tears can win us: Hence the faith and fire within us Men who march away.
September 5, 1914.