WITH BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY ARTHUR C. BENSON FELLOW OF MAGDALENE COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN
156, CHARING CROSS ROAD
William Johnson published in 1858 a slender volume bound in green cloth, (Smith, Elder & Co.) which was entitled "Ionica," and which comprised forty-eight poems.
In 1877 he printed privately a little paper-covered book (Cambridge University Press), entitled "Ionica II," containing twenty-five poems. This book is a rare bibliographical curiosity. It has neither titlepage nor index; it bears no author's name; and it is printed without punctuation, on a theory of the author's, spaces being left, instead of stops, to indicate pauses.
In 1891 he published a book, "Ionica" (George Allen), which contained most of the contents of the two previous volumes, together with some pieces not previously published—eighty-five poems in all.
The present volume is a reprint of the 1891 volume; but it has been thought well to include, in an appendix, certain of the poems which appeared in one or other of the first two issues, but were omitted from the 1891 issue, together with a little Greek lyric, with its English equivalent, from the "Letters and Journals."
The poems from page 1 to page 104, Desiderato to All that was possible, appeared in the 1858 volume, together with those on pages 211 to 216, To the Infallible, The Swimmer's Wish, and An Apology. The poems from page 105 to page 162, Scheveningen Avenue to L'Oiseau Bleu, appeared in the 1877 volume, together with those on pages 217 and 218, Notre Dame and In Honour of Matthew Prior. The remainder of the poems, from page 163 to page 210, appeared in the 1891 volume for the first time. The dates subjoined to the poems are those which he himself added, and indicate the date of composition.
WILLIAM CORY (Johnson) was born at Torrington in Devonshire, on January 9, 1823. He was the son of Charles William Johnson, a merchant, who retired at the early age of thirty, with a modest competence, and married his cousin, Theresa Furse, of Halsdon, near Torrington, to whom he had long been attached. He lived a quiet, upright, peaceable life at Torrington, content with little, and discharging simple, kindly, neighbourly duties, alike removed from ambition and indolence. William Cory had always a deep love of his old home, a strong sense of local sanctities and tender associations. "I hope you will always feel," his mother used to say, "wherever you live, that Torrington belongs to you." He said himself, in later years, "I want to be a Devon man and a Torrington man." His memory lingered over the vine-shaded verandah, the jessamine that grew by the balustrade of the steps, the broad-leaved myrtle that covered the wall of the little yard.
The boy was elected on the foundation at Eton in 1832, little guessing that it was to be his home for forty years. He worked hard at school, became a first-rate classical scholar, winning the Newcastle Scholarship in 1841, and being elected Scholar of King's in 1842. He seems to have been a quiet, retiring boy, with few intimate friends, respected for his ability and his courtesy, living a self-contained, bookish life, yet with a keen sense of school patriotism—though he had few pleasant memories of his boyhood.
Honours came to him fast at Cambridge. He won the Chancellor's English Medal with a poem on Plato in 1843, the Craven Scholarship in 1844. In those days Kingsmen did not enter for the Tripos, but received a degree, without examination, by ancient privilege. He succeeded to a Fellowship in 1845, and in the same year was appointed to a Mastership at Eton by Dr. Hawtrey. At Cambridge he seems to have read widely, to have thought much, and to have been interested in social questions. Till that time he had been an unreflecting Tory and a strong High Churchman, but he now adopted more Liberal principles, and for the rest of his life was a convinced Whig. The underlying principle of Whiggism, as he understood it, was a firm faith in human reason. Thus, in a letter of 1875, he represents the Whigs as saying to their adversaries, "You are in a majority now: if I were an ultra-democrat or counter of noses, I should submit to you as having a transcendental —sometimes called divine—right; if I were a redcap, I should buy dynamite and blow you up; if I were a Tory, I should go to church or to bed; as it is, I go to work to turn your majority into a minority. I shall do it by reasoning and by attractive virtue." He intended in his university days, and for some time after, to take Anglican Orders, though he had also some thought of going to the Bar; but he accepted a Mastership with much relief, with the hope, as he wrote in an early letter, "that before my time is out, I may rejoice in having turned out of my pupil-room perhaps one brave soldier, or one wise historian, or one generous legislator, or one patient missionary." The whole of his professional life, a period of twenty-seven years, was to be spent at Eton.
No one who knew William Cory will think it an exaggeration to say that his mind was probably one of the most vigorous and commanding minds of the century. He had a mental equipment of the foremost order, great intellectual curiosity, immense vigour and many-sidedness, combined with a firm grasp of a subject, perfect clearness of thought, and absolute lucidity of expression.
He never lost sight of principles among a crowd of details; and though he had a strong bias in certain directions, he had a just and catholic appreciation even of facts which told against his case. Yet his knowledge was never dry or cold; it was full to the brim of deep sentiment and natural feeling.
He had a wide knowledge of history, of politics, both home and foreign, of political economy, of moral science. Indeed, he examined more than once in the Moral Science Tripos at Cambridge.
He had a thorough acquaintance with and a deep love of literature; and all this in spite of the fact that he lived a very laborious and wearing life as a school-teacher, with impossibly large classes, and devoted himself with whole-hearted enthusiasm to his profession. His knowledge was, moreover, not mere erudition and patient accumulation. It was all ready for use, and at his fingers' ends. Moreover, he combined with this a quality, which is not generally found in combination with the highly-developed faculties of the doctrinaire, namely an intense and fervent emotion. He was a lover of political and social liberty, a patriot to the marrow of his bones; he loved his country with a passionate devotion, and worshipped the heroes of his native land, statesmen, soldiers, sailors, poets, with an ardent adoration; the glory and honour of England were the breath of his nostrils. Deeds of heroism, examples of high courage and noble self-sacrifice, were the memories that thrilled his heart. As a man of fifty he wept over Lanfrey's account of Nelson's death; he felt our defeat at Majuba Hill like a keen personal humiliation; his letter on the subject is as the words of one mourning for his mother.
But his was not a mere poetical emotion, supplying him with highly-coloured rhetoric, or sentimental panegyric. He had a technical and minute acquaintance with the detailed movement of wars, the precise ships and regiments engaged, the personalities and characters of commanders and officers, the conduct of the rank and file.
Many delightful stories remain in the memories of his friends and hearers to attest this. His pupil-room at Eton, in what was formerly the old Christopher Inn, was close to the street, and the passage of the Guards through Eton, to and from their Windsor quarters, is an incident of constant occurrence. When the stately military music was heard far off, in gusty splendour, in the little town, or the fifes and drums of some detachment swept blithely past, he would throw down his pen and go down the little staircase to the road, the boys crowding round him. "Brats, the British army!" he would say, and stand, looking and listening, his eyes filled with gathering tears, and his heart full of proud memories, while the rhythmical beat of the footsteps went briskly echoing by.
Again, he went down to Portsmouth to see a friend who was in command of a man-of-war; he was rowed about among the hulks; the sailors in the gig looked half contemptuously at the sturdy landsman, huddled in a cloak, hunched up in the stem-sheets, peering about through his spectacles. But contempt became first astonishment, and then bewildered admiration, when they found that he knew the position of every ship, and the engagements in which each had fought.
He was of course a man of strong preferences and prejudices; he thought of statesmen and patriots, such as Pitt, Nelson, Castlereagh, Melbourne, and Wellington, with an almost personal affection. The one title to his vehement love was that a man should have served his country, striven to enhance her greatness, extended her empire, and safeguarded her liberty.
It was the same with his feeling for authors. He loved Virgil as a friend; he almost worshipped Charlotte Bronte. He spoke of Tennyson as "the light and joy of my poor life." In 1868 he saw Sir W. Scott's portrait in London, and wrote: "Sir Walter Scott, shrewd yet wistful, boyish yet dry, looking as if he would ask and answer questions of the fairies—him I saw through a mist of weeping. He is my lost childhood, he is my first great friend. I long for him, and hate the death that parts us."
In literature, the first claim on his regard was that a writer should have looked on life with a high-hearted, generous gaze, should have cared intensely for humanity, should have hoped, loved, suffered, not in selfish isolation, but with eager affection. Thus he was not only a philosophical historian, nor a mere technical critic; he was for ever dominated by an intense personal fervour. He cared little for the manner of saying a thing, so long as the heart spoke out frankly and freely; he strove to discern the energy of the soul in all men; he could forgive everything except meanness, cowardice, egotism and conceit; there was no fault of a generous and impulsive nature that he could not condone.
Thus he was for many boys a deeply inspiring teacher; he had the art of awakening enthusiasm, of investing all he touched with a mysterious charm, the charm of wide and accurate knowledge illuminated by feeling and emotion. He rebuked ignorance in a way which communicated the desire to know. There are many men alive who trace the fruit and flower of their intellectual life to his generous and free-handed sowing. But in spite of the fact that the work of a teacher of boys was intensely congenial to him, that he loved generous boyhood, and tender souls, and awakening minds with all his heart, he was not wholly in the right place as an instructor of youth. With all his sympathy for what was weak and immature, he was yet impatient of dullness, of stupidity, of caution; much that he said was too mature, too exalted for the cramped and limited minds of boyhood. He was sensitive to the charm of eager, high-spirited, and affectionate natures, but he had also the equable, just, paternal interest in boys which is an essential quality in a wise schoolmaster. Yet he was apt to make favourites; and though he demanded of his chosen pupils and friends a high intellectual zeal, though he was merciless to all sloppiness and lack of interest, yet he forfeited a wider influence by his reputation for partiality, and by an obvious susceptibility to grace of manner and unaffected courtesy. Boys who did not understand him, and whom he did not care to try to understand, thought him simply fanciful and eccentric. It is perhaps to be regretted that unforeseen difficulties prevented his being elected Tutor of his old College, and still more that in 1860 he was passed over in favour of Kingsley, when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, submitted his name to the Queen for the Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge. Four men were suggested, of whom Blakesley and Venables refused the post. Sir Arthur Helps was set aside, and it would have been offered to Johnson, if the Prince Consort had not suggested Kingsley. Yet Johnson would hardly have been in his right place as a teacher of young men. He would have been, on the one hand, brought into contact with more vigorous and independent minds, capable of appreciating the force and width of his teaching, and of comprehending the quality and beauty of his enthusiasms. But, on the other hand, he was too impatient of any difference of opinion, and, though he loved equal talk, he hated argument. And after all, he did a great work at Eton; for nearly a quarter of a century he sent out boys who cared eagerly and generously for the things of the mind.
A second attempt was made, in 1869, to get him appointed to the history professorship, but Seeley was considered to have a better claim. Writing to a friend on the subject, Johnson said: "I am not learned. I don't care about history in the common meaning of the word."
It is astonishing to see in his Diaries the immense trouble he took to awaken interest among his pupils. He was for ever trying experiments; he would read a dozen books to enable him to give a little scientific lecture, for he was one of the first to appreciate the educational value of science; he spent money on chemical apparatus, and tried to interest the boys by simple demonstrations. His educational ideals can best be seen in an essay full of poetical genius, on the education of the reasoning faculties, which he contributed to the "Essays on a Liberal Education," edited in 1867 by F. W. Farrar. Any one who wishes to understand Johnson's point of view, should study this brilliant and beautiful discourse. It is not only wise and liberal, but it is intensely practical, besides containing a number of suggestive and poetical thoughts.
He loved his Eton life more and more every year. As with Eumelus of Corinth, "dear to his heart was the muse that has the simple lyre and the sandals of freedom." He took refuge, as it became clear to him that his wider ambitions could not be realised, that he would not set the mark he might have set upon the age, in a "proud unworldliness," in heightened and intensified emotion. He made many friendships. He taught, as the years went on, as well or better than ever; he took great delight in the society of a few pupils and younger colleagues; but a shadow fell on him; he began to feel his strength unequal to the demands upon it; and he made a sudden resolution to retire from his Eton work.
He had taken some years before, as a house for his holidays, Halsdon, a country place near his native Torrington, which belonged to his brother, Archdeacon Wellington Furse of Westminster, who had changed his name from Johnson to Furse, on succeeding to the property of an uncle. Here he retired, and strove to live an active and philosophical life, fighting bravely with regret, and feeling with sensitive sorrow the turning of the sweet page. He tried, too, to serve and help his simple country neighbours, as indeed he had desired to do even at Eton, by showing them many small, thoughtful, and unobtrusive kindnesses, just as his father had done. But he lived much, like all poetical natures, in tender retrospect; and the ending of the bright days brought with it a heartache that even nature, which he worshipped like a poet, was powerless to console. But he loved his woods and sloping fields, and the clear river passing under its high banks through deep pools. It served to remind him sadly of his beloved Thames, the green banks fringed with comfrey and loosestrife, the drooping willows, the cool smell of the weedy weir; of glad hours of light-hearted enjoyment with his boy-companions, full of blithe gaiety and laughter.
After a few years, he went out to Madeira, where he married a wife much younger than himself, Miss Rosa Caroline Guille, daughter of a Devonshire clergyman; and at Madeira his only son was born, whom he named Andrew, because it was a name never borne by a Pope, or, as he sometimes said, "by a sneak." He devoted himself at this time to the composition of two volumes of a "Guide to Modern English History." But his want of practice in historical writing is here revealed, though it must be borne in mind that it was originally drawn up for the use of a Japanese student. The book is full of acute perceptions, fine judgments, felicitous epigrams—but it is too allusive, too fantastic; neither has it the balance and justice required for so serious and comprehensive a task. At the same time the learning it displays is extraordinary. It was written almost without books of reference, and out of the recollections of a man of genius, who remembered all that he read, and considered reading the newspaper to be one of the first duties of life.
Cory's other writings are few. Two little educational books are worth mentioning: a book of Latin prose exercises, called Nuces, the sentences of which are full of recondite allusions, curious humour, and epigrammatic expression; and a slender volume for teaching Latin lyrics, called Lucretilis, the exercises being literally translated from the Latin originals which he first composed. Lucretilis is not only, as Munro said, the most Horatian verse ever written since Horace, but full of deep and pathetic poetry. Such a poem as No. xxvii., recording the abandoning of Hercules by the Argonauts, is intensely autobiographical. He speaks, in a parable, of the life of Eton going on without him, and of his faith in her great future:
"sed Argo Vela facit tamen, aureumque
"Vellus petendum est. Tiphys ad hoc tenet Clavum magister; stat Telamon vigil, Stat Castor in prora, paratus Ferre maris salientis ictus."
After some years in Madeira, he came back to England and settled in Hampstead; his later days were clouded with anxieties and illness. But he took great delight in the teaching of Greek to a class of girls, and his attitude of noble resignation, tender dignity, and resolute interest in the growing history of his race and nation is deeply impressive. He died in 1892, on June II, of a heart-complaint to which he had long been subject.
In person William Cory was short and sturdy; he was strong and vigorous; he was like the leader whom Archilochus desired, "one who is compact of frame, showing legs that bend outward, standing firm upon his feet, full of courage." He had a vigorous, massive head, with aquiline nose, and mobile lips. He was extraordinarily near-sighted, and used strong glasses, holding his book close to his eyes. He was accustomed to bewail his limited vision, as hiding from him much natural beauty, much human drama; but he observed more closely than many men of greater clearness of sight, making the most of his limited resources. He depended much upon a hearing which was preternaturally acute and sensitive, and was guided as much by the voice and manner, as by the aspect of those among whom he lived. He had a brisk, peremptory mode of address, full of humorous mannerisms of speech. He spoke and taught crisply and decisively, and uttered fine and feeling thoughts with a telling brevity. He had strong common sense, and much practical judgment.
He was intensely loyal both to institutions and friends, but never spared trenchant and luminous criticisms, and had a keen eye for weakness in any shape. He was formidable in a sense, though truly lovable; he had neither time nor inclination to make enemies, and had a generous perception of nobility of character, and of enthusiasms however dissimilar to his own. He hankered often for the wider world; he would have liked to have a hand in politics, and to have helped to make history. He often desired to play a larger part; but the very stirrings of regret only made him throw himself with intensified energy into the work of his life. He lived habitually on a higher plane than others, among the memories of great events, with a consciousness of high impersonal forces, great issues, big affairs; and yet he held on with both hands to life; he loved all that was tender and beautiful. He never lost himself in ambitious dreams or abstract speculations. He was a psychologist rather than a philosopher, and his interest and zest in life, in the relationships of simple people, the intermingling of personal emotions and happy comradeships, kept him from ever forming cynical or merely spectatorial views of humanity. He would have been far happier, indeed, if he could have practised a greater detachment; but, as it was, he gathered in, like the old warrior, a hundred spears; like Shelley he might have said—
"I fall upon the thorns of life; I bleed."
His is thus a unique personality, in its blending of intense mental energy with almost passionate emotions. Few natures can stand the strain of the excessive development of even a single faculty; and with William Cory the qualities of both heart and head were over-developed. There resulted a want of balance, of moral force; he was impetuous where he should have been calm, impulsive where he should have been discreet. But on the other hand he was possessed of an almost Spartan courage; and through sorrow and suffering, through disappointment and failure, he bore himself with a high and stately tenderness, without a touch of acrimony or peevishness. He never questioned the love or justice of God; he never raged against fate, or railed at circumstance. He gathered up the fragments with a quiet hand; he never betrayed envy or jealousy; he never deplored the fact that he had not realised his own possibilities; he suffered silently, he endured patiently.
And thus he is a deeply pathetic figure, because his great gifts and high qualities never had full scope. He might have been a great jurist, a great lawyer, a great professor, a great writer, a great administrator; and he ended as a man of erratic genius, as a teacher in a restricted sphere, though sowing, generously and prodigally, rich and fruitful seed. With great poetical force of conception, and a style both resonant and suggestive, he left a single essay of high genius, a fantastic historical work, a few books of school exercises. A privately printed volume of Letters and Journals reveals the extraordinary quality of his mind, its delicacy, its beauty, its wistfulness, its charm. There remains but the little volume of verse which is here presented, which stands apart from the poetical literature of the age. We see in these poems a singular and original contribution to the poetry of the century. The verse is in its general characteristics of the school of Tennyson, with its equable progression, its honied epithets, its soft cadences, its gentle melody. But the poems are deeply original, because they, combine a peculiar classical quality, with a frank delight in the spirit of generous boyhood. For all their wealth of idealised sentiment, they never lose sight of the fuller life of the world that waits beyond the threshold of youth, the wider issues, the glory of the battle, the hopes of the patriot, the generous visions of manhood. They are full of the romance of boyish friendships, the echoes of the river and the cricket field, the ingenuous ambitions, the chivalry, the courage of youth and health, the brilliant charm of the opening world. These things are but the prelude to, the presage of, the energies of the larger stage; his young heroes are to learn the lessons of patriotism, of manliness, of activity, of generosity, that they may display them in a wider field. Thus he wrote in "A Retrospect of School Life":—
"Much lost I; something stayed behind, A snatch, maybe, of ancient song. Some breathings of a deathless mind, Some love of truth, some hate of wrong.
And to myself in games I said, 'What mean the books? can I win fame I would be like the faithful dead, A fearless man, and pure of blame.'"
Then, too, there are poems of a sombre yet tender philosophy, of an Epicureanism that is seldom languid, of a Stoicism that is never hard. In this world, where so much is dark, he seems to say, we must all clasp hands and move forwards, shoulder to shoulder, never forgetting the warm companionship in the presence of the blind chaotic forces that wave their shadowy wings about us. We must love what is near and dear, we must be courageous and tender-hearted in the difficult valley. The book is full of the passionate sadness of one who feels alike the intensity and the brevity of life, and who cannot conjecture why fair things must fade as surely as they bloom.
The poems then reflect a kind of Platonic agnosticism; they offer no solution of the formless mystery; but they seem rather to indicate the hope that, in the multiplying of human relationship, in devotion to all we hold dear, in the enkindling of the soul by all that is generous and noble and unselfish, lies the best hope of the individual and of the race. Uncheered by Christian hopefulness, and yet strong in their belief in the ardours and passions of humanity, these poems may help us to remember and love the best of life, its days of sunshine and youth, its generous companionships, its sweet ties of loyalty and love, its brave hopes and ardent impulses, which may be ours, if we are only loving and generous and high-hearted, to the threshold of the dark, and perhaps beyond.
ARTHUR C. BENSON.
Oh, lost and unforgotten friend, Whose presence change and chance deny; If angels turn your soft proud eye To lines your cynic playmate penned,
Look on them, as you looked on me, When both were young; when, as we went Through crowds or forest ferns, you leant On him who loved your staff to be;
And slouch your lazy length again On cushions fit for aching brow (Yours always ached, you know), and now
As dainty languishing as then, Give them but one fastidious look, And if you see a trace of him Who humoured you in every whim,
Seek for his heart within his book: For though there be enough to mark The man's divergence from the boy, Yet shines my faith without alloy
For him who led me through that park; And though a stranger throw aside Such grains of common sentiment, Yet let your haughty head be bent
To take the jetsom of the tide; Because this brackish turbid sea Throws toward thee things that pleased of yore, And though it wash thy feet no more,
Its murmurs mean: "I yearn for thee." The world may like, for all I care, The gentler voice, the cooler head, That bows a rival to despair,
And cheaply compliments the dead; That smiles at all that's coarse and rash, Yet wins the trophies of the fight, Unscathed, in honour's wreck and crash,
Heartless, but always in the right;. Thanked for good counsel by the judge Who tramples on the bleeding brave, Thanked too by him who will not budge From claims thrice hallowed by the grave.
Thanked, and self-pleased: ay, let him wear What to that noble breast was due; And I, dear passionate Teucer, dare Go through the homeless world with you.
MIMNERMUS IN CHURCH
You promise heavens free from strife, Pure truth, and perfect change of will; But sweet, sweet is this human life, So sweet, I fain would breathe it still; Your chilly stars I can forego, This warm kind world is all I know.
You say there is no substance here, One great reality above: Back from that void I shrink in fear, And child-like hide myself in love: Show me what angels feel. Till then, I cling, a mere weak man, to men.
You bid me lift my mean desires From faltering lips and fitful veins To sexless souls, ideal quires, Unwearied voices, wordless strains: My mind with fonder welcome owns One dear dead friend's remembered tones.
Forsooth the present we must give To that which cannot pass away; All beauteous things for which we live By laws of time and space decay. But oh, the very reason why I clasp them, is because they die.
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead, They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed. I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, A handful of grey ashes, long long ago at rest, Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake; For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
I will not leave the smouldering pyre: Enough remains to light again: But who am I to dare desire A place beside the king of men?
So burnt my dear Ochalian town; And I an outcast gazed and groaned. But, when my father's roof fell down, For all that wrong sweet love atoned.
He led me trembling to the ship, He seemed at least to love me then; He soothed, he clasped me lip to lip: How strange, to wed the king of men.
I linger, orphan, widow, slave, I lived when sire and brethren died; Oh, had I shared my mother's grave, . Or clomb unto the hero's side!
That comrade old hath made his moan; The centaur cowers within his den: And I abide to guard alone The ashes of the king of men.
Alone, beneath the night divine— Alone, another weeps elsewhere: Her love for him is unlike mine, Her wail she will not let me share.
Queen of the Argives, (thus the poet spake,) Great lady Helen, thou hast made me wise; Veiled is the world, but all the soul awake, Purged by thine anger, clearer far than eyes.
Peep is the darkness; for my bride is hidden, Crown of my glory, guerdon of my song: Preod is the vision; thou art here unbidden, Mute and reproachful, since I did thee wrong.
Sweetest of wanderers, grievest thou for friends Tricked by a phantom, cheated to the grave? Woe worth the God, the mocking God, that sends Lies to the pious, furies to the brave.
Pardon our falsehood: thou wert far away, Gathering the lotus down the Egypt-water, Wifely and duteous, hearing not the fray, Taking no stain from all those years of slaughter:
Guiltless, yet mournful. Tell the poets truths; Tell them real beauty leadeth not to strife; Weep for the slain, those many blooming youths: Tears such as thine might bring them back to life.
Dear, gentle lady, if the web's unthreaded, Slander and fable fairly rent in twain, Then, by the days when thou wert loved and wedded, Give me, I pray, my bride's glad smile again.
The lord, who leads the Spartan host, Stands with a little maid, To greet a stranger from the coast Who comes to seek his aid.
What brings the guest? a disk of brass With curious lines engraven: What mean the lines? stream, road, and pass, Forest, and town, and haven.
"Lo, here Choaspes' lilied field: Lo, here the Hermian plain: What need we save the Doric shield To stop the Persian's reign?
Or shall barbarians drink their nil Upon the slopes of Tmolus? Or trowsered robbers spoil at will The bounties of Pactolus?
Salt lakes, burnt uplands, lie between; The distant king moves slow; He starts, ere Smyrna's vines are green, Comes, when their juices flow.
Waves bright with morning smoothe thy course, Swift row the Samian galleys; Unconquered Colophon sounds to horse Up the broad eastern valleys.
Is not Apollo's call enough, The god of every Greek? Then take our gold, and household stuff; Claim what thou wilt, but speak."
He falters; for the waves he fears, The roads he cannot measure; But rates full high the gleam of spears And dreams of yellow treasure.
He listens; he is yielding now; Outspoke the fearless child:
"Oh, father, come away, lest thou Be by this man beguiled." Her lowly judgement barred the plea, So low, it could not reach her.
The man knows more of land and sea, But she's the truer teacher. I mind the day, when thou didst cheat Those rival dames with answer meet;
When, toiling at the loom, Unblest with bracelet, ring, or chain, Thou alone didst dare disdain To toil in tiring-room.
Merely thou saidst: "At set of sun My humble taskwork will be done; And through the twilight street Come back to view my jewels, when Pattering through the throng of men Go merry schoolboys' feet."
They came, and sneered: for thou didst stand! The web well finished up, one hand Laid on my yielding shoulder: The sternest stripling in the land Grasped the other, boldly scanned Their faces, and grew bolder:
And said: "Fair ladies, by your leave I would exhort you spin and weave Some frugal homely cloth. I warn you, when I lead the tribes Law shall strip you; threats nor bribes Shall blunt the just man's wrath."
How strongly, gravely did he speak! I shivered, hid my tingling cheek Behind thy marble face; And prayed the gods to be like him, Firm in temper, lithe of limb, Right worthy of our race.
Oh, mother, didst thou bear me brave? Or was I weak, till, from the grave So early hollowed out, Tiberius sought me yesternight, Blood upon his mantle white, A vision clear of doubt?
What can I fear, oh mother, now? His dead cold hand is on my brow; Rest thou thereon thy lips: His voice is in the night-wind's breath, "Do as I did," still he saith; With blood his finger drips.
Child of the summer cloud, upon thy birth,— And thou art often born to die again,— Follow loud groans, that shake the darkening earth, And break the troublous sleep of guilty men.
Thou leapest from the thinner streams of air To crags where vapours cling, where ocean frets; No cave so deep, so cold, but thou art there, Wrath in thy smile, and beauty in thy threats.
The molten sands beneath thy burning feet Run, as thou runnest, into tubes of glass; Old towers and trees, that proudly stood to meet The whirlwind, let their fair invader pass.
The lone ship warring on the Indian sea Bursts into splinters at thy sudden stroke; Siberian mines fired long ago by thee Still waste in helpless flame and barren smoke.
Such is thy dreadful pastime, Angel-queen, When swooping headlong from the Armament Thou spreadest fear along the village green, Fear of the day when gravestones shall be rent.
And we that fear remember not, that thou, Slewest the Theban maid, who vainly strove To rival Juno, when the lover's vow Was kept in wedlock by unwilling Jove.
And we forget, that when Oileus went From the wronged virgin and the ruined fane, When storms were howling round "Repent, Repent," Thy holy arrow pierced the spoiler's brain.
To perish all the proud! but chiefly he, Who at the tramp of steeds and cymbal-beat Proclaimed, "I thunder! Why not worship me?" And thou didst slay him for his counterfeit.
Naiad, hid beneath the bank By the willowy river-side, Where Narcissus gently sank, Where unmarried Echo died, Unto thy serene repose Waft the stricken Anteros.
Where the tranquil swan is borne, Imaged in a watery glass, Where the sprays of fresh pink thorn Stoop to catch the boats that pass, Where the earliest orchis grows, Bury thou fair Anteros.
Glide we by, with prow and oar: Ripple shadows off the wave, And reflected on the shore, Haply play about the grave. Folds of summer-light enclose All that once was Anteros.
On a flickering wave we gaze, Not upon his answering eyes: Flower and bird we scarce can praise, Having lost his sweet replies: Cold and mute the river flows With our tears for Anteros.
I never prayed for Dryads, to haunt the woods again; More welcome were the presence of hungering, thirst- ing men, Whose doubts we could unravel, whose hopes we could fulfil, Our wisdom tracing backward, the river to the rill; Were such beloved forerunners one summer day restored, Then, then we might discover the Muse's mystic hoard.
Oh dear divine Comatas, I would that thou and I Beneath this broken sunlight this leisure day might lie; Where trees from distant forests, whose names were strange to thee, Should bend their amorous branches within thy reach to be, And flowers thine Hellas knew not, which art hath made more fair, Should shed their shining petals upon thy fragrant hair.
Then thou shouldst calmly listen with ever-changing looks To songs of younger minstrels and plots of modern books, And wonder at the daring of poets later born, Whose thoughts are unto thy thoughts as noon-tide is to morn; And little shouldst thou grudge them their greater strength of soul, Thy partners in the torch-race, though nearer to the goal.
As when ancestoral portraits look gravely from the walls Uplift youthful baron who treads their echoing halls; And whilst he builds new turrets, the thrice ennobled heir Would gladly wake his grandsire his home and feast to share; So from AEgean laurels that hide thine ancient urn I fain would call thee hither, my sweeter lore to learn.
Or in thy cedarn prison thou waitest for the bee: Ah, leave that simple honey, and take thy food from me. My sun is stooping westward. Entranced dreamer, haste; There's fruitage in my garden, that I would have thee taste. Now lift the lid a moment; now, Dorian shepherd, speak: Two minds shall flow together, the English and the Greek.
Perhaps there's neither tear nor smile, When once beyond the grave. Woe's me: but let me live meanwhile Amongst the bright and brave;
My summers lapse away beneath Their cool Athenian shade: And I a string for myrtle-wreath, A whetstone unto blade;
I cheer the games I cannot play; As stands a crippled squire To watch his master through the fray, Uplifted by desire.
I roam, where little pleasures fall, As morn to morn succeeds, To melt, or ere the sweetness pall, Like glittering manna-beads.
The wishes dawning in the eyes, The softly murmured thanks; The zeal of those that miss the prize On clamorous river-banks;
The quenchless hope, the honest choice, The self-reliant pride, The music of the pleading voice That will not be denied;
The wonder flushing in the cheek, The questions many a score, When I grow eloquent, and speak Of England, and of war—
Oh, better than the world of dress And pompous dining, out, Better than simpering and finesse Is all this stir and rout.
I'll borrow life, and not grow old; And nightingales and trees Shall keep me, though the veins be cold, As young as Sophocles.
And when I may no longer live, They'll say, who know the truth, He gave whatever he had to give To freedom and to youth.
Farewell, my airy pursuivants, farewell. We part to-day, and I resign This lonely island, and this rocky cell, And all that hath been mine.
"Ah, whither go we? Why not follow thee, Our human king, across the wave, The man that rescued us from rifted tree, Bleak marsh, and howling cave."
Oh no. The wand I wielded then is buried, Broken, and buried in the sand. Oh no. By mortal hands I must be ferried Unto the Tuscan strand.
You came to cheer my exile, and to lift The weight of silence off my lips: With you I ruled the clouds, and ocean-drift, Meteors, and wandering ships.
Your fancies glinting on my central mind Fell off in beams of many hues, Soft lambent light. Yet, severed from mankind, Not light, but heat, I lose.
I go, before my heart be chilled. Behold, The bark that bears me waves her flag, To chide my loitering. Back to your mountain-hold, And flee the tyrant hag.
Away. I hear your little voices sinking Into the wood-notes of the breeze: I hear you say: "Enough, enough of thinking; Love lies beyond the seas."
Somewhere beneath the sun, These quivering heart-strings prove it, Somewhere there must be one Made for this soul, to move it;
Some one that hides her sweetness From neighbours whom she slights, Nor can attain completeness, Nor give her heart its rights;
Some one whom I could court With no great change of manner, Still holding reason's fort, Though waving fancy's banner;
A lady, not so queenly As to disdain my hand, Yet born to smile serenely Like those that rule the land;
Noble, but not too proud; With soft hair simply folded, And bright face crescent-browed, And throat by Muses moulded;
And eyelids lightly falling On little glistening seas, Deep-calm, when gales are brawling, Though stirred by every breeze:
Swift voice, like flight of dove Through minster arches floating, With sudden turns, when love Gets overnear to doting;
Keen lips, that shape soft sayings Like crystals of the snow, With pretty half-betrayings Of things one may not know;
Fair hand, whose touches thrill, Like golden rod of wonder, Which Hermes wields at will Spirit and flesh to sunder;
Light foot, to press the stirrup In fearlessness and glee, Or dance, till finches chirrup, And stars sink to the sea.
Forth, Love, and find this maid, Wherever she be hidden: Speak, Love, be not afraid, But plead as thou art bidden;
And say, that he who taught thee His yearning want and pain, Too dearly, dearly bought thee To part with thee in vain.
MORTEM, QUAE VIOLAT SUAVI A PELLIT AMOR
The plunging rocks, whose ravenous throats The sea in wrath and mockery fills, The smoke, that up the valley floats, The girlhood of the growing hills;
The thunderings from the miners' ledge, The wild assaults on nature's hoard, The peak, that stormward bares an edge Ground sharp in days when Titans warred;
Grim heights, by wandering clouds embraced Where lightning's ministers conspire, Grey glens, with tarn and streamlet laced, Stark forgeries of primeval fire;
These scenes may gladden many a mind Awhile from homelier thoughts released, And here my fellow-men may find A Sabbath and a vision-feast.
I bless them in the good they feel; And yet I bless them with a sigh: On me this grandeur stamps the seal Of tyrannous mortality.
The pitiless mountain stands so sure, The human breast so weakly heaves; That brains decay, while rocks endure, At this the insatiate spirit grieves.
But hither, oh ideal bride! For whom this heart in silence aches, Love is unwearied as the tide, Love is perennial as the lakes;
Come thou. The spiky crags will seem One harvest of one heavenly year, And fear of death, like childish dream, Will pass and flee, when thou art here.
TWO FRAGMENTS OF CHILDHOOD
When these locks were yellow as gold, When past days were easily told, Well I knew the voice of the sea, Once he spake as a friend to me.
Thunder-roarings carelessly heard, Once that poor little heart they stirred. Why, oh, why? Memory, Memory! She that I wished to be with was by.
Sick was I in those misanthrope days Of soft caresses, womanly ways; Once that maid on the stairs I met, Lip on brow she suddenly set.
Then flushed up my chivalrous blood Like Swiss streams in a midsummer flood. Then, oh, then, Imogen, Imogen! Hadst thou a lover, whose years were ten.
One hour of my boyhood, one glimpse of the past, One beam of the dawn ere the heavens were o'ercast.
I came to a castle by royalty's grace, Forgot I was bashful, and feeble, and base. For stepping to music I dreamt of a siege, A vow to my mistress, a fight for my liege. The first sound of trumpets that fell on mine ear Set warriors around me and made me their peer. Meseemed we were arming, the bold for the fair, In joyous devotion and haughty despair: The warders were waiting to draw bolt and bar, The maidens attiring to gaze from afar:
I thought of the sally, but not the retreat, The cause was so glorious, the dying so sweet.
I live, I am old, I return to the ground: Blow trumpets, and still I can dream to the sound.
Though the lark that upward flies Recks not of the opening skies, Nor discerneth grey from blue, Nor the rain-drop from the dew: Yet the tune which no man taught So can quicken human thought, That the startled fancies spring Faster far than voice or wing.
And the songstress as she floats Rising on her buoyant notes, Though she may the while refuse Homage to the nobler Muse, Though she cannot truly tell How her voice hath wrought the spell, Fills the listener's eyes with tears, Lifts him to the inner spheres.
Lark, thy morning song is done; Overhead the silent sun Bids thee pause. But he that heard Such a strain must bless the bird. Lady, thou hast hushed too soon Sounds that cheered my weary noon; Let met, warned by marriage bell, Whisper, Queen of Song, farewell.
WORDS FOR A PORTUGUESE AIR
They're sleeping beneath the roses; Oh, kiss them before they rise, And tickle their tiny noses, And sprinkle the dew on their eyes. Make haste, make haste; The fairies are caught; Make haste.
We'll put them in silver cages, And send them full-drest to court, And maids of honour and pages Shall turn the poor things to sport. Be quick, be quick; Be quicker than thought; Be quick.
Their scarfs shall be pennons for lancers, We'll tie up our flowers with their curls, Their plumes will make fans for dancers, Their tears shall be set with pearls. Be wise, be wise, Make the most of the prize; Be wise.
They'll scatter sweet scents by winking, With sparks from under their feet; They'll save us the trouble of thinking, Their voices will sound so sweet. Oh stay, oh stay! They're up and away; Oh stay!
ADRIENNE AND MAURICE
(Words For The Air Commonly Called "Pestal")
Fly, poor soul, fly on, No early clouds shall stop thy roaming; Fly, till day be gone, Nor fold thy wings before the gloaming. He thou lov'st will soon be far beyond thy flight, Other lands to light, Leaving thee in night. Let no fear of loss thy heavenly pathway cross; Better then to lose than now.
Now, faint heart, arise, And proudly feel that he regards thee; Draw from godlike eyes Some grace to last when love discards thee. Once thou hast been blest by one too high for thee; Fate will have him be Great and fancy-free, When some noble maid her hand in his hath laid, Give him up, poor heart, and break.
THE HALLOWING OF THE FLEET
Her captains for the Baltic bound In silent homage stood around; Silent, whilst holy dew Dimmed her kind eyes. She stood in tears, For she had felt a mother's fears, And wifely cares she knew.
She wept; she could not bear to say, "Sail forth, my mariners, and slay The liegemen of my foe." Meanwhile on Russian steppe and lake Are women weeping for the sake Of them that seaward go.
Oh warriors, when you stain with gore, If this indeed must be, the floor Whereon that lady stept, When the fierce joy of battle won Hardens the heart of sire and son, Remember that she wept
THE CAIRN AND THE CHURCH
A Prince went down the banks of Dee That widen out from bleak Braemar, To drive the deer that wander free Amidst the pines of Lochnagar.
And stepping on beneath the birks On the road-side he found a spot, Which told of pibrochs, kilts, and dirks, And wars the courtiers had forgot;
Where with the streams, as each alone Down to the gathering river runs, Each on one heap to cast a stone, Came twice three hundred Farquharsons.
They raised that pile to keep for ever The memory of the loyal clan; Then, grudging not their vain endeavour, Fell at Culloden to a man.
And she, whose grandsire's uncle slew Those dwellers on the banks of Dee, Sighed for those tender hearts and true, And whispered: "Who would die for me?"
Oh, lady, turn thee southward. Show Thy standard on thine own Thames-side; Let us be called to meet thy foe, Our Kith be pledged, our honour tried.
Now, on the stone by Albert laid, We'll build a pile as high as theirs, So sworn to bring our Sovereign aid, If not with war-cries, yet with prayers.
A QUEEN'S VISIT
June 4, 1851
From vale to vale, from shore to shore, The lady Gloriana passed, To view her realms: the south wind bore Her shallop to Belleisle at last.
A quiet mead, where willows bend Above the curving wave, which rolls On slowly crumbling banks, to send Its hard-won spoils to lazy shoals.
Beneath an oak weird eddies play, Where fate was writ for Saxon seer; And yonder park is white with may, Where shadowy hunters chased the deer.
In rows half up the chestnut, perch Stiff-silvered fairies; busy rooks Caw front the elm; and, rung to church, Mute anglers drop their caddised hooks.
They troop between the dark-red walls, When the twin towers give four-fold chimes; And lo! the breaking groups, where falls 'Tim chequered shade of quivering limes.
'They come from field and wharf and street With dewy hair and veined throat, One fluor to tread with reverent feet,— One hour of rest for ball and boat:
Like swallows gathering for their flight, When autumn whispers, play no more, They check the laugh, with fancies bright Still hovering round the sacred door.
Lo! childhood swelling into seed, Lo! manhood bursting from the bud: Two growths, unlike; yet all agreed To trust the movement of the blood.
They toil at games, and play with books: They love the winner of the race, If only he that prospers looks On prizes with a simple grace.
The many leave the few to choose; They scorn not him who turns aside To woo alone a milder Muse, If shielded by a tranquil pride.
When thought is claimed, when pain is borne, Whate'er is done in this sweet isle, There's none that may not lift his horn, If only lifted with a smile.
So here dwells freedom; nor could she, Who ruled in every clime on earth, Find any spring more fit to be The fountain of her festal mirth.
Elsewhere she sought for lore and art, But hither came for vernal joy: Nor was this all: she smote the heart And woke the hero in the boy.
Sweet moon, twice rounded in a blithe July, Once down a wandering English stream thou leddest My lonely boat; swans gleamed around; the sky Throbbed overhead with meteors. Now thou sheddest Faint radiance on a cold Arvernian plain, Where I, far severed from that youthful crew, Far from the gay disguise thy witcheries threw On wave and dripping oar, still own thy reign, Travelling with thee through many a sleepless hour. Now shrink, like my weak will: a sterner power Empurpleth yonder hills beneath thee piled, Hills, where Caesarian sovereignty was won On high basaltic levels blood-defiled, The Druid moonlight quenched beneath the Roman sun.
AFTER READING "MAUD"
Twelve years ago, if he had died, His critic friends had surely cried: "Death does us wrong, the fates are cross; Nor will this age repair the loss. Fine was the promise of his youth; Time would have brought him deeper truth. Some earnest of his wealth he gave, Then hid his treasures in the grave." And proud that they alone on earth Perceived what might have been his worth, They would have kept their leader's name Linked with a fragmentary fame. Forsooth the beech's knotless stem, If early felled, were dear to them.
But the fair tree lives on, and spreads Its scatheless boughs above their heads, And they are pollarded by cares, And give themselves religious airs, And grow not, whilst the forest-king Strikes high and deep from spring to spring. So they would have his branches rise In theoretic symmetries; They see a twist in yonder limb, The foliage not precisely trim; Some gnarled roughness they lament, Take credit for their discontent, And count his flaws, serenely wise With motes of pity in their eyes; As if they could, the prudent fools, Adjust such live-long growth to rules, As if so strong a soul could thrive Fixed in one shape at thirty-five. Leave him to us, ye good and sage, Who stiffen in your middle age.
Ye loved him once, but now forbear; Yield him to those who hope and dare, And have not yet to forms consigned A rigid, ossifying mind.
One's feelings lose poetic flow Soon after twenty-seven or so; Professionizing moral men Thenceforth admire what pleased them then; The poems bought in youth they read, And say them over like their creed. All autumn crops of rhyme seem strange; Their intellect resents the change.
They cannot follow to the end Their more susceptive college-friend: He runs from field to field, and they Stroll in their paddocks making hay: He's ever young, and they get old; Poor things, they deem him over-bold: What wonder, if they stare and scold?
Oh, earlier shall the rosebuds blow, In after years, those happier years, And children weep, when we lie low, Far fewer tears, far softer tears.
Oh, true shall boyish laughter ring, Like tinkling chimes in kinder times! And merrier shall the maiden sing: And I not there, and I not there.
Like lightning in the summer night Their mirth shall be, so quick and free; And oh! the flash of their delight I shall not see, I may not see.
In deeper dream, with wider range, Those eyes shall shine, but not on mine: Unmoved, unblest, by worldly change, The dead must rest, the dead shall rest.
A STUDY OF BOYHOOD
So young, and yet so worn with pain! No sign of youth upon that stooping head, Save weak half-curls, like beechen boughs that spread With up-turned edge to catch the hurrying rain;
Such little lint-white locks, as wound About a mother's finger long ago, When he was blither, not more dear, for woe Was then far off, and other sons stood round.
And she has wept since then with him Watching together, where the ocean gave To her child's counted breathings wave for wave, Whilst the heart fluttered, and the eye grew dim.
And when the sun and day-breeze fell, She kept with him the vigil of despair; Knit hands for comfort, blended sounds of prayer, Saw him at dawn face death, and take farewell;
Saw him grow holier through his grief, The early grief that lined his withering brow, As one by one her stars were quenched. And now He that so mourned can play, though life is brief;
Not gay, but gracious; plain of speech, And freely kindling under beauty's ray, He dares to speak of what he loves; to-day He talked of art, and led me on to teach,
And glanced, as poets glance, at pages Full of bright Florence and warm Umbrian skies; Not slighting modern greatness, for the wise Can sort the treasures of the circling ages;
Not echoing the sickly praise, Which boys repeat, who hear a father's guest Prate of the London show-rooms; what is best He firmly lights upon, as birds on sprays;
All honest, and all delicate: No room for flattery, no smiles that ask For tender pleasantries, no looks that mask The genial impulses of love and hate.
Oh bards that call to bank and glen, Ye bid me go to nature to be healed! And lo! a purer fount is here revealed: My lady-nature dwells in heart of men.
Sweet eyes, that aim a level shaft At pleasure flying from afar, Sweet lips, just parted for a draught Of Hebe's nectar, shall I mar By stress of disciplinary craft The joys that in your freedom are?
Shall the bright Queen who rules the tide Now forward thrown, now bridled back, Smile o'er each answering smile, then hide Her grandeur in the transient rack, And yield her power, and veil her pride, And move along a ruffled track:
And shall not I give jest for jest, Though king of fancy all the while, Catch up your wishes half expressed, Endure your whimsies void of guile, Albeit with risk of such unrest As may disturb, but not defile?
Oh, twine me myrtle round the sword, Soft wit round wisdom over-keen: Let me but lead my peers, no lord With brows high arched; and lofty mien, Set comrades round my council board For bold debates, with jousts between.
There quiver lips, there glisten eyes, There throb young hearts with generous hope; Thence, playmates, rise for high emprize; For, though he fail, yet shall ye cope With worldling wrapped in silken lies, With pedant, hypocrite, and pope.
The world will rob me of my friends, For time with her conspires; But they shall both to make amends Relight my slumbering fires.
For while my comrades pass away To bow and smirk and gloze, Come others, for as short a stay; And dear are these as those.
And who was this? they ask; and then The loved and lost I praise: "Like you they frolicked; they are men: "Bless ye my later days."
Why fret? the hawks I trained are flown: 'Twas nature bade them range; I could not keep their wings half-grown, I could not bar the change.
With lattice opened wide I stand To watch their eager flight; With broken jesses in my hand I muse on their delight.
And, oh! if one with sullied plume Should droop in mid career, My love makes signals:—"There is room, Oh bleeding wanderer, here."
The graces marked the hour, when thou Didst leave thine ante-natal rest, Without a cry to heave a breast Which never ached from then till now.
That vivid soul then first unsealed Would be, they knew, a torch to wave Within a chill and dusky cave Whose crystals else were unrevealed.
That fine small mouth they wreathed so well In rosy curves, would rouse to arms A troop then bound in slumber-charms; Such notes they gave the magic shell.
Those straying fingerlets, that clutched At good and bad, they so did glove, That they might pick the flowers of love, Unscathed, from every briar they touched.
The bounteous sisters did ordain, That thou one day with jest and whim Should'st rain thy merriment on him Whose life, when thou wert born, was pain.
For haply on that night they spied A sickly student at his books, Who having basked in loving looks Was freezing into barren pride.
His squalid discontent they saw, And, for that he had worshipped them With incense and with anadem, They willed his wintry world should thaw;
And at thy cradle did decree That fifteen years should pass, and thou Should'st breathe upon that pallid brow Favonian airs of mirth and glee.
A NEW YEAR'S DAY
Our planet runs through liquid space, And sweeps us with her in the race; And wrinkles gather on my face, And Hebe bloom on thine: Our sun with his encircling spheres Around the central sun careers; And unto thee with mustering years Come hopes which I resign.
'Twere sweet for me to keep thee still Reclining halfway up the hill; But time will not obey the will, And onward thou must climb: 'Twere sweet to pause on this descent, To wait for thee and pitch my tent, But march I must with shoulders bent, Yet farther from my prime.
I shall not tread thy battle-field, Nor see the blazon on thy shield; Take thou the sword I could not wield, And leave me, and forget Be fairer, braver, more admired; So win what feeble hearts desired; Then leave thine arms, when thou art tired, To some one nobler yet.
Your princely progress is begun; And pillowed on the bounding deck You break with dark brown hair a sun That falls transfigured on your neck. Sail on, and charm sun, wind, and sea. Oh! might that love-light rest on me!
Vacantly lingering with the hours, The sacred hours that still remain From that rich month of fruits and flowers Which brought you near me once again, By thoughts of you, though roses die, I strive to make it still July.
Soft waves are strown beneath your prow, Like carpets for a victor's feet; You call slow zephyrs to your brow, In listless luxury complete: Love, the true Halcyon, guides your ship; Oh, might his pinion touch my lip!
I by the shrunken river stroll; And changed, since I was left alone, With tangled weed and rising shoal, The loss I mourn he seems to own: This is, how base soe'er his sloth, This is the stream that bore us both.
For you shall granite peaks uprise As old and scornful as your race, And fringed with firths of lucent dyes The jewelled beach your limbs embrace. Oh bather, may those Western gems Remind you of my lilied Thames.
I too have seen the castled West, Her Cornish creeks, her Breton ports, Her caves by knees of hermits pressed, Her fairy islets bright with quartz: And dearer now each well-known scene, For what shall be than what hath been.
Obeisance of kind strangers' eyes, Triumphant cannons' measured roar, Doffed plumes, and martial courtesies, Shall greet you on the Norman shore. Oh, that I were a stranger too, To win that first sweet glance from you.
I was a stranger once: and soon Beyond desire, above belief, Thy soul was as a crescent moon, A bud expanding leaf by leaf. I'd pray thee now to close, to wane, So that 'twere all to do again.
I may not touch the hand I saw So nimbly weave the violet chain; I may not see my artist draw That southward-sloping lawn again. But joy brimmed over when we met, Nor can I mourn our parting yet.
Though he lies sick and far away, I play with those that still are here, Not honouring him the less, for they To me by loving him are dear: They share, they soothe my fond regret, Since neither they nor I forget.
His sweet strong heart so nobly beat With scorn and pity, mirth and zeal, That vibrant hearts of ours repeat What they with him were wont to feel; Still quiring in that higher key, Till he take up the melody.
If there be any music here, I trust it will not fail, like notes Of May-birds, when the warning year Abates their summer-wearied throats. Shame on us, if we drudge once more As dull and tuneless as before.
Without him I was weak and coarse, My soul went droning through the hours, His goodness stirred a latent force That drew from others kindred powers. Nor they nor I could think me base, When with their prince I had found grace.
His influence crowns me, like a cloud Steeped in the light of a lost sun: I reign, for willing knees are bowed And light behests are gladly done: So Rome obeyed the lover-king, Who drank at pure Egeria's spring.
Such honour doth my mind perplex: For, who is this, I ask, that dares With manhood's wounds, and virtue's wrecks, And tangled creeds, and subtle cares, Affront the look, or speak the name Of one who from Elysium came.
And yet, though withered and forlorn, I had renounced what man desires, I'd thought some poet might be born To string my lute with silver wires; At least in brighter days to come Such men as I would not lie dumb.
I saw the Sibyl's finger rest On fate's unturned imagined page, Believed her promise, and was blest With dreams of that heroic age. She sent me, ere my hope was cold, One of the race that she foretold.
His fellows time will bring, and they, In manifold affections free, Shall scatter pleasures day by day Like blossoms rained from windy tree. So let that garden bloom; and I, Content with one such flower, will die.
A NEW MICHONNET
The foster-child forgets his nurse: She doth but know what he hath been, Took him for better or for worse, Would pet him, though he be sixteen.
He helps to weave the soft quadrille; Ah! leave the parlour door ajar; Those thirsting eyes shall take their fill, And watch her darling from afar.
It is her pride to see the hand, Which wont so wantonly to tear Her unblanched curls, control the band, And change the tune, with such an air.
And who so good? she thinks, or who So fit for partners rich and tall? Indeed she's looked the ball-room through, And he's the loveliest lad of all.
So to her lonesome bed: and there, If any wandering notes she hear, She'll say in pauses of her prayer, "He dancing still, my child! my dear!"
His gladness doth on her redound, Though hair be grey, and eyes be dim: At every waif of broken sound She'll wake, and smile, and think of him.
So, noblest of the noble, go Through regions echoing thy name; And even on me, thy friend, shall flow Some streamlet from thy river of fame.
Thou to the gilded youth be kind; Shed all thy genius-rays on them; An ancient comrade stands behind To touch, unseen, thy mantle's hem.
A stranger to thy peers am I, And slighted, like that poor old crone, And yet some clinging memories try To rate thy conquests as mine own.
Nay, when at random drops thy praise From lips of happy lookers-on, My tearful eyes I proudly raise, And bid my conscious self be gone.
Love, like an island, held a single heart, Waiting for shoreward flutterings of the breeze, So might it waft to him that sat apart Some angel guest from out the clouded seas.
Was it mere chance that threw within his reach Fragments and symbols of the bliss unknown? Was it vague hope that murmured down the beach, Tuning the billows and the cavern's moan?
Oft through the aching void the promise thrilled: "Thou shalt be loved, and Time shall pay his debt." Silence returns upon the wish fulfilled, Joy for a year, and then a sweet regret.
Idol, mine Idol, whom this touch profanes, Pass as thou cam'st across the glimmering seas: All, all is lost but memory's sacred pains; Leave me, oh leave me, ere I forfeit these.
An eager girl, whose father buys Some ruined thane's forsaken hall, Explores the new domain, and tries Before the rest to view it all.
Alone she lifts the latch, and glides Through many a sadly curtained room, As daylight through the doorway slides And struggles with the muffled gloom.
With mimicries of dance she wakes The lordly gallery's silent floor, And climbing up on tiptoe, makes The old-world mirror smile once more.
With tankards dry she chills her lip, With yellowing laces veils the head, And leaps in pride of ownership Upon the faded marriage bed.
A harp in some dark nook she sees, Long left a prey to heat and frost. She smites it: can such tinklings please? Is not all worth, all beauty, lost?
Ah! who'd have thought such sweetness clung To loose neglected strings like those? They answered to whate'er was sung, And sounded as the lady chose.
Her pitying finger hurried by Each vacant space, each slackened chord; Nor would her wayward zeal let die The music-spirit she restored.
The fashion quaint, the time-worn flaws, The narrow range, the doubtful tone, All was excused awhile, because It seemed a creature of her own.
Perfection tires; the new in old, The mended wrecks that need her skill, Amuse her. If the truth be told, She loves the triumph of her will.
With this, she dares herself persuade, She'll be for many a month content, Quite sure no duchess ever played Upon a sweeter instrument.
And thus in sooth she can beguile Girlhood's romantic hours: but soon She yields to taste and mode and style, A siren of the gay saloon;
And wonders how she once could like Those drooping wires, those failing notes, And leaves her toy for bats to strike Amongst the cobwebs and the motes.
But enter in, thou freezing wind, And snap the harp-strings one by one; It was a maiden blithe and kind: They felt her touch; their task is done.
Ask, mournful Muse, by one alone inspired: What change? am I less fond, or thou less fair? Or is it, that thy mounting soul is tired Of duteous homage and religious care?
So many court thee that my reverent gaze Vexes that wilful and capricious eye; Such fine rare flatteries flow to thee, that praise, From one whose thoughts thou know'st, seems poor and dry.
So must it be. Thus monarchs blandly greet Strange heralds offering tribute, and forget The vassals ranked behind the golden seat, Whose annual gift is counted as a debt.
Since sure of me thy liegeman once in thrall Thou need'st not waste on me those gracious looks. Stirred by the newborn wish to conquer all, Leave thy first subject to his rhymes and books.
Ah! those impetuous claims that drew me forth From my cold shadows to thy dazzling day, Those spells that lured me to the stately North, Those pleas against my scruples, where are they?
Oh, glorious bondage in a dreamful bower! Oh, freedom thrice abhorred, unblest release! Why, why hath cruel circumstance the power To make such worship, such obedience cease?
Surely I served thee, as the wrinkled elm Yieldeth his nature to the jocund vine, Strength unto beauty: may the flood o'erwhelm Root, trunk, and branch, if they have not been thine.
If thine no more, if lightly left behind, To guard the dancing clusters thought unmeet, It is because with gilded trellis twined Thy liberal growth demands untempered heat.
Yet, while they spread more freely to the sun, Those tendrils; while they wanton in the breeze Gathering all heaven's bounties, henceforth one Abides more honoured than the neighbouring trees.
Ah dear, there's something left of that great gift; And humbly marvelling at thy former choice A head once crowned with love I dare uplift, And, for that once I pleased thee, still rejoice.
NOTES OF AN INTERVIEW
It is but little that remaineth Of the kindness that you gave me, And that little precious remnant you withhold. Go free; I know that time constraineth, Wilful blindness could not save me: Yet you say I caused the change that I foretold.
At every sweet unasked relenting, Though you'd tried me with caprice, Did my welcome, did my gladness ever fail? To-day not loud is my lamenting: Do not chide me; it shall cease: Could I think of vanished love without a wail?
Elsewhere, you lightly say, are blooming All the graces I desire: Thus you goad me to the treason of content: If ever, when your brow is glooming, Softer faces I admire, Then your lightnings make me tremble and repent.
Grant this: whatever else beguileth Restless dreaming, drowsy toil, As a plaything, as a windfall, let me hail it. Believe: the brightest one that smileth To your beaming is a foil, To the splendour breaking from you, though you veil it.
Too weak am I to pray, as some have prayed, That love might hurry straightway out of mind, And leave an ever-vacant waste behind.
I thank thee rather, that through every grade Of less and less affection we decline, As month by month thy strong importunate fate Thrusts back my claims, and draws thee toward the great, And shares amongst a hundred what was mine.
Proud heroes ask to perish in high noon: I'd have refractions of the fallen day, And heavings when the gale hath flown away, And this slow disenchantment: since too soon, Too surely, comes the death of my poor heart, Be it inured to pain, in mercy, ere we part.
One year I lived in high romance, A soul ennobled by the grace Of one whose very frowns enhance The regal lustre of the face, And in the magic of a smile I dwelt as in Calypso's isle.
One year, a narrow line of blue, With clouds both ways awhile held back: And dull the vault that line goes through, And frequent now the crossing rack; And who shall pierce the upper sky, And count the spheres? Not I, not I!
Sweet year, it was not hope you brought, Nor after toil and storm repose, But a fresh growth of tender thought, And all of love my spirit knows. You let my lifetime pause, and bade The noontide dial cast no shade.
If fate and nature screen from me The sovran front I bowed before, And set the glorious creature free, Whom I would clasp, detain, adore; If I forego that strange delight, Must all be lost? Not quite, not quite.
Die, little Love, without complaint, Whom Honour standeth by to shrive: Assoiled from all selfish taint, Die, Love, whom Friendship will survive. Nor heat nor folly gave thee birth; And briefness does but raise thy worth.
Let the grey hermit Friendship hoard Whatever sainted Love bequeathed, And in some hidden scroll record The vows in pious moments breathed. Vex not the lost with idle suit, Oh lonely heart, be mute, be mute.
As when a traveller, forced to journey back, Takes coin by coin, and gravely counts them o'er, Grudging each payment, fearing lest he lack, Before he can regain the friendly shore; So reckoned I your sojourn, day by day, So grudged I every week that dropt away.
And as a prisoner, doomed and bound, upstarts From shattered dreams of wedlock and repose, At sudden rumblings of the market-carts, Which bring to town the strawberry and the rose, And wakes to meet sure death; so shuddered I, To hear you meditate your gay Good-bye.
But why not gay? For, if there's aught you lose, It is but drawing off a wrinkled glove To turn the keys of treasuries, free to choose Throughout the hundred-chambered house of love, This pathos draws from you, though true and kind, Only bland pity for the left-behind.
We part; you comfort one bereaved, unmanned; You calmly chide the silence and the grief; You touch me once with light and courteous hand, And with a sense of something like relief You turn away from what may seem to be Too hard a trial of your charity.
So closes in the life of life; so ends The soaring of the spirit. What remains? To take whate'er the Muse's mother lends, One sweet sad thought in many soft refrains And half reveal in Coan gauze of rhyme A cherished image of your joyous prime.
ALL THAT WAS POSSIBLE
Slope under slope the pastures dip With ribboned waterfalls, and make Scant room for just a village strip, The setting of a sapphire lake.
And here, when summer draws the kine To upland grasses patched with snow, Our travellers rest not, only dine, Then driven by Furies, onward go.
For pilgrims of the pointed stick, With passport case for scallop shell, Scramble for worshipped Alps too quick To care for vales where mortals dwell.
Twice daily swarms the hostel's pier, Twice daily is the table laid; And, "Oh, that some would tarry here!" Sighs Madeline, the serving-maid.
She shows them silly carven stuff; Some sneer, but others smile and buy; And these light smiles are quite enough To make the wistful maiden sigh.
She scans the face, but not the mind; She learns their taste in wines and toys, But, seem they thoughtful and refined, She fain would know their cares, their joys.
For man is not as horse and hound, Who turn to meet their lord's caress, Yet never miss the touch or sound, When absence brings unconsciousness.
Not such the souls that can reflect; Too mild they may be to repine; But sometimes, winged with intellect, They strain to pass the bounding line.
And to have learnt our pleasant tongue In English mansions, gave a sense Of something bitter-sweet, that stung The pensive maiden of Brientz.
I will not say she wished for aught; For, failing guests, she duly spun, And saved for marriage; but one thought Would still in alien channels run.
And when at last a lady came, Not lovely, but with twofold grace, For courtly France had tuned her name, Whilst England reigned in hair and face;
And illness bound her many a day, A willing captive, to the mere, In peace, though home was far away, For Madeline's talking brought it near.
Then delicate words unused before Rose to her lips, as amber shines Thrown by the wave upon the shore From unimagined ocean-mines;
And then perceptions multiplied, Foreshadowings of the heart came true, And interlaced on every side Old girlish fancies bloomed and grew;
And looks of higher meaning gleamed Like azure sheen of mountain ice, And common household service seemed The wageless work of Paradise.
But autumn downward drove the kine, And clothed the wheel with flaxen thread, And sprinkled snow upon the pine, And bowed the silent spinster's head.
Then Europe's tumult scared the spring, And checked the Northern travel-drift: Yet to Brientz did summer bring An English letter and a gift;
And Madeline took them with a tear: "How gracious to remember me! Her words I'll keep from year to year, Her face in heaven I hope to see."
Oh, that the road were longer, A mile, or two, or three! So might the thought grow stronger That flows from touch of thee.
Oh little slumbering maid, If thou wert five years older, Thine head would not be laid So simply on my shoulder!
Oh, would that I were younger, Oh, were I more like thee, I should not faintly hunger For love that cannot be.
A girl might be caressed, Beside me freely sitting; A child on me might rest, And not like thee, unwitting.
Such honour is thy mother's Who smileth on thy sleep, Or for the nurse who smothers Thy cheek in kisses deep.
And but for parting day, And but for forest shady, From me they'd take away The burden of their lady.
Ah thus to feel thee leaning Above the nursemaid's hand, Is like a stranger's gleaning, Where rich men own the land;
Chance gains, and humble thrift, With shyness much like thieving, No notice with the gift, No thanks with the receiving.
Oh peasant, when thou starvest Outside the fair domain, Imagine there's a harvest In every treasured grain.
Make with thy thoughts high cheer, Say grace for others dining, And keep thy pittance clear From poison of repining.
Can you so fair and young forecast The sure, the cruel day of doom; Must I believe that you at last Will fall, fall, fall down to the tomb? Unclouded, fearless, gentle soul, You greet the foe whose threats you hear; Your lifted eyes discern the goal, Your blood declares it is not near.
Feel deeply; toil through weal and woe, Love England, love a friend, a bride. Bid wisdom grow, let sorrow flow, Make many weep when you have died. When you shall die—what seasons lie 'Twixt that great Then and this sweet Now! What blooms of courage for that eye, What thorns of honour for that brow!
Oh mortal, too dear to me, tell me thy choice, Say how wouldst thou die, and in dying rejoice?
Will you perish, calmly sinking To a sunless deep sea cave, Folding hands, and kindly thinking Of the friend you tried to save? Will you let your sweet breath pass On the arms of children bending, Gazing on the sea of glass, Where the lovelight has no ending?
Or in victory stern and fateful, Colours wrapt round shattered breast, English maidens rescued, grateful, Whispering near you, "Conqueror, rest;" Or an old tune played once more, Tender cadence oft repeated, Moonlight shed through open door, Angel wife beside you seated.
Whatever thy death may be, child of my heart, Long, long shall they mourn thee that see thee depart.
A MERRY PARTING
With half a moon, and cloudlets pink, And water-lilies just in bud, With iris on the river brink, And white weed garlands on the mud, And roses thin and pale as dreams, And happy cygnets born in May, No wonder if our country seems Drest out for Freedom's natal day.
We keep the day; but who can brood On memories of unkingly John, Or of the leek His Highness chewed, Or of the stone he wrote upon? To Freedom born so long ago, We do devoir in very deed, If heedless as the clouds we row With fruit and wine to Runnymede.
Ah! life is short, and learning long; We're midway through our mirthful June, And feel about for words of song To help us through some dear old tune. We firmly, fondly seize the joy, As tight as fingers press the oar, With love and laughter girl and boy Hold the sweet days, and make them more.
And when our northern stars have set For ever on the maid we lose, Beneath our feet she'll not forget How speed the hours with Eton crews. Then round the world, good river, run, And though with you no boat may glide, Kind river, bear some drift of fun And friendship to the exile bride.
June 15th, 1861.
We come in arms, we stand ten score, Embattled on the castle green; We grasp our firelocks tight, for war Is threatening, and we see our Queen.
And "will the churls last out till we Have duly hardened bones and thews For scouring leagues of swamp and sea Of braggart mobs and corsair crews?
We ask; we fear not scoff or smile At meek attire of blue and grey, For the proud wrath that thrills our isle Gives faith and force to this array.
So great a charm is England's right, That hearts enlarged together flow, And each man rises up a knight To work the evil-thinkers woe.
And, girt with ancient truth and grace, We do our service and our suit, And each can be, what'er his race, A Chandos or a Montacute.
Thou, Mistress, whom we serve to-day, Bless the real swords that we shall wield, Repeat the call we now obey In sunset lands, on some fair field.
Thy flag shall make some Huron Rock As dear to us as Windsor's keep, And arms thy Thames hath nerved shall mock The surgings of th' Ontarian deep.
The stately music of thy Guards, Which times our march beneath thy ken, Shall sound, with spells of sacred bards, From heart to heart, when we are men.
And when we bleed on alien earth, We'll call to mind how cheers of ours Proclaimed a loud uncourtly mirth Amongst thy glowing orange bowers.
And if for England's sake we fall, So be it, so thy cross be won, Fixed by kind hands on silvered pall, And worn in death, for duty done.
Ah! thus we fondle Death, the soldier's mate, Blending his image with the hopes of youth To hallow all; meanwhile the hidden fate Chills not our fancies with the iron truth.
Death from afar we call, and Death is here, To choose out him who wears the loftiest mien; And Grief, the cruel lord who knows no peer, Breaks through the shield of love to pierce our Queen.
Who so distraught could ramble here, From gentle beech to simple gorse, From glen to moor, nor cease to fear The world's impetuous bigot force, Which drives the young before they will, And when they will not drives them still.
Come hither, thou that would'st forget The gamester's smile, the trader's vaunt, The statesman actor's face hard set, The kennel cry that cheers his taunt, Come where pure winds and rills combine To murmur peace round virtue's shrine.
Virtue—men thrust her back, when these Rode down for Charles and right divine, And those with dogma Genevese Restored in faith their wavering line. No virtue in religious camps, No heathen oil in Gideon's lamps.
And now, when forcing seasons bud With prophet, hero, saint, and quack, When creeds and fashions heat the blood, And transcendental tonguelets clack, Sweet Virtue's lyre we hardly know, And think her odes quite rococo.
Well, be it Roman, be it worse, When Pelhams reigned in George's name Poets were safe from sneer or curse Who gave a patriot classic fame, And goodness, void of passion, knit The hearts of Lyttelton and Pitt.
That age was as a neutral vale 'Twixt uplands of tumultuous strife, And turning from the sects to hail Composure and a graceful life, Here, where the fern-clad streamlet flows, Boconnoc's guests ensured repose.
That charm remains; and he who knows The root and stock of freedom's laws, Unscared by frenzied nations' throes, And hugging yet the good old cause, Finds in the shade these beeches cast The wit, the fragrance of the past.
Octave of St. Bartholomew, 1862.
A SKETCH AFTER BRANTOME
The door hath closed behind the sighing priest, The last absolving Latin duly said, And night, barred slowly backward from the East, Lets in the dawn to mock a sleepless bed;
The bed of one who yester even took From scented aumbries store of silk and lace, From caskets beads and rings, for one last look, One look, which left the teardrops on her face;
A lady, who hath loved the world, the court, Loved youth and splendour, loved her own sweet soul, And meekly stoops to learn that life is short, Dame Nature's pitiful gift, a beggar's dole.
Sweet life, ah! let her live what yet remains. Call, quickly call, the page who bears the lute; Bid him attune to descant of sad strains The lily voice we thought for ever mute.
The sorrowing minstrel at the casement stands And bends before the sun that gilds his wires, And prays a blessing on his faltering hands, That they may serve his lady's last desires.
"Play something old and soft, a song I knew; Play La defaite des Suisses," Then pearly notes Come dropping one by one, and with the dew Down on the breath of morning music floats.
He played as far as tout est perdu and wept. "Tout est perdu again, once more," she sighed; And on, still softer on, the music crept, And softly, at the pause, the listener died.
ON LIVERMEAD SANDS
For waste of scheme and toil we grieve, For snowflakes on the wave we sigh, For writings on the sand that leave Naught for to-morrow's passer-by.
Waste, waste; each knoweth his own worth, And would be something ere he sink To silence, ere he mix with earth, And part with love, and cease to think.
Shall I then comfort thee and me, My neighbour, preaching thus of waste? Count yonder planet fragments; see, The meteors into darkness haste.
Lo! myriad germs at random float, Fall on no fostering home, and die Back to mere elements; every mote Was framed for life as thou, as I.
For ages over soulless eyes, Ere man was born, the heavens in vain Dipt clouds in dawn and sunset dyes Unheeded, and shall we complain?
Aye, Nature plays that wanton game And Nature's hierophants may smile, Contented with their lore; no blame To rhymers if they groan meanwhile.
Since that which yearns towards minds of men, Which flashes down from brain to lip, Finds but cold truth in mammoth den, With spores, with stars, no fellowship.
Say we that our ungamered thought Drifts on the stream of all men's fate, Our travail is a thing of naught, Only because mankind is great.
Born to be wasted, even so, And doomed to feel, and lift no voice; Yet not unblessed, because I know So many other souls rejoice.
LACORDAIRE AT OXFORD
Lost to the Church and deaf to me, this town Yet wears a reverend garniture of peace. Set in a land of trade, like Gideon's fleece Bedewed where all is dry; the Pope may frown; But, if this city is the shrine of youth, How shall the Preacher lord of virgin souls, When by glad streams and laughing lawns he strolls, How can he bless them not? Yet in sad sooth, When I would love these English gownsmen, sighs Heave my frail breast, and weakness dims mine eyes.
These strangers heed me not. Far off in France Are young men not so fair, and not so cold, My listeners. Were they here, their greeting glance Might charm me to forget that I were old.
A RETROSPECT OF SCHOOL LIFE
I go, and men who know me not, When I am reckoned man, will ask, "What is it then that thou hast got By drudging through that five-year task?
"What knowledge or what art is thine? Set out thy stock, thy craft declare." Then this child-answer shall be mine, "I only know they loved me there."
There courteous strivings with my peers, And duties not bound up in books, And courage fanned by stormy cheers, And wisdom writ in pleasant looks,
And hardship buoyed with hope, and pain Encountered for the common weal, And glories void of vulgar gain, Were mine to take, were mine to feel.
Nor from Apollo did I shrink Like Titans chained; but sweet and low Whispered the Nymphs, who seldom think: "Up, up for action, run and row!"
He let me, though his smile was grave, Seek an Egeria out of town Beneath the chestnuts; he forgave; And should the jealous Muses frown?
Fieldward some remnants of their lore Went with me, as the rhymes of Gray Annealed the heart of Wolfe for war When drifting on his starlit way.
Much lost I; something stayed behind, A snatch, maybe, of ancient song; Some breathings of a deathless mind, Some love of truth, some hate of wrong.
And to myself in games I said, "What mean the books? Can I win fame? I would be like the faithful dead A fearless man, and pure of blame.
I may have failed, my School may fail; I tremble, but thus much I dare; I love her. Let the critics rail, My brethren and my home are there.
July 28th, 1863.
Oh, music! breathe me something old to-day, Some fine air gliding in from far away, Through to the soul that lies behind the clay.
This hour, if thou did'st ever speak before, Speak in the wave that sobs upon the shore, Speak in the rill that trickles from the moor.
Known was this sea's slow chant when I was young; To me these rivulets sing as once they sung, No need this hour of human throat and tongue.
The Dead who loved me heard this selfsame tide. Oh that the Dead were listening by my side, And I could give the fondness then denied.
Once in the parlour of my mother's sire One sang, "And ye shall walk in silk attire." Then my cold childhood woke to strange desire.
That was an unconfessed and idle spell, A drop of dew that on a blossom fell; And what it wrought I cannot surely tell.
Far off that thought and changed, like lines that stay On withered canvas, pink and pearly grey, When rose and violet hues have passed away.
Oh, had I dwelt with music since that night! What life but that is life, what other flight Escapes the plaguing doubts of wrong and right!
Oh music! once I felt the touch of thee, Once when this soul was as the chainless sea. Oh, could'st thou bid me even now be free!
AN EPOCH IN A SWEET LIFE
This sun, whose javelins strike and gild the wheat, Who gives the nectarine half an orb of bloom, Burns on my life no less, and beat by beat Shapes that grave hour when boyhood hears her doom.
Between this glow of pious eve and me, Lost moments, thick as clouds of summer flies, Specks of old time, which else one could not see, Made manifest in the windless calm, arise.
Streaks fairy green are traced on backward ways, Through vacant regions lightly overleapt, With pauses, where in soft pathetic haze Are phantoms of the joys that died unwept.
Seven years since one, who bore with me the yoke Of household schooling, missed me from her side. When called away from sorrowing woman folk A prouder task with brothers twain I plied.
I came a child, and home was round me still, No terror snapt the silken cord of trust; My accents changed not, and the low "I will" Silenced like halcyon plumes the loud "you must."
I lisped my Latin underneath the gloom Of timbers dark as frowning usher's looks, Where thought would stray beyond that sordid room To saucy chessmen and to feathered hooks.
And soon I sat below my grandsire's bust, Which in the school he loved not deigns to stand, That Earl, who forced his compeers to be just, And wrought in brave old age what youth had planned.
But no ancestral majesties could fix The wistful eye, which fell, and fondly read, Fresh carven on the panel, letters six, A brother's name, more sacred than the dead.
How far too sweet for school he seemed to me, How ripe for combat with the wits of men, How childlike in his manhood! Can it be? Can I indeed be now what he was then?
He past from sight; my laughing life remained Like merry waves that ripple to the bank, Curved round the spot where longing eyes are strained, Because beneath the lake a treasure sank.
Dear as the token of a loss to some, And praised for likeness, this was well; and yet 'Twas better still that younger friends should come, Whose love might grow entwined with no regret.
They came; and one was of a northern race, Who bore the island galley on his shield, Grand histories on his name, and in his face A bright soul's ardour fearlessly revealed.
We trifled, toiled, and feasted, far apart From churls, who wondered what our friendship meant; And in that coy retirement heart to heart Drew closer, and our natures were content.
My noblest playmate lost, I still withdrew From dull excitement which the Graces dread, And talked in saunterings with the gentle few Of tunes we practised, and of rhymes we read.
We swam through twilight waters, or we played Like spellbound captives in the Naiad's grot; Coquetted with the oar, and wooed the shade On dainty banks of shy forget-me-not.
Oh Thames! my memories bloom with all thy flowers, Thy kindness sighs to me from every tree: Farewell I I thank thee for the frolic hours, I bid thee, whilst thou flowest, speak of me.
July 28th, 1864.
A plague on the whimsies of sickly folk! What am I to do? What not? Why, here's the fair sky, and here you lie With your couch in a sunny spot. For this you were puling whenever you spoke, Craving to lie outside, And now you'll be sure not to bide.
You won't lie still for an hour; You'll want to be back to your bower— Longing, and never enjoying, Shifting from yea to nay. For all that you taste is cloying, And sweet is the far away.
'Tis hard to be sick, but worse To have to sit by and nurse, For that is single, but this is double, The mind in pain, and the hands in trouble. The life men live is a weary coil, There is no rest from woe and toil; And if there's aught elsewhere more dear Than drawing breath as we do here, That darkness holds In black inextricable folds.
Lovesick it seems are we Of this, whate'er it be, That gleams upon the earth; Because that second birth, That other life no man hath tried.
What lies below No god will show, And we to whom the truth's denied Drift upon idle fables to and fro.
BELOW BOULTER'S LOCK
The aspen grows on the maiden's bank, Down swoops the breeze on the bough, Quick rose the gust, and suddenly sank, Like wrath on my sweetheart's brow.
The tree is caught, the boat dreads nought, Sheltered and safe below; The bank is high, and the wind runs by, Giving us leave to row.
The bank was dipping low and lower, Showing the glowing west, The oar went slower, for either rower The river was heaving her breast.
That sunset seemed to my dauntless steerer The lifting and breaking of day, That flush on the wave to me was dearer Than shade on a windless way.
June 2nd, 1868.
FROM HALS DON TO CHELTENHAM TO TWO LITTLE LADIES.
Across three shires I stretch and lean, To gaze beyond the hills that screen The trustful eyes and gracious mien Of unforgotten Geraldine.
Up Severn sea my fancy leadeth, And past the springs of Thames it speedeth, On to the brilliant town, which needeth, Far less than I, the laugh of Edith.
Sad gales have changed my woodland scene To russet-brown from gold and green; Cold and forlorn like me hath been The boat that carried Geraldine.
On silent paths the whistler weedeth, And what his tune is no one heedeth; On hay beneath the linhay feedeth The ass that felt the hand of Edith.
Oh cherished thought of Geraldine, I'd rhyme till summer, if the Queen Would blow her trumpets and proclaim Fresh rhymes for that heroic name.
Oh babbler gay as river stickle, Next year you'll be too old to tickle; But while my Torridge flows I'll say "Blithe Edith liked me half day."
A POOR FRENCH SAILOR'S SCOTTISH SWEETHEART
I cannot forget my jo, I bid him be mine in sleep; But battle and woe have changed him so, There's nothing to do but weep.
My mother rebukes me yet, And I never was meek before; His jacket is wet, his lip cold set, He'll trouble our home no more.
Oh breaker of reeds that bend! Oh quencher of tow that smokes! I'd rather descend to my sailor friend Than prosper with lofty folks.
I'm lying beside the gowan, My jo in the English bay; I'm Annie Rowan, his Annie Rowan, He called me his bien-aimee.
I'll hearken to all you quote, Though I'd rather be deaf and free; The little he wrote in the sinking boat Is Bible and charm for me.
A GARDEN GIRL
Oh, scanty white garment! they ask why I wear you, Such thin chilly vesture for one that is frail, And dull words of prose cannot truly declare you To be what I bid you be, love's coat of mail.
You were but a symbol of cleanness and rest, To don in the summer time, three years ago; And now you encompass a care-stricken breast With fabric of fancy to keep it aglow.
For when it was Lammastide two before this, When freshening my face after freshening my lilies, A door opened quickly, and down fell a kiss, The lips unforeseen were my passionate Willie's.
My Willie was travel-worn, Willie was cold, And I might not keep but a dear lock of hair. I clad him in silk and I decked him with gold, But welcome and fondness were choked in despair.
I follow the wheels, and he turns with a sob, We fold our mute hands on the death of the hour; For heart-breaking virtues and destinies rob The soul of her nursling, the thorn of her flower.
The lad's mind is rooted, his passion red-fruited, The head I caressed is another's delight; And I, though I stray through the year sorrow-suited, At Lammas, for Willie's sake, robe me in white.
TO TWO YOUNG LADIES
There are, I've read, two troops of years, One troop is called the teens; They bring sweet gifts to little dears, Ediths and Geraldines.
The others have no certain name, Though children of the sun, They come to wrinkled men, and claim Their treasures one by one.
There is a hermit faint and dry, In things called rhymes he dabbles, And seventeen months have heard him sigh For Cissy and for Babbles.
Once, when he seemed to be bedridden, These girls said, "Make us lines," He tried to court, as he was bidden, His vanished Valentines.
Now, three days late, yet ere they ask, He's meekly undertaken To do his sentimental task, Philandering, though forsaken.