My Beautiful Lady. Nelly Dale
by Thomas Woolner
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Transcribed from the 1887 Cassell & Company edition, David Price, email





"A ray has pierced me from the highest heaven— I have believed in worth; and do believe."

So runs Mr. Woolner's song, as it proceeds to show the issue of a noble earthly love, one with the heavenly. Its issue is the life of high endeavour, wherein

"They who would be something more Than they who feast, and laugh and die, will hear The voice of Duty, as the note of war, Nerving their spirits to great enterprise, And knitting every sinew for the charge."

This Library is based on a belief in worth, and on a knowledge of the wide desire among men now to read books that are books, which "do," as Milton says, "contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them." When, therefore, as now happens for the second time, a man of genius who has written with a hope to lift the hearts and minds of men by adding one more true book to the treasures of the land, honours us by such recognition of our aim, and fellow-feeling with it, that he gives up a part of his exclusive right to his own work, and offers to make it freely current with the other volumes of our series,—we take the gift, if we may dare to say so, in the spirit of the giver, and are the happier for such evidence that we are not working in vain.

Such evidence comes in other forms: as in letters from remote readers in lonely settlements, from the far West, from sheep-farms in Australia, from farthest India, from places to which these little volumes make their way as pioneers; being almost the first real books that have there been seen. To send a true voice over, for delight and support of earnest workers who open their hearts wide to a good book in a way that we can hardly understand,—we who live wastefully in the midst of plenty, and are apt sometimes to leave to feed on the fair mountain and batten on the moor,—is worth the while of any man of genius who puts his soul into his work, as Mr. Woolner does.

Books in the "National Library" that come like those of Mr. Patmore and Mr. Woolner are here as friends and companions. If they were not esteemed highly they would not be here. Beyond that implied opinion there is nothing to be said. He would be an ill-bred host who criticised his guest, or spoke loud praise of him before his face. Nor does a well- known man of our own day need personal introduction. It is only said, in consideration that this book will be read by many who cannot know what is known to those who have access to the works of artists, that Mr. Thomas Woolner is a Royal Academician, and one of the foremost sculptors of our day. For a couple of years, from 1877 to 1879, he was Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy. A colossal statue by him in bronze of Captain Cook was designed for a site overlooking Sydney Harbour. A poet's mind has given life to his work on the marble, and when he was an associate with Mr. Millais, Mr. Holman Hunt, and others, who, in 1850, were endeavouring to bring truth and beauty of expression into art, by the bold reaction against tame and insincere conventions for which Mr. Ruskin pleaded and which the time required, Mr. Woolner joined in the production by them of a magazine called "The Germ," to which some of the verses in this volume were contributed.

There is no more to say; but through another page let Wordsworth speak the praise of Books:

Yet is it just That here, in memory of all books which lay Their sure foundations in the heart of man, Whether by native prose, or numerous verse. That in the name of all inspired souls— From Homer the great thunderer, from the voice That roars along the bed of Jewish song, And that more varied and elaborate, Those trumpet tones of harmony that shake Our shores in England—from those loftiest notes, Down to the low and wren-like warblings, made For cottagers and spinners at the wheel And sunburnt travellers resting their tired limbs Stretched under wayside hedgerows, ballad tunes Food for the hungry ears of little ones And of old men who have survived their joys— 'Tis just that in behalf of these, the works, And of the men that framed them, whether known Or sleeping nameless in their scattered graves, That I should here assert their rights, attest Their honours, and should, once for all, pronounce Their benediction; speak of them as Powers For ever to be hallowed; only less, For what we are and what we may become, Than Nature's self, which is the breath of God, Or His pure Word by miracle revealed.

Prelude, Book V. H. M.


In some there lies a sorrow too profound To find a voice or to reveal itself Throughout the strain of daily toil, or thought, Or during converse born of souls allied, As aught men understand. And though mayhap Their cheeks will thin or droop; and wane their eyes' Frank lustre; hair may lose its hue, or fall; And health may slacken low in force; and they Are older than the warrant of their years; Yet they to others seem to gild their lives With cheerfulness, and every duty tend, As if their aspects told the truth within. But they are not as others: not for them The bounding pulse, and ardour of desire, The rapture and the wonder in things new; The hope that palpitating enters where Perfection smiles on universal life; Nor do they with elastic enterprise Forecast delight in compassing results; Nor, having won their ends, fall godlike back And taste the calm completion of content. But in a sober chilled grey atmosphere Work out their lives; more various though they are Than creatures in the unknown ocean depths, Yet each in whom this vital grief has root Is dull to what makes everything of worth. And though, may be, a shallow bodily joy Oft tingles through them at the breathing spring, Or first-heard exultation of the lark; Still that deep weight draws ever steadily Their thoughts and passions back to secret woe. Though, if endowed with light, heroic deeds May be achieved; and if benignly bent They may be treasured blessings through their lives; Yet power and goodness are to them as dreams, And they heed vaguely, if their waking sight Be met with slanting storm against the pane, Or sunshine glittering on the leaves that play In purest blue of breezy summer morns.

Whence springs this well of mournfulness profound, Unfathomable to plummet cast by man? Alas; for who can tell! Whence comes the wind Heaving the ocean into maddened arms That clutch and dash huge vessels on the rocks, And scatter them, as if compacted slight As little eggs boys star against a tree In wanton mischief? Whence, detestable, To man, who suffers from the monster-jaws, The power that in the logging crocodiles' Outrageous bulk puts evil fire of life? That spouts from mountain-pyramids a flood Of lava, overwhelming works and men In burning, fetid ruin?—The power that stings A city with a pestilence: or turns The pretty babe, who in his mother's lap Babbles her back the lavished kiss and laugh, Through lusts and vassalage to obdurate sin, Into a knife-armed midnight murderer?

Our lives are mysteries, and rarely scanned As we read stories writ by mortal pen. We can perchance but catch a straying weft And trace the hinted texture here or there, Of that stupendous loom weaving our fates. Two parents, late in life, are haply blessed With one bright child, a wonder in his years, For loveliness and genius versatile: Some common ill destroys him; parents, both, Until their death, are left but living tombs That hold the one dead image of their joy. A man, the flower of honour, who has found His well-beloved young daughter fled from home, Fallen from her maidenhood, a nameless thing Tainting his blood. A youth who throws the strength Of his whole being into love for one Answering him honeyed smiles, and leaves his land For some far country, seeking wealth he hopes Will grace her daintily with choice delights, And on returning sees the honeyed smiles Are sweetening other lips. A husband who Has found that household curse, a faithless wife. A thinker whose far-piercing care perceives His nation goes the road that ends in shame. A gracious woman whose reserve denies The power to utter what consumes her heart. Such instances (and some a loss to know, Which steadfast reticence will shield from those, Debased or garrulous, whose hearts corrupt, But learn the gloomy secrets of their kind To poison-tip their wit, or grope and grin With pharisaic laughter at disgrace)— Such instances as these demand no guide To thrid the dismal issues from their source! But others are there, lying fast concealed, Dark, hopeless, and unutterably sad, Which have not been, and never may be known.

Then we may well call happy one whose grief, Mixed up with sacred memories of the past, Can tell to others how the tempest rose, That struck and left him lonely in the world; And who, narrating, feels his sorrow soothed, By that respect which love and sorrow claim.

It much behoves us all, but chiefly those Whom fate has favoured with an easy trust, To keep a bridle upon restless speech And thought: and not in flagrant haste prejudge The first presentment as the rounded truth. For true it is, that rapid thoughts, and freak Of skimming word, and glance, more frequently Than either malice, settled hate, or scorn, Support confusion, and pervert the right; Set up the weakling in the strong man's place; And yoke the great one's strength to idleness; Pour gold into the squanderer's purse, and suck The wealth, which is a power, from their control Who would have turned it unto noble use. And oftentimes a man will strike his friend, By random verbiage, with sharper pain Than could a foe, yet scarcely mean him wrong; For none can strip this complex masquerade And know who languishes with secret wounds. They whom the brunt of war has maimed in limb, Who lean on crutches to sustain their weight, Are manifest to all; and reverence For their misfortunes kindly gains them place: But wounds, sometimes more deep and dangerous, We may in careless jostle through the crowd, Gall and oppress, because to us unknown. Then, howsoever by our needs impelled, Let us resolve to move in gentleness; Judge mildly when we doubt; and pause awhile Before injustice palpably proclaimed Ere we let fall the judgment stroke: against Their ignominious craft, who ever wait To filch another's right, we will maintain Majestic peace in silence; knowing well Their craft takes something richer from themselves. It is but seemly to respect the great; But never let us fail toward lowly ones; Respecting more, in that they lack the force To claim it of the world. For souls there are Of poor capacities, whose purpose holds, Throughout their unregarded lives, a worth, And earnest law of fixed integrity, That were an honour even unto those Whose genius marks the boundaries of our race.



Love comes divinely, gladdening mortal life, As sunrise dawns upon the gaze of one Bewildered in some outland waste, and lost: Who, lonely faint and shuddering, through the night Heard savage creatures nigh; and far-off moan Of tempests on the wind.

Auroral joy Flushes the brow of childhood, warms his cheek To rosier redness at the name of Love; And earlier thoughts awake in darkness strive; As unfledged nestlings move their sightless heads At sound, toward a fair world to them unknown. Young Hope scales azure mountain heights to gaze, In Love's first golden and delicious dream. He sees the earth a maze of tempting paths, For blissful sauntering mid the crowded flowers And music of the rills. No ambushed wrongs, Or thwarting storms there baffle and surprise; But lingering, man treads long an odorous way; And at the close, with Love clasped hand in hand, Sets in proud glory: thence to rise anon With Love beyond the stars and rest in heaven.

Man, nerved by Love, can steadily endure Clash of opposing interests; perplexed web Of crosses that distracting clog advance: In thickest storm of contest waxes stronger At momentary thought of home, of her, His gracious wife, and bright-faced joys.

To him The wrinkled patriarch, who sits and suns His shrunken form beneath the boughs he climbed A lissom boy, whence comes that brooding smile, Whose secret lifts his cheeks, and overflows His sight with tender dew? What through his frame Melts languor sweeter than approaching sleep To one made weary by a hard day's toil? It is the memory of primal love, Whose visionary splendour steeped his life In hues of heaven; and which grown open day, Revealing perilous falls, his steps confined Within the pathways to the noblest end. Now following this dimmed glory, tired, his soul Haunts ever the mysterious gates of Death; And waits in patient reverence till his doom Unfolding them fulfils immortal Love.

As from some height, on a wild day of cloud, A wanderer, chilled and worn, perchance beholds Move toward him through the landscape soaked in gloom A golden beam of light; creating lakes, And verdant pasture, farms, and villages; And touching spires atop to flickering flame; Disclosing herds of sober feeding kine; And brightening on its way the woods to song; As he, that wanderer, brightens when the shaft Suddenly falls on him. A moment warmed, He scarcely feels its loveliness before The light departing leaves his saddened soul More cold than ere it came. Thus love once shone And blessed my life: so vanished into gloom.


I love My Lady; she is very fair; Her brow is wan, and bound by simple hair: Her spirit sits aloof, and high, But glances from her tender eye In sweetness droopingly.

As a young forest while the wind drives through, My life is stirred when she breaks on my view; Her beauty grants my will no choice But silent awe, till she rejoice My longing with her voice.

Her warbling voice, though ever low and mild, Oft makes me feel as strong wine would a child: And though her hand be airy light Of touch, it moves me with its might, As would a sudden fright.

A hawk high poised in air, whose nerved wing-tips Tremble with might suppressed, before he dips, In vigilance, hangs less intense Than I, when her voice holds my sense Contented in suspense.

Her mention of a thing, august or poor, Makes it far nobler than it was before: As where the sun strikes life will gush, And what is pale receive a flush, Rich hues, a richer blush.

My Lady's name, when I hear strangers use, Not meaning her, sounds to me lax misuse; I love none but My Lady's name; Maud, Grace, Rose, Marian, all the same, Are harsh, or blank and tame.

My Lady walks as I have seen a swan Swim where a glory on the water shone: There ends of willow branches ride, Quivering in the flowing tide, By the deep river's side.

Fresh beauties, howsoe'er she moves, are stirred: As the sunned bosom of a humming bird At each pant lifts some fiery hue, Fierce gold, bewildering green or blue; The same, yet ever new.

What time she walks beneath the flowering May, Quite sure am I the scented blossoms say, "O Lady with the sunlit hair! Stay and drink our odorous air, The incense that we bear:

"Thy beauty, Lady, we would ever shade; For near to thee, our sweetness might not fade." And could the trees be broken-hearted, The green sap surely must have smarted, When my Lady parted.

How beautiful she is! A glorious gem She shines above the summer diadem Of flowers! And when her light is seen Among them, all in reverence lean To her, their tending Queen.

A man so poor that want assaults his health, Blessed with relief one morn in boundless wealth, Breathes no such joy as mine, when she Stands statelier, expecting me, Than tall white lilies be:

And the white flutter of her robe to trace, Where clematis and jasmine interlace, Expands my gaze triumphantly: Even such his gaze, who sees on high His flag, for victory.

We wander forth unconsciously, because The azure beauty of the evening draws; When sober hues pervade the ground, And universal life is drowned Into hushed depths of sound.

We thread a copse where frequent bramble spray With loose obtrusion from the side roots stray, And force sweet pauses on our walk; I lift one with my foot, and talk About its leaves and stalk.

Or maybe that some thorn or prickly stem Will take a prisoner her long garments' hem; To disentangle it I kneel, Oft wounding more than I can heal; It makes her laugh, my zeal.

Or on before a thin-legged robin hops, And leaping on a twig, he pertly stops, Speaking a few clear notes, till nigh We draw, when briskly he will fly Into a bush close by.

A flock of goldfinches arrest their flight, And wheeling round a birchen tree alight Deep in its glittering leaves; and stay Till scared at our approach, when they Strike with vexed trills away.

I recollect My Lady in the wood, Keeping her breath, while peering as she stood There, balanced lightly on tiptoe, To mark a nest built snug below, Leaves shadowing her brow.

I recollect her puzzled, asking me, What that strange tapping in the wood might be? I told of gourmand thrushes, which, To feast on morsels oosy rich, Cracked poor snails' curling niche.

And then, as knight led captive, in romance, Through postern and dark passage, past grim glance Of arms; where from throned state the dame He loved, in sumptuous blushes came To him held dumb for shame:

Even so my spirit passed, and won, through fears That trembled nigh despair; through foolish tears, And hope fallen weak in breathless flight, Where beamed in pure entrancing light Love's beauty on my sight.

For when we reached a hollow, where the stone And scattered fragments of the shells lay strown, By margin of a weedy rill; "This air," she said, "feels damp and chill, We'll go home if you will."

"Make not my pathway dull so soon," I cried; "See how yon clouds of rosy eventide Roll out their splendour: while the breeze Shifts gold from leaf to leaf, as these Lithe saplings move at ease!"

Grateful, in her deep silence, one loud thrush Startled the air with song; then every bush Of covert songsters all awoke, And all, as to their leader's stroke, Into full chorus broke.

A lonely wind sighed up the pines, and sung Of woes long past, forgot. My spirit hung O'er awful gulfs: and loathly dread So bitter was I wished me dead, And from a great void said;

"Wait till its glory fade; the sun but burned To light your loveliness!" The Lady turned To me, flushed by its lingering rays, Mute as a star. My frantic praise Fixed wide her brightened gaze:

When, rapt in resolution, I told all The mighty love I bore her; how would pall My very breath of life, if she For ever breathed not hers with me:— Could I a spirit be,

How, vainly hoping to enrich her grace, What gems and wonders would I snatch from space; Would back through the vague distance beat, Glowing with joy her smile to meet, And heap them round her feet!

Her waist shook to my arm. She bowed her head To mine in silence, and my fears had fled: (Just then we heard a tolling bell.) Ah no; it is not right to tell; But I remember well

How dear the pressure of her warm young breast Against my own, her home; how proud and blessed I stood and felt her trickling tears, While proudly murmuring in her ears The hope of distant years.

The rest I keep: a holy charm, a source Of secret strength and comfort on my course. Her glory left my pathway bright; And stars on stars throughout the night Came blooming into light.


O lily with the heavenly sun Shining upon thy breast! My scattered passions toward thee run, And poise to awful rest.

The darkness of our universe Smothered my soul in night; Thy glory shone; whereat the curse Passed molten into light.

Raised over envy; freed from pain; Beyond the storms of chance: Blessed king of my own world I reign, Controlling circumstance.


Warble, warble, warble, O thou joyful bird! Warble, lost in leaves that shade my happy head; Warble loud delights, laud thy warm-breasted mate, And warbling shout the riot of thy heart, Thine utmost rapture cannot equal mine.

Flutter, flutter, and flash; crimson-winged flower, Parted from thy stem grown in land of dreams! Hover and tremble, flitting till thou findest, Butterfly, thy treasure! Yet thou never canst Find treasure rich as my contented rest.

Hum on contentedly, thou wandering bee! Or pausing in chosen flowers drain their sweets; From honeyed petal thou canst never sip The sweetest sweet of sweets, as I from Love,— From Love's warm mouth draw sweetest sweet of sweets.

Round, western wind, in grateful eddies sway, Whisper deliciously the trembling flowers: O could I fill thy vacancy as I Am filled with happiness, thou'dst breathe such sounds Their blooms should wane and waver sick for love; Thou'dst utter rarer secrets than are blown With yonder bean-fields' paradisal scents;— These bean-field odours, lightly sweet and faint, That tell of pastures sloping down to streams Murmuring for ever on through sunny lands; Where mountains gleam and bank to silvery heights That scarce the greatest angel's wing can reach; Where wondrous creatures float beneath the shade Of growths sublime, unknown to mortal race; Where hazes opaline lie tranced in dreams, Where melodies are heard and die at will, And little spirits make hot love to flowers.

Though broadly flaming, plain of yellow blossom, A dazzling blaze of splendour in the noon! And brightening open heaven, ye shining clouds, With lustrous light that casts the azure dim! Your radiance all united to the sun's Were darkness to that glory born in me.

For Love's own voice has owned her love is mine; And Love's own palm has pressed my palm to hers; Love's own deep eyes have looked the love she spoke: And Love's young heart to mine was fondly beating As from her lips I sucked the sweet of life.


What trite old folly unharmonious sages In dull books write or prattle day by day, Of sin original and growing crime! And commentating the advance of time, Say wrong has fostered wrong for countless ages, The strong ones marking down the weak for prey.

They bruit of wars—that thunder heard in dreams; Huge insurrections, and dynastic changes Resolved in blood. I marvel they of thought By apprehensions are so often wrought To state as fact what unto all men seems, Who watch cloud-struggles blown through stormy ranges!

Why fill they not with love the printed page, Illuminating, as yon moon the night, Serenely shining on a world of beauty, Where love moves ever hand in hand with duty; And life, a long aspiring pilgrimage, Makes labour but a pastime of delight!

It was delightfulness to him I found Whistling this afternoon behind his team, That stepped an easy comfortable pace; While off the mould-iron curved in rolling grace Dark earth, wave lapping wave, without a sound; And all passed by me blissful, like a dream.

And those I noticed hoeing on the hill Talking familiarly of homely things, A daughter's marriage-day, a son's first child; How the good Squire at length was reconciled, Had overlooked the pheasant shot by Will:— Chirruping on as any cricket sings.

And that complete Arcadian pastoral, The piping boy who watched his feeding sheep; And, as a little bird o'erflows with joy, Piped on for hours my happy shepherd boy! While, coiled below, his faithful animal Basked in the sunshine, blinking, half asleep.

This silent night-wind bloweth heavenly pure; Like dimpled warmth of an infantine face. Lo, glimmering starlike in yon balmy vale The village lights; each tells a little tale Of humble comfort, where its inmates, sure In hope, feel grateful in their lowly place.

And here My Lady's lighted oriel shines A giant glowworm in the odorous gloom. Ah, stands she smiling there in loose white gown, Hearing the music of her future drown The stillness and hushed whispering of the vines, Whose lattice-clasping leaves o'ershade her room!

Or kneels she worshipful beside her bed In large-eyed hope and bended lowliness, To crave that He, the Giver, may impart Enough of strength to bind her trembling heart Steadfast and true; and that her will be led To own His chastening cares pain but to bless?

Or sits she at her mirror, face to face With her own loveliness? (O blessed land That owns such twin perfections both together; If guessed aright!) Ah, me; I wonder whether She now her braided opulent hair unlace And drop it billowing from her moonwhite hand!

Then what a fount of wealth to lover's sight! Her loosened hair, I heard her mother say, When she is seated, tumbles to the floor And trails the length of her own foot and more: And dare I, lapt in bliss, dream my delight Ere long shall watch its rippling softness play?

Dare I, O vanity! but do I dare Think she now looks upon the sorry rhyme I wrote long ere that well-loved setting sun, What time love conquering dread My Lady won, While I unblessed, adored in mute despair:— Even now I gave it her at parting time.

"O let me, Dearest, fall and once impart My grieving love to ease this stricken heart; But once, O Love, to fall and rest This wearied head of mine, But once to weep in thine Unutterably tender breast; And on my drooping lids feel thy young breath; To feel it playing sweeter were than death.

"Than death were sweet to one bent down and old, And worn with persecutions manifold; Whose stoutness long endured alone The charge of bitter foes, Till, furious, he rose, When smitten, all were overthrown. Who then of those, his dearest, none could find, They having fled as leaves before the wind.

"As he would pass, when to his failing sight Their forms stand in a vision heavenly bright; And piercing through his drowsed ears Enters their tuneful cry Of summons, audibly, Thither where flow no mourners' tears: So, dearest Love, my spirit, sore oppressed, Would weeping in thy bosom sink to rest."

Her window now is darkness, save the sheen Glazed on it by the moon. Within she lies Her supple shape relaxed, in dreamful rest, And folds contentment babelike to her breast, Whose beauteous heaving, even and serene, Beats mortal time to heavenly lullabies.


To call My Lady where she stood "A Wild-rose blossom of the wood," Makes but a poor similitude.

For who by such a sleight would reach An aim, consumes the worth in speech, And sets a crimson rose to bleach.

My Love, whose store of household sense Gives duty golden recompense, And arms her goodness with defence:

The sweet reliance of whose gaze Originates in gracious ways, And wins the trust that trust repays:

Whose stately figure's varying grace Is never seen unless her face Turn beaming toward another place;

For such a halo round it glows Surprised attention only knows A lively wonder in repose.

Can flowers that breathe one little day In odorous sweetness life away, And wavering to the earth decay,

Have any claim to rank with her, Warmed in whose soul impulses stir, Then bloom to goodness, and aver

Her worth through spheral joys shall move When suns and systems cease above, And nothing lives but perfect Love?


Strong in the regal strength of love, Enthroned by native worth Her sway is held on earth: Whose soul looks downward from above Exalted stars, whose power Brightens the brightest flower.

Her beauty walks in happier grace Than lightly moving fawns O'er old elm-shadowed lawns. A tenderness shows through her face, And like the morning's glow, Hints a full day below.

When site looks wide around the skies On the sun's dazzling track, And when shines softly back Its glory to her open eyes, She fills our hearts and sight With wonder and delight.

And when tired thought my sense benumbs, Or when past shadows roll Their memories on my soul, Oft breaking through the darkness comes A solace and surprise, Her wonder-lighted eyes.

How grand and beautiful the love She silently conceals, Nor save in act reveals! She broods o'er kindness; as a dove Sits musing in the nest Of the life beneath her breast.

The ready freshness that was known In man's authentic prime, The earliest breath of time, Throughout her household ways is shown; Mild greatness subtly wrought With quaint and childlike thought.

She sits to music: fingers fall, Air shakes; her lifted voice Makes flattered hope rejoice, And shivering through Time's phantom pall, Its wavering rents display Dim splendour, far away;

Where her perfection, glory-crowned, Shall rest in love for ever; When mortal systems sever, And the orbed universe is drowned, Leaving the empty skies The blank of death-closed eyes.

Deep in this truth I root my trust; And know the dear One's praise, Her mutely gracious ways, When all her loveliness is dust And mosses rase her name, Will bless our world the same.

As scent of flowers her worth was born Her joyous goodness spread Like music over head, Smiles now as smiles a plain of corn When in the winds of June, Lit by a shining noon.

A gap of sunlight in the storm; A blossom ere the spring; Immortal whispering; A spirit manifest through form Which we can touch and kiss,— To life such beauty is.

Ah! who can doubt, though he may doubt Our solid earth will run A future round the sun, That gentle impulse given out Can never fail or die, But throbs eternally!


At matin time where creepers interlace We sauntered slowly, for we loved the place, And talked of passing things; I, pleased to trace Through leafy mimicry the true leaves made, The stateliness and beauty of her shade;

A wavering of strange purples dimly seen, It gloomed the daisy's light, the kingcup's sheen, And drank up sunshine from the vital green. That silent shadow moving on the grass Struck me with terror it should ever pass

And be blank nothing in the coming years Where, in the dreadful shadow of my fears, Her shrouded form I saw through blurring tears, My Darling's shrouded form in beauty's bloom Born with funereal sadness to her tomb.

"What idle dreaming," I abruptly cried: My Lady turned, half startled, at my side, And looked inquiry: I, through shame or pride, Bantered the words as mockery of sense, Mere aimless freak of fostered indolence.

She did not urge me; gentle, wise, and kind! But clasped my hand and talked: her beaming mind Arrayed in brightness all it touched. Behind, Her shadow fell forgot, as she and I Went homeward musing, smiling at the sky.

Thro' pastures and thro' fields where corn grew strong; By cottage nests that could not harbour wrong; Across the bridge where laughed the stream; along The road to where her gabled mansion stood, Old, tall, and spacious, in a massy wood.

We loitered toward the porch; but paused meanwhile Where Psyche holds a dial to beguile The hours of sunshine by her golden smile; And holds it like a goblet brimmed with wine, Nigh clad in trails of tangled eglantine.

In the deep peacefulness which shone around My soul was soothed: no darksome vision frowned Before my sight while cast upon the ground Where Psyche's and My Lady's shadows lay, Twin graces on the flower-edged gravel way.

I then but yearned for Titian's glorious power, That I by toiling one devoted hour, Might check the march of Time, and leave a dower Of rich delight that beauty I could see, For broadening generations yet to be.


The wind that's good for neither man nor beast Weeks long incessant from the blighting East Drove gloom and havoc through the land and ceased. When swaying mildly over wide Atlantic seas, Bland and dewy soft streamed the Western breeze.

In walking forth, I felt with vague alarm, Closer than wont her pressure on my arm, As through morn's fragrant air we sought what harm That Eastern wind's despite had done the garden growth; Where much lay dead or languished low for drouth.

Her own parterre was bounded by a red Old buttressed wall of brick, moss-broidered; Where grew mid pink and azure plots a bed Of shining lilies intermixed in wondrous light; She called them "Radiant spirits robed in white."

Here the mad gale had rioted and thrown Far drifts of snowy petals, fiercely blown The stalks in twisted heaps: one flower alone Yet hung and lit the waste, the latest blossom born Among its fallen kinsmen left forlorn.

"Thy pallid droop," cried I, "but more than all, Thy lonely sweetness takes my soul in thrall, O Seraph Lily Blanch! so stately tall: By violets adored, regarded by the rose, Well loved by every gentle flower that blows!"

My Lady dovelike to the lily went, Took in curved palms a cup, and forward leant, Deep draining to the gold its dreamy scent. I see her now, pale beauty, as she bending stands, The wind-worn blossom resting in her hands!

Then slowly rising, she in gazing trance Affrayed, long pored on vacancy. A glance Of chilly splendour tinged her countenance And told the saddened truth, that stress of blighting weather, Had made her lilies and My Lady droop together.


"Weak, but her spirits good," the letter said: A bell was tolling, while these words I read, A dull sepulchral summons for the dead. Fear grew in every pace I strode Hurrying on that endless road.

And when I reached the house a terror came That wrought in me a hidden sense of blame, And entering I scarce dared to speak her name, Who lay, sweet singer, warbling low Rhymes I made her long ago.

"The sun exhales the morning dew, The dew returns again At eve refreshing rain: The forest flowers bloom bravely new, They drooping fade and die, The seeds that in them lie Will blossom as the others blew."

"And ever rove among the flowers Bright children who ere long Are men and women strong: When on they pass through sun and showers, And glancing sideways watch Their children run to catch A rainbow with the laughing Hours."

I watched in awkward wonder for a time As there she listless lay and sang my rhyme, Wrapped up in fabrics of an Indian clime She seemed a Bird of Paradise Languid from the traversed skies.

A dawn-bright snowy peak her smile . . . Strange I Should dawdle near her grace admiringly, When love alarmed and challenged sympathy, Announced in chills of creeping fear Danger surely threatening near.

I shrank from searching the abyss I felt Yawned by; whose verge voluptuous blossoms belt With dazzling hues:—she speaks! I fall and melt, One sacred moment drawn to rest, Deeply weeping in her breast:

Within the throbbing treasure wept? But brief Those loosening tears of blessed deep relief, That won triumphant ransom from my grief, While loving words and comfort she Breathed in angel tones to me.

Our visions met, when pityingly she flung Her passionate arms about me, kissing clung, Close kisses, stifling kisses; till each wrung, With welded mouths, the other's bliss Out in one long sighing kiss.

Love-flower that burst in kisses and sweet tears, Scattering its roseate dreamflakes, disappears Into cold truth: for, loud with brazen jeers, That bell's toll, clanging in my brain, Beat me, loth, to earth again:

Where, looking on my Love's endangered state, Wrought by keen anguish mad, I struck at fate, Prostrating mockingly in sport or hate The aspirations, darkling, we Cherish and resolve to be.

She spoke, but sharply checked; then as her zone A lady's hands would clasp, My Lady's own Pressed at her yielding side; her solemn tone And forward eager face implored Me to kneel where she adored.

Despite her pain, with tender woman's phrase She solaced me, whose part it was to raise Anew the gladness to her weakened gaze, And wisely in man's firmness be To my drooping vine a tree.

But no; sunk, dwindled, dwarfed, and mean, beside Her couch I sitting saw her eyes grow wide With awe, and heard her voice move as the tide Of steady music rich and calm In some high cathedral psalm.

Then, as that high cathedral psalm o'erflows The dusky, vaulted aisles, and slowly grows A burst of harmony the hearer knows, Her voice assailed by rage, and I Took its purport wonderingly.

"Ah, pause for dread, before you charge in haste The ways of fate; for how can those be traced That in the life Omnipotent lie based? Or earth-grown atom's bounded soul Grasp the universal whole?

"The more he chafes, the worse his fetter galls The luckless captive closed in dungeon walls, And fighting chains and stones, he fighting falls. Nor will that wasteful immolation Touch his lofty victor's station.

"Woe be to him perverse, who, weak and blind, In pride refusing to behold, shall find The ponderous roll of circumstance will grind His steps; and if he turn not, must Bruise and crush him into dust.

"We are the Lord's, not ours, His angels sing; So you, mine own, bow meekly to your King, And striving hard and long His grace will bring: His voice shall through the battle cry, When the strife is raging high."

She fluttering paused: awhile her surging zeal All utterance overwhelmed to mute appeal: I felt as men who fallen in battle feel, When far their chief's sword, like a gem, Points to glory not for them.

"When naked heaven is azure to your eyes, And light shines everywhere, you can be wise; But, when its storms in common course arise, To you the wind but sobs and grieves Wailing with the streaming leaves.

"Rust eats the steel, and moths corrupt the cloth, And peevish doubts destroy the soul that's loth To strive for duty, merged in shameful sloth, And lolls a weary wretch forlorn, While men reap the mellow corn.

"It is not man's to dream in sweet repose; He toils and murmurs, as he wondering goes, Poor changeful glitter on the stream that flows In lapses huge and solemn roar, Ever on without a shore.

"The plantlet grown in darkness puts forth spray; Through loaded gloom yearns feebly toward some ray Of bounty golden from the outer day That shines eternally sublime On the dancing motes of time."

The music stopped, and passed into a smile Of tenderness, which she impressed to guile Her pain from me: I gazed as one awhile Escaped, who sees twin rainbows shine O'er his wrecked ship gulfed in brine.

My lost soul sank adown in soundless seas To ruined heaps besprent with ancient lees Of wealth: by soft stupendous ocean-trees; By anchors forged in early time, Changed to trails of rusted slime:

To where, what seemed a tomb, in this deep hell Of night, bore a dim name I dread to tell: And there I heard sound some gigantic bell, Whose thunder laughing through my brain Mocked me back to flesh again.

Here all was emptier than the empty shade Of mist before a midnight moon decayed: Here life was strange as death, and more dismayed My spirit, now scarce conscious she Urged entreaty yet to me.

"'Tis life in life to know the King is just, And will not animate his helpless dust With fire unquenchable whose ardour must Achieve majestic deeds that raise Universal shouts of praise:

"Shouts of acclaim that gather into story, Chanted by one on some high promontory Who glowing in the dawn's advancing glory, Far down upon the listening crowd Shines through swathes of lingering cloud:

"And fires, by what he sings, to noble feud With grosser instincts, the charged multitude, That grow in temper and similitude To those great souls whose victories Triumph still in melodies:

"This fire will not be granted to distress, To fail in cold dead ash and bitterness: He will not grant true love that yearns to bless The world, that it may only sigh Back into itself and die."

The words here faltering sank to undertone: Her soul was murmuring to itself alone On some wide desolation, dark, unknown; Whose limits, stretched from mortal sight Touch the happy hills of light.

"I, toiling at the task assigned to me, Am summoned from my labour suddenly: The King recalls his handmaiden; and she Submissively herself anoints, Going whither He appoints.

"The sheaves are garnered now, her work is done, The day is waning, and she must be gone, To bend herself before the Holy One, And strictly her appointed meed There accept in very deed."

Dead silence, more than if a thunder-stroke Had crashed the summer air, my sense awoke To sudden apprehension: hard the yoke Of misery was mine to bear; Wrath-befooled, in my despair

I went, and, leaning from the lattice, mused On my immeasurable woe; accused Heaven's King, that, like an earthly king, abused His power omnipotent, and hurled Curses broadcast on the world.

Then glancing toward her danger thought, "A cell Of noxious vapours this dull life; as well She should escape: so pure! she scarce could dwell With sinful creatures who alway Stumbling take the stain of clay

"But I unworthy! How in conscience I— How could I hazard guidance in her high Cold path of duty leading to the sky! As well hold torch to light a star Shining, mystic, nebular.

"She yearns to bless the world: just love for all Best shows in love for one; love cannot fall Like sunshine over half this wondrous ball, But her impulses yearn to bless All the world. Strange tenderness!"

This shameful mockery of myself alone Was interrupted by a sobbing moan That brought me to her coach, where low mine own Sweet Love lay swooning ashy white, Eyelids closing from the light.

Ah, coarse, hard, bitter, brutal self! A beast In passion, nay far worse than such, to feast On baseless anger against her whose least Stray word was kind; her daily food Interest in another's good.

My passion then, like an unruly horse Checked by a master's hand, fell slack; its force Unnerved, and stifling me with hot remorse; Frightened, despairing, "Love," I cried, Wildly busy at her side;

And kissed and chafed her brow; I chafed her hand; Audacious grown with fear, released the band That clasped her tender waist, and keenly scanned Each feature, till her opening eyes Met my own in bright surprise

"Ah you! I had from you passed and the world Through endless nothing rudely was I hurled While you there hung above, your proud lip curled, Regarding me with piercing hate Crying I deserved my fate."

We met each other, as when waters meet In long continued shock, and muttering, sweet Confusion mixed in unity complete That changing time may not dissever; One in love and one for ever.

Purged by remorse, love knit my strength; and now Came gracious power to still upon her brow Those troubled waves of some dark underflow; Her soul victorious over pain Spoke in golden smiles again.

We sat and read how Prospero closed his strife With evil, wrought his charm, and crowned his life In making two fair beings man and wife: Of brave Count Gismond's happy lot; And the Lady of Shalott.

We ceased; for eve had come by dusky stealth. I saw, while lifting her, like crimson health Burn in her cheeks, holding the weighted wealth Of all the worlds in heaven to me; Held her long, long, lingeringly:

And laying down more than my life, her weight; Scarce kissed her pallid hands, then moved with great Reluctance, bodeful, from her placid state; But, ere my slow feet reached the door, Turned and caught one last look more,

And awe-struck stood to see portentous loom From her large eyes full gazing through the gloom Love darkly wedded to eternal doom, As she were gazing from the dead: Falling at her feet I said,

"Bless me, dear Love, bless me before I go; With love divine a beam of comfort throw, For guidance and support, that I through woe Be raised and purified in grace Worthy to behold your face."

She bowed her head in stately tenderness Low whispering as her hands my brow did press, "I pray that He will your lone spirit bless, And if to leave you be my fate, Pray you for me while I wait."

A useless pang in her no more to wake, I forced myself away, nor dared to take Another look for her beloved sake; My face had told of the distressed Swollen heart labouring in my breast.

When in the outer air, I felt as one Fresh startled from a dream, wherein the sun Had dying left the earth a dingy, dun Annihilation. The nightjar Only thrilled the air afar:

No other sound was there: a muffled breeze Crept in the shrubs, and shuddered up the trees, Then sought the ghost-white vapour of the leas, Where one long sheet of dismal cloud Swathed the distance in a shroud.

A solitary eye of cold stern light Stared threateningly beyond the Western height, Wrapped in the closing shadows of the night; And all the peaceful earth had slept But that eye stern vigil kept.

I wandered wearily I knew not where; Up windy downs far-stretching, bleak and bare; Through swamps that soddened under stagnant air; In blackest woods and brambled mesh, Thorny bushes tore my flesh:

Amid the ripening corn I heard it sigh, Hollow and sad, as night crawled sluggishly: Hollow and sadly sighed the corn while I Moved darkly in the midst, a blight Darkening more the hateful night.

My soul its hoarded secrets emptied on The vaulted gloom of night: old fancies shone, And consecrated ancient hopes long gone; Old hopes that long had ceased to burn, Gone, and never to return.

No starlight pierced the dense vault over head, And all I loved was passing or had fled: So on I wandered where the pathway led; And wandered till my own abode Spectral pale rose from the road.

What time I gained my home I saw the morn Made dimly on the sullen East. Wayworn I went into the echoing house forlorn, Heartsick and weary sought my room, Better had it been my tomb.

I lay, and ever as my lids would close In dull forgetfulness to slumberous doze, Lone sounds of phantom tolling scared repose; Till wearied nature, sore oppressed, Slowly sank and dropped to rest.


"Gone the sickness, fled the pain, Health comes bounding back again, And all my pulses tingle for delight. Together what a pleasant thing To ramble while the blackbirds sing, And pasture lands are sparkling dewy bright!

"Soon will come the clear spring weather, Hand in hand we'll roam together, And hand in hand will talk of springs to come; As on the morning when you played The necromancer with my shade, In senseless shadow gazing darkly dumb.

"Cast away that cloudy care, Or, I vow, in my parterre You shall not enter when the lilies blow, And I go there to stand and sing Songs to the heaven-white wondrous ring; Sir Would-be-Wizard of the crumpled brow!"


The men of learning say she must Soon pass and be as if she had not been. To gratify the barren lust Of Death, the roses in her cheeks are seen To blush so brightly, blooming deeper damascene.

All hope and doubt, all fears are vain: The dreams I nursed of honouring her are past, And will not comfort me again. I see a lurid sunlight throw its last Wild gleam athwart the land whose shadows lengthen fast.

It does not seem so dreadful now The horror stands out naked, stark, and still: I am quite calm, and wonder how My terror played such mad pranks with my will. The North winds fiercely blow, I do not feel them chill.

All things must die: somewhere I read What wise and solemn men pronounce of joy; No sooner born, they say, than dead: The strife of being, but a whirling toy Humming a weary moan spun by capricious boy.

Has my soul reached a starry height Majestically calm? No monster, drear And shapeless, glares me faint at night; I am not in the sunshine checked for fear That monstrous shapeless thing is somewhere crouching near?

No; woe is me! far otherwise: The naked horror numbs me to the bone; In stupor calm its cold blank eyes Set hard at mine. I do not fall or groan, Our island Gorgon's face had changed me into stone.


Now thickening round the shrunken baseless sky, Sullen vapours crawl Climbing to masses, tumbled heavily Grim in giant sprawl, That smother up domed heaven's scud-fleckered height And form like mortal armies ranged for fight.

This lighted gloom spreads ghastly on the land; Sheep do crowd; and herds Collecting, bellow pitifully bland. Quiet are the birds In ghostly trees that shiver not a sound: And leaves decayed drop straight unto the ground.

Drearily solemn runs a monotone, Heard through breathless hush, Swollen torrents hissing far in lavish moan, Foamed with headlong rush, Sob on protesting, toward annihilation, Their solitary dismal lamentation.

This gloom has sucked all interest from the scene, Now changed wrathful grey: Familiar things, that staring plain had been, Fade in mists away: At ambush, watching from its stormy lair, Some danger hovering loads the stagnant air.

It serves to little purpose I may know That electric law Whereby the jagged glare and thunder-blow Latent impulse draw; No less my danger. Ha! that lightning flash Proclaims in fire the coming thunder-crash.

But what care I though deluges down pour Beating earth to mire, Though heaven shattering with the thunder's roar Scorcheth now in fire, Though every planet molten from its place Should trickle lost through everlasting space;

For this blank prospect, void of all but dread, Void as any tomb, My soul has left; and by a lonely bed, In a girl's sick room, Hangs there expectant of her parting breath, The silent voice of doom, the stroke of death.



All is but coloured show. I look Into the green light shed By leaves above my head, And feel its inmost worth forsook My being, when she died. This heart, now hot and dried, Halts, as the parched course where a brook Mid flowers was wont to flow, Because her life is now No more than stories in a printed book.

Grass thickens proudly o'er that breast, Clay-cold and sadly still, My happy face felt thrill. How much her dear, dear mouth expressed! And now are closed and set Lips which my own have met! Her eyelids by the damp earth pressed! Damp earth weighs on her eyes; Damp earth shuts out the skies. My Lady rests her heavy, heavy rest.

To see her high perfection sweep The favoured earth, as she With welcoming palms met me! How can I but recall and weep? Her hands' light charm was such, Care vanished at their touch. Her feet spared little things that creep; "For stars are not," she'd say, "More wonderful than they." And now she sleeps her heavy, heavy sleep.

Immortal hope shone on that brow, Above whose waning forms Go softly real worms. Surely it was a cruel blow Which cut my Darling's life Sharply, as with a knife; I hate my own that lets me grow As grows a bitter root From which rank poisons shoot Upon the grave where she is lying low.

Ah, hapless fate! Could it be just, That her young life should play Its easy, natural way; Then, with an unexpected thrust, Be hence thus rudely sent; Even as her feelings blent With those around, whose love would trust Her willing power to bless, For all their happiness? Alone she moulders into common dust.

Small birds twitter and peck the weeds That wave above this bed Where my dear Love lies dead: They flutter and burst the globed seeds, And beat the downy pride Of dandelions, wide: From speargrass, bowed with watery beads, The wet uniting, drips In sparkles off the tips: In mallow bloom the wild bee drops and feeds.

No more she hears, where vines adorn Her window, on the boughs Birds chirrup an arouse: Flies, buzzing, strengthening with the morn, She will not hear again At random strike the pane: No more against the newly shorn Grass edges will her gown In playful waves be thrown, As she walks forth to view what flowers are born.

Nor ponder more those dark green rings Stained quaintly on the lea, To picture elfin glee; While through the grass a faint air sings, And swarms of insects revel Along the sultry level: No more will watch their brilliant wings, Now lightly dip, now soar, Then sink, and rise once more. My Lady's death makes dear these trivial things.

One noon, within an oak's broad shade, Lost in delightful talk, We rested from our walk. Beyond the shadow, large and staid, Cows chewed with drowsy eye Their cud complacently: Elegant deer walked o'er the glade, Or stood with wide bright eyes Gazing a short surprise; And up the fern slope nimble conies played.

As rooks cawed labouring through the heat; Each wing-flap seemed to make Their weary bodies ache; And swallows, though so wildly fleet, Made breathless pauses there At something in the air. All disappeared: our pulses beat Distincter throbs, and each Turned and kissed without speech, She trembling from her mouth down to her feet.

Then, as I felt her bosom heave, And listened to the din Of joyous life within, Could I but in my heaven believe, Assured by that repose Within my heart, and those Warm arms around my neck! While eve In shadowy silence came And quenched the Western flame, That lingered round her as if loth to leave.

Then told I in a whispered tone Of that approaching time, When merry peal and chime Of marriage ringing should make known, In crashes through the air Exultingly we were By solemn rite each other's own: And she, confiding, meek, Against mine pressed her cheek, And gave response in happy tears alone.

No heed of time took we, because Those clanging bells had quite Absorbed us in delight. A happiness so perfect awes The failing pulse and breath, Like the mute doom of death: Then, in an instantaneous pause Flashed on my vacant eye A swift Eternity; And starting, as if clutched by demon-claws,

Awakened from a dizzy swoon, I felt appalling fears With ringings in my ears, And wondered why the glaring moon Swung round the dome of night With such stupendous might. Next came, like the sweet air of June, A treacherous calm suspense That bred a loathly sense, Some nameless ill would overwhelm us soon.

She passed like summer flowers away. Her aspect and her voice Will never more rejoice, For she lies hushed in cold decay. Broken the golden bowl Which held her hallowed soul: It was an idle boast to say "Our souls are as the same," And stings me now to shame: Her spirit went, and mine did not obey.

The black truth, with a fiery dart, Went hurtling through my thought, When I beheld her brought Whence she with life did not depart. Her beauty by degrees Sank, sharpened from disease: The heavy sinking at her heart Sucked hollows in her cheek, And made her eyelids weak, Though oft they opened wide with sudden start.

The Deathly Power in silence drew My Lady's life away. I watched, dumb for dismay, The shock of thrills that quivered through Her wasted frame, and shook The meaning in her look, As near, more near, the moment grew. O horrible suspense! O giddy impotence! I saw her features lax, and change their hue.

Her gaze, grown large with fate, was cast Where my mute agonies Made sadder her sad eyes: Her breath caught with short plucks and fast, Then one hot choking strain; She never breathed again. I had the look which was her last: Her love, when breath was gone, One moment lingering shone, Then slowly closed, and hope for ever passed.

A dreadful tremour ran through space When first the mournful toll Rang for My Lady's soul. The shining world was hell; her grace Only the flattering gleam And mockery of a dream: Oblivion struck me like a mace, And as a tree that's hewn I dropped, in a dead swoon, And lay a long time cold upon my face.

Earth had one quarter turned before My miserable fate Pressed down with its whole weight. My sense came back; and shivering o'er I felt a pain to bear The sun's keen cruel glare, Which shone not warm as heretofore; And never more its rays Will satisfy my gaze: No more; no more; O, never any more.


What art thou whispering lowly to thy babe, O wan girl-mother, with Madonna lids Downcast? Why pressest thou so close his pale Geranium cheek to thy yet whiter breast? Ah, doubtless sweet; to feel him draw the stream That fills with strength his lily limbs! And laughs Thine own heart with his deeply dimpled laughter, Answering straight thy dainty finger's touch? And understandeth he that murmurous moan, Wherewith thou hushest, patting him to rest?

What visions charm thy gaze, now resting wide In settled sweet content? Beholdest thou Thy babe, now sprung a man, walk sunhazed slopes With one lovelier than visions; lovely as The truth, O Love, when thou dost smile on me? Or seest thou him still greater grown in might, And stout of action marching on to reach That changeful coloured flag, whose waving crests The glittering heights of fame, for which men pant; Unmindful there what tempests rage and sweep; Alas; what dream has made that watery veil Hide thine eye's light from mine; even as a mist Passing between me and a harvest moon! And whence this shadowy wall that baulks my gaze? Why fadest thou, thyself, in mist, O Love? Whither hath fled thy babe—and where art thou?— Where am I?—Is it life—a dream—or death?

Ah me; alas, this crushing wretchedness! And I a vainer fool than one who yearns Clutching at rainbows spanned across the sky! Ah, hope diseased! My spirit lured astray By siren hope drifts hard by some dark fate: And hope alternating despair has mixed My life so long with charnelled death, that I Can scarce resolve the present from my past, Nor what might once have been from what is now.

Ah, Dearest! shall I never see thy face Again: not ever; never any more? I know that fancy was but naught, and one Born of past hope: I know thy earthly form Is mouldering in its tomb; but yet, O Love, Thy spirit must dwell somewhere in this waste Of worlds, that fill the overwhelming heavens With light and motion; that could never die; And wilt thou not vouchsafe one beaming look To ease a lonely heart that beats in pain For loss of thee, and only thee, O Love? Or hast thou found in that pure life thou livest My soul was an unworthy choice for thine, And therefore takest no count of its despair? And yet, yea verily, thy love was true; I would not wrong thee with another thought: I would not enter at the gates of heaven By thinking else than that thy love was true. But I obtain no response to my cries, Making within my soul all void, and cold, And comfortless. Ay, empty, as this grate, Of life, wherefrom the fire has well nigh fled, Leaving but chasmed ugliness and ruin: And weak as faltering of these taper flames Half sunken in their sockets, by whose gleam I see, though faintly, where my books stand ranged Most mute; though sometime eloquent to me; And where my pictures hang with other forms Instinct from what I know: where friends portrayed Like ghosts loom on me from another world. Then what remains, but, like a child worn out With weeping, that I sink me down to rest, To sleep, not dream—and if I could to die?


I had been sitting by her tomb In torpor one dark night; When fitful tremours shook the doom Of cold lethargic settled gloom, That weighed upon my sight:

And while I sat, and sickly heaves Disturbed my spirit's sloth, A wind came, blown o'er distant sheaves, That hissing, tore and lashed the leaves And lashed the undergrowth:

It roared and howled, it raged about With some determined aim; And storming up the night, brought out The moon, that like a happy shout, Called forth My Lady's name,

In sudden splendour on the stone. Then, for an instant, I Snatched and heaped up my past, bestrown With hopes and kisses, struggling moan, And pangs: as suddenly,

Oppressed with overwhelming weight, Down fell the edifice; When touched, as by the hand of Fate, My gloom was gone. I felt my state So light, I sobbed for bliss.

The loud winds, spent in seeking rest, Dropped dead. My fevered brow Drank coolness from the grass it pressed; And in my desolated breast A change began to grow,

While feeling those tears slowly drain The load of grief which had A sluggish curse within me lain, Save when remembrance wrought my brain For vivid moments mad.

My tears, as treasures of a wreck That in the ocean slept, Recovered, ran without a check; And earth was my good mother's neck To which I clung and wept.

I rose at length, and felt a dense Benumbed dead weight. And now The night air hung in deep suspense! A singing hush that pressed my sense And stunned me like a blow:

Through my lids clenched the living air In gold and purple rings Danced musically round me there, The light it held throbbed with the glare And beat of rapid wings.

Mine eyes I dared not try to raise; My Lady's beamed on me In fixed serenity of gaze, And were what old sunshiny days In childhood used to be.

A gasping lapse; and I was whirled Round the faint void of space; In dizzy circles hugely hurled, I saw the constellated world With every orb embrace,

To one stupendous vortex-light, Spinning a fiery ram, Then fail, struck out by sudden night; When swung adown in headlong might, Earth's touch shook through my brain.

The dumb sound in mine ears was burst By her portentous voice; As sweet as death to one accursed, As unto one near blind for thirst A running water's noise.

Her voice in some translucent star, Remote, beyond my sight, Was singing marvellously far; And yet so strangely near to jar, As jars too strong a light.

She sang a song. She warbled low, She did not sing in words; I felt it in my spirit glow, And knew it, as with joy I know The morning shouts of birds.

But hard the task I undertake, With mortal tongue to reach The utterance of my Love, and make Her high immortal meaning break To clearness through my speech!

I can no more, with glimmering trope That into darkness runs, Reveal its depth, than they could hope, Who on in lifelong blindness grope, To sing of rising suns.

"Or e'er that life my King had lent Was lifted into rest, His message through my lips He sent, And on thy path His glory went To guide thee to the blessed.

"But thou didst turn thy face, and scorn His grace divine as nought; And set thy gaze to earth forlorn, And rage at fate, till gaunt and worn, Death mouldered in thy thought.

"Thou, blindly gross, didst toy with clay, And in the ghastly gleam Of charnel gloom didst kiss decay; And many full moons waned away, And left thee in thy dream.

"For with thy Lily's worldly dress Thou didst thine eyesight fill; And scorn to know its loveliness Were but an empty boast unless Made living by His will.

"Thou mourn'dst not most the vanished soul Which was my Lord's through thine; But more the broken pleasure-bowl, Whose golden richness shed, when whole, Its splendour in thy wine.

"And therefore living wert thou made To taste the cup of death; And therefore did the glory fade, From guidance into deadly shade That iced thy shuddering breath.

"Permitted, now I come to thee: I warn thee of thy sin; I urge thee cleanse thine eyesight free, That purified thy soul may see The way his love to win.

"His love incomprehensible Did never turn away From penitent whom harm befell; But springeth like a desert well For thirsting poor estray.

"Let him who scorneth mercy shown, Unhappy one, beware! For whoso lives in pride alone, His pride shall harden to a stone Too great for him to bear.

"And whoso, having warned been, Refuseth still to turn, Behind his shadow, shrunken mean, A poring spectre shall be seen With livid stare and girn.

"Thou troubled one, who unto me Art next my Lord's own grace, O turn to Him, and He will be A refuge from thy misery, A smile upon thy face!

"A righteous strength will nerve thine arm, And courage fill thy breast: And having bravely warred on harm, The cries of victory shall charm Thy dying eyes to rest.

"And succoured ones shall praise his name Who, toiling for them, died. And, nobly sung, his honest fame Shall beat in hearts unborn, and claim Their love and grateful pride.

"And Love will lead her sacrifice To where a shining row Stand beckoning to the heights of bliss; And she will clasp his hands and kiss Welcome upon his brow."

I knew not when the singing ceased To trance my brightened soul, Then from that long eclipse released. But looking hopeful towards the East, I saw flush pole to pole

The dawn, that had begun to show, And through dank vapour burned, As in a sick face lying low The rich incarnadine would glow, When healthy life returned.

Small drowsy chirping met the light, And dim in lowlands far Lone marsh-birds winged their misty flight; What time Her aspect on my sight Beamed from the morning star.

It waned into the warbling day; That, rising fierce and strong, Now looked the Western gloom away, And kindled such a roundelay, The world awoke with song,

And fresh delicious breezes came With scents of paradise So tingling through my knitted frame, That never since I lisped a name Knew I such joy arise.

Pure was the azure over head; Bright was the earth around; While I on resolution fed, And moved, as one called from the dead, In silence on the ground.

Toward my home I walked, elate With hope and settled plan: And reverent to the will of Fate, In every step I trod my weight, A sober-minded man.



Our world has spun ten circles round the light Since here she vanished. In my helpless gaze, To mark the spot, was fixed this carven stone, Raw, garish, stolidly obtrusive then, Now harmonising kindly with the rest. A spray of centipedal ivy creeps From death to birth, and reaches to her name; With kisslike touch its tender leaflets feel The letter's edge,—I scarce can think it chance.

Now scene by scene that strange old long-ago, Crowding my opened memory, presents Tumultuous, as in dreams, some dreadful state Wherein I knew not falsehood from the truth; Where hope ascending struck the star of Love, Then fell down headlong grovelling in despair; But rose at length and walked the beaten way. So dim and far these things; so worn and changed, I scarcely feel that I am he who sought And won her love. And is it true indeed, That I absorbed in tenderest intercourse Of trustful glance, and trustful clasping hands, With her went wandering by the river side; While over head melodious branches sang, Scattering the gold of sunset-dazzled flowers Breathing their perfumed sweetness from our path, That flickering went to where in purple woods The rugged church tower burned a wall of fire!

Did I, when silence awed the winter woods, And giant shadows trenched the frosty ground From bole and limb whose vault held in the night, Love to behold the full-grown magic moon Cast splendour glittering on the silver rime? Yes; mid the notes and emerald flush of spring, With swollen brooks exulting through the fields, And rainy wind that in an ocean-roar Bore down the forest tops the livelong day, Through straggling gleams, through random wafts of shade, Rejoicingly I trod the glistening paths. Yes, I it was, in dreamy golden haze, Beheld poor men hard toiling all the hours, And thought them happier than the birds that sang, That sang and trilled in gurgles of delight.

Dallying I loitered in the golden time Long after the loved nightingale had ceased To pour his passionate impulse over plains Of shivering corn, now ripened into wealth; When sunset-coloured fruit in orchard crofts Hung slowly mellowing under azure noons; And, hushed in darkened leaves, the dreaming air Swelled gently to a whispering sound, and died. With joy I wandered on from knoll to knoll And lost in marvel, drank the lisping winds, The fairy winds that lisped me all was good. Nor marked I when the clogged horizon flew In dusky vapour crowding up the skies; But woke anon when deathlike pallor thrown From wrathful drift laid the whole land in gloom; When war, enormous war, broke through the heavens, In sheets and streaking fire and thunderous clap, With shock on shock, that crushed the ripened corn, And swept the piled up midsummer to ruin. That wrenched great timbers of a thousand years, Shaking the strong foundations of the land. And when at last the terrible tempest fell, Wide heaven was emptied of the sun and stars, And void of more than all their light to me.

Like fretted me to hollow weariness When my sweet Dove of Paradise went off, Ascending, glory-guarded, into heaven. Then feeding on the past, and fondling death, I grew in livid horror: soon had grown, By foul self cankered, to a charnel ghoule, Had not Almighty God, gracious in love, Permitted her own presence once again, Mysterious as a vision, yet once more To come a shining warning and reveal Athwart my path unfathomable gulfs, And kindle hope wherewith I still might gain The hills that shine for ever to the blessed.

Much striving has been mine since those events Ruled the pulsation of my daily life: And now they are a vulgar chronicle, And gossiped over by the rudest tongues. A haunting song of old felicities Lured me, scarce consciously, down here to muse Upon my shattered dreams; safe from the roar Of interests in our grim metropolis, The beating heart of England and the world. Not seen by me, since on that wondrous night Her consolation came into my soul; Yet here again I stand beside her tomb— And here I muse, more wise and not so sad.

Hers was a gracious and a gentle house! Rich in obliging nice observances And famed ancestral hospitality. A cool repose lay grateful through the place; And pleasant duties promptly, truly done, And every service moved by hidden springs Sped with intelligence, went smoothly round.

The steward to that stately country home Looked native there as lichen to the oak. He first held station, chief in care and trust, That day which gave his baby mistress birth; And her he loved as father loves his own, Bearing her too that reverence which we feel Toward those who, born to loftier state than ours, Sit their high fortune with becoming grace. His love she ever sumptuously returned In bounteous thankfulness for service done: How brightly twinkled then his shrewd grey eyes, And shone the roundness where his honest cheeks Played to the rippling gladness of his mouth! In childhood rambles, it was mostly he She chose for partner, spite of blandishment; And to her winsome ways he would forego His pompous surveillance of wine and plate, To guard her, lilting, where the summer lay On honeyed murmuring limes, and under elms, August with knotted centuries of strength And rooks sonorous in their shadowy heights. By thymy slopes, foot-deep in sward they roved, Both lightly garrulous, and she, sweet child, Fusing her whole attention into joy, Until they stood before the lake, that gleamed With water-lilies, sun, and moving cloud. Then straight the flanking sedge, and reeds remote, Gave clattering ducks and wild outlandish fowl, That tore in stormy scampering and splash To snap with clamour at the crumbled bread, He had provided slyly, bent on fun: The swans meanwhile, majestic, puffed, and slow, Came proudly into action; but alas, To small result; for by mischance the spoil Through dexterous skirmish fell to meaner bills. "Our bread is all cast on the waters now, And well I'd like to know how many days It must bide there before 'tis found again!"— Some fool's dull joke repeated: good man, he, Unversed in deep text comment, never dreamed What time its Abyssinian mountain roots Swollen by fresh torrents mixed in Nubian lands, And thundered down from rocky ledge to ledge; How sacred Nilus flooding bank and plain Transformed old Egypt to a shining sea: And slaves in swarthy crowds, despised as dirt, Paddled upon the water scattering corn, While swam to their sad eyes a raking glance Of temple sphinxes, palms, and pyramids, Faint sacrificial fire with dismal cries; And small hard masters, armed with blooded thongs, Jocose and fierce, scourged out their utmost toil. Long ages ere man heard this promised hope, THE FIRST SHALL BE THE LAST, THE LAST THE FIRST. But the dear child his vacant prattle heard In wonder, and believed it lore profound: And ever after, when in solemn church, (The very church I have before me now!) Or household prayer, these words were touched upon, Pert visions would intrude of gabbling fowls Mid splashing water, sedge, and lily stars.

In wending home, he filled her lap with flowers; And she, ere yet the house was reached, unloosed His guarding hand, ran forward, glinted through The porch, and with a joyous outcry lit The room, where sat in converse or at books Her parents: then, as she an hour before Had seen those mirrored marvels of the lake All trembling merge to one confused turmoil Of beauty broken into shattered light, When o'er its surface swept the hungry fowls, So blurred with shifting catches, so involved Through eagerness, her babbled narrative To the kind mother, who, embracing her, Felt satisfied her child had been well pleased. Then the great father, he would lightly lift To knee his darling girl; with fingers cup The tiny chin, and kiss the rosebud mouth; And gently his large tawny hand would stroke That woven sunshine glowing down her back, Which changed to deepest auburn glossed with gold, Calling her tricksy names. But, when at length Appeared the calm inevitable nurse, He laughed; and she in screaming laughter flew By stalwart arm thrust high above his head Immeshed in wild flowers emptied from her lap, Which shaking off, he brought the screamer down, And gaily swung her into willing arms. She talked these childhood memories while we strolled Among the scenes which bred them; for she loved To dwell on things which some regard as slight: But in her presence, told by her own self, With clear apt words and satisfying voice; The violet poise of her most graceful head Flung forth in lighted gesture to reveal The very fact; her hovering white hand Almost in music warbling with her words, And bounding all the tenderest care to please;— Now, one by one, these aits of memory glow In hallowed splendour, and have made less dark A life I feel not altogether vain.

So common was her mother's lot, that who Can say "Like is not mine" is blessed indeed: For they are countless that on shades have thrown Their passion had been chilled for evermore! Scarce at her bloom, and years before she met The destined man her husband, girl-like she Adored a youth with sparkling genius graced, Who bound on great adventure spread all sail; But needed ballast, working common sense, And meeting storms, he foundered and was lost. For long his fate dragged at her heart; it drained Her strength; it left her vague and desolate: Her life became as chill uneasy dreams Wherefrom we cannot break. Yet be it said, Lowly and truly gentle were her ways; She was a tender and obedient wife, And in a sweet and plaintive graciousness Her every act performed. I trust her mind, Subdued by constant sadness unavowed, Grew clear of shadows, and at last could dwell Upon the future, that in one straight path Reached Justice throned in everlasting light, And learned to feel that chastisement is love. Somewhat through lethargy; and partly sense Of duty in forgetfulness of grief; With pleadings due to her own kindliness, She came to take another as her lord; Then came to yield herself in all and wed Her husband's own indomitable will: He having gained her, cherished her, and loved Her mild compliance with the strength of life.

He was a man of thews and goodly frame Made swart in battle. Under Indian suns Our foes had often there been taught to know That weight of arm, resistless when he closed Charging upon them with his sword and eye. But when his father died, he left the East For England; here to rule his own estate, And reign among the county gentlemen, Who duly came with pride to own him chief. He had the kingly look of born command, An eagle set of eye and curve of neck; A cutting insight backed by solid sense; Vast knowledge, and the facile use of it, To break obstruction, or direct the force Of will resolved to compass every end. Withal a broad and generous natured man Who ever kindly turned the doubtful scale Against himself: no tenant ever mourned The day when the new master came to rule; Nor were old village gossips heard lament The good times fled with their departed lord. Culture went hand in hand with strength in him: Broad-versed was he in science; rock and soil, Plant, shell, bird, beast, to complex form of man, With something of the stars. Historic works He mostly read; and ofttimes dug for trace Of steps long past in archaeology. He loved the singers of our native land Who take our souls up to the worth of life; And those deep thinkers whose conclusions show The secret principles that work the world. He prized laborious Hallam; but declared Carlyle half mad; "A coil of restive thoughts, That touch on nothing sound or practical, Told in outrageous jargon, cumbersome As any Laplander's costume!" Which I In ruffled pride would always straight oppose, "Sound or unsound, his word is daylight truth, That breeding heroes once was England's boast, And now we brag of making millionaires. Your 'practical' means shortest cut to wealth: But far too frequently purse robs the heart; One growing heavy drains the other dry. His style, poetically pregnant, oft By note of admiration merely, hints More than crammed Pro Con of your favourite's page." At this he shouts a scornful roaring laugh, The table shaking, and the vessels chinked As fell his weighty arm: with massive gaze In hurly-burly sort he bantered me: "Young bubble-dreamer, plotting stanza rhymes, What can you know of laws: what know of plans Which bound these varied interests of ours, Through crossing currents, fixed for certain ends, To frame this state we call society, The full outcome of immemorial time? Know, here on earth wealth must not be despised, For we are as we are. While men subsist By interchanging goods and service, gold Will be the grease that smooths the whole machine. I grant a few, the greatest, live content To give forth what has ripened in their minds; But greed alone brings each result to grow And spread its uses through the mass. Beside Where honour, reason, or instinctive life, Quite fails, there gold will prick the sluggard loon. It wakes the drowsy lounger of the East, Who lolls in sunshine idle as a gourd, To toil like Irish hodmen. Roused, he hears Coin ringing lively music; falls to work, And digs, and hews, and grinds: he sees, not far, Himself, a chief of horsemen richly clad, Armed with long spears and silver-halted blades, Seizing pachalic power by a swift blow. But labour, having brought him gold, brings fears. The weight of wealth has made his footfall staid; He longs for order, settled government, And stands, a stern upholder, by the law.

"I know you flout this 'gold materialism,' For what you call the 'gold of evening skies:' But let me tell you, boy, for you 'tis well My lands are broad and bankers true, or else Your maiden, she, poor girl, I often think, Would want a crust to eat and shoes to wear." Thus he, in what I call his 'copper-gilt,' For which I paid him tinsel; "She want shoes! Her feet will press the flowers of paradise, And, being angel, she will need no food." "Eugh! Get your tackle, let us catch some trout." She never stayed a long while from her home, But lived a quiet life; contentedly Taking the continent and many things On trust; feeling our landscapes satisfied Her love for scenes. When from a visit she Returned, no lovelier picture ever blessed My sight than when she swam into his arms, And stood in beauty, frail, against his strength Supporting her, and kissed his lips and cheeks And brow. He then, as if his daughter yet Were but a child, would press the upturned head Between his hands, where peered the innocent face Rosy with smile and blush, like a sweet flower Bursting its tawny sheath: whereon he gazed A father's gaze immeasurably kind; And long, in tenderness akin to pity, There held her, who was beautiful and good. One eve full late in balmy summer time We feared the wind breathing of night had chilled Her tranquil mother, as we paced a walk Leading espalier-trellised to the house; She ever heedful parted silently, And flushed with sunset vanished from our gaze; But we beheld her soon dawn from the porch In haste bringing her mother's mantle. When, As comes the tide-wave up an easy beach, Played with a billowy sound and look of foam The thousand folds round her advancing feet, Her shape divine looking as great as ocean's Light beyond: yet no sea bird that gleams From the blue-arched illimitable heaven Could glide with lightness airier than she To hang the garment round her mother's neck; And then strike, womanlike, the folds in place; Kissing the thankful lips, and deftly fix The fastening at her throat. While pondering thus And patching these rich fragments, strange it seems What little things obtrude on my regard! I now remember every sculptured group, And painted scene, and portrait, figured vase, Each print unique, and gem, we once beheld When visiting a mansion near, enriched By generations of collected Art: The masters, by whose hands the works were wrought, Long mouldered into dust. Ah, well I know Why some have burned their symbols in my brain And rise before me now! Stone-bound, Narcissus Droops melting in himself; and Echo by, In shrunk despair, hangs envying what he wastes. Through smouldering morning mists a glorious sun The mountain-shoulder burns; above, transmutes The zenith cloudlets into airy gold; And deep down, seen through pure crystalline blue, Glimmer the village, lake, and mountain range. Superb at ease a Lady stands and smiles Sweet welcome to the world: though centuries Have lapsed since she approved her painter's work, Her smile has such sincerity, all feel They must have known her some time in their lives. Here bossed on silver vase, a marriage train Moves round to music: lookers-on cast flowers Before the timid bending bride: meanwhile, Stalwart and proud, her bridegroom smiles abroad As at a dazzling sun: the pipers blow, The harpers twang, the cymbals clash, youths sing; Six maidens walk behind to hold her veil, One pair are sad, the next look vain, and two Prettily whisper secrets to themselves. Here from old paper stands, and looks of men The manliest, and king of English kings, The lion Cromwell, in his dress of war: Beneath him coils a monster welling blood, Whose severed heads stretch round in scattered gleam Of mitre jewelled, coronet and crown. Sharp cut on gem, set in a thick gold ring, The size and roundness of a lady's nail, Love bleeding on the dart himself doth point; Who thus had died, had not with tenderest touch Immortal Psyche held the anguished heart Fast to her own, and purified the pain, And fanned him with her wings. And now, as then, Along those hushed rich corridors we moved, Poring each masterpiece we favoured most, And would no longer stay, but felt some chance Must serve us for the rest: musing, I pass From scene to scene of My Dear Lady's life, And leave my other memories undisturbed.

Beneath this airy sapphire's brooding rest, Its shadows overcast me with a chill Like coming storm, that black calamity Which struck and took our Darling from their charge And mine. Grief stupefied us all. At once The childless mother lost her wavering strength, And lay prostrated; never tasting life On earth again! Beside her husband sat And watched her fading; saw the last poor smile Wane from her features; till the closing eyes Lit into tearful rapture; when he knew Love's immortality to her revealed. With both her own she mutely clasped his hand, And held it in most gentle pressures fixed: But when the tender grasp relaxed and fell, The world closed round him to a stony blank.

And now was stricken down the mighty man; As the ripe harvest levelled by a storm At morningtide; which, ere sun warmth anew Can flatter into strength, a second storm O'erwhelms and scattereth to waste at even.

When that torpidity which follows pain Through strangeness passed to natural regard For daily wants; his vacant home he loathed: His spacious garden grounds; his lake; his woods; The breezy air; the overhanging heaven, He loathed: he loathed them all. When spring aroused The amorous songsters of the copse and field To seasonable joy, their music mocked His sadness with its echoes, babbling tales Of what had been: and he, in bitterness, Resolved to quit a place where every turn Stood like a foe, whose settled leering eye In silence gloared with hope to mark his fall; He left our country. Far, in Eastern climes, His nation serving well, he fought and died: And never had a nobler man upheld The majesty of England's worth and name.

Long toil-devoted years have gloomed and shone Since these events closed up my doors of life. Partly from choice, and part necessity, With constancy have I sustained and urged The work it was my duty to advance. For, when my vision cleared again, I looked And saw how mean a thing was man, who used The produce of his fellows' energies And gave back nothing.

Then my spirit saw This Island race two thousand years ago In simple savagery, controlled by priests More fell and bloody than the wolves that howled At midnight round their monstrous altar-stones, Scenting the sacrificial human blood. Saw girt with legions lynx-eyed Caesar come To taste of Briton's valour. When appeared Legions succeeding legions, and the swarms Marshalled by skilful discipline had fallen To tributaries of all-conquering Rome. Saw when Rome's grip, through fierce luxurious guilt, Could hold no longer; and with tattered plume Her eagles left her slaves to stem or tide The hungry Pict incursions as they could. Next when a burly genial race here raised The White Horse Standard: men who wrought the soil Till yellow corn, responsive, sunned the plains. When, lured by booty, Ravens from the North Bent hitherward: stiffly the contest tugged Long years; till both the wearied champions joined Their hands, as common home to share the Isle. With peace the land grew fat; and wholesome bonds Of nobles to their kings, and serfs to them, Fell slackened or distorted to misrule; When Norman William, hard as rocks and fierce As fire, with charge of mailed horse and showers Of steel, won England. Her rough sons he drilled Grimly: by stern command and strength of sword He forced obedience where he fixed a law. For ages long against men's stubborn minds, With give and take, the bold Plantagenets Kept up the drill. At length the race, now grown By constant wrestle into thews of power, Moved calm with strength beneath the Tudor's sway. And then a Northern Stuart wore their crown, Whose son, unmindful he was over men Truth-lovers, lied to them and lost his head; For Puritans held no respect for lies. Next flared Charles Satyr's saturnalia Of Lely Nymphs, who panting sang "More gold; We yield our beauties freely; gold, more gold." Hapless explosions, folly, frenzied plots; Till well coerced by Lowland William's craft. Then plans that led to nought, or worse, enforced By Marlborough's cannon thundering over-seas. Then through the Guelphic line; our race now grows To that great power which is to sway the world.

Down from those human shambles, wolf-belapt, To when, in pardonably grand excess Of pity, through our people's will was bought Free indolence for Isles of Western slaves: And now, when thousands blandly would deny The proven murderer his rope, the thief Due chastisement; and when a General May blunder troops to death, yea, and receive His Senate's vote of thanks and all made smooth; And when, as much from universal trust In other states' goodwill as from the pinch Of blinking parsimony, we our fleets Let rot, and regiments shrink to skeletons.— From those fell rights to such urbanity The march indeed is long; tho' kindly freaks May sometimes clamour Justice from her throne; Yet gentleness is still a noble gain, And we will trust such freaks are nobly meant.

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