Part 3 out of 4
When his original glossed the thrums
Of ivy, bringing that which numbs.
Yes; trees were turning in their sleep
Upon their windy pillows of gray
When he stole in. Silent his creep
On the grassed eastern steep . . .
I shall not soon forget that day,
And what his third hour took away!
HE FOLLOWS HIMSELF
In a heavy time I dogged myself
Along a louring way,
Till my leading self to my following self
Said: "Why do you hang on me
"I have watched you, Heart of mine," I cried,
"So often going astray
And leaving me, that I have pursued,
Feeling such truancy
Ought not to be."
He said no more, and I dogged him on
From noon to the dun of day
By prowling paths, until anew
He begged: "Please turn and flee! -
What do you see?"
"Methinks I see a man," said I,
"Dimming his hours to gray.
I will not leave him while I know
Part of myself is he
Who dreams such dree!"
"I go to my old friend's house," he urged,
"So do not watch me, pray!"
"Well, I will leave you in peace," said I,
"Though of this poignancy
You should fight free:
"Your friend, O other me, is dead;
You know not what you say."
- "That do I! And at his green-grassed door
By night's bright galaxy
I bend a knee."
- The yew-plumes moved like mockers' beards,
Though only boughs were they,
And I seemed to go; yet still was there,
And am, and there haunt we
THE SINGING WOMAN
There was a singing woman
Came riding across the mead
At the time of the mild May weather,
This song she sung: "I am fair, I am young!"
And many turned to heed.
And the same singing woman
Sat crooning in her need
At the time of the winter weather;
She sang this song: "Life, thou'rt too long!"
And there was none to heed.
WITHOUT, NOT WITHIN HER
It was what you bore with you, Woman,
Not inly were,
That throned you from all else human,
It was that strange freshness you carried
Into a soul
Whereon no thought of yours tarried
Two moments at all.
And out from his spirit flew death,
And bale, and ban,
Like the corn-chaff under the breath
Of the winnowing-fan.
"O I WON'T LEAD A HOMELY LIFE"
(To an old air)
"O I won't lead a homely life
As father's Jack and mother's Jill,
But I will be a fiddler's wife,
With music mine at will!
Just a little tune,
Another one soon,
As I merrily fling my fill!"
And she became a fiddler's Dear,
And merry all day she strove to be;
And he played and played afar and near,
But never at home played he
Any little tune
Or late or soon;
And sunk and sad was she!
IN THE SMALL HOURS
I lay in my bed and fiddled
With a dreamland viol and bow,
And the tunes flew back to my fingers
I had melodied years ago.
It was two or three in the morning
When I fancy-fiddled so
Long reels and country-dances,
And hornpipes swift and slow.
And soon anon came crossing
The chamber in the gray
Figures of jigging fieldfolk -
Saviours of corn and hay -
To the air of "Haste to the Wedding,"
As after a wedding-day;
Yea, up and down the middle
In windless whirls went they!
There danced the bride and bridegroom,
And couples in a train,
Gay partners time and travail
Had longwhiles stilled amain! . . .
It seemed a thing for weeping
To find, at slumber's wane
And morning's sly increeping,
That Now, not Then, held reign.
THE LITTLE OLD TABLE
Creak, little wood thing, creak,
When I touch you with elbow or knee;
That is the way you speak
Of one who gave you to me!
You, little table, she brought -
Brought me with her own hand,
As she looked at me with a thought
That I did not understand.
- Whoever owns it anon,
And hears it, will never know
What a history hangs upon
This creak from long ago.
Vagg Hollow is a marshy spot on the old Roman Road near Ilchester,
where "things" are seen. Merchandise was formerly fetched inland
from the canal-boats at Load-Bridge by waggons this way.
"What do you see in Vagg Hollow,
Little boy, when you go
In the morning at five on your lonely drive?"
"--I see men's souls, who follow
Till we've passed where the road lies low,
When they vanish at our creaking!
"They are like white faces speaking
Beside and behind the waggon -
One just as father's was when here.
The waggoner drinks from his flagon,
(Or he'd flinch when the Hollow is near)
But he does not give me any.
"Sometimes the faces are many;
But I walk along by the horses,
He asleep on the straw as we jog;
And I hear the loud water-courses,
And the drops from the trees in the fog,
And watch till the day is breaking.
"And the wind out by Tintinhull waking;
I hear in it father's call
As he called when I saw him dying,
And he sat by the fire last Fall,
And mother stood by sighing;
But I'm not afraid at all!"
THE DREAM IS--WHICH?
I am laughing by the brook with her,
Splashed in its tumbling stir;
And then it is a blankness looms
As if I walked not there,
Nor she, but found me in haggard rooms,
And treading a lonely stair.
With radiant cheeks and rapid eyes
We sit where none espies;
Till a harsh change comes edging in
As no such scene were there,
But winter, and I were bent and thin,
And cinder-gray my hair.
We dance in heys around the hall,
Weightless as thistleball;
And then a curtain drops between,
As if I danced not there,
But wandered through a mounded green
To find her, I knew where.
THE COUNTRY WEDDING
(A FIDDLER'S STORY)
Little fogs were gathered in every hollow,
But the purple hillocks enjoyed fine weather
As we marched with our fiddles over the heather
- How it comes back!--to their wedding that day.
Our getting there brought our neighbours and all, O!
Till, two and two, the couples stood ready.
And her father said: "Souls, for God's sake, be steady!"
And we strung up our fiddles, and sounded out "A."
The groomsman he stared, and said, "You must follow!"
But we'd gone to fiddle in front of the party,
(Our feelings as friends being true and hearty)
And fiddle in front we did--all the way.
Yes, from their door by Mill-tail-Shallow,
And up Styles-Lane, and by Front-Street houses,
Where stood maids, bachelors, and spouses,
Who cheered the songs that we knew how to play.
I bowed the treble before her father,
Michael the tenor in front of the lady,
The bass-viol Reub--and right well played he! -
The serpent Jim; ay, to church and back.
I thought the bridegroom was flurried rather,
As we kept up the tune outside the chancel,
While they were swearing things none can cancel
Inside the walls to our drumstick's whack.
"Too gay!" she pleaded. "Clouds may gather,
And sorrow come." But she gave in, laughing,
And by supper-time when we'd got to the quaffing
Her fears were forgot, and her smiles weren't slack.
A grand wedding 'twas! And what would follow
We never thought. Or that we should have buried her
On the same day with the man that married her,
A day like the first, half hazy, half clear.
Yes: little fogs were in every hollow,
Though the purple hillocks enjoyed fine weather,
When we went to play 'em to church together,
And carried 'em there in an after year.
FIRST OR LAST
If grief come early
Joy comes late,
If joy come early
Grief will wait;
Aye, my dear and tender!
Wise ones joy them early
While the cheeks are red,
Banish grief till surly
Time has dulled their dread.
And joy being ours
Ere youth has flown,
The later hours
May find us gone;
Aye, my dear and tender!
Lonely her fate was,
Environed from sight
In the house where the gate was
Past finding at night.
None there to share it,
No one to tell:
Long she'd to bear it,
And bore it well.
Elsewhere just so she
Spent many a day;
Wishing to go she
Continued to stay.
And people without
Basked warm in the air,
But none sought her out,
Or knew she was there.
Even birthdays were passed so,
Sunny and shady:
Years did it last so
For this sad lady.
Never declaring it,
No one to tell,
Still she kept bearing it -
Bore it well.
The days grew chillier,
And then she went
To a city, familiar
In years forespent,
When she walked gaily
Far to and fro,
But now, moving frailly,
Could nowhere go.
The cheerful colour
Of houses she'd known
Had died to a duller
And dingier tone.
Streets were now noisy
Where once had rolled
A few quiet coaches,
Or citizens strolled.
Through the party-wall
Of the memoried spot
They danced at a ball
Who recalled her not.
Tramlines lay crossing
Once gravelled slopes,
Metal rods clanked,
And electric ropes.
So she endured it all,
Thin, thinner wrought,
Until time cured it all,
And she knew nought.
Versified from a Diary.
Versified from a Diary.
"WHAT DID IT MEAN?"
What did it mean that noontide, when
You bade me pluck the flower
Within the other woman's bower,
Whom I knew nought of then?
I thought the flower blushed deeplier--aye,
And as I drew its stalk to me
It seemed to breathe: "I am, I see,
Made use of in a human play."
And while I plucked, upstarted sheer
As phantom from the pane thereby
A corpse-like countenance, with eye
That iced me by its baleful peer -
Silent, as from a bier . . .
When I came back your face had changed,
It was no face for me;
O did it speak of hearts estranged,
And deadly rivalry
In times before
I darked your door,
To seise me of
Mere second love,
Which still the haunting first deranged?
AT THE DINNER-TABLE
I sat at dinner in my prime,
And glimpsed my face in the sideboard-glass,
And started as if I had seen a crime,
And prayed the ghastly show might pass.
Wrenched wrinkled features met my sight,
Grinning back to me as my own;
I well-nigh fainted with affright
At finding me a haggard crone.
My husband laughed. He had slily set
A warping mirror there, in whim
To startle me. My eyes grew wet;
I spoke not all the eve to him.
He was sorry, he said, for what he had done,
And took away the distorting glass,
Uncovering the accustomed one;
And so it ended? No, alas,
Fifty years later, when he died,
I sat me in the selfsame chair,
Thinking of him. Till, weary-eyed,
I saw the sideboard facing there;
And from its mirror looked the lean
Thing I'd become, each wrinkle and score
The image of me that I had seen
In jest there fifty years before.
THE MARBLE TABLET
There it stands, though alas, what a little of her
Shows in its cold white look!
Not her glance, glide, or smile; not a tittle of her
Voice like the purl of a brook;
Not her thoughts, that you read like a book.
It may stand for her once in November
When first she breathed, witless of all;
Or in heavy years she would remember
When circumstance held her in thrall;
Or at last, when she answered her call!
Nothing more. The still marble, date-graven,
Gives all that it can, tersely lined;
That one has at length found the haven
Which every one other will find;
With silence on what shone behind.
St. Juliot: September 8, 1916.
THE MASTER AND THE LEAVES
We are budding, Master, budding,
We of your favourite tree;
March drought and April flooding
Arouse us merrily,
Our stemlets newly studding;
And yet you do not see!
We are fully woven for summer
In stuff of limpest green,
The twitterer and the hummer
Here rest of nights, unseen,
While like a long-roll drummer
The nightjar thrills the treen.
We are turning yellow, Master,
And next we are turning red,
And faster then and faster
Shall seek our rooty bed,
All wasted in disaster!
But you lift not your head.
- "I mark your early going,
And that you'll soon be clay,
I have seen your summer showing
As in my youthful day;
But why I seem unknowing
Is too sunk in to say!"
LAST WORDS TO A DUMB FRIEND
Pet was never mourned as you,
Purrer of the spotless hue,
Plumy tail, and wistful gaze
While you humoured our queer ways,
Or outshrilled your morning call
Up the stairs and through the hall -
Foot suspended in its fall -
While, expectant, you would stand
Arched, to meet the stroking hand;
Till your way you chose to wend
Yonder, to your tragic end.
Never another pet for me!
Let your place all vacant be;
Better blankness day by day
Than companion torn away.
Better bid his memory fade,
Better blot each mark he made,
Selfishly escape distress
By contrived forgetfulness,
Than preserve his prints to make
Every morn and eve an ache.
From the chair whereon he sat
Sweep his fur, nor wince thereat;
Rake his little pathways out
Mid the bushes roundabout;
Smooth away his talons' mark
From the claw-worn pine-tree bark,
Where he climbed as dusk embrowned,
Waiting us who loitered round.
Strange it is this speechless thing,
Subject to our mastering,
Subject for his life and food
To our gift, and time, and mood;
Timid pensioner of us Powers,
His existence ruled by ours,
Should--by crossing at a breath
Into safe and shielded death,
By the merely taking hence
Of his insignificance -
Loom as largened to the sense,
Shape as part, above man's will,
Of the Imperturbable.
As a prisoner, flight debarred,
Exercising in a yard,
Still retain I, troubled, shaken,
Mean estate, by him forsaken;
And this home, which scarcely took
Impress from his little look,
By his faring to the Dim
Grows all eloquent of him.
Housemate, I can think you still
Bounding to the window-sill,
Over which I vaguely see
Your small mound beneath the tree,
Showing in the autumn shade
That you moulder where you played.
October 2, 1904.
A DRIZZLING EASTER MORNING
And he is risen? Well, be it so . . .
And still the pensive lands complain,
And dead men wait as long ago,
As if, much doubting, they would know
What they are ransomed from, before
They pass again their sheltering door.
I stand amid them in the rain,
While blusters vex the yew and vane;
And on the road the weary wain
Plods forward, laden heavily;
And toilers with their aches are fain
For endless rest--though risen is he.
ON ONE WHO LIVED AND DIED WHERE HE WAS BORN
When a night in November
Blew forth its bleared airs
An infant descended
His birth-chamber stairs
For the very first time,
At the still, midnight chime;
His mission, his aim. -
Thus, first, one November,
An infant descended
On a night in November
Of weariful cares,
A frail aged figure
Ascended those stairs
For the very last time:
All gone his life's prime,
All vanished his vigour,
And fine, forceful frame:
Thus, last, one November
Ascended that figure
On those nights in November -
Apart eighty years -
The babe and the bent one
Who traversed those stairs
From the early first time
To the last feeble climb -
That fresh and that spent one -
Were even the same:
Yea, who passed in November
As infant, as bent one,
Wise child of November!
From birth to blanched hairs
Wealth-wantless, those stairs;
Who saw quick in time
As a vain pantomime
Life's tending, its ending,
The worth of its fame.
Wise child of November,
THE SECOND NIGHT
I missed one night, but the next I went;
It was gusty above, and clear;
She was there, with the look of one ill-content,
And said: "Do not come near!"
- "I am sorry last night to have failed you here,
And now I have travelled all day;
And it's long rowing back to the West-Hoe Pier,
So brief must be my stay."
- "O man of mystery, why not say
Out plain to me all you mean?
Why you missed last night, and must now away
Is--another has come between!"
- " O woman so mocking in mood and mien,
So be it!" I replied:
"And if I am due at a differing scene
Before the dark has died,
"'Tis that, unresting, to wander wide
Has ever been my plight,
And at least I have met you at Cremyll side
If not last eve, to-night."
- "You get small rest--that read I quite;
And so do I, maybe;
Though there's a rest hid safe from sight
Elsewhere awaiting me!"
A mad star crossed the sky to the sea,
Wasting in sparks as it streamed,
And when I looked to where stood she
She had changed, much changed, it seemed:
The sparks of the star in her pupils gleamed,
She was vague as a vapour now,
And ere of its meaning I had dreamed
She'd vanished--I knew not how.
I stood on, long; each cliff-top bough,
Like a cynic nodding there,
Moved up and down, though no man's brow
But mine met the wayward air.
Still stood I, wholly unaware
Of what had come to pass,
Or had brought the secret of my new Fair
To my old Love, alas!
I went down then by crag and grass
To the boat wherein I had come.
Said the man with the oars: "This news of the lass
Of Edgcumbe, is sharp for some!
"Yes: found this daybreak, stiff and numb
On the shore here, whither she'd sped
To meet her lover last night in the glum,
And he came not, 'tis said.
"And she leapt down, heart-hit. Pity she's dead:
So much for the faithful-bent!" . . .
I looked, and again a star overhead
Shot through the firmament.
SHE WHO SAW NOT
"Did you see something within the house
That made me call you before the red sunsetting?
Something that all this common scene endows
With a richened impress there can be no forgetting?"
"--I have found nothing to see therein,
O Sage, that should have made you urge me to enter,
Nothing to fire the soul, or the sense to win:
I rate you as a rare misrepresenter!"
"--Go anew, Lady,--in by the right . . .
Well: why does your face not shine like the face of Moses?"
"--I found no moving thing there save the light
And shadow flung on the wall by the outside roses."
"--Go yet once more, pray. Look on a seat."
"--I go . . . O Sage, it's only a man that sits there
With eyes on the sun. Mute,--average head to feet."
"--No more?"--"No more. Just one the place befits there,
"As the rays reach in through the open door,
And he looks at his hand, and the sun glows through his fingers,
While he's thinking thoughts whose tenour is no more
To me than the swaying rose-tree shade that lingers."
No more. And years drew on and on
Till no sun came, dank fogs the house enfolding;
And she saw inside, when the form in the flesh had gone,
As a vision what she had missed when the real beholding.
THE OLD WORKMAN
"Why are you so bent down before your time,
Old mason? Many have not left their prime
So far behind at your age, and can still
Stand full upright at will."
He pointed to the mansion-front hard by,
And to the stones of the quoin against the sky;
"Those upper blocks," he said, "that there you see,
It was that ruined me."
There stood in the air up to the parapet
Crowning the corner height, the stones as set
By him--ashlar whereon the gales might drum
For centuries to come.
"I carried them up," he said, "by a ladder there;
The last was as big a load as I could bear;
But on I heaved; and something in my back
Moved, as 'twere with a crack.
"So I got crookt. I never lost that sprain;
And those who live there, walled from wind and rain
By freestone that I lifted, do not know
That my life's ache came so.
"They don't know me, or even know my name,
But good I think it, somehow, all the same
To have kept 'em safe from harm, and right and tight,
Though it has broke me quite.
"Yes; that I fixed it firm up there I am proud,
Facing the hail and snow and sun and cloud,
And to stand storms for ages, beating round
When I lie underground."
THE SAILOR'S MOTHER
"O whence do you come,
Figure in the night-fog that chills me numb?"
"I come to you across from my house up there,
And I don't mind the brine-mist clinging to me
That blows from the quay,
For I heard him in my chamber, and thought you unaware."
"But what did you hear,
That brought you blindly knocking in this middle-watch so drear?"
"My sailor son's voice as 'twere calling at your door,
And I don't mind my bare feet clammy on the stones,
And the blight to my bones,
For he only knows of THIS house I lived in before."
Woman like a skeleton, with socket-sunk eye."
"Ah--nobody's nigh! And my life is drearisome,
And this is the old home we loved in many a day
Before he went away;
And the salt fog mops me. And nobody's come!"
From "To Please his Wife."
OUTSIDE THE CASEMENT
(A REMINISCENCE OF THE WAR)
We sat in the room
And praised her whom
We saw in the portico-shade outside:
She could not hear
What was said of her,
But smiled, for its purport we did not hide.
Then in was brought
That message, fraught
With evil fortune for her out there,
Whom we loved that day
More than any could say,
And would fain have fenced from a waft of care.
And the question pressed
Like lead on each breast,
Should we cloak the tidings, or call her and tell?
It was too intense
A choice for our sense,
As we pondered and watched her we loved so well.
Yea, spirit failed us
At what assailed us;
How long, while seeing what soon must come,
Should we counterfeit
No knowledge of it,
And stay the stroke that would blanch and numb?
And thus, before
Joy left her, we practised to beguile
Her innocence when
She now and again
Looked in, and smiled us another smile.
(L. H. RECALLS HER ROMANCE)
He used to pass, well-trimmed and brushed,
My window every day,
And when I smiled on him he blushed,
That youth, quite as a girl might; aye,
In the shyest way.
Thus often did he pass hereby,
That youth of bounding gait,
Until the one who blushed was I,
And he became, as here I sate,
My joy, my fate.
And now he passes by no more,
That youth I loved too true!
I grieve should he, as here of yore,
Pass elsewhere, seated in his view,
Some maiden new!
If such should be, alas for her!
He'll make her feel him dear,
Become her daily comforter,
Then tire him of her beauteous gear,
"I WAS THE MIDMOST"
I was the midmost of my world
When first I frisked me free,
For though within its circuit gleamed
But a small company,
And I was immature, they seemed
To bend their looks on me.
She was the midmost of my world
When I went further forth,
And hence it was that, whether I turned
To south, east, west, or north,
Beams of an all-day Polestar burned
From that new axe of earth.
Where now is midmost in my world?
I trace it not at all:
No midmost shows it here, or there,
When wistful voices call
"We are fain! We are fain!" from everywhere
On Earth's bewildering ball!
A SOUND IN THE NIGHT
(WOODSFORD CASTLE: 17-)
"What do I catch upon the night-wind, husband? -
What is it sounds in this house so eerily?
It seems to be a woman's voice: each little while I hear it,
And it much troubles me!"
"'Tis but the eaves dripping down upon the plinth-slopes:
Letting fancies worry thee!--sure 'tis a foolish thing,
When we were on'y coupled half-an-hour before the noontide,
And now it's but evening."
"Yet seems it still a woman's voice outside the castle, husband,
And 'tis cold to-night, and rain beats, and this is a lonely place.
Didst thou fathom much of womankind in travel or adventure
Ere ever thou sawest my face?"
"It may be a tree, bride, that rubs his arms acrosswise,
If it is not the eaves-drip upon the lower slopes,
Or the river at the bend, where it whirls about the hatches
Like a creature that sighs and mopes."
"Yet it still seems to me like the crying of a woman,
And it saddens me much that so piteous a sound
On this my bridal night when I would get agone from sorrow
Should so ghost-like wander round!"
"To satisfy thee, Love, I will strike the flint-and-steel, then,
And set the rush-candle up, and undo the door,
And take the new horn-lantern that we bought upon our journey,
And throw the light over the moor."
He struck a light, and breeched and booted in the further chamber,
And lit the new horn-lantern and went from her sight,
And vanished down the turret; and she heard him pass the postern,
And go out into the night.
She listened as she lay, till she heard his step returning,
And his voice as he unclothed him: "'Twas nothing, as I said,
But the nor'-west wind a-blowing from the moor ath'art the river,
And the tree that taps the gurgoyle-head."
"Nay, husband, you perplex me; for if the noise I heard here,
Awaking me from sleep so, were but as you avow,
The rain-fall, and the wind, and the tree-bough, and the river,
Why is it silent now?
"And why is thy hand and thy clasping arm so shaking,
And thy sleeve and tags of hair so muddy and so wet,
And why feel I thy heart a-thumping every time thou kissest me,
And thy breath as if hard to get?"
He lay there in silence for a while, still quickly breathing,
Then started up and walked about the room resentfully:
"O woman, witch, whom I, in sooth, against my will have wedded,
Why castedst thou thy spells on me?
"There was one I loved once: the cry you heard was her cry:
She came to me to-night, and her plight was passing sore,
As no woman . . . Yea, and it was e'en the cry you heard, wife,
But she will cry no more!
"And now I can't abide thee: this place, it hath a curse on't,
This farmstead once a castle: I'll get me straight away!"
He dressed this time in darkness, unspeaking, as she listened,
And went ere the dawn turned day.
They found a woman's body at a spot called Rocky Shallow,
Where the Froom stream curves amid the moorland, washed aground,
And they searched about for him, the yeoman, who had darkly known
But he could not be found.
And the bride left for good-and-all the farmstead once a castle,
And in a county far away lives, mourns, and sleeps alone,
And thinks in windy weather that she hears a woman crying,
And sometimes an infant's moan.
ON A DISCOVERED CURL OF HAIR
When your soft welcomings were said,
This curl was waving on your head,
And when we walked where breakers dinned
It sported in the sun and wind,
And when I had won your words of grace
It brushed and clung about my face.
Then, to abate the misery
Of absentness, you gave it me.
Where are its fellows now? Ah, they
For brightest brown have donned a gray,
And gone into a caverned ark,
Ever unopened, always dark!
Yet this one curl, untouched of time,
Beams with live brown as in its prime,
So that it seems I even could now
Restore it to the living brow
By bearing down the western road
Till I had reached your old abode.
AN OLD LIKENESS
(RECALLING R. T.)
Who would have thought
That, not having missed her
Talks, tears, laughter
In absence, or sought
To recall for so long
Her gamut of song;
Or ever to waft her
Signal of aught
That she, fancy-fanned,
Would well understand,
I should have kissed her
Picture when scanned
Yawning years after!
Yet, seeing her poor
Chancewise at night-time,
Some old allure
Came on me, warm,
Fresh, pleadful, pure,
As in that bright time
At a far season
Of love and unreason,
And took me by storm
Here in this blight-time!
And thus it arose
That, yawning years after
Our early flows
Of wit and laughter,
And framing of rhymes
At idle times,
At sight of her painting,
Though she lies cold
In churchyard mould,
I took its feinting
As real, and kissed it,
As if I had wist it
Herself of old.
"Secretum meum mihi"
(FADED WOMAN'S SONG)
There was a spell of leisure,
No record vouches when;
With honours, praises, pleasure
To womankind from men.
But no such lures bewitched me,
No hand was stretched to raise,
No gracious gifts enriched me,
No voices sang my praise.
Yet an iris at that season
Amid the accustomed slight
From denseness, dull unreason,
Ringed me with living light.
"SACRED TO THE MEMORY"
That "Sacred to the Memory"
Is clearly carven there I own,
And all may think that on the stone
The words have been inscribed by me
In bare conventionality.
They know not and will never know
That my full script is not confined
To that stone space, but stands deep lined
Upon the landscape high and low
Wherein she made such worthy show.
TO A WELL-NAMED DWELLING
Glad old house of lichened stonework,
What I owed you in my lone work,
Noon and night!
Whensoever faint or ailing,
Letting go my grasp and failing,
You lent light.
How by that fair title came you?
Did some forward eye so name you
Knowing that one,
Sauntering down his century blindly,
Would remark your sound, so kindly,
And be won?
Smile in sunlight, sleep in moonlight,
Bask in April, May, and June-light,
Let your chambers show no sorrow,
Blanching day, or stuporing morrow,
While they stand.
My father was the whipper-in, -
Is still--if I'm not misled?
And now I see, where the hedge is thin,
A little spot of red;
Surely it is my father
Going to the kennel-shed!
"I cursed and fought my father--aye,
And sailed to a foreign land;
And feeling sorry, I'm back, to stay,
Please God, as his helping hand.
Surely it is my father
Near where the kennels stand?"
"--True. Whipper-in he used to be
For twenty years or more;
And you did go away to sea
As youths have done before.
Yes, oddly enough that red there
Is the very coat he wore.
"But he--he's dead; was thrown somehow,
And gave his back a crick,
And though that is his coat, 'tis now
The scarecrow of a rick;
You'll see when you get nearer -
'Tis spread out on a stick.
"You see, when all had settled down
Your mother's things were sold,
And she went back to her own town,
And the coat, ate out with mould,
Is now used by the farmer
For scaring, as 'tis old."
A MILITARY APPOINTMENT
"So back you have come from the town, Nan, dear!
And have you seen him there, or near -
That soldier of mine -
Who long since promised to meet me here?"
"--O yes, Nell: from the town I come,
And have seen your lover on sick-leave home -
That soldier of yours -
Who swore to meet you, or Strike-him-dumb;
"But has kept himself of late away;
Yet,--in short, he's coming, I heard him say -
That lover of yours -
To this very spot on this very day."
"--Then I'll wait, I'll wait, through wet or dry!
I'll give him a goblet brimming high -
This lover of mine -
And not of complaint one word or sigh!"
"--Nell, him I have chanced so much to see,
That--he has grown the lover of me! -
That lover of yours -
And it's here our meeting is planned to be."
THE MILESTONE BY THE RABBIT-BURROW
(ON YELL'HAM HILL)
In my loamy nook
As I dig my hole
I observe men look
At a stone, and sigh
As they pass it by
To some far goal.
Something it says
To their glancing eyes
That must distress
The frail and lame,
And the strong of frame
Gladden or surprise.
Do signs on its face
Declare how far
Feet have to trace
Before they gain
Some blest champaign
Where no gins are?
THE LAMENT OF THE LOOKING-GLASS
Words from the mirror softly pass
To the curtains with a sigh:
"Why should I trouble again to glass
These smileless things hard by,
Since she I pleasured once, alas,
Is now no longer nigh!"
"I've imaged shadows of coursing cloud,
And of the plying limb
On the pensive pine when the air is loud
With its aerial hymn;
But never do they make me proud
To catch them within my rim!
"I flash back phantoms of the night
That sometimes flit by me,
I echo roses red and white -
The loveliest blooms that be -
But now I never hold to sight
So sweet a flower as she."
They parted--a pallid, trembling I pair,
And rushing down the lane
He left her lonely near me there;
--I asked her of their pain.
"It is for ever," at length she said,
"His friends have schemed it so,
That the long-purposed day to wed
Never shall we two know."
"In such a cruel case," said I,
"Love will contrive a course?"
"--Well, no . . . A thing may underlie,
Which robs that of its force;
"A thing I could not tell him of,
Though all the year I have tried;
This: never could I have given him love,
Even had I been his bride.
"So, when his kinsfolk stop the way
Point-blank, there could not be
A happening in the world to-day
More opportune for me!
"Yet hear--no doubt to your surprise -
I am sorry, for his sake,
That I have escaped the sacrifice
I was prepared to make!"
THE OLD NEIGHBOUR AND THE NEW
'Twas to greet the new rector I called I here,
But in the arm-chair I see
My old friend, for long years installed here,
Who palely nods to me.
The new man explains what he's planning
In a smart and cheerful tone,
And I listen, the while that I'm scanning
The figure behind his own.
The newcomer urges things on me;
I return a vague smile thereto,
The olden face gazing upon me
Just as it used to do!
And on leaving I scarcely remember
Which neighbour to-day I have seen,
The one carried out in September,
Or him who but entered yestreen.
"[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]"
"A woman for whom great gods might strive!"
I said, and kissed her there:
And then I thought of the other five,
And of how charms outwear.
I thought of the first with her eating eyes,
And I thought of the second with hers, green-gray,
And I thought of the third, experienced, wise,
And I thought of the fourth who sang all day.
And I thought of the fifth, whom I'd called a jade,
And I thought of them all, tear-fraught;
And that each had shown her a passable maid,
Yet not of the favour sought.
So I traced these words on the bark of a beech,
Just at the falling of the mast:
"After scanning five; yes, each and each,
I've found the woman desired--at last!"
"--I feel a strange benumbing spell,
As one ill-wished!" said she.
And soon it seemed that something fell
Was starving her love for me.
"I feel some curse. O, FIVE were there?"
And wanly she swerved, and went away.
I followed sick: night numbed the air,
And dark the mournful moorland lay.
I cried: "O darling, turn your head!"
But never her face I viewed;
"O turn, O turn!" again I said,
And miserably pursued.
At length I came to a Christ-cross stone
Which she had passed without discern;
And I knelt upon the leaves there strown,
And prayed aloud that she might turn.
I rose, and looked; and turn she did;
I cried, "My heart revives!"
"Look more," she said. I looked as bid;
Her face was all the five's.
All the five women, clear come back,
I saw in her--with her made one,
The while she drooped upon the track,
And her frail term seemed well-nigh run.
She'd half forgot me in her change;
"Who are you? Won't you say
Who you may be, you man so strange,
Following since yesterday?"
I took the composite form she was,
And carried her to an arbour small,
Not passion-moved, but even because
In one I could atone to all.
And there she lies, and there I tend,
Till my life's threads unwind,
A various womanhood in blend -
Not one, but all combined.
Sir John was entombed, and the crypt was closed, and she,
Like a soul that could meet no more the sight of the sun,
Inclined her in weepings and prayings continually,
As his widowed one.
And to pleasure her in her sorrow, and fix his name
As a memory Time's fierce frost should never kill,
She caused to be richly chased a brass to his fame,
Which should link them still;
For she bonded her name with his own on the brazen page,
As if dead and interred there with him, and cold, and numb,
(Omitting the day of her dying and year of her age
Till her end should come;)
And implored good people to pray "Of their Charytie
For these twaine Soules,"--yea, she who did last remain
Forgoing Heaven's bliss if ever with spouse should she
Again have lain.
Even there, as it first was set, you may see it now,
Writ in quaint Church text, with the date of her death left bare,
In the aged Estminster aisle, where the folk yet bow
Themselves in prayer.
Thereafter some years slid, till there came a day
When it slowly began to be marked of the standers-by
That she would regard the brass, and would bend away
With a drooping sigh.
Now the lady was fair as any the eye might scan
Through a summer day of roving--a type at whose lip
Despite her maturing seasons, no meet man
Would be loth to sip.
And her heart was stirred with a lightning love to its pith
For a newcomer who, while less in years, was one
Full eager and able to make her his own forthwith,
Restrained of none.
But she answered Nay, death-white; and still as he urged
She adversely spake, overmuch as she loved the while,
Till he pressed for why, and she led with the face of one scourged
To the neighbouring aisle,
And showed him the words, ever gleaming upon her pew,
Memorizing her there as the knight's eternal wife,
Or falsing such, debarred inheritance due
Of celestial life.
He blenched, and reproached her that one yet undeceased
Should bury her future--that future which none can spell;
And she wept, and purposed anon to inquire of the priest
If the price were hell
Of her wedding in face of the record. Her lover agreed,
And they parted before the brass with a shudderful kiss,
For it seemed to flash out on their impulse of passionate need,
"Mock ye not this!"
Well, the priest, whom more perceptions moved than one,
Said she erred at the first to have written as if she were dead
Her name and adjuration; but since it was done
Nought could be said
Save that she must abide by the pledge, for the peace of her soul,
And so, by her life, maintain the apostrophe good,
If she wished anon to reach the coveted goal
To erase from the consecrate text her prayer as there prayed
Would aver that, since earth's joys most drew her, past doubt,
Friends' prayers for her joy above by Jesu's aid
Could be done without.
Moreover she thought of the laughter, the shrug, the jibe
That would rise at her back in the nave when she should pass
As another's avowed by the words she had chosen to inscribe
On the changeless brass.
And so for months she replied to her Love: "No, no";
While sorrow was gnawing her beauties ever and more,
Till he, long-suffering and weary, grew to show
Less warmth than before.
And, after an absence, wrote words absolute:
That he gave her till Midsummer morn to make her mind clear;
And that if, by then, she had not said Yea to his suit,
He should wed elsewhere.
Thence on, at unwonted times through the lengthening days
She was seen in the church--at dawn, or when the sun dipt
And the moon rose, standing with hands joined, blank of gaze,
Before the script.
She thinned as he came not; shrank like a creature that cowers
As summer drew nearer; but still had not promised to wed,
When, just at the zenith of June, in the still night hours,
She was missed from her bed.
"The church!" they whispered with qualms; "where often she sits."
They found her: facing the brass there, else seeing none,
But feeling the words with her finger, gibbering in fits;
And she knew them not one.
And so she remained, in her handmaids' charge; late, soon,
Tracing words in the air with her finger, as seen that night -
Those incised on the brass--till at length unwatched one noon,
She vanished from sight.
And, as talebearers tell, thence on to her last-taken breath
Was unseen, save as wraith that in front of the brass made moan;
So that ever the way of her life and the time of her death
And hence, as indited above, you may read even now
The quaint church-text, with the date of her death left bare,
In the aged Estminster aisle, where folk yet bow
Themselves in prayer.
October 30, 1907.
THE MARBLE-STREETED TOWN
I reach the marble-streeted town,
Whose "Sound" outbreathes its air
Of sharp sea-salts;
I see the movement up and down
As when she was there.
Ships of all countries come and go,
The bandsmen boom in the sun
A throbbing waltz;
The schoolgirls laugh along the Hoe
As when she was one.
I move away as the music rolls:
The place seems not to mind
That she--of old
The brightest of its native souls -
Left it behind!
Over this green aforedays she
On light treads went and came,
Yea, times untold;
Yet none here knows her history -
Has heard her name.
A WOMAN DRIVING
How she held up the horses' heads,
Firm-lipped, with steady rein,
Down that grim steep the coastguard treads,
Till all was safe again!
With form erect and keen contour
She passed against the sea,
And, dipping into the chine's obscure,
Was seen no more by me.
To others she appeared anew
At times of dusky light,
But always, so they told, withdrew
From close and curious sight.
Some said her silent wheels would roll
Rutless on softest loam,
And even that her steeds' footfall
Sank not upon the foam.
Where drives she now? It may be where
No mortal horses are,
But in a chariot of the air
Towards some radiant star.
A WOMAN'S TRUST
If he should live a thousand years
He'd find it not again
That scorn of him by men
Could less disturb a woman's trust
In him as a steadfast star which must
Rise scathless from the nether spheres:
If he should live a thousand years
He'd find it not again.
She waited like a little child,
Unchilled by damps of doubt,
While from her eyes looked out
A confidence sublime as Spring's
When stressed by Winter's loiterings.
Thus, howsoever the wicked wiled,
She waited like a little child
Unchilled by damps of doubt.
Through cruel years and crueller
Thus she believed in him
And his aurore, so dim;
That, after fenweeds, flowers would blow;
And above all things did she show
Her faith in his good faith with her;
Through cruel years and crueller
Thus she believed in him!
We went a day's excursion to the stream,
Basked by the bank, and bent to the ripple-gleam,
And I did not know
That life would show,
However it might flower, no finer glow.
I walked in the Sunday sunshine by the road
That wound towards the wicket of your abode,
And I did not think
That life would shrink
To nothing ere it shed a rosier pink.
Unlooked for I arrived on a rainy night,
And you hailed me at the door by the swaying light,
And I full forgot
That life might not
Again be touching that ecstatic height.
And that calm eve when you walked up the stair,
After a gaiety prolonged and rare,
No thought soever
That you might never
Walk down again, struck me as I stood there.
Rewritten from an old draft.
THE CASUAL ACQUAINTANCE
While he was here in breath and bone,
To speak to and to see,
Would I had known--more clearly known -
What that man did for me
When the wind scraped a minor lay,
And the spent west from white
To gray turned tiredly, and from gray
To broadest bands of night!
But I saw not, and he saw not
What shining life-tides flowed
To me-ward from his casual jot
Of service on that road.
He would have said: "'Twas nothing new;
We all do what we can;
'Twas only what one man would do
For any other man."
Now that I gauge his goodliness
He's slipped from human eyes;
And when he passed there's none can guess,
Or point out where he lies.
What curious things we said,
What curious things we did
Up there in the world we walked till dead
Our kith and kin amid!
How we played at love,
And its wildness, weakness, woe;
Yes, played thereat far more than enough
As it turned out, I trow!
Played at believing in gods
And observing the ordinances,
I for your sake in impossible codes
Right ready to acquiesce.
Thinking our lives unique,
Quite quainter than usual kinds,
We held that we could not abide a week
The tether of typic minds.
--Yet people who day by day
Pass by and look at us
From over the wall in a casual way
Are of this unconscious.
And feel, if anything,
That none can be buried here
Removed from commonest fashioning,
Or lending note to a bier:
No twain who in heart-heaves proved
Themselves at all adept,
Who more than many laughed and loved,
Who more than many wept,
Or were as sprites or elves
Into blind matter hurled,
Or ever could have been to themselves
The centre of the world.
THE WHITEWASHED WALL
Why does she turn in that shy soft way
Whenever she stirs the fire,
And kiss to the chimney-corner wall,
As if entranced to admire
Its whitewashed bareness more than the sight
Of a rose in richest green?
I have known her long, but this raptured rite
I never before have seen.
- Well, once when her son cast his shadow there,
A friend took a pencil and drew him
Upon that flame-lit wall. And the lines
Had a lifelike semblance to him.
And there long stayed his familiar look;
But one day, ere she knew,
The whitener came to cleanse the nook,
And covered the face from view.
"Yes," he said: "My brush goes on with a rush,
And the draught is buried under;
When you have to whiten old cots and brighten,
What else can you do, I wonder?"
But she knows he's there. And when she yearns
For him, deep in the labouring night,
She sees him as close at hand, and turns
To him under his sheet of white.
JUST THE SAME
I sat. It all was past;
Hope never would hail again;
Fair days had ceased at a blast,
The world was a darkened den.
The beauty and dream were gone,
And the halo in which I had hied
So gaily gallantly on
Had suffered blot and died!
I went forth, heedless whither,
In a cloud too black for name:
- People frisked hither and thither;
The world was just the same.
THE LAST TIME
The kiss had been given and taken,
And gathered to many past:
It never could reawaken;
But you heard none say: "It's the last!"
The clock showed the hour and the minute,
But you did not turn and look:
You read no finis in it,
As at closing of a book.
But you read it all too rightly
When, at a time anon,
A figure lay stretched out whitely,
And you stood looking thereon.
THE SEVEN TIMES
The dark was thick. A boy he seemed at that time
Who trotted by me with uncertain air;
"I'll tell my tale," he murmured, "for I fancy
A friend goes there? . . . "
Then thus he told. "I reached--'twas for the first time -
A dwelling. Life was clogged in me with care;
I thought not I should meet an eyesome maiden,
But found one there.
"I entered on the precincts for the second time -
'Twas an adventure fit and fresh and fair -
I slackened in my footsteps at the porchway,
And found her there.
"I rose and travelled thither for the third time,
The hope-hues growing gayer and yet gayer
As I hastened round the boscage of the outskirts,
And found her there.
"I journeyed to the place again the fourth time
(The best and rarest visit of the rare,
As it seemed to me, engrossed about these goings),
And found her there.
"When I bent me to my pilgrimage the fifth time
(Soft-thinking as I journeyed I would dare
A certain word at token of good auspice),
I found her there.
"That landscape did I traverse for the sixth time,
And dreamed on what we purposed to prepare;
I reached a tryst before my journey's end came,
And found her there.
"I went again--long after--aye, the seventh time;
The look of things was sinister and bare
As I caught no customed signal, heard no voice call,
Nor found her there.
"And now I gad the globe--day, night, and any time,
To light upon her hiding unaware,
And, maybe, I shall nigh me to some nymph-niche,
And find her there!"
" But how," said I, "has your so little lifetime
Given roomage for such loving, loss, despair?
A boy so young!" Forthwith I turned my lantern
Upon him there.
His head was white. His small form, fine aforetime,
Was shrunken with old age and battering wear,
An eighty-years long plodder saw I pacing
Beside me there.
THE SUN'S LAST LOOK ON THE COUNTRY GIRL
The sun threw down a radiant spot
On the face in the winding-sheet -
The face it had lit when a babe's in its cot;
And the sun knew not, and the face knew not
That soon they would no more meet.
Now that the grave has shut its door,
And lets not in one ray,
Do they wonder that they meet no more -
That face and its beaming visitor -
That met so many a day?
IN A LONDON FLAT
"You look like a widower," she said
Through the folding-doors with a laugh from the bed,
As he sat by the fire in the outer room,
Reading late on a night of gloom,
And a cab-hack's wheeze, and the clap of its feet
In its breathless pace on the smooth wet street,
Were all that came to them now and then . . .
"You really do!" she quizzed again.
And the Spirits behind the curtains heard,
And also laughed, amused at her word,
And at her light-hearted view of him.
"Let's get him made so--just for a whim!"
Said the Phantom Ironic. "'Twould serve her right
If we coaxed the Will to do it some night."
"O pray not!" pleaded the younger one,
The Sprite of the Pities. "She said it in fun!"
But so it befell, whatever the cause,
That what she had called him he next year was;
And on such a night, when she lay elsewhere,
He, watched by those Phantoms, again sat there,
And gazed, as if gazing on far faint shores,
At the empty bed through the folding-doors
As he remembered her words; and wept
That she had forgotten them where she slept.
DRAWING DETAILS IN AN OLD CHURCH
I hear the bell-rope sawing,
And the oil-less axle grind,
As I sit alone here drawing
What some Gothic brain designed;
And I catch the toll that follows
From the lagging bell,
Ere it spreads to hills and hollows
Where the parish people dwell.
I ask not whom it tolls for,
Incurious who he be;
So, some morrow, when those knolls for
One unguessed, sound out for me,
A stranger, loitering under
In nave or choir,
May think, too, "Whose, I wonder?"
But care not to inquire.
Yes; since she knows not need,
Nor walks in blindness,
I may without unkindness