Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Legends and Lyrics - First Series by Adelaide Ann Proctor

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

VERSE: TREASURES

Let me count my treasures,
All my soul holds dear,
Given me by dark spirits
Whom I used to fear.

Through long days of anguish,
And sad nights, did Pain
Forge my shield, Endurance,
Bright and free from stain!

Doubt, in misty caverns,
'Mid dark horrors sought,
Till my peerless jewel,
Faith to me she brought.

Sorrow, that I wearied
Should remain so long,
Wreathed my starry glory,
The bright Crown of Song.

Strife, that racked my spirit,
Without hope or rest,
Left the blooming flower,
Patience, on my breast.

Suffering, that I dreaded,
Ignorant of her charms,
Laid the fair child, Pity,
Smiling, in my arms.

So I count my treasures,
Stored in days long past -
And I thank the givers,
Whom I know at last!

VERSE: SHINING STARS

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
On a world of pain!
See old Time destroying
All our hoarded gain;
All our sweetest flowers,
Every stately shrine,
All our hard-earned glory,
Every dream divine!

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
On the rolling years!
See how Time, consoling,
Dries the saddest tears,
Bids the darkest storm-clouds
Pass in gentle rain;
While upspring in glory,
Flowers and dreams again!

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
On a world of fear!
See how Time, avenging,
Bringeth judgment here;
Weaving ill-won honours
To a fiery crown;
Bidding hard hearts perish;
Casting proud hearts down.

Shine, ye stars of heaven,
On the hours' slow flight!
See how Time, rewarding,
Gilds good deeds with light;
Pays with kingly measure;
Brings earth's dearest prize;
Or, crowned with rays diviner,
Bids the end arise!

VERSE: WAITING

"Wherefore dwell so sad and lonely,
By the desolate sea-shore,
With the melancholy surges
Beating at your cottage door?

"You shall dwell beside the castle
Shadowed by our ancient trees;
And your life shall pass on gently,
Cared for, and in rest and ease."

"Lady, one who loved me dearly
Sailed for distant lands away;
And I wait here his returning
Hopefully from day to day.

"To my door I bring my spinning,
Watching every ship I see;
Waiting, hoping, till the sunset
Fades into the western sea.

"After sunset, at my casement,
Still I place a signal light;
He will see its well-known shining
Should his ship return at night.

"Lady, see your infant smiling,
With its flaxen curling hair -
I remember when your mother
Was a baby just as fair.

"I was watching then, and hoping:
Years have brought great change to all;
To my neighbours in their cottage,
To you nobles at the hall.

"Not to me--for I am waiting,
And the years have fled so fast,
I must look at you to tell me
That a weary time has past!

"When I hear a footstep coming
On the shingle--years have fled -
Yet amid a thousand others,
I shall know his quick, light tread.

"When I hear (to-night it may be)
Some one pausing at my door,
I shall know the gay soft accents,
Heard and welcomed oft before!

"So each day I am more hopeful,
He may come before the night:
Every sunset I feel surer
He must come ere morning light.

"Then I thank you, noble lady,
But I cannot do your will:
Where he left me, he must find me.
Waiting, watching, hoping, still!"

VERSE: THE CRADLE SONG OF THE POOR

Hush! I cannot bear to see thee
Stretch thy tiny hands in vain;
Dear, I have no bread to give thee,
Nothing, child, to ease thy pain!
When God sent thee first to bless me,
Proud, and thankful too, was I;
Now, my darling I, thy mother,
Almost long to see thee die.
Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
God is good, but life is dreary.

I have watched thy beauty fading,
And thy strength sink day by day;
Soon, I know, will Want and Fever
Take thy little life away.
Famine makes thy father reckless,
Hope has left both him and me;
We could suffer all, my baby,
Had we but a crust for thee.
Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
God is good, but life is dreary.

Better thou shouldst perish early,
Starve so soon, my darling one,
Than in helpless sin and sorrow
Vainly live, as I have done.
Better that thy angel spirit
With my joy, my peace, were flown,
Than thy heart grew cold and careless,
Reckless, hopeless, like my own.
Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
God is good, but life is dreary.

I am wasted, dear, with hunger,
And my brain is all opprest,
I have scarcely strength to press thee,
Wan and feeble, to my breast.
Patience, baby, God will help us,
Death will come to thee and me,
He will take us to his Heaven,
Where no want or pain can be.
Sleep, my darling, thou art weary;
God is good, but life is dreary.

Such the plaint that, late and early,
Did we listen, we might hear
Close beside us,--but the thunder
Of a city dulls our ear.
Every heart, as God's bright Angel,
Can bid one such sorrow cease;
God has glory when his children
Bring his poor ones joy and peace!
Listen, nearer while she sings
Sounds the fluttering of wings!

VERSE: BE STRONG

Be strong to HOPE, oh Heart!
Though day is bright,
The stars can only shine
In the dark night.
Be strong, oh Heart of mine,
Look towards the light!

Be strong to BEAR, oh Heart!
Nothing is vain:
Strive not, for life is care,
And God sends pain,
Heaven is above, and there
Rest will remain!

Be strong to LOVE, oh Heart!
Love knows not wrong,
Didst thou love--creatures even,
Life were not long;
Didst thou love God in Heaven,
Thou wouldst be strong!

VERSE: GOD'S GIFTS

God gave a gift to Earth:- a child,
Weak, innocent, and undefiled,
Opened its ignorant eyes and smiled.

It lay so helpless, so forlorn,
Earth took it coldly and in scorn,
Cursing the day when it was born.

She gave it first a tarnished name,
For heritage, a tainted fame,
Then cradled it in want and shame.

All influence of Good or Right,
All ray of God's most holy light,
She curtained closely from its sight.

Then turned her heart, her eyes away,
Ready to look again, the day
Its little feet began to stray.

In dens of guilt the baby played,
Where sin, and sin alone, was made
The law that all around obeyed.

With ready and obedient care,
He learnt the tasks they taught him there;
Black sin for lesson--oaths for prayer.

Then Earth arose, and, in her might,
To vindicate her injured right,
Thrust him in deeper depths of night.

Branding him with a deeper brand
Of shame, he could not understand,
The felon outcast of the land.

* * *

God gave a gift to Earth:- a child,
Weak, innocent, and undefiled,
Opened its ignorant eyes and smiled.

And Earth received the gift, and cried
Her joy and triumph far and wide,
Till echo answered to her pride.

She blest the hour when first he came
To take the crown of pride and fame,
Wreathed through long ages for his name.

Then bent her utmost art and skill
To train the supple mind and will,
And guard it from a breath of ill.

She strewed his morning path with flowers,
And Love, in tender dropping showers,
Nourished the blue and dawning hours.

She shed, in rainbow hues of light,
A halo round the Good and Right,
To tempt and charm the baby's sight.

And every step, of work or play.
Was lit by some such dazzling ray,
Till morning brightened into day.

And then the World arose, and said -
Let added honours now be shed
On such a noble heart and head!

O World, both gifts were pure and bright,
Holy and sacred in God's sight:-
God will judge them and thee aright!

VERSE: A TOMB IN GHENT

A smiling look she had, a figure slight,
With cheerful air, and step both quick and light;
A strange and foreign look the maiden bore,
That suited the quaint Belgian dress she wore
Yet the blue fearless eyes in her fair face,
And her soft voice told her of English race;
And ever, as she flitted to and fro,
She sang, (or murmured, rather,) soft and low,
Snatches of song, as if she did not know
That she was singing, but the happy load
Of dream and thought thus from her heart o'erflowed:
And while on household cares she passed along,
The air would bear me fragments of her song;
Not such as village maidens sing, and few
The framers of her changing music knew;
Chants such as heaven and earth first heard of when
The master Palestrina held the pen.
But I with awe had often turned the page,
Yellow with time, and half defaced by age,
And listened, with an ear not quite unskilled,
While heart and soul to the grand echo thrilled;
And much I marvelled, as her cadence fell
From the Laudate, that I knew so well,
Into Scarlatti's minor fugue, how she
Had learned such deep and solemn harmony.
But what she told I set in rhyme, as meet
To chronicle the influence, dim and sweet,
'Neath which her young and innocent life had grown:
Would that my words were simple as her own.

Many years since, an English workman went
Over the seas, to seek a home in Ghent,
Where English skill was prized; nor toiled in vain;
Small, yet enough, his hard-earned daily gain.
He dwelt alone--in sorrow, or in pride.
He mixed not with the workers by his side;
He seemed to care but for one present joy -
To tend, to watch, to teach his sickly boy.
Severe to all beside, yet for the child
He softened his rough speech to soothings mild;
For him he smiled, with him each day he walked
Through the dark gloomy streets; to him he talked
Of home, of England, and strange stories told
Of English heroes in the days of old;
And, (when the sunset gilded roof and spire,)
The marvellous tale which never seemed to tire:
How the gilt dragon, glaring fiercely down
From the great belfry, watching all the town,
Was brought, a trophy of the wars divine,
By a Crusader from far Palestine,
And given to Bruges; and how Ghent arose,
And how they struggled long as deadly foes,
Till Ghent, one night, by a brave soldier's skill,
Stole the great dragon; and she keeps it still.
One day the dragon--so 'tis said--will rise,
Spread his bright wines, and glitter in the skies.
And over desert lands and azure seas,
Will seek his home 'mid palm and cedar trees.
So, as he passed the belfry every day,
The boy would look if it were flown away;
Each day surprised to find it watching there,
Above him, as he crossed the ancient square,
To seek the great cathedral, that had grown
A home for him--mysterious and his own.

Dim with dark shadows of the ages past,
St. Bavon stands, solemn and rich and vast;
The slender pillars, in long vistas spread,
Like forest arches meet and close o'erhead;
So high that, like a weak and doubting prayer,
Ere it can float to the carved angels there,
The silver clouded incense faints in air:
Only the organ's voice, with peal on peal,
Can mount to where those far-off angels kneel.
Here the pale boy, beneath a low side-arch,
Would listen to its solemn chant or march;
Folding his little hands, his simple prayer
Melted in childish dreams, and both in air:
While the great organ over all would roll,
Speaking strange secrets to his innocent soul,
Bearing on eagle-wings the great desire
Of all the kneeling throng, and piercing higher
Than aught but love and prayer can reach, until
Only the silence seemed to listen still;
Or gathering like a sea still more and more,
Break in melodious waves at heaven's door,
And then fall, slow and soft, in tender rain,
Upon the pleading longing hearts again.

Then he would watch the rosy sunlight glow,
That crept along the marble floor below,
Passing, as life does, with the passing hours,
Now by a shrine all rich with gems and flowers,
Now on the brazen letters of a tomb,
Then, leaving it again to shade and gloom,
And creeping on, to show, distinct and quaint,
The kneeling figure of some marble saint:
Or lighting up the carvings strange and rare,
That told of patient toil, and reverent care;
Ivy that trembled on the spray, and ears,
Of heavy corn, and slender bulrush spears,
And all the thousand tangled weeds that grow
In summer, where the silver rivers flow;
And demon-heads grotesque, that seemed to glare
In impotent wrath on all the beauty there:
Then the gold rays up pillared shaft would climb,
And so be drawn to heaven, at evening time.
And deeper silence, darker shadows flowed
On all around, only the windows glowed
With blazoned glory, like the shields of light
Archangels bear, who, armed with love and might,
Watch upon heaven's battlements at night.
Then all was shade; the silver lamps that gleamed,
Lost in the daylight, in the darkness seemed
Like sparks of fire in the dim aisles to shine,
Or trembling stars before each separate shrine.
Grown half afraid, the child would leave them there,
And come out, blinded by the noisy glare
That burst upon him from the busy square.

The church was thus his home for rest or play,
And as he came and went again each day,
The pictured faces that he knew so well,
Seemed to smile on him welcome and farewell.
But holier, and dearer far than all,
One sacred spot his own he loved to call;
Save at mid-day, half-hidden by the gloom;
The people call it The White Maiden's Tomb:
For there she stands; her folded hands are pressed
Together, and laid softly on her breast,
As if she waited but a word to rise
From the dull earth, and pass to the blue skies;
Her lips expectant part, she holds her breath,
As listening for the angel voice of death.
None know how many years have seen her so,
Or what the name of her who sleeps below.
And here the child would come, and strive to trace,
Through the dim twilight, the pure gentle face
He loved so well, and here he oft would bring
Some violet blossom of the early spring;
And climbing softly by the fretted stand,
Not to disturb her, lay it in her hand;
Or, whispering a soft loving message sweet,
Would stoop and kiss the little marble feet.
So, when the organ's pealing music rang,
He thought amid the gloom the Maiden sang;
With reverent simple faith by her he knelt,
And fancied what she thought, and what she felt.
"Glory to God," re-echoed from her voice,
And then his little spirit would rejoice;
Or when the Requiem sobbed upon the air,
His baby tears dropped with her mournful prayer.

So years fled on, while childish fancies past,
The childish love and simple faith could last.
The artist-soul awoke in him, the flame
Of genius, like the light of Heaven, came
Upon his brain, and (as it will, if true)
It touched his heart and lit his spirit, too
His father saw, and with a proud content
Let him forsake the toil where he had spent
His youth's first years, and on one happy day
Of pride, before the old man passed away,
He stood with quivering lips, and the big tears
Upon his cheek, and heard the dream of years
Living and speaking to his very heart -
The low hushed murmur at the wondrous art
Of him, who with young trembling fingers made
The great church-organ answer as he played;
And, as the uncertain sound grew full and strong,
Rush with harmonious spirit-wings along,
And thrill with master-power the breathless throng.

The old man died, and years passed on, and still
The young musician bent his heart and will
To his dear toil. St. Bavon now had grown
More dear to him, and even more his own;
And as he left it every night he prayed
A moment by the archway in the shade,
Kneeling once more within the sacred gloom
Where the White Maiden watched upon her tomb.
His hopes of travel and a world-wide fame,
Cold Time had sobered, and his fragile frame;
Content at last only in dreams to roam,
Away from the tranquillity of home;
Content that the poor dwellers by his side
Saw in him but the gentle friend and guide,
The patient counsellor in the poor strife
And petty details of their common life,
Who comforted where woe and grief might fall,
Nor slighted any pain or want as small,
But whose great heart took in and felt for all.

Still he grew famous--many came to be
His pupils in the art of harmony.
One day a voice floated so pure and free
Above his music, that he turned to see
What angel sang, and saw before his eyes,
What made his heart leap with a strange surprise,
His own White Maiden, calm, and pure, and mild,
As in his childish dreams she sang and smiled;
Her eyes raised up to Heaven, her lips apart,
And music overflowing from her heart.
But the faint blush that tinged her cheek betrayed
No marble statue, but a living maid;
Perplexed and startled at his wondering look,
Her rustling score of Mozart's Sanctus shook;
The uncertain notes, like birds within a snare,
Fluttered and died upon the trembling air.

Days passed; each morning saw the maiden stand,
Her eyes cast down, her lesson in her hand,
Eager to study, never weary, while
Repaid by the approving word or smile
Of her kind master; days and months fled on;
One day the pupil from the choir was gone;
Gone to take light, and joy, and youth once more,
Within the poor musician's humble door;
And to repay, with gentle happy art,
The debt so many owed his generous heart.
And now, indeed, was one who knew and felt
That a great gift of God within him dwelt;
One who could listen, who could understand,
Whose idle work dropped from her slackened hand,
While with wet eyes entranced she stood, nor knew
How the melodious winged hours flew;
Who loved his art as none had loved before,
Yet prized the noble tender spirit more.
While the great organ brought from far and near
Lovers of harmony to praise and hear,
Unmarked by aught save what filled every day,
Duty, and toil, and rest, years passed away:
And now by the low archway in the shade
Beside her mother knelt a little maid,
Who, through the great cathedral learned to roam,
Climb to the choir, and bring her father home;
And stand, demure and solemn by his side,
Patient till the last echo softly died;
Then place her little hand in his, and go
Down the dark winding stair to where below
The mother knelt, within the gathering gloom
Waiting and praying by the Maiden's Tomb.

So their life went, until, one winter's day,
Father and child came there alone to pray -
The mother, gentle soul, had fled away!
Their life was altered now, and yet the child
Forgot her passionate grief in time, and smiled,
Half wondering why, when spring's fresh breezes came,
To see her father was no more the same.
Half guessing at the shadow of his pain,
And then contented if he smiled again,
A sad cold smile, that passed in tears away,
As re-assured she ran once more to play.
And now each year that added grace to grace,
Fresh bloom and sunshine to the young girl's face,
Brought a strange light in the musician's eyes,
As if he saw some starry hope arise,
Breaking upon the midnight of sad skies.
It might be so: more feeble year by year,
The wanderer to his resting-place drew near.
One day the Gloria he could play no more,
Echoed its grand rejoicing as of yore;
His hands were clasped, his weary head was laid,
Upon the tomb where the White Maiden prayed:
Where the child's love first dawned, his soul first spoke,
The old man's heart there throbbed its last and broke.
The grave cathedral that had nursed his youth,
Had helped his dreaming, and had taught him truth,
Had seen his boyish grief and baby tears,
And watched the sorrows and the joys of years,
Had lit his fame and hope with sacred rays,
And consecrated sad and happy days -
Had blessed his happiness, and soothed his pain,
Now took her faithful servant home again.

He rests in peace: some travellers mention yet
An organist whose name they all forget.
He has a holier and a nobler fame
By poor men's hearths, who love and bless the name
Of a kind friend; and in low tones to-day,
Speak tenderly of him who passed away.
Too poor to help the daughter of their friend,
They grieved to see the little pittance end;
To see her toil and strive with cheerful heart,
To bear the lonely orphan's struggling part;
They grieved to see her go at last alone
To English kinsmen she had never known:
And here she came; the foreign girl soon found
Welcome, and love, and plenty all around,
And here she pays it back with earnest will,
By well-taught housewife watchfulness and skill;
Deep in her heart she holds her father's name,
And tenderly and proudly keeps his fame;
And while she works with thrifty Belgian care,
Past dreams of childhood float upon the air;
Some strange old chant, or solemn Latin hymn,
That echoed through the old cathedral dim,
When as a little child each day she went
To kneel and pray by an old tomb in Ghent.

VERSE: THE ANGEL OF DEATH

Why shouldst thou fear the beautiful angel, Death,
Who waits thee at the portals of the skies,
Ready to kiss away thy struggling breath,
Ready with gentle hand to close thine eyes?

How many a tranquil soul has passed away,
Fled gladly from fierce pain and pleasures dim,
To the eternal splendour of the day;
And many a troubled heart still calls for him.

Spirits too tender for the battle here
Have turned from life, its hopes, its fears, its charms;
And children, shuddering at a world so drear,
Have smiling passed away into his arms.

He whom thou fearest will, to ease its pain,
Lay his cold hand upon thy aching heart:
Will soothe the terrors of thy troubled brain,
And bid the shadow of earth's grief depart.

He will give back what neither time, nor might,
Nor passionate prayer, nor longing hope restore.
(Dear as to long blind eyes recovered sight,)
He will give back those who are gone before.

Oh, what were life, if life were all? Thine eyes
Are blinded by their tears, or thou wouldst see
Thy treasures wait thee in the far-off skies,
And Death, thy friend, will give them all to thee.

VERSE: A DREAM

All yesterday I was spinning,
Sitting alone in the sun;
And the dream that I spun was so lengthy,
It lasted till day was done.

I heeded not cloud or shadow
That flitted over the hill,
Or the humming-bees, or the swallows,
Or the trickling of the rill.

I took the threads for my spinning,
All of blue summer air,
And a flickering ray of sunlight
Was woven in here and there.

The shadows grew longer and longer,
The evening wind passed by,
And the purple splendour of sunset
Was flooding the western sky.

But I could not leave my spinning,
For so fair my dream had grown.
I heeded not, hour by hour,
How the silent day had flown.

At last the grey shadows fell round me,
And the night came dark and chill,
And I rose and ran down the valley,
And left it all on the hill.

I went up the hill this morning
To the place where my spinning lay -
There was nothing but glistening dewdrops
Remained of my dream to-day.

VERSE: THE PRESENT

Do not crouch to-day, and worship
The old Past, whose life is fled,
Hush your voice to tender reverence;
Crowned he lies, but cold and dead:
For the Present reigns our monarch,
With an added weight of hours;
Honour her, for she is mighty!
Honour her, for she is ours!

See the shadows of his heroes
Girt around her cloudy throne;
Every day the ranks are strengthened
By great hearts to him unknown;
Noble things the great Past promised,
Holy dreams, both strange and new;
But the Present shall fulfil them,
What he promised, she shall do.

She inherits all his treasures,
She is heir to all his fame,
And the light that lightens round her
Is the lustre of his name;
She is wise with all his wisdom,
Living on his grave she stands,
On her brow she bears his laurels,
And his harvest in her hands.

Coward, can she reign and conquer
If we thus her glory dim?
Let us fight for her as nobly
As our fathers fought for him.
God, who crowns the dying ages,
Bids her rule, and us obey -
Bids us cast our lives before her,
Bids us serve the great To-day.

VERSE: CHANGES

Mourn, O rejoicing heart!
The hours are flying;
Each one some treasure takes,
Each one some blossom breaks,
And leaves it dying;
The chill dark night draws near,
Thy sun will soon depart,
And leave thee sighing;
Then mourn, rejoicing heart,
The hours are flying!

Rejoice, O grieving heart!
The hours fly fast;
With each some sorrow dies,
With each some shadow flies,
Until at last
The red dawn in the east
Bids weary night depart,
And pain is past.
Rejoice then, grieving heart,
The hours fly fast!

VERSE: STRIVE, WAIT, AND PRAY

Strive; yet I do not promise
The prize you dream of to-day
Will not fade when you think to grasp it,
And melt in your hand away;
But another and holier treasure,
You would now perchance disdain,
Will come when your toil is over,
And pay you for all your pain.

Wait; yet I do not tell you
The hour you long for now,
Will not come with its radiance vanished,
And a shadow upon its brow;
Yet far through the misty future,
With a crown of starry light,
An hour of joy you know not
Is winging her silent flight.

Pray; though the gift you ask for
May never comfort your fears,
May never repay your pleading,
Yet pray, and with hopeful tears;
An answer, not that you long for,
But diviner, will come one day,
Your eyes are too dim to see it,
Yet strive, and wait, and pray.

VERSE: A LAMENT FOR THE SUMMER

Moan, oh ye Autumn Winds!
Summer has fled,
The flowers have closed their tender leaves and die;
The Lily's gracious head
All low must lie,
Because the gentle Summer now is dead.

Grieve, oh ye Autumn Winds!
Summer lies low;
The rose's trembling leaves will soon be shed,
For she that loved her so,
Alas, is dead!
And one by one her loving children go.

Wail, oh ye Autumn Winds!
She lives no more,
The gentle Summer, with her balmy breath,
Still sweeter than before
When nearer death,
And brighter every day the smile she wore!

Mourn, mourn, oh Autumn Winds,
Lament and mourn;
How many half-blown buds must close and die;
Hopes with the Summer born
All faded lie,
And leave us desolate and Earth forlorn!

VERSE: THE UNKNOWN GRAVE

No name to bid us know
Who rests below,
No word of death or birth,
Only the grass's wave,
Over a mound of earth,
Over a nameless grave.

Did this poor wandering heart
In pain depart?
Longing, but all too late,
For the calm home again,
Where patient watchers wait,
And still will wait in vain.

Did mourners come in scorn,
And thus forlorn,
Leave him, with grief and shame.
To silence and decay,
And hide the tarnished name
Of the unconscious clay?

It may be from his side
His loved ones died,
And last of some bright band,
(Together now once more,)
He sought his home, the land
Where they had gone before.

No matter--limes have made
As cool a shade,
And lingering breezes pass
As tenderly and slow,
As if beneath the grass
A monarch slept below.

No grief, though loud and deep,
Could stir that sleep;
And earth and heaven tell
Of rest that shall not cease,
Where the cold world's farewell
Fades into endless peace.

VERSE: GIVE ME THY HEART

With echoing steps the worshippers
Departed one by one;
The organ's pealing voice was stilled,
The vesper hymn was done;
The shadows fell from roof and arch,
Dim was the incensed air,
One lamp alone with trembling ray,
Told of the Presence there!

In the dark church she knelt alone;
Her tears were falling fast;
"Help, Lord," she cried, "the shades of death
Upon my soul are cast!
Have I not shunned the path of sin,
And chosen the better part?"
What voice came through the sacred air? -
"My child, give me thy Heart!"

"Have I not laid before Thy shrine
My wealth, oh Lord?" she cried;
"Have I kept aught of gems or gold,
To minister to pride?
Have I not bade youth's joys retire,
And vain delights depart?" -
But sad and tender was the voice -
"My child, give me thy Heart!"

"Have I not, Lord, gone day by day
Where Thy poor children dwell;
And carried help, and gold, and food?
Oh Lord, Thou knowest it well!
From many a house, from many a soul,
My hand bids care depart:" -
More sad, more tender, was the voice -
"My child, give me thy Heart!"

"Have I not worn my strength away
With fast and penance sore?
Have I not watched and wept?" she cried;
"Did Thy dear Saints do more?
Have I not gained Thy grace, oh Lord,
And won in Heaven my part?" -
It echoed louder in her soul -
"My child, give me thy Heart!"

"For I have loved thee with a love
No mortal heart can show;
A love so deep, my Saints in heaven
Its depths can never know:
When pierced and wounded on the Cross,
Man's sin and doom were mine,
I loved thee with undying love,
Immortal and divine!

"I love thee ere the skies were spread;
My soul bears all thy pains;
To gain thy love my sacred Heart
In earthly shrines remains:
Vain are thy offerings, vain thy sighs,
Without one gift divine,
Give it, my child, thy Heart to me,
And it shall rest in mine!"

In awe she listened, and the shade
Passed from her soul away;
In low and trembling voice she cried -
"Lord, help me to obey!
Break Thou the chains of earth, oh Lord,
That bind and hold my heart;
Let it be Thine, and Thine alone,
Let none with Thee have part.

"Send down, oh Lord, Thy sacred fire!
Consume and cleanse the sin
That lingers still within its depths:
Let heavenly love begin.
That sacred flame Thy Saints have known,
Kindle, oh Lord, in me,
Thou above all the rest for ever,
And all the rest in Thee."

The blessing fell upon her soul;
Her angel by her side
Knew that the hour of peace was come;
Her soul was purified:
The shadows fell from roof and arch,
Dim was the incensed air -
But Peace went with her as she left
The sacred Presence there!

VERSE: THE WAYSIDE INN

A little past the village
The Inn stood, low and white;
Green shady trees behind it,
And an orchard on the right;
Where over the green paling
The red-cheeked apples hung,
As if to watch how wearily
The sign-board creaked and swung.

The heavy-laden branches,
Over the road hung low,
Reflected fruit or blossom
From the wayside well below;
Where children, drawing water,
Looked up and paused to see,
Amid the apple-branches,
A purple Judas Tree.

The road stretched winding onward
For many a weary mile -
So dusty foot-sore wanderers
Would pause and rest awhile;
And panting horses halted,
And travellers loved to tell
The quiet of the wayside inn,
The orchard, and the well.

Here Maurice dwelt; and often
The sunburnt boy would stand
Gazing upon the distance,
And shading with his hand
His eyes, while watching vainly
For travellers, who might need
His aid to loose the bridle,
And tend the weary steed.

And once (the boy remembered
That morning, many a day -
The dew lay on the hawthorn,
The bird sang on the spray)
A train of horsemen, nobler
Than he had seen before,
Up from the distance galloped,
And halted at the door.

Upon a milk-white pony,
Fit for a faery queen,
Was the loveliest little damsel
His eyes had ever seen:
A serving-man was holding
The leading rein, to guide
The pony and its mistress,
Who cantered by his side.

Her sunny ringlets round her
A golden cloud had made,
While her large hat was keeping
Her calm blue eyes in shade;
One hand held fast the silken reins
To keep her steed in check,
The other pulled his tangled mane,
Or stroked his glossy neck.

And as the boy brought water,
And loosed the rein, he heard
The sweetest voice that thanked him
In one low gentle word;
She turned her blue eyes from him,
Looked up, and smiled to see
The hanging purple blossoms
Upon the Judas Tree;

And showed it with a gesture,
Half pleading, half command,
Till he broke the fairest blossom,
And laid it in her hand;
And she tied it to her saddle
With a ribbon from her hair,
While her happy laugh rang gaily,
Like silver on the air.

But the champing steeds were rested -
The horsemen now spurred on,
And down the dusty highway
They vanished and were gone.
Years passed, and many a traveller
Paused at the old inn-door,
But the little milk-white pony
And the child returned no more.

Years passed, the apple-branches
A deeper shadow shed;
And many a time the Judas Tree,
Blossom and leaf, lay dead;
When on the loitering western breeze
Came the bells' merry sound,
And flowery arches rose, and flags
And banners waved around.

Maurice stood there expectant:
The bridal train would stay
Some moments at the inn-door,
The eager watchers say;
They come--the cloud of dust draws near -
'Mid all the state and pride,
He only sees the golden hair
And blue eyes of the bride.

The same, yet, ah, still fairer;
He knew the face once more
That bent above the pony's neck
Years past at that inn-door:
Her shy and smiling eyes looked round,
Unconscious of the place,
Unconscious of the eager gaze
He fixed upon her face.

He plucked a blossom from the tree -
The Judas Tree--and cast
Its purple fragrance towards the Bride,
A message from the Past.
The signal came, the horses plunged -
Once more she smiled around:
The purple blossom in the dust
Lay trampled on the ground.

Again the slow years fleeted,
Their passage only known
By the height the Passion-flower
Around the porch had grown;
And many a passing traveller
Paused at the old inn-door,
But the bride, so fair and blooming,
The bride returned no more.

One winter morning, Maurice,
Watching the branches bare,
Rustling and waving dimly
In the grey and misty air,
Saw blazoned on a carriage
Once more the well-known shield,
The stars and azure fleurs-de-lis
Upon a silver field.

He looked--was that pale woman,
So grave, so worn, so sad,
The child, once young and smiling,
The bride, once fair and glad?
What grief had dimmed that glory,
And brought that dark eclipse
Upon her blue eyes' radiance,
And paled those trembling lips?

What memory of past sorrow,
What stab of present pain,
Brought that deep look of anguish,
That watched the dismal rain,
That watched (with the absent spirit
That looks, yet does not see)
The dead and leafless branches
Upon the Judas Tree.

The slow dark months crept onward
Upon their icy way,
'Till April broke in showers
And Spring smiled forth in May;
Upon the apple-blossoms
The sun shone bright again,
When slowly up the highway
Came a long funeral train.

The bells toiled slowly, sadly,
For a noble spirit fled;
Slowly, in pomp and honour,
They bore the quiet dead.
Upon a black-plumed charger
One rode, who held a shield,
Where stars and azure fleurs-de-lis
Shone on a silver field.

'Mid all that homage given
To a fluttering heart at rest,
Perhaps an honest sorrow
Dwelt only in one breast.
One by the inn-door standing
Watched with fast-dropping tears
The long procession passing,
And thought of bygone years,

The boyish, silent homage
To child and bride unknown,
The pitying tender sorrow
Kept in his heart alone,
Now laid upon the coffin
With a purple flower, might be
Told to the cold dead sleeper;
The rest could only see
A fragrant purple blossom,
Plucked from a Judas Tree.

VERSE: VOICES OF THE PAST

You wonder that my tears should flow
In listening to that simple strain;
That those unskilful sounds should fill
My soul with joy and pain -
How can you tell what thoughts it stirs
Within my heart again?

You wonder why that common phrase,
So all unmeaning to your ear,
Should stay me in my merriest mood,
And thrill my soul to hear -
How can you tell what ancient charm
Has made me hold it dear?

You marvel that I turn away
From all those flowers so fair and bright,
And gaze at this poor herb, till tears
Arise and dim my sight -
You cannot tell how every leaf
Breathes of a past delight.

You smile to see me turn and speak
With one whose converse you despise;
You do not see the dreams of old
That with his voice arise -
How can you tell what links have made
Him sacred in my eyes?

Oh, these are Voices of the Past,
Links of a broken chain,
Wings that can bear me back to Times
Which cannot come again -
Yet God forbid that I should lose
The echoes that remain!

VERSE: THE DARK SIDE

Thou hast done well, perhaps,
To lift the bright disguise,
And lay the bitter truth
Before our shrinking eyes;
When evil crawls below
What seems so pure and fair,
Thine eyes are keen and true
To find the serpent there:
And yet--I turn away;
Thy task is not divine -
The evil angels look
On earth with eyes like thine.

Thou hast done well, perhaps,
To show how closely wound
Dark threads of sin and self
With our best deeds are found.
How great and noble hearts,
Striving for lofty aims,
Have still some earthly cord
A meaner spirit claims;
And yet--although thy task
Is well and fairly done,
Methinks for such as thou
There is a holier one.

Shadows there are, who dwell
Among us, yet apart,
Deaf to the claim of God,
Or kindly human heart;
Voices of earth and heaven
Call, but they turn away,
And Love, through such black night,
Can see no hope of day;
And yet--our eyes are dim,
And thine are keener far -
Then gaze till thou canst see
The glimmer of some star.

The black stream flows along,
Whose waters we despise -
Show us reflected there
Some fragment of the skies;
'Neath tangled thorns and briars,
(The task is fit for thee,)
Seek for the hidden flowers,
We are too blind to see;
Then will I thy great gift
A crown and blessing call;
Angels look thus on men,
And God sees good in all!

VERSE: A FIRST SORROW

Arise! this day shall shine,
For evermore,
To thee a star divine,
On Time's dark shore.

Till now thy soul has been
All glad and gay:
Bid it awake, and look
At grief to-day!

No shade has come between
Thee and the sun;
Like some long childish dream
Thy life has run:

But now the stream has reached
A dark, deep sea,
And Sorrow, dim and crowned,
Is waiting thee.

Each of God's soldiers bears
A sword divine:
Stretch out thy trembling hands
To-day for thine!

To each anointed Priest
God's summons came:
Oh, Soul, he speaks to-day
And calls thy name.

Then, with slow reverent step,
And beating heart,
From out thy joyous days,
Thou must depart.

And, leaving all behind,
Come forth, alone,
To join the chosen band
Around the throne.

Raise up thine eyes--be strong,
Nor cast away
The crown, that God has given
Thy soul to-day!

VERSE: MURMURS

Why wilt thou make bright music
Give forth a sound of pain?
Why wilt thou weave fair flowers
Into a weary chain?

Why turn each cool grey shadow
Into a world of fears?
Why say the winds are wailing?
Why call the dewdrops tears?

The voices of happy nature,
And the Heaven's sunny gleam,
Reprove thy sick heart's fancies,
Upbraid thy foolish dream.

Listen, and I will tell thee
The song Creation sings,
From the humming of bees in the heather,
To the flutter of angels' wings.

An echo rings for ever,
The sound can never cease;
It speaks to God of glory,
It speaks to Earth of peace.

Not alone did angels sing it
To the poor shepherds' ear;
But the sphered Heavens chant it,
While listening ages hear.

Above thy peevish wailing
Rises that holy song;
Above Earth's foolish clamour,
Above the voice of wrong.

No creature of God's too lowly
To murmur peace and praise:
When the starry nights grow silent,
Then speak the sunny days.

So leave thy sick heart's fancies,
And lend thy little voice
To the silver song of glory
That bids the world rejoice.

VERSE: GIVE

See the rivers flowing
Downwards to the sea,
Pouring all their treasures
Bountiful and free -
Yet to help their giving
Hidden springs arise;
Or, if need be, showers
Feed them from the skies!

Watch the princely flowers
Their rich fragrance spread,
Load the air with perfumes,
From their beauty shed -
Yet their lavish spending
Leaves them not in dearth,
With fresh life replenished
By their mother earth!

Give thy heart's best treasures -
From fair Nature learn;
Give thy love--and ask not,
Wait not a return!
And the more thou spendest
From thy little store,
With a double bounty,
God will give thee more.

VERSE: MY JOURNAL

It is a dreary evening;
The shadows rise and fall:
With strange and ghostly changes,
They flicker on the wall.

Make the charred logs burn brighter;
I will show you, by their blaze,
The half-forgotten record
Of bygone things and days.

Bring here the ancient volume;
The clasp is old and worn,
The gold is dim and tarnished,
And the faded leaves are torn.

The dust has gathered on it -
There are so few who care
To read what Time has written
Of joy and sorrow there.

Look at the first fair pages;
Yes--I remember all:
The joys now seem so trivial,
The griefs so poor and small.

Let us read the dreams of glory
That childish fancy made;
Turn to the next few pages,
And see how soon they fade.

Here, where still waiting, dreaming,
For some ideal Life,
The young heart all unconscious
Had entered on the strife.

See how this page is blotted:
What--could those tears be mine?
How coolly I can read you,
Each blurred and trembling line.

Now I can reason calmly,
And, looking back again,
Can see divinest meaning
Threading each separate pain.

Here strong resolve--how broken;
Rash hope, and foolish fear,
And prayers, which God in pity
Refused to grant or hear.

Nay--I will turn the pages
To where the tale is told
Of how a dawn diviner
Flushed the dark clouds with gold.

And see, that light has gilded
The story--nor shall set;
And, though in mist and shadow,
You know I see it yet.

Here--well, it does not matter,
I promised to read all;
I know not why I falter,
Or why my tears should fall;

You see each grief is noted;
Yet it was better so -
I can rejoice to-day--the pain
Was over, long ago.

I read--my voice is failing,
But you can understand
How the heart beat that guided
This weak and trembling hand.

Pass over that long struggle,
Read where the comfort came,
Where the first time is written
Within the book your name.

Again it comes, and oftener,
Linked, as it now must be,
With all the joy or sorrow
That Life may bring to me.

So all the rest--you know it:
Now shut the clasp again,
And put aside the record
Of bygone hours of pain.

The dust shall gather on it,
I will not read it more:
Give me your hand--what was it
We were talking of before?

I know not why--but tell me
Of something gay and bright.
It is strange--my heart is heavy,
And my eyes are dim to-night.

VERSE: A CHAIN

The bond that links our souls together;
Will it last through stormy weather?
Will it moulder and decay
As the long hours pass away?
Will it stretch if Fate divide us,
When dark and weary hours have tried us?
Oh, if it look too poor and slight
Let us break the links to-night!

It was not forged by mortal hands,
Or clasped with golden bars and bands;
Save thine and mine, no other eyes
The slender link can recognise:
In the bright light it seems to fade -
And it is hidden in the shade;
While Heaven nor Earth have never heard,
Or solemn vow, or plighted word.

Yet what no mortal hand could make,
No mortal power can ever break:
What words or vows could never do,
No words or vows can make untrue;
And if to other hearts unknown
The dearer and the more our own,
Because too sacred and divine
For other eyes, save thine and mine.

And see, though slender, it is made
Of Love and Trust, and can they fade?
While, if too slight it seem, to bear
The breathings of the summer air,
We know that it could bear the weight
Of a most heavy heart of late,
And as each day and hour flew
The stronger for its burthen grew.

And, too, we know and feel again
It has been sanctified by pain,
For what God deigns to try with sorrow
He means not to decay to-morrow;
But through that fiery trial last
When earthly ties and bonds are past;
What slighter things dare not endure
Will make our Love more safe and pure.

Love shall be purified by Pain,
And Pain be soothed by Love again:
So let us now take heart and go
Cheerfully on, through joy and woe;
No change the summer sun can bring,
Or the inconstant skies of spring,
Or the bleak winter's stormy weather,
For we shall meet them, Love, together!

VERSE: THE PILGRIMS

The way is long and dreary,
The path is bleak and bare;
Our feet are worn and weary,
But we will not despair.
More heavy was Thy burthen,
More desolate Thy way; -
Oh Lamb of God who takest
The sin of the world away,
Have mercy on us.

The snows lie thick around us
In the dark and gloomy night;
And the tempest wails above us,
And the stars have hid their light;
But blacker was the darkness
Round Calvary's Cross that day; -
Oh Lamb of God who takest
The sin of the world away,
Have mercy on us.

Our hearts are faint with sorrow,
Heavy and hard to bear;
For we dread the bitter morrow,
But we will not despair:
Thou knowest all our anguish,
And Thou wilt bid it cease, -
Oh Lamb of God who takest
The sin of the world away,
Give us Thy Peace!

VERSE: INCOMPLETENESS

Nothing resting in its own completeness
Can have worth or beauty: but alone
Because it leads and tends to farther sweetness,
Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.

Spring's real glory dwells not in the meaning,
Gracious though it be, of her blue hours;
But is hidden in her tender leaning
To the Summer's richer wealth of flowers.

Dawn is fair, because the mists fade slowly
Into Day, which floods the world with light;
Twilight's mystery is so sweet and holy
Just because it ends in starry Night.

Childhood's smiles unconscious graces borrow
From Strife, that in a far-off future lies;
And angel glances (veiled now by Life's sorrow)
Draw our hearts to some beloved eyes.

Life is only bright when it proceedeth
Towards a truer, deeper Life above;
Human Love is sweetest when it leadeth
To a more divine and perfect Love.

Learn the mystery of Progression duly:
Do not call each glorious change, Decay;
But know we only hold our treasures truly,
When it seems as if they passed away.

Nor dare to blame God's gifts for incompleteness;
In that want their beauty lies: they roll
Towards some infinite depth of love and sweetness,
Bearing onward man's reluctant soul.

VERSE: A LEGEND OF BREGENZ

Girt round with rugged mountains
The fair Lake Constance lies;
In her blue heart reflected
Shine back the starry skies;
And, watching each white cloudlet
Float silently and slow,
You think a piece of Heaven
Lies on our earth below!

Midnight is there: and Silence,
Enthroned in Heaven, looks down
Upon her own calm mirror,
Upon a sleeping town:
For Bregenz, that quaint city
Upon the Tyrol shore,
Has stood above Lake Constance,
A thousand years and more.

Her battlements and towers,
From off their rocky steep,
Have cast their trembling shadow
For ages on the deep:
Mountain, and lake, and valley,
A sacred legend know,
Of how the town was saved, one night,
Three hundred years ago.

Far from her home and kindred,
A Tyrol maid had fled,
To serve in the Swiss valleys,
And toil for daily bread;
And every year that fleeted
So silently and fast,
Seemed to bear farther from her
The memory of the Past.

She served kind, gentle masters,
Nor asked for rest or change;
Her friends seemed no more new ones,
Their speech seemed no more strange;
And when she led her cattle
To pasture every day,
She ceased to look and wonder
On which side Bregenz lay.

She spoke no more of Bregenz,
With longing and with tears:
Her Tyrol home seemed faded
In a deep mist of years;
She heeded not the rumours
Of Austrian war and strife;
Each day she rose contented,
To the calm toils of life.

Yet, when her master's children
Would clustering round her stand,
She sang them ancient ballads
Of her own native land;
And when at morn and evening
She knelt before God's throne,
The accents of her childhood
Rose to her lips alone.

And so she dwelt: the valley
More peaceful year by year;
When suddenly strange portents,
Of some great deed seemed near.
The golden corn was bending
Upon its fragile stalk,
While farmers, heedless of their fields,
Paced up and down in talk.

The men seemed stern and altered,
With looks cast on the ground;
With anxious faces, one by one,
The women gathered round;
All talk of flax, or spinning,
Or work, was put away;
The very children seemed afraid
To go alone to play.

One day, out in the meadow
With strangers from the town,
Some secret plan discussing,
The men walked up and down.
Yet, now and then seemed watching,
A strange uncertain gleam,
That looked like lances 'mid the trees,
That stood below the stream.

At eve they all assembled,
Then care and doubt were fled;
With jovial laugh they feasted;
The board was nobly spread.
The elder of the village
Rose up, his glass in hand,
And cried, "We drink the downfall
"Of an accursed land!

"The night is growing darker,
"Ere one more day is flown,
"Bregenz, our foemen's stronghold,
"Bregenz shall be our own!"
The women shrank in terror,
(Yet Pride, too, had her part,)
But one poor Tyrol maiden
Felt death within her heart.

Before her, stood fair Bregenz;
Once more her towers arose;
What were the friends beside her?
Only her country's foes!
The faces of her kinsfolk,
The days of childhood flown,
The echoes of her mountains,
Reclaimed her as their own!

Nothing she heard around her,
(Though shouts rang forth again,)
Gone were the green Swiss valleys,
The pasture, and the plain;
Before her eyes one vision,
And in her heart one cry,
That said, "Go forth, save Bregenz,
And then, if need be, die!"

With trembling haste and breathless,
With noiseless step she sped;
Horses and weary cattle
Were standing in the shed;
She loosed the strong white charger,
That fed from out her hand,
She mounted, and she turned his head
Towards her native land.

Out--out into the darkness -
Faster, and still more fast;
The smooth grass flies behind her,
The chestnut wood is past;
She looks up; clouds are heavy:
Why is her steed so slow? -
Scarcely the wind beside them,
Can pass them as they go.

"Faster!" she cries, "Oh faster!"
Eleven the church-bells chime:
"Oh God," she cries, "help Bregenz,
And bring me there in time!"
But louder than bells' ringing,
Or lowing of the kine,
Grows nearer in the midnight
The rushing of the Rhine.

Shall not the roaring waters
Their headlong gallop check?
The steed draws back in terror,
She leans upon his neck
To watch the flowing darkness;
The bank is high and steep;
One pause--he staggers forward,
And plunges in the deep.

She strives to pierce the blackness,
And looser throws the rein;
Her steed must breast the waters
That dash above his mane.
How gallantly, how nobly,
He struggles through the foam,
And see--in the far distance,
Shine out the lights of home!

Up the steep banks he bears her,
And now, they rush again
Towards the heights of Bregenz,
That tower above the plain.
They reach the gate of Bregenz,
Just as the midnight rings,
And out come serf and soldier
To meet the news she brings.

Bregenz is saved! Ere daylight
Her battlements are manned;
Defiance greets the army
That marches on the land.
And if to deeds heroic
Should endless fame be paid,
Bregenz does well to honour
The noble Tyrol maid.

Three hundred years are vanished,
And yet upon the hill
An old stone gateway rises,
To do her honour still.
And there, when Bregenz women
Sit spinning in the shade,
They see in quaint old carving
The Charger and the Maid.

And when, to guard old Bregenz,
By gateway, street, and tower,
The warder paces all night long,
And calls each passing hour;
"Nine," "ten," "eleven," he cries aloud,
And then (Oh crown of Fame!)
When midnight pauses in the skies,
He calls the maiden's name!

VERSE: A FAREWELL

Farewell, oh dream of mine!
I dare not stay;
The hour is come, and time
Will not delay:
Pleasant and dear to me
Wilt thou remain;
No future hour
Brings thee again.

She stands, the Future dim,
And draws me on,
And shows me dearer joys -
But thou art gone!
Treasures and Hopes more fair,
Bears she for me,
And yet I linger,
Oh dream, with thee!

Other and brighter days,
Perhaps she brings;
Deeper and holier songs,
Perchance she sings;
But thou and I, fair time,
We too must sever -
Oh dream of mine,
Farewell for ever!

VERSE: SOWING AND REAPING

Sow with a generous hand;
Pause not for toil or pain;
Weary not through the heat of summer,
Weary not through the cold spring rain;
But wait till the autumn comes
For the sheaves of golden grain.

Scatter the seed, and fear not,
A table will be spread;
What matter if you are too weary
To eat your hard-earned bread:
Sow, while the earth is broken,
For the hungry must be fed.

Sow;--while the seeds are lying
In the warm earth's bosom deep,
And your warm tears fall upon it -
They will stir in their quiet sleep;
And the green blades rise the quicker,
Perchance, for the tears you weep.

Then sow;--for the hours are fleeting,
And the seed must fall to-day;
And care not what hands shall reap it,
Or if you shall have passed away
Before the waving corn-fields
Shall gladden the sunny day.

Sow; and look onward, upward,
Where the starry light appears -
Where, in spite of the coward's doubting,
Or your own heart's trembling fears,
You shall reap in joy the harvest
You have sown to-day in tears.

VERSE: THE STORM

The tempest rages wild and high,
The waves lift up their voice and cry
Fierce answers to the angry sky, -
Miserere Domine.

Through the black night and driving rain,
A ship is struggling, all in vain
To live upon the stormy main; -
Miserere Domine.

The thunders roar, the lightnings glare,
Vain is it now to strive or dare;
A cry goes up of great despair, -
Miserere Domine.

The stormy voices of the main,
The moaning wind, and pelting rain
Beat on the nursery window pane:-
Miserere Domine.

Warm curtained was the little bed,
Soft pillowed was the little head;
"The storm will wake the child," they said:-
Miserere Domine.

Cowering among his pillows white
He prays, his blue eyes dim with fright,
"Father, save those at sea to-night!"
Miserere Domine.

The morning shone all clear and gay,
On a ship at anchor in the bay,
And on a little child at play, -
Gloria tibi Domine!

VERSE: WORDS

Words are lighter than the cloud-foam
Of the restless ocean spray;
Vainer than the trembling shadow

Book of the day: