Part 2 out of 3
Than pure and delicate tints upon a pearl.
Skies strewn with roses fading, fading slowly,
While one star trembling watched the daylight die;
Or deep in gloom a sunset, hidden wholly,
Save through gold rents torn in a violet sky.
Or parted clouds, as if asunder riven
By some great angel--and beyond a space
Of far-off tranquil light; the gates of Heaven
Will lead us grandly to as calm a place.
Or stern dark walls of cloudy mountain ranges
Hid all the wonders that we knew must be;
While, far on high, some little white clouds changes'
Revealed the glory they alone could see.
Or in wild wrath the affrighted clouds lay shattered,
Like treasures of the lost Hesperides,
All in a wealth of ruined splendour scattered,
Save one strange light on distant silver seas.
What land or time can claim the Master Painter,
Whose art could teach him half such gorgeous dyes?
Or skill so rare, but purer hues and fainter
Melt every evening in my western skies.
So there I wait, until the shade has lengthened,
And night's blue misty curtain floated down;
Then, with my heart calmed, and my spirit strengthened,
I crawl once more back to the sultry town.
What Monarch, then, has nobler recreations
Than mine? Or where the great and classic Land
Whose wealth of Art delights the gathered nations
That owns a Picture Gallery half as grand?
VERSE: SENT TO HEAVEN
I had a Message to send her,
To her whom my soul loved best;
But I had my task to finish.
And she was gone home to rest.
To rest in the far bright heaven:
Oh, so far away from here,
It was vain to speak to my darling,
For I knew she could not hear!
I had a message to send her.
So tender, and true, and sweet,
I longed for an Angel to bear it,
And lay it down at her feet.
I placed it, one summer evening,
On a Cloudlet's fleecy breast;
But it faded in golden splendour,
And died in the crimson west.
I gave it the Lark next morning,
And I watched it soar and soar;
But its pinions grew faint and weary,
And it fluttered to earth once more.
To the heart of a Rose I told it;
And the perfume, sweet and rare,
Growing faint on the blue bright ether,
Was lost in the balmy air.
I laid it upon a Censer,
And I saw the incense rise;
But its clouds of rolling silver
Could not reach the far blue skies.
I cried, in my passionate longing:-
"Has the earth no Angel-friend
Who will carry my love the message
That my heart desires to send?"
Then I heard a strain of music,
So mighty, so pure, so clear,
That my very sorrow was silent,
And my heart stood still to hear.
And I felt, in my soul's deep yearning,
At last the sure answer stir:-
"The music will go up to Heaven,
And carry my thought to her."
It rose in harmonious rushing
Of mingled voices and strings.
And I tenderly laid my message
On the Music's outspread wings.
I heard it float farther and farther,
In sound more perfect than speech;
Farther than sight can follow.
Farther than soul can reach.
And I know that at last my message
Has passed through the golden gate:
So my heart is no longer restless,
And I am content to wait.
VERSE: NEVER AGAIN
"Never again!" vow hearts when reunited,
"Never again shall Love be cast aside;
For ever now the shadow has departed;
Nor bitter sorrow, veiled in scornful pride,
Shall feign indifference, or affect disdain, -
Never, oh Love, again, never again!"
"Never again!" so sobs, in broken accents,
A soul laid prostrate at a holy shrine, -
"Once more, once more forgive, oh Lord, and pardon,
My wayward life shall bend to love divine;
And never more shall sin its whiteness stain, -
Never, oh God, again, never again!"
"Never again!' so speaketh one forsaken,
In the blank desolate passion of despair, -
"Never again shall the bright dream I cherished
Delude my heart, for bitter truth is there, -
The angel, Hope, shall still thy cruel pain
Never again, my heart, never again!"
"Never again!" so speaks the sudden silence,
When round the hearth gathers each well-known face, -
But one is missing, and no future presence,
However dear, can fill that vacant place;
For ever shall the burning thought remain, -
"Never, beloved, again! never again!"
"Never again!" so--but beyond our hearing -
Ring out far voices fading up the sky;
Never again shall earthly care and sorrow
Weigh down the wings that bear those souls on high;
Listen, oh earth, and hear that glorious strain, -
"Never, never again! never again!"
VERSE: LISTENING ANGELS
Blue against the bluer Heavens
Stood the mountain, calm and still,
Two white Angels, bending earthward,
Leant upon the hill.
Listening leant those silent Angels,
And I also longed to hear
What sweet strain of earthly music
Thus could charm their ear.
I heard the sound of many trumpets
In a warlike march draw nigh;
Solemnly a mighty army
Passed in order by.
But the clang had ceased; the echoes
Soon had faded from the hill;
While the Angels, calm and earnest,
Leant and listened still.
Then I heard a fainter clamour,
Forge and wheel were clashing near
And the Reapers in the meadow
Singing loud and clear.
When the sunset came in glory,
And the toil of day was o'er,
Still the Angels leant in silence,
Listening as before.
Then, as daylight slowly vanished,
And the evening mists grew dim,
Solemnly from distant voices
Rose a vesper hymn.
When the chant was done, and lingering
Died upon the evening air,
From the hill the radiant Angels
Still were listening there.
Silent came the gathering darkness,
Bringing with it sleep and rest;
Save a little bird was singing
Near her leafy nest.
Through the sounds of war and labour
She had warbled all day long,
While the Angels leant and listened
Only to her song.
But the starry night was coming;
When she ceased her little lay
From the mountain top the Angels
Slowly passed away.
VERSE: GOLDEN DAYS
Golden days--where are they?
Pilgrims east and west
Cry; if we could find them
We would pause and rest:
We would pause and rest a little
From our long and weary ways:-
Where are they, then, where are they -
Golden days--where are they?
Ask of childhood's years,
Still untouched by sorrow,
Still undimmed by tears:
Ah, they seek a phantom Future,
Crowned with brighter, starry rays; -
Where are they, then, where are they -
Golden days--where are they?
Has Love learnt the spell
That will charm them hither,
Near our hearth to dwell?
Insecure are all her treasures,
Restless is her anxious gaze:-
Where are they, then, where are they -
Golden days--where are they?
Farther up the hill
I can hear the echo
Faintly calling still:
Faintly calling, faintly dying,
In a far-off misty haze:-
Where are they, then, where are they -
VERSE: PHILIP AND MILDRED
Lingering fade the rays of daylight, and the listening air is
Voice of bird and forest murmur, insect hum and quivering spray
Stir not in that quiet hour: through the valley, calm and stilly,
All in hushed and loving silence watch the slow departing Day.
Till the last faint western cloudlet, faint and rosy, ceases
And the blue grows deep and deeper where one trembling planet
And the day has gone for ever--then, like some great ocean rushing,
The sad night wind wails lamenting, sobbing through the moaning
Such, of all day's changing hours, is the fittest and the meetest
For a farewell hour--and parting looks less bitter and more blest;
Earth seems like a shrine for sorrow, Nature's mother voice is
And her hand seems laid in chiding on the unquiet throbbing breast.
Words are lower, for the twilight seems rebuking sad repining,
And wild murmur and rebellion, as all childish and in vain;
Breaking through dark future hours clustering starry hopes seem
Then the calm and tender midnight folds her shadow round the pain.
So they paced the shady lime-walk in that twilight dim and holy,
Still the last farewell deferring, she could hear or he should say;
Every word, weighed down by sorrow, fell more tenderly and slowly -
This, which now beheld their parting, should have been their
Should have been: her dreams of childhood, never straying, never
Still had needed Philip's image to make future life complete;
Philip's young hopes of ambition, ever changing, ever altering,
Needed Mildred's gentle presence even to make successes sweet.
This day should have seen their marriage; the calm crowning and
Of two hearts, fulfilling rather, and not changing, either life:
Now they must be rent asunder, and her heart must learn endurance,
For he leaves their home, and enters on a world of work and strife.
But her gentle spirit long had learnt, unquestioning, submitting,
To revere his youthful longings, and to marvel at the fate
That gave such a humble office, all unworthy and unfitting,
To the genius of the village, who was born for something great.
When the learned Traveller came there who had gained renown at
Whose abstruse research had won him even European fame,
Questioned Philip, praised his genius, marvelled at his self-taught
Could she murmur if he called him up to London and to fame?
Could she waver when he bade her take the burden of decision,
Since his troth to her was plighted, and his life was now her own?
Could she doom him to inaction? could she, when a newborn vision
Rose in glory for his future, check it for her sake alone?
So her little trembling fingers, that had toiled with such fond
Paused, and laid aside, and folded the unfinished wedding gown;
Faltering earnestly assurance, that she too could, in her measure,
Prize for him the present honour, and the future's sure renown.
Now they pace the shady lime-walk, now the last words must be
Words of trust, for neither dreaded more than waiting and delay;
Was not love still called eternal--could a plighted vow be broken?
See the crimson light of sunset fades in purple mist away.
"Yes, my Mildred," Philip told her, "one calm thought of joy and
Like a guardian spirit by me, through the world's tumultuous stir,
Still will spread its wings above me, and now urging, now
With my Mildred's voice will murmur thoughts of home, and love, and
"It will charm my peaceful leisure, sanctify my daily toiling,
With a right none else possesses, touching my heart's inmost
And to keep its pure wings spotless I shall fly the world's touch,
Even in thought this Angel Guardian of my Mildred's Wedding Ring.
"Take it, dear; this little circlet is the first link, strong and
Of a life-long chain, and holds me from all other love apart;
Till the day when you may wear it as my wife--my own--mine wholly -
Let me know it rests for ever near the beating of your heart."
Dawn of day saw Philip speeding on his road to the Great City,
Thinking how the stars gazed downward just with Mildred's patient
Dreams of work, and fame, and honour struggling with a tender pity,
Till the loving Past receding saw the conquering Future rise.
Daybreak still found Mildred watching, with the wonder of first
How the outward world unaltered shone the same this very day;
How unpitying and relentless busy life met this new morrow,
Earth, and sky, and man unheeding that her joy had passed away.
Then the round of weary duties, cold and formal, came to meet her,
With the life within departed that had given them each a soul;
And her sick heart even slighted gentle words that came to greet
For Grief spread its shadowy pinions, like a blight, upon the
Jar one chord, the harp is silent; move one stone, the arch is
One small clarion-cry of sorrow bids an armed host awake;
One dark cloud can hide the sunlight; loose one string, the pearls
Think one thought, a soul may perish; say one word, a heart may
Life went on, the two lives running side by side; the outward
And the truer and diviner hidden in the heart and brain;
Dreams grow holy, put in action; work grows fair through starry
But where each flows on unmingling, both are fruitless and in vain.
Such was Mildred's life; her dreaming lay in some far-distant
All the fairer, all the brighter, that its glories were but
And the daily round of duties seemed an unreal, airy legion -
Nothing true save Philip's letters and the ring upon her breast.
Letters telling how he struggled, for some plan or vision aiming,
And at last how he just grasped it as a fresh one spread its wings;
How the honour or the learning, once the climax, now were claiming,
Only more and more, becoming merely steps to higher things.
Telling her of foreign countries: little store had she of
So her earnest, simple spirit answered as he touched the string;
Day by day, to these bright fancies all her silent thoughts were
Seeing every radiant picture framed within her golden Ring.
Oh, poor heart--love, if thou willest; but, thine own soul still
Live thy life: not a reflection or a shadow of his own:
Lean as fondly, as completely, as thou willest--but confessing
That thy strength is God's, and therefore can, if need be, stand
Little means were there around her to make farther, wider ranges,
Where her loving gentle spirit could try any stronger flight;
And she turned aside, half fearing that fresh thoughts were fickle
That she MUST stay as he left her on that farewell summer night.
Love should still be guide and leader, like a herald should have
Lighting up the long dark vistas, conquering all opposing fates;
But new claims, new thoughts, new duties found her heart a silent
And found Love, with folded pinions, like a jailer by the gates.
Yet why blame her? it had needed greater strength than she was
To have gone against the current that so calmly flowed along;
Nothing fresh came near the village save the rain and dew of
And her nature was too passive, and her love perhaps too strong.
The great world of thought, that rushes down the years, and onward
Bears upon its mighty billows in its progress each and all,
Flowed so far away, its murmur did not rouse them from their
Life and Time and Truth were speaking, but they did not hear their
Years flowed on; and every morning heard her prayer grow lower,
As she called all blessings on him, and bade every ill depart,
And each night when the cold moonlight shone upon that quiet
It would show her ring that glittered with each throbbing of her
Years passed on. Fame came for Philip in a full, o'erflowing
He was spoken of and honoured through the breadth of many lands,
And he wrote it all to Mildred, as if praise were only pleasure,
As if fame were only honour, when he laid them in her hands.
Mildred heard it without wonder, as a sure result expected,
For how could it fail, since merit and renown go side by side:
And the neighbours who first fancied genius ought to be suspected,
Might at last give up their caution, and could own him now with
Years flowed on. These empty honours led to others they called
He had saved some slender fortune, and might claim his bride at
Mildred, grown so used to waiting, felt half startled by the letter
That now made her future certain, and would consecrate her past.
And he came: grown sterner, older--changed indeed: a grave
Had replaced his eager manner, and the quick short speech of old:
He had gone forth with a spirit half of hope and half defiance;
He returned with proud assurance half disdainful and half cold.
Yet his old self seemed returning while he stood sometimes, and
To her calm soft voice, relating all the thoughts of these long
And if Mildred's heart was heavy, and at times her blue eyes
Still in thought she would not whisper aught of sorrow or of fears.
Autumn with its golden corn-fields, autumn with its storms and
Had been there to greet his coming with its forests gold and brown;
And the last leaves still were falling, fading still the year's
When he left the quiet village, and took back his bride to town.
Home--the home that she had pictured many a time in twilight,
On that tender gentle fancy, folded round with loving care;
Here was home--the end, the haven; and what spirit voice seemed
That she only held the casket, with the gem no longer there?
Sad it may be to be longing, with a patience faint and weary,
For a hope deferred--and sadder still to see it fade and fall;
Yet to grasp the thing we long for, and, with sorrow sick and
THEN to find how it can fail us, is the saddest pain of all.
What was wanting? He was gentle, kind, and generous still,
To her wishes always; nothing seemed to mar their tranquil life:
There are skies so calm and leaden that we long for storm-winds
There is peace so cold and bitter, that we almost welcome strife.
Darker grew the clouds above her, and the slow conviction clearer,
That he gave her home and pity, but that heart, and soul, and mind
Were beyond her now; he loved her, and in youth he had been near
But he now had gone far onward, and had left her there behind.
Yes, beyond her: yes, quick-hearted, her Love helped her in
It was worthless, while so mighty; was too weak, although so
There were courts she could not enter; depths she could not sound;
It was vain to strive or struggle, vainer still to mourn or long.
He would give her words of kindness, he would talk of home, but
With an absent look, forgetting if he held or dropped her hand;
And then turn with eager pleasure to his writing, reading,
Or to speak of things with others that she could not understand.
He had paid, and paid most nobly, all he owed; no need of blaming;
It had cost him something, may be, that no future could restore:
In her heart of hearts she knew it; Love and Sorrow, not
Only suffered all the deeper, only loved him all the more.
Sometimes then a stronger anguish, and more cruel, weighed upon
That through all those years of waiting, he had slowly learnt the
He had known himself mistaken, but that, bound to her in honour,
He renounced his life, to pay her for the patience of her youth.
But a star was slowly rising from that mist of grief, and brighter
Grew her eyes, for each slow hour surer comfort seemed to bring;
And she watched with strange sad smiling, how her trembling hands
And how thin her slender finger, and how large her wedding-ring.
And the tears dropped slowly on it, as she kissed that golden token
With a deeper love, it may be, than was in the far-off past;
And remembering Philip's fancy, that so long ago was spoken,
Thought her Ring's bright angel guardian had stayed near her to the
Grieving sorely, grieving truly, with a tender care and sorrow,
Philip watched the slow, sure fading of his gentle, patient wife;
Could he guess with what a yearning she was longing for the morrow,
Could he guess the bitter knowledge that had wearied her of life?
Now with violets strewn upon her, Mildred lies in peaceful
All unbound her long, bright tresses, and her throbbing heart at
And the cold, blue rays of moonlight, through the open casement
Show the ring upon her finger, and her hands crossed on her breast.
Peace at last. Of peace eternal is her calm sweet smile a token.
Has some angel lingering near her let a radiant promise fall?
Has he told her Heaven unites again the links that Earth has
For on Earth so much is needed, but in Heaven Love is all!
VERSE: BORROWED THOUGHTS
I. FROM "LAVATER."
Trust him little who doth raise
To one height both great and small,
And sets the sacred crown of praise,
Smiling, on the head of all.
Trust him less who looks around
To censure all with scornful eyes,
And in everything has found
Something that he dare despise.
But for one who stands apart,
Stirred by nought that can befall,
With a cold indifferent heart, -
Trust him least and last of all.
II. FROM "PHANTASTES."
I have a bitter Thought, a Snake
That used to sting my life to pain.
I strove to cast it far away,
But every night and every day
It crawled back to my heart again.
It was in vain to live or strive,
To think or sleep, to work or pray;
At last I bade this thine accursed
Gnaw at my heart, and do its worst,
And so I let it have its way.
Thus said I, "I shall never fall
Into a false and dreaming peace,
And then awake, with sudden start,
To feel it biting at my heart,
For now the pain can never cease."
But I gained more; for I have found
That such a snake's envenomed charm
Must always, always find a part,
Deep in the centre of my heart,
Which it can never wound or harm.
It is coiled round my heart to-day.
It sleeps at times, this cruel snake,
And while it sleeps it never stings:-
Hush! let us talk of other things,
Lest it should hear me and awake.
III. FROM "LOST ALICE."
Yes, dear, our Love is slain;
In the cold grave for evermore it lies,
Never to wake again,
Or light our sorrow with its starry eyes;
And so--regret is vain.
One hour of pain and dread,
We killed our Love, we took its life away
With the false words we said;
And so we watch it, since that cruel day,
Silent, and cold, and dead.
We should have seen it shine
Long years beside us. Time and Death might try
To touch that life divine,
Whose strength could every other stroke defy
Save only thine and mine.
No longing can restore
Our dead again. Vain are the tears we weep,
And vainly we deplore
Our buried Love: its grave lies dark and deep
Between us evermore.
IV. FROM * * *
Within the kingdom of my Soul
I bid you enter, Love, to-day;
Submit my life to your control,
And give my Heart up to your sway.
My Past, whose light and life is flown,
Shall live through memory for you still;
Take all my Present for your own,
And mould my Future to your will.
One only thought remains apart,
And will for ever so remain;
There is one Chamber in my heart
Where even you might knock in vain.
A haunted Chamber:- long ago
I closed it, and I cast the key
Where deep and bitter waters flow,
Into a vast and silent sea.
Dear, it is haunted. All the rest
Is yours; but I have shut that door
For ever now. 'Tis even best
That I should enter it no more.
No more. It is not well to stay
With ghosts; their very look would scare
Your joyous, loving smile away -
So never try to enter there.
Check, if you love me, all regret
That this one thought remains apart:-
Now let us smile, dear, and forget
The haunted Chamber in my Heart.
VERSE: LIGHT AND SHADE
Thou hast done well to kneel and say,
"Since He who gave can take away,
And bid me suffer, I obey."
And also well to tell thy heart
That good lies in the bitterest part,
And thou wilt profit by her smart.
But bitter hours come to all:
When even truths like these will pall,
Sick hearts for humbler comfort call.
Then I would have thee strive to see
That good and evil come to thee,
As one of a great family.
And as material life is planned,
That even the loneliest one must stand
Dependent on his brother's hand;
So links more subtle and more fine
Bind every other soul to thine
In one great brotherhood divine.
Nor with thy share of work be vexed;
Though incomplete, and even perplex,
It fits exactly to the next.
What seems so dark to thy dim sight
May be a shadow, seen aright,
Making some brightness doubly bright.
The flash that struck thy tree,--no more
To shelter thee,--lets Heaven's blue floor
Shine where it never shone before.
Thy life that has been dropped aside
Into Time's stream, may stir the tide,
In rippled circles spreading wide.
The cry wrung from thy spirit's pain
May echo on some far-off plain,
And guide a wanderer home again.
Fail--yet rejoice; because no less
The failure that makes thy distress
May teach another full success.
It may be that in some great need
Thy life's poor fragments are decreed
To help build up a lofty deed.
Thy heart should throb in vast content,
Thus knowing that it was but meant
As chord in one great instrument;
That even the discord in thy soul
May make completer music roll
From out the great harmonious whole.
It may be, that when all is light,
Deep set within that deep delight
Will be to know WHY all was right;
To hear life's perfect music rise,
And while it floods the happy skies,
Thy feeble voice to recognise.
Then strive more gladly to fulfil
Thy little part. This darkness still
Is light to every loving will.
And trust,--as if already plain,
How just thy share of loss and pain
Is for another fuller gain.
I dare not limit time or place
Touched by thy life: nor dare I trace
Its far vibrations into space.
ONE only knows. Yet if the fret
Of thy weak heart, in weak regret
Needs a more tender comfort yet:
Then thou mayst take thy loneliest fears,
The bitterest drops of all thy tears,
The dreariest hours of all thy years;
And through thy anguish there outspread,
May ask that God's great love would shed
Blessings on one beloved head.
And thus thy soul shall learn to draw
Sweetness from out that loving law
That sees no failure and no flaw,
Where all is good. And life is good,
Were the one lesson understood
Of its most sacred brotherhood.
VERSE: A CHANGELING
A little changeling spirit
Crept to my arms one day:
I had no heart or courage
To drive the child away.
So all day long I soothed her,
And hushed her on my breast;
And all night long her wailing
Would never let me rest.
I dug a grave to hold her,
A grave both dark and deep;
I covered her with violets,
And laid her there to sleep.
I used to go and watch there,
Both night and morning too:-
It was my tears, I fancy,
That kept the violets blue.
I took her up: and once more
I felt the clinging hold,
And heard the ceaseless wailing
That wearied me of old.
I wandered, and I wandered,
With my burden on my breast,
Till I saw a church-door open,
And entered in to rest.
In the dim, dying daylight,
Set in a flowery shrine,
I saw the Virgin Mother
Holding her Child divine.
I knelt down there in silence,
And on the Altar-stone
I laid my wailing burden,
And came away--alone.
And now that little spirit,
That sobbed so all day long,
Is grown a shining Angel,
With wines both wide and strong.
She watches me from Heaven,
With loving, tender care,
And one day she has promised
That I shall find her there.
Where the little babbling streamlet
First springs forth to light,
Trickling through soft velvet mosses,
Almost hid from sight;
Vowed I with delight, -
"River, I will follow thee,
Through thy wanderings to the Sea!"
Gleaming 'mid the purple heather,
Downward then it sped,
Glancing through the mountain gorges,
Like a silver thread,
As it quicker fled,
Louder music in its flow,
Dashing to the Vale below.
Then its voice grew lower, gentler,
And its pace less fleet,
Just as though it loved to linger
Round the rushes' feet,
As they stooped to meet
Their clear images below,
Broken by the ripples' flow.
Purple Willow-herb bent over
To her shadow fair;
Meadow-sweet, in feathery clusters,
Perfumed all the air;
Silver-weed was there,
And in one calm, grassy spot,
Starry, blue Forget-me-not.
Tangled weeds, below the waters,
Still seemed drawn away;
Yet the current, floating onward,
Was less strong than they; -
Sunbeams watched their play,
With a flickering light and shade,
Through the screen the Alders made.
Broader grew the flowing River;
To its grassy brink
Slowly, in the slanting sun-rays,
Cattle trooped to drink:
The blue sky, I think,
Was no bluer than that stream,
Slipping onward, like a dream.
Quicker, deeper then it hurried,
Rushing fierce and free;
But I said, "It should grow calmer
Ere it meets the Sea,
The wide purple Sea,
Which I weary for in vain,
Wasting all my toil and pain."
But it rushed still quicker, fiercer,
In its rocky bed,
Hard and stony was the pathway
To my tired tread;
"I despair," I said,
"Of that wide and glorious Sea
That was promised unto me."
So I turned aside, and wandered
Through green meadows near,
Far away, among the daisies,
Far away, for fear
Lest I still should hear
The loud murmur of its song,
As the River flowed along.
Now I hear it not:- I loiter
Gaily as before;
Yet I sometimes think,--and thinking
Makes my heart so sore, -
Just a few steps more,
And there might have shone for me,
Blue and infinite, the Sea.
VERSE: IF THOU COULDST KNOW
I think if thou couldst know,
Oh soul that will complain,
What lies concealed below
Our burden and our pain;
How just our anguish brings
Nearer those longed-for things
We seek for now in vain, -
I think thou wouldst rejoice, and not complain.
I think if thou couldst see,
With thy dim mortal sight,
How meanings, dark to thee,
Are shadows hiding light;
Truth's efforts crossed and vexed,
Life's purpose all perplexed, -
If thou couldst see them right,
I think that they would seem all clear, and wise, and bright.
And yet thou canst not know,
And yet thou canst not see;
Wisdom and sight are slow
In poor humanity.
If thou couldst TRUST, poor soul,
In Him who rules the whole,
Thou wouldst find peace and rest:
Wisdom and sight are well, but Trust is best.
VERSE: THE WARRIOR TO HIS DEAD BRIDE
If in the fight my arm was strong,
And forced my foes to yield,
If conquering and unhurt I came
Back from the battle-field -
It is because thy prayers have been
My safeguard and my shield.
My comrades smile to see my arm
Spare or protect a foe,
They think thy gentle pleading voice
Was silenced long ago;
But pity and compassion, love,
Were taught me first by woe.
Thy heart, my own, still beats in Heaven
With the same love divine
That made thee stoop to such a soul,
So hard, so stern, as mine -
My eyes have learnt to weep, beloved,
Since last they looked on thine.
I hear thee murmur words of peace
Through the dim midnight air,
And a calm falls from the angel stars
And soothes my great despair -
The Heavens themselves look brighter, love,
Since thy sweet soul is there.
And if my heart is once more calm,
My step is once more free,
It is because each hour I feel
Thou prayest still for me;
Because no fate or change can come
Between my soul and thee.
It is because my heart is stilled.
Not broken by despair,
Because I see the grave is bright,
And death itself is fair -
I dread no more the wrath of Heaven -
I have an angel there!
VERSE: A LETTER
Dear, I tried to write you such a letter
As would tell you all my heart to-day.
Written Love is poor; one word were better;
Easier, too, a thousand times, to say.
I can tell you all: fears, doubts unheeding,
While I can be near you, hold your hand,
Looking right into your eyes, and reading
Reassurance that you understand.
Yet I wrote it through, then lingered, thinking
Of its reaching you,--what hour, what day;
Till I felt my heart and courage sinking
With a strange, new, wondering dismay.
"Will my letter fall," I wondered sadly,
"On her mood like some discordant tone,
Or be welcomed tenderly and gladly?
Will she be with others, or alone?
"It may find her too absorbed to read it,
Save with hurried glance and careless air:
Sad and weary, she may scarcely heed it;
Gay and happy, she may hardly care.
"Shall I--dare I--risk the chances?" slowly
Something,--was it shyness, love, or pride? -
Chilled my heart, and checked my courage wholly;
So I laid it wistfully aside.
Then I leant against the casement, turning
Tearful eyes towards the far-off west,
Where the golden evening light was burning,
Till my heart throbbed back again to rest.
And I thought: "Love's soul is not in fetters,
Neither space nor time keep souls apart;
Since I cannot--dare not--send my letters,
Through the silence I will send my heart.
"If, perhaps now, while my tears are falling,
She is dreaming quietly alone,
She will hear my Love's far echo calling,
Feel my spirit drawing near her own.
"She will hear, while twilight shades enfold her,
All the gathered Love she knows so well -
Deepest Love my words have ever told her,
Deeper still--all I could never tell.
"Wondering at the strange mysterious power
That has touched her heart, then she will say:-
'Some one whom I love, this very hour,
Thinks of me, and loves me, far away.'
"If, as well may be, to-night has found her
Full of other thoughts, with others by,
Through the words and claims that gather round her
She will hear just one, half-smothered sigh;
"Or will marvel why, without her seeking,
Suddenly the thought of me recurs;
Or, while listening to another speaking,
Fancy that my hand is holding hers."
So I dreamed, and watched the stars' far splendour
Glimmering on the azure darkness, start, -
While the star of trust rose bright and tender,
Through the twilight shadows of my heart.
VERSE: A COMFORTER
Will she come to me, little Effie,
Will she come in my arms to rest,
And nestle her head on my shoulder,
While the sun goes down in the west?
"I and Effie will sit together,
All alone, in this great arm-chair:-
Is it silly to mind it, darling,
When Life is so hard to bear?
"No one comforts me like my Effie,
Just I think that she does not try, -
Only looks with a wistful wonder
Why grown people should ever cry;
"While her little soft arms close tighter
Round my neck in their clinging hold:-
Well, I must not cry on your hair, dear,
For my tears might tarnish the gold.
"I am tired of trying to read, dear;
It is worse to talk and seem gay:
There are some kinds of sorrow, Effie,
It is useless to thrust away.
"Ah, advice may be wise, my darling,
But one always knows it before;
And the reasoning down one's sorrow
Seems to make one suffer the more.
"But my Effie won't reason, will she?
Or endeavour to understand;
Only holds up her mouth to kiss me,
As she strokes my face with her hand.
"If you break your plaything yourself, dear,
Don't you cry for it all the same?
I don't think it is such a comfort,
One has only oneself to blame.
"People say things cannot be helped, dear,
But then that is the reason why;
For if things could be helped or altered,
One would never sit down to cry:
"They say, too, that tears are quite useless
To undo, amend, or restore, -
When I think HOW useless, my Effie,
Then my tears only fall the more.
"All to-day I struggled against it;
But that does not make sorrow cease;
And now, dear, it is such a comfort
To be able to cry in peace.
"Though wise people would call that folly,
And remonstrate with grave surprise;
We won't mind what they say, my Effie; -
We never professed to be wise.
"But my comforter knows a lesson
Wiser, truer than all the rest:-
That to help and to heal a sorrow,
Love and silence are always best.
"Well, who is my comforter--tell me?
Effie smiles, but she will not speak;
Or look up through the long curled lashes
That are shading her rosy cheek.
"Is she thinking of talking fishes,
The blue bird, or magical tree?
Perhaps I am thinking, my darling,
Of something that never can be.
"You long--don't you, dear?--for the Genii,
Who were slaves of lamps and of rings;
And I--I am sometimes afraid, dear, -
I want as impossible things.
"But hark! there is Nurse calling Effie!
It is bedtime, so run away;
And I must go back, or the others
Will be wondering why I stay.
"So good-night to my darling Effie;
Keep happy, sweetheart, and grow wise:-
There's one kiss for her golden tresses,
And two for her sleepy eyes."
There are more things in Heaven and Earth, than we
Can dream of, or than nature understands;
We learn not through our poor philosophy
What hidden chords are touched by unseen hands.
The present hour repeats upon its strings
Echoes of some vague dream we have forgot;
Dim voices whisper half-remembered things,
And when we pause to listen,--answer not.
Forebodings come: we know not how, or whence,
Shadowing a nameless fear upon the soul,
And stir within our hearts a subtler sense,
Than light may read, or wisdom may control.
And who can tell what secret links of thought
Bind heart to heart? Unspoken things are heard,
As if within our deepest selves was brought
The soul, perhaps, of some unuttered word.
But, though a veil of shadow hangs between
That hidden life, and what we see and hear,
Let us revere the power of the Unseen,
And know a world of mystery is near.
VERSE: A REMEMBRANCE OF AUTUMN
Nothing stirs the sunny silence, -
Save the drowsy humming of the bees
Round the rich, ripe peaches on the wall,
And the south wind sighing in the trees,
And the dead leaves rustling as they fall:
While the swallows, one by one, are gathering,
All impatient to be on the wing,
And to wander from us, seeking
Their beloved Spring!
Cloudless rise the azure heavens!
Only vaporous wreaths of snowy white
Nestle in the grey hill's rugged side;
And the golden woods are bathed in light,
Dying, if they must, with kingly pride:
While the swallows in the blue air wheeling,
Circle now an eager fluttering band,
Ready to depart and leave us
For a brighter land!
But a voice is sounding sadly,
Telling of a glory that has been;
Of a day that faded all too fast -
See afar through the blue air serene,
Where the swallows wing their way at last,
And our hearts perchance, as sadly wandering,
Vainly seeking for a long-lost day,
While we watch the far-off swallows,
Flee with them away!
VERSE: THREE EVENINGS IN A LIFE
Yes, it looked dark and dreary,
That long and narrow street:
Only the sound of the rain,
And the tramp of passing feet,
The duller glow of the fire,
And gathering mists of night
To mark how slow and weary
The long day's cheerless flight!
Watching the sullen fire,
Hearing the dismal rain,
Drop after drop, run down
On the darkening window-pane:
Chill was the heart of Alice,
Chill as that winter day, -
For the star of her life had risen
Only to fade away.
The voice that had been so strong
To bid the snare depart,
The true and earnest will,
The calm and steadfast heart,
Were now weighed down by sorrow,
Were quivering now with pain;
The clear path now seemed clouded,
And all her grief in vain.
Duty, Right, Truth, who promised
To help and save their own,
Seemed spreading wide their pinions
To leave her there alone.
So, turning from the Present
To well-known days of yore,
She called on them to strengthen
And guard her soul once more.
She thought how in her girlhood
Her life was given away,
The solemn promise spoken
She kept so well to-day;
How to her brother Herbert
She had been help and guide,
And how his artist nature
On her calm strength relied.
How through life's fret and turmoil
The passion and fire of art
In him was soothed and quickened
By her true sister heart;
How future hopes had always
Been for his sake alone;
And now,--what strange new feeling
Possessed her as its own?
Her home--each flower that breathed there,
The wind's sigh, soft and low,
Each trembling spray of ivy,
The river's murmuring flow,
The shadow of the forest,
Sunset, or twilight dim -
Dear as they were, were dearer
By leaving them for him.
And each year as it found her
In the dull, feverish town,
Saw self still more forgotten,
And selfish care kept down
By the calm joy of evening
That brought him to her side,
To warn him with wise counsel,
Or praise with tender pride.
Her heart, her life, her future,
Her genius, only meant
Another thing to give him,
And be therewith content.
To-day, what words had stirred her,
Her soul could not forget?
What dream had filled her spirit
With strange and wild regret?
To leave him for another, -
Could it indeed be so?
Could it have cost such anguish
To bid this vision go?
Was this her faith? Was Herbert
The second in her heart?
Did it need all this struggle
To bid a dream depart?
And yet, within her spirit
A far-off land was seen,
A home, which might have held her,
A love, which might have been.
And Life--not the mere being
Of daily ebb and flow,
But Life itself had claimed her,
And she had let it go!
Within her heart there echoed
Again the well-known tone
That promised this bright future,
And asked her for her own:
Then words of sorrow, broken
By half-reproachful pain;
And then a farewell spoken
In words of cold disdain.
Where now was the stern purpose
That nerved her soul so long?
Whence came the words she uttered,
So hard, so cold, so strong?
What right had she to banish
A hope that God had given?
Why must she choose earth's portion,
And turn aside from Heaven?
To-day! Was it this morning?
If this long, fearful strife
Was but the work of hours,
What would be years of life?
Why did a cruel Heaven
For such great suffering call?
And why--Oh, still more cruel! -
Must her own words do all?
Did she repent? Oh Sorrow!
Why do we linger still
To take thy loving message,
And do thy gentle will?
See, her tears fall more slowly,
The passionate murmurs cease,
And back upon her spirit
Flow strength, and love, and peace.
The fire burns more brightly,
The rain has passed away,
Herbert will see no shadow
Upon his home to-day;
Only that Alice greets him
With doubly tender care,
Kissing a fonder blessing
Down on his golden hair.
The studio is deserted,
Palette and brush laid by,
The sketch rests on the easel,
The paint is scarcely dry;
And Silence--who seems always
Within her depths to bear
The next sound that will utter -
Now holds a dumb despair.
So Alice feels it: listening
With breathless, stony fear,
Waiting the dreadful summons
Each minute brings more near:
When the young life, now ebbing,
Shall fail, and pass away
Into that mighty shadow
Who shrouds the house to-day.
But why--when the sick chamber
Is on the upper floor -
Why dares not Alice enter
Within the close--shut door?
If he--her all--her Brother,
Lies dying in that gloom,
What strange mysterious power
Has sent her from the room?
It is not one week's anguish
That can have changed her so;
Joy has not died here lately,
Struck down by one quick blow;
But cruel months have needed
Their long relentless chain,
To teach that shrinking manner
Of helpless, hopeless pain.
The struggle was scarce over
Last Christmas Eve had brought:
The fibres still were quivering
Of the one wounded thought,
When Herbert--who, unconscious,
Had guessed no inward strife -
Bade her, in pride and pleasure,
Welcome his fair young wife.
Bade her rejoice, and smiling,
Although his eyes were dim,
Thanked God he thus could pay her
The care she gave to him.
This fresh bright life would bring her
A new and joyous fate -
Oh, Alice, check the murmur
That cries, "Too late! too late!"
Too late! Could she have known it
A few short weeks before,
That his life was completed,
And needing hers no more,
She might--Oh sad repining!
What "might have been," forget;
"It was not," should suffice us
To stifle vain regret.
He needed her no longer,
Each day it grew more plain;
First with a startled wonder,
Then with a wondering pain.
Love: why, his wife best gave it;
Comfort: durst Alice speak,
Or counsel, when resentment
Flushed on the young wife's cheek?
No more long talks by firelight
Of childish times long past,
And dreams of future greatness
Which he must reach at last;
Dreams, where her purer instinct
With truth unerring told,
Where was the worthless gilding,
And where refined gold.
Slowly, but surely ever,
Dora's poor jealous pride,
Which she called love for Herbert,
Drove Alice from his side;
And, spite of nervous effort
To share their altered life,
She felt a check to Herbert,
A burden to his wife.
This was the least; for Alice
Feared, dreaded, KNEW at length
How much his nature owed her
Of truth, and power, and strength;
And watched the daily failing
Of all his nobler part:
Low aims, weak purpose, telling
In lower, weaker art.
And now, when he is dying,
The last words she could hear
Must not be hers, but given
The bride of one short year.
The last care is another's;
The last prayer must not be
The one they learnt together
Beside their mother's knee.
Summoned at last: she kisses
The clay-cold stiffening hand;
And, reading pleading efforts
To make her understand,
Answers, with solemn promise,
In clear but trembling tone,
To Dora's life henceforward
She will devote her own.
Now all is over. Alice
Dares not remain to weep,
But soothes the frightened Dora
Into a sobbing sleep.
The poor weak child will need her: . . .
Oh, who can dare complain,
When God sends a new Duty
To comfort each new Pain!
The House is all deserted,
In the dim evening gloom,
Only one figure passes
Slowly from room to room;
And, pausing at each doorway,
Seems gathering up again
Within her heart the relics
Of bygone joy and pain.
There is an earnest longing
In those who onward gaze,
Looking with weary patience
Towards the coming days.
There is a deeper longing,
More sad, more strong, more keen:
Those know it who look backward,
And yearn for what has been.
At every hearth she pauses,
Touches each well-known chair;
Gazes from every window,
Lingers on every stair.
What have these months brought Alice
Now one more year is past?
This Christmas Eve shall tell us,
The third one and the last.
The wilful, wayward Dora,
In those first weeks of grief,
Could seek and find in Alice
Strength, soothing, and relief;
And Alice--last sad comfort
True woman-heart can take -
Had something still to suffer
And bear for Herbert's sake.
Spring, with her western breezes,
From Indian islands bore
To Alice news that Leonard
Would seek his home once more.
What was it--joy, or sorrow?
What were they--hopes, or fears?
That flushed her cheeks with crimson,
And filled her eyes with tears?
He came. And who so kindly
Could ask and hear her tell
Herbert's last hours; for Leonard
Had known and loved him well.
Daily he came; and Alice,
Poor weary heart, at length,
Weighed down by others' weakness,
Could lean upon his strength.
Yet not the voice of Leonard
Could her true care beguile,
That turned to watch, rejoicing
Dora's reviving smile.
So, from that little household
The worst gloom passed away,
The one bright hour of evening
Lit up the livelong day.
Days passed. The golden summer
In sudden heat bore down
Its blue, bright, glowing sweetness
Upon the scorching town.
And sighs and sounds of country
Came in the warm soft tune
Sung by the honeyed breezes
Borne on the wings of June.
One twilight hour, but earlier
Than usual, Alice thought
She knew the fresh sweet fragrance
Of flowers that Leonard brought;
Through opened doors and windows
It stole up through the gloom,
And with appealing sweetness
Drew Alice from her room.
Yes, he was there; and pausing
Just near the opened door,
To check her heart's quick beating,
She heard--and paused still more -
His low voice--Dora's answers -
His pleading--Yes, she knew
The tone--the words--the accents:
She once had heard them too.
"Would Alice blame her?" Leonard's
Low, tender answer came; -
"Alice was far too noble
To think or dream of blame."
"And was he sure he loved her?"
"Yes, with the one love given
Once in a lifetime only,
With one soul and one heaven!"
Then came a plaintive murmur, -
"Dora had once been told
That he and Alice"--"Dearest,
Alice is far too cold
To love; and I, my Dora,
If once I fancied so,
It was a brief delusion,
And over,--long ago."
Between the Past and Present,
On that bleak moment's height,
She stood. As some lost traveller
By a quick flash of light
Seeing a gulf before him,
With dizzy, sick despair,
Reels backward, but to find it
A deeper chasm there.
The twilight grew still darker,
The fragrant flowers more sweet,
The stars shone out in heaven,
The lamps gleamed down the street;
And hours passed in dreaming
Over their new-found fate,
Ere they could think of wondering
Why Alice was so late.
She came, and calmly listened;
In vain they strove to trace
If Herbert's memory shadowed
In grief upon her face.
No blame, no wonder showed there,
No feeling could be told;
Her voice was not less steady,
Her manner not more cold.
They could not hear the anguish
That broke in words of pain
Through the calm summer midnight, -
"My Herbert--mine again!"
Yes, they have once been parted,
But this day shall restore
The long lost one: she claims him:
"My Herbert--mine once more!"
Now Christmas Eve returning,
Saw Alice stand beside
The altar, greeting Dora,
Again a smiling bride;
And now the gloomy evening
Sees Alice pale and worn,
Leaving the house for ever,
To wander out forlorn.
Forlorn--nay, not so. Anguish
Shall do its work at length;
Her soul, passed through the fire,
Shall gain still purer strength.
Somewhere there waits for Alice
An earnest noble part;
And, meanwhile God is with her, -
God, and her own true heart!
VERSE: THE WIND
The wind went forth o'er land and sea
Loud and free;
Foaming waves leapt up to meet it,
Stately pines bowed down to greet it;
While the wailing sea
And the forest's murmured sigh
Joined the cry
Of the wind that swept o'er land and sea.
The wind that blew upon the sea
Fierce and free,
Cast the bark upon the shore,
Whence it sailed the night before
Full of hope and glee;
And the cry of pain and death
Was but a breath,
Through the wind that roared upon the sea.
The wind was whispering on the lea
But the white rose felt it pass,
And the fragile stalks of grass
Shook with fear to see
All her trembling petals shed,
As it fled,
So gently by,--the wind upon the lea.
Blow, thou wind, upon the sea
Fierce and free,
And a gentler message send,
Where frail flowers and grasses bend,
On the sunny lea;
For thy bidding still is one,
Be it done
In tenderness or wrath, on land or sea!
The King's three daughters stood on the terrace,
The hanging terrace, so broad and green,
Which keeps the sea from the marble Palace,
There was Princess May, and Princess Alice,
And the youngest Princess, Gwendoline.
Sighed Princess May, "Will it last much longer,
Time throbs so slow and my Heart so quick;
And oh, how long is the day in dying;
Weary am I of waiting and sighing,
For Hope deferred makes the spirit sick."
But Princess Gwendoline smiled and kissed her:-
"Am I not sadder than you, my Sister?
Expecting joy is a happy pain.
The Future's fathomless mine of treasures,
All countless hordes of possible pleasures,
Might bring their store to my feet in vain."
Sighed Princess Alice as night grew nearer:-
"So soon, so soon, is the daylight fled!
And oh, how fast comes the dark to-morrow,
Who hides, perhaps in her veil of sorrow,
The terrible hour I wait and dread!"
But Princess Gwendoline kissed her, sighing, -
"It is only Life that can fear dying;
Possible loss means possible gain.
Those who still dread, are not quite forsaken;
But not to fear, because all is taken,
Is the loneliest depth of human pain."
VERSE: AN IDEAL
While the grey mists of early dawn
Were lingering round the hill,
And the dew was still upon the flowers,
And the earth lay calm and still,
A winged Spirit came to me
Noble, and radiant, and free.
Folding his blue and shining wings,
He laid his hand on mine.
I know not if I felt, or heard
The mystic word divine,
Which woke the trembling air to sighs,
And shone from out his starry eyes.
The word he spoke, within my heart
Stirred life unknown before,
And cast a spell upon my soul
To chain it evermore;
Making the cold dull earth look bright,
And skies flame out in sapphire light.
When noon ruled from the heavens, and man
Through busy day toiled on,
My Spirit drooped his shining wings;
His radiant smile was gone;
His voice had ceased, his grace had flown,
His hand grew cold within my own.
Bitter, oh bitter tears, I wept,
Yet still I held his hand,
Hoping with vague unreasoning hope:
I would not understand
That this pale Spirit never more
Could be what he had been before.
Could it be so? My heart stood still.
Yet he was by my side.
I strove; but my despair was vain;
Vain, too, was love and pride.
Could he have changed to me so soon?
My day was only at its noon.
Now stars are rising one by one,
Through the dim evening air;
Near me a household Spirit waits,
With tender loving care;
He speaks and smiles, but never sings,
Long since he lost his shining wings.
With thankful, true content, I know
This is the better way;
Is not a faithful spirit mine -
Mine still--at close of day? . . .
Yet will my foolish heart repine
For that bright morning dream of mine.
VERSE: OUR DEAD
Nothing is our own: we hold our pleasures
Just a little while, ere they are fled: