Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Karen Dalrymple and PG Distributed
POEMS NEW AND OLD
Mr. Freeman's landscapes have an individuality which entitles him to his
own place as a poet of nature.... The appreciation of his lofty ardours,
his desolate landscapes and his strange, though beautiful, rhythms and
forms of verse, is not one which springs up instantly in the mind; but
once it has arisen it does not diminish.--_New Statesman_.
I think that whatever limitations our age and our poetry may have, Mr.
Freeman's poetry, and much else that is now being written, will find in
all succeeding generations readers to whom it will give companionship
and comfort.--Mr. J.C. Squire, in _Land and Water_.
This book must be read steadily through; quotation can reveal little of
its scope, its richness.... When a man, in poems that are clearly
fragments of autobiography, thus surrenders to the world the life of his
spirit, the beauty of what he writes is inseparable from its truth.
Truth endures, and a prophet would have a sad foreboding of posterity if
he did not believe that of this day's poets Mr. Freeman will not be
among the forgotten.--_Times Literary Supplement_.
This rarefied air is something to which the reader must adjust himself;
but he finds the process of adjustment made easy by a peculiar
fascination in the atmosphere which Mr. Freeman creates. If it is aloof
from ordinary experience, it is by so much the more individual; and in
it there are to be found thrills and feelings, an understanding of a
particular aspect of nature, which have not hitherto been reported in
POEMS NEW AND OLD
By John Freeman
Selwyn and Blount, Ltd.
21, York Buildings, Adelphi, W.C. 2
_ "----He still'd
All sounds in air; and left so free mine ears
That I might hear the music of the spheres,
And all the angels singing out of heaven,
Whose tunes were solemn, as to passion given."_
With the exception of two or three poems which have appeared in
newspapers, or in an anthology entitled _Twelve Poets_, the verses in
the first part of this volume have not hitherto been printed. The second
part contains _Memories of Childhood and Other Poems_, and the third
part retrieves many verses from _Presage of Victory_ (1916), _Stone
Trees_ (1916), _Fifty Poems_ (1911) and _Twenty Poems_ (1909).
Chronological order has not been carefully observed, or avoided, in the
arrangement of the third part, but the earlier pieces will easily be
distinguished by those who may wish to distinguish them.
The Evening Sky
Thy Hill Leave Not
I Will Ask
In Those Old Days
No More Adieu
The Song of the Forest
Out of the East
Memories of Childhood:
III.--The First House
IV.--The Other House
XI.--When Childhood Died
XII.--All that I was I am
I.--Dark and Strange
III.--Home for Love
V.--Against the Cold Pale Sky
VI.--The Dark Fire
XII.--The Dark Night of the Mind
The Tossing Mountains
Ten O'clock No More
From Wear to Thames
Time from his Grave
Fair and Brief
The Lime Tree
The Red House
Take Care, Take Care
The Second Flood
But Most Thy Light
In that Dark Silent Hour
Once There was Time
Scatter the Silver Ash like Snow
I have Never Loved You Yet
And These for You:
I.--Not With These Eyes
Lighting the Fire
Bring your Beauty
The Human Music
The Bright Rider
To the Heavenly Power
Beyond the Barn
Let Honour Speak
The Native Country
It was the Lovely Moon
The Silvery One
Ten O'clock and Four O'clock
The Weaver of Magic
The Darksome Nightingale
Under the Linden Branches
More than Sweet
The Holy Mountains
Walking at Eve
Vision and Echo
Some Hurt Thing
In the Lane
The Last Time
You that Were
"The Light that Never was on Sea or Land"
At Evening's Hush
Wisdom and a Mother
The Thrush Sings
To My Mother
O Hide Me in Thy Love
Prayer to my Lord
Earth to Earth
On a Piece of Silver
Who is it that Answers?
The Full Tide
The Night Watch
The Haunted Shadow
Alone and Cold
I heard a Voice upon the Window beat
Happy is England Now
The Stars in their Courses
Presage of Victory
From Piccadilly in August
Evening Beauty: Blackfriars
Sailing of the _Glory_
At the Dock
"The Men who loved the Cause that Never Dies"
THE EVENING SKY
Rose-bosom'd and rose-limb'd
With eyes of dazzling bright
Shakes Venus mid the twined boughs of the night;
From low bough to bough
Shaking the wide-hung starry fruitage--dimmed
Its bloom of snow
By that sole planetary glow.
Venus, avers the astronomer,
Not thus idly dancing goes
Flushing the eternal orchard with wild rose.
She through ether burns
Outpacing planetary earth,
And ere two years triumphantly returns,
And again wave-like swelling flows,
And again her flashing apparition comes and goes.
This we have not seen,
No heavenly courses set,
No flight unpausing through a void serene:
But when eve clears,
Arises Venus as she first uprose
Stepping the shaken boughs among,
And in her bosom glows
The warm light hidden in sunny snows.
She shakes the clustered stars
Lightly, as she goes
Amid the unseen branches of the night,
Rose-limb'd, rose-bosom'd bright.
She leaps: they shake and pale; she glows--
And who but knows
How the rejoiced heart aches
When Venus all his starry vision shakes;
When through his mind
Tossing with random airs of an unearthly wind,
The mistress of his starry vision arises,
And the boughs glittering sway
And the stars pale away,
And the enlarging heaven glows
As Venus light-foot mid the twined branches goes.
Hear me, O beeches! You
That have with ageless anguish slowly risen
From earth's still secret prison
Into the ampler prison of aery blue.
Your voice I hear, flowing the valleys through
After the wind that tramples from the west.
After the wind your boughs in new unrest
Shake, and your voice--one voice uniting voices
A thousand or a thousand thousand--flows
Like the wind's moody; glad when he rejoices
In swift-succeeding and diminishing blows,
And drooping when declines death's ardour in his breast;
Then over him exhausted weaving the soft fan-like noises
Of gentlest creaking stems and soothing leaves
Until he rest,
And silent too your easied bosom heaves.
That high and noble wind is rootless nor
From stable earth sucks nurture, but roams on
Childless as fatherless, wild, unconfined,
So that men say, "As homeless as the wind!"
Rising and falling and rising evermore
With years like ticks, aeons as centuries gone;
Only within impalpable ether bound
And blindly with the green globe spinning round.
He, noble wind,
Most ancient creature of imprisoned Time,
From high to low may fall, and low to high may climb,
Andean peak to deep-caved southern sea,
With lifted hand and voice of gathered sound,
And echoes in his tossing quiver bound
And loosed from height into immensity;
Yet of his freedom tires, remaining free.
--Moulding and remoulding imponderable cloud,
Uplifting skiey archipelagian isles
Sunnier than ocean's, blue seas and white isles
Aflush with blossom where late sunlight glowed;--
Still of his freedom tiring yet still free,
Homelessly roaming between sky, earth and sea.
But you, O beeches, even as men, have root
Deep in apparent and substantial things--
Earth, sun, air, water, and the chemic fruit
Wise Time of these has made. What laughing Springs
Your branches sprinkle young leaf-shadows o'er
That wanting the leaf-shadows were no Springs
Of seasonable sweet and freshness! nor
If Summer of your murmur gathered not
Increase of music as your leaves grow dense,
Might even kine and birds and general noise of wings
Of summer make full Summer, but the hot
Slow moons would pass and leave unsatisfied the sense.
Nor Autumn's waste were dear if your gold snow
Of leaves whirled not upon the gold below;
Nor Winter's snow were loveliness complete
Wanting the white drifts round your breasts and feet.
To hills how many has your tossed green given
Likeness of an inverted cloudy heaven;
How many English hills enlarge their pride
Of shape and solitude
By beechwoods darkening the steepest side!
I know a Mount--let there my longing brood
Again, as oft my eyes--a Mount I know
Where beeches stand arrested in the throe
Of that last onslaught when the gods swept low
Against the gods inhabiting the wood.
Gods into trees did pass and disappear,
Then closing, body and huge members heaved
With energy and agony and fear.
See how the thighs were strained, how tortured here.
See, limb from limb sprung, pain too sore to bear.
Eyes once looked from those sockets that no eyes
Have worn since--oh, with what desperate surprise!
These arms, uplifted still, were raised in vain
Against alien triumph and the inward pain.
Unlock your arms, and be no more distressed,
Let the wind glide over you easily again.
It is a dream you fight, a memory
Of battle lost. And how should dreaming be
Still a renewed agony?
But O, when that wind comes up out of the west
New-winged with Autumn from the distant sea
And springs upon you, how should not dreaming be
A remembered and renewing agony?
Then are your breasts, O unleaved beeches, again
Torn, and your thighs and arms with the old strain
Stretched past endurance; and your groans I hear
Low bent beneath the hoofs by that fierce charioteer
Driven clashing over; till even dreaming is
Less of a present agony than this.
Fall gentler sleep upon you now, while soft
Airs circle swallow-like from hedge to croft
Below your lowest naked-rooted troop.
Let evening slowly droop
Into the middle of your boughs and stoop
Quiet breathing down to your scarce-quivering side
And rest there satisfied.
Yet sleep herself may wake
And through your heavy unlit dome, O Mount of beeches, shake.
Then shall your massy columns yield
Again the company all day concealed....
Is it their shapes that sweep
Serene within the ambit of the Moon
Sentinel'd by shades slow-marching with moss-footed hours that creep
From dusk of night to dusk of day--slow-marching, yet too soon
Approaching morn? Are these their grave
... Already your full-foliaged branches wave,
And the thin failing hosts
Into your secrecies are swift withdrawn
Before the certain footsteps of the dawn.
But you, O beeches, even as men have root
Deep in apparent and substantial things.
Birds on your branches leap and shake their wings,
Long ere night falls the soft owl loosens her slow hoot
From the unfathomed fountains of your gloom.
Late western sunbeams on your broad trunks bloom,
Levelled from the low opposing hill, and fold
Your inmost conclave with a burning gold.
... Than those night-ghosts awhile more solid, men
Pass within your sharp shade that makes an arctic night
Of common light,
And pause, swift measuring tree by tree; and then
Paint their vivid mark,
Ciphering fatality on each unwrinkled bark
Across the sunken stain
That every season's gathered streaming rain
Has deepened to a darker grain.
You of this fatal sign unconscious lift
Your branches still, each tree her lofty tent;
Still light and twilight drift
Between, and lie in wan pools silver sprent.
But comes a day, a step, a voice, and now
The repeated stroke, the noosed and tethered bough,
The sundered trunk upon the enormous wain
Bound kinglike with chain over chain,
New wounded and exposed with each old stain.
And here small pools of doubtful light are lakes
Shadowless and no more that rude bough-music wakes.
So on men too the indifferent woodman, Time,
Servant of unseen Master, nearing sets
His unread symbol--or who reads forgets;
And suns and seasons fall and climb,
Leaves fall, snows fall, Spring flutters after Spring,
A generation a generation begets.
But comes a day--though dearly the tough roots cling
To common earth, branches with branches sing--
And that obscure sign's read, or swift misread,
By the indifferent woodman or his slave
Disease, night-wandered from a fever-dripping cave.
No chain's then needed for no fearful king,
But light earth-fall on foot and hand and head.
Now thick as stars leaves shake within the dome
Of faintly-glinting dusking monochrome;
And stars thick hung as leaves shake unseen in the round
Of darkening blue: the heavenly branches wave without a sound,
Only betrayed by fine vibration of thin air.
Gleam now the nearer stars and ghosts of farther stars that bare,
Trembling and gradual, brightness everywhere....
When leaves fall wildly and your beechen dome is thinned,
Showered glittering down under the sudden wind;
And when you, crowded stars, are shaken from your tree
In time's late season stripped, and each bough nakedly
Rocks in those gleamless shallows of infinity;
When star-fall follows leaf-fall, will long Winter pass away
And new stars as new leaves dance through their hasty May?
--But as a leaf falls so falls weightless thought
Eddying, and with a myriad dead leaves lies
Bewildered, or in a little air awhile is caught
Idly, then drops and dies.
Look at the stars, the stars! But in this wood
All I can understand is understood.
Gentler than stars your beeches speak; I hear
Syllables more simple and intimately clear
To earth-taught sense, than the heaven-singing word
Of that intemperate wisdom which the sky
Shakes down upon each unregarding century,
There lying like snow unstirred,
Unmelting, on the loftiest peak
Above our human and green valley ways.
Lowlier and friendlier your beechen branches speak
To men of mortal days
With hearts too fond, too weak
For solitude or converse with that starry race.
Their shaken lights,
Their lonely splendours and uncomprehended
Dream-distance and long circlings 'mid the heights
And deeps remotely neighboured and attended
By spheres that spill their fire through these estranging nights:--
Ah, were they less dismaying, or less splendid!
But as one deaf and mute sees the lips shape
And quiver as men talk, or marks the throat
Of rising song that he can never hear,
Though in the singer's eyes her joy may dimly peer,
And song and word his hopeless sense escape--
Sweet common word and lifted heavenly note--
So, beneath that bright rain,
While stars rise, soar and stoop,
Dazzled and dismayed I look and droop
And, blinded, look again.
"Return, return!" O beeches sing you then.
I like a tree wave all my thoughts with you,
As your boughs wave to other tossed boughs when
First in the windy east the dawn looks through
Night's soon-dissolving bars.
Return, return? But I have never strayed:
Hush, thoughts, that for a moment played
In that enchanted forest of the stars
Where the mind grows numb.
Back, thoughts, from heights that freeze and deeps that burn,
Where sight fails and song's dumb.
And as, after long absence, a child stands
In each familiar room
And with fond hands
Touches the table, casement, bed,
Anon each sleeping, half-forgotten toy;
So I to your sharp light and friendly gloom
Returning, with first pale leaves round me shed,
Recover the old joy
Since here the long-acquainted hill-path lies,
Steeps I have clambered up, and spaces where
The Mount opens her bosom to the air
And all around gigantic beeches rise.
THY HILL LEAVE NOT
Thy hill leave not, O Spring,
Nor longer leap down to the new-green'd Plain.
Thy western cliff-caves keep
O Wind, nor branch-borne Echo after thee complain
With grumbling wild and deep.
Let Blossom cling
Sudden and frozen round the eyes of trees,
Nor fall, nor fall.
Be still each Wing,
Hushed each call.
So was it ordered, so
Hung all things silent, still;
Only Time earless moved on, stepping slow
Up the scarped hill,
And even Time in a long twilight stayed
And, for a whim, that whispered whim obeyed.
There was no breath, no sigh,
No wind lost in the sky
Roamed the horizon round.
The harsh dead leaf slept noiseless on the ground,
By unseen mouse nor insect stirred
Nor beak of hungry bird.
Then were voices heard
Mingling as though each
Earth and grass had individual speech.
--Has evening fallen so soon,
And yet no Moon?
--No, but hark: so still
Was never the Spring's voice adown the hill!
I do not feel her waters tapping upon
The culvert's under stone.
--And if 'tis not yet night a thrush should sing.
--Or if 'tis night the owl should his far echo bring
Near, near.--And I
Should know the hour by his long-shaking distant cry.
--But how should echo be? The air is dead,
No song, no wing,
--No footfall overhead
Of beast,--Or labourer passing, and no sound
Of labourer's Good-night, good-night, good-night!
--That we, here underground,
Take to ourselves and breathe unheard Good-night!
--O, it is lonely now with not one sound
Neath that arched profound,
--No throttled note
Sweet over us to float,
--No shadow treading light
Of man, beast, bird.
--If, earth in dumb earth, lie we here unstirred,
--Why, brother, it were death renewed again
If sun nor rain,
--O death undying, if no dear human touch nor sound
Fall on us underground!
Like the tide--knocking at the hollowed cliff
And running into each green cave as if
In the cave's night to keep
Eternal motion grave and deep;--
That, even while each broken wave repeats
Its answered knocking and with bruised hand beats
Again, again, again,
Tossed between ecstasy and pain;
Still in the folded hollow darkness swells,
Sinks, swells, and every green-hung hollow fills,
Till there's no room for sound
Save that old anger rolled around;
So into every hollow cliff of life,
Into this heart's deep cave so loud with strife,
In tunnels I knew not,
In lightless labyrinths of thought,
The unresting tide has run and the dark filled,
Even the vibration of old strife is stilled;
The wave returning bears
Muted those time-breathing airs.
--How shall the million-footed tide still tread
These hollows and in each cold void cave spread?
How shall Love here keep
Eternal motion grave and deep?
I WILL ASK
I will ask primrose and violet to spend for you
Their smell and hue,
And the bold, trembling anemone awhile to spare
Her flowers starry fair;
Or the flushed wild apple and yet sweeter thorn
Their sweetness to keep
Longer than any fire-bosomed flower born
Between midnight and midnight deep.
And I will take celandine, nettle and parsley, white
In its own green light,
Or milkwort and sorrel, thyme, harebell and meadowsweet
Lifting at your feet,
And ivy blossom beloved of soft bees; I will take
The seeding grasses that bend with the winds, and shake
Though the winds are at rest.
"For me?" you will ask. "Yes! surely they wave for you
Their smell and hue,
And you away all that is rare were so much less
By your missed happiness."
Yet I know grass and weed, ivy and apple and thorn
Their whole sweet would keep
Though in Eden no human spirit on a shining morn
Had awaked from sleep.
IN THOSE OLD DAYS
In those old days you were called beautiful,
But I have worn the beauty from your face;
The flowerlike bloom has withered on your cheek
With the harsh years, and the fire in your eyes
Burns darker now and deeper, feeding on
Beauty and the remembrance of things gone.
Even your voice is altered when you speak,
Or is grown mute with old anxiety
Even as a fire leaps into flame and burns
Leaping and laughing in its lovely flight,
And then under the flame a glowing dome
Deepens slowly into blood-like light:--
So did you flame and in flame take delight,
So are you hollow'd now with aching fire.
But I still warm me and make there my home,
Still beauty and youth burn there invisibly
Now my lips falling on your silver'd skull,
My fingers in the valleys of your cheeks,
Or my hands in your thin strong hands fast caught,
Your body clutched to mine, mine bent to yours:
Now love undying feeds on love beautiful,
Now, now I am but thought kissing your thought ...
--And can it be in your heart's music speaks
A deeper rhythm hearing mine: can it be
Indeed for me?
The undecaying yew has shed his flowers
Long since in golden showers.
The elm has robed her height
In green, and hangs maternal o'er the bright
Starred meadows, and her full-contented breast
Lifts and sinks to rest.
Shades drowsing in the grass
Beneath the hedge move but as the hours pass.
Beech, oak and beam have all put beauty on
In the eye of the sun.
Because the hawthorn's sweet
All the earth is sweet and the air, and the wind's feet.
In the wood's green hollows the earth is sweet and wet,
For scarce one shaft may get
The sudden green between:
Only that warm sweet creeps between the green;
Or in the clearing the bluebells lifting high
Make another azure sky.
All's leaf and flower except
The sluggish ash that all night long has slept,
And all the morning of this lingering spring.
Every tree else may sing,
Every bough laugh and shake;
But the ash like an old man does not wake
Even though draws near the season's poise and noon
Of heavy-poppied swoon ...
Still the ash is asleep,
Or from his lower upraised palms now creep
First green leaves, promising that even those gaunt
Tossed boughs shall be the haunt
Of Autumn starlings shrill
Mid his full-leaved high branches never still.
If to any tree,
'Tis to the ash that I might likened be--
Masculine, unamenable, delaying,
With palms uplifted praying
For another life and Spring
Yet unforeshadowed; but content to swing
Stiff branches chill and bare
In this fine-quivering air
That others' love makes sweetness everywhere.
To make a fairer,
A kinder, a more constant world than this;
To make time longer
And love a little stronger,
To give to blossoms
And trees and fruits more beauty than they bear,
Adding to sweetness
The aye-wanted completeness,
To say to sorrow,
"Ease now thy bosom of its snaky burden";
(And sorrow brightened,
No more stung and frightened),
To cry to death,
"Stay a little, O proud Shade, thy stony hand";
(And death removing
Left us amazed loving);--
For this and this,
O inward Spirit, arm thyself with power;
Be it thy duty
To give a body to beauty.
Thine to remake
The world in thy hid likeness, and renew
The fading vision
In spite of time's derision.
Be it thine, O spirit,
The world of sense and thought to exalt with light;
Purge away blindness,
Terror and all unkindness.
From within, on the confused grey world without
That, growing clearer,
Grows spiritual and dearer.
NO MORE ADIEU
Unconscious on thy lap I lay,
A spiritual thing,
Stirless until the yet unlooked-for day
Of human birth
Should call me from thy starry twilight, Earth.
And did thy bosom rock and clear voice sing?
I know not--now no more a spiritual thing.
Nor then thy breathed Adieu
I rightly knew.
--Until those human kind arms caught
And nursed my head
Upon her breast who from the twilight brought
This stranger me.
Mother, it were yet happiness to be
Within your arms; but now that you are dead
Your memory sleeps in mine; so mine is comforted,
Though I breathed dear Adieu
Unheard by you.
And I have gathered to my breast
Wife, mistress, child,
Affections insecure but tenderest
Of all that clutch
Man's heart with their "Too little!" and "Too much!"
O, what anxieties, what passions wild
Bind and unbind me, what storms never to be stilled
Until Adieu, Adieu
Breathe the night through.
O, when all last farewells are said
To these most dear;
O, when within my purged heart peace is shed;
When these old sweet
Humanities move out on hushing feet,
And all is hush; then in that silence clear
Who is it comes again--near and near and near,
Even while the sighed Adieu
Fades the hush through?
O, is it on thy breast I fall,
A spiritual thing
Once more, and hear with ear insensual
The voice of primal Earth
Breathed gently as on Eden faint airs forth;
And so contented to thy bosom cling,
Though all those loves are gone nor faithful echoes ring,
Nor fond Adieu, Adieu
My parted spirit pursue?
--So hidden in green darkness deep,
Feel when I wake
The tides of night and day upon thee sweep,
And know thy forehead bared before the East,
And hear thy forests hushing in the West
And in thy bosom, Earth, the slow heart shake:
But hear no more the infinite forest murmurs break
Into Adieu, Adieu,
No more Adieu!
I reached the cottage. I knew it from the card
He had given me--the low door heavily barred,
Steep roof, and two yews whispering on guard.
Dusk thickened as I came, but I could smell
First red wallflower and an early hyacinth bell,
And see dim primroses. "O, I can tell,"
I thought, "they love the flowers he loved." The rain
Shook from fruit bushes in new showers again
As I brushed past, and gemmed the window pane.
Bare was the window yet, and the lamp bright.
I saw them sitting there, streamed with the light
That overflowed upon the enclosing night.
"Poor things, I wonder why they've lit up so,"
A voice said, passing on the road below.
"Who are they?" asked another. "Don't you know?"
Their voices crept away. I heard no more
As I crossed the garden and knocked at the door.
I waited, then knocked louder than before,
And thrice, and still in vain. So on the grass
I stepped, and tap-tapped on the rainy glass.
Then did a girl without turning towards me pass
From the room. I heard the heavy barred door creak,
And a voice entreating from the doorway speak,
"Will you come this way?"--a voice childlike and quick.
The way was dark. I followed her white frock,
Past the now-chiming, sweet-tongued unseen clock,
Into the room. One figure like a rock
Draped in an unstarred night--his mother--bowed
Unrising and unspeaking. His aunt stood
And took my hand, murmuring, "So good, so good!"
Never such quiet people had I known.
Voices they scarcely needed, they had grown
To talk less by the word than muted tone.
"We'll soon have tea," the girl said. "Please sit here."
She pushed a heavy low deep-seated chair
I knew at once was his; and I sat there.
I could not look at them. It seemed I made
Noise in that quietness. I was afraid
To look or speak until the aunt's voice said,
"You were his friend." And that "You were!" awoke
My sense, and nervousness found voice and spoke
Of what he had been, until a bullet broke
A too-brief friendship. The rock-like mother kept
Night still around her. The aunt silently wept,
And the girl into the screen's low shadow stept.
"You were great friends," said with calm voice the mother.
I answered, "Never friend had such another."
Then the girl's lips, "Nor sister such a brother."
Her words were like a sounding pebble cast
Into a hollow silence; but at last
She moved and bending to my low chair passed
Swift leaf-like fingers o'er my face and said,
"You are not like him." And as she turned her head
Into full light beneath the lamp's green shade
I saw the sunken spaces of her eyes.
Then her face listening to my dumb surprise.
"Forgive," she said, "a blind girl's liberties."
"You were his friend; I wanted so to see
The friends my brother had. Now let's have tea."
She poured, and passed a cup and cakes to me.
"These are my cakes," she smiled; and as I ate
She talked, and to the others cup and plate
Passed as they in their shadow and silence sat.
"Thanks, we are used to each other," she said when I
Rose in the awkwardness of seeing, shy
Of helping and of watching helplessly.
And from the manner of their hands 'twas clear
They too were blind; but I knew they could hear
My pitiful thoughts as I sat aching there.
... I needs must talk, until the girl was gone
A while out of the room. The lamp shone on,
But the true light out of the room was gone.
"Rose loved him so!" her mother said, and sighed.
"He was our eyes, he was our joy and pride,
And all that's left is but to say he died."
She ceased as Rose returned. Then as before
We talked and paused until, "Tell me once more,
What was it he said?" And I told her once more.
She listened: in her face was pride and pain
As in her mind's eye near he stood and plain....
Then the thin leaves fell on my cheek again
And on my hands. "He must have loved you well,"
She whispered, as her hands from my hands fell.
Silence flowed back with thoughts unspeakable.
It was a painful thing to leave them there
Within the useless light and stirless air.
"Let me show you the way. Mind, there's a stair
"Here, then another stair ten paces on....
Isn't there a moon? Good-bye."
And she was gone.
Full moon upon the drenched fruit garden shone.
They talked of old campaigns, nineteen-fourteen
And Mons and watery Yser, nineteen-fifteen
And Neuve Chapelle, 'sixteen, 'seventeen, 'eighteen
And after. And they grumbled, leaving home,
Then talked of nineteen-nineteen, nineteen-twenty
Their thoughts wandered, leaving home
Among familiar places and known years;
Anticipating in the river, of time
Rocks, rapids, shallows, idle glazing pools
Mirroring their dark dreams of heaven and earth.
--And then they parted, one to Chatham, one
To Africa, Constantinople one,
One to Cologne; and all to an unknown year,
Nineteen-nineteen perhaps, or another year.
THE SONG OF THE FOREST
_(11th November, 1918)_
To Thee, Most Holy, Most Obscure, light-hidden,
Shedding light in the darkness of the mind
As gold beams wake the air to birds a-wing;
To Thee, if men were trees, would forests bow
In all our land, as under a new wind;
To Thee, if trees were men, would forests sing
Lifting autumnal crowns and bending low,
Rising and falling again as inly chidden,
Singing and hushing again as inly bidden.
To Thee, Most Holy, men being men upraise
Bright eyes and waving hands of unarticulating praise.
To Thee, Most Holy, Most Obscure, who pourest
Thy darkness into each wild-heaving human forest,
While some say, "'Tis so dark God cannot live,"
And some, "It is so dark He never was,"
And few, "I hear the forest branches give
Assured signs His wind-like footsteps pass;"
To Thee, now that long darkness is enlightened,
Lift men their hearts, shaking the death-chill dews.
Even sad eyes with morning light are brightened,
And in this spiritual Easter's lovely hues
Are no more with death's arctic shadow frightened.
Here in this morning twilight gleaming pure
Mid the high forest boughs and making clear
The motion the night-wakeful brain had guessed;
Here in this peace that wonders, Is it Peace?
And sighs its satisfaction on the shivering air;
Here, O Most Holy, here, O bright Obscure,
Every deep root within the earth's quick breast
Knows that the long night's ended and sore agitations cease,
And every leaf of every human tree
In England's forest stirs and sings, Light Giver, now to Thee.
I cannot syllable that unworded praise--
An ashen sapling bending in Thy wind,
Uplifting in Thy light new-budded leaves;
Nor for myself nor any other raise
My boughs in music, though the woodland heaves--
O with what ease of pain at length resigned,
What hope to the old inheritance restored!
Thy praise it is that men at last are glad.
Long unaccustomed brightness in their eyes
Needs must seem beautiful in thine, bright Lord,
And to forget the part that sorrow had
In every shadowed breast, where still it lies,
Is there not praise in such forgetfulness?
For to grieve less means not that love is less.
--Nor for myself nor any other. Yet
I cannot but remember all that passed
Since justice shook these bosoms, and the fret
Of indignation stirred them and they cast
Forgot aside all lesser wrongs, and rose
Against the spiritual evil of that threat
That made them of dishonour slaves or foes.
And who may but with pride remember how
Not by ten righteous justice might be saved,
But by unsaintly millions moving all
As the tide moves when myriad tossed waves flow
One way, and on the crumbling bastions fall;
Then sinking backwards unopposed and slow
Over the ruined towers where those vain angers raved.
Creep tarnished gilded figures to their holes
Who once walked like great men upon the earth
Flickering their false shadows. Fear, like a hound,
Hunts them, and there's a death in every sound;
And had they souls sorrow would prick their souls
At every heavy sigh the wind waved forth.
... Into their holes they've crept, and they will die.
Of them no more and never any more.
Their leper-gilt is gone, and they will lie
Poisoning a little earth and nothing more.
--That justice has been saved and wrong been slain,
That the slow fever-darkness ends in day,
Nor madness shakes the pillared world again
With the same blind proud fury; that in vain
Whispers the Tempter now, "So pass away
Strength, honesty and hope, and nothing left but pain!"
That the many-voiced confusion of the night
Clears in the winging of a spirit bright
With new-recovered joy;--for this, O Light,
Light Giver, Night Dispeller, praise should be.
But praise is dumb from burning hearts to Thee.
But as a forest bending in the wind
Murmurs in all its boughs after the wind,
Sounds uninterpreted and untaught airs;
So now when Thy wind over England stirs,
The proud and untranslating sounds of praise
Mingle tumultuous over our human ways;
And magnifying echoes of Thy wind
Rouse in the profoundest forests of the mind.
And in the secret thicket where Thy light
Is dimmed with starry shining of the night,
Hearing these mingled airs from every wood
Thou'lt smile serenely down, murmuring, "'Tis good."
While Angels in the thicket borders curled
Amid the farthest gold beams of Thy hair,
Seeing on one drooped beam this distant world
Floating illumined, cry, "Bright Lord, how fair!"
OUT OF THE EAST
When man first walked upright and soberly
Reflecting as he paced to and fro,
And no more swinging from wide tree to tree,
Or sheltered by vast boles from sheltered foe,
Or crouched within some deep cave by the sea
Stared at the noisy waste of water's woe
Where the earth ended, and far lightning died
Splintered upon the rigid tideless tide;
When man above Time's cloud lifted his head
And speech knew, and the company of speech,
And from his alien presence wild beasts fled
And birds flew wary from his arrow's reach,
And cattle trampling the long meadow weed
Did sentry in the wind's path set; when each
Horn, hoof, claw, sting and sinew against man
Was turned, and the old enmity began;
When, following, beneath the hand of kings
Moved men their parting ways, and some passed on
To forest refuge, some by dark-browed springs,
And some to high remoter pastures won,
And some o'er yellow deserts spread their wings,
Thinning with time and thirst and so were gone
Forgotten; when between each wandered host
The seldom travellers faltered and were lost;--
In those old days, upon the soft dew'd sward
That held its green between the thicket's cloud,
Walked two men musing ere the wide moon poured
Her full-girthed weightless flood. And one was bowed
With years past knowledge, and his face was scored
Where light or deep had every long year ploughed--
Pain, labour, present peril, distant dread
Scored in his brow and bending his shagged head.
Palsy his frame shook as a harsh wind shakes
Complaining reeds fringing a frozen river;
His eye the aspect had of frozen lakes
Whereunder the foiled waters swirl and quiver;
His voice the deep note that the north wind takes
Drawn through bare beechwoods where forlorn birds shiver--
Deep and unfaltering. A younger man
Listened, while warmer currents in him ran.
"Was not my son even as myself to me,
As you to him showed his own life again?
Now he is dead, and all I looked to see
In him removes to you--less near and plain,
Confused with other blood; and what will be
I groping cannot tell, and grope in vain.
For men have turned to other ways than mine:
Yourself are less fulfilment than a sign,
"Sign of a changing world. And change I fear.
I have seen old and young like brief gnats die,
And have faced death by plague and flood and spear:
I have seen mine own familiar people lie
In generations reaped; and near and near
Age leads on Death--I hear his husky sigh.
Yet Death I fear not, but these clouds of change
Sweeping the old firm world with new and strange.
"Son of my son, to whom the world shines new,
You are strange to me for whom the world is old.
Your thoughts are not my thoughts, and unto you
The past, sole warmth for me, is void and cold.
Another passion pours your spirit through,
Another faith has leapt upon the fold
And wrestles with the ancient faith. 'And lo!'
Lightly men say, 'Even the gods come and go!'"
He paused awhile in pacing and hung still,
Amid the thickening shades a darker shade.
Down the steep valley from the barren hill
A herd of deer with antlered leader made
Brief apparition. Mist brimmed up until
Only the great round heights yet solid stayed--
Then they too changed to spectral, and upon
The changing mist wavered, and were gone....
"Standing to-day your father's grave beside,
I knew my heart with his was covered there;
O, more than flesh did in the cold earth hide--
My past, his promise. There was none to care
Save for the body of a prince that died
As princes die; there was none whispered, 'Where
Moves now among us his unburied part?
What breast beats with the pulses of his heart?'
"--Vain thoughts are these that but a dying man
Searches among the dark caves of his mind!
But as I stood, the very wind that ran
Between the files breathed more than common wind,
As though the gods of men when Time began,
Fathers of fathers of old humankind,
Startled, heard now the changeful future knock;
And their lament it was from rock to rock
"Tossed with the wind's long echo ... O, speak not,
Nor tell me with my loss I am so dazed,
That my tongue speaks unfaithfully my thought;
That you, you too, within his shadow raised,
Stand bare now, wanting all you held or thought,
By aimless love or prisoned grief amazed.
Tell me not: let me out of silence speak,
Or let me still my thoughts in silence break."
And so both stood, and not a word to say,
By silence overborne, until at last
The young man breathed, "Look how the end of day
Falls heavily, as though the earth were cast
Into a shapeless soundless pit, where ray
Of heavenly light never the verge has past.
Yet will the late moon's light anon shine here,
And then gray light, and then the sun's light clear.
"Sire, 'twas my father died, and like night's pit
Soundless and shapeless yawn my orphaned years.
And yet I know morn comes and brings with it
Old tasks again, and new joys, hopes and fears.
Or sword or plough these fingers will find fit,
And morrows end with other cries and tears,
With women's arms and children's voices and
The sacred gods blessing the new-sown land.
"But look, upon your beard the dew is bright,
Chill is the winter fall: let us go in."
Then moved they slowly downward till a light
Shining the door-post and thonged door between
Showed the square Prince's House. Out of the night
They passed the sudden rubied warmth within.
Curled shadowy by the wall a servant slept:
A sleepy hound from the same corner crept.
Soon were they couched. The young man fell asleep;
While the old Prince drowsing uneasily,
Tossing on the crest of agitations deep,
Dreamed waking, waking dreamed. Then memory
The unseen hound, did from her corner creep
Into his bosom and stirred him with her sigh
Soundless. And he arose and answering pressed
Her beloved head yet closer to his breast....
Happy those years returned when first he strode
Beside his father's knees, or climbed and felt
The warm strength of those arms, or singing rode
High on his shoulders; or in winter pelt
Of dread beasts wrapt, set as his father showed
Snares in the frosty grass, and at dawn knelt
Beside the snares, and shouting homeward tore,
Winged with such pride as seldom manhood wore.
--How many, many, many years ago!
There was no older man now walked the earth.
Had all those years sunk to a bitter glow,
Like the fire lingering yet upon the hearth?
Ah, he might warm his hands there still, and so
Must warm his heart now in this wintry dearth,
Till the reluming sunken fire should give
Warmth to his ageing wits and bid him live.
Even this house! It was his father told
How in the days half lost in icy time
Men first forsook their wormy caves and cold
To build where the wind-footed cattle climb;
And noise of labour broke the silence old
By such unbroken since the sparkling prime
Of the world's spring. And so the house arose,
A builded cave, perpetual as the snows
On the remotest summits of the range
Hemming the north. Then house by house appeared
'Neath valley-eaves, and change following on change
Unnoted tamed earth's shaggy front. Men heard
Strange voices syllabling with accents strange,
By travellers breathed who, startled, paused and feared
Seeing the smoke of habitations curled
Above this hollow of an unrumoured world.
Startled, they paused and spoke by doubtful sign,
Answered by hesitating sign, until
Moved one with aspect fearless and benign,
And met one fearless, while all else hung still.
And then was welcome, rest, and meat and wine
And intercourse of uncouth word, as shrill
Voice with deep voice was mingled. So they stayed
And to astonished eyes strange arts betrayed.
By them the oarage of the wind was taught,
And how the quick tail steered the cockled boat.
They netted fruitful streams, and smiling brought
Their breaking wickers home, too full to float.
And opening the earth's rich womb they wrought
Arms from the sullied ore; and labouring smote
The mountain's bosom, till a path was seen
Stony amid the flushed snow and flushed green.
Then first upon earth's wave the silver share
Floated, by the teamed oxen drawn; then first
Were seed-time rites, and harvest rites when bare
The cropped fields lay, and gathered tumult--nurst
Long in the breasts of men that laboured there--
Now in the broad ease of fulfilment burst;
And when the winter tasks failed in days chill,
Weaving of bright-hued yarn, and chattering shrill;
And the loved tones of music sounded sweet
Unwonted, when the new-stopped pipe was heard
Rising and falling, and the falling feet
Of sudden dancers. And old men were stirred
With old men's memories of ancient heat
When youth sang in their bosoms like a bird....
Sweet that divine musician, Memory,
Fingering her many-reeded melody.
Then as he stared into the wasting glow
And watched the fire faint in the whitening wood,
Came starker shadows moving vast and slow,
And echoes of wild strife and smell of blood,
Twitching of slain men, cries of parting woe,
Bruised bodies ghastly in the mountain flood;
Burials and burnings, triumph with terrors blent,
And widowed languors and night-long lament.
Like seeds long buried, these dead memories
Upthrust in their new green and spread to flower:
An eager child against his father's knees
Leaning, he had listened many an evening hour.
Now these remote reworded histories
Entangled with his own renewed their power,
Breathing an antique virtue through his mind,
As through dense yew boughs breathes the undying wind.
Sighing, he rose up softly. On the wall
A dark shape shambled aimless to and fro;
Head bent, eyes inward-seeing, rugged, tall,
Himself a shadow moved with musings slow
Amid his cumbered past, and heard sweet call
Of mother voice, and mother folk, and flow
Of gentle and proud speech and tender laughter,
Story and song, fault and forgiveness after;
And a voice graver, gentler than a man
Might hear from any but a woman beloved,
Stilling and awakening the blood that ran
Like ocean tide, as neared she or removed ...
Faded that music. Then a voice began
Paining within his heart, yet unreproved;
For dear the anguish is that steals upon
A father's spirit lamenting his lost son.
--The latest born and latest lost of those
Of his strong and her gentle being born.
By earthquake, pestilence, by human foes
Long were they dead; and yet not all forlorn
He grieved, for at his side the youngest rose
Bright as a willow gilded by dewy morn....
Felled now the tree, silent that music, still
The motion that did all the vale-air fill.
Once more they bore the body from the hunt
Where he alone had died. Once more he heard
The wail and sigh, and saw once more their front
Of drooping grief; once more the wailing stirred
Old hounds to baying wilder than was wont;
Fell once more like slow, sullen rain each word
Reluctant, telling to his senses strayed,
How while the gods drowsed and men hung afraid.
Slain was the Prince unwary by the paw
Of a springing beast that died in giving death.
Again the featureless torn face he saw,
The ribboned bosom emptied of warm breath;
Again the circle sudden hush'd with awe,
And smothered moaning heard the hush beneath.
Again, again, and every night again,
Vision renewed and voice recalled in vain.
Again those dear and lamentable rites
Within the winter stems of forest shade,
The pile, the smokeless flame, the thousand lights,
The one light that in all the thousand played;
Deep burthened voices while, around the heights
Lifting, young trebles their wild echo made;
Then the returning torches at the pyre
Lit, when the eye glowed faint within the fire.
* * * * *
Even as a man that by slow steps may climb
An unknown mountain path with tired tread
By ice-fringed brook and close herb white with rime,
Sees sudden far below a strange land spread
Immense; so from his lonely crag of Time
The Prince, his eye bewildered and adread,
Gazed at the vast, with mist and storm confused,
Cloud-racked, and changing even while he mused.
Ending were the old wise and stable ways.
Adventurers into distant lands had fared,
From distant lands adventurers with gaze
Proud and unenvying on his kingdom stared,
And sojourning had shaken quiet days
With restless knowledge, and strange worship reared
Of foreign altars, idols, prayers and songs
And sacrifice as to such gods belongs.
And all unsatisfied his people grown
Would move from this rejected mountain range
By yearlong valley journeys slowly down,
Sun-following, till surfeited with change,
Mid idle pastures pitched or fabled town,
Subdued to climes and kings and customs strange,
At length their very name should die away
And all their remnant be a vague "Men say."
"Men say!" he sighed, and from that lofty verge
Of inward seeing drooped his doubtful sight.
Sweet was it from such reverie to emerge
And breathe once more the thoughtless air of night,
And watch the fire-slave through fresh billets urge
The sleeping flame, until the vivid light
And toothed shadows wearied.... And then crept
The hounds a little nearer, and all slept.
* * * * *
But the young man still lay in quiet sleep,
Or half-sleep, and a dream-born cloud enwreathed
With memories, hopes and longings hidden deep
In his flown mind. Another air he breathed,
Saw from an unsubstantial mountain sweep
In purest light, soon in low shadow sheathed,
Semblance of faint-known faces, or beloved
Daily-acquainted still, or long removed.
Even as sacred fire in fennel stalks
Through windy ways is borne and densest night,
Till where the outpost shivering sentry walks
Beating the minutes into hours, the light
Touches the guarded pile and, flaring, balks
Beasts padding near and each unvisioned sprite
By old dread apprehended; and new gladness
Shakes in the village prone in winter sadness:--
So through the young man's dream the kingly flame
In his own breast was undiminished borne.
And other peoples catching from his fame
A noble heat, in neighbouring lands forlorn,
Would glow with new power and the ancient name
Bless, that had brightened through their narrow morn.
And purer yet and steadier would pass on
The sacred flame to son and son and son.
Or with contracting mind he saw the host
Of mountain warriors banded, moving down
Untrodden ways, as on young buds a frost
Falls, and the spring lies stiff. The air was sown
With strife, the fields with blood, the night with ghost
Wandering by ghost, and wounded men were strown
Surprised, unweaponed; and chill air congealed
Each hurt, and with the blood their breath was sealed.
And the loved tones of music sounded fierce
When the returning files with aspect proud
Approached, and brandished their rich trophied spears.
Sweet the pipes' spearlike music, sweet and loud,
And music of smitten arms was sweet to tears;
Sweet the dance unto smiling gods new vowed,
Sweet the recounting song and choral cries,
And age's quaverings and girls' envious sighs.
--So of himself, a father-king, he dreamed,
Holding an equal nation in his eye.
O with what golden points the future gleamed!
Rustled the years like laden mule-trains by,
Each with its burthen of old time redeemed....
Splendour on splendour poured, and so would lie
Unnoted and unmeasured:--metals, herds,
Distant-sought wonders, strange growths, beasts and birds.
Within the summer of that splendid shade
Might men live happy and nought left to fear,
Or if an antique restless spirit played
Fretful within their bones, and change drew near
Drumming wild airs, and another music made,
A father-king, speaking assured and clear,
Bidding them follow he would lead them forth
Through the yet undiscovered frowning north.
And the last fire on the warm stones would burn,
And the smoke linger on the mountain skies.
And seeing, they would muse yet of return
And then forget their sadness in the cries
Confused of the great caravan; and so turn
Towards the next sun-setting and the next sunrise
Many and many a day and wind and wind
Through foreign earth, as a dream through the mind.
Flowing on with the changes of its thought.
And doubtful kings entreating them to stay
Would sleep the easier when they lingered not;
And sullen tribes menacing would make way,
And broad slow rivers in their tide be caught,
And the long caravan o'er the ford all day
And all day and all day pass; while the tide slept
In sluggish shallows, or through marsh-reeds crept.
So would they on and on, with death and birth
For wayfellows and nightly stars for guide,
While seasons bloomed and faded on the earth,
And jealous gods their wandering gods would chide.
Until, weary of endless going forth
Dark-locust-like, the old fret would subside,
And young men with aged men and women cry,
"In this full-rivered pasture let us lie!
"Here let us lie, and wanderings be at rest!"
Midmost a cedar grove high sacrifice
Needs then be made, that gods be manifest;
And while the smoke spread in long twilit skies,
"Here let us lie, and wanderings be at rest,"
Would old men breathe repeated between sighs.
"In this green world and cool," would mothers say,
"Rest we, nor with thin babes yet longer stray."
--So stealing from the mind of the old King
Exhausted, into the sleeping young man's brain
Crept the same dream and lifted on new wing
And took from his swift passions a new stain,
Sanguine and azure, and first fluttering
Rose then on easy vans that bore again
The sleeper past his common thought's confine:--
So borne, so soaring, in that air divine,
He saw his people stayed, their journeys ended....
There should they, no more fretful, dwell for ever
In the full-nourished pasture where untended
Herds multiplied, and famine threatened never,
And where high border-hills glittered with splendid
Sparse-covered veins washed by the hill-born river.
So stead by stead arose, and men there moved
Satisfied, and no more vain longings roved.
Again the silver plough gleamed in the sod,
And seed from old fields slept in furrows new.
Then when Spring's rain and sun together trod
And interweaved swift steps the meadow through,
Old rites revived; they bore the shapen god
With green stalks and first-budded boughs, and drew
Together youth and age. And sowers leapt
High o'er the seed in earth's cold bosom wrapt:--
So in the golden-hued and burning hours
Of harvest, leapt on high the full-eared corn.
Friendly to pious hands those imaged Powers
Of rain and sun. And when the grain was borne
By oxen trailing tangled straws and flowers,
With leaves and dying blossoms on each horn,
Friendly the gods commingling in the shades
Of moon and torch and smoke-delaying glades.
Fell slowly sunset; the starred evening cool
Drooped round as mid his people the king rode,
Blessing and blessed, and in the faithful pool
Of their old loves his clear reflection glowed
Like summer's golden moon:--in wise and fool,
Noble and mean, accustomed reverence showed
Clear-shining; so he reached the unbarred hall
Where lamps, lords, servitors flashed festival,
Remembering old journeys and their end.
Bright-throned he sat there, with those lords around
Snow-polled, co-eval, as with friends their friend
Feasting. Arose at length the awaited sound
Of bardic chanting, bidding their thoughts descend
Into the chamber where the Past lay bound,
Wanting but music's finger; so upspringing,
The Past stormed all their minds in that loud singing.
And strangers, furred and tawny, seated there,
Far travellers from the sunrise, looking on
The feasting and the splendour, and with ear
Uncertain listening to the solemn tone
Of most dear Memory, envied all and sware
A sudden fealty. But the bard sang on
While silver beakers brimmed untouched; and darkened
The proud remembering eyes of men that hearkened.
Then came once more those strangers leading long
Migration of their subject folk. They stayed
And medley'd and were mingled, and their throng
Melted in his like snows, and so were made
One with them, and forgot their useless tongue,
Nor now their ancient bloody worship paid
To painted gods:--name, language, story died
When their last faithless exile parting sighed.
So year on year, century on century
In his imagination of delight
Followed, in a new world all innocency
And simpleness, and made for beings bright,
Where man to man was friend, unfearful, free,
And natural griefs alone darkened their night,
And natural joys as the wide air were common,
And kindness was the bond of all kin human.
* * * * *
--When the loved reeds of music sounded clear
From birds' breasts quivering in tall woodland trees
That rustled leafless in the winter air,
And with morn's new voice shrilled the western breeze:
Folding her wings the dream crept from his ear
To hang where bats drowse until daylight dies.
Then he from sleep's dear vanity awaking
Watched a sole sunbeam the roof-shadows raking.
The joyous morning ran and kissed the grass
And drew his fingers through her sleeping hair,
And cried, "Before thy flowers are well awake
Rise, and the lingering darkness from thee shake.
"Before the daisy and the sorrel buy
Their brightness back from that close-folding night,
Come, and the shadows from thy bosom shake,
Awake from thy thick sleep, awake, awake!"
Then the grass of that mounded meadow stirred
Above the Roman bones that may not stir
Though joyous morning whispered, shouted, sang:
The grass stirred as that happy music rang.
O, what a wondrous rustling everywhere!
The steady shadows shook and thinned and died,
The shining grass flashed brightness back for brightness,
And sleep was gone, and there was heavenly lightness.
As if she had found wings, light as the wind,
The grass flew, bent with the wind, from east to west,
Chased by one wild grey cloud, and flashing all
Her dews for happiness to hear morning call....
But even as I stepped out the brightness dimmed,
I saw the fading edge of all delight.
The sober morning waked the drowsy herds,
And there was the old scolding of the birds.
MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD
Come over, come over the deepening river,
Come over again the dark torrent of years,
Come over, come back where the green leaves quiver,
And the lilac still blooms and the grey sky clears.
Come, come back to the everlasting garden,
To that green heaven, and the blue heaven above.
Come back to the time when time brought no burden
And love was unconscious, knowing not love.
O, my feet have worn a track
Deep and old in going back.
Thought released turns to its home
As bees through tangling thickets come.
One way of thought leads to the vast
Desert of the mind, and there is lost,
But backward leads to a dancing light
And myself there, stiff with delight.
O, well my thought has trodden a way
From this brief day to that long day.
THE FIRST HOUSE
That is the earliest thing that I remember--
The narrow house in the long narrow street,
Dark rooms within and darkness out of doors
Where grasses in the garden lift in the wind,
Long grasses clinging round unsteady feet.
The sunlight through one narrow passage pours,
As through the keyhole into a dusty room,
Striking with a golden rod the greening gloom.
The tall, tall timber-stacks have yet been kind,
Letting the sun fling his rod clear between,
Lest there should be no gold upon the green,
And no light then for a child to dream upon,
And day be of day's brightness all forlorn.
I saw those timber piles first dark and tall,
And then men clambered up, and stumbled down,
Each with a heavy and long timber borne
Upon broad shoulders, leather-covered, bent.
Hour after hour, day after day they went,
Until the piles were gone and a new sky
Stretched high and white above the garden wall.
And then fresh piles crept slowly up and up,
The strong men staggering, more cruelly bowed,
Till at last they lay idle on the top
Looking down from their height on things so small,
While I looked wondering and fearful up
At the strong men at rest on the new-built cloud.
But there was other gold than the sun's sparse gold--
Florence's hair, its brightness lying still
Upon my mind as then upon the grass.
Now the grass covers it and I am old,
Remembering but her hair and that long grass,
And the great wood-stacks threatening to fall--
When all dark things will.
THE OTHER HOUSE
That other house, in the same crowded street,
One red-tiled floor had, answering to my feet,
And a bewildering garden all of light and heat.
Only that red floor and garden now remain,
One glowing firelike in my glowing brain,
One with smell, colour, sun and cloud revived again.
Yet in the garden the sky was very small,
Closed by some darkness beyond the low brown wall;
But from the west the gold could long unhindered fall.
Of human faces I remember none
Amid the garden; but myself alone
With creeping-jenny, sunflower, marigold, snapdragon--
These all my love, these now all my light,
Bringing their kindness to any painful night.
The sun brushed all their brightness with his skirt more bright.
And I was happy when I knew it not,
Dreaming of nothing more than that small plot,
And the high sky and sun that floated bright and hot.
But what night was, save dark, I did not know.
The blind shut out the stars: the moon would go
Staring, unstared at, moon and stars unnoted flow.
Until one night, into the strange street led,
To stare at a strange light from the Factory shed,
Wheeling and darting, withdrawn, and sudden again outsped--
No one knew why--but I knew darkness then,
And saw the stars that hung so still; but when
I lay abed the old starless dark came back again.
Night is not night without the stars and moon.
I knew them not, or I forgot too soon,
And now remember only the glowing sun of noon,
The red floor, and yellow flowers, and a lonely child,
And a whistle morn and noon and evening shrilled,
And darkness when the household murmurs even were stilled.
Near the house flowed, or paused, the black Canal,
Edged by the timber piles so black and tall.
From the rotten fence I watched the horses pull
Along the footpath, slow and beautiful,
Moving with strength and ease, in their great size
And untired movement wonderful to my eyes;
Their dull brass clanking as each shaggy foot
Stamped the soft cinder track as fine as soot.
The driver lurched old and forbidding by,
Not seeing the child that feared to meet his eye.
I watched the rope dip, tighten, and the water flash
In falling, and then heard the hiss and splash;
I watched the barge drag slowly on and on,
Not dreaming how lovely a ship could ride the water upon,
Not dreaming how lovely flowing water was,
Sung to by trees and fingered by long grass,
Or running from the bosom of a hill
Down, where it flows so deep that it seems still.
But it was by that rotten fence one night
I saw the timber piles break into light,
Suddenly leaping into a heavenly flame
That played with the wind and one with the wind became.
Pile to pile gave its fire, till they were like
Bright angels with flashing swords before they strike,
Terrible and lovely. But men those angels fought,
Small and humble and patient all night wrought,
And all day wrought and night and day again,
And night and day, pouring their hissing rain,
Until the angels tired and one by one died.
Then their black spectres haunted the waterside,
Charred ruins, broken-limbed, no more erect,
Or heaped black dust, with cold white ashes flecked.
But I had seen the angel-quelling men,
With blackened and bruised face, the horses thin,
The glittering harness, the leaky, bubbling mains,
The broad smoke, and the steam from the leaping rains:--
O I had seen what I should not forget,
Men that defeated ruinous angels and shall still defeat.
It was a day
All blue and lifting white,
When I went into the fields with Frank
To fly his kite.
The fields were aged, bare,
Shut between houses everywhere.
All the way there
The wind tugged at the kite to take it
Untethered, toss and break it;
But Frank held fast, and I
Walked with him admiringly;
In his light brave and fine