Part 4 out of 8
'IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM.'
Out of the melancholy that is made
Of ebbing sorrow that too slowly ebbs,
Comes back a sighing whisper of the reed,
A note in new love-pipings on the bough,
Grieving with grief till all the full-fed air
And shaken milky corn doth wot of it,
The pity of it trembling in the talk
Of the beforetime merrymaking brook--
Out of that melancholy will the soul,
In proof that life is not forsaken quite
Of the old trick and glamour which made glad;
Be cheated some good day and not perceive
How sorrow ebbing out is gone from view,
How tired trouble fall'n for once on sleep,
How keen self-mockery that youth's eager dream
Interpreted to mean so much is found
To mean and give so little--frets no more,
Floating apart as on a cloud--O then
Not e'en so much as murmuring 'Let this end,'
She will, no longer weighted, find escape,
Lift up herself as if on wings and flit
Back to the morning time.
'O once with me
It was all one, such joy I had at heart,
As I heard sing the morning star, or God
Did hold me with an Everlasting Hand,
And dip me in the day.
O once with me,'
Reflecting ''twas enough to live, to look
Wonder and love. Now let that come again.
Rise!' And ariseth first a tanglement
Of flowering bushes, peonies pale that drop
Upon a mossy lawn, rich iris spikes,
Bee-borage, mealy-stemmed auricula,
Brown wallflower, and the sweetbriar ever sweet,
Her pink buds pouting from their green.
Add thick espaliers where the bullfinch came
To strew much budding wealth, and was not chid.
Then add wide pear trees on the warmed wall,
The old red wall one cannot see beyond.
That is the garden.
In the wall a door
Green, blistered with the sun. You open it,
And lo! a sunny waste of tumbled hills
And a glad silence, and an open calm.
Infinite leisure, and a slope where rills
Dance down delightedly, in every crease,
And lambs stoop drinking and the finches dip,
Then shining waves upon a lonely beach.
That is the world.
An all-sufficient world,
And as it seems an undiscovered world,
So very few the folk that come to look.
Yet one has heard of towns; but they are far
The world is undiscovered, and the child
Is undiscovered that with stealthy joy
Goes gathering like a bee who in dark cells
Hideth sweet food to live on in the cold.
What matters to the child, it matters not
More than it mattered to the moons of Mars,
That they for ages undiscovered went
Marked not of man, attendant on their king.
A shallow line of sand curved to the cliff,
There dwelt the fisherfolk, and there inland
Some scattered cottagers in thrift and calm,
Their talk full oft was of old days,--for here
Was once a fosse, and by this rock-hewn path
Our wild fore-elders as 't is said would come
To gather jetsam from some Viking wreck,
Like a sea-beast wide breasted (her snake head
Reared up as staring while she rocked ashore)
That split, and all her ribs were on their fires
The red whereof at their wives' throats made bright
Gold gauds which from the weed they picked ere yet
The tide had turned.
'Many,' methought, 'and rich
They must have been, so long their chronicle.
Perhaps the world was fuller then of folk,
For ships at sea are few that near us now.'
Yet sometimes when the clouds were torn to rags,
Flying black before a gale, we saw one rock
In the offing, and the mariner folk would cry,
'Look how she labours; those aboard may hear
Her timbers creak e'en as she'd break her heart.'
'Twas then the grey gulls blown ashore would light
In flocks, and pace the lawn with flat cold feet.
And so the world was sweet, and it was strange,
Sweet as a bee-kiss to the crocus flower,
Surprising, fresh, direct, but ever one.
The laughter of glad music did not yet
In its echo yearn, as hinting ought beyond,
Nor pathos tremble at the edge of bliss
Like a moon halo in a watery sky,
Nor the sweet pain alike of love and fear
In a world not comprehended touch the heart--
The poetry of life was not yet born.
'T was a thing hidden yet that there be days
When some are known to feel 'God is about,'
As if that morn more than another morn
Virtue flowed forth from Him, the rolling world
Swam in a soothed calm made resonant
And vital, swam as in the lap of God
Come down; until she slept and had a dream
(Because it was too much to bear awake),
That all the air shook with the might of Him
And whispered how she was the favourite world
That day, and bade her drink His essence in.
'Tis on such days that seers prophesy
And poets sing, and many who are wise
Find out for man's wellbeing hidden things
Whereof the hint came in that Presence known
Yet unknown. But a seer--what is he?
A poet is a name of long ago.
Men love the largeness of the field--the wild
Quiet that soothes the moor. In other days
They loved the shadow of the city wall,
In its stone ramparts read their poetry,
Safety and state, gold, and the arts of peace,
Law-giving, leisure, knowledge, all were there
This to excuse a child's allegiance and
A spirit's recurrence to the older way.
Orphan'd, with aged guardians kind and true,
Things came to pass not told before to me.
Thus, we did journey once when eve was near.
Through carriage windows I beheld the moors,
Then, churches, hamlets cresting of low hills.
The way was long, at last I, fall'n asleep,
Awoke to hear a rattling 'neath the wheels
And see the lamps alight. This was the town.
Then a wide inn received us, and full soon
Came supper, kisses, bed.
The lamp without
Shone in; the door was shut, and I alone.
An ecstasy of exultation took
My soul, for there were voices heard and steps,
I was among so many,--none of them
Knew I was come!
I rose, with small bare feet,
Across the carpet stole, a white-robed child,
And through the window peered. Behold the town.
There had been rain, the pavement glistened yet
In a soft lamplight down the narrow street;
The church was nigh at hand, a clear-toned clock
Chimed slowly, open shops across the way
Showed store of fruit, and store of bread,--and one
Many caged birds. About were customers,
I saw them bargain, and a rich high voice
Was heard,--a woman sang, her little babe
Slept 'neath her shawl, and by her side a boy
Added wild notes and sweet to hers.
Who gave her money. It was far from me
To pity her, she was a part of that
Admired town. E'en so within the shop
A rosy girl, it may be ten years old,
Quaint, grave. She helped her mother, deftly weighed
The purple plums, black mulberries rich and ripe
For boyish customers, and counted pence
And dropped them in an apron that she wore.
Methought a queen had ne'er so grand a lot,
She knew it, she looked up at me, and smiled.
But yet the song went on, and in a while
The meaning came; the town was not enough
To satisfy that singer, for a sigh
With her wild music came. What wanted she?
Whate'er she wanted wanted all. O how
'T was poignant, her rich voice; not like a bird's.
Could she not dwell content and let them be,
That they might take their pleasure in the town,
For--no, she was not poor, witness the pence.
I saw her boy and that small saleswoman;
He wary, she with grave persuasive air,
Till he came forth with filberts in his cap,
And joined his mother, happy, triumphing.
This was the town; and if you ask what else,
I say good sooth that it was poetry
Because it was the all, and something more,--
It was the life of man, it was the world
That made addition to the watching heart,
First conscious its own beating, first aware
How, beating it kept time with all the race;
Nay, 't was a consciousness far down and dim
Of a Great Father watching too.
But lo! the rich lamenting voice again;
She sang not for herself; it was a song
For me, for I had seen the town and knew,
Yearning I knew the town was not enough.
What more? To-day looks back on yesterday,
Life's yesterday, the waiting time, the dawn,
And reads a meaning into it, unknown
When it was with us.
It is always so.
But when as ofttimes I remember me
Of the warm wind that moved the beggar's hair,
Of the wet pavement, and the lamps alit,
I know it was not pity that made yearn
My heart for her, and that same dimpled boy
How grand methought to be abroad so late.
And barefoot dabble in the shining wet;
How fine to peer as other urchins did
At those pent huddled doves they let not rest;
No, it was almost envy. Ay, how sweet
The clash of bells; they rang to boast that far
That cheerful street was from the cold sea-fog,
From dark ploughed field and narrow lonesome lane.
How sweet to hear the hum of voices kind,
To see the coach come up with din of horn.
Quick tramp of horses, mark the passers-by
Greet one another, and go on.
They closed the shops, the wild clear voice was still,
The beggars moved away--where was their home.
The coach which came from out dull darksome fells
Into the light; passed to the dark again
Like some old comet which knows well her way,
Whirled to the sun that as her fateful loop
She turns, forebodes the destined silences.
Yes, it was gone; the clattering coach was gone,
And those it bore I pitied even to tears,
Because they must go forth, nor see the lights,
Nor hear the chiming bells.
In after days,
Remembering of the childish envy and
The childish pity, it has cheered my heart
To think e'en now pity and envy both
It may be are misplaced, or needed not.
Heaven may look down in pity on some soul
Half envied, or some wholly pitied smile,
For that it hath to wait as it were an hour
To see the lights that go not out by night,
To walk the golden street and hear a song;
Other-world poetry that is the all
And something more.
NATURE, FOR NATURE'S SAKE.
White as white butterflies that each one dons
Her face their wide white wings to shade withal,
Many moon-daisies throng the water-spring.
While couched in rising barley titlarks call,
And bees alit upon their martagons
Do hang a-murmuring, a-murmuring.
They chide, it may be, alien tribes that flew
And rifled their best blossom, counted on
And dreamed on in the hive ere dangerous dew
That clogs bee-wings had dried; but when outshone
Long shafts of gold (made all for them) of power
To charm it away, those thieves had sucked the flower.
Now must they go; a-murmuring they go,
And little thrushes twitter in the nest;
The world is made for them, and even so
The clouds are; they have seen no stars, the breast
Of their soft mother hid them all the night,
Till her mate came to her in red dawn-light.
Eggs scribbled over with strange writing, signs,
Prophecies, and their meaning (for you see
The yolk within) is life, 'neath yonder bines
Lie among sedges; on a hawthorn tree
The slender-lord and master perched hard by,
Scolds at all comers if they step too nigh.
And our small river makes encompassment
Of half the mead and holm: yon lime-trees grow
All heeling over to it, diligent
To cast green doubles of themselves below,
But shafts of sunshine reach its shallow floor
And warm the yellow sand it ripples o'er.
Ripples and ripples to a pool it made
Turning. The cows are there, one creamy white--
She should be painted with no touch of shade
If any list to limn her--she the light
Above, about her, treads out circles wide,
And sparkling water flashes from her side.
The clouds have all retired to so great height
As earth could have no dealing with them more,
As they were lost, for all her drawing and might,
And must be left behind; but down the shore
Lie lovelier clouds in ranks of lace-work frail,
Wild parsley with a myriad florets pale,
Another milky-way, more intricate
And multitudinous, with every star
Perfect. Long changeful sunbeams undulate
Amid the stems where sparklike creatures are
That hover and hum for gladness, then the last
Tree rears her graceful head, the shade is passed.
And idle fish in warm wellbeing lie
Each with his shadow under, while at ease
As clouds that keep their shape the darting fry
Turn and are gone in company; o'er these
Strangers to them, strangers to us, from holes
Scooped in the bank peer out shy water-voles.
Here, take for life and fly with innocent feet
The brown-eyed fawns, from moving shadows clear;
There, down the lane with multitudinous bleat
Plaining on shepherd lads a flock draws near;
A mild lamenting fills the morning air,
'Why to yon upland fold must we needs fare?'
These might be fabulous creatures every one,
And this their world might be some other sphere
We had but heard of, for all said or done
To know of them,--of what this many a year
They may have thought of man, or of his sway,
Or even if they have a God and pray,
The sweetest river bank can never more
Home to its source tempt back the lapsed stream,
Nor memory reach the ante-natal shore,
Nor one awake behold a sleeper's dream,
Not easier 't were that unbridged chasm to walk,
And share the strange lore of their wordless talk.
Like to a poet voice, remote from ken,
That unregarded sings and undesired,
Like to a star unnamed by lips of men,
That faints at dawn in saffron light retired,
Like to an echo in some desert deep
From age to age unwakened from its sleep--
So falls unmarked that other world's great song,
And lapsing wastes without interpreter.
Slave world! not man's to raise, yet man's to wrong,
He cannot to a loftier place prefer,
But he can,--all its earlier rights forgot,
Reign reckless if its nations rue their lot.
If they can sin or feel life's wear and fret,
An men had loved them better, it may be
We had discovered. But who e'er did yet,
After the sage saints in their clemency,
Ponder in hope they had a heaven to win,
Or make a prayer with a dove's name therein.
As grave Augustine pleading in his day,
'Have pity, Lord, upon the unfledged bird,
Lest such as pass do trample it in the way,
Not marking, or not minding; give the word,
O bid an angel in the nest again
To place it, lest the mother's love be vain.
And let it live, Lord God, till it can fly.'
This man dwelt yearning, fain to guess, to spell
The parable; all work of God Most High
Took to his man's heart. Surely this was well;
To love is more than to be loved, by leave
Of Heaven, to give is more than to receive.
He made it so that said it. As for us
Strange is their case toward us, for they give
And we receive. Made martyrs ever thus
In deed but not in will, for us they live,
For us they die, we quench their little day,
Remaining blameless, and they pass away.
The world is better served than it is ruled,
And not alone of them, for ever
Ruleth the man, the woman serveth fooled
Full oft of love, not knowing his yoke is sore.
Life's greatest Son nought from life's measure swerved,
He was among us 'as a man that served.'
Have they another life, and was it won
In the sore travail of another death,
Which loosed the manacles from our race undone
And plucked the pang from dying? If this breath
Be not their all, reproach no more debarred,
'O unkind lords, you made our bondage hard'
May be their plaint when we shall meet again
And make our peace with them; the sea of life
Find flowing, full, nor ought or lost or vain.
Shall the vague hint whereof all thought is rife,
The sweet pathetic guess indeed come true,
And things restored reach that great residue?
Shall we behold fair flights of phantom doves,
Shall furred creatures couch in moly flowers,
Swan souls the rivers oar with their world-loves,
In difference welcome as these souls of ours?
Yet soul of man from soul of man far more
May differ, even as thought did heretofore
That ranged and varied on th' undying gleam:
From a pure breath of God aspiring, high,
Serving and reigning, to the tender dream,
The winged Psyche and her butterfly--
From thrones and powers, to--fresh from death alarms
Child spirits entering in an angel's arms.
Why must we think, begun in paradise,
That their long line, cut off with severance fell,
Shall end in nothingness--the sacrifice
Of their long service in a passing knell?
Could man be wholly blest if not to say
'Forgive'--nor make amends for ever and aye?
Waste, waste on earth, and waste of God afar.
Celestial flotsam, blazing spars on high,
Drifts in the meteor month from some wrecked star,
Strew oft th' unwrinkled ocean of the sky,
And pass no more accounted of than be
Long dulses limp that stripe a mundane sea.
The sun his kingdom fills with light, but all
Save where it strikes some planet and her moons
Across cold chartless gulfs ordained to fall,
Void antres, reckoneth no man's nights or noons,
But feeling forth as for some outmost shore,
Faints in the blank of doom, and is no more.
God scattereth His abundance as forgot,
And what then doth he gather? If we know,
'Tis that One told us it was life. 'For not
A sparrow,' quoth he, uttering long ago
The strangest words that e'er took earthly sound,
'Without your Father falleth to the ground.'
_I go beyond the commandment_.' So be it. Then mine be the blame,
The loss, the lack, the yearning, till life's last sand be run,--
I go beyond the commandment, yet honour stands fast with her claim,
And what I have rued I shall rue; for what I have done--I have done.
Hush, hush! for what of the future; you cannot the base exalt,
There is no bridging a chasm over, that yawns with so sheer incline;
I will not any sweet daughter's cheek should pale for this mother's fault,
Nor son take leave to lower his life a-thinking on mine.
'_ Will I tell you all?_' So! this, e'en this, will I do for your great
Think what it costs. '_Then let there be silence--silence you'll count
No, and no, and for ever no: rather to cross and to break,
And to lower your passion I speak--that other it was I meant.
That other I meant (but I know not how) to speak of, nor April days,
Nor a man's sweet voice that pleaded--O (but I promised this)--
He never talked of marriage, never; I grant him that praise;
And he bent his stately head, and I lost, and he won with a kiss.
He led me away--O, how poignant sweet the nightingale's note that noon--
I beheld, and each crisped spire of grass to him for my sake was fair,
And warm winds flattered my soul blowing straight from the soul of June,
And a lovely lie was spread on the fields, but the blue was bare.
When I looked up, he said: 'Love, fair love! O rather look in these eyes
With thine far sweeter than eyes of Eve when she stepped the valley
For ONE might be looking through it, he thought, and he would not in any
I should mark it open, limitless, empty, bare 'neath the gaze of God.
Ah me! I was happy--yes, I was; 't is fit you should know it all,
While love was warm and tender and yearning, the rough winds troubled
I heard them moan without in the forest; heard the chill rains fall--
But I thought my place was sheltered with him--I forgot, I forgot.
After came news of a wife; I think he was glad I should know.
To stay my pleading, 'take me to church and give me my ring';
'You should have spoken before,' he had sighed, when I prayed him so,
For his heart was sick for himself and me, and this bitter thing.
But my dream was over me still,--I was half beguiled,
And he in his kindness left me seldom, O seldom, alone,
And yet love waxed cold, and I saw the face of my little child,
And then at the last I knew what I was, and what I had done.
'YOU _will give me the name of wife_. YOU _will give me a ring_.'--O
You are not let to ruin your life because I ruined mine;
You will go to your people at home. There will be rest and release;
The bitter now will be sweet full soon--ay, and denial divine.
But spare me the ending. I did not wait to be quite cast away;
I left him asleep, and the bare sun rising shone red on my gown.
There was dust in the lane, I remember; prints of feet in it lay,
And honeysuckle trailed in the path that led on to the down.
I was going nowhere--I wandered up, then turned and dared to look back,
Where low in the valley he careless and quiet--quiet and careless slept.
'_Did I love him yet?_' I loved him. Ay, my heart on the upland track
Cried to him, sighed to him out by the wheat, as I walked, and I wept.
I knew of another alas, one that had been in my place,
Her little ones, she forsaken, were almost in need;
I went to her, and carried my babe, then all in my satins and lace
I sank at the step of her desolate door, a mourner indeed.
I cried, ''T is the way of the world, would I had never been born!'
'Ay, 't is the way of the world, but have you no sense to see
For all the way of the world,' she answers and laughs me to scorn,
'The world is made the world that it is by fools like you, like me.'
Right hard upon me, hard on herself, and cold as the cold stone,
But she took me in; and while I lay sick I knew I was lost,
Lost with the man I loved, or lost without him, making my moan
Blighted and rent of the bitter frost, wrecked, tempest tossed, lost,
How am I fallen:--we that might make of the world what we would,
Some of us sink in deep waters. Ah! '_you would raise me again?'_
No true heart,--you cannot, you cannot, and all in my soul that is good
Cries out against such a wrong. Let be, your quest is for ever in vain.
For I feel with another heart, I think with another mind,
I have worsened life, I have wronged the world, I have lowered the light;
But as for him, his words and his ways were after his kind,
He did but spoil where he could, and waste where he might.
For he was let to do it; I let him and left his soul
To walk mid the ruins he made of home in remembrance of love's despairs,
Despairs that harden the hearts of men and shadow their heads with dole,
And woman's fault, though never on earth, may be healed,--but what of
'T was fit you should hear it all--What, tears? they comfort me; now you
Nor wrong your life for the nought you call 'a pair of beautiful eyes,'
_'I will not say I love you.'_ Truly I will not, no.
_'Will, I pity you?'_ Ay, but the pang will be short, you shall wake and be
_'Shall we meet?_ We shall meet on the other side, but not before.
I shall be pure and fair, I shall hear the sound of THE NAME,
And see the form of His face. You too will walk on that shore,
In the garden of the Lord God, where neither is sorrow nor shame.
Farewell, I shall bide alone, for God took my one white lamb,
I work for such as she was, and I will the while I last,
But there's no beginning again, ever I am what I am,
And nothing, nothing, nothing, can do away with the past.
SONGS AND POEMS
LOVE AND CHILDHOOD.
LETTERS ON LIFE AND THE MORNING.
_(First of a Series.)_
A PARSON'S LETTER TO A YOUNG POET.
They said "Too late, too late, the work is done;
Great Homer sang of glory and strong men
And that fair Greek whose fault all these long
Wins no forgetfulness nor ever can;
For yet cold eyes upon her frailty bend,
For yet the world waits in the victor's tent
Daily, and sees an old man honourable,
His white head bowed, surprise to passionate tears
Awestruck Achilles; sighing, 'I have endured,
The like whereof no soul hath yet endured,
To kiss the hand of him that slew my son.'"
They said: "We, rich by him, are rich by more;
One Aeschylus found watchfires on a hill
That lit Old Night's three daughters to their work;
When the forlorn Fate leaned to their red light
And sat a-spinning, to her feet he came
And marked her till she span off all her thread.
"O, it is late, good sooth, to cry for more:
The work once done, well done," they said, "forbear!
A Tuscan afterward discovered steps
Over the line of life in its mid-way;
He climbed the wall of Heaven, beheld his love
Safe at her singing, and he left his foes
In a vale of shadow weltering, unassoiled
Immortal sufferers henceforth in both worlds.
"Who may inherit next or who shall match
The Swan of Avon and go float with him
Down the long river of life aneath a sun
Not veiled, and high at noon?--the river of life
That as it ran reflected all its lapse
And rippling on the plumage of his breast?
"Thou hast them, heed them, for thy poets now,
Albeit of tongue full sweet and majesty
Like even to theirs, are fallen on evil days,
Are wronged by thee of life, wronged of the world.
Look back they must and show thee thy fair past,
Or, choosing thy to-day, they may but chant
As they behold.
"The mother-glowworm broods
Upon her young, fast-folded in the egg
And long before they come to life they shine--
The mother-age broods on her shining thought
That liveth, but whose life is hid. He comes
Her poet son, and lo you, he can see
The shining, and he takes it to his breast
And fashions for it wings that it may fly
And show its sweet light in the dusky world.
"Mother, O Mother of our dusk to-day,
What hast thou lived for bards to sing of thee?
Lapsed water cannot flow above its source;
'_The kid must browse_,'" they said, "'_where she is tied_.'"
Son of to-day, rise up, and answer them.
What! wilt thou let thy mother sit ashamed
And crownless?--Set the crown on her fair head:
She waited for thy birth, she cries to thee
"Thou art the man." He that hath ears to hear,
To him the mother cries "Thou art the man."
She murmurs, for thy mother's voice is low--
"Methought the men of war were even as gods
The old men of the ages. Now mine eyes
Retrieve the truth from ruined city walls
That buried it; from carved and curious homes
Full of rich garments and all goodly spoil,
Where having burned, battered, and wasted them,
They flung it. Give us, give us better gods
Than these that drink with blood upon their hands,
For I repent me that I worshipped them.
O that there might be yet a going up!
O to forget--and to begin again!"
Is not thy mother's rede at one with theirs
Who cry "The work is done"? What though to thee,
Thee only, should the utterance shape itself
"O to forget, and to begin again,"
Only of thee be heard as that keen cry
Rending its way from some distracted heart
That yields it and so breaks? Yet list the cry
Begin for her again, and learn to sing;
But first, in all thy learning learn to be.
Is life a field? then plough it up--re-sow
With worthier seed--Is life a ship? O heed
The southing of thy stars--Is life a breath?
Breathe deeper, draw life up from hour to hour,
Aye, from the deepest deep in thy deep soul.
It may be God's first work is but to breathe
And fill the abysm with drifts of shining air
That slowly, slowly curdle into worlds.
A little space is measured out to us
Of His long leisure; breathe and grow therein,
For life, alas! is short, and "_When we die_
_It is not for a little while_."
"The work is done," and is it therefore done?
Speak rather to thy mother thus: "All-fair,
Lady of ages, beautiful To-day
And sorrowful To-day, thy children set
The crown of sorrow on their heads, their loss
Is like to be the loss of all: we hear
Lamenting, as of some that mourn in vain
Loss of high leadership, but where is he
That shall be great enough to lead thee now?
Where is thy Poet? thou hast wanted him.
Where? Thou hast wakened as a child in the night
And found thyself alone. The stars have set,
There is great darkness, and the dark is void
Of music. Who shall set thy life afresh
And sing thee thy new songs? Whom wilt thou love
And lean on to break silence worthily--
Discern the beauty in thy goings--feel
The glory of thy yearning,--thy self-scorn
Matter to dim oblivion with a smile--
Own thy great want, that knew not its great name?
O who shall make to thee mighty amends
For thy lost childhood, joining two in one,
Thyself and Him? Behold Him, He is near:
God is thy Poet now.
"A King sang once
Long years ago 'My soul is athirst for God,
Yea for the living God'--thy thirst and his
Are one. It is thy Poet whom thy hands
Grope for, not knowing. Life is not enough,
Nor love, nor learning,--Death is not enough
Even to them, happy, who forecast new life;
But give us now and satisfy us now,
Give us now, now, to live in the life of God,
Give us now, now, to be at one with Him."
Would I had words--I have not words for her,
Only for thee; and thus I tell them out:
For every man the world is made afresh;
To God both it and he are young. There are
Who call upon Him night, and morn, and night
"Where is the kingdom? Give it us to-day.
We would be here with God, not there with God.
Make Thine abode with us, great Wayfarer,
And let our souls sink deeper into Thee"--
There are who send but yearnings forth, in quest
They know not why, of good they know not what.
The unknown life, and strange its stirring is.
The babe knows nought of life, yet clothed in it
And yearning only for its mother's breast
Feeds thus the unheeded thing--and as for thee,
That life thou hast is hidden from thine eyes,
And when it yearns, thou, knowing not for what,
Wouldst fain appease it with one grand, deep joy,
One draught of passionate peace--but wilt thou know
The other name of joy, the better name
Of peace? It is thy Father's name. Thy life
Yearns to its Source. The spirit thirsts for God,
Even the living God.
But "No," thou sayest,
"My heart is all in ruins with pain, my feet
Tread a dry desert where there is no way
Nor water. I look back, and deep through time
The old words come but faintly up the track
Trod by the sons of men. The man He sent,
The Prince of life, methinks I could have loved
If I had looked once in His deep man's eyes.
But long ago He died, and long ago
He is not dead, He cannot go.
Men's faith at first was like a mastering stream,
Like Jordan "the descender" leaping down
Pure from his snow; and warmed of tropic heat
Hiding himself in verdure: then at last
In a Dead Sea absorbed, as faith of doubt.
But yet the snow lies thick on Hermon's breast
And daily at his source the stream is born.
Go up--go mark the whiteness of the snow--Thy
faith is not thy Saviour, not thy God,
Though faith waste fruitless down a desert old.
The living God is new, and He is near.
What need to look behind thee and to sigh?
When God left speaking He went on before
To draw men after, following up and on;
And thy heart fails because thy feet are slow;
Thou think'st of Him as one that will not wait,
A Father and not wait!--He waited long
For us, and yet perchance He thinks not long
And will not count the time. There are no dates
In His fine leisure.
Speak then as a son:
"Father, I come to satisfy Thy love
With mine, for I had held Thee as remote,
The background of the stars--Time's yesterday--
Illimitable Absence. Now my heart
Communes, methinks, with somewhat teaching me
Thou art the Great To-day. God, is it so?
Then for all love that WAS, I thank Thee, God,
It is and yet shall hide. And I have part
In all, for in Thine image I was made,
To Thee my spirit yearns, as Thou to mine.
If aught be stamped of Thy Divine on me,
And man be God-like, God is like to man.
"Dear and dread Lord, I have not found it hard
To fear Thee, though Thy love in visible form
Bled 'neath a thorny crown--but since indeed,
For kindred's sake and likeness, Thou dost thirst
To draw men nigh, and make them one with Thee,
My soul shall answer 'Thou art what I want:
I am athirst for God, the living God.'"
Then straightway flashes up athwart the words:
"And if I be a son I am very far
From my great Father's house; I am not clean.
I have not always willed it should be so,
And the gold of life is rusted with my tears."
It is enough. He never said to men,
"Seek ye My face in vain." And have they sought--
Beautiful children, well-beloved sons,
Opening wide eyes to ache among the moons
All night, and sighing because star multitudes
Fainted away as to a glittering haze,
And sparkled here and there like silver wings,
Confounding them with nameless, numberless,
Unbearable, fine flocks? It is not well
For them, for thee. Hast thou gone forth so far
To the unimaginable steeps on high
Trembling and seeking God? Yet now come home,
Cry, cry to Him: "I cannot search Thee out,
But Thou and I must meet. O come, come down,
Come." And that cry shall have the mastery.
Ay, He shall come in truth to visit thee,
And thou shalt mourn to Him, "Unclean, unclean,"
But never more "I will to have it so."
From henceforth thou shalt learn that there is love
To long for, pureness to desire, a mount
Of consecration it were good to scale.
Look you, it is to-day as at the first.
When Adam first was 'ware his new-made eyes
And opened them, behold the light! And breath
Of God was misting yet about his mouth,
Whereof they had made his soul. Then he looked forth
And was a part of light; also he saw
Beautiful life, and it could move. But Eve--Eve
was the child of midnight and of sleep.
Lo, in the dark God led her to his side;
It may be in the dark she heard him breathe
Before God woke him. And she knew not light,
Nor life but as a voice that left his lips,
A warmth that clasped her; but the stars were out,
And she with wide child-eyes gazed up at them.
Haply she thought that always it was night;
Haply he, whispering to her in that reach
Of beauteous darkness, gave her unworn heart
A rumour of the dawn, and wakened it
To a trembling, and a wonder, and a want
Kin to his own; and as he longed to gaze
On his new fate, the gracious mystery
His wife, she may have longed, and felt not why,
After the light that never she had known.
So doth each age walk in the light beheld,
Nor think on light, if it be light or no;
Then comes the night to it, and in the night
The God-given, the most beautiful
Eve. And she is not seen for darkness' sake;
Yet, when she makes her gracious presence felt,
The age perceives how dark it is, and fain,
Fain would have daylight, fain would see her well,
A beauty half revealed, a helpmeet sent
To draw the soul away from valley clods;
Made from itself, yet now a better self--
Soul in the soulless, arrow tipped with fire
Let down into a careless breast; a pang
Sweeter than healing that cries out with it
For light all light, and is beheld at length--
The morning dawns.
Were not we born to light?
Ay, and we saw the men and women as saints
Walk in a garden. All our thoughts were fair;
Our simple hearts, as dovecotes full of doves,
Made home and nest for them. They fluttered forth.
And flocks of them flew white about the world.
And dreams were like to ships that floated us
Far out on silent floods, apart from earth,
From life--so far that we could see their lights
In heaven--and hear the everlasting tide,
All dappled with that fair reflected gold,
Wash up against the city wall, and sob
At the dark bows of vessels that drew on
Heavily freighted with departed souls
To whom did spirits sing; but on that song
Might none, albeit the meaning was right plain,
Impose the harsh captivity of words.
Afterward waking, sweet was early air,
Full excellent was morning: whether deep
The snow lay keenly white, and shrouds of hail
Blurred the grey breaker on a long foreshore,
And swarming plover ran, and wild white mews
And sea-pies printed with a thousand feet
The fallen whiteness, making shrill the storm;
Or whether, soothed of sunshine, throbbed and hummed
The mill atween its bowering maple trees,
And churned the leaping beck that reared, and urged
A diamond-dripping wheel.
The happy find
Equality of beauty everywhere
To feed on. All of shade and sheen is theirs,
All the strange fashions and the fair wise ways
Of lives beneath man's own. He breathes delight
Whose soul is fresh, whose feet are wet with dew
And the melted mist of morning, when at watch
Sunk deep in fern he marks the stealthy roe,
Silent as sleep or shadow, cross the glade,
Or dart athwart his view as August stars
Shoot and are out--while gracefully pace on
The wild-eyed harts to their traditional tree
To clear the velvet from their budded horns.
There is no want, both God and life are kind;
It is enough to hear, it is enough
To see; the pale wide barley-field they love,
And its weird beauty, and the pale wide moon
That lowering seems to lurk between the sheaves.
So in the rustic hamlet at high noon
The white owl sailing drowsed and deaf with sleep
To hide her head in turrets browned of moss
That is the rust of time. Ay so the pinks
And mountain grass marked on a sharp sea-cliff
While far below the northern diver feeds;
She having ended settling while she sits,
As vessels water-logged that sink at sea
And quietly into the deep go down.
It is enough to wake, it is enough
To sleep:--With God and time he leaves the rest.
But on a day death on the doorstep sits
Waiting, or like a veiled woman walks
Dogging his footsteps, or athwart his path
The splendid passion-flower love unfolds
Buds full of sorrow, not ordained to know
Appeasement through the answer of a sigh,
The kiss of pity with denial given,
The crown and blossom of accomplishment.
Or haply comes the snake with subtlety,
And tempts him with an apple to know all.
So,--Shut the gate; the story tells itself
Over and over; Eden must be lost
If after it be won. He stands at fault,
Not knowing at all how this should be--he feels
The great bare barrenness o' the outside world.
He thinks on Time and what it has to say;
He thinks on God, but God has changed His hand,
Sitting afar. And as the moon draws on
To cover the day-king in his eclipse,
And thin the last fine sickle of light, till all
Be gone, so fares it with his darkened soul.
The dark, but not Orion sparkling there
With his best stars; the dark, but not yet Eve.
And now the wellsprings of sweet natural joy
Lie, as the Genie sealed of Solomon,
Fast prisoned in his heart; he hath not learned
The spell whereby to loose and set them forth,
And all the glad delights that boyhood loved
Smell at Oblivion's poppy, and lie still.
Ah! they must sleep--"The mill can grind no more
With water that hath passed." Let it run on.
For he hath caught a whisper in the night;
This old inheritance in darkness given,
The world, is widened, warmed, it is alive,
Comes to his beating heart and bids it wake,
Opens the door to youth, and bids it forth,
Exultant for expansion and release,
And bent to satisfy the mighty wish,
Comfort and satisfy the mighty wish,
Life of his life, the soul's immortal child
That is to him as Eve.
He cannot win,
Nor earn, nor see, nor hear, nor comprehend,
With all the watch, tender, impetuous,
That wastes him, this, whereof no less he feels
Infinite things; but yet the night is full
Of air-beats and of heart-beats for her sake.
Eve the aspirer, give her what she wants,
Or wherefore was he born?
O he was born
To wish--then turn away:--to wish again
And half forget his wish for earthlier joy;
He draws the net to land that brings red gold;
His dreams among the meshes tangled lie,
And learning hath him at her feet;--and love,
The sea-born creature fresh from her sea foam,
Touches the ruddiest veins in his young heart,
Makes it to sob in him and sigh in him,
Restless, repelled, dying, alive and keen,
Fainting away for the remorseless ALL
Gone by, gone up, or sweetly gone before,
But never in his arms. Then pity comes,
Knocks at his breast, it may be, and comes in,
Makes a wide wound that haply will not heal,
But bleeds for poverty, and crime, and pain,
Till for the dear kin's sake he grandly dares
Or wastes him, with a wise improvidence;
But who can stir the weighty world; or who
Can drink a sea of tears?
O love, and life,
O world, and can it be that this is all?
Leave him to tread expectance underfoot;
Let him alone to tame down his great hope
Before it breaks his heart: "Give me my share
That I foresaw, my place, my draught of life.
This that I bear, what is it?--me no less
It binds, I cannot disenslave my soul."
There is but halting for the wearied foot.
The better way is hidden; faith hath failed--
One stronger far than reason mastered her.
It is not reason makes faith hard, but life.
The husks of his dead creed, downtrod and dry,
Are powerless now as some dishonoured spell,
Some aged Pythia in her priestly clothes,
Some widow'd witch divining by the dead.
Or if he keep one shrine undesecrate
And go to it from time to time with tears,
What lies there? A dead Christ enswathed and cold,
A Christ that did not rise. The linen cloth
Is wrapped about His head, He lies embalmed
With myrrh and spices in His sepulchre,
The love of God that daily dies;--to them
That trust it the One Life, the all that lives.
O mother Eve, who wert beguiled of old,
Thy blood is in thy children, thou art yet
Their fate and copy; with thy milk they drew
The immortal want of morning; but thy day
Dawned and was over, and thy children know
Contentment never, nor continuance long.
For even thus it is with them: the day
Waxeth, to wane anon, and a long night
Leaves the dark heart unsatisfied with stars.
A soul in want and restless and bereft
To whom all life hath lied, shall it too lie?
Saying, "I yield Thee thanks, most mighty God,
Thou hast been pleased to make me thus and thus.
I do submit me to Thy sovereign will
That I full oft should hunger and not have,
And vainly yearn after the perfect good,
Gladness and peace"?
No, rather dare think thus:
"Ere chaos first had being, earth, or time,
My Likeness was apparent in high heaven,
Divine and manlike, and his dwelling place
Was the bosom of the Father. By His hands
Were the worlds made and filled with diverse growths
And ordered lives. Then afterward they said,
Taking strange counsel, as if he who worked
Hitherto should not henceforth work alone,
'Let us make man;' and God did look upon
That Divine Word which was the form of God,
And it became a thought before the event.
There they foresaw my face, foreheard my speech,
God-like, God-loved, God-loving, God-derived.
"And I was in a garden, and I fell
Through envy of God's evil son, but Love
Would not be robbed of me for ever--Love
For my sake passed into humanity,
And there for my first Father won me home.
How should I rest then? I have NOT gone home;
I feed on husks, and they given grudgingly,
While my great Father--Father--O my God,
What shall I do?"
Ay, I will dare think thus:
"I cannot rest because He doth not rest
In whom I have my being. THIS is GOD--
My soul is conscious of His wondrous wish,
And my heart's hunger doth but answer His
Whose thought has met with mine.
"I have not all;
He moves me thus to take of Him what lacks.
My want is God's desire to give,--He yearns
To add Himself to life and so for aye
Make it enough."
A thought by night, a wish
After the morning, and behold it dawns
Pathetic in a still solemnity,
And mighty words are said for him once more,
"Let there be light." Great heaven and earth have heard,
And God comes down to him, and Christ doth rise.
THE MONITIONS OF THE UNSEEN.
There are who give themselves to work for men,--
To raise the lost, to gather orphaned babes
And teach them, pitying of their mean estate,
To feel for misery, and to look on crime
With ruth, till they forget that they themselves
Are of the race, themselves among the crowd
Under the sentence and outside the gate,
And of the family and in the doom.
Cold is the world; they feel how cold it is,
And wish that they could warm it. Hard is life
For some. They would that they could soften it;
And, in the doing of their work, they sigh
As if it was their choice and not their lot;
And, in the raising of their prayer to God,
They crave his kindness for the world he made,
Till they, at last, forget that he, not they,
Is the true lover of man.
* * * * *
Now, in an ancient town, that had sunk low,--
Trade having drifted from it, while there stayed
Too many, that it erst had fed, behind,--
There walked a curate once, at early day.
It was the summer-time; but summer air
Came never, in its sweetness, down that dark
And crowded alley,--never reached the door
Whereat he stopped,--the sordid, shattered door.
He paused, and, looking right and left, beheld
Dirt and decay, the lowering tenements
That leaned toward each other; broken panes
Bulging with rags, and grim with old neglect;
And reeking hills of formless refuse, heaped
To fade and fester in a stagnant air.
But he thought nothing of it: he had learned
To take all wretchedness for granted,--he,
Reared in a stainless home, and radiant yet
With the clear hues of healthful English youth,
Had learned to kneel by beds forlorn, and stoop
Under foul lintels. He could touch, with hand
Unshrinking, fevered fingers; he could hear
The language of the lost, in haunt and den,--
So dismal, that the coldest passer-by
Must needs be sorry for them, and, albeit
They cursed, would dare to speak no harder words
Than these,--"God help them!"
Ay! a learned man
The curate in all woes that plague mankind,--
Too learned, for he was but young. His heart
Had yearned till it was overstrained, and now
He--plunged into a narrow slough unblest,
Had struggled with its deadly waters, till
His own head had gone under, and he took
Small joy in work he could not look to aid
Yet, by one right tender tie,
Hope held him yet. The fathers coarse and dull,
Vile mothers hard, and boys and girls profane,
His soul drew back from. He had worked for them,--
Work without joy: but, in his heart of hearts,
He loved the little children; and whene'er
He heard their prattle innocent, and heard
Their tender voices lisping sacred words
That he had taught them,--in the cleanly calm
Of decent school, by decent matron held,--
Then would he say, "I shall have pleasure yet,
But now, when he pushed back that door
And mounted up a flight of ruined stairs,
He said not that. He said, "Oh! once I thought
The little children would make bright for me
The crown they wear who have won many souls
For righteousness; but oh, this evil place!
Hard lines it gives them, cold and dirt abhorred,--
Hunger and nakedness, in lieu of love,
And blows instead of care.
"And so they die,
The little children that I love,--they die,--They
turn their wistful faces to the wall,
And slip away to God."
With that, his hand
He laid upon a latch and lifted it,
Looked in full quietly, and entered straight.
What saw he there? He saw a three-years child,
That lay a-dying on a wisp of straw
Swept up into a corner. O'er its brow
The damps of death were gathering: all alone,
Uncared for, save that by its side was set
A cup, it waited. And the eyes had ceased
To look on things at hand. He thought they gazed
In wistful wonder, or some faint surmise
Of coming change,--as though they saw the gate
Of that fair land that seems to most of us
Very far off.
When he beheld the look,
He said, "I knew, I knew how this would be!
Another! Ay, and but for drunken blows
And dull forgetfulness of infant need,
This little one had lived." And thereupon
The misery of it wrought upon him so,
That, unaware, he wept. Oh! then it was
That, in the bending of his manly head,
It came between the child and that whereon
He gazed, and, when the curate glanced again,
Those dying eyes, drawn back to earth once more,
Looked up into his own, and smiled.
More near, and kneeled beside the small frail thing,
Because the lips were moving; and it raised
Its baby hand, and stroked away his tears,
And whispered, "Master! master!" and so died.
Now, in that town there was an ancient church,
A minster of old days which these had turned
To parish uses: there the curate served.
It stood within a quiet swarded Close,
Sunny and still, and, though it was not far
From those dark courts where poor humanity
Struggled and swarmed, it seemed to wear its own
Still atmosphere about it, and to hold
That old-world calm within its precincts pure
And that grave rest which modern life foregoes.
When the sad curate, rising from his knees,
Looked from the dead to heaven,--as, unaware,
Men do when they would track departed life,--He
heard the deep tone of the minster-bell
Sounding for service, and he turned away
So heavy at heart, that, when he left behind
That dismal habitation, and came out
In the clear sunshine of the minster-yard,
He never marked it. Up the aisle he moved,
With his own gloom about him; then came forth,
And read before the folk grand words and calm,--Words
full of hope; but into his dull heart
Hope came not. As one talketh in a dream,
And doth not mark the sense of his own words,
He read; and, as one walketh in a dream,
He after walked toward the vestment-room,
And never marked the way he went by,--no,
Nor the gray verger that before him stood,
The great church-keys depending from his hand,
Ready to follow him out and lock the door.
At length, aroused to present things, but not
Content to break the sequence of his thought,
Nor ready for the working day that held
Its busy course without, he said, "Good friend,
Leave me the keys: I would remain a while."
And, when the verger gave, he moved with him
Toward the door distraught, then shut him out,
And locked himself within the church alone.
The minster-church was like a great brown cave,
Fluted and fine with pillars, and all dim
With glorious gloom; but, as the curate turned,
Suddenly shone the sun,--and roof and walls,
Also the clustering shafts from end to end,
Were thickly sown all over, as it were,
With seedling rainbows. And it went and came
And went, that sunny beam, and drifted up
Ethereal bloom to flush the open wings
And carven cheeks of dimpled cherubim,
And dropped upon the curate as he passed,
And covered his white raiment and his hair.
Then did look down upon him from their place,
High in the upper lights, grave mitred priests,
And grand old monarchs in their flowered gowns
And capes of miniver; and therewithal
(A veiling cloud gone by) the naked sun
Smote with his burning splendor all the pile,
And in there rushed, through half-translucent panes,
A sombre glory as of rusted gold,
Deep ruby stains, and tender blue and green,
That made the floor a beauty and delight,
Strewed as with phantom blossoms, sweet enough
To have been wafted there the day they dropt
On the flower-beds in heaven.
The curate passed
Adown the long south aisle, and did not think
Upon this beauty, nor that he himself--
Excellent in the strength of youth, and fair
With all the majesty that noble work
And stainless manners give--did add his part
To make it fairer.
In among the knights
That lay with hands uplifted, by the lute
And palm of many a saint,--'neath capitals
Whereon our fathers had been bold to carve
With earthly tools their ancient childlike dream
Concerning heavenly fruit and living bowers,
And glad full-throated birds that sing up there
Among the branches of the tree of life--
Through all the ordered forest of the shafts,
Shooting on high to enter into light,
That swam aloft,--he took his silent way,
And in the southern transept sat him down,
Covered his face, and thought.
He said, "No pain,
No passion, and no aching, heart o' mine,
Doth stir within thee. Oh! I would there did:
Thou art so dull, so tired. I have lost
I know not what. I see the heavens as lead:
They tend no whither. Ah! the world is bared
Of her enchantment now: she is but earth
And water. And, though much hath passed away,
There may be more to go. I may forget
The joy and fear that have been: there may live
No more for me the fervency of hope
Nor the arrest of wonder.
"Once I said,
'Content will wait on work, though work appear
Unfruitful.' Now I say, 'Where is the good?
What is the good? A lamp when it is lit
Must needs give light; but I am like a man
Holding his lamp in some deserted place
Where no foot passeth. Must I trim my lamp,
And ever painfully toil to keep it bright,
When use for it is none? I must; I will.
Though God withhold my wages, I must work,
And watch the bringing of my work to nought,--
Weed in the vineyard through the heat o' the day,
And, overtasked, behold the weedy place
Grow ranker yet in spite of me.
My meditated words are trodden down
Like a little wayside grass. Castaway shells,
Lifted and tossed aside by a plunging wave,
Have no more force against it than have I
Against the sweeping, weltering wave of life,
That, lifting and dislodging me, drives on,
And notes not mine endeavor."
He added more words like to these; to wit,
That it was hard to see the world so sad:
He would that it were happier. It was hard
To see the blameless overborne; and hard
To know that God, who loves the world, should yet
Let it lie down in sorrow, when a smile
From him would make it laugh and sing,--a word
From him transform it to a heaven. He said,
Moreover, "When will this be done? My life
Hath not yet reached the noon, and I am tired;
And oh! it may be that, uncomforted
By foolish hope of doing good and vain
Conceit of being useful, I may live,
And it may be my duty to go on
Working for years and years, for years and years."
But, while the words were uttered, in his heart
There dawned a vague alarm. He was aware
That somewhat touched him, and he lifted up
His face. "I am alone," the curate said,--
"I think I am alone. What is it, then?
I am ashamed! My raiment is not clean.
My lips,--I am afraid they are not clean.
My heart is darkened and unclean. Ah me,
To be a man, and yet to tremble so!
And there was sitting at his feet--
He could not see it plainly--at his feet
A very little child. And, while the blood
Drave to his heart, he set his eye on it,
Gazing, and, lo! the loveliness from heaven
Took clearer form and color. He beheld
The strange, wise sweetness of a dimpled mouth,--
The deep serene of eyes at home with bliss,
And perfect in possession. So it spoke,
"My master!" but he answered not a word;
And it went on: "I had a name, a name.
He knew my name; but here they can forget."
The curate answered: "Nay, I know thee well.
I love thee. Wherefore art thou come?" It said,
"They sent me;" and he faltered, "Fold thy hand,
O most dear little one! for on it gleams
A gem that is so bright I cannot look
Thereon." It said, "When I did leave this world,
That was a tear. But that was long ago;
For I have lived among the happy folk,
You wot of, ages, ages." Then said he,
"Do they forget us, while beneath the palms
They take their infinite leisure?" And, with eyes
That seemed to muse upon him, looking up
In peace the little child made answer, "Nay;"
And murmured, in the language that he loved,
"How is it that his hair is not yet white;
For I and all the others have been long
Waiting for him to come."
"And was it long?"
The curate answered, pondering. "Time being done,
Shall life indeed expand, and give the sense,
In our to-come, of infinite extension?"
Then said the child, "In heaven we children talk
Of the great matters, and our lips are wise;
But here I can but talk with thee in words
That here I knew." And therewithal, arisen,
It said, "I pray you take me in your arms."
Then, being afraid but willing, so he did;
And partly drew about the radiant child,
For better covering its dread purity,
The foldings of his gown. And he beheld
Its beauty, and the tremulous woven light
That hung upon its hair; withal, the robe,
"Whiter than fuller of this world can white,"
That clothed its immortality. And so
The trembling came again, and he was dumb,
Repenting his uncleanness: and he lift
His eyes, and all the holy place was full
Of living things; and some were faint and dim,
As if they bore an intermittent life,
Waxing and waning; and they had no form,
But drifted on like slowly trailed clouds,
Or moving spots of darkness, with an eye
Apiece. And some, in guise of evil birds,
Came by in troops, and stretched their naked necks,
And some were men-like, but their heads hung down;
And he said, "O my God! let me find grace
Not to behold their faces, for I know
They must be wicked and right terrible."
But while he prayed, lo! whispers; and there moved
Two shadows on the wall. He could not see
The forms of them that cast them: he could see
Only the shadows as of two that sat
Upon the floor, where, clad in women's weeds,
They lisped together. And he shuddered much:
There was a rustling near him, and he feared
Lest they should touch him, and he feel their touch.
"It is not great," quoth one, "the work achieved.
We do, and we delight to do, our best:
But that is little; for, my dear," quoth she,
"This tower and town have been infested long
With angels."--"Ay," the other made reply,
"I had a little evil-one, of late,
That I picked up as it was crawling out
O' the pit, and took and cherished in my breast.
It would divine for me, and oft would moan,
'Pray thee, no churches,' and it spake of this.
But I was harried once,--thou know'st by whom,--
And fled in here; and, when he followed me,
I crouching by this pillar, he let down
His hand,--being all too proud to send his eyes
In its wake,--and, plucking forth my tender imp,
Flung it behind him. It went yelping forth;
And, as for me, I never saw it more.
Much is against us,--very much: the times
Are hard." She paused: her fellow took the word,
Plaining on such as preach and them that plead.
"Even such as haunt the yawning mouths of hell,"
Quoth she, "and pluck them back that run thereto."
Then, like a sudden blow, there fell on him
The utterance of his name. "There is no soul
That I loathe more, and oftener curse. Woe's me,
That cursing should be vain! Ay, he will go
Gather the sucking children, that are yet
Too young for us, and watch and shelter them.
Till the strong Angels--pitiless and stern,
But to them loving ever--sweep them in,
By armsful, to the unapproachable fold.
"We strew his path with gold: it will not lie.
'Deal softly with him,' was the master's word.
We brought him all delights: his angel came
And stood between them and his eyes. They spend
Much pains upon him,--keep him poor and low
And unbeloved; and thus he gives his mind
To fill the fateful, the impregnable
Child-fold, and sow on earth the seed of stars.
"Oh! hard is serving against love,--the love
Of the Unspeakable; for if we soil
The souls He openeth out a washing-place;
And if we grudge, and snatch away the bread,
Then will He save by poverty, and gain
By early giving up of blameless life;
And if we shed out gold, He even will save
In spite of gold,--of twice-refined gold."
With that the curate set his daunted eyes
To look upon the shadows of the fiends.
He was made sure they could not see the child
That nestled in his arms; he also knew
They were unconscious that his mortal ears
Had new intelligence, which gave their speech
Possible entrance through his garb of clay.
He was afraid, yet awful gladness reached
His soul: the testimony of the lost
Upbraided him; but while he trembled yet,
The heavenly child had lifted up its head
And left his arms, and on the marble floor
And, its touch withdrawn, the place
Was silent, empty; all that swarming tribe
Of evil ones concealed behind the veil,
And shut into their separate world, were closed
From his observance. He arose, and paced
After the little child,--as half in fear
That it would leave him,--till they reached a door;
And then said he,--but much distraught he spoke,
Laying his hand across the lock,--"This door
Shuts in the stairs whereby men mount the tower.
Wouldst thou go up, and so withdraw to heaven?"
It answered, "I will mount them." Then said he,
"And I will follow."--"So thou shalt do well,"
The radiant thing replied, and it went up,
And he, amazed, went after; for the stairs,
Otherwhile dark, were lightened by the rays
Shed out of raiment woven in high heaven,
And hair whereon had smiled the light of God.
With that, they, pacing on, came out at last
Into a dim, weird place,--a chamber formed
Betwixt the roofs: for you shall know that all
The vaulting of the nave, fretted and fine,
Was covered with the dust of ages, laid
Thick with those chips of stone which they had left
Who wrought it; but a high-pitched roof was reared
Above it, and the western gable pierced
With three long narrow lights. Great tie-beams loomed
Across, and many daws frequented there,
The starling and the sparrow littered it
With straw, and peeped from many a shady nook;
And there was lifting up of wings, and there
Was hasty exit when the curate came.
But sitting on a beam and moving not
For him, he saw two fair gray turtle-doves
Bowing their heads, and cooing; and the child
Put forth a hand to touch his own, but straight
He, startled, drew it back, because, forsooth,
A stirring fancy smote him, and he thought
That language trembled on their innocent tongues,
And floated forth in speech that man could hear.
Then said the child, "Yet touch, my master dear."
And he let down his hand, and touched again;
And so it was. "But if they had their way,"
One turtle cooed, "how should this world go on?"
Then he looked well upon them, as he stood
Upright before them. They were feathered doves,
And sitting close together; and their eyes
Were rounded with the rim that marks their kind.
Their tender crimson feet did pat the beam,--
No phantoms they; and soon the fellow-dove
Made answer, "Nay they count themselves so wise,
There is no task they shall be set to do
But they will ask God why. What mean they so?
The glory is not in the task, but in
The doing it for Him. What should he think,
Brother, this man that must, forsooth, be set
Such noble work, and suffered to behold
Its fruit, if he knew more of us and ours?"
With that the other leaned, as if attent:
"I am not perfect, brother, in his thought."
The mystic bird replied. "Brother, he saith,
'But it is nought: the work is overhard.'
Whose fault is that? God sets not overwork.
He saith the world is sorrowful, and he
Is therefore sorrowful. He cannot set
The crooked straight;--but who demands of him,
O brother, that he should? What! thinks he, then,
His work is God's advantage, and his will
More bent to aid the world than its dread Lord's?
Nay, yet there live amongst us legions fair,
Millions on millions, who could do right well
What he must fail in; and 'twas whispered me,
That chiefly for himself the task is given,--
His little daily task." With that he paused.
Then said the other, preening its fair wing,
"Men have discovered all God's islands now,
And given them names; whereof they are as proud,
And deem themselves as great, as if their hands
Had made them. Strange is man, and strange his pride.
Now, as for us, it matters not to learn
What and from whence we be: How should we tell?
Our world is undiscovered in these skies,
Our names not whispered. Yet, for us and ours,
What joy it is,--permission to come down,
Not souls, as he, to the bosom of their God,
To guide, but to their goal the winged fowls,
His lovely lower-fashioned lives to help
To take their forms by legions, fly, and draw
With us the sweet, obedient, flocking things
That ever hear our message reverently,
And follow us far. How should they know their way,
Forsooth, alone? Men say they fly alone;
Yet some have set on record, and averred,
That they, among the flocks, had duly marked
Then his fellow made reply:
"They might divine the Maker's heart. Come forth,
Fair dove, to find the flocks, and guide their wings,
For Him that loveth them."
With that, the child
Withdrew his hand, and all their speech was done.
He moved toward them, but they fluttered forth
And fled into the sunshine.
"I would fain,"
Said he, "have heard some more. And wilt thou go?"
He added to the child, for this had turned.
"Ay," quoth he, gently, "to the beggar's place;
For I would see the beggar in the porch."
So they went down together to the door,
Which, when the curate opened, lo! without
The beggar sat; and he saluted him:
"Good morrow, master." "Wherefore art thou here?"
The curate asked: "it is not service time,
And none will enter now to give thee alms."
Then said the beggar, "I have hope at heart
That I shall go to my poor house no more."
"Art thou so sick that thou dost think to die?"
The curate said. With that the beggar laughed,
And under his dim eyelids gathered tears,
And he was all a-tremble with a strange
And moving exaltation. "Ay," quoth he,
And set his face toward high heaven: "I think
The blessing that I wait on must be near."
Then said the curate, "God be good to thee."
And, straight, the little child put forth his hand,
And touched him. "Master, master, hush!
You should not, master, speak so carelessly
In this great presence."
But the touch so wrought,
That, lo! the dazzled curate staggered back,
For dread effulgence from the beggar's eyes
Smote him, and from the crippled limbs shot forth
Terrible lights, as pure long blades of fire.
"Withdraw thy touch! withdraw thy touch!" he cried,
"Or else shall I be blinded." Then the child
Stood back from him; and he sat down apart,
Recovering of his manhood: and he heard
The beggar and the child discourse of things
Dreadful for glory, till his spirits came
Anew; and, when the beggar looked on him,
He said, "If I offend not, pray you tell
Who and what are you--I behold a face
Marred with old age, sickness, and poverty,--
A cripple with a staff, who long hath sat
Begging, and ofttimes moaning, in the porch,
For pain and for the wind's inclemency.
What are you?" Then the beggar made reply,
"I was a delegate, a living power;
My work was bliss, for seeds were in my hand
To plant a new-made world. O happy work!
It grew and blossomed; but my dwelling-place
Was far remote from heaven. I have not seen;
I knew no wish to enter there. But lo!
There went forth rumors, running out like rays,
How some, that were of power like even to mine,
Had made request to come and find a place
Within its walls. And these were satisfied
With promises, and sent to this far world
To take the weeds of your mortality,
And minister, and suffer grief and pain,
And die like men. Then were they gathered in.
They saw a face, and were accounted kin
To Whom thou knowest, for he is kin to men.
"Then I did wait; and oft, at work, I sang,
'To minister! oh, joy, to minister!'
And, it being known, a message came to me:
'Whether is best, thou forest-planter wise,
To minister to others, or that they
Should minister to thee?' Then, on my face
Low lying, I made answer: 'It is best,
Most High, to minister;' and thus came back
The answer,--'Choose not for thyself the best:
Go down, and, lo! my poor shall minister,
Out of their poverty, to thee; shall learn
Compassion by thy frailty; and shall oft
Turn back, when speeding home from work, to help
Thee, weak and crippled, home. My little ones,
Thou shalt importune for their slender mite,
And pray, and move them that they give it up
For love of Me.'"
The curate answered him,
"Art thou content, O great one from afar!
If I may ask, and not offend?" He said,
"I am. Behold! I stand not all alone,
That I should think to do a perfect work.
I may not wish to give; for I have heard
'Tis best for me that I receive. For me,
God is the only giver, and His gift
Is one." With that, the little child sighed out,
"O master! master! I am out of heaven
Since noonday, and I hear them calling me.
If you be ready, great one, let us go:--
Hark! hark! they call."
Then did the beggar lift
His face to heaven, and utter forth a cry
As of the pangs of death, and every tree
Moved as if shaken by a sudden wind.
He cried again, and there came forth a hand
From some invisible form, which, being laid
A little moment on the curate's eyes,
It dazzled him with light that brake from it,
So that he saw no more.
"What shall I do?"
The curate murmured, when he came again
To himself and looked about him. "This is strange!
My thoughts are all astray; and yet, methinks,
A weight is taken from my heart. Lo! lo!
There lieth at my feet, frail, white, and dead,
The sometime beggar. He is happy now.
There was a child; but he is gone, and he
Is also happy. I am glad to think
I am not bound to make the wrong go right;
But only to discover, and to do
With cheerful heart, the work that God appoints."
With that, he did compose, with reverent care,
The dead; continuing, "I will trust in Him,
THAT HE CAN HOLD HIS OWN; and I will take
His will, above the work He sendeth me,
To be my chiefest good."
Then went he forth,
"I shall die early," thinking: "I am warned,
By this fair vision, that I have not long
To live." Yet he lived on to good old age;--
Ay, he lives yet, and he is working still.
* * * * *
It may be there are many in like case:
They give themselves, and are in misery
Because the gift is small, and doth not make
The world by so much better as they fain
Would have it. 'Tis a fault; but, as for us,
Let us not blame them. Maybe, 'tis a fault
More kindly looked on by The Majesty
Than our best virtues are. Why, what are we?
What have we given, and what have we desired
To give, the world?
There must be something wrong
Look to it: let us mend our ways. Farewell.
THE SHEPHERD LADY.
Who pipes upon the long green hill,
Where meadow grass is deep?
The white lamb bleats but followeth on--
Follow the clean white sheep.
The dear white lady in yon high tower,
She hearkeneth in her sleep.
All in long grass the piper stands,
Goodly and grave is he;
Outside the tower, at dawn of day,
The notes of his pipe ring free.
A thought from his heart doth reach to hers:
"Come down, O lady! to me."
She lifts her head, she dons her gown:
Ah! the lady is fair;
She ties the girdle on her waist,
And binds her flaxen hair,
And down she stealeth, down and down,
Down the turret stair.
Behold him! With the flock he wons
Along yon grassy lea.
"My shepherd lord, my shepherd love,
What wilt thou, then, with me?
My heart is gone out of my breast,
And followeth on to thee."
"The white lambs feed in tender grass:
With them and thee to bide,
How good it were," she saith at noon;
"Albeit the meads are wide.
Oh! well is me," she saith when day
Draws on to eventide.
Hark! hark! the shepherd's voice. Oh, sweet!
Her tears drop down like rain.
"Take now this crook, my chosen, my fere,
And tend the flock full fain;
Feed them, O lady, and lose not one,
Till I shall come again."
Right soft her speech: "My will is thine,
And my reward thy grace!"
Gone are his footsteps over the hill,
Withdrawn his goodly face;
The mournful dusk begins to gather,
The daylight wanes apace.
On sunny slopes, ah! long the lady
Feedeth her flock at noon;
She leads it down to drink at eve
Where the small rivulets croon.
All night her locks are wet with dew,
Her eyes outwatch the moon.
Beyond the hills her voice is heard,
She sings when light doth wane:
"My longing heart is full of love,
Nor shall my watch be vain.
My shepherd lord. I see him not,
But he will come again."
WRITTEN ON THE DEATHS OF THREE LOVELY CHILDREN
WHO WERE TAKEN FROM THEIR PARENTS WITHIN A MONTH
OF ONE ANOTHER.
AGED EIGHT YEARS.
Yellow leaves, how fast they flutter--woodland hollows thickly strewing,
Where the wan October sunbeams scantly in the mid-day win,
While the dim gray clouds are drifting, and in saddened hues imbuing
All without and all within!
All within! but winds of autumn, little Henry, round their dwelling
Did not load your father's spirit with those deep and burdened sighs;--
Only echoed thoughts of sadness, in your mother's bosom swelling,
Fast as tears that dim her eyes.
Life is fraught with many changes, checked with sorrow and mutation,
But no grief it ever lightened such a truth before to know:--
I behold them--father, mother--as they seem to contemplation,
Only three short weeks ago!
Saddened for the morrow's parting--up the stairs at midnight stealing--
As with cautious foot we glided past the children's open door,--
"Come in here," they said, the lamplight dimpled forms at last revealing,
"Kiss them in their sleep once more."
You were sleeping, little Henry, with your eyelids scarcely closing,
Two sweet faces near together, with their rounded arms entwined:--
And the rose-bud lips were moving, as if stirred in their reposing
By the movements of the mind!
And your mother smoothed the pillow, and her sleeping treasures numbered,
Whispering fondly--"He is dreaming"--as you turned upon your bed--
And your father stooped to kiss you, happy dreamer, as you slumbered,
With his hand upon your head!
Did he know the true deep meaning of his blessing? No! he never
Heard afar the summons uttered--"Come up hither"--Never knew
How the awful Angel faces kept his sleeping boy for ever,
And for ever in their view.
Awful Faces, unimpassioned, silent Presences were by us,
Shrouding wings--majestic beings--hidden by this earthly veil--
Such as we have called on, saying, "Praise the Lord, O Ananias,
Azarias and Misael!"
But we saw not, and who knoweth, what the missioned Spirits taught him,
To that one small bed drawn nearer, when we left him to their will?
While he slumbered, who can answer for what dreams they may have brought
When at midnight all was still?
Father! Mother! must you leave him on his bed, but not to slumber?
Are the small hands meekly folded on his breast, but not to pray?
When you count your children over, must you tell a different number,
Since that happier yesterday?
Father! Mother! weep if need be, since this is a "time" for weeping,
Comfort comes not for the calling, grief is never argued down--
Coldly sounds the admonition, "Why lament? in better keeping
Rests the child than in your own."
"Truth indeed! but, oh! compassion! Have you sought to scan my sorrow?"
(Mother, you shall meekly ponder, list'ning to that common tale)
"Does your heart repeat its echo, or by fellow-feeling borrow
Even a tone that might avail?
"Might avail to steal it from me, by its deep heart-warm affection?
Might perceive by strength of loving how the fond words to combine?
Surely no! I will be silent, in your soul is no reflection
Of the care that burdens mine!"
When the winter twilight gathers, Father, and your thoughts shall wander,
Sitting lonely you shall blend him with your listless reveries,
Half forgetful what division holds the form whereon you ponder
From its place upon your knees--
With a start of recollection, with a half-reproachful wonder,
Of itself the heart shall question, "Art Thou then no longer here?
Is it so, my little Henry? Are we set so far asunder
Who were wont to be so near?"
While the fire-light dimly flickers, and the lengthened shades are meeting,
To itself the heart shall answer, "He shall come to me no more:
I shall never hear his footsteps nor the child's sweet voice entreating
For admission at my door."
But upon _your_ fair, fair forehead, no regrets nor griefs are dwelling,
Neither sorrow nor disquiet do the peaceful features know;
Nor that look, whose wistful beauty seemed their sad hearts to be telling,
"Daylight breaketh, let me go!"
Daylight breaketh, little Henry; in its beams your soul awaketh--
What though night should close around us, dim and dreary to the view--
Though _our_ souls should walk in darkness, far away that morning breaketh
Into endless day for you!
AGED NINE YEARS.
They have left you, little Henry, but they have not left you lonely--
Brothers' hearts so knit together could not, might not separate dwell.
Fain to seek you in the mansions far away--One lingered only
To bid those behind farewell!
Gentle Boy!--His childlike nature in most guileless form was moulded,
And it may be that his spirit woke in glory unaware,
Since so calmly he resigned it, with his hands still meekly folded,
Having said his evening prayer.
Or--if conscious of that summons--"Speak, O Lord, Thy servant heareth"--
As one said, whose name they gave him, might his willing answer be,
"Here am I"--like him replying--"At Thy gates my soul appeareth,
For behold Thou calledst me!"
A deep silence--utter silence, on his earthly home descendeth:--
Reading, playing, sleeping, waking--he is gone, and few remain!
"O the loss!"--they utter, weeping--every voice its echo lendeth--
"O the loss!"--But, O the gain!
On that tranquil shore his spirit was vouchsafed an early landing,
Lest the toils of crime should stain it, or the thrall of guilt control--
Lest that "wickedness should alter the yet simple understanding,
Or deceit beguile his soul!"
"Lay not up on earth thy treasure"--they have read that sentence duly,
Moth and rust shall fret thy riches--earthly good hath swift decay--
"Even so," each heart replieth--"As for me, my riches truly
Make them wings and flee away!"
"O my riches!--O my children!--dearest part of life and being,
Treasures looked to for the solace of this life's declining years,--
Were our voices cold to hearing--or our faces cold to seeing,
That ye left us to our tears?"
"We inherit conscious silence, ceasing of some merry laughter,
And the hush of two sweet voices--(healing sounds for spirits bruised!)
Of the tread of joyous footsteps in the pathway following after,
Of two names no longer used!"
Question for them, little Sister, in your sweet and childish fashion--
Search and seek them, Baby Brother, with your calm and asking eyes--
Dimpled lips that fail to utter fond appeal or sad compassion,
Mild regret or dim surprise!
There are two tall trees above you, by the high east window growing,
Underneath them, slumber sweetly, lapt in silence deep, serene;
Save, when pealing in the distance, organ notes towards you flowing