Part 6 out of 8
Most pure, most excellent, is garnered there."
When I do sit apart
And commune with my heart,
She brings me forth the treasures once my own;
Shows me a happy place
Where leaf-buds swelled apace,
And wasting rims of snow in sunlight shone.
Rock, in a mossy glade,
The larch-trees lend thee shade,
That just begin to feather with their leaves;
From out thy crevice deep
White tufts of snowdrops peep,
And melted rime drips softly from thine eaves.
Ah, rock, I know, I know
That yet thy snowdrops grow,
And yet doth sunshine fleck them through the tree,
Whose sheltering branches hide
The cottage at its side,
That nevermore will shade or shelter me.
I know the stockdoves' note
Athwart the glen doth float:
With sweet foreknowledge of her twins oppressed,
And longings onward sent,
She broods before the event,
While leisurely she mends her shallow nest.
Once to that cottage door,
In happy days of yore,
My little love made footprints in the snow.
She was so glad of spring,
She helped the birds to sing,
I know she dwells there yet--the rest I do not know.
They sang, and would not stop,
While drop, and drop, and drop,
I heard the melted rime in sunshine fall;
And narrow wandering rills,
Where leaned the daffodils,
Murmured and murmured on, and that was all.
I think, but cannot tell,
I think she loved me well,
And some dear fancy with my future twined.
But I shall never know,
Hope faints, and lets it go,
That passionate want forbid to speak its mind.
I held my way through Defton Wood,
And on to Wandor Hall;
The dancing leaf let down the light,
In hovering spots to fall.
"O young, young leaves, you match me well,"
My heart was merry, and sung--
"Now wish me joy of my sweet youth;
My love--she, too, is young!
O so many, many, many
Little homes above my head!
O so many, many, many
Dancing blossoms round me spread!
O so many, many, many
Maidens sighing yet for none!
Speed, ye wooers, speed with any--
Speed with all but one."
I took my leave of Wandor Hall,
And trod the woodland ways.
"What shall I do so long to bear
The burden of my days?"
I sighed my heart into the boughs
Whereby the culvers cooed;
For only I between them went
Unwooing and unwooed.
"O so many, many, many
Lilies bending stately heads!
O so many, many, many
Strawberries ripened on their beds!
O so many, many, many
Maids, and yet my heart undone!
What to me are all, are any--
I have lost my--one."
THE LONG WHITE SEAM.
As I came round the harbor buoy,
The lights began to gleam,
No wave the land-locked water stirred,
The crags were white as cream;
And I marked my love by candle-light
Sewing her long white seam.
It's aye sewing ashore, my dear,
Watch and steer at sea,
It's reef and furl, and haul the line,
Set sail and think of thee.
I climbed to reach her cottage door;
O sweetly my love sings!
Like a shaft of light her voice breaks forth,
My soul to meet it springs
As the shining water leaped of old,
When stirred by angel wings.
Aye longing to list anew,
Awake and in my dream,
But never a song she sang like this,
Sewing her long white seam.
Fair fall the lights, the harbor lights,
That brought me in to thee,
And peace drop down on that low roof
For the sight that I did see,
And the voice, my dear, that rang so clear
All for the love of me.
For O, for O, with brows bent low
By the candle's flickering gleam,
Her wedding gown it was she wrought,
Sewing the long white seam.
AN OLD WIFE'S SONG.
And what will ye hear, my daughters dear?--
Oh, what will ye hear this night?
Shall I sing you a song of the yuletide cheer,
Or of lovers and ladies bright?
"Thou shalt sing," they say (for we dwell far away
From the land where fain would we be),
"Thou shalt sing us again some old-world strain
That is sung in our own countrie.
"Thou shalt mind us so of the times long ago,
When we walked on the upland lea,
While the old harbor light waxed faint in the white,
Long rays shooting out from the sea;
"While lambs were yet asleep, and the dew lay deep
On the grass, and their fleeces clean and fair.
Never grass was seen so thick nor so green
As the grass that grew up there!
"In the town was no smoke, for none there awoke--
At our feet it lay still as still could be;
And we saw far below the long river flow,
And the schooners a-warping out to sea.
"Sing us now a strain shall make us feel again
As we felt in that sacred peace of morn,
When we had the first view of the wet sparkling dew,
In the shyness of a day just born."
So I sang an old song--it was plain and not long--
I had sung it very oft when they were small;
And long ere it was done they wept every one:
Yet this was all the song--this was all:--
The snow lies white, and the moon gives light,
I'll out to the freezing mere,
And ease my heart with one little song,
For none will be nigh to hear.
And it's O my love, my love!
And it's O my dear, my dear!
It's of her that I'll sing till the wild woods ring,
When nobody's nigh to hear.
My love is young, she is young, is young;
When she laughs the dimple dips.
We walked in the wind, and her long locks blew
Till sweetly they touched my lips.
And I'll out to the freezing mere,
Where the stiff reeds whistle so low.
And I'll tell my mind to the friendly wind,
Because I have loved her so.
Ay, and she's true, my lady is true!
And that's the best of it all;
And when she blushes my heart so yearns
That tears are ready to fall.
And it's O my love, my love!
And it's O my dear, my dear!
It's of her that I'll sing till the wild woods ring,
When nobody's nigh to hear.
COLD AND QUIET.
Cold, my dear,--cold and quiet.
In their cups on yonder lea,
Cowslips fold the brown bee's diet;
So the moss enfoldeth thee.
"Plant me, plant me, O love, a lily flower--
Plant at my head, I pray you, a green tree;
And when our children sleep," she sighed, "at the dusk hour,
And when the lily blossoms, O come out to me!"
Lost, my dear? Lost! nay deepest
Love is that which loseth least;
Through the night-time while thou sleepest,
Still I watch the shrouded east.
Near thee, near thee, my wife that aye liveth,
"Lost" is no word for such a love as mine;
Love from her past to me a present giveth,
And love itself doth comfort, making pain divine.
Rest, my dear, rest. Fair showeth
That which was, and not in vain
Sacred have I kept, God knoweth,
Love's last words atween us twain.
"Hold by our past, my only love, my lover;
Fall not, but rise, O love, by loss of me!"
Boughs from our garden, white with bloom hang over.
Love, now the children slumber, I come out to thee.
The logs burn red; she lifts her head,
For sledge-bells tinkle and tinkle, O lightly swung.
"Youth was a pleasant morning, but ah! to think 'tis fled,
Sae lang, lang syne," quo' her mother, "I, too, was young."
No guides there are but the North star,
And the moaning forest tossing wild arms before,
The maiden murmurs, "O sweet were yon bells afar,
And hark! hark! hark! for he cometh, he nears the door."
Swift north-lights show, and scatter and go.
How can I meet him, and smile not, on this cold shore?
Nay, I will call him, "Come in from the night and the snow,
And love, love, love in the wild wood, wander no more."
MIDSUMMER NIGHT, NOT DARK, NOT LIGHT.
Midsummer night, not dark, not light,
Dusk all the scented air,
I'll e'en go forth to one I love,
And learn how he doth fare.
O the ring, the ring, my dear, for me,
The ring was a world too fine,
I wish it had sunk in a forty-fathom sea,
Or ever thou mad'st it mine.
Soft falls the dew, stars tremble through,
Where lone he sits apart,
Would I might steal his grief away
To hide in mine own heart.
Would, would 'twere shut in yon blossom fair,
The sorrow that bows thy head,
Then--I would gather it, to thee unaware,
And break my heart in thy stead.
That charmed flower, far from thy bower,
I'd bear the long hours through,
Thou should'st forget, and my sad breast
The sorrows twain should rue.
O sad flower, O sad, sad ring to me.
The ring was a world too fine;
And would it had sunk in a forty-fathom sea,
Ere the morn that made it mine.
THE BRIDEGROOM TO HIS BRIDE.
Fairest fair, best of good,
Too high for hope that stood;
White star of womanhood shining apart
O my liege lady,
And O my one lady,
And O my loved lady, come down to my heart.
Reach me life's wine and gold,
What is man's best all told,
If thou thyself withhold, sweet, from thy throne?
O my liege lady,
And O my loved lady,
And O my heart's lady, come, reign there alone.
THE FAIRY WOMAN'S SONG.
The fairy woman maketh moan,
"Well-a-day, and well-a-day,
Forsooth I brought thee one rose, one,
And thou didst cast my rose away."
Hark! Oh hark, she mourneth yet,
"One good ship--the good ship sailed,
One bright star, at last it set,
One, one chance, forsooth it failed."
Clear thy dusk hair from thy veiled eyes,
Show thy face as thee beseems,
For yet is starlight in the skies,
Weird woman piteous through my dreams.
"Nay," she mourns, "forsooth not now,
Veiled I sit for evermore,
Rose is shed, and charmed prow
Shall not touch the charmed shore."
There thy sons that were to be,
Thy small gamesome children play;
There all loves that men foresee
Straight as wands enrich the way.
Dove-eyed, fair, with me they worm
Where enthroned I reign a queen,
In the lovely realms foregone,
In the lives that might have been.
ABOVE THE CLOUDS.
And can this be my own world?
'Tis all gold and snow,
Save where scarlet waves are hurled
Down yon gulf below.
'Tis thy world, 'tis my world,
City, mead, and shore,
For he that hath his own world
Hath many worlds more.
[Footnote 1: "Above the Clouds," and thirteen poems following, are from
"Mopsa the Fairy."]
SLEEP AND TIME.
"Wake, baillie, wake! the crafts are out;
Wake!" said the knight, "be quick!
For high street, bye street, over the town
They fight with poker and stick."
Said the squire, "A fight so fell was ne'er
In all my bailliewick."
What said the old clock in the tower?
"Tick, tick, tick!"
"Wake, daughter, wake! the hour draws on;
Wake!" quoth the dame, "be quick!
The meats are set, the guests are coming,
The fiddler waxing his stick."
She said, "The bridegroom waiting and waiting
To see thy face is sick."
What said the new clock in her bower?
"Tick, tick, tick!"
BEES AND OTHER FELLOW-CREATURES.
The dove laid some little sticks,
Then began to coo;
The gnat took his trumpet up
To play the day through;
The pie chattered soft and long--
But that she always does;
The bee did all he had to do,
And only said, "Buzz."
THE GYPSY'S SELLING SONG.
My good man--he's an old, old man--
And my good man got a fall,
To buy me a bargain so fast he ran
When he heard the gypsies call:
"Buy, buy brushes,
Baskets wrought o' rushes.
Buy them, buy them, take them, try them,
Buy, dames all."
My old man, he has money and land,
And a young, young wife am I.
Let him put the penny in my white hand
When he hears the gypsies cry:
"Buy, buy laces,
Veils to screen your faces.
Buy them, buy them, take and try them.
Buy, maids, buy."
A WOOING SONG.
My fair lady's a dear, dear lady--
I walked by her side to woo.
In a garden alley, so sweet and shady,
She answered, "I love not you,
John, John Brady,"
Quoth my dear lady,
"Pray now, pray now, go your way now,
Do, John, do!"
Yet my fair lady's my own, own lady,
For I passed another day;
While making her moan, she sat all alone,
And thus, and thus did she say:
"John, John Brady,"
Quoth my dear lady,
"Do now, do now, once more woo now.
Pray, John, pray!"
A COURTING SONG.
"Master," quoth the auld hound
"Where will ye go?"
"Over moss, over muir,
To court my new jo."
"Master, though the night be merk,
I'se follow through the snow.
"Court her, master, court her,
So shall ye do weel;
But and ben she'll guide the house,
I'se get milk and meal.
Ye'se get lilting while she sits
With her rock and reel."
"For, oh! she has a sweet tongue,
And een that look down,
A gold girdle for her waist,
And a purple gown.
She has a good word forbye
Fra a' folk in the town."
LOVE'S THREAD OF GOLD.
In the night she told a story,
In the night and all night through,
While the moon was in her glory,
And the branches dropped with dew.
'Twas my life she told, and round it
Rose the years as from a deep;
In the world's great heart she found it,
Cradled like a child asleep.
In the night I saw her weaving
By the misty moonbeam cold,
All the weft her shuttle cleaving
With a sacred thread of gold.
Ah! she wept me tears of sorrow,
Lulling tears so mystic sweet;
Then she wove my last to-morrow,
And her web lay at my feet.
Of my life she made the story:
I must weep--so soon 'twas told!
But your name did lend it glory,
And your love its thread of gold!
THE LEAVES OF LIGN ALOES.
Drop, drop from the leaves of lign aloes,
O honey-dew! drop from the tree.
Float up through your clear river shallows,
White lilies, beloved of the bee.
Let the people, O Queen! say, and bless thee,
Her bounty drops soft as the dew,
And spotless in honor confess thee,
As lilies are spotless in hue.
On the roof stands yon white stork awaking,
His feathers flush rosy the while,
For, lo! from the blushing east breaking,
The sun sheds the bloom of his smile.
Let them boast of thy word, "It is certain;
We doubt it no more," let them say,
"Than to-morrow that night's dusky curtain
Shall roll back its folds for the day."
THE DAYS WITHOUT ALLOY.
When I sit on market-days amid the comers and the goers,
Oh! full oft I have a vision of the days without alloy,
And a ship comes up the river with a jolly gang of towers,
And a "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
There is busy talk around me, all about mine ears it hummeth,
But the wooden wharves I look on, and a dancing, heaving buoy,
For 'tis tidetime in the river, and she cometh--oh, she cometh!
With a "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
Then I hear the water washing, never golden waves were brighter,
And I hear the capstan creaking--'tis a sound that cannot cloy.
Bring her to, to ship her lading, brig or schooner, sloop or lighter,
With a "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
"Will ye step aboard, my dearest? for the high seas lie before us."
So I sailed adown the river in those days without alloy.
We are launched! But when, I wonder, shall a sweeter sound float o'er us
Than yon "pull'e haul'e, pull'e haul'e, yoy! heave, hoy!"
FEATHERS AND MOSS.
The marten flew to the finch's nest,
Feathers, and moss, and a wisp of hay:
"The arrow it sped to thy brown mate's breast;
Low in the broom is thy mate to-day."
"Liest thou low, love? low in the broom?
Feathers and moss, and a wisp of hay,
Warm the white eggs till I learn his doom."
She beateth her wings, and away, away.
"Ah, my sweet singer, thy days are told
(Feathers and moss, and a wisp of hay)!
Thine eyes are dim, and the eggs grow cold.
O mournful morrow! O dark to-day!"
The finch flew back to her cold, cold nest,
Feathers and moss, and a wisp of hay,
Mine is the trouble that rent her breast,
And home is silent, and love is clay.
ON THE ROCKS BY ABERDEEN.
On the rocks by Aberdeen,
Where the whislin' wave had been,
As I wandered and at e'en
There I saw thee sailing west,
And I ran with joy opprest--
Ay, and took out all my best,
Then I busked mysel' wi' speed,
And the neighbors cried "What need?
'Tis a lass in any weed
Now my heart, my heart is sair.
What's the good, though I be fair,
For thou'lt never see me mair,
LIKE A LAVEROCK IN THE LIFT.
It's we two, it's we two, it's we two for aye,
All the world and we two, and Heaven be our stay.
Like a laverock in the lift, sing, O bonny bride!
All the world was Adam once, with Eve by his side.
What's the world, my lass, my love!--what can it do?
I am thine, and thou art mine; life is sweet and new.
If the world have missed the mark, let it stand by,
For we two have gotten leave, and once more we'll try.
Like a laverock in the lift, sing, O bonny bride!
It's we two, it's we two, happy side by side.
Take a kiss from me thy man; now the song begins:
"All is made afresh for us, and the brave heart wins."
When the darker days come, and no sun will shine,
Thou shalt dry my tears, lass, and I'll dry thine.
It's we two, it's we two, while the world's away,
Sitting by the golden sheaves on our wedding-day.
SONG FOR A BABE.
Little babe, while burns the west,
Warm thee, warm thee in my breast;
While the moon doth shine her best,
And the dews distil not.
All the land so sad, so fair--
Sweet its toils are, blest its care.
Child, we may not enter there!
Some there are that will not.
Fain would I thy margins know,
Land of work, and land of snow;
Land of life, whose rivers flow
On, and on, and stay not.
Fain would I thy small limbs fold,
While the weary hours are told,
Little babe in cradle cold.
Some there are that may not.
GIVE US LOVE AND GIVE US PEACE.
One morning, oh! so early, my beloved, my beloved,
All the birds were singing blithely, as if never they would cease;
'Twas a thrush sang in my garden, "Hear the story, hear the story!"
And the lark sang, "Give us glory!"
And the dove said, "Give us peace!"
Then I listened, oh! so early, my beloved, my beloved,
To that murmur from the woodland of the dove, my dear, the dove;
When the nightingale came after, "Give us fame to sweeten duty!"
When the wren sang, "Give us beauty!"
She made answer, "Give us love!"
Sweet is spring, and sweet the morning, my beloved, my beloved;
Now for us doth spring, doth morning, wait upon the year's increase,
And my prayer goes up, "Oh, give us, crowned in youth with marriage glory,
Give for all our life's dear story,
Give us love, and give us peace!"
THE TWO MARGARETS.
MARGARET BY THE MERE SIDE.
Lying imbedded in the green champaign
That gives no shadow to thy silvery face,
Open to all the heavens, and all their train,
The marshalled clouds that cross with stately pace,
No steadfast hills on thee reflected rest,
Nor waver with the dimpling of thy breast.
O, silent Mere! about whose marges spring
Thick bulrushes to hide the reed-bird's nest;
Where the shy ousel dips her glossy wing,
And balanced in the water takes her rest:
While under bending leaves, all gem-arrayed,
Blue dragon-flies sit panting in the shade:
Warm, stilly place, the sundew loves thee well,
And the green sward comes creeping to thy brink,
And golden saxifrage and pimpernel
Lean down to thee their perfumed heads to drink;
And heavy with the weight of bees doth bend
White clover, and beneath thy wave descend:
While the sweet scent of bean-fields, floated wide
On a long eddy of the lightsome air
Over the level mead to thy lone side,
Doth lose itself among thy zephyrs rare,
With wafts from hawthorn bowers and new-cut hay,
And blooming orchards lying far away.
Thou hast thy Sabbaths, when a deeper calm
Descends upon thee, quiet Mere, and then
There is a sound of bells, a far off psalm
From gray church towers, that swims across the fen;
And the light sigh where grass and waters meet,
Is thy meek welcome to the visit sweet.
Thou hast thy lovers. Though the angler's rod
Dimple thy surface seldom; though the oar
Fill not with silvery globes thy fringing sod,
Nor send long ripples to thy lonely shore;
Though few, as in a glass, have cared to trace
The smile of nature moving on thy face;
Thou hast thy lovers truly. 'Mid the cold
Of northern tarns the wild-fowl dream of thee,
And, keeping thee in mind, their wings unfold,
And shape their course, high soaring, till they see
Down in the world, like molten silver, rest
Their goal, and screaming plunge them in thy breast.
Fair Margaret, who sittest all day long
On the gray stone beneath the sycamore,
The bowering tree with branches lithe and strong,
The only one to grace the level shore,
Why dost thou wait? for whom with patient cheer
Gaze yet so wistfully adown the Mere?
Thou canst not tell, thou dost not know, alas!
Long watchings leave behind them little trace;
And yet how sweetly must the mornings pass,
That bring that dreamy calmness to thy face!
How quickly must the evenings come that find
Thee still regret to leave the Mere behind!
Thy cheek is resting on thy hand; thine eyes
Are like twin violets but half unclosed,
And quiet as the deeps in yonder skies.
Never more peacefully in love reposed
A mother's gaze upon her offspring dear,
Than thine upon the long far-stretching Mere.
Sweet innocent! Thy yellow hair floats low
In rippling undulations on thy breast,
Then stealing down the parted love-locks flow,
Bathed in a sunbeam on thy knees to rest,
And touch those idle hands that folded lie,
Having from sport and toil a like immunity.
Through thy life's dream with what a touching grace
Childhood attends thee, nearly woman grown;
Her dimples linger yet upon thy face,
Like dews upon a lily this day blown;
Thy sighs are born of peace, unruffled, deep;
So the babe sighs on mother's breast asleep.
It sighs, and wakes,--but thou! thy dream is all,
And thou wert born for it, and it for thee;
Morn doth not take thy heart, nor evenfall
Charm out its sorrowful fidelity,
Nor noon beguile thee from the pastoral shore,
And thy long watch beneath the sycamore.
No, down the Mere as far as eye can see,
Where its long reaches fade into the sky,
Thy constant gaze, fair child, rests lovingly;
But neither thou nor any can descry
Aught but the grassy banks, the rustling sedge,
And flocks of wild-fowl splashing at their edge.
And yet 'tis not with expectation hushed
That thy mute rosy mouth doth pouting close;
No fluttering hope to thy young heart e'er rushed,
Nor disappointment troubled its repose;
All satisfied with gazing evermore
Along the sunny Mere and reedy shore.
The brooding wren flies pertly near thy seat,
Thou wilt not move to mark her glancing wing;
The timid sheep browse close before thy feet,
And heedless at thy side do thrushes sing.
So long amongst them thou hast spent thy days,
They know that harmless hand thou wilt not raise.
Thou wilt not lift it up--not e'en to take
The foxglove bells that nourish in the shade,
And put them in thy bosom; not to make
A posy of wild hyacinth inlaid
Like bright mosaic in the mossy grass,
With freckled orchis and pale sassafras.
Gaze on;--take in the voices of the Mere.
The break of shallow water at thy feet,
Its plash among long weeds and grasses sere,
And its weird sobbing,--hollow music meet
For ears like thine; listen and take thy till,
And dream on it by night when all is still.
Full sixteen years have slowly passed away,
Young Margaret, since thy fond mother here
Came down, a six month's wife, one April day,
To see her husband's boat go down the Mere,
And track its course, till, lost in distance blue,
In mellow light it faded from her view.
It faded, and she never saw it more;--
Nor any human eye;--oh, grief! oh, woe!
It faded,--and returned not to the shore;
But far above it still the waters flow--
And none beheld it sink, and none could tell
Where coldly slept the form she loved so well!
But that sad day, unknowing of her fate,
She homeward turn'd her still reluctant feet;
And at her wheel she spun, till dark and late
The evening fell--the time when they should meet;
Till the stars paled that at deep midnight burned--
And morning dawned, and he was not returned.
And the bright sun came up--she thought too soon--
And shed his ruddy light along the Mere;
And day wore on too quickly, and at noon
She came and wept beside the waters clear.
"How could he be so late?"--and then hope fled;
And disappointment darkened into dread.
He NEVER came, and she with weepings sore
Peered in the water-nags unceasingly;
Through all the undulations of the shore,
Looking for that which most she feared to see.
And then she took home sorrow to her heart,
And brooded over its cold cruel smart.
And after, desolate she sat alone
And mourned, refusing to be comforted,
On the gray stone, the moss-embroidered stone,
With the great sycamore above her head;
Till after many days a broken oar
Hard by her seat was drifted to the shore.
It came,--a token of his fate,--the whole,
The sum of her misfortune to reveal;
As if sent up in pity to her soul,
The tidings of her widowhood to seal;
And put away the pining hope forlorn,
That made her grief more bitter to be borne.
And she was patient; through the weary day
She toiled; though none was there her work to bless;
And did not wear the sullen months away,
Nor call on death to end her wretchedness,
But lest the grief should overflow her breast,
She toiled as heretofore, and would not rest.
But, her work done, what time the evening star
Rose over the cool water, then she came
To the gray stone, and saw its light from far
Drop down the misty Mere white lengths of flame,
And wondered whether there might be the place
Where the soft ripple wandered o'er HIS face.
Unfortunate! In solitude forlorn
She dwelt, and thought upon her husband's grave,
Till when the days grew short a child was born
To the dead father underneath the wave;
And it brought back a remnant of delight,
A little sunshine to its mother's sight;
A little wonder to her heart grown numb,
And a sweet yearning pitiful and keen:
She took it as from that poor father come,
Her and the misery to stand between;
Her little maiden babe, who day by day
Sucked at her breast and charmed her woes away.
But years flew on; the child was still the same,
Nor human language she had learned to speak:
Her lips were mute, and seasons went and came,
And brought fresh beauty to her tender cheek;
And all the day upon the sunny shore
She sat and mused beneath the sycamore.
Strange sympathy! she watched and wearied not,
Haply unconscious what it was she sought;
Her mother's tale she easily forgot,
And if she listened no warm tears it brought;
Though surely in the yearnings of her heart
The unknown voyager must have had his part.
Unknown to her; like all she saw unknown,
All sights were fresh as when they first began,
All sounds were new; each murmur and each tone
And cause and consequence she could not scan,
Forgot that night brought darkness in its train,
Nor reasoned that the day would come again.
There is a happiness in past regret;
And echoes of the harshest sound are sweet.
The mother's soul was struck with grief, and yet,
Repeated in her child, 'twas not unmeet
That echo-like the grief a tone should take
Painless, but ever pensive for her sake.
For her dear sake, whose patient soul was linked
By ties so many to the babe unborn;
Whose hope, by slow degrees become extinct,
For evermore had left her child forlorn,
Yet left no consciousness of want or woe,
Nor wonder vague that these things should be so.
Truly her joys were limited and few,
But they sufficed a life to satisfy,
That neither fret nor dim foreboding knew,
But breathed the air in a great harmony
With its own place and part, and was at one
With all it knew of earth and moon and sun.
For all of them were worked into the dream,--
The husky sighs of wheat-fields in it wrought;
All the land-miles belonged to it; the stream
That fed the Mere ran through it like a thought.
It was a passion of peace, and loved to wait
'Neath boughs with fair green light illuminate.
To wait with her alone; always alone:
For any that drew near she heeded not,
Wanting them little as the lily grown
Apart from others in a shady plot,
Wants fellow-lilies of like fair degree,
In her still glen to bear her company.
Always alone: and yet, there was a child
Who loved this child, and, from his turret towers,
Across the lea would roam to where, in-isled
And fenced in rapturous silence, went her hours,
And, with slow footsteps drawn anear the place
Where mute she sat, would ponder on her face,
And wonder at her with a childish awe,
And come again to look, and yet again,
Till the sweet rippling of the Mere would draw
His longing to itself; while in her train
The water-hen, come forth, would bring her brood
From slumbering in the rushy solitude;
Or to their young would curlews call and clang
Their homeless young that down the furrows creep;
Or the wind-hover in the blue would hang,
Still as a rock set in the watery deep.
Then from her presence he would break away,
Unmarked, ungreeted yet, from day to day.
But older grown, the Mere he haunted yet,
And a strange joy from its sweet wildness caught;
Whilst careless sat alone maid Margaret,
And "shut the gates" of silence on her thought,
All through spring mornings gemmed with melted rime,
All through hay-harvest and through gleaning time.
O pleasure for itself that boyhood makes,
O happiness to roam the sighing shore,
Plough up with elfin craft the water-flakes,
And track the nested rail with cautious oar;
Then floating lie and look with wonder new
Straight up in the great dome of light and blue.
O pleasure! yet they took him from the wold,
The reedy Mere, and all his pastime there,
The place where he was born, and would grow old
If God his life so many years should spare;
From the loved haunts of childhood and the plain
And pasture-lands of his own broad domain.
And he came down when wheat was in the sheaf,
And with her fruit the apple-branch bent low,
While yet in August glory hung the leaf,
And flowerless aftermath began to grow;
He came from his gray turrets to the shore,
And sought the maid beneath the sycamore.
He sought her, not because her tender eyes
Would brighten at his coming, for he knew
Full seldom any thought of him would rise
In her fair breast when he had passed from view;
But for his own love's sake, that unbeguiled
Drew him in spirit to the silent child.
For boyhood in its better hour is prone
To reverence what it hath not understood;
And he had thought some heavenly meaning shone
From her clear eyes, that made their watchings good:
While a great peacefulness of shade was shed
Like oil of consecration on her head.
A fishing wallet from his shoulder slung,
With bounding foot he reached the mossy place,
A little moment gently o'er her hung,
Put back her hair and looked upon her face,
Then fain from that deep dream to wake her yet,
He "Margaret!" low murmured, "Margaret!
"Look at me once before I leave the land,
For I am going,--going, Margaret."
And then she sighed, and, lifting up her hand,
Laid it along his young fresh cheek, and set
Upon his face those blue twin-deeps, her eyes,
And moved it back from her in troubled wise,
Because he came between her and her fate,
The Mere. She sighed again as one oppressed;
The waters, shining clear, with delicate
Reflections wavered on her blameless breast;
And through the branches dropt, like flickerings fair,
And played upon her hands and on her hair.
And he, withdrawn a little space to see,
Murmured in tender ruth that was not pain,
"Farewell, I go; but sometimes think of me,
Maid Margaret;" and there came by again
A whispering in the reed-beds and the sway
Of waters: then he turned and went his way.
And wilt thou think on him now he is gone?
No; thou wilt gaze: though thy young eyes grow dim,
And thy soft cheek become all pale and wan,
Still thou wilt gaze, and spend no thought on him;
There is no sweetness in his laugh for thee--No
beauty in his fresh heart's gayety.
But wherefore linger in deserted haunts?
Why of the past, as if yet present, sing?
The yellow iris on the margin flaunts,
With hyacinth the banks are blue in spring,
And under dappled clouds the lark afloat
Pours all the April-tide from her sweet throat.
But Margaret--ah! thou art there no more,
And thick dank moss creeps over thy gray stone
Thy path is lost that skirted the low shore,
With willow-grass and speedwell overgrown;
Thine eye has closed for ever, and thine ear
Drinks in no more the music of the Mere.
The boy shall come--shall come again in spring,
Well pleased that pastoral solitude to share,
And some kind offering in his hand will bring
To cast into thy lap, O maid most fair--
Some clasping gem about thy neck to rest,
Or heave and glimmer on thy guileless breast.
And he shall wonder why thou art not here
The solitude with "smiles to entertain,"
And gaze along the reaches of the Mere;
But he shall never see thy face again--
Shall never see upon the reedy shore
Maid Margaret beneath her sycamore.
MARGARET IN THE XEBEC.
["Concerning this man (Robert Delacour), little further is known
than that he served in the king's army, and was wounded in the
battle of Marston Moor, being then about twenty-seven years of age.
After the battle of Nazeby, finding himself a marked man, he quitted
the country, taking with him the child whom he had adopted; and
he made many voyages between the different ports of the Mediterranean
Resting within his tent at turn of day,
A wailing voice his scanty sleep beset:
He started up--it did not flee away--
'Twas no part of his dream, but still did fret
And pine into his heart, "Ah me! ah me!"
Broken with heaving sobs right mournfully.
Then he arose, and, troubled at this thing,
All wearily toward the voice he went
Over the down-trod bracken and the ling,
Until it brought him to a soldier's tent,
Where, with the tears upon her face, he found
A little maiden weeping on the ground;
And backward in the tent an aged crone
Upbraided her full harshly more and more,
But sunk her chiding to an undertone
When she beheld him standing at the door,
And calmed her voice, and dropped her lifted hand,
And answered him with accent soft and bland.
No, the young child was none of hers, she said,
But she had found her where the ash lay white
About a smouldering tent; her infant head
All shelterless, she through the dewy night
Had slumbered on the field,--ungentle fate
For a lone child so soft and delicate.
"And I," quoth she, "have tended her with care,
And thought to be rewarded of her kin,
For by her rich attire and features fair
I know her birth is gentle: yet within
The tent unclaimed she doth but pine and weep,
A burden I would fain no longer keep."
Still while she spoke the little creature wept,
Till painful pity touched him for the flow
Of all those tears, and to his heart there crept
A yearning as of fatherhood, and lo!
Reaching his arms to her, "My sweet," quoth he,
"Dear little madam, wilt thou come with me?"
Then she left off her crying, and a look
Of wistful wonder stole into her eyes.
The sullen frown her dimpled face forsook,
She let him take her, and forgot her sighs,
Contented in his alien arms to rest,
And lay her baby head upon his breast.
Ah, sure a stranger trust was never sought
By any soldier on a battle-plain.
He brought her to his tent, and soothed his voice,
Rough with command; and asked, but all in vain,
Her story, while her prattling tongue rang sweet,
She playing, as one at home, about his feet.
Of race, of country, or of parentage,
Her lisping accents nothing could unfold;--
No questioning could win to read the page
Of her short life;--she left her tale untold,
And home and kin thus early to forget,
She only knew,--her name was--Margaret.
Then in the dusk upon his arm it chanced
That night that suddenly she fell asleep;
And he looked down on her like one entranced,
And listened to her breathing still and deep,
As if a little child, when daylight closed,
With half-shut lids had ne'er before reposed.
Softly he laid her down from off his arm,
With earnest care and new-born tenderness:
Her infancy, a wonder-working charm,
Laid hold upon his love; he stayed to bless
The small sweet head, then went he forth that night
And sought a nurse to tend this new delight.
And day by day his heart she wrought upon,
And won her way into its inmost fold--
A heart which, but for lack of that whereon
To fix itself, would never have been cold;
And, opening wide, now let her come to dwell
Within its strong unguarded citadel.
She, like a dream, unlocked the hidden springs
Of his past thoughts, and set their current free
To talk with him of half-forgotten things--
The pureness and the peace of infancy,
"Thou also, thou," to sigh, "wert undefiled
(O God, the change!) once, as this little child."
The baby-mistress of a soldier's heart,
She had but friendlessness to stand her friend,
And her own orphanhood to plead her part,
When he, a wayfarer, did pause, and bend,
And bear with him the starry blossom sweet
Out of its jeopardy from trampling feet.
A gleam of light upon a rainy day,
A new-tied knot that must be sever'd soon,
At sunrise once before his tent at play,
And hurried from the battle-field at noon,
While face to face in hostile ranks they stood,
Who should have dwelt in peace and brotherhood.
But ere the fight, when higher rose the sun,
And yet were distant far the rebel bands,
She heard at intervals a booming gun,
And she was pleased, and laughing clapped her hands;
Till he came in with troubled look and tone,
Who chose her desolate to be his own.
And he said, "Little madam, now farewell,
For there will be a battle fought ere night.
God be thy shield, for He alone can tell
Which way may fall the fortune of the fight.
To fitter hands the care of thee pertain,
My dear, if we two never meet again."
Then he gave money shortly to her nurse,
And charged her straitly to depart in haste,
And leave the plain, whereon the deadly curse
Of war should light with ruin, death, and waste,
And all the ills that must its presence blight,
E'en if proud victory should bless the right.
"But if the rebel cause should prosper, then
It were not good among the hills to wend;
But journey through to Boston in the fen,
And wait for peace, if peace our God shall send;
And if my life is spared, I will essay,"
Quoth he, "to join you there as best I may."
So then he kissed the child, and went his way;
But many troubles rolled above his head;
The sun arose on many an evil day,
And cruel deeds were done, and tears were shed;
And hope was lost, and loyal hearts were fain
In dust to hide,--ere they two met again.
So passed the little child from thought, from view--
(The snowdrop blossoms, and then is not there,
Forgotten till men welcome it anew),
He found her in his heavy days of care,
And with her dimples was again beguiled,
As on her nurse's knee she sat and smiled.
And he became a voyager by sea,
And took the child to share his wandering state;
Since from his native land compelled to flee,
And hopeless to avert her monarch's fate;
For all was lost that might have made him pause,
And, past a soldier's help, the royal cause.
And thus rolled on long days, long months and years,
And Margaret within the Xebec sailed;
The lulling wind made music in her ears,
And nothing to her life's completeness failed.
Her pastime 'twas to see the dolphins spring,
And wonderful live rainbows glimmering.
The gay sea-plants familiar were to her,
As daisies to the children of the land;
Red wavy dulse the sunburnt mariner
Raised from its bed to glisten in her hand;
The vessel and the sea were her life's stage--
Her house, her garden, and her hermitage.
Also she had a cabin of her own,
For beauty like an elfin palace bright,
With Venice glass adorned, and crystal stone
That trembled with a many-colored light;
And there with two caged ringdoves she did play,
And feed them carefully from day to day.
Her bed with silken curtains was enclosed,
White as the snowy rose of Guelderland;
On Turkish pillows her young head reposed,
And love had gathered with a careful hand
Fair playthings to the little maiden's side,
From distant ports, and cities parted wide.
She had two myrtle-plants that she did tend,
And think all trees were like to them that grew;
For things on land she did confuse and blend,
And chiefly from the deck the land she knew,
And in her heart she pitied more and more
The steadfast dwellers on the changeless shore.
Green fields and inland meadows faded out
Of mind, or with sea-images were linked;
And yet she had her childish thoughts about
The country she had left--though indistinct
And faint as mist the mountain-head that shrouds,
Or dim through distance as Magellan's clouds.
And when to frame a forest scene she tried,
The ever-present sea would yet intrude,
And all her towns were by the water's side,
It murmured in all moorland solitude,
Where rocks and the ribbed sand would intervene,
And waves would edge her fancied village green;
Because her heart was like an ocean shell,
That holds (men say) a message from the deep,
And yet the land was strong, she knew its spell,
And harbor lights could draw her in her sleep;
And minster chimes from pierced towers that swim,
Were the land-angels making God a hymn.
So she grew on, the idol of one heart,
And the delight of many--and her face,
Thus dwelling chiefly from her sex apart,
Was touched with a most deep and tender grace--
A look that never aught but nature gave,
Artless, yet thoughtful; innocent, yet grave.
Strange her adornings were, and strangely blent:
A golden net confined her nut-brown hair;
Quaint were the robes that divers lands had lent,
And quaint her aged nurse's skill and care;
Yet did they well on the sea-maiden meet,
Circle her neck, and grace her dimpled feet.
The sailor folk were glad because of her,
And deemed good fortune followed in her wake;
She was their guardian saint, they did aver--
Prosperous winds were sent them for her sake;
And strange rough vows, strange prayers, they nightly made,
While, storm or calm, she slept, in nought afraid.
Clear were her eyes, that daughter of the sea,
Sweet, when uplifted to her aged nurse,
She sat, and communed what the world could be;
And rambling stories caused her to rehearse
How Yule was kept, how maidens tossed the hay,
And how bells rang upon a wedding day.
But they grew brighter when the evening star
First trembled over the still glowing wave,
That bathed in ruddy light, mast, sail, and spar;
For then, reclined in rest that twilight gave,
With him who served for father, friend, and guide,
She sat upon the deck at eventide.
Then turned towards the west, that on her hair
And her young cheek shed down its tender glow,
He taught her many things with earnest care
That he thought fitting a young maid should know,
Told of the good deeds of the worthy dead,
And prayers devout, by faithful martyrs said.
And many psalms he caused her to repeat
And sing them, at his knees reclined the while,
And spoke with her of all things good and meet,
And told the story of her native isle,
Till at the end he made her tears to flow,
Rehearsing of his royal master's woe.
And of the stars he taught her, and their names,
And how the chartless mariner they guide;
Of quivering light that in the zenith flames,
Of monsters in the deep sea caves that hide;
Then changed the theme to fairy records wild,
Enchanted moor, elf dame, or changeling child.
To her the Eastern lands their strangeness spread,
The dark-faced Arab in his long blue gown,
The camel thrusting down a snake-like head
To browse on thorns outside a walled white town.
Where palmy clusters rank by rank upright
Float as in quivering lakes of ribbed light.
And when the ship sat like a broad-winged bird
Becalmed, lo, lions answered in the night
Their fellows, all the hollow dark was stirred
To echo on that tremulous thunder's flight,
Dying in weird faint moans;--till look: the sun
And night, and all the things of night, were done.
And they, toward the waste as morning brake,
Turned, where, in-isled in his green watered land,
The Lybian Zeus lay couched of old, and spake,
Hemmed in with leagues of furrow-faced sand--
Then saw the moon (like Joseph's golden cup
Come back) behind some ruined roof swim up.
But blooming childhood will not always last,
And storms will rise e'en on the tideless sea;
His guardian love took fright, she grew so fast,
And he began to think how sad 'twould be
If he should die, and pirate hordes should get
By sword or shipwreck his fair Margaret.
It was a sudden thought; but he gave way,
For it assailed him with unwonted force;
And, with no more than one short week's delay,
For English shores he shaped the vessel's course;
And ten years absent saw her landed now,
With thirteen summers on her maiden brow.
And so he journeyed with her, far inland,
Down quiet lanes, by hedges gemmed with dew,
Where wonders met her eye on every hand,
And all was beautiful and strange and new--
All, from the forest trees in stately ranks,
To yellow cowslips trembling on the banks.
All new--the long-drawn slope of evening shades,
The sweet solemnities of waxing light,
The white-haired boys, the blushing rustic maids,
The ruddy gleam through cottage casements bright,
The green of pastures, bloom of garden nooks,
And endless bubbling of the water-brooks.
So far he took them on through this green land,
The maiden and her nurse, till journeying
They saw at last a peaceful city stand
On a steep mount, and heard its clear bells ring.
High were the towers and rich with ancient state,
In its old wall enclosed and massive gate.
There dwelt a worthy matron whom he knew,
To whom in time of war he gave good aid,
Shielding her household from the plundering crew
When neither law could bind nor worth persuade,
And to her house he brought his care and pride,
Aweary with the way and sleepy-eyed.
And he, the man whom she was fain to serve,
Delayed not shortly his request to make,
Which was, if aught of her he did deserve,
To take the maid, and rear her for his sake,
To guard her youth, and let her breeding be
In womanly reserve and modesty.
And that same night into the house he brought
The costly fruits of all his voyages--
Rich Indian gems of wandering craftsmen wrought,
Long ropes of pearls from Persian palaces,
With ingots pure and coins of Venice mould,
And silver bars and bags of Spanish gold;
And costly merchandise of far-off lands,
And golden stuffs and shawls of Eastern dye,
He gave them over to the matron's hands,
With jewelled gauds, and toys of ivory,
To be her dower on whom his love was set,--
His dearest child, fair Madam Margaret.
Then he entreated, that if he should die,
She would not cease her guardian mission mild.
Awhile, as undecided, lingered nigh,
Beside the pillow of the sleeping child,
Severed one wandering lock of wavy hair,
Took horse that night, and left her unaware.
And it was long before he came again--
So long that Margaret was woman grown;
And oft she wished for his return in vain,
Calling him softly in an undertone;
Repeating words that he had said the while,
And striving to recall his look and smile.
If she had known--oh, if she could have known--
The toils, the hardships of those absent years--
How bitter thraldom forced the unwilling groan--
How slavery wrung out subduing tears,
Not calmly had she passed her hours away,
Chiding half pettishly the long delay.
But she was spared. She knew no sense of harm,
While the red flames ascended from the deck;
Saw not the pirate band the crew disarm,
Mourned not the floating spars, the smoking wreck.
She did not dream, and there was none to tell,
That fetters bound the hands she loved so well.
Sweet Margaret--withdrawn from human view,
She spent long hours beneath the cedar shade,
The stately trees that in the garden grew,
And, overtwined, a towering shelter made;
She mused among the flowers, and birds, and bees,
In winding walks, and bowering canopies;
Or wandered slowly through the ancient rooms,
Where oriel windows shed their rainbow gleams;
And tapestried hangings, wrought in Flemish looms,
Displayed the story of King Pharaoh's dreams;
And, come at noon because the well was deep,
Beautiful Rachel leading down her sheep.
At last she reached the bloom of womanhood,
After five summers spent in growing fair;
Her face betokened all things dear and good,
The light of somewhat yet to come was there
Asleep, and waiting for the opening day,
When childish thoughts, like flowers, would drift away.
O! we are far too happy while they last;
We have our good things first, and they cost naught;
Then the new splendor comes unfathomed, vast,
A costly trouble, ay, a sumptuous thought,
And will not wait, and cannot be possessed,
Though infinite yearnings fold it to the breast.
And time, that seemed so long, is fleeting by,
And life is more than life; love more than love;
We have not found the whole--and we must die--
And still the unclasped glory floats above.
The inmost and the utmost faint from sight,
For ever secret in their veil of light.
Be not too hasty in your flow, you rhymes,
For Margaret is in her garden bower;
Delay to ring, you soft cathedral chimes,
And tell not out too soon the noontide hour:
For one draws nearer to your ancient town,
On the green mount down settled like a crown.
He journeyed on, and, as he neared the gate,
He met with one to whom he named the maid,
Inquiring of her welfare and her state.
And of the matron in whose house she stayed.
"The maiden dwelt there yet," the townsman said;
"But, for the ancient lady,--she was dead."
He further said, she was but little known,
Although reputed to be very fair,
And little seen (so much she dwelt alone)
But with her nurse at stated morning prayer;
So seldom passed her sheltering garden wall,
Or left the gate at quiet evening fall.
Flow softly, rhymes--his hand is on the door;
Ring out, ye noonday bells, his welcoming--
"He went out rich, but he returneth poor;"
And strong--now something bowed with suffering.
And on his brow are traced long furrowed lines,
Earned in the fight with pirate Algerines.
Her aged nurse comes hobbling at his call;
Lifts up her withered hand in dull surprise,
And, tottering, leads him through the pillared hall;
"What! come at last to bless my lady's eyes!
Dear heart, sweet heart, she's grown a likesome maid--
Go, seek her where she sitteth in the shade."
The noonday chime had ceased--she did not know
Who watched her, while her ringdoves fluttered near:
While, under the green boughs, in accents low
She sang unto herself. She did not hear
His footstep till she turned, then rose to meet
Her guest with guileless blush and wonder sweet.
But soon she knew him, came with quickened pace,
And put her gentle hands about his neck;
And leaned her fair cheek to his sun-burned face,
As long ago upon the vessel's deck:
As long ago she did in twilight deep,
When heaving waters lulled her infant sleep.
So then he kissed her, as men kiss their own,
And, proudly parting her unbraided hair,
He said: "I did not think to see thee grown
So fair a woman,"--but a touch of care
The deep-toned voice through its caressing kept,
And, hearing it, she turned away and wept.
Wept,--for an impress on the face she viewed--
The stamp of feelings she remembered not;
His voice was calmer now, but more subdued,
Not like the voice long loved and unforgot!
She felt strange sorrow and delightful pain--
Grief for the change, joy that he came again.
O pleasant days, that followed his return,
That made his captive years pass out of mind;
If life had yet new pains for him to learn,
Not in the maid's clear eyes he saw it shrined;
And three full weeks he stayed with her, content
To find her beautiful and innocent.
It was all one in his contented sight
As though she were a child, till suddenly,
Waked of the chimes in the dead time of the night,
He fell to thinking how the urgency
Of Fate had dealt with him, and could but sigh
For those best things wherein she passed him by.
Down the long river of life how, cast adrift,
She urged him on, still on, to sink or swim;
And all at once, as if a veil did lift,
In the dead time of the night, and bare to him
The want in his deep soul, he looked, was dumb,
And knew himself, and knew his time was come.
In the dead time of the night his soul did sound
The dark sea of a trouble unforeseen,
For that one sweet that to his life was bound
Had turned into a want--a misery keen:
Was born, was grown, and wounded sorely cried
All 'twixt the midnight and the morning tide.
He was a brave man, and he took this thing
And cast it from him with a man's strong hand;
And that next morn, with no sweet altering
Of mien, beside the maid he took his stand,
And copied his past self till ebbing day
Paled its deep western blush, and died away.
And then he told her that he must depart
Upon the morrow, with the earliest light;
And it displeased and pained her at the heart,
And she went out to hide her from his sight
Aneath the cedar trees, where dusk was deep,
And be apart from him awhile to weep
And to lament, till, suddenly aware
Of steps, she started up as fain to flee,
And met him in the moonlight pacing there,
Who questioned with her why her tears might be,
Till she did answer him, all red for shame,
"Kind sir, I weep--the wanting of a name."
"A name!" quoth he, and sighed. "I never knew
Thy father's name; but many a stalwart youth
Would give thee his, dear child, and his love too,
And count himself a happy man forsooth.
Is there none here who thy kind thought hath won?"
But she did falter, and made answer, "None."
Then, as in father-like and kindly mood,
He said, "Dear daughter, it would please me well
To see thee wed; for know it is not good
That a fair woman thus alone should dwell."
She said, "I am content it should be so,
If when you journey I may with you go."
This when he heard, he thought, right sick at heart,
Must I withstand myself, and also thee?
Thou, also thou! must nobly do thy part;
That honor leads thee on which holds back me.
No, thou sweet woman; by love's great increase,
I will reject thee for thy truer peace.
Then said he, "Lady!--look upon my face;
Consider well this scar upon my brow;
I have had all misfortune but disgrace;
I do not look for marriage blessings now.
Be not thy gratitude deceived. I know
Thou think'st it is thy duty--I will go!
"I read thy meaning, and I go from hence,
Skilled in the reason; though my heart be rude,
I will not wrong thy gentle innocence,
Nor take advantage of thy gratitude.
But think, while yet the light these eyes shall bless,
The more for thee--of woman's nobleness."
Faultless and fair, all in the moony light,
As one ashamed, she looked upon the ground,
And her white raiment glistened in his sight.
And, hark! the vesper chimes began to sound,
Then lower yet she drooped her young, pure cheek,
And still was she ashamed, and could not speak.
A swarm of bells from that old tower o'erhead,
They sent their message sifting through the boughs
Of cedars; when they ceased his lady said,
"Pray you forgive me," and her lovely brows
She lifted, standing in her moonlit place,
And one short moment looked him in the face.
Then straight he cried, "O sweetheart, think all one
As no word yet were said between us twain,
And know thou that in this I yield to none--
love thee, sweetheart, love thee!" So full fain,
While she did leave to silence all her part,
He took the gleaming whiteness to his heart--
The white-robed maiden with the warm white throat,
The sweet white brow, and locks of umber flow,
Whose murmuring voice was soft as rock-dove's note,
Entreating him, and saying, "Do not go!"
"I will not, sweetheart; nay, not now," quoth he,
"By faith and troth, I think thou art for me!"
And so she won a name that eventide,
Which he gave gladly, but would ne'er bespeak,
And she became the rough sea-captain's bride,
Matching her dimples to his sunburnt cheek;
And chasing from his voice the touch of care,
That made her weep when first she heard it there.
One year there was, fulfilled of happiness,
But O! it went so fast, too fast away.
Then came that trouble which full oft doth bless--
It was the evening of a sultry day,
There was no wind the thread-hung flowers to stir,
Or float abroad the filmy gossamer.
Toward the trees his steps the mariner bent,
Pacing the grassy walks with restless feet:
And he recalled, and pondered as he went,
All her most duteous love and converse sweet,
Till summer darkness settled deep and dim,
And dew from bending leaves dropt down on him.
The flowers sent forth their nightly odors faint--
Thick leaves shut out the starlight overhead;
While he told over, as by strong constraint
Drawn on, her childish life on shipboard led,
And beauteous youth, since first low kneeling there,
With folded hands she lisped her evening prayer.
Then he remembered how, beneath the shade,
She wooed him to her with her lovely words,
While flowers were closing, leaves in moonlight played,
And in dark nooks withdrew the silent birds.
So pondered he that night in twilight dim,
While dew from bending leaves dropt down on him.
The flowers sent forth their nightly odors faint--
When, in the darkness waiting, he saw one
To whom he said--"How fareth my sweet saint?"
Who answered--"She hath borne to you a son;"
Then, turning, left him,--and the father said,
"God rain down blessings on his welcome head!"
But Margaret!--_she_ never saw the child,
Nor heard about her bed love's mournful wails;
But to the last, with ocean dreams beguiled,
Murmured of troubled seas and swelling sails--
Of weary voyages, and rocks unseen,
And distant hills in sight, all calm and green....
Woe and alas!--the times of sorrow come,
And make us doubt if we were ever glad!
So utterly that inner voice is dumb,
Whose music through our happy days we had!
So, at the touch of grief, without our will,
The sweet voice drops from us, and all is still.
Woe and alas! for the sea-captain's wife--
That Margaret who in the Xebec played--
She spent upon his knee her baby life;
Her slumbering head upon his breast she laid.
How shall he learn alone his years to pass?
How in the empty house?--woe and alas!
She died, and in the aisle, the minster aisle,
They made her grave; and there, with fond intent,
Her husband raised, his sorrow to beguile,
A very fair and stately monument:
Her tomb (the careless vergers show it yet),
The mariner's wife, his love, his Margaret.
A woman's figure, with the eyelids closed,
The quiet head declined in slumber sweet;
Upon an anchor one fair hand reposed,
And a long ensign folded at her feet,
And carved upon the bordering of her vest
The motto of her house--"_He giveth rest."_
There is an ancient window richly fraught
And fretted with all hues most rich, most bright,
And in its upper tracery enwrought
An olive-branch and dove wide-winged and white,
An emblem meet for her, the tender dove,
Her heavenly peace, her duteous earthly love.
Amid heraldic shields and banners set,
In twisted knots and wildly-tangled bands,
Crimson and green, and gold and violet,
Fall softly on the snowy sculptured hands;
And, when the sunshine comes, full sweetly rest
The dove and olive-branch upon her breast.
A STORY OF DOOM.
Niloiya said to Noah, "What aileth thee,
My master, unto whom is my desire,
The father of my sons?" He answered her,
"Mother of many children, I have heard
The Voice again." "Ah, me!" she saith, "ah, me!
What spake it?" and with that Niloiya sighed.
This when the Master-builder heard, his heart
Was sad in him, the while he sat at home
And rested after toil. The steady rap
O' the shipwright's hammer sounding up the vale
Did seem to mock him; but her distaff down
Niloiya laid, and to the doorplace went,
Parted the purple covering seemly hung
Before it, and let in the crimson light
Of the descending sun. Then looked he forth,--
Looked, and beheld the hollow where the ark
Was a-preparing; where the dew distilled
All night from leaves of old lign aloe-trees,
Upon the gliding river; where the palm,
The almug, and the gophir shot their heads
Into the crimson brede that dyed the world:
And lo! he marked--unwieldy, dark, and huge--The
ship, his glory and his grief,--too vast
For that still river's floating,--building far
From mightier streams, amid the pastoral dells
Of shepherd kings.
Niloiya spake again:
"What said the Voice, thou well-beloved man?"
He, laboring with his thought that troubled him,
Spoke on behalf of God: "Behold," said he,
"A little handful of unlovely dust
He fashioned to a lordly grace, and when
He laughed upon its beauty, it waxed warm,
And with His breath awoke a living soul.
"Shall not the Fashioner command His work?
And who am I, that, if He whisper, 'Rise,
Go forth upon Mine errand,' should reply,
'Lord, God, I love the woman and her sons,--I
love not scorning: I beseech Thee, God,
Have me excused.'"
She answered him, "Tell on."
And he continuing, reasoned with his soul:
"What though I,--like some goodly lama sunk
In meadow grass, eating her way at ease,
Unseen of them that pass, and asking not
A wider prospect than of yellow-flowers
That nod above her head,--should lay me down,
And willingly forget this high behest,
There should be yet no tarrying. Furthermore,
Though I went forth to cry against the doom,
Earth crieth louder, and she draws it down:
It hangeth balanced over us; she crieth,
And it shall fall. O! as for me, my life
Is bitter, looking onward, for I know
That in the fulness of the time shall dawn
That day: my preaching shall not bring forth fruit,
Though for its sake I leave thee. I shall float
Upon the abhorred sea, that mankind hate,
With thee and thine."
She answered: "God forbid!
For, sir, though men be evil, yet the deep
They dread, and at the last will surely turn
To Him, and He long-suffering will forgive.
And chide the waters back to their abyss,
To cover the pits where doleful creatures feed.
Sir, I am much afraid: I would not hear
Of riding on the waters: look you, sir,
Better it were to die with you by hand
Of them that hate us, than to live, ah me!
Rolling among the furrows of the unquiet,
Unconsecrate, unfriendly, dreadful sea."
He saith again: "I pray thee, woman, peace,
For thou wilt enter, when that day appears,
The fateful ship."
"My lord," quoth she, "I will.
But O, good sir, be sure of this, be sure
The Master calleth; for the time is long
That thou hast warned the world: thou art but here
Three days; the song of welcoming but now
Is ended. I behold thee, I am glad;
And wilt thou go again? Husband, I say,
Be sure who 't is that calleth; O, be sure,
Be sure. My mother's ghost came up last night,
Whilst I thy beard, held in my hands did kiss,
Leaning anear thee, wakeful through my love,
And watchful of thee till the moon went down.
"She never loved me since I went with thee
To sacrifice among the hills: she smelt
The holy smoke, and could no more divine
Till the new moon. I saw her ghost come up;
It had a snake with a red comb of fire
Twisted about its waist,--the doggish head
Lolled on its shoulder, and so leered at me.
'This woman might be wiser,' quoth the ghost;
'Shall there be husbands for her found below,
When she comes down to us? O, fool! O, fool!
She must not let her man go forth, to leave
Her desolate, and reap the whole world's scorn,
A harvest for himself.' With that they passed."
He said, "My crystal drop of perfectness,
I pity thee; it was an evil ghost:
Thou wilt not heed the counsel?" "I will not,"
Quoth she; "I am loyal to the Highest. Him
I hold by even as thou, and deem Him best.
Sir, am I fairer than when last we met?"
"God add," said he, "unto thy much yet more,
As I do think thou art." "And think you, sir,"
Niloiya saith, "that I have reached the prime?"
He answering, "Nay, not yet." "I would 't were so,"
She plaineth, "for the daughters mock at me:
Her locks forbear to grow, they say, so sore
She pineth for the master. Look you, sir,
They reach but to the knee. But thou art come,
And all goes merrier. Eat, my lord, of all
My supper that I set, and afterward
Tell me, I pray thee, somewhat of thy way;
Else shall I be despised as Adam was,
Who compassed not the learning of his sons,
But, grave and silent, oft would lower his head
And ponder, following of great Isha's feet,
When she would walk with her fair brow upraised,
Scorning the children that she bare to him."
"Ay," quoth the Master; "but they did amiss
When they despised their father: knowest thou that?"
"Sure he was foolisher," Niloiya saith,
"Than any that came after. Furthermore,
He had not heart nor courage for to rule:
He let the mastery fall from his slack hand.
Had not our glorious mother still borne up
His weakness, chid with him, and sat apart,
And listened, when the fit came over him
To talk on his lost garden, he had sunk
Into the slave of slaves."
"Nay, thou must think
How he had dwelt long, God's loved husbandman,
And looked in hope among the tribes for one
To be his fellow, ere great Isha, once
Waking, he found at his left side, and knew
The deep delight of speech." So Noah, and thus
Added, "And therefore was his loss the more;
For though the creatures he had singled out
His favorites, dared for him the fiery sword
And followed after him,--shall bleat of lamb
Console one for the foregone talk of God?
Or in the afternoon, his faithful dog,
Fawning upon him, make his heart forget
At such a time, and such a time, to have heard
What he shall hear no more?
"O, as for him,
It was for this that he full oft would stop,
And, lost in thought, stand and revolve that deed,
Sad muttering, Woman! we reproach thee not;
Though thou didst eat mine immortality;
Earth, be not sorry; I was free to choose.
Wonder not, therefore, if he walked forlorn.
Was not the helpmeet given to raise him up
From his contentment with the lower things?
Was she not somewhat that he could not rule
Beyond the action, that he could not have
By the mere holding, and that still aspired
And drew him after her? So, when deceived
She fell by great desire to rise, he fell
By loss of upward drawing, when she took
An evil tongue to be her counsellor:
'Death is not as the death of lower things,
Rather a glorious change, begrudged of Heaven,
A change to being as gods,'--he from her hand,
Upon reflection, took of death that hour,
And ate it (not the death that she had dared);
He ate it knowing. Then divisions came.
She, like a spirit strayed who lost the way,
Too venturesome, among the farther stars,
And hardly cares, because it hardly hopes
To find the path to heaven; in bitter wise
Did bear to him degenerate seed, and he,
Once having felt her upward drawing, longed,
And yet aspired, and yearned to be restored,
Albeit she drew no more."
"Sir, ye speak well,"
Niloiya saith, "but yet the mother sits
Higher than Adam. He did understand
Discourse of birds and all four-footed things,
But she had knowledge of the many tribes
Of angels and their tongues; their playful ways
And greetings when they met. Was she not wise?
They say she knew much that she never told,
And had a voice that called to her as thou."
"Nay," quoth the Master-shipwright, "who am I
That I should answer? As for me, poor man,
Here is my trouble: 'if there be a Voice,'
At first I cried, 'let me behold the mouth
That uttereth it,' Thereon it held its peace.
But afterward, I, journeying up the hills,
Did hear it hollower than an echo fallen
Across some clear abyss; and I did stop,
And ask of all my company, 'What cheer?
If there be spirits abroad that call to us,
Sirs, hold your peace and hear,' So they gave heed,
And one man said, 'It is the small ground-doves
That peck upon the stony hillocks': one,
'It is the mammoth in yon cedar swamp
That cheweth in his dream': and one, 'My lord,
It is the ghost of him that yesternight
We slew, because he grudged to yield his wife