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

Poetical Works of George MacDonald, Vol. 2 by George MacDonald

Part 4 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

I have very big jaws, but never get fat:
I don't go to church, and I'm not a church rat!

I've a mouth in my middle my food goes in at,
Just like a skate's--that's a fish that's a flat.

In summer I'm seldom able to breathe,
But when winter his blades in ice doth sheathe

I swell my one lung, I look big and I puff,
And I sometimes hiss.--There, that's enough!


Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into here.

Where did you get those eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.

What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry twinkles left in.

Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.

What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.

What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than any one knows.

Whence that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.

Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.

Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into bonds and bands.

Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs' wings.

How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.

But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you, and so I am here.


The sun is gone down
And the moon's in the sky
But the sun will come up
And the moon be laid by.

The flower is asleep.
But it is not dead,
When the morning shines
It will lift its head.

When winter comes
It will die! No, no,
It will only hide
From the frost and snow.

Sure is the summer,
Sure is the sun;
The night and the winter
Away they run.


What would you see, if I took you up
My little aerie-stair?
You would see the sky like a clear blue cup
Turned upside down in the air.

What would you do, up my aerie-stair
In my little nest on the tree?
With cry upon cry you would ripple the air
To get at what you would see.

And what would you reach in the top of the tree
To still your grasping grief?
Not a star would you clutch of all you would see,
You would gather just one green leaf.

But when you had lost your greedy grief,
Content to see from afar,
Your hand it would hold a withering leaf,
But your heart a shining star.


The lightning and thunder
They go and they come:
But the stars and the stillness
Are always at home.


Little Bo-Peep, she has lost her sheep,
And will not know where to find them;
They are over the height and out of sight,
Trailing their tails behind them!

Little Bo-Peep woke out of her sleep,
Jump'd up and set out to find them:
"The silly things! they've got no wings,
And they've left their trails behind them!

"They've taken their tails, but they've left their trails,
And so I shall follow and find them!"
For wherever a tail had dragged a trail
The grass lay bent behind them.

She washed in the brook, and caught up her crook.
And after her sheep did run
Along the trail that went up the dale
Across the grass in the sun.

She ran with a will, and she came to a hill
That went up steep like a spire;
On its very top the sun seemed to stop,
And burned like a flame of fire.

But now she went slow, for the hill did go
Up steeper as she went higher;
When she reached its crown, the sun was down,
Leaving a trail of fire.

And her sheep were gone, and hope she had none.
For now was no trail behind them.
Yes, there they were! long-tailed and fair!
But to see was not to find them!

Golden in hue, and rosy and blue,
And white as blossom of pears,
Her sheep they did run in the trail of the sun,
As she had been running in theirs!

After the sun like clouds they did run,
But she knew they were her sheep:
She sat down to cry and look up at the sky,
But she cried herself to sleep.

And as she slept the dew down wept,
And the wind did blow from the sky;
And doings strange brought a lovely change:
She woke with a different cry!

Nibble, nibble, crop, without a stop!
A hundred little lambs
Did pluck and eat the grass so sweet
That grew in the trail of their dams!

She gave one look, she caught up her crook,
Wiped away the sleep that did blind her;
And nibble-nibble-crop, without a stop
The lambs came nibbling behind her.

Home, home she came, both tired and lame,
With three times as large a stock;
In a month or more, they'll be sheep as before,
A lovely, long-wooled flock!

But what will she say, if, one fine day,
When they've got their bushiest tails,
Their grown-up game should be just the same,
And again she must follow mere trails?

Never weep, Bo-Peep, though you lose your sheep,
Tears will turn rainbow-laughter!
In the trail of the sun if the mothers did run,
The lambs are sure to run after;

But a day is coming when little feet drumming
Will wake you up to find them--
All the old sheep--how your heart will leap!--
With their big little lambs behind them!


Little Boy Blue lost his way in a wood--
_Sing apples and cherries, roses and honey:_
He said, "I would not go back if I could,
_It's all so jolly and funny!"_

He sang, "This wood is all my own--
_Apples and cherries, roses and honey!_
Here I will sit, a king on my throne,
_All so jolly and funny!"_

A little snake crept out of a tree--
_Apples and cherries, roses and honey:_
"Lie down at my feet, little snake," said he--
_All so jolly and funny!_

A little bird sang in the tree overhead--
_"Apples and cherries, roses and honey:"_
"Come and sing your song on my finger," he said,
_All so jolly and funny._

Up coiled the snake; the bird came down,
And sang him the song of Birdie Brown.

But little Boy Blue found it tiresome to sit
Though it was on a throne: he would walk a bit!

He took up his horn, and he blew a blast:
"Snake, you go first, and, birdie, come last."

Waves of green snake o'er the yellow leaves went;
The snake led the way, and he knew what he meant:

But by Boy Blue's head, with flutter and dart,
Flew Birdie Brown, her song in her heart.

Boy Blue came where apples grew fair and sweet:
"Tree, drop me an apple down at my feet."

He came where cherries hung plump and red:
"Come to my mouth, sweet kisses," he said.

And the boughs bow down, and the apples they dapple
The grass, too many for him to grapple;

And the cheeriest cherries, with never a miss,
Fall to his mouth, each a full-grown kiss.

He met a little brook singing a song:
"Little brook," he said, "you are going wrong,

"You must follow me, follow me, follow, I say,
Do as I tell you, and come this way."

And the song-singing, sing-songing forest brook
Leapt from its bed and after him took;

And the dead leaves rustled, yellow and wan,
As over their beds the water ran.

He called every bird that sat on a bough;
He called every creature with poop and prow--

I mean, with two ends, that is, nose and tail:
With legs or without, they followed full sail;

Squirrels that carried their tails like a sack,
Each his own on his little brown humpy back;

Snails that drew their own caravans,
Poking out their own eyes on the point of a lance,

And houseless slugs, white, black, and red--
Snails too lazy to build a shed;

And butterflies, flutterbys, weasels, and larks,
And owls, and shrew-mice, and harkydarks,

Cockchafers, henchafers, cockioli-birds,
Cockroaches, henroaches, cuckoos in herds;

The dappled fawns fawning, the fallow-deer following;
The swallows and flies, flying and swallowing--

All went flitting, and sailing, and flowing
After the merry boy running and blowing.

The spider forgot, and followed him spinning,
And lost all his thread from end to beginning;

The gay wasp forgot his rings and his waist--
He never had made such undignified haste!

The dragon-flies melted to mist with their hurrying;
The mole forsook his harrowing and burrowing;

The bees went buzzing, not busy but beesy,
And the midges in columns, upright and easy.

But Little Boy Blue was not content,
Calling for followers still as he went,

Blowing his horn, and beating his drum,
And crying aloud, "Come all of you, come!"

He said to the shadows, "Come after me;"
And the shadows began to flicker and flee,

And away through the wood went flattering and fluttering,
Shaking and quivering, quavering and muttering.

He said to the wind, "Come, follow; come, follow
With whistle and pipe, with rustle and hollo;"

And the wind wound round at his desire,
As if Boy had been the gold cock on the spire;

And the cock itself flew down from the church
And left the farmers all in the lurch.

Everything, everything, all and sum,
They run and they fly, they creep and they come;

The very trees they tugged at their roots,
Only their feet were too fast in their boots--

After him leaning and straining and bending,
As on through their boles the army kept wending,

Till out of the wood Boy burst on a lea,
Shouting and calling, "Come after me,"

And then they rose with a leafy hiss
And stood as if nothing had been amiss.

Little Boy Blue sat down on a stone,
And the creatures came round him every one.

He said to the clouds, "I want you there!"
And down they sank through the thin blue air.

He said to the sunset far in the west,
"Come here; I want you; 'tis my behest!"

And the sunset came and stood up on the wold,
And burned and glowed in purple and gold.

Then Little Boy Blue began to ponder:
"What's to be done with them all, I wonder!"

He thought a while, then he said, quite low,
"What to do with you all, I am sure I don't know!"

The clouds clodded down till dismal it grew;
The snake sneaked close; round Birdie Brown flew;

The brook, like a cobra, rose on its tail,
And the wind sank down with a _what-will-you_ wail,

And all the creatures sat and stared;
The mole opened the eyes that he hadn't, and glared;

And for rats and bats, and the world and his wife
Little Boy Blue was afraid of his life.

Then Birdie Brown began to sing,
And what he sang was the very thing:

"Little Boy Blue, you have brought us all hither:
Pray, are we to sit and grow old together?"

"Go away; go away," said Little Boy Blue;
"I'm sure I don't want you! get away--do."

"No, no; no, no; no, yes, and no, no,"
Sang Birdie Brown, "it mustn't be so!

"If we've come for no good, we can't go away.
Give us reason for going, or here we stay!"

They covered the earth, they darkened the air,
They hovered, they sat, with a countless stare.

"If I do not give them something to do,
They will stare me up!" said Little Boy Blue.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" he began to cry,
"They're an awful crew, and I feel so shy!"

All of a sudden he thought of a thing,
And up he stood, and spoke like a king:

"You're the plague of my life! have done with your bother!
Off with you all: take me back to my mother!"

The sunset went back to the gates of the west.
"Follow _me_" sang Birdie, "I know the way best!"

"I am going the same way as fast as I can!"
Said the brook, as it sank and turned and ran.

To the wood fled the shadows, like scared black ghosts:
"If we stay, we shall all be missed from our posts!"

Said the wind, with a voice that had changed its cheer,
"I was just going there when you brought me here!"

"That's where I live," said the sack-backed squirrel,
And he turned his sack with a swing and a swirl.

Said the gold weather-cock, "I'm the churchwarden!"
Said the mole, "I live in the parson's garden!"

Said they all, "If that's where you want us to steer for,
What on earth or in air did you bring us here for?"

"You are none the worse!" said Boy. "If you won't
Do as I tell you, why, then, don't;

"I'll leave you behind, and go home without you;
And it's time I did: I begin to doubt you!"

He jumped to his feet. The snake rose on his tail,
And hissed three times, a hiss full of bale,

And shot out his tongue at Boy Blue to scare him,
And stared at him, out of his courage to stare him.

"You ugly snake," Little Boy Blue said,
"Get out of my way, or I'll break your head!"

The snake would not move, but glared at him glum;
Boy Blue hit him hard with the stick of his drum.

The snake fell down as if he was dead.
Little Boy Blue set his foot on his head.

"Hurrah!" cried the creatures, "hurray! hurrah!
Little Boy Blue, your will is a law!"

And away they went, marching before him,
And marshalled him home with a high cockolorum.

And Birdie Brown sang, _"Twirrr twitter, twirrr twee!
In the rosiest rose-bush a rare nest!
Twirrr twitter, twirrr twitter, twirrr twitter, twirrrrr tweeeee!
In the fun he has found the earnest!"_



_Willie speaks._

Is it wrong, the wish to be great,
For I do wish it so?
I have asked already my sister Kate;
She says she does not know.

Yestereve at the gate I stood
Watching the sun in the west;
When I saw him look so grand and good
It swelled up in my breast.

Next from the rising moon
It stole like a silver dart;
In the night when the wind began his tune
It woke with a sudden start.

This morning a trumpet blast
Made all the cottage quake;
It came so sudden and shook so fast
It blew me wide awake.

It told me I must make haste,
And some great glory win,
For every day was running to waste,
And at once I must begin.

I want to be great and strong,
I want to begin to-day;
But if you think it very wrong
I will send the wish away.


_The Father answers._

Wrong to wish to be great?
No, Willie; it is not wrong:
The child who stands at the high closed gate
Must wish to be tall and strong!

If you did not wish to grow
I should be a sorry man;
I should think my boy was dull and slow,
Nor worthy of his clan.

You are bound to be great, my boy:
Wish, and get up, and do.
Were you content to be little, my joy
Would be little enough in you.

_Willie speaks._

Papa, papa! I'm so glad
That what I wish is right!
I will not lose a chance to be had;
I'll begin this very night.

I will work so hard at school!
I will waste no time in play;
At my fingers' ends I'll have every rule,
For knowledge is power, they say.

I _would_ be a king and reign,
But I can't be that, and so
Field-marshal I'll be, I think, and gain
Sharp battles and sieges slow.

I shall gallop and shout and call,
Waving my shining sword:
Artillery, cavalry, infantry, all
Hear and obey my word.

Or admiral I will be,
Wherever the salt wave runs,
Sailing, fighting over the sea,
With flashing and roaring guns.

I will make myself hardy and strong;
I will never, never give in.
I _am_ so glad it is not wrong!
At once I will begin.

_The Father speaks._

Fighting and shining along,
All for the show of the thing!
Any puppet will mimic the grand and strong
If you pull the proper string!

_Willie speaks._

But indeed I want to _be_ great,
I should despise mere show;
The thing I want is the glory-state--
Above the rest, you know!

_The Father answers._

The harder you run that race,
The farther you tread that track,
The greatness you fancy before your face
Is the farther behind your back.

To be up in the heavens afar,
Miles above all the rest,
Would make a star not the greatest star,
Only the dreariest.

That book on the highest shelf
Is not the greatest book;
If you would be great, it must be in yourself,
Neither by place nor look.

The Highest is not high
By being higher than others;
To greatness you come not a step more nigh
By getting above your brothers.


_Willie speaks._

I meant the boys at school,
I did not mean my brother.
Somebody first, is there the rule--
It must be me or another.

_The Father answers._

Oh, Willie, it's all the same!
They are your brothers all;
For when you say, "Hallowed be thy name!"
Whose Father is it you call?

Could you pray for such rule to _him_?
Do you think that he would hear?
Must he favour one in a greedy whim
Where all are his children dear?

It is right to get up and do,
But why outstrip the rest?
Why should one of the many be one of the few?
Why should _you_ think to be best?

_Willie speaks._

Then how am I to be great?
I know no other way;
It would be folly to sit and wait,
I must up and do, you say!

_The Father answers._

I do not want you to wait,
For few before they die
Have got so far as begin to be great,
The lesson is so high.

I will tell you the only plan
To climb and not to fall:
He who would rise and be greater than
He is, must be servant of all.

Turn it each way in your mind,
Try every other plan,
You may think yourself great, but at length you'll find
You are not even a man.

Climb to the top of the trees,
Climb to the top of the hill,
Get up on the crown of the sky if you please,
You'll be a small creature still.

Be admiral, poet, or king,
Let praises fill both your ears,
Your soul will be but a windmill thing
Blown round by its hopes and fears.


_Willie speaks._

Then put me in the way,
For you, papa, are a man:
What thing shall I do this very day?--
Only be sure I _can_.

I want to know--I am willing,
Let me at least have a chance!
Shall I give the monkey-boy my shilling?--
I want to serve at once.

_The Father answers._

Give all your shillings you might
And hurt your brothers the more;
He only can serve his fellows aright
Who goes in at the little door.

We must do the thing we _must_
Before the thing we _may;_
We are unfit for any trust
Till we can and do obey.

_Willie speaks._

I will try more and more;
I have nothing now to ask;
_Obedience_ I know is the little door:
Now set me some hard task.

_The Father answers._

No, Willie; the father of all,
Teacher and master high,
Has set your task beyond recall,
Nothing can set it by.

_Willie speaks._

What is it, father dear,
That he would have me do?
I'd ask himself, but he's not near,
And so I must ask you!

_The Father answers._

Me 'tis no use to ask,
I too am one of his boys!
But he tells each boy his own plain task;
Listen, and hear his voice.

_Willie speaks._

Father, I'm listening _so_
To hear him if I may!
His voice must either be very low,
Or very far away!

_The Father answers._

It is neither hard to hear,
Nor hard to understand;
It is very low, but very near,
A still, small, strong command.

_Willie answers._

I do not hear it at all;
I am only hearing you!

_The Father speaks._

Think: is there nothing, great or small,
You ought to go and do?

_Willie answers._

Let me think:--I ought to feed
My rabbits. I went away
In such a hurry this morning! Indeed
They've not had enough to-day!

_The Father speaks._

That is his whisper low!
That is his very word!
You had only to stop and listen, and so
Very plainly you heard!

That duty's the little door:
You must open it and go in;
There is nothing else to do before,
There is nowhere else to begin.

_Willie speaks._

But that's so easily done!
It's such a trifling affair!
So nearly over as soon as begun.
For that he can hardly care!

_The Father answers._

You are turning from his call
If you let that duty wait;
You would not think any duty small
If you yourself were great.

The nearest is at life's core;
With the first, you all begin:
What matter how little the little door
If it only let you in?


_Willie speaks._

Papa, I am come again:
It is now three months and more
That I've tried to do the thing that was plain,
And I feel as small as before.

_The Father answers._

Your honour comes too slow?
How much then have you done?
One foot on a mole-heap, would you crow
As if you had reached the sun?

_Willie speaks._

But I cannot help a doubt
Whether this way be the true:
The more I do to work it out
The more there comes to do;

And yet, were all done and past,
I should feel just as small,
For when I had tried to the very last--
'Twas my duty, after all!

It is only much the same
As not being liar or thief!

_The Father answers._

One who tried it found even, with shame,
That of sinners he was the chief!

My boy, I am glad indeed
You have been finding the truth!

_Willie speaks._

But where's the good? I shall never speed--
Be one whit greater, in sooth!

If duty itself must fail,
And that be the only plan,
How shall my scarce begun duty prevail
To make me a mighty man?

_The Father answers._

Ah, Willie! what if it were
Quite another way to fall?
What if the greatness itself lie there--
In knowing that you are small?

In seeing the good so good
That you feel poor, weak, and low;
And hungrily long for it as for food,
With an endless need to grow?

The man who was lord of fate,
Born in an ox's stall,
Was great because he was much too great
To care about greatness at all.

Ever and only he sought
The will of his Father good;
Never of what was high he thought,
But of what his Father would.

You long to be great; you try;
You feel yourself smaller still:
In the name of God let ambition die;
Let him make you what he will.

Who does the truth, is one
With the living Truth above:
Be God's obedient little son,
Let ambition die in love.


King Cole he reigned in Aureoland,
But the sceptre was seldom in his hand

Far oftener was there his golden cup--
He ate too much, but he drank all up!

To be called a king and to be a king,
That is one thing and another thing!

So his majesty's head began to shake,
And his hands and his feet to swell and ache,

The doctors were called, but they dared not say
Your majesty drinks too much Tokay;

So out of the king's heart died all mirth,
And he thought there was nothing good on earth.

Then up rose the fool, whose every word
Was three parts wise and one part absurd.

Nuncle, he said, never mind the gout;
I will make you laugh till you laugh it out.

King Cole pushed away his full gold plate:
The jester he opened the palace gate,

Brought in a cold man, with hunger grim,
And on the dais-edge seated him;

Then caught up the king's own golden plate,
And set it beside him: oh, how he ate!

And the king took note, with a pleased surprise,
That he ate with his mouth and his cheeks and his eyes,

With his arms and his legs and his body whole,
And laughed aloud from his heart and soul.

Then from his lordly chair got up,
And carried the man his own gold cup;

The goblet was deep and wide and full,
The poor man drank like a cow at a pool.

Said the king to the jester--I call it well done
To drink with two mouths instead of one!

Said the king to himself, as he took his seat,
It is quite as good to feed as to eat!

It is better, I do begin to think,
To give to the thirsty than to drink!

And now I have thought of it, said the king,
There might be more of this kind of thing!

The fool heard. The king had not long to wait:
The fool cried aloud at the palace-gate;

The ragged and wretched, the hungry and thin,
Loose in their clothes and tight in their skin,

Gathered in shoals till they filled the hall,
And the king and the fool they fed them all;

And as with good things their plates they piled
The king grew merry as a little child.

On the morrow, early, he went abroad
And sought poor folk in their own abode--

Sought them till evening foggy and dim,
Did not wait till they came to him;

And every day after did what he could,
Gave them work and gave them food.

Thus he made war on the wintry weather,
And his health and the spring came back together.

But, lo, a change had passed on the king,
Like the change of the world in that same spring!

His face had grown noble and good to see,
And the crown sat well on his majesty.

Now he ate enough, and ate no more,
He drank about half what he drank before,

He reigned a real king in Aureoland,
Reigned with his head and his heart and his hand.

All this through the fool did come to pass.
And every Christmas-eve that was,

The palace-gates stood open wide
And the poor came in from every side,

And the king rose up and served them duly,
And his people loved him very truly.


Said the boy as he read, "I too will be bold,
I will fight for the truth and its glory!"
He went to the playground, and soon had told
A very cowardly story!

Said the girl as she read, "That was grand, I declare!
What a true, what a lovely, sweet soul!"
In half-an-hour she went up the stair,
Looking as black as a coal!

"The mean little wretch, I wish I could fling
This book at his head!" said another;
Then he went and did the same ugly thing
To his own little trusting brother!

Alas for him who sees a thing grand
And does not fit himself to it!
But the meanest act, on sea or on land,
Is to find a fault, and then do it!


"What! you Dr. Doddridge's dog, and not know who made you?"

My little dog, who blessed you
With such white toothy-pegs?
And who was it that dressed you
In such a lot of legs?

Perhaps he never told you!
Perhaps you know quite well,
And beg me not to scold you
For you can't speak to tell!

I'll tell you, little brother,
In case you do not know:--
One only, not another,
Could make us two just so.

You love me?--Quiet!--I'm proving!--
It must be God above
That filled those eyes with loving:
He was the first to love!

One day he'll stop all sadness--
Hark to the nightingale!
Oh blessed God of gladness!--
Come, doggie, wag your tail!

That's--Thank you, God!--He gave you
Of life this little taste;
And with more life he'll save you,
Not let you go to waste!

He says now, Live together,
And share your bite and sup;
And then he'll say, Come hither--
And lift us both high up.


There was a girl that lost things--
Nor only from her hand;
She lost, indeed--why, most things,
As if they had been sand!

She said, "But I must use them,
And can't look after all!
Indeed I did not lose them,
I only let them fall!"

That's how she lost her thimble,
It fell upon the floor:
Her eyes were very nimble
But she never saw it more.

And then she lost her dolly,
Her very doll of all!
That loss was far from jolly,
But worse things did befall.

She lost a ring of pearls
With a ruby in them set;
But the dearest girl of girls
Cried only, did not fret.

And then she lost her robin;
Ah, that was sorrow dire!
He hopped along, and--bob in--
Hopped bob into the fire!

And once she lost a kiss
As she came down the stair;
But that she did not miss,
For sure it was somewhere!

Just then she lost her heart too,
But did so well without it
She took that in good part too,
And said--not much about it.

But when she lost her health
She did feel rather poor,
Till in came loads of wealth
By quite another door!

And soon she lost a dimple
That was upon her cheek,
But that was very simple--
She was so thin and weak!

And then she lost her mother,
And thought that she was dead;
Sure there was not another
On whom to lay her head!

And then she lost her self--
But that she threw away;
And God upon his shelf
It carefully did lay.

And then she lost her sight,
And lost all hope to find it;
But a fountain-well of light
Came flashing up behind it.

At last she lost the world:
In a black and stormy wind
Away from her it whirled--
But the loss how could she mind?

For with it she lost her losses,
Her aching and her weeping,
Her pains and griefs and crosses,
And all things not worth keeping;

It left her with the lost things
Her heart had still been craving;
'Mong them she found--why, most things,
And all things worth the saving.

She found her precious mother,
Who not the least had died;
And then she found that other
Whose heart had hers inside.

And next she found the kiss
She lost upon the stair;
'Twas sweeter far, I guess,
For ripening in that air.

She found her self, all mended,
New-drest, and strong, and white;
She found her health, new-blended
With a radiant delight.

She found her little robin:
He made his wings go flap,
Came fluttering, and went bob in,
Went bob into her lap.

So, girls that cannot keep things,
Be patient till to-morrow;
And mind you don't beweep things
That are not worth such sorrow;

For the Father great of fathers,
Of mothers, girls, and boys,
In his arms his children gathers,
And sees to all their toys.


I will think as thinks the rabbit:--

Oh, delight
In the night
When the moon
Sets the tune
To the woods!
And the broods
All run out,
Frisk about,
Go and come,
Beat the drum--
Here in groups,
There in troops!
Now there's one!
Now it's gone!
There are none!
And now they are dancing like chaff!
I look, and I laugh,
But sit by my door, and keep to my habit--
A wise, respectable, clean-furred old rabbit!

Now I'm going,
Business calls me out--
Going, going,
Very knowing,
Slow, long-heeled, and stout,
Loping, lumbering,
Nipping, numbering,
Head on this side and on that,
Along the pathway footed flat,
Through the meadow, through the heather,
Through the rich dusky weather--
Big stars and little moon!

Dews are lighting down in crowds,
Odours rising in thin clouds,
Night has all her chords in tune--
The very night for us, God's rabbits,
Suiting all our little habits!
Wind not loud, but playful with our fur,
Just a cool, a sweet, a gentle stir!
And all the way not one rough bur,
But the dewiest, freshest grasses,
That whisper thanks to every foot that passes!

I, the king the rest call Mappy,
Canter on, composed and happy,
Till I come where there is plenty
For a varied meal and dainty.
Is it cabbage, I grab it;
Is it parsley, I nab it;
Is it carrot, I mar it;
The turnip I turn up
And hollow and swallow;
A lettuce? Let us eat it!
A beetroot? Let's beat it!
If you are juicy,
Sweet sir, I will use you!
For all kinds of corn-crop
I have a born crop!
Are you a green top?
You shall be gleaned up!
Sucking and feazing,
Crushing and squeezing
All that is feathery,
Crisp, not leathery,
Juicy and bruisy--
All comes proper
To my little hopper
Still on the dance,
Driven by hunger and drouth!

All is welcome to my crunching,
Finding, grinding,
Milling, munching,
Gobbling, lunching,
Fore-toothed, three-lipped mouth--
Eating side way, round way, flat way,
Eating this way, eating that way,
Every way at once!

Hark to the rain!--
Pattering, clattering,
The cabbage leaves battering,
Down it comes amain!--
Home we hurry
Hop and scurry,
And in with a flurry!
Hustling, jostling
Out of the airy land
Into the dry warm sand;
Our family white tails,
The last of our vitals,
Following hard with a whisk to them,
And with a great sense of risk to them!

Hear to it pouring!
Hear the thunder roaring
Far off and up high,
While we all lie
So warm and so dry
In the mellow dark,
Where never a spark,
White or rosy or blue,
Of the sheeting, fleeting,
Forking, frightening,
Lashing lightning
Ever can come through!

Let the wind chafe
In the trees overhead,
We are quite safe
In our dark, yellow bed!
Let the rain pour!
It never can bore
A hole in our roof--
It is waterproof!
So is the cloak
We always carry,
We furry folk,
In sandhole or quarry!
It is perfect bliss
To lie in a nest
So soft as this,
All so warmly drest!
No one to flurry you!
No one to hurry you!
No one to scurry you!
Holes plenty to creep in!
All day to sleep in!
All night to roam in!
Gray dawn to run home in!
And all the days and nights to come after--
All the to-morrows for hind-legs and laughter!

Now the rain is over,
We are out again,
Every merry, leaping rover,
On his right leg and his wrong leg,
On his doubled, shortened long leg,
Floundering amain!
Oh, it is merry
And jolly--yes, very!

But what--what is that?
What can he be at?
Is it a cat?
Ah, my poor little brother,
He's caught in the trap
That goes-to with a snap!
Ah me! there was never,
Nor will be for ever--
There was never such another,
Such a funny, funny bunny,
Such a frisking, such a whisking,
Such a frolicking brother!
He's screeching, beseeching!
They're going to--

Ah, my poor foot,
It is caught in a root!
No, no! 'tis a trap
That goes-to with a snap!
Ah me, I'm forsaken!
Ah me, I am taken!
I am screeching, beseeching!
They are going to--

No more! no more! I must stop this play,
Be a boy again, and kneel down and pray
To the God of sparrows and rabbits and men,
Who never lets any one out of his ken--
It must be so, though it be bewild'ring--
To save his dear beasts from his cruel children!


"Little one, who straight hast come
Down the heavenly stair,
Tell us all about your home,
And the father there."

"He is such a one as I,
Like as like can be.
Do his will, and, by and by,
Home and him you'll see."


Loving looks the large-eyed cow,
Loving stares the long-eared ass
At Heaven's glory in the grass!
Child, with added human birth
Come to bring the child of earth
Glad repentance, tearful mirth,
And a seat beside the hearth
At the Father's knee--
Make us peaceful as thy cow;
Make us patient as thine ass;
Make us quiet as thou art now;
Make us strong as thou wilt be.
Make us always know and see
We are his as well as thou.


There is a river
whose waters run asleep
run run ever
singing in the shallows
dumb in the hollows
sleeping so deep
and all the swallows
that dip their feathers
in the hollows
or in the shallows
are the merriest swallows
and the nests they make
with the clay they cake
with the water they shake
from their wings that rake
the water out of the shallows
or out of the hollows
will hold together
in any weather
and the swallows
are the merriest fellows
and have the merriest children
and are built very narrow
like the head of an arrow
to cut the air
and go just where
the nicest water is flowing
and the nicest dust is blowing
and each so narrow
like the head of an arrow
is a wonderful barrow
to carry the mud he makes
for his children's sakes
from the wet water flowing
and the dry dust blowing
to build his nest
for her he loves best
and the wind cakes it
the sun bakes it
into a nest
for the rest
of her he loves best
and all their merry children
each little fellow
with a beak as yellow
as the buttercups growing
beside the flowing
of the singing river
always and ever
growing and blowing
as fast as the sheep
awake or asleep
crop them and crop
and cannot stop
their yellowness blowing
nor yet the growing
of the obstinate daisies
the little white praises
they grow and they blow
they spread out their crown
and they praise the sun
and when he goes down
their praising is done
they fold up their crown
and sleep every one
till over the plain
he is shining amain
and they're at it again
praising and praising
such low songs raising
that no one can hear them
but the sun so near them
and the sheep that bite them
but do not fright them
are the quietest sheep
awake or asleep
with the merriest bleat
and the little lambs
are the merriest lambs
forgetting to eat
for the frolic in their feet
and the lambs and their dams
are the whitest sheep
with the woolliest wool
for the swallow to pull
when he makes his nest
for her he loves best
and they shine like snow
in the grasses that grow
by the singing river
that sings for ever
and the sheep and the lambs
are merry for ever
because the river
sings and they drink it
and the lambs and their dams
would any one think it
are bright and white
because of their diet
which gladdens them quiet
for what they bite
is buttercups yellow
and daisies white
and grass as green
as the river can make it
with wind as mellow
to kiss it and shake it
as never was known
but here in the hollows
beside the river
where all the swallows
are the merriest fellows
and the nests they make
with the clay they cake
in the sunshine bake
till they are like bone
and as dry in the wind
as a marble stone
dried in the wind
the sweetest wind
that blows by the river
flowing for ever
and who shall find
whence comes the wind
that blows on the hollows
and over the shallows
where dip the swallows
and comes and goes
and the sweet life blows
into the river
that sings as it flows
and the sweet life blows
into the sheep
awake or asleep
with the woolliest wool
and the trailingest tails
and never fails
gentle and cool
to wave the wool
and to toss the grass
as the lambs and the sheep
over it pass
and tug and bite
with their teeth so white
and then with the sweep
of their trailing tails
smooth it again
and it grows amain
and amain it grows
and the wind that blows
tosses the swallows
over the hollows
and over the shallows
and blows the sweet life
and the joy so rife
into the swallows
that skim the shallows
and have the yellowest children
and the wind that blows
is the life of the river
that flows for ever
and washes the grasses
still as it passes
and feeds the daisies
the little white praises
and buttercups sunny
with butter and honey
that whiten the sheep
awake or asleep
that nibble and bite
and grow whiter than white
and merry and quiet
on such good diet
watered by the river
and tossed for ever
by the wind that tosses
the wool and the grasses
and the swallow that crosses
with all the swallows
over the shallows
dipping their wings
to gather the water
and bake the cake
for the wind to make
as hard as a bone
and as dry as a stone
and who shall find
whence comes the wind
that blows from behind
and ripples the river
that flows for ever
and still as it passes
waves the grasses
and cools the daisies
the white sun praises
that feed the sheep
awake or asleep
and give them their wool
for the swallows to pull
a little away
to mix with the clay
that cakes to a nest
for those they love best
and all the yellow children
soon to go trying
their wings at the flying
over the hollows
and over the shallows
with all the swallows
that do not know
whence the wind doth blow
that comes from behind
a blowing wind.


Poems by Three Friends.



First, most, to thee, my son, I give this book
In which a friend's and brother's verses blend
With mine; for not son only--brother, friend,
Art thou, through sonship which no veil can brook
Between the eyes that in each other look,
Or any shadow 'twixt the hearts that tend
Still nearer, with divine approach, to end
In love eternal that cannot be shook
When all the shakable shall cease to be.
With growing hope I greet the coming day
When from thy journey done I welcome thee
Who sharest in the names of all the three,
And take thee to the two, and humbly say,
_Let this man be the fourth with us, I pray._

_May, 1883._



_Suggested by a drawing of Thomas Moran, the American painter._

This must be the very night!
The moon knows it!--and the trees!
They stand straight upright,
Each a sentinel drawn up,
As if they dared not know
Which way the wind might blow!
The very pool, with dead gray eye,
Dully expectant, feels it nigh,
And begins to curdle and freeze!
And the dark night,
With its fringe of light,
Holds the secret in its cup!

II. What can it be, to make
The poplars cease to shiver and shake,
And up in the dismal air
Stand straight and stiff as the human hair
When the human soul is dizzy with dread--
All but those two that strain
Aside in a frenzy of speechless pain,
Though never a wind sends out a breath
To tunnel the foggy rheum of death?
What can it be has power to scare
The full-grown moon to the idiot stare
Of a blasted eye in the midnight air?
Something has gone wrong;
A scream will come tearing out ere long!

III. Still as death,
Although I listen with bated breath!
Yet something is coming, I know--is coming!
With an inward soundless humming
Somewhere in me, or if in the air
I cannot tell, but it is there!
Marching on to an unheard drumming
Something is coming--coming--
Growing and coming!
And the moon is aware,
Aghast in the air
At the thing that is only coming
With an inward soundless humming
And an unheard spectral drumming!

IV. Nothing to see and nothing to hear!
Only across the inner sky
The wing of a shadowy thought flits by,
Vague and featureless, faceless, drear--
Only a thinness to catch the eye:
Is it a dim foreboding unborn,
Or a buried memory, wasted and worn
As the fading frost of a wintry sigh?
Anon I shall have it!--anon!--it draws nigh!
A night when--a something it was took place
That drove the blood from that scared moon-face!
Hark! was that the cry of a goat,
Or the gurgle of water in a throat?
Hush! there is nothing to see or hear,
Only a silent something is near;
No knock, no footsteps three or four,
Only a presence outside the door!
See! the moon is remembering!--what?
The wail of a mother-left, lie-alone brat?
Or a raven sharpening its beak to peck?
Or a cold blue knife and a warm white neck?
Or only a heart that burst and ceased
For a man that went away released?
I know not--know not, but something is coming
Somehow back with an inward humming!

V. Ha! look there! look at that house,
Forsaken of all things, beetle and mouse!
Mark how it looks! It must have a soul!
It looks, it looks, though it cannot stir!
See the ribs of it, how they stare!
Its blind eyes yet have a seeing air!
It _knows_ it has a soul!
Haggard it hangs o'er the slimy pool,
And gapes wide open as corpses gape:
It is the very murderer!
The ghost has modelled himself to the shape
Of this drear house all sodden with woe
Where the deed was done, long, long ago,
And filled with himself his new body full--
To haunt for ever his ghastly crime,
And see it come and go--
Brooding around it like motionless time,
With a mouth that gapes, and eyes that yawn
Blear and blintering and full of the moon,
Like one aghast at a hellish dawn!--
The deed! the deed! it is coming soon!

VI. For, ever and always, when round the tune
Grinds on the barrel of organ-Time,
The deed is done. And it comes anon:
True to the roll of the clock-faced moon,
True to the ring of the spheric chime,
True to the cosmic rhythm and rime,
Every point, as it first fell out,
Will come and go in the fearsome bout.
See! palsied with horror from garret to core,
The house cannot shut its gaping door;
Its burst eye stares as if trying to see,
And it leans as if settling heavily,
Settling heavy with sickness dull:
_It_ also is hearing the soundless humming
Of the wheel that is turning--the thing that is coming!
On the naked rafters of its brain,
Gaunt and wintred, see the train
Of gossiping, scandal-mongering crows
That watch, all silent, with necks a-strain,
Wickedly knowing, with heads awry
And the sharpened gleam of a cunning eye--
Watch, through the cracks of the ruined skull,
How the evil business goes!--
Beyond the eyes of the cherubim,
Beyond the ears of the seraphim,
Outside, forsaken, in the dim
Phantom-haunted chaos grim
He stands, with the deed going on in him!

VII. O winds, winds, that lurk and peep
Under the edge of the moony fringe!
O winds, winds, up and sweep,
Up and blow and billow the air,
Billow the air with blow and swinge,
Rend me this ghastly house of groans!
Rend and scatter the skeleton's bones
Over the deserts and mountains bare!
Blast and hurl and shiver aside
Nailed sticks and mortared stones!
Clear the phantom, with torrent and tide,
Out of the moon and out of my brain,
That the light may fall shadowless in again!

VIII. But, alas, then the ghost
O'er mountain and coast
Would go roaming, roaming! and never was swine
That, grubbing and talking with snork and whine
On Gadarene mountains, had taken him in
But would rush to the lake to unhouse the sin!
For any charnel
This ghost is too carnal;
There is no volcano, burnt out and cold,
Whose very ashes are gray and old,
But would cast him forth in reviving flame
To blister the sky with a smudge of shame!

IX. Is there no help? none anywhere
Under the earth or above the air?--
Come, sad woman, whose tender throat
Has a red-lipped mouth that can sing no note!
Child, whose midwife, the third grim Fate,
Shears in hand, thy coming did wait!
Father, with blood-bedabbled hair!
Mother, all withered with love's despair!
Come, broken heart, whatever thou be,
Hasten to help this misery!
Thou wast only murdered, or left forlorn:
He is a horror, a hate, a scorn!
Come, if out of the holiest blue
That the sapphire throne shines through;
For pity come, though thy fair feet stand
Next to the elder-band;
Fling thy harp on the hyaline,
Hurry thee down the spheres divine;
Come, and drive those ravens away;
Cover his eyes from the pitiless moon,
Shadow his brain from her stinging spray;
Droop around him, a tent of love,
An odour of grace, a fanning dove;
Walk through the house with the healing tune
Of gentle footsteps; banish the shape
Remorse calls up thyself to ape;
Comfort him, dear, with pardon sweet;
Cool his heart from its burning heat
With the water of life that laves the feet
Of the throne of God, and the holy street!

X. O God, he is but a living blot,
Yet he lives by thee--for if thou wast not,
They would vanish together, self-forgot,
He and his crime:--one breathing blown
From thy spirit on his would all atone,
Scatter the horror, and bring relief
In an amber dawn of holy grief!
God, give him sorrow; arise from within,
His primal being, deeper than sin!

XI. Why do I tremble, a creature at bay?
'Tis but a dream--I drive it away.
Back comes my breath, and my heart again
Pumps the red blood to my fainting brain
Released from the nightmare's nine-fold train:
God is in heaven--yes, everywhere,
And Love, the all-shining, will kill Despair!--
To the wall's blank eyeless space
I turn the picture's face.

XII. But why is the moon so bare, up there?
And why is she so white?
And why does the moon so stare, up there--
Strangely stare, out of the night?
Why stand up the poplars
That still way?
And why do those two of them
Start astray?
And out of the black why hangs the gray?
Why does it hang down so, I say,
Over that house, like a fringed pall
Where the dead goes by in a funeral?--
Soul of mine,
Thou the reason canst divine:
Into _thee_ the moon doth stare
With pallid, terror-smitten air!
Thou, and the Horror lonely-stark,
Outcast of eternal dark,
Are in nature same and one,
And _thy_ story is not done!
So let the picture face thee from the wall,
And let its white moon stare!


In the winter, flowers are springing;
In the winter, woods are green,
Where our banished birds are singing,
Where our summer sun is seen!
Our cold midnights are coeval
With an evening and a morn
Where the forest-gods hold revel,
And the spring is newly born!

While the earth is full of fighting,
While men rise and curse their day,
While the foolish strong are smiting,
And the foolish weak betray--
The true hearts beyond are growing,
The brave spirits work alone,
Where Love's summer-wind is blowing
In a truth-irradiate zone!

While we cannot shape our living
To the beauty of our skies,
While man wants and earth is giving--
Nature calls and man denies--
How the old worlds round Him gather
Where their Maker is their sun!
How the children know the Father
Where the will of God is done!

Daily woven with our story,
Sounding far above our strife,
Is a time-enclosing glory,
Is a space-absorbing life.
We can dream no dream Elysian,
There is no good thing might be,
But some angel has the vision,
But some human soul shall see!

Is thy strait horizon dreary?
Is thy foolish fancy chill?
Change the feet that have grown weary
For the wings that never will.
Burst the flesh, and live the spirit;
Haunt the beautiful and far;
Thou hast all things to inherit,
And a soul for every star.


I think I might be weary of this day
That comes inevitably every year,
The same when I was young and strong and gay,
The same when I am old and growing sere--
I should grow weary of it every year
But that thou comest to me every day.

I shall grow weary if thou every day
But come to me, Lord of eternal life;
I shall grow weary thus to watch and pray,
For ever out of labour into strife;
Take everlasting house with me, my life,
And I shall be new-born this Christmas-day.

Thou art the Eternal Son, and born no day,
But ever he the Father, thou the Son;
I am his child, but being born alway--
How long, O Lord, how long till it be done?
Be thou from endless years to years the Son--
And I thy brother, new-born every day.


Be welcome, year! with corn and sickle come;
Make poor the body, but make rich the heart:
What man that bears his sheaves, gold-nodding, home,
Will heed the paint rubbed from his groaning cart!

Nor leave behind thy fears and holy shames,
Thy sorrows on the horizon hanging low--
Gray gathered fuel for the sunset-flames
When joyous in death's harvest-home we go.



When, in the mid-sea of the night,
I waken at thy call, O Lord,
The first that troop my bark aboard
Are darksome imps that hate the light,
Whose tongues are arrows, eyes a blight--
Of wraths and cares a pirate horde--
Though on the mid-sea of the night
It was thy call that waked me, Lord.

Then I must to my arms and fight--
Catch up my shield and two-edged sword,
The words of him who is thy word--
Nor cease till they are put to flight;
Then in the mid-sea of the night
I turn and listen for thee, Lord.


There comes no voice from thee, O Lord,
Across the mid-sea of the night!
I lift my voice and cry with might:
If thou keep silent, soon a horde
Of imps again will swarm aboard,
And I shall be in sorry plight
If no voice come from thee, my Lord,
Across the mid-sea of the night.

There comes no voice; I hear no word!
But in my soul dawns something bright:--
There is no sea, no foe to fight!
Thy heart and mine beat one accord:
I need no voice from thee, O Lord,
Across the mid-sea of the night.


Heart, thou must learn to do without--
That is the riches of the poor,
Their liberty is to endure;
Wrap thou thine old cloak thee about,
And carol loud and carol stout;
Let thy rags fly, nor wish them fewer;
Thou too must learn to do without,
Must earn the riches of the poor!

Why should'st thou only wear no clout?
Thou only walk in love-robes pure?
Why should thy step alone be sure?
Thou only free of fortune's flout?
Nay, nay! but learn to go without,
And so be humbly, richly poor.


Lighter and sweeter
Let your song be;
And for sorrow--oh cheat her
With melody!


Lord, I have laid my heart upon thy altar
But cannot get the wood to burn;
It hardly flares ere it begins to falter
And to the dark return.

Old sap, or night-fallen dew, makes damp the fuel;
In vain my breath would flame provoke;
Yet see--at every poor attempt's renewal
To thee ascends the smoke!

'Tis all I have--smoke, failure, foiled endeavour,
Coldness and doubt and palsied lack:
Such as I have I send thee!--perfect Giver,
Send thou thy lightning back.


Such guests as you, sir, were not in my mind
When I my homely dish with care designed;
'Twas certain humble souls I would have fed
Who do not turn from wholesome milk and bread:
You came, slow-trotting on the narrow way,
O'erturned the food, and trod it in the clay;
Then low with discoid nostrils sniffing curt,
Cried, "Sorry cook! why, what a mess of dirt!"


She loves thee, loves thee not!
That, that is all, my heart.

Book of the day: