Part 2 out of 3
And as he planted never a rose
That bears the flower of love,
Though other flowers throve
A frost-wind moved our souls to sever
Since he had planted never a rose;
And misconceits raised horrid shows,
And agonies came thereof.
"I'll mend these miseries," then said I,
And so, at dead of night,
I went and, screened from sight,
That nought should keep our souls in severance,
I set a rose-bush. "This," said I,
"May end divisions dire and wry,
And long-drawn days of blight."
But I was called from earth--yea, called
Before my rose-bush grew;
And would that now I knew
What feels he of the tree I planted,
And whether, after I was called
To be a ghost, he, as of old,
Gave me his heart anew!
Perhaps now blooms that queen of trees
I set but saw not grow,
And he, beside its glow -
Eyes couched of the mis-vision that blurred me -
Ay, there beside that queen of trees
He sees me as I was, though sees
Too late to tell me so!
ST. LAUNCE'S REVISITED
Slip back, Time!
Yet again I am nearing
Castle and keep, uprearing
Gray, as in my prime.
At the inn
Smiling close, why is it
Not as on my visit
When hope and I were twin?
Groom and jade
Whom I found here, moulder;
Strange the tavern-holder,
Strange the tap-maid.
Here I hired
Horse and man for bearing
Me on my wayfaring
To the door desired.
As I journeyed forward
To the faces shoreward,
Till their dwelling loomed.
Towards the Atlantic sea there
I should speed, they'd be there
Surely now as then? . . .
Why waste thought,
When I know them vanished
Under earth; yea, banished
Ever into nought.
POEMS OF 1912-13
Veteris vestigia flammae
Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow's dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!
Never to bid good-bye,
Or give me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.
Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!
You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny Crest,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.
Why, then, latterly did we not speak,
Did we not think of those days long dead,
And ere your vanishing strive to seek
That time's renewal? We might have said,
"In this bright spring weather
We'll visit together
Those places that once we visited."
Well, well! All's past amend,
Unchangeable. It must go.
I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon . . . O you could not know
That such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing -
Not even I--would undo me so!
YOUR LAST DRIVE
Here by the moorway you returned,
And saw the borough lights ahead
That lit your face--all undiscerned
To be in a week the face of the dead,
And you told of the charm of that haloed view
That never again would beam on you.
And on your left you passed the spot
Where eight days later you were to lie,
And be spoken of as one who was not;
Beholding it with a cursory eye
As alien from you, though under its tree
You soon would halt everlastingly.
I drove not with you . . . Yet had I sat
At your side that eve I should not have seen
That the countenance I was glancing at
Had a last-time look in the flickering sheen,
Nor have read the writing upon your face,
"I go hence soon to my resting-place;
"You may miss me then. But I shall not know
How many times you visit me there,
Or what your thoughts are, or if you go
There never at all. And I shall not care.
Should you censure me I shall take no heed
And even your praises I shall not need."
True: never you'll know. And you will not mind.
But shall I then slight you because of such?
Dear ghost, in the past did you ever find
The thought "What profit?" move me much
Yet the fact indeed remains the same,
You are past love, praise, indifference, blame.
You did not walk with me
Of late to the hill-top tree
By the gated ways,
As in earlier days;
You were weak and lame,
So you never came,
And I went alone, and I did not mind,
Not thinking of you as left behind.
I walked up there to-day
Just in the former way:
The familiar ground
By myself again:
What difference, then?
Only that underlying sense
Of the look of a room on returning thence.
RAIN ON A GRAVE
Clouds spout upon her
Their waters amain
In ruthless disdain, -
Her who but lately
Had shivered with pain
As at touch of dishonour
If there had lit on her
So coldly, so straightly
Such arrows of rain.
She who to shelter
Her delicate head
Would quicken and quicken
Each tentative tread
If drops chanced to pelt her
That summertime spills
In dust-paven rills
When thunder-clouds thicken
And birds close their bills.
Would that I lay there
And she were housed here!
Or better, together
Were folded away there
Exposed to one weather
We both,--who would stray there
When sunny the day there,
Or evening was clear
At the prime of the year.
Soon will be growing
Green blades from her mound,
And daises be showing
Like stars on the ground,
Till she form part of them -
Ay--the sweet heart of them,
Loved beyond measure
With a child's pleasure
All her life's round.
Jan. 31, 1913.
"I FOUND HER OUT THERE"
I found her out there
On a slope few see,
That falls westwardly
To the salt-edged air,
Where the ocean breaks
On the purple strand,
And the hurricane shakes
The solid land.
I brought her here,
And have laid her to rest
In a noiseless nest
No sea beats near.
She will never be stirred
In her loamy cell
By the waves long heard
And loved so well.
So she does not sleep
By those haunted heights
The Atlantic smites
And the blind gales sweep,
Whence she often would gaze
At Dundagel's far head,
While the dipping blaze
Dyed her face fire-red;
And would sigh at the tale
Of sunk Lyonnesse,
As a wind-tugged tress
Flapped her cheek like a flail;
Or listen at whiles
With a thought-bound brow
To the murmuring miles
She is far from now.
Yet her shade, maybe,
Will creep underground
Till it catch the sound
Of that western sea
As it swells and sobs
Where she once domiciled,
And joy in its throbs
With the heart of a child.
It was your way, my dear,
To be gone without a word
When callers, friends, or kin
Had left, and I hastened in
To rejoin you, as I inferred.
And when you'd a mind to career
Off anywhere--say to town -
You were all on a sudden gone
Before I had thought thereon,
Or noticed your trunks were down.
So, now that you disappear
For ever in that swift style,
Your meaning seems to me
Just as it used to be:
"Good-bye is not worth while!"
How she would have loved
A party to-day! -
Bright-hatted and gloved,
With table and tray
And chairs on the lawn
Her smiles would have shone
With welcomings . . . But
She is shut, she is shut
From friendship's spell
In the jailing shell
Of her tiny cell.
Or she would have reigned
At a dinner to-night
With ardours unfeigned,
And a generous delight;
All in her abode
She'd have freely bestowed
On her guests . . . But alas,
She is shut under grass
Where no cups flow,
Powerless to know
That it might be so.
And she would have sought
With a child's eager glance
The shy snowdrops brought
By the new year's advance,
And peered in the rime
For crocuses . . . chanced
It that she were not tranced
From sights she loved best;
By an infinite rest!
And we are here staying
Amid these stale things
Who care not for gaying,
And those junketings
That used so to joy her,
And never to cloy her
As us they cloy! . . . But
She is shut, she is shut
From the cheer of them, dead
To all done and said
In a yew-arched bed.
He does not think that I haunt here nightly:
How shall I let him know
That whither his fancy sets him wandering
I, too, alertly go? -
Hover and hover a few feet from him
Just as I used to do,
But cannot answer his words addressed me -
Only listen thereto!
When I could answer he did not say them:
When I could let him know
How I would like to join in his journeys
Seldom he wished to go.
Now that he goes and wants me with him
More than he used to do,
Never he sees my faithful phantom
Though he speaks thereto.
Yes, I accompany him to places
Only dreamers know,
Where the shy hares limp long paces,
Where the night rooks go;
Into old aisles where the past is all to him,
Close as his shade can do,
Always lacking the power to call to him,
Near as I reach thereto!
What a good haunter I am, O tell him,
Quickly make him know
If he but sigh since my loss befell him
Straight to his side I go.
Tell him a faithful one is doing
All that love can do
Still that his path may be worth pursuing,
And to bring peace thereto.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness
Travelling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever consigned to existlessness,
Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward
And the woman calling.
I come across from Mellstock while the moon wastes weaker
To behold where I lived with you for twenty years and more:
I shall go in the gray, at the passing of the mail-train,
And need no setting open of the long familiar door
The change I notice in my once own quarters!
A brilliant budded border where the daisies used to be,
The rooms new painted, and the pictures altered,
And other cups and saucers, and no cozy nook for tea
As with me.
I discern the dim faces of the sleep-wrapt servants;
They are not those who tended me through feeble hours and strong,
But strangers quite, who never knew my rule here,
Who never saw me painting, never heard my softling song
So I don't want to linger in this re-decked dwelling,
I feel too uneasy at the contrasts I behold,
And I make again for Mellstock to return here never,
And rejoin the roomy silence, and the mute and manifold
Souls of old.
As "legal representative"
I read a missive not my own,
On new designs the senders give
For clothes, in tints as shown.
Here figure blouses, gowns for tea,
And presentation-trains of state,
Charming ball-dresses, millinery,
Warranted up to date.
And this gay-pictured, spring-time shout
Of Fashion, hails what lady proud?
Her who before last year was out
Was costumed in a shroud.
A DREAM OR NO
Why go to Saint-Juliot? What's Juliot to me?
I was but made fancy
By some necromancy
That much of my life claims the spot as its key.
Yes. I have had dreams of that place in the West,
And a maiden abiding
Thereat as in hiding;
Fair-eyed and white-shouldered, broad-browed and brown-tressed.
And of how, coastward bound on a night long ago,
There lonely I found her,
The sea-birds around her,
And other than nigh things uncaring to know.
So sweet her life there (in my thought has it seemed)
That quickly she drew me
To take her unto me,
And lodge her long years with me. Such have I dreamed.
But nought of that maid from Saint-Juliot I see;
Can she ever have been here,
And shed her life's sheen here,
The woman I thought a long housemate with me?
Does there even a place like Saint-Juliot exist?
Or a Vallency Valley
With stream and leafed alley,
Or Beeny, or Bos with its flounce flinging mist?
AFTER A JOURNEY
Hereto I come to interview a ghost;
Whither, O whither will its whim now draw me?
Up the cliff, down, till I'm lonely, lost,
And the unseen waters' ejaculations awe me.
Where you will next be there's no knowing,
Facing round about me everywhere,
With your nut-coloured hair,
And gray eyes, and rose-flush coming and going.
Yes: I have re-entered your olden haunts at last;
Through the years, through the dead scenes I have tracked you;
What have you now found to say of our past -
Viewed across the dark space wherein I have lacked you?
Summer gave us sweets, but autumn wrought division?
Things were not lastly as firstly well
With us twain, you tell?
But all's closed now, despite Time's derision.
I see what you are doing: you are leading me on
To the spots we knew when we haunted here together,
The waterfall, above which the mist-bow shone
At the then fair hour in the then fair weather,
And the cave just under, with a voice still so hollow
That it seems to call out to me from forty years ago,
When you were all aglow,
And not the thin ghost that I now frailly follow!
Ignorant of what there is flitting here to see,
The waked birds preen and the seals flop lazily,
Soon you will have, Dear, to vanish from me,
For the stars close their shutters and the dawn whitens hazily.
Trust me, I mind not, though Life lours,
The bringing me here; nay, bring me here again!
I am just the same as when
Our days were a joy, and our paths through flowers.
A DEATH-DAY RECALLED
Beeny did not quiver,
Juliot grew not gray,
Thin Valency's river
Held its wonted way.
Bos seemed not to utter
Dimmest note of dirge,
Targan mouth a mutter
To its creamy surge.
Yet though these, unheeding,
Listless, passed the hour
Of her spirit's speeding,
She had, in her flower,
Sought and loved the places -
Much and often pined
For their lonely faces
When in towns confined.
Why did not Valency
In his purl deplore
One whose haunts were whence he
Drew his limpid store?
Why did Bos not thunder,
Body and breath were sunder
Of their former friend?
March 1870--March 1913
O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free -
The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.
The pale mews plained below us, and the waves seemed far away
In a nether sky, engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say,
As we laughed light-heartedly aloft on that clear-sunned March day.
A little cloud then cloaked us, and there flew an irised rain,
And the Atlantic dyed its levels with a dull misfeatured stain,
And then the sun burst out again, and purples prinked the main.
--Still in all its chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny to the sky,
And shall she and I not go there once again now March is nigh,
And the sweet things said in that March say anew there by and by?
What if still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
The woman now is--elsewhere--whom the ambling pony bore,
And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will see it nevermore.
AT CASTLE BOTEREL
As I drive to the junction of lane and highway,
And the drizzle bedrenches the waggonette,
I look behind at the fading byway,
And see on its slope, now glistening wet,
Myself and a girlish form benighted
In dry March weather. We climb the road
Beside a chaise. We had just alighted
To ease the sturdy pony's load
When he sighed and slowed.
What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of
Matters not much, nor to what it led, -
Something that life will not be balked of
Without rude reason till hope is dead,
And feeling fled.
It filled but a minute. But was there ever
A time of such quality, since or before,
In that hill's story? To one mind never,
Though it has been climbed, foot-swift, foot-sore,
By thousands more.
Primaeval rocks form the road's steep border,
And much have they faced there, first and last,
Of the transitory in Earth's long order;
But what they record in colour and cast
Is--that we two passed.
And to me, though Time's unflinching rigour,
In mindless rote, has ruled from sight
The substance now, one phantom figure
Remains on the slope, as when that night
Saw us alight.
I look and see it there, shrinking, shrinking,
I look back at it amid the rain
For the very last time; for my sand is sinking,
And I shall traverse old love's domain
Nobody says: Ah, that is the place
Where chanced, in the hollow of years ago,
What none of the Three Towns cared to know--
The birth of a little girl of grace -
The sweetest the house saw, first or last;
Yet it was so
On that day long past.
Nobody thinks: There, there she lay
In a room by the Hoe, like the bud of a flower,
And listened, just after the bedtime hour,
To the stammering chimes that used to play
The quaint Old Hundred-and-Thirteenth tune
In Saint Andrew's tower
Night, morn, and noon.
Nobody calls to mind that here
Upon Boterel Hill, where the carters skid,
With cheeks whose airy flush outbid
Fresh fruit in bloom, and free of fear,
She cantered down, as if she must fall
(Though she never did),
To the charm of all.
Nay: one there is to whom these things,
That nobody else's mind calls back,
Have a savour that scenes in being lack,
And a presence more than the actual brings;
To whom to-day is beneaped and stale,
And its urgent clack
But a vapid tale.
PLYMOUTH, March 1913.
THE PHANTOM HORSEWOMAN
Queer are the ways of a man I know:
He comes and stands
In a careworn craze,
And looks at the sands
And the seaward haze,
With moveless hands
And face and gaze,
Then turns to go . . .
And what does he see when he gazes so?
They say he sees as an instant thing
More clear than to-day,
A sweet soft scene
That once was in play
By that briny green;
Yes, notes alway
Warm, real, and keen,
What his back years bring -
A phantom of his own figuring.
Of this vision of his they might say more:
Not only there
Does he see this sight,
In his brain--day, night,
As if on the air
It were drawn rose bright -
Yea, far from that shore
Does he carry this vision of heretofore:
A ghost-girl-rider. And though, toil-tried,
He withers daily,
Time touches her not,
But she still rides gaily
In his rapt thought
On that shagged and shaly
And as when first eyed
Draws rein and sings to the swing of the tide.
THE WISTFUL LADY
'Love, while you were away there came to me -
From whence I cannot tell -
A plaintive lady pale and passionless,
Who bent her eyes upon me critically,
And weighed me with a wearing wistfulness,
As if she knew me well."
"I saw no lady of that wistful sort
As I came riding home.
Perhaps she was some dame the Fates constrain
By memories sadder than she can support,
Or by unhappy vacancy of brain,
To leave her roof and roam?"
"Ah, but she knew me. And before this time
I have seen her, lending ear
To my light outdoor words, and pondering each,
Her frail white finger swayed in pantomime,
As if she fain would close with me in speech,
And yet would not come near.
"And once I saw her beckoning with her hand
As I came into sight
At an upper window. And I at last went out;
But when I reached where she had seemed to stand,
And wandered up and down and searched about,
I found she had vanished quite."
Then thought I how my dead Love used to say,
With a small smile, when she
Was waning wan, that she would hover round
And show herself after her passing day
To any newer Love I might have found,
But show her not to me.
THE WOMAN IN THE RYE
"Why do you stand in the dripping rye,
Cold-lipped, unconscious, wet to the knee,
When there are firesides near?" said I.
"I told him I wished him dead," said she.
"Yea, cried it in my haste to one
Whom I had loved, whom I well loved still;
And die he did. And I hate the sun,
And stand here lonely, aching, chill;
"Stand waiting, waiting under skies
That blow reproach, the while I see
The rooks sheer off to where he lies
Wrapt in a peace withheld from me."
Why do you harbour that great cheval-glass
Filling up your narrow room?
You never preen or plume,
Or look in a week at your full-length figure -
Picture of bachelor gloom!
"Well, when I dwelt in ancient England,
Renting the valley farm,
Thoughtless of all heart-harm,
I used to gaze at the parson's daughter,
A creature of nameless charm.
"Thither there came a lover and won her,
Carried her off from my view.
O it was then I knew
Misery of a cast undreamt of -
More than, indeed, my due!
"Then far rumours of her ill-usage
Came, like a chilling breath
When a man languisheth;
Followed by news that her mind lost balance,
And, in a space, of her death.
"Soon sank her father; and next was the auction -
Everything to be sold:
Mid things new and old
Stood this glass in her former chamber,
Long in her use, I was told.
"Well, I awaited the sale and bought it . . .
There by my bed it stands,
And as the dawn expands
Often I see her pale-faced form there
Brushing her hair's bright bands.
"There, too, at pallid midnight moments
Quick she will come to my call,
Smile from the frame withal
Ponderingly, as she used to regard me
Passing her father's wall.
"So that it was for its revelations
I brought it oversea,
And drag it about with me . . .
Anon I shall break it and bury its fragments
Where my grave is to be."
Between the folding sea-downs,
In the gloom
Of a wailful wintry nightfall,
When the boom
Of the ocean, like a hammering in a hollow tomb,
Throbbed up the copse-clothed valley
From the shore
To the chamber where I darkled,
Sunk and sore
With gray ponderings why my Loved one had not come before
To salute me in the dwelling
That of late
I had hired to waste a while in -
Vague of date,
Quaint, and remote--wherein I now expectant sate;
On the solitude, unsignalled,
Broke a man
Who, in air as if at home there,
Seemed to scan
Every fire-flecked nook of the apartment span by span.
A stranger's and no lover's
Eyes were these,
Eyes of a man who measures
What he sees
But vaguely, as if wrapt in filmy phantasies.
Yea, his bearing was so absent
As he stood,
It bespoke a chord so plaintive
In his mood,
That soon I judged he would not wrong my quietude.
"Ah--the supper is just ready,"
Then he said,
"And the years'-long binned Madeira
(There was no wine, no food, no supper-table spread.)
"You will forgive my coming,
I see you as at that time
The self-same curious querying in your eyes and air.
"Yet no. How so? You wear not
The same gown,
Your locks show woful difference,
Are not brown:
What, is it not as when I hither came from town?
"And the place . . . But you seem other -
Can it be?
What's this that Time is doing
YOU dwell here, unknown woman? . . . Whereabouts, then, is she?
"And the house--things are much shifted. -
Put them where
They stood on this night's fellow;
Shift her chair:
Here was the couch: and the piano should be there."
I indulged him, verily nerve-strained
And I moved the things as bidden,
One by one,
And feigned to push the old piano where he had shown.
"Aha--now I can see her!
Don't thrust her from the table
She makes attempt with matron-manners to preside.
"She serves me: now she rises,
Goes to play . . .
But you obstruct her, fill her
And embarrassed, scared, she vanishes away!"
And, as 'twere useless longer
He sighed, and sought the entry
Ere I wist,
And retreated, disappearing soundless in the mist.
That here some mighty passion
Once had burned,
Which still the walls enghosted,
And that by its strong spell mine might be overturned.
I sat depressed; till, later,
My Love came;
But something in the chamber
Dimmed our flame, -
An emanation, making our due words fall tame,
As if the intenser drama
Shown me there
Of what the walls had witnessed
Filled the air,
And left no room for later passion anywhere.
So came it that our fervours
Did quite fail
Of future consummation -
Being made quail
By the weird witchery of the parlour's hidden tale,
Which I, as years passed, faintly
Learnt to trace, -
One of sad love, born full-winged
In that place
Where the predestined sorrowers first stood face to face.
And as that month of winter
And the evening of the date-day
I am conscious of those presences, and sit spellbound.
There, often--lone, forsaken -
Within me; whether a phantom
Had my heed
On that strange night, or was it some wrecked heart indeed?
That love's dull smart distressed my heart
He shrewdly learnt to see,
But that I was in love with a dead man
Never suspected he.
He searched for the trace of a pictured face,
He watched each missive come,
And a note that seemed like a love-line
Made him look frozen and glum.
He dogged my feet to the city street,
He followed me to the sea,
But not to the neighbouring churchyard
Did he dream of following me.
"SHE CHARGED ME"
She charged me with having said this and that
To another woman long years before,
In the very parlour where we sat, -
Sat on a night when the endless pour
Of rain on the roof and the road below
Bent the spring of the spirit more and more . . .
- So charged she me; and the Cupid's bow
Of her mouth was hard, and her eyes, and her face,
And her white forefinger lifted slow.
Had she done it gently, or shown a trace
That not too curiously would she view
A folly passed ere her reign had place,
A kiss might have ended it. But I knew
From the fall of each word, and the pause between,
That the curtain would drop upon us two
Ere long, in our play of slave and queen.
THE NEWCOMER'S WIFE
He paused on the sill of a door ajar
That screened a lively liquor-bar,
For the name had reached him through the door
Of her he had married the week before.
"We called her the Hack of the Parade;
But she was discreet in the games she played;
If slightly worn, she's pretty yet,
And gossips, after all, forget.
"And he knows nothing of her past;
I am glad the girl's in luck at last;
Such ones, though stale to native eyes,
Newcomers snatch at as a prize."
"Yes, being a stranger he sees her blent
Of all that's fresh and innocent,
Nor dreams how many a love-campaign
She had enjoyed before his reign!"
That night there was the splash of a fall
Over the slimy harbour-wall:
They searched, and at the deepest place
Found him with crabs upon his face.
A CONVERSATION AT DAWN
He lay awake, with a harassed air,
And she, in her cloud of loose lank hair,
As the dawn drew in on their faces there.
The chamber looked far over the sea
From a white hotel on a white-stoned quay,
And stepping a stride
He parted the window-drapery.
Above the level horizon spread
The sunrise, firing them foot to head
From its smouldering lair,
And painting their pillows with dyes of red.
"What strange disquiets have stirred you, dear,
This dragging night, with starts in fear
Of me, as it were,
Or of something evil hovering near?"
"My husband, can I have fear of you?
What should one fear from a man whom few,
Or none, had matched
In that late long spell of delays undue!"
He watched her eyes in the heaving sun:
"Then what has kept, O reticent one,
Those lids unlatched -
Anything promised I've not yet done?"
"O it's not a broken promise of yours
(For what quite lightly your lip assures
The due time brings)
That has troubled my sleep, and no waking cures!" . . .
"I have shaped my will; 'tis at hand," said he;
"I subscribe it to-day, that no risk there be
In the hap of things
Of my leaving you menaced by poverty."
"That a boon provision I'm safe to get,
Signed, sealed by my lord as it were a debt,
I cannot doubt,
Or ever this peering sun be set."
"But you flung my arms away from your side,
And faced the wall. No month-old bride
Ere the tour be out
In an air so loth can be justified?
"Ah--had you a male friend once loved well,
Upon whose suit disaster fell
And frustrance swift?
Honest you are, and may care to tell."
She lay impassive, and nothing broke
The stillness other than, stroke by stroke,
The lazy lift
Of the tide below them; till she spoke:
"I once had a friend--a Love, if you will -
Whose wife forsook him, and sank until
She was made a thrall
In a prison-cell for a deed of ill . . .
"He remained alone; and we met--to love,
But barring legitimate joy thereof
Stood a doorless wall,
Though we prized each other all else above.
"And this was why, though I'd touched my prime,
I put off suitors from time to time -
Yourself with the rest -
Till friends, who approved you, called it crime,
"And when misgivings weighed on me
In my lover's absence, hurriedly,
And much distrest,
I took you . . . Ah, that such could be! . . .
"Now, saw you when crossing from yonder shore
At yesternoon, that the packet bore
On a white-wreathed bier
A coffined body towards the fore?
"Well, while you stood at the other end,
The loungers talked, and I could but lend
A listening ear,
For they named the dead. 'Twas the wife of my friend.
"He was there, but did not note me, veiled,
Yet I saw that a joy, as of one unjailed,
Now shone in his gaze;
He knew not his hope of me just had failed!
"They had brought her home: she was born in this isle;
And he will return to his domicile,
And pass his days
Alone, and not as he dreamt erstwhile!"
"--So you've lost a sprucer spouse than I!"
She held her peace, as if fain deny
She would indeed
For his pleasure's sake, but could lip no lie.
"One far less formal and plain and slow!"
She let the laconic assertion go
As if of need
She held the conviction that it was so.
"Regard me as his he always should,
He had said, and wed me he vowed he would
In his prime or sere
Most verily do, if ever he could.
"And this fulfilment is now his aim,
For a letter, addressed in my maiden name,
Has dogged me here,
Reminding me faithfully of his claim.
"And it started a hope like a lightning-streak
That I might go to him--say for a week -
And afford you right
To put me away, and your vows unspeak.
"To be sure you have said, as of dim intent,
That marriage is a plain event
Of black and white,
Without any ghost of sentiment,
"And my heart has quailed.--But deny it true
That you will never this lock undo!
No God intends
To thwart the yearning He's father to!"
The husband hemmed, then blandly bowed
In the light of the angry morning cloud.
"So my idyll ends,
And a drama opens!" he mused aloud;
And his features froze. "You may take it as true
That I will never this lock undo
For so depraved
A passion as that which kindles you."
Said she: "I am sorry you see it so;
I had hoped you might have let me go,
And thus been saved
The pain of learning there's more to know."
"More? What may that be? Gad, I think
You have told me enough to make me blink!
Yet if more remain
Then own it to me. I will not shrink!"
"Well, it is this. As we could not see
That a legal marriage could ever be,
To end our pain
We united ourselves informally;
"And vowed at a chancel-altar nigh,
With book and ring, a lifelong tie;
A contract vain
To the world, but real to Him on High."
"And you became as his wife?"--"I did." -
He stood as stiff as a caryatid,
And said, "Indeed! . . .
No matter. You're mine, whatever you ye hid!"
"But is it right! When I only gave
My hand to you in a sweat to save,
Through desperate need
(As I thought), my fame, for I was not brave!"
"To save your fame? Your meaning is dim,
For nobody knew of your altar-whim?"
"I mean--I feared
There might be fruit of my tie with him;
"And to cloak it by marriage I'm not the first,
Though, maybe, morally most accurst
Through your unpeered
And strict uprightness. That's the worst!
"While yesterday his worn contours
Convinced me that love like his endures,
And that my troth-plight
Had been his, in fact, and not truly yours."
"So, my lady, you raise the veil by degrees . . .
I own this last is enough to freeze
The warmest wight!
Now hear the other side, if you please:
"I did say once, though without intent,
That marriage is a plain event
Of black and white,
Whatever may be its sentiment.
"I'll act accordingly, none the less
That you soiled the contract in time of stress,
By the feared results of your wantonness.
"But the thing is over, and no one knows,
And it's nought to the future what you disclose.
That you'll be loosed
For such an episode, don't suppose!
"No: I'll not free you. And if it appear
There was too good ground for your first fear
From your amorous tricks,
I'll father the child. Yes, by God, my dear.
"Even should you fly to his arms, I'll damn
Opinion, and fetch you; treat as sham
Your mutinous kicks,
And whip you home. That's the sort I am!"
She whitened. "Enough . . . Since you disapprove
I'll yield in silence, and never move
Till my last pulse ticks
A footstep from the domestic groove."
"Then swear it," he said, "and your king uncrown."
He drew her forth in her long white gown,
And she knelt and swore.
"Good. Now you may go and again lie down
"Since you've played these pranks and given no sign,
You shall crave this man of yours; pine and pine
With sighings sore,
'Till I've starved your love for him; nailed you mine.
"I'm a practical man, and want no tears;
You've made a fool of me, it appears;
That you don't again
Is a lesson I'll teach you in future years."
She answered not, but lay listlessly
With her dark dry eyes on the coppery sea,
That now and then
Flung its lazy flounce at the neighbouring quay.
A KING'S SOLILOQUY
ON THE NIGHT OF HIS FUNERAL
From the slow march and muffled drum
And crowds distrest,
And book and bell, at length I have come
To my full rest.
A ten years' rule beneath the sun
Is wound up here,
And what I have done, what left undone,
Figures out clear.
Yet in the estimate of such
It grieves me more
That I by some was loved so much
Than that I bore,
From others, judgment of that hue
Breeds from a theoretic view
Of regal scope.
For kingly opportunities
Right many have sighed;
How best to bear its devilries
Those learn who have tried!
I have eaten the fat and drunk the sweet,
Lived the life out
From the first greeting glad drum-beat
To the last shout.
What pleasure earth affords to kings
I have enjoyed
Through its long vivid pulse-stirrings
Even till it cloyed.
What days of drudgery, nights of stress
Can cark a throne,
Even one maintained in peacefulness,
I too have known.
And so, I think, could I step back
To life again,
I should prefer the average track
Of average men,
Since, as with them, what kingship would
It cannot do,
Nor to first thoughts however good
Hold itself true.
Something binds hard the royal hand,
As all that be,
And it is That has shaped, has planned
My acts and me.
At Westminster, hid from the light of day,
Many who once had shone as monarchs lay.
Edward the Pious, and two Edwards more,
The second Richard, Henrys three or four;
That is to say, those who were called the Third,
Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth (the much self-widowered),
And James the Scot, and near him Charles the Second,
And, too, the second George could there be reckoned.
Of women, Mary and Queen Elizabeth,
And Anne, all silent in a musing death;
And William's Mary, and Mary, Queen of Scots,
And consort-queens whose names oblivion blots;
And several more whose chronicle one sees
Adorning ancient royal pedigrees.
- Now, as they drowsed on, freed from Life's old thrall,
And heedless, save of things exceptional,
Said one: "What means this throbbing thudding sound
That reaches to us here from overground;
"A sound of chisels, augers, planes, and saws,
Infringing all ecclesiastic laws?
"And these tons-weight of timber on us pressed,
Unfelt here since we entered into rest?
"Surely, at least to us, being corpses royal,
A meet repose is owing by the loyal?"
"--Perhaps a scaffold!" Mary Stuart sighed,
"If such still be. It was that way I died."
"--Ods! Far more like," said he the many-wived,
"That for a wedding 'tis this work's contrived.
"Ha-ha! I never would bow down to Rimmon,
But I had a rare time with those six women!"
"Not all at once?" gasped he who loved confession.
"Nay, nay!" said Hal. "That would have been transgression."
"--They build a catafalque here, black and tall,
Perhaps," mused Richard, "for some funeral?"
And Anne chimed in: "Ah, yes: it maybe so!"
"Nay!" squeaked Eliza. "Little you seem to know -
"Clearly 'tis for some crowning here in state,
As they crowned us at our long bygone date;
"Though we'd no such a power of carpentry,
But let the ancient architecture be;
"If I were up there where the parsons sit,
In one of my gold robes, I'd see to it!"
"But you are not," Charles chuckled. "You are here,
And never will know the sun again, my dear!"
"Yea," whispered those whom no one had addressed;
"With slow, sad march, amid a folk distressed,
We were brought here, to take our dusty rest.
"And here, alas, in darkness laid below,
We'll wait and listen, and endure the show . . .
Clamour dogs kingship; afterwards not so!"
The chimes called midnight, just at interlune,
And the daytime talk of the Roman investigations
Was checked by silence, save for the husky tune
The bubbling waters played near the excavations.
And a warm air came up from underground,
And a flutter, as of a filmy shape unsepulchred,
That collected itself, and waited, and looked around:
Nothing was seen, but utterances could be heard:
Those of the goddess whose shrine was beneath the pile
Of the God with the baldachined altar overhead:
"And what did you get by raising this nave and aisle
Close on the site of the temple I tenanted?
"The notes of your organ have thrilled down out of view
To the earth-clogged wrecks of my edifice many a year,
Though stately and shining once--ay, long ere you
Had set up crucifix and candle here.
"Your priests have trampled the dust of mine without rueing,
Despising the joys of man whom I so much loved,
Though my springs boil on by your Gothic arcades and pewing,
And sculptures crude . . . Would Jove they could be removed!"
"--Repress, O lady proud, your traditional ires;
You know not by what a frail thread we equally hang;
It is said we are images both--twitched by people's desires;
And that I, like you, fail as a song men yesterday sang!"
* * *
And the olden dark hid the cavities late laid bare,
And all was suspended and soundless as before,
Except for a gossamery noise fading off in the air,
And the boiling voice of the waters' medicinal pour.
SEVENTY-FOUR AND TWENTY
Here goes a man of seventy-four,
Who sees not what life means for him,
And here another in years a score
Who reads its very figure and trim.
The one who shall walk to-day with me
Is not the youth who gazes far,
But the breezy wight who cannot see
What Earth's ingrained conditions are.
"A woman never agreed to it!" said my knowing friend to me.
"That one thing she'd refuse to do for Solomon's mines in fee:
No woman ever will make herself look older than she is."
I did not answer; but I thought, "you err there, ancient Quiz."
It took a rare one, true, to do it; for she was surely rare -
As rare a soul at that sweet time of her life as she was fair.
And urging motives, too, were strong, for ours was a passionate
Yea, passionate enough to lead to freaking with that young face.
I have told no one about it, should perhaps make few believe,
But I think it over now that life looms dull and years bereave,
How blank we stood at our bright wits' end, two frail barks in
How self-regard in her was slain by her large tenderness.
I said: "The only chance for us in a crisis of this kind
Is going it thorough!"--"Yes," she calmly breathed. "Well, I don't
And we blanched her dark locks ruthlessly: set wrinkles on her
Ay--she was a right rare woman then, whatever she may be now.
That night we heard a coach drive up, and questions asked below.
"A gent with an elderly wife, sir," was returned from the bureau.
And the wheels went rattling on, and free at last from public ken
We washed all off in her chamber and restored her youth again.
How many years ago it was! Some fifty can it be
Since that adventure held us, and she played old wife to me?
But in time convention won her, as it wins all women at last,
And now she is rich and respectable, and time has buried the past.
"I ROSE UP AS MY CUSTOM IS"
I rose up as my custom is
On the eve of All-Souls' day,
And left my grave for an hour or so
To call on those I used to know
Before I passed away.
I visited my former Love
As she lay by her husband's side;
I asked her if life pleased her, now
She was rid of a poet wrung in brow,
And crazed with the ills he eyed;
Who used to drag her here and there
Wherever his fancies led,
And point out pale phantasmal things,
And talk of vain vague purposings
That she discredited.
She was quite civil, and replied,
"Old comrade, is that you?
Well, on the whole, I like my life. -
I know I swore I'd be no wife,
But what was I to do?
"You see, of all men for my sex
A poet is the worst;
Women are practical, and they
Crave the wherewith to pay their way,
And slake their social thirst.
"You were a poet--quite the ideal
That we all love awhile:
But look at this man snoring here -
He's no romantic chanticleer,
Yet keeps me in good style.
"He makes no quest into my thoughts,
But a poet wants to know
What one has felt from earliest days,
Why one thought not in other ways,
And one's Loves of long ago."
Her words benumbed my fond frail ghost;
The nightmares neighed from their stalls
The vampires screeched, the harpies flew,
And under the dim dawn I withdrew
To Death's inviolate halls.
On Monday night I closed my door,
And thought you were not as heretofore,
And little cared if we met no more.
I seemed on Tuesday night to trace
Something beyond mere commonplace
In your ideas, and heart, and face.
On Wednesday I did not opine
Your life would ever be one with mine,
Though if it were we should well combine.
On Thursday noon I liked you well,
And fondly felt that we must dwell
Not far apart, whatever befell.
On Friday it was with a thrill
In gazing towards your distant vill
I owned you were my dear one still.
I saw you wholly to my mind
On Saturday--even one who shrined
All that was best of womankind.
As wing-clipt sea-gull for the sea
On Sunday night I longed for thee,
Without whom life were waste to me!
HAD YOU WEPT
Had you wept; had you but neared me with a frail uncertain ray,
Dewy as the face of the dawn, in your large and luminous eye,
Then would have come back all the joys the tidings had slain that
And a new beginning, a fresh fair heaven, have smoothed the things
But you were less feebly human, and no passionate need for clinging
Possessed your soul to overthrow reserve when I came near;
Ay, though you suffer as much as I from storms the hours are
Upon your heart and mine, I never see you shed a tear.
The deep strong woman is weakest, the weak one is the strong;
The weapon of all weapons best for winning, you have not used;
Have you never been able, or would you not, through the evil times
Has not the gift been given you, or such gift have you refused?
When I bade me not absolve you on that evening or the morrow,
Why did you not make war on me with those who weep like rain?
You felt too much, so gained no balm for all your torrid sorrow,
And hence our deep division, and our dark undying pain.
BEREFT, SHE THINKS SHE DREAMS
I dream that the dearest I ever knew
Has died and been entombed.
I am sure it's a dream that cannot be true,
But I am so overgloomed
By its persistence, that I would gladly
Have quick death take me,
Rather than longer think thus sadly;
So wake me, wake me!
It has lasted days, but minute and hour
I expect to get aroused
And find him as usual in the bower
Where we so happily housed.
Yet stays this nightmare too appalling,
And like a web shakes me,
And piteously I keep on calling,
And no one wakes me!
IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
"What do you see in that time-touched stone,
When nothing is there
But ashen blankness, although you give it
A rigid stare?
"You look not quite as if you saw,
But as if you heard,
Parting your lips, and treading softly
As mouse or bird.
"It is only the base of a pillar, they'll tell you,
That came to us
From a far old hill men used to name
- "I know no art, and I only view
A stone from a wall,
But I am thinking that stone has echoed
The voice of Paul,
"Paul as he stood and preached beside it
Facing the crowd,
A small gaunt figure with wasted features,
Calling out loud
"Words that in all their intimate accents
That marble front, and were far reflected,
And then were gone.
"I'm a labouring man, and know but little,
Or nothing at all;
But I can't help thinking that stone once echoed
The voice of Paul."
IN THE SERVANTS' QUARTERS
"Man, you too, aren't you, one of these rough followers of the
All hanging hereabout to gather how he's going to bear
Examination in the hall." She flung disdainful glances on
The shabby figure standing at the fire with others there,
Who warmed them by its flare.
"No indeed, my skipping maiden: I know nothing of the trial here,
Or criminal, if so he be.--I chanced to come this way,
And the fire shone out into the dawn, and morning airs are cold now;
I, too, was drawn in part by charms I see before me play,
That I see not every day."
"Ha, ha!" then laughed the constables who also stood to warm
The while another maiden scrutinized his features hard,
As the blaze threw into contrast every line and knot that wrinkled
Exclaiming, "Why, last night when he was brought in by the guard,
You were with him in the yard!"
"Nay, nay, you teasing wench, I say! You know you speak mistakenly.
Cannot a tired pedestrian who has footed it afar
Here on his way from northern parts, engrossed in humble marketings,
Come in and rest awhile, although judicial doings are
Afoot by morning star?"
"O, come, come!" laughed the constables. "Why, man, you speak the
He uses in his answers; you can hear him up the stairs.
So own it. We sha'n't hurt ye. There he's speaking now! His
Are those you sound yourself when you are talking unawares,
As this pretty girl declares."
"And you shudder when his chain clinks!" she rejoined. "O yes, I
And you winced, too, when those cuffs they gave him echoed to us
They'll soon be coming down, and you may then have to defend
Unless you hold your tongue, or go away and keep you clear
When he's led to judgment near!"
"No! I'll be damned in hell if I know anything about the man!
No single thing about him more than everybody knows!
Must not I even warm my hands but I am charged with blasphemies?" .
- His face convulses as the morning cock that moment crows,
And he stops, and turns, and goes.
THE OBLITERATE TOMB
"More than half my life long
Did they weigh me falsely, to my bitter wrong,
But they all have shrunk away into the silence
Like a lost song.
"And the day has dawned and come
For forgiveness, when the past may hold it dumb
On the once reverberate words of hatred uttered
Half in delirium . . .
"With folded lips and hands
They lie and wait what next the Will commands,
And doubtless think, if think they can: 'Let discord
Sink with Life's sands!'
"By these late years their names,
Their virtues, their hereditary claims,
May be as near defacement at their grave-place
As are their fames."
--Such thoughts bechanced to seize
A traveller's mind--a man of memories -
As he set foot within the western city
Where had died these
Who in their lifetime deemed
Him their chief enemy--one whose brain had schemed
To get their dingy greatness deeplier dingied
So, sojourning in their town,
He mused on them and on their once renown,
And said, "I'll seek their resting-place to-morrow
Ere I lie down,
"And end, lest I forget,
Those ires of many years that I regret,
Renew their names, that men may see some liegeness
Is left them yet."
Duly next day he went
And sought the church he had known them to frequent,
And wandered in the precincts, set on eyeing
Where they lay pent,
Till by remembrance led
He stood at length beside their slighted bed,
Above which, truly, scarce a line or letter
Could now be read.
"Thus years obliterate
Their graven worth, their chronicle, their date!
At once I'll garnish and revive the record
Of their past state,
"That still the sage may say
In pensive progress here where they decay,
'This stone records a luminous line whose talents
Told in their day.'"
While speaking thus he turned,
For a form shadowed where they lay inurned,
And he beheld a stranger in foreign vesture,
"Sir, I am right pleased to view
That ancestors of mine should interest you,
For I have come of purpose here to trace them . . .
They are time-worn, true,
"But that's a fault, at most,
Sculptors can cure. On the Pacific coast
I have vowed for long that relics of my forbears
I'd trace ere lost,
"And hitherward I come,
Before this same old Time shall strike me numb,
To carry it out."--"Strange, this is!" said the other;
"What mind shall plumb
Though these my father's enemies were and mine,
I nourished a like purpose--to restore them
Each letter and line."
Is now not needed, sir; for you will see
That since I am here, a thing like this is, plainly,
Best done by me."
The other bowed, and left,
Crestfallen in sentiment, as one bereft
Of some fair object he had been moved to cherish,
By hands more deft.
And as he slept that night
The phantoms of the ensepulchred stood up-right
Before him, trembling that he had set him seeking
And, as unknowing his ruth,
Asked as with terrors founded not on truth
Why he should want them. "Ha," they hollowly hackered,
"You come, forsooth,
"By stealth to obliterate
Our graven worth, our chronicle, our date,
That our descendant may not gild the record
Of our past state,
"And that no sage may say
In pensive progress near where we decay:
'This stone records a luminous line whose talents
Told in their day.'"
Upon the morrow he went
And to that town and churchyard never bent