Part 2 out of 3
In inward gladness feigns forgetfulness
That such a payment ever was his due
(His long thought notwithstanding), so did I
At our last meeting waive your proffered kiss
With quick divergent talk of scenery nigh,
By such suspension to enhance my bliss.
And as his looks in consternation fall
When, gathering that the debt is lightly deemed,
The debtor makes as not to pay at all,
So faltered I, when your intention seemed
Converted by my false uneagerness
To putting off for ever the caress.
W. P. V., 1865-67.
TO AN IMPERSONATOR OF ROSALIND
Did he who drew her in the years ago -
Till now conceived creator of her grace -
With telescopic sight high natures know,
Discern remote in Time's untravelled space
Your soft sweet mien, your gestures, as do we,
And with a copyist's hand but set them down,
Glowing yet more to dream our ecstasy
When his Original should be forthshown?
For, kindled by that animated eye,
Whereto all fairnesses about thee brim,
And by thy tender tones, what wight can fly
The wild conviction welling up in him
That he at length beholds woo, parley, plead,
The "very, very Rosalind" indeed!
8 ADELPHI TERRACE, 21st April 1867.
TO AN ACTRESS
I read your name when you were strange to me,
Where it stood blazoned bold with many more;
I passed it vacantly, and did not see
Any great glory in the shape it wore.
O cruelty, the insight barred me then!
Why did I not possess me with its sound,
And in its cadence catch and catch again
Your nature's essence floating therearound?
Could THAT man be this I, unknowing you,
When now the knowing you is all of me,
And the old world of then is now a new,
And purpose no more what it used to be -
A thing of formal journeywork, but due
To springs that then were sealed up utterly?
THE MINUTE BEFORE MEETING
The grey gaunt days dividing us in twain
Seemed hopeless hills my strength must faint to climb,
But they are gone; and now I would detain
The few clock-beats that part us; rein back Time,
And live in close expectance never closed
In change for far expectance closed at last,
So harshly has expectance been imposed
On my long need while these slow blank months passed.
And knowing that what is now about to be
Will all HAVE BEEN in O, so short a space!
I read beyond it my despondency
When more dividing months shall take its place,
Thereby denying to this hour of grace
A full-up measure of felicity.
HE ABJURES LOVE
At last I put off love,
For twice ten years
The daysman of my thought,
And hope, and doing;
Being ashamed thereof,
And faint of fears
And desolations, wrought
In his pursuing,
Since first in youthtime those
That heart-enslavement brings
To hale and hoary,
Became my housefellows,
And, fool and blind,
I turned from kith and kind
To give him glory.
I was as children be
Who have no care;
I did not shrink or sigh,
I did not sicken;
But lo, Love beckoned me,
And I was bare,
And poor, and starved, and dry,
Too many times ablaze
With fatuous fires,
Enkindled by his wiles
To new embraces,
Did I, by wilful ways
And baseless ires,
Return the anxious smiles
Of friendly faces.
No more will now rate I
The common rare,
The midnight drizzle dew,
The gray hour golden,
The wind a yearning cry,
The faulty fair,
Things dreamt, of comelier hue
Than things beholden! . . .
--I speak as one who plumbs
Life's dim profound,
One who at length can sound
Clear views and certain.
But--after love what comes?
A scene that lours,
A few sad vacant hours,
And then, the Curtain.
A SET OF COUNTRY SONGS
LET ME ENJOY
Let me enjoy the earth no less
Because the all-enacting Might
That fashioned forth its loveliness
Had other aims than my delight.
About my path there flits a Fair,
Who throws me not a word or sign;
I'll charm me with her ignoring air,
And laud the lips not meant for mine.
From manuscripts of moving song
Inspired by scenes and dreams unknown
I'll pour out raptures that belong
To others, as they were my own.
And some day hence, towards Paradise,
And all its blest--if such should be -
I will lift glad, afar-off eyes,
Though it contain no place for me.
AT CASTERBRIDGE FAIR
Sing, Ballad-singer, raise a hearty tune;
Make me forget that there was ever a one
I walked with in the meek light of the moon
When the day's work was done.
Rhyme, Ballad-rhymer, start a country song;
Make me forget that she whom I loved well
Swore she would love me dearly, love me long,
Then--what I cannot tell!
Sing, Ballad-singer, from your little book;
Make me forget those heart-breaks, achings, fears;
Make me forget her name, her sweet sweet look -
Make me forget her tears.
These market-dames, mid-aged, with lips thin-drawn,
And tissues sere,
Are they the ones we loved in years agone,
And courted here?
Are these the muslined pink young things to whom
We vowed and swore
In nooks on summer Sundays by the Froom,
Or Budmouth shore?
Do they remember those gay tunes we trod
Clasped on the green;
Aye; trod till moonlight set on the beaten sod
A satin sheen?
They must forget, forget! They cannot know
What once they were,
Or memory would transfigure them, and show
Them always fair.
AFTER THE CLUB-DANCE
Black'on frowns east on Maidon,
And westward to the sea,
But on neither is his frown laden
With scorn, as his frown on me!
At dawn my heart grew heavy,
I could not sip the wine,
I left the jocund bevy
And that young man o' mine.
The roadside elms pass by me, -
Why do I sink with shame
When the birds a-perch there eye me?
They, too, have done the same!
Nobody took any notice of her as she stood on the causey kerb,
All eager to sell her honey and apples and bunches of garden herb;
And if she had offered to give her wares and herself with them too that day,
I doubt if a soul would have cared to take a bargain so choice away.
But chancing to trace her sunburnt grace that morning as I passed nigh,
I went and I said "Poor maidy dear!--and will none of the people buy?"
And so it began; and soon we knew what the end of it all must be,
And I found that though no others had bid, a prize had been won by me.
And are ye one of Hermitage -
Of Hermitage, by Ivel Road,
And do ye know, in Hermitage
A thatch-roofed house where sengreens grow?
And does John Waywood live there still -
He of the name that there abode
When father hurdled on the hill
Some fifteen years ago?
Does he now speak o' Patty Beech,
The Patty Beech he used to--see,
Or ask at all if Patty Beech
Is known or heard of out this way?
- Ask ever if she's living yet,
And where her present home may be,
And how she bears life's fag and fret
After so long a day?
In years agone at Hermitage
This faded face was counted fair,
None fairer; and at Hermitage
We swore to wed when he should thrive.
But never a chance had he or I,
And waiting made his wish outwear,
And Time, that dooms man's love to die,
Preserves a maid's alive.
A WIFE WAITS
Will's at the dance in the Club-room below,
Where the tall liquor-cups foam;
I on the pavement up here by the Bow,
Wait, wait, to steady him home.
Will and his partner are treading a tune,
Loving companions they be;
Willy, before we were married in June,
Said he loved no one but me;
Said he would let his old pleasures all go
Ever to live with his Dear.
Will's at the dance in the Club-room below,
Shivering I wait for him here.
NOTE.--"The Bow" (line 3). The old name for the curved corner by the cross-
streets in the middle of Casterbridge.
AFTER THE FAIR
The singers are gone from the Cornmarket-place
With their broadsheets of rhymes,
The street rings no longer in treble and bass
With their skits on the times,
And the Cross, lately thronged, is a dim naked space
That but echoes the stammering chimes.
From Clock-corner steps, as each quarter ding-dongs,
Away the folk roam
By the "Hart" and Grey's Bridge into byways and "drongs,"
Or across the ridged loam;
The younger ones shrilling the lately heard songs,
The old saying, "Would we were home."
The shy-seeming maiden so mute in the fair
Now rattles and talks,
And that one who looked the most swaggering there
Grows sad as she walks,
And she who seemed eaten by cankering care
In statuesque sturdiness stalks.
And midnight clears High Street of all but the ghosts
Of its buried burghees,
From the latest far back to those old Roman hosts
Whose remains one yet sees,
Who loved, laughed, and fought, hailed their friends, drank their toasts
At their meeting-times here, just as these!
NOTE.--"The Chimes" (line 6) will be listened for in vain here at midnight
now, having been abolished some years ago.
THE DARK-EYED GENTLEMAN
I pitched my day's leazings in Crimmercrock Lane,
To tie up my garter and jog on again,
When a dear dark-eyed gentleman passed there and said,
In a way that made all o' me colour rose-red,
"What do I see -
O pretty knee!"
And he came and he tied up my garter for me.
'Twixt sunset and moonrise it was, I can mind:
Ah, 'tis easy to lose what we nevermore find! -
Of the dear stranger's home, of his name, I knew nought,
But I soon knew his nature and all that it brought.
Sobbed I that he
Should ever have tied up my garter for me!
Yet now I've beside me a fine lissom lad,
And my slip's nigh forgot, and my days are not sad;
My own dearest joy is he, comrade, and friend,
He it is who safe-guards me, on him I depend;
No sorrow brings he,
And thankful I be
That his daddy once tied up my garter for me!
NOTE.--"Leazings" (line 1).--Bundle of gleaned corn.
TO CARREY CLAVEL
You turn your back, you turn your back,
And never your face to me,
Alone you take your homeward track,
And scorn my company.
What will you do when Charley's seen
Dewbeating down this way?
- You'll turn your back as now, you mean?
Nay, Carrey Clavel, nay!
You'll see none's looking; put your lip
Up like a tulip, so;
And he will coll you, bend, and sip:
Yes, Carrey, yes; I know!
THE ORPHANED OLD MAID
I wanted to marry, but father said, "No -
'Tis weakness in women to give themselves so;
If you care for your freedom you'll listen to me,
Make a spouse in your pocket, and let the men be."
I spake on't again and again: father cried,
"Why--if you go husbanding, where shall I bide?
For never a home's for me elsewhere than here!"
And I yielded; for father had ever been dear.
But now father's gone, and I feel growing old,
And I'm lonely and poor in this house on the wold,
And my sweetheart that was found a partner elsewhere,
And nobody flings me a thought or a care.
THE SPRING CALL
Down Wessex way, when spring's a-shine,
The blackbird's "pret-ty de-urr!"
In Wessex accents marked as mine
Is heard afar and near.
He flutes it strong, as if in song
No R's of feebler tone
Than his appear in "pretty dear,"
Have blackbirds ever known.
Yet they pipe "prattie deerh!" I glean,
Beneath a Scottish sky,
And "pehty de-aw!" amid the treen
Of Middlesex or nigh.
While some folk say--perhaps in play -
Who know the Irish isle,
'Tis "purrity dare!" in treeland there
When songsters would beguile.
Well: I'll say what the listening birds
Say, hearing "pret-ty de-urr!" -
However strangers sound such words,
That's how we sound them here.
Yes, in this clime at pairing time,
As soon as eyes can see her
At dawn of day, the proper way
To call is "pret-ty de-urr!"
Sing; how 'a would sing!
How 'a would raise the tune
When we rode in the waggon from harvesting
By the light o' the moon!
Dance; how 'a would dance!
If a fiddlestring did but sound
She would hold out her coats, give a slanting glance,
And go round and round.
Laugh; how 'a would laugh!
Her peony lips would part
As if none such a place for a lover to quaff
At the deeps of a heart.
Julie, O girl of joy,
Soon, soon that lover he came.
Ah, yes; and gave thee a baby-boy,
But never his name . . .
--Tolling for her, as you guess;
And the baby too . . . 'Tis well.
You knew her in maidhood likewise?--Yes,
That's her burial bell.
"I suppose," with a laugh, she said,
"I should blush that I'm not a wife;
But how can it matter, so soon to be dead,
What one does in life!"
When we sat making the mourning
By her death-bed side, said she,
"Dears, how can you keep from your lovers, adorning
In honour of me!"
Bubbling and brightsome eyed!
But now--O never again.
She chose her bearers before she died
From her fancy-men.
NOTE.--It is, or was, a common custom in Wessex, and probably other country
places, to prepare the mourning beside the death-bed, the dying person
sometimes assisting, who also selects his or her bearers on such occasions.
"Coats" (line 7).--Old name for petticoats.
NEWS FOR HER MOTHER
One mile more is
Where your door is
Mother mine! -
Mills are strumming,
And the cider made to-year will be as wine.
Yet, not viewing
Is it thrills me,
And so fills me
That I bound
Like a ball or leaf or lamb along the ground.
Tremble not now
At your lot now,
Hosts have sped them
Quick to wed them,
Great and small,
Since the first two sighing half-hearts made a whole.
Yet I wonder,
Will it sunder
Her from me?
Will she guess that
I said "Yes,"--that
His I'd be,
Ere I thought she might not see him as I see!
Old brown gable,
Here you are!
O my mother,
Mine from thy heart, make thy nearness seem afar?
The fiddler knows what's brewing
To the lilt of his lyric wiles:
The fiddler knows what rueing
Will come of this night's smiles!
He sees couples join them for dancing,
And afterwards joining for life,
He sees them pay high for their prancing
By a welter of wedded strife.
He twangs: "Music hails from the devil,
Though vaunted to come from heaven,
For it makes people do at a revel
What multiplies sins by seven.
"There's many a heart now mangled,
And waiting its time to go,
Whose tendrils were first entangled
By my sweet viol and bow!"
THE HUSBAND'S VIEW
"Can anything avail
Beldame, for my hid grief? -
Listen: I'll tell the tale,
It may bring faint relief! -
"I came where I was not known,
In hope to flee my sin;
And walking forth alone
A young man said, 'Good e'en.'
"In gentle voice and true
He asked to marry me;
'You only--only you
Fulfil my dream!' said he.
"We married o' Monday morn,
In the month of hay and flowers;
My cares were nigh forsworn,
And perfect love was ours.
"But ere the days are long
Untimely fruit will show;
My Love keeps up his song,
Undreaming it is so.
"And I awake in the night,
And think of months gone by,
And of that cause of flight
Hidden from my Love's eye.
"Discovery borders near,
And then! . . . But something stirred? -
My husband--he is here!
Heaven--has he overheard?" -
"Yes; I have heard, sweet Nan;
I have known it all the time.
I am not a particular man;
Misfortunes are no crime:
"And what with our serious need
Of sons for soldiering,
That accident, indeed,
To maids, is a useful thing!"
Why didn't you say you was promised, Rose-Ann?
Why didn't you name it to me,
Ere ever you tempted me hither, Rose-Ann,
So often, so wearifully?
O why did you let me be near 'ee, Rose-Ann,
Talking things about wedlock so free,
And never by nod or by whisper, Rose-Ann,
Give a hint that it wasn't to be?
Down home I was raising a flock of stock ewes,
Cocks and hens, and wee chickens by scores,
And lavendered linen all ready to use,
A-dreaming that they would be yours.
Mother said: "She's a sport-making maiden, my son";
And a pretty sharp quarrel had we;
O why do you prove by this wrong you have done
That I saw not what mother could see?
Never once did you say you was promised, Rose-Ann,
Never once did I dream it to be;
And it cuts to the heart to be treated, Rose-Ann,
As you in your scorning treat me!
Gruffly growled the wind on Toller downland broad and bare,
And lonesome was the house, and dark; and few came there.
"Now don't ye rub your eyes so red; we're home and have no cares;
Here's a skimmer-cake for supper, peckled onions, and some pears;
I've got a little keg o' summat strong, too, under stairs:
- What, slight your husband's victuals? Other brides can tackle theirs!"
The wind of winter mooed and mouthed their chimney like a horn,
And round the house and past the house 'twas leafless and lorn.
"But my dear and tender poppet, then, how came ye to agree
In Ivel church this morning? Sure, there-right you married me!"
- "Hoo-hoo!--I don't know--I forgot how strange and far 'twould be,
An' I wish I was at home again with dear daddee!"
Gruffly growled the wind on Toller downland broad and bare,
And lonesome was the house and dark; and few came there.
"I didn't think such furniture as this was all you'd own,
And great black beams for ceiling, and a floor o' wretched stone,
And nasty pewter platters, horrid forks of steel and bone,
And a monstrous crock in chimney. 'Twas to me quite unbeknown!"
Rattle rattle went the door; down flapped a cloud of smoke,
As shifting north the wicked wind assayed a smarter stroke.
"Now sit ye by the fire, poppet; put yourself at ease:
And keep your little thumb out of your mouth, dear, please!
And I'll sing to 'ee a pretty song of lovely flowers and bees,
And happy lovers taking walks within a grove o' trees."
Gruffly growled the wind on Toller Down, so bleak and bare,
And lonesome was the house, and dark; and few came there.
"Now, don't ye gnaw your handkercher; 'twill hurt your little tongue,
And if you do feel spitish, 'tis because ye are over young;
But you'll be getting older, like us all, ere very long,
And you'll see me as I am--a man who never did 'ee wrong."
Straight from Whit'sheet Hill to Benvill Lane the blusters pass,
Hitting hedges, milestones, handposts, trees, and tufts of grass.
"Well, had I only known, my dear, that this was how you'd be,
I'd have married her of riper years that was so fond of me.
But since I can't, I've half a mind to run away to sea,
And leave 'ee to go barefoot to your d-d daddee!"
Up one wall and down the other--past each window-pane -
Prance the gusts, and then away down Crimmercrock's long lane.
"I--I--don't know what to say to't, since your wife I've vowed to be;
And as 'tis done, I s'pose here I must bide --poor me!
Aye--as you are ki-ki-kind, I'll try to live along with 'ee,
Although I'd fain have stayed at home with dear daddee!"
Gruffly growled the wind on Toller Down, so bleak and bare,
And lonesome was the house and dark; and few came there.
"That's right, my Heart! And though on haunted Toller Down we be,
And the wind swears things in chimley, we'll to supper merrily!
So don't ye tap your shoe so pettish-like; but smile at me,
And ye'll soon forget to sock and sigh for dear daddee!"
PIECES OCCASIONAL AND VARIOUS
A CHURCH ROMANCE
(MELLSTOCK circa 1835)
She turned in the high pew, until her sight
Swept the west gallery, and caught its row
Of music-men with viol, book, and bow
Against the sinking sad tower-window light.
She turned again; and in her pride's despite
One strenuous viol's inspirer seemed to throw
A message from his string to her below,
Which said: "I claim thee as my own forthright!"
Thus their hearts' bond began, in due time signed.
And long years thence, when Age had scared Romance,
At some old attitude of his or glance
That gallery-scene would break upon her mind,
With him as minstrel, ardent, young, and trim,
Bowing "New Sabbath" or "Mount Ephraim."
THE RASH BRIDE
AN EXPERIENCE OF THE MELLSTOCK QUIRE
We Christmas-carolled down the Vale, and up the Vale, and round the Vale,
We played and sang that night as we were yearly wont to do -
A carol in a minor key, a carol in the major D,
Then at each house: "Good wishes: many Christmas joys to you!"
Next, to the widow's John and I and all the rest drew on. And I
Discerned that John could hardly hold the tongue of him for joy.
The widow was a sweet young thing whom John was bent on marrying,
And quiring at her casement seemed romantic to the boy.
"She'll make reply, I trust," said he, "to our salute? She must!" said he,
"And then I will accost her gently--much to her surprise! -
For knowing not I am with you here, when I speak up and call her dear
A tenderness will fill her voice, a bashfulness her eyes.
So, by her window-square we stood; ay, with our lanterns there we stood,
And he along with us,--not singing, waiting for a sign;
And when we'd quired her carols three a light was lit and out looked she,
A shawl about her bedgown, and her colour red as wine.
And sweetly then she bowed her thanks, and smiled, and spoke aloud her
When lo, behind her back there, in the room, a man appeared.
I knew him--one from Woolcomb way--Giles Swetman--honest as the day,
But eager, hasty; and I felt that some strange trouble neared.
"How comes he there? . . . Suppose," said we, "she's wed of late! Who
knows?" said we.
- "She married yester-morning--only mother yet has known
The secret o't!" shrilled one small boy. "But now I've told, let's wish 'em
A heavy fall aroused us: John had gone down like a stone.
We rushed to him and caught him round, and lifted him, and brought him
When, hearing something wrong had happened, oped the window she:
"Has one of you fallen ill?" she asked, "by these night labours overtasked?"
None answered. That she'd done poor John a cruel turn felt we.
Till up spoke Michael: "Fie, young dame! You've broke your promise, sly
By forming this new tie, young dame, and jilting John so true,
Who trudged to-night to sing to 'ee because he thought he'd bring to 'ee
Good wishes as your coming spouse. May ye such trifling rue!"
Her man had said no word at all; but being behind had heard it all,
And now cried: "Neighbours, on my soul I knew not 'twas like this!"
And then to her: "If I had known you'd had in tow not me alone,
No wife should you have been of mine. It is a dear bought bliss!"
She changed death-white, and heaved a cry: we'd never heard so grieved a
As came from her at this from him: heart-broken quite seemed she;
And suddenly, as we looked on, she turned, and rushed; and she was gone,
Whither, her husband, following after, knew not; nor knew we.
We searched till dawn about the house; within the house, without the house,
We searched among the laurel boughs that grew beneath the wall,
And then among the crocks and things, and stores for winter junketings,
In linhay, loft, and dairy; but we found her not at all.
Then John rushed in: "O friends," he said, "hear this, this, this!" and
bends his head:
"I've--searched round by the--WELL, and find the cover open wide!
I am fearful that--I can't say what . . . Bring lanterns, and some cords to
We did so, and we went and stood the deep dark hole beside.
And then they, ropes in hand, and I--ay, John, and all the band, and I
Let down a lantern to the depths--some hundred feet and more;
It glimmered like a fog-dimmed star; and there, beside its light, afar,
White drapery floated, and we knew the meaning that it bore.
The rest is naught . . . We buried her o' Sunday. Neighbours carried her;
And Swetman--he who'd married her--now miserablest of men,
Walked mourning first; and then walked John; just quivering, but composed
And we the quire formed round the grave, as was the custom then.
Our old bass player, as I recall--his white hair blown--but why recall! -
His viol upstrapped, bent figure--doomed to follow her full soon -
Stood bowing, pale and tremulous; and next to him the rest of us . . .
We sang the Ninetieth Psalm to her--set to Saint Stephen's tune.
THE DEAD QUIRE
Beside the Mead of Memories,
Where Church-way mounts to Moaning Hill,
The sad man sighed his phantasies:
He seems to sigh them still.
"'Twas the Birth-tide Eve, and the hamleteers
Made merry with ancient Mellstock zest,
But the Mellstock quire of former years
Had entered into rest.
"Old Dewy lay by the gaunt yew tree,
And Reuben and Michael a pace behind,
And Bowman with his family
By the wall that the ivies bind.
"The singers had followed one by one,
Treble, and tenor, and thorough-bass;
And the worm that wasteth had begun
To mine their mouldering place.
"For two-score years, ere Christ-day light,
Mellstock had throbbed to strains from these;
But now there echoed on the night
No Christmas harmonies.
"Three meadows off, at a dormered inn,
The youth had gathered in high carouse,
And, ranged on settles, some therein
Had drunk them to a drowse.
"Loud, lively, reckless, some had grown,
Each dandling on his jigging knee
Eliza, Dolly, Nance, or Joan -
Livers in levity.
"The taper flames and hearthfire shine
Grew smoke-hazed to a lurid light,
And songs on subjects not divine
Were warbled forth that night.
"Yet many were sons and grandsons here
Of those who, on such eves gone by,
At that still hour had throated clear
Their anthems to the sky.
"The clock belled midnight; and ere long
One shouted, 'Now 'tis Christmas morn;
Here's to our women old and young,
And to John Barleycorn!'
"They drink the toast and shout again:
The pewter-ware rings back the boom,
And for a breath-while follows then
A silence in the room.
"When nigh without, as in old days,
The ancient quire of voice and string
Seemed singing words of prayer and praise
As they had used to sing:
"'While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night,' -
Thus swells the long familiar sound
In many a quaint symphonic flight -
To, 'Glory shone around.'
"The sons defined their fathers' tones,
The widow his whom she had wed,
And others in the minor moans
The viols of the dead.
"Something supernal has the sound
As verse by verse the strain proceeds,
And stilly staring on the ground
Each roysterer holds and heeds.
"Towards its chorded closing bar
Plaintively, thinly, waned the hymn,
Yet lingered, like the notes afar
Of banded seraphim.
"With brows abashed, and reverent tread,
The hearkeners sought the tavern door:
But nothing, save wan moonlight, spread
The empty highway o'er.
"While on their hearing fixed and tense
The aerial music seemed to sink,
As it were gently moving thence
Along the river brink.
"Then did the Quick pursue the Dead
By crystal Froom that crinkles there;
And still the viewless quire ahead
Voiced the old holy air.
"By Bank-walk wicket, brightly bleached,
It passed, and 'twixt the hedges twain,
Dogged by the living; till it reached
The bottom of Church Lane.
"There, at the turning, it was heard
Drawing to where the churchyard lay:
But when they followed thitherward
It smalled, and died away.
"Each headstone of the quire, each mound,
Confronted them beneath the moon;
But no more floated therearound
That ancient Birth-night tune.
"There Dewy lay by the gaunt yew tree,
There Reuben and Michael, a pace behind,
And Bowman with his family
By the wall that the ivies bind . . .
"As from a dream each sobered son
Awoke, and musing reached his door:
'Twas said that of them all, not one
Sat in a tavern more."
- The sad man ceased; and ceased to heed
His listener, and crossed the leaze
From Moaning Hill towards the mead -
The Mead of Memories.
Whose child is this they bring
Into the aisle? -
At so superb a thing
The congregation smile
And turn their heads awhile.
Its eyes are blue and bright,
Its cheeks like rose;
Its simple robes unite
Whitest of calicoes
With lawn, and satin bows.
A pride in the human race
At this paragon
Of mortals, lights each face
While the old rite goes on;
But ah, they are shocked anon.
What girl is she who peeps
From the gallery stair,
Smiles palely, redly weeps,
With feverish furtive air
As though not fitly there?
"I am the baby's mother;
This gem of the race
The decent fain would smother,
And for my deep disgrace
I am bidden to leave the place."
"Where is the baby's father?" -
"In the woods afar.
He says there is none he'd rather
Meet under moon or star
Than me, of all that are.
"To clasp me in lovelike weather,
Wish fixing when,
He says: To be together
At will, just now and then,
Makes him the blest of men;
"But chained and doomed for life
As vulgar man and wife,
He says, is another thing:
Yea: sweet Love's sepulchring!"
A DREAM QUESTION
"It shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine."
Micah iii. 6.
I asked the Lord: "Sire, is this true
Which hosts of theologians hold,
That when we creatures censure you
For shaping griefs and ails untold
(Deeming them punishments undue)
You rage, as Moses wrote of old?
When we exclaim: 'Beneficent
He is not, for he orders pain,
Or, if so, not omnipotent:
To a mere child the thing is plain!'
Those who profess to represent
You, cry out: 'Impious and profane!'"
He: "Save me from my friends, who deem
That I care what my creatures say!
Mouth as you list: sneer, rail, blaspheme,
O manikin, the livelong day,
Not one grief-groan or pleasure-gleam
Will you increase or take away.
"Why things are thus, whoso derides,
May well remain my secret still . . .
A fourth dimension, say the guides,
To matter is conceivable.
Think some such mystery resides
Within the ethic of my will."
BY THE BARROWS
Not far from Mellstock--so tradition saith -
Where barrows, bulging as they bosoms were
Of Multimammia stretched supinely there,
Catch night and noon the tempest's wanton breath,
A battle, desperate doubtless unto death,
Was one time fought. The outlook, lone and bare,
The towering hawk and passing raven share,
And all the upland round is called "The He'th."
Here once a woman, in our modern age,
Fought singlehandedly to shield a child -
One not her own--from a man's senseless rage.
And to my mind no patriots' bones there piled
So consecrate the silence as her deed
Of stoic and devoted self-unheed.
A WIFE AND ANOTHER
"War ends, and he's returning
The evening next to-morrow's!" -
--This I say
To her, whom I suspiciously survey,
Holding my husband's letter
To her view. -
She glanced at it but lightly,
And I knew
That one from him that day had reached her too.
There was no time for scruple;
I filched her missive, conned it,
Learnt that he
Would lodge with her ere he came home to me.
To reach the port before her,
There wait to intercept them
Soon I planned:
That, in her stead, _I_ might before him stand.
So purposed, so effected;
At the inn
Assigned, I found her hidden:-
O that sin
Should bear what she bore when I entered in!
Her heavy lids grew laden
Her lips made soundless movements
While I peered at the chamber hired as theirs.
And as beside its doorway,
One inside, one withoutside
We two stood,
He came--my husband--as she knew he would.
No pleasurable triumph
Was that sight!
The ghastly disappointment
Broke them quite.
What love was theirs, to move them with such might!
"Madam, forgive me!" said she,
"A child--I soon shall bear him . . .
To tell you--that he won me ere he went."
Then, as it were, within me
As if my soul had largened:
I saw myself the snarer--them the trapped.
"My hate dies, and I promise,
I said, "to care for you, be
And cherish, and take interest in the child."
Without more words I pressed him
Through the door
Within which she stood, powerless
To say more,
And closed it on them, and downstairward bore.
"He joins his wife--my sister,"
Remarked in going--lightly -
Even as though
All had come right, and we had arranged it so . . .
As I, my road retracing,
Left them free,
The night alone embracing
I held I had not stirred God wrothfully.
THE ROMAN ROAD
The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath. And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;
Visioning on the vacant air
Helmed legionaries, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
The Roman Road.
But no tall brass-helmed legionnaire
Haunts it for me. Uprises there
A mother's form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
The Roman Road.
THE VAMPIRINE FAIR
Gilbert had sailed to India's shore,
And I was all alone:
My lord came in at my open door
And said, "O fairest one!"
He leant upon the slant bureau,
And sighed, "I am sick for thee!"
"My lord," said I, "pray speak not so,
Since wedded wife I be."
Leaning upon the slant bureau,
Bitter his next words came:
"So much I know; and likewise know
My love burns on the same!
"But since you thrust my love away,
And since it knows no cure,
I must live out as best I may
The ache that I endure."
When Michaelmas browned the nether Coomb,
And Wingreen Hill above,
And made the hollyhocks rags of bloom,
My lord grew ill of love.
My lord grew ill with love for me;
Gilbert was far from port;
And--so it was--that time did see
Me housed at Manor Court.
About the bowers of Manor Court
The primrose pushed its head
When, on a day at last, report
Arrived of him I had wed.
"Gilbert, my lord, is homeward bound,
His sloop is drawing near,
What shall I do when I am found
Not in his house but here?"
"O I will heal the injuries
I've done to him and thee.
I'll give him means to live at ease
Afar from Shastonb'ry."
When Gilbert came we both took thought:
"Since comfort and good cheer,"
Said he, "So readily are bought,
He's welcome to thee, Dear."
So when my lord flung liberally
His gold in Gilbert's hands,
I coaxed and got my brothers three
Made stewards of his lands.
And then I coaxed him to install
My other kith and kin,
With aim to benefit them all
Before his love ran thin.
And next I craved to be possessed
Of plate and jewels rare.
He groaned: "You give me, Love, no rest,
Take all the law will spare!"
And so in course of years my wealth
Became a goodly hoard,
My steward brethren, too, by stealth
Had each a fortune stored.
Thereafter in the gloom he'd walk,
And by and by began
To say aloud in absent talk,
"I am a ruined man! -
"I hardly could have thought," he said,
"When first I looked on thee,
That one so soft, so rosy red,
Could thus have beggared me!"
Seeing his fair estates in pawn,
And him in such decline,
I knew that his domain had gone
To lift up me and mine.
Next month upon a Sunday morn
A gunshot sounded nigh:
By his own hand my lordly born
Had doomed himself to die.
"Live, my dear lord, and much of thine
Shall be restored to thee!"
He smiled, and said 'twixt word and sign,
"Alas--that cannot be!"
And while I searched his cabinet
For letters, keys, or will,
'Twas touching that his gaze was set
With love upon me still.
And when I burnt each document
Before his dying eyes,
'Twas sweet that he did not resent
My fear of compromise.
The steeple-cock gleamed golden when
I watched his spirit go:
And I became repentant then
That I had wrecked him so.
Three weeks at least had come and gone,
With many a saddened word,
Before I wrote to Gilbert on
The stroke that so had stirred.
And having worn a mournful gown,
I joined, in decent while,
My husband at a dashing town
To live in dashing style.
Yet though I now enjoy my fling,
And dine and dance and drive,
I'd give my prettiest emerald ring
To see my lord alive.
And when the meet on hunting-days
Is near his churchyard home,
I leave my bantering beaux to place
A flower upon his tomb;
And sometimes say: "Perhaps too late
The saints in Heaven deplore
That tender time when, moved by Fate,
He darked my cottage door."
While I watch the Christmas blaze
Paint the room with ruddy rays,
Something makes my vision glide
To the frosty scene outside.
There, to reach a rotting berry,
Toils a thrush,--constrained to very
Dregs of food by sharp distress,
Taking such with thankfulness.
Why, O starving bird, when I
One day's joy would justify,
And put misery out of view,
Do you make me notice you!
I do not see the hills around,
Nor mark the tints the copses wear;
I do not note the grassy ground
And constellated daisies there.
I hear not the contralto note
Of cuckoos hid on either hand,
The whirr that shakes the nighthawk's throat
When eve's brown awning hoods the land.
Some say each songster, tree, and mead -
All eloquent of love divine -
Receives their constant careful heed:
Such keen appraisement is not mine.
The tones around me that I hear,
The aspects, meanings, shapes I see,
Are those far back ones missed when near,
And now perceived too late by me!
NIGHT IN THE OLD HOME
When the wasting embers redden the chimney-breast,
And Life's bare pathway looms like a desert track to me,
And from hall and parlour the living have gone to their rest,
My perished people who housed them here come back to me.
They come and seat them around in their mouldy places,
Now and then bending towards me a glance of wistfulness,
A strange upbraiding smile upon all their faces,
And in the bearing of each a passive tristfulness.
"Do you uphold me, lingering and languishing here,
A pale late plant of your once strong stock?" I say to them;
"A thinker of crooked thoughts upon Life in the sere,
And on That which consigns men to night after showing the day to them?"
"--O let be the Wherefore! We fevered our years not thus:
Take of Life what it grants, without question!" they answer me seemingly.
"Enjoy, suffer, wait: spread the table here freely like us,
And, satisfied, placid, unfretting, watch Time away beamingly!"
AFTER THE LAST BREATH
(J. H. 1813-1904)
There's no more to be done, or feared, or hoped;
None now need watch, speak low, and list, and tire;
No irksome crease outsmoothed, no pillow sloped
Does she require.
Blankly we gaze. We are free to go or stay;
Our morrow's anxious plans have missed their aim;
Whether we leave to-night or wait till day
Counts as the same.
The lettered vessels of medicaments
Seem asking wherefore we have set them here;
Each palliative its silly face presents
As useless gear.
And yet we feel that something savours well;
We note a numb relief withheld before;
Our well-beloved is prisoner in the cell
Of Time no more.
We see by littles now the deft achievement
Whereby she has escaped the Wrongers all,
In view of which our momentary bereavement
Outshapes but small.
In the middle of the night
Mother's spirit came and spoke to me,
Looking weariful and white -
As 'twere untimely news she broke to me.
"O my daughter, joyed are you
To own the weetless child you mother there;
'Men may search the wide world through,'
You think, 'nor find so fair another there!'
"Dear, this midnight time unwombs
Thousands just as rare and beautiful;
Thousands whom High Heaven foredooms
To be as bright, as good, as dutiful.
"Source of ecstatic hopes and fears
And innocent maternal vanity,
Your fond exploit but shapes for tears
New thoroughfares in sad humanity.
"Yet as you dream, so dreamt I
When Life stretched forth its morning ray to me;
Other views for by and by!" . . .
Such strange things did mother say to me.
THE PINE PLANTERS
(MARTY SOUTH'S REVERIE)
We work here together
In blast and breeze;
He fills the earth in,
I hold the trees.
He does not notice
That what I do
Keeps me from moving
And chills me through.
He has seen one fairer
I feel by his eye,
Which skims me as though
I were not by.
And since she passed here
He scarce has known
But that the woodland
Holds him alone.
I have worked here with him
Since morning shine,
He busy with his thoughts
And I with mine.
I have helped him so many,
So many days,
But never win any
Small word of praise!
Shall I not sigh to him
That I work on
Glad to be nigh to him
Though hope is gone?
Nay, though he never
Knew love like mine,
I'll bear it ever
And make no sign!
From the bundle at hand here
I take each tree,
And set it to stand, here
Always to be;
When, in a second,
As if from fear
Of Life unreckoned
It starts a sighing
Through day and night,
Though while there lying
'Twas voiceless quite.
It will sigh in the morning,
Will sigh at noon,
At the winter's warning,
In wafts of June;
Grieving that never
Kind Fate decreed
It should for ever
Remain a seed,
And shun the welter
Of things without,
From storm and drought.
Thus, all unknowing
For whom or what
We set it growing
In this bleak spot,
It still will grieve here
Throughout its time,
Unable to leave here,
Or change its clime;
Or tell the story
Of us to-day
When, halt and hoary,
We pass away.
I plodded to Fairmile Hill-top, where
A maiden one fain would guard
From every hazard and every care
Advanced on the roadside sward.
I wondered how succeeding suns
Would shape her wayfarings,
And wished some Power might take such ones
Under Its warding wings.
The busy breeze came up the hill
And smartened her cheek to red,
And frizzled her hair to a haze. With a will
"Good-morning, my Dear!" I said.
She glanced from me to the far-off gray,
And, with proud severity,
"Good-morning to you--though I may say
I am not YOUR Dear," quoth she:
"For I am the Dear of one not here -
One far from his native land!" -
And she passed me by; and I did not try
To make her understand.
ONE WE KNEW
(M. H. 1772-1857)
She told how they used to form for the country dances -
"The Triumph," "The New-rigged Ship" -
To the light of the guttering wax in the panelled manses,
And in cots to the blink of a dip.
She spoke of the wild "poussetting" and "allemanding"
On carpet, on oak, and on sod;
And the two long rows of ladies and gentlemen standing,
And the figures the couples trod.
She showed us the spot where the maypole was yearly planted,
And where the bandsmen stood
While breeched and kerchiefed partners whirled, and panted
To choose each other for good.
She told of that far-back day when they learnt astounded
Of the death of the King of France:
Of the Terror; and then of Bonaparte's unbounded
Ambition and arrogance.
Of how his threats woke warlike preparations
Along the southern strand,
And how each night brought tremors and trepidations
Lest morning should see him land.
She said she had often heard the gibbet creaking
As it swayed in the lightning flash,
Had caught from the neighbouring town a small child's shrieking
At the cart-tail under the lash . . .
With cap-framed face and long gaze into the embers -
We seated around her knees -
She would dwell on such dead themes, not as one who remembers,
But rather as one who sees.
She seemed one left behind of a band gone distant
So far that no tongue could hail:
Past things retold were to her as things existent,
Things present but as a tale.
May 20, 1902.
SHE HEARS THE STORM
There was a time in former years -
While my roof-tree was his -
When I should have been distressed by fears
At such a night as this!
I should have murmured anxiously,
"The pricking rain strikes cold;
His road is bare of hedge or tree,
And he is getting old."
But now the fitful chimney-roar,
The drone of Thorncombe trees,
The Froom in flood upon the moor,
The mud of Mellstock Leaze,
The candle slanting sooty wick'd,
The thuds upon the thatch,
The eaves-drops on the window flicked,
The clacking garden-hatch,
And what they mean to wayfarers,
I scarcely heed or mind;
He has won that storm-tight roof of hers
Which Earth grants all her kind.
A WET NIGHT
I pace along, the rain-shafts riddling me,
Mile after mile out by the moorland way,
And up the hill, and through the ewe-leaze gray
Into the lane, and round the corner tree;
Where, as my clothing clams me, mire-bestarred,
And the enfeebled light dies out of day,
Leaving the liquid shades to reign, I say,
"This is a hardship to be calendared!"
Yet sires of mine now perished and forgot,
When worse beset, ere roads were shapen here,
And night and storm were foes indeed to fear,
Times numberless have trudged across this spot
In sturdy muteness on their strenuous lot,
And taking all such toils as trifles mere.
BEFORE LIFE AND AFTER
A time there was--as one may guess
And as, indeed, earth's testimonies tell -
Before the birth of consciousness,
When all went well.
None suffered sickness, love, or loss,
None knew regret, starved hope, or heart-burnings;
None cared whatever crash or cross
Brought wrack to things.
If something ceased, no tongue bewailed,
If something winced and waned, no heart was wrung;
If brightness dimmed, and dark prevailed,
No sense was stung.
But the disease of feeling germed,
And primal rightness took the tinct of wrong;
Ere nescience shall be reaffirmed
How long, how long?
NEW YEAR'S EVE
"I have finished another year," said God,
"In grey, green, white, and brown;
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod,
Sealed up the worm within the clod,
And let the last sun down."
"And what's the good of it?" I said.
"What reasons made you call
From formless void this earth we tread,
When nine-and-ninety can be read
Why nought should be at all?
"Yea, Sire; why shaped you us, 'who in
This tabernacle groan' -
If ever a joy be found herein,
Such joy no man had wished to win
If he had never known!"
Then he: "My labours--logicless -
You may explain; not I:
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess
That I evolved a Consciousness
To ask for reasons why.
"Strange that ephemeral creatures who
By my own ordering are,
Should see the shortness of my view,
Use ethic tests I never knew,
Or made provision for!"
He sank to raptness as of yore,
And opening New Year's Day
Wove it by rote as theretofore,
And went on working evermore
In his unweeting way.
I saw him steal the light away
That haunted in her eye:
It went so gently none could say
More than that it was there one day
And missing by-and-by.
I watched her longer, and he stole
Her lily tincts and rose;
All her young sprightliness of soul
Next fell beneath his cold control,
And disappeared like those.
I asked: "Why do you serve her so?
Do you, for some glad day,
Hoard these her sweets--?" He said, "O no,
They charm not me; I bid Time throw
Them carelessly away."
Said I: "We call that cruelty -
We, your poor mortal kind."
He mused. "The thought is new to me.
Forsooth, though I men's master be,
Theirs is the teaching mind!"
O sweet sincerity! -
Where modern methods be
What scope for thine and thee?
Life may be sad past saying,
Its greens for ever graying,
Its faiths to dust decaying;
And youth may have foreknown it,
And riper seasons shown it,
But custom cries: "Disown it:
"Say ye rejoice, though grieving,
Believe, while unbelieving,
Behold, without perceiving!"
- Yet, would men look at true things,
And unilluded view things,
And count to bear undue things,
The real might mend the seeming,
Facts better their foredeeming,
And Life its disesteeming.
(For other forms of this legend--first met with in the second century--see
Origen contra Celsum; the Talmud; Sepher Toldoth Jeschu; quoted fragments of
lost Apocryphal gospels; Strauss, Haeckel; etc.)
Yea, as I sit here, crutched, and cricked, and bent,
I think of Panthera, who underwent
Much from insidious aches in his decline;
But his aches were not radical like mine;
They were the twinges of old wounds--the feel
Of the hand he had lost, shorn by barbarian steel,
Which came back, so he said, at a change in the air,
Fingers and all, as if it still were there.
My pains are otherwise: upclosing cramps
And stiffened tendons from this country's damps,
Where Panthera was never commandant. -
The Fates sent him by way of the Levant.
He had been blithe in his young manhood's time,
And as centurion carried well his prime.