SCENE I.–_Summer. Julian’s room. JULIAN is reading out of a book of poems_.
Love me, beloved; the thick clouds lower; A sleepiness filleth the earth and air; The rain has been falling for many an hour; A weary look the summer doth wear:
Beautiful things that cannot be so; Loveliness clad in the garments of woe.
Love me, beloved; I hear the birds;
The clouds are lighter; I see the blue; The wind in the leaves is like gentle words Quietly passing ‘twixt me and you;
The evening air will bathe the buds With the soothing coolness of summer floods.
Love me, beloved; for, many a day,
Will the mist of the morning pass away; Many a day will the brightness of noon
Lead to a night that hath lost her moon; And in joy or in sadness, in autumn or spring, Thy love to my soul is a needful thing.
Love me, beloved; for thou mayest lie Dead in my sight, ‘neath the same blue sky; Love me, O love me, and let me know
The love that within thee moves to and fro; That many a form of thy love may be
Gathered around thy memory.
Love me, beloved; for I may lie
Dead in thy sight, ‘neath the same blue sky; The more thou hast loved me, the less thy pain, The stronger thy hope till we meet again; And forth on the pathway we do not know, With a load of love, my soul would go.
Love me, beloved; for one must lie
Motionless, lifeless, beneath the sky; The pale stiff lips return no kiss
To the lips that never brought love amiss; And the dark brown earth be heaped above The head that lay on the bosom of love.
Love me, beloved; for both must lie
Under the earth and beneath the sky; The world be the same when we are gone; The leaves and the waters all sound on; The spring come forth, and the wild flowers live, Gifts for the poor man’s love to give;
The sea, the lordly, the gentle sea, Tell the same tales to others than thee; And joys, that flush with an inward morn, Irradiate hearts that are yet unborn;
A youthful race call our earth their own, And gaze on its wonders from thought’s high throne; Embraced by fair Nature, the youth will embrace. The maid beside him, his queen of the race; When thou and I shall have passed away
Like the foam-flake thou looked’st on yesterday.
Love me, beloved; for both must tread On the threshold of Hades, the house of the dead; Where now but in thinkings strange we roam, We shall live and think, and shall be at home; The sights and the sounds of the spirit land No stranger to us than the white sea-sand, Than the voice of the waves, and the eye of the moon, Than the crowded street in the sunlit noon. I pray thee to love me, belov’d of my heart; If we love not truly, at death we part; And how would it be with our souls to find That love, like a body, was left behind!
Love me, beloved; Hades and Death
Shall vanish away like a frosty breath; These hands, that now are at home in thine, Shall clasp thee again, if thou still art mine; And thou shall be mine, my spirit’s bride, In the ceaseless flow of eternity’s tide, If the truest love that thy heart can know Meet the truest love that from mine can flow. Pray God, beloved, for thee and me,
That our souls may be wedded eternally.
[_He closes the book, and is silent for some moments_.]
Ah me, O Poet! did _thy_ love last out The common life together every hour?
The slumber side by side with wondrousness Each night after a day of fog and rain? Did thy love glory o’er the empty purse, And the poor meal sometimes the poet’s lot? Is she dead, Poet? Is thy love awake?
Alas! and is it come to this with me? _I_ might have written that! where am I now? Yet let me think: I love less passionately, But not less truly; I would die for her– A little thing, but all a man can do.
O my beloved, where the answering love? Love me, beloved. Whither art thou gone?
* * * * *
SCENE II.–_Lilia’s room_. LILIA.
He grows more moody still, more self-withdrawn. Were it not better that I went away,
And left him with the child; for she alone Can bring the sunshine on his cloudy face? Alas, he used to say to me, _my child_! Some convent would receive me in my land, Where I might weep unseen, unquestioned; And pray that God in whom he seems to dwell, To take me likewise in, beside him there.
Had I not better make one trial first To win again his love to compass me?
Might I not kneel, lie down before his feet, And beg and pray for love as for my life? Clasping his knees, look up to that stern heaven, That broods above his eyes, and pray for smiles? What if endurance were my only meed?
He would not turn away, but speak forced words, Soothing with kindness me who thirst for love, And giving service where I wanted smiles; Till by degrees all had gone back again To where it was, a slow dull misery.
No. ‘Tis the best thing I can do for him– And that I will do–free him from my sight. In love I gave myself away to him;
And now in love I take myself again. He will not miss me; I am nothing now.
* * * * *
SCENE III.–_Lord Seaford’s garden_. LILIA; LORD SEAFORD.
How the white roses cluster on the trellis! They look in the dim light as if they floated Within the fluid dusk that bathes them round. One could believe that those far distant tones Of scarce-heard music, rose with the faint scent, Breathed odorous from the heart of the pale flowers, As the low rushing from a river-bed,
Or the continuous bubbling of a spring In deep woods, turning over its own joy In its own heart luxuriously, alone.
‘Twas on such nights, after such sunny days, The poets of old Greece saw beauteous shapes Sighed forth from out the rooted, earth-fast trees, With likeness undefinable retained
In higher human form to their tree-homes, Which fainting let them forth into the air, And lived a life in death till they returned. The large-limbed, sweepy-curved, smooth-rounded beech Gave forth the perfect woman to the night; From the pale birch, breeze-bent and waving, stole The graceful, slight-curved maiden, scarcely grown. The hidden well gave forth its hidden charm, The Naiad with the hair that flowed like streams, And arms that gleamed like moonshine on wet sands. The broad-browed oak, the stately elm, gave forth Their inner life in shapes of ecstasy.
All varied, loveliest forms of womanhood Dawned out in twilight, and athwart the grass Half danced with cool and naked feet, half floated Borne on winds dense enough for them to swim. O what a life they lived! in poet’s brain– Not on this earth, alas!–But you are sad; You do not speak, dear lady.
If such words make me sad, I am to blame.
Ah, no! I spoke of lovely, beauteous things: Beauty and sadness always go together.
Nature thought Beauty too golden to go forth Upon the earth without a meet alloy.
If Beauty had been born the twin of Gladness, Poets had never needed this dream-life; Each blessed man had but to look beside him, And be more blest. How easily could God Have made our life one consciousness of joy! It is denied us. Beauty flung around
Most lavishly, to teach our longing hearts To worship her; then when the soul is full Of lovely shapes, and all sweet sounds that breathe, And colours that bring tears into the eyes– Steeped until saturated with her essence; And, faint with longing, gasps for some one thing More beautiful than all, containing all, Essential Beauty’s self, that it may say: “Thou art my Queen–I dare not think to crown thee, For thou art crowned already, every part, With thy perfection; but I kneel to thee, The utterance of the beauty of the earth, As of the trees the Hamadryades;
I worship thee, intense of loveliness! Not sea-born only; sprung from Earth, Air, Ocean, Star-Fire; all elements and forms commingling To give thee birth, to utter each its thought Of beauty held in many forms diverse,
In one form, holding all, a living Love, Their far-surpassing child, their chosen queen By virtue of thy dignities combined!”– And when in some great hour of wild surprise, She floats into his sight; and, rapt, entranced, At last he gazes, as I gaze on thee,
And, breathless, his full heart stands still for joy, And his soul thinks not, having lost itself In her, pervaded with her being; strayed Out from his eyes, and gathered round her form, Clothing her with the only beauty yet
That could be added, ownness unto him;– Then falls the stern, cold _No_ with thunder-tone. Think, lady,–the poor unresisting soul Clear-burnished to a crystalline abyss
To house in central deep the ideal form; Led then to Beauty, and one glance allowed, From heart of hungry, vacant, waiting shrine, To set it on the Pisgah of desire;–
Then the black rain! low-slanting, sweeping rain! Stormy confusions! far gray distances!
And the dim rush of countless years behind!
[_He sinks at her feet_.]
Yet for this moment, let me worship thee!
Rise, rise, my lord; this cannot be, indeed. I pray you, cease; I will not listen to you. Indeed it must not, cannot, must not be!
[_Moving as to go_.]
Forgive me, madam. Let me cast myself On your good thoughts. I had been thinking thus, All the bright morning, as I walked alone; And when you came, my thoughts flowed forth in words. It is a weakness with me from my boyhood, That if I act a part in any play,
Or follow, merely intellectually,
A passion or a motive–ere I know, My being is absorbed, my brain on fire; I am possessed with something not myself, And live and move and speak in foreign forms. Pity my weakness, madam; and forgive
My rudeness with your gentleness and truth. That you are beautiful is simple fact;
And when I once began to speak my thoughts, The wheels of speech ran on, till they took fire, And in your face flung foolish sparks and dust. I am ashamed; and but for dread of shame, I should be kneeling now to beg forgiveness.
Think nothing more of it, my lord, I pray. –What is this purple flower with the black spot In its deep heart? I never saw it before.
SCENE IV.–_Julian’s room. The dusk of evening_. JULIAN _standing with his arms folded, and his eyes fixed on the floor_.
I see her as I saw her then. She sat On a low chair, the child upon her knees, Not six months old. Radiant with motherhood, Her full face beamed upon the face below, Bent over it, as with love to ripen love; Till its intensity, like summer heat,
Gathered a mist across her heaven of eyes, Which grew until it dropt in large slow tears, The earthly outcome of the heavenly thing! [_He walks toward the window, seats himself at a little table, and writes_.]
THE FATHER’S HYMN FOR THE MOTHER TO SING.
My child is lying on my knees;
The signs of heaven she reads:
My face is all the heaven she sees, Is all the heaven she needs.
And she is well, yea, bathed in bliss, If heaven is in my face–
Behind it, all is tenderness,
And truthfulness and grace.
I mean her well so earnestly.
Unchanged in changing mood;
My life would go without a sigh
To bring her something good.
I also am a child, and I
Am ignorant and weak;
I gaze upon the starry sky,
And then I must not speak;
For all behind the starry sky,
Behind the world so broad,
Behind men’s hearts and souls doth lie The Infinite of God.
If true to her, though troubled sore, I cannot choose but be;
Thou, who art peace for evermore, Art very true to me.
If I am low and sinful, bring
More love where need is rife;
_Thou_ knowest what an awful thing It is to be a life.
Hast thou not wisdom to enwrap
My waywardness about,
In doubting safety on the lap
Of Love that knows no doubt?
Lo! Lord, I sit in thy wide space, My child upon my knee;
She looketh up unto my face,
And I look up to thee.
SCENE V.–_Lord Seaford’s house; Lady Gertrude’s room_. LADY GERTRUDE _lying on a couch_; LILIA _seated beside her, with the girl’s hand in both hers_.
How kind of you to come! And you will stay And be my beautiful nurse till I grow well? I am better since you came. You look so sweet, It brings all summer back into my heart.
I am very glad to come. Indeed, I felt No one could nurse you quite so well as I.
How kind of you! Do call me sweet names now; And put your white cool hands upon my head; And let me lie and look in your great eyes: ‘Twill do me good; your very eyes are healing.
I must not let you talk too much, dear child.
Well, as I cannot have my music-lesson, And must not speak much, will you sing to me? Sing that strange ballad you sang once before; ‘Twill keep me quiet.
What was it, child?
Something about a race–Death and a lady–
Oh! I remember. I would rather sing Some other, though.
No, no, I want that one. Its ghost walks up and down inside my head, But won’t stand long enough to show itself. You must talk Latin to it–sing it away, Or when I’m ill, ’twill haunt me.
Well, I’ll sing it.
Death and a lady rode in the wind, In a starry midnight pale;
Death on a bony horse behind,
With no footfall upon the gale.
The lady sat a wild-eyed steed;
Eastward he tore to the morn.
But ever the sense of a noiseless speed, And the sound of reaping corn!
All the night through, the headlong race Sped to the morning gray;
The dew gleamed cold on her cold white face– From Death or the morning? say.
Her steed’s wide knees began to shake, As he flung the road behind;
The lady sat still, but her heart did quake, And a cold breath came down the wind.
When, Lo! a fleet bay horse beside, With a silver mane and tail;
A knight, bareheaded, the horse did ride, With never a coat of mail.
He never lifted his hand to Death, And he never couched a spear;
But the lady felt another breath, And a voice was in her ear.
He looked her weary eyes through and through, With his eyes so strong in faith:
Her bridle-hand the lady drew,
And she turned and laughed at Death.
And away through the mist of the morning gray, The spectre and horse rode wide;
The dawn came up the old bright way, And the lady never died.
(_who has entered during the song_). Delightful! Why, my little pining Gertrude, With such charm-music you will soon be well. Madam, I know not how to speak the thanks I owe you for your kindness to my daughter: She looks as different from yesterday
As sunrise from a fog.
I am but too happy
To be of use to one I love so much.
SCENE VI.–_A rainy day_. LORD SEAFORD _walking up and down his room, murmuring to himself_.
Oh, my love is like a wind of death, That turns me to a stone!
Oh, my love is like a desert breath, That burns me to the bone!
Oh, my love is a flower with a purple glow, And a purple scent all day!
But a black spot lies at the heart below, And smells all night of clay.
Oh, my love is like the poison sweet That lurks in the hooded cell!
One flash in the eyes, one bounding beat, And then the passing bell!
Oh, my love she’s like a white, white rose! And I am the canker-worm:
Never the bud to a blossom blows; It falls in the rainy storm.
SCENE VII.–JULIAN _reading in his room_.
“And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
[_He closes the book and kneels_.]
SCENE VIII.–_Lord Seaford’s room_. LILIA _and_ LORD SEAFORD. _Her hand lies in his_.
It may be true. I am bewildered, though. I know not what to answer.
Let me answer:–
You would it were so–you would love me then?
[_A sudden crash of music from a brass band in the street, melting away in a low cadence_.]
Let me go, my lord!
(_retaining her hand_).
Why, sweetest! what is this?
(_vehemently, and disengaging her hand_). Let me go. My husband! Oh, my white child!
[_She hurries to the door, but falls_.]
I thought you trusted me, yes, loved me, Lilia!
Peace! that name is his! Speak it again–I rave. He thought I loved him–and I did–I do. Open the door, my lord!
[_He hesitates. She draws herself up erect, with flashing eyes_.]
Once more, my lord–
Open the door, I say.
[_He still hesitates. She walks swiftly to the window, flings it wide, and is throwing herself out_.]
Stop, madam! I will.
[_He opens the door. She leaves the window, and walks slowly out. He hears the house-door open and shut, flings himself on the couch, and hides his face_.]
_Enter_ LADY GERTRUDE.
Dear father, are you ill? I knocked three times; You did not speak.
I did not hear you, child. My head aches rather; else I am quite well.
Where is the countess?
She is gone. She had
An urgent message to go home at once. But, Gertrude, now you seem so well, why not Set out to-morrow? You can travel now;
And for your sake the sooner that we breathe Italian air the better.
This is sudden!
I scarcely can be ready by to-morrow.
It will oblige me, child. Do what you can. Just go and order everything you want.
I will go with you. Ring the bell, my love; I have a reason for my haste. We’ll have The horses to at once. Come, Gertrude, dear.
SCENE IX.–_Evening. Hampstead Heath_. LILIA _seated_.
The first pale star! braving the rear of Day! And all heaven waiting till the sun has drawn His long train after him! then half creation Will follow its queen-leader from the depths. O harbinger of hope! O star of love!
Thou hast gone down in me, gone down for ever; And left my soul in such a starless night, It has not love enough to weep thy loss. O fool! to know thee once, and, after years, To take a gleaming marsh-light for thy lamp! How could I for one moment hear him speak! O Julian! for my last love-gift I thought To bring that love itself, bound and resigned, And offering it a sacrifice to thee,
Lead it away into the wilderness;
But one vile spot hath tainted this my lamb; Unoffered it must go, footsore and weary, Not flattering itself to die for thee.
And yet, thank God, it was one moment only, That, lapt in darkness and the loss of thee, Sun of my soul, and half my senses dead Through very weariness and lack of love, My heart throbbed once responsive to a ray That glimmered through its gloom from other eyes, And seemed to promise rest and hope again. My presence shall not grieve thee any more, My Julian, my husband. I will find
A quiet place where I will seek thy God. And–in my heart it wakens like a voice From him–the Saviour–there are other worlds Where all gone wrong in this may be set right; Where I, made pure, may find thee, purer still, And thou wilt love the love that kneels to thee. I’ll write and tell him I have gone, and why. But what to say about my late offence,
That he may understand just what it was? For I must tell him, if I write at all. I fear he would discover where I was;
Pitiful duty would not let him rest Until he found me; and I fain would free From all the weight of mine, that heart of his.
[_Sound of a coach-horn_.]
It calls me to rise up and go to him, Leading me further from him and away.
The earth is round; God’s thoughts return again; And I will go in hope. Help me, my God!
SCENE X.–_Julian’s room_. JULIAN _reading. A letter is brought in. He reads it, turns deadly pale, and leans his arms and head on the table, almost fainting. This lasts some time; then starting up, he paces through the room, his shoulders slightly shrugged, his arms rigid by his sides, and his hands clenched hard, as if a net of pain were drawn tight around his frame. At length he breathes deep, draws himself up, and walks erect, his chest swelling, but his teeth set_.
Me! My wife! Insect, didst thou say _my_ wife?
[_Hurriedly turning the letter on the table to see the address_.]
Why, if she love him more than me, why then Let her go with him!–Gone to Italy!
Pursue, says he? _Revenge_?–Let the corpse crush The slimy maggot with its pulpy fingers!– What if I stabbed–
[_Taking his dagger, and feeling its point_.]
Whom? Her–what then?–Or him– What yet? Would that give back the life to me? There is one more–myself! Oh, peace! to feel The earthworms crawling through my mouldering brain!– But to be driven along the windy wastes– To hear the tempests, raving as they turn, Howl _Lilia, Lilia_–to be tossed about Beneath the stars that range themselves for ever Into the burning letters of her name–
‘Twere better creep the earth down here than that, For pain’s excess here sometimes deadens pain.
[_He throws the dagger on the floor_.]
Have I deserved this? Have I earned it? I? A pride of innocence darts through my veins. I stand erect. Shame cannot touch me. Ha! I laugh at insult. _I_? I am myself–
Why starest thou at me? Well, stare thy fill; When devils mock, the angels lend their wings:– But what their wings? I have nowhere to fly. Lilia! my worship of thy purity!
Hast thou forgotten–ah! thou didst not know How, watching by thee in thy fever-pain, When thy white neck and bosom were laid bare, I turned my eyes away, and turning drew With trembling hand white darkness over thee, Because I knew not thou didst love me then. Love me! O God in heaven! Is love a thing That can die thus? Love me! Would, for thy penance, Thou saw’st but once the heart which thou hast torn– Shaped all about thy image set within!
But that were fearful! What rage would not, love Must then do for thee–in mercy I would kill thee, To save thee from the hell-fire of remorse. If blood would make thee clean, then blood should flow; Eager, unwilling, this hand should make thee bleed, Till, drop by drop, the taint should drop away. Clean! said I? fit to lie by me in sleep, My hand upon thy heart!–not fit to lie, For all thy bleeding, by me in the grave!
[_His eye falls on that likeness of Jesus said to be copied from an emerald engraved for Tiberius. He gazes, drops on his knees, and covers his face; remains motionless a long time; then rises very pale, his lips compressed, his eyes filled with tears_.]
O my poor Lilia! my bewildered child! How shall I win thee, save thee, make thee mine? Where art thou wandering? What words in thine ears? God, can she never more be clean? no more, Through all the terrible years? Hast thou no well In all thy heaven, in all thyself, that can Wash her soul clean? Her body will go down Into the friendly earth–would it were lying There in my arms! for there thy rains will come, Fresh from the sky, slow sinking through the sod, Summer and winter; and we two should lie Mouldering away together, gently washed Into the heart of earth; and part would float Forth on the sunny breezes that bear clouds Through the thin air. But her stained soul, my God! Canst thou not cleanse it? Then should we, when death Was gone, creep into heaven at last, and sit In some still place together, glory-shadowed. None would ask questions there. And I should be Content to sorrow a little, so I might
But see her with the darling on her knees, And know that must be pure that dwelt within The circle of thy glory. Lilia! Lilia!
I scorn the shame rushing from head to foot; I would endure it endlessly, to save
One thought of thine from his polluting touch; Saying ever to myself: this is a part
Of my own Lilia; and the world to me Is nothing since I lost the smiles of her: Somehow, I know not how, she faded from me, And this is all that’s left of her. My wife! Soul of my soul! my oneness with myself! Come back to me; I will be all to thee: Back to my heart; and we will weep together, And pray to God together every hour,
That he would show how strong he is to save. The one that made is able to renew–
I know not how.–I’ll hold thy heart to mine, So close that the defilement needs must go. My love shall ray thee round, and, strong as fire, Dart through and through thy soul, till it be cleansed.– But if she love him? Oh my heart–beat! beat! Grow not so sick with misery and life,
For fainting will not save thee.–Oh no! no! She cannot love him as she must love me. Then if she love him not–oh horrible!–oh God!
[_He stands in a stupor for some minutes_.]
What devil whispered that vile word, _unclean_? I care not–loving more than that can touch. Let me be shamed, ay, perish in my shame, As men call perishing, so she be saved. Saved! my beloved! my Lilia!–Alas,
Would she were here! oh, I would make her weep, Till her soul wept itself to purity!
Far, far away! where my love cannot reach. No, no; she is not gone!
[_Starting and facing wildly through the room_.]
It is a lie–
Deluding blind revenge, not keen-eyed love. I must do something.–
Ah! there’s the precious thing
That shall entice her back.
[_Kneeling and clasping the child to his heart_.]
My little Lily,
I have lost your mother.
[_Beginning to weep_.]
She was so pretty,
Somebody has stolen her.
Will you go with me,
And help me look for her?
O yes, I will.
[_Clasping him round the neck_.]
But my head aches so! Will you carry me?
Yes, my own darling. Come, we’ll get your bonnet.
Oh! you’ve been crying, father. You’re so white!
[_Putting her finger to his cheek_.]
SCENE XI.–_A table in a club-room. Several_ Gentlemen _seated round it. To them enter another_.
Why, Bernard, you look heated! what’s the matter?
Hot work, as looked at; cool enough, as done.
A good antithesis, as usual, Bernard, But a shell too hard for the vulgar teeth Of our impatient curiosity.
Most unexpectedly I found myself
Spectator of a scene in a home-drama Worth all stage-tragedies I ever saw.
What was it? Tell us then. Here, take this seat.
[_He sits at the table, and pours out a glass of wine_.]
I went to call on Seaford, and was told He had gone to town. So I, as privileged, Went to his cabinet to write a note;
Which finished, I came down, and called his valet. Just as I crossed the hall I heard a voice– “The Countess Lamballa–is she here to-day?” And looking toward the door, I caught a glimpse Of a tall figure, gaunt and stooping, drest In a blue shabby frock down to his knees, And on his left arm sat a little child. The porter gave short answer, with the door For period to the same; when, like a flash, It flew wide open, and the serving man
Went reeling, staggering backward to the stairs, ‘Gainst which he fell, and, rolling down, lay stunned. In walked the visitor; but in the moment Just measured by the closing of the door, Heavens, what a change! He walked erect, as if Heading a column, with an eye and face
As if a fountain-shaft of blood had shot Up suddenly within his wasted frame.
The child sat on his arm quite still and pale, But with a look of triumph in her eyes. He glanced in each room opening from the hall, Set his face for the stair, and came right on– In every motion calm as glacier’s flow, Save, now and then, a movement, sudden, quick, Of his right hand across to his left side: ‘Twas plain he had been used to carry arms.
Did no one stop him?
Stop him? I’d as soon
Have faced a tiger with bare hands. ‘Tis easy In passion to meet passion; but it is
A daunting thing to look on, when the blood Is going its wonted pace through your own veins. Besides, this man had something in his face, With its live eyes, close lips, nostrils distended, A self-reliance, and a self-command,
That would go right up to its goal, in spite Of any _no_ from any man. I would
As soon have stopped a cannon-ball as him. Over the porter, lying where he fell,
He strode, and up the stairs. I heard him go– I listened as it were a ghost that walked With pallid spectre-child upon its arm– Along the corridors, from door to door, Opening and shutting. But at last a sting Of sudden fear lest he should find the lady, And mischief follow, shot me up the stairs. I met him at the top, quiet as at first; The fire had faded from his eyes; the child Held in her tiny hand a lady’s glove
Of delicate primrose. When he reached the hall, He turned him to the porter, who had scarce Recovered what poor wits he had, and saying, “The count Lamballa waited on lord Seaford,” Turned him again, and strode into the street.
Have you learned anything of what it meant?
Of course he had suspicions of his wife: For all the gifts a woman has to give,
I would not rouse such blood. And yet to see The gentle fairy child fall kissing him, And, with her little arms grasping his neck, Peep anxious round into his shaggy face, As they went down the street!–it almost made A fool of me.–I’d marry for such a child!
SCENE XII.–_A by-street_. JULIAN _walking home very weary. The child in his arms, her head lying on his shoulder. An_ Organ-boy _with a monkey, sitting on a door-step. He sings in a low voice_.
Look at the monkey, Lily.
No, dear father;
I do not like monkeys.
Hear the poor boy sing.
[_They listen. He sings_.]
Wenn ich hoere dich mir nah’,
Stimmen in den Blaettern da;
Wenn ich fuehl’ dich weit und breit, Vater, das ist Seligkeit.
Nun die Sonne liebend scheint,
Mich mit dir und All vereint;
Biene zu den Blumen fliegt,
Seel’ an Lieb’ sich liebend schmiegt.
So mich voellig lieb du hast,
Daseyn ist nicht eine Last;
Wenn ich seh’ und hoere dich,
Das genuegt mir inniglich.
It sounds so curious. What is he saying, father?
My boy, you are not German?
No; my mother
Came from those parts. She used to sing the song. I do not understand it well myself,
For I was born in Genoa.–Ah! my mother!
My mother was a German, my poor boy; My father was Italian: I am like you.
[_Giving him money_.]
You sing of leaves and sunshine, flowers and bees, Poor child, upon a stone in the dark street!
My mother sings it in her grave; and I Will sing it everywhere, until I die.
SCENE XIII.–LILIA’S _room_. JULIAN _enters with the child; undresses her, and puts her to bed_.
Father does all things for his little Lily.
My own dear Lily! Go to sleep, my pet.
[_Sitting by her_.]
“Wenn ich seh’ und hoere dich,
Das genuegt mir inniglich.”
[_Falling on his knees_.]
I come to thee, and, lying on thy breast, Father of me, I tell thee in thine ear, Half-shrinking from the sound, yet speaking free, That thou art not enough for me, my God. Oh, dearly do I love thee! Look: no fear Lest thou shouldst be offended, touches me. Herein I know thy love: mine casts out fear. O give me back my wife; thou without her Canst never make me blessed to the full.
O yes; thou art enough for me, my God; Part of thyself she is, else never mine. My need of her is but thy thought of me; She is the offspring of thy beauty, God; Yea of the womanhood that dwells in thee: Thou wilt restore her to my very soul.
It may be all a lie. Some needful cause Keeps her away. Wretch that I am, to think One moment that my wife could sin against me! She will come back to-night. I know she will. I never can forgive my jealousy!
Or that fool-visit to lord Seaford’s house!
[_His eyes fall on the glove which the child still holds in her sleeping hand. He takes it gently away, and hides it in his bosom_.]
It will be all explained. To think I should, Without one word from her, condemn her so! What can I say to her when she returns? I shall be utterly ashamed before her.
She will come back to-night. I know she will.
[_He throws himself wearily on the bed_.]
SCENE XIV.–_Crowd about the Italian Opera-House_. JULIAN. LILY _in his arms. Three_ Students.
Edward, you see that long, lank, thread-bare man? There is a character for that same novel You talk of thunder-striking London with, One of these days.
I scarcely noticed him;
I was so taken with the lovely child. She is angelic.
You see angels always,
Where others, less dim-sighted, see but mortals. She is a pretty child. Her eyes are splendid. I wonder what the old fellow is about.
Some crazed enthusiast, music-distract, That lingers at the door he cannot enter! Give him an obol, Frank, to pay old Charon, And cross to the Elysium of sweet sounds. Here’s mine.
[_3rd Student offers the money to_ JULIAN.]
No, thank you, sir.
Oh! there is mother!
[_Stretching-her hands toward a lady stepping out of a carriage_.]
No, no; hush, my child!
[_The lady looks round, and _LILY _clings to her father_. Women _talking_.]
I’m sure he’s stolen the child. She can’t be his.
There’s a suspicious look about him.
But the child clings to him as if she loved him.
[JULIAN _moves on slowly_.]
SCENE XV.–JULIAN _seated in his room, his eyes fixed on the floor_. LILY _playing in a corner_.
Though I am lonely, yet this little child– She understands me better than the Twelve Knew the great heart of him they called their Lord. Ten times last night I woke in agony,
I knew not why. There was no comforter. I stretched my arm to find her, and her place Was empty as my heart. Sometimes my pain Forgets its cause, benumbed by its own being; Then would I lay my aching, weary head
Upon her bosom, promise of relief: I lift my eyes, and Lo, the vacant world!
[_He looks up and sees the child playing with his dagger_.]
You’ll hurt yourself, my child; it is too sharp. Give it to me, my darling. Thank you, dear.
[_He breaks the hilt from the blade and gives it her_.]
‘Here, take the pretty part. It’s not so pretty As it was once!
I picked the jewels out
To buy your mother the last dress I gave her. There’s just one left, I see, for you, my Lily. Why did I kill Nembroni? Poor saviour I, Saving thee only for a greater ill!
If thou wert dead, the child would comfort me;– Is she not part of thee, and all my own? But now—-
(_throwing down the dagger-hilt and running up to him_). Father, what is a poetry?
A beautiful thing,–of the most beautiful That God has made.
As beautiful as mother?
No, my dear child; but very beautiful.
Do let me see a poetry.
(_opening a book_).
I don’t think that’s so very pretty, father. One side is very well–smooth; but the other
[_Rubbing her finger up and down the ends of the lines_.]
Is rough, rough; just like my hair in the morning,
[_Smoothing her hair down with both hands_.]
Before it’s brushed. I don’t care much about it.
(_putting the book down, and taking her on his knee_). You do not understand it yet, my child. You cannot know where it is beautiful.
But though you do not see it very pretty, Perhaps your little ears could hear it pretty.
Oh! that’s much prettier, father. Very pretty. It sounds so nice!–not half so pretty as mother.
There’s something in it very beautiful, If I could let you see it. When you’re older You’ll find it for yourself, and love it well. Do you believe me, Lily?
Yes, dear father.
[_Kissing him, then looking at the book_.]
I wonder where its prettiness is, though; I cannot see it anywhere at all.
[_He sets her down. She goes to her corner_.]
True, there’s not much in me to love, and yet I feel worth loving. I am very poor,
But that I could not help; and I grow old, But there are saints in heaven older than I. I have a world within me; there I thought I had a store of lovely, precious things Laid up for thinking; shady woods, and grass; Clear streams rejoicing down their sloping channels; And glimmering daylight in the cloven east; There morning sunbeams stand, a vapoury column, ‘Twixt the dark boles of solemn forest trees; There, spokes of the sun-wheel, that cross their bridge, Break through the arch of the clouds, fall on the earth, And travel round, as the wind blows the clouds: The distant meadows and the gloomy river Shine out as over them the ray-pencil sweeps.– Alas! where am I? Beauty now is torture: Of this fair world I would have made her queen;– Then led her through the shadowy gates beyond Into that farther world of things unspoken, Of which these glories are the outer stars, The clouds that float within its atmosphere. Under the holy might of teaching love,
I thought her eyes would open–see how, far And near, Truth spreads her empire, widening out, And brooding, a still spirit, everywhere; Thought she would turn into her spirit’s chamber, Open the little window, and look forth
On the wide silent ocean, silent winds, And see what she must see, I could not tell. By sounding mighty chords I strove to wake The sleeping music of her poet-soul:
We read together many magic words; Gazed on the forms and hues of ancient art; Sent forth our souls on the same tide of sound; Worshipped beneath the same high temple-roofs; And evermore I talked. I was too proud, Too confident of power to waken life,
Believing in my might upon her heart, Not trusting in the strength of living truth. Unhappy saviour, who by force of self
Would save from selfishness and narrow needs! I have not been a saviour. She grew weary. I began wrong. The infinitely High,
Made manifest in lowliness, had been The first, one lesson. Had I brought her there, And set her down by humble Mary’s side, He would have taught her all I could not teach. Yet, O my God! why hast thou made me thus Terribly wretched, and beyond relief?
[_He looks up and sees that the child has taken the book to her corner. She peeps into it; then holds it to her ear; then rubs her hand over it; then puts her tongue on it_.]
_Julian (bursting into tears_).
Father, I am thy _child_.
Forgive me this:
Thy poetry is very hard to read.
SCENE XVI.–JULIAN _walking with_ LILY _through one of the squares_.
Wish we could find her somewhere. ‘Tis so sad Not to have any mother! Shall I ask
This gentleman if he knows where she is?
No, no, my love; we’ll find her by and by.
BERNARD. and another Gentleman talking together.
Have you seen Seaford lately?
No. In fact,
He vanished somewhat oddly, days ago. Sam saw him with a lady in his cab;
And if I hear aright, one more is missing– Just the companion for his lordship’s taste. You’ve not forgot that fine Italian woman You met there once, some months ago?
I have to try though, sometimes–hard enough: Her husband is alive!
Mother was Italy, father,–was she not?
Hush, hush, my child! you must not say a word.
Oh, yes; no doubt!
But what of that?–a poor half-crazy creature!
Something quite different, I assure you, Harry. Last week I saw him–never to forget him– Ranging through Seaford’s house, like the questing beast.
Better please two than one, he thought–and wisely. ‘Tis not for me to blame him: she is a prize Worth sinning for a little more than little.
Why don’t you ask them whether it was mother? I am sure it was. I am quite sure of it.
Look what a lovely child!
Harry! Good heavens!
It is the Count Lamballa. Come along.
SCENE XVII.–_Julian’s room_. JULIAN. LILY _asleep_.
I thank thee. Thou hast comforted me, thou, To whom I never lift my soul, in hope
To reach thee with my thinking, but the tears Swell up and fill my eyes from the full heart That cannot hold the thought of thee, the thought Of him in whom I live, who lives in me, And makes me live in him; by whose one thought, Alone, unreachable, the making thought, Infinite and self-bounded, I am here,
A living, thinking will, that cannot know The power whereby I am–so blest the more In being thus in thee–Father, thy child. I cannot, cannot speak the thoughts in me. My being shares thy glory: lay on me
What thou wouldst have me bear. Do thou with me Whate’er thou wilt. Tell me thy will, that I May do it as my best, my highest joy;
For thou dost work in me, I dwell in thee.
Wilt thou not save my wife? I cannot know The power in thee to purify from sin.
But Life _can_ cleanse the life it lived alive. Thou knowest all that lesseneth her fault. She loves me not, I know–ah, my sick heart!– I will love her the more, to fill the cup; One bond is snapped, the other shall be doubled; For if I love her not, how desolate
The poor child will be left! _he_ loves her not.
I have but one prayer more to pray to thee:– Give me my wife again, that I may watch And weep with her, and pray with her, and tell What loving-kindness I have found in thee; And she will come to thee to make her clean. Her soul must wake as from a dream of bliss, To know a dead one lieth in the house:
Let me be near her in that agony,
To tend her in the fever of the soul, Bring her cool waters from the wells of hope, Look forth and tell her that the morn is nigh; And when I cannot comfort, help her weep. God, I would give her love like thine to me, _Because_ I love her, and her need is great. Lord, I need her far more than thou need’st me, And thou art Love down to the deeps of hell: Help me to love her with a love like thine.
How shall I find her? It were horrible If the dread hour should come, and I not near. Yet pray I not she should be spared one pang, One writhing of self-loathing and remorse, For she must hate the evil she has done; Only take not away hope utterly.
_Lily (in her sleep_).
Lily means me–don’t throw it over the wall. _Julian (going to her_).
She is so flushed! I fear the child is ill. I have fatigued her too much, wandering restless. To-morrow I will take her to the sea.
If I knew where, I would write to her, and write So tenderly, she could not choose but come. I will write now; I’ll tell her that strange dream I dreamed last night: ’twill comfort her as well.
[_He sits down and writes_.]
My heart was crushed that I could hardly breathe. I was alone upon a desolate moor;
And the wind blew by fits and died away– I know not if it was the wind or me.
How long I wandered there, I cannot tell; But some one came and took me by the hand. I gazed, but could not see the form that led me, And went unquestioning, I cared not whither. We came into a street I seemed to know, Came to a house that I had seen before. The shutters were all closed; the house was dead. The door went open soundless. We went in, And entered yet again an inner room.
The darkness was so dense, I shrank as if From striking on it. The door closed behind. And then I saw that there was something black, Dark in the blackness of the night, heaved up In the middle of the room. And then I saw That there were shapes of woe all round the room, Like women in long mantles, bent in grief, With long veils hanging low down from their heads, All blacker in the darkness. Not a sound Broke the death-stillness. Then the shapeless thing Began to move. Four horrid muffled figures Had lifted, bore it from the room. We followed, The bending woman-shapes, and I. We left The house in long procession. I was walking Alone beside the coffin–such it was– Now in the glimmering light I saw the thing. And now I saw and knew the woman-shapes: Undine clothed in spray, and heaving up White arms of lamentation; Desdemona
In her night-robe, crimson on the left side; Thekla in black, with resolute white face; And Margaret in fetters, gliding slow– That last look, when she shrieked on Henry, frozen Upon her face. And many more I knew– Long-suffering women, true in heart and life; Women that make man proud for very love Of their humility, and of his pride
Ashamed. And in the coffin lay my wife. On, on, we went. The scene changed, and low hills Began to rise on each side of the path Until at last we came into a glen,
From which the mountains soared abrupt to heaven, Shot cones and pinnacles into the skies. Upon the eastern side one mighty summit Shone with its snow faint through the dusky air; And on its sides the glaciers gave a tint, A dull metallic gleam, to the slow night. From base to top, on climbing peak and crag, Ay, on the glaciers’ breast, were human shapes, Motionless, waiting; men that trod the earth Like gods; or forms ideal that inspired Great men of old–up, even to the apex Of the snow-spear-point. _Morning_ had arisen From Giulian’s tomb in Florence, where the chisel Of Michelangelo laid him reclining,
And stood upon the crest.
A cry awoke
Amid the watchers at the lowest base, And swelling rose, and sprang from mouth to mouth, Up the vast mountain, to its aerial top; And “_Is God coming_?” was the cry; which died Away in silence; for no voice said _No_. The bearers stood and set the coffin down; The mourners gathered round it in a group; Somewhat apart I stood, I know not why. So minutes passed. Again that cry awoke, And clomb the mountain-side, and died away In the thin air, far-lost. No answer came.
How long we waited thus, I cannot tell– How oft the cry arose and died again.
At last, from far, faint summit to the base, Filling the mountain with a throng of echoes, A mighty voice descended: “_God is coming_!” Oh! what a music clothed the mountain-side, From all that multitude’s melodious throats, Of joy and lamentation and strong prayer! It ceased, for hope was too intense for song. A pause.–The figure on the crest flashed out, Bordered with light. The sun was rising–rose Higher and higher still. One ray fell keen Upon the coffin ‘mid the circling group.
What God did for the rest, I know not; it Was easy to help them.–I saw them not.– I saw thee at my feet, my wife, my own! Thy lovely face angelic now with grief; But that I saw not first: thy head was bent, Thou on thy knees, thy dear hands clasped between. I sought to raise thee, but thou wouldst not rise, Once only lifting that sweet face to mine, Then turning it to earth. Would God the dream Had lasted ever!–No; ’twas but a dream; Thou art not rescued yet.
Earth’s morning came, And my soul’s morning died in tearful gray. The last I saw was thy white shroud yet steeped In that sun-glory, all-transfiguring; The last I heard, a chant break suddenly Into an anthem. Silence took me like sound: I had not listened in the excess of joy.
SCENE XVIII.–_Portsmouth. A bedroom_. LORD SEAFORD. LADY GERTRUDE.
Tis for your sake, my Gertrude, I am sorry. If you could go alone, I’d have you go.
And leave you ill? No, you are not so cruel. Believe me, father, I am happier
In your sick room, than on a glowing island In the blue Bay of Naples.
It was so sudden!
‘Tis plain it will not go again as quickly. But have your walk before the sun be hot. Put the ice near me, child. There, that will do.
Good-bye then, father, for a little while.
I never knew what illness was before. O life! to think a man should stand so little On his own will and choice, as to be thus Cast from his high throne suddenly, and sent To grovel beast-like. All the glow is gone From the rich world! No sense is left me more To touch with beauty. Even she has faded Into the far horizon, a spent dream
Of love and loss and passionate despair!
Is there no beauty? Is it all a show Flung outward from the healthy blood and nerves, A reflex of well-ordered organism?
Is earth a desert? Is a woman’s heart No more mysterious, no more beautiful,
Than I am to myself this ghastly moment? It must be so–it _must_, except God is, And means the meaning that we think we see, Sends forth the beauty we are taking in. O Soul of nature, if thou art not, if
There dwelt not in thy thought the primrose-flower Before it blew on any bank of spring,
Then all is untruth, unreality,
And we are wretched things; our highest needs Are less than we, the offspring of ourselves; And when we are sick, they _are_ not; and our hearts Die with the voidness of the universe.
But if thou art, O God, then all is true; Nor are thy thoughts less radiant that our eyes Are filmy, and the weary, troubled brain Throbs in an endless round of its own dreams. And she _is_ beautiful–and I have lost her!
O God! thou art, thou art; and I have sinned Against thy beauty and thy graciousness! That woman-splendour was not mine, but thine. Thy thought passed into form, that glory passed Before my eyes, a bright particular star: Like foolish child, I reached out for the star, Nor kneeled, nor worshipped. I will be content That she, the Beautiful, dwells on in thee, Mine to revere, though not to call my own. Forgive me, God! Forgive me, Lilia!
My love has taken vengeance on my love. I writhe and moan. Yet I will be content. Yea, gladly will I yield thee, so to find That thou art not a phantom, but God’s child; That Beauty is, though it is not for me. When I would hold it, then I disbelieved. That I may yet believe, I will not touch it. I have sinned against the Soul of love and beauty, Denying him in grasping at his work.
SCENE XIX.–_A country churchyard_. JULIAN _seated on a tombstone_. LILY _gathering flowers and grass among the grass_.
O soft place of the earth! down-pillowed couch, Made ready for the weary! Everywhere,
O Earth, thou hast one gift for thy poor children– Room to lie down, leave to cease standing up, Leave to return to thee, and in thy bosom Lie in the luxury of primeval peace,
Fearless of any morn; as a new babe Lies nestling in his mother’s arms in bed: That home of blessedness is all there is; He never feels the silent rushing tide, Strong setting for the sea, which bears him on, Unconscious, helpless, to wide consciousness. But thou, thank God, hast this warm bed at last Ready for him when weary: well the green Close-matted coverlid shuts out the dawn. O Lilia, would it were our wedding bed
To which I bore thee with a nobler joy! –Alas! there’s no such rest: I only dream Poor pagan dreams with a tired Christian brain.
How couldst thou leave me, my poor child? my heart Was all so tender to thee! But I fear
My face was not. Alas! I was perplexed With questions to be solved, before my face Could turn to thee in peace: thy part in me Fared ill in troubled workings of the brain. Ah, now I know I did not well for thee
In making thee my wife! I should have gone Alone into eternity. I was
Too rough for thee, for any tender woman– Other I had not loved–so full of fancies! Too given to meditation. A deed of love Is stronger than a metaphysic truth;
Smiles better teachers are than mightiest words. Thou, who wast life, not thought, how couldst thou help it? How love me on, withdrawn from all thy sight– For life must ever need the shows of life? How fail to love a man so like thyself, Whose manhood sought thy fainting womanhood? I brought thee pine-boughs, rich in hanging cones, But never white flowers, rubied at the heart. O God, forgive me; it is all my fault.
Would I have had dead Love, pain-galvanized, Led fettered after me by gaoler Duty?
Thou gavest me a woman rich in heart, And I have kept her like a caged seamew Starved by a boy, who weeps when it is dead. O God, my eyes are opening–fearfully:
I know it now–’twas pride, yes, very pride, That kept me back from speaking all my soul. I was self-haunted, self-possessed–the worst Of all possessions. Wherefore did I never Cast all my being, life and all, on hers, In burning words of openness and truth? Why never fling my doubts, my hopes, my love, Prone at her feet abandonedly? Why not
Have been content to minister and wait; And if she answered not to my desires,
Have smiled and waited patient? God, they say, Gives to his aloe years to breed its flower: I gave not five years to a woman’s soul! Had I not drunk at last old wine of love? I shut her love back on her lovely heart; I did not shield her in the wintry day; And she has withered up and died and gone. God, let me perish, so thy beautiful
Be brought with gladness and with singing home. If thou wilt give her back to me, I vow To be her slave, and serve her with my soul. I in my hand will take my heart, and burn Sweet perfumes on it to relieve her pain. I, I have ruined her–O God, save thou!
[_His bends his head upon his knees_. LILY _comes running up to him, stumbling over the graves_.]
Why do they make so many hillocks, father? The flowers would grow without them.
So they would.
What are they for, then?
I wish I had not brought her; She _will_ ask questions. I must tell her all.
‘Tis where they lay them when the story’s done.
What! lay the boys and girls?
Yes, my own child–
To keep them warm till it begin again.
Is it dark down there?
[_Clinging to_ JULIAN, _and pointing down_.]
Yes, it is dark; but pleasant–oh, so sweet! For out of there come all the pretty flowers.
Did the church grow out of there, with the long stalk That tries to touch the little frightened clouds?
It did, my darling.–There’s a door down there That leads away to where the church is pointing.
[_She is silent far some time, and keeps looking first down and then up_. JULIAN _carries her away_.]
SCENE XX.–_Portsmouth_. LORD SEAFORD, _partially recovered. Enter_ LADY GERTRUDE _and_ BERNARD.
I have found an old friend, father. Here he is!
Bernard! Who would have thought to see you here!
I came on Lady Gertrude in the street. I know not which of us was more surprised.
[LADY GERTRUDE _goes_.]
Where is the countess?
Countess! What do you mean? I do not know.
The Italian lady.
Countess Lamballa, do you mean? You frighten me!
I am glad indeed to know your ignorance; For since I saw the count, I would not have you Wrong one gray hair upon his noble head.
[LORD SEAFORD _covers his eyes with his hands_.]
You have not then heard the news about yourself? Such interesting echoes reach the last
A man’s own ear. The public has decreed You and the countess run away together. ‘Tis certain she has balked the London Argos, And that she has been often to your house. The count believes it–clearly from his face: The man is dying slowly on his feet.
_Lord S. (starting up and ringing the bell_). O God! what am I? My love burns like hate, Scorching and blasting with a fiery breath!
What the deuce ails you, Seaford? Are you raving?
Post-chaise for London–four horses–instantly.
[_He sinks exhausted in his chair_.]
SCENE XXI.–_LILY in bed. JULIAN seated by her_.
O father, take me on your knee, and nurse me. Another story is very nearly done.
[_He takes her on his knees_.]
I am so tired! Think I should like to go Down to the warm place that the flowers come from, Where all the little boys and girls are lying In little beds–white curtains, and white tassels. –No, no, no–it is so dark down there! Father will not come near me all the night.
You shall not go, my darling; I will keep you.
O will you keep me always, father dear? And though I sleep ever so sound, still keep me? Oh, I should be so happy, never to move! ‘Tis such a dear well place, here in your arms! Don’t let it take me; do not let me go: I cannot leave you, father–love hurts so.
Yes, darling; love does hurt. It is too good Never to hurt. Shall I walk with you now, And try to make you sleep?
Yes–no; for I should leave you then. Oh, my head! Mother, mother, dear mother!–Sing to me, father.
[_He tries to sing_.]
Oh the hurt, the hurt, and the hurt of love! Wherever the sun shines, the waters go. It hurts the snowdrop, it hurts the dove, God on his throne, and man below.
But sun would not shine, nor waters go, Snowdrop tremble, nor fair dove moan, God be on high, nor man below,
But for love–for the love with its hurt alone.
Thou knowest, O Saviour, its hurt and its sorrows; Didst rescue its joy by the might of thy pain: Lord of all yesterdays, days, and to-morrows, Help us love on in the hope of thy gain;
Hurt as it may, love on, love for ever; Love for love’s sake, like the Father above, But for whose brave-hearted Son we had never Known the sweet hurt of the sorrowful love.
[_She sleeps at last. He sits as before, with the child leaning on his bosom, and falls into a kind of stupor, in which he talks_.]
A voice comes from the vacant, wide sea-vault: _Man with the heart, praying for woman’s love, Receive thy prayer; be loved; and take thy choice: Take this or this_. O Heaven and Earth! I see–What is it? Statue trembling into life
With the first rosy flush upon the skin? Or woman-angel, richer by lack of wings? I see her–where I know not; for I see
Nought else: she filleth space, and eyes, and brain– God keep me!–in celestial nakedness.
She leaneth forward, looking down in space, With large eyes full of longing, made intense By mingled fear of something yet unknown; Her arms thrown forward, circling half; her hands Half lifted, and half circling, like her arms.
O heavenly artist! whither hast thou gone To find my own ideal womanhood–
Glory grown grace, divine to human grown?
I hear the voice again: _Speak but the word: She will array herself and come to thee. Lo, at her white foot lie her daylight clothes, Her earthly dress for work and weary rest_! –I see a woman-form, laid as in sleep, Close by the white foot of the wonderful. It is the same shape, line for line, as she. Long grass and daisies shadow round her limbs. Why speak I not the word?——Clothe thee, and come, O infinite woman! my life faints for thee.
Once more the voice: _Stay! look on this side first: I spake of choice. Look here, O son of man! Choose then between them_. Ah! ah!
Her I knew
Some ages gone; the woman who did sail Down a long river with me to the sea;
Who gave her lips up freely to my lips, Her body willingly into my arms;
Came down from off her statue-pedestal, And was a woman in a common house,
Not beautified by fancy every day, And losing worship by her gifts to me.
She gave me that white child–what came of her? I have forgot.–I opened her great heart, And filled it half-way to the brim with love– With love half wine, half vinegar and gall– And so–and so–she–went away and died? O God! what was it?–something terrible– I will not stay to choose, or look again Upon the beautiful. Give me my wife,
The woman of the old time on the earth. O lovely spirit, fold not thy parted hands, Nor let thy hair weep like a sunset-rain
If thou descend to earth, and find no man To love thee purely, strongly, in his will, Even as he loves the truth, because he will, And when he cannot see it beautiful–
Then thou mayst weep, and I will help thee weep. Voice, speak again, and tell my wife to come.
‘Tis she, ’tis she, low-kneeling at my feet! In the same dress, same flowing of the hair, As long ago, on earth: is her face changed? Sweet, my love rains on thee, like a warm shower; My dove descending rests upon thy head; I bless and sanctify thee for my own:
Lift up thy face, and let me look on thee.
Heavens, what a face! ‘Tis hers! It is not hers! She rises–turns it up from me to God,
With great rapt orbs, and such a brow!–the stars Might find new orbits there, and be content. O blessed lips, so sweetly closed that sure Their opening must be prophecy or song! A high-entranced maiden, ever pure,
And thronged with burning thoughts of God and Truth!
Vanish her garments; vanishes the silk That the worm spun, the linen of the flax;– O heavens! she standeth there, my statue-form, With the rich golden torrent-hair, white feet, And hands with rosy palms–my own ideal! The woman of _my_ world, with deeper eyes Than I had power to think–and yet my Lilia, My wife, with homely airs of earth about her, And dearer to my heart as my lost wife, Than to my soul as its new-found ideal! Oh, Lilia! teach me; at thy knees I kneel: Make me thy scholar; speak, and I will hear. Yea, all eternity–
[_He is roused by a cry from the child_.]
Oh, father! put your arms close round about me. Kiss me. Kiss me harder, father dear.
Now! I am better now.
[_She looks long and passionately in his face. Her eyes close; her head drops backward. She is dead_.]
SCENE XXII.–_A cottage-room_. LILIA _folding a letter_.
Now I have told him all; no word kept back To burn within me like an evil fire.
And where I am, I have told him; and I wait To know his will. What though he love me not, If I love him!–I will go back to him,
And wait on him submissive. Tis enough For one life, to be servant to that man! It was but pride–at best, love stained with pride, That drove me from him. He and my sweet child Must miss my hands, if not my eyes and heart. How lonely is my Lily all the day,
Till he comes home and makes her paradise!
I go to be his servant. Every word
That comes from him softer than a command, I’ll count it gain, and lay it in my heart, And serve him better for it.–He will receive me.
SCENE XXIII.–LILY _lying dead. JULIAN bending over her_.
The light of setting suns be on thee, child! Nay, nay, my child, the light of rising suns Is on thee! Joy is with thee–God is Joy; Peace to himself, and unto us deep joy; Joy to himself, in the reflex of our joy. Love be with thee! yea God, for he is Love. Thou wilt need love, even God’s, to give thee joy.
Children, they say, are born into a world Where grief is their first portion: thou, I think, Never hadst much of grief–thy second birth Into the spirit-world has taught thee grief, If, orphaned now, thou know’st thy mother’s story, And know’st thy father’s hardness. O my God, Let not my Lily turn away from me.
Now I am free to follow and find her. Thy truer Father took thee home to him, That he might grant my prayer, and save my wife. I thank him for his gift of thee; for all That thou hast taught me, blessed little child. I love thee, dear, with an eternal love. And now farewell!
–no, not farewell; I come. Years hold not back, they lead me on to thee. Yes, they will also lead me on to her.
_Enter a Jew_.
What is your pleasure with me? Here I am, sir.
Walk into the next room; then look at this, And tell me what you’ll give for everything.
My darling’s death has made me almost happy. Now, now I follow, follow. I’m young again. When I have laid my little one to rest
Among the flowers in that same sunny spot, Straight from her grave I’ll take my pilgrim-way; And, calling up all old forgotten skill, Lapsed social claims, and knowledge of mankind, I’ll be a man once more in the loud world. Revived experience in its winding ways, Senses and wits made sharp by sleepless love,