[TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Greek words in this text have been transliterated and placed between marks. The word "Phoebus" was rendered with an oe ligature in the original.]
A Channel Passage and other poems
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Taken from The Collected Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne—Vol VI
THE COLLECTED POETICAL WORKS OF ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE
A MIDSUMMER HOLIDAY: ASTROPHEL: A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER TALES
SWINBURNE'S POETICAL WORKS
I. POEMS AND BALLADS (First Series).
II. SONGS BEFORE SUNRISE, AND SONGS OF TWO NATIONS.
III. POEMS AND BALLADS (Second and Third Series), and SONGS OF THE SPRINGTIDES.
IV. TRISTRAM OF LYONESSE, THE TALE OF BALEN, ATALANTA IN CALYDON, ERECHTHEUS.
V. STUDIES IN SONG, A CENTURY OF ROUNDELS, SONNETS ON ENGLISH DRAMATIC POETS, THE HEPTALOGIA, ETC.
VI. A MIDSUMMER HOLIDAY, ASTROPHEL, A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER POEMS.
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
A MIDSUMMER HOLIDAY: ASTROPHEL: A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER POEMS
Algernon Charles Swinburne
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN
First printed (Chatto), 1904
Reprinted 1904, '09, '10, '12
London: William Heinemann, 1917
A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER POEMS
A CHANNEL PASSAGE 279
THE LAKE OF GAUBE 284
THE PROMISE OF THE HAWTHORN 288
HAWTHORN TIDE 289
THE PASSING OF THE HAWTHORN 296
TO A BABY KINSWOMAN 297
THE ALTAR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS 301
A NEW YEAR'S EVE 321
IN A ROSARY 324
THE HIGH OAKS 326
BARKING HALL: A YEAR AFTER 331
MUSIC: AN ODE 334
THE CENTENARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE NILE 336
TRAFALGAR DAY 338
CROMWELL'S STATUE 340
A WORD FOR THE NAVY 342
BURNS: AN ODE 350
THE COMMONWEAL: A SONG FOR UNIONISTS 355
THE QUESTION 359
RUSSIA: AN ODE 366
FOR GREECE AND CRETE 370
DELPHIC HYMN TO APOLLO 372
A NEW CENTURY 374
AN EVENING AT VICHY 375
TO GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS 378
ON THE DEATH OF MRS. LYNN LINTON 379
IN MEMORY OF AURELIO SAFFI 382
AFTER THE VERDICT 384
THE TRANSVAAL 385
THE TURNING OF THE TIDE 387
ON THE DEATH OF COLONEL BENSON 388
ASTRAEA VICTRIX 389
THE FIRST OF JUNE 393
A ROUNDEL FROM VILLON 395
A ROUNDEL OF RABELAIS 396
THE CENTENARY OF ALEXANDRE DUMAS 398
AT A DOG'S GRAVE 400
THREE WEEKS OLD 402
A CLASP OF HANDS 403
PROLOGUE TO DOCTOR FAUSTUS 405
PROLOGUE TO ARDEN OF FEVERSHAM 407
PROLOGUE TO OLD FORTUNATUS 409
PROLOGUE TO THE DUCHESS OF MALFY 411
PROLOGUE TO THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY 413
PROLOGUE TO THE BROKEN HEART 415
PROLOGUE TO A VERY WOMAN 417
PROLOGUE TO THE SPANISH GIPSY 419
PROLOGUE TO THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN 421
THE AFTERGLOW OF SHAKESPEARE 423
A CHANNEL PASSAGE AND OTHER POEMS
EDWARD BURNE JONES
A CHANNEL PASSAGE
Forth from Calais, at dawn of night, when sunset summer on autumn shone, Fared the steamer alert and loud through seas whence only the sun was gone: Soft and sweet as the sky they smiled, and bade man welcome: a dim sweet hour Gleamed and whispered in wind and sea, and heaven was fair as a field in flower. Stars fulfilled the desire of the darkling world as with music: the starbright air Made the face of the sea, if aught may make the face of the sea, more fair.
Whence came change? Was the sweet night weary of rest? What anguish awoke in the dark? Sudden, sublime, the strong storm spake: we heard the thunders as hounds that bark. Lovelier if aught may be lovelier than stars, we saw the lightnings exalt the sky, Living and lustrous and rapturous as love that is born but to quicken and lighten and die. Heaven's own heart at its highest of delight found utterance in music and semblance in fire: Thunder on thunder exulted, rejoicing to live and to satiate the night's desire.
And the night was alive and anhungered of life as a tiger from toils cast free: And a rapture of rage made joyous the spirit and strength of the soul of the sea. All the weight of the wind bore down on it, freighted with death for fraught: And the keen waves kindled and quickened as things transfigured or things distraught. And madness fell on them laughing and leaping; and madness came on the wind: And the might and the light and the darkness of storm were as storm in the heart of Ind. Such glory, such terror, such passion, as lighten and harrow the far fierce East, Rang, shone, spake, shuddered around us: the night was an altar with death for priest. The channel that sunders England from shores where never was man born free Was clothed with the likeness and thrilled with the strength and the wrath of a tropic sea. As a wild steed ramps in rebellion, and rears till it swerves from a backward fall, The strong ship struggled and reared, and her deck was upright as a sheer cliff's wall. Stern and prow plunged under, alternate: a glimpse, a recoil, a breath, And she sprang as the life in a god made man would spring at the throat of death. Three glad hours, and it seemed not an hour of supreme and supernal joy, Filled full with delight that revives in remembrance a sea-bird's heart in a boy. For the central crest of the night was cloud that thundered and flamed, sublime As the splendour and song of the soul everlasting that quickens the pulse of time. The glory beholden of man in a vision, the music of light overheard, The rapture and radiance of battle, the life that abides in the fire of a word, In the midmost heaven enkindled, was manifest far on the face of the sea, And the rage in the roar of the voice of the waters was heard but when heaven breathed free. Far eastward, clear of the covering of cloud, the sky laughed out into light From the rims of the storm to the sea's dark edge with flames that were flowerlike and white. The leaping and luminous blossoms of live sheet lightning that laugh as they fade From the cloud's black base to the black wave's brim rejoiced in the light they made. Far westward, throned in a silent sky, where life was in lustrous tune, Shone, sweeter and surer than morning or evening, the steadfast smile of the moon. The limitless heaven that enshrined them was lovelier than dreams may behold, and deep As life or as death, revealed and transfigured, may shine on the soul through sleep. All glories of toil and of triumph and passion and pride that it yearns to know Bore witness there to the soul of its likeness and kinship, above and below. The joys of the lightnings, the songs of the thunders, the strong sea's labour and rage, Were tokens and signs of the war that is life and is joy for the soul to wage. No thought strikes deeper or higher than the heights and the depths that the night made bare, Illimitable, infinite, awful and joyful, alive in the summit of air— Air stilled and thrilled by the tempest that thundered between its reign and the sea's, Rebellious, rapturous, and transient as faith or as terror that bows men's knees. No love sees loftier and fairer the form of its godlike vision in dreams Than the world shone then, when the sky and the sea were as love for a breath's length seems— One utterly, mingled and mastering and mastered and laughing with love that subsides As the glad mad night sank panting and satiate with storm, and released the tides. In the dense mid channel the steam-souled ship hung hovering, assailed and withheld As a soul born royal, if life or if death be against it, is thwarted and quelled. As the glories of myriads of glowworms in lustrous grass on a boundless lawn Were the glories of flames phosphoric that made of the water a light like dawn. A thousand Phosphors, a thousand Hespers, awoke in the churning sea, And the swift soft hiss of them living and dying was clear as a tune could be; As a tune that is played by the fingers of death on the keys of life or of sleep, Audible alway alive in the storm, too fleet for a dream to keep: Too fleet, too sweet for a dream to recover and thought to remember awake: Light subtler and swifter than lightning, that whispers and laughs in the live storm's wake, In the wild bright wake of the storm, in the dense loud heart of the labouring hour, A harvest of stars by the storm's hand reaped, each fair as a star-shaped flower. And sudden and soft as the passing of sleep is the passing of tempest seemed When the light and the sound of it sank, and the glory was gone as a dream half dreamed. The glory, the terror, the passion that made of the midnight a miracle, died, Not slain at a stroke, nor in gradual reluctance abated of power and of pride; With strong swift subsidence, awful as power that is wearied of power upon earth, As a God that were wearied of power upon heaven, and were fain of a new God's birth, The might of the night subsided: the tyranny kindled in darkness fell: And the sea and the sky put off them the rapture and radiance of heaven and of hell. The waters, heaving and hungering at heart, made way, and were wellnigh fain, For the ship that had fought them, and wrestled, and revelled in labour, to cease from her pain. And an end was made of it: only remembrance endures of the glad loud strife; And the sense that a rapture so royal may come not again in the passage of life.
THE LAKE OF GAUBE
The sun is lord and god, sublime, serene, And sovereign on the mountains: earth and air Lie prone in passion, blind with bliss unseen By force of sight and might of rapture, fair As dreams that die and know not what they were. The lawns, the gorges, and the peaks, are one Glad glory, thrilled with sense of unison In strong compulsive silence of the sun.
Flowers dense and keen as midnight stars aflame And living things of light like flames in flower That glance and flash as though no hand might tame Lightnings whose life outshone their stormlit hour And played and laughed on earth, with all their power Gone, and with all their joy of life made long And harmless as the lightning life of song, Shine sweet like stars when darkness feels them strong.
The deep mild purple flaked with moonbright gold That makes the scales seem flowers of hardened light, The flamelike tongue, the feet that noon leaves cold, The kindly trust in man, when once the sight Grew less than strange, and faith bade fear take flight, Outlive the little harmless life that shone And gladdened eyes that loved it, and was gone Ere love might fear that fear had looked thereon.
Fear held the bright thing hateful, even as fear, Whose name is one with hate and horror, saith That heaven, the dark deep heaven of water near, Is deadly deep as hell and dark as death. The rapturous plunge that quickens blood and breath With pause more sweet than passion, ere they strive To raise again the limbs that yet would dive Deeper, should there have slain the soul alive.
As the bright salamander in fire of the noonshine exults and is glad of his day, The spirit that quickens my body rejoices to pass from the sunlight away, To pass from the glow of the mountainous flowerage, the high multitudinous bloom, Far down through the fathomless night of the water, the gladness of silence and gloom. Death-dark and delicious as death in the dream of a lover and dreamer may be, It clasps and encompasses body and soul with delight to be living and free: Free utterly now, though the freedom endure but the space of a perilous breath, And living, though girdled about with the darkness and coldness and strangeness of death: Each limb and each pulse of the body rejoicing, each nerve of the spirit at rest, All sense of the soul's life rapture, a passionate peace in its blindness blest. So plunges the downward swimmer, embraced of the water unfathomed of man, The darkness unplummeted, icier than seas in midwinter, for blessing or ban; And swiftly and sweetly, when strength and breath fall short, and the dive is done, Shoots up as a shaft from the dark depth shot, sped straight into sight of the sun; And sheer through the snow-soft water, more dark than the roof of the pines above, Strikes forth, and is glad as a bird whose flight is impelled and sustained of love. As a sea-mew's love of the sea-wind breasted and ridden for rapture's sake Is the love of his body and soul for the darkling delight of the soundless lake: As the silent speed of a dream too living to live for a thought's space more Is the flight of his limbs through the still strong chill of the darkness from shore to shore. Might life be as this is and death be as life that casts off time as a robe, The likeness of infinite heaven were a symbol revealed of the lake of Gaube.
Whose thought has fathomed and measured The darkness of life and of death, The secret within them treasured, The spirit that is not breath? Whose vision has yet beholden The splendour of death and of life? Though sunset as dawn be golden, Is the word of them peace, not strife? Deep silence answers: the glory We dream of may be but a dream, And the sun of the soul wax hoary As ashes that show not a gleam. But well shall it be with us ever Who drive through the darkness here, If the soul that we live by never, For aught that a lie saith, fear.
THE PROMISE OF THE HAWTHORN
Spring sleeps and stirs and trembles with desire Pure as a babe's that nestles toward the breast. The world, as yet an all unstricken lyre, With all its chords alive and all at rest, Feels not the sun's hand yet, but feels his breath And yearns for love made perfect. Man and bird, Thrilled through with hope of life that casts out death, Wait with a rapturous patience till his word Speak heaven, and flower by flower and tree by tree Give back the silent strenuous utterance. Earth, Alive awhile and joyful as the sea, Laughs not aloud in joy too deep for mirth, Presageful of perfection of delight, Till all the unborn green buds be born in white.
Dawn is alive in the world, and the darkness of heaven and of earth Subsides in the light of a smile more sweet than the loud noon's mirth, Spring lives as a babe lives, glad and divine as the sun, and unsure If aught so divine and so glad may be worshipped and loved and endure. A soft green glory suffuses the love-lit earth with delight, And the face of the noon is fair as the face of the star-clothed night. Earth knows not and doubts not at heart of the glories again to be: Sleep doubts not and dreams not how sweet shall the waking beyond her be. A whole white world of revival awaits May's whisper awhile, Abides and exults in the bud as a soft hushed laugh in a smile. As a maid's mouth laughing with love and subdued for the love's sake, May Shines and withholds for a little the word she revives to say.
When the clouds and the winds and the sunbeams are warring and strengthening with joy that they live, Spring, from reluctance enkindled to rapture, from slumber to strife, Stirs, and repents, and is winter, and weeps, and awakes as the frosts forgive, And the dark chill death of the woodland is troubled, and dies into life. And the honey of heaven, of the hives whence night feeds full on the springtide's breath, Fills fuller the lips of the lustrous air with delight in the dawn: Each blossom enkindling with love that is life and subsides with a smile into death Arises and lightens and sets as a star from her sphere withdrawn. Not sleep, in the rapture of radiant dreams, when sundawn smiles on the night, Shows earth so sweet with a splendour and fragrance of life that is love: Each blade of the glad live grass, each bud that receives or rejects the light, Salutes and responds to the marvel of Maytime around and above.
Joy gives thanks for the sight and the savour of heaven, and is humbled With awe that exults in thanksgiving: the towers of the flowers of the trees Shine sweeter than snows that the hand of the season has melted and crumbled, And fair as the foam that is lesser of life than the loveliest of these. But the sense of a life more lustrous with joy and enkindled of glory Than man's was ever or may be, and briefer than joys most brief, Bids man's heart bend and adore, be the man's head golden or hoary, As it leapt but a breath's time since and saluted the flower and the leaf. The rapture that springs into love at the sight of the world's exultation Takes not a sense of rebuke from the sense of triumphant awe: But the spirit that quickens the body fulfils it with mute adoration, And the knees would fain bow down as the eyes that rejoiced and saw.
Fair and sublime as the face of the dawn is the splendour of May, But the sky's and the sea's joy fades not as earth's pride passes away. Yet hardly the sun's first lightning or laughter of love on the sea So humbles the heart into worship that knows not or doubts if it be As the first full glory beholden again of the life new-born That hails and applauds with inaudible music the season of morn. A day's length since, and it was not: a night's length more, and the sun Salutes and enkindles a world of delight as a strange world won. A new life answers and thrills to the kiss of the young strong year, And the glory we see is as music we hear not, and dream that we hear. From blossom to blossom the live tune kindles, from tree to tree, And we know not indeed if we hear not the song of the life we see.
For the first blithe day that beholds it and worships and cherishes cannot but sing With a louder and lustier delight in the sun and the sunlit earth Than the joy of the days that beheld but the soft green dawn of the slow faint spring Glad and afraid to be glad, and subdued in a shamefast mirth. When the first bright knoll of the woodland world laughs out into fragrant light, The year's heart changes and quickens with sense of delight in desire, And the kindling desire is one with thanksgiving for utter fruition of sight, For sight and for sense of a world that the sun finds meet for his lyre. Music made of the morning that smites from the chords of the mute world song Trembles and quickens and lightens, unfelt, unbeholden, unheard, From blossom on blossom that climbs and exults in the strength of the sun grown strong, And answers the word of the wind of the spring with the sun's own word.
Hard on the skirt of the deep soft copses that spring refashions, Triumphs and towers to the height of the crown of a wildwood tree One royal hawthorn, sublime and serene as the joy that impassions Awe that exults in thanksgiving for sight of the grace we see, The grace that is given of a god that abides for a season, mysterious And merciful, fervent and fugitive, seen and unknown and adored: His presence is felt in the light and the fragrance, elate and imperious, His laugh and his breath in the blossom are love's, the beloved soul's lord. For surely the soul if it loves is beloved of the god as a lover Whose love is not all unaccepted, a worship not utterly vain: So full, so deep is the joy that revives for the soul to recover Yearly, beholden of hope and of memory in sunshine and rain.
Wonder and love stand silent, stricken at heart and stilled. But yet is the cup of delight and of worship unpledged and unfilled. A handsbreadth hence leaps up, laughs out as an angel crowned, A strong full fountain of flowers overflowing above and around. The boughs and the blossoms in triumph salute with adoring mirth The womb that bare them, the glad green mother, the sunbright earth. Downward sweeping, as song subsides into silence, none May hear what sound is the word's they speak to the brooding sun. None that hearken may hear: man may but pass and adore, And humble his heart in thanksgiving for joy that is now no more. And sudden, afront and ahead of him, joy is alive and aflame On the shrine whose incense is given of the godhead, again the same.
Pale and pure as a maiden secluded in secret and cherished with fear, One sweet glad hawthorn smiles as it shrinks under shelter, screened By two strong brethren whose bounteous blossom outsoars it, year after year, While earth still cleaves to the live spring's breast as a babe unweaned. Never was amaranth fairer in fields where heroes of old found rest, Never was asphodel sweeter: but here they endure not long, Though ever the sight that salutes them again and adores them awhile is blest, And the heart is a hymn, and the sense is a soul, and the soul is a song. Alone on a dyke's trenched edge, and afar from the blossoming wildwood's verge, Laughs and lightens a sister, triumphal in love-lit pride; Clothed round with the sun, and inviolate: her blossoms exult as the springtide surge, When the wind and the dawn enkindle the snows of the shoreward tide.
Hardly the worship of old that rejoiced as it knelt in the vision Shown of the God new-born whose breath is the spirit of spring Hailed ever with love more strong and defiant of death's derision A joy more perfect than here we mourn for as May takes wing. Time gives it and takes it again and restores it: the glory, the wonder, The triumph of lustrous blossom that makes of the steep sweet bank One visible marvel of music inaudible, over and under, Attuned as in heaven, pass hence and return for the sun to thank. The stars and the sun give thanks for the glory bestowed and beholden, For the gladness they give and rejoice in, the night and the dawn and the day: But nought they behold when the world is aflower and the season is golden Makes answer as meet and as sweet as the flower that itself is May.
THE PASSING OF THE HAWTHORN
The coming of the hawthorn brings on earth Heaven: all the spring speaks out in one sweet word, And heaven grows gladder, knowing that earth has heard. Ere half the flowers are jubilant in birth, The splendour of the laughter of their mirth Dazzles delight with wonder: man and bird Rejoice and worship, stilled at heart and stirred With rapture girt about with awe for girth.
The passing of the hawthorn takes away Heaven: all the spring falls dumb, and all the soul Sinks down in man for sorrow. Night and day Forego the joy that made them one and whole. The change that falls on every starry spray Bids, flower by flower, the knell of springtime toll.
TO A BABY KINSWOMAN
Love, whose light thrills heaven and earth, Smiles and weeps upon thy birth, Child, whose mother's love-lit eyes Watch thee but from Paradise. Sweetest sight that earth can give, Sweetest light of eyes that live, Ours must needs, for hope withdrawn, Hail with tears thy soft spring dawn. Light of hope whose star hath set, Light of love whose sun lives yet, Holier, happier, heavenlier love Breathes about thee, burns above, Surely, sweet, than ours can be, Shed from eyes we may not see, Though thine own may see them shine Night and day, perchance, on thine. Sun and moon that lighten earth Seem not fit to bless thy birth: Scarce the very stars we know Here seem bright enough to show Whence in unimagined skies Glows the vigil of such eyes. Theirs whose heart is as a sea Swoln with sorrowing love of thee Fain would share with thine the sight Seen alone of babes aright, Watched of eyes more sweet than flowers Sleeping or awake: but ours Can but deem or dream or guess Thee not wholly motherless. Might they see or might they know What nor faith nor hope may show, We whose hearts yearn toward thee now Then were blest and wise as thou. Had we half thy knowledge,—had Love such wisdom,—grief were glad, Surely, lit by grace of thee; Life were sweet as death may be. Now the law that lies on men Bids us mourn our dead: but then Heaven and life and earth and death, Quickened as by God's own breath, All were turned from sorrow and strife: Earth and death were heaven and life. All too far are then and now Sundered: none may be as thou. Yet this grace is ours—a sign Of that goodlier grace of thine, Sweet, and thine alone—to see Heaven, and heaven's own love, in thee. Bless them, then, whose eyes caress Thee, as only thou canst bless. Comfort, faith, assurance, love, Shine around us, brood above, Fear grows hope, and hope grows wise, Thrilled and lit by children's eyes. Yet in ours the tears unshed, Child, for hope that death leaves dead, Needs must burn and tremble; thou Knowest not, seest not, why nor how, More than we know whence or why Comes on babes that laugh and lie Half asleep, in sweet-lipped scorn, Light of smiles outlightening morn, Whence enkindled as is earth By the dawn's less radiant birth All the body soft and sweet Smiles on us from face to feet When the rose-red hands would fain Reach the rose-red feet in vain. Eyes and hands that worship thee Watch and tend, adore and see All these heavenly sights, and give Thanks to see and love and live. Yet, of all that hold thee dear, Sweet, the dearest smiles not here. Thine alone is now the grace, Haply, still to see her face; Thine, thine only now the sight Whence we dream thine own takes light. Yet, though faith and hope live blind, Yet they live in heart and mind Strong and keen as truth may be: Yet, though blind as grief were we Inly for a weeping-while, Sorrow's self before thy smile Smiles and softens, knowing that yet, Far from us though heaven be set, Love, bowed down for thee to bless, Dares not call thee motherless.
THE ALTAR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
es to pan de soi lego, bomon aidesai dikas; mede nin kerdos idon atheo podi lax atises; poina gar epestai. kyrion menei telos.
AESCH. Eum. 538-544
para to phos idein.
AESCH. Cho. 972
THE ALTAR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Light and night, whose clouds and glories change and mingle and divide, Veil the truth whereof they witness, show the truth of things they hide. Through the darkness and the splendour of the centuries, loud or dumb, Shines and wanes and shines the spirit, lit with love of life to come. Man, the soul made flesh, that knows not death from life, and fain would know, Sees the face of time change colour as its tides recoil and flow. All his hope and fear and faith and doubt, if aught at all they be, Live the life of clouds and sunbeams, born of heaven or earth or sea. All are buoyed and blown and brightened by their hour's evasive breath: All subside and quail and darken when their hour is done to death. Yet, ere faith, a wandering water, froze and curdled into creeds, Earth, elate as heaven, adored the light that quickens dreams to deeds.
Invisible: eye hath not seen it, and ear hath not heard as the spirit hath heard From the shrine that is lit not of sunlight or starlight the sound of a limitless word. And visible: none that hath eyes to behold what the spirit must perish or see Can choose but behold it and worship: a shrine that if light were as darkness would be. Of cloud and of change is the form of the fashion that man may behold of it wrought: Of iron and truth is the mystic mid altar, where worship is none but of thought. No prayer may go up to it, climbing as incense of gladness or sorrow may climb: No rapture of music may ruffle the silence that guards it, and hears not of time. As the winds of the wild blind ages alternate in passion of light and of cloud, So changes the shape of the veil that enshrouds it with darkness and light for a shroud. And the winds and the clouds and the suns fall silent, and fade out of hearing or sight, And the shrine stands fast and is changed not, whose likeness was changed as a cloud in the night.
All the storms of time, and wrath of many winds, may carve no trace On the viewless altar, though the veil bear many a name and face: Many a live God's likeness woven, many a scripture dark with awe, Bids the veil seem verier iron than the word of life's own law. Till the might of change hath rent it with a rushing wind in twain, Stone or steel it seems, whereon the wrath of chance is wreaked in vain: Stone or steel, and all behind it or beyond its lifted sign Cloud and vapour, no subsistence of a change-unstricken shrine. God by god flits past in thunder, till his glories turn to shades: God to god bears wondering witness how his gospel flames and fades. More was each of these, while yet they were, than man their servant seemed: Dead are all of these, and man survives who made them while he dreamed.
Yet haply or surely, if vision were surer than theirs who rejoiced that they saw, Man might not but see, through the darkness of godhead, the light that is surety and law. On the stone that the close-drawn cloud which veils it awhile makes cloudlike stands The word of the truth everlasting, unspoken of tongues and unwritten of hands. By the sunbeams and storms of the centuries engraven, and approved of the soul as it reads, It endures as a token dividing the light from the darkness of dreams and of deeds. The faces of gods on the face of it carven, or gleaming behind and above, Star-glorified Uranus, thunderous Jehovah, for terror or worship or love, Change, wither, and brighten as flowers that the wind of eternity sheds upon time, All radiant and transient and awful and mortal, and leave it unmarred and sublime. As the tides that return and recede are the fears and the hopes of the centuries that roll, Requenched and rekindled: but strong as the sun is the sense of it shrined in the soul.
In the days when time was not, in the time when days were none, Ere sorrow had life to lot, ere earth gave thanks for the sun, Ere man in his darkness waking adored what the soul in him could, And the manifold God of his making was manifest evil and good, One law from the dim beginning abode and abides in the end, In sight of him sorrowing and sinning with none but his faith for friend. Dark were the shadows around him, and darker the glories above, Ere light from beyond them found him, and bade him for love's sake love. About him was darkness, and under and over him darkness: the night That conceived him and bore him had thunder for utterance and lightning for light. The dust of death was the dust of the ways that the tribes of him trod: And he knew not if just or unjust were the might of the mystery of God. Strange horror and hope, strange faith and unfaith, were his boon and his bane: And the God of his trust was the wraith of the soul or the ghost of it slain. A curse was on death as on birth, and a Presence that shone as a sword Shed menace from heaven upon earth that beheld him, and hailed him her Lord. Sublime and triumphant as fire or as lightning, he kindled the skies, And withered with dread the desire that would look on the light of his eyes. Earth shuddered with worship, and knew not if hell were not hot in her breath; If birth were not sin, and the dew of the morning the sweat of her death. The watchwords of evil and good were unspoken of men and unheard: They were shadows that willed as he would, that were made and unmade by his word. His word was darkness and light, and a wisdom that makes men mad Sent blindness upon them for sight, that they saw but and heard as he bade. Cast forth and corrupt from the birth by the crime of creation, they stood Convicted of evil on earth by the grace of a God found good. The grace that enkindled and quickened the darkness of hell with flame Bade man, though the soul in him sickened, obey, and give praise to his name. The still small voice of the spirit whose life is as plague's hot breath Bade man shed blood, and inherit the life of the kingdom of death.
"Bring now for blood-offering thy son to mine altar, and bind him and slay, That the sin of my bidding be done": and the soul in the slave said, "Yea." Yea, not nay, was the word: and the sacrifice offered withal Was neither of beast nor of bird, but the soul of a man, God's thrall. And the word of his servant spoken was fire, and the light of a sword, When the bondage of Israel was broken, and Sinai shrank from the Lord. With splendour of slaughter and thunder of song as the sound of the sea Were the foes of him stricken in sunder and silenced as storms that flee. Terror and trust and the pride of the chosen, approved of his choice, Saw God in the whirlwind ride, and rejoiced as the winds rejoice. Subdued and exalted and kindled and quenched by the sense of his might, Faith flamed and exulted and dwindled, and saw not, and clung to the sight. The wastes of the wilderness brightened and trembled with rapture and dread When the word of him thundered and lightened and spake through the quick and the dead. The chant of the prophetess, louder and loftier than tempest and wave, Rang triumph more ruthless and prouder than death, and profound as the grave. And sweet as the moon's word spoken in smiles that the blown clouds mar The psalmist's witness in token arose as the speech of a star. Starlight supreme, and the tender desire of the moon, were as one To rebuke with compassion the splendour and strength of the godlike sun. God softened and changed: and the word of his chosen, a fire at the first, Bade man, as a beast or a bird, now slake at the springs his thirst. The souls that were sealed unto death as the bones of the dead lie sealed Rose thrilled and redeemed by the breath of the dawn on the flame-lit field. The glories of darkness, cloven with music of thunder, shrank As the web of the word was unwoven that spake, and the soul's tide sank. And the starshine of midnight that covered Arabia with light as a robe Waxed fiery with utterance that hovered and flamed through the whirlwind on Job. And prophet to prophet and vision to vision made answer sublime, Till the valley of doom and decision was merged in the tides of time.
Then, soft as the dews of night, As the star of the sundawn bright, As the heart of the sea's hymn deep, And sweet as the balm of sleep, Arose on the world a light Too pure for the skies to keep.
With music sweeter and stranger than heaven had heard When the dark east thrilled with light from a saviour's word And a God grew man to endure as a man and abide The doom of the will of the Lord of the loud world's tide, Whom thunders utter, and tempest and darkness hide, With larger light than flamed from the peak whereon Prometheus, bound as the sun to the world's wheel, shone, A presence passed and abode but on earth a span, And love's own light as a river before him ran, And the name of God for awhile upon earth was man.
O star that wast not and wast for the world a sun, O light that was quenched of priests, and its work undone, O Word that wast not as man's or as God's, if God Be Lord but of hosts whose tread was as death's that trod On souls that felt but his wrath as an unseen rod, What word, what praise, what passion of hopeless prayer, May now rise up to thee, loud as in years that were, From years that gaze on the works of thy servants wrought While strength was in them to satiate the lust of thought That craved in thy name for blood as the quest it sought?
From the dark high places of Rome Far over the westward foam God's heaven and the sun saw swell The fires of the high priest's hell, And shrank as they curled and clomb And revelled and ravaged and fell.
Yet was not the work of thy word all withered with wasting flame By the sons of the priests that had slain thee, whose evil was wrought in thy name. From the blood-sodden soil that was blasted with fires of the Church and her creed Sprang rarely but surely, by grace of thy spirit, a flower for a weed. Thy spirit, unfelt of thy priests who blasphemed thee, enthralled and enticed To deathward a child that was even as the child we behold in Christ. The Moors, they told her, beyond bright Spain and the strait brief sea, Dwelt blind in the light that for them was as darkness, and knew not thee. But the blood of the martyrs whose mission was witness for God, they said, Might raise to redemption the souls that were here, in the sun's sight, dead. And the child rose up in the night, when the stars were as friends that smiled, And sought her brother, and wakened the younger and tenderer child. From the heaven of a child's glad sleep to the heaven of the sight of her eyes He woke, and brightened and hearkened, and kindled as stars that rise. And forth they fared together to die for the stranger's sake, For the souls of the slayers that should slay them, and turn from their sins, and wake. And the light of the love that lit them awhile on a brief blind quest Shines yet on the tear-lit smile that salutes them, belated and blest.
And the girl, full-grown to the stature of godhead in womanhood, spake The word that sweetens and lightens her creed for her great love's sake. From the godlike heart of Theresa the prayer above all prayers heard, The cry as of God made woman, a sweet blind wonderful word, Sprang sudden as flame, and kindled the darkness of faith with love, And the hollow of hell from beneath shone, quickened of heaven from above. Yea, hell at her word grew heaven, as she prayed that if God thought well She there might stand in the gateway, that none might pass into hell. Not Hermes, guardian and guide, God, herald, and comforter, shed Such lustre of hope from the life of his light on the night of the dead. Not Pallas, wiser and mightier in mercy than Rome's God shone, Wore ever such raiment of love as the soul of a saint put on. So blooms as a flower of the darkness a star of the midnight born, Of the midnight's womb and the blackness of darkness, and flames like morn. Nor yet may the dawn extinguish or hide it, when churches and creeds Are withered and blasted with sunlight as poisonous and blossomless weeds. So springs and strives through the soil that the legions of darkness have trod, From the root that is man, from the soul in the body, the flower that is God.
Ages and creeds that drift Through change and cloud uplift The soul that soars and seeks her sovereign shrine, Her faith's veiled altar, there To find, when praise and prayer Fall baffled, if the darkness be divine. Lights change and shift through star and sun: Night, clothed with might of immemorial years, is one.
Day, born and slain of night, Hath hardly life in sight As she that bears and slays him and survives, And gives us back for one Cloud-thwarted fiery sun The myriad mysteries of the lambent lives Whose starry soundless music saith That light and life wax perfect even through night and death.
In vain had darkness heard Light speak the lustrous word That cast out faith in all save truth and love: In vain death's quickening rod Bade man rise up as God, Touched as with life unknown in heaven above: Fear turned his light of love to fire That wasted earth, yet might not slay the soul's desire.
Though death seem life, and night Bid fear call darkness light, Time, faith, and hope keep trust, through sorrow and shame, Till Christ, by Paul cast out, Return, and all the rout Of raging slaves whose prayer defiles his name Rush headlong to the deep, and die, And leave no sign to say that faith once heard them lie.
Since man, with a child's pride proud, and abashed as a child and afraid, Made God in his likeness, and bowed him to worship the Maker he made, No faith more dire hath enticed man's trust than the saint's whose creed Made Caiaphas one with Christ, that worms on the cross might feed. Priests gazed upon God in the eyes of a babe new-born, and therein Beheld not heaven, and the wise glad secret of love, but sin. Accursed of heaven, and baptized with the baptism of hatred and hell, They spat on the name they despised and adored as a sign and a spell. "Lord Christ, thou art God, and a liar: they were children of wrath, not of grace, Unbaptized, unredeemed from the fire they were born for, who smiled in thy face." Of such is the kingdom—he said it—of heaven: and the heavenly word Shall live when religion is dead, and when falsehood is dumb shall be heard. And the message of James and of John was as Christ's and as love's own call: But wrath passed sentence thereon when Annas replied in Paul. The dark old God who had slain him grew one with the Christ he slew, And poison was rank in the grain that with growth of his gospel grew. And the blackness of darkness brightened: and red in the heart of the flame Shone down, as a blessing that lightened, the curse of a new God's name. Through centuries of burning and trembling belief as a signal it shone, Till man, soul-sick of dissembling, bade fear and her frauds begone. God Cerberus yelps from his throats triune: but his day, which was night, Is quenched, with its stars and the notes of its night-birds, in silence and light. The flames of its fires and the psalms of their psalmists are darkened and dumb: Strong winter has withered the palms of his angels, and stricken them numb. God, father of lies, God, son of perdition, God, spirit of ill, Thy will that for ages was done is undone as a dead God's will. Not Mahomet's sword could slay thee, nor Borgia's or Calvin's praise: But the scales of the spirit that weigh thee are weighted with truth, and it slays. The song of the day of thy fury, when nature and death shall quail, Rings now as the thunders of Jewry, the ghost of a dead world's tale. That day and its doom foreseen and foreshadowed on earth, when thou, Lord God, wast lord of the keen dark season, are sport for us now. Thy claws were clipped and thy fangs plucked out by the hands that slew Men, lovers of man, whose pangs bore witness if truth were true. Man crucified rose again from the sepulchre builded to be No grave for the souls of the men who denied thee, but, Lord, for thee.
When Bruno's spirit aspired from the flames that thy servants fed, The spirit of faith was fired to consume thee and leave thee dead. When the light of the sunlike eyes whence laughter lightened and flamed Bade France and the world be wise, faith saw thee naked and shamed. When wisdom deeper and sweeter than Rabelais veiled and revealed Found utterance diviner and meeter for truth whence anguish is healed, Whence fear and hate and belief in thee, fed by thy grace from above, Fall stricken, and utmost grief takes light from the lustre of love, When Shakespeare shone into birth, and the world he beheld grew bright, Thy kingdom was ended on earth, and the darkness it shed was light. In him all truth and the glory thereof and the power and the pride, The song of the soul and her story, bore witness that fear had lied. All hope, all wonder, all trust, all doubt that knows not of fear, The love of the body, the lust of the spirit to see and to hear, All womanhood, fairer than love could conceive or desire or adore, All manhood, radiant above all heights that it held of yore, Lived by the life of his breath, with the speech of his soul's will spake, And the light lit darkness to death whence never the dead shall wake. For the light that lived in the sound of the song of his speech was one With the light of the wisdom that found earth's tune in the song of the sun; His word with the word of the lord most high of us all on earth, Whose soul was a lyre and a sword, whose death was a deathless birth. Him too we praise as we praise our own who as he stand strong; Him, AEschylus, ancient of days, whose word is the perfect song. When Caucasus showed to the sun and the sea what a God could endure, When wisdom and light were one, and the hands of the matricide pure, A song too subtle for psalmist or prophet of Jewry to know, Elate and profound as the calmest or stormiest of waters that flow, A word whose echoes were wonder and music of fears overcome, Bade Sinai bow, and the thunder of godhead on Horeb be dumb. The childless children of night, strong daughters of doom and dread, The thoughts and the fears that smite the soul, and its life lies dead, Stood still and were quelled by the sound of his word and the light of his thought, And the God that in man lay bound was unbound from the bonds he had wrought. Dark fear of a lord more dark than the dreams of his worshippers knew Fell dead, and the corpse lay stark in the sunlight of truth shown true.
Time, and truth his child, though terror set earth and heaven at odds, See the light of manhood rise on the twilight of the Gods. Light is here for souls to see, though the stars of faith be dead: All the sea that yearned and trembled receives the sun instead. All the shadows on the spirit when fears and dreams were strong, All perdition, all redemption, blind rain-stars watched so long, Love whose root was fear, thanksgiving that cowered beneath the rod, Feel the light that heals and withers: night weeps upon her God. All the names wherein the incarnate Lord lived his day and died Fade from suns to stars, from stars into darkness undescried.
Christ the man lives yet, remembered of man as dreams that leave Light on eyes that wake and know not if memory bid them grieve. Fire sublime as lightning shines, and exults in thunder yet, Where the battle wields the name and the sword of Mahomet. Far above all wars and gospels, all ebb and flow of time, Lives the soul that speaks in silence, and makes mute earth sublime. Still for her, though years and ages be blinded and bedinned, Mazed with lightnings, crazed with thunders, life rides and guides the wind. Death may live or death may die, and the truth be light or night: Not for gain of heaven may man put away the rule of right.
A NEW YEAR'S EVE
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI DIED DECEMBER 29, 1894
The stars are strong in the deeps of the lustrous night, Cold and splendid as death if his dawn be bright; Cold as the cast-off garb that is cold as clay, Splendid and strong as a spirit intense as light.
A soul more sweet than the morning of new-born May Has passed with the year that has passed from the world away. A song more sweet than the morning's first-born song Again will hymn not among us a new year's day.
Not here, not here shall the carol of joy grown strong Ring rapture now, and uplift us, a spell-struck throng, From dream to vision of life that the soul may see By death's grace only, if death do its trust no wrong.
Scarce yet the days and the starry nights are three Since here among us a spirit abode as we, Girt round with life that is fettered in bonds of time, And clasped with darkness about as is earth with sea.
And now, more high than the vision of souls may climb, The soul whose song was as music of stars that chime, Clothed round with life as of dawn and the mounting sun, Sings, and we know not here of the song sublime.
No word is ours of it now that the songs are done Whence here we drank of delight as in freedom won, In deep deliverance given from the bonds we bore. There is none to sing as she sang upon earth, not one.
We heard awhile: and for us who shall hear no more The sound as of waves of light on a starry shore Awhile bade brighten and yearn as a father's face The face of death, divine as in days of yore.
The grey gloom quickened and quivered: the sunless place Thrilled, and the silence deeper than time or space Seemed now not all everlasting. Hope grew strong, And love took comfort, given of the sweet song's grace.
Love that finds not on earth, where it finds but wrong, Love that bears not the bondage of years in throng Shone to show for her, higher than the years that mar, The life she looked and longed for as love must long.
Who knows? We know not. Afar, if the dead be far, Alive, if the dead be alive as the soul's works are, The soul whose breath was among us a heavenward song Sings, loves, and shines as it shines for us here a star.
IN A ROSARY
Through the low grey archway children's feet that pass Quicken, glad to find the sweetest haunt of all. Brightest wildflowers gleaming deep in lustiest grass, Glorious weeds that glisten through the green sea's glass, Match not now this marvel, born to fade and fall.
Roses like a rainbow wrought of roses rise Right and left and forward, shining toward the sun. Nay, the rainbow lit of sunshine droops and dies Ere we dream it hallows earth and seas and skies; Ere delight may dream it lives, its life is done.
Round the border hemmed with high deep hedges round Go the children, peering over or between Where the dense bright oval wall of box inwound, Reared about the roses fast within it bound, Gives them grace to glance at glories else unseen.
Flower outlightening flower and tree outflowering tree Feed and fill the sense and spirit full with joy. Nought awhile they know of outer earth and sea: Here enough of joy it is to breathe and be: Here the sense of life is one for girl and boy.
Heaven above them, bright as children's eyes or dreams, Earth about them, sweet as glad soft sleep can show Earth and sky and sea, a world that scarcely seems Even in children's eyes less fair than life that gleams Through the sleep that none but sinless eyes may know.
Near beneath, and near above, the terraced ways Wind or stretch and bask or blink against the sun. Hidden here from sight on soft or stormy days Lies and laughs with love toward heaven, at silent gaze, All the radiant rosary—all its flowers made one.
All the multitude of roses towering round Dawn and noon and night behold as one full flower, Fain of heaven and loved of heaven, curbed and crowned, Raised and reared to make this plot of earthly ground Heavenly, could but heaven endure on earth an hour.
Swept away, made nothing now for ever, dead, Still the rosary lives and shines on memory, free Now from fear of death or change as childhood, fled Years on years before its last live leaves were shed: None may mar it now, as none may stain the sea.
THE HIGH OAKS
BARKING HALL, JULY 19TH, 1896
Fourscore years and seven Light and dew from heaven Have fallen with dawn on these glad woods each day Since here was born, even here, A birth more bright and dear Than ever a younger year Hath seen or shall till all these pass away, Even all the imperious pride of these, The woodland ways majestic now with towers of trees.
Love itself hath nought Touched of tenderest thought With holiest hallowing of memorial grace For memory, blind with bliss, To love, to clasp, to kiss, So sweetly strange as this, The sense that here the sun first hailed her face, A babe at Her glad mother's breast, And here again beholds it more beloved and blest.
Love's own heart, a living Spring of strong thanksgiving, Can bid no strength of welling song find way When all the soul would seek One word for joy to speak, And even its strength makes weak The too strong yearning of the soul to say What may not be conceived or said While darkness makes division of the quick and dead.
Haply, where the sun Wanes, and death is none, The word known here of silence only, held Too dear for speech to wrong, May leap in living song Forth, and the speech be strong As here the silence whence it yearned and welled From hearts whose utterance love sealed fast Till death perchance might give it grace to live at last.
Here we have our earth Yet, with all the mirth Of all the summers since the world began, All strengths of rest and strife And love-lit love of life Where death has birth to wife, And where the sun speaks, and is heard of man: Yea, half the sun's bright speech is heard, And like the sea the soul of man gives back his word.
Earth's enkindled heart Bears benignant part In the ardent heaven's auroral pride of prime: If ever home on earth Were found of heaven's grace worth So God-beloved a birth As here makes bright the fostering face of time, Here, heaven bears witness, might such grace Fall fragrant as the dewfall on that brightening face.
Here, for mine and me, All that eyes may see Hath more than all the wide world else of good, All nature else of fair: Here as none otherwhere Heaven is the circling air, Heaven is the homestead, heaven the wold, the wood: The fragrance with the shadow spread From broadening wings of cedars breathes of dawn's bright bed.
Once a dawn rose here More divine and dear, Rose on a birth-bed brighter far than dawn's, Whence all the summer grew Sweet as when earth was new And pure as Eden's dew: And yet its light lives on these lustrous lawns, Clings round these wildwood ways, and cleaves To the aisles of shadow and sun that wind unweaves and weaves.
Thoughts that smile and weep, Dreams that hallow sleep, Brood in the branching shadows of the trees, Tall trees at agelong rest Wherein the centuries nest, Whence, blest as these are blest, We part, and part not from delight in these; Whose comfort, sleeping as awake, We bear about within us as when first it spake.
Comfort as of song Grown with time more strong, Made perfect and prophetic as the sea, Whose message, when it lies Far off our hungering eyes, Within us prophesies Of life not ours, yet ours as theirs may be Whose souls far off us shine and sing As ere they sprang back sunward, swift as fire might spring.
All this oldworld pleasance Hails a hallowing presence, And thrills with sense of more than summer near, And lifts toward heaven more high The song-surpassing cry Of rapture that July Lives, for her love who makes it loveliest here; For joy that she who here first drew The breath of life she gave me breathes it here anew.
Never birthday born Highest in height of morn Whereout the star looks forth that leads the sun Shone higher in love's account, Still seeing the mid noon mount From the eager dayspring's fount Each year more lustrous, each like all in one; Whose light around us and above We could not see so lovely save by grace of love.
BARKING HALL: A YEAR AFTER
Still the sovereign trees Make the sundawn's breeze More bright, more sweet, more heavenly than it rose, As wind and sun fulfil Their living rapture: still Noon, dawn, and evening thrill With radiant change the immeasurable repose Wherewith the woodland wilds lie blest And feel how storms and centuries rock them still to rest.
Still the love-lit place Given of God such grace That here was born on earth a birth divine Gives thanks with all its flowers Through all their lustrous hours, From all its birds and bowers Gives thanks that here they felt her sunset shine Where once her sunrise laughed, and bade The life of all the living things it lit be glad.
Soft as light and strong Rises yet their song And thrills with pride the cedar-crested lawn And every brooding dove. But she, beloved above All utterance known of love, Abides no more the change of night and dawn, Beholds no more with earth-born eye These woods that watched her waking here where all things die.
Not the light that shone When she looked thereon Shines on them or shall shine for ever here. We know not, save when sleep Slays death, who fain would keep His mystery dense and deep, Where shines the smile we held and hold so dear. Dreams only, thrilled and filled with love, Bring back its light ere dawn leave nought alive above.
Nought alive awake Sees the strong dawn break On all the dreams that dying night bade live. Yet scarce the intolerant sense Of day's harsh evidence How came their word and whence Strikes dumb the song of thanks it bids them give, The joy that answers as it heard And lightens as it saw the light that spake the word.
Night and sleep and dawn Pass with dreams withdrawn: But higher above them far than noon may climb Love lives and turns to light The deadly noon of night. His fiery spirit of sight Endures no curb of change or darkling time. Even earth and transient things of earth Even here to him bear witness not of death but birth.
MUSIC: AN ODE
Was it light that spake from the darkness, or music that shone from the word, When the night was enkindled with sound of the sun or the first-born bird? Souls enthralled and entrammelled in bondage of seasons that fall and rise, Bound fast round with the fetters of flesh, and blinded with light that dies, Lived not surely till music spake, and the spirit of life was heard.
Music, sister of sunrise, and herald of life to be, Smiled as dawn on the spirit of man, and the thrall was free. Slave of nature and serf of time, the bondman of life and death, Dumb with passionless patience that breathed but forlorn and reluctant breath, Heard, beheld, and his soul made answer, and communed aloud with the sea.
Morning spake, and he heard: and the passionate silent noon Kept for him not silence: and soft from the mounting moon Fell the sound of her splendour, heard as dawn's in the breathless night, Not of men but of birds whose note bade man's soul quicken and leap to light: And the song of it spake, and the light and the darkness of earth were as chords in tune.
THE CENTENARY OF THE BATTLE OF THE NILE
'Horatio Nelson—Honor est a Nilo'
A hundred years have lightened and have waned Since ancient Nile by grace of Nelson gained A glory higher in story now than time Saw when his kings were gods that raged and reigned.
The day that left even England more sublime And higher on heights that none but she may climb Abides above all shock of change-born chance Where hope and memory hear the stars keep chime.
The strong and sunbright lie whose name was France Arose against the sun of truth, whose glance Laughed large from the eyes of England, fierce as fire Whence eyes wax blind that gaze on truth askance.
A name above all names of heroes, higher Than song may sound or heart of man aspire, Rings as the very voice that speaks the sea To-day from all the sea's enkindling lyre.
The sound that bids the soul of silence be Fire, and a rapturous music, speaks, and we Hear what the sea's heart utters, wide and far: "This was his day, and this day's light was he."
O sea, our sea that hadst him for thy star, A hundred years that fall upon thee are Even as a hundred flakes of rain or snow: No storm of battle signs thee with a scar.
But never more may ship that sails thee show, But never may the sun that loves thee know, But never may thine England give thee more, A man whose life and death shall praise thee so.
The Nile, the sea, the battle, and the shore, Heard as we hear one word arise and soar, Beheld one name above them tower and glow— Nelson: a light that time bows down before.
Sea, that art ours as we are thine, whose name Is one with England's even as light with flame, Dost thou as we, thy chosen of all men, know This day of days when death gave life to fame?
Dost thou not kindle above and thrill below With rapturous record, with memorial glow, Remembering this thy festal day of fight, And all the joy it gave, and all the woe?
Never since day broke flowerlike forth of night Broke such a dawn of battle. Death in sight Made of the man whose life was like the sun A man more godlike than the lord of light.
There is none like him, and there shall be none. When England bears again as great a son, He can but follow fame where Nelson led. There is not and there cannot be but one.
As earth has but one England, crown and head Of all her glories till the sun be dead, Supreme in peace and war, supreme in song, Supreme in freedom, since her rede was read,
Since first the soul that gave her speech grew strong To help the right and heal the wild world's wrong, So she hath but one royal Nelson, born To reign on time above the years that throng.
The music of his name puts fear to scorn, And thrills our twilight through with sense of morn: As England was, how should not England be? No tempest yet has left her banner torn.
No year has yet put out the day when he Who lived and died to keep our kingship free Wherever seas by warring winds are worn Died, and was one with England and the sea.
October 21, 1895.
What needs our Cromwell stone or bronze to say His was the light that lit on England's way The sundawn of her time-compelling power, The noontide of her most imperial day?
His hand won back the sea for England's dower; His footfall bade the Moor change heart and cower; His word on Milton's tongue spake law to France When Piedmont felt the she-wolf Rome devour.
From Cromwell's eyes the light of England's glance Flashed, and bowed down the kings by grace of chance, The priest-anointed princes; one alone By grace of England held their hosts in trance.
The enthroned Republic from her kinglier throne Spake, and her speech was Cromwell's. Earth has known No lordlier presence. How should Cromwell stand With kinglets and with queenlings hewn in stone?
Incarnate England in his warrior hand Smote, and as fire devours the blackening brand Made ashes of their strengths who wrought her wrong, And turned the strongholds of her foes to sand.
His praise is in the sea's and Milton's song; What praise could reach him from the weakling throng That rules by leave of tongues whose praise is shame— Him, who made England out of weakness strong?
There needs no clarion's blast of broad-blown fame To bid the world bear witness whence he came Who bade fierce Europe fawn at England's heel And purged the plague of lineal rule with flame.
There needs no witness graven on stone or steel For one whose work bids fame bow down and kneel; Our man of men, whose time-commanding name Speaks England, and proclaims her Commonweal.
June 20, 1895.
[Footnote 1: Refused by the party of reaction and disunion in the House of Commons on the 17th of June, 1895.]
A WORD FOR THE NAVY
Queen born of the sea, that hast borne her The mightiest of seamen on earth, Bright England, whose glories adorn her And bid her rejoice in thy birth As others made mothers Rejoice in births sublime, She names thee, she claims thee, The lordliest child of time.
All hers is the praise of thy story, All thine is the love of her choice The light of her waves is thy glory, The sound of thy soul is her voice. They fear it who hear it And love not truth nor thee: They sicken, heart-stricken, Who see and would not see.
The lords of thy fate, and thy keepers Whose charge is the strength of thy ships, If now they be dreamers and sleepers, Or sluggards with lies at their lips, Thy haters and traitors, False friends or foes descried, Might scatter and shatter Too soon thy princely pride.
Dark Muscovy, reptile in rancour, Base Germany, blatant in guile, Lay wait for thee riding at anchor On waters that whisper and smile. They deem thee or dream thee Less living now than dead, Deep sunken and drunken With sleep whence fear has fled.
And what though thy song as thine action Wax faint, and thy place be not known, While faction is grappling with faction, Twin curs with thy corpse for a bone? They care not, who spare not The noise of pens or throats; Who bluster and muster Blind ranks and bellowing votes.
Let populace jangle with peerage And ministers shuffle their mobs; Mad pilots who reck not of steerage Though tempest ahead of them throbs. That throbbing and sobbing Of wind and gradual wave They hear not and fear not Who guide thee toward thy grave.
No clamour of cries or of parties Is worth but a whisper from thee, While only the trust of thy heart is At one with the soul of the sea. In justice her trust is Whose time her tidestreams keep; They sink not, they shrink not, Time casts them not on sleep.
Sleep thou: for thy past was so royal, Love hardly would bid thee take heed Were Russia not faithful and loyal Nor Germany guiltless of greed. No nation, in station Of story less than thou, Re-risen from prison, Can stand against thee now.
Sleep on: is the time not a season For strong men to slumber and sleep, And wise men to palter with treason? And that they sow tares, shall they reap? The wages of ages Wherein men smiled and slept, Fame fails them, shame veils them, Their record is not kept.
Nay, whence is it then that we know it, What wages were theirs, and what fame? Deep voices of prophet and poet Bear record against them of shame. Death, starker and darker Than seals the graveyard grate, Entombs them and dooms them To darkness deep as fate.
But thou, though the world should misdoubt thee, Be strong as the seas at thy side; Bind on but thine armour about thee, That girds thee with power and with pride. Where Drake stood, where Blake stood, Where fame sees Nelson stand, Stand thou too, and now too Take thou thy fate in hand.
At the gate of the sea, in the gateway, They stood as the guards of thy gate; Take now but thy strengths to thee straightway, Though late, we will deem it not late. Thy story, thy glory, The very soul of thee, It rose not, it grows not, It comes not save by sea.
Between our eastward and our westward sea The narrowing strand Clasps close the noblest shore fame holds in fee Even here where English birth seals all men free— Northumberland.
The sea-mists meet across it when the snow Clothes moor and fell, And bid their true-born hearts who love it glow For joy that none less nobly born may know What love knows well.
The splendour and the strength of storm and fight Sustain the song That filled our fathers' hearts with joy to smite, To live, to love, to lay down life that right Might tread down wrong.
They warred, they sang, they triumphed, and they passed, And left us glad Here to be born, their sons, whose hearts hold fast The proud old love no change can overcast, No chance leave sad.
None save our northmen ever, none but we, Met, pledged, or fought Such foes and friends as Scotland and the sea With heart so high and equal, strong in glee And stern in thought.
Thought, fed from time's memorial springs with pride, Made strong as fire Their hearts who hurled the foe down Flodden side, And hers who rode the waves none else durst ride— None save her sire.
O land beloved, where nought of legend's dream Outshines the truth, Where Joyous Gard, closed round with clouds that gleam For them that know thee not, can scarce but seem Too sweet for sooth,
Thy sons forget not, nor shall fame forget, The deed there done Before the walls whose fabled fame is yet A light too sweet and strong to rise and set With moon and sun.
Song bright as flash of swords or oars that shine Through fight or foam Stirs yet the blood thou hast given thy sons like wine To hail in each bright ballad hailed as thine One heart, one home.
Our Collingwood, though Nelson be not ours, By him shall stand Immortal, till those waifs of oldworld hours, Forgotten, leave uncrowned with bays and flowers Northumberland.
JUNE 27, 1901
Be glad in heaven above all souls insphered, Most royal and most loyal born of men, Shakespeare, of all on earth beloved or feared Or worshipped, highest in sight of human ken. The homestead hallowed by thy sovereign birth, Whose name, being one with thine, stands higher than Rome, Forgets not how of all on English earth Their trust is holiest, there who have their home. Stratford is thine and England's. None that hate The commonweal whose empire sets men free Find comfort there, where once by grace of fate A soul was born as boundless as the sea. If life, if love, if memory now be thine, Rejoice that still thy Stratford bears thy sign.
BURNS: AN ODE
A fire of fierce and laughing light That clove the shuddering heart of night Leapt earthward, and the thunder's might That pants and yearns Made fitful music round its flight: And earth saw Burns.
The joyous lightning found its voice And bade the heart of wrath rejoice And scorn uplift a song to voice The imperial hate That smote the God of base men's choice At God's own gate.
Before the shrine of dawn, wherethrough The lark rang rapture as she flew, It flashed and fired the darkling dew: And all that heard With love or loathing hailed anew A new day's word.
The servants of the lord of hell, As though their lord had blessed them, fell Foaming at mouth for fear, so well They knew the lie Wherewith they sought to scan and spell The unsounded sky.
And Calvin, night's prophetic bird, Out of his home in hell was heard Shrieking; and all the fens were stirred Whence plague is bred; Can God endure the scoffer's word? But God was dead.
The God they made them in despite Of man and woman, love and light, Strong sundawn and the starry night, The lie supreme, Shot through with song, stood forth to sight A devil's dream.
And he that bent the lyric bow And laid the lord of darkness low And bade the fire of laughter glow Across his grave, And bade the tides above it flow, Wave hurtling wave,
Shall he not win from latter days More than his own could yield of praise? Ay, could the sovereign singer's bays Forsake his brow, The warrior's, won on stormier ways, Still clasp it now.
He loved, and sang of love: he laughed, And bade the cup whereout he quaffed Shine as a planet, fore and aft, And left and right, And keen as shoots the sun's first shaft Against the night.
But love and wine were moon and sun For many a fame long since undone, And sorrow and joy have lost and won By stormy turns As many a singer's soul, if none More bright than Burns.
And sweeter far in grief or mirth Have songs as glad and sad of birth Found voice to speak of wealth or dearth In joy of life: But never song took fire from earth More strong for strife.
The daisy by his ploughshare cleft, The lips of women loved and left, The griefs and joys that weave the weft Of human time, With craftsman's cunning, keen and deft, He carved in rhyme.
But Chaucer's daisy shines a star Above his ploughshare's reach to mar, And mightier vision gave Dunbar More strenuous wing To hear around all sins that are Hell dance and sing.
And when such pride and power of trust In song's high gift to arouse from dust Death, and transfigure love or lust Through smiles or tears In golden speech that takes no rust From cankering years,
As never spake but once in one Strong star-crossed child of earth and sun, Villon, made music such as none May praise or blame, A crown of starrier flower was won Than Burns may claim.
But never, since bright earth was born In rapture of the enkindling morn, Might godlike wrath and sunlike scorn That was and is And shall be while false weeds are worn Find word like his.
Above the rude and radiant earth That heaves and glows from firth to firth In vale and mountain, bright in dearth And warm in wealth, Which gave his fiery glory birth By chance and stealth,
Above the storms of praise and blame That blur with mist his lustrous name, His thunderous laughter went and came, And lives and flies; The roar that follows on the flame When lightning dies.
Earth, and the snow-dimmed heights of air, And water winding soft and fair Through still sweet places, bright and bare, By bent and byre, Taught him what hearts within them were: But his was fire.
A SONG FOR UNIONISTS
Men, whose fathers braved the world in arms against our isles in union, Men, whose brothers met rebellion face to face, Show the hearts ye have, if worthy long descent and high communion, Show the spirits, if unbroken, of your race.
What are these that howl and hiss across the strait of westward water? What is he who floods our ears with speech in flood? See the long tongue lick the dripping hand that smokes and reeks of slaughter! See the man of words embrace the man of blood!
Hear the plea whereby the tonguester mocks and charms the gazing gaper— "We are they whose works are works of love and peace; Till disunion bring forth union, what is union, sirs, but paper? Break and rend it, then shall trust and strength increase."
Who would fear to trust a double-faced but single-hearted dreamer, Pure of purpose, clean of hand, and clear of guile? "Life is well-nigh spent," he sighs; "you call me shuffler, trickster, schemer? I am old—when young men yell at me, I smile."
Many a year that priceless light of life has trembled, we remember, On the platform of extinction—unextinct; Many a month has been for him the long year's last—life's calm December: Can it be that he who said so, saying so, winked?
No; the lust of life, the thirst for work and days with work to do in, Drove and drives him down the road of splendid shame; All is well, if o'er the monument recording England's ruin Time shall read, inscribed in triumph, Gladstone's name.
Thieves and murderers, hands yet red with blood and tongues yet black with lies, Clap and clamour—"Parnell spurs his Gladstone well!" Truth, unscared and undeluded by their praise or blame, replies— "Is the goal of fraud and bloodshed heaven or hell?"
Old men eloquent, who truckle to the traitors of the time, Love not office—power is no desire of theirs: What if yesterday their hearts recoiled from blood and fraud and crime? Conscience erred—an error which to-day repairs.
Conscience only now convinces them of strange though transient error: Only now they see how fair is treason's face; See how true the falsehood, just the theft, and blameless is the terror, Which replaces just and blameless men in place.
Place and time decide the right and wrong of thought and word and action; Crime is black as hell, till virtue gain its vote; Then—but ah, to think or say so smacks of fraud or smells of faction!— Mercy holds the door while Murder hacks the throat.
Murder? Treason? Theft? Poor brothers who succumb to such temptations, Shall we lay on you or take on us the blame? Reason answers, and religion echoes round to wondering nations, "Not with Ireland, but with England rests the shame."
Reason speaks through mild religion's organ, loud and long and lusty— Profit speaks through lips of patriots pure and true— "English friends, whose trust we ask for, has not England found us trusty? Not for us we seek advancement, but for you.
"Far and near the world bears witness of our wisdom, courage, honour; Egypt knows if there our fame burns bright or dim. Let but England trust as Gordon trusted, soon shall come upon her Such deliverance as our daring brought on him.
"Far and wide the world rings record of our faith, our constant dealing, Love of country, truth to friends, contempt for foes. Sign once more the bond of trust in us that here awaits but sealing, We will give yet more than all our record shows.
"Perfect ruin, shame eternal, everlasting degradation, Freedom bought and sold, truth bound and treason free." Yet an hour is here for answer; now, if here be yet a nation, Answer, England, man by man from sea to sea!
June 30, 1886.
Shall England consummate the crime That binds the murderer's hand, and leaves No surety for the trust of thieves? Time pleads against it—truth and time— And pity frowns and grieves.
The hoary henchman of the gang Lifts hands that never dew nor rain May cleanse from Gordon's blood again, Appealing: pity's tenderest pang Thrills his pure heart with pain.
Grand helmsman of the clamorous crew, The good grey recreant quakes and weeps To think that crime no longer creeps Safe toward its end: that murderers too May die when mercy sleeps.
While all the lives were innocent That slaughter drank, and laughed with rage, Bland virtue sighed, "A former age Taught murder: souls long discontent Can aught save blood assuage?
"You blame not Russian hands that smite By fierce and secret ways the power That leaves not life one chainless hour; Have these than they less natural right To claim life's natural dower?
"The dower that freedom brings the slave She weds, is vengeance: why should we, Whom equal laws acclaim as free, Think shame, if men too blindly brave Steal, murder, skulk, and flee?
"At kings they strike in Russia: there Men take their life in hand who slay Kings: these, that have not heart to lay Hand save on girls whose ravaged hair Is made the patriot's prey,
"These, whom the sight of old men slain Makes bold to bid their children die, Starved, if they hold not peace, nor lie, Claim loftier praise: could others deign To stand in shame so high?
"Could others deign to dare such deeds As holiest Ireland hallows? Nay, But justice then makes plain our way: Be laws burnt up like burning weeds That vex the face of day.
"Shall bloodmongers be held of us Blood-guilty? Hands reached out for gold Whereon blood rusts not yet, we hold Bloodless and blameless: ever thus Have good men held of old.
"Fair Freedom, fledged and imped with lies, Takes flight by night where murder lurks, And broods on murderous ways and works, Yet seems not hideous in our eyes As Austrians or as Turks.
"Be it ours to undo a woful past, To bid the bells of concord chime, To break the bonds of suffering crime, Slack now, that some would make more fast: Such teaching comes of time."
So pleads the gentlest heart that lives, Whose pity, pitiless for all Whom darkling terror holds in thrall, Toward none save miscreants yearns, and gives Alms of warm tears—and gall.
Hear, England, and obey: for he Who claims thy trust again to-day Is he who left thy sons a prey To shame whence only death sets free: Hear, England, and obey.
Thy spoils he gave to deck the Dutch; Thy noblest pride, most pure, most brave, To death forlorn and sure he gave; Nor now requires he overmuch Who bids thee dig thy grave.
Dig deep the grave of shame, wherein Thy fame, thy commonweal, must lie; Put thought of aught save terror by; To strike and slay the slayer is sin; And Murder must not die.
Bind fast the true man; loose the thief; Shamed were the land, the laws accursed, Were guilt, not innocence, amerced; And dark the wrong and sore the grief, Were tyrants too coerced.
The fiercest cowards that ever skulked, The cowardliest hounds that ever lapped Blood, if their horde be tracked and trapped, And justice claim their lives for mulct, Gnash teeth that flashed and snapped.
Bow down for fear, then, England: bow, Lest worse befall thee yet; and swear That nought save pity, conscience, care For truth and mercy, moves thee now To call foul falsehood fair.
So shalt thou live in shame, and hear The lips of all men laugh thee dead; The wide world's mockery round thy head Shriek like a storm-wind: and a bier Shall be thine honour's bed.
Et Judas m'a dit: Traitre!—VICTOR HUGO
Truths change with time, and terms with truth. To-day A statesman worships union, and to-night Disunion. Shame to have sinned against the light Confounds not but impels his tongue to unsay What yestereve he swore. Should fear make way For treason? honour change her livery? fright Clasp hands with interest? wrong pledge faith with right? Religion, mercy, conscience, answer—Yea.
To veer is not to veer: when votes are weighed, The numerous tongue approves him renegade Who cannot change his banner: he that can Sits crowned with wreaths of praise too pure to fade. Truth smiles applause on treason's poisonous plan: And Cleon is an honourable man.
Pure faith, fond hope, sweet love, with God for guide, Move now the men whose blameless error cast In prison (ah, but love condones the past!) Their subject knaves that were—their lords that ride Now laughing on their necks, and now bestride Their vassal backs in triumph. Faith stands fast Though fear haul down the flag that crowned her mast And hope and love proclaim that truth has lied.
Turn, turn, and turn—so bids the still small voice, The changeless voice of honour. He that stands Where all his life he stood, with bribeless hands, With tongue unhired to mourn, reprove, rejoice, Curse, bless, forswear, and swear again, and lie, Stands proven apostate in the apostate's eye.
Fraud shrinks from faith: at sight of swans, the raven Chides blackness, and the snake recoils aghast In fear of poison when a bird flies past. Thersites brands Achilles as a craven; The shoal fed full with shipwreck blames the haven For murderous lust of lives devoured, and vast Desire of doom whose feast is mercy's fast: And Bacon sees the traitor's mark engraven Full on the front of Essex. Grief and shame Obscure the chaste and sunlike spirit of Oates At thought of Russell's treason; and the name Of Milton sickens with superb disgust The heaving heart of Waller. Wisdom dotes, If wisdom turns not tail and licks not dust.
The sole sweet land found fit to wed the sea, With reptile rebels at her heel of old, Set hard her heel upon them, and controlled The cowering poisonous peril. How should she Cower, and resign her trust of empire? Free As winds and waters live the loyal-souled And true-born sons that love her: nay, the bold Base knaves who curse her name have leave to be The loud-tongued liars they are. For she, beyond All woful years that bid men's hearts despond, Sees yet the likeness of her ancient fame Burn from the heavenward heights of history, hears Not Leicester's name but Sidney's—faith's, not fear's— Not Gladstone's now but only Gordon's name.
RUSSIA: AN ODE
Out of hell a word comes hissing, dark as doom, Fierce as fire, and foul as plague-polluted gloom; Out of hell wherein the sinless damned endure More than ever sin conceived of pains impure; More than ever ground men's living souls to dust; Worse than madness ever dreamed of murderous lust. Since the world's wail first went up from lands and seas Ears have heard not, tongues have told not things like these. Dante, led by love's and hate's accordant spell Down the deepest and the loathliest ways of hell, Where beyond the brook of blood the rain was fire, Where the scalps were masked with dung more deep than mire, Saw not, where the filth was foulest, and the night Darkest, depths whose fiends could match the Muscovite. Set beside this truth, his deadliest vision seems Pale and pure and painless as a virgin's dreams. Maidens dead beneath the clasping lash, and wives Rent with deadlier pangs than death—for shame survives, Naked, mad, starved, scourged, spurned, frozen, fallen, deflowered, Souls and bodies as by fangs of beasts devoured, Sounds that hell would hear not, sights no thought could shape, Limbs that feel as flame the ravenous grasp of rape, Filth of raging crime and shame that crime enjoys, Age made one with youth in torture, girls with boys, These, and worse if aught be worse than these things are, Prove thee regent, Russia—praise thy mercy, Czar.
Sons of man, men born of women, may we dare Say they sin who dare be slain and dare not spare? They who take their lives in hand and smile on death, Holding life as less than sleep's most fitful breath, So their life perchance or death may serve and speed Faith and hope, that die if dream become not deed? Nought is death and nought is life and nought is fate Save for souls that love has clothed with fire of hate. These behold them, weigh them, prove them, find them nought, Save by light of hope and fire of burning thought. What though sun be less than storm where these aspire, Dawn than lightning, song than thunder, light than fire? Help is none in heaven: hope sees no gentler star: Earth is hell, and hell bows down before the Czar. All its monstrous, murderous, lecherous births acclaim Him whose empire lives to match its fiery fame. Nay, perchance at sight or sense of deeds here done, Here where men may lift up eyes to greet the sun, Hell recoils heart-stricken: horror worse than hell Darkens earth and sickens heaven; life knows the spell, Shudders, quails, and sinks—or, filled with fierier breath, Rises red in arms devised of darkling death. Pity mad with passion, anguish mad with shame, Call aloud on justice by her darker name; Love grows hate for love's sake; life takes death for guide. Night hath none but one red star—Tyrannicide.
"God or man, be swift; hope sickens with delay: Smite, and send him howling down his father's way! Fall, O fire of heaven, and smite as fire from hell Halls wherein men's torturers, crowned and cowering, dwell! These that crouch and shrink and shudder, girt with power— These that reign, and dare not trust one trembling hour— These omnipotent, whom terror curbs and drives— These whose life reflects in fear their victims' lives— These whose breath sheds poison worse than plague's thick breath— These whose reign is ruin, these whose word is death, These whose will turns heaven to hell, and day to night, These, if God's hand smite not, how shall man's not smite?" So from hearts by horror withered as by fire Surge the strains of unappeasable desire; Sounds that bid the darkness lighten, lit for death; Bid the lips whose breath was doom yield up their breath; Down the way of Czars, awhile in vain deferred, Bid the Second Alexander light the Third. How for shame shall men rebuke them? how may we Blame, whose fathers died, and slew, to leave us free? We, though all the world cry out upon them, know, Were our strife as theirs, we could not strike but so; Could not cower, and could not kiss the hands that smite; Could not meet them armed in sunlit battle's light. Dark as fear and red as hate though morning rise, Life it is that conquers; death it is that dies.
FOR GREECE AND CRETE
Storm and shame and fraud and darkness fill the nations full with night: Hope and fear whose eyes yearn eastward have but fire and sword in sight: One alone, whose name is one with glory, sees and seeks the light.
Hellas, mother of the spirit, sole supreme in war and peace, Land of light, whose word remembered bids all fear and sorrow cease, Lives again, while freedom lightens eastward yet for sons of Greece.
Greece, where only men whose manhood was as godhead ever trod, Bears the blind world witness yet of light wherewith her feet are shod: Freedom, armed of Greece was always very man and very God.
Now the winds of old that filled her sails with triumph, when the fleet Bound for death from Asia fled before them stricken, wake to greet Ships full-winged again for freedom toward the sacred shores of Crete.
There was God born man, the song that spake of old time said: and there Man, made even as God by trust that shows him nought too dire to dare, Now may light again the beacon lit when those we worship were.
Sharp the concert wrought of discord shrills the tune of shame and death, Turk by Christian fenced and fostered, Mecca backed by Nazareth: All the powerless powers, tongue-valiant, breathe but greed's or terror's breath.
Though the tide that feels the west wind lift it wave by widening wave Wax not yet to height and fullness of the storm that smites to save, None shall bid the flood back seaward till no bar be left to brave.
DELPHIC HYMN TO APOLLO
DONE INTO ENGLISH
Thee, the son of God most high, Famed for harping song, will I Proclaim, and the deathless oracular word From the snow-topped rock that we gaze on heard, Counsels of thy glorious giving Manifest for all men living, How thou madest the tripod of prophecy thine Which the wrath of the dragon kept guard on, a shrine Voiceless till thy shafts could smite All his live coiled glittering might.
Ye that hold of right alone All deep woods on Helicon, Fair daughters of thunder-girt God, with your bright White arms uplift as to lighten the light, Come to chant your brother's praise, Gold-haired Phoebus, loud in lays, Even his, who afar up the twin-topped seat Of the rock Parnassian whereon we meet Risen with glorious Delphic maids Seeks the soft spring-sweetened shades Castalian, fain of the Delphian peak Prophetic, sublime as the feet that seek. Glorious Athens, highest of state, Come, with praise and prayer elate, O thou that art queen of the plain unscarred That the warrior Tritonid hath alway in guard, Where on many a sacred shrine Young bulls' thigh-bones burn and shine As the god that is fire overtakes them, and fast The smoke of Arabia to heavenward is cast, Scattering wide its balm: and shrill Now with nimble notes that thrill The flute strikes up for the song, and the harp of gold Strikes up to the song sweet answer: and all behold, All, aswarm as bees, give ear, Who by birth hold Athens dear.
A NEW CENTURY
An age too great for thought of ours to scan, A wave upon the sleepless sea of time That sinks and sleeps for ever, ere the chime Pass that salutes with blessing, not with ban, The dark year dead, the bright year born for man, Dies: all its days that watched man cower and climb, Frail as the foam, and as the sun sublime, Sleep sound as they that slept ere these began.
Our mother earth, whose ages none may tell, Puts on no change: time bids not her wax pale Or kindle, quenched or quickened, when the knell Sounds, and we cry across the veering gale Farewell—and midnight answers us, Farewell; Hail—and the heaven of morning answers, Hail.
AN EVENING AT VICHY
WRITTEN ON THE NEWS OF THE DEATH OF LORD LEIGHTON
A light has passed that never shall pass away, A sun has set whose rays are unquelled of night. The loyal grace, the courtesy bright as day, The strong sweet radiant spirit of life and light That shone and smiled and lightened on all men's sight, The kindly life whose tune was the tune of May, For us now dark, for love and for fame is bright.
Nay, not for us that live as the fen-fires live, As stars that shoot and shudder with life and die, Can death make dark that lustre of life, or give The grievous gift of trust in oblivion's lie. Days dear and far death touches, and draws them nigh, And bids the grief that broods on their graves forgive The day that seems to mock them as clouds that fly.
If life be life more faithful than shines on sleep When dreams take wing and lighten and fade like flame, Then haply death may be not a death so deep That all things past are past for it wholly—fame, Love, loving-kindness, seasons that went and came, And left their light on life as a seal to keep Winged memory fast and heedful of time's dead claim.
Death gives back life and light to the sunless years Whose suns long sunken set not for ever. Time, Blind, fierce, and deaf as tempest, relents, and hears And sees how bright the days and how sweet their chime Rang, shone, and passed in music that matched the clime Wherein we met rejoicing—a joy that cheers Sorrow, to see the night as the dawn sublime.
The days that were outlighten the days that are, And eyes now darkened shine as the stars we see And hear not sing, impassionate star to star, As once we heard the music that haply he Hears, high in heaven if ever a voice may be The same in heaven, the same as on earth, afar From pain and earth as heaven from the heaving sea.
A woman's voice, divine as a bird's by dawn Kindled and stirred to sunward, arose and held Our souls that heard, from earth as from sleep withdrawn, And filled with light as stars, and as stars compelled To move by might of music, elate while quelled, Subdued by rapture, lit as a mountain lawn By morning whence all heaven in the sunrise welled.
And her the shadow of death as a robe clasped round Then: and as morning's music she passed away. And he then with us, warrior and wanderer, crowned With fame that shone from eastern on western day, More strong, more kind, than praise or than grief might say, Has passed now forth of shadow by sunlight bound, Of night shot through with light that is frail as May.
May dies, and light grows darkness, and life grows death: Hope fades and shrinks and falls as a changing leaf: Remembrance, touched and kindled by love's live breath, Shines, and subdues the shadow of time called grief, The shade whose length of life is as life's date brief, With joy that broods on the sunlight past, and saith That thought and love hold sorrow and change in fief.
Sweet, glad, bright spirit, kind as the sun seems kind When earth and sea rejoice in his gentler spell, Thy face that was we see not; bereft and blind, We see but yet, rejoicing to see, and dwell Awhile in days that heard not the death-day's knell, A light so bright that scarcely may sorrow find One old sweet word that hails thee and mourns—Farewell.
TO GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS
ON THE EIGHTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH, FEBRUARY 23, 1897
High thought and hallowed love, by faith made one, Begat and bare the sweet strong-hearted child, Art, nursed of Nature; earth and sea and sun Saw Nature then more godlike as she smiled. Life smiled on death, and death on life: the Soul Between them shone, and soared above their strife, And left on Time's unclosed and starry scroll A sign that quickened death to deathless life. Peace rose like Hope, a patient queen, and bade Hell's firstborn, Faith, abjure her creed and die; And Love, by life and death made sad and glad, Gave Conscience ease, and watched Good Will pass by. All these make music now of one man's name, Whose life and age are one with love and fame.
ON THE DEATH OF MRS. LYNN LINTON
Kind, wise, and true as truth's own heart, A soul that here Chose and held fast the better part And cast out fear,
Has left us ere we dreamed of death For life so strong, Clear as the sundawn's light and breath, And sweet as song.
We see no more what here awhile Shed light on men: Has Landor seen that brave bright smile Alive again?
If death and life and love be one And hope no lie And night no stronger than the sun, These cannot die.
The father-spirit whence her soul Took strength, and gave Back love, is perfect yet and whole, As hope might crave.
His word is living light and fire: And hers shall live By grace of all good gifts the sire Gave power to give.
The sire and daughter, twain and one In quest and goal, Stand face to face beyond the sun, And soul to soul.
Not we, who loved them well, may dream What joy sublime Is theirs, if dawn through darkness gleam, And life through time.
Time seems but here the mask of death, That falls and shows A void where hope may draw not breath: Night only knows.
Love knows not: all that love may keep Glad memory gives: The spirit of the days that sleep Still wakes and lives.
But not the spirit's self, though song Would lend it speech, May touch the goal that hope might long In vain to reach.
How dear that high true heart, how sweet Those keen kind eyes, Love knows, who knows how fiery fleet Is life that flies.
If life there be that flies not, fair The life must be That thrills her sovereign spirit there And sets it free.
IN MEMORY OF AURELIO SAFFI
Beloved above all nations, land adored, Sovereign in spirit and charm, by song and sword, Sovereign whose life is love, whose name is light, Italia, queen that hast the sun for lord,
Bride that hast heaven for bridegroom, how should night Veil or withhold from faith's and memory's sight A man beloved and crowned of thee and fame, Hide for an hour his name's memorial might?
Thy sons may never speak or hear the name Saffi, and feel not love's regenerate flame Thrill all the quickening heart with faith and pride In one whose life makes death and life the same.
They die indeed whose souls before them died: Not he, for whom death flung life's portal wide, Who stands where Dante's soul in vision came, In Dante's presence, by Mazzini's side.
March 26, 1896.
Death, winged with fire of hate from deathless hell Wherein the souls of anarchs hiss and die, With stroke as dire has cloven a heart as high As twice beyond the wide sea's westward swell The living lust of death had power to quell Through ministry of murderous hands whereby Dark fate bade Lincoln's head and Garfield's lie Low even as his who bids his France farewell.
France, now no heart that would not weep with thee Loved ever faith or freedom. From thy hand The staff of state is broken: hope, unmanned With anguish, doubts if freedom's self be free. The snake-souled anarch's fang strikes all the land Cold, and all hearts unsundered by the sea.
June 25, 1894.
AFTER THE VERDICT
France, cloven in twain by fire of hell and hate, Shamed with the shame of men her meanest born, Soldier and judge whose names, inscribed for scorn, Stand vilest on the record writ of fate, Lies yet not wholly vile who stood so great, Sees yet not all her praise of old outworn. Not yet is all her scroll of glory torn, Or left for utter shame to desecrate. High souls and constant hearts of faithful men Sustain her perfect praise with tongue and pen Indomitable as honour. Storms may toss And soil her standard ere her bark win home: But shame falls full upon the Christless cross Whose brandmark signs the holy hounds of Rome.
Patience, long sick to death, is dead. Too long Have sloth and doubt and treason bidden us be What Cromwell's England was not, when the sea To him bore witness given of Blake how strong She stood, a commonweal that brooked no wrong From foes less vile than men like wolves set free Whose war is waged where none may fight or flee— With women and with weanlings. Speech and song Lack utterance now for loathing. Scarce we hear Foul tongues that blacken God's dishonoured name With prayers turned curses and with praise found shame Defy the truth whose witness now draws near To scourge these dogs, agape with jaws afoam, Down out of life. Strike, England, and strike home.
October 9, 1899.
The wave that breaks against a forward stroke Beats not the swimmer back, but thrills him through With joyous trust to win his way anew Through stronger seas than first upon him broke And triumphed. England's iron-tempered oak Shrank not when Europe's might against her grew Full, and her sun drank up her foes like dew, And lion-like from sleep her strength awoke.
As bold in fight as bold in breach of trust We find our foes, and wonder not to find, Nor grudge them praise whom honour may not bind; But loathing more intense than speaks disgust Heaves England's heart, when scorn is bound to greet Hunters and hounds whose tongues would lick their feet.