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AMONG THE MILLET
Ottawa: J. DURIE & SON. 1888
Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year 1888, by ARCHIBALD LAMPMAN, at the Department of Agriculture.
PRESS OF A. S. WOODBURN, 36 Elgin St., Ottawa, Can.
TO MY WIFE.
_Though fancy and the might of rhyme, That turneth like the tide, Have borne me many a musing time, Beloved, from thy side,
Ah yet, I pray thee, deem not, Sweet, Those hours were given in vain; Within these covers to thy feet I bring them back again._
Among the Millet 1 April 2 An October Sunset 5 The Frogs 6 An Impression 9 Spring on the River 10 Why do ye call the Poet lonely 11 Heat 12 Among the Timothy 14 Freedom 18 Morning on the Lievres 21 In October 23 Lament of the Winds 24 Ballade of Summer's Sleep 25 Winter 27 Winter Hues Recalled 30 Storm 34 Midnight 37 Song of the Stream-Drops 38 Between the Rapids 40 New Year's Eve 43 Unrest 45 Song 46 One Day 47 Sleep 48 Three Flower Petals 50 Passion 51 A Ballade of Waiting 52 Before Sleep 53 A Song 56 What Do Poets Want With Gold 58 The King's Sabbath 60 The Little Handmaiden 61 Abu Midjan 64 The Weaver 67 The Three Pilgrims 69 The Coming of Winter 73 Easter Eve 74 The Organist 82 The Monk 87 The Child's Music Lesson 103 An Athenian Reverie 105
Love-Doubt 123 Perfect Love 124 Love-Wonder 125 Comfort 126 Despondency 127 Outlook 128 Gentleness 129 A Prayer 130 Music 131 Knowledge 132 Sight 133 An Old Lesson from the Fields 134 Winter-Thought 135 Deeds 136 Aspiration 137 The Poets 138 The Truth 139 The Martyrs 140 A Night of Storm 141 At the Railway Station 142 A Forecast 143 In November 144 The City 145 Midsummer Night 146 The Loons 147 March 148 Solitude 149 The Maples 150 The Dog 151
AMONG THE MILLET.
The dew is gleaming in the grass, The morning hours are seven, And I am fain to watch you pass, Ye soft white clouds of heaven.
Ye stray and gather, part and fold; The wind alone can tame you; I think of what in time of old The poets loved to name you.
They called you sheep, the sky your sward, A field without a reaper; They called the shining sun your lord, The shepherd wind your keeper.
Your sweetest poets I will deem The men of old for moulding In simple beauty such a dream, And I could lie beholding,
Where daisies in the meadow toss, The wind from morn till even, Forever shepherd you across The shining field of heaven.
Pale season, watcher in unvexed suspense, Still priestess of the patient middle day, Betwixt wild March's humored petulence And the warm wooing of green kirtled May, Maid month of sunny peace and sober grey, Weaver of flowers in sunward glades that ring With murmur of libation to the spring:
As memory of pain, all past, is peace, And joy, dream-tasted, hath the deepest cheer, So art thou sweetest of all months that lease The twelve short spaces of the flying year. The bloomless days are dead, and frozen fear No more for many moons shall vex the earth, Dreaming of summer and fruit laden mirth.
The grey song-sparrows full of spring have sung Their clear thin silvery tunes in leafless trees; The robin hops, and whistles, and among The silver-tasseled poplars the brown bees Murmur faint dreams of summer harvestries; The creamy sun at even scatters down A gold-green mist across the murmuring town.
By the slow streams the frogs all day and night Dream without thought of pain or heed of ill, Watching the long warm silent hours take flight, And ever with soft throats that pulse and thrill, From the pale-weeded shallows trill and trill, Tremulous sweet voices, flute-like, answering One to another glorying in the spring.
All day across the ever-cloven soil, Strong horses labour, steaming in the sun, Down the long furrows with slow straining toil, Turning the brown clean layers; and one by one The crows gloom over them till daylight done Finds them asleep somewhere in dusked lines Beyond the wheatlands in the northern pines.
The old year's cloaking of brown leaves that bind The forest floor-ways, plated close and true— The last love's labour of the autumn wind— Is broken with curled flower buds white and blue In all the matted hollows, and speared through With thousand serpent-spotted blades up-sprung, Yet bloomless, of the slender adder-tongue.
In the warm noon the south wind creeps and cools, Where the red-budded stems of maples throw Still tangled etchings on the amber pools, Quite silent now, forgetful of the slow Drip of the taps, the troughs, and trampled snow, The keen March mornings, and the silvering rime And mirthful labour of the sugar prime.
Ah, I have wandered with unwearied feet, All the long sweetness of an April day, Lulled with cool murmurs and the drowsy beat Of partridge wings in secret thickets grey, The marriage hymns of all the birds at play, The faces of sweet flowers, and easeful dreams Beside slow reaches of frog-haunted streams;
Wandered with happy feet, and quite forgot The shallow toil, the strife against the grain, Near souls, that hear us call, but answer not, The loneliness, perplexity and pain, And high thoughts cankered with an earthly stain And then the long draught emptied to the lees, I turn me homeward in slow pacing ease,
Cleaving the cedar shadows and the thin Mist of grey gnats that cloud the river shore, Sweet even choruses, that dance and spin Soft tangles in the sunset; and once more The city smites me with its dissonant roar. To its hot heart I pass, untroubled yet, Fed with calm hope, without desire or fret.
So to the year's first altar step I bring Gifts of meek song, and make my spirit free With the blind working of unanxious spring, Careless with her, whether the days that flee Pale drouth or golden-fruited plenty see, So that we toil, brothers, without distress, In calm-eyed peace and godlike blamelessness.
AN OCTOBER SUNSET.
One moment the slim cloudflakes seem to lean With their sad sunward faces aureoled, And longing lips set downward brightening To take the last sweet hand kiss of the king, Gone down beyond the closing west acold; Paying no reverence to the slender queen, That like a curved olive leaf of gold Hangs low in heaven, rounded toward sun, Or the small stars that one by one unfold Down the gray border of the night begun.
Breathers of wisdom won without a quest, Quaint uncouth dreamers, voices high and strange, Flutists of lands where beauty hath no change, And wintery grief is a forgotten guest, Sweet murmurers of everlasting rest, For whom glad days have ever yet to run, And moments are as aeons, and the sun But ever sunken half-way toward the west.
Often to me who heard you in your day, With close wrapt ears, it could not choose but seem That earth, our mother, searching in what way, Men's hearts might know her spirit's inmost dream, Ever at rest beneath life's change and stir, Made you her soul, and bade you pipe for her.
In those mute days when spring was in her glee, And hope was strong, we knew not why or how, And earth, the mother, dreamed with brooding brow. Musing on life, and what the hours might be, When love should ripen to maternity, Then like high flutes in silvery interchange Ye piped with voices still and sweet and strange, And ever as ye piped, on every tree
The great buds swelled; among the pensive woods The spirits of first flowers awoke and flung From buried faces the close fitting hoods, And listened to your piping till they fell, The frail spring-beauty with her perfumed bell, The wind-flower, and the spotted adder-tongue.
All the day long, wherever pools might be Among the golden meadows, where the air Stood in a dream, as it were moored there Forever in a noon-tide reverie, Or where the birds made riot of their glee In the still woods, and the hot sun shone down, Crossed with warm lucent shadows on the brown Leaf-paven pools, that bubbled dreamily,
Or far away in whispering river meads And watery marshes where the brooding noon, Full with the wonder of its own sweet boon, Nestled and slept among the noiseless reeds, Ye sat and murmured, motionless as they, With eyes that dreamed beyond the night and day.
And when, day passed and over heaven's height, Thin with the many stars and cool with dew, The fingers of the deep hours slowly drew The wonder of the ever-healing night, No grief or loneliness or wrapt delight Or weight of silence ever brought to you Slumber or rest; only your voices grew More high and solemn; slowly with hushed flight
Ye saw the echoing hours go by, long-drawn, Nor ever stirred, watching with fathomless eyes, And with your countless clear antiphonies Filling the earth and heaven, even till dawn, Last-risen, found you with its first pale gleam, Still with soft throats unaltered in your dream.
And slowly as we heard you, day by day, The stillness of enchanted reveries Bound brain and spirit and half-closed eyes, In some divine sweet wonder-dream astray; To us no sorrow or upreared dismay Nor any discord came, but evermore The voices of mankind, the outer roar, Grew strange and murmurous, faint and far away.
Morning and noon and midnight exquisitely, Wrapt with your voices, this alone we knew, Cities might change and fall, and men might die, Secure were we, content to dream with you, That change and pain are shadows faint and fleet, And dreams are real, and life is only sweet.
I heard the city time-bells call Far off in hollow towers, And one by one with measured fall Count out the old dead hours;
I felt the march, the silent press Of time, and held my breath; I saw the haggard dreadfulness Of dim old age and death.
SPRING ON THE RIVER.
O sun, shine hot on the river; For the ice is turning an ashen hue, And the still bright water is looking through, And the myriad streams are greeting you With a ballad of life to the giver, From forest and field and sunny town, Meeting and running and tripping down, With laughter and song to the river.
Oh! the din on the boats by the river; The barges are ringing while day avails, With sound of hewing and hammering nails, Planing and painting and swinging pails, All day in their shrill endeavour; For the waters brim over their wintry cup, And the grinding ice is breaking up, And we must away down the river.
Oh! the hum and the toil of the river; The ridge of the rapid sprays and skips: Loud and low by the water's lips, Tearing the wet pines into strips, The saw mill is moaning ever. The little grey sparrow skips and calls On the rocks in the rain of the water falls, And the logs are adrift in the river.
Oh! restlessly whirls the river; The rivulets run and the cataract drones: The spiders are flitting over the stones: Summer winds float and the cedar moans; And the eddies gleam and quiver. O sun, shine hot, shine long and abide In the glory and power of thy summer tide On the swift longing face of the river.
WHY DO YE CALL THE POET LONELY.
Why do ye call the poet lonely, Because he dreams in lonely places? He is not desolate, but only Sees, where ye cannot, hidden faces.
From plains that reel to southward, dim, The road runs by me white and bare; Up the steep hill it seems to swim Beyond, and melt into the glare. Upward half way, or it may be Nearer the summit, slowly steals A hay-cart, moving dustily With idly clacking wheels.
By his cart's side the wagoner Is slouching slowly at his ease, Half-hidden in the windless blur Of white dust puffing to his knees. This wagon on the height above, From sky to sky on either hand, Is the sole thing that seems to move In all the heat-held land.
Beyond me in the fields the sun Soaks in the grass and hath his will; I count the marguerites one by one; Even the buttercups are still. On the brook yonder not a breath Disturbs the spider or the midge. The water-bugs draw close beneath The cool gloom of the bridge.
Where the far elm-tree shadows flood Dark patches in the burning grass, The cows, each with her peaceful cud, Lie waiting for the heat to pass. From somewhere on the slope near by Into the pale depth of the noon A wandering thrush slides leisurely His thin revolving tune.
In intervals of dreams I hear The cricket from the droughty ground; The grass-hoppers spin into mine ear A small innumerable sound. I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze: The burning sky-line blinds my sight: The woods far off are blue with haze; The hills are drenched in light.
And yet to me not this or that Is always sharp or always sweet; In the sloped shadow of my hat I lean at rest, and drain the heat; Nay more, I think some blessed power Hath brought me wandering idly here: In the full furnace of this hour My thoughts grow keen and clear.
AMONG THE TIMOTHY.
Long hours ago, while yet the morn was blithe, Nor sharp athirst had drunk the beaded dew, A reaper came, and swung his cradled scythe Around this stump, and, shearing slowly, drew Far round among the clover, ripe for hay, A circle clean and grey; And here among the scented swathes that gleam, Mixed with dead daisies, it is sweet to lie And watch the grass and the few-clouded sky, Nor think but only dream.
For when the noon was turning, and the heat Fell down most heavily on field and wood, I too came hither, borne on restless feet, Seeking some comfort for an aching mood. Ah, I was weary of the drifting hours, The echoing city towers, The blind grey streets, the jingle of the throng, Weary of hope that like a shape of stone Sat near at hand without a smile or moan, And weary most of song.
And those high moods of mine that sometime made My heart a heaven, opening like a flower, A sweeter world where I in wonder strayed, Begirt with shapes of beauty and the power Of dreams that moved through that enchanted clime With changing breaths of rhyme, Were all gone lifeless now like those white leaves, That hang all winter, shivering dead and blind Among the sinewy beeches in the wind, That vainly calls and grieves.
Ah! I will set no more mine overtasked brain To barren search and toil that beareth nought, Forever following with sorefooted pain The crossing pathways of unbourned thought; But let it go, as one that hath no skill, To take what shape it will, An ant slow-burrowing in the earthy gloom, A spider bathing in the dew at morn, Or a brown bee in wayward fancy borne From hidden bloom to bloom.
Hither and thither o'er the rocking grass The little breezes, blithe as they are blind, Teasing the slender blossoms pass and pass, Soft-footed children of the gipsy wind, To taste of every purple-fringed head Before the bloom is dead; And scarcely heed the daisies that, endowed With stems so short they cannot see, up-bear Their innocent sweet eyes distressed, and stare Like children in a crowd.
Not far to fieldward in the central heat, Shadowing the clover, a pale poplar stands With glimmering leaves that, when the wind comes, beat Together like innumerable small hands, And with the calm, as in vague dreams astray, Hang wan and silver-grey; Like sleepy maenads, who in pale surprise, Half-wakened by a prowling beast, have crept Out of the hidden covert, where they slept, At noon with languid eyes.
The crickets creak, and through the noonday glow, That crazy fiddler of the hot mid-year, The dry cicada plies his wiry bow In long-spun cadence, thin and dusty sere: From the green grass the small grasshoppers' din Spreads soft and silvery thin: And ever and anon a murmur steals Into mine ears of toil that moves alway, The crackling rustle of the pitch-forked hay And lazy jerk of wheels.
As so I lie and feel the soft hours wane, To wind and sun and peaceful sound laid bare, That aching dim discomfort of the brain Fades off unseen, and shadowy-footed care Into some hidden corner creeps at last To slumber deep and fast; And gliding on, quite fashioned to forget, From dream to dream I bid my spirit pass Out into the pale green ever-swaying grass To brood, but no more fret.
And hour by hour among all shapes that grow Of purple mints and daisies gemmed with gold In sweet unrest my visions come and go; I feel and hear and with quiet eyes behold; And hour by hour, the ever-journeying sun, In gold and shadow spun, Into mine eyes and blood, and through the dim Green glimmering forest of the grass shines down, Till flower and blade, and every cranny brown, And I are soaked with him.
Out of the heart of the city begotten Of the labour of men and their manifold hands, Whose souls, that were sprung from the earth in her morning, No longer regard or remember her warning, Whose hearts in the furnace of care have forgotten Forever the scent and the hue of her lands;
Out of the heat of the usurer's hold, From the horrible crash of the strong man's feet; Out of the shadow where pity is dying; Out of the clamour where beauty is lying, Dead in the depth of the struggle for gold; Out of the din and the glare of the street;
Into the arms of our mother we come, Our broad strong mother, the innocent earth, Mother of all things beautiful, blameless, Mother of hopes that her strength makes tameless, Where the voices of grief and of battle are dumb, And the whole world laughs with the light of her mirth.
Over the fields, where the cool winds sweep, Black with the mould and brown with the loam, Where the thin green spears of the wheat are appearing, And the high-ho shouts from the smoky clearing; Over the widths where the cloud shadows creep; Over the fields and the fallows we come;
Over the swamps with their pensive noises, Where the burnished cup of the marigold gleams; Skirting the reeds, where the quick winds shiver On the swelling breast of the dimpled river, And the blue of the king-fisher hangs and poises, Watching a spot by the edge of the streams;
By the miles of the fences warped and dyed With the white-hot noons and their withering fires, Where the rough bees trample the creamy bosoms Of the hanging tufts of the elder blossoms, And the spiders weave, and the grey snakes hide, In the crannied gloom of the stones and the briers;
Over the meadow lands sprouting with thistle, Where the humming wings of the blackbirds pass, Where the hollows are banked with the violets flowering, And the long-limbed pendulous elms are towering, Where the robins are loud with their voluble whistle, And the ground sparrow scurries away through the grass,
Where the restless bobolink loiters and woos Down in the hollows and over the swells, Dropping in and out of the shadows, Sprinkling his music about the meadows, Whistles and little checks and coos, And the tinkle of glassy bells;
Into the dim woods full of the tombs Of the dead trees soft in their sepulchres, Where the pensive throats of the shy birds hidden, Pipe to us strangely entering unbidden, And tenderly still in the tremulous glooms The trilliums scatter their white-winged stars;
Up to the hills where our tired hearts rest, Loosen, and halt, and regather their dreams; Up to the hills, where the winds restore us, Clearing our eyes to the beauty before us, Earth with the glory of life on her breast, Earth with the gleam of her cities and streams.
Here we shall commune with her and no other; Care and the battle of life shall cease; Men her degenerate children behind us, Only the might of her beauty shall bind us, Full of rest, as we gaze on the face of our mother, Earth in the health and the strength of her peace.
MORNING ON THE LIEVRES.
Far above us where a jay Screams his matins to the day, Capped with gold and amethyst, Like a vapour from the forge Of a giant somewhere hid, Out of hearing of the clang Of his hammer, skirts of mist Slowly up the woody gorge Lift and hang.
Softly as a cloud we go, Sky above and sky below, Down the river, and the dip Of the paddles scarcely breaks, With the little silvery drip Of the water as it shakes From the blades, the crystal deep Of the silence of the morn, Of the forest yet asleep, And the river reaches borne In a mirror, purple grey, Sheer away To the misty line of light, Where the forest and the stream In the shadow meet and plight, Like a dream.
From amid a stretch of reeds, Where the lazy river sucks All the water as it bleeds From a little curling creek, And the muskrats peer and sneak In around the sunken wrecks Of a tree that swept the skies Long ago, On a sudden seven ducks With a splashy rustle rise, Stretching out their seven necks, One before, and two behind, And the others all arow, And as steady as the wind With a swivelling whistle go, Through the purple shadow led, Till we only hear their whir In behind a rocky spur, Just ahead.
Along the waste, a great way off, the pines, Like tall slim priests of storm, stand up and bar The low long strip of dolorous red that lines The under west, where wet winds moan afar. The cornfields all are brown, and brown the meadows With the blown leaves' wind-heaped traceries, And the brown thistle stems that cast no shadows, And bear no bloom for bees.
As slowly earthward leaf by red leaf slips, The sad trees rustle in chill misery, A soft strange inner sound of pain-crazed lips, That move and murmur incoherently; As if all leaves, that yet have breath, were sighing, With pale hushed throats, for death is at the door, So many low soft masses for the dying Sweet leaves that live no more.
Here I will sit upon this naked stone, Draw my coat closer with my numbed hands, And hear the ferns sigh, and the wet woods moan, And send my heart out to the ashen lands; And I will ask myself what golden madness, What balmed breaths of dreamland spicery, What visions of soft laughter and light sadness Were sweet last month to me.
The dry dead leaves flit by with thin wierd tunes, Like failing murmurs of some conquered creed, Graven in mystic markings with strange runes, That none but stars and biting winds may read; Here I will wait a little; I am weary, Not torn with pain of any lurid hue, But only still and very gray and dreary, Sweet sombre lands, like you.
LAMENT OF THE WINDS.
We in sorrow coldly witting, In the bleak world sitting, sitting, By the forest, near the mould, Heard the summer calling, calling, Through the dead leaves falling, falling, That her life grew faint and old.
And we took her up, and bore her, With the leaves that moaned before her, To the holy forest bowers, Where the trees were dense and serried, And her corpse we buried, buried, In the graveyard of the flowers.
Now the leaves, as death grows vaster, Yellowing deeper, dropping faster, All the grave wherein she lies With their bodies cover, cover, With their hearts that love her, love her, For they live not when she dies:
And we left her so, but stay not Of our tears, and yet we may not, Though they coldly thickly fall, Give the dead leaves any, any, For they lie so many, many, That we cannot weep for all.
BALLADE OF SUMMER'S SLEEP.
Sweet summer is gone; they have laid her away— The last sad hours that were touched with her grace— In the hush where the ghosts of the dead flowers play; The sleep that is sweet of her slumbering space Let not a sight or a sound erase Of the woe that hath fallen on all the lands: Gather ye, dreams, to her sunny face, Shadow her head with your golden hands.
The woods that are golden and red for a day Girdle the hills in a jewelled case, Like a girl's strange mirth, ere the quick death slay The beautiful life that he hath in chase. Darker and darker the shadows pace Out of the north to the southern sands, Ushers bearing the winter's mace: Keep them away with your woven hands.
The yellow light lies on the wide wastes gray, More bitter and cold than the winds that race, From the skirts of the autumn, tearing away, This way and that way, the woodland lace. In the autumn's cheek is a hectic trace; Behind her the ghost of the winter stands; Sweet summer will moan in her soft gray place: Mantle her head with your glowing hands.
Till the slayer be slain and the spring displace The might of his arms with her rose-crowned bands, Let her heart not gather a dream that is base: Shadow her head with your golden hands.
The long days came and went; the riotous bees Tore the warm grapes in many a dusty-vine, And men grew faint and thin with too much ease, And Winter gave no sign: But all the while beyond the northmost woods He sat and smiled and watched his spirits play In elfish dance and eery roundelay, Tripping in many moods With snowy curve and fairy crystal shine.
But now the time is come: with southward speed The elfin spirits pass: a secret sting Hath fallen and smitten flower and fruit and weed, And every leafy thing. The wet woods moan: the dead leaves break and fall; In still night-watches wakeful men have heard The muffled pipe of many a passing bird, High over hut and hall, Straining to southward with unresting wing.
And then they come with colder feet, and fret The winds with snow, and tuck the streams to sleep With icy sheet and gleaming coverlet, And fill the valleys deep With curved drifts, and a strange music raves Among the pines, sometimes in wails, and then In whistled laughter, till affrighted men Draw close, and into caves And earthy holes the blind beasts curl and creep.
And so all day above the toiling heads Of men's poor chimneys, full of impish freaks, Tearing and twisting in tight-curled shreds The vain unnumbered reeks, The Winter speeds his fairies forth and mocks Poor bitten men with laughter icy cold, Turning the brown of youth to white and old With hoary-woven locks, And grey men young with roses in their cheeks.
And after thaws, when liberal water swells The bursting eaves, he biddeth drip and grow The curly horns of ribbed icicles In many a beard-like row. In secret moods of mercy and soft dole, Old warped wrecks and things of mouldering death That summer scorns and man abandoneth His careful hands console With lawny robes and draperies of snow.
And when night comes, his spirits with chill feet, Winged with white mirth and noiseless mockery, Across men's pallid windows peer and fleet, And smiling silverly Draw with mute fingers on the frosted glass Quaint fairy shapes of iced witcheries, Pale flowers and glinting ferns and frigid trees And meads of mystic grass, Graven in many an austere phantasy.
But far away the Winter dreams alone, Rustling among his snow-drifts, and resigns Cold fondling ears to hear the cedars moan In dusky-skirted lines Strange answers of an ancient runic call; Or somewhere watches with his antique eyes, Gray-chill with frosty-lidded reveries, The silvery moonshine fall In misty wedges through his girth of pines.
Poor mortals haste and hide away: creep soon Into your icy beds: the embers die; And on your frosted panes the pallid moon Is glimmering brokenly. Mutter faint prayers that spring will come e'erwhile, Scarring with thaws and dripping days and nights The shining majesty of him that smites And slays you with a smile Upon his silvery lips, of glinting mockery.
WINTER HUES RECALLED.
Life is not all for effort: there are hours, When fancy breaks from the exacting will, And rebel thought takes schoolboy's holiday, Rejoicing in its idle strength. 'Tis then, And only at such moments, that we know The treasure of hours gone—scenes once beheld, Sweet voices and words bright and beautiful, Impetuous deeds that woke the God within us, The loveliness of forms and thoughts and colors, A moment marked and then as soon forgotten. These things are ever near us, laid away, Hidden and waiting the appropriate times, In the quiet garner-house of memory. There in the silent unaccounted depth, Beneath the heated strainage and the rush That teem the noisy surface of the hours, All things that ever touched us are stored up, Growing more mellow like sealed wine with age; We thought them dead, and they are but asleep. In moments when the heart is most at rest And least expectant, from the luminous doors, And sacred dwelling place of things unfeared, They issue forth, and we who never knew Till then how potent and how real they were, Take them, and wonder, and so bless the hour.
Such gifts are sweetest when unsought. To me, As I was loitering lately in my dreams, Passing from one remembrance to another, Like him who reads upon an outstretched map, Content and idly happy, these rose up, Out of that magic well-stored picture house, No dream, rather a thing most keenly real, The memory of a moment, when with feet, Arrested and spell bound, and captured eyes, Made wide with joy and wonder, I beheld The spaces of a white and wintery land Swept with the fire of sunset, all its width Vale, forest, town, and misty eminence, A miracle of color and of beauty.
I had walked out, as I remember now, With covered ears, for the bright air was keen, To southward up the gleaming snow-packed fields, With the snowshoer's long rejoicing stride, Marching at ease. It was a radiant day In February, the month of the great struggle 'Twixt sun and frost, when with advancing spears, The glittering golden vanguard of the spring Holds the broad winter's yet unbroken rear In long-closed wavering contest. Thin pale threads Like streaks of ash across the far off blue Were drawn, nor seemed to move. A brooding silence Kept all the land, a stillness as of sleep; But in the east the grey and motionless woods, Watching the great sun's fiery slow decline, Grew deep with gold. To westward all was silver. An hour had passed above me; I had reached The loftiest level of the snow-piled fields, Clear eyed, but unobservant, noting not, That all the plain beneath me and the hills Took on a change of color splendid, gradual, Leaving no spot the same; nor that the sun Now like a fiery torrent overflamed The great line of the west. Ere yet I turned With long stride homeward, being heated With the loose swinging motion, weary too, Nor uninclined to rest, a buried fence, Whose topmost log just shouldered from the snow, Made me a seat, and thence with heated cheeks, Grazed by the northwind's edge of stinging ice, I looked far out upon the snow-bound waste, The lifting hills and intersecting forests, The scarce marked courses of the buried streams, And as I looked lost memory of the frost, Transfixed with wonder, overborne with joy. I saw them in their silence and their beauty, Swept by the sunset's rapid hand of fire, Sudden, mysterious, every moment deepening To some new majesty of rose or flame. The whole broad west was like a molten sea Of crimson. In the north the light-lined hills Were veiled far off as with a mist of rose Wondrous and soft. Along the darkening east The gold of all the forests slowly changed To purple. In the valley far before me, Low sunk in sapphire shadows, from its hills, Softer and lovelier than an opening flower, Uprose a city with its sun-touched towers, A bunch of amethysts. Like one spell-bound Caught in the presence of some god, I stood, Nor felt the keen wind and the deadly air, But watched the sun go down, and watched the gold Fade from the town and the withdrawing hills, Their westward shapes athwart the dusky red Freeze into sapphire, saw the arc of rose Rise ever higher in the violet east, Above the frore front of the uprearing night Remorsefully soft and sweet. Then I awoke As from a dream, and from my shoulders shook The warning chill, till then unfelt, unfeared.
Out of the grey northwest, where many a day gone by Ye tugged and howled in your tempestuous grot, And evermore the huge frost giants lie, Your wizard guards in vigilance unforgot, Out of the grey northwest, for now the bonds are riven, On wide white wings your thongless flight is driven, That lulls but resteth not.
And all the grey day long, and all the dense wild night Ye wheel and hurry with the sheeted snow, By cedared waste and many a pine-dark height, Across white rivers frozen fast below; Over the lonely forests, where the flowers yet sleeping Turn in their narrow beds with dreams of weeping In some remembered woe;
Across the unfenced wide marsh levels, where the dry Brown ferns sigh out, and last year's sedges scold In some drear language, rustling haggardly Their thin dead leaves and dusky hoods of gold; Across grey beechwoods where the pallid leaves unfalling In the blind gusts like homeless ghosts are calling With voices cracked and old;
Across the solitary clearings, where the low Fierce gusts howl through the blinded woods, and round The buried shanties all day long the snow Sifts and piles up in many a spectral mound; Across lone villages in eery wildernesses Whose hidden life no living shape confesses Nor any human sound;
Across the serried masses of dim cities, blown Full of the snow that ever shifts and swells, While far above them all their towers of stone Stand and beat back your fierce and tyrannous spells, And hour by hour send out, like voices torn and broken Of battling giants that have grandly spoken, The veering sound of bells;
So day and night, oh wind, with hiss and moan you fleet, Where once long gone on many a green-leafed day Your gentler brethren wandered with light feet And sang with voices soft and sweet as they, The same blind thought that you with wilder might are speaking, Seeking the same strange thing that you are seeking In this your stormier way.
Oh wind, wild-voiced brother, in your northern cave, My spirit also being so beset With pride and pain, I heard you beat and rave, Grinding your chains with furious howl and fret, Knowing full well that all earth's moving things inherit The same chained might and madness of the spirit, That none may quite forget.
You in your cave of snows, we in our narrow girth Of need and sense, forever chafe and pine; Only in moods of some demonic birth Our souls take fire, our flashing wings untwine; Even like you, mad wind, above our broken prison, With streaming hair and maddened eyes uprisen, We dream ourselves divine;
Mad moods that come and go in some mysterious way, That flash and fall, none knoweth how or why, Oh wind, our brother, they are yours to-day, The stormy joy, the sweeping mastery; Deep in our narrow cells, we hear you, we awaken With hands afret and bosoms strangely shaken, We answer to your cry.
I most that love you, wind, when you are fierce and free, In these dull fetters cannot long remain; Lo, I will rise and break my thongs and flee Forth to your drift and beating, till my brain Even for an hour grow wild in your divine embraces, And then creep back into mine earthly traces, And bind me with my chain.
Nay, wind, I hear you, desperate brother, in your might Whistle and howl; I shall not tarry long, And though the day be blind and fierce, the night Be dense and wild, I still am glad and strong To meet you face to face; through all your gust and drifting With brow held high, my joyous hands uplifting, I cry you song for song.
From where I sit, I see the stars, And down the chilly floor The moon between the frozen bars Is glimmering dim and hoar.
Without in many a peaked mound The glinting snowdrifts lie; There is no voice or living sound; The embers slowly die.
Yet some wild thing is in mine ear; I hold my breath and hark; Out of the depth I seem to hear A crying in the dark:
No sound of man or wife or child, No sound of beast that groans, Or of the wind that whistles wild, Or of the tree that moans:
I know not what it is I hear; I bend my head and hark: I cannot drive it from mine ear, That crying in the dark.
SONG OF THE STREAM-DROPS.
By silent forest and field and mossy stone, We come from the wooded hill, and we go to the sea. We labour, and sing sweet songs, but we never moan, For our mother, the sea, is calling us cheerily. We have heard her calling us many and many a day From the cool grey stones and the white sands far away.
The way is long, and winding and slow is the track, The sharp rocks fret us, the eddies bring us delay, But we sing sweet songs to our mother, and answer her back; Gladly we answer our mother, sweetly repay. Oh, we hear, we hear her singing wherever we roam, Far, far away in the silence, calling us home.
Poor mortal, your ears are dull, and you cannot hear; But we, we hear it, the breast of our mother abeat; Low, far away, sweet and solemn and clear, Under the hush of the night, under the noontide heat: And we sing sweet songs to our mother, for so we shall please her best, Songs of beauty and peace, freedom and infinite rest.
We sing, and sing, through the grass and the stones and the reeds, And we never grow tired, though we journey ever and aye, Dreaming, and dreaming, wherever the long way leads, Of the far cool rocks and the rush of the wind and the spray. Under the sun and the stars we murmur and dance and are free, And we dream and dream of our mother, the width of the sheltering sea.
BETWEEN THE RAPIDS.
The point is turned; the twilight shadow fills The wheeling stream, the soft receding shore, And on our ears from deep among the hills Breaks now the rapid's sudden quickening roar. Ah yet the same, or have they changed their face, The fair green fields, and can it still be seen, The white log cottage near the mountain's base, So bright and quiet, so home-like and serene? Ah, well I question, for as five years go, How many blessings fall, and how much woe.
Aye there they are, nor have they changed their cheer, The fields, the hut, the leafy mountain brows; Across the lonely dusk again I hear The loitering bells, the lowing of the cows, The bleat of many sheep, the stilly rush Of the low whispering river, and through all, Soft human tongues that break the deepening hush With faint-heard song or desultory call: Oh comrades hold; the longest reach is past; The stream runs swift, and we are flying fast.
The shore, the fields, the cottage just the same, But how with them whose memory makes them sweet? Oh if I called them, hailing name by name, Would the same lips the same old shouts repeat? Have the rough years, so big with death and ill, Gone lightly by and left them smiling yet? Wild black-eyed Jeanne whose tongue was never still, Old wrinkled Picaud, Pierre and pale Lisette, The homely hearts that never cared to range, While life's wide fields were filled with rush and change.
And where is Jacques, and where is Verginie? I cannot tell; the fields are all a blur. The lowing cows whose shapes I scarcely see, Oh do they wait and do they call for her? And is she changed, or is her heart still clear As wind or morning, light as river foam? Or have life's changes borne her far from here, And far from rest, and far from help and home? Ah comrades, soft, and let us rest awhile, For arms grow tired with paddling many a mile.
The woods grow wild, and from the rising shore The cool wind creeps, the faint wood odours steal; Like ghosts adown the river's blackening floor The misty fumes begin to creep and reel. Once more I leave you, wandering toward the night, Sweet home, sweet heart, that would have held me in; Whither I go I know not, and the light Is faint before, and rest is hard to win. Ah sweet ye were and near to heaven's gate; But youth is blind and wisdom comes too late.
Blacker and loftier grow the woods, and hark! The freshening roar! The chute is near us now, And dim the canyon grows, and inky dark The water whispering from the birchen prow. One long last look, and many a sad adieu, While eyes can see and heart can feel you yet, I leave sweet home and sweeter hearts to you, A prayer for Picaud, one for pale Lisette, A kiss for Pierre, my little Jacques, and thee, A sigh for Jeanne, a sob for Verginie.
Oh, does she still remember? Is the dream Now dead, or has she found another mate? So near, so dear; and ah, so swift the stream; Even now perhaps it were not yet too late. But oh, what matter; for before the night Has reached its middle, we have far to go: Bend to your paddles, comrades; see, the light Ebbs off apace; we must not linger so. Aye thus it is! Heaven gleams and then is gone Once, twice, it smiles, and still we wander on.
NEW YEAR'S EVE.
Once on the year's last eve in my mind's might Sitting in dreams, not sad, nor quite elysian, Balancing all 'twixt wonder and derision, Methought my body and all this world took flight, And vanished from me, as a dream, outright; Leaning out thus in sudden strange decision, I saw as it were in the flashing of a vision, Far down between the tall towers of the night, Borne by great winds in awful unison, The teeming masses of mankind sweep by, Even as a glittering river with deep sound And innumerable banners, rolling on Over the starry border glooms that bound The last gray space in dim eternity.
And all that strange unearthly multitude Seemed twisted in vast seething companies, That evermore with hoarse and terrible cries And desperate encounter at mad feud Plunged onward, each in its implacable mood Borne down over the trampled blazonries Of other faiths and other phantasies, Each following furiously, and each pursued; So sped they on with tumult vast and grim, But ever meseemed beyond them I could see White-haloed groups that sought perpetually The figure of one crowned and sacrificed; And faint, far forward, floating tall and dim, The banner of our Lord and Master, Christ.
All day upon the garden bright The sun shines strong, But in my heart there is no light, Or any song.
Voices of merry life go by, Adown the street; But I am weary of the cry And drift of feet.
With all dear things that ought to please The hours are blessed, And yet my soul is ill at ease, And cannot rest.
Strange spirit, leave me not too long, Nor stint to give, For if my soul have no sweet song, It cannot live.
Songs that could span the earth, When leaping thought had stirred them, In many an hour since birth, We heard or dreamed we heard them.
Sometimes to all their sway We yield ourselves half fearing, Sometimes with hearts grown grey We curse ourselves for hearing.
We toil and but begin; In vain our spirits fret them, We strive, and cannot win, Nor evermore forget them.
A light that will not stand, That comes and goes in flashes, Fair fruits that in the hand Are turned to dust and ashes.
Yet still the deep thoughts ring Around and through and through us, Sweet mights that make us sing, But bring no resting to us.
The trees rustle; the wind blows Merrily out of the town; The shadows creep, the sun goes Steadily over and down.
In a brown gloom the moats gleam; Slender the sweet wife stands; Her lips are red; her eyes dream; Kisses are warm on her hands.
The child moans; the hours slip Bitterly over her head: In a gray dusk, the tears drip; Mother is up there dead.
The hermit hears the strange bright Murmur of life at play; In the waste day and the waste night Times to rebel and to pray.
The laborer toils in gray wise, Godlike and patient and calm; The beggar moans; his bleared eyes Measure the dust in his palm.
The wise man marks the flow and ebb Hidden and held aloof: In his deep mind is laid the web, Shuttles are driving the woof.
If any man, with sleepless care oppressed, On many a night had risen, and addressed His hand to make him out of joy and moan An image of sweet sleep in carven stone, Light touch by touch, in weary moments planned, He would have wrought her with a patient hand, Not like her brother death, with massive limb And dreamless brow, unstartled, changeless, dim, But very fair, though fitful and afraid, More sweet and slight than any mortal maid. Her hair he would have carved a mantle smooth Down to her tender feet to wrap and soothe All fevers in, yet barbed here and there With many a hidden sting of restless care; Her brow most quiet, thick with opiate rest, Yet watchfully lined, as if some hovering guest Of noiseless doubt were there; so too her eyes His light hand would have carved in cunning wise Broad with all languor of the drowsy South, Most beautiful, but held askance; her mouth More soft and round than any rose half-spread, Yet ever twisted with some nervous dread. He would have made her with one marble foot, Frail as a snow-white feather, forward put, Bearing sweet medicine for all distress, Smooth languor and unstrung forgetfulness; The other held a little back for dread; One slender moonpale hand held forth to shed Soft slumber dripping from its pearly tip Into wide eyes; the other on her lip. So in the watches of his sleepless care The cunning artist would have wrought her fair; Shy goddess, at keen seeking most afraid Yet often coming, when we least have prayed.
THREE FLOWER PETALS.
What saw I yesterday walking apart In a leafy place where the cattle wait? Something to keep for a charm in my heart— A little sweet girl in a garden gate. Laughing she lay in the gold sun's might, And held for a target to shelter her, In her little soft fingers, round and white, The gold-rimmed face of a sunflower.
Laughing she lay on the stone that stands For a rough-hewn step in that sunny place, And her yellow hair hung down to her hands, Shadowing over her dimpled face. Her eyes like the blue of the sky, made dim With the might of the sun that looked at her, Shone laughing over the serried rim, Golden set, of the sunflower.
Laughing, for token she gave to me Three petals out of the sunflower;— When the petals are withered and gone, shall be Three verses of mine for praise of her, That a tender dream of her face may rise And lighten me yet in another hour, Of her sunny hair and her beautiful eyes, Laughing over the gold sunflower.
As a weed beneath the ocean, As a pool beneath a tree Answers with each breath or motion An imperious mastery;
So my spirit swift with passion Finds in every look a sign, Catching in some wondrous fashion Every mood that governs thine.
In a moment it will borrow, Flashing in a gusty train, Laughter and desire and sorrow Anger and delight and pain.
A BALLADE OF WAITING.
No girdle hath weaver or goldsmith wrought So rich as the arms of my love can be; No gems with a lovelier lustre fraught Than her eyes, when they answer me liquidly. Dear lady of love, be kind to me In days when the waters of hope abate, And doubt like a shimmer on sand shall be, In the year yet, Lady, to dream and wait.
Sweet mouth, that the wear of the world hath taught No glitter of wile or traitorie, More soft than a cloud in the sunset caught, Or the heart of a crimson peony; Oh turn not its beauty away from me; To kiss it and cling to it early and late Shall make sweet minutes of days that flee, In the year yet, Lady, to dream and wait.
Rich hair that a painter of old had sought For the weaving of some soft phantasy, Most fair when the streams of it run distraught On the firm sweet shoulders yellowly; Dear Lady, gather it close to me, Weaving a nest for the double freight Of cheeks and lips that are one and free, For the year yet, Lady, to dream and wait.
So time shall be swift till thou mate with me, For love is mightiest next to fate, And none shall be happier, Love, than we, In the year yet, Lady, to dream and wait.
Now the creeping nets of sleep Stretch about and gather nigh, And the midnight dim and deep Like a spirit passes by, Trailing from her crystal dress Dreams and silent frostiness.
Yet a moment, ere I be Tangled in the snares of night, All the dreamy heart of me To my Lady takes its flight, To her chamber where she lies, Wrapt in midnight phantasies.
Over many a glinting street And the snow capped roofs of men, Towers that tremble with the beat Of the midnight bells, and then, Where my body may not be, Stands my spirit holily.
Wake not, Lady, wake not soon: Through the frosty windows fall Broken glimmers of the moon Dimly on the floor and wall; Wake not, Lady, never care, 'Tis my spirit kneeling there.
Let him kneel a moment now, For the minutes fly apace; Let him see the sleeping brow, And the sweetly rounded face: He shall tell me soon aright How my Lady looks to-night.
How her tresses out and in Fold in many a curly freak, Round about the snowy chin And the softly tinted cheek, Where no sorrows now can weep, And the dimples lie asleep.
How her eyelids meet and match, Gathered in two dusky seams, Each the little creamy thatch Of an azure house of dreams, Or two flowers that love the light Folded softly up at night.
How her bosom, breathing low, Stirs the wavy coverlet With a motion soft and slow: Oh, my Lady, wake not yet; There without a thought of guile Let my spirit dream a while.
Yet, my spirit, back to me, Hurry soon and have a care; Love will turn to agony, If you rashly linger there; Bending low as spirits may, Touch her lips and come away.
So, fond spirit, beauty-fed, Turning when your watch is o'er, Weave a cross above the bed And a sleep-rune on the floor, That no evil enter there, Ugly shapes and dreams beware.
Then, ye looming nets of sleep, Ye may have me all your own, For the night is wearing deep And the ice-winds whisk and moan; Come with all your drowsy stress, Dreams and silent frostiness.
Oh night and sleep, Ye are so soft and deep, I am so weary, come ye soon to me. Oh hours that creep, With so much time to weep, I am so tired, can ye no swifter be?
Come, night, anear; I'll whisper in thine ear What makes me so unhappy, full of care; Dear night, I die For love that all men buy With tears, and know not it is dark despair.
Dear night, I pray, How is it that men say That love is sweet? It is not sweet to me. For one boy's sake A poor girl's heart must break; So sweet, so true, and yet it could not be!
Oh, I loved well, Such love as none can tell: It was so true, it could not make him know: For he was blind, All light and all unkind: Oh, had he known, would he have hurt me so?
Oh night and sleep, Ye are so soft and deep, I am so weary, come ye soon to me. Oh hours that creep, With so much time to weep, I am so tired, can ye no swifter be?
WHAT DO POETS WANT WITH GOLD?
What do poets want with gold, Cringing slaves and cushioned ease; Are not crusts and garments old Better for their souls than these?
Gold is but the juggling rod Of a false usurping god, Graven long ago in hell With a sombre stony spell, Working in the world forever. Hate is not so strong to sever Beating human heart from heart. Soul from soul we shrink and part, And no longer hail each other With the ancient name of brother Give the simple poet gold, And his song will die of cold. He must walk with men that reel On the rugged path, and feel Every sacred soul that is Beating very near to his. Simple, human, careless, free, As God made him, he must be: For the sweetest song of bird Is the hidden tenor heard In the dusk, at even-flush, From the forest's inner hush, Of the simple hermit thrush.
What do poets want with love? Flowers that shiver out of hand, And the fervid fruits that prove Only bitter broken sand?
Poets speak of passion best, When their dreams are undistressed, And the sweetest songs are sung, E'er the inner heart is stung. Let them dream; 'tis better so; Ever dream, but never know. If their spirits once have drained All that goblet crimson-stained, Finding what they dreamed divine, Only earthly sluggish wine, Sooner will the warm lips pale, And the flawless voices fail, Sooner come the drooping wing, And the afterdays that bring, No such songs as did the spring.
THE KING'S SABBATH.
Once idly in his hall king Olave sat Pondering, and with his dagger whittled chips; And one drew near to him with austere lips, Saying, "To-morrow is Monday," and at that The king said nothing, but held forth his flat Broad palm, and bending on his mighty hips, Took up and mutely laid thereon the slips Of scattered wood, as on a hearth, and gat From off the embers near, a burning brand. Kindling the pile with this, the dreaming Dane Sat silent with his eyes set and his bland Proud mouth, tight-woven, smiling, drawn with pain, Watching the fierce fire flare, and wax, and wane, Hiss and burn down upon his shrivelled hand.
THE LITTLE HANDMAIDEN.
The King's son walks in the garden fair— Oh, the maiden's heart is merry! He little knows for his toil and care, That the bride is gone and the bower is bare. Put on garments of white, my maidens!
The sun shines bright through the casement high— Oh, the maiden's heart is merry! The little handmaid, with a laughing eye, Looks down on the king's son, strolling by. Put on garments of white, my maidens!
"He little knows that the bride is gone, And the Earl knows little as he; She is fled with her lover afar last night, And the King's son is left to me."
And back to her chamber with velvety step The little handmaid did glide, And a gold key took from her bosom sweet, And opened the great chests wide.
She bound her hair with a band of blue, And a garland of lilies sweet; And put on her delicate silken shoes, With roses on both her feet.
She clad her body in spotless white, With a girdle as red as blood. The glad white raiment her beauty bound, As the sepels bind the bud:
And round and round her white neck she flung A necklace of sapphires blue; On one white finger of either hand A shining ring she drew.
And down the stairway and out of the door She glided, as soft and light, As an airy tuft of a thistle seed Might glide through the grasses bright.
And into the garden sweet she stole— The little birds carolled loud— Her beauty shone as a star might shine In the rift of a morning cloud.
The King's son walked in the garden fair, And the little handmaiden came, Through the midst of a shimmer of roses red, Like a sunbeam through a flame.
The King's son marvelled, his heart leaped up, "And art thou my bride?" said he, "For, North or South, I have never beheld A lovelier maid than thee."
"And dost thou love me?" the little maid cried, "A fine King's son, I wis!" And the King's son took her with both his hands, And her ruddy lips did kiss.
And the little maid laughed till the beaded tears, Ran down in a silver rain. "O foolish King's son!" and she clapped her hands, Till the gold rings rang again.
"O King's son, foolish and fooled art thou, For a goodly game is played: Thy bride is away with her lover last night, And I am her little handmaid."
And the King's son sware a great oath, said he,— Oh, the maiden's heart is merry! "If the Earl's fair daughter a traitress be, The little handmaid is enough for me." Put on garments of white, my maidens!
The King's son walks in the garden fair— Oh, the maiden's heart is merry! And the little handmaiden walketh there, But the old Earl pulleth his beard for care. Put on garments of white, my maidens!
Underneath a tree at noontide Abu Midjan sits distressed, Fetters on his wrists and ancles, And his chin upon his breast;
For the Emir's guard had taken, As they passed from line to line, Reeling in the camp at midnight, Abu Midjan drunk with wine.
Now he sits and rolls uneasy, Very fretful, for he hears, Near at hand, the shout of battle, And the din of driving spears.
Both his heels in wrath are digging Trenches in the grassy soil, And his fingers clutch and loosen, Dreaming of the Persian spoil.
To the garden, over-weary Of the sound of hoof and sword, Came the Emir's gentle lady, Anxious for her fighting lord.
Very sadly, Abu Midjan, Hanging down his head for shame, Spake in words of soft appealing To the tender-hearted dame:
"Lady, while the doubtful battle Ebbs and flows upon the plains, Here in sorrow, meek and idle, Abu Midjan sits in chains.
"Surely Saad would be safer For the strength of even me; Give me then his armour, Lady, And his horse, and set me free.
"When the day of fight is over, With the spoil that he may earn, To his chains, if he is living, Abu Midjan will return."
She, in wonder and compassion, Had not heart to say him nay; So, with Saad's horse and armour, Abu Midjan rode away.
Happy from the fight at even, Saad told his wife at meat, How the army had been succoured In the fiercest battle-heat,
By a stranger horseman, coming When their hands were most in need, And he bore the arms of Saad, And was mounted on his steed;
How the faithful battled forward, Mighty where the stranger trod, Till they deemed him more than mortal, And an angel sent from God.
Then the lady told her master How she gave the horse and mail To the drunkard, and had taken Abu Midjan's word for bail.
To the garden went the Emir, Running to the tree, and found Torn with many wounds and bleeding, Abu Midjan meek and bound.
And the Emir loosed him, saying, As he gave his hand for sign, "Never more shall Saad's fetters Chafe thee for a draught of wine."
Three times to the ground in silence Abu Midjan bent his head; Then with glowing eyes uplifted, To the Emir spake and said:
"While an earthly lord controlled me, All things for the wine I bore; Now, since God alone shall judge me, Abu Midjan drinks no more."
All day, all day, round the clacking net The weaver's fingers fly: Gray dreams like frozen mists are set In the hush of the weaver's eye; A voice from the dusk is calling yet, "Oh, come away, or we die!"
Without is a horror of hosts that fight, That rest not, and cease not to kill, The thunder of feet and the cry of flight, A slaughter weird and shrill; Gray dreams are set in the weaver's sight, The weaver is weaving still.
"Come away, dear soul, come away, or we die; Hear'st thou the moan and the rush! Come away; The people are slain at the gates, and they fly; The kind God hath left them this day; The battle-axe cleaves, and the foemen cry, And the red swords swing and slay."
"Nay, wife, what boots it to fly from pain, When pain is wherever we fly? And death is a sweeter thing than a chain: 'Tis sweeter to sleep than to cry. The kind God giveth the days that wane; If the kind God hath said it, I die."
And the weaver wove, and the good wife fled, And the city was made a tomb, And a flame that shook from the rocks overhead Shone into that silent room, And touched like a wide red kiss on the dead Brown weaver slain by his loom.
Yet I think that in some dim shadowy land, Where no suns rise or set, Where the ghost of a whilom loom doth stand Round the dusk of its silken net, Forever flyeth his shadowy hand, And the weaver is weaving yet.
THE THREE PILGRIMS.
In days, when the fruit of men's labour was sparing, And hearts were weary and nigh to break, A sweet grave man with a beautiful bearing Came to us once in the fields and spake.
He told us of Roma, the marvellous city, And of One that came from the living God, The Virgins' Son, who in heavenly pity, Bore for His people the rood and rod,
And how at Roma the gods were broken, The new was strong, and the old nigh dead, And love was more than a bare word spoken, For the sick were healed and the poor were fed;
And we sat mute at his feet, and hearkened: The grave man came in an hour; and went, But a new light shone on a land long darkened; The toil was weary, the fruit was spent:
So we came south, till we saw the city, Speeding three of us, hand in hand, Seeking peace and the bread of pity, Journeying out of the Umbrian land;
Till we saw from the hills in a dazzled coma Over the vines that the wind made shiver, Tower on tower, the great city Roma, Palace and temple, and winding river:
And we stood long in a dream and waited, Watching and praying and purified, And came at last to the walls belated, Entering in at the eventide:
And many met us with song and dancing, Mantled in skins and crowned with flowers, Waving goblets and torches glancing; Faces drunken, that grinned in ours:
And one, that ran in the midst, came near us— "Crown yourselves for the feast," he said, But we cried out, that the God might hear us, "Where is Jesus, the living bread?"
And they took us each by the hand with laughter; Their eyes were haggard and red with wine: They haled us on, and we followed after, "We will show you the new God's shrine."
Ah, woe to our tongues, that, forever unsleeping, Harp and uncover the old hot care, The soothing ash from the embers sweeping, Wherever the soles of our sad feet fare.
Ah, we were simple of mind, not knowing, How dreadful the heart of a man might be; But the knowledge of evil is mighty of growing; Only the deaf and the blind are free.
We came to a garden of beauty and pleasure— It was not the way that our own feet chose— Where a revel was whirling in many a measure, And the myriad roar of a great crowd rose;
And the midmost round of the garden was reddened With pillars of fire in a great high ring— One look—and our souls forever were deadened, Though our feet yet move, and our dreams yet sting;
For we saw that each was a live man flaming, Limbs that a human mother bore, And a thing of horror was done, past naming, And the crowd spun round, and we saw no more.
And he that ran in the midst, descrying, Lifted his hand with a foul red sneer, And smote us each and the other, crying, "Thus we worship the new God here.
"The Caesar comes, and the people's paeans Hail his name for the new made light, Pitch and the flesh of the Galileans, Torches fit for a Roman night;"
And we fell down to the earth, and sickened, Moaning, three of us, head by head, "Where is He, whom the good God quickened? Where is Jesus, the living bread?"
Yet ever we heard, in the foul mirth turning, Man and woman and child go by, And ever the yells of the charred men burning, Piercing heavenward, cry on cry;
And we lay there, till the frightful revel Died in the dawn with a few short moans Of some that knelt in the wan and level Shadows, that fell from the blackened bones.
Numb with horror and sick with pity, The heart of each as an iron weight, We crept in the dawn from the awful city, Journeying out of the seaward gate.
The great sun came from the sea before us; A soft wind blew from the scented south; But our eyes knew not of the steps that bore us Down to the ships at the Tiber's mouth;
And we prayed then, as we turned our faces Over the sea to the living God, That our ways might be in the fierce bare places, Where never the foot of a live man trod:
And we set sail in the noon not caring. Whither the prow of the dark ship came, No more over the old ways faring; For the sea was cold, but the land was flame:
And the keen ship sped, and a deadly coma Blotted away from our eyes forever, Tower on tower, the great city Roma, Palace and temple and yellow river.
THE COMING OF WINTER.
Out of the Northland sombre weirds are calling; A shadow falleth southward day by day; Sad summer's arms grow cold; his fire is falling; His feet draw back to give the stern one way.
It is the voice and shadow of the slayer, Slayer of loves, sweet world, slayer of dreams; Make sad thy voice with sober plaint and prayer; Make gray thy woods, and darken all thy streams.
Black grows the river, blacker drifts the eddy: The sky is grey; the woods are cold below: Oh make thy bosom, and thy sad lips ready, For the cold kisses of the folding snow.
Hear me, Brother, gently met; Just a little, turn not yet, Thou shalt laugh, and soon forget: Now the midnight draweth near. I have little more to tell; Soon with hollow stroke and knell, Thou shalt count the palace bell, Calling that the hour is here.
Burdens black and strange to bear, I must tell, and thou must share, Listening with that stony stare, Even as many a man before. Years have lightly come and gone In their jocund unison. But the tides of life roll on—— They remember now no more.
Once upon a night of glee, In an hour of revelry, As I wandered restlessly, I beheld with burning eye, How a pale procession rolled Through a quarter quaint and old, With its banners and its gold, And the crucifix went by.
Well I knew that body brave That was pierced and hung to save, But my flesh was now a grave For the soul that gnashed within. He that they were bearing by, With their banners white and high, He was pure, and foul was I, And his whiteness mocked my sin.
Ah, meseemed that even he, Would not wait to look on me, In my years and misery, Things that he alone could heal. In mine eyes I felt the flame Of a rage that nought could tame, And I cried and cursed his name, Till my brain began to reel.
In a moment I was 'ware, How that many watching there, Fearfully with blanch and stare, Crossed themselves, and shrank away; Then upon my reeling mind, Like a sharp blow from behind, Fell the truth, and left me blind, Hopeless now, and all astray.
O'er the city wandering wide, Seeking but some place to hide, Where the sounds of mirth had died, Through the shaken night I stole; From the ever-eddying stream Of the crowds that did but seem Like processions in a dream To my empty echoing soul.
Till I came at last alone To a hidden street of stone, Where the city's monotone On the silence fell no more. Then I saw how one in white With a footstep mute and light, Through the shadow of the night Like a spirit paced before.
And a sudden stillness came Through my spirit and my frame, And a spell without a name Held me in his mystic track. Though his presence seemed so mild, Yet he led me like a child, With a yearning strange and wild, That I dared not turn me back.
Oh, I could not see his face, Nor behold his utmost grace, Yet I might not change my pace Fastened by a strange belief; For his steps were sad and slow, And his hands hung straight below, And his head was bowed, as though Pressed by some immortal grief.
So I followed, yet not I Held alone that company: Every silent passer-by Paled and turned and joined with me; So we followed still and fleet, While the city street by street, Fell behind our rustling feet Like a deadened memory.
Where the sound of sin and riot Broke upon the night's dim quiet, And the solemn bells hung nigh it Echoed from their looming towers; Where the mourners wept alway, Watching for the morning grey; Where the weary toiler lay, Husbanding the niggard hours;
By the gates where all night long Guests in many a joyous throng, With the sound of dance and song, Dreamed in golden palaces; Still he passed, and door by door Opened with a pale outpour, And the revel rose no more Hushed in deeper phantasies.
As we passed, the talk and stir Of the quiet wayfarer And the noisy banqueter Died upon the midnight dim. They that reeled in drunken glee Shrank upon the trembling knee, And their jests died pallidly, As they rose and followed him.
From the street and from the hall, From the flare of festival None that saw him stayed, but all Followed where his wonder would: And our feet at first so few Gathered as those white feet drew, Till at last our number grew To a pallid multitude;
And the hushed and awful beat Of our pale unnumbered feet Made a murmur strange and sweet, As we followed evermore. Now the night was almost passed, And the dawn was overcast, When the stranger stayed at last At a great cathedral door.
Never word the stranger said, But he slowly raised his head, And the vast doors opened By an unseen hand withdrawn; And in silence wave on wave, Like an army from the grave, Up the aisles and up the nave, All that spectral crowd rolled on.
As I followed close behind, Knowledge like an awful wind Seemed to blow my naked mind Into darkness black and bare; Yet with longing wild and dim, And a terror vast and grim, Nearer still I pressed to him, Till I almost touched his hair.
From the gloom so strange and eery, From the organ low and dreary, Rose the wailing miserere, By mysterious voices sung; And a dim light shone, none knew, How it came, or whence it grew, From the dusky roof and through All the solemn spaces flung.
But the stranger still passed on, Till he reached the altar stone, And with body white and prone Sunk his forehead to the floor; And I saw in my despair, Standing like a spirit there, How his head was bruised and bare, And his hands were clenched before,
How his hair was fouled and knit With the blood that clotted it, Where the prickled thorns had bit In his crowned agony; In his hands so wan and blue, Leaning out, I saw the two Marks of where the nails pierced through, Once on gloomy Calvary.
Then with trembling throat I owned All my dark sin unatoned, Telling it with lips that moaned, And methought an echo came From the bended crowd below, Each one breathing faint and low, Sins that none but he might know: "Master I did curse thy name."
And I saw him slowly rise With his sad unearthly eyes, Meeting mine with meek surprise, And a voice came solemnly. "Never more on mortal ground For thy soul shall rest be found, But when bells at midnight sound Thou must rise and come with me."
Then my forehead smote the floor, Swooning, and I knew no more, Till I heard the chancel door Open for the choristers: But the stranger's form was gone, And the church was dim and lone: Through the silence, one by one Stole the early worshippers.
I am ageing now I know; That was many years ago, Yet or I shall rest below In the grave where none intrude, Night by night I roam the street, And that awful form I meet, And I follow pale and fleet, With a ghostly multitude.
Every night I see his face, With its sad and burdened grace, And the torn and bloody trace, That in hands and feet he has. Once my life was dark and bad; Now its days are strange and sad, And the people call me mad: See, they whisper as they pass.
Even now the echoes roll From the swinging bells that toll; It is midnight, now my soul Hasten; for he glideth by. Stranger, 'tis no phantasie: Look! my master waits for me Mutely, but thou canst not see With thy mortal blinded eye.
In his dim chapel day by day The organist was wont to play, And please himself with fluted reveries; And all the spirit's joy and strife, The longing of a tender life, Took sound and form upon the ivory keys; And though he seldom spoke a word, The simple hearts that loved him heard His glowing soul in these.
One day as he was wrapped, a sound Of feet stole near; he turned and found A little maid that stood beside him there. She started, and in shrinking-wise Besought him with her liquid eyes And little features, very sweet and spare. "You love the music, child," he said, And laid his hand upon her head, And smoothed her matted hair.
She answered, "At the door one day I sat and heard the organ play; I did not dare to come inside for fear; But yesterday, a little while, I crept half up the empty aisle And heard the music sounding sweet and clear; To-day I thought you would not mind, For, master dear, your face was kind, And so I came up here."
"You love the music then," he said, And still he stroked her golden head, And followed out some winding reverie; "And you are poor?" said he at last; The maiden nodded, and he passed His hand across his forehead dreamingly; "And will you be my friend?" he spake, "And on the organ learn to make Grand music here with me?"
And all the little maiden's face Was kindled with a grateful grace; "Oh, master, teach me; I will slave for thee!" She cried; and so the child grew dear To him, and slowly year by year He taught her all the organ's majesty; And gave her from his slender store Bread and warm clothing, that no more Her cheeks were pinched to see.
And year by year the maiden grew Taller and lovelier, and the hue Deepened upon her tender cheeks untried. Rounder, and queenlier, and more fair Her form grew, and her golden hair Fell yearly richer at the master's side. In speech and bearing, form and face, Sweeter and graver, grace by grace, Her beauties multiplied.
And sometimes at his work a glow Would touch him, and he murmured low, "How beautiful she is?" and bent his head; And sometimes when the day went by And brought no maiden he would sigh, And lean and listen for her velvet tread; And he would drop his hands and say, "My music cometh not to-day; Pray God she be not dead!"
So the sweet maiden filled his heart, And with her growing grew his art, For day by day more wondrously he played. Such heavenly things the master wrought, That in his happy dreams he thought The organ's self did love the gold-haired maid: But she, the maiden, never guessed What prayers for her in hours of rest The sombre organ prayed.
At last, one summer morning fair, The maiden came with braided hair And took his hands, and held them eagerly. "To-morrow is my wedding day; Dear master, bless me that the way Of life be smooth, not bitter unto me." He stirred not; but the light did go Out of his shrunken cheeks, and oh! His head hung heavily.
"You love him, then?" "I love him well," She answered, and a numbness fell Upon his eyes and all his heart that bled. A glory, half a smile, abode Within the maiden's eyes and glowed Upon her parted lips. The master said, "God bless and bless thee, little maid, With peace and long delight," and laid His hands upon her head.
And she was gone; and all that day The hours crept up and slipped away, And he sat still, as moveless as a stone. The night came down, with quiet stars, And darkened him: in colored bars Along the shadowy aisle the moonlight shone. And then the master woke and passed His hands across the keys at last, And made the organ moan.
The organ shook, the music wept; For sometimes like a wail it crept In broken moanings down the shadows drear; And otherwhiles the sound did swell, And like a sudden tempest fell Through all the windows wonderful and clear. The people gathered from the street, And filled the chapel seat by seat— They could not choose but hear.
And there they sat till dawning light, Nor ever stirred for awe. "To-night, The master hath a noble mood," they said. But on a sudden ceased the sound: Like ghosts the people gathered round, And on the keys they found his fallen head. The silent organ had received The master's broken heart relieved, And he was white and dead.
In Nino's chamber not a sound intrudes Upon the midnight's tingling silentness, Where Nino sits before his book and broods, Thin and brow-burdened with some fine distress, Some gloom that hangs about his mournful moods His weary bearing and neglected dress: So sad he sits, nor ever turns a leaf— Sorrow's pale miser o'er his hoard of grief.
Young Nino and Leonora, they had met Once at a revel by some lover's chance, And they were young with hearts already set To tender thoughts, attuned to romance; Wherefore it seemed they never could forget That winning touch, that one bewildering glance: But found at last a shelter safe and sweet, Where trembling hearts and longing hands might meet.
Ah, sweet their dreams, and sweet the life they led With that great love that was their bosoms' all, Yet ever shadowed by some circling dread It gloomed at moments deep and tragical, And so for many a month they seemed to tread With fluttering hearts, whatever might befall, Half glad, half sad, their sweet and secret way To the soft tune of some old lover's lay.
But she is gone, alas he knows not where, Or how his life that tender gift should lose: Indeed his love was ever full of care, The hasty joys and griefs of him who woos, Where sweet success is neighbour to despair, With stolen looks and dangerous interviews: But one long week she came not, nor the next, And so he wandered here and there perplext;
Nor evermore she came. Full many days He sought her at their trysts, devised deep schemes To lure her back, and fell on subtle ways To win some word of her; but all his dreams Vanished like smoke, and then in sore amaze From town to town, as one that crazed seems, He wandered, following in unhappy quest Uncertain clues that ended like the rest.
And now this midnight, as he sits forlorn, The printed page for him no meaning bears; With every word some torturing dream is born; And every thought is like a step that scares Old memories up to make him weep and mourn. He cannot turn but from their latchless lairs, The weary shadows of his lost delight Rise up like dusk birds through the lonely night.
And still with questions vain he probes his grief, Till thought is wearied out, and dreams grow dim. What bitter chance, what woe beyond belief Could keep his lady's heart so hid from him? Or was her love indeed but light and brief, A passing thought, a moment's dreamy whim? Aye there it stings, the woe that never sleeps: Poor Nino leans upon his book, and weeps.
Until at length the sudden grief that shook His pierced bosom like a gust is past, And laid full weary on the wide-spread book, His eyes grow dim with slumber light and fast; But scarcely have his dreams had time to look On lands of kindlier promise, when aghast He starts up softly, and in wondering wise Listens atremble with wide open eyes.
What sound was that? Who knocks like one in dread With such swift hands upon his outer door? Perhaps some beggar driven from his bed By gnawing hunger he can bear no more, Or questing traveller with confused tread, Straying, bewildered in the midnight hoar. Nino uprises, scared, he knows not how, The dreams still pale about his burdened brow.
The heavy bolt he draws, and unawares A stranger enters with slow steps, unsought, A long robed monk, and in his hand he bears A jewelled goblet curiously wrought; But of his face beneath the cowl he wears For all his searching Nino seeth nought; And slowly past him with long stride he hies, While Nino follows with bewildered eyes.
Straight on he goes with dusky rustling gown. His steps are soft, his hands are white and fine; And still he bears the goblet on whose crown A hundred jewels in the lamplight shine; And ever from its edges dripping down Falls with dark stain the rich and lustrous wine, Wherefrom through all the chamber's shadowy deeps A deadly perfume like a vapour creeps.
And now he sets it down with careful hands On the slim table's polished ebony; And for a space as if in dreams he stands, Close hidden in his sombre drapery. "Oh lover, by thy lady's last commands, I bid thee hearken, for I bear with me A gift to give thee and a tale to tell From her who loved thee, while she lived, too well."
The stranger's voice falls slow and solemnly. Tis soft, and rich, and wondrous deep of tone; And Nino's face grows white as ivory, Listening fast-rooted like a shape of stone. Ah, blessed saints, can such a dark thing be? And was it death, and is Leonora gone? Oh, love is harsh, and life is frail indeed, That gives men joy, and then so makes them bleed.
"There is the gift I bring"; the stranger's head Turns to the cup that glitters at his side: "And now my tongue draws back for very dread, Unhappy youth, from what it must not hide. The saddest tale that ever lips have said; Yet thou must know how sweet Leonora died, A broken martyr for love's weary sake, And left this gift for thee to leave or take."
Poor Nino listens with that marble face, And eyes that move not, strangely wide and set. The monk continues with his mournful grace: "She told me, Nino, how you often met In secret, and your plighted loves kept pace Together, tangled in the self-same net; Your dream's dark danger and its dread you knew, And still you met, and still your passion grew.
"And aye with that luxurious fire you fed Your dangerous longing daily, crumb by crumb; Nor ever cared that still above your head The shadow grew; for that your lips were dumb. You knew full keenly you could never wed: 'Twas all a dream: the end must surely come; For not on thee her father's eyes were turned To find a son, when mighty lords were spurned.
"Thou knowest that new-sprung prince, that proud up-start, Pisa's new tyrant with his armed thralls, Who bends of late to take the people's part, Yet plays the king among his marble halls, Whose gloomy palace in our city's heart Frowns like a fortress with its loop-holed walls. 'Twas him he sought for fair Leonora's hand, That so his own declining house might stand.
"The end came soon; 'twas never known to thee; But, when your love was scarce a six months old, She sat one day beside her father's knee, And in her ears the dreadful thing was told. Within one month her bridal hour should be With Messer Gianni for his power and gold; And as she sat with whitened lips the while, The old man kissed her, with his crafty smile.
"Poor pallid lady, all the woe she felt Thou, wretched Nino, thou alone canst know. Down at his feet with many a moan she knelt, And prayed that he would never wound her so. Ah, tender saints! it was a sight to melt The flintiest heart; but his could never glow. He sat with clenched hands and straightened head, And frowned, and glared, and turned from white to red.
"And still with cries about his knees she clung, Her tender bosom broken with her care. His words were brief, with bitter fury flung: 'The father's will the child must meekly bear; I am thy father, thou a girl and young.' Then to her feet she rose in her despair, And cried with tightened lips and eyes aglow, One daring word, a straight and simple, "No"!
"Her father left her with wild words, and sent Rough men, who dragged her to a dungeon deep, Where many a weary soul in darkness pent For many a year had watched the slow days creep, And there he left her for his dark intent, Where madness breeds and sorrows never sleep. Coarse robes he gave her, and her lips he fed With bitter water and a crust of bread.
"And day by day still following out his plan, He came to her, and with determined spite Strove with soft words and then with curse and ban To bend her heart so wearied to his might, And aye she bode his bitter pleasure's span, As one that hears, but hath not sense or sight. Ah, Nino, still her breaking heart held true: Poor lady sad, she had no thought but you.
"The father tired at last and came no more, But in his settled anger bade prepare The marriage feast with all luxurious store, With pomps, and shows and splendors rich and rare; And so in toil another fortnight wore, Nor knew she aught what things were in the air, Till came the old lord's message brief and coarse: Within three days she should be wed by force.
"And all that noon and weary night she lay, Poor child, like death upon her prison stone, And none that came to her but crept away, Sickened at heart to see her lips so moan, Her eyes so dim within their sockets grey, Her tender cheeks so thin and ghastly grown; But when the next morn's light began to stir, She sent and prayed that I might be with her.
"This boon he gave: perchance he deemed that I, The chaplain of his house, her childhood's friend, With patient tones and holy words, might try To soothe her purpose to his gainful end. I bowed full low before his crafty eye, But knew my heart had no base help to lend. That night with many a silent prayer I came To poor Leonora in her grief and shame.
"But she was strange to me: I could not speak For glad amazement, mixed with some dark fear; I saw her stand no longer pale and weak, But a proud maiden, queenly and most clear, With flashing eyes and vermeil in her cheek: And on the little table, set anear, I marked two goblets of rare workmanship With some strange liquor crowned to the lip.
"And then she ran to me and caught my hand, Tightly imprisoned in her meagre twain, And like the ghost of sorrow she did stand, And eyed me softly with a liquid pain: 'Oh father, grant, I pray thee, I command, One boon to me, I'll never ask again, One boon to me and to my love, to both; Dear father, grant, and bind it with an oath.'
"This granted I, and then with many a wail She told me all the story of your woe, And when she finished, lightly but most pale, To those two brimming goblets she did go, And one she took within her fingers frail, And looked down smiling in its crimson glow: 'And now thine oath I'll tell; God grant to thee No rest in grave, if thou be false to me.
"'Alas, poor me! whom cruel hearts would wed On the sad morrow to that wicked lord; But I'll not go; nay, rather I'll be dead, Safe from their frown and from their bitter word. Without my Nino life indeed were sped; And sith we two can never more accord In this drear world, so weary and perplext, We'll die, and win sweet pleasure in the next.
"'Oh father, God will never give thee rest, If thou be false to what thy lips have sworn, And false to love, and false to me distressed, A helpless maid, so broken and outworn. This cup—she put it softly to her breast— I pray thee carry, ere the morrow morn, To Nino's hand, and tell him all my pain; This other with mine own lips I will drain.'
"Slowly she raised it to her lips, the while I darted forward, madly fain to seize Her dreadful hands, but with a sudden wile She twisted and sprang from me with bent knees, And rising turned upon me with a smile, And drained her goblet to the very lees. 'Oh priest, remember, keep thine oath,' she cried, And the spent goblet fell against her side.
"And then she moaned and murmured like a bell: 'My Nino, my sweet Nino!' and no more She said, but fluttered like a bird and fell Lifeless as marble to the footworn floor; And there she lies even now in lonely cell, Poor lady, pale with all the grief she bore, She could not live, and still be true to thee, And so she's gone where no rude hands can be."
The monk's voice pauses like some mournful flute, Whose pondered closes for sheer sorrow fail, And then with hand that seems as it would suit A soft girl best, it is so light and frail, He turns half round, and for a moment mute Points to the goblet, and so ends his tale: "Mine oath is kept, thy lady's last command; 'Tis but a short hour since it left her hand."
So ends the stranger: surely no man's tongue Was e'er so soft, or half so sweet, as his. Oft as he listened, Nino's heart had sprung With sudden start as from a spectre's kiss; For deep in many a word he deemed had rung The liquid fall of some loved emphasis; And so it pierced his sorrow to the core, The ghost of tones that he should hear no more.
But now the tale is ended, and still keeps The stranger hidden in his dusky weed; And Nino stands, wide-eyed, as one that sleeps, And dimly wonders how his heart doth bleed. Anon he bends, yet neither moans nor weeps, But hangs atremble, like a broken reed; "Ah! bitter fate, that lured and sold us so, Poor lady mine; alas for all our woe!"
But even as he moans in such dark mood, His wandering eyes upon the goblet fall. Oh, dreaming heart! Oh, strange ingratitude! So to forget his lady's lingering call, Her parting gift, so rich, so crimson-hued, The lover's draught, that shall be cure for all. He lifts the goblet lightly from its place, And smiles, and rears it with his courtly grace.
"Oh, lady sweet, I shall not long delay: This gift of thine shall bring me to thine eyes. Sure God will send on no unpardoned way The faithful soul, that at such bidding dies. When thou art gone, I cannot longer stay To brave this world with all its wrath and lies, Where hands of stone and tongues of dragon's breath Have bruised mine angel to her piteous death."
And now the gleaming goblet hath scarce dyed His lips' thin pallor with its deathly red, When Nino starts in wonder, fearful-eyed, For, lo! the stranger with outstretched head Springs at his face one soft and sudden stride, And from his hand the deadly cup hath sped, Dashed to the ground, and all it's seeded store Runs out like blood upon the marble floor.
"Oh Nino, my sweet Nino! speak to me, Nor stand so strange, nor look so deathly pale. 'Twas all to prove thy heart's deaf constancy I brought that cup and told that piteous tale. Ah! chains and cells and cruel treachery Are weak indeed when women's hearts assail. Art angry, Nino?" 'Tis no monk that cries, But sweet Leonora with her love-lit eyes.
She dashes from her brow the pented hood; The dusky robe falls rustling to her feet; And there she stands, as aye in dreams she stood. Ah, Nino, see! Sure man did never meet So warm a flower from such a sombre bud, So trembling fair, so wan, so pallid sweet. Aye, Nino, down like saint upon thy knee, And soothe her hands with kisses warm and free.
And now with broken laughter on her lips, And now with moans remembering of her care, She weeps, and smiles, and like a child she slips Her lily fingers through his curly hair, The while her head with all it's sweet she dips, Close to his ear, to soothe and murmur there; "Oh, Nino, I was hid so long from thee, That much I doubted what thy love might be.
"And though 'twas cruel hard of me to try Thy faithful heart with such a fearful test, Yet now thou canst be happy, sweet, as I Am wondrous happy in thy truth confessed. To haggard death indeed thou needst not fly To find the softness of thy lady's breast; For such a gift was never death's to give, But thou shalt have me for thy love, and live.
"Dost see these cheeks, my Nino? they're so thin, Not round and soft, as when thou touched them last: So long with bitter rage they pent me in, Like some poor thief in lonely dungeon cast; Only this night through every bolt and gin By cunning stealth I wrought my way at last. Straight to thine heart I fled, unfaltering, Like homeward pigeon with uncaged wing.