NEW YORK FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1906, 1907, 1908, BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1909, 1910, 1911, BY FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1906, 1909, BY ALFRED NOYES
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian. All dramatic and acting rights, both professional and amateur, are reserved. Application for the right of performing should be made to the publishers.
MIST IN THE VALLEY 1
A SONG OF THE PLOUGH 4
THE BANNER 6
RANK AND FILE 6
THE SKY-LARK CAGED 11
THE LOVERS' FLIGHT 13
THE ROCK POOL 16
THE ISLAND HAWK 20
THE ADMIRAL'S GHOST 26
IN A RAILWAY CARRIAGE 30
AN EAST-END COFFEE-STALL 32
RED OF THE DAWN 33
THE DREAM-CHILD'S INVITATION 35
THE TRAMP TRANSFIGURED 37
ON THE DOWNS 50
A MAY-DAY CAROL 52
THE CALL OF THE SPRING 53
A DEVONSHIRE DITTY 55
BACCHUS AND THE PIRATES 56
THE NEWSPAPER BOY 64
THE TWO WORLDS 66
FOR THE EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY OF GEORGE MEREDITH 69
IN MEMORY OF SWINBURNE 70
ON THE DEATH OF FRANCIS THOMPSON 72
IN MEMORY OF MEREDITH 74
THE TESTIMONY OF ART 76
THE SCHOLARS 76
A JAPANESE LOVE-SONG 78
THE TWO PAINTERS 79
THE ENCHANTED ISLAND 88
THE HILL-FLOWER 93
LUCIFER'S FEAST 101
THE QUEST RENEWED 108
THE LIGHTS OF HOME 109
'TWEEN THE LIGHTS 110
THE PEACEMAKER 115
THE SAILOR-KING 117
THE FIDDLER'S FAREWELL 118
TO A PESSIMIST 119
MOUNT IDA 120
THE ELECTRIC TRAM 127
TALES OF THE MERMAID TAVERN
I A KNIGHT OF THE OCEAN-SEA 274
II A COINER OF ANGELS 285
III BLACK BILL'S HONEY-MOON 303
IV THE SIGN OF THE GOLDEN SHOE 322
V THE COMPANION OF A MILE 340
VI BIG BEN 351
VII THE BURIAL OF A QUEEN 361
VIII FLOS MERCATORUM 386
IX RALEIGH 411
A WATCHWORD OF THE FLEET 434
NEW WARS FOR OLD 435
THE PRAYER FOR PEACE 436
THE SWORD OF ENGLAND 438
THE DAWN OF PEACE 438
THE BRINGERS OF GOOD NEWS 440
THE LONELY SHRINE 442
TO A FRIEND OF BOYHOOD LOST AT SEA 443
OUR LADY OF THE TWILIGHT 444
THE HILL-FLOWERS 445
THE CAROL OF THE FIR-TREE 447
THE ENCHANTED ISLAND AND OTHER POEMS
MIST IN THE VALLEY
Mist in the valley, weeping mist Beset my homeward way. No gleam of rose or amethyst Hallowed the parting day; A shroud, a shroud of awful grey Wrapped every woodland brow, And drooped in crumbling disarray Around each wintry bough.
And closer round me now it clung Until I scarce could see The stealthy pathway overhung By silent tree and tree Which floated in that mystery As—poised in waveless deeps— Branching in worlds below the sea, The grey sea-forest sleeps.
Mist in the valley, mist no less Within my groping mind! The stile swam out: a wilderness Rolled round it, grey and blind. A yard in front, a yard behind, So strait my world was grown, I stooped to win once more some kind Glimmer of twig or stone.
I crossed and lost the friendly stile And listened. Never a sound Came to me. Mile on mile on mile It seemed the world around Beneath some infinite sea lay drowned With all that e'er drew breath; Whilst I, alone, had strangely found A moment's life in death.
A universe of lifeless grey Oppressed me overhead. Below, a yard of clinging clay With rotting foliage red Glimmered. The stillness of the dead, Hark!—was it broken now By the slow drip of tears that bled From hidden heart or bough.
Mist in the valley, mist no less That muffled every cry Across the soul's grey wilderness Where faith lay down to die; Buried beyond all hope was I, Hope had no meaning there: A yard above my head the sky Could only mock at prayer.
E'en as I groped along, the gloom Suddenly shook at my feet! O, strangely as from a rending tomb In resurrection, sweet Swift wings tumultuously beat Away! I paused to hark— O, birds of thought, too fair, too fleet To follow across the dark!
Yet, like a madman's dream, there came One fair swift flash to me Of distances, of streets a-flame With joy and agony, And further yet, a moon-lit sea Foaming across its bars, And further yet, the infinity Of wheeling suns and stars,
And further yet ... O, mist of suns I grope amidst your light, O, further yet, what vast response From what transcendent height? Wild wings that burst thro' death's dim night I can but pause and hark; For O, ye are too swift, too white, To follow across the dark!
Mist in the valley, yet I saw, And in my soul I knew The gleaming City whence I draw The strength that then I drew, My misty pathway to pursue With steady pulse and breath Through these dim forest-ways of dew And darkness, life and death.
A SONG OF THE PLOUGH
Idle, comfortless, bare, The broad bleak acres lie: The ploughman guides the sharp ploughshare Steadily nigh.
The big plough-horses lift And climb from the marge of the sea, And the clouds of their breath on the clear wind drift Over the fallow lea.
Streaming up with the yoke, Brown as the sweet-smelling loam, Thro' a sun-swept smother of sweat and smoke The two great horses come.
Up thro' the raw cold morn They trample and drag and swing; And my dreams are waving with ungrown corn In a far-off spring.
It is my soul lies bare Between the hills and the sea: Come, ploughman Life, with thy sharp ploughshare, And plough the field for me.
Over the darkening plain As the stars regain the sky, Steals the chime of an unseen rein Steadily nigh.
Lost in the deepening red The sea has forgotten the shore: The great dark steeds with their muffled tread Draw near once more.
To the furrow's end they sweep Like a sombre wave of the sea, Lifting its crest to challenge the deep Hush of Eternity.
Still for a moment they stand, Massed on the sun's red death, A surge of bronze, too great, too grand, To endure for more than a breath.
Only the billow and stream Of muscle and flank and mane Like darkling mountain-cataracts gleam Gripped in a Titan's rein.
Once more from the furrow's end They wheel to the fallow lea, And down the muffled slope descend To the sleeping sea.
And the fibrous knots of clay, And the sun-dried clots of earth Cleave, and the sunset cloaks the grey Waste and the stony dearth!
O, broad and dusky and sweet, The sunset covers the weald; But my dreams are waving with golden wheat In a still strange field.
My soul, my soul lies bare, Between the hills and the sea; Come, ploughman Death, with thy sharp ploughshare, And plough the field for me.
Who in the gorgeous vanguard of the years With winged helmet glistens, let him hold Ere he pluck down this banner, crying "It bears An old device"; for, though it seem the old,
It is the new! No rent shroud of the past, But its transfigured spirit that still shines Triumphantly before the foremost lines, Even from the first prophesying the last.
And whoso dreams to pluck it down shall stand Bewildered, while the great host thunders by; And he shall show the rent shroud in his hand And "Lo, I lead the van!" he still shall cry;
While leagues away, the spirit-banner shines Rushing in triumph before the foremost lines.
RANK AND FILE
Drum-taps! Drum-taps! Who is it marching, Marching past in the night? Ah, hark, Draw your curtains aside and see Endless ranks of the stars o'er-arching Endless ranks of an army marching, Marching out of the measureless dark, Marching away to Eternity.
See the gleam of the white sad faces Moving steadily, row on row, Marching away to their hopeless wars: Drum-taps, drum-taps, where are they marching? Terrible, beautiful, human faces, Common as dirt, but softer than snow, Coarser than clay, but calm as the stars.
Is it the last rank readily, steadily Swinging away to the unknown doom? Ere you can think it, the drum-taps beat Louder, and here they come marching, marching, Great new level locked ranks of them readily Steadily swinging out of the gloom Marching endlessly down the street.
Unregarded imperial regiments White from the roaring intricate places Deep in the maw of the world's machine, Well content, they are marching, marching, Unregarded imperial regiments, Ay, and there are those terrible faces Great world-heroes that might have been.
Hints and facets of One—the Eternal, Faces of grief, compassion and pain, Faces of hunger, faces of stone, Faces of love and of labour, marching, Changing facets of One—the Eternal, Streaming up thro' the wind and the rain, All together and each alone.
You that doubt of the world's one Passion, You for whose science the stars are a-stray, Hark—to their orderly thunder-tread! These, in the night, with the stars are marching One to the end of the world's one Passion! You that have taken their Master away, Where have you laid Him, living or dead?
You whose laws have hidden the One Law, You whose searchings obscure the goal, You whose systems from chaos begun, Chance-born, order-less, hark, they are marching, Hearts and tides and stars to the One Law, Measured and orderly, rhythmical, whole, Multitudinous, welded and one.
Split your threads of the seamless purple, Round you marches the world-wide host, Round your skies is the marching sky, Out in the night there's an army marching, Clothed with the night's own seamless purple, Making death for the King their boast, Marching straight to Eternity.
What do you know of the shot-riddled banners Royally surging out of the gloom, You whose denials their souls despise? Out in the night they are marching, marching! Treasure your wisdom, and leave them their banners! Then—when you follow them down to the tomb Pray for one glimpse of the faith in their eyes.
Pray for one gleam of the white sad faces, Moving steadily, row on row, Marching away to their hopeless wars, Doomed to be trodden like dung, but marching, Terrible, beautiful human faces, Common as dirt, but softer than snow, Coarser than clay, but calm as the stars.
What of the end? Will your knowledge escape it? What of the end of their dumb dark tears? You who mock at their faith and sing, Look, for their ragged old banners are marching Down to the end—will your knowledge escape it?— Down to the end of a few brief years! What should they care for the wisdom you bring.
Count as they pass, their hundreds, thousands, Millions, marching away to a doom Younger than London, older that Tyre! Drum-taps, drum-taps, where are they marching, Regiments, nations, empires, marching? Down thro' the jaws of a world-wide tomb, Doomed or ever they sprang from the mire!
Doomed to be shovelled like dung to the midden, Trodden and kneaded as clay in the road, Father and little one, lover and friend, Out in the night they are marching, marching, Doomed to be shovelled like dung to the midden, Bodies that bowed beneath Christ's own load, Love that—marched to the self-same end.
What of the end?—O, not of your glory, Not of your wealth or your fame that will live Half as long as this pellet of dust!— Out in the night there's an army marching, Nameless, noteless, empty of glory, Ready to suffer and die and forgive, Marching onward in simple trust,
Wearing their poor little toy love-tokens Under the march of the terrible skies! Is it a jest for a God to play?— Whose is the jest of these millions marching, Wearing their poor little toy love-tokens, Waving their voicelessly grand good-byes, Secretly trying, sometimes, to pray.
Dare you dream their trust in Eternity Broken, O you to whom prayers are vain, You who dream that their God is dead? Take your answer—these millions marching Out of Eternity, into Eternity, These that smiled "We shall meet again," Even as the life from their loved one fled.
This is the answer, not of the sages, Not of the loves that are ready to part, Ready to find their oblivion sweet! Out in the night there's an army marching, Men that have toiled thro' the endless ages, Men of the pit and the desk and the mart, Men that remember, the men in the street,
These that into the gloom of Eternity Stream thro' the dream of this lamp-starred town London, an army of clouds to-night! These that of old came marching, marching, Out of the terrible gloom of Eternity, Bowing their heads at Rameses' frown, Streaming away thro' Babylon's light;
These that swept at the sound of the trumpet Out thro' the night like gonfaloned clouds, Exiled hosts when the world was Rome, Tossing their tattered old eagles, marching Down to sleep till the great last trumpet, London, Nineveh, rend your shrouds, Rally the legions and lead them home,
Lead them home with their glorious faces Moving steadily, row on row Marching up from the end of wars, Out of the Valley of Shadows, marching, Terrible, beautiful, human faces, Common as dirt, but softer than snow, Coarser than clay, but calm as the stars,
Marching out of the endless ages, Marching out of the dawn of time, Endless columns of unknown men, Endless ranks of the stars o'er-arching Endless ranks of an army marching Numberless out of the numberless ages, Men out of every race and clime, Marching steadily, now as then.
THE SKY-LARK CAGED
Beat, little breast, against the wires. Strive, little wings and misted eyes Which one wild gleam of memory fires Beseeching still the unfettered skies, Whither at dewy dawn you sprang Quivering with joy from this dark earth and sang.
And still you sing—your narrow cage Shall set at least your music free! Its rapturous wings in glorious rage Mount and are lost in liberty, While those who caged you creep on earth Blind prisoners from the hour that gave them birth.
Sing! The great City surges round. Blinded with light, thou canst not know. Dream! 'Tis the fir-woods' windy sound Rolling a psalm of praise below. Sing, o'er the bitter dust and shame, And touch us with thine own transcendent flame.
Sing, o'er the City dust and slime; Sing, o'er the squalor and the gold, The greed that darkens earth with crime, The spirits that are bought and sold. O, shower the healing notes like rain, And lift us to the height of grief again.
Sing! The same music swells your breast, And the wild notes are still as sweet As when above the fragrant nest And the wide billowing fields of wheat You soared and sang the livelong day, And in the light of heaven dissolved away.
The light of heaven! Is it not here? One rapture, one ecstatic joy, One passion, one sublime despair, One grief which nothing can destroy, You—though your dying eyes are wet Remember, 'tis our blunted hearts forget.
Beat, little breast, still beat, still beat, Strive, misted eyes and tremulous wings; Swell, little throat, your Sweet! Sweet! Sweet! Thro' which such deathless memory rings: Better to break your heart and die, Than, like your gaolers, to forget your sky.
THE LOVERS' FLIGHT
Come, the dusk is lit with flowers! Quietly take this guiding hand: Little breath to waste is ours On the road to lovers' land. Time is in his dungeon-keep! Ah, not thither, lest he hear, Starting from his old grey sleep, Rosy feet upon the stair.
Ah, not thither, lest he heed Ere we reach the rusty door! Nay, the stairways only lead Back to his dark world once more: There's a merrier way we know Leading to a lovelier night— See, your casement all a-glow Diamonding the wonder-light.
Fling the flowery lattice wide, Let the silken ladder down, Swiftly to the garden glide Glimmering in your long white gown, Rosy from your pillow, sweet, Come, unsandalled and divine; Let the blossoms stain your feet And the stars behold them shine.
Swift, our pawing palfreys wait, And the page—Dan Cupid—frets, Holding at the garden gate Reins that chime like castanets, Bits a-foam with fairy flakes Flung from seas whence Venus rose: Come, for Father Time awakes And the star of morning glows.
Swift—one satin foot shall sway Half a heart-beat in my hand, Swing to stirrup and swift away Down the road to lovers' land: Ride—the moon is dusky gold, Ride—our hearts are young and warm, Ride—the hour is growing old, And the next may break the charm.
Swift, ere we that thought the song Full—for others—of the truth, We that smiled, contented, strong, Dowered with endless wealth of youth, Find that like a summer cloud Youth indeed has crept away, Find the robe a clinging shroud And the hair be-sprent with grey.
Ride—we'll leave it all behind, All the turmoil and the tears, All the mad vindictive blind Yelping of the heartless years! Ride—the ringing world's in chase, Yet we've slipped old Father Time, By the love-light in your face And the jingle of this rhyme.
Ride—for still the hunt is loud! Ride—our steeds can hold their own! Yours, a satin sea-wave, proud, Queen, to be your living throne, Glittering with the foam and fire Churned from seas whence Venus rose, Tow'rds the gates of our desire Gloriously burning flows.
He, with streaming flanks a-smoke, Needs no spur of blood-stained steel: Only that soft thudding stroke Once, o' the little satin heel, Drives his mighty heart, your slave, Bridled with these bells of rhyme, Onward, like a crested wave Thundering out of hail of Time.
On, till from a rosy spark Fairy-small as gleams your hand, Broadening as we cleave the dark, Dawn the gates of lovers' land, Nearing, sweet, till breast and brow Lifted through the purple night Catch the deepening glory now And your eyes the wonder-light.
E'en as tow'rd your face I lean Swooping nigh the gates of bliss, I the king and you the queen Crown each other with a kiss. Riding, soaring like a song Burn we tow'rds the heaven above, You the sweet and I the strong And in both the fire of love.
Ride—though now the distant chase Knows that we have slipped old Time, Lift the love-light of your face, Shake the bridle of this rhyme, See, the flowers of night and day Streaming past on either hand, Ride into the eternal May, Ride into the lovers' land.
THE ROCK POOL
Bright as a fallen fragment of the sky, Mid shell-encrusted rocks the sea-pool shone, Glassing the sunset-clouds in its clear heart, A small enchanted world enwalled apart In diamond mystery, Content with its own dreams, its own strict zone Of urchin woods, its fairy bights and bars, Its daisy-disked anemones and rose-feathered stars.
Forsaken for awhile by that deep roar Which works in storm and calm the eternal will, Drags down the cliffs, bids the great hills go by And shepherds their multitudinous pageantry,— Here, on this ebb-tide shore A jewelled bath of beauty, sparkling still, The little sea-pool smiled away the sea, And slept on its own plane of bright tranquillity.
A self-sufficing soul, a pool in trance, Un-stirred by all the spirit-winds that blow From o'er the gulfs of change, content, ere yet On its own crags, which rough peaked limpets fret The last rich colours glance, Content to mirror the sea-bird's wings of snow, Or feel in some small creek, ere sunset fails, A tiny Nautilus hoist its lovely purple sails;
And, furrowing into pearl that rosy bar, Sail its own soul from fairy fringe to fringe, Lured by the twinkling prey 'twas born to reach In its own pool, by many an elfin beach Of jewels, adventuring far Through the last mirrored cloud and sunset-tinge And past the rainbow-dripping cave where lies The dark green pirate-crab at watch with beaded eyes,
Or fringed Medusa floats like light in light, Medusa, with the loveliest of all fays Pent in its irised bubble of jellied sheen, Trailing long ferns of moonlight, shot with green And crimson rays and white, Waving ethereal tendrils, ghostly sprays, Daring the deep, dissolving in the sun, The vanishing point of life, the light whence life begun.
Poised between me, light, time, eternity, So tinged with all, that in its delicate brain Kindling it as a lamp with her bright wings Day-long, night-long, young Ariel sits and sings Echoing the lucid sea, Listening it echo her own unearthly strain, Watching through lucid walls the world's rich tide, One light, one substance with her own, rise and subside.
And over soft brown woods, limpid, serene, Puffing its fans the Nautilus went its way, And from a hundred salt and weedy shelves Peered little horned faces of sea-elves: The prawn darted, half-seen, Thro' watery sunlight, like a pale green ray, And all around, from soft green waving bowers, Creatures like fruit out-crept from fluted shells like flowers.
And, over all, that glowing mirror spread The splendour of its heaven-reflecting gleams, A level wealth of tints, calm as the sky That broods above our own mortality: The temporal seas had fled, And ah, what hopes, what fears, what mystic dreams Could ruffle it now from any deeper deep? Content in its own bounds it slept a changeless sleep.
Suddenly, from that heaven beyond belief, Suddenly, from that world beyond its ken, Dashing great billows o'er its rosy bars, Shivering its dreams into a thousand stars, Flooding each sun-dried reef With waves of colour, (as once, for mortal men Bethesda's angel) with blue eyes, wide and wild, Naked into the pool there stepped a little child.
Her red-gold hair against the far green sea Blew thickly out: her slender golden form Shone dark against the richly waning West As with one hand she splashed her glistening breast, Then waded up to her knee And frothed the whole pool into a fairy storm!... So, stooping through our skies, of old, there came Angels that once could set this world's dark pool a-flame,
From which the seas of faith have ebbed away, Leaving the lonely shore too bright, too bare, While mirrored softly in the smooth wet sand A deeper sunset sees its blooms expand But all too phantom-fair, Between the dark brown rocks and sparkling spray Where the low ripples pleaded, shrank and sighed, And tossed a moment's rainbow heavenward ere they died.
Stoop, starry souls, incline to this dark coast, Where all too long, too faithlessly, we dream. Stoop to the world's dark pool, its crags and scars, Its yellow sands, its rosy harbour-bars, And soft green wastes that gleam But with some glorious drifting god-like ghost Of cloud, some vaguely passionate crimson stain: Rend the blue waves of heaven, shatter our sleep again!
THE ISLAND HAWK
(A SONG FOR THE FIRST LAUNCHING OF HIS MAJESTY'S AERIAL NAVY)
Chorus— Ships have swept with my conquering name Over the waves of war, Swept thro' the Spaniards' thunder and flame To the splendour of Trafalgar: On the blistered decks of their great renown, In the wind of my storm-beat wings, Hawkins and Hawke went sailing down To the harbour of deep-sea kings! By the storm-beat wings of the hawk, the hawk, Bent beak and pitiless breast, They clove their way thro' the red sea-fray: Who wakens me now to the quest?
Hushed are the whimpering winds on the hill, Dumb is the shrinking plain, And the songs that enchanted the woods are still As I shoot to the skies again! Does the blood grow black on my fierce bent beak, Does the down still cling to my claw? Who brightened these eyes for the prey they seek? Life, I follow thy law! For I am the hawk, the hawk, the hawk! Who knoweth my pitiless breast? Who watcheth me sway in the wild wind's way? Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
As I glide and glide with my peering head, Or swerve at a puff of smoke, Who watcheth my wings on the wind outspread, Here—gone—with an instant stroke? Who toucheth the glory of life I feel As I buffet this great glad gale, Spire and spire to the cloud-world, wheel, Loosen my wings and sail? For I am the hawk, the island hawk, Who knoweth my pitiless breast? Who watcheth me sway in the sun's bright way? Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
Had they given me "Cloud-cuckoo-city" to guard Between mankind and the sky, Tho' the dew might shine on an April sward, Iris had ne'er passed by! Swift as her beautiful wings might be From the rosy Olympian hill, Had Epops entrusted the gates to me Earth were his kingdom still. For I am the hawk, the archer, the hawk! Who knoweth my pitiless breast? Who watcheth me sway in the wild wind's way? Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
My mate in the nest on the high bright tree Blazing with dawn and dew, She knoweth the gleam of the world and the glee As I drop like a bolt from the blue; She knoweth the fire of the level flight As I skim, close, close to the ground, With the long grass lashing my breast and the bright Dew-drops flashing around. She watcheth the hawk, the hawk, the hawk, (O, the red-blotched eggs in the nest!) Watcheth him sway in the sun's bright way; Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
She builded her nest on the high bright wold, She was taught in a world afar, The lore that is only an April old Yet old as the evening star; Life of a far off ancient day In an hour unhooded her eyes; In the time of the budding of one green spray She was wise as the stars are wise. Brown flower of the tree of the hawk, the hawk, On the old elm's burgeoning breast, She watcheth me sway in the wild wind's way; Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
Spirit and sap of the sweet swift Spring, Fire of our island soul, Burn in her breast and pulse in her wing While the endless ages roll; Avatar—she—of the perilous pride That plundered the golden West, Her glance is a sword, but it sweeps too wide For a rumour to trouble her rest. She goeth her glorious way, the hawk, She nurseth her brood alone; She will not swoop for an owlet's whoop, She hath calls and cries of her own.
There was never a dale in our isle so deep That her wide wings were not free To soar to the sovran heights and keep Sight of the rolling sea: Is it there, is it here in the rolling skies, The realm of her future fame? Look once, look once in her glittering eyes, Ye shall find her the same, the same. Up to the sides with the hawk, the hawk, As it was in the days of old! Ye shall sail once more, ye shall soar, ye shall soar To the new-found realms of gold.
She hath ridden on white Arabian steeds Thro' the ringing English dells, For the joy of a great queen, hunting in state, To the music of golden bells; A queen's fair fingers have drawn the hood And tossed her aloft in the blue, A white hand eager for needless blood; I hunt for the needs of two. Yet I am the hawk, the hawk, the hawk! Who knoweth my pitiless breast? Who watcheth me sway in the sun's bright way? Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
Who fashioned her wide and splendid eyes That have stared in the eyes of kings? With a silken twist she was looped to their wrist: She has clawed at their jewelled rings! Who flung her first thro' the crimson dawn To pluck him a prey from the skies, When the love-light shone upon lake and lawn In the valleys of Paradise? Who fashioned the hawk, the hawk, the hawk, Bent beak and pitiless breast? Who watcheth him sway in the wild wind's way? Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
Is there ever a song in all the world Shall say how the quest began With the beak and the wings that have made us kings And cruel—almost—as man? The wild wind whimpers across the heath Where the sad little tufts of blue And the red-stained grey little feathers of death Flutter! Who fashioned us? Who? Who fashioned the scimitar wings of the hawk, Bent beak and arrowy breast? Who watcheth him sway in the sun's bright way? Flee—flee—for I quest, I quest.
Linnet and woodpecker, red-cap and jay, Shriek that a doom shall fall One day, one day, on my pitiless way From the sky that is over us all; But the great blue hawk of the heavens above Fashioned the world for his prey,— King and queen and hawk and dove, We shall meet in his clutch that day; Shall I not welcome him, I, the hawk? Yea, cry, as they shrink from his claw, Cry, as I die, to the unknown sky, Life, I follow thy law!
Chorus— Ships have swept with my conquering name ... Over the world and beyond, Hark! Bellerophon, Marlborough, Thunderer, Condor, respond!— On the blistered decks of their dread renown, In the rush of my storm-beat wings, Hawkins and Hawke went sailing down To the glory of deep-sea kings! By the storm-beat wings of the hawk, the hawk, Bent beak and pitiless breast, They clove their way thro' the red sea-fray! Who wakens me now to the quest.
THE ADMIRAL'S GHOST
I tell you a tale to-night Which a seaman told to me, With eyes that gleamed in the lanthorn light And a voice as low as the sea.
You could almost hear the stars Twinkling up in the sky, And the old wind woke and moaned in the spars, And the same old waves went by,
Singing the same old song As ages and ages ago, While he froze my blood in that deep-sea night With the things that he seemed to know.
A bare foot pattered on deck; Ropes creaked; then—all grew still, And he pointed his finger straight in my face And growled, as a sea-dog will.
"Do' ee know who Nelson was? That pore little shrivelled form With the patch on his eye and the pinned-up sleeve And a soul like a North Sea storm?
"Ask of the Devonshire men! They know, and they'll tell you true; He wasn't the pore little chawed-up chap That Hardy thought he knew.
"He wasn't the man you think! His patch was a dern disguise! For he knew that they'd find him out, d'you see, If they looked him in both his eyes.
"He was twice as big as he seemed; But his clothes were cunningly made. He'd both of his hairy arms all right! The sleeve was a trick of the trade.
"You've heard of sperrits, no doubt; Well, there's more in the matter than that! But he wasn't the patch and he wasn't the sleeve, And he wasn't the laced cocked-hat.
"Nelson was just—a Ghost! You may laugh! But the Devonshire men They knew that he'd come when England called, And they know that he'll come again.
"I'll tell you the way it was (For none of the landsmen know), And to tell it you right, you must go a-starn Two hundred years or so.
* * * *
"The waves were lapping and slapping The same as they are to-day; And Drake lay dying aboard his ship In Nombre Dios Bay.
"The scent of the foreign flowers Came floating all around; 'But I'd give my soul for the smell o' the pitch,' Says he, 'in Plymouth Sound.'
"'What shall I do,' he says, 'When the guns begin to roar, An' England wants me, and me not there To shatter 'er foes once more?'
"(You've heard what he said, maybe, But I'll mark you the p'ints again; For I want you to box your compass right And get my story plain.)
"'You must take my drum,' he says, 'To the old sea-wall at home; And if ever you strike that drum,' he says, 'Why, strike me blind, I'll come!
"'If England needs me, dead Or living, I'll rise that day! I'll rise from the darkness under the sea Ten thousand miles away.'
"That's what he said; and he died, An' his pirates, listenin' roun', With their crimson doublets and jewelled swords That flashed as the sun went down,
"They sewed him up in his shroud With a round-shot top and toe, To sink him under the salt sharp sea Where all good seamen go.
"They lowered him down in the deep, And there in the sunset light They boomed a broadside over his grave, As meanin' to say 'Good-night.'
"They sailed away in the dark To the dear little isle they knew; And they hung his drum by the old sea-wall The same as he told them to.
* * * *
"Two hundred years went by, And the guns began to roar, And England was fighting hard for her life, As ever she fought of yore.
"'It's only my dead that count,' She said, as she says to-day; 'It isn't the ships and it isn't the guns 'Ull sweep Trafalgar's Bay.'
"D'you guess who Nelson was? You may laugh, but it's true as true! There was more in that pore little chawed-up chap Than ever his best friend knew.
"The foe was creepin' close, In the dark, to our white-cliffed isle; They were ready to leap at England's throat, When—O, you may smile, you may smile;
"But—ask of the Devonshire men; For they heard in the dead of night The roll of a drum, and they saw him pass On a ship all shining white.
"He stretched out his dead cold face And he sailed in the grand old way! The fishes had taken an eye and his arm, But he swept Trafalgar's Bay.
"Nelson—was Francis Drake! O, what matters the uniform, Or the patch on your eye or your pinned-up sleeve, If your soul's like a North Sea storm?"
City of mist and rain and blown grey spaces, Dashed with wild wet colour and gleam of tears, Dreaming in Holyrood halls of the passionate faces Lifted to one Queen's face that has conquered the years, Are not the halls of thy memory haunted places? Cometh there not as a moon (where the blood-rust sears Floors a-flutter of old with silks and laces), Gliding, a ghostly Queen, thro' a mist of tears?
Proudly here, with a loftier pinnacled splendour, Throned in his northern Athens, what spells remain Still on the marble lips of the Wizard, and render Silent the gazer on glory without a stain! Here and here, do we whisper, with hearts more tender, Tusitala wandered thro' mist and rain; Rainbow-eyed and frail and gallant and slender, Dreaming of pirate-isles in a jewelled main.
Up the Canongate climbeth, cleft asunder Raggedly here, with a glimpse of the distant sea Flashed through a crumbling alley, a glimpse of wonder, Nay, for the City is throned on Eternity! Hark! from the soaring castle a cannon's thunder Closeth an hour for the world and an aeon for me, Gazing at last from the martial heights whereunder Deathless memories roll to an ageless sea.
IN A RAILWAY CARRIAGE
Three long isles of sunset-cloud, Poised in an ocean of gold, Floated away in the west As the long train southward rolled;
And through the gleam and shade of the panes, While meadow and wood went by, Across the streaming earth We watched the steadfast sky.
Dark before the westward window, Heavy and bloated, rolled The face of a drunken woman Nodding against the gold;
Dark before the infinite glory, With bleared and leering eyes, It stupidly lurched and nodded Against the tender skies.
What had ye done to her, masters of men, That her head be bowed down thus— Thus for your golden vespers, And deepening angelus?
Dark, besotted, malignant, vacant, Slobbering, wrinkled, old, Weary and wickedly smiling, She nodded against the gold.
Pitiful, loathsome, maudlin, lonely, Her moist, inhuman eyes Blinked at the flies on the window, And could not see the skies.
As a beast that turns and returns to a mirror And will not see its face, Her eyes rejected the sunset, Her soul lay dead in its place,
Dead in the furrows and folds of her flesh As a corpse lies lapped in the shroud; Silently floated beside her The isles of sunset-cloud.
What had ye done to her, years upon years, That her head should be bowed down thus— Thus for your golden vespers, And deepening angelus?
Her nails were blackened and split with labour, Her back was heavily bowed; Silently floated beside her The isles of sunset-cloud.
Over their tapering streaks of lilac, In breathless depths afar, Bright as the tear of an angel Glittered a lonely star.
While the hills and the streams of the world went past us, And the long train roared and rolled Southward, and dusk was falling, She nodded against the gold.
AN EAST-END COFFEE-STALL
Down the dark alley a ring of orange light Glows. God, what leprous tatters of distress, Droppings of misery, rags of Thy loneliness Quiver and heave like vermin, out of the night!
Like crippled rats, creeping out of the gloom, O Life, for one of thy terrible moments there, Lit by the little flickering yellow flare, Faces that mock at life and death and doom,
Faces that long, long since have known the worst, Faces of women that have seen the child Waste in their arms, and strangely, terribly, smiled When the dark nipple of death has eased its thirst;
Faces of men that once, though long ago, Saw the faint light of hope, though far away,— Hope that, at end of some tremendous day, They yet might reach some life where tears could flow;
Faces of our humanity, ravaged, white, Wrenched with old love, old hate, older despair, Steal out of vile filth-dropping dens to stare On that wild monstrance of a naphtha light.
They crowd before the stall's bright altar rail, Grotesque, and sacred, for that light's brief span, And all the shuddering darkness cries, "All hail, Daughters and Sons of Man!"
See, see, once more, though all their souls be dead, They hold it up, triumphantly hold it up, They feel, they warm their hands upon the Cup; Their crapulous hands, their claw-like hands break Bread!
See, with lean faces rapturously a-glow For a brief while they dream and munch and drink; Then, one by one, once more, silently slink Back, back into the gulfing mist. They go,
One by one, out of the ring of light! They creep, like crippled rats, into the gloom, Into the fogs of life and death and doom, Into the night, the immeasurable night.
RED OF THE DAWN
The Dawn peered in with blood-shot eyes Pressed close against the cracked old pane. The garret slept: the slow sad rain Had ceased: grey fogs obscured the skies; But Dawn peered in with haggard eyes.
All as last night? The three-legged chair, The bare walls and the tattered bed, All!—but for those wild flakes of red (And Dawn, perhaps, had splashed them there!) Round the bare walls, the bed, the chair.
'Twas here, last night, when winds were loud, A ragged singing-girl, she came Out of the tavern's glare and shame, With some few pence—for she was proud— Came home to sleep, when winds were loud.
And she sleeps well; for she was tired! That huddled shape beneath the sheet With knees up-drawn, no wind or sleet Can wake her now! Sleep she desired; And she sleeps well, for she was tired.
And there was one that followed her With some unhappy curse called "love": Last night, though winds beat loud above, She shrank! Hark, on the creaking stair, What stealthy footstep followed her?
But now the Curse, it seemed, had gone! The small tin-box, wherein she hid Old childish treasures, had burst its lid. Dawn kissed her doll's cracked face. It shone Red-smeared, but laughing—the Curse is gone.
So she sleeps well: she does not move; And on the wall, the chair, the bed, Is it the Dawn that splashes red, High as the text where God is Love Hangs o'er her head? She does not move.
The clock dictates its old refrain: All else is quiet; or, far away, Shaking the world with new-born day, There thunders past some mighty train: The clock dictates its old refrain.
The Dawn peers in with blood-shot eyes: The crust, the broken cup are there! She does not rise yet to prepare Her scanty meal. God does not rise And pluck the blood-stained sheet from her; But Dawn peers in with haggard eyes.
THE DREAM-CHILD'S INVITATION
Once upon a time!—Ah, now the light is burning dimly. Peterkin is here again: he wants another tale! Don't you hear him whispering—The wind is in the chimley, The ottoman's a treasure-ship, we'll all set sail?
All set sail? No, the wind is very loud to-night: The darkness on the waters is much deeper than of yore. Yet I wonder—hark, he whispers—if the little streets are still as bright In old Japan, in old Japan, that happy haunted shore.
I wonder—hush, he whispers—if perhaps the world will wake again When Christmas brings the stories back from where the skies are blue, Where clouds are scattering diamonds down on every cottage window-pane, And every boy's a fairy prince, and every tale is true.
There the sword Excalibur is thrust into the dragon's throat, Evil there is evil, black is black, and white is white: There the child triumphant hurls the villain spluttering into the moat; There the captured princess only waits the peerless knight.
Fairyland is gleaming there beyond the Sherwood Forest trees, There the City of the Clouds has anchored on the plain All her misty vistas and slumber-rosy palaces (Shall we not, ah, shall we not, wander there again?)
"Happy ever after" there, the lights of home a welcome fling Softly thro' the darkness as the star that shone of old, Softly over Bethlehem and o'er the little cradled King Whom the sages worshipped with their frankincense and gold.
Once upon a time—perhaps a hundred thousand years ago— Whisper to me, Peterkin, I have forgotten when! Once upon a time there was a way, a way we used to know For stealing off at twilight from the weary ways of men.
Whisper it, O whisper it—the way, the way is all I need! All the heart and will are here and all the deep desire! Once upon a time—ah, now the light is drawing near indeed, I see the fairy faces flush to roses round the fire.
Once upon a time—the little lips are on my cheek again, Little fairy fingers clasped and clinging draw me nigh, Dreams, no more than dreams, but they unloose the weary prisoner's chain And lead him from his dungeon! "What's a thousand years?" they cry.
A thousand years, a thousand years, a little drifting dream ago, All of us were hunting with a band of merry men, The skies were blue, the boughs were green, the clouds were crisping isles of snow ... ... So Robin blew his bugle, and the Now became the Then.
THE TRAMP TRANSFIGURED
(AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF A CORN-FLOWER MILLIONAIRE)
All the way to Fairyland across the thyme and heather, Round a little bank of fern that rustled on the sky, Me and stick and bundle, sir, we jogged along together,— (Changeable the weather? Well—it ain't all pie!) Just about the sunset—Won't you listen to my story?— Look at me! I'm only rags and tatters to your eye! Sir, that blooming sunset crowned this battered hat with glory! Me that was a crawling worm became a butterfly— (Ain't it hot and dry? Thank you, sir, thank you, sir!) a blooming butterfly.
Well, it happened this way! I was lying loose and lazy, Just as, of a Sunday, you yourself might think no shame, Puffing little clouds of smoke, and picking at a daisy, Dreaming of your dinner, p'raps, or wishful for the same: Suddenly, around that ferny bank there slowly waddled— Slowly as the finger of a clock her shadow came— Slowly as a tortoise down that winding path she toddled, Leaning on a crooked staff, a poor old crooked dame, Limping, but not lame, Tick, tack, tick, tack, a poor old crooked dame.
Slowly did I say, sir? Well, you've heard that funny fable Consekint the tortoise and the race it give an 'are? This was curiouser than that! At first I wasn't able Quite to size the memory up that bristled thro' my hair: Suddenly, I'd got it, with a nasty shivery feeling, While she walked and walked and yet was not a bit more near,— Sir, it was the tread-mill earth beneath her feet a-wheeling Faster than her feet could trot to heaven or anywhere, Earth's revolvin' stair Wheeling, while my wayside clump was kind of anchored there.
Tick, tack, tick, tack, and just a little nearer, Inch and 'arf an inch she went, but never gained a yard: Quiet as a fox I lay; I didn't wish to scare 'er, Watching thro' the ferns, and thinking "What a rum old card!" Both her wrinkled tortoise eyes with yellow resin oozing, Both her poor old bony hands were red and seamed and scarred! Lord, I felt as if myself was in a public boozing, While my own old woman went about and scrubbed and charred! Lord, it seemed so hard! Tick, tack, tick, tack, she never gained a yard.
Yus, and there in front of her—I hadn't seen it rightly— Lurked that little finger-post to point another road, Just a tiny path of poppies twisting infi-nite-ly Through the whispering seas of wheat, a scarlet thread that showed White with ox-eye daisies here and there and chalky cobbles, Blue with waving corn-flowers: far and far away it glowed, Winding into heaven, I thinks; but, Lord, the way she hobbles, Lord, she'll never reach it, for she bears too great a load; Yus, and then I knowed, If she did, she couldn't, for the board was marked No Road.
Tick, tack, tick, tack, I couldn't wait no longer! Up I gets and bows polite and pleasant as a toff— "Arternoon," I says, "I'm glad your boots are going stronger; Only thing I'm dreading is your feet 'ull both come off." Tick, tack, tick, tack, she didn't stop to answer, "Arternoon," she says, and sort o' chokes a little cough, "I must get to Piddinghoe to-morrow if I can, sir!" "Demme, my good woman! Haw! Don't think I mean to loff," Says I, like a toff, "Where d'you mean to sleep to-night? God made this grass for go'ff."
Tick, tack, tick, tack, and smilingly she eyed me (Dreadful the low cunning of these creechars, don't you think?) "That's all right! The weather's bright. Them bushes there 'ull hide me. Don't the gorse smell nice?" I felt my derned old eyelids blink! "Supper? I've a crust of bread, a big one, and a bottle," (Just as I expected! Ah, these creechars always drink!) "Sugar and water and half a pinch of tea to rinse my throttle, Then I'll curl up cosy!"—"If you're cotched it means the clink!" —"Yus, but don't you think If a star should see me, God 'ull tell that star to wink?"
"Now, look here," I says, "I don't know what your blooming age is!" "Three-score years and five," she says, "that's five more years to go Tick, tack, tick tack, before I gets my wages!" "Wages all be damned," I says, "there's one thing that I know— Gals that stay out late o' nights are sure to meet wi' sorrow. Speaking as a toff," I says, "it isn't comme il faut! Tell me why you want to get to Piddinghoe to-morrow."— "That was where my son worked, twenty years ago!"— "Twenty years ago? Never wrote? May still be there? Remember you?... Just so!"
Yus, it was a drama; but she weren't my long-lost parent! Tick, tack, tick, tack, she trotted all the while, Never getting forrarder, and not the least aware on't, Though I stood beside her with a sort of silly smile Stock-still! Tick, tack! This blooming world's a bubble: There I stood and stared at it, mile on flowery mile, Chasing o' the sunset,—"Gals are sure to meet wi' trouble Staying out o' nights," I says, once more, and tries to smile, "Come, that ain't your style, Here's a shilling, mother, for to-day I've made my pile!"
Yus, a dozen coppers, all my capital, it fled, sir, Representin' twelve bokays that cost me nothink each, Twelve bokays o' corn-flowers blue that grew beside my bed, sir, That same day, at sunrise, when the sky was like a peach: Easy as a poet's dreams they blossomed round my head, sir, All I had to do was just to lift my hand and reach: So, upon the roaring waves I cast my blooming bread, sir, Bread I'd earned with nose-gays on the bare-foot Brighton beach, Nose-gays and a speech, All about the bright blue eyes they matched on Brighton beach.
Still, you've only got to hear the bankers on the budget, Then you'll know the giving game is hardly "high finance"; Which no more it wasn't for that poor old dame to trudge it, Tick, tack, tick, tack, on such a devil's dance: Crumbs, it took me quite aback to see her stop so humble, Casting up into my face a sort of shiny glance, Bless you, bless you, that was what I thought I heard her mumble; Lord, a prayer for poor old Bill, a rummy sort of chance! Crumbs, that shiny glance Kinder made me king of all the sky from here to France.
Tick, tack, tick, tack, but now she toddled faster: Soon she'd reach the little twisted by-way through the wheat. "Look 'ee here," I says, "young woman, don't you court disaster! Peepin' through yon poppies there's a cottage trim and neat White as chalk and sweet as turf: wot price a bed for sorrow, Sprigs of lavender between the pillow and the sheet?" "No," she says, "I've got to get to Piddinghoe to-morrow! P'raps they'd tell the work'us! And I've lashings here to eat: Don't the gorse smell sweet?"... Well, I turned and left her plodding on beside the wheat.
Every cent I'd given her like a hero in a story; Yet, alone with leagues of wheat I seemed to grow aware Solomon himself, arrayed in all his golden glory, Couldn't vie with Me, the corn-flower king, the millionaire! How to cash those bright blue cheques that night? My trouser pockets Jingled sudden! Six more pennies, crept from James knew where! Crumbs! I hurried back with eyes just bulging from their sockets, Pushed 'em in the old dame's fist and listened for the prayer, Shamming not to care, Bill—the blarsted chicken-thief, the corn-flower millionaire.
Tick, tack, tick, tack, and faster yet she clattered! Ay, she'd almost gained a yard! I left her once again. Feeling very warm inside and sort of 'ighly flattered, On I plodded, all alone, with hay-stacks in my brain. Suddenly, with chink—chink—chink, the old sweet jingle Startled me! 'TWAS THRUPPENCE MORE! Three coppers round and plain! Lord, temptation struck me and I felt my gullet tingle. Then—I hurried back, beside them seas of golden grain: No, I can't explain; There I thrust 'em in her fist, and left her once again.
Tinkle-chink! THREE HA'PENCE! If the vulgar fractions followed, Big fleas have little fleas! It flashed upon me there,— Like the snakes of Pharaoh which the snakes of Moses swallowed All the world was playing at the tortoise and the hare: Half the smallest atom is—my soul was getting tipsy— Heaven is one big circle and the centre's everywhere, Yus, and that old woman was an angel and a gipsy, Yus, and Bill, the chicken-thief, the corn-flower millionaire, Shamming not to care, What was he? A seraph on the misty rainbow-stair!
Don't you make no doubt of it! The deeper that you look, sir, All your ancient poets tell you just the same as me,— What about old Ovid and his most indecent book, sir, Morphosizing females into flower and star and tree? What about old Proteus and his 'ighly curious 'abits, Mixing of his old grey beard into the old grey sea? What about old Darwin and the hat that brought forth rabbits, Mud and slime that growed into the pomp of Ninevey? What if there should be One great Power beneath it all, one God in you and me?
Anyway, it seemed to me I'd struck the world's pump-handle! "Back with that three ha'pence, Bill," I mutters, "or you're lost." Back I hurries thro' the dusk where, shining like a candle, Pale before the sunset stood that fairy finger-post. Sir, she wasn't there! I'd struck the place where all roads crost, All the roads in all the world. She couldn't yet have trotted Even to the ... Hist! a stealthy step behind? A ghost? Swish! A flying noose had caught me round the neck! Garotted! Back I staggered, clutching at the moonbeams, yus, almost Throttled! Sir, I boast Bill is tough, but ... when it comes to throttling by a ghost!
* * * *
Winged like a butterfly, tall and slender Out It steps with the rope on its arm. "Crumbs," I says, "all right! I surrender! When have I crossed you or done you harm? Ef you're a sperrit," I says, "O, crikey, Ef you're a sperrit, get hence, vamoose!" Sweet as music, she spoke—"I'm Psyche!"— Choking me still with her silken noose.
Straight at the word from the ferns and blossoms Fretting the moon-rise over the downs, Little blue wings and little white bosoms, Little white faces with golden crowns Peeped, and the colours came twinkling round me, Laughed, and the turf grew purple with thyme, Danced, and the sweet crushed scents nigh drowned me, Sang, and the hare-bells rang in chime.
All around me, gliding and gleaming, Fair as a fallen sunset-sky, Butterfly wings came drifting, dreaming, Clouds of the little folk clustered nigh, Little white hands like pearls uplifted Cords of silk in shimmering skeins, Cast them about me and dreamily drifted Winding me round with their soft warm chains.
Round and round me they dizzily floated, Binding me faster with every turn: Crumbs, my pals would have grinned and gloated Watching me over that fringe of fern, Bill, with his battered old hat outstanding Black as a foam-swept rock to the moon, Bill, like a rainbow of silks expanding Into a beautiful big cocoon,—
Big as a cloud, though his hat still crowned him, Yus, and his old boots bulged below: Seas of colour went shimmering round him, Dancing, glimmering, glancing a-glow! Bill knew well what them elves were at, sir,— Ain't you an en-to-mol-o-gist? Well, despite of his old black hat, sir, Bill was becoming—a chrysalist.
* * * *
Muffled, smothered in a sea of emerald and opal, Down a dazzling gulf of dreams I sank and sank away, Wound about with twenty thousand yards of silken rope, all Shimmering into crimson, glimmering into grey, Drowsing, waking, living, dying, just as you regards it, Buried in a sunset-cloud, or cloud of breaking day, 'Cording as from East or West yourself might look towards it, Losing, gaining, lost in darkness, ragged, grimy, gay, 'And-cuffed, not to say Gagged, but both my shoulders budding, sprouting white as May.
Sprouting like the milky buds o' hawthorn in the night-time, Pouting like the snowy buds o' roses in July, Spreading in my chrysalist and waiting for the right time, When—I thought—they'd bust to wings and Bill would rise and fly, Tick, tack, tick, tack, as if it came in answer, Sweeping o'er my head again the tide o' dreams went by,— I must get to Piddinghoe to-morrow if I can, sir, Tick, tack, a crackle in my chrysalist, a cry! Then the warm blue sky Bust the shell, and out crept Bill—a blooming butterfly!
* * * *
Blue as a corn-flower, blazed the zenith: the deepening East like a scarlet poppy Burned while, dazzled with golden bloom, white clouds like daisies, green seas like wheat, Gripping the sign-post, first, I climbs, to sun my wings, which were wrinkled and floppy, Spreading 'em white o'er the words No Road, and hanging fast by my six black feet.
Still on my head was the battered old beaver, but through it my clubbed antennae slanted, ("Feelers" yourself would probably call 'em) my battered old boots were hardly seen Under the golden fluff of the tail! It was Bill, sir, Bill, though highly enchanted, Spreading his beautiful snow-white pinions, tipped with orange, and veined with green.
Yus, old Bill was an Orange-tip, a spirit in glory, a blooming Psyche! New, it was new from East to West this rummy old world that I dreamed I knew, How can I tell you the things that I saw with my—what shall I call 'em? —"feelers?"—O, crikey, "FEELERS?" You know how the man born blind described such colours as scarlet or blue.
"Scarlet," he says, "is the sound of a trumpet, blue is a flute," for he hasn't a notion! No, nor nobody living on earth can tell it him plain, if he hasn't the sight! That's how it stands with ragged old Bill, a-drift and a-dream on a measureless ocean, Gifted wi' fifteen new-born senses, and seeing you blind to their new strange light.
How can I tell you? Sir, you must wait, till you die like Bill, ere you understand it! Only—I saw—the same as a bee that strikes to his hive ten leagues away— Straight as a die, while I winked and blinked on that sun-warmed wood and my wings expanded (Whistler drawings that men call wings)—I saw—and I flew—that's all I can say.
Flew over leagues of whispering wonder, fairy forests and flowery palaces, Love-lorn casements, delicate kingdoms, beautiful flaming thoughts of—Him; Feasts of a million blue-mailed angels lifting their honey-and-wine-brimmed chalices, Throned upon clouds—(which you'd call white clover) down to the world's most rosiest rim.
New and new and new and new, the white o' the cliffs and the wind in the heather, Yus, and the sea-gulls flying like flakes of the sea that flashed to the new-born day, Song, song, song, song, quivering up in the wild blue weather, Thousands of seraphim singing together, and me just flying and—knowing my way.
Straight as a die to Piddinghoe's dolphin, and there I drops in a cottage garden, There, on a sun-warmed window-sill, I winks and peeps, for the window was wide! Crumbs, he was there and fast in her arms and a-begging his poor old mother's pardon, There with his lips on her old grey hair, and her head on his breast while she laughed and cried,—
"One and nine-pence that old tramp gave me, or else I should never have reached you, sonny, Never, and you just leaving the village to-day and meaning to cross the sea, One and nine-pence he gave me, I paid for the farmer's lift with half o' the money! Here's the ten-pence halfpenny, sonny, 'twill pay for our little 'ouse-warming tea."
* * * *
Tick, tack, tick, tack, out into the garden Toddles that old Fairy with his arm about her—so, Cuddling of her still, and still a-begging of her pardon, While she says "I wish the corn-flower king could only know! Bless him, bless him, once again," she says and softly gazes Up to heaven, a-smiling in her mutch as white as snow, All among her gilly-flowers and stocks and double daisies, Mignonette, forget-me-not,... Twenty years ago, All a rosy glow, This is how it was, she said, Twenty years ago.
* * * *
Once again I seemed to wake, the vision it had fled, sir, There I lay upon the downs: the sky was like a peach; Yus, with twelve bokays of corn-flowers blue beside my bed, sir, More than usual 'andsome, so they'd bring me two-pence each. Easy as a poet's dreams they blossomed round my head, sir, All I had to do was just to lift my hand and reach, Tie 'em with a bit of string, and earn my blooming bread, sir, Selling little nose-gays on the bare-foot Brighton beach, Nose-gays and a speech, All about the bright blue eyes they matched on Brighton beach.
Overhead the singing lark and underfoot the heather, Far and blue in front of us the unplumbed sky, Me and stick and bundle, O, we jogs along together, (Changeable the weather? Well, it ain't all pie!) Weather's like a woman, sir, and if she wants to quarrel, If her eyes begin to flash and hair begins to fly, You've to wait a little, then—the story has a moral— Ain't the sunny kisses all the sweeter by and bye?— (Crumbs, it's 'ot and dry! Thank you, sir! Thank you, sir!) the sweeter by and bye.
So the world's my sweetheart and I sort of want to squeeze 'er. Toffs 'ull get no chance of heaven, take 'em in the lump! Never laid in hay-fields when the dawn came over-sea, sir? Guess it's true that story 'bout the needle and the hump! Never crept into a stack because the wind was blowing, Hollered out a nest and closed the door-way with a clump, Laid and heard the whisper of the silence, growing, growing, Watched a thousand wheeling stars and wondered if they'd bump? What I say would stump Joshua! But I've done it, sir. Don't think I'm off my chump.
If you try and lay, sir, with your face turned up to wonder, Up to twenty million miles of stars that roll like one, Right across to God knows where, and you just huddled under Like a little beetle with no business of his own, There you'd hear—like growing grass—a funny silent sound, sir, Mixed with curious crackles in a steady undertone, Just the sound of twenty billion stars a-going round, sir, Yus, and you beneath 'em like a wise old ant, alone, Ant upon a stone, Waving of his antlers, on the Sussex downs, alone.
ON THE DOWNS
Wide-eyed our childhood roamed the world Knee-deep in blowing grass, And watched the white clouds crisply curled Above the mountain-pass, And lay among the purple thyme And from its fragrance caught Strange hints from some elusive clime Beyond the bounds of thought.
Glimpses of fair forgotten things Beyond the gates of birth, Half-caught from far off ancient springs In heaven, and half of earth; And coloured like a fairy-tale And whispering evermore Half memories from the half-fenced pale Of lives we lived before.
Here, weary of the roaring town A-while may I return And while the west wind roams the down Lie still, lie still and learn: Here are green leagues of murmuring wheat With blue skies overhead, And, all around, the winds are sweet With May-bloom, white and red.
And, to and fro, the bee still hums His low unchanging song, And the same rustling whisper comes As through the ages long: Through all the thousands of the years That same sweet rumour flows, With dreaming skies and gleaming tears And kisses and the rose.
Once more the children throng the lanes, Themselves like flowers, to weave Their garlands and their daisy-chains And listen and believe The tale of Once-upon-a-time, And hear the Long-ago And Happy-ever-after chime Because it must be so.
And by those thousands of the years It is, though scarce we see, Dazed with the rainbows of our tears, Their steadfast unity, It is, or life's disjointed schemes, These stones, these ferns unfurled With such deep care—a madman's dreams Were wisdom to this world!
Dust into dust! Lie still and learn, Hear how the ages sing The solemn joy of our return To that which makes the Spring: Even as we came, with childhood's trust, Wide-eyed we go, to Thee Who holdest In Thy sacred dust The heavenly Springs to be.
A MAY-DAY CAROL
What is the loveliest light that Spring Rosily parting her robe of grey Girdled with leaflet green, can fling Over the fields where her white feet stray? What is the merriest promise of May Flung o'er the dew-drenched April flowers? Tell me, you on the pear-tree spray— Carol of birds between the showers.
What can life at its lightest bring Better than this on its brightest day? How should we fetter the white-throat's wing Wild with joy of its woodland way? Sweet, should love for an hour delay, Swift, while the primrose-time is ours! What is the lover's royallest lay?— Carol of birds between the showers.
What is the murmur of bees a-swing? What is the laugh of a child at play? What is the song that the angels sing? (Where were the tune could the sweet notes stay Longer than this, to kiss and betray?) Nay, on the blue sky's topmost towers, What is the song of the seraphim? Say— Carol of birds between the showers.
Thread the stars on a silver string, (So did they sing in Bethlehem's bowers!) Mirth for a little one, grief for a king, Carol of birds between the showers.
THE CALL OF THE SPRING
Come, choose your road and away, my lad, Come, choose your road and away! We'll out of the town by the road's bright crown As it dips to the dazzling day. It's a long white road for the weary; But it rolls through the heart of the May.
Though many a road would merrily ring To the tramp of your marching feet, All roads are one from the day that's done, And the miles are swift and sweet, And the graves of your friends are the mile-stones To the land where all roads meet.
But the call that you hear this day, my lad, Is the Spring's old bugle of mirth When the year's green fire in a soul's desire Is brought like a rose to the birth; And knights ride out to adventure As the flowers break out of the earth.
Over the sweet-smelling mountain-passes The clouds lie brightly curled; The wild-flowers cling to the crags and swing With cataract-dews impearled; And the way, the way that you choose this day Is the way to the end of the world.
It rolls from the golden long ago To the land that we ne'er shall find; And it's uphill here, but it's downhill there, For the road is wise and kind, And all rough places and cheerless faces Will soon be left behind.
Come, choose your road and away, away, We'll follow the gipsy sun, For it's soon, too soon to the end of the day, And the day is well begun; And the road rolls on through the heart of the May, And there's never a May but one.
There's a fir-wood here, and a dog-rose there, And a note of the mating dove; And a glimpse, maybe, of the warm blue sea, And the warm white clouds above; And warm to your breast in a tenderer nest Your sweetheart's little glove.
There's not much better to win, my lad, There's not much better to win! You have lived, you have loved, you have fought, you have proved The worth of folly and sin; So now come out of the City's rout, Come out of the dust and the din.
Come out,—a bundle and stick is all You'll need to carry along, If your heart can carry a kindly word, And your lips can carry a song; You may leave the lave to the keep o' the grave, If your lips can carry a song!
Come, choose your road and away, my lad, Come, choose your road and away! We'll out of the town by the road's bright crown, As it dips to the sapphire day! All roads may meet at the world's end, But, hey for the heart of the May! Come, choose your road and away, dear lad, Come choose your road and away.
A DEVONSHIRE DITTY
In a leafy lane of Devon There's a cottage that I know, Then a garden—then, a grey old crumbling wall, And the wall's the wall of heaven (Where I hardly care to go) And there isn't any fiery sword at all.
But I never went to heaven. There was right good reason why, For they sent a shining angel to me there, An angel, down in Devon, (Clad in muslin by the bye) With the halo of the sunshine on her hair.
Ah, whate'er the darkness covers, And whate'er we sing or say, Would you climb the wall of heaven an hour too soon If you knew a place for lovers Where the apple-blossoms stray Out of heaven to sway and whisper to the moon?
When we die—we'll think of Devon Where the garden's all aglow With the flowers that stray across the grey old wall: Then we'll climb it, out of heaven, From the other side, you know, Straggle over it from heaven With the apple-blossom snow, Tumble back again to Devon Laugh and love as long ago, Where there isn't any fiery sword at all.
BACCHUS AND THE PIRATES
Half a hundred terrible pig-tails, pirates famous in song and story, Hoisting the old black flag once more, in a palmy harbour of Caribbee, "Farewell" we waved to our brown-skinned lasses, and chorussing out to the billows of glory, Billows a-glitter with rum and gold, we followed the sunset over the sea.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred broad-sheet pirates When the world was young!
Sea-roads plated with pieces of eight that rolled to a heaven by rum made mellow, Heaved and coloured our barque's black nose where the Lascar sang to a twinkling star, And the tangled bow-sprit plunged and dipped its point in the west's wild red and yellow, Till the curved white moon crept out astern like a naked knife from a blue cymar.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred terrible pirates When the world was young!
Half a hundred tarry pig-tails, Teach, the chewer of glass, had taught us, Taught us to balance the plank ye walk, your little plank-bridge to Kingdom Come: Half a score had sailed with Flint, and a dozen or so the devil had brought us Back from the pit where Blackbeard lay, in Beelzebub's bosom, a-screech for rum.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred piping pirates When the world was young!
There was Captain Hook (of whom ye have heard—so called from his terrible cold steel twister, His own right hand having gone to a shark with a taste for skippers on pirate-trips), There was Silver himself, with his cruel crutch, and the blind man Pew, with a phiz like a blister, Gouged and white and dreadfully dried in the reek of a thousand burning ships.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred cut-throat pirates When the world was young!
With our silver buckles and French cocked hats and our skirted coats (they were growing greener, But green and gold look well when spliced! We'd trimmed 'em up wi' some fine fresh lace) Bravely over the seas we danced to the horn-pipe tune of a concertina, Cutlasses jetting beneath our skirts and cambric handkerchiefs all in place.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred elegant pirates When the world was young!
And our black prow grated, one golden noon, on the happiest isle of the Happy Islands, An isle of Paradise, fair as a gem, on the sparkling breast of the wine-dark deep, An isle of blossom and yellow sand, and enchanted vines on the purple highlands, Wi' grapes like melons, nay clustering suns, a-sprawl over cliffs in their noonday sleep.
While earth goes round let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred dream-struck pirates When the world was young!
And lo! on the soft warm edge of the sand, where the sea like wine in a golden noggin Creamed, and the rainbow-bubbles clung to his flame-red hair, a white youth lay, Sleeping; and now, as his drowsy grip relaxed, the cup that he squeezed his grog in Slipped from his hand and its purple dregs were mixed with the flames and flakes of spray.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred diffident pirates When the world was young!
And we suddenly saw (had we seen them before? They were coloured like sand or the pelt on his shoulders) His head was pillowed on two great leopards, whose breathing rose and sank with his own; Now a pirate is bold, but the vision was rum and would call for rum in the best of beholders, And it seemed we had seen Him before, in a dream, with that flame-red hair and that vine-leaf crown.
And the earth went round, and the rum went round, And softlier now we sung: Half a hundred awe-struck pirates When the world was young!
Now Timothy Hook (of whom ye have heard, with his talon of steel) our doughty skipper, A man that, in youth being brought up pious, had many a book on his cabin-shelf, Suddenly caught at a comrade's hand with the tearing claws of his cold steel flipper And cried, "Great Thunder and Brimstone, boys, I've hit it at last! 'Tis Bacchus himself."
And the earth went round, and the rum went round, And never a word we sung: Half a hundred tottering pirates When the world was young!
He flung his French cocked hat i' the foam (though its lace was the best of his wearing apparel): We stared at him—Bacchus! The sea reeled round like a wine-vat splashing with purple dreams, And the sunset-skies were dashed with blood of the grape as the sun like a new-staved barrel Flooded the tumbling West with wine and spattered the clouds with crimson gleams.
And the earth went round, and our heads went round, And never a word we sung: Half a hundred staggering pirates When the world was young!
Down to the ship for a fishing-net our crafty Hook sent Silver leaping; Back he came on his pounding crutch, for all the world like a kangaroo; And we caught the net and up to the Sleeper on hands and knees we all went creeping, Flung it across him and staked it down! 'Twas the best of our dreams and the dream was true.
And the earth went round, and the rum went round, And loudly now we sung: Half a hundred jubilant pirates When the world was young!
We had caught our god, and we got him aboard ere he woke (he was more than a little heavy); Glittering, beautiful, flushed he lay in the lurching bows of the old black barque, As the sunset died and the white moon dawned, and we saw on the island a star-bright bevy Of naked Bacchanals stealing to watch through the whispering vines in the purple dark!
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our capstan song we sung: Half a hundred innocent pirates When the world was young!
Beautiful under the sailing moon, in the tangled net, with the leopards beside him, Snared like a wild young red-lipped merman, wilful, petulant, flushed he lay; While Silver and Hook in their big sea-boots and their boat-cloaks guarded and gleefully eyed him, Thinking what Bacchus might do for a seaman, like standing him drinks, as a man might say.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, We sailed away and sung: Half a hundred fanciful pirates When the world was young!
All the grog that ever was heard of, gods, was it stowed in our sure possession? O, the pictures that broached the skies and poured their colours across our dreams! O, the thoughts that tapped the sunset, and rolled like a great torchlight procession Down our throats in a glory of glories, a roaring splendour of golden streams!
And the earth went round, and the stars went round, As we hauled the sheets and sung: Half a hundred infinite pirates When the world was young!
Beautiful, white, at the break of day, He woke and, the net in a smoke dissolving, He rose like a flame, with his yellow-eyed pards and his flame-red hair like a windy dawn, And the crew kept back, respectful like, till the leopards advanced with their eyes revolving, Then up the rigging went Silver and Hook, and the rest of us followed with case-knives drawn.
While earth goes round, let rum go round, Our cross-tree song we sung: Half a hundred terrified pirates When the world was young!
And "Take me home to my happy island!" he says. "Not I," sings Hook, "by thunder; We'll take you home to a happier isle, our palmy harbour of Caribbee!" "You won't!" says Bacchus, and quick as a dream the planks of the deck just heaved asunder, And a mighty Vine came straggling up that grew from the depths of the wine-dark sea.
And the sea went round, and the skies went round, As our cross-tree song we sung: Half a hundred horrified pirates When the world was young!
We were anchored fast as an oak on land, and the branches clutched and the tendrils quickened, And bound us writhing like snakes to the spars! Ay, we hacked with our knives at the boughs in vain, And Bacchus laughed loud on the decks below, as ever the tough sprays tightened and thickened, And the blazing hours went by, and we gaped with thirst and our ribs were racked with pain
And the skies went round, and the sea swam round, And we knew not what we sung: Half a hundred lunatic pirates When the world was young!
Bunch upon bunch of sunlike grapes, as we writhed and struggled and raved and strangled, Bunch upon bunch of gold and purple daubed its bloom on our baked black lips. Clustering grapes, O, bigger than pumpkins, just out of reach they bobbed and dangled Over the vine-entangled sails of that most dumbfounded of pirate ships!
And the sun went round, and the moon came round, And mocked us where we hung: Half a hundred maniac pirates When the world was young!
Over the waters the white moon winked its bruised old eye at our bowery prison, When suddenly we were aware of a light such as never a moon or a ship's lamp throws, And a shallop of pearl, like a Nautilus shell, came shimmering up as by magic arisen, With sails: of silk and a glory around it that turned the sea to a rippling rose.
And our heads went round, and the stars went round, At the song that cruiser sung: Half a hundred goggle-eyed pirates When the world was young!
Half a hundred rose-white Bacchanals hauled the ropes of that rosy cruiser! Over the seas they came and laid their little white hands on the old black barque; And Bacchus he ups and he steps aboard: "Hi, stop!" cries Hook, "you frantic old boozer! Belay, below there, don't you go and leave poor pirates to die in the dark!"
And the moon went round, and the stars went round, As they all pushed off and sung: Half a hundred ribbonless Bacchanals When the world was young!
Over the seas they went and Bacchus he stands, with his yellow-eyed leopards beside him, High on the poop of rose and pearl, and kisses his hand to us, pleasant as pie! While the Bacchanals danced to their tambourines, and the vine-leaves flew, and Hook just eyed him Once, as a man that was brought up pious, and scornfully hollers, "Well, you ain't shy!"
For all around him, vine-leaf crowned, The wild white Bacchanals flung! Nor it wasn't a sight for respectable pirates When the world was young!
All around that rainbow-Nautilus rippled the bloom of a thousand roses, Nay, but the sparkle of fairy sea-nymphs breasting a fairy-like sea of wine, Swimming around it in murmuring thousands, with white arms tossing; till—all that we knows is The light went out, and the night was dark, and the grapes had burst and their juice was—brine!
And the vines that bound our bodies round Were plain wet ropes that clung, Squeezing the light out o' fifty pirates When the world was young!
Over the seas in the pomp of dawn a king's ship came with her proud flag flying. Cloud upon cloud we watched her tower with her belts and her crowded zones of sail; And an A.B. perched in a white crow's nest, with a brass-rimmed spy-glass quietly spying, As we swallowed the lumps in our choking throats and uttered our last faint feeble hail!
And our heads went round as the ship went round, And we thought how coves had swung: All for playing at broad-sheet pirates When the world was young!
Half a hundred trembling corsairs, all cut loose, but a trifle giddy, We lands on their trim white decks at last and the bo'sun he whistles us good hot grog, And we tries to confess, but there wasn't a soul from the Admiral's self to the gold-laced middy But says, "They're delirious still, poor chaps," and the Cap'n he enters the fact in his log,
That his boat's crew found us nearly drowned In a barrel without a bung— Half a hundred suffering sea-cooks When the world was young!
So we sailed by Execution Dock, where the swinging pirates haughty and scornful Rattled their chains, and on Margate beach we came like a school-treat safe to land; And one of us took to religion at once; and the rest of the crew, tho' their hearts were mournful, Capered about as Christy Minstrels, while Hook conducted the big brass band.
And the sun went round, and the moon went round, And, O, 'twas a thought that stung! There was none to believe we were broad-sheet pirates When the world was young!
Ah, yet (if ye stand me a noggin of rum) shall the old Blue Dolphin echo the story! We'll hoist the white cross-bones again in our palmy harbour of Caribbee! We'll wave farewell to our brown-skinned lasses and, chorussing out to the billows of glory, Billows a-glitter with rum and gold, we'll follow the sunset over the sea!
While earth goes round, let rum go round! O, sing it as we sung! Half a hundred terrible pirates When the world was young!
THE NEWSPAPER BOY
Elf of the City, a lean little hollow-eyed boy Ragged and tattered, but lithe as a slip of the Spring, Under the lamp-light he runs with a reckless joy Shouting a murderer's doom or the death of a King.
Out of the darkness he leaps like a wild strange hint, Herald of tragedy, comedy, crime and despair, Waving a poster that hurls you, in fierce black print One word Mystery, under the lamp's white glare.
Elf of the night of the City he darts with his crew Out of a vaporous furnace of colour that wreathes Magical letters a-flicker from crimson to blue High overhead. All round him the mad world seethes. Hansoms, like cantering beetles, with diamond eyes Run through the moons of it; busses in yellow and red Hoot; and St. Paul's is a bubble afloat in the skies, Watching the pale moths flit and the dark death's head.
Painted and powdered they shimmer and rustle and stream Westward, the night moths, masks of the Magdalen! See, Puck of the revels, he leaps through the sinister dream Waving his elfin evangel of Mystery, Puck of the bubble or dome of their scoffing or trust, Puck of the fairy-like tower with the clock in its face, Puck of an Empire that whirls on a pellet of dust Bearing his elfin device thro' the splendours of space.
Mystery—is it the scribble of doom on the dark, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, again? Mystery—is it a scrap of remembrance, a spark Burning still in the fog of a blind world's brain? Elf of the gossamer tangles of shadow and light, Wild electrical webs and the battle that rolls League upon perishing league thro' the ravenous night, Breaker on perishing breaker of human souls.
Soaked in the colours, a flake of the flying spray Flung over wreckage and yeast of the murderous town, Onward he flaunts it, innocent, vicious and gay, Prophet of prayers that are stifled and loves that drown, Urchin and sprat of the City that roars like a sea Surging around him in hunger and splendour and shame, Cruelty, luxury, madness, he leaps in his glee Out of the mazes of mist and the vistas of flame.
Ragged and tattered he scurries away in the gloom: Over the thundering traffic a moment his cry Mystery! Mystery!—reckless of death and doom Rings; and the great wheels roll and the world goes by. Lost, is it lost, that hollow-eyed flash of the light?— Poor little face flying by with the word that saves, Pale little mouth of the mask of the measureless night, Shrilling the heart of it, lost like the foam on its waves!
THE TWO WORLDS
This outer world is but the pictured scroll Of worlds within the soul, A coloured chart, a blazoned missal-book Whereon who rightly look May spell the splendours with their mortal eyes And steer to Paradise.
O, well for him that knows and early knows In his own soul the rose Secretly burgeons, of this earthly flower The heavenly paramour: And all these fairy dreams of green-wood fern, These waves that break and yearn, Shadows and hieroglyphs, hills, clouds and seas, Faces and flowers and trees, Terrestrial picture-parables, relate Each to its heavenly mate.
O, well for him that finds in sky and sea This two-fold mystery, And loses not (as painfully he spells The fine-spun syllables) The cadences, the burning inner gleam, The poet's heavenly dream.
Well for the poet if this earthly chart Be printed in his heart, When to his world of spirit woods and seas With eager face he flees And treads the untrodden fields of unknown flowers And threads the angelic bowers, And hears that unheard nightingale whose moan Trembles within his own, And lovers murmuring in the leafy lanes Of his own joys and pains.
For though he voyages further than the flight Of earthly day and night, Traversing to the sky's remotest ends A world that he transcends, Safe, he shall hear the hidden breakers roar Against the mystic shore; Shall roam the yellow sands where sirens bare Their breasts and wind their hair; Shall with their perfumed tresses blind his eyes, And still possess the skies.
He, where the deep unearthly jungles are, Beneath his Eastern star Shall pass the tawny lion in his den And cross the quaking fen. He learnt his path (and treads it undefiled) When, as a little child, He bent his head with long and loving looks O'er earthly picture-books. His earthly love nestles against his side, His young celestial guide.
Between my face and the warm blue sky The crisp white clouds go sailing by, And the only sound is the sound of your breathing, The song of a bird and the sea's long sigh.
Here, on the downs, as a tale re-told The sprays of the gorse are a-blaze with gold, As of old, on the sea-washed hills of my boyhood, Breathing the same sweet scent as of old.
Under a ragged golden spray The great sea sparkles far away, Beautiful, bright, as my heart remembers Many a dazzle of waves in May.
Long ago as I watched them shine Under the boughs of fir and pine, Here I watch them to-day and wonder, Here, with my love's hand warm in mine.
The soft wings pass that we used to chase, Dreams that I dreamed had left not a trace, The same, the same, with the bars of crimson The green-veined white, with its floating grace,
The same to the least bright fleck on their wings! And I close my eyes, and a lost bird sings, And a far sea sighs, and the old sweet fragrance Wraps me round with the dear dead springs,
Wraps me round with the springs to be When lovers that think not of you or me Laugh, but our eyes will be closed in darkness, Closed to the sky and the gorse and the sea,
And the same great glory of ragged gold Once more, once more, as a tale re-told Shall whisper their hearts with the same sweet fragrance And their warm hands cling, as of old, as of old.
Dead and un-born, the same blue skies Cover us! Love, as I read your eyes, Do I not know whose love enfolds us, As we fold the past in our memories,
Past, present, future, the old and the new? From the depths of the grave a cry breaks through And trembles, a sky-lark blind in the azure, The depths of the all-enfolding blue.
O, resurrection of folded years Deep in our hearts, with your smiles and tears, Dead and un-born shall not He remember Who folds our cry in His heart, and hears.
FOR THE EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY OF GEORGE MEREDITH
A health, a ringing health, unto the king Of all our hearts to-day! But what proud song Should follow on the thought, nor do him wrong? Except the sea were harp, each mirthful string The lovely lightning of the nights of Spring, And Dawn the lonely listener, glad and grave With colours of the sea-shell and the wave In brightening eye and cheek, there is none to sing!
Drink to him, as men upon an Alpine peak Brim one immortal cup of crimson wine, And into it drop one pure cold crust of snow, Then hold it up, too rapturously to speak And drink—to the mountains, line on glittering line, Surging away into the sunset-glow.
IN MEMORY OF SWINBURNE
April from shore to shore, from sea to sea, April in heaven and on the springing spray Buoyant with birds that sing to welcome May And April in those eyes that mourn for thee: "This is my singing month; my hawthorn tree Burgeons once more," we seemed to hear thee say, "This is my singing month: my fingers stray Over the lute. What shall the music be?"
And April answered with too great a song For mortal lips to sing or hearts to hear, Heard only of that high invisible throng For whom thy song makes April all the year! "My singing month, what bringest thou?" Her breath Swooned with all music, and she answered—"Death."
Ah, but on earth,—"can'st thou, too, die," Low she whispers, "lover of mine?" April, queen over earth and sky Whispers, her trembling lashes shine: "Wings of the sea, good-bye, good-bye, Down to the dim sea-line."
Home to the heart of thine old-world lover, Home to thy "fair green-girdled" sea! There shall thy soul with the sea-birds hover, Free of the deep as their wings are free; Free, for the grave-flowers only cover This, the dark cage of thee.
Thee, the storm-bird, nightingale-souled, Brother of Sappho, the seas reclaim! Age upon age have the great waves rolled Mad with her music, exultant, aflame; Thee, thee too, shall their glory enfold, Lit with thy snow-winged fame.
Back, thro' the years, fleets the sea-bird's wing: Sappho, of old time, once,—ah, hark! So did he love her of old and sing! Listen, he flies to her, back thro' the dark! Sappho, of old time, once.... Yea, Spring Calls him home to her, hark!
Sappho, long since, in the years far sped, Sappho, I loved thee! Did I not seem Fosterling only of earth? I have fled, Fled to thee, sister. Time is a dream! Shelley is here with us! Death lies dead! Ah, how the bright waves gleam.
Wide was the cage-door, idly swinging; April touched me and whispered "Come." Out and away to the great deep winging, Sister, I flashed to thee over the foam, Out to the sea of Eternity, singing "Mother, thy child comes home."
* * * *
Ah, but how shall we welcome May Here where the wing of song droops low, Here by the last green swinging spray Brushed by the sea-bird's wings of snow, We that gazed on his glorious way Out where the great winds blow?
Here upon earth—"can'st thou, too, die, Lover of life and lover of mine?" April, conquering earth and sky Whispers, her trembling lashes shine: "Wings of the sea, good-bye, good-bye, Down to the dim sea-line."
ON THE DEATH OF FRANCIS THOMPSON
How grandly glow the bays Purpureally enwound With those rich thorns, the brows How infinitely crowned That now thro' Death's dark house Have passed with royal gaze: Purpureally enwound How grandly glow the bays.
Sweet, sweet and three-fold sweet, Pulsing with three-fold pain, Where the lark fails of flight Soared the celestial strain; Beyond the sapphire height Flew the gold-winged feet, Beautiful, pierced with pain, Sweet, sweet and three-fold sweet;