This etext was prepared by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org from the 1890 George Bell and Sons edition.
LEGENDS AND LYRICS—FIRST SERIES by Adelaide Ann Procter
Dedication An Introduction by Charles Dickens The Angel's Story Echoes A False Genius My Picture Judge Not Friend Sorrow One by One True Honours A Woman's Question The Three Rulers A Dead Past A Doubting Heart A Student A Knight Errant Linger, oh, gentle Time Homeward Bound Life and Death Now Cleansing Fires The Voice of the Wind Treasures Shining Stars Waiting The Cradle Song of the Poor Be strong God's Gifts A Tomb in Ghent The Angel of Death A Dream The Present Changes Strive, Wait, and Pray A Lament for the Summer The Unknown Grave Give me thy Heart The Wayside Inn Voices of the Past The Dark Side A First Sorrow Murmurs Give My Journal A Chain The Pilgrims Incompleteness A Legend of Bregenz A Farewell Sowing and Reaping The Storm Words A Love Token A Tryst with Death Fidelis A Shadow The Sailor Boy A Crown of Sorrow The Lesson of the War The Two Spirits A Little Longer Grief The Triumph of Time A Parting The Golden Gate Phantoms Thankfulness Home-sickness Wishes The Peace of God Life in Death and Death in Life Recollections Illusion A Vision Pictures in the Fire The Settlers Hush! Hours The Two Interpreters Comfort Home at last Unexpressed Because Rest at Evening A Retrospect True or False Golden Words
TO MATILDA M. HAYS.
"Our tokens of love are for the most part barbarous. Cold and lifeless, because they do not represent our life. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Therefore let the farmer give his corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; and the poet, his poem."—Emerson's Essays.
A. A. P.
AN INTRODUCTION BY CHARLES DICKENS
In the spring of the year 1853, I observed, as conductor of the weekly journal Household Words, a short poem among the proffered contributions, very different, as I thought, from the shoal of verses perpetually setting through the office of such a periodical, and possessing much more merit. Its authoress was quite unknown to me. She was one Miss Mary Berwick, whom I had never heard of; and she was to be addressed by letter, if addressed at all, at a circulating library in the western district of London. Through this channel, Miss Berwick was informed that her poem was accepted, and was invited to send another. She complied, and became a regular and frequent contributor. Many letters passed between the journal and Miss Berwick, but Miss Berwick herself was never seen.
How we came gradually to establish, at the office of Household Words, that we knew all about Miss Berwick, I have never discovered. But we settled somehow, to our complete satisfaction, that she was governess in a family; that she went to Italy in that capacity, and returned; and that she had long been in the same family. We really knew nothing whatever of her, except that she was remarkably business-like, punctual, self-reliant, and reliable: so I suppose we insensibly invented the rest. For myself, my mother was not a more real personage to me, than Miss Berwick the governess became.
This went on until December, 1854, when the Christmas number, entitled The Seven Poor Travellers, was sent to press. Happening to be going to dine that day with an old and dear friend, distinguished in literature as Barry Cornwall, I took with me an early proof of that number, and remarked, as I laid it on the drawing-room table, that it contained a very pretty poem, written by a certain Miss Berwick. Next day brought me the disclosure that I had so spoken of the poem to the mother of its writer, in its writer's presence; that I had no such correspondent in existence as Miss Berwick; and that the name had been assumed by Barry Cornwall's eldest daughter, Miss Adelaide Anne Procter.
The anecdote I have here noted down, besides serving to explain why the parents of the late Miss Procter have looked to me for these poor words of remembrance of their lamented child, strikingly illustrates the honesty, independence, and quiet dignity, of the lady's character. I had known her when she was very young; I had been honoured with her father's friendship when I was myself a young aspirant; and she had said at home, "If I send him, in my own name, verses that he does not honestly like, either it will be very painful to him to return them, or he will print them for papa's sake, and not for their own. So I have made up my mind to take my chance fairly with the unknown volunteers."
Perhaps it requires an editor's experience of the profoundly unreasonable grounds on which he is often urged to accept unsuitable articles—such as having been to school with the writer's husband's brother-in-law, or having lent an alpenstock in Switzerland to the writer's wife's nephew, when that interesting stranger had broken his own—fully to appreciate the delicacy and the self-respect of this resolution.
Some verses by Miss Procter had been published in the Book of Beauty, ten years before she became Miss Berwick. With the exception of two poems in the Cornhill Magazine, two in Good Words, and others in a little book called A Chaplet of Verses (issued in 1862 for the benefit of a Night Refuge), her published writings first appeared in Household Words, or All the Year Round. The present edition contains the whole of her Legends and Lyrics, and originates in the great favour with which they have been received by the public.
Miss Procter was born in Bedford Square, London, on the 30th of October, 1825. Her love of poetry was conspicuous at so early an age, that I have before me a tiny album made of small note-paper, into which her favourite passages were copied for her by her mother's hand before she herself could write. It looks as if she had carried it about, as another little girl might have carried a doll. She soon displayed a remarkable memory, and great quickness of apprehension. When she was quite a young child, she learned with facility several of the problems of Euclid. As she grew older, she acquired the French, Italian, and German languages; became a clever pianoforte player; and showed a true taste and sentiment in drawing. But, as soon as she had completely vanquished the difficulties of any one branch of study, it was her way to lose interest in it, and pass to another. While her mental resources were being trained, it was not at all suspected in her family that she had any gift of authorship, or any ambition to become a writer. Her father had no idea of her having ever attempted to turn a rhyme, until her first little poem saw the light in print.
When she attained to womanhood, she had read an extraordinary number of books, and throughout her life she was always largely adding to the number. In 1853 she went to Turin and its neighbourhood, on a visit to her aunt, a Roman Catholic lady. As Miss Procter had herself professed the Roman Catholic Faith two years before, she entered with the greater ardour on the study of the Piedmontese dialect, and the observation of the habits and manners of the peasantry. In the former, she soon became a proficient. On the latter head, I extract from her familiar letters written home to England at the time, two pleasant pieces of description.
"We have been to a ball, of which I must give you a description. Last Tuesday we had just done dinner at about seven, and stepped out into the balcony to look at the remains of the sunset behind the mountains, when we heard very distinctly a band of music, which rather excited my astonishment, as a solitary organ is the utmost that toils up here. I went out of the room for a few minutes, and, on my returning, Emily said, 'Oh! That band is playing at the farmer's near here. The daughter is fiancee to-day, and they have a ball.' I said, 'I wish I was going!' 'Well,' replied she, 'the farmer's wife did call to invite us.' 'Then I shall certainly go,' I exclaimed. I applied to Madame B., who said she would like it very much, and we had better go, children and all. Some of the servants were already gone. We rushed away to put on some shawls, and put off any shred of black we might have about us (as the people would have been quite annoyed if we had appeared on such an occasion with any black), and we started. When we reached the farmer's, which is a stone's throw above our house, we were received with great enthusiasm; the only drawback being, that no one spoke French, and we did not yet speak Piedmontese. We were placed on a bench against the wall, and the people went on dancing. The room was a large whitewashed kitchen (I suppose), with several large pictures in black frames, and very smoky. I distinguished the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, and the others appeared equally lively and appropriate subjects. Whether they were Old Masters or not, and if so, by whom, I could not ascertain. The band were seated opposite us. Five men, with wind instruments, part of the band of the National Guard, to which the farmer's sons belong. They played really admirably, and I began to be afraid that some idea of our dignity would prevent me getting a partner; so, by Madame B.'s advice, I went up to the bride, and offered to dance with her. Such a handsome young woman! Like one of Uwins's pictures. Very dark, with a quantity of black hair, and on an immense scale. The children were already dancing, as well as the maids. After we came to an end of our dance, which was what they called a Polka-Mazourka, I saw the bride trying to screw up the courage of her fiance to ask me to dance, which after a little hesitation he did. And admirably he danced, as indeed they all did—in excellent time, and with a little more spirit than one sees in a ball-room. In fact, they were very like one's ordinary partners, except that they wore earrings and were in their shirt-sleeves, and truth compels me to state that they decidedly smelt of garlic. Some of them had been smoking, but threw away their cigars when we came in. The only thing that did not look cheerful was, that the room was only lighted by two or three oil-lamps, and that there seemed to be no preparation for refreshments. Madame B., seeing this, whispered to her maid, who disengaged herself from her partner, and ran off to the house; she and the kitchenmaid presently returning with a large tray covered with all kinds of cakes (of which we are great consumers and always have a stock), and a large hamper full of bottles of wine, with coffee and sugar. This seemed all very acceptable. The fiancee was requested to distribute the eatables, and a bucket of water being produced to wash the glasses in, the wine disappeared very quickly—as fast as they could open the bottles. But, elated, I suppose, by this, the floor was sprinkled with water, and the musicians played a Monferrino, which is a Piedmontese dance. Madame B. danced with the farmer's son, and Emily with another distinguished member of the company. It was very fatiguing—something like a Scotch reel. My partner was a little man, like Perrot, and very proud of his dancing. He cut in the air and twisted about, until I was out of breath, though my attempts to imitate him were feeble in the extreme. At last, after seven or eight dances, I was obliged to sit down. We stayed till nine, and I was so dead beat with the heat that I could hardly crawl about the house, and in an agony with the cramp, it is so long since I have danced."
The wedding of the farmer's daughter has taken place. We had hoped it would have been in the little chapel of our house, but it seems some special permission was necessary, and they applied for it too late. They all said, "This is the Constitution. There would have been no difficulty before!" the lower classes making the poor Constitution the scapegoat for everything they don't like. So as it was impossible for us to climb up to the church where the wedding was to be, we contented ourselves with seeing the procession pass. It was not a very large one, for, it requiring some activity to go up, all the old people remained at home. It is not etiquette for the bride's mother to go, and no unmarried woman can go to a wedding—I suppose for fear of its making her discontented with her own position. The procession stopped at our door, for the bride to receive our congratulations. She was dressed in a shot silk, with a yellow handkerchief, and rows of a large gold chain. In the afternoon they sent to request us to go there. On our arrival we found them dancing out of doors, and a most melancholy affair it was. All the bride's sisters were not to be recognised, they had cried so. The mother sat in the house, and could not appear. And the bride was sobbing so, she could hardly stand! The most melancholy spectacle of all to my mind was, that the bridegroom was decidedly tipsy. He seemed rather affronted at all the distress. We danced a Monferrino; I with the bridegroom; and the bride crying the whole time. The company did their utmost to enliven her by firing pistols, but without success, and at last they began a series of yells, which reminded me of a set of savages. But even this delicate method of consolation failed, and the wishing good-bye began. It was altogether so melancholy an affair that Madame B. dropped a few tears, and I was very near it, particularly when the poor mother came out to see the last of her daughter, who was finally dragged off between her brother and uncle, with a last explosion of pistols. As she lives quite near, makes an excellent match, and is one of nine children, it really was a most desirable marriage, in spite of all the show of distress. Albert was so discomfited by it, that he forgot to kiss the bride as he had intended to do, and therefore went to call upon her yesterday, and found her very smiling in her new house, and supplied the omission. The cook came home from the wedding, declaring she was cured of any wish to marry—but I would not recommend any man to act upon that threat and make her an offer. In a couple of days we had some rolls of the bride's first baking, which they call Madonnas. The musicians, it seems, were in the same state as the bridegroom, for, in escorting her home, they all fell down in the mud. My wrath against the bridegroom is somewhat calmed by finding that it is considered bad luck if he does not get tipsy at his wedding."
* * * * *
Those readers of Miss Procter's poems who should suppose from their tone that her mind was of a gloomy or despondent cast, would be curiously mistaken. She was exceedingly humorous, and had a great delight in humour. Cheerfulness was habitual with her, she was very ready at a sally or a reply, and in her laugh (as I remember well) there was an unusual vivacity, enjoyment, and sense of drollery. She was perfectly unconstrained and unaffected: as modestly silent about her productions, as she was generous with their pecuniary results. She was a friend who inspired the strongest attachments; she was a finely sympathetic woman, with a great accordant heart and a sterling noble nature. No claim can be set up for her, thank God, to the possession of any of the conventional poetical qualities. She never by any means held the opinion that she was among the greatest of human beings; she never suspected the existence of a conspiracy on the part of mankind against her; she never recognised in her best friends, her worst enemies; she never cultivated the luxury of being misunderstood and unappreciated; she would far rather have died without seeing a line of her composition in print, than that I should have maundered about her, here, as "the Poet", or "the Poetess".
With the recollection of Miss Procter as a mere child and as a woman, fresh upon me, it is natural that I should linger on my way to the close of this brief record, avoiding its end. But, even as the close came upon her, so must it come here.
Always impelled by an intense conviction that her life must not be dreamed away, and that her indulgence in her favourite pursuits must be balanced by action in the real world around her, she was indefatigable in her endeavours to do some good. Naturally enthusiastic, and conscientiously impressed with a deep sense of her Christian duty to her neighbour, she devoted herself to a variety of benevolent objects. Now, it was the visitation of the sick, that had possession of her; now, it was the sheltering of the houseless; now, it was the elementary teaching of the densely ignorant; now, it was the raising up of those who had wandered and got trodden under foot; now, it was the wider employment of her own sex in the general business of life; now, it was all these things at once. Perfectly unselfish, swift to sympathise and eager to relieve, she wrought at such designs with a flushed earnestness that disregarded season, weather, time of day or night, food, rest. Under such a hurry of the spirits, and such incessant occupation, the strongest constitution will commonly go down. Hers, neither of the strongest nor the weakest, yielded to the burden, and began to sink.
To have saved her life, then, by taking action on the warning that shone in her eyes and sounded in her voice, would have been impossible, without changing her nature. As long as the power of moving about in the old way was left to her, she must exercise it, or be killed by the restraint. And so the time came when she could move about no longer, and took to her bed.
All the restlessness gone then, and all the sweet patience of her natural disposition purified by the resignation of her soul, she lay upon her bed through the whole round of changes of the seasons. She lay upon her bed through fifteen months. In all that time, her old cheerfulness never quitted her. In all that time, not an impatient or a querulous minute can be remembered.
At length, at midnight on the second of February, 1864, she turned down a leaf of a little book she was reading, and shut it up.
The ministering hand that had copied the verses into the tiny album was soon around her neck, and she quietly asked, as the clock was on the stroke of one:
"Do you think I am dying, mamma?"
"I think you are very, very ill to-night, my dear!"
"Send for my sister. My feet are so cold. Lift me up?"
Her sister entering as they raised her, she said: "It has come at last!" And with a bright and happy smile, looked upward, and departed.
Well had she written:
Why shouldst thou fear the beautiful angel, Death, Who waits thee at the portals of the skies, Ready to kiss away thy struggling breath, Ready with gentle hand to close thine eyes?
Oh what were life, if life were all? Thine eyes Are blinded by their tears, or thou wouldst see Thy treasures wait thee in the far-off skies, And Death, thy friend, will give them all to thee.
VERSE: THE ANGEL'S STORY
Through the blue and frosty heavens Christmas stars were shining bright; Glistening lamps throughout the City Almost matched their gleaming light; While the winter snow was lying, And the winter winds were sighing, Long ago, one Christmas night.
While, from every tower and steeple, Pealing bells were sounding clear, (Never with such tones of gladness, Save when Christmas time is near,) Many a one that night was merry Who had toiled through all the year.
That night saw old wrongs forgiven, Friends, long parted, reconciled; Voices all unused to laughter, Mournful eyes that rarely smiled, Trembling hearts that feared the morrow, From their anxious thoughts beguiled.
Rich and poor felt love and blessing From the gracious season fall; Joy and plenty in the cottage, Peace and feasting in the hall; And the voices of the children Ringing clear above it all!
Yet one house was dim and darkened; Gloom, and sickness, and despair, Dwelling in the gilded chambers. Creeping up the marble stair, Even stilled the voice of mourning— For a child lay dying there.
Silken curtains fell around him, Velvet carpets hushed the tread. Many costly toys were lying, All unheeded, by his bed; And his tangled golden ringlets Were on downy pillows spread.
The skill of all that mighty City To save one little life was vain; One little thread from being broken, One fatal word from being spoken; Nay, his very mother's pain, And the mighty love within her, Could not give him health again.
So she knelt there still beside him, She alone with strength to smile, Promising that he should suffer No more in a little while, Murmuring tender song and story Weary hours to beguile.
Suddenly an unseen Presence Checked those constant moaning cries, Stilled the little heart's quick fluttering, Raised those blue and wondering eyes, Fixed on some mysterious vision, With a startled sweet surprise.
For a radiant angel hovered, Smiling, o'er the little bed; White his raiment, from his shoulders Snowy dove-like pinions spread, And a starlike light was shining In a Glory round his head.
While, with tender love, the angel, Leaning o'er the little nest, In his arms the sick child folding, Laid him gently on his breast, Sobs and wailings told the mother That her darling was at rest.
So the angel, slowing rising, Spread his wings; and, through the air, Bore the child, and while he held him To his heart with loving care, Placed a branch of crimson roses Tenderly beside him there.
While the child, thus clinging, floated Towards the mansions of the Blest, Gazing from his shining guardian To the flowers upon his breast, Thus the angel spake, still smiling On the little heavenly guest:
"Know, dear little one, that Heaven Does no earthly thing disdain, Man's poor joys find there an echo Just as surely as his pain; Love, on earth so feebly striving, Lives divine in Heaven again!
"Once in that great town below us, In a poor and narrow street, Dwelt a little sickly orphan; Gentle aid, or pity sweet, Never in life's rugged pathway Guided his poor tottering feet.
"All the striving anxious forethought That should only come with age, Weighed upon his baby spirit, Showed him soon life's sternest page; Grim Want was his nurse, and Sorrow Was his only heritage.
"All too weak for childish pastimes, Drearily the hours sped; On his hands so small and trembling Leaning his poor aching head, Or, through dark and painful hours, Lying sleepless on his bed.
"Dreaming strange and longing fancies Of cool forests far away; And of rosy, happy children, Laughing merrily at play, Coming home through green lanes, bearing Trailing boughs of blooming May.
"Scarce a glimpse of azure heaven Gleamed above that narrow street, And the sultry air of Summer (That you call so warm and sweet) Fevered the poor Orphan, dwelling In the crowded alley's heat.
"One bright day, with feeble footsteps Slowly forth he tried to crawl, Through the crowded city's pathways, Till he reached a garden-wall; Where 'mid princely halls and mansions Stood the lordliest of all.
"There were trees with giant branches, Velvet glades where shadows hide; There were sparkling fountains glancing, Flowers, which in luxuriant pride Even wafted breaths of perfume To the child who stood outside.
"He against the gate of iron Pressed his wan and wistful face, Gazing with an awe-struck pleasure At the glories of the place; Never had his brightest day-dream Shone with half such wondrous grace.
"You were playing in that garden, Throwing blossoms in the air, Laughing when the petals floated Downwards on your golden hair; And the fond eyes watching o'er you, And the splendour spread before you, Told a House's Hope was there.
"When your servants, tired of seeing Such a face of want and woe, Turning to the ragged Orphan, Gave him coin, and bade him go, Down his cheeks so thin and wasted, Bitter tears began to flow.
"But that look of childish sorrow On your tender child-heart fell, And you plucked the reddest roses From the tree you loved so well, Passed them through the stern cold grating, Gently bidding him 'Farewell!'
"Dazzled by the fragrant treasure And the gentle voice he heard, In the poor forlorn boy's spirit, Joy, the sleeping Seraph, stirred; In his hand he took the flowers, In his heart the loving word.
"So he crept to his poor garret; Poor no more, but rich and bright, For the holy dreams of childhood— Love, and Rest, and Hope, and Light— Floated round the Orphan's pillow Through the starry summer night.
"Day dawned, yet the visions lasted; All too weak to rise he lay; Did he dream that none spake harshly— All were strangely kind that day? Surely then his treasured roses Must have charmed all ills away.
"And he smiled, though they were fading; One by one their leaves were shed; 'Such bright things could never perish, They would bloom again,' he said. When the next day's sun had risen Child and flowers both were dead.
"Know, dear little one! our Father Will no gentle deed disdain; Love on the cold earth beginning Lives divine in Heaven again, While the angel hearts that beat there Still all tender thoughts retain."
So the angel ceased, and gently O'er his little burthen leant; While the child gazed from the shining, Loving eyes that o'er him bent, To the blooming roses by him, Wondering what that mystery meant.
Thus the radiant angel answered, And with tender meaning smiled: "Ere your childlike, loving spirit, Sin and the hard world defiled, God has given me leave to seek you— I was once that little child!"
* * *
In the churchyard of that city Rose a tomb of marble rare, Decked, as soon as Spring awakened, With her buds and blossoms fair— And a humble grave beside it— No one knew who rested there.
Still the angel stars are shining, Still the rippling waters flow, But the angel-voice is silent That I heard so long ago. Hark! the echoes murmur low, Long ago!
Still the wood is dim and lonely, Still the plashing fountains play, But the past and all its beauty, Whither has it fled away? Hark! the mournful echoes say, Fled away!
Still the bird of night complaineth, (Now, indeed, her song is pain,) Visions of my happy hours, Do I call and call in vain? Hark! the echoes cry again, All in vain!
Cease, oh echoes, mournful echoes! Once I loved your voices well; Now my heart is sick and weary— Days of old, a long farewell! Hark! the echoes sad and dreary Cry farewell, farewell!
VERSE: A FALSE GENIUS
I see a Spirit by thy side, Purple-winged and eagle-eyed, Looking like a Heavenly guide.
Though he seem so bright and fair, Ere thou trust his proffered care, Pause a little, and beware!
If he bid thee dwell apart, Tending some ideal smart In a sick and coward heart;
In self-worship wrapped alone, Dreaming thy poor griefs are grown More than other men have known;
Dwelling in some cloudy sphere, Though God's work is waiting here, And God deigneth to be near;
If his torch's crimson glare Show thee evil everywhere, Tainting all the wholesome air;
While with strange distorted choice, Still disdaining to rejoice, Thou wilt hear a wailing voice;
If a simple, humble heart, Seem to thee a meaner part, Than thy noblest aim and art;
If he bid thee bow before Crowned Mind and nothing more, The great idol men adore;
And with starry veil enfold Sin, the trailing serpent old, Till his scales shine out like gold;
Though his words seem true and wise, Soul, I say to thee—Arise. He is a Demon in disguise!
VERSE: MY PICTURE
Stand this way—more near the window— By my desk—you see the light Falling on my picture better— Thus I see it while I write!
Who the head may be I know not, But it has a student air; With a look half sad, half stately, Grave sweet eyes and flowing hair.
Little care I who the painter, How obscure a name he bore; Nor, when some have named Velasquez, Did I value it the more.
As it is, I would not give it For the rarest piece of art; It has dwelt with me, and listened To the secrets of my heart.
Many a time, when to my garret, Weary, I returned at night, It has seemed to look a welcome That has made my poor room bright.
Many a time, when ill and sleepless, I have watched the quivering gleam Of my lamp upon that picture, Till it faded in my dream.
When dark days have come, and friendship Worthless seemed, and life in vain, That bright friendly smile has sent me Boldly to my task again.
Sometimes when hard need has pressed me To bow down where I despise, I have read stern words of counsel In those sad reproachful eyes.
Nothing that my brain imagined, Or my weary hand has wrought, But it watched the dim Idea Spring forth into armed Thought.
It has smiled on my successes, Raised me when my hopes were low, And by turns has looked upon me With all the loving eyes I know.
Do you wonder that my picture Has become so like a friend?— It has seen my life's beginnings, It shall stay and cheer the end!
VERSE: JUDGE NOT
Judge not; the workings of his brain And of his heart thou canst not see; What looks to thy dim eyes a stain, In God's pure light may only be A scar, brought from some well-won field, Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.
The look, the air, that frets thy sight, May be a token, that below The soul has closed in deadly fight With some infernal fiery foe, Whose glance would scorch thy smiling grace, And cast thee shuddering on thy face!
The fall thou darest to despise— May be the angel's slackened hand Has suffered it, that he may rise And take a firmer, surer stand; Or, trusting less to earthly things, May henceforth learn to use his wings.
And judge none lost; but wait, and see, With hopeful pity, not disdain; The depth of the abyss may be The measure of the height of pain And love and glory that may raise This soul to God in after days!
VERSE: FRIEND SORROW
Do not cheat thy Heart and tell her, "Grief will pass away, Hope for fairer times in future, And forget to-day."— Tell her, if you will, that sorrow Need not come in vain; Tell her that the lesson taught her Far outweighs the pain.
Cheat her not with the old comfort, "Soon she will forget"— Bitter truth, alas—but matter Rather for regret; Bid her not "Seek other pleasures, Turn to other things:"— Rather nurse her caged sorrow 'Till the captive sings.
Rather bid her go forth bravely. And the stranger greet; Not as foe, with spear and buckler, But as dear friends meet; Bid her with a strong clasp hold her, By her dusky wings— Listening for the murmured blessing Sorrow always brings.
VERSE: ONE BY ONE
One by one the sands are flowing, One by one the moments fall; Some are coming, some are going; Do not strive to grasp them all.
One by one thy duties wait thee, Let thy whole strength go to each, Let no future dreams elate thee, Learn thou first what these can teach.
One by one (bright gifts from Heaven) Joys are sent thee here below; Take them readily when given, Ready too to let them go.
One by one thy griefs shall meet thee, Do not fear an armed band; One will fade as others greet thee; Shadows passing through the land.
Do not look at life's long sorrow; See how small each moment's pain; God will help thee for to-morrow, So each day begin again.
Every hour that fleets so slowly Has its task to do or bear; Luminous the crown, and holy, When each gem is set with care.
Do not linger with regretting, Or for passing hours despond; Nor, the daily toil forgetting, Look too eagerly beyond.
Hours are golden links, God's token, Reaching Heaven; but one by one Take them, lest the chain be broken Ere the pilgrimage be done.
VERSE: TRUE HONOURS
Is my darling tired already, Tired of her day of play? Draw your little stool beside me, Smooth this tangled hair away. Can she put the logs together, Till they make a cheerful blaze? Shall her blind old Uncle tell her Something of his youthful days?
Hark! The wind among the cedars Waves their white arms to and fro; I remember how I watched them Sixty Christmas Days ago: Then I dreamt a glorious vision Of great deeds to crown each year— Sixty Christmas Days have found me Useless, helpless, blind—and here!
Yes, I feel my darling stealing Warm soft fingers into mine— Shall I tell her what I fancied In that strange old dream of mine? I was kneeling by the window, Reading how a noble band, With the red cross on their breast-plates, Went to gain the Holy Land.
While with eager eyes of wonder Over the dark page I bent, Slowly twilight shadows gathered Till the letters came and went; Slowly, till the night was round me; Then my heart beat loud and fast, For I felt before I saw it That a spirit near me passed.
Then I raised my eyes, and shining Where the moon's first ray was bright Stood a winged Angel-warrior Clothed and panoplied in light: So, with Heaven's love upon him, Stern in calm and resolute will, Looked St. Michael—does the picture Hang in the old cloister still?
Threefold were the dreams of honour That absorbed my heart and brain; Threefold crowns the Angel promised, Each one to be bought by pain: While he spoke, a threefold blessing Fell upon my soul like rain. HELPER OF THE POOR AND SUFFERING; VICTOR IN A GLORIOUS STRIFE; SINGER OF A NOBLE POEM: Such the honours of my life.
Ah, that dream! Long years that gave me Joy and grief as real things Never touched the tender memory Sweet and solemn that it brings— Never quite effaced the feeling Of those white and shadowing wings.
Do those blue eyes open wider? Does my faith too foolish seem? Yes, my darling, years have taught me It was nothing but a dream. Soon, too soon, the bitter knowledge Of a fearful trial rose, Rose to crush my heart, and sternly Bade my young ambition close.
More and more my eyes were clouded, Till at last God's glorious light Passed away from me for ever, And I lived and live in night. Dear, I will not dim your pleasure, Christmas should be only gay— In my night the stars have risen, And I wait the dawn of day.
Spite of all I could be happy; For my brothers' tender care In their boyish pastimes ever Made me take, or feel a share. Philip, even then so thoughtful, Max so noble, brave and tall, And your father, little Godfrey, The most loving of them all.
Philip reasoned down my sorrow, Max would laugh my gloom away, Godfrey's little arms put round me, Helped me through my dreariest day; While the promise of my Angel, Like a star, now bright, now pale, Hung in blackest night above me, And I felt it could not fail.
Years passed on, my brothers left me, Each went out to take his share In the struggle of life; my portion Was a humble one—to bear. Here I dwelt, and learnt to wander Through the woods and fields alone, Every cottage in the village Had a corner called my own.
Old and young, all brought their troubles, Great or small, for me to hear; I have often blessed my sorrow That drew others' grief so near. Ah, the people needed helping— Needed love—(for Love and Heaven Are the only gifts not bartered, They alone are freely given)—
And I gave it. Philip's bounty, (We were orphans, dear,) made toil Prosper, and want never fastened On the tenants of the soil. Philip's name (Oh, how I gloried, He so young, to see it rise!) Soon grew noted among statesmen As a patriot true and wise.
And his people all felt honoured To be ruled by such a name; I was proud too that they loved me; Through their pride in him it came. He had gained what I had longed for, I meanwhile grew glad and gay, 'Mid his people, to be serving Him and them, in some poor way.
How his noble earnest speeches, With untiring fervour came; HELPER OF THE POOR AND SUFFERING; Truly he deserved the name! Had my Angel's promise failed me? Had that word of hope grown dim? Why, my Philip had fulfilled it, And I loved it best in him!
Max meanwhile—ah, you, my darling, Can his loving words recall— 'Mid the bravest and the noblest, Braver, nobler, than them all. How I loved him! how my heart thrilled When his sword clanked by his side. When I touched his gold embroidery, Almost saw him in his pride!
So we parted; he all eager To uphold the name he bore, Leaving in my charge—he loved me— Some one whom he loved still more: I must tend this gentle flower, I must speak to her of him, For he feared—Love still is fearful— That his memory might grow dim.
I must guard her from all sorrow, I must play a brother's part, Shield all grief and trial from her, If it need be, with my heart. Years passed, and his name grew famous; We were proud, both she and I; And we lived upon his letters, While the slow days fleeted by.
Then at last—you know the story, How a fearful rumour spread, Till all hope had slowly faded, And we heard that he was dead. Dead! Oh, those were bitter hours; Yet within my soul there dwelt A warning, and while others mourned him, Something like a hope I felt.
His was no weak life as mine was, But a life, so full and strong— No, I could not think he perished Nameless, 'mid a conquered throng. How she drooped! Years passed; no tidings Came, and yet that little flame Of strange hope within my spirit Still burnt on, and lived the same.
Ah! my child, our hearts will fail us, When to us they strongest seem; I can look back on those hours As a fearful, evil dream. She had long despaired; what wonder That her heart had turned to mine? Earthly loves are deep and tender, Not eternal and divine!
Can I say how bright a future Rose before my soul that day? Oh, so strange, so sweet, so tender— And I had to turn away. Hard and terrible the struggle, For the pain not mine alone; I called back my Brother's spirit, And I bade him claim his own.
Told her—now I dared to do it— That I felt the day would rise When he would return to gladden My weak heart and her bright eyes. And I pleaded—pleaded sternly— In his name, and for his sake: Now, I can speak calmly of it, Then, I thought my heart would break.
Soon—ah, Love had not deceived me, (Love's true instincts never err,) Wounded, weak, escaped from prison, He returned to me; to her. I could thank God that bright morning, When I felt my Brother's gaze, That my heart was true and loyal, As in our old boyish days.
Bought by wounds and deeds of daring, Honours he had brought away; Glory crowned his name—my Brother's; Mine too!—we were one that day. Since the crown on him had fallen, "VICTOR IN A NOBLE STRIFE," I could live and die contented With my poor ignoble life.
Well, my darling, almost weary Of my story? Wait awhile; For the rest is only joyful; I can tell it with a smile. One bright promise still was left me, Wound so close about my soul, That, as one by one had failed me, This dream now absorbed the whole.
"SINGER OF A NOBLE POEM,"— Ah, my darling, few and rare Burn the glorious names of Poets, Like stars in the purple air. That too, and I glory in it, That great gift my Godfrey won; I have my dear share of honour, Gained by that beloved one.
One day shall my darling read it; Now she cannot understand All the noble thoughts, that lighten Through the genius of the land. I am proud to be his brother, Proud to think that hope was true; Though I longed and strove so vainly, What I failed in, he could do.
I was long before I knew it, Longer ere I felt it so; Then I strung my rhymes together Only for the poor and low. And, it pleases me to know it, (For I love them well indeed,) They care for my humble verses, Fitted for their humble need.
And, it cheers my heart to bear it, Where the far-off settlers roam, My poor words are sung and cherished, Just because they speak of Home. And the little children sing them, (That, I think, has pleased me best,) Often, too, the dying love them, For they tell of Heaven and rest.
So my last vain dream has faded; (Such as I to think of fame!) Yet I will not say it failed me, For it crowned my Godfrey's name. No; my Angel did not cheat me, For my long life has been blest; He did give me Love and Sorrow, He will bring me Light and Rest.
VERSE: A WOMAN'S QUESTION
Before I trust my Fate to thee, Or place my hand in thine, Before I let thy Future give Colour and form to mine, Before I peril all for thee, question thy soul to-night for me.
I break all slighter bonds, nor feel A shadow of regret: Is there one link within the Past, That holds thy spirit yet? Or is thy Faith as clear and free as that which I can pledge to thee?
Does there within thy dimmest dreams A possible future shine, Wherein thy life could henceforth breathe, Untouched, unshared by mine? If so, at any pain or cost, oh, tell me before all is lost.
Look deeper still. If thou canst feel Within thy inmost soul, That thou hast kept a portion back, While I have staked the whole; Let no false pity spare the blow, but in true mercy tell me so.
Is there within thy heart a need That mine cannot fulfil? One chord that any other hand Could better wake or still? Speak now—lest at some future day my whole life wither and decay.
Lives there within thy nature bid The demon-spirit Change, Shedding a passing glory still On all things new and strange?— It may not be thy fault alone—but shield my heart against thy own.
Couldst thou withdraw thy hand one day And answer to my claim, That Fate, and that to-day's mistake, Not thou—had been to blame? Some soothe their conscience thus: but thou, wilt surely warn and save me now.
Nay, answer not—I dare not hear, The words would come too late; Yet I would spare thee all remorse, So, comfort thee, my Fate— Whatever on my heart may fall—remember I would risk it all!
VERSE: THE THREE RULERS
I saw a Ruler take his stand And trample on a mighty land; The People crouched before his beck, His iron heel was on their neck, His name shone bright through blood and pain, His sword flashed back their praise again.
I saw another Ruler rise— His words were noble, good, and wise; With the calm sceptre of his pen He ruled the minds and thoughts of men; Some scoffed, some praised—while many heard, Only a few obeyed his word.
Another Ruler then I saw— Love and sweet Pity were his law: The greatest and the least had part (Yet most the unhappy) in his heart— The People, in a mighty band, Rose up, and drove him from the land!
VERSE: A DEAD PAST
Spare her at least: look, you have taken from me The Present, and I murmur not, nor moan; The Future too, with all her glorious promise; But do not leave me utterly alone.
Spare me the Past—for, see, she cannot harm you, She lies so white and cold, wrapped in her shroud; All, all my own! and, trust me, I will hide her Within my soul, nor speak to her aloud.
I folded her soft hands upon her bosom, And strewed my flowers upon her—they still live— Sometimes I like to kiss her closed white eye-lids, And think of all the joy she used to give.
Cruel indeed it were to take her from me; She sleeps, she will not wake—no fear—again: And so I laid her, such a gentle burthen, Quietly on my heart to still its pain.
I do not think that any smiling Present, Any vague Future, spite of all her charms, Could ever rival her. You know you laid her, Long years ago, then living, in my arms.
Leave her at least—while my tears fall upon her, I dream she smiles, just as she did of yore; As dear as ever to me—nay, it may be, Even dearer still—since I have nothing more.
VERSE: A DOUBTING HEART
Where are the swallows fled? Frozen and dead, Perchance upon some bleak and stormy shore. Oh doubting heart! Far over purple seas, They wait, in sunny ease, The balmy southern breeze, To bring them to their northern homes once more.
Why must the flowers die? Prisoned they lie In the cold tomb, heedless of tears or rain. Oh doubting heart! They only sleep below The soft white ermine snow, While winter winds shall blow, To breathe and smile upon you soon again.
The sun has hid its rays These many days; Will dreary hours never leave the earth? Oh doubting heart! The stormy clouds on high Veil the same sunny sky, That soon (for spring is nigh) Shall wake the summer into golden mirth.
Fair hope is dead, and light Is quenched in night. What sound can break the silence of despair? Oh doubting heart! Thy sky is overcast, Yet stars shall rise at last, Brighter for darkness past, And angels' silver voices stir the air.
VERSE: A STUDENT
Over an ancient scroll I bent, Steeping my soul in wise content, Nor paused a moment, save to chide A low voice whispering at my side.
I wove beneath the stars' pale shine A dream, half human, half divine; And shook off (not to break the charm) A little hand laid on my arm.
I read; until my heart would glow With the great deeds of long ago; Nor heard, while with those mighty dead, Pass to and fro a faltering tread.
On the old theme I pondered long— The struggle between right and wrong; I could not check such visions high, To soothe a little quivering sigh.
I tried to solve the problem—Life; Dreaming of that mysterious strife, How could I leave such reasonings wise, To answer two blue pleading eyes?
I strove how best to give, and when, My blood to save my fellow-men— How could I turn aside, to look At snowdrops laid upon my book?
Now Time has fled—the world is strange, Something there is of pain and change; My books lie closed upon the shelf; I miss the old heart in myself.
I miss the sunbeams in my room— It was not always wrapped in gloom: I miss my dreams—they fade so fast, Or flit into some trivial past.
The great stream of the world goes by; None care, or heed, or question, why I, the lone student, cannot raise My voice or hand as in old days.
No echo seems to wake again My heart to anything but pain, Save when a dream of twilight brings The fluttering of an angel's wings!
VERSE: A KNIGHT ERRANT
Though he lived and died among us, Yet his name may be enrolled With the knights whose deeds of daring Ancient chronicles have told.
Still a stripling, he encountered Poverty, and struggled long, Gathering force from every effort, Till he knew his arm was strong.
Then his heart and life he offered To his radiant mistress—Truth; Never thought, or dream, or faltering, Marred the promise of his youth.
So he rode forth to defend her, And her peerless worth proclaim; Challenging each recreant doubter Who aspersed her spotless name.
First upon his path stood Ignorance, Hideous in his brutal might; Hard the blows and long the battle Ere the monster took to flight.
Then, with light and fearless spirit, Prejudice he dared to brave; Hunting back the lying craven To her black sulphureous cave.
Followed by his servile minions, Custom, the old Giant, rose; Yet he, too, at last was conquered By the good Knight's weighty blows.
Then he turned, and, flushed with victory Struck upon the brazen shield Of the world's great king, Opinion And defied him to the field.
Once again he rose a conqueror, And, though wounded in the fight, With a dying smile of triumph Saw that Truth had gained her right.
On his failing ear re-echoing Came the shouting round her throne; Little cared he that no future With her name would link his own.
Spent with many a hard-fought battle, Slowly ebbed his life away, And the crowd that flocked to greet her Trampled on him where he lay.
Gathering all his strength, he saw her Crowned and reigning in her pride! Looked his last upon her beauty, Raised his eyes to God, and died.
VERSE: LINGER, OH, GENTLE TIME
Linger, oh, gentle Time, Linger, oh, radiant grace of bright To-day! Let not the hours' chime Call thee away, But linger near me still with fond delay.
Linger, for thou art mine! What dearer treasures can the future hold? What sweeter flowers than thine Can she unfold? What secrets tell my heart thou hast not told?
Oh, linger in thy flight! For shadows gather round, and should we part, A dreary starless night May fill my heart,— Then pause and linger yet ere thou depart.
Linger, I ask no more,— Thou art enough for ever—thou alone; What future can restore, When thou art flown, All that I hold from thee and call my own?
VERSE: HOMEWARD BOUND
I have seen a fiercer tempest, Known a louder whirlwind blow; I was wrecked off red Algiers, Six-and-thirty years ago. Young I was, and yet old seamen Were not strong or calm as I; While life held such treasures for me, I felt sure I could not die.
Life I struggled for—and saved it; Life alone—and nothing more; Bruised, half dead, alone and helpless, I was cast upon the shore. I feared the pitiless rocks of Ocean; So the great sea rose—and then Cast me from her friendly bosom, On the pitiless hearts of men.
Gaunt and dreary ran the mountains, With black gorges, up the land; Up to where the lonely Desert Spreads her burning, dreary sand: In the gorges of the mountains, On the plain beside the sea, Dwelt my stern and cruel masters, The black Moors of Barbary.
Ten long years I toiled among them, Hopeless—as I used to say; Now I know Hope burnt within me Fiercer, stronger, day by day: Those dim years of toil and sorrow Like one long dark dream appear; One long day of weary waiting— Then each day was like a year.
How I cursed the land—my prison; How I cursed the serpent sea— And the Demon Fate that showered All her curses upon me; I was mad, I think—God pardon Words so terrible and wild— This voyage would have been my last one, For I left a wife and child.
Never did one tender vision Fade away before my sight, Never once through all my slavery, Burning day or dreary night; In my soul it lived, and kept me, Now I feel, from black despair, And my heart was not quite broken, While they lived and blest me there.
When at night my task was over, I would hasten to the shore; (All was strange and foreign inland, Nothing I had known before;) Strange looked the bleak mountain passes, Strange the red glare and black shade, And the Oleanders, waving To the sound the fountains made.
Then I gazed at the great Ocean, Till she grew a friend again; And because she knew old England, I forgave her all my pain: So the blue still sky above me, With its white clouds' fleecy fold, And the glimmering stars, (though brighter,) Looked like home and days of old.
And a calm would fall upon me, Worn perhaps with work and pain, The wild hungry longing left me, And I was myself again: Looking at the silver waters, Looking up at the far sky, Dreams of home and all I left there Floated sorrowfully by.
A fair face, but pale with sorrow, With blue eyes, brimful of tears, And the little red mouth, quivering With a smile, to hide its fears; Holding out her baby towards me, From the sky she looked on me; So it was that last I saw her, As the ship put out to sea.
Sometimes, (and a pang would seize me That the years were floating on,) I would strive to paint her, altered, And the little baby gone: She no longer young and girlish, The child, standing by her knee, And her face, more pale and saddened With the weariness for me.
Then I saw, as night grew darker. How she taught my child to pray, Holding its small hands together, For its father, far away; And I felt her sorrow, weighing Heavier on me than my own; Pitying her blighted spring-time, And her joy so early flown.
Till upon my hands (now hardened With the rough, harsh toil of years) Bitter drops of anguish falling, Woke me from my dream, to tears; Woke me as a slave, an outcast. Leagues from home, across the deep; So—though you may call it childish— So I sobbed myself to sleep.
Well, the years sped on—my Sorrow, Calmer, and yet stronger grown, Was my shield against all suffering, Poorer, meaner, than her own. Thus my cruel master's harshness Fell upon me all in vain, Yet the tale of what we suffered Echoed back from main to main.
You have heard in a far country Of a self-devoted band, Vowed to rescue Christian captives Pining in a foreign land. And these gentle-hearted strangers Year by year go forth from Rome, In their hands the hard-earned ransom, To restore some exiles home.
I was freed: they broke the tidings Gently to me: but indeed Hour by hour sped on, I knew not What the words meant—I was freed! Better so, perhaps; while sorrow (More akin to earthly things) Only strains the sad heart's fibres— Joy, bright stranger, breaks the strings.
Yet at last it rushed upon me, And my heart beat full and fast; What were now my years of waiting, What was all the dreary past? Nothing—to the impatient throbbing I must bear across the sea: Nothing—to the eternal hours Still between my home and me!
How the voyage passed, I know not; Strange it was once more to stand With my countrymen around me, And to clasp an English hand. But, through all, my heart was dreaming Of the first words I should hear, In the gentle voice that echoed, Fresh as ever, on my ear.
Should I see her start of wonder, And the sudden truth arise, Flushing all her face and lightening The dimmed splendour of her eyes? Oh! to watch the fear and doubting Stir the silent depths of pain, And the rush of joy—then melting Into perfect peace again.
And the child!—but why remember Foolish fancies that I thought? Every tree and every hedge-row From the well-known past I brought: I would picture my dear cottage, See the crackling wood-fire burn, And the two beside it seated, Watching, waiting, my return.
So, at last we reached the harbour. I remember nothing more Till I stood, my sick heart throbbing, With my hand upon the door. There I paused—I heard her speaking; Low, soft, murmuring words she said; Then I first knew the dumb terror I had had, lest she were dead.
It was evening in late autumn, And the gusty wind blew chill; Autumn leaves were falling round me, And the red sun lit the hill. Six-and-twenty years are vanished Since then—I am old and grey, But I never told to mortal What I saw, until this day.
She was seated by the fire, In her arms she held a child, Whispering baby-words caressing, And then, looking up, she smiled: Smiled on him who stood beside her— Oh! the bitter truth was told, In her look of trusting fondness— I had seen the look of old!
But she rose and turned towards me (Cold and dumb I waited there) With a shriek of fear and terror, And a white face of despair. He had been an ancient comrade— Not a single word we said, While we gazed upon each other, He the living: I the dead!
I drew nearer, nearer to her, And I took her trembling hand, Looking on her white face, looking That her heart might understand All the love and all the pity That my lips refused to say— I thank God no thought save sorrow Rose in our crushed hearts that day.
Bitter tears that desolate moment, Bitter, bitter tears we wept, We three broken hearts together, While the baby smiled and slept. Tears alone—no words were spoken, Till he—till her husband said That my boy, (I had forgotten The poor child,) that he was dead.
Then at last I rose, and, turning, Wrung his hand, but made no sign; And I stooped and kissed her forehead Once more, as if she were mine. Nothing of farewell I uttered, Save in broken words to pray That God would ever guard and bless her— Then in silence passed away.
Over the great restless ocean Six-and-twenty years I roam; All my comrades, old and weary, Have gone back to die at home.— Home! yes, I shall reach a haven, I, too, shall reach home and rest; I shall find her waiting for me With our baby on her breast.
VERSE: LIFE AND DEATH
"What is Life, Father?" "A Battle, my child, Where the strongest lance may fail, Where the wariest eyes may be beguiled, And the stoutest heart may quail. Where the foes are gathered on every hand, And rest not day or night, And the feeble little ones must stand In the thickest of the fight."
"What is Death, Father?" "The rest, my child, When the strife and the toil are o'er; The Angel of God, who, calm and mild, Says we need fight no more; Who, driving away the demon band, Bids the din of the battle cease; Takes banner and spear from our failing hand, And proclaims an eternal Peace."
"Let me die, Father! I tremble and fear To yield in that terrible strife!"
"The crown must be won for Heaven, dear, In the battle-field of life: My child, though thy foes are strong and tried, He loveth the weak and small; The Angels of Heaven are on thy side, And God is over all!"
Rise! for the day is passing, And you lie dreaming on; The others have buckled their armour, And forth to the fight are gone: A place in the ranks awaits you, Each man has some part to play; The Past and the Future are nothing, In the face of the stern To-day.
Rise from your dreams of the Future— Of gaining some hard-fought field; Of storming some airy fortress, Or bidding some giant yield; Your Future has deeds of glory, Of honour (God grant it may!) But your arm will never be stronger, Or the need so great as To-day.
Rise! if the Past detains you, Her sunshine and storms forget; No chains so unworthy to hold you As those of a vain regret: Sad or bright, she is lifeless ever, Cast her phantom arms away, Nor look back, save to learn the lesson Of a nobler strife To-day.
Rise! for the day is passing: The sound that you scarcely hear Is the enemy marching to battle— Arise! for the foe is here! Stay not to sharpen your weapons, Or the hour will strike at last, When, from dreams of a coming battle, You may wake to find it past!
VERSE: CLEANSING FIRES
Let thy gold be cast in the furnace, Thy red gold, precious and bright, Do not fear the hungry fire, With its caverns of burning light: And thy gold shall return more precious, Free from every spot and stain; For gold must be tried by fire, As a heart must be tried by pain!
In the cruel fire of Sorrow Cast thy heart, do not faint or wail; Let thy hand be firm and steady, Do not let thy spirit quail: But wait till the trial is over, And take thy heart again; For as gold is tried by fire, So a heart must be tried by pain!
I shall know by the gleam and glitter Of the golden chain you wear, By your heart's calm strength in loving, Of the fire they have had to bear. Beat on, true heart, for ever; Shine bright, strong golden chain; And bless the cleansing fire, And the furnace of living pain!
VERSE: THE VOICE OF THE WIND
Let us throw more logs on the fire! We have need of a cheerful light, And close round the hearth to gather, For the wind has risen to-night. With the mournful sound of its wailing It has checked the children's glee, And it calls with a louder clamour Than the clamour of the sea. Hark to the voice of the wind!
Let us listen to what it is saying, Let us hearken to where it has been; For it tells, in its terrible crying, The fearful sights it has seen. It clatters loud at the casements, Round the house it hurries on, And shrieks with redoubled fury, When we say "The blast is gone!" Hark to the voice of the wind!
It has been on the field of battle, Where the dying and wounded lie; And it brings the last groan they uttered, And the ravenous vulture's cry. It has been where the icebergs were meeting, And closed with a fearful crash; On shores where no foot has wandered, It has heard the waters dash. Hark to the voice of the wind!
It has been on the desolate ocean, When the lightning struck the mast; It has heard the cry of the drowning, Who sank as it hurried past; The words of despair and anguish, That were heard by no living ear; The gun that no signal answered: It brings them all to us here. Hark to the voice of the wind!
It has been on the lonely moorland, Where the treacherous snow-drift lies, Where the traveller, spent and weary, Gasped fainter and fainter cries; It has heard the bay of the bloodhounds, On the track of the hunted slave, The lash and the curse of the master, And the groan that the captive gave. Hark to the voice of the wind!
It has swept through the gloomy forest, Where the sledge was urged to its speed, Where the howling wolves were rushing On the track of the panting steed. Where the pool was black and lonely, It caught up a splash and a cry— Only the bleak sky heard it, And the wind as it hurried by. Hark to the voice of the wind!
Then throw more logs on the fire, Since the air is bleak and cold, And the children are drawing nigher, For the tales that the wind has told. So closer and closer gather Round the red and crackling light; And rejoice (while the wind is blowing) We are safe and warm to-night. Hark to the voice of the wind!
Let me count my treasures, All my soul holds dear, Given me by dark spirits Whom I used to fear.
Through long days of anguish, And sad nights, did Pain Forge my shield, Endurance, Bright and free from stain!
Doubt, in misty caverns, 'Mid dark horrors sought, Till my peerless jewel, Faith to me she brought.
Sorrow, that I wearied Should remain so long, Wreathed my starry glory, The bright Crown of Song.
Strife, that racked my spirit, Without hope or rest, Left the blooming flower, Patience, on my breast.
Suffering, that I dreaded, Ignorant of her charms, Laid the fair child, Pity, Smiling, in my arms.
So I count my treasures, Stored in days long past— And I thank the givers, Whom I know at last!
VERSE: SHINING STARS
Shine, ye stars of heaven, On a world of pain! See old Time destroying All our hoarded gain; All our sweetest flowers, Every stately shrine, All our hard-earned glory, Every dream divine!
Shine, ye stars of heaven, On the rolling years! See how Time, consoling, Dries the saddest tears, Bids the darkest storm-clouds Pass in gentle rain; While upspring in glory, Flowers and dreams again!
Shine, ye stars of heaven, On a world of fear! See how Time, avenging, Bringeth judgment here; Weaving ill-won honours To a fiery crown; Bidding hard hearts perish; Casting proud hearts down.
Shine, ye stars of heaven, On the hours' slow flight! See how Time, rewarding, Gilds good deeds with light; Pays with kingly measure; Brings earth's dearest prize; Or, crowned with rays diviner, Bids the end arise!
"Wherefore dwell so sad and lonely, By the desolate sea-shore, With the melancholy surges Beating at your cottage door?
"You shall dwell beside the castle Shadowed by our ancient trees; And your life shall pass on gently, Cared for, and in rest and ease."
"Lady, one who loved me dearly Sailed for distant lands away; And I wait here his returning Hopefully from day to day.
"To my door I bring my spinning, Watching every ship I see; Waiting, hoping, till the sunset Fades into the western sea.
"After sunset, at my casement, Still I place a signal light; He will see its well-known shining Should his ship return at night.
"Lady, see your infant smiling, With its flaxen curling hair— I remember when your mother Was a baby just as fair.
"I was watching then, and hoping: Years have brought great change to all; To my neighbours in their cottage, To you nobles at the hall.
"Not to me—for I am waiting, And the years have fled so fast, I must look at you to tell me That a weary time has past!
"When I hear a footstep coming On the shingle—years have fled— Yet amid a thousand others, I shall know his quick, light tread.
"When I hear (to-night it may be) Some one pausing at my door, I shall know the gay soft accents, Heard and welcomed oft before!
"So each day I am more hopeful, He may come before the night: Every sunset I feel surer He must come ere morning light.
"Then I thank you, noble lady, But I cannot do your will: Where he left me, he must find me. Waiting, watching, hoping, still!"
VERSE: THE CRADLE SONG OF THE POOR
Hush! I cannot bear to see thee Stretch thy tiny hands in vain; Dear, I have no bread to give thee, Nothing, child, to ease thy pain! When God sent thee first to bless me, Proud, and thankful too, was I; Now, my darling I, thy mother, Almost long to see thee die. Sleep, my darling, thou art weary; God is good, but life is dreary.
I have watched thy beauty fading, And thy strength sink day by day; Soon, I know, will Want and Fever Take thy little life away. Famine makes thy father reckless, Hope has left both him and me; We could suffer all, my baby, Had we but a crust for thee. Sleep, my darling, thou art weary; God is good, but life is dreary.
Better thou shouldst perish early, Starve so soon, my darling one, Than in helpless sin and sorrow Vainly live, as I have done. Better that thy angel spirit With my joy, my peace, were flown, Than thy heart grew cold and careless, Reckless, hopeless, like my own. Sleep, my darling, thou art weary; God is good, but life is dreary.
I am wasted, dear, with hunger, And my brain is all opprest, I have scarcely strength to press thee, Wan and feeble, to my breast. Patience, baby, God will help us, Death will come to thee and me, He will take us to his Heaven, Where no want or pain can be. Sleep, my darling, thou art weary; God is good, but life is dreary.
Such the plaint that, late and early, Did we listen, we might hear Close beside us,—but the thunder Of a city dulls our ear. Every heart, as God's bright Angel, Can bid one such sorrow cease; God has glory when his children Bring his poor ones joy and peace! Listen, nearer while she sings Sounds the fluttering of wings!
VERSE: BE STRONG
Be strong to hope, oh Heart! Though day is bright, The stars can only shine In the dark night. Be strong, oh Heart of mine, Look towards the light!
Be strong to bear, oh Heart! Nothing is vain: Strive not, for life is care, And God sends pain, Heaven is above, and there Rest will remain!
Be strong to love, oh Heart! Love knows not wrong, Didst thou love—creatures even, Life were not long; Didst thou love God in Heaven, Thou wouldst be strong!
VERSE: GOD'S GIFTS
God gave a gift to Earth:- a child, Weak, innocent, and undefiled, Opened its ignorant eyes and smiled.
It lay so helpless, so forlorn, Earth took it coldly and in scorn, Cursing the day when it was born.
She gave it first a tarnished name, For heritage, a tainted fame, Then cradled it in want and shame.
All influence of Good or Right, All ray of God's most holy light, She curtained closely from its sight.
Then turned her heart, her eyes away, Ready to look again, the day Its little feet began to stray.
In dens of guilt the baby played, Where sin, and sin alone, was made The law that all around obeyed.
With ready and obedient care, He learnt the tasks they taught him there; Black sin for lesson—oaths for prayer.
Then Earth arose, and, in her might, To vindicate her injured right, Thrust him in deeper depths of night.
Branding him with a deeper brand Of shame, he could not understand, The felon outcast of the land.
* * *
God gave a gift to Earth:- a child, Weak, innocent, and undefiled, Opened its ignorant eyes and smiled.
And Earth received the gift, and cried Her joy and triumph far and wide, Till echo answered to her pride.
She blest the hour when first he came To take the crown of pride and fame, Wreathed through long ages for his name.
Then bent her utmost art and skill To train the supple mind and will, And guard it from a breath of ill.
She strewed his morning path with flowers, And Love, in tender dropping showers, Nourished the blue and dawning hours.
She shed, in rainbow hues of light, A halo round the Good and Right, To tempt and charm the baby's sight.
And every step, of work or play. Was lit by some such dazzling ray, Till morning brightened into day.
And then the World arose, and said— Let added honours now be shed On such a noble heart and head!
O World, both gifts were pure and bright, Holy and sacred in God's sight:- God will judge them and thee aright!
VERSE: A TOMB IN GHENT
A smiling look she had, a figure slight, With cheerful air, and step both quick and light; A strange and foreign look the maiden bore, That suited the quaint Belgian dress she wore Yet the blue fearless eyes in her fair face, And her soft voice told her of English race; And ever, as she flitted to and fro, She sang, (or murmured, rather,) soft and low, Snatches of song, as if she did not know That she was singing, but the happy load Of dream and thought thus from her heart o'erflowed: And while on household cares she passed along, The air would bear me fragments of her song; Not such as village maidens sing, and few The framers of her changing music knew; Chants such as heaven and earth first heard of when The master Palestrina held the pen. But I with awe had often turned the page, Yellow with time, and half defaced by age, And listened, with an ear not quite unskilled, While heart and soul to the grand echo thrilled; And much I marvelled, as her cadence fell From the Laudate, that I knew so well, Into Scarlatti's minor fugue, how she Had learned such deep and solemn harmony. But what she told I set in rhyme, as meet To chronicle the influence, dim and sweet, 'Neath which her young and innocent life had grown: Would that my words were simple as her own.
Many years since, an English workman went Over the seas, to seek a home in Ghent, Where English skill was prized; nor toiled in vain; Small, yet enough, his hard-earned daily gain. He dwelt alone—in sorrow, or in pride. He mixed not with the workers by his side; He seemed to care but for one present joy— To tend, to watch, to teach his sickly boy. Severe to all beside, yet for the child He softened his rough speech to soothings mild; For him he smiled, with him each day he walked Through the dark gloomy streets; to him he talked Of home, of England, and strange stories told Of English heroes in the days of old; And, (when the sunset gilded roof and spire,) The marvellous tale which never seemed to tire: How the gilt dragon, glaring fiercely down From the great belfry, watching all the town, Was brought, a trophy of the wars divine, By a Crusader from far Palestine, And given to Bruges; and how Ghent arose, And how they struggled long as deadly foes, Till Ghent, one night, by a brave soldier's skill, Stole the great dragon; and she keeps it still. One day the dragon—so 'tis said—will rise, Spread his bright wines, and glitter in the skies. And over desert lands and azure seas, Will seek his home 'mid palm and cedar trees. So, as he passed the belfry every day, The boy would look if it were flown away; Each day surprised to find it watching there, Above him, as he crossed the ancient square, To seek the great cathedral, that had grown A home for him—mysterious and his own.
Dim with dark shadows of the ages past, St. Bavon stands, solemn and rich and vast; The slender pillars, in long vistas spread, Like forest arches meet and close o'erhead; So high that, like a weak and doubting prayer, Ere it can float to the carved angels there, The silver clouded incense faints in air: Only the organ's voice, with peal on peal, Can mount to where those far-off angels kneel. Here the pale boy, beneath a low side-arch, Would listen to its solemn chant or march; Folding his little hands, his simple prayer Melted in childish dreams, and both in air: While the great organ over all would roll, Speaking strange secrets to his innocent soul, Bearing on eagle-wings the great desire Of all the kneeling throng, and piercing higher Than aught but love and prayer can reach, until Only the silence seemed to listen still; Or gathering like a sea still more and more, Break in melodious waves at heaven's door, And then fall, slow and soft, in tender rain, Upon the pleading longing hearts again.
Then he would watch the rosy sunlight glow, That crept along the marble floor below, Passing, as life does, with the passing hours, Now by a shrine all rich with gems and flowers, Now on the brazen letters of a tomb, Then, leaving it again to shade and gloom, And creeping on, to show, distinct and quaint, The kneeling figure of some marble saint: Or lighting up the carvings strange and rare, That told of patient toil, and reverent care; Ivy that trembled on the spray, and ears, Of heavy corn, and slender bulrush spears, And all the thousand tangled weeds that grow In summer, where the silver rivers flow; And demon-heads grotesque, that seemed to glare In impotent wrath on all the beauty there: Then the gold rays up pillared shaft would climb, And so be drawn to heaven, at evening time. And deeper silence, darker shadows flowed On all around, only the windows glowed With blazoned glory, like the shields of light Archangels bear, who, armed with love and might, Watch upon heaven's battlements at night. Then all was shade; the silver lamps that gleamed, Lost in the daylight, in the darkness seemed Like sparks of fire in the dim aisles to shine, Or trembling stars before each separate shrine. Grown half afraid, the child would leave them there, And come out, blinded by the noisy glare That burst upon him from the busy square.
The church was thus his home for rest or play, And as he came and went again each day, The pictured faces that he knew so well, Seemed to smile on him welcome and farewell. But holier, and dearer far than all, One sacred spot his own he loved to call; Save at mid-day, half-hidden by the gloom; The people call it The White Maiden's Tomb: For there she stands; her folded hands are pressed Together, and laid softly on her breast, As if she waited but a word to rise From the dull earth, and pass to the blue skies; Her lips expectant part, she holds her breath, As listening for the angel voice of death. None know how many years have seen her so, Or what the name of her who sleeps below. And here the child would come, and strive to trace, Through the dim twilight, the pure gentle face He loved so well, and here he oft would bring Some violet blossom of the early spring; And climbing softly by the fretted stand, Not to disturb her, lay it in her hand; Or, whispering a soft loving message sweet, Would stoop and kiss the little marble feet. So, when the organ's pealing music rang, He thought amid the gloom the Maiden sang; With reverent simple faith by her he knelt, And fancied what she thought, and what she felt. "Glory to God," re-echoed from her voice, And then his little spirit would rejoice; Or when the Requiem sobbed upon the air, His baby tears dropped with her mournful prayer.
So years fled on, while childish fancies past, The childish love and simple faith could last. The artist-soul awoke in him, the flame Of genius, like the light of Heaven, came Upon his brain, and (as it will, if true) It touched his heart and lit his spirit, too His father saw, and with a proud content Let him forsake the toil where he had spent His youth's first years, and on one happy day Of pride, before the old man passed away, He stood with quivering lips, and the big tears Upon his cheek, and heard the dream of years Living and speaking to his very heart— The low hushed murmur at the wondrous art Of him, who with young trembling fingers made The great church-organ answer as he played; And, as the uncertain sound grew full and strong, Rush with harmonious spirit-wings along, And thrill with master-power the breathless throng.
The old man died, and years passed on, and still The young musician bent his heart and will To his dear toil. St. Bavon now had grown More dear to him, and even more his own; And as he left it every night he prayed A moment by the archway in the shade, Kneeling once more within the sacred gloom Where the White Maiden watched upon her tomb. His hopes of travel and a world-wide fame, Cold Time had sobered, and his fragile frame; Content at last only in dreams to roam, Away from the tranquillity of home; Content that the poor dwellers by his side Saw in him but the gentle friend and guide, The patient counsellor in the poor strife And petty details of their common life, Who comforted where woe and grief might fall, Nor slighted any pain or want as small, But whose great heart took in and felt for all.
Still he grew famous—many came to be His pupils in the art of harmony. One day a voice floated so pure and free Above his music, that he turned to see What angel sang, and saw before his eyes, What made his heart leap with a strange surprise, His own White Maiden, calm, and pure, and mild, As in his childish dreams she sang and smiled; Her eyes raised up to Heaven, her lips apart, And music overflowing from her heart. But the faint blush that tinged her cheek betrayed No marble statue, but a living maid; Perplexed and startled at his wondering look, Her rustling score of Mozart's Sanctus shook; The uncertain notes, like birds within a snare, Fluttered and died upon the trembling air.
Days passed; each morning saw the maiden stand, Her eyes cast down, her lesson in her hand, Eager to study, never weary, while Repaid by the approving word or smile Of her kind master; days and months fled on; One day the pupil from the choir was gone; Gone to take light, and joy, and youth once more, Within the poor musician's humble door; And to repay, with gentle happy art, The debt so many owed his generous heart. And now, indeed, was one who knew and felt That a great gift of God within him dwelt; One who could listen, who could understand, Whose idle work dropped from her slackened hand, While with wet eyes entranced she stood, nor knew How the melodious winged hours flew; Who loved his art as none had loved before, Yet prized the noble tender spirit more. While the great organ brought from far and near Lovers of harmony to praise and hear, Unmarked by aught save what filled every day, Duty, and toil, and rest, years passed away: And now by the low archway in the shade Beside her mother knelt a little maid, Who, through the great cathedral learned to roam, Climb to the choir, and bring her father home; And stand, demure and solemn by his side, Patient till the last echo softly died; Then place her little hand in his, and go Down the dark winding stair to where below The mother knelt, within the gathering gloom Waiting and praying by the Maiden's Tomb.
So their life went, until, one winter's day, Father and child came there alone to pray— The mother, gentle soul, had fled away! Their life was altered now, and yet the child Forgot her passionate grief in time, and smiled, Half wondering why, when spring's fresh breezes came, To see her father was no more the same. Half guessing at the shadow of his pain, And then contented if he smiled again, A sad cold smile, that passed in tears away, As re-assured she ran once more to play. And now each year that added grace to grace, Fresh bloom and sunshine to the young girl's face, Brought a strange light in the musician's eyes, As if he saw some starry hope arise, Breaking upon the midnight of sad skies. It might be so: more feeble year by year, The wanderer to his resting-place drew near. One day the Gloria he could play no more, Echoed its grand rejoicing as of yore; His hands were clasped, his weary head was laid, Upon the tomb where the White Maiden prayed: Where the child's love first dawned, his soul first spoke, The old man's heart there throbbed its last and broke. The grave cathedral that had nursed his youth, Had helped his dreaming, and had taught him truth, Had seen his boyish grief and baby tears, And watched the sorrows and the joys of years, Had lit his fame and hope with sacred rays, And consecrated sad and happy days— Had blessed his happiness, and soothed his pain, Now took her faithful servant home again.
He rests in peace: some travellers mention yet An organist whose name they all forget. He has a holier and a nobler fame By poor men's hearths, who love and bless the name Of a kind friend; and in low tones to-day, Speak tenderly of him who passed away. Too poor to help the daughter of their friend, They grieved to see the little pittance end; To see her toil and strive with cheerful heart, To bear the lonely orphan's struggling part; They grieved to see her go at last alone To English kinsmen she had never known: And here she came; the foreign girl soon found Welcome, and love, and plenty all around, And here she pays it back with earnest will, By well-taught housewife watchfulness and skill; Deep in her heart she holds her father's name, And tenderly and proudly keeps his fame; And while she works with thrifty Belgian care, Past dreams of childhood float upon the air; Some strange old chant, or solemn Latin hymn, That echoed through the old cathedral dim, When as a little child each day she went To kneel and pray by an old tomb in Ghent.
VERSE: THE ANGEL OF DEATH
Why shouldst thou fear the beautiful angel, Death, Who waits thee at the portals of the skies, Ready to kiss away thy struggling breath, Ready with gentle hand to close thine eyes?
How many a tranquil soul has passed away, Fled gladly from fierce pain and pleasures dim, To the eternal splendour of the day; And many a troubled heart still calls for him.
Spirits too tender for the battle here Have turned from life, its hopes, its fears, its charms; And children, shuddering at a world so drear, Have smiling passed away into his arms.
He whom thou fearest will, to ease its pain, Lay his cold hand upon thy aching heart: Will soothe the terrors of thy troubled brain, And bid the shadow of earth's grief depart.
He will give back what neither time, nor might, Nor passionate prayer, nor longing hope restore. (Dear as to long blind eyes recovered sight,) He will give back those who are gone before.
Oh, what were life, if life were all? Thine eyes Are blinded by their tears, or thou wouldst see Thy treasures wait thee in the far-off skies, And Death, thy friend, will give them all to thee.
VERSE: A DREAM
All yesterday I was spinning, Sitting alone in the sun; And the dream that I spun was so lengthy, It lasted till day was done.
I heeded not cloud or shadow That flitted over the hill, Or the humming-bees, or the swallows, Or the trickling of the rill.
I took the threads for my spinning, All of blue summer air, And a flickering ray of sunlight Was woven in here and there.
The shadows grew longer and longer, The evening wind passed by, And the purple splendour of sunset Was flooding the western sky.
But I could not leave my spinning, For so fair my dream had grown. I heeded not, hour by hour, How the silent day had flown.
At last the grey shadows fell round me, And the night came dark and chill, And I rose and ran down the valley, And left it all on the hill.
I went up the hill this morning To the place where my spinning lay— There was nothing but glistening dewdrops Remained of my dream to-day.
VERSE: THE PRESENT
Do not crouch to-day, and worship The old Past, whose life is fled, Hush your voice to tender reverence; Crowned he lies, but cold and dead: For the Present reigns our monarch, With an added weight of hours; Honour her, for she is mighty! Honour her, for she is ours!
See the shadows of his heroes Girt around her cloudy throne; Every day the ranks are strengthened By great hearts to him unknown; Noble things the great Past promised, Holy dreams, both strange and new; But the Present shall fulfil them, What he promised, she shall do.
She inherits all his treasures, She is heir to all his fame, And the light that lightens round her Is the lustre of his name; She is wise with all his wisdom, Living on his grave she stands, On her brow she bears his laurels, And his harvest in her hands.
Coward, can she reign and conquer If we thus her glory dim? Let us fight for her as nobly As our fathers fought for him. God, who crowns the dying ages, Bids her rule, and us obey— Bids us cast our lives before her, Bids us serve the great To-day.
Mourn, O rejoicing heart! The hours are flying; Each one some treasure takes, Each one some blossom breaks, And leaves it dying; The chill dark night draws near, Thy sun will soon depart, And leave thee sighing; Then mourn, rejoicing heart, The hours are flying!
Rejoice, O grieving heart! The hours fly fast; With each some sorrow dies, With each some shadow flies, Until at last The red dawn in the east Bids weary night depart, And pain is past. Rejoice then, grieving heart, The hours fly fast!
VERSE: STRIVE, WAIT, AND PRAY
Strive; yet I do not promise The prize you dream of to-day Will not fade when you think to grasp it, And melt in your hand away; But another and holier treasure, You would now perchance disdain, Will come when your toil is over, And pay you for all your pain.
Wait; yet I do not tell you The hour you long for now, Will not come with its radiance vanished, And a shadow upon its brow; Yet far through the misty future, With a crown of starry light, An hour of joy you know not Is winging her silent flight.
Pray; though the gift you ask for May never comfort your fears, May never repay your pleading, Yet pray, and with hopeful tears; An answer, not that you long for, But diviner, will come one day, Your eyes are too dim to see it, Yet strive, and wait, and pray.
VERSE: A LAMENT FOR THE SUMMER
Moan, oh ye Autumn Winds! Summer has fled, The flowers have closed their tender leaves and die; The Lily's gracious head All low must lie, Because the gentle Summer now is dead.
Grieve, oh ye Autumn Winds! Summer lies low; The rose's trembling leaves will soon be shed, For she that loved her so, Alas, is dead! And one by one her loving children go.
Wail, oh ye Autumn Winds! She lives no more, The gentle Summer, with her balmy breath, Still sweeter than before When nearer death, And brighter every day the smile she wore!
Mourn, mourn, oh Autumn Winds, Lament and mourn; How many half-blown buds must close and die; Hopes with the Summer born All faded lie, And leave us desolate and Earth forlorn!
VERSE: THE UNKNOWN GRAVE
No name to bid us know Who rests below, No word of death or birth, Only the grass's wave, Over a mound of earth, Over a nameless grave.
Did this poor wandering heart In pain depart? Longing, but all too late, For the calm home again, Where patient watchers wait, And still will wait in vain.
Did mourners come in scorn, And thus forlorn, Leave him, with grief and shame. To silence and decay, And hide the tarnished name Of the unconscious clay?