THE POETICAL WORKS OF
IN TWO VOLUMES
PARABLES— The Man of Songs The Hills The Journey The Tree's Prayer Were I a Skilful Painter Far and Near My Room Death and Birth Love's Ordeal The Lost Soul The Three Horses The Golden Key Somnium Mystici The Sangreal The Failing Track Tell Me Brother Artist After an Old Legend A Meditation of St Eligius The Early Bird Sir Lark and King Sun The Owl and the Bell A Mammon-Marriage A Song in the Night Love's History The Lark and the Wind A Dead House Bell upon Organ Master and Boy The Clock of the Universe The Thorn in the Flesh Lycabas
BALLADS— The Unseen Model The Homeless Ghost Abu Midjan The Thankless Lady Legend of the Corrievrechan The Dead Hand
MINOR DITTIES— In the Night The Giver False Prophets Life-Weary Approaches Travellers' Song Love is Strength Coming A Song of the Waiting Dead Obedience A Song in the Night De Profundis Blind Sorrow
MOTES IN THE SUN— Angels The Father's Worshippers A Birthday-Wish To Any One Waiting Lost but Safe Much and More Hope and Patience A Better Thing A Prisoner To My Lord and Master To One Unsatisfied To My God Triolet The Word of God Eine Kleine Predigt To the Life Eternal Hope Deferred Forgiveness Dejection Appeal
POEMS FOR CHILDREN— Lessons for a Child What makes Summer? Mother Nature The Mistletoe Professor Noctutus Bird-Songs Riddles Baby Up and Down Up in the Tree A Baby-Sermon Little Bo-Peep Little Boy Blue Willie's Question King Cole Said and Did Dr. Doddridge's Dog The Girl that Lost Things A Make-Believe The Christmas Child A Christmas Prayer No End of No-Story
A THREEFOLD CORD— Dedication The Haunted House In the Winter Christmas Day, 1878 The New Year Two Rondels Rondel Song Smoke To a Certain Critic Song A Cry From Home To My Mother Earth Thy Heart 0 Lord, how Happy No Sign November, 1851 Of One who Died in Spring An Autumn Song Triolet I See Thee Not A Broken Prayer Come Down A Mood The Carpenter The Old Garden A Noonday Melody Who Lights the Fire? Who would have Thought? On a December Day Christmas Day, 1850 To a February Primrose In February The True The Dwellers Therein Autumn's Gold Punishment Shew us the Father The Pinafore The Prism Sleep Sharing In Bonds Hunger New Year's Eve: A Waking Dream From North Wales: To the Mother Come to Me A Fear The Lost House The Talk of the Echoes The Goal The Healer Oh that a Wind A Vision of St. Eligius Of the Son of Man A Song-Sermon Words in the Night Consider the Ravens The Wind of the World Sabbath Bells Fighting After the Fashion of an Old Emblem A Prayer in Sickness Quiet Dead Let your Light so Shine Triolet The Souls' Rising Awake To an Autograph-Hunter With a Copy of "In Memoriam" They are Blind When the Storm was Proudest The Diver To the Clouds Second Sight Not Understood Hom II. v. 403 The Dawn Galileo Subsidy The Prophet The Watcher The Beloved Disciple The Lily of the Valley Evil Influence Spoken of several Philosophers Nature a Moral Power To June Summer On a Midge Steadfast Provision First Sight of the Sea On the Source of the Arve Confidence Fate Unrest One with Nature My Two Geniuses Sudden Calm Thou Also The Aurora Borealis The Human Written on a Stormy Night Reverence waking Hope Born of Water To a Thunder-Cloud Sun and Moon Doubt heralding Vision Life or Death? Lost and Found The Moon Truth, not Form God in Growth In a Churchyard Power Death That Holy Thing From Novalis What Man is there of You? O Wind of God Shall the Dead praise Thee? A Year-Song Song For where your Treasure is, there will your Heart be also The Asthmatic Man to the Satan that binds him Song-Sermon Shadows A Winter Prayer Song of a Poor Pilgrim An Evening Prayer Song-Sermon A Dream-Song Christmas, 1880 Rondel The Sparrow December 23, 1879 Song-Prayer December 27, 1879 Sunday, December 28, 1879 Song-Sermon The Donkey in the Cart to the Horse in the Carriage Room to Roam Cottage Songs— 1. By the Cradle 2. Sweeping the Floor 3. Washing the Clothes 4. Drawing Water 5. Cleaning the Windows The Wind and the Moon The Foolish Harebell Song An Improvisation Equity Contrition The Consoler To ———. To a Sister The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs
SCOTS SONGS AND BALLADS— Annie she's Dowie O Lassie ayont the Hill! The bonny, bonny Dell Nannie Braw Ower the Hedge Gaein and Comin A Sang o' Zion Time and Tide The Waesome Carl The Mermaid The Yerl o' Waterydeck The Twa Gordons The Last Wooin Halloween The Laverock Godly Ballants— 1. This Side an' That 2. The Twa Baubees 3. Wha's my Neibour? 4. Him wi' the Bag 5. The Coorse Cratur The Deil's Forhooit his Ain The Auld Fisher The Herd and the Mavis A Lown Nicht The Home of Death Triolet Win' that Blaws A Song of Hope The Burnie Hame The Sang o' the Auld Fowk The Auld Man's Prayer Granny Canty Time What the Auld Fowk are Thinkin Greitna, Father I Ken Something Mirls
THE MAN OF SONGS.
"Thou wanderest in the land of dreams, O man of many songs! To thee what is, but looks and seems; No realm to thee belongs!"
"Seest thou those mountains, faint and far, O spirit caged and tame?" "Blue clouds like distant hills they are, And like is not the same."
"Nay, nay; I know each mountain well, Each cliff, and peak, and dome! In that cloudland, in one high dell, Nesteth my little home."
Behind my father's cottage lies A gentle grassy height Up which I often ran—to gaze Back with a wondering sight, For then the chimneys I thought high Were down below me quite!
All round, where'er I turned mine eyes, Huge hills closed up the view; The town 'mid their converging roots Was clasped by rivers two; From, one range to another sprang The sky's great vault of blue.
It was a joy to climb their sides, And in the heather lie! A joy to look at vantage down On the castle grim and high! Blue streams below, white clouds above, In silent earth and sky!
And now, where'er my feet may roam, At sight of stranger hill A new sense of the old delight Springs in my bosom still, And longings for the high unknown Their ancient channels fill.
For I am always climbing hills, From the known to the unknown— Surely, at last, on some high peak, To find my Father's throne, Though hitherto I have only found His footsteps in the stone!
And in my wanderings I did meet Another searching too: The dawning hope, the shared quest Our thoughts together drew; Fearless she laid her band in mine Because her heart was true.
She was not born among the hills, Yet on each mountain face A something known her inward eye By inborn light can trace; For up the hills must homeward be, Though no one knows the place.
Clasp my hand close, my child, in thine— A long way we have come! Clasp my hand closer yet, my child, Farther we yet must roam— Climbing and climbing till we reach Our heavenly father's home.
Hark, the rain is on my roof! Every murmur, through the dark, Stings me with a dull reproof Like a half-extinguished spark. Me! ah me! how came I here, Wide awake and wide alone! Caught within a net of fear, All my dreams undreamed and gone!
I will rise; I will go forth. Better dare the hideous night, Better face the freezing north Than be still, where is no light! Black wind rushing round me now, Sown with arrowy points of rain! Gone are there and then and now— I am here, and so is pain!
Dead in dreams the gloomy street! I will out on open roads. Eager grow my aimless feet— Onward, onward something goads! I will take the mountain path, Beard the storm within its den; Know the worst of this dim wrath Harassing the souls of men.
Chasm 'neath chasm! rock piled on rock! Roots, and crumbling earth, and stones! Hark, the torrent's thundering shock! Hark, the swaying pine tree's groans! Ah! I faint, I fall, I die, Sink to nothingness away!— Lo, a streak upon the sky! Lo, the opening eye of day!
Mountain summits lift their snows O'er a valley green and low; And a winding pathway goes Guided by the river's flow; And a music rises ever, As of peace and low content, From the pebble-paven river Like an odour upward sent.
And the sound of ancient harms Moans behind, the hills among, Like the humming of the swarms That unseen the forest throng. Now I meet the shining rain From a cloud with sunny weft; Now against the wind I strain, Sudden burst from mountain cleft.
Now a sky that hath a moon Staining all the cloudy white With a faded rainbow—soon Lost in deeps of heavenly night! Now a morning clear and soft, Amber on the purple hills; Warm blue day of summer, oft Cooled by wandering windy rills!
Joy to travel thus along With the universe around! Every creature of the throng, Every sight and scent and sound Homeward speeding, beauty-laden, Beelike, to its hive, my soul! Mine the eye the stars are made in! Mine the heart of Nature's whole!
Hills retreating on each hand Slowly sink into the plain; Solemn through the outspread land Rolls the river to the main. In the glooming of the night Something through the dusky air Doubtful glimmers, faintly white, But I know not what or where.
Is it but a chalky ridge Bared of sod, like tree of bark? Or a river-spanning bridge Miles away into the dark? Or the foremost leaping waves Of the everlasting sea, Where the Undivided laves Time with its eternity?
Is it but an eye-made sight, In my brain a fancied gleam? Or a faint aurora-light From the sun's tired smoking team? In the darkness it is gone, Yet with every step draws nigh; Known shall be the thing unknown When the morning climbs the sky!
Onward, onward through the night Matters it I cannot see? I am moving in a might Dwelling in the dark and me! End or way I cannot lose— Grudge to rest, or fear to roam; All is well with wanderer whose Heart is travelling hourly home.
Joy! O joy! the dawning sea Answers to the dawning sky, Foretaste of the coming glee When the sun will lord it high! See the swelling radiance growing To a dazzling glory-might! See the shadows gently going 'Twixt the wave-tops wild with light!
Hear the smiting billows clang! See the falling billows lean Half a watery vault, and hang Gleaming with translucent green, Then in thousand fleeces fall, Thundering light upon the strand!— This the whiteness which did call Through the dusk, across the land!
See, a boat! Out, out we dance! Fierce blasts swoop upon my sail! What a terrible expanse— Tumbling hill and heaving dale! Stayless, helpless, lost I float, Captive to the lawless free! But a prison is my boat! Oh, for petrel-wings to flee!
Look below: each watery whirl Cast in beauty's living mould! Look above: each feathery curl Dropping crimson, dropping gold!— Oh, I tremble in the flush Of the everlasting youth! Love and awe together rush: I am free in God, the Truth!
THE TREE'S PRAYER.
Alas, 'tis cold and dark! The wind all night hath sung a wintry tune! Hail from black clouds that swallowed up the moon Beat, beat against my bark.
Oh! why delays the spring? Not yet the sap moves in my frozen veins; Through all my stiffened roots creep numbing pains, That I can hardly cling.
The sun shone yester-morn; I felt the glow down every fibre float, And thought I heard a thrush's piping note Of dim dream-gladness born.
Then, on the salt gale driven, The streaming cloud hissed through my outstretched arms, Tossed me about in slanting snowy swarms, And blotted out the heaven.
All night I brood and choose Among past joys. Oh, for the breath of June! The feathery light-flakes quavering from the moon The slow baptizing dews!
Oh, the joy-frantic birds!— They are the tongues of us, mute, longing trees! Aha, the billowy odours! and the bees That browse like scattered herds!
The comfort-whispering showers That thrill with gratefulness my youngest shoot! The children playing round my deep-sunk root, Green-caved from burning hours!
See, see the heartless dawn, With naked, chilly arms latticed across! Another weary day of moaning loss On the thin-shadowed lawn!
But icy winter's past; Yea, climbing suns persuade the relenting wind: I will endure with steadfast, patient mind; My leaves will come at last!
WERE I A SKILFUL PAINTER.
Were I a skilful painter, My pencil, not my pen, Should try to teach thee hope and fear, And who would blame me then?— Fear of the tide of darkness That floweth fast behind, And hope to make thee journey on In the journey of the mind.
Were I a skilful painter, What should I paint for thee?— A tiny spring-bud peeping out From a withered wintry tree; The warm blue sky of summer O'er jagged ice and snow, And water hurrying gladsome out From a cavern down below;
The dim light of a beacon Upon a stormy sea, Where a lonely ship to windward beats For life and liberty; A watery sun-ray gleaming Athwart a sullen cloud And falling on some grassy flower The rain had earthward bowed;
Morn peeping o'er a mountain, In ambush for the dark, And a traveller in the vale below Rejoicing like a lark; A taper nearly vanished Amid the dawning gray, And a maiden lifting up her head, And lo, the coming day!
I am no skilful painter; Let who will blame me then That I would teach thee hope and fear With my plain-talking pen!— Fear of the tide of darkness That floweth fast behind, And hope to make thee journey on In the journey of the mind.
FAR AND NEAR. [The fact which suggested this poem is related by Clarke in his Travels.]
Blue sky above, blue sea below, Far off, the old Nile's mouth, 'Twas a blue world, wherein did blow A soft wind from the south.
In great and solemn heaves the mass Of pulsing ocean beat, Unwrinkled as the sea of glass Beneath the holy feet.
With forward leaning of desire The ship sped calmly on, A pilgrim strong that would not tire Or hasten to be gone.
List!—on the wave!—what can they be, Those sounds that hither glide? No lovers whisper tremulously Under the ship's round side!
No sail across the dark blue sphere Holds white obedient way; No far-fled, sharp-winged boat is near, No following fish at play!
'Tis not the rippling of the wave, Nor sighing of the cords; No winds or waters ever gave A murmur so like words;
Nor wings of birds that northward strain, Nor talk of hidden crew: The traveller questioned, but in vain— He found no answer true.
A hundred level miles away, On Egypt's troubled shore, Two nations fought, that sunny day, With bellowing cannons' roar.
The fluttering whisper, low and near, Was that far battle's blare; A lipping, rippling motion here, The blasting thunder there.
Can this dull sighing in my breast So faint and undefined, Be the worn edge of far unrest Borne on the spirit's wind?
The uproar of high battle fought Betwixt the bond and free, The thunderous roll of armed thought Dwarfed to an ache in me?
To G. E. M.
'Tis a little room, my friend— Baby walks from end to end; All the things look sadly real This hot noontide unideal; Vaporous heat from cope to basement All you see outside the casement, Save one house all mud-becrusted, And a street all drought-bedusted! There behold its happiest vision, Trickling water-cart's derision! Shut we out the staring space, Draw the curtains in its face!
Close the eyelids of the room, Fill it with a scarlet gloom: Lo, the walls with warm flush dyed! Lo, the ceiling glorified, As when, lost in tenderest pinks, White rose on the red rose thinks! But beneath, a hue right rosy, Red as a geranium-posy, Stains the air with power estranging, Known with unknown clouding, changing. See in ruddy atmosphere Commonplaceness disappear! Look around on either hand— Are we not in fairyland?
On that couch, inwrapt in mist Of vaporized amethyst, Lie, as in a rose's heart: Secret things I would impart; Any time you would believe them— Easier, though, you will receive them Bathed in glowing mystery Of the red light shadowy; For this ruby-hearted hue, Sanguine core of all the true, Which for love the heart would plunder Is the very hue of wonder; This dissolving dreamy red Is the self-same radiance shed From the heart of poet young, Glowing poppy sunlight-stung: If in light you make a schism 'Tis the deepest in the prism.
This poor-seeming room, in fact Is of marvels all compact, So disguised by common daylight By its disenchanting gray light, Only eyes that see by shining, Inside pierce to its live lining. Loftiest observatory Ne'er unveiled such hidden glory; Never sage's furnace-kitchen Magic wonders was so rich in; Never book of wizard old Clasped such in its iron hold.
See that case against the wall, Darkly-dull-purpureal!— A piano to the prosy, But to us in twilight rosy— What?—A cave where Nereids lie, Naiads, Dryads, Oreads sigh, Dreaming of the time when they Danced in forest and in bay. In that chest before your eyes Nature self-enchanted lies;— Lofty days of summer splendour; Low dim eves of opal tender; Airy hunts of cloud and wind; Brooding storm—below, behind; Awful hills and midnight woods; Sunny rains in solitudes; Babbling streams in forests hoar; Seven-hued icebergs; oceans frore.— Yes; did I not say enchanted, That is, hid away till wanted? Do you hear a low-voiced singing? 'Tis the sorceress's, flinging Spells around her baby's riot, Binding her in moveless quiet:— She at will can disenchant them, And to prayer believing grant them.
You believe me: soon will night Free her hands for fair delight; Then invoke her—she will come. Fold your arms, be blind and dumb. She will bring a book of spells Writ like crabbed oracles; Like Sabrina's will her hands Thaw the power of charmed bands. First will ransomed music rush Round thee in a glorious gush; Next, upon its waves will sally, Like a stream-god down a valley, Nature's self, the formless former, Nature's self, the peaceful stormer; She will enter, captive take thee, And both one and many make thee, One by softest power to still thee, Many by the thoughts that fill thee.— Let me guess three guesses where She her prisoner will bear!
On a mountain-top you stand Gazing o'er a sunny land; Shining streams, like silver veins, Rise in dells and meet in plains; Up yon brook a hollow lies Dumb as love that fears surprise; Moorland tracts of broken ground O'er it rise and close it round: He who climbs from bosky dale Hears the foggy breezes wail. Yes, thou know'st the nest of love, Know'st the waste around, above! In thy soul or in thy past, Straight it melts into the vast, Quickly vanishes away In a gloom of darkening gray.
Sinks the sadness into rest, Ripple like on water's breast: Mother's bosom rests the daughter— Grief the ripple, love the water; And thy brain like wind-harp lies Breathed upon from distant skies, Till, soft-gathering, visions new Grow like vapours in the blue: White forms, flushing hyacinthine, Move in motions labyrinthine; With an airy wishful gait On the counter-motion wait; Sweet restraint and action free Show the law of liberty; Master of the revel still The obedient, perfect will; Hating smallest thing awry, Breathing, breeding harmony; While the god-like graceful feet, For such mazy marvelling meet, Press from air a shining sound, Rippling after, lingering round: Hair afloat and arms aloft Fill the chord of movement soft.
Gone the measure polyhedral! Towers aloft a fair cathedral! Every arch—like praying arms Upward flung in love's alarms, Knit by clasped hands o'erhead— Heaves to heaven a weight of dread; In thee, like an angel-crowd, Grows the music, praying loud, Swells thy spirit with devotion As a strong wind swells the ocean, Sweeps the visioned pile away, Leaves thy heart alone to pray.
As the prayer grows dim and dies Like a sunset from the skies, Glides another change of mood O'er thy inner solitude: Girt with Music's magic zone, Lo, thyself magician grown! Open-eyed thou walk'st through earth Brooding on the aeonian birth Of a thousand wonder-things In divine dusk of their springs: Half thou seest whence they flow, Half thou seest whither go— Nature's consciousness, whereby On herself she turns her eye, Hoping for all men and thee Perfected, pure harmony.
But when, sinking slow, the sun Leaves the glowing curtain dun, I, of prophet-insight reft, Shall be dull and dreamless left; I must hasten proof on proof, Weaving in the warp my woof!
What are those upon the wall, Ranged in rows symmetrical? Through the wall of things external Posterns they to the supernal; Through Earth's battlemented height Loopholes to the Infinite; Through locked gates of place and time, Wickets to the eternal prime Lying round the noisy day Full of silences alway.
That, my friend? Now, it is curious You should hit upon the spurious! 'Tis a door to nowhere, that; Never soul went in thereat; Lies behind, a limy wall Hung with cobwebs, that is all.
Do not open that one yet, Wait until the sun is set. If you careless lift its latch Glimpse of nothing will you catch; Mere negation, blank of hue, Out of it will stare at you; Wait, I say, the coming night, Fittest time for second sight, Then the wide eyes of the mind See far down the Spirit's wind. You may have to strain and pull, Force and lift with cunning tool, Ere the rugged, ill-joined door Yield the sight it stands before: When at last, with grating sweep, Wide it swings—behold, the deep!
Thou art standing on the verge Where material things emerge; Hoary silence, lightning fleet, Shooteth hellward at thy feet! Fear not thou whose life is truth, Gazing will renew thy youth; But where sin of soul or flesh Held a man in spider-mesh, It would drag him through that door, Give him up to loreless lore, Ages to be blown and hurled Up and down a deedless world.
Ah, your eyes ask how I brook Doors that are not, doors to look! That is whither I was tending, And it brings me to good ending.
Baby is the cause of this; Odd it seems, but so it is;— Baby, with her pretty prate Molten, half articulate, Full of hints, suggestions, catches, Broken verse, and music snatches! She, like seraph gone astray, Must be shown the homeward way; Plant of heaven, she, rooted lowly, Must put forth a blossom holy, Must, through culture high and steady, Slow unfold a gracious lady; She must therefore live in wonder, See nought common up or under; She the moon and stars and sea, Worm and butterfly and bee, Yea, the sparkle in a stone, Must with marvel look upon; She must love, in heaven's own blueness, Both the colour and the newness; Must each day from darkness break, Often often come awake, Never with her childhood part, Change the brain, but keep the heart.
So, from lips and hands and looks, She must learn to honour books, Turn the leaves with careful fingers, Never lean where long she lingers; But when she is old enough She must learn the lesson rough That to seem is not to be, As to know is not to see; That to man or book, appearing Gives no title to revering; That a pump is not a well, Nor a priest an oracle: This to leave safe in her mind, I will take her and go find Certain no-books, dreary apes, Tell her they are mere mock-shapes No more to be honoured by her But be laid upon the fire; Book-appearance must not hinder Their consuming to a cinder.
Would you see the small immortal One short pace within Time's portal? I will fetch her.—Is she white? Solemn? true? a light in light? See! is not her lily-skin White as whitest ermelin Washed in palest thinnest rose? Very thought of God she goes, Ne'er to wander, in her dance, Out of his love-radiance!
But, my friend, I've rattled plenty To suffice for mornings twenty! I should never stop of course, Therefore stop I will perforce.— If I led them up, choragic, To reveal their nature magic, Twenty things, past contradiction, Yet would prove I spoke no fiction Of the room's belongings cryptic Read by light apocalyptic: There is that strange thing, glass-masked, With continual questions tasked, Ticking with untiring rock: It is called an eight-day clock, But to me the thing appears Busy winding up the years, Drawing on with coiling chain The epiphany again.
DEATH AND BIRTH.
'Tis the midnight hour; I heard The Abbey-bell give out the word. Seldom is the lamp-ray shed On some dwarfed foot-farer's head In the deep and narrow street Lying ditch-like at my feet Where I stand at lattice high Downward gazing listlessly From my house upon the rock, Peak of earth's foundation-block.
There her windows, every story, Shine with far-off nebulous glory! Round her in that luminous cloud Stars obedient press and crowd, She the centre of all gazing, She the sun her planets dazing! In her eyes' victorious lightning Some are paling, some are brightening: Those on which they gracious turn, Stars combust, all tenfold burn; Those from which they look away Listless roam in twilight gray! When on her my looks I bent Wonder shook me like a tent, And my eyes grew dim with sheen, Wasting light upon its queen! But though she my eyes might chain, Rule my ebbing flowing brain, Truth alone, without, within, Can the soul's high homage win!
He, I do not doubt, is there Who unveiled my idol fair! And I thank him, grateful much, Though his end was none of such. He from shapely lips of wit Let the fire-flakes lightly flit, Scorching as the snow that fell On the damned in Dante's hell; With keen, gentle opposition, Playful, merciless precision, Mocked the sweet romance of youth Balancing on spheric truth; He on sense's firm set plane Rolled the unstable ball amain: With a smile she looked at me, Stung my soul, and set me free.
Welcome, friend! Bring in your bricks. Mortar there? No need to mix? That is well. And picks and hammers? Verily these are no shammers!— There, my friend, build up that niche, That one with the painting rich!
Yes, you're right; it is a show Picture seldom can bestow; City palaces and towers, Terraced gardens, twilight bowers, Vistas deep through swaying masts, Pennons flaunting in the blasts: Build; my room it does not fit; Brick-glaze is the thing for it!
Yes, a window you may call it; Not the less up you must wall it: In that niche the dead world lies; Bury death, and free mine eyes.
There were youths who held by me, Said I taught, yet left them free: Will they do as I said then? God forbid! As ye are men, Find the secret—follow and find! All forget that lies behind; Me, the schools, yourselves, forsake; In your souls a silence make; Hearken till a whisper come, Listen, follow, and be dumb.
There! 'tis over; I am dead! Of my life the broken thread Here I cast out of my hand!— O my soul, the merry land! On my heart the sinking vault Of my ruining past makes halt; Ages I could sit and moan For the shining world that's gone!
Haste and pierce the other wall; Break an opening to the All! Where? No matter; done is best. Kind of window? Let that rest: Who at morning ever lies Pondering how to ope his eyes!
I bethink me: we must fall On the thinnest of the wall! There it must be, in that niche!— No, the deepest—that in which Stands the Crucifix.
You start?— Ah, your half-believing heart Shrinks from that as sacrilege, Or, at least, upon its edge! Worse than sacrilege, I say, Is it to withhold the day From the brother whom thou knowest For the God thou never sawest!
Reverently, O marble cold, Thee in living arms I fold! Thou who art thyself the way From the darkness to the day, Window, thou, to every land, Wouldst not one dread moment stand Shutting out the air and sky And the dayspring from on high! Brother with the rugged crown, Gently thus I lift thee down!
Give me pick and hammer; you Stand aside; the deed I'll do. Yes, in truth, I have small skill, But the best thing is the will.
Stroke on stroke! The frescoed plaster Clashes downward, fast and faster. Hark, I hear an outer stone Down the rough rock rumbling thrown! There's a cranny! there's a crack! The great sun is at its back! Lo, a mass is outward flung! In the universe hath sprung!
See the gold upon the blue! See the sun come blinding through! See the far-off mountain shine In the dazzling light divine! Prisoned world, thy captive's gone! Welcome wind, and sky, and sun!
A recollection and attempted completion of a prose fragment read in boyhood.
"Hear'st thou that sound upon the window pane?" Said the youth softly, as outstretched he lay Where for an hour outstretched he had lain— Softly, yet with some token of dismay. Answered the maiden: "It is but the rain That has been gathering in the west all day! Why shouldst thou hearken so? Thine eyelids close, And let me gather peace from thy repose."
"Hear'st thou that moan creeping along the ground?" Said the youth, and his veiling eyelids rose From deeps of lightning-haunted dark profound Ruffled with herald blasts of coming woes. "I hear it," said the maiden; "'tis the sound Of a great wind that here not seldom blows; It swings the huge arms of the dreary pine, But thou art safe, my darling, clasped in mine."
"Hear'st thou the baying of my hounds?" said he; "Draw back the lattice bar and let them in." From a rent cloud the moonlight, ghostily, Slid clearer to the floor, as, gauntly thin, She opening, they leaped through with bound so free, Then shook the rain-drops from their shaggy skin. The maiden closed the shower-bespattered glass, Whose spotted shadow through the room did pass.
The youth, half-raised, was leaning on his hand, But, when again beside him sat the maid, His eyes for one slow minute having scanned Her moonlit face, he laid him down, and said, Monotonous, like solemn-read command: "For Love is of the earth, earthy, and is laid Lifeless at length back in the mother-tomb." Strange moanings from the pine entered the room.
And then two shadows like the shadow of glass, Over the moonbeams on the cottage floor, As wind almost as thin and shapeless, pass; A sound of rain-drops came about the door, And a soft sighing as of plumy grass; A look of sorrowing doubt the youth's face wore; The two great hounds half rose; with aspect grim They eyed his countenance by the taper dim.
Shadow nor moaning sound the maiden noted, But on his face dwelt her reproachful look; She doubted whether he the saying had quoted Out of some evil, earth-begotten book, Or up from his deep heart, like bubbles, had floated Words which no maiden ever yet could brook; But his eyes held the question, "Yea or No?" Therefore the maiden answered, "Nay, not so;
"Love is of heaven, eternal." Half a smile Just twinned his lips: shy, like all human best, A hopeful thought bloomed out, and lived a while; He looked one moment like a dead man blest— His soul a bark that in a sunny isle At length had found the haven of its rest; But he could not remain, must forward fare: He spoke, and said with words abrupt and bare,
"Maiden, I have loved other maidens." Pale Her red lips grew. "I loved them, yes, but they Successively in trial's hour did fail, For after sunset clouds again are gray." A sudden light shone through the fringy veil That drooping hid her eyes; and then there lay A stillness on her face, waiting; and then The little clock rung out the hour of ten.
Moaning once more the great pine-branches bow To a soft plaining wind they would not stem. Brooding upon her face, the youth said, "Thou Art not more beautiful than some of them, But a fair courage crowns thy peaceful brow, Nor glow thine eyes, but shine serene like gem That lamps from radiant store upon the dark The light it gathered where its song the lark.
"The horse that broke this day from grasp of three, Thou sawest then the hand thou holdest, hold: Ere two fleet hours are gone, that hand will be Dry, big-veined, wrinkled, withered up and old!— No woman yet hath shared my doom with me." With calm fixed eyes she heard till he had told; The stag-hounds rose, a moment gazed at him, Then laid them down with aspect yet more grim.
Spake on the youth, nor altered look or tone: "'Tis thy turn, maiden, to say no or dare."— Was it the maiden's, that importunate moan?— "At midnight, when the moon sets, wilt thou share The terror with me? or must I go alone To meet an agony that will not spare?" She answered not, but rose to take her cloak; He staid her with his hand, and further spoke.
"Not yet," he said; "yet there is respite; see, Time's finger points not yet to the dead hour! Enough is left even now for telling thee The far beginnings whence the fearful power Of the great dark came shadowing down on me: Red roses crowding clothe my love's dear bower— Nightshade and hemlock, darnel, toadstools white Compass the place where I must lie to-night!"
Around his neck the maiden put her arm And knelt beside him leaning on his breast, As o'er his love, to keep it strong and warm, Brooding like bird outspread upon her nest. And well the faith of her dear eyes might charm All doubt away from love's primeval rest! He hid his face upon her heart, and there Spake on with voice like wind from lonely lair.
A drearier moaning through the pine did go As if a human voice complained and cried For one long minute; then the sound grew low, Sank to a sigh, and sighing sank and died. Together at the silence two voices mow— His, and the clock's, which, loud grown, did divide The hours into live moments—sparks of time Scorching the soul that trembles for the chime.
He spoke of sins ancestral, born in him Impulses; of resistance fierce and wild; Of failure weak, and strength reviving dim; Self-hatred, dreariness no love beguiled; Of storm, and blasting light, and darkness grim; Of torrent paths, and tombs with mountains piled; Of gulfs in the unsunned bosom of the earth; Of dying ever into dawning birth.
"But when I find a heart whose blood is wine; Whose faith lights up the cold brain's passionless hour; Whose love, like unborn rose-bud, will not pine, But waits the sun and the baptizing shower— Till then lies hid, and gathers odours fine To greet the human summer, when its flower Shall blossom in the heart and soul and brain, And love and passion be one holy twain—
"Then shall I rest, rest like the seven of yore; Slumber divine will steep my outworn soul And every stain dissolve to the very core. She too will slumber, having found her goal. Time's ocean o'er us will, in silence frore, Aeonian tides of change-filled seasons roll, And our long, dark, appointed period fill. Then shall we wake together, loving still."
Her face on his, her mouth to his mouth pressed, Was all the answer of the trusting maid. Close in his arms he held her to his breast For one brief moment—would have yet assayed Some deeper word her heart to strengthen, lest It should though faithful be too much afraid; But the clock gave the warning to the hour— And on the thatch fell sounds not of a shower.
One long kiss, and the maiden rose. A fear Lay, thin as a glassy shadow, on her heart; She trembled as some unknown thing were near, But smiled next moment—for they should not part! The youth arose. With solemn-joyous cheer, He helped the maid, whose trembling hands did thwart Her haste to wrap her in her mantle's fold; Then out they passed into the midnight cold.
The moon was sinking in the dim green west, Curled upward, half-way to the horizon's brink, A leaf of glory falling to its rest, The maiden's hand, still trembling, sought to link Her arm to his, with love's instinctive quest, But his enfolded her; hers did not sink, But, thus set free, it stole his body round, And so they walked, in freedom's fetters bound.
Pressed to his side, she felt, like full-toned bell, A mighty heart heave large in measured play; But as the floating moon aye lower fell Its bounding force did, by slow loss, decay. It throbbed now like a bird; now like far knell Pulsed low and faint! And now, with sick dismay, She felt the arm relax that round her clung, And from her circling arm he forward hung.
His footsteps feeble, short his paces grow; Her strength and courage mount and swell amain. He lifted up his head: the moon lay low, Nigh the world's edge. His lips with some keen pain Quivered, but with a smile his eyes turned slow Seeking in hers the balsam for his bane And finding it—love over death supreme: Like two sad souls they walked met in one dream.[A]
In a lovely garden walking Two lovers went hand in hand; Two wan, worn figures, talking They sat in the flowery land.
On the cheek they kissed one another, On the mouth with sweet refrain; Fast held they each the other, And were young and well again.
Two little bells rang shrilly— The dream went with the hour: She lay in the cloister stilly, He far in the dungeon-tower!
Hanging his head, behind each came a hound, Padding with gentle paws upon the road. Straight silent pines rose here and there around; A dull stream on the left side hardly flowed; A black snake through the sluggish waters wound. Hark, the night raven! see the crawling toad! She thinks how dark will be the moonless night, How feeblest ray is yet supernal light.
The moon's last gleam fell on dim glazed eyes, A body shrunken from its garments' fold: An aged man whose bent knees could not rise, He tottered in the maiden's tightening hold. She shivered, but too slight was the disguise To hide from love what never yet was old; She held him fast, with open eyes did pray, Walked through the fear, and kept the onward way.
Toward a gloomy thicket of tall firs, Dragging his inch-long steps, he turned aside. There Silence sleeps; not one green needle stirs. They enter it. A breeze begins to chide Among the cones. It swells until it whirs, Vibrating so each sharp leaf that it sighed: The grove became a harp of mighty chords, Wing-smote by unseen creatures wild for words.
But when he turned again, toward the cleft Of a great rock, as instantly it ceased, And the tall pines stood sudden, as if reft Of a strong passion, or from pain released; Again they wove their straight, dark, motionless weft Across the moonset-bars; and, west and east, Cloud-giants rose and marched up cloudy stairs; And like sad thoughts the bats came unawares.
'Twas a drear chamber for thy bridal night, O poor, pale, saviour bride! An earthen lamp With shaking hands he kindled, whose faint light Mooned out a tiny halo on the damp That filled the cavern to its unseen height, Dim glimmering like death-candle in a swamp. Watching the entrance, each side lies a hound, With liquid light his red eyes gleaming round.
A heap rose grave-like from the rocky floor Of moss and leaves, by many a sunny wind Long tossed and dried—with rich furs covered o'er Expectant. Up a jealous glory shined In her possessing heart: he should find more In her than in those faithless! With sweet mind She, praying gently, did herself unclothe, And lay down by him, trusting, and not loath.
Once more a wind came, flapping overhead; The hounds pricked up their ears, their eyes flashed fire. The trembling maiden heard a sudden tread— Dull, yet plain dinted on the windy gyre, As if long, wet feet o'er smooth pavement sped— Come fiercely up, as driven by longing dire To enter; followed sounds of hurried rout: With bristling hair, the hounds stood looking out.
Then came, half querulous, a whisper old, Feeble and hollow as if shut in a chest: "Take my face on your bosom; I am cold." She bared her holy bosom's truth-white nest, And forth her two hands instant went, love-bold, And took the face, and close against her pressed: Ah, the dead chill!—Was that the feet again?— But her great heart kept beating for the twain.
She heard the wind fall, heard the following rain Swelling the silent waters till their sound Went wallowing through the night along the plain. The lamp went out, by the slow darkness drowned. Must the fair dawn a thousand years refrain? Like centuries the feeble hours went round. Eternal night entombed her with decay: To her live soul she clasped the breathless clay.
The world stood still. Her life sank down so low That but for wretchedness no life she knew. A charnel wind moaned out a moaning—No; From the devouring heart of earth it blew. Fair memories lost all their sunny glow: Out of the dark the forms of old friends grew But so transparent blanched with dole and smart She saw the pale worm lying in each heart.
And, worst of all—Oh death of keep-fled life! A voice within her woke and cried: In sooth Vain is all sorrow, hope, and care, and strife! Love and its beauty, its tenderness and truth Are shadows bred in hearts too fancy-rife, Which melt and pass with sure-decaying youth: Regard them, and they quiver, waver, blot; Gaze at them fixedly, and they are not.
And all the answer the poor child could make Was in the tightened clasp of arms and hands. Hopeless she lay, like one Death would not take But still kept driving from his empty lands, Yet hopeless held she out for his dear sake; The darksome horror grew like drifting sands Till nought was precious—neither God nor light, And yet she braved the false, denying night.
So dead was hope, that, when a glimmer weak Stole through a fissure somewhere in the cave, Thinning the clotted darkness on his cheek, She thought her own tired eyes the glimmer gave: He moved his head; she saw his eyes, love-meek, And knew that Death was dead and filled the Grave. Old age, convicted lie, had fled away! Youth, Youth eternal, in her bosom lay!
With a low cry closer to him she crept And on his bosom hid a face that glowed: It was his turn to comfort—he had slept! Oh earth and sky, oh ever patient God, She had not yielded, but the truth had kept! New love, new bliss in weeping overflowed. I can no farther tell the tale begun; They are asleep, and waiting for the sun.
THE LOST SOUL.
Look! look there! Send your eyes across the gray By my finger-point away Through the vaporous, fumy air. Beyond the air, you see the dark? Beyond the dark, the dawning day? On its horizon, pray you, mark Something like a ruined heap Of worlds half-uncreated, that go back: Down all the grades through which they rose Up to harmonious life and law's repose, Back, slow, to the awful deep Of nothingness, mere being's lack: On its surface, lone and bare, Shapeless as a dumb despair, Formless, nameless, something lies: Can the vision in your eyes Its idea recognize?
'Tis a poor lost soul, alack!— Half he lived some ages back; But, with hardly opened eyes, Thinking him already wise, Down he sat and wrote a book; Drew his life into a nook; Out of it would not arise To peruse the letters dim, Graven dark on his own walls; Those, he judged, were chance-led scrawls, Or at best no use to him. A lamp was there for reading these; This he trimmed, sitting at ease, For its aid to write his book, Never at his walls to look— Trimmed and trimmed to one faint spark Which went out, and left him dark.— I will try if he can hear Spirit words with spirit ear!
Motionless thing! who once, Like him who cries to thee, Hadst thy place with thy shining peers, Thy changeful place in the changeless dance Issuing ever in radiance From the doors of the far eternity, With feet that glitter and glide and glance To the music-law that binds the free, And sets the captive at liberty— To the clang of the crystal spheres! O heart for love! O thirst to drink From the wells that feed the sea! O hands of truth, a human link 'Twixt mine and the Father's knee! O eyes to see! O soul to think! O life, the brother of me! Has Infinitude sucked back all The individual life it gave? Boots it nothing to cry and call? Is thy form an empty grave?
It heareth not, brothers, the terrible thing! Sounds no sense to its ear will bring! Let us away, 'tis no use to tarry; Love no light to its heart will carry! Sting it with words, it will never shrink; It will not repent, it cannot think! Hath God forgotten it, alas! Lost in eternity's lumber-room? Will the wind of his breathing never pass Over it through the insensate gloom? Like a frost-killed bud on a tombstone curled, Crumbling it lies on its crumbling world, Sightless and deaf, with never a cry, In the hell of its own vacuity!
See, see yon angel crossing our flight Where the thunder vapours loom, From his upcast pinions flashing the light Of some outbreaking doom! Up, brothers! away! a storm is nigh! Smite we the wing up a steeper sky! What matters the hail or the clashing winds, The thunder that buffets, the lightning that blinds! We know by the tempest we do not lie Dead in the pits of eternity!
THE THREE HORSES.
What shall I be?—I will be a knight Walled up in armour black, With a sword of sharpness, a hammer of might. And a spear that will not crack— So black, so blank, no glimmer of light Will betray my darkling track.
Saddle my coal-black steed, my men, Fittest for sunless work; Old Night is steaming from her den, And her children gather and lurk; Bad things are creeping from the fen, And sliding down the murk.
Let him go!—let him go! Let him plunge!—Keep away! He's a foal of the third seal's brood! Gaunt with armour, in grim array Of poitrel and frontlet-hood, Let him go, a living castle, away— Right for the evil wood.
I and Ravenwing on the course, Heavy in fighting gear— Woe to the thing that checks our force, That meets us in career! Giant, enchanter, devil, or worse— What cares the couched spear!
Slow through the trees zigzag I ride. See! the goblins!—to and fro! From the skull of the dark, on either side, See the eyes of a dragon glow! From the thickets the silent serpents glide— I pass them, I let them go;
For somewhere in the evil night A little one cries alone; An aged knight, outnumbered in fight, But for me will be stricken prone; A lady with terror is staring white, For her champion is overthrown.
The child in my arms, to my hauberk prest, Like a trembling bird will cling; I will cover him over, in iron nest, With my shield, my one steel wing, And bear him home to his mother's breast, A radiant, rescued thing.
Spur in flank, and lance in rest, On the old knight's foes I flash; The caitiffs I scatter to east and west With clang and hurtle and crash; Leave them the law, as knaves learn it best, In bruise, and breach, and gash.
The lady I lift on my panting steed; On the pommel she holds my mace; Hand on bridle I gently lead The horse at a gentle pace; The thickets with martel-axe I heed, For the wood is an evil place.
What treasure is there in manly might That hid in the bosom lies! Who for the crying will not fight Had better be he that cries! A man is a knight that loves the right And mounts for it till he dies.
Alas, 'tis a dream of ages hoar! In the fens no dragons won; No giants from moated castles roar; Through the forest wide roadways run; Of all the deeds they did of yore Not one is left to be done!
If I should saddle old Ravenwing And hie me out at night, Scared little birds away would spring An ill-shot arrow's flight: The idle fancy away I fling, Now I will dream aright!
Let a youth bridle Twilight, my dapple-gray, With broad rein and snaffle bit; He must bring him round at break of day When the shadows begin to flit, When the darkness begins to dream away, And the owls begin to sit.
Ungraithed in plate or mail I go, With only my sword—gray-blue Like the scythe of the dawning come to mow The night-sprung shadows anew From the gates of the east, that, fair and slow, Maid Morning may walk through.
I seek no forest with darkness grim, To the open land I ride; Low light, from the broad horizon's brim, Lies wet on the flowing tide, And mottles with shadows dun and dim The mountain's rugged side.
Steadily, hasteless, o'er valley and hill. O'er the moor, along the beach, We ride, nor slacken our pace until Some city of men we reach; There, in the market, my horse stands still, And I lift my voice and preach.
Wealth and poverty, age and youth Around me gather and throng; I tell them of justice, of wisdom, of truth, Of mercy, and law, and wrong; My words are moulded by right and ruth To a solemn-chanted song.
They bring me questions which would be scanned, That strife may be forgot; Swerves my balance to neither hand, The poor I favour no jot; If a man withstand, out sweeps my brand. I slay him upon the spot.
But what if my eye have in it a beam And therefore spy his mote? Righteousness only, wisdom supreme Can tell the sheep from the goat! Not thus I dream a wise man's dream, Not thus take Wrong by the throat!
Lead Twilight home. I dare not kill; The sword myself would scare.— When the sun looks over the eastern hill, Bring out my snow-white mare: One labour is left which no one will Deny me the right to share!
Take heed, my men, from crest to heel Snow-white have no speck; No curb, no bit her mouth must feel, No tightening rein her neck; No saddle-girth drawn with buckle of steel Shall her mighty breathing check!
Lay on her a cloth of silver sheen, Bring me a robe of white; Wherever we go we must be seen By the shining of our light— A glistening splendour in forest green, A star on the mountain-height.
With jar and shudder the gates unclose; Out in the sun she leaps! A unit of light and power she goes Levelling vales and steeps: The wind around her eddies and blows, Before and behind her sleeps.
Oh joy, oh joy to ride the world And glad, good tidings bear! A flag of peace on the winds unfurled Is the mane of my shining mare: To the sound of her hoofs, lo, the dead stars hurled Quivering adown the air!
Oh, the sun and the wind! Oh, the life and the love! Where the serpent swung all day The loud dove coos to the silent dove; Where the web-winged dragon lay In its hole beneath, on the rock above Merry-tongued children play.
With eyes of light the maidens look up As they sit in the summer heat Twining green blade with golden cup— They see, and they rise to their feet; I call aloud, for I must not stop, "Good tidings, my sisters sweet!"
For mine is a message of holy mirth To city and land of corn; Of praise for heaviness, plenty for dearth, For darkness a shining morn: Clap hands, ye billows; be glad, O earth, For a child, a child is born!
Lo, even the just shall live by faith! None argue of mine and thine! Old Self shall die an ecstatic death And be born a thing divine, For God's own being and God's own breath Shall be its bread and wine.
Ambition shall vanish, and Love be king, And Pride to his darkness hie; Yea, for very love of a living thing A man would forget and die, If very love were not the spring Whence life springs endlessly!
The myrtle shall grow where grew the thorn; Earth shall be young as heaven; The heart with remorse or anger torn Shall weep like a summer even; For to us a child, a child is born, Unto us a son is given!
Lord, with thy message I dare not ride! I am a fool, a beast! The little ones only from thy side Go forth to publish thy feast! And I, where but sons and daughters abide, Would have walked about, a priest!
Take Snow-white back to her glimmering stall; There let her stand and feed!— I am overweening, ambitious, small, A creature of pride and greed! Let me wash the hoofs, let me be the thrall, Jesus, of thy white steed!
THE GOLDEN KEY.
From off the earth the vapours curled, Went up to meet their joy; The boy awoke, and all the world Was waiting for the boy!
The sky, the water, the wide earth Was full of windy play— Shining and fair, alive with mirth, All for his holiday!
The hill said "Climb me;" and the wood "Come to my bosom, child; Mine is a merry gamboling brood, Come, and with them go wild."
The shadows with the sunlight played, The birds were singing loud; The hill stood up with pines arrayed— He ran to join the crowd.
But long ere noon, dark grew the skies, Pale grew the shrinking sun: "How soon," he said, "for clouds to rise When day was but begun!"
The wind grew rough; a wilful power It swept o'er tree and town; The boy exulted for an hour, Then weary sat him down.
And as he sat the rain began, And rained till all was still: He looked, and saw a rainbow span The vale from hill to hill.
He dried his tears. "Ah, now," he said, "The storm was good, I see! Yon pine-dressed hill, upon its head I'll find the golden key!"
He thrid the copse, he climbed the fence, At last the top did scale; But, lo, the rainbow, vanished thence, Was shining in the vale!
"Still, here it stood! yes, here," he said, "Its very foot was set! I saw this fir-tree through the red, This through the violet!"
He searched and searched, while down the skies Went slow the slanting sun. At length he lifted hopeless eyes, And day was nearly done!
Beyond the vale, above the heath, High flamed the crimson west; His mother's cottage lay beneath The sky-bird's rosy breast.
"Oh, joy," he cried, "not all the way Farther from home we go! The rain will come another day And bring another bow!"
Long ere he reached his mother's cot, Still tiring more and more, The red was all one cold gray blot, And night lay round the door.
But when his mother stroked his head The night was grim in vain; And when she kissed him in his bed The rainbow rose again.
Soon, things that are and things that seem Did mingle merrily; He dreamed, nor was it all a dream, His mother had the key.
A Microcosm In Terza Rima.
Quiet I lay at last, and knew no more Whether I breathed or not, so worn I lay With the death-struggle. What was yet before Neither I met, nor turned from it away; My only conscious being was the rest Of pain gone dead—dead with the bygone day, And long I could have lingered all but blest In that half-slumber. But there came a sound As of a door that opened—in the west Somewhere I thought it. As the hare the hound, The noise did start my eyelids and they rose. I turned my eyes and looked. Then straight I found It was my chamber-door that did unclose, For a tall form up to my bedside drew. Grand was it, silent, its very walk repose; And when I saw the countenance, I knew That I was lying in my chamber dead; For this my brother—brothers such are few— That now to greet me bowed his kingly head, Had, many years agone, like holy dove Returning, from his friends and kindred sped, And, leaving memories of mournful love, Passed vanishing behind the unseen veil; And though I loved him, all high words above. Not for his loss then did I weep or wail, Knowing that here we live but in a tent, And, seeking home, shall find it without fail. Feeble but eager, toward him my hands went— I too was dead, so might the dead embrace! Taking me by the shoulders down he bent, And lifted me. I was in sickly case, But, growing stronger, stood up on the floor, There turned, and once regarded my dead face With curious eyes: its brow contentment wore, But I had done with it, and turned away. I saw my brother by the open door, And followed him out into the night blue-gray. The houses stood up hard in limpid air, The moon hung in the heavens in half decay, And all the world to my bare feet lay bare.
Now I had suffered in my life, as they Must suffer, and by slow years younger grow, From whom the false fool-self must drop away, Compact of greed and fear, which, gathered slow, Darkens the angel-self that, evermore, Where no vain phantom in or out shall go, Moveless beholds the Father—stands before The throne of revelation, waiting there, With wings low-drooping on the sapphire-floor, Until it find the Father's ideal fair, And be itself at last: not one small thorn Shall needless any pilgrim's garments tear; And but to say I had suffered I would scorn Save for the marvellous thing that next befell: Sudden I grew aware I was new-born; All pain had vanished in the absorbent swell Of some exalting peace that was my own; As the moon dwelt in heaven did calmness dwell At home in me, essential. The earth's moan Lay all behind. Had I then lost my part In human griefs, dear part with them that groan? "'Tis weariness!" I said; but with a start That set it trembling and yet brake it not, I found the peace was love. Oh, my rich heart! For, every time I spied a glimmering spot Of window pane, "There, in that silent room," Thought I, "mayhap sleeps human heart whose lot Is therefore dear to mine!" I cared for whom I saw not, had not seen, and might not see! After the love crept prone its shadow-gloom, But instant a mightier love arose in me, As in an ocean a single wave will swell, And heaved the shadow to the centre: we Had called it prayer, before on sleep I fell. It sank, and left my sea in holy calm: I gave each man to God, and all was well. And in my heart stirred soft a sleeping psalm.
No gentlest murmur through the city crept; Not one lone word my brother to me had spoken; But when beyond the city-gate we stept I knew the hovering silence would be broken. A low night wind came whispering: through and through It did baptize me with the pledge and token Of that soft spirit-wind which blows and blew And fans the human world since evermore. The very grass, cool to my feet, I knew To be love also, and with the love I bore To hold far sympathy, silent and sweet, As having known the secret from of yore In the eternal heart where all things meet, Feelings and thinkings, and where still they are bred. Sudden he stood, and with arrested feet I also. Like a half-sunned orb, his head Slow turned the bright side: lo, the brother-smile That ancient human glory on me shed Clothed in which Jesus came forth to wile Unto his bosom every labouring soul, And all dividing passions to beguile To winsome death, and then on them to roll The blessed stone of the holy sepulchre! "Thank God," he said, "thou also now art whole And sound and well! For the keen pain, and stir Uneasy, and sore grief that came to us all, In that we knew not how the wine and myrrh Could ever from the vinegar and gall Be parted, are deep sunk, yea drowned in God; And yet the past not folded in a pall, But breathed upon, like Aaron's withered rod, By a sweet light that brings the blossoms through, Showing in dreariest paths that men have trod Another's foot-prints, spotted of crimson hue, Still on before wherever theirs did wend; Yea, through the desert leading, of thyme and rue, The desert souls in which young lions rend And roar—the passionate who, to be blest, Ravin as bears, and do not gain their end, Because that, save in God, there is no rest."
Something my brother said to me like this, But how unlike it also, think, I pray: His eyes were music, and his smile a kiss; Himself the word, his speech was but a ray In the clear nimbus that with verity Of absolute utterance made a home-born day Of truth about him, lamping solemnly; And when he paused, there came a swift repose, Too high, too still to be called ecstasy— A purple silence, lanced through in the close By such keen thought that, with a sudden smiling, It grew sheen silver, hearted with burning rose. He was a glory full of reconciling, Of faithfulness, of love with no self-stain, Of tenderness, and care, and brother-wiling Back to the bosom of a speechless gain.
I cannot tell how long we joyous talked, For from my sense old time had vanished quite, Space dim-remaining—for onward still we walked. No sun arose to blot the pale, still night— Still as the night of some great spongy stone That turns but once an age betwixt the light And the huge shadow from its own bulk thrown, And long as that to me before whose face Visions so many slid, and veils were blown Aside from the vague vast of Isis' grace. Innumerous thoughts yet throng that infinite hour, And hopes which greater hopes unceasing chase, For I was all responsive to his power. I saw my friends weep, wept, and let them weep; I saw the growth of each grief-nurtured flower; I saw the gardener watching—in their sleep Wiping their tears with the napkin he had laid Wrapped by itself when he climbed Hades' steep; What wonder then I saw nor was dismayed! I saw the dull, degraded monsters nursed In money-marshes, greedy men that preyed Upon the helpless, ground the feeblest worst; Yea all the human chaos, wild and waste, Where he who will not leave what God hath cursed Now fruitless wallows, now is stung and chased By visions lovely and by longings dire. "But who believeth, he shall not make haste, Even passing through the water and the fire, Or sad with memories of a better lot! He, saved by hope, for all men will desire, Knowing that God into a mustard-jot May shut an aeon; give a world that lay Wombed in its sun, a molten unorbed clot, One moment from the red rim to spin away Librating—ages to roll on weary wheel Ere it turn homeward, almost spent its day! Who knows love all, time nothing, he shall feel No anxious heart, shall lift no trembling hand; Tender as air, but clothed in triple steel, He for his kind, in every age and land, Hoping will live; and, to his labour bent, The Father's will shall, doing, understand." So spake my brother as we onward went: His words my heart received, as corn the lea, And answered with a harvest of content. We came at last upon a lonesome sea.
And onward still he went, I following Out on the water. But the water, lo, Like a thin sheet of glass, lay vanishing! The starry host in glorious twofold show Looked up, looked down. The moment I saw this, A quivering fear thorough my heart did go: Unstayed I walked across a twin abyss, A hollow sphere of blue; nor floor was found Of questing eye, only the foot met the kiss Of the cool water lightly crisping round The edges of the footsteps! Terror froze My fallen eyelids. But again the sound Of my guide's voice on the still air arose: "Hast thou forgotten that we walk by faith? For keenest sight but multiplies the shows. Lift up thine eyelids; take a valiant breath; Terrified, dare the terror in God's name; Step wider; trust the invisible. Can Death Avail no more to hearten up thy flame?" I trembled, but I opened wide mine eyes, And strode on the invisible sea. The same High moment vanished all my cowardice, And God was with me. The well-pleased stars Threw quivering smiles across the gulfy skies, The white aurora flashed great scimitars From north to zenith; and again my guide Full turned on me his face. No prison-bars Latticed across a soul I there descried, No weather-stains of grief; quiet age-long Brooded upon his forehead clear and wide; Yet from that face a pang shot, vivid and strong, Into my heart. For, though I saw him stand Close to me in the void as one in a throng, Yet on the border of some nameless land He stood afar; a still-eyed mystery Caught him whole worlds away. Though in my hand His hand I held, and, gazing earnestly, Searched in his countenance, as in a mine, For jewels of contentment, satisfy My heart I could not. Seeming to divine My hidden trouble, gently he stooped and kissed My forehead, and his arms did round me twine, And held me to his bosom. Still I missed That ancient earthly nearness, when we shared One bed, like birds that of no morrow wist; Roamed our one father's farm; or, later, fared Along the dusty highways of the old clime. Backward he drew, and, as if he had bared My soul, stood reading there a little time, While in his eyes tears gathered slow, like dew That dims the grass at evening or at prime, But makes the stars clear-goldener in the blue: And on his lips a faint ethereal smile Hovered, as hangs the mist of its own hue Trembling about a purple flower, the while Evening grows brown. "Brother! brother!" I cried; But straight outbursting tears my words beguile, And in my bosom all the utterance died.
A moment more he stood, then softly sighed. "I know thy pain; but this sorrow is far Beyond my help," his voice at length replied To my beseeching tears. "Look at yon star Up from the low east half-way, all ablaze: Think'st thou, because no cloud between doth mar The liquid glory that from its visage rays, Thou therefore knowest that same world on high, Its people and its orders and its ways?" "What meanest thou?" I said. "Thou know'st that Would hold, not thy dear form, but the self-thee! Thou art not near me! For thyself I cry!" "Not the less near that nearer I shall be. I have a world within thou dost not know— Would I could make thee know it! but all of me Is thine, though thou not yet canst enter so Into possession that betwixt us twain The frolic homeliness of love should flow As o'er the brim of childhood's cup again: Away the deeper childhood first must wipe That clouded consciousness which was our pain. When in thy breast the godlike hath grown ripe, And thou, Christ's little one, art ten times more A child than when we played with drum and pipe About our earthly father's happy door, Then—" He ceased not; his holy utterance still Flowing went on, like spring from hidden store Of wasteless waters; but I wept my fill, Nor heeded much the comfort of his speech. At length he said: "When first I clomb the hill— With earthly words I heavenly things would reach— Where dwelleth now the man we used to call Father, whose voice, oh memory dear! did teach Us in our beds, when straight, as once a stall Became a temple, holy grew the room, Prone on the ground before him I did fall, So grand he towered above me like a doom; But now I look into the well-known face Fearless, yea, basking blessed in the bloom Of his eternal youthfulness and grace." "But something separates us," yet I cried; "Let light at least begin the dark to chase, The dark begin to waver and divide, And clear the path of vision. In the old time, When clouds one heart did from the other hide, A wind would blow between! If I would climb, This foot must rise ere that can go up higher: Some big A teach me of the eternal prime." He answered me: "Hearts that to love aspire Must learn its mighty harmony ere they can Give out one perfect note in its great quire; And thereto am I sent—oh, sent of one Who makes the dumb for joy break out and sing: He opens every door 'twixt man and man; He to all inner chambers all will bring."
It was enough; Hope waked from dreary swound, And Hope had ever been enough for me, To kennel driving grim Tomorrow's hound; From chains of school and mode she set me free, And urged my life to living.—On we went Across the stars that underlay the sea, And came to a blown shore of sand and bent. Beyond the sand a marshy moor we crossed Silent—I, for I pondered what he meant, And he, that sacred speech might not be lost— And came at length upon an evil place: Trees lay about like a half-buried host, Each in its desolate pool; some fearful race Of creatures was not far, for howls and cries And gurgling hisses rose. With even pace Walking, "Fear not," he said, "for this way lies Our journey." On we went; and soon the ground Slow from the waste began a gentle rise; And tender grass in patches, then all round, Came clouding up, with its fresh homely tinge Of softest green cold-flushing every mound; At length, of lowly shrubs a scattered fringe; And last, a gloomy forest, almost blind, For on its roof no sun-ray did impinge, So that its very leaves did share the mind Of a brown shadowless day. Not, all the year, Once part its branches to let through a wind, But all day long the unmoving trees appear To ponder on the past, as men may do That for the future wait without a fear, And in the past the coming present view.
I know not if for days many or few Pathless we thrid the wood; for never sun, Its sylvan-traceried windows peeping through, Mottled with brighter green the mosses dun, Or meted with moving shadows Time the shade. No life was there—not even a spider spun. At length we came into a sky-roofed glade, An open level, in a circle shut By solemn trees that stood aside and made Large room and lonely for a little hut By grassy sweeps wide-margined from the wood. 'Twas built of saplings old, that had been cut When those great trees no larger by them stood; Thick with an ancient moss, it seemed to have grown Thus from the old brown earth, a covert rude, Half-house, half-grave; half-lifted up, half-prone. To its low door my brother led me. "There Is thy first school," he said; "there be thou shown Thy pictured alphabet. Wake a mind of prayer, And praying enter." "But wilt thou not come, Brother?" I said. "No," said he. And I, "Where Then shall I find thee? Thou wilt not leave me dumb, And a whole world of thoughts unuttered?" With half-sad smile and dewy eyes, and some Conflicting motions of his kingly head, He pointed to the open-standing door. I entered: inward, lo, my shadow led! I turned: his countenance shone like lightning hoar! Then slow he turned from me, and parted slow, Like one unwilling, whom I should see no more; With voice nor hand said, Farewell, I must go! But drew the clinging door hard to the post. No dry leaves rustled 'neath his going; no Footfalls came back from the departing ghost. He was no more. I laid me down and wept; I dared not follow him, restrained the most By fear I should not see him if I leapt Out after him with cries of pleading love. Close to the wall, in hopeless loss, I crept; There cool sleep came, God's shadow, from above.
I woke, with calmness cleansed and sanctified— The peace that filled my heart of old, when I Woke in my mother's lap; for since I died The past lay bare, even to the dreaming shy That shadowed my yet gathering unborn brain. And, marvelling, on the floor I saw, close by My elbow-pillowed head, as if it had lain Beside me all the time I dreamless lay, A little pool of sunlight, which did stain The earthen brown with gold; marvelling, I say, Because, across the sea and through the wood, No sun had shone upon me all the way. I rose, and through a chink the glade I viewed, But all was dull as it had always been, And sunless every tree-top round it stood, With hardly light enough to show it green; Yet through the broken roof, serenely glad, By a rough hole entered that heavenly sheen. Then I remembered in old years I had Seen such a light—where, with dropt eyelids gloomed, Sitting on such a floor, dark women sad In a low barn-like house where lay entombed Their sires and children; only there the door Was open to the sun, which entering plumed With shadowy palms the stones that on the floor Stood up like lidless chests—again to find That the soul needs no brain, but keeps her store In hidden chambers of the eternal mind. Thence backward ran my roused Memory Down the ever-opening vista—back to blind Anticipations while my soul did lie Closed in my mother's; forward thence through bright Spring morns of childhood, gay with hopes that fly Bird-like across their doming blue and white, To passionate summer noons, to saddened eves Of autumn rain, so on to wintred night; Thence up once more to the dewy dawn that weaves Saffron and gold—weaves hope with still content, And wakes the worship that even wrong bereaves Of half its pain. And round her as she went Hovered a sense as of an odour dear Whose flower was far—as of a letter sent Not yet arrived—a footstep coming near, But, oh, how long delayed the lifting latch!— As of a waiting sun, ready to peer Yet peering not—as of a breathless watch Over a sleeping beauty—babbling rime About her lips, but no winged word to catch! And here I lay, the child of changeful Time Shut in the weary, changeless Evermore, A dull, eternal, fadeless, fruitless clime! Was this the dungeon of my sinning sore— A gentle hell of loneliness, foredoomed For such as I, whose love was yet the core Of all my being? The brown shadow gloomed Persistent, faded, warm. No ripple ran Across the air, no roaming insect boomed. "Alas," I cried, "I am no living man! Better were darkness and the leave to grope Than light that builds its own drear prison! Can This be the folding of the wings of Hope?"
That instant—through the branches overhead No sound of going went—a shadow fell Isled in the unrippled pool of sunlight fed From some far fountain hid in heavenly dell. I looked, and in the low roofs broken place A single snowdrop stood—a radiant bell Of silvery shine, softly subdued by grace Of delicate green that made the white appear Yet whiter. Blind it bowed its head a space, Half-timid—then, as in despite of fear, Unfolded its three rays. If it had swung Its pendent bell, and music golden clear— Division just entrancing sounds among— Had flickered down as tender as flakes of snow, It had not shed more influence as it rung Than from its look alone did rain and flow. I knew the flower; perceived its human ways; Dim saw the secret that had made it grow: My heart supplied the music's golden phrase. Light from the dark and snowdrops from the earth, Life's resurrection out of gross decays, The endless round of beauty's yearly birth, And nations' rise and fall—were in the flower, And read themselves in silence. Heavenly mirth Awoke in my sad heart. For one whole hour I praised the God of snowdrops. But at height The bliss gave way. Next, faith began to cower; And then the snowdrop vanished from my sight.
Last, I began in unbelief to say: "No angel this! a snowdrop—nothing more! A trifle which God's hands drew forth in play From the tangled pond of chaos, dank and frore, Threw on the bank, and left blindly to breed! A wilful fancy would have gathered store Of evanescence from the pretty weed, White, shapely—then divine! Conclusion lame O'erdriven into the shelter of a creed! Not out of God, but nothingness it came: Colourless, feeble, flying from life's heat, It has no honour, hardly shunning shame!" When, see, another shadow at my feet! Hopeless I lifted now my weary head: Why mock me with another heavenly cheat?— A primrose fair, from its rough-blanketed bed Laughed, lo, my unbelief to heavenly scorn! A sun-child, just awake, no prayer yet said, Half rising from the couch where it was born, And smiling to the world! I breathed again; Out of the midnight once more dawned the morn, And fled the phantom Doubt with all his train.
I was a child once more, nor pondered life, Thought not of what or how much. All my soul With sudden births of lovely things grew rife. In peeps a daisy: on the instant roll Rich lawny fields, with red tips crowding the green, Across the hollows, over ridge and knoll, To where the rosy sun goes down serene. From out of heaven in looks a pimpernel: I walk in morning scents of thyme and bean; Dewdrops on every stalk and bud and bell Flash, like a jewel-orchard, many roods; Glow ruby suns, which emerald suns would quell; Topaz saint-glories, sapphire beatitudes Blaze in the slanting sunshine all around; Above, the high-priest-lark, o'er fields and woods— Rich-hearted with his five eggs on the ground— The sacrifice bore through the veil of light, Odour and colour offering up in sound.— Filled heart-full thus with forms of lowly might And shapeful silences of lovely lore, I sat a child, happy with only sight, And for a time I needed nothing more.
Supine to the revelation I did lie, Passive as prophet to his dreaming deep, Or harp Aeolian to the breathing sky, And blest as any child whom twilight sleep Holds half, and half lets go. But the new day Of higher need up-dawned with sudden leap: "Ah, flowers," I said, "ye are divinely gay, But your fair music is too far and fine! Ye are full cups, yet reach not to allay The drought of those for human love who pine As the hart for water-brooks!" At once a face Was looking in my face; its eyes through mine Were feeding me with tenderness and grace, And by their love I knew my mother's eyes. Gazing in them, there grew in me apace A longing grief, and love did swell and rise Till weeping I brake out and did bemoan My blameful share in bygone tears and cries: "O mother, wilt thou plead for me?" I groan; "I say not, plead with Christ, but plead with those Who, gathered now in peace about his throne, Were near me when my heart was full of throes, And longings vain alter a flying bliss, Which oft the fountain by the threshold froze: They must forgive me, mother! Tell them this: No more shall swell the love-dividing sigh; Down at their feet I lay my selfishness." The face grew passionate at this my cry; The gathering tears up to its eyebrims rose; It grew a trembling mist, that did not fly But slow dissolved. I wept as one of those Who wake outside the garden of their dream, And, lo, the droop-winged hours laborious close Its opal gates with stone and stake and beam.
But glory went that glory more might come. Behold a countless multitude—no less! A host of faces, me besieging, dumb In the lone castle of my mournfulness! Had then my mother given the word I sent, Gathering my dear ones from the shining press? And had these others their love-aidance lent For full assurance of the pardon prayed? Would they concentre love, with sweet intent, On my self-love, to blast the evil shade? Ah, perfect vision! pledge of endless hope! Oh army of the holy spirit, arrayed In comfort's panoply! For words I grope— For clouds to catch your radiant dawn, my own, And tell your coming! From the highest cope Of blue, down to my roof-breach came a cone Of faces and their eyes on love's will borne, Bright heads down-bending like the forward blown, Heavy with ripeness, golden ears of corn, By gentle wind on crowded harvest-field, All gazing toward my prison-hut forlorn As if with power of eyes they would have healed My troubled heart, making it like their own In which the bitter fountain had been sealed, And the life-giving water flowed alone!
With what I thus beheld, glorified then, "God, let me love my fill and pass!" I sighed, And dead, for love had almost died again. "O fathers, brothers, I am yours!" I cried; "O mothers, sisters. I am nothing now Save as I am yours, and in you sanctified! O men, O women, of the peaceful brow, And infinite abysses in the eyes Whence God's ineffable gazes on me, how Care ye for me, impassioned and unwise? Oh ever draw my heart out after you! Ever, O grandeur, thus before me rise And I need nothing, not even for love will sue! I am no more, and love is all in all! Henceforth there is, there can be nothing new— All things are always new!" Then, like the fall Of a steep avalanche, my joy fell steep: Up in my spirit rose as it were the call Of an old sorrow from an ancient deep; For, with my eyes fixed on the eyes of him Whom I had loved before I learned to creep— God's vicar in his twilight nursery dim To gather us to the higher father's knee— I saw a something fill their azure rim That caught him worlds and years away from me; And like a javelin once more through me passed The pang that pierced me walking on the sea: "O saints," I cried, "must loss be still the last?"
When I said this, the cloud of witnesses Turned their heads sideways, and the cloud grew dim I saw their faces half, but now their bliss Gleamed low, like the old moon in the new moon's rim. Then as I gazed, a better kind of light On every outline 'gan to glimmer and swim, Faint as the young moon threadlike on the night, Just born of sunbeams trembling on her edge: 'Twas a great cluster of profiles in sharp white. Had some far dawn begun to drive a wedge Into the night, and cleave the clinging dark? I saw no moon or star, token or pledge Of light, save that manifold silvery mark, The shining title of each spirit-book. Whence came that light? Sudden, as if a spark Of vital touch had found some hidden nook Where germs of potent harmonies lay prest, And their outbursting life old Aether shook, Rose, as in prayer to lingering promised guest, From that great cone of faces such a song, Instinct with hope's harmonical unrest, That with sore weeping, and the cry "How long?" I bore my part because I could not sing. And as they sang, the light more clear and strong Bordered their faces, till the glory-sting I could almost no more encounter and bear; Light from their eyes, like water from a spring, Flowed; on their foreheads reigned their flashing hair; I saw the light from eyes I could not see. "He comes! he comes!" they sang, "comes to our prayer!" "Oh my poor heart, if only it were He!" I cried. Thereat the faces moved! those eyes Were turning on me! In rushed ecstasy, And woke me to the light of lower skies.
"What matter," said I, "whether clank of chain Or over-bliss wakes up to bitterness!" Stung with its loss, I called the vision vain. Yet feeling life grown larger, suffering less, Sleep's ashes from my eyelids I did brush. The room was veiled, that morning should not press Upon the slumber which had stayed the rush Of ebbing life; I looked into the gloom: Upon her brow the dawn's first grayest flush, And on her cheek pale hope's reviving bloom, Sat, patient watcher, darkling and alone, She who had lifted me from many a tomb! One then was left me of Love's radiant cone! Its light on her dear face, though faint and wan, Was shining yet—a dawn upon it thrown From the far coming of the Son of Man!
In every forehead now I see a sky Catching the dawn; I hear the wintriest breeze About me blow the news the Lord is nigh. Long is the night, dark are the polar seas, Yet slanting suns ascend the northern hill. Round Spring's own steps the oozy waters freeze But hold them not. Dreamers are sleeping still, But labourers, light-stung, from their slumber start: Faith sees the ripening ears with harvest fill When but green blades the clinging earth-clods part.
Lord, I have spoken a poor parable, In which I would have said thy name alone Is the one secret lying in Truth's well, Thy voice the hidden charm in every tone, Thy face the heart of every flower on earth, Its vision the one hope; for every moan Thy love the cure! O sharer of the birth Of little children seated on thy knee! O human God! I laugh with sacred mirth To think how all the laden shall go free; For, though the vision tarry, in healing ruth One morn the eyes that shone in Galilee Will dawn upon them, full of grace and truth, And thy own love—the vivifying core Of every love in heart of age or youth, Of every hope that sank 'neath burden sore!
A Part Of The Story Omitted In The Old Romances.
How sir Galahad despaired of finding the Grail.
Through the wood the sunny day Glimmered sweetly glad; Through the wood his weary way Rode sir Galahad.
All about stood open porch, Long-drawn cloister dim; 'Twas a wavering wandering church Every side of him.
On through columns arching high, Foliage-vaulted, he Rode in thirst that made him sigh, Longing miserably.
Came the moon, and through the trees Glimmered faintly sad; Withered, worn, and ill at ease Down lay Galahad;
Closed his eyes and took no heed What might come or pass; Heard his hunger-busy steed Cropping dewy grass.
Cool and juicy was the blade, Good to him as wine: For his labour he was paid, Galahad must pine!
Late had he at Arthur's board, Arthur strong and wise, Pledged the cup with friendly lord, Looked in ladies' eyes;
Now, alas! he wandered wide, Resting never more, Over lake and mountain-side, Over sea and shore!
Swift in vision rose and fled All he might have had; Weary tossed his restless head, And his heart grew sad.
With the lowliest in the land He a maiden fair Might have led with virgin hand From the altar-stair:
Youth away with strength would glide, Age bring frost and woe; Through the world so dreary wide Mateless he must go!
Lost was life and all its good, Gone without avail! All his labour never would Find the Holy Grail!
How sir Galahad found and lost the Grail.
Galahad was in the night, And the wood was drear; But to men in darksome plight Radiant things appear:
Wings he heard not floating by, Heard no heavenly hail; But he started with a cry, For he saw the Grail.
Hid from bright beholding sun, Hid from moonlight wan, Lo, from age-long darkness won, It was seen of man!
Three feet off, on cushioned moss, As if cast away, Homely wood with carven cross, Rough and rude it lay!
To his knees the knight rose up, Loosed his gauntlet-band; Fearing, daring, toward the cup Went his naked hand;
When, as if it fled from harm, Sank the holy thing, And his eager following arm Plunged into a spring.
Oh the thirst, the water sweet! Down he lay and quaffed, Quaffed and rose up on his feet, Rose and gayly laughed;
Fell upon his knees to thank, Loved and lauded there; Stretched him on the mossy bank, Fell asleep in prayer;
Dreamed, and dreaming murmured low Ave, pater, creed; When the fir-tops gan to glow Waked and called his steed;
Bitted him and drew his girth, Watered from his helm: Happier knight or better worth Was not in the realm!
Belted on him then his sword, Braced his slackened mail; Doubting said: "I dreamed the Lord Offered me the Grail."
How sir Galahad gave up the Quest for the Grail.
Ere the sun had cast his light On the water's face, Firm in saddle rode the knight From the holy place,
Merry songs began to sing, Let his matins bide; Rode a good hour pondering, And was turned aside,
Saying, "I will henceforth then Yield this hopeless quest; Tis a dream of holy men This ideal Best!"
"Every good for miracle Heart devout may hold; Grail indeed was that fair well Full of water cold!
"Not my thirst alone it stilled But my soul it stayed; And my heart, with gladness filled, Wept and laughed and prayed!
"Spectral church with cryptic niche I will seek no more; That the holiest Grail is, which Helps the need most sore!"
And he spake with speech more true Than his thought indeed, For not yet the good knight knew His own sorest need.
How sir Galahad sought yet again for the Grail.
On he rode, to succour bound, But his faith grew dim; Wells for thirst he many found, Water none for him.
Never more from drinking deep Rose he up and laughed; Never more did prayerful sleep Follow on the draught.
Good the water which they bore, Plenteously it flowed, Quenched his thirst, but, ah, no more Eased his bosom's load!
For the Best no more he sighed; Rode as in a trance; Life grew poor, undignified, And he spake of chance.
Then he dreamed through Jesus' hand That he drove a nail— Woke and cried, "Through every land, Lord, I seek thy Grail!"
That sir Galahad found the Grail.
Up the quest again he took, Rode through wood and wave; Sought in many a mossy nook, Many a hermit-cave;
Sought until the evening red Sunk in shadow deep; Sought until the moonlight fled; Slept, and sought in sleep.
Where he wandered, seeking, sad, Story doth not say, But at length sir Galahad Found it on a day;
Took the Grail with holy hand, Had the cup of joy; Carried it about the land, Gleesome as a boy;
Laid his sword where he had found Boot for every bale, Stuck his spear into the ground, Kept alone the Grail.
How sir Galahad carried about the Grail.
Horse and crested helmet gone, Greaves and shield and mail, Caroling loud the knight walked on, For he had the Grail;
Caroling loud walked south and north, East and west, for years; Where he went, the smiles came forth, Where he left, the tears.
Glave nor dagger mourned he, Axe nor iron flail: Evil might not brook to see Once the Holy Grail.
Wilds he wandered with his staff, Woods no longer sad; Earth and sky and sea did laugh Round sir Galahad.
Bitter mere nor trodden pool Did in service fail, Water all grew sweet and cool In the Holy Grail.
Without where to lay his head, Chanting loud he went; Found each cave a palace-bed, Every rock a tent.
Age that had begun to quail In the gathering gloom, Counselled he to seek the Grail And forget the tomb.
Youth with hope or passion pale, Youth with eager eyes, Taught he that the Holy Grail Was the only prize.
Maiden worn with hidden ail, Restless and unsure, Taught he that the Holy Grail Was the only cure.
Children rosy in the sun Ran to hear his tale How twelve little ones had won Each of them the Grail.
How sir Galahad hid the Grail.
Very still was earth and sky When he passing lay; Oft he said he should not die, Would but go away.
When he passed, they reverent sought, Where his hand lay prest, For the cup he bare, they thought, Hidden in his breast.
Hope and haste and eager thrill Turned to sorrowing wail: Hid he held it deeper still, Took with him the Grail.
THE FAILING TRACK.
Where went the feet that hitherto have come? Here yawns no gulf to quench the flowing past! With lengthening pauses broke, the path grows dumb; The grass floats in; the gazer stands aghast.
Tremble not, maiden, though the footprints die; By no air-path ascend the lark's clear notes; The mighty-throated when he mounts the sky Over some lowly landmark sings and floats.
Be of good cheer. Paths vanish from the wave; There all the ships tear each its track of gray; Undaunted they the wandering desert brave: In each a magic finger points the way.
No finger finely touched, no eye of lark Hast thou to guide thy steps where footprints fail? Ah, then, 'twere well to turn before the dark, Nor dream to find thy dreams in yonder vale!
The backward way one hour is plain to thee, Hard hap were hers who saw no trace behind! Back to confession at thy mother's knee, Back to the question and the childlike mind!
Then start afresh, but toward unending end, The goal o'er which hangs thy own star all night; So shalt thou need no footprints to befriend, Child-heart and shining star will guide thee right.
"Traveller, what lies over the hill? Traveller, tell to me: Tip-toe-high on the window-sill Over I cannot see."
"My child, a valley green lies there, Lovely with trees, and shy; And a tiny brook that says, 'Take care, Or I'll drown you by and by!'"
"And what comes next?"—"A little town, And a towering hill again; More hills and valleys up and down, And a river now and then."
"And what comes next?"—"A lonely moor Without one beaten way, And slow clouds drifting dull before A wind that will not stay."
"And then?"—"Dark rocks and yellow sand, Blue sea and a moaning tide." "And then?"—"More sea, and then more land, With rivers deep and wide."
"And then?"—"Oh, rock and mountain and vale, Ocean and shores and men, Over and over, a weary tale, And round to your home again!"
"And is that all? From day to day, Like one with a long chain bound, Should I walk and walk and not get away, But go always round and round?"
"No, no; I have not told you the best, I have not told you the end: If you want to escape, away in the west You will see a stair ascend,
"Built of all colours of lovely stones, A stair up into the sky Where no one is weary, and no one moans, Or wishes to be laid by."
"Is it far away?"—"I do not know: You must fix your eyes thereon, And travel, travel through thunder and snow, Till the weary way is gone.
"All day, though you never see it shine, You must travel nor turn aside, All night you must keep as straight a line Through moonbeams or darkness wide."
"When I am older!"—"Nay, not so!" "I have hardly opened my eyes!" "He who to the old sunset would go, Starts best with the young sunrise."
"Is the stair right up? is it very steep?" "Too steep for you to climb; You must lie at the foot of the glorious heap And patient wait your time."
"How long?"—"Nay, that I cannot tell." "In wind, and rain, and frost?" "It may be so; and it is well That you should count the cost.
"Pilgrims from near and from distant lands Will step on you lying there; But a wayfaring man with wounded hands Will carry you up the stair."
Brother artist, help me; come! Artists are a maimed band: I have words but not a hand; Thou hast hands though thou art dumb.
Had I thine, when words did fail— Vassal-words their hasting chief, On the white awaiting leaf Shapes of power should tell the tale.
Had I hers of music-might, I would shake the air with storm Till the red clouds trailed enorm Boreal dances through the night.
Had I his whose foresight rare Piles the stones with lordliest art, From the quarry of my heart Love should climb a heavenly stair!
Had I his whose wooing slow Wins the marble's hidden child, Out in passion undefiled Stood my Psyche, white as snow!
Maimed, a little help I pray; Words suffice not for my end; Let thy hand obey thy friend, Say for me what I would say.
Draw me, on an arid plain With hoar-headed mountains nigh, Under a clear morning sky Telling of a night of rain,
Huge and half-shaped, like a block Chosen for sarcophagus By a Pharaoh glorious, One rude solitary rock.
Cleave it down along the ridge With a fissure yawning deep To the heart of the hard heap, Like the rent of riving wedge.
Through the cleft let hands appear, Upward pointed with pressed palms As if raised in silent psalms For salvation come anear.
Turn thee now—'tis almost done!— To the near horizon's verge: Make the smallest arc emerge Of the forehead of the sun.
One thing more—I ask too much!— From a brow which hope makes brave Sweep the shadow of the grave With a single golden touch.
Thanks, dear painter; that is all. If thy picture one day should Need some words to make it good, I am ready to thy call.
AFTER AN OLD LEGEND.
The monk was praying in his cell, With bowed head praying sore; He had been praying on his knees For two long hours and more.
As of themselves, all suddenly, His eyelids opened wide; Before him on the ground he saw A man's feet close beside;