This etext was prepared by David Price, email email@example.com, from the 1919 Macmillan and Co edition.
SATIRES OF CIRCUMSTANCE WITH MISCELLANEOUS PIECES
by Thomas Hardy
Lyrics and Reveries In Front of the Landscape Channel Firing The Convergence of the Twain The Ghost of the Past After the Visit To Meet, or Otherwise The Difference The Sun on the Bookcase "When I set out for Lyonnesse" A Thunderstorm in Town The Torn Letter Beyond the Last Lamp The Face at the Casement Lost Love "My spirit will not haunt the mound" "Wessex Heights In Death divided The Place on the Map Where the Picnic was The Schreckhorn A Singer asleep A Plaint to Man God's Funeral Spectres that grieve "Ah, are you digging on my grave?" Satires of Circumstance At Tea In Church By her Aunt's Grave In the Room of the Bride-elect At the Watering-place In the Cemetery Outside the Window In the Study At the Altar-rail In the Nuptial Chamber In the Restaurant At the Draper's On the Death-bed Over the Coffin In the Moonlight Self-unconscious The Discovery Tolerance Before and after Summer At Day-close in November The Year's Awakening Under the Waterfall The Spell of the Rose St. Launce's revisited Poems of 1912-13- The Going Your Last Drive The Walk Rain on a Grace "I found her out there" Without Ceremony Lament The Haunter The Voice His Visitor A Circular A Dream or No After a Journey A Death-ray recalled Beeny Cliff At Castle Boterel Places The Phantom Horsewoman Miscellaneous Pieces The Wistful Lady The Woman in the Rye The Cheval-Glass The Re-enactment Her Secret "She charged me" The Newcomer's Wife A Conversation at Dawn A King's Soliloquy The Coronation Aquae Sulis Seventy-four and Twenty The Elopement "I rose up as my custom is" A Week Had you wept Bereft, she thinks she dreams In the British Museum In the Servants' Quarters The Obliterate Tomb "Regret not me" The Recalcitrants Starlings on the Roof The Moon looks in The Sweet Hussy The Telegram The Moth-signal Seen by the Waits The Two Soldiers The Death of Regret In the Days of Crinoline The Roman Gravemounds The Workbox The Sacrilege The Abbey Mason The Jubilee of a Magazine The Satin Shoes Exeunt Omnes A Poet Postscript "Men who march away"
IN FRONT OF THE LANDSCAPE
Plunging and labouring on in a tide of visions, Dolorous and dear, Forward I pushed my way as amid waste waters Stretching around, Through whose eddies there glimmered the customed landscape Yonder and near,
Blotted to feeble mist. And the coomb and the upland Foliage-crowned, Ancient chalk-pit, milestone, rills in the grass-flat Stroked by the light, Seemed but a ghost-like gauze, and no substantial Meadow or mound.
What were the infinite spectacles bulking foremost Under my sight, Hindering me to discern my paced advancement Lengthening to miles; What were the re-creations killing the daytime As by the night?
O they were speechful faces, gazing insistent, Some as with smiles, Some as with slow-born tears that brinily trundled Over the wrecked Cheeks that were fair in their flush-time, ash now with anguish, Harrowed by wiles.
Yes, I could see them, feel them, hear them, address them - Halo-bedecked - And, alas, onwards, shaken by fierce unreason, Rigid in hate, Smitten by years-long wryness born of misprision, Dreaded, suspect.
Then there would breast me shining sights, sweet seasons Further in date; Instruments of strings with the tenderest passion Vibrant, beside Lamps long extinguished, robes, cheeks, eyes with the earth's crust Now corporate.
Also there rose a headland of hoary aspect Gnawed by the tide, Frilled by the nimb of the morning as two friends stood there Guilelessly glad - Wherefore they knew not—touched by the fringe of an ecstasy Scantly descried.
Later images too did the day unfurl me, Shadowed and sad, Clay cadavers of those who had shared in the dramas, Laid now at ease, Passions all spent, chiefest the one of the broad brow Sepulture-clad.
So did beset me scenes miscalled of the bygone, Over the leaze, Past the clump, and down to where lay the beheld ones; —Yea, as the rhyme Sung by the sea-swell, so in their pleading dumbness Captured me these.
For, their lost revisiting manifestations In their own time Much had I slighted, caring not for their purport, Seeing behind Things more coveted, reckoned the better worth calling Sweet, sad, sublime.
Thus do they now show hourly before the intenser Stare of the mind As they were ghosts avenging their slights by my bypast Body-borne eyes, Show, too, with fuller translation than rested upon them As living kind.
Hence wag the tongues of the passing people, saying In their surmise, "Ah—whose is this dull form that perambulates, seeing nought Round him that looms Whithersoever his footsteps turn in his farings, Save a few tombs?"
That night your great guns, unawares, Shook all our coffins as we lay, And broke the chancel window-squares, We thought it was the Judgment-day
And sat upright. While drearisome Arose the howl of wakened hounds: The mouse let fall the altar-crumb, The worms drew back into the mounds,
The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, "No; It's gunnery practice out at sea Just as before you went below; The world is as it used to be:
"All nations striving strong to make Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters They do no more for Christes sake Than you who are helpless in such matters.
"That this is not the judgment-hour For some of them's a blessed thing, For if it were they'd have to scour Hell's floor for so much threatening . . .
"Ha, ha. It will be warmer when I blow the trumpet (if indeed I ever do; for you are men, And rest eternal sorely need)."
So down we lay again. "I wonder, Will the world ever saner be," Said one, "than when He sent us under In our indifferent century!"
And many a skeleton shook his head. "Instead of preaching forty year," My neighbour Parson Thirdly said, "I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer."
Again the guns disturbed the hour, Roaring their readiness to avenge, As far inland as Stourton Tower, And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.
THE CONVERGENCE OF THE TWAIN
(Lines on the loss of the "Titanic")
In a solitude of the sea Deep from human vanity, And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
Steel chambers, late the pyres Of her salamandrine fires, Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
Over the mirrors meant To glass the opulent The sea-worm crawls—grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
Jewels in joy designed To ravish the sensuous mind Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.
Dim moon-eyed fishes near Gaze at the gilded gear And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?" . . .
Well: while was fashioning This creature of cleaving wing, The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything
Prepared a sinister mate For her—so gaily great - A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
And as the smart ship grew In stature, grace, and hue, In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
Alien they seemed to be: No mortal eye could see The intimate welding of their later history,
Or sign that they were bent By paths coincident On being anon twin halves of one august event,
Till the Spinner of the Years Said "Now!" And each one hears, And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.
THE GHOST OF THE PAST
We two kept house, the Past and I, The Past and I; I tended while it hovered nigh, Leaving me never alone. It was a spectral housekeeping Where fell no jarring tone, As strange, as still a housekeeping As ever has been known.
As daily I went up the stair And down the stair, I did not mind the Bygone there - The Present once to me; Its moving meek companionship I wished might ever be, There was in that companionship Something of ecstasy.
It dwelt with me just as it was, Just as it was When first its prospects gave me pause In wayward wanderings, Before the years had torn old troths As they tear all sweet things, Before gaunt griefs had torn old troths And dulled old rapturings.
And then its form began to fade, Began to fade, Its gentle echoes faintlier played At eves upon my ear Than when the autumn's look embrowned The lonely chambers here, The autumn's settling shades embrowned Nooks that it haunted near.
And so with time my vision less, Yea, less and less Makes of that Past my housemistress, It dwindles in my eye; It looms a far-off skeleton And not a comrade nigh, A fitful far-off skeleton Dimming as days draw by.
AFTER THE VISIT (To F. E. D.)
Come again to the place Where your presence was as a leaf that skims Down a drouthy way whose ascent bedims The bloom on the farer's face.
Come again, with the feet That were light on the green as a thistledown ball, And those mute ministrations to one and to all Beyond a man's saying sweet.
Until then the faint scent Of the bordering flowers swam unheeded away, And I marked not the charm in the changes of day As the cloud-colours came and went.
Through the dark corridors Your walk was so soundless I did not know Your form from a phantom's of long ago Said to pass on the ancient floors,
Till you drew from the shade, And I saw the large luminous living eyes Regard me in fixed inquiring-wise As those of a soul that weighed,
Scarce consciously, The eternal question of what Life was, And why we were there, and by whose strange laws That which mattered most could not be.
TO MEET, OR OTHERWISE
Whether to sally and see thee, girl of my dreams, Or whether to stay And see thee not! How vast the difference seems Of Yea from Nay Just now. Yet this same sun will slant its beams At no far day On our two mounds, and then what will the difference weigh!
Yet I will see thee, maiden dear, and make The most I can Of what remains to us amid this brake Cimmerian Through which we grope, and from whose thorns we ache, While still we scan Round our frail faltering progress for some path or plan.
By briefest meeting something sure is won; It will have been: Nor God nor Daemon can undo the done, Unsight the seen, Make muted music be as unbegun, Though things terrene Groan in their bondage till oblivion supervene.
So, to the one long-sweeping symphony From times remote Till now, of human tenderness, shall we Supply one note, Small and untraced, yet that will ever be Somewhere afloat Amid the spheres, as part of sick Life's antidote.
Sinking down by the gate I discern the thin moon, And a blackbird tries over old airs in the pine, But the moon is a sorry one, sad the bird's tune, For this spot is unknown to that Heartmate of mine.
Did my Heartmate but haunt here at times such as now, The song would be joyous and cheerful the moon; But she will see never this gate, path, or bough, Nor I find a joy in the scene or the tune.
THE SUN ON THE BOOKCASE (Student's Love-song)
Once more the cauldron of the sun Smears the bookcase with winy red, And here my page is, and there my bed, And the apple-tree shadows travel along. Soon their intangible track will be run, And dusk grow strong And they be fled.
Yes: now the boiling ball is gone, And I have wasted another day . . . But wasted—WASTED, do I say? Is it a waste to have imaged one Beyond the hills there, who, anon, My great deeds done Will be mine alway?
"WHEN I SET OUT FOR LYONNESSE"
When I set out for Lyonnesse, A hundred miles away, The rime was on the spray, And starlight lit my lonesomeness When I set out for Lyonnesse A hundred miles away.
What would bechance at Lyonnesse While I should sojourn there No prophet durst declare, Nor did the wisest wizard guess What would bechance at Lyonnesse While I should sojourn there.
When I came back from Lyonnesse With magic in my eyes, None managed to surmise What meant my godlike gloriousness, When I came back from Lyonnesse With magic in my eyes.
A THUNDERSTORM IN TOWN (A Reminiscence)
She wore a new "terra-cotta" dress, And we stayed, because of the pelting storm, Within the hansom's dry recess, Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless We sat on, snug and warm.
Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain, And the glass that had screened our forms before Flew up, and out she sprang to her door: I should have kissed her if the rain Had lasted a minute more.
THE TORN LETTER
I tore your letter into strips No bigger than the airy feathers That ducks preen out in changing weathers Upon the shifting ripple-tips.
In darkness on my bed alone I seemed to see you in a vision, And hear you say: "Why this derision Of one drawn to you, though unknown?"
Yes, eve's quick mood had run its course, The night had cooled my hasty madness; I suffered a regretful sadness Which deepened into real remorse.
I thought what pensive patient days A soul must know of grain so tender, How much of good must grace the sender Of such sweet words in such bright phrase.
Uprising then, as things unpriced I sought each fragment, patched and mended; The midnight whitened ere I had ended And gathered words I had sacrificed.
But some, alas, of those I threw Were past my search, destroyed for ever: They were your name and place; and never Did I regain those clues to you.
I learnt I had missed, by rash unheed, My track; that, so the Will decided, In life, death, we should be divided, And at the sense I ached indeed.
That ache for you, born long ago, Throbs on; I never could outgrow it. What a revenge, did you but know it! But that, thank God, you do not know.
BEYOND THE LAST LAMP (Near Tooting Common)
While rain, with eve in partnership, Descended darkly, drip, drip, drip, Beyond the last lone lamp I passed Walking slowly, whispering sadly, Two linked loiterers, wan, downcast: Some heavy thought constrained each face, And blinded them to time and place.
The pair seemed lovers, yet absorbed In mental scenes no longer orbed By love's young rays. Each countenance As it slowly, as it sadly Caught the lamplight's yellow glance Held in suspense a misery At things which had been or might be.
When I retrod that watery way Some hours beyond the droop of day, Still I found pacing there the twain Just as slowly, just as sadly, Heedless of the night and rain. One could but wonder who they were And what wild woe detained them there.
Though thirty years of blur and blot Have slid since I beheld that spot, And saw in curious converse there Moving slowly, moving sadly That mysterious tragic pair, Its olden look may linger on - All but the couple; they have gone.
Whither? Who knows, indeed . . . And yet To me, when nights are weird and wet, Without those comrades there at tryst Creeping slowly, creeping sadly, That lone lane does not exist. There they seem brooding on their pain, And will, while such a lane remain.
THE FACE AT THE CASEMENT
If ever joy leave An abiding sting of sorrow, So befell it on the morrow Of that May eve . . .
The travelled sun dropped To the north-west, low and lower, The pony's trot grew slower, And then we stopped.
"This cosy house just by I must call at for a minute, A sick man lies within it Who soon will die.
"He wished to marry me, So I am bound, when I drive near him, To inquire, if but to cheer him, How he may be."
A message was sent in, And wordlessly we waited, Till some one came and stated The bulletin.
And that the sufferer said, For her call no words could thank her; As his angel he must rank her Till life's spark fled.
Slowly we drove away, When I turned my head, although not Called; why so I turned I know not Even to this day.
And lo, there in my view Pressed against an upper lattice Was a white face, gazing at us As we withdrew.
And well did I divine It to be the man's there dying, Who but lately had been sighing For her pledged mine.
Then I deigned a deed of hell; It was done before I knew it; What devil made me do it I cannot tell!
Yes, while he gazed above, I put my arm about her That he might see, nor doubt her My plighted Love.
The pale face vanished quick, As if blasted, from the casement, And my shame and self-abasement Began their prick.
And they prick on, ceaselessly, For that stab in Love's fierce fashion Which, unfired by lover's passion, Was foreign to me.
She smiled at my caress, But why came the soft embowment Of her shoulder at that moment She did not guess.
Long long years has he lain In thy garth, O sad Saint Cleather: What tears there, bared to weather, Will cleanse that stain!
Love is long-suffering, brave, Sweet, prompt, precious as a jewel; But O, too, Love is cruel, Cruel as the grave.
I play my sweet old airs - The airs he knew When our love was true - But he does not balk His determined walk, And passes up the stairs.
I sing my songs once more, And presently hear His footstep near As if it would stay; But he goes his way, And shuts a distant door.
So I wait for another morn And another night In this soul-sick blight; And I wonder much As I sit, why such A woman as I was born!
"MY SPIRIT WILL NOT HAUNT THE MOUND"
My spirit will not haunt the mound Above my breast, But travel, memory-possessed, To where my tremulous being found Life largest, best.
My phantom-footed shape will go When nightfall grays Hither and thither along the ways I and another used to know In backward days.
And there you'll find me, if a jot You still should care For me, and for my curious air; If otherwise, then I shall not, For you, be there.
WESSEX HEIGHTS (1896)
There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand, Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly, I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man's friend - Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to mend: Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I, But mind-chains do not clank where one's next neighbour is the sky.
In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways - Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days: They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things - Men with a frigid sneer, and women with tart disparagings.
Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was, And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this, Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.
I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there's a figure against the moon, Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune; I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now passed For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There's a ghost at Yell'ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the night, There's a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin lipped and vague, in a shroud of white, There is one in the railway-train whenever I do not want it near, I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers, I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers; Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know; Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west, Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest, Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me, And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.
IN DEATH DIVIDED
I shall rot here, with those whom in their day You never knew, And alien ones who, ere they chilled to clay, Met not my view, Will in your distant grave-place ever neighbour you.
No shade of pinnacle or tree or tower, While earth endures, Will fall on my mound and within the hour Steal on to yours; One robin never haunt our two green covertures.
Some organ may resound on Sunday noons By where you lie, Some other thrill the panes with other tunes Where moulder I; No selfsame chords compose our common lullaby.
The simply-cut memorial at my head Perhaps may take A Gothic form, and that above your bed Be Greek in make; No linking symbol show thereon for our tale's sake.
And in the monotonous moils of strained, hard-run Humanity, The eternal tie which binds us twain in one No eye will see Stretching across the miles that sever you from me.
THE PLACE ON THE MAP
I look upon the map that hangs by me - Its shires and towns and rivers lined in varnished artistry - And I mark a jutting height Coloured purple, with a margin of blue sea.
—'Twas a day of latter summer, hot and dry; Ay, even the waves seemed drying as we walked on, she and I, By this spot where, calmly quite, She informed me what would happen by and by.
This hanging map depicts the coast and place, And resuscitates therewith our unexpected troublous case All distinctly to my sight, And her tension, and the aspect of her face.
Weeks and weeks we had loved beneath that blazing blue, Which had lost the art of raining, as her eyes to-day had too, While she told what, as by sleight, Shot our firmament with rays of ruddy hue.
For the wonder and the wormwood of the whole Was that what in realms of reason would have joyed our double soul Wore a torrid tragic light Under order-keeping's rigorous control.
So, the map revives her words, the spot, the time, And the thing we found we had to face before the next year's prime; The charted coast stares bright, And its episode comes back in pantomime.
WHERE THE PICNIC WAS
Where we made the fire, In the summer time, Of branch and briar On the hill to the sea I slowly climb Through winter mire, And scan and trace The forsaken place Quite readily.
Now a cold wind blows, And the grass is gray, But the spot still shows As a burnt circle—aye, And stick-ends, charred, Still strew the sward Whereon I stand, Last relic of the band Who came that day!
Yes, I am here Just as last year, And the sea breathes brine From its strange straight line Up hither, the same As when we four came. - But two have wandered far From this grassy rise Into urban roar Where no picnics are, And one—has shut her eyes For evermore.
THE SCHRECKHORN (With thoughts of Leslie Stephen) (June 1897)
Aloof, as if a thing of mood and whim; Now that its spare and desolate figure gleams Upon my nearing vision, less it seems A looming Alp-height than a guise of him Who scaled its horn with ventured life and limb, Drawn on by vague imaginings, maybe, Of semblance to his personality In its quaint glooms, keen lights, and rugged trim.
At his last change, when Life's dull coils unwind, Will he, in old love, hitherward escape, And the eternal essence of his mind Enter this silent adamantine shape, And his low voicing haunt its slipping snows When dawn that calls the climber dyes them rose?
A SINGER ASLEEP (Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1837-1909)
In this fair niche above the unslumbering sea, That sentrys up and down all night, all day, From cove to promontory, from ness to bay, The Fates have fitly bidden that he should be Pillowed eternally.
- It was as though a garland of red roses Had fallen about the hood of some smug nun When irresponsibly dropped as from the sun, In fulth of numbers freaked with musical closes, Upon Victoria's formal middle time His leaves of rhythm and rhyme.
O that far morning of a summer day When, down a terraced street whose pavements lay Glassing the sunshine into my bent eyes, I walked and read with a quick glad surprise New words, in classic guise, -
The passionate pages of his earlier years, Fraught with hot sighs, sad laughters, kisses, tears; Fresh-fluted notes, yet from a minstrel who Blew them not naively, but as one who knew Full well why thus he blew.
I still can hear the brabble and the roar At those thy tunes, O still one, now passed through That fitful fire of tongues then entered new! Their power is spent like spindrift on this shore; Thine swells yet more and more.
- His singing-mistress verily was no other Than she the Lesbian, she the music-mother Of all the tribe that feel in melodies; Who leapt, love-anguished, from the Leucadian steep Into the rambling world-encircling deep Which hides her where none sees.
And one can hold in thought that nightly here His phantom may draw down to the water's brim, And hers come up to meet it, as a dim Lone shine upon the heaving hydrosphere, And mariners wonder as they traverse near, Unknowing of her and him.
One dreams him sighing to her spectral form: "O teacher, where lies hid thy burning line; Where are those songs, O poetess divine Whose very arts are love incarnadine?" And her smile back: "Disciple true and warm, Sufficient now are thine." . . .
So here, beneath the waking constellations, Where the waves peal their everlasting strains, And their dull subterrene reverberations Shake him when storms make mountains of their plains - Him once their peer in sad improvisations, And deft as wind to cleave their frothy manes - I leave him, while the daylight gleam declines Upon the capes and chines.
A PLAINT TO MAN
When you slowly emerged from the den of Time, And gained percipience as you grew, And fleshed you fair out of shapeless slime,
Wherefore, O Man, did there come to you The unhappy need of creating me - A form like your own—for praying to?
My virtue, power, utility, Within my maker must all abide, Since none in myself can ever be,
One thin as a shape on a lantern-slide Shown forth in the dark upon some dim sheet, And by none but its showman vivified.
"Such a forced device," you may say, "is meet For easing a loaded heart at whiles: Man needs to conceive of a mercy-seat
Somewhere above the gloomy aisles Of this wailful world, or he could not bear The irk no local hope beguiles."
- But since I was framed in your first despair The doing without me has had no play In the minds of men when shadows scare;
And now that I dwindle day by day Beneath the deicide eyes of seers In a light that will not let me stay,
And to-morrow the whole of me disappears, The truth should be told, and the fact be faced That had best been faced in earlier years:
The fact of life with dependence placed On the human heart's resource alone, In brotherhood bonded close and graced
With loving-kindness fully blown, And visioned help unsought, unknown.
I saw a slowly-stepping train - Lined on the brows, scoop-eyed and bent and hoar - Following in files across a twilit plain A strange and mystic form the foremost bore.
And by contagious throbs of thought Or latent knowledge that within me lay And had already stirred me, I was wrought To consciousness of sorrow even as they.
The fore-borne shape, to my blurred eyes, At first seemed man-like, and anon to change To an amorphous cloud of marvellous size, At times endowed with wings of glorious range.
And this phantasmal variousness Ever possessed it as they drew along: Yet throughout all it symboled none the less Potency vast and loving-kindness strong.
Almost before I knew I bent Towards the moving columns without a word; They, growing in bulk and numbers as they went, Struck out sick thoughts that could be overheard:-
"O man-projected Figure, of late Imaged as we, thy knell who shall survive? Whence came it we were tempted to create One whom we can no longer keep alive?
"Framing him jealous, fierce, at first, We gave him justice as the ages rolled, Will to bless those by circumstance accurst, And longsuffering, and mercies manifold.
"And, tricked by our own early dream And need of solace, we grew self-deceived, Our making soon our maker did we deem, And what we had imagined we believed.
"Till, in Time's stayless stealthy swing, Uncompromising rude reality Mangled the Monarch of our fashioning, Who quavered, sank; and now has ceased to be.
"So, toward our myth's oblivion, Darkling, and languid-lipped, we creep and grope Sadlier than those who wept in Babylon, Whose Zion was a still abiding hope.
"How sweet it was in years far hied To start the wheels of day with trustful prayer, To lie down liegely at the eventide And feel a blest assurance he was there!
"And who or what shall fill his place? Whither will wanderers turn distracted eyes For some fixed star to stimulate their pace Towards the goal of their enterprise?" . . .
Some in the background then I saw, Sweet women, youths, men, all incredulous, Who chimed as one: "This figure is of straw, This requiem mockery! Still he lives to us!"
I could not prop their faith: and yet Many I had known: with all I sympathized; And though struck speechless, I did not forget That what was mourned for, I, too, once had prized.
Still, how to bear such loss I deemed The insistent question for each animate mind, And gazing, to my growing sight there seemed A pale yet positive gleam low down behind,
Whereof to lift the general night, A certain few who stood aloof had said, "See you upon the horizon that small light - Swelling somewhat?" Each mourner shook his head.
And they composed a crowd of whom Some were right good, and many nigh the best . . . Thus dazed and puzzled 'twixt the gleam and gloom Mechanically I followed with the rest.
SPECTRES THAT GRIEVE
"It is not death that harrows us," they lipped, "The soundless cell is in itself relief, For life is an unfenced flower, benumbed and nipped At unawares, and at its best but brief."
The speakers, sundry phantoms of the gone, Had risen like filmy flames of phosphor dye, As if the palest of sheet lightnings shone From the sward near me, as from a nether sky.
And much surprised was I that, spent and dead, They should not, like the many, be at rest, But stray as apparitions; hence I said, "Why, having slipped life, hark you back distressed?
"We are among the few death sets not free, The hurt, misrepresented names, who come At each year's brink, and cry to History To do them justice, or go past them dumb.
"We are stript of rights; our shames lie unredressed, Our deeds in full anatomy are not shown, Our words in morsels merely are expressed On the scriptured page, our motives blurred, unknown."
Then all these shaken slighted visitants sped Into the vague, and left me musing there On fames that well might instance what they had said, Until the New-Year's dawn strode up the air.
"AH, ARE YOU DIGGING ON MY GRAVE?"
"Ah, are you digging on my grave My loved one?—planting rue?" - "No: yesterday he went to wed One of the brightest wealth has bred. 'It cannot hurt her now,' he said, 'That I should not be true.'"
"Then who is digging on my grave? My nearest dearest kin?" - "Ah, no; they sit and think, 'What use! What good will planting flowers produce? No tendance of her mound can loose Her spirit from Death's gin.'"
"But some one digs upon my grave? My enemy?—prodding sly?" - "Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate That shuts on all flesh soon or late, She thought you no more worth her hate, And cares not where you lie."
"Then, who is digging on my grave? Say—since I have not guessed!" - "O it is I, my mistress dear, Your little dog, who still lives near, And much I hope my movements here Have not disturbed your rest?"
"Ah, yes! YOU dig upon my grave . . . Why flashed it not on me That one true heart was left behind! What feeling do we ever find To equal among human kind A dog's fidelity!"
"Mistress, I dug upon your grave To bury a bone, in case I should be hungry near this spot When passing on my daily trot. I am sorry, but I quite forgot It was your resting-place."
SATIRES OF CIRCUMSTANCES IN FIFTEEN GLIMPSES
The kettle descants in a cozy drone, And the young wife looks in her husband's face, And then at her guest's, and shows in her own Her sense that she fills an envied place; And the visiting lady is all abloom, And says there was never so sweet a room.
And the happy young housewife does not know That the woman beside her was first his choice, Till the fates ordained it could not be so . . . Betraying nothing in look or voice The guest sits smiling and sips her tea, And he throws her a stray glance yearningly.
"And now to God the Father," he ends, And his voice thrills up to the topmost tiles: Each listener chokes as he bows and bends, And emotion pervades the crowded aisles. Then the preacher glides to the vestry-door, And shuts it, and thinks he is seen no more.
The door swings softly ajar meanwhile, And a pupil of his in the Bible class, Who adores him as one without gloss or guile, Sees her idol stand with a satisfied smile And re-enact at the vestry-glass Each pulpit gesture in deft dumb-show That had moved the congregation so.
III—BY HER AUNT'S GRAVE
"Sixpence a week," says the girl to her lover, "Aunt used to bring me, for she could confide In me alone, she vowed. 'Twas to cover The cost of her headstone when she died. And that was a year ago last June; I've not yet fixed it. But I must soon."
"And where is the money now, my dear?" "O, snug in my purse . . . Aunt was SO slow In saving it—eighty weeks, or near." . . . "Let's spend it," he hints. "For she won't know. There's a dance to-night at the Load of Hay." She passively nods. And they go that way.
IV—IN THE ROOM OF THE BRIDE-ELECT
"Would it had been the man of our wish!" Sighs her mother. To whom with vehemence she In the wedding-dress—the wife to be - "Then why were you so mollyish As not to insist on him for me!" The mother, amazed: "Why, dearest one, Because you pleaded for this or none!"
"But Father and you should have stood out strong! Since then, to my cost, I have lived to find That you were right and that I was wrong; This man is a dolt to the one declined . . . Ah!—here he comes with his button-hole rose. Good God—I must marry him I suppose!"
V—AT A WATERING-PLACE
They sit and smoke on the esplanade, The man and his friend, and regard the bay Where the far chalk cliffs, to the left displayed, Smile sallowly in the decline of day. And saunterers pass with laugh and jest - A handsome couple among the rest.
"That smart proud pair," says the man to his friend, "Are to marry next week . . . How little he thinks That dozens of days and nights on end I have stroked her neck, unhooked the links Of her sleeve to get at her upper arm . . . Well, bliss is in ignorance: what's the harm!"
VI —IN THE CEMETERY
"You see those mothers squabbling there?" Remarks the man of the cemetery. One says in tears, ''Tis mine lies here!' Another, 'Nay, mine, you Pharisee!' Another, 'How dare you move my flowers And put your own on this grave of ours!' But all their children were laid therein At different times, like sprats in a tin.
"And then the main drain had to cross, And we moved the lot some nights ago, And packed them away in the general foss With hundreds more. But their folks don't know, And as well cry over a new-laid drain As anything else, to ease your pain!"
VII—OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
"My stick!" he says, and turns in the lane To the house just left, whence a vixen voice Comes out with the firelight through the pane, And he sees within that the girl of his choice Stands rating her mother with eyes aglare For something said while he was there.
"At last I behold her soul undraped!" Thinks the man who had loved her more than himself; "My God—'tis but narrowly I have escaped. - My precious porcelain proves it delf." His face has reddened like one ashamed, And he steals off, leaving his stick unclaimed.
VIII—IN THE STUDY
He enters, and mute on the edge of a chair Sits a thin-faced lady, a stranger there, A type of decayed gentility; And by some small signs he well can guess That she comes to him almost breakfastless.
"I have called—I hope I do not err - I am looking for a purchaser Of some score volumes of the works Of eminent divines I own, - Left by my father—though it irks My patience to offer them." And she smiles As if necessity were unknown; "But the truth of it is that oftenwhiles I have wished, as I am fond of art, To make my rooms a little smart." And lightly still she laughs to him, As if to sell were a mere gay whim, And that, to be frank, Life were indeed To her not vinegar and gall, But fresh and honey-like; and Need No household skeleton at all.
IX—AT THE ALTAR-RAIL
"My bride is not coming, alas!" says the groom, And the telegram shakes in his hand. "I own It was hurried! We met at a dancing-room When I went to the Cattle-Show alone, And then, next night, where the Fountain leaps, And the Street of the Quarter-Circle sweeps.
"Ay, she won me to ask her to be my wife - 'Twas foolish perhaps!—to forsake the ways Of the flaring town for a farmer's life. She agreed. And we fixed it. Now she says: 'It's sweet of you, dear, to prepare me a nest, But a swift, short, gay life suits me best. What I really am you have never gleaned; I had eaten the apple ere you were weaned.'"
X—IN THE NUPTIAL CHAMBER
"O that mastering tune?" And up in the bed Like a lace-robed phantom springs the bride; "And why?" asks the man she had that day wed, With a start, as the band plays on outside. "It's the townsfolks' cheery compliment Because of our marriage, my Innocent."
"O but you don't know! 'Tis the passionate air To which my old Love waltzed with me, And I swore as we spun that none should share My home, my kisses, till death, save he! And he dominates me and thrills me through, And it's he I embrace while embracing you!"
XI—IN THE RESTAURANT
"But hear. If you stay, and the child be born, It will pass as your husband's with the rest, While, if we fly, the teeth of scorn Will be gleaming at us from east to west; And the child will come as a life despised; I feel an elopement is ill-advised!"
"O you realize not what it is, my dear, To a woman! Daily and hourly alarms Lest the truth should out. How can I stay here, And nightly take him into my arms! Come to the child no name or fame, Let us go, and face it, and bear the shame."
XII—AT THE DRAPER'S
"I stood at the back of the shop, my dear, But you did not perceive me. Well, when they deliver what you were shown I shall know nothing of it, believe me!"
And he coughed and coughed as she paled and said, "O, I didn't see you come in there - Why couldn't you speak?"—"Well, I didn't. I left That you should not notice I'd been there.
"You were viewing some lovely things. 'Soon required For a widow, of latest fashion'; And I knew 'twould upset you to meet the man Who had to be cold and ashen
"And screwed in a box before they could dress you 'In the last new note in mourning,' As they defined it. So, not to distress you, I left you to your adorning."
XIII—ON THE DEATH-BED
"I'll tell—being past all praying for - Then promptly die . . . He was out at the war, And got some scent of the intimacy That was under way between her and me; And he stole back home, and appeared like a ghost One night, at the very time almost That I reached her house. Well, I shot him dead, And secretly buried him. Nothing was said.
"The news of the battle came next day; He was scheduled missing. I hurried away, Got out there, visited the field, And sent home word that a search revealed He was one of the slain; though, lying alone And stript, his body had not been known.
"But she suspected. I lost her love, Yea, my hope of earth, and of Heaven above; And my time's now come, and I'll pay the score, Though it be burning for evermore."
XIV—OVER THE COFFIN
They stand confronting, the coffin between, His wife of old, and his wife of late, And the dead man whose they both had been Seems listening aloof, as to things past date. —"I have called," says the first. "Do you marvel or not?" "In truth," says the second, "I do—somewhat."
"Well, there was a word to be said by me! . . . I divorced that man because of you - It seemed I must do it, boundenly; But now I am older, and tell you true, For life is little, and dead lies he; I would I had let alone you two! And both of us, scorning parochial ways, Had lived like the wives in the patriarchs' days."
XV—IN THE MOONLIGHT
"O lonely workman, standing there In a dream, why do you stare and stare At her grave, as no other grave there were?
"If your great gaunt eyes so importune Her soul by the shine of this corpse-cold moon, Maybe you'll raise her phantom soon!"
"Why, fool, it is what I would rather see Than all the living folk there be; But alas, there is no such joy for me!"
"Ah—she was one you loved, no doubt, Through good and evil, through rain and drought, And when she passed, all your sun went out?"
"Nay: she was the woman I did not love, Whom all the others were ranked above, Whom during her life I thought nothing of."
LYRICS AND REVERIES (continued)
Along the way He walked that day, Watching shapes that reveries limn, And seldom he Had eyes to see The moment that encompassed him.
Bright yellowhammers Made mirthful clamours, And billed long straws with a bustling air, And bearing their load Flew up the road That he followed, alone, without interest there.
From bank to ground And over and round They sidled along the adjoining hedge; Sometimes to the gutter Their yellow flutter Would dip from the nearest slatestone ledge.
The smooth sea-line With a metal shine, And flashes of white, and a sail thereon, He would also descry With a half-wrapt eye Between the projects he mused upon.
Yes, round him were these Earth's artistries, But specious plans that came to his call Did most engage His pilgrimage, While himself he did not see at all.
Dead now as sherds Are the yellow birds, And all that mattered has passed away; Yet God, the Elf, Now shows him that self As he was, and should have been shown, that day.
O it would have been good Could he then have stood At a focussed distance, and conned the whole, But now such vision Is mere derision, Nor soothes his body nor saves his soul.
Not much, some may Incline to say, To see therein, had it all been seen. Nay! he is aware A thing was there That loomed with an immortal mien.
I wandered to a crude coast Like a ghost; Upon the hills I saw fires - Funeral pyres Seemingly—and heard breaking Waves like distant cannonades that set the land shaking.
And so I never once guessed A Love-nest, Bowered and candle-lit, lay In my way, Till I found a hid hollow, Where I burst on her my heart could not but follow.
"It is a foolish thing," said I, "To bear with such, and pass it by; Yet so I do, I know not why!"
And at each clash I would surmise That if I had acted otherwise I might have saved me many sighs.
But now the only happiness In looking back that I possess - Whose lack would leave me comfortless -
Is to remember I refrained From masteries I might have gained, And for my tolerance was disdained;
For see, a tomb. And if it were I had bent and broke, I should not dare To linger in the shadows there.
BEFORE AND AFTER SUMMER
Looking forward to the spring One puts up with anything. On this February day, Though the winds leap down the street, Wintry scourgings seem but play, And these later shafts of sleet —Sharper pointed than the first - And these later snows—the worst - Are as a half-transparent blind Riddled by rays from sun behind.
Shadows of the October pine Reach into this room of mine: On the pine there stands a bird; He is shadowed with the tree. Mutely perched he bills no word; Blank as I am even is he. For those happy suns are past, Fore-discerned in winter last. When went by their pleasure, then? I, alas, perceived not when.
AT DAY-CLOSE IN NOVEMBER
The ten hours' light is abating, And a late bird flies across, Where the pines, like waltzers waiting, Give their black heads a toss.
Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time, Float past like specks in the eye; I set every tree in my June time, And now they obscure the sky.
And the children who ramble through here Conceive that there never has been A time when no tall trees grew here, A time when none will be seen.
THE YEAR'S AWAKENING
How do you know that the pilgrim track Along the belting zodiac Swept by the sun in his seeming rounds Is traced by now to the Fishes' bounds And into the Ram, when weeks of cloud Have wrapt the sky in a clammy shroud, And never as yet a tinct of spring Has shown in the Earth's apparelling; O vespering bird, how do you know, How do you know?
How do you know, deep underground, Hid in your bed from sight and sound, Without a turn in temperature, With weather life can scarce endure, That light has won a fraction's strength, And day put on some moments' length, Whereof in merest rote will come, Weeks hence, mild airs that do not numb; O crocus root, how do you know, How do you know?
UNDER THE WATERFALL
"Whenever I plunge my arm, like this, In a basin of water, I never miss The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day Fetched back from its thickening shroud of gray. Hence the only prime And real love-rhyme That I know by heart, And that leaves no smart, Is the purl of a little valley fall About three spans wide and two spans tall Over a table of solid rock, And into a scoop of the self-same block; The purl of a runlet that never ceases In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces; With a hollow boiling voice it speaks And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks."
"And why gives this the only prime Idea to you of a real love-rhyme? And why does plunging your arm in a bowl Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul? Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone, Though where precisely none ever has known, Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized, And by now with its smoothness opalized, Is a drinking-glass: For, down that pass My lover and I Walked under a sky Of blue with a leaf-woven awning of green, In the burn of August, to paint the scene, And we placed our basket of fruit and wine By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine; And when we had drunk from the glass together, Arched by the oak-copse from the weather, I held the vessel to rinse in the fall, Where it slipped, and sank, and was past recall, Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss With long bared arms. There the glass still is. And, as said, if I thrust my arm below Cold water in basin or bowl, a throe From the past awakens a sense of that time, And the glass both used, and the cascade's rhyme. The basin seems the pool, and its edge The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge, And the leafy pattern of china-ware The hanging plants that were bathing there. By night, by day, when it shines or lours, There lies intact that chalice of ours, And its presence adds to the rhyme of love Persistently sung by the fall above. No lip has touched it since his and mine In turns therefrom sipped lovers' wine."
THE SPELL OF THE ROSE
"I mean to build a hall anon, And shape two turrets there, And a broad newelled stair, And a cool well for crystal water; Yes; I will build a hall anon, Plant roses love shall feed upon, And apple trees and pear."
He set to build the manor-hall, And shaped the turrets there, And the broad newelled stair, And the cool well for crystal water; He built for me that manor-hall, And planted many trees withal, But no rose anywhere.
And as he planted never a rose That bears the flower of love, Though other flowers throve A frost-wind moved our souls to sever Since he had planted never a rose; And misconceits raised horrid shows, And agonies came thereof.
"I'll mend these miseries," then said I, And so, at dead of night, I went and, screened from sight, That nought should keep our souls in severance, I set a rose-bush. "This," said I, "May end divisions dire and wry, And long-drawn days of blight."
But I was called from earth—yea, called Before my rose-bush grew; And would that now I knew What feels he of the tree I planted, And whether, after I was called To be a ghost, he, as of old, Gave me his heart anew!
Perhaps now blooms that queen of trees I set but saw not grow, And he, beside its glow - Eyes couched of the mis-vision that blurred me - Ay, there beside that queen of trees He sees me as I was, though sees Too late to tell me so!
ST. LAUNCE'S REVISITED
Slip back, Time! Yet again I am nearing Castle and keep, uprearing Gray, as in my prime.
At the inn Smiling close, why is it Not as on my visit When hope and I were twin?
Groom and jade Whom I found here, moulder; Strange the tavern-holder, Strange the tap-maid.
Here I hired Horse and man for bearing Me on my wayfaring To the door desired.
Evening gloomed As I journeyed forward To the faces shoreward, Till their dwelling loomed.
If again Towards the Atlantic sea there I should speed, they'd be there Surely now as then? . . .
Why waste thought, When I know them vanished Under earth; yea, banished Ever into nought.
POEMS OF 1912-13 Veteris vestigia flammae
Why did you give no hint that night That quickly after the morrow's dawn, And calmly, as if indifferent quite, You would close your term here, up and be gone Where I could not follow With wing of swallow To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!
Never to bid good-bye, Or give me the softest call, Or utter a wish for a word, while I Saw morning harden upon the wall, Unmoved, unknowing That your great going Had place that moment, and altered all.
Why do you make me leave the house And think for a breath it is you I see At the end of the alley of bending boughs Where so often at dusk you used to be; Till in darkening dankness The yawning blankness Of the perspective sickens me!
You were she who abode By those red-veined rocks far West, You were the swan-necked one who rode Along the beetling Beeny Crest, And, reining nigh me, Would muse and eye me, While Life unrolled us its very best.
Why, then, latterly did we not speak, Did we not think of those days long dead, And ere your vanishing strive to seek That time's renewal? We might have said, "In this bright spring weather We'll visit together Those places that once we visited."
Well, well! All's past amend, Unchangeable. It must go. I seem but a dead man held on end To sink down soon . . . O you could not know That such swift fleeing No soul foreseeing - Not even I—would undo me so!
YOUR LAST DRIVE
Here by the moorway you returned, And saw the borough lights ahead That lit your face—all undiscerned To be in a week the face of the dead, And you told of the charm of that haloed view That never again would beam on you.
And on your left you passed the spot Where eight days later you were to lie, And be spoken of as one who was not; Beholding it with a cursory eye As alien from you, though under its tree You soon would halt everlastingly.
I drove not with you . . . Yet had I sat At your side that eve I should not have seen That the countenance I was glancing at Had a last-time look in the flickering sheen, Nor have read the writing upon your face, "I go hence soon to my resting-place;
"You may miss me then. But I shall not know How many times you visit me there, Or what your thoughts are, or if you go There never at all. And I shall not care. Should you censure me I shall take no heed And even your praises I shall not need."
True: never you'll know. And you will not mind. But shall I then slight you because of such? Dear ghost, in the past did you ever find The thought "What profit?" move me much Yet the fact indeed remains the same, You are past love, praise, indifference, blame.
You did not walk with me Of late to the hill-top tree By the gated ways, As in earlier days; You were weak and lame, So you never came, And I went alone, and I did not mind, Not thinking of you as left behind.
I walked up there to-day Just in the former way: Surveyed around The familiar ground By myself again: What difference, then? Only that underlying sense Of the look of a room on returning thence.
RAIN ON A GRAVE
Clouds spout upon her Their waters amain In ruthless disdain, - Her who but lately Had shivered with pain As at touch of dishonour If there had lit on her So coldly, so straightly Such arrows of rain.
She who to shelter Her delicate head Would quicken and quicken Each tentative tread If drops chanced to pelt her That summertime spills In dust-paven rills When thunder-clouds thicken And birds close their bills.
Would that I lay there And she were housed here! Or better, together Were folded away there Exposed to one weather We both,—who would stray there When sunny the day there, Or evening was clear At the prime of the year.
Soon will be growing Green blades from her mound, And daises be showing Like stars on the ground, Till she form part of them - Ay—the sweet heart of them, Loved beyond measure With a child's pleasure All her life's round.
Jan. 31, 1913.
"I FOUND HER OUT THERE"
I found her out there On a slope few see, That falls westwardly To the salt-edged air, Where the ocean breaks On the purple strand, And the hurricane shakes The solid land.
I brought her here, And have laid her to rest In a noiseless nest No sea beats near. She will never be stirred In her loamy cell By the waves long heard And loved so well.
So she does not sleep By those haunted heights The Atlantic smites And the blind gales sweep, Whence she often would gaze At Dundagel's far head, While the dipping blaze Dyed her face fire-red;
And would sigh at the tale Of sunk Lyonnesse, As a wind-tugged tress Flapped her cheek like a flail; Or listen at whiles With a thought-bound brow To the murmuring miles She is far from now.
Yet her shade, maybe, Will creep underground Till it catch the sound Of that western sea As it swells and sobs Where she once domiciled, And joy in its throbs With the heart of a child.
It was your way, my dear, To be gone without a word When callers, friends, or kin Had left, and I hastened in To rejoin you, as I inferred.
And when you'd a mind to career Off anywhere—say to town - You were all on a sudden gone Before I had thought thereon, Or noticed your trunks were down.
So, now that you disappear For ever in that swift style, Your meaning seems to me Just as it used to be: "Good-bye is not worth while!"
How she would have loved A party to-day! - Bright-hatted and gloved, With table and tray And chairs on the lawn Her smiles would have shone With welcomings . . . But She is shut, she is shut From friendship's spell In the jailing shell Of her tiny cell.
Or she would have reigned At a dinner to-night With ardours unfeigned, And a generous delight; All in her abode She'd have freely bestowed On her guests . . . But alas, She is shut under grass Where no cups flow, Powerless to know That it might be so.
And she would have sought With a child's eager glance The shy snowdrops brought By the new year's advance, And peered in the rime Of Candlemas-time For crocuses . . . chanced It that she were not tranced From sights she loved best; Wholly possessed By an infinite rest!
And we are here staying Amid these stale things Who care not for gaying, And those junketings That used so to joy her, And never to cloy her As us they cloy! . . . But She is shut, she is shut From the cheer of them, dead To all done and said In a yew-arched bed.
He does not think that I haunt here nightly: How shall I let him know That whither his fancy sets him wandering I, too, alertly go? - Hover and hover a few feet from him Just as I used to do, But cannot answer his words addressed me - Only listen thereto!
When I could answer he did not say them: When I could let him know How I would like to join in his journeys Seldom he wished to go. Now that he goes and wants me with him More than he used to do, Never he sees my faithful phantom Though he speaks thereto.
Yes, I accompany him to places Only dreamers know, Where the shy hares limp long paces, Where the night rooks go; Into old aisles where the past is all to him, Close as his shade can do, Always lacking the power to call to him, Near as I reach thereto!
What a good haunter I am, O tell him, Quickly make him know If he but sigh since my loss befell him Straight to his side I go. Tell him a faithful one is doing All that love can do Still that his path may be worth pursuing, And to bring peace thereto.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me, Saying that now you are not as you were When you had changed from the one who was all to me, But as at first, when our day was fair.
Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then, Standing as when I drew near to the town Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then, Even to the original air-blue gown!
Or is it only the breeze, in its listlessness Travelling across the wet mead to me here, You being ever consigned to existlessness, Heard no more again far or near?
Thus I; faltering forward, Leaves around me falling, Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward And the woman calling.
I come across from Mellstock while the moon wastes weaker To behold where I lived with you for twenty years and more: I shall go in the gray, at the passing of the mail-train, And need no setting open of the long familiar door As before.
The change I notice in my once own quarters! A brilliant budded border where the daisies used to be, The rooms new painted, and the pictures altered, And other cups and saucers, and no cozy nook for tea As with me.
I discern the dim faces of the sleep-wrapt servants; They are not those who tended me through feeble hours and strong, But strangers quite, who never knew my rule here, Who never saw me painting, never heard my softling song Float along.
So I don't want to linger in this re-decked dwelling, I feel too uneasy at the contrasts I behold, And I make again for Mellstock to return here never, And rejoin the roomy silence, and the mute and manifold Souls of old.
As "legal representative" I read a missive not my own, On new designs the senders give For clothes, in tints as shown.
Here figure blouses, gowns for tea, And presentation-trains of state, Charming ball-dresses, millinery, Warranted up to date.
And this gay-pictured, spring-time shout Of Fashion, hails what lady proud? Her who before last year was out Was costumed in a shroud.
A DREAM OR NO
Why go to Saint-Juliot? What's Juliot to me? I was but made fancy By some necromancy That much of my life claims the spot as its key.
Yes. I have had dreams of that place in the West, And a maiden abiding Thereat as in hiding; Fair-eyed and white-shouldered, broad-browed and brown-tressed.
And of how, coastward bound on a night long ago, There lonely I found her, The sea-birds around her, And other than nigh things uncaring to know.
So sweet her life there (in my thought has it seemed) That quickly she drew me To take her unto me, And lodge her long years with me. Such have I dreamed.
But nought of that maid from Saint-Juliot I see; Can she ever have been here, And shed her life's sheen here, The woman I thought a long housemate with me?
Does there even a place like Saint-Juliot exist? Or a Vallency Valley With stream and leafed alley, Or Beeny, or Bos with its flounce flinging mist?
AFTER A JOURNEY
Hereto I come to interview a ghost; Whither, O whither will its whim now draw me? Up the cliff, down, till I'm lonely, lost, And the unseen waters' ejaculations awe me. Where you will next be there's no knowing, Facing round about me everywhere, With your nut-coloured hair, And gray eyes, and rose-flush coming and going.
Yes: I have re-entered your olden haunts at last; Through the years, through the dead scenes I have tracked you; What have you now found to say of our past - Viewed across the dark space wherein I have lacked you? Summer gave us sweets, but autumn wrought division? Things were not lastly as firstly well With us twain, you tell? But all's closed now, despite Time's derision.
I see what you are doing: you are leading me on To the spots we knew when we haunted here together, The waterfall, above which the mist-bow shone At the then fair hour in the then fair weather, And the cave just under, with a voice still so hollow That it seems to call out to me from forty years ago, When you were all aglow, And not the thin ghost that I now frailly follow!
Ignorant of what there is flitting here to see, The waked birds preen and the seals flop lazily, Soon you will have, Dear, to vanish from me, For the stars close their shutters and the dawn whitens hazily. Trust me, I mind not, though Life lours, The bringing me here; nay, bring me here again! I am just the same as when Our days were a joy, and our paths through flowers.
A DEATH-DAY RECALLED
Beeny did not quiver, Juliot grew not gray, Thin Valency's river Held its wonted way. Bos seemed not to utter Dimmest note of dirge, Targan mouth a mutter To its creamy surge.
Yet though these, unheeding, Listless, passed the hour Of her spirit's speeding, She had, in her flower, Sought and loved the places - Much and often pined For their lonely faces When in towns confined.
Why did not Valency In his purl deplore One whose haunts were whence he Drew his limpid store? Why did Bos not thunder, Targan apprehend Body and breath were sunder Of their former friend?
BEENY CLIFF March 1870—March 1913
O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea, And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free - The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.
The pale mews plained below us, and the waves seemed far away In a nether sky, engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say, As we laughed light-heartedly aloft on that clear-sunned March day.
A little cloud then cloaked us, and there flew an irised rain, And the Atlantic dyed its levels with a dull misfeatured stain, And then the sun burst out again, and purples prinked the main.
—Still in all its chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny to the sky, And shall she and I not go there once again now March is nigh, And the sweet things said in that March say anew there by and by?
What if still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore, The woman now is—elsewhere—whom the ambling pony bore, And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will see it nevermore.
AT CASTLE BOTEREL
As I drive to the junction of lane and highway, And the drizzle bedrenches the waggonette, I look behind at the fading byway, And see on its slope, now glistening wet, Distinctly yet
Myself and a girlish form benighted In dry March weather. We climb the road Beside a chaise. We had just alighted To ease the sturdy pony's load When he sighed and slowed.
What we did as we climbed, and what we talked of Matters not much, nor to what it led, - Something that life will not be balked of Without rude reason till hope is dead, And feeling fled.
It filled but a minute. But was there ever A time of such quality, since or before, In that hill's story? To one mind never, Though it has been climbed, foot-swift, foot-sore, By thousands more.
Primaeval rocks form the road's steep border, And much have they faced there, first and last, Of the transitory in Earth's long order; But what they record in colour and cast Is—that we two passed.
And to me, though Time's unflinching rigour, In mindless rote, has ruled from sight The substance now, one phantom figure Remains on the slope, as when that night Saw us alight.
I look and see it there, shrinking, shrinking, I look back at it amid the rain For the very last time; for my sand is sinking, And I shall traverse old love's domain Never again.
Nobody says: Ah, that is the place Where chanced, in the hollow of years ago, What none of the Three Towns cared to know— The birth of a little girl of grace - The sweetest the house saw, first or last; Yet it was so On that day long past.
Nobody thinks: There, there she lay In a room by the Hoe, like the bud of a flower, And listened, just after the bedtime hour, To the stammering chimes that used to play The quaint Old Hundred-and-Thirteenth tune In Saint Andrew's tower Night, morn, and noon.
Nobody calls to mind that here Upon Boterel Hill, where the carters skid, With cheeks whose airy flush outbid Fresh fruit in bloom, and free of fear, She cantered down, as if she must fall (Though she never did), To the charm of all.
Nay: one there is to whom these things, That nobody else's mind calls back, Have a savour that scenes in being lack, And a presence more than the actual brings; To whom to-day is beneaped and stale, And its urgent clack But a vapid tale.
PLYMOUTH, March 1913.
THE PHANTOM HORSEWOMAN
Queer are the ways of a man I know: He comes and stands In a careworn craze, And looks at the sands And the seaward haze, With moveless hands And face and gaze, Then turns to go . . . And what does he see when he gazes so?
They say he sees as an instant thing More clear than to-day, A sweet soft scene That once was in play By that briny green; Yes, notes alway Warm, real, and keen, What his back years bring - A phantom of his own figuring.
Of this vision of his they might say more: Not only there Does he see this sight, But everywhere In his brain—day, night, As if on the air It were drawn rose bright - Yea, far from that shore Does he carry this vision of heretofore:
A ghost-girl-rider. And though, toil-tried, He withers daily, Time touches her not, But she still rides gaily In his rapt thought On that shagged and shaly Atlantic spot, And as when first eyed Draws rein and sings to the swing of the tide.
THE WISTFUL LADY
'Love, while you were away there came to me - From whence I cannot tell - A plaintive lady pale and passionless, Who bent her eyes upon me critically, And weighed me with a wearing wistfulness, As if she knew me well."
"I saw no lady of that wistful sort As I came riding home. Perhaps she was some dame the Fates constrain By memories sadder than she can support, Or by unhappy vacancy of brain, To leave her roof and roam?"
"Ah, but she knew me. And before this time I have seen her, lending ear To my light outdoor words, and pondering each, Her frail white finger swayed in pantomime, As if she fain would close with me in speech, And yet would not come near.
"And once I saw her beckoning with her hand As I came into sight At an upper window. And I at last went out; But when I reached where she had seemed to stand, And wandered up and down and searched about, I found she had vanished quite."
Then thought I how my dead Love used to say, With a small smile, when she Was waning wan, that she would hover round And show herself after her passing day To any newer Love I might have found, But show her not to me.
THE WOMAN IN THE RYE
"Why do you stand in the dripping rye, Cold-lipped, unconscious, wet to the knee, When there are firesides near?" said I. "I told him I wished him dead," said she.
"Yea, cried it in my haste to one Whom I had loved, whom I well loved still; And die he did. And I hate the sun, And stand here lonely, aching, chill;
"Stand waiting, waiting under skies That blow reproach, the while I see The rooks sheer off to where he lies Wrapt in a peace withheld from me."
Why do you harbour that great cheval-glass Filling up your narrow room? You never preen or plume, Or look in a week at your full-length figure - Picture of bachelor gloom!
"Well, when I dwelt in ancient England, Renting the valley farm, Thoughtless of all heart-harm, I used to gaze at the parson's daughter, A creature of nameless charm.
"Thither there came a lover and won her, Carried her off from my view. O it was then I knew Misery of a cast undreamt of - More than, indeed, my due!
"Then far rumours of her ill-usage Came, like a chilling breath When a man languisheth; Followed by news that her mind lost balance, And, in a space, of her death.
"Soon sank her father; and next was the auction - Everything to be sold: Mid things new and old Stood this glass in her former chamber, Long in her use, I was told.
"Well, I awaited the sale and bought it . . . There by my bed it stands, And as the dawn expands Often I see her pale-faced form there Brushing her hair's bright bands.
"There, too, at pallid midnight moments Quick she will come to my call, Smile from the frame withal Ponderingly, as she used to regard me Passing her father's wall.
"So that it was for its revelations I brought it oversea, And drag it about with me . . . Anon I shall break it and bury its fragments Where my grave is to be."
Between the folding sea-downs, In the gloom Of a wailful wintry nightfall, When the boom Of the ocean, like a hammering in a hollow tomb,
Throbbed up the copse-clothed valley From the shore To the chamber where I darkled, Sunk and sore With gray ponderings why my Loved one had not come before
To salute me in the dwelling That of late I had hired to waste a while in - Vague of date, Quaint, and remote—wherein I now expectant sate;
On the solitude, unsignalled, Broke a man Who, in air as if at home there, Seemed to scan Every fire-flecked nook of the apartment span by span.
A stranger's and no lover's Eyes were these, Eyes of a man who measures What he sees But vaguely, as if wrapt in filmy phantasies.
Yea, his bearing was so absent As he stood, It bespoke a chord so plaintive In his mood, That soon I judged he would not wrong my quietude.
"Ah—the supper is just ready," Then he said, "And the years'-long binned Madeira Flashes red!" (There was no wine, no food, no supper-table spread.)
"You will forgive my coming, Lady fair? I see you as at that time Rising there, The self-same curious querying in your eyes and air.
"Yet no. How so? You wear not The same gown, Your locks show woful difference, Are not brown: What, is it not as when I hither came from town?
"And the place . . . But you seem other - Can it be? What's this that Time is doing Unto me? YOU dwell here, unknown woman? . . . Whereabouts, then, is she?
"And the house—things are much shifted. - Put them where They stood on this night's fellow; Shift her chair: Here was the couch: and the piano should be there."
I indulged him, verily nerve-strained Being alone, And I moved the things as bidden, One by one, And feigned to push the old piano where he had shown.
"Aha—now I can see her! Stand aside: Don't thrust her from the table Where, meek-eyed, She makes attempt with matron-manners to preside.
"She serves me: now she rises, Goes to play . . . But you obstruct her, fill her With dismay, And embarrassed, scared, she vanishes away!"
And, as 'twere useless longer To persist, He sighed, and sought the entry Ere I wist, And retreated, disappearing soundless in the mist.
That here some mighty passion Once had burned, Which still the walls enghosted, I discerned, And that by its strong spell mine might be overturned.
I sat depressed; till, later, My Love came; But something in the chamber Dimmed our flame, - An emanation, making our due words fall tame,
As if the intenser drama Shown me there Of what the walls had witnessed Filled the air, And left no room for later passion anywhere.
So came it that our fervours Did quite fail Of future consummation - Being made quail By the weird witchery of the parlour's hidden tale,
Which I, as years passed, faintly Learnt to trace, - One of sad love, born full-winged In that place Where the predestined sorrowers first stood face to face.
And as that month of winter Circles round, And the evening of the date-day Grows embrowned, I am conscious of those presences, and sit spellbound.
There, often—lone, forsaken - Queries breed Within me; whether a phantom Had my heed On that strange night, or was it some wrecked heart indeed?
That love's dull smart distressed my heart He shrewdly learnt to see, But that I was in love with a dead man Never suspected he.
He searched for the trace of a pictured face, He watched each missive come, And a note that seemed like a love-line Made him look frozen and glum.
He dogged my feet to the city street, He followed me to the sea, But not to the neighbouring churchyard Did he dream of following me.
"SHE CHARGED ME"
She charged me with having said this and that To another woman long years before, In the very parlour where we sat, -
Sat on a night when the endless pour Of rain on the roof and the road below Bent the spring of the spirit more and more . . .
- So charged she me; and the Cupid's bow Of her mouth was hard, and her eyes, and her face, And her white forefinger lifted slow.
Had she done it gently, or shown a trace That not too curiously would she view A folly passed ere her reign had place,
A kiss might have ended it. But I knew From the fall of each word, and the pause between, That the curtain would drop upon us two Ere long, in our play of slave and queen.
THE NEWCOMER'S WIFE
He paused on the sill of a door ajar That screened a lively liquor-bar, For the name had reached him through the door Of her he had married the week before.
"We called her the Hack of the Parade; But she was discreet in the games she played; If slightly worn, she's pretty yet, And gossips, after all, forget.
"And he knows nothing of her past; I am glad the girl's in luck at last; Such ones, though stale to native eyes, Newcomers snatch at as a prize."
"Yes, being a stranger he sees her blent Of all that's fresh and innocent, Nor dreams how many a love-campaign She had enjoyed before his reign!"
That night there was the splash of a fall Over the slimy harbour-wall: They searched, and at the deepest place Found him with crabs upon his face.
A CONVERSATION AT DAWN
He lay awake, with a harassed air, And she, in her cloud of loose lank hair, Seemed trouble-tried As the dawn drew in on their faces there.
The chamber looked far over the sea From a white hotel on a white-stoned quay, And stepping a stride He parted the window-drapery.
Above the level horizon spread The sunrise, firing them foot to head From its smouldering lair, And painting their pillows with dyes of red.
"What strange disquiets have stirred you, dear, This dragging night, with starts in fear Of me, as it were, Or of something evil hovering near?"
"My husband, can I have fear of you? What should one fear from a man whom few, Or none, had matched In that late long spell of delays undue!"
He watched her eyes in the heaving sun: "Then what has kept, O reticent one, Those lids unlatched - Anything promised I've not yet done?"
"O it's not a broken promise of yours (For what quite lightly your lip assures The due time brings) That has troubled my sleep, and no waking cures!" . . .
"I have shaped my will; 'tis at hand," said he; "I subscribe it to-day, that no risk there be In the hap of things Of my leaving you menaced by poverty."
"That a boon provision I'm safe to get, Signed, sealed by my lord as it were a debt, I cannot doubt, Or ever this peering sun be set."
"But you flung my arms away from your side, And faced the wall. No month-old bride Ere the tour be out In an air so loth can be justified?
"Ah—had you a male friend once loved well, Upon whose suit disaster fell And frustrance swift? Honest you are, and may care to tell."
She lay impassive, and nothing broke The stillness other than, stroke by stroke, The lazy lift Of the tide below them; till she spoke:
"I once had a friend—a Love, if you will - Whose wife forsook him, and sank until She was made a thrall In a prison-cell for a deed of ill . . .
"He remained alone; and we met—to love, But barring legitimate joy thereof Stood a doorless wall, Though we prized each other all else above.
"And this was why, though I'd touched my prime, I put off suitors from time to time - Yourself with the rest - Till friends, who approved you, called it crime,
"And when misgivings weighed on me In my lover's absence, hurriedly, And much distrest, I took you . . . Ah, that such could be! . . .
"Now, saw you when crossing from yonder shore At yesternoon, that the packet bore On a white-wreathed bier A coffined body towards the fore?
"Well, while you stood at the other end, The loungers talked, and I could but lend A listening ear, For they named the dead. 'Twas the wife of my friend.
"He was there, but did not note me, veiled, Yet I saw that a joy, as of one unjailed, Now shone in his gaze; He knew not his hope of me just had failed!
"They had brought her home: she was born in this isle; And he will return to his domicile, And pass his days Alone, and not as he dreamt erstwhile!"
"—So you've lost a sprucer spouse than I!" She held her peace, as if fain deny She would indeed For his pleasure's sake, but could lip no lie.
"One far less formal and plain and slow!" She let the laconic assertion go As if of need She held the conviction that it was so.
"Regard me as his he always should, He had said, and wed me he vowed he would In his prime or sere Most verily do, if ever he could.
"And this fulfilment is now his aim, For a letter, addressed in my maiden name, Has dogged me here, Reminding me faithfully of his claim.
"And it started a hope like a lightning-streak That I might go to him—say for a week - And afford you right To put me away, and your vows unspeak.
"To be sure you have said, as of dim intent, That marriage is a plain event Of black and white, Without any ghost of sentiment,
"And my heart has quailed.—But deny it true That you will never this lock undo! No God intends To thwart the yearning He's father to!"
The husband hemmed, then blandly bowed In the light of the angry morning cloud. "So my idyll ends, And a drama opens!" he mused aloud;
And his features froze. "You may take it as true That I will never this lock undo For so depraved A passion as that which kindles you."
Said she: "I am sorry you see it so; I had hoped you might have let me go, And thus been saved The pain of learning there's more to know."
"More? What may that be? Gad, I think You have told me enough to make me blink! Yet if more remain Then own it to me. I will not shrink!"
"Well, it is this. As we could not see That a legal marriage could ever be, To end our pain We united ourselves informally;
"And vowed at a chancel-altar nigh, With book and ring, a lifelong tie; A contract vain To the world, but real to Him on High."
"And you became as his wife?"—"I did." - He stood as stiff as a caryatid, And said, "Indeed! . . . No matter. You're mine, whatever you ye hid!"
"But is it right! When I only gave My hand to you in a sweat to save, Through desperate need (As I thought), my fame, for I was not brave!"
"To save your fame? Your meaning is dim, For nobody knew of your altar-whim?" "I mean—I feared There might be fruit of my tie with him;
"And to cloak it by marriage I'm not the first, Though, maybe, morally most accurst Through your unpeered And strict uprightness. That's the worst!
"While yesterday his worn contours Convinced me that love like his endures, And that my troth-plight Had been his, in fact, and not truly yours."
"So, my lady, you raise the veil by degrees . . . I own this last is enough to freeze The warmest wight! Now hear the other side, if you please:
"I did say once, though without intent, That marriage is a plain event Of black and white, Whatever may be its sentiment.
"I'll act accordingly, none the less That you soiled the contract in time of stress, Thereto induced By the feared results of your wantonness.
"But the thing is over, and no one knows, And it's nought to the future what you disclose. That you'll be loosed For such an episode, don't suppose!
"No: I'll not free you. And if it appear There was too good ground for your first fear From your amorous tricks, I'll father the child. Yes, by God, my dear.
"Even should you fly to his arms, I'll damn Opinion, and fetch you; treat as sham Your mutinous kicks, And whip you home. That's the sort I am!"
She whitened. "Enough . . . Since you disapprove I'll yield in silence, and never move Till my last pulse ticks A footstep from the domestic groove."
"Then swear it," he said, "and your king uncrown." He drew her forth in her long white gown, And she knelt and swore. "Good. Now you may go and again lie down
"Since you've played these pranks and given no sign, You shall crave this man of yours; pine and pine With sighings sore, 'Till I've starved your love for him; nailed you mine.
"I'm a practical man, and want no tears; You've made a fool of me, it appears; That you don't again Is a lesson I'll teach you in future years."
She answered not, but lay listlessly With her dark dry eyes on the coppery sea, That now and then Flung its lazy flounce at the neighbouring quay.
A KING'S SOLILOQUY ON THE NIGHT OF HIS FUNERAL
From the slow march and muffled drum And crowds distrest, And book and bell, at length I have come To my full rest.
A ten years' rule beneath the sun Is wound up here, And what I have done, what left undone, Figures out clear.
Yet in the estimate of such It grieves me more That I by some was loved so much Than that I bore,
From others, judgment of that hue Which over-hope Breeds from a theoretic view Of regal scope.
For kingly opportunities Right many have sighed; How best to bear its devilries Those learn who have tried!
I have eaten the fat and drunk the sweet, Lived the life out From the first greeting glad drum-beat To the last shout.
What pleasure earth affords to kings I have enjoyed Through its long vivid pulse-stirrings Even till it cloyed.
What days of drudgery, nights of stress Can cark a throne, Even one maintained in peacefulness, I too have known.
And so, I think, could I step back To life again, I should prefer the average track Of average men,
Since, as with them, what kingship would It cannot do, Nor to first thoughts however good Hold itself true.
Something binds hard the royal hand, As all that be, And it is That has shaped, has planned My acts and me.
At Westminster, hid from the light of day, Many who once had shone as monarchs lay.
Edward the Pious, and two Edwards more, The second Richard, Henrys three or four;
That is to say, those who were called the Third, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth (the much self-widowered),
And James the Scot, and near him Charles the Second, And, too, the second George could there be reckoned.
Of women, Mary and Queen Elizabeth, And Anne, all silent in a musing death;
And William's Mary, and Mary, Queen of Scots, And consort-queens whose names oblivion blots;
And several more whose chronicle one sees Adorning ancient royal pedigrees.
- Now, as they drowsed on, freed from Life's old thrall, And heedless, save of things exceptional,
Said one: "What means this throbbing thudding sound That reaches to us here from overground;
"A sound of chisels, augers, planes, and saws, Infringing all ecclesiastic laws?
"And these tons-weight of timber on us pressed, Unfelt here since we entered into rest?
"Surely, at least to us, being corpses royal, A meet repose is owing by the loyal?"
"—Perhaps a scaffold!" Mary Stuart sighed, "If such still be. It was that way I died."
"—Ods! Far more like," said he the many-wived, "That for a wedding 'tis this work's contrived.
"Ha-ha! I never would bow down to Rimmon, But I had a rare time with those six women!"
"Not all at once?" gasped he who loved confession. "Nay, nay!" said Hal. "That would have been transgression."
"—They build a catafalque here, black and tall, Perhaps," mused Richard, "for some funeral?"
And Anne chimed in: "Ah, yes: it maybe so!" "Nay!" squeaked Eliza. "Little you seem to know -
"Clearly 'tis for some crowning here in state, As they crowned us at our long bygone date;
"Though we'd no such a power of carpentry, But let the ancient architecture be;
"If I were up there where the parsons sit, In one of my gold robes, I'd see to it!"
"But you are not," Charles chuckled. "You are here, And never will know the sun again, my dear!"
"Yea," whispered those whom no one had addressed; "With slow, sad march, amid a folk distressed, We were brought here, to take our dusty rest.
"And here, alas, in darkness laid below, We'll wait and listen, and endure the show . . . Clamour dogs kingship; afterwards not so!"
The chimes called midnight, just at interlune, And the daytime talk of the Roman investigations Was checked by silence, save for the husky tune The bubbling waters played near the excavations.
And a warm air came up from underground, And a flutter, as of a filmy shape unsepulchred, That collected itself, and waited, and looked around: Nothing was seen, but utterances could be heard:
Those of the goddess whose shrine was beneath the pile Of the God with the baldachined altar overhead: "And what did you get by raising this nave and aisle Close on the site of the temple I tenanted?
"The notes of your organ have thrilled down out of view To the earth-clogged wrecks of my edifice many a year, Though stately and shining once—ay, long ere you Had set up crucifix and candle here.