THE LORD OF MISRULE
And Other Poems
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BY THE SAME AUTHOR
DRAKE: AN ENGLISH EPIC THE ENCHANTED ISLAND AND OTHER POEMS SHERWOOD TALES OF THE MERMAID TAVERN THE WINE-PRESS COLLECTED POEMS. 2 VOLS. A BELGIAN CHRISTMAS EVE (RADA)
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THE LORD OF MISRULE
And Other Poems
With Frontispiece in Colours by Spencer Baird Nichols
New York Frederick A. Stokes Company Publishers
Copyright, 1915, by Frederick A. Stokes Company
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages
THE LORD OF MISRULE 1
THE REPEAL 7
THE SEARCH-LIGHTS 9
A SPELL 13
CRIMSON SAILS 18
BLIND MOONE OF LONDON 22
OLD GREY SQUIRREL 28
THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 31
THE RIVER OF STARS 34
A KNIGHT OF OLD JAPAN 43
BEYOND DEATH 44
THE STRANGE GUEST 46
THE DAY OF REMEMBRANCE 51
ON THE EMBANKMENT 53
THE IRON CROWN 58
THE OLD DEBATE 59
A SONG OF HOPE 60
THE HEDGE-ROSE OPENS 62
THE MAY-TREE 63
OLD LETTERS 64
AT EDEN GATES 68
THE PSYCHE OF OUR DAY 70
AFTER RAIN 75
THE DEATH OF A GREAT MAN 76
THE ROMAN WAY 78
THE INNER PASSION 80
A COUNTRY LANE IN HEAVEN 82
TO THE DESTROYERS 84
THE TRUMPET-CALL 85
THE HEART OF CANADA 89
THE RETURN OF THE HOME-BORN 91
A SALUTE FROM THE FLEET 93
IN MEMORY OF A BRITISH AVIATOR 103
THE WAGGON 105
THE SACRED OAK 107
THE WORLD'S WEDDING 120
IN MEMORIAM: SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR 123
THE HEROIC DEAD 128
THE CRY IN THE NIGHT 130
THE INIMITABLE LOVERS 136
THE CRAGS 143
THE GHOST OF SHAKESPEARE, 1914 147
THE WHITE CLIFFS 152
ON THE SOUTH COAST 154
OLDER THAN THE HILLS 156
THE TORCH 158
THE OUTLAW 161
THE YOUNG FRIAR 163
A FOREST SONG 167
THE TRUMPET OF THE LAW 169
THE SONG-TREE 182
THE LORD OF MISRULE
"On May days the wild heads of the parish would choose a Lord of Misrule, whom they would follow even into the church, though the minister were at prayer or preaching, dancing and swinging their may-boughs about like devils incarnate."—Old Puritan Writer.
All on a fresh May morning, I took my love to church, To see if Parson Primrose were safely on his perch. He scarce had got to Thirdly, or squire begun to snore, When, like a sun-lit sea-wave, A green and crimson sea-wave, A frolic of madcap May-folk came whooping through the door:—
Come up, come in with streamers! Come in, with boughs of may! Come up and thump the sexton, And carry the clerk away.
Now skip like rams, ye mountains, Ye little hills, like sheep! Come up and wake the people That parson puts to sleep.
They tickled their nut-brown tabors. Their garlands flew in showers, And lasses and lads came after them, with feet like dancing flowers. Their queen had torn her green gown, and bared a shoulder as white, O, white as the may that crowned her, While all the minstrels round her Tilted back their crimson hats and sang for sheer delight:
Come up, come in with streamers! Come in, with boughs of may! Now by the gold upon your toe You walked the primrose way. Come up, with white and crimson! O, shake your bells and sing; Let the porch bend, the pillars bow, Before our Lord, the Spring!
The dusty velvet hassocks were dabbled with fragrant dew. The font grew white with hawthorn. It frothed in every pew. Three petals clung to the sexton's beard as he mopped and mowed at the clerk, And "Take that sexton away," they cried; "Did Nebuchadnezzar eat may?" they cried. "Nay, that was a prize from Betty," they cried, "for kissing her in the dark."
Come up, come in with streamers! Come in, with boughs of may! Who knows but old Methuselah May hobble the green-wood way? If Betty could kiss the sexton, If Kitty could kiss the clerk, Who knows how Parson Primrose Might blossom in the dark?
The congregation spluttered. The squire grew purple and all, And every little chorister bestrode his carven stall. The parson flapped like a magpie, but none could hear his prayers; For Tom Fool flourished his tabor, Flourished his nut-brown tabor, Bashed the head of the sexton, and stormed the pulpit stairs.
High in the old oak pulpit This Lord of all misrule— I think it was Will Summers That once was Shakespeare's fool— Held up his hand for silence, And all the church grew still: "And are you snoring yet," he said, "Or have you slept your fill?
"Your God still walks in Eden, between the ancient trees, Where Youth and Love go wading through pools of primroses. And this is the sign we bring you, before the darkness fall, That Spring is risen, is risen again, That Life is risen, is risen again, That Love is risen, is risen again, and Love is Lord of all.
"At Paske began our morrice And, ere Pentecost, our May; Because, albeit your words be true, You know not what you say. You chatter in church like jackdaws, Words that would wake the dead, Were there one breath of life in you, One drop of blood," he said.
"He died and He went down to hell! You know not what you mean. Our rafters were of green fir. Also our beds were green. But out of the mouth of a fool, a fool, before the darkness fall, We tell you He is risen again, The Lord of Life is risen again, The boughs put forth their tender buds, and Love is Lord of all!"
He bowed his head. He stood so still, They bowed their heads as well. And softly from the organ-loft The song began to swell. Come up with blood-red streamers, The reeds began the strain. The vox humana pealed on high, The Spring is risen again!
The vox angelica replied—The shadows flee away! Our house-beams were of cedar. Come in, with boughs of may! The diapason deepened it—Before the darkness fall, We tell you He is risen again! Our God hath burst His prison again! Christ is risen, is risen again; and Love is Lord of all.
I dreamed the Eternal had repealed His cosmic code of law last night. Our prayers had made the Unchanging yield. Caprice was king from depth to height.
On Beachy Head a shouting throng Had fired a beacon to proclaim Their licence. With unmeasured song They proved it, dancing in the flame.
They quarrelled. One desired the sun, And one desired the stars to shine. They closed and wrestled and burned as one, And the white chalk grew red as wine.
The furnace licked and purred and rolled, A laughing child held up its hands Like dreadful torches, dropping gold; For pain was dead at their commands.
Painless and wild as clouds they burned, Till the restricted Rose of Day With all its glorious laws returned, And the wind blew their ashes away.
"Political morality differs from individual morality because there is no power above the state."
Shadow by shadow, stripped for fight, The lean black cruisers search the sea. Night-long their level shafts of light Revolve, and find no enemy. Only they know each leaping wave May hide the lightning, and their grave.
And in the land they guard so well Is there no silent watch to keep? An age is dying, and the bell Rings midnight on a vaster deep. But over all its waves, once more, The search-lights move, from shore to shore.
And captains that we thought were dead, And dreamers that we thought were dumb, And voices that we thought were fled, Arise, and call us, and we come; And "search in thine own soul," they cry; "For there, too, lurks thine enemy."
Search for the foe in thine own soul, The sloth, the intellectual pride; The trivial jest that veils the goal For which our fathers lived and died; The lawless dreams, the cynic Art, That rend thy nobler self apart.
Not far, not far into the night, These level swords of light can pierce; Yet for her faith does England fight, Her faith in this our universe; Believing Truth and Justice draw From founts of everlasting law;
Therefore a Power above the State, The unconquerable Power returns. The fire, the fire that made her great Once more upon her altar burns. Once more, redeemed and healed and whole, She moves to the Eternal Goal.
A thousand creeds and battle-cries, A thousand warring social schemes, A thousand new moralities, And twenty thousand thousand dreams!
Each on his own anarchic way, From the old order breaking free,— Our ruined world desires, you say, Licence, once more, not Liberty.
But ah, beneath the struggling foam, When storm and change are on the deep, How quietly the tides come home, And how the depths of sea-shine sleep;
And we who march towards a goal, Destroying only to fulfil The law, the law of that great soul Which moves beneath your alien will;
We, that like foemen meet the past Because we bring the future, know We only fight to achieve at last A great re-union with our foe;
Re-union in the truths that stand When all our wars are rolled away; Re-union of the heart and hand And of the prayers wherewith we pray;
Re-union in the common needs, The common strivings of mankind; Re-union of our warring creeds In the one God that dwells behind.
Then—in that day—we shall not meet Wrong with new wrong, but right with right; Our faith shall make your faith complete When our battalions re-unite.
Forward!—what use in idle words?— Forward, O warriors of the soul! There will be breaking up of swords When that new morning makes us whole.
(An Excellent Way to get a Fairy)
Gather, first, in your left hand (This must be at fall of day) Forty grains of wild sea-sand Where you think a mermaid lay. I have heard that it is best If you gather it, warm and sweet, Out of the dint of her left breast Where you see her heart has beat.
Out of the dint in that sweet sand Gather forty grains, I say; Yet—if it fail you—understand, There remains a better way.
Out of this you melt your glass While the veils of night are drawn, Whispering, till the shadows pass, "Nixie—pixie—leprechaun!" Then you blow your magic vial, Shape it like a crescent moon, Set it up and make your trial, Singing, "Elaby, ah, come soon!"
Round the cloudy crescent go, On the hill-top, in the dawn, Singing softly, on tip-toe, "Elaby Gathon! Elaby Gathon! Nixie—pixie—leprechaun!"
Bring the blood of a white hen Slaughtered at the break of day, While the cock, in the fairy glen, Thrusts his gold neck every way, Over the brambles, peering, calling, Under the ferns, with a sudden fear, Far and wide—as the dews are falling— Clamouring, calling, everywhere.
Round the crimson vial go, On the hill-top, in the dawn, Singing softly, on tip-toe, "Nixie—pixie—leprechaun!" If this fail, at break of day, I can show you a better way.
Bring the buds of the hazel-copse, Where two lovers kissed at noon; Bring the crushed red wild-thyme tops Where they murmured under the moon. Bring the four-leaved clover also, One of the white, and one of the red, Bring the flakes of the may that fall so Lightly over their bridal bed.
Drop them into the vial—so— On the hill-top, in the dawn, Singing softly, on tip-toe, "Nixie—pixie—leprechaun!" And, if once will not suffice, Do it thrice! If this fail, at break of day, There remains a better way.
Bring an old and crippled child —Ah, tread softly, on tip-toe!— Tattered, tearless, wonder-wild, From that under-world below, Bring a wizened child of seven Reeking from the City slime, Out of hell into your heaven, Set her knee-deep in the thyme.
Feed her—clothe her—even so! Set her on a fairy-throne. When her eyes begin to glow Leave her for an hour—alone.
You shall need no spells or charms, On that hill-top, in that dawn. When she lifts her wasted arms, You shall see a veil withdrawn. There shall be no veil between them, Though her head be old and wise! You shall know that she has seen them By the glory in her eyes.
Round her irons on that hill Earth has tossed a fairy fire: Watch, and listen, and be still, Lest you baulk your own desire.
When she sees four azure wings Light upon her claw-like hand; When she lifts her head and sings, You shall hear and understand: You shall hear a bugle calling Wildly over the dew-dashed down; And a sound as of the falling Ramparts of a conquered town.
You shall hear a sound like thunder; And a veil shall be withdrawn, When her eyes grow wide with wonder On that hill-top, in that dawn.
When Salomon sailed from Ophir ... The clouds of Sussex thyme That crown the cliffs in mid-July Were all we needed—you and I— But Salomon sailed from Ophir, And broken bits of rhyme Blew to us on the white chalk coast From O, what elfin clime?
A peacock butterfly flaunted Its four great crimson wings, As over the edge of the chalk it flew Black as a ship on the Channel blue ... When Salomon sailed from Ophir,— He brought, as the high sun brings, Honey and spice to the Queen of the South, Sussex or Saba, a song for her mouth, Sweet as the dawn-wind over the downs And the tall white cliffs that the wild thyme crowns A song that the whole sky sings:—
When Salomon sailed from Ophir, With Olliphants and gold, The kings went up, the kings went down, Trying to match King Salomon's crown, But Salomon sacked the sunset, Wherever his black ships rolled. He rolled it up like a crimson cloth, And crammed it into his hold.
Chorus: Salomon sacked the sunset! Salomon sacked the sunset! He rolled it up like a crimson cloth, And crammed it into his hold.
His masts were Lebanon cedars, His sheets were singing blue, But that was never the reason why He stuffed his hold with the sunset sky! The kings could cut their cedars, And sail from Ophir, too; But Salomon packed his heart with dreams And all the dreams were true.
Chorus: The kings could cut their cedars, Cut their Lebanon cedars; But Salomon packed his heart with dreams, And all the dreams were true.
When Salomon sailed from Ophir, He sailed not as a king. The kings—they weltered to and fro, Tossed wherever the winds could blow; But Salomon's tawny seamen Could lift their heads and sing, Till all their crowded clouds of sail Grew sweeter than the Spring.
Chorus: Their singing sheets grew sweeter, Their crowded clouds grew sweeter, For Salomon's tawny seamen, sirs, Could lift their heads and sing:
When Salomon sailed from Ophir With crimson sails so tall, The kings went up, the kings went down, Trying to match King Salomon's crown; But Salomon brought the sunset To hang on his Temple wall; He rolled it up like a crimson cloth, So his was better than all.
Chorus: Salomon gat the sunset, Salomon gat the sunset; He carried it like a crimson cloth To hang on his Temple wall.
BLIND MOONE OF LONDON
Blind Moone of London He fiddled up and down, Thrice for an angel, And twice for a crown. He fiddled at the Green Man, He fiddled at the Rose; And where they have buried him Not a soul knows.
All his tunes are dead and gone, dead as yesterday. And his lanthorn flits no more Round the Devil Tavern door, Waiting till the gallants come, singing from the play; Waiting in the wet and cold! All his Whitsun tales are told. He is dead and gone, sirs, very far away.
He would not give a silver groat For good or evil weather. He carried in his white cap A long red feather. He wore a long coat Of the Reading-tawny kind, And darned white hosen With a blue patch behind.
So—one night—he shuffled past, in his buckled shoon. We shall never see his face, Twisted to that queer grimace, Waiting in the wind and rain, till we called his tune; Very whimsical and white, Waiting on a blue Twelfth Night! He is grown too proud at last—old blind Moone.
Yet, when May was at the door, And Moone was wont to sing, Many a maid and bachelor Whirled into the ring: Standing on a tilted wain He played so sweet and loud The Mayor forgot his golden chain And jigged it with the crowd.
Old blind Moone, his fiddle scattered flowers along the street; Into the dust of Brookfield Fair Carried a shining primrose air, Crooning like a poor mad maid, O, very low and sweet, Drew us close, and held us bound, Then—to the tune of Pedlar's Pound, Caught us up, and whirled us round, a thousand frolic feet.
Master Shakespeare was his host. The tribe of Benjamin Used to call him Merlin's Ghost At the Mermaid Inn. He was only a crowder, Fiddling at the door. Death has made him prouder. We shall not see him more.
Only—if you listen, please—through the master's themes, You shall hear a wizard strain, Blind and bright as wind and rain Shaken out of willow-trees, and shot with elfin gleams. How should I your true love know? Scraps and snatches—even so! That is old blind Moone again, fiddling in your dreams.
Once, when Will had called for sack And bidden him up and play, Old blind Moone, he turned his back, Growled, and walked away, Sailed into a thunder-cloud, Snapped his fiddle-string, And hobbled from The Mermaid Sulky as a king.
Only from the darkness now, steals the strain we knew: No one even knows his grave! Only here and there a stave, Out of all his hedge-row flock, be-drips the may with dew. And I know not what wild bird Carried us his parting word:— Master Shakespeare needn't take the crowder's fiddle, too.
Will has wealth and wealth to spare. Give him back his own. At his head a grass-green turf, At his heels a stone. See his little lanthorn-spark. Hear his ghostly tune, Glimmering past you, in the dark, Old blind Moone!
All the little crazy brooks, where love and sorrow run Crowned with sedge and singing wild, Like a sky-lark—or a child!— Old blind Moone, he knew their springs, and played 'em every one; Stood there, in the darkness, blind, And sang them into Shakespeare's mind.... Old blind Moone of London, O now his songs are done, The light upon his lost white face, they say it was the sun!
The light upon his poor old face, they say it was the sun!
OLD GREY SQUIRREL
A great while ago, there was a school-boy. He lived in a cottage by the sea. And the very first thing he could remember Was the rigging of the schooners by the quay.
He could watch them, when he woke, from his window, With the tall cranes hoisting out the freight. And he used to think of shipping as a sea-cook, And sailing to the Golden Gate.
For he used to buy the yellow penny dreadfuls, And read them where he fished for conger eels, And listened to the lapping of the water, The green and oily water round the keels.
There were trawlers with their shark-mouthed flat-fish, And red nets hanging out to dry, And the skate the skipper kept because he liked 'em, And landsmen never knew the fish to fry.
There were brigantines with timber out of Norroway, Oozing with the syrups of the pine. There were rusty dusty schooners out of Sunderland, And ships of the Blue Cross line.
And to tumble down a hatch into the cabin Was better than the best of broken rules; For the smell of 'em was like a Christmas dinner, And the feel of 'em was like a box of tools.
And, before he went to sleep in the evening, The very last thing that he could see Was the sailor-men a-dancing in the moonlight By the capstan that stood upon the quay.
He is perched upon a high stool in London. The Golden Gate is very far away. They caught him, and they caged him, like a squirrel. He is totting up accounts, and going grey.
He will never, never, never sail to 'Frisco. But the very last thing that he will see Will be sailor-men a-dancing in the sunrise By the capstan that stands upon the quay....
To the tune of an old concertina, By the capstan that stands upon the quay.
THE GREAT NORTH ROAD
Just as the moon was rising, I met a ghostly pedlar Singing for company beneath his ghostly load,— Once, there were velvet lads with vizards on their faces, Riding up to rob me on the great North Road.
Now, my pack is heavy, and my pocket full of guineas Chimes like a wedding-peal, but little I enjoy Roads that never echo to the chirrup of their canter,— The gay Golden Farmer and the Hereford Boy.
Rogues were they all, but their raid was from Elf-land! Shod with elfin silver were the steeds they bestrode. Merlin buckled on the spurs that wheeled thro' the wet fern Bright as Jack-o'-Lanthorns off the great North Road.
Tales were told in country inns when Turpin rode to Rippleside! Puck tuned the fiddle-strings, and country maids grew coy, Tavern doors grew magical when Colonel Jack might tap at them, The gay Golden Farmer and the Hereford Boy.
What are you seeking then? I asked this honest pedlar. —O, Mulled Sack or Natty Hawes might ease me of my load!— Where are they flown then?—Flown where I follow; They are all gone for ever up the great North Road.
Rogues were they all; but the white dust assoils 'em! Paradise without a spice of deviltry would cloy. Heavy is my pack till I meet with Jerry Abershaw, The gay Golden Farmer and the Hereford Boy.
THE RIVER OF STARS
(A tale of Niagara)
The lights of a hundred cities are fed by its midnight power. Their wheels are moved by its thunder. But they, too, have their hour. The tale of the Indian lovers, a cry from the years that are flown, While the river of stars is rolling, Rolling away to the darkness, Abides with the power in the midnight, where love may find its own.
She watched from the Huron tents, till the first star shook in the air. The sweet pine scented her fawn-skins, and breathed from her braided hair. Her crown was of milk-white blood-root, because of the tryst she would keep, Beyond the river of beauty That drifted away in the darkness Drawing the sunset thro' lilies, with eyes like stars, to the deep.
He watched, like a tall young wood-god, from the red pine that she named; But not for the peril behind him, where the eyes of the Mohawks flamed. Eagle-plumed he stood. But his heart was hunting afar, Where the river of longing whispered ... And one swift shaft from the darkness Felled him, her name in his death-cry, his eyes on the sunset star.
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She stole from the river and listened. The moon on her wet skin shone. As a silver birch in a pine-wood, her beauty flashed and was gone. There was no wave in the forest. The dark arms closed her round. But the river of life went flowing, Flowing away to the darkness, For her breast grew red with his heart's blood, in a night where the stars are drowned.
Teach me, O my lover, as you taught me of love in a day, Teach me of death, and for ever, and set my feet on the way, To the land of the happy shadows, the land where you are flown. —And the river of death went weeping, Weeping away to the darkness.— Is the hunting good, my lover, so good that you hunt alone?
She rose to her feet like a shadow. She sent a cry thro' the night, Sa-sa-kuon, the death-whoop, that tells of triumph in fight. It broke from the bell of her mouth like the cry of a wounded bird, But the river of agony swelled it And swept it along to the darkness, And the Mohawks, couched in the darkness, leapt to their feet as they heard.
Close as the ring of the clouds that menace the moon with death, At once they circled her round. Her bright breast panted for breath. With only her own wild glory keeping the wolves at bay, While the river of parting whispered, Whispered away to the darkness, She looked in their eyes for a moment, and strove for a word to say.
Teach me, O my lover!—She set her foot on the dead. She laughed on the painted faces with their rings of yellow and red,— I thank you, wolves of the Mohawk, for a woman's hands might fail.— —And the river of vengeance chuckled, Chuckled away to the darkness,— But ye have killed where I hunted. I have come to the end of my trail.
I thank you, braves of the Mohawk, who laid this thief at my feet. He tore my heart out living, and tossed it his dogs to eat. Ye have taught him of death in a moment, as he taught me of love in a day. —And the river of passion deepened, Deepened and rushed to the darkness.— And yet may a woman requite you, and set your feet on the way.
For the woman that spits in my face, and the shaven heads that gibe, This night shall a woman show you the tents of the Huron tribe. They are lodged in a deep valley. With all things good it abounds. Where the red-eyed, green-mooned river Glides like a snake to the darkness, I will show you a valley, Mohawks, like the Happy Hunting Grounds.
Follow! They chuckled, and followed like wolves to the glittering stream. Shadows obeying a shadow, they launched their canoes in a dream. Alone, in the first, with the blood on her breast, and her milk-white crown, She stood. She smiled at them, Follow, Then urged her canoe to the darkness, And, silently flashing their paddles, the Mohawks followed her down.
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And now—as they slid thro' the pine-woods with their peaks of midnight blue, She heard, in the broadening distance, the deep sound that she knew, A mutter of steady thunder that grew as they glanced along; But ever she glanced before them And glanced away to the darkness, And or ever they heard it rightly, she raised her voice in a song:—
The wind from the Isles of the Blessed, it blows across the foam. It sings in the flowing maples of the land that was my home. Where the moose is a morning's hunt, and the buffalo feeds from the hand.— And the river of mockery broadened, Broadened and rolled to the darkness— And the green maize lifts its feathers, and laughs the snow from the land.
The river broadened and quickened. There was nought but river and sky. The shores were lost in the darkness. She laughed and lifted a cry: Follow me! Sa-sa-kuon! Swifter and swifter they swirled— And the flood of their doom went flying, Flying away to the darkness, Follow me, follow me, Mohawks, ye are shooting the edge of the world.
They struggled like snakes to return. Like straws they were whirled on her track. For the whole flood swooped to that edge where the unplumbed night dropt black, The whole flood dropt to a thunder in an unplumbed hell beneath, And over the gulf of the thunder A mountain of spray from the darkness Rose and stood in the heavens, like a shrouded image of death.
She rushed like a star before them. The moon on her glorying shone. Teach me, O my lover,—her cry flashed out and was gone. A moment they battled behind her. They lashed with their paddles and lunged; Then the Mohawks, turning their faces Like a blood-stained cloud to the darkness, Over the edge of Niagara swept together and plunged.
And the lights of a hundred cities are fed by the ancient power; But a cry returns with the midnight; for they, too, have their hour. Teach me, O my lover, as you taught me of love in a day, —While the river of stars is rolling, Rolling away to the darkness,— Teach me of death, and for ever, and set my feet on the way!
A KNIGHT OF OLD JAPAN
Make me a stave of song, the Master said, On yonder cherry-bough, whose white and red Hangs in the sunset over those green seas. The young knight looked upon his untried blade, Then shrugged his wings of gold and blue brocade: How should a warrior play with thoughts like these?
Fresh from the battle, in that self-same hour, A mail-clad warrior watched each delicate flower Close in that cloud of beauty against the West. Drinking the last deep light, he watched it long. He raised his face as if to pray. The strong, The Master whispered, are the tenderest.
In lonely bays Where Love runs wild, All among the flowering grasses, Where light, light, light, as a sea-bird's wing The chuckle of the child-god passes, O, to awake, to shake away the night And find you dreaming there, On the other side of death, with the sea-wind blowing round you, And the scent of the thyme in your hair.
Tho' beauty perish, Perish like a flower, And song be an idle breath, Tho' heaven be a dream, and youth for but an hour, And life much less than death, And the Maker less than that He made, And hope less than despair, If Death have shores where Love runs wild I think you might be there.
Re-born, re-born From the splendid sea, There should you awake and sing, With every supple sweet from the head to the feet Modelled like a wood-dove's wing,— O, to awake, to shake away the night, And find you happy there, On the other side of death, with the sea-wind blowing round you, And the scent of the thyme in your hair.
THE STRANGE GUEST
You cannot leave a new house With any open door, But a strange guest will enter it And never leave it more.
Build it on a waste land, Dreary as a sin. Leave her but a broken gate, And Beauty will come in.
Build it all of scarlet brick. Work your wicked will. Dump it on an ash-heap Then—O then, be still.
Sit and watch your new house. Leave an open door. A strange guest will enter it And never leave it more.
She will make your raw wood Mellower than gold. She will take your new lamps And sell them for old.
She will crumble all your pride, Break your folly down. Much that you rejected She will bless and crown.
She will rust your naked roof, Split your pavement through, Dip her brush in sun and moon And colour it anew.
Leave her but a window Wide to wind and rain, You shall find her footsteps When you come again.
Though she keep you waiting Many months or years, She shall stain and make it Beautiful with tears.
She shall hurt and heal it, Soften it and save, Blessing it, until it stand Stronger than the grave.
You cannot leave a new house With any open door, But a strange guest will enter it And never leave it more.
O to creep in by candle-light, When all the world is fast asleep, Out of the cold winds, out of the night, Where the nettles wave and the rains weep! O, to creep in, lifting the latch So quietly that no soul could hear, And, at those embers in the gloom, Quietly light one careful match— You should not hear it, have no fear— And light the candle and look round The old familiar room; To see the old books upon the wall And lovingly take one down again, And hear—O, strange to those that lay So patiently underground— The ticking of the clock, the sound Of clicking embers ... watch the play Of shadows ... till the implacable call Of morning turn our faces grey; And, or ever we go, we lift and kiss Some idle thing that your hands may touch, Some paper or book that your hands let fall, And we never—when living—had cared so much As to glance upon twice ... But now, O bliss To kiss and to cherish it, moaning our pain, Ere we creep to the silence again.
THE DAY OF REMEMBRANCE
Dazzle of the sea, azure of the sky, glitter of the dew on the grass, Pass to Oblivion In the darkness With all that ever is or ever was.
Yet, O flocks of cloud with your violet shadows, O white may crowding o'er the lane, The Shepherd that drives you To the darkness Shall lead you thro' the crimson dawn again.
Bear your load of beauty to the sunset, and the golden gates of death. The Eternal shall remember In the darkness And recall you at a word, at a breath.
Even as the mind of a man may remember his lost and linkless hours, This world that is scattered To the darkness Dismembered and dis-petalled, clouds and flowers,
Cities, suns, and systems, as He said of old, they sleep! Not a bird, not a leaf shall pass by, But on the day of remembrance In the darkness, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
They shall flash to their places in the music of the whole, even as our fathers said! For a Power shall remember In the darkness, And the universal sea give up her dead.
ON THE EMBANKMENT
Within, it was colour and laughter, warmth and wine. Without, it was darkness, hunger and bitter cold, Where those white globes on the wet Embankment shine, Greasing the Thames with gold.
And was it a bundle of fog in the dark drew nigh? A bundle of rags and bones it crept to the light,— A monstrous thing that coughed as it shuffled by, A shape of the shapeless night,
Spawned as brown things that mimic their mothering earth, Green creeping things that the grass lifts to the sun, Out of its wrongs the City had brought to the birth The shape of those wrongs, in one.
A woman, a woman whose lips had once been kissed, (It was Christmas Eve, and the bells began their chime!) She sank to a seat like a coughing bundle of mist Exhaled from the river-slime.
Bells for the birth of Christ! She heard, and she thought— Vacantly—of her man, that was long since dead, The smell of the Christmas food, and the drink they had bought Together, the year they were wed.
She thought of their one-room home, and the night-long sigh Recalled, as he slept, of his breath in her loosened hair. He slept. She opened her haggard eyes with a cry. But only the night was there.
Nay, out of the formless night, at her furtive glance, Crouched at the end of her cold wet bench, there grew A bundle of fog, a bundle of rags that, perchance, Once was a woman, too.
A huddled shape, a fungus of foul grey mist Spawned of the river, in peace and much good-will, And even the woman whose lips had once been kissed Wondered, it crouched so still.
No breath, no shadow of breath in the lamp-light smoked, It crouched so still—that bunch at the bench's end. She stretched her neck like a crow, then leaned and croaked, "A Merry Christmas, friend!"
She rose, and peered, peered at its vacant eyes. Touched its cold claws. Its arms of knotted bone Were wands of ice; like iron rods the thighs; The left breast—like a stone.
Far, far along the rows of warmth and light The Christmas waits, with cornet and bassoon, Carolled "While shepherds watched their flocks by night." The bells pealed to the moon.
A bundle of rags and bones, a bundle of mist, And never a hell or heaven to hear or see, The woman, the woman whose lips had once been kissed, Knelt down feverishly.
She plucked the shawl out of that frozen clutch. The dead are dead. Why should the living freeze? She touched the cold flesh that she feared to touch Kneeling upon her knees.
Her palsied hands unlaced the shoes—good shoes!— She tore them quick from the crooked yellow feet. If Death be generous, why should Life refuse To take, and pawn, and eat?
A heavy step drew nearer thro' the mist. She bundled them into the shawl. Her eyes were bright. The woman, the woman whose lips had once been kissed, Slunk, chuckling, thro' the night.
THE IRON CROWN
Not memory of a vanished bliss, But suddenly to know, I had forgotten! This, O this With iron crowned my woe:
To know that on some midnight sea Whence none could lift the pall A drowning hand was waved to me, Then—swept beyond recall.
THE OLD DEBATE
His angels fell, and myriads grope In doubt, for this dark cause alone,— That God hath given them room for hope, And made their struggling wills their own.
In the same breath, they plead for chains And freedom; pray for ordered spheres, Then murmur that the sun retains Its course, unchecked by smiles or tears.
"The Omnipotent would grant us this, Or else He is not good," they say; But O, the Power withholds their bliss Till they agree what prayer to pray.
A SONG OF HOPE
Not in those eyes, too kind for truth, Which dare not note how beauties wane; Nor in that crueller joy of youth Which turns from sorrow with disdain; No—no—not there, Abides the hope that answers our despair.
Lie where they hid thy dead away. Knock on that unrelenting door; Then break, O desolate heart, and say Farewell, farewell, for evermore ... There, only there, Abides the hope that conquers all despair.
The silence that refused to bless Till grief had turned the heart to stone ... What soul compact of nothingness Could hear so fierce a trumpet blown? Then hear, O hear, The dreadful hope that equals all despair.
There, till the deep atoning Might Shall answer all that each can pray, The very boundlessness of night Proclaims—and waits—an equal day. There, only there, —But O, sing low, sweet strings, lest hope take wing!— Abides the hope that answers all despair.
THE HEDGE-ROSE OPENS
How passionately it opens after rain, And O, how like a prayer To those great shining skies! Do they disdain A bride so small and fair? See the imploring petals, how they part And utterly lay bare The perishing treasures of that piteous heart In wild surrender there. What? Would'st thou, too, drink up the Eternal bliss, Ecstatically dare, O, little bride of God, to invoke His kiss?— But O, how like a prayer!
The May-tree on the hill Stands in the night So fragrant and so still, So dusky white.
That, stealing from the wood In that sweet air, You'd think Diana stood Before you there.
If it be so, her bloom Trembles with bliss. She waits across the gloom Her shepherd's kiss.
Touch her. A bird will start From those pure snows,— The dark and fluttering heart Endymion knows.
Read them? Strangle that sick cry? Christ God, no! Shut the box. Lock the lid. You'll be safer—so. Could you read one crooked word Scrawled so long ago, Love would rise before your face And blind you, like a blow.
Close it! Quickly! For I caught, In a childish hand, Something that she never thought I should understand.
So I crouch. And shall our God Prove Him baser yet, He who filled her eyes with light Quite renounce His debt,
Give her worlds to love, and then— Ere the sun be set, Strike her down and coffin all? Christ, shall He forget?
Close it! Quickly! For I caught, In a childish hand, Something that she never thought I should understand.
Immense and silent night, Over the lonely downs I go; And the deep gloom is pricked with points of light Above me and below.
I cannot break the bars Of Time and Fate; and if I scan the sky, There comes to me, questioning those cold stars, No signal, no reply.
Yet are they less than these— These village-lights, which I do scan Below me, or far out on darkling seas Those messages from man?
Round me the darkness rolls. Out of the depth, each lance of light Shoots from lost lanthorns, thrills from living souls, And shall I doubt the height?
No signal? No reply? As through the deepening night I roam, Hope opens all her casements in the sky And lights the lamps of home.
AT EDEN GATES
To Eden Garden—so the sign-post said; I could not see the road; But, where the Sussex clover blossomed red Its runaway blisses flowed.
I traced them back for many a night and day, —The way she, too, had gone!— Till lo, the terrible Angel in the way Inexorably shone.
Up to the Gates, a fearless fool I came; Between the lily and rose Fluttering these evil rags of sordid shame, A thing to scare the crows.
"And hath the Master given thee, then, no word?" The scornful Angel smiled: Only two souls may pass my Flaming Sword,— The Lover and the Child.
I raised my head,—"Now let all hell make mirth, Where Love went, I go, too!" His eyes met mine. The sword sank to the earth, And let her lover through.
THE PSYCHE OF OUR DAY
As constant lovers may rejoice With seas between, with worlds between, Because a fragrance and a voice Are round them everywhere: So let me travel to the grave, Believing still—for I have seen— That Love's triumphant banners wave Beyond my own despair.
I have no trust in my own worth; Yet have I faith, O love, for you, That every beauty in bloom or leaf, That even age and wrong May touch, may hurt you, on this earth, But only, only as kisses do; Or as the fretted string of grief Completes the bliss of song;
That you shall see, on any grave The snow fall, like that unseen hand Which O, so often, pressed your hair To cherish and console: That seas may roar and winds rave But you shall feel and understand What vast caresses everywhere Convey you to the goal.
So was it always in the years When Love began, when Love began With eyes that were not touched of tears And lips that still could sing— And all around us, in the may, The child-god with his laughter ran, And every bloom, on every spray, Betrayed his fluttering wing.
So hold it, keep it, count it, sweet, Until the end, until the end. It is not cruelty, but bliss That pains and is so fond: Crush life like thyme beneath your feet, And O, my love, when that strange friend, The Shadow of Wings, which men call Death Shall close your eyes, with that last kiss, Ask not His name. A rosier breath Shall waken you—beyond.
Tongue hath not told it, Heart hath not known; Yet shall the bough swing When it hath flown.
Dreams have denied it, Fools forsworn: Yet it hath comforted Each man born.
Once and again it is Blown to me, Sweet from the wild thyme, Salt from the sea;
Blown thro' the ferns Faint from the sky; Shadowed in water, Yet clear as a cry.
Light on a face, Or touch of a hand, Making my still heart Understand.
Earth hath not seen it. Nor heaven above, Yet shall the wild bough Bend with the Dove.
Yea, tho' the bloom fall Under Thy feet, Veni, Creator, Paraclete!
Listen! On sweetening air The blackbird growing bold Flings out, where green boughs glisten, Three splashes of wild gold.
Daughter of April, hear; And hear, O barefoot boy! That carol of wild sweet water Has washed the world with joy.
Glisten, O fragrant earth Assoiled by heaven anew, And O, ye lovers, listen, With eyes that glisten, too.
THE DEATH OF A GREAT MAN
No—not that he is dead. The pang's not there, Nor in the City's many-coloured bloom Of swift black-lettered posters, which the throng Passes with bovine stare, To say He is dead and Is it going to rain? Or hum stray snatches of a rag-time song. Nor is it in that falsest shibboleth (Which orators toss to the dumb scorn of death) That all the world stands weeping at his tomb. London is dining, dancing, through it all. And, in the unchecked smiles along the street Where men, that slightly knew him, lightly meet, With all the old indifferent grimaces, There is no jot of grief, no tittle of pain. No. No. For nearer things do most tears fall. Grief is for near and little things. But pride, O, pride was to be found by two or three, And glory in his great battling memory, Prouder and purer than the loud world knows, In one more dreadful sign, the day he died— The dreadful light upon a thousand faces, The peace upon the faces of his foes.
THE ROMAN WAY
He that has loyally served the State Whereof he found himself a part, Or spent his life-blood to create A kingdom's treasure in his art;
Who sees the enemies of his land Applauded, by her sects and schools; And the high thought they scarce had scanned Derided and befogged by fools;
—Better to know it soon than late!— Struggling, he wins a meed of praise; Achieving, he is dogged by hate And furtive malice all his days.
O, Emperor of the Stoic clan, Enfold him, then, with nobler pride. Teach him that nought can hurt a man Who will not turn or stoop to chide.
Can falsehood kindle or bedim One bay-leaf in his quiet crown? Ten thousand Lies may pluck at him, But only Truth can tear him down.
Why should he heed the thing they say? They never asked if it were true. Why brush one scribbler's tale away For others to invent a new?
No, let him search his heart, secure —If Truth be there—from tongue or pen; And teach us, Emperor, to endure, To think like Romans and like men.
THE INNER PASSION
There is a Master in my heart To whom, though oft against my will, I bring the songs I sing apart And strive to think that they fulfil His silent law, within my heart.
But He is blind to my desires, And deaf to all that I would plead: He tests my truth at purer fires And shames my purple with His need. He claims my deeds, not my desires.
And often when my comrades praise, I sadden, for He turns from me! But, sometimes, when they blame, I raise Mine eyes to His, and in them see A tenderness too deep for praise.
He is not to be bought with gold, Or lured by thornless crowns of fame; But when some rebel thought hath sold Him to dishonour and to shame, And my heart's Pilate cries, "Behold,"
"Behold the Man," I know Him then; And all those wild thronged clamours die In my heart's judgment hall again, Or if it ring with "Crucify!" Some few are faithful even then.
Some few sad thoughts,—one bears His cross; To that dark Calvary of my pride; One stands far off and mourns His loss, And one poor thief on either side Hangs on his own unworthy cross.
And one—O, truth in ancient guise!— Rails, and one bids him cease alway, And the God turns His hungering eyes On that poor thought with, "Thou, this day, Shalt sing, shalt sing, in Paradise."
A COUNTRY LANE IN HEAVEN
The exceeding weight of glory bowed My head, in that pure clime: I found a road that ran through cloud Along the coasts of Time....
Out of that mist of years there came A cross-barred gate of wood. I clutched, I kissed the unheavenly frame So hard, it trickled blood.
My head upon the iron lay. I slobbered blood and foam. Yea, like a dog, I knew the way, A hundred yards from home.
Iron and blood and wood! They knew The secret of that cry When the Eternal Passion drew Their Maker through—to die.
I knew each little hawthorn-cloud Along my misty lane, Then my heart burst. She sobbed aloud, Between my arms again.
TO THE DESTROYERS
Yes. You have shattered many an ancient wrong, And we were with you, heart and mind and soul, But there are fools who cast away control In life and thought and art; because the Strong— We dare to say it—have now destroyed so long, That careless minds forget the unchanging goal— The nobler Order which shall make us whole, The Service which is freedom, beauty, song.
We shall be stoned as traitors to your cause While the real traitors that you did not know, Chaos and Vice, trumpet themselves as free. Pray God that, loyal to the Eternal laws, A little remnant, mauled by friend and foe, Save you through Truth, and bring you Liberty.
Trumpeter, sound the great recall! Swift, O swift, for the squadrons break, The long lines waver, mazed in the gloom! Hither and thither the blind host blunders. Stand thou firm for a dead Man's sake, Firm where the ranks reel down to their doom, Stand thou firm in the midst of the thunders, Stand where the steeds and the riders fall, Set the bronze to thy lips and sound A rally to ring the whole world round. Trumpeter, rally us, rally us, rally us! Sound the great recall.
Trumpeter, sound for the ancient heights! Clouds of the earth-born battle cloak The heaven that our fathers held from of old; And we—shall we prate to their sons of the gain In gold or bread? Through yonder smoke The heights that never were won with gold Wait, still bright with their old red stain, For the thousand chariots of God again, And the steel that swept thro' a hundred fights With the Ironsides, equal to life and death, The steel, the steel of their ancient faith. Trumpeter, rally us, rally us, rally us! Sound for the sun-lit heights.
Trumpeter, sound for the faith again! Blind and deaf with the dust and the blood, Clashing together we know not whither The tides of the battle would have us advance. Stand thou firm in the crimson flood, Send the lightning of thy great cry Through the thunders, athwart the storm, Sound till the trumpets of God reply From the heights we have lost in the steadfast sky, From the Strength we despised and rejected. Then, Locking the ranks as they form and form, Lift us forward, banner and lance, Mailed in the faith of Cromwell's men, When from their burning hearts they hurled The gage of heaven against the world! Trumpeter, rally us, rally us, rally us, Up to the heights again.
Trumpeter, sound for the last Crusade! Sound for the fire of the red-cross kings, Sound for the passion, the splendour, the pity That swept the world for a dead Man's sake, Sound, till the answering trumpet rings Clear from the heights of the holy City, Sound till the lions of England awake, Sound for the tomb that our lives have betrayed; O'er broken shrine and abandoned wall, Trumpeter, sound the great recall, Trumpeter, rally us, rally us, rally us; Sound for the last Crusade!
Trumpeter, sound for the splendour of God! Sound the music whose name is law, Whose service is perfect freedom still, The order august that rules the stars. Bid the anarchs of night withdraw, Too long the destroyers have worked their will, Sound for the last, the last of the wars. Sound for the heights that our fathers trod, When truth was truth and love was love, With a hell beneath, but a heaven above, Trumpeter, rally us, up to the heights of it! Sound for the City of God.
THE HEART OF CANADA
Because her heart is all too proud —Canada! Canada! fair young Canada— To breathe the might of her love aloud, Be quick, O Motherland! Because her soul is wholly free —Canada kneels, thy daughter, Canada— England, look in her eyes and see, Honour and understand.
Because her pride at thy masthead shines, —Canada! Canada!—queenly Canada Bows with all her breathing pines, All her fragrant firs. Because our isle is little and old —Canada! Canada!—young-eyed Canada Gives thee, Mother, her hands to hold, And makes thy glory hers.
Because thy Fleet is hers for aye, —Canada! Canada!—clear-souled Canada, Ere the war-cloud roll this way, Bids the world beware. Her heart, her soul, her sword are thine —Thine the guns, the guns of Canada!— The ships are foaming into line, And Canada will be there.
THE RETURN OF THE HOME-BORN
All along the white chalk coast The mist lifts clear. Wight is glimmering like a ghost. The ship draws near. Little inch-wide meadows Lost so many a day, The first time I knew you Was when I turned away.
Island—little island— Lost so many a year, Mother of all I leave behind —Draw me near!— Mother of half the rolling world, And O, so little and gray, The first time I found you Was when I turned away.
Over yon green water Sussex lies. But the slow mists gather In our eyes. England, little island —God, how dear!— Fold me in your mighty arms, Draw me near.
Little tawny roofs of home, Nestling in the gray, Where the smell of Sussex loam Blows across the bay ... Fold me, teach me, draw me close, Lest in death I say The first time I loved you Was when I turned away.
A SALUTE FROM THE FLEET
The Guns of H.M.S. Royal Sovereign
Ocean-mother of England, thine is the crowning acclaim. Here, in the morning of battle, from over the world and beyond, Here, by our fleets of steel, silently foam into line Fleets of our glorious dead, thy shadowy oak-walled ships. Mother, for O, thy soul must speak thro' our iron lips! How should we speak to the ages, unless with a word of thine? Utter it, Victory! Let thy great signal flash thro' the flame! Answer, Bellerophon, Marlborough, Thunderer, Condor, respond!
The Guns of H.M.S. Majestic
Out of the ages we speak unto you, O ye ages to be. Rocks of Sevastopol, echo our thunder-word, bruit it afar. Roll it, O Mediterranean, round by Gibraltar again. Buffet it, Porto Bello, back to the Nile once more. Answer it, great St. Vincent! Answer it, Elsinore, Buffet it back from your crags and roll it over the main! Heights of Quebec, O hear and re-echo it back to the Baltic Sea! Answer it, Camperdown! Answer it, answer it, Trafalgar!
The Guns of H.M.S. Rainbow
How should we speak to the ages, if not with a word of thine, Maker of cloud and harvest, foam and the sea-bird's wing, Ocean-Mother of England and all things living and free? Deep that wast moved by the Spirit to bloom with the first white morn, Mother of Light and Freedom, mother of hopes unborn, Speak, O world-wide welder of nations, O Soul of the sea! Thine was the watchword that called us of old o'er the gray sky-line: Lift thy stormy salute. It is freedom and peace that we bring.
The Guns of H.M.S. Victory
Therefore on thee we call, O Mother, for we are thy sons. Speak, with thy world-wide voice, O wake us anew from our sleep! Speak, for the Light of the world still lives and grows on thy face. Give us the ancient Word once more, the unchangeable Word,— This that Nelson knew, this that Effingham heard, This that resounds for ever in all the hearts of our race, This that lives for a moment on the iron lips of our guns, This—that echoes for ever and ever—the Word of the Deep.
The Guns of H.M.S. Dreadnought
How shall a king be saved by the multitude of an host? Was not the answer thine, when fleet upon fleet swept, hurled Blind thro' the dark North Sea, with all their invincible ships? Thine was the answer, O mother of all men born to be free! Witness again, Cape Wrath!—O thine, everlastingly, Thine as Freedom arose and rolled thy song from her lips, Thine when she 'stablished her throne in thy sight, on our rough rock-coast, Thine with thy lustral glory and thunder, washing the world.
The Guns of H.M.S. Temeraire
O for that ancient cry of the watch at the midnight bell, Under the unknown stars, from the decks that Frobisher trod. Hark, Before the world?—he questions a fleet in the dark! Answer it, friend or foe! And, ringing from mast to mast, Mother, hast thou forgotten what cry in the dark went past, Answering still as he questioned? Before the world? O, hark, Ringing anear, Before the world? ... was God ... All's well! Dying afar ... Before the world? ... All's well ... was God!
The Guns of H.M.S. Revenge
Raleigh and Grenville heard it, Knights of the Ocean-sea. Have we forgotten it only, we with our leagues of steel? Give us our watchword again, O mother, in this great hour! Here, in the morning of battle, here as we gather our might, Here, as the nations of earth in the light of thy freedom unite, Shake our hearts with thy Word, O 'stablish our peace on thy power! 'Stablish our power on thy peace, thy glory, thy liberty, 'Stablish on thy deep Word the throne of our Commonweal.
The Guns of H.M.S. Leviathan
They that go down to the sea in ships—they heard it of old— They shall behold His wonders, alone on the Deep, the Deep! Have we forgotten, we only? O, rend the heavens again, Voice of the Everlasting, shake the great hills with thy breath! Roll the Voice of our God thro' the valleys of doubt and death! Waken the fog-bound cities with the shout of the wind-swept main, Inland over the smouldering plains, till the mists unfold, Darkness die, and England, England arise from sleep.
The Guns of H.M.S. Triumph
Queen of the North and the South, Queen of our ocean-renown, England, England, England, O lift thine eyes to the sun! Wake, for the hope of the whole world yearns to thee, watches and waits! Now on the full flood-tide of the ages, the supreme hour Beacons thee onward in might to the purpose and crown of thy power. Hark, for the whole Atlantic thunders against thy gates, Take the Crown of all Time, all might, earth's crowning Crown, Throne thy children in peace and in freedom together, O weld them in one.
The Guns of the Fleet
Throne them in triumph together. Thine is the crowning cry! Thine the glory for ever in the nation born of thy womb! Thine the Sword and the Shield, and the shout that Salamis heard, Surging in Aeschylean splendour, earth-shaking acclaim! Ocean-mother of England, thine is the throne of her fame. Breaker of many fleets, O thine the victorious word, Thine the Sun and the Freedom, the God and the wind-swept sky, Thine the thunder and thine the lightning, thine the doom.
IN MEMORY OF A BRITISH AVIATOR
On those young brows that knew no fear We lay the Roman athlete's crown, The laurel of the charioteer, The imperial garland of renown, While those young eyes, beyond the sun, See Drake, see Raleigh, smile "Well done."
Their desert seas that knew no shore To-night with fleets like cities flare; But, frailer even than theirs of yore, His keel a new-found deep would dare: They watch, with thrice-experienced eyes What fleets shall follow through the skies.
They would not scoff, though man should set To feebler wings a mightier task. They know what wonders wait us yet. Not all things in an hour they ask; But in each noble failure see The inevitable victory.
A thousand years have borne us far From that dark isle the Saxon swayed, And star whispers to trembling star While Space and Time shrink back afraid,— "Ten thousand thousand years remain For man to dare our deep again."
Thou, too, shalt hear across that deep Our thundering fleets of thought draw nigh, Round which the suns and systems sweep Like cloven foam from sky to sky, Till Death himself at last restore His captives to our eyes once more.
* * * * *
Feeble the wings, dauntless the soul! Take thou the conqueror's laurel crown; Take—for thy chariot grazed the goal— The imperial garland of renown; While those young eyes, beyond the sun, See Drake, see Raleigh, smile "Well done."
Crimson and black on the sky, a waggon of clover Slowly goes rumbling, over the white chalk road; And I lie in the golden grass there, wondering why So little a thing As the jingle and ring of the harness, The hot creak of leather, The peace of the plodding, Should suddenly, stabbingly, make it Strange that men die.
Only, perhaps, in the same blue summer weather, Hundreds of years ago, in this field where I lie, Caedmon, the Saxon, was caught by the self-same thing: The serf lying, black with the sun, on his beautiful wain-load, The jingle and clink of the harness, The hot creak of leather, The peace of the plodding; And wondered, O terribly wondered, That men must die.
THE SACRED OAK
(A Song of Britain)
Voice of the summer stars that, long ago, Sang thro' the old oak-forests of our isle, Enchanted voice, pure as her falling snow, Dark as her storms, bright as her sunniest smile, Taliessin, voice of Britain, the fierce flow Of fourteen hundred years has whelmed not thee! Still art thou singing, lavrock of her morn, Singing to heaven in that first golden glow, Singing above her mountains and her sea! Not older yet are grown Thy four winds in their moan For Urien. Still thy charlock blooms in the billowing corn.
Thy dew is bright upon this beechen spray! Spring wakes thy harp! I hear—I see—again, Thy wild steeds foaming thro' the crimson fray, The raven on the white breast of thy slain, The tumult of thy chariots, far away, The weeping in the glens, the lustrous hair Dishevelled over the stricken eagle's fall, And in thy Druid groves, at fall of day One gift that Britain gave her valorous there, One gift of lordlier pride Than aught—save to have died— One spray of the sacred oak, they coveted most of all.
I watch thy nested brambles growing green: O strange, across that misty waste of years, To glimpse the shadowy thrush that thou hast seen, To touch, across the ages, touch with tears The ferns that hide thee with their fairy screen, Or only hear them rustling in the dawn; And—as a dreamer waking—in thy words, For all the golden clouds that drowse between, To feel the veil of centuries withdrawn, To feel thy sun re-risen Unbuild our shadowy prison And hear on thy fresh boughs the carol of waking birds.
O, happy voice, born in that far, clear time, Over thy single harp thy simple strain Attuned all life for Britain to the chime Of viking oars and the sea's dark refrain, And thine own beating heart, and the sublime Measure to which the moons and stars revolve Untroubled by the storms that, year by year, In ever-swelling symphonies still climb To embrace our growing world and to resolve Discords unknown to thee, In the infinite harmony Which still transcends our strife and leaves us darkling here.
* * * * *
For, now, one sings of heaven and one of hell, One soars with hope, one plunges to despair! This, trembling, doubts if aught be ill or well; And that cries, "Fair is foul and foul is fair;" And this cries, "Forward, though I cannot tell Whither, and all too surely all things die;" And that sighs, "Rest, then, sleep and take thine ease." One sings his country and one rings its knell, One hymns mankind, one dwarfs them with the sky. O, Britain, let thy soul Once more command the whole, Once more command the strings of the world-wide harmony.
For hark! One sings, The gods, the gods are dead! Man triumphs! And hark—Blind Space his funeral urn. And hark, one whispers with reverted head To the old dead gods—Bring back our heaven, return! And hark, one moans—The ancient order is fled, We are children of blind chance and vacant dreams. Heed not mine utterance—that was chance-born, too. And hark, the answer of Science—All they said, Your fathers, in that old time, lit by gleams Of what their hearts could feel, The rolling years reveal As fragments of one law, one covenant, simply true.
I find, she cries, in all this march of time And space, no gulf, no break, nothing that mars Its unity. I watch the primal slime Lift Athens like a flower to greet the stars! I flash my messages from clime to clime, I link the increasing world from depth to height! Not yet ye see the wonder that draws nigh, When at some sudden contact, some sublime Touch, as of memory, all this boundless night Wherein ye grope entombed Shall, by that touch illumed, Like one electric City shine from sky to sky.
No longer then the memories that ye hold Dark in your brain shall slumber. Ye shall see That City whose gates are more than pearl or gold And all its towers firm as Eternity. The stones of the earth have cried to it from of old! Why will ye turn from Him who reigns above Because your highest words fall short? Kneel—call On Him whose Name—I AM—doth still enfold Past, present, future, memory, hope and love. No seed falls fruitless there. Beyond your Father's care— The old covenant still holds fast—no bird, no leaf can fall.
O Time, thou mask of the ever-living Soul, Thou veil to shield us from that blinding Face, Thou art wearing thin! We are nearer to the goal When man no more shall need thy saving grace, But all the folded years like one great scroll Shall be unrolled in the omnipresent Now, And He that saith I am unseal the tomb: Nearer His thunders and His trumpets roll, I catch the gleam that lit thy lifted brow, O singer whose wild eyes Possess these April skies, I touch—I clasp thy hands thro' all the clouds of doom.
Teach thou our living choirs amid the sound Of their tempestuous chords once more to hear That harmony wherewith the whole is crowned, The singing heavens that sphere by choral sphere Break open, height o'er height, to the utmost bound Of passionate thought! O, as this glorious land, This sacred country shining on the sea, Grows mightier, let not her clear voice be drowned In the fierce waves of faction. Let her stand A beacon to the blind, A signal to mankind, A witness to the heavens' profoundest unity.
Her altars are forgotten and her creeds Dust, and her soul foregoes the lesser Cross. O, point her to the greater! Her heart bleeds Still, where men simply feel some vague deep loss. Their hands grope earthward, knowing not what she needs. We would not call her back in this great hour! Nay, upward, onward, to the heights untrod Signal us, living voices, by those deeds Of all her deathless heroes, by the Power That still, still walks her waves, Still chastens her, still saves, Signal us, not to the dead, but to the living God.
Signal us with that watchword of the deep, The watchword that her boldest seamen gave The winds of the unknown ocean-sea to keep, When round their oaken walls the midnight wave Heaved and subsided in gigantic sleep, And they plunged Westward with her flag unfurled. Hark, o'er their cloudy sails and glimmering spars, The watch cries, as they proudly onward sweep,— Before the world ... All's well!... Before the world ... From mast to calling mast The counter-cry goes past— Before the world was God!—it rings against the stars.
Signal us o'er the little heavens of gold With that heroic signal Nelson knew When, thro' the thunder and flame that round him rolled, He pointed to the dream that still held true. Cry o'er the warring nations, cry as of old A little child shall lead them! they shall be One people under the shadow of God's wing! There shall be no more weeping! Let it be told That Britain set one foot upon the sea, One foot on the earth. Her eyes Burned thro' the conquered skies, And, as the angel of God, she bade the whole world sing.
A dream? Nay, have ye heard or have ye known That the everlasting God who made the ends Of all creation wearieth? His worlds groan Together in travail still. Still He descends From heaven. The increasing worlds are still His throne And His creative Calvary and His tomb Through which He sinks, dies, triumphs with each and all, And ascends, multitudinous and at one With all the hosts of His evolving doom, His vast redeeming strife, His everlasting life, His love, beyond which not one bird, one leaf can fall.
And hark, His whispers thro' creation flow, Lovest thou me? His nations answer "yea!" And—Feed My lambs, His voice as long ago Steals from that highest heaven, how far away! And yet again saith—Lovest thou Me? and "O, Thou knowest we love Thee," passionately we cry: But, heeding not our tumult, out of the deep The great grave whisper, pitiful and low, Breathes—Feed My sheep; and yet once more the sky Thrills with that deep strange plea, Lovest thou, lovest thou Me? And our lips answer "yea"; but our God—Feed My sheep.
O sink not yet beneath the exceeding weight Of splendour, thou still single-hearted voice Of Britain. Droop not earthward now to freight Thy soul with fragments of the song, rejoice In no faint flights of music that create Low heavens o'er-arched by skies without a star, Nor sink in the easier gulfs of shallower pain! Sing thou in the whole majesty of thy fate, Teach us thro' joy, thro' grief, thro' peace, thro' war, With single heart and soul Still, still to seek the goal, And thro' our perishing heavens, point us to Heaven again.
Voice of the summer stars that long ago Sang thro' the old oak-forests of our isle, An ocean-music that thou ne'er couldst know Storms Heaven—O, keep us steadfast all the while; Not idly swayed by tides that ebb and flow, But strong to embrace the whole vast symphony Wherein no note (no bird, no leaf) can fall Beyond His care, to enfold it all as though Thy single harp were ours, its unity In battle like one sword, And O, its one reward One spray of the sacred oak, still coveted most of all.
THE WORLD'S WEDDING
"Et quid curae nobis de generibus et speciebus? Ex uno Verbo omnia, et unum loquuntur omnia. Cui omnia unum sunt, quique ad unum omnia trahit et omnia in uno videt, potest stabilis corde esse."—THOMAS A KEMPIS.
When poppies fired the nut-brown wheat, My love went by with sun-stained feet: I followed her laughter, followed her, followed her, all a summer's morn! But O, from an elfin palace of air, A wild bird sang a song so rare, I stayed to listen and—lost my Fair, And walked the world forlorn.
When chalk shone white between the sheaves, My love went by as one that grieves; I followed her weeping, followed her, followed her, all an autumn noon! The sunset flamed so fierce a red From North to South—I turned my head To wonder—and my Fair was fled Beyond the dawning moon.
When bare black boughs were choked with snow, My love went by, as long ago; I followed her dreaming, followed her, followed her, all a winter's night! But O, along that snow-white track With thorny shadows printed black, I saw three kings come riding back, And—lost my life's delight.
They are so many, and she but One; And I and she, like moon and sun So separate ever! Ah yet, I follow her, follow her, faint and far; For what if all this diverse bliss Should run together in one kiss! Swift, Spring, with the sweet clue I miss Between these several instances,— The kings, that inn, that star.
Between the hawk's and the wood-dove's wing, My love, my love flashed by like Spring! The year had finished its golden ring! Earth, the Gipsy, and Heaven, the King, Were married like notes in the song I sing, And O, I followed her, followed her, followed her over the hills of Time, Never to lose her now I know, For whom the sun was clasped in snow, The heights linked to the depths below, The rose's flush to the planet's glow, Death the friend to life the foe, The Winter's joy to the Spring's woe, And the world made one in a rhyme.
IN MEMORIAM: SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR
Farewell! The soft mists of the sunset-sky Slowly enfold his fading birch-canoe! Farewell! His dark, his desolate forests cry, Moved to their vast, their sorrowful depths anew.
Fading! Nay, lifted thro' a heaven of light, His proud sails brightening thro' that crimson flame, Leaving us lonely on the shores of night, Home to Ponemah take his deathless fame.
Generous as a child, so wholly free From all base pride that fools forgot his crown, He adored Beauty, in pure ecstasy, And waived the mere rewards of his renown.
The spark that falls from heaven not oft on earth To human hearts this vital splendour gives; His was the simple, true, immortal birth. Scholars compose; but—this man's music lives!
Greater than England or than Earth discerned, He never paltered with his art for gain: When many a vaunted crown to dust is turned, This uncrowned king shall take his throne and reign.
Nations unborn shall hear his forests moan; Ages unscanned shall hear his winds lament, Hear the strange grief that deepened through his own The vast cry of a buried continent.
Through him, his race a moment lifted up Forests of hands to Beauty as in prayer; Touched through his lips the sacramental Cup, And then sank back—benumbed in our bleak air.
Through him, through him, a lost world hailed the light! The tragedy of that triumph none can tell,— So great, so brief, so quickly snatched from sight; And yet—O hail, great comrade, not farewell!
(For the Grave of Coleridge-Taylor)
Sleep, crowned with fame; fearless of change or time. Sleep, like remembered music in the soul, Silent, immortal; while our discords climb To that great chord which shall resolve the whole.
Silent with Mozart on that solemn shore; Secure where neither waves nor hearts can break; Sleep—till the Master of the World, once more, Touch the remembered strings, and bid thee wake....
Touch the remembered strings, and bid thee wake.
The moon that sways the rhythmic seas, The wheeling earth, the marching sky,— I ask not whence the order came That moves them all as one.
These are your chariots. Nor shall these Appal me with immensity; I know they carry one heart of flame More precious than the sun.
THE HEROIC DEAD
(On the loss of the Titanic)
If in the noon they doubted, in the night They never swerved. Death had no power to appal. There was one Way, one Truth, one Life, one Light, One Love that shone triumphant over all.
If in the noon they doubted, at the last There was no Way to part, no Way but One That rolled the waves of Nature back and cast In ancient days a shadow across the sun.
If in the noon they doubted, their last breath Saluted once again the eternal goal, Chanted a love-song in the face of Death And rent the veil of darkness from the soul.
If in the noon they doubted, in the night They waved the shadowy world of strife aside, Flooded high heaven with an immortal light, And taught the deep how its Creator died.
THE CRY IN THE NIGHT
It tears at the heart in the night, that moan of the wind, That desolate moan. It is worse than the cry of a child. I can hardly bear To hear it, alone.
It is worse than the sobbing of love, when love is estranged: For this is a cry Out of the desolate ages. It never has changed. It never can die.
A cry over numberless graves, dark, helpless and blind, From the measureless past, To the measureless future, a sobbing before the first laughter, And after the last!
* * * * *
From the height of creation, in passion eternal, the Word Rushes forth, the loud cry, Forsaken! Forsaken! It cuts through the night like a sword! Shall it win no reply?
Not of earth is that height of all sorrow, past time, out of space, Therefore here, here and now, Universal, a Calvary, crowned with Thy passionate face, Thy thorn-wounded brow.
Ah, could I shrink if Thy heart for each heart upon earth Must break like a sea? Could I hear, could I bear it at all, if I were not a part Of this labour in Thee?
Shall I accuse Thee, then? God, I account it my own All the grief I can bear, On Thy Cross of Creation, to balance earth's bliss and atone, Atone for life there.
If this be the One Way for ever, which not Thine all-might Could change, if it would, Till the truth be untrue, till the dark be the same as the light, And till evil be good,
Shall I who took part in Thine April, shrink now from my part In Thine anguish to be? If Thy goal be the One goal of all, shall not even man's heart Endure this, with Thee;
Die with Thee, balancing life, or help Thee to pay For our hope with our pain?... O, the voice of the wind in the night! Is it day, then, broad day, On the blind earth again?
(An Experiment in Initial Rhymes)
White-armed Astrid,—ah, but she was beautiful!— Nightly wandered weeping thro' the ferns in the moon, Slowly, weaving her strange garland in the forest, Crowned with white violets, Gowned in green. Holy was that glen where she glided, Making her wild garland as Merlin had bidden her, Breaking off the milk-white horns of the honey-suckle, Sweetly dripped the dew upon her small white Feet.
White-throated Astrid,—ah, but she was beautiful!— Nightly sought the answer to that riddle in the moon. She must weave her garland, ere she save her soul. Three long years she has wandered there in vain. Always, always, the blossom that would finish it Falls to her feet, and the garland breaks and vanishes, Breaks like a dream in the dawn when the dreamer Wakes.
White-bosomed Astrid,—ah, but she was beautiful!— Nightly tastes the sorrow of the world in the moon. Will it be this little white miracle, she wonders. How shall she know it, the star that will save her? Still, ah still, in the moonlight she crouches Bowing her head, for the garland has crumbled! All the wild petals for the thousand and second time Fall.
White-footed Astrid,—ah, but she is beautiful!— Nightly seeks the secret of the world in the moon. She will find the secret. She will find the golden Key to the riddle, on the night when she has numbered them, Marshalled all her wild flowers, ordered them as music, Star by star, note by note, changing them and ranging them, Suddenly, as at a kiss, all will flash together, Flooding like the dawn thro' the arches of the woodland, Fern and thyme and violet, maiden-hair and primrose Turn to the Rose of the World, and He shall fold her, Kiss her on the mouth, saying, all the world is one now, This is the secret of the music that the soul hears,— This.
THE INIMITABLE LOVERS
They tell this proud tale of the Queen—Cleopatra, Subtlest of women that the world has ever seen, How that, on the night when she parted with her lover Anthony, tearless, dry-throated, and sick-hearted, A strange thing befell them in the darkness where they stood.
Bitter as blood was that darkness. And they stood in a deep window, looking to the west. Her white breast was brighter than the moon upon the sea, And it moved in her agony (because it was the end!) Like a deep sea, where many had been drowned. Proud ships that were crowned with an Emperor's eagles Were sunken there forgotten, with their emeralds and gold. They had drunken of that glory, and their tale was told, utterly, Told.
There, as they parted, heart from heart, mouth from mouth, They stared upon each other. They listened. For the South-wind Brought them a rumour from afar; and she said, Lifting her head, too beautiful for anguish, Too proud for pity,— It is the gods that leave the City! O, Anthony, Anthony, the gods have forsaken us; Because it is the end! They leave us to our doom. Hear it! And unshaken in the darkness, Dull as dropping earth upon a tomb in the distance, They heard, as when across a wood a low wind comes, A muttering of drums, drawing nearer, Then louder and clearer, as when a trumpet sings To battle, it came rushing on the wings of the wind, A sound of sacked cities, a sound of lamentation, A cry of desolation, as when a conquered nation Is weeping in the darkness, because its tale is told; And then—a sound of chariots that rolled thro' that sorrow Trampled like a storm of wild stallions, tossing nearer, Trampled louder, clearer, triumphantly as music, Till lo! in that great darkness, along that vacant street, A red light beat like a furnace on the walls, Then—like the blast when the North-wind calls to battle, Blaring thro' the blood-red tumult and the flame, Shaking the proud City as they came, an hundred elephants, Cream-white and bronze, and splashed with bitter crimson, Trumpeting for battle as they trod, an hundred elephants, Bronze and cream-white, and trapped with gold and purple, Towered like tusked castles, every thunder-laden footfall Dreadful as the shattering of a City. Yet they trod, Rocking like an earthquake, to a great triumphant music, And, swinging like the stars, black planets, white moons, Thro' the stream of the torches, they brought the red chariot, The chariot of the battle-god—Mars. While the tall spears of Sparta tossed clashing in his train, And a host of ghostly warriors cried aloud All hail! to those twain, and went rushing to the darkness Like a pageantry of cloud, for their tale was told—utterly— Told.
And following, in the fury of the vine, rushing down Like a many-visaged torrent, with ivy-rod and thyrse, And many a wild and foaming crown of roses, Crowded the Bacchanals, the brown-limbed shepherds, The red-tongued leopards, and the glory of the god! Iacchus! Iacchus! without dance, without song, They cried and swept along to the darkness. Only for a breath when the tumult of their torches Crimsoned the deep window where that dark warrior stood With the blood upon his mail, and the Queen—Cleopatra, Frozen to white marble—the Maenads raised their timbrels, Tossed their white arms, with a clash—All hail! Like wild swimmers, pale, in a sea of blood and wine, All hail! All hail! Then they swept into the darkness And the darkness buried them. Their tale was told—utterly— Told.
And following them, O softer than the moon upon the sea, Aphrodite, implacably, shone. Like a furnace of white roses, Aphrodite and her train Lifted their white arms to those twain in the silence Once, and were gone into the darkness; Once, and away into the darkness they were swept Like a pageantry of cloud, without praise, without pity. Then the dark City slept. And the Queen—Cleopatra— Subtlest of women that this earth has ever seen, Turning to her lover in the darkness where he stood, With the blood upon his mail, Bowing her head upon that iron in the darkness, Wept.
(In memory of Thomas Bailey Aldrich)
Falernian, first! What other wine Should brim the cup or tint the line That would recall my days Among your creeks and bays;
Where, founded on a rock, your house Between the pines' unfading boughs Watches through sun and rain That lonelier coast of Maine;
And the Atlantic's mounded blue Breaks on your crags the summer through, A long pine's length below, In rainbow-tossing snow.
While on your railed verandah there As on a deck you sail through air, And sea and cloud and sky Go softly streaming by.
Like delicate oils at set of sun Smoothing the waves the colours run— Around the enchanted hull, Anchored and beautiful,—
Restoring to that sun-dried star You brought from coral isles afar— With shells that mock the moon— The tints of their lagoon;
Till, from within, your lamps declare Your harbours by the colours there, An Indian god, a fan Painted in Old Japan.
But, best of all, I think at night, The moon that makes a road of light Across the whispering sea, A road—for memory.
When the blue dusk has filled the pane, And the great pine-logs burn again, And books are good to read. —For his were books indeed.—
Their silken shadows, rustling, dim, May sing no more of Spain for him; No shadows of old France Renew their courtly dance.
He walks no more where shadows are But left their ivory gates ajar, That shadows might prolong The dance, the tale, the song.
His was no narrow test or rule. He chose the best of every school,— Stendhal and Keats and Donne, Balzac and Stevenson;
Wordsworth and Flaubert filled their place. Dumas met Hawthorne face to face. There were both new and old In his good realm of gold.
The title-pages bore his name; And, nightly, by the dancing flame, Following him, I found That all was haunted ground;
Until a friendlier shadow fell Upon the leaves he loved so well, And I no longer read, But talked with him instead.
THE GHOST OF SHAKESPEARE
Crimson was the twilight, under that crab-tree, Where—old tales tell us—all a midsummer's night, A mad young poacher, drunk with mead of elfin-land, Lodged with the fern-owl, and looked at the stars.
There, from the dusk where the dream of Piers Plowman Darkens on the sunset, to this dusk of our own, I read, in a history, the record of our world.
The hawk-moth, the currant-moth, the red-striped tiger-moth Shimmered all around me, so white shone those pages; And, in among the blue boughs, the bats flew low.
I slumbered, the history slipped from my hand. Then I saw a dead man, dreadful in the moon-dawn, The ghost of the master, bowed upon that book. He muttered as he searched it,—what vast convulsion Mocks my sexton's curse now, shakes our English clay? Whereupon I told him, and asked him in turn Whether he espied any light in those pages Which painted an epoch later than his own. I am a shadow, he said, and I see none....
I am a shadow, he said, and I see none.
Then, O then he murmured to himself (while the moon hung Crimson as a lanthorn of Cathay in that crab-tree), Laughing at his work and the world, as I thought, Yet with some bitterness, yet with some beauty, Mocking his own music, these wraiths of his rhymes:
God, when I turn the leaves of that dark book Wherein our wisest teach us to recall Those glorious flags which in old tempests shook And those proud thrones which held my youth in thrall;
When I see clear what seemed to childish eyes The gorgeous colouring of each pictured age; And for their dominant tints now recognise Those prints of innocent blood on every page;
O, then I know this world is fast asleep, Bound in Time's womb, till some far morning break; And, though light grows upon the dreadful deep, We are dungeoned in thick night. We are not awake.
The world's unborn, for all our hopes and schemes; And all its myriads only move in dreams.
Read what our wisest chroniclers record:— A king betrayed both foes and friends to death, Delivered his own country to the sword, And lied, and lied, and lied to his last breath.
He died, the martyred anarch of his time. What balm is this that consecrates his dust? The self-same history shudders at the "crime" Which shed a blood so fragrant, so "august."
Yes. Let our sons by thousands, millions, die; And when the crowned assassin of to-day Stands in the Judgment Hall of Liberty What shall your desolate nations rise and say?
Honour the dog. He's vanquished! He's a king! So—for our dead—he's too "august" a thing.
It was a crimson twilight, under that crab-tree. Moths beat about me, and bats flew low. I read, in a history, the record of our world. If there be light, said the Master, I am a shadow, and I see none.... I am a shadow, and I see none.
THE WHITE CLIFFS
Woden made the red cliffs, the red walls of England. Round the South of Devonshire, they burn against the blue. Green is the water there; and, clear as liquid sunlight, Blue-green as mackerel, the bays that Raleigh knew.
Thor made the black cliffs, the battlements of England, Climbing to Tintagel where the white gulls wheel. Cold are the caverns there, and sullen as a cannon-mouth, Booming back the grey swell that gleams like steel.
Balder made the white cliffs, the white shield of England (Crowned with thyme and violet where Sussex wheatears fly), White as the White Ensign are the bouldered heights of Dover, Beautiful the scutcheon that they bare against the sky.
So the world shall sing of them—the white cliffs of England, White, the glory of her sails, the banner of her pride. One and all,—their seamen met and broke the dread Armada. Only white may show the world the shield for which they died.
ON THE SOUTH COAST
Come away into the sun and see All the heavens that used to be, Daily, hourly, brought to birth Out of the deep remembering earth.
This is England, this is the land That holds my heart in her sweet hand. This is she whose turf, I pray, Will hide me, on her breast, one day.
Cast you down on the close-cropped turf, See how the white cliff spreads the surf, On green-eyed seas that glitter and trail Into the south like a peacock's tail.
Then, come away over the hills of thyme, Where folds like elfin belfries chime Till Eve, in a cloud of her dusky hair, Makes it Elf-land everywhere.
You shall pity the king on his throne. You shall know what never was known. All the glory of all the skies Utterly yours in your true love's eyes;
All the bloom to the world's end And all the heavens that over it bend, Compacted in one garden white, The garden of your love's delight.
This is England, this is the land That holds my soul in her sweet hand. This is she whose turf, I pray, Will hide me on her heart one day.
OLDER THAN THE HILLS
Older than the hills, older than the sea, Older than the heart of the Spring, O, what is this that breaks From the blind shell, wakes, Wakes, and is gone like a wing?
Older than the sea, older than the moon, Older than the heart of the May, What is this blind refrain Of a song that shall remain When the singer is long gone away?
Older than the moon, older than the stars, Older than the wind in the night,— Though the young dews are sweet On the heather at our feet And the blue hills laughing back the light,—
Till the stars grow young, till the hills grow young, O, Love, we shall walk through Time, Till we round the world at last, And the future be the past, And the winds of Eden greet us from the prime.
Is it your watch-fire, elves, where the down with its darkening shoulder Lifts on the death of the sun, out of the valley of thyme? Dropt on the broad chalk path and, cresting the ridge of it, smoulder Crimson as blood on the white, halting my feet as they climb,
Clusters of clover-bloom, spilled from what negligent arms in the tender Dusk of the great grey world, last of the tints of the day; Beautiful, sorrowful, strange last stain of that perishing splendour. Elves, from what torn white feet trickled that red on the way?
No—from the sun-burnt hands of what lovers that fade in the distance? Here, was it here that they paused, here that the legend was told? Even a kiss would be heard in this hush; but, with mocking insistence, Now thro' the valley resound—only the bells of the fold.
Dropt—from the hands of what beautiful throng? Did they cry "follow after"? Dancing into the west, leaving this token for me, Memory dead on the path, and the sunset to bury their laughter? Youth—is it youth that has flown? Darkness covers the sea.
Darkness covers the earth; but the path is here! I assay it. Let the bloom fall like a flake—dropt from the torch of a friend! Beautiful revellers, happy companions, I see and obey it; Follow your torch in the night, follow your path to the end.
Deep in the greenwood of my heart My wild hounds race. I cloak my soul at feast and mart, I mask my face;
Outlawed, but not alone, for Truth Is outlawed, too. Proud world, you cannot banish us. We banish you.
Go by, go by, with all your din, Your dust, your greed, your guile, Your gold, your thrones can never win— From Her—one smile.
She sings to me in a lonely place, She takes my hand. I look into her lovely face And understand....
Outlawed, but not alone, for Love Is outlawed, too. You cannot banish us, proud world. We banish you.
Now which is outlawed, which alone? Around us fall and rise Murmurs of leaf and fern, the moan Of Paradise.
Outlawed? Then hills and woods and streams Are outlawed, too! Proud world, from our immortal dreams, We banish you.
THE YOUNG FRIAR
When leaves broke out on the wild briar, And bells for matins rung, Sorrow came to the old friar —Hundreds of years ago it was!— And May came to the young.
The old was ripening for the sky, The young was twenty-four. The Franklin's daughter passed him by, Reading a painted missal-book, Beside the chapel door.
With brown cassock and sandalled feet, And red Spring wine for blood; The very next noon he chanced to meet The Franklin's daughter, in a green May twilight, Walking through the wood.
Pax vobiscum—to a maid The crosiered ferns among! But hers was only the Saxon, And his the Norman tongue; And the Latin taught by the old friar Made music for the young.
And never a better deed was done By Mother Church below Than when she made old England one, —Hundreds of years ago it was!— Hundreds of years ago.
Rich was the painted page they read Before that sunset died; Nut-brown hood by golden head, Murmuring Rosa Mystica, While nesting thrushes cried.
A Saxon maid with flaxen hair, And eyes of Sussex grey; A young monk out of Normandy:— "May is our Lady's month," he said, "And O, my love, my May!"
Then over the fallen missal-book The missel-thrushes sung Till—Domus Aurea—rose the moon And bells for vespers rung. It was gold and blue for the old friar, But hawthorn for the young.
For gown of green and brown hood, Before that curfew tolled, Had flown for ever through the wood —Hundreds of years ago it was!— But twenty summers old.
And empty stood his chapel stall, Empty his thin grey cell, Empty her seat in the Franklin's hall; And there were swords that searched for them Before the matin bell.
And, crowders tell, a sword that night Wrought them an evil turn, And that the may was not more white Than those white bones the robin found Among the roots of fern.