THE POEMS OF WILLIAM WATSON
New York MACMILLAN AND CO. AND LONDON 1893
Norwood Press J.S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith. Boston, Mass., U.S.A.
MISCELLANEOUS— PRELUDE AUTUMN WORLD-STRANGENESS "WHEN BIRDS WERE SONGLESS" THE MOCK SELF "THY VOICE FROM INMOST DREAMLAND CALLS" IN LALEHAM CHURCHYARD THE FLIGHT OF YOUTH "NAY, BID ME NOT MY CARES TO LEAVE" A CHILD'S HAIR THE KEY-BOARD "SCENTLESS FLOW'RS I BRING THEE" ON LANDOR'S "HELLENICS" To —— ON EXAGGERATED DEFERENCE TO FOREIGN LITERARY OPINION ENGLAND TO IRELAND MENSIS LACRIMARUM "UNDER THE DARK AND PINY STEEP" THE BLIND SUMMIT TO LORD TENNYSON SKETCH OF A POLITICAL CHARACTER ART MAXIMS THE GLIMPSE THE BALLAD OF THE "BRITAIN'S PRIDE" LINES THE RAVEN'S SHADOW LUX PERDITA ENGLAND AND HER COLONIES HISTORY THE EMPTY NEST IRELAND THE LUTE-PLAYER "AND THESE—ARE THESE INDEED THE END" THE RUSS AT KARA LIBERTY REJECTED LIFE WITHOUT HEALTH TO A FRIEND, CHAFING AT ENFORCED IDLENESS FROM INTERRUPTED HEALTH "WELL HE SLUMBERS, GREATLY SLAIN" AN EPISTLE TO AUSTIN DOBSON TO EDWARD CLODD TO EDWARD DOWDEN FELICITY VER TENEBROSUM, SONNETS OF MARCH AND APRIL 1885— THE SOUDANESE HASHEEN THE ENGLISH DEAD GORDON GORDON (concluded) THE TRUE PATRIOTISM RESTORED ALLEGIANCE THE POLITICAL LUMINARY FOREIGN MENACE HOME-ROOTEDNESS OUR EASTERN TREASURE REPORTED CONCESSIONS NIGHTMARE LAST WORD: TO THE COLONIES EPIGRAMS WORDSWORTH'S GRAVE LACHRYMAE MUSARUM DEDICATION OF "THE DREAM OF MAN" THE DREAM OF MAN SHELLEY'S CENTENARY A GOLDEN HOUR AT THE GRAVE OF CHARLES LAMB LINES IN A FLYLEAF OF "CHRISTABEL" LINES TO OUR NEW CENSOR RELUCTANT SUMMER THE GREAT MISGIVING "THE THINGS THAT ARE MORE EXCELLENT" BEAUTY'S METEMPSYCHOSIS ENGLAND MY MOTHER NIGHT THE FUGITIVE IDEAL "THE FORESTERS" SONG COLUMBUS THE PRINCE'S QUEST ANGELO THE QUESTIONER THE RIVER CHANGED VOICES A SUNSET A SONG OF THREE SINGERS LOVE'S ASTROLOGY THREE FLOWERS THREE ETERNITIES LOVE OUTLOVED VANISHINGS BEETHOVEN GOD-SEEKING SKYFARING
The mighty poets from their flowing store Dispense like casual alms the careless ore; Through throngs of men their lonely way they go, Let fall their costly thoughts, nor seem to know.— Not mine the rich and showering hand, that strews The facile largess of a stintless Muse. A fitful presence, seldom tarrying long, Capriciously she touches me to song— Then leaves me to lament her flight in vain, And wonder will she ever come again.
Thou burden of all songs the earth hath sung, Thou retrospect in Time's reverted eyes, Thou metaphor of everything that dies, That dies ill-starred, or dies beloved and young And therefore blest and wise,— O be less beautiful, or be less brief, Thou tragic splendour, strange, and full of fear! In vain her pageant shall the Summer rear? At thy mute signal, leaf by golden leaf, Crumbles the gorgeous year.
Ah, ghostly as remembered mirth, the tale Of Summer's bloom, the legend of the Spring! And thou, too, flutterest an impatient wing, Thou presence yet more fugitive and frail, Thou most unbodied thing, Whose very being is thy going hence, And passage and departure all thy theme; Whose life doth still a splendid dying seem, And thou at height of thy magnificence A figment and a dream.
Stilled is the virgin rapture that was June, And cold is August's panting heart of fire; And in the storm-dismantled forest-choir For thine own elegy thy winds attune Their wild and wizard lyre: And poignant grows the charm of thy decay, The pathos of thy beauty, and the sting, Thou parable of greatness vanishing! For me, thy woods of gold and skies of grey With speech fantastic ring.
For me, to dreams resigned, there come and go, 'Twixt mountains draped and hooded night and morn, Elusive notes in wandering wafture borne, From undiscoverable lips that blow An immaterial horn; And spectral seem thy winter-boding trees, Thy ruinous bowers and drifted foliage wet— Past and Future in sad bridal met, O voice of everything that perishes, And soul of all regret!
Strange the world about me lies, Never yet familiar grown— Still disturbs me with surprise, Haunts me like a face half known.
In this house with starry dome, Floored with gemlike plains and seas, Shall I never feel at home, Never wholly be at ease?
On from room to room I stray, Yet my Host can ne'er espy, And I know not to this day Whether guest or captive I.
So, between the starry dome And the floor of plains and seas, I have never felt at home, Never wholly been at ease.
"WHEN BIRDS WERE SONGLESS"
When birds were songless on the bough I heard thee sing. The world was full of winter, thou Wert full of spring.
To-day the world's heart feels anew The vernal thrill, And thine beneath the rueful yew Is wintry chill.
THE MOCK SELF
Few friends are mine, though many wights there be Who, meeting oft a phantasm that makes claim To be myself, and hath my face and name, And whose thin fraud I wink at privily, Account this light impostor very me. What boots it undeceive them, and proclaim Myself myself, and whelm this cheat with shame? I care not, so he leave my true self free, Impose not on me also; but alas! I too, at fault, bewildered, sometimes take Him for myself, and far from mine own sight, Torpid, indifferent, doth mine own self pass; And yet anon leaps suddenly awake, And spurns the gibbering mime into the night.
"THY VOICE FROM INMOST DREAMLAND CALLS"
Thy voice from inmost dreamland calls; The wastes of sleep thou makest fair; Bright o'er the ridge of darkness falls The cataract of thy hair.
The morn renews its golden birth: Thou with the vanquished night dost fade; And leav'st the ponderable earth Less real than thy shade.
IN LALEHAM CHURCHYARD
(AUGUST 18, 1890)
'Twas at this season, year by year, The singer who lies songless here Was wont to woo a less austere, Less deep repose, Where Rotha to Winandermere Unresting flows,—
Flows through a land where torrents call To far-off torrents as they fall, And mountains in their cloudy pall Keep ghostly state, And Nature makes majestical Man's lowliest fate.
There, 'mid the August glow, still came He of the twice-illustrious name, The loud impertinence of fame Not loth to flee— Not loth with brooks and fells to claim Fraternity.
Linked with his happy youthful lot, Is Loughrigg, then, at last forgot? Nor silent peak nor dalesman's cot Looks on his grave. Lulled by the Thames he sleeps, and not By Rotha's wave.
'Tis fittest thus! for though with skill He sang of beck and tarn and ghyll, The deep, authentic mountain-thrill Ne'er shook his page! Somewhat of worldling mingled still With bard and sage.
And 'twere less meet for him to lie Guarded by summits lone and high That traffic with the eternal sky And hear, unawed, The everlasting fingers ply The loom of God,
Than, in this hamlet of the plain, A less sublime repose to gain, Where Nature, genial and urbane, To man defers, Yielding to us the right to reign, Which yet is hers.
And nigh to where his bones abide, The Thames with its unruffled tide Seems like his genius typified,— Its strength, its grace, Its lucid gleam, its sober pride, Its tranquil pace.
But ah! not his the eventual fate Which doth the journeying wave await— Doomed to resign its limpid state And quickly grow Turbid as passion, dark as hate, And wide as woe.
Rather, it may be, over-much He shunned the common stain and smutch, From soilure of ignoble touch Too grandly free, Too loftily secure in such Cold purity.
But he preserved from chance control The fortress of his 'stablisht soul; In all things sought to see the Whole; Brooked no disguise; And set his heart upon the goal, Not on the prize.
With those Elect he shall survive Who seem not to compete or strive, Yet with the foremost still arrive, Prevailing still: Spirits with whom the stars connive To work their will.
And ye, the baffled many, who, Dejected, from afar off view The easily victorious few Of calm renown,— Have ye not your sad glory too, And mournful crown?
Great is the facile conqueror; Yet haply he, who, wounded sore, Breathless, unhorsed, all covered o'er With blood and sweat, Sinks foiled, but fighting evermore,— Is greater yet.
THE FLIGHT OF YOUTH
Youth! ere thou be flown away. Surely one last boon to-day Thou'lt bestow— One last light of rapture give, Rich and lordly fugitive! Ere thou go.
What, thou canst not? What, all spent? All thy spells of ravishment Pow'rless now? Gone thy magic out of date? Gone, all gone that made thee great?— Follow thou!
"NAY, BID ME NOT MY CARES TO LEAVE"
Nay, bid me not my cares to leave, Who cannot from their shadow flee. I do but win a short reprieve, 'Scaping to pleasure and to thee.
I may, at best, a moment's grace, And grant of liberty, obtain; Respited for a little space, To go back into bonds again.
A CHILD'S HAIR
A letter from abroad. I tear Its sheathing open, unaware What treasure gleams within; and there— Like bird from cage— Flutters a curl of golden hair Out of the page.
From such a frolic head 'twas shorn! ('Tis but five years since he was born.) Not sunlight scampering over corn Were merrier thing. A child? A fragment of the morn, A piece of Spring!
Surely an ampler, fuller day Than drapes our English skies with grey— A deeper light, a richer ray Than here we know— To this bright tress have given away Their living glow.
For Willie dwells where gentian flowers Make mimic sky in mountain bowers; And vineyards steeped in ardent hours Slope to the wave Where storied Chillon's tragic towers Their bases lave;
And over piny tracts of Vaud The rose of eve steals up the snow; And on the waters far below Strange sails like wings Half-bodilessly come and go, Fantastic things;
And tender night falls like a sigh On chalet low and chateau high; And the far cataract's voice comes nigh, Where no man hears; And spectral peaks impale the sky On silver spears.
Ah, Willie, whose dissevered tress Lies in my hand!—may you possess At least one sovereign happiness, Ev'n to your grave; One boon than which I ask naught less, Naught greater crave:
May cloud and mountain, lake and vale, Never to you be trite or stale As unto souls whose wellsprings fail Or flow defiled, Till Nature's happiest fairy-tale Charms not her child!
For when the spirit waxes numb, Alien and strange these shows become, And stricken with life's tedium The streams run dry, The choric spheres themselves are dumb, And dead the sky,—
Dead as to captives grown supine, Chained to their task in sightless mine: Above, the bland day smiles benign, Birds carol free, In thunderous throes of life divine Leaps the glad sea;
But they—their day and night are one. What is't to them, that rivulets run, Or what concern of theirs the sun? It seems as though Their business with these things was done Ages ago:
Only, at times, each dulled heart feels That somewhere, sealed with hopeless seals, The unmeaning heaven about him reels, And he lies hurled Beyond the roar of all the wheels Of all the world.
* * * * *
On what strange track one's fancies fare! To eyeless night in sunless lair 'Tis a far cry from Willie's hair; And here it lies— Human, yet something which can ne'er Grow sad and wise:
Which, when the head where late it lay In life's grey dusk itself is grey, And when the curfew of life's day By death is tolled, Shall forfeit not the auroral ray And eastern gold.
Five-and-thirty black slaves, Half-a-hundred white, All their duty but to sing For their Queen's delight, Now with throats of thunder, Now with dulcet lips, While she rules them royally With her finger-tips!
When she quits her palace, All the slaves are dumb— Dumb with dolour till the Queen Back to Court is come: Dumb the throats of thunder, Dumb the dulcet lips, Lacking all the sovereignty Of her finger-tips.
Dusky slaves and pallid, Ebon slaves and white, When the Queen was on her throne How you sang to-night! Ah, the throats of thunder! Ah, the dulcet lips! Ah, the gracious tyrannies Of her finger-tips!
Silent, silent, silent, All your voices now; Was it then her life alone Did your life endow? Waken, throats of thunder! Waken, dulcet lips! Touched to immortality By her finger-tips.
"SCENTLESS FLOW'RS I BRING THEE"
Scentless flow'rs I bring thee—yet In thy bosom be they set; In thy bosom each one grows Fragrant beyond any rose.
Sweet enough were she who could, In thy heart's sweet neighbourhood, Some redundant sweetness thus Borrow from that overplus.
ON LANDOR'S "HELLENICS"
Come hither, who grow cloyed to surfeiting With lyric draughts o'ersweet, from rills that rise On Hybla not Parnassus mountain: come With beakers rinsed of the dulcifluous wave Hither, and see a magic miracle Of happiest science, the bland Attic skies True-mirrored by an English well;—no stream Whose heaven-belying surface makes the stars Reel, with its restless idiosyncrasy; But well unstirred, save when at times it takes Tribute of lover's eyelids, and at times Bubbles with laughter of some sprite below.
(WITH A VOLUME OF EPIGRAMS)
Unto the Lady of The Nook Fly, tiny book. There thou hast lovers—even thou! Fly thither now.
Seven years hast thou for honour yearned, And scant praise earned; But ah! to win, at last, such friends, Is full amends.
ON EXAGGERATED DEFERENCE TO FOREIGN LITERARY OPINION
What! and shall we, with such submissive airs As age demands in reverence from the young, Await these crumbs of praise from Europe flung, And doubt of our own greatness till it bears The signet of your Goethes or Voltaires? We who alone in latter times have sung With scarce less power than Arno's exiled tongue— We who are Milton's kindred, Shakespeare's heirs. The prize of lyric victory who shall gain If ours be not the laurel, ours the palm? More than the froth and flotsam of the Seine, More than your Hugo-flare against the night, And more than Weimar's proud elaborate calm, One flash of Byron's lightning, Wordsworth's light.
ENGLAND TO IRELAND
Spouse whom my sword in the olden time won me, Winning me hatred more sharp than a sword— Mother of children who hiss at or shun me, Curse or revile me, and hold me abhorred— Heiress of anger that nothing assuages, Mad for the future, and mad from the past— Daughter of all the implacable ages, Lo, let us turn and be lovers at last!
Lovers whom tragical sin hath made equal, One in transgression and one in remorse. Bonds may be severed, but what were the sequel? Hardly shall amity come of divorce. Let the dead Past have a royal entombing, O'er it the Future built white for a fane! I that am haughty from much overcoming Sue to thee, supplicate—nay, is it vain?
Hate and mistrust are the children of blindness,— Could we but see one another, 'twere well! Knowledge is sympathy, charity, kindness, Ignorance only is maker of hell. Could we but gaze for an hour, for a minute, Deep in each other's unfaltering eyes, Love were begun—for that look would begin it— Born in the flash of a mighty surprise.
Then should the ominous night-bird of Error, Scared by a sudden irruption of day, Flap his maleficent wings, and in terror Flit to the wilderness, dropping his prey. Then should we, growing in strength and in sweetness, Fusing to one indivisible soul, Dazzle the world with a splendid completeness, Mightily single, immovably whole.
Thou, like a flame when the stormy winds fan it, I, like a rock to the elements bare,— Mixed by love's magic, the fire and the granite, Who should compete with us, what should compare? Strong with a strength that no fate might dissever, One with a oneness no force could divide, So were we married and mingled for ever, Lover with lover, and bridegroom with bride.
March, that comes roaring, maned, with rampant paws, And bleatingly withdraws; March,—'tis the year's fantastic nondescript, That, born when frost hath nipped The shivering fields, or tempest scarred the hills, Dies crowned with daffodils. The month of the renewal of the earth By mingled death and birth: But, England! in this latest of thy years Call it—the Month of Tears.
"UNDER THE DARK AND PINY STEEP"
Under the dark and piny steep We watched the storm crash by: We saw the bright brand leap and leap Out of the shattered sky.
The elements were minist'ring To make one mortal blest; For, peal by peal, you did but cling The closer to his breast.
THE BLIND SUMMIT
[A Viennese gentleman, who had climbed the Hoch-Koenig without a guide, was found dead, in a sitting posture, near the summit, upon which he had written, "It is cold, and clouds shut out the view."—Vide the Daily News of September 10, 1891.]
So mounts the child of ages of desire, Man, up the steeps of Thought; and would behold Yet purer peaks, touched with unearthlier fire, In sudden prospect virginally new; But on the lone last height he sighs: "'Tis cold, And clouds shut out the view."
Ah, doom of mortals! Vexed with phantoms old, Old phantoms that waylay us and pursue,— Weary of dreams,—we think to see unfold The eternal landscape of the Real and True; And on our Pisgah can but write: "'Tis cold, And clouds shut out the view."
TO LORD TENNYSON
(WITH A VOLUME OF VERSE)
Master and mage, our prince of song, whom Time, In this your autumn mellow and serene, Crowns ever with fresh laurels, nor less green Than garlands dewy from your verdurous prime; Heir of the riches of the whole world's rhyme, Dow'r'd with the Doric grace, the Mantuan mien, With Arno's depth and Avon's golden sheen; Singer to whom the singing ages climb, Convergent;—if the youngest of the choir May snatch a flying splendour from your name Making his page illustrious, and aspire For one rich moment your regard to claim, Suffer him at your feet to lay his lyre And touch the skirts and fringes of your fame.
SKETCH OF A POLITICAL CHARACTER
There is a race of men, who master life, Their victory being inversely as their strife; Who capture by refraining from pursuit; Shake not the bough, yet load their hands with fruit; The earth's high places who attain to fill, By most indomitably sitting still. While others, full upon the fortress hurled, Lay fiery siege to the embattled world, Of such rude arts their natures feel no need; Greatly inert, they lazily succeed; Find in the golden mean their proper bliss, And doing nothing, never do amiss; But lapt in men's good graces live, and die By all regretted, nobody knows why.
Cast in this fortunate Olympian mould, The admirable * * * * behold; Whom naught could dazzle or mislead, unless 'Twere the wild light of fatal cautiousness; Who never takes a step from his own door But he looks backward ere he looks before. When once he starts, it were too much to say He visibly gets farther on his way: But all allow, he ponders well his course— For future uses hoarding present force. The flippant deem him slow and saturnine, The summed-up phlegm of that illustrious line; But we, his honest adversaries, who More highly prize him than his false friends do, Frankly admire that simple mass and weight— A solid Roman pillar of the State, So inharmonious with the baser style Of neighbouring columns grafted on the pile, So proud and imperturbable and chill, Chosen and matched so excellently ill, He seems a monument of pensive grace, Ah, how pathetically out of place!
Would that some call he could not choose but heed— Of private passion or of public need— At last might sting to life that slothful power, And snare him into greatness for an hour!
Often ornateness Goes with greatness; Oftener felicity Comes of simplicity.
Talent that's cheapest Affects singularity. Thoughts that dive deepest Rise radiant in clarity.
Life is rough: Sing smoothly, O Bard. Enough, enough, To have found life hard.
No record Art keeps Of her travail and throes. There is toil on the steeps,— On the summits, repose.
Just for a day you crossed my life's dull track, Put my ignobler dreams to sudden shame, Went your bright way, and left me to fall back On my own world of poorer deed and aim;
To fall back on my meaner world, and feel Like one who, dwelling 'mid some, smoke-dimmed town,— In a brief pause of labour's sullen wheel,— 'Scaped from the street's dead dust and factory's frown,—
In stainless daylight saw the pure seas roll, Saw mountains pillaring the perfect sky: Then journeyed home, to carry in his soul The torment of the difference till he die.
THE BALLAD OF THE "BRITAIN'S PRIDE"
It was a skipper of Lowestoft That trawled the northern sea, In a smack of thrice ten tons and seven, And the Britain's Pride was she. And the waves were high to windward, And the waves were high to lee, And he said as he lost his trawl-net, "What is to be, will be."
His craft she reeled and staggered, But he headed her for the hithe, In a storm that threatened to mow her down As grass is mown by the scythe; When suddenly through the cloud-rift The moon came sailing soft, And he saw one mast of a sunken ship Like a dead arm held aloft.
And a voice came faint from the rigging— "Help! help!" it whispered and sighed— And a single form to the sole mast clung, In the roaring darkness wide. Oh the crew were but four hands all told, On board of the Britain's Pride, And ever "Hold on till daybreak!" Across the night they cried.
Slowly melted the darkness, Slowly rose the sun, And only the lad in the rigging Was left, out of thirty-one, To tell the tale of his captain, The English sailor true, That did his duty and met his death As English sailors do.
Peace to the gallant spirit, The greatly proved and tried, And to all who have fed the hungry sea That is still unsatisfied; And honour and glory for ever, While rolls the unresting tide, To the skipper of little Lowestoft, And the crew of the Britain's Pride.
(WITH A VOLUME OF THE AUTHOR'S POEMS SENT TO M.R.C.)
Go, Verse, nor let the grass of tarrying grow Beneath thy feet iambic. Southward go O'er Thamesis his stream, nor halt until Thou reach the summit of a suburb hill To lettered fame not unfamiliar: there Crave rest and shelter of a scholiast fair, Who dwelleth in a world of old romance, Magic emprise and faery chevisaunce. Tell her, that he who made thee, years ago, By northern stream and mountain, and where blow Great breaths from the sea-sunset, at this day One half thy fabric fain would rase away; But she must take thee faults and all, my Verse, Forgive thy better and forget thy worse. Thee, doubtless, she shall place, not scorned, among More famous songs by happier minstrels sung;— In Shakespeare's shadow thou shalt find a home, Shalt house with melodists of Greece and Rome, Or awed by Dante's wintry presence be, Or won by Goethe's regal suavity, Or with those masters hardly less adored Repose, of Rydal and of Farringford; And—like a mortal rapt from men's abodes Into some skyey fastness of the gods— Divinely neighboured, thou in such a shrine Mayst for a moment dream thyself divine.
THE RAVEN'S SHADOW
Seabird, elemental sprite, Moulded of the sun and spray— Raven, dreary flake of night Drifting in the eye of day— What in common have ye two, Meeting 'twixt the blue and blue?
Thou to eastward carriest The keen savour of the foam,— Thou dost bear unto the west Fragrance from thy woody home, Where perchance a house is thine Odorous of the oozy pine.
Eastward thee thy proper cares, Things of mighty moment, call; Thee to westward thine affairs Summon, weighty matters all: I, where land and sea contest, Watch you eastward, watch you west,
Till, in snares of fancy caught, Mystically changed ye seem, And the bird becomes a thought, And the thought becomes a dream, And the dream, outspread on high, Lords it o'er the abject sky.
Surely I have known before Phantoms of the shapes ye be— Haunters of another shore 'Leaguered by another sea. There my wanderings night and morn Reconcile me to the bourn.
There the bird of happy wings Wafts the ocean-news I crave; Rumours of an isle he brings Gemlike on the golden wave: But the baleful beak and plume Scatter immelodious gloom.
Though the flow'rs be faultless made, Perfectly to live and die— Though the bright clouds bloom and fade Flow'rlike 'midst a meadowy sky— Where this raven roams forlorn Veins of midnight flaw the morn.
He not less will croak and croak As he ever caws and caws, Till the starry dance he broke, Till the sphery paean pause, And the universal chime Falter out of tune and time.
Coils the labyrinthine sea Duteous to the lunar will, But some discord stealthily Vexes the world-ditty still, And the bird that caws and caws Clasps creation with his claws.
Thine were the weak, slight hands That might have taken this strong soul, and bent Its stubborn substance to thy soft intent, And bound it unresisting, with such bands As not the arm of envious heaven had rent.
Thine were the calming eyes That round my pinnace could have stilled the sea, And drawn thy voyager home, and bid him be Pure with their pureness, with their wisdom wise, Merged in their light, and greatly lost in thee.
But thou—thou passed'st on, With whiteness clothed of dedicated days, Cold, like a star; and me in alien ways Thou leftest following life's chance lure, where shone The wandering gleam that beckons and betrays.
ENGLAND AND HER COLONIES
She stands, a thousand-wintered tree, By countless morns impearled; Her broad roots coil beneath the sea, Her branches sweep the world; Her seeds, by careless winds conveyed, Clothe the remotest strand With forests from her scatterings made, New nations fostered in her shade, And linking land with land.
O ye by wandering tempest sown 'Neath every alien star, Forget not whence the breath was blown That wafted you afar! For ye are still her ancient seed On younger soil let fall— Children of Britain's island-breed, To whom the Mother in her need Perchance may one day call.
Here, peradventure, in this mirror glassed, Who gazes long and well at times beholds Some sunken feature of the mummied Past, But oftener only the embroidered folds And soiled magnificence of her rent robe Whose tattered skirts are ruined dynasties That sweep the dust of aeons in our eyes And with their trailing pride cumber the globe.— For lo! the high, imperial Past is dead: The air is full of its dissolved bones; Invincible armies long since vanquished, Kings that remember not their awful thrones, Powerless potentates and foolish sages, Impede the slow steps of the pompous ages.
THE EMPTY NEST
I saunter all about the pleasant place You made thrice pleasant, O my friends, to me; But you are gone where laughs in radiant grace That thousand-memoried unimpulsive sea. To storied precincts of the southern foam, Dear birds of passage, ye have taken wing, And ah! for me, when April wafts you home, The spring will more than ever be the spring Still lovely, as of old, this haunted ground; Tenderly, still, the autumn sunshine falls; And gorgeously the woodlands tower around, Freak'd with wild light at golden intervals: Yet, for the ache your absence leaves, O friends, Earth's lifeless pageantries are poor amends.
(DECEMBER 1, 1890)
In the wild and lurid desert, in the thunder-travelled ways, 'Neath the night that ever hurries to the dawn that still delays, There she clutches at illusions, and she seeks a phantom goal With the unattaining passion that consumes the unsleeping soul: And calamity enfolds her, like the shadow of a ban, And the niggardness of Nature makes the misery of man: And in vain the hand is stretched to lift her, stumbling in the gloom, While she follows the mad fen-fire that conducts her to her doom.
She was a lady great and splendid, I was a minstrel in her halls. A warrior like a prince attended Stayed his steed by the castle walls.
Far had he fared to gaze upon her. "O rest thee now, Sir Knight," she said. The warrior wooed, the warrior won her, In time of snowdrops they were wed. I made sweet music in his honour, And longed to strike him dead.
I passed at midnight from her portal, Throughout the world till death I rove: Ah, let me make this lute immortal With rapture of my hate and love!
"AND THESE—ARE THESE INDEED THE END"
And these—are these indeed the end, This grinning skull, this heavy loam? Do all green ways whereby we wend Lead but to yon ignoble home?
Ah well! Thine eyes invite to bliss; Thy lips are hives of summer still. I ask not other worlds while this Proffers me all the sweets I will.
THE RUSS AT KARA
O King of kings, that watching from Thy throne Sufferest the monster of Ust-Kara's hold, With bosom than Siberia's wastes more cold, And hear'st the wail of captives crushed and prone, And sett'st no sign in heaven! Shall naught atone For their wild pangs whose tale is yet scarce told, Women by uttermost woe made deadly bold, In the far dungeon's night that hid their moan? Why waits Thy shattering arm, nor smites this Power Whose beak and talons rend the unshielded breast, Whose wings shed terror and a plague of gloom, Whose ravin is the hearts of the oppressed; Whose brood are hell-births—Hate that bides its hour, Wrath, and a people's curse that loathe their doom?
About this heart thou hast Thy chains made fast, And think'st thou I would be Therefrom set free, And forth unbound be cast?
The ocean would as soon Entreat the moon Unsay the magic verse That seals him hers From silver noon to noon.
She stooped her pearly head Seaward, and said: "Would'st thou I gave to thee Thy liberty, In Time's youth forfeited?"
And from his inmost hold The answer rolled: "Thy bondman to remain Is sweeter pain, Dearer an hundredfold."
LIFE WITHOUT HEALTH
Behold life builded as a goodly house And grown a mansion ruinous With winter blowing through its crumbling walls! The master paceth up and down his halls, And in the empty hours Can hear the tottering of his towers And tremor of their bases underground. And oft he starts and looks around At creaking of a distant door Or echo of his footfall on the floor, Thinking it may be one whom he awaits And hath for many days awaited, Coming to lead him through the mouldering gates Out somewhere, from his home dilapidated.
TO A FRIEND
CHAFING AT ENFORCED IDLENESS FROM INTERRUPTED HEALTH
Soon may the edict lapse, that on you lays This dire compulsion of infertile days, This hardest penal toil, reluctant rest! Meanwhile I count you eminently blest, Happy from labours heretofore well done, Happy in tasks auspiciously begun. For they are blest that have not much to rue— That have not oft mis-heard the prompter's cue, Stammered and stumbled and the wrong parts played, And life a Tragedy of Errors made.
"WELL HE SLUMBERS, GREATLY SLAIN"
Well he slumbers, greatly slain, Who in splendid battle dies; Deep his sleep in midmost main Pillowed upon pearl who lies.
Ease, of all good gifts the best, War and wave at last decree: Love alone denies us rest, Crueller than sword or sea.
So, into Cornwall you go down, And leave me loitering here in town. For me, the ebb of London's wave, Not ocean-thunder in Cornish cave. My friends (save only one or two) Gone to the glistening marge, like you,— The opera season with blare and din Dying sublime in Lohengrin,— Houses darkened, whose blinded panes All thoughts, save of the dead, preclude,— The parks a puddle of tropic rains,— Clubland a pensive solitude,— For me, now you and yours are flown, The fellowship of books alone!
For you, the snaky wave, upflung With writhing head and hissing tongue; The weed whose tangled fibres tell Of some inviolate deep-sea dell; The faultless, secret-chambered shell, Whose sound is an epitome Of all the utterance of the sea; Great, basking, twinkling wastes of brine; Far clouds of gulls that wheel and swerve In unanimity divine, With undulation serpentine, And wondrous, consentaneous curve, Flashing in sudden silver sheen, Then melting on the sky-line keen; The world-forgotten coves that seem Lapt in some magic old sea-dream, Where, shivering off the milk-white foam, Lost airs wander, seeking home, And into clefts and caverns peep, Fissures paven with powdered shell, Recesses of primeval sleep, Tranced with an immemorial spell; The granite fangs eternally Rending the blanch'd lips of the sea; The breaker clutching land, then hurled Back on its own tormented world; The mountainous upthunderings, The glorious energy of things, The power, the joy, the cosmic thrill, Earth's ecstasy made visible, World-rapture old as Night and new As sunrise;—this, all this, for you!
So, by Atlantic breezes fanned, You roam the limits of the land, And I in London's world abide, Poor flotsam on the human tide!— Nay, rather, isled amid the stream— Watching the flood—and, half in dream Guessing the sources whence it rose, And musing to what Deep it flows.
For still the ancient riddles mar Our joy in man, in leaf, in star. The Whence and Whither give no rest, The Wherefore is a hopeless quest; And the dull wight who never thinks,— Who, chancing on the sleeping Sphinx, Passes unchallenged,—fares the best!
But ill it suits this random verse The high enigmas to rehearse, And touch with desultory tongue Secrets no man from Night hath wrung. We ponder, question, doubt—and pray The Deep to answer Yea or Nay; And what does the engirdling wave, The undivulging, yield us, save Aspersion of bewildering spray? We do but dally on the beach, Writing our little thoughts full large, While Ocean with imperious speech Derides us trifling by the marge. Nay, we are children, who all day Beside the unknown waters play, And dig with small toy-spade the sand, Thinking our trenches wondrous deep, Till twilight falls, and hand-in-hand Nurse takes us home, well tired, to sleep; Sleep, and forget our toys, and be Lulled by the great unsleeping sea.
Enough!—to Cornwall you go down, And I tag rhymes in London town.
TO AUSTIN DOBSON
Yes! urban is your Muse, and owns An empire based on London stones; Yet flow'rs, as mountain violets sweet, Spring from the pavement 'neath her feet.
Of wilder birth this Muse of mine, Hill-cradled, and baptized with brine; And 'tis for her a sweet despair To watch that courtly step and air!
Yet surely she, without reproof, Greeting may send from realms aloof, And even claim a tie in blood, And dare to deem it sisterhood.
For well we know, those Maidens be All daughters of Mnemosyne; And 'neath the unifying sun, Many the songs—but Song is one.
TO EDWARD CLODD
Friend, in whose friendship I am twice well-starred, A debt not time may cancel is your due; For was it not your praise that earliest drew, On me obscure, that chivalrous regard, Ev'n his, who, knowing fame's first steep how hard, With generous lips no faltering clarion blew, Bidding men hearken to a lyre by few Heeded, nor grudge the bay to one more bard? Bitter the task, year by inglorious year, Of suitor at the world's reluctant ear. One cannot sing for ever, like a bird, For sole delight of singing! Him his mate Suffices, listening with a heart elate; Nor more his joy, if all the rapt heav'n heard.
TO EDWARD DOWDEN
ON RECEIVING FROM HIM A COPY OF "THE LIFE OF SHELLEY"
First, ere I slake my hunger, let me thank The giver of the feast. For feast it is, Though of ethereal, translunary fare— His story who pre-eminently of men Seemed nourished upon starbeams and the stuff Of rainbows, and the tempest, and the foam; Who hardly brooked on his impatient soul The fleshly trammels; whom at last the sea Gave to the fire, from whose wild arms the winds Took him, and shook him broadcast to the world. In my young days of fervid poesy He drew me to him with his strange far light,— He held me in a world all clouds and gleams, And vasty phantoms, where ev'n Man himself Moved like a phantom 'mid the clouds and gleams. Anon the Earth recalled me, and a voice Murmuring of dethroned divinities And dead times deathless upon sculptured urn— And Philomela's long-descended pain Flooding the night—and maidens of romance To whom asleep St. Agnes' love-dreams come— Awhile constrained me to a sweet duresse And thraldom, lapping me in high content, Soft as the bondage of white amorous arms. And then a third voice, long unheeded—held Claustral and cold, and dissonant and tame— Found me at last with ears to hear. It sang Of lowly sorrows and familiar joys, Of simple manhood, artless womanhood, And childhood fragrant as the limpid morn; And from the homely matter nigh at hand Ascending and dilating, it disclosed Spaces and avenues, calm heights and breadths Of vision, whence I saw each blade of grass With roots that groped about eternity, And in each drop of dew upon each blade The mirror of the inseparable All. The first voice, then the second, in their turns Had sung me captive. This voice sang me free. Therefore, above all vocal sons of men, Since him whose sightless eyes saw hell and heaven, To Wordsworth be my homage, thanks, and love. Yet dear is Keats, a lucid presence, great With somewhat of a glorious soullessness. And dear, and great with an excess of soul, Shelley, the hectic flamelike rose of verse, All colour, and all odour, and all bloom, Steeped in the noonlight, glutted with the sun, But somewhat lacking root in homely earth, Lacking such human moisture as bedews His not less starward stem of song, who, rapt Not less in glowing vision, yet retained His clasp of the prehensible, retained The warm touch of the world that lies to hand, Not in vague dreams of man forgetting men, Nor in vast morrows losing the to-day; Who trusted nature, trusted fate, nor found An Ogre, sovereign on the throne of things; Who felt the incumbence of the unknown, yet bore Without resentment the Divine reserve; Who suffered not his spirit to dash itself Against the crags and wavelike break in spray, But 'midst the infinite tranquillities Moved tranquil, and henceforth, by Rotha stream And Rydal's mountain-mirror, and where flows Yarrow thrice sung or Duddon to the sea, And wheresoe'er man's heart is thrilled by tones Struck from man's lyric heartstrings, shall survive.
A squalid, hideous town, where streams run black With vomit of a hundred roaring mills,— Hither occasion calls me; and ev'n here, All in the sable reek that wantonly Defames the sunlight and deflowers the morn, One may at least surmise the sky still blue. Ev'n here, the myriad slaves of the machine Deem life a boon; and here, in days far sped, I overheard a kind-eyed girl relate To her companions, how a favouring chance By some few shillings weekly had increased The earnings of her household, and she said: "So now we are happy, having all we wished,"— Felicity indeed! though more it lay In wanting little than in winning all.
Felicity indeed! Across the years To me her tones come back, rebuking; me, Spreader of toils to snare the wandering Joy No guile may capture and no force surprise— Only by them that never wooed her, won.
O curst with wide desires and spacious dreams, Too cunningly do ye accumulate Appliances and means of happiness, E'er to be happy! Lavish hosts, ye make Elaborate preparation to receive A shy and simple guest, who, warned of all The ceremony and circumstance wherewith Ye mean to entertain her, will not come.
SONNETS OF MARCH AND APRIL 1885
They wrong'd not us, nor sought 'gainst us to wage The bitter battle. On their God they cried For succour, deeming justice to abide In heaven, if banish'd from earth's vicinage. And when they rose with a gall'd lion's rage, We, on the captor's, keeper's, tamer's side, We, with the alien tyranny allied, We bade them back to their Egyptian cage. Scarce knew they who we were! A wind of blight From the mysterious far north-west we came. Our greatness now their veriest babes have learn'd, Where, in wild desert homes, by day, by night, Thousands that weep their warriors unreturn'd, O England, O my country, curse thy name!
"Of British arms, another victory!" Triumphant words, through all the land's length sped. Triumphant words, but, being interpreted, Words of ill sound, woful as words can be. Another carnage by the drear Red Sea— Another efflux of a sea more red! Another bruising of the hapless head Of a wrong'd people yearning to be free. Another blot on her great name, who stands Confounded, left intolerably alone With the dilating spectre of her own Dark sin, uprisen from yonder spectral sands: Penitent more than to herself is known; England, appall'd by her own crimson hands.
THE ENGLISH DEAD
Give honour to our heroes fall'n, how ill Soe'er the cause that bade them forth to die. Honour to him, the untimely struck, whom high In place, more high in hope, 'twas fate's harsh will With tedious pain unsplendidly to kill. Honour to him, doom'd splendidly to die, Child of the city whose foster-child am I, Who, hotly leading up the ensanguin'd hill His charging thousand, fell without a word— Fell, but shall fall not from our memory. Also for them let honour's voice be heard Who nameless sleep, while dull time covereth With no illustrious shade of laurel tree, But with the poppy alone, their deeds and death.
Idle although our homage be and vain, Who loudly through the door of silence press And vie in zeal to crown death's nakedness, Not therefore shall melodious lips refrain Thy praises, gentlest warrior without stain, Denied the happy garland of success, Foil'd by dark fate, but glorious none the less, Greatest of losers, on the lone peak slain Of Alp-like virtue. Not to-day, and not To-morrow, shall thy spirit's splendour be Oblivion's victim; but when God shall find All human grandeur among men forgot, Then only shall the world, grown old and blind, Cease, in her dotage, to remember Thee.
Arab, Egyptian, English—by the sword Cloven, or pierced with spears, or bullet-mown— In equal fate they sleep: their dust is grown A portion of the fiery sands abhorred. And thou, what hast thou, hero, for reward, Thou, England's glory and her shame? O'erthrown Thou liest, unburied, or with grave unknown As his to whom on Nebo's height the Lord Showed all the land of Gilead, unto Dan; Judah sea-fringed; Manasseh and Ephraim; And Jericho palmy, to where Zoar lay; And in a valley of Moab buried him, Over against Beth-Peor, but no man Knows of his sepulchre unto this day.
THE TRUE PATRIOTISM
The ever-lustrous name of patriot To no man be denied because he saw Where in his country's wholeness lay the flaw, Where, on her whiteness, the unseemly blot. England! thy loyal sons condemn thee.—What! Shall we be meek who from thine own breasts draw Our fierceness? Not ev'n thou shalt overawe Us thy proud children nowise basely got. Be this the measure of our loyalty— To feel thee noble and weep thy lapse the more. This truth by thy true servants is confess'd— Thy sins, who love thee most, do most deplore. Know thou thy faithful! Best they honour thee Who honour in thee only what is best.
Dark is thy trespass, deep be thy remorse, O England! Fittingly thine own feet bleed, Submissive to the purblind guides that lead Thy weary steps along this rugged course. Yet ... when I glance abroad, and track the source More selfish far, of other nations' deed, And mark their tortuous craft, their jealous greed, Their serpent-wisdom or mere soulless force, Homeward returns my vagrant fealty, Crying, "O England, shouldst thou one day fall, Shatter'd in ruins by some Titan foe, Justice were thenceforth weaker throughout all The world, and Truth less passionately free, And God the poorer for thine overthrow."
THE POLITICAL LUMINARY
A skilful leech, so long as we were whole: Who scann'd the nation's every outward part, But ah! misheard the beating of its heart. Sire of huge sorrows, yet erect of soul. Swift rider with calamity for goal, Who, overtasking his equestrian art, Unstall'd a steed full willing for the start, But wondrous hard to curb or to control. Sometimes we thought he led the people forth: Anon he seemed to follow where they flew; Lord of the golden tongue and smiting eyes; Great out of season, and untimely wise: A man whose virtue, genius, grandeur, worth Wrought deadlier ill than ages can undo.
I marvel that this land, whereof I claim The glory of sonship—for it was erewhile A glory to be sprung of Britain's isle, Though now it well-nigh more resembles shame— I marvel that this land with heart so tame Can brook the northern insolence and guile. But most it angers me, to think how vile Art thou, how base, from whom the insult came, Unwieldly laggard, many an age behind Thy sister Powers, in brain and conscience both; In recognition of man's widening mind And flexile adaptation to its growth: Brute bulk, that bearest on thy back, half loth, One wretched man, most pitied of mankind.
I cannot boast myself cosmopolite; I own to "insularity," although 'Tis fall'n from fashion, as full well I know. For somehow, being a plain and simple wight, I am skin-deep a child of the new light, But chiefly am mere Englishman below, Of island-fostering; and can hate a foe, And trust my kin before the Muscovite. Whom shall I trust if not my kin? And whom Account so near in natural bonds as these Born of my mother England's mighty womb, Nursed on my mother England's mighty knees, And lull'd as I was lull'd in glory and gloom With cradle-song of her protecting seas?
OUR EASTERN TREASURE
In cobwebb'd corners dusty and dim I hear A thin voice pipingly revived of late, Which saith our India is a cumbrous weight, An idle decoration, bought too dear. The wiser world contemns not gorgeous gear; Just pride is no mean factor in a State; The sense of greatness keeps a nation great; And mighty they who mighty can appear. It may be that if hands of greed could steal From England's grasp the envied orient prize, This tide of gold would flood her still as now: But were she the same England, made to feel A brightness gone from out those starry eyes, A splendour from that constellated brow?
So we must palter, falter, cringe, and shrink, And when the bully threatens, crouch or fly.— There are who tell me with a shuddering eye That war's red cup is Satan's chosen drink. Who shall gainsay them? Verily I do think War is as hateful almost, and well-nigh As ghastly, as this terrible Peace whereby We halt for ever on the crater's brink And feed the wind with phrases, while we know There gapes at hand the infernal precipice O'er which a gossamer bridge of words we throw, Yet cannot choose but hear from the abyss The sulphurous gloom's unfathomable hiss And simmering lava's subterranean flow.
(Written during apparent imminence of war)
In a false dream I saw the Foe prevail. The war was ended; the last smoke had rolled Away: and we, erewhile the strong and bold, Stood broken, humbled, withered, weak and pale, And moan'd, "Our greatness is become a tale To tell our children's babes when we are old. They shall put by their playthings to be told How England once, before the years of bale, Throned above trembling, puissant, grandiose, calm, Held Asia's richest jewel in her palm; And with unnumbered isles barbaric, she The broad hem of her glistering robe impearl'd; Then, when she wound her arms about the world, And had for vassal the obsequious sea."
LAST WORD: TO THE COLONIES
Brothers beyond the Atlantic's loud expanse; And you that rear the innumerable fleece Far southward 'mid the ocean named of peace; Britons that past the Indian wave advance Our name and spirit and world-predominance; And you our kin that reap the earth's increase Where crawls that long-backed mountain till it cease Crown'd with the headland of bright esperance:— Remote compatriots wheresoe'er ye dwell, By your prompt voices ringing clear and true We know that with our England all is well: Young is she yet, her world-task but begun! By you we know her safe, and know by you Her veins are million but her heart is one.
'Tis human fortune's happiest height to be A spirit melodious, lucid, poised, and whole; Second in order of felicity I hold it, to have walk'd with such a soul.
* * * * *
The statue—Buonarroti said—doth wait, Thrall'd in the block, for me to emancipate. The poem—saith the poet—wanders free Till I betray it to captivity.
* * * * *
To keep in sight Perfection, and adore The vision, is the artist's best delight; His bitterest pang, that he can ne'er do more Than keep her long'd-for loveliness in sight.
* * * * *
If Nature be a phantasm, as thou say'st, A splendid fiction and prodigious dream, To reach the real and true I'll make no haste, More than content with worlds that only seem.
* * * * *
The Poet gathers fruit from every tree, Yea, grapes from thorns and figs from thistles he. Pluck'd by his hand, the basest weed that grows Towers to a lily, reddens to a rose.
* * * * *
Brook, from whose bridge the wandering idler peers To watch thy small fish dart or cool floor shine, I would that bridge whose arches all are years Spann'd not a less transparent wave than thine!
* * * * *
To Art we go as to a well, athirst, And see our shadow 'gainst its mimic skies, But in its depth must plunge and be immersed To clasp the naiad Truth where low she lies.
* * * * *
In youth the artist voweth lover's vows To Art, in manhood maketh her his spouse. Well if her charms yet hold for him such joy As when he craved some boon and she was coy!
* * * * *
Immured in sense, with fivefold bonds confined, Rest we content if whispers from the stars In waftings of the incalculable wind Come blown at midnight through our prison-bars.
* * * * *
Love, like a bird, hath perch'd upon a spray For thee and me to hearken what he sings. Contented, he forgets to fly away; But hush!... remind not Eros of his wings.
* * * * *
Think not thy wisdom can illume away The ancient tanglement of night and day. Enough, to acknowledge both, and both revere: They see not clearliest who see all things clear.
* * * * *
In mid whirl of the dance of Time ye start, Start at the cold touch of Eternity, And cast your cloaks about you, and depart: The minstrels pause not in their minstrelsy.
* * * * *
The beasts in field are glad, and have not wit To know why leapt their hearts when springtime shone. Man looks at his own bliss, considers it, Weighs it with curious fingers; and 'tis gone.
* * * * *
Momentous to himself as I to me Hath each man been that ever woman bore; Once, in a lightning-flash of sympathy, I felt this truth, an instant, and no more.
* * * * *
The gods man makes he breaks; proclaims them each Immortal, and himself outlives them all: But whom he set not up he cannot reach To shake His cloud-dark sun-bright pedestal.
* * * * *
The children romp within the graveyard's pale; The lark sings o'er a madhouse, or a gaol;— Such nice antitheses of perfect poise Chance in her curious rhetoric employs.
* * * * *
Our lithe thoughts gambol close to God's abyss, Children whose home is by the precipice. Fear not thy little ones shall o'er it fall: Solid, though viewless, is the girdling wall.
* * * * *
Lives there whom pain hath evermore pass'd by And Sorrow shunn'd with an averted eye? Him do thou pity, him above the rest, Him of all hapless mortals most unbless'd.
* * * * *
Say what thou wilt, the young are happy never. Give me bless'd Age, beyond the fire and fever,— Past the delight that shatters, hope that stings, And eager flutt'ring of life's ignorant wings.
* * * * *
Onward the chariot of the Untarrying moves; Nor day divulges him nor night conceals; Thou hear'st the echo of unreturning hooves And thunder of irrevocable wheels.
* * * * *
A deft musician does the breeze become Whenever an AEolian harp it finds: Hornpipe and hurdygurdy both are dumb Unto the most musicianly of winds.
* * * * *
I follow Beauty; of her train am I: Beauty whose voice is earth and sea and air; Who serveth, and her hands for all things ply; Who reigneth, and her throne is everywhere.
* * * * *
Toiling and yearning, 'tis man's doom to see No perfect creature fashion'd of his hands. Insulted by a flower's immaculacy, And mock'd at by the flawless stars he stands.
* * * * *
For metaphors of man we search the skies, And find our allegory in all the air. We gaze on Nature with Narcissus-eyes, Enamour'd of our shadow everywhere.
* * * * *
One music maketh its occult abode In all things scatter'd from great Beauty's hand; And evermore the deepest words of God Are yet the easiest to understand.
* * * * *
Enough of mournful melodies, my lute! Be henceforth joyous, or be henceforth mute. Song's breath is wasted when it does but fan The smouldering infelicity of man.
* * * * *
I pluck'd this flower, O brighter flower, for thee, There where the river dies into the sea. To kiss it the wild west wind hath made free: Kiss it thyself and give it back to me.
* * * * *
To be as this old elm full loth were I, That shakes in the autumn storm its palsied head. Hewn by the weird last woodman let me lie Ere the path rustle with my foliage shed.
* * * * *
Ah, vain, thrice vain in the end, thy hate and rage, And the shrill tempest of thy clamorous page. True poets but transcendent lovers be, And one great love-confession poesy.
* * * * *
His rhymes the poet flings at all men's feet, And whoso will may trample on his rhymes. Should Time let die a song that's true and sweet, The singer's loss were more than match'd by Time's.
* * * * *
ON LONGFELLOW'S DEATH
No puissant singer he, whose silence grieves To-day the great West's tender heart and strong; No singer vast of voice: yet one who leaves His native air the sweeter for his song.
* * * * *
BYRON THE VOLUPTUARY
Too avid of earth's bliss, he was of those Whom Delight flies because they give her chase. Only the odour of her wild hair blows Back in their faces hungering for her face.
* * * * *
ANTONY AT ACTIUM
He holds a dubious balance:—yet that scale, Whose freight the world is, surely shall prevail? No; Cleopatra droppeth into this One counterpoising orient sultry kiss.
* * * * *
The thousand painful steps at last are trod, At last the temple's difficult door we win; But perfect on his pedestal, the god Freezes us hopeless when we enter in.
* * * * *
He dwelt with the bright gods of elder time, On earth and in their cloudy haunts above. He loved them: and in recompense sublime, The gods, alas! gave him their fatal love.
* * * * *
AFTER READING "TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT"
Your Marlowe's page I close, my Shakspere's ope. How welcome—after gong and cymbal's din— The continuity, the long slow slope And vast curves of the gradual violin!
* * * * *
SHELLEY AND HARRIET WESTBROOK
A star look'd down from heaven and loved a flower Grown in earth's garden—loved it for an hour:
Let eyes that trace his orbit in the spheres Refuse not, to a ruin'd rosebud, tears.
* * * * *
THE PLAY OF "KING LEAR"
Here Love the slain with Love the slayer lies; Deep drown'd are both in the same sunless pool. Up from its depths that mirror thundering skies Bubbles the wan mirth of the mirthless Fool.
* * * *
TO A POET
Time, the extortioner, from richest beauty Takes heavy toll and wrings rapacious duty. Austere of feature if thou carve thy rhyme, Perchance 'twill pay the lesser tax to Time.
* * * * *
THE YEAR'S MINSTRELSY
Spring, the low prelude of a lordlier song: Summer, a music without hint of death: Autumn, a cadence lingeringly long: Winter, a pause;—the Minstrel-Year takes breath.
* * * * *
THE RUINED ABBEY
Flower fondled, clasp'd in ivy's close caress, It seems allied with Nature, yet apart:— Of wood's and wave's insensate loveliness The glad, sad, tranquil, passionate, human heart.
* * * * *
The captain's might, and mystery of the seer— Remoteness of Jehovah's colloquist, Nearness of man's heaven-advocate—are here: Alone Mount Nebo's harsh foreshadow is miss'd.
* * * * *
Adieu, white brows of Europe! sovereign brows, That wear the sunset for a golden tiar. With me in memory shall your phantoms house For ever, whiter than yourselves, and higher.
* * * * *
THE CATHEDRAL SPIRE
It soars like hearts of hapless men who dare To sue for gifts the gods refuse to allot; Who climb for ever toward they know not where, Baffled for ever by they know not what.
* * * * *
His friends he loved. His fellest earthly foes— Cats—I believe he did but feign to hate. My hand will miss the insinuated nose, Mine eyes the tail that wagg'd contempt at Fate.
* * * * *
THE METROPOLITAN UNDERGROUND RAILWAY
Here were a goodly place wherein to die;— Grown latterly to sudden change averse, All violent contrasts fain avoid would I On passing from this world into a worse.
* * * * *
TO A SEABIRD
Fain would I have thee barter fates with me,— Lone loiterer where the shells like jewels be, Hung on the fringe and frayed hem of the sea. But no,—'twere cruel, wild-wing'd Bliss! to thee.
* * * * *
ON DUeRER'S MELENCOLIA
What holds her fixed far eyes nor lets them range? Not the strange sea, strange earth, or heav'n more strange; But her own phantom dwarfing these great three, More strange than all, more old than heav'n, earth, sea.
* * * * *
He wooes for ever, with foil'd lips of drouth, The wave that wearies not to mock his mouth. 'Tis Lethe's; they alone that tide have quaff'd Who never thirsted for the oblivious draught.
* * * * *
A MAIDEN'S EPITAPH
She dwelt among us till the flowers, 'tis said, Grew jealous of her: with precipitate feet, As loth to wrong them unawares, she fled. Earth is less fragrant now, and heaven more sweet.
TO JAMES BROMLEY
WITH "WORDSWORTH'S GRAVE"
Ere vandal lords with lust of gold accurst Deface each hallowed hillside we revere— Ere cities in their million-throated thirst Menace each sacred mere— Let us give thanks because one nook hath been Unflooded yet by desecration's wave, The little churchyard in the valley green That holds our Wordsworth's grave.
'Twas there I plucked these elegiac blooms, There where he rests 'mid comrades fit and few, And thence I bring this growth of classic tombs, An offering, friend, to you— You who have loved like me his simple themes, Loved his sincere large accent nobly plain, And loved the land whose mountains and whose streams Are lovelier for his strain.
It may be that his manly chant, beside More dainty numbers, seems a rustic tune; It may be, thought has broadened since he died Upon the century's noon; It may be that we can no longer share The faith which from his fathers he received; It may be that our doom is to despair Where he with joy believed;—
Enough that there is none since risen who sings A song so gotten of the immediate soul, So instant from the vital fount of things Which is our source and goal; And though at touch of later hands there float More artful tones than from his lyre he drew, Ages may pass ere trills another note So sweet, so great, so true.
The old rude church, with bare, bald tower, is here; Beneath its shadow high-born Rotha flows; Rotha, remembering well who slumbers near, And with cool murmur lulling his repose
Rotha, remembering well who slumbers near. His hills, his lakes, his streams are with him yet. Surely the heart that read her own heart clear Nature forgets not soon: 'tis we forget.
We that with vagrant soul his fixity Have slighted; faithless, done his deep faith wrong; Left him for poorer loves, and bowed the knee To misbegotten strange new gods of song.
Yet, led by hollow ghost or beckoning elf Far from her homestead to the desert bourn, The vagrant soul returning to herself Wearily wise, must needs to him return.
To him and to the powers that with him dwell:— Inflowings that divulged not whence they came; And that secluded spirit unknowable, The mystery we make darker with a name;
The Somewhat which we name but cannot know, Ev'n as we name a star and only see His quenchless flashings forth, which ever show And ever hide him, and which are not he.
Poet who sleepest by this wandering wave! When thou wast born, what birth-gift hadst thou then? To thee what wealth was that the Immortals gave, The wealth thou gavest in thy turn to men?
Not Milton's keen, translunar music thine; Not Shakespeare's cloudless, boundless human view; Not Shelley's flush of rose on peaks divine; Nor yet the wizard twilight Coleridge knew.
What hadst thou that could make so large amends For all thou hadst not and thy peers possessed, Motion and fire, swift means to radiant ends?— Thou hadst, for weary feet, the gift of rest.
From Shelley's dazzling glow or thunderous haze, From Byron's tempest-anger, tempest-mirth, Men turned to thee and found—not blast and blaze, Tumult of tottering heavens, but peace on earth,
Nor peace that grows by Lethe, scentless flower, There in white languors to decline and cease; But peace whose names are also rapture, power, Clear sight, and love: for these are parts of peace.
I hear it vouched the Muse is with us still;— If less divinely frenzied than of yore, In lieu of feelings she has wondrous skill To simulate emotion felt no more.
Not such the authentic Presence pure, that made This valley vocal in the great days gone!— In his great days, while yet the spring-time played About him, and the mighty morning shone.
No word-mosaic artificer, he sang A lofty song of lowly weal and dole. Right from the heart, right to the heart it sprang, Or from the soul leapt instant to the soul.
He felt the charm of childhood, grace of youth, Grandeur of age, insisting to be sung. The impassioned argument was simple truth Half-wondering at its own melodious tongue.
Impassioned? ay, to the song's ecstatic core! But far removed were clangour, storm and feud; For plenteous health was his, exceeding store Of joy, and an impassioned quietude.
A hundred years ere he to manhood came, Song from celestial heights had wandered down, Put off her robe of sunlight, dew and flame, And donned a modish dress to charm the Town.
Thenceforth she but festooned the porch of things; Apt at life's lore, incurious what life meant. Dextrous of hand, she struck her lute's few strings; Ignobly perfect, barrenly content.
Unflushed with ardour and unblanched with awe, Her lips in profitless derision curled, She saw with dull emotion—if she saw— The vision of the glory of the world.
The human masque she watched, with dreamless eyes In whose clear shallows lurked no trembling shade: The stars, unkenned by her, might set and rise, Unmarked by her, the daisies bloom and fade.
The age grew sated with her sterile wit. Herself waxed weary on her loveless throne. Men felt life's tide, the sweep and surge of it, And craved a living voice, a natural tone.
For none the less, though song was but half true, The world lay common, one abounding theme. Man joyed and wept, and fate was ever new, And love was sweet, life real, death no dream.
In sad stern verse the rugged scholar-sage Bemoaned his toil unvalued, youth uncheered. His numbers wore the vesture of the age, But, 'neath it beating, the great heart was heard.
From dewy pastures, uplands sweet with thyme, A virgin breeze freshened the jaded day. It wafted Collins' lonely vesper-chime, It breathed abroad the frugal note of Gray.
It fluttered here and there, nor swept in vain The dusty haunts where futile echoes dwell,— Then, in a cadence soft as summer rain, And sad from Auburn voiceless, drooped and fell.
It drooped and fell, and one 'neath northern skies, With southern heart, who tilled his father's field, Found Poesy a-dying, bade her rise And touch quick nature's hem and go forth healed.
On life's broad plain the ploughman's conquering share Upturned the fallow lands of truth anew, And o'er the formal garden's trim parterre The peasant's team a ruthless furrow drew.
Bright was his going forth, but clouds ere long Whelmed him; in gloom his radiance set, and those Twin morning stars of the new century's song, Those morning stars that sang together, rose.
In elvish speech the Dreamer told his tale Of marvellous oceans swept by fateful wings.— The Seer strayed not from earth's human pale, But the mysterious face of common things
He mirrored as the moon in Rydal Mere Is mirrored, when the breathless night hangs blue: Strangely remote she seems and wondrous near, And by some nameless difference born anew.
Peace—peace—and rest! Ah, how the lyre is loth, Or powerless now, to give what all men seek! Either it deadens with ignoble sloth Or deafens with shrill tumult, loudly weak.
Where is the singer whose large notes and clear Can heal and arm and plenish and sustain? Lo, one with empty music floods the ear, And one, the heart refreshing, tires the brain.
And idly tuneful, the loquacious throng Flutter and twitter, prodigal of time, And little masters make a toy of song Till grave men weary of the sound of rhyme.
And some go prankt in faded antique dress, Abhorring to be hale and glad and free; And some parade a conscious naturalness, The scholar's not the child's simplicity.
Enough;—and wisest who from words forbear. The kindly river rails not as it glides; And suave and charitable, the winning air Chides not at all, or only him who chides.
Nature! we storm thine ear with choric notes. Thou answerest through the calm great nights and days, "Laud me who will: not tuneless are your throats; Yet if ye paused I should not miss the praise."
We falter, half-rebuked, and sing again. We chant thy desertness and haggard gloom, Or with thy splendid wrath inflate the strain, Or touch it with thy colour and perfume.
One, his melodious blood aflame for thee, Wooed with fierce lust, his hot heart world-defiled. One, with the upward eye of infancy, Looked in thy face, and felt himself thy child.
Thee he approached without distrust or dread— Beheld thee throned, an awful queen, above— Climbed to thy lap and merely laid his head Against thy warm wild heart of mother-love.
He heard that vast heart beating—thou didst press Thy child so close, and lov'dst him unaware. Thy beauty gladdened him; yet he scarce less Had loved thee, had he never found thee fair!
For thou wast not as legendary lands To which with curious eyes and ears we roam. Nor wast thou as a fane mid solemn sands, Where palmers halt at evening. Thou wast home.
And here, at home, still bides he; but he sleeps; Not to be wakened even at thy word; Though we, vague dreamers, dream he somewhere keeps An ear still open to thy voice still heard,—
Thy voice, as heretofore, about him blown, For ever blown about his silence now; Thy voice, though deeper, yet so like his own That almost, when he sang, we deemed 'twas thou!
Behind Helm Crag and Silver Howe the sheen Of the retreating day is less and less. Soon will the lordlier summits, here unseen, Gather the night about their nakedness.
The half-heard bleat of sheep comes from the hill, Faint sounds of childish play are in the air. The river murmurs past. All else is still. The very graves seem stiller than they were.
Afar though nation be on nation hurled, And life with toil and ancient pain depressed, Here one may scarce believe the whole wide world Is not at peace, and all man's heart at rest.
Rest! 'twas the gift he gave; and peace! the shade He spread, for spirits fevered with the sun. To him his bounties are come back—here laid In rest, in peace, his labour nobly done.
LACHRYMAE MUSARUM AND OTHER POEMS
TO RICHARD HOLT HUTTON AND MEREDITH TOWNSEND
(6TH OCTOBER 1892)
Low, like another's, lies the laurelled head: The life that seemed a perfect song is o'er: Carry the last great bard to his last bed. Land that he loved, thy noblest voice is mute. Land that he loved, that loved him! nevermore Meadow of thine, smooth lawn or wild sea-shore, Gardens of odorous bloom and tremulous fruit, Or woodlands old, like Druid couches spread, The master's feet shall tread. Death's little rift hath rent the faultless lute: The singer of undying songs is dead.
Lo, in this season pensive-hued and grave, While fades and falls the doomed, reluctant leaf From withered Earth's fantastic coronal, With wandering sighs of forest and of wave Mingles the murmur of a people's grief For him whose leaf shall fade not, neither fall. He hath fared forth, beyond these suns and showers. For us, the autumn glow, the autumn flame, And soon the winter silence shall be ours: Him the eternal spring of fadeless fame Crowns with no mortal flowers.
Rapt though he be from us, Virgil salutes him, and Theocritus; Catullus, mightiest-brained Lucretius, each Greets him, their brother, on the Stygian beach; Proudly a gaunt right hand doth Dante reach; Milton and Wordsworth bid him welcome home; Bright Keats to touch his raiment doth beseech; Coleridge, his locks aspersed with fairy foam, Calm Spenser, Chaucer suave, His equal friendship crave: And godlike spirits hail him guest, in speech Of Athens, Florence, Weimar, Stratford, Rome.
What needs his laurel our ephemeral tears, To save from visitation of decay? Not in this temporal sunlight, now, that bay Blooms, nor to perishable mundane ears Sings he with lips of transitory clay; For he hath joined the chorus of his peers In habitations of the perfect day: His earthly notes a heavenly audience hears, And more melodious are henceforth the spheres, Enriched with music stol'n from earth away.
He hath returned to regions whence he came. Him doth the spirit divine Of universal loveliness reclaim. All nature is his shrine. Seek him henceforward in the wind and sea, In earth's and air's emotion or repose, In every star's august serenity, And in the rapture of the flaming rose. There seek him if ye would not seek in vain, There, in the rhythm and music of the Whole; Yea, and for ever in the human soul Made stronger and more beauteous by his strain.
For lo! creation's self is one great choir, And what is nature's order but the rhyme Whereto the worlds keep time, And all things move with all things from their prime? Who shall expound the mystery of the lyre? In far retreats of elemental mind Obscurely comes and goes The imperative breath of song, that as the wind Is trackless, and oblivious whence it blows. Demand of lilies wherefore they are white, Extort her crimson secret from the rose, But ask not of the Muse that she disclose The meaning of the riddle of her might: Somewhat of all things sealed and recondite, Save the enigma of herself, she knows. The master could not tell, with all his lore, Wherefore he sang, or whence the mandate sped; Ev'n as the linnet sings, so I, he said;— Ah, rather as the imperial nightingale, That held in trance the ancient Attic shore, And charms the ages with the notes that o'er All woodland chants immortally prevail! And now, from our vain plaudits greatly fled, He with diviner silence dwells instead, And on no earthly sea with transient roar, Unto no earthly airs, he trims his sail, But far beyond our vision and our hail Is heard for ever and is seen no more.
No more, O never now, Lord of the lofty and the tranquil brow Whereon nor snows of time Have fall'n, nor wintry rime, Shall men behold thee, sage and mage sublime. Once, in his youth obscure, The maker of this verse, which shall endure By splendour of its theme that cannot die, Beheld thee eye to eye, And touched through thee the hand Of every hero of thy race divine, Ev'n to the sire of all the laurelled line, The sightless wanderer on the Ionian strand, With soul as healthful as the poignant brine, Wide as his skies and radiant as his seas, Starry from haunts of his Familiars nine, Glorious Maeonides. Yea, I beheld thee, and behold thee yet: Thou hast forgotten, but can I forget? The accents of thy pure and sovereign tongue, Are they not ever goldenly impressed On memory's palimpsest? I see the wizard locks like night that hung, I tread the floor thy hallowing feet have trod; I see the hands a nation's lyre that strung, The eyes that looked through life and gazed on God.
The seasons change, the winds they shift and veer; The grass of yesteryear Is dead; the birds depart, the groves decay: Empires dissolve and peoples disappear: Song passes not away. Captains and conquerors leave a little dust, And kings a dubious legend of their reign; The swords of Caesars, they are less than rust: The poet doth remain. Dead is Augustus, Maro is alive; And thou, the Mantuan of our age and clime, Like Virgil shalt thy race and tongue survive, Bequeathing no less honeyed words to time, Embalmed in amber of eternal rhyme, And rich with sweets from every Muse's hive; While to the measure of the cosmic rune For purer ears thou shalt thy lyre attune, And heed no more the hum of idle praise In that great calm our tumults cannot reach, Master who crown'st our immelodious days With flower of perfect speech.
DEDICATION OF "THE DREAM OF MAN"
TO LONDON, MY HOSTESS
City that waitest to be sung,— For whom no hand To mighty strains the lyre hath strung In all this land, Though mightier theme the mightiest ones Sang not of old, The thrice three sisters' godlike sons With lips of gold,— Till greater voice thy greatness sing In loftier times, Suffer an alien muse to bring Her votive rhymes.
Yes, alien in thy midst am I, Not of thy brood; The nursling of a norland sky Of rougher mood: To me, thy tarrying guest, to me, 'Mid thy loud hum, Strayed visions of the moor or sea Tormenting come. Above the thunder of the wheels That hurry by, From lapping of lone waves there steals A far-sent sigh;
And many a dream-reared mountain crest My feet have trod, There where thy Minster in the West Gropes toward God. Yet, from thy presence if I go, By woodlands deep Or ocean-fringes, thou, I know, Wilt haunt my sleep; Thy restless tides of life will foam, Still, in my sight; Thy imperturbable dark dome Will crown my night.
O sea of living waves that roll On golden sands, Or break on tragic reef and shoal 'Mid fatal lands; O forest wrought of living leaves, Some filled with Spring, Where joy life's festal raiment weaves And all birds sing,— Some trampled in the miry ways, Or whirled along By fury of tempestuous days,— Take thou my song!
For thou hast scorned not heretofore The gifts of rhyme I dropped, half faltering, at thy door, City sublime; And though 'tis true I am but guest Within thy gate, Unto thy hands I owe the best Awards of fate. Imperial hostess! thanks from me To thee belong: O living forest, living sea, Take thou my song!
THE DREAM OF MAN
To the eye and the ear of the Dreamer This Dream out of darkness flew, Through the horn or the ivory portal, But he wist not which of the two.
It was the Human Spirit, Of all men's souls the Soul, Man the unwearied climber, That climbed to the unknown goal. And up the steps of the ages, The difficult steep ascent, Man the unwearied climber Pauseless and dauntless went. AEons rolled behind him With thunder of far retreat, And still as he strove he conquered And laid his foes at his feet. Inimical powers of nature, Tempest and flood and fire, The spleen of fickle seasons That loved to baulk his desire, The breath of hostile climates, The ravage of blight and dearth, The old unrest that vexes The heart of the moody earth, The genii swift and radiant Sabreing heaven with flame, He, with a keener weapon, The sword of his wit, overcame. Disease and her ravening offspring, Pain with the thousand teeth, He drave into night primeval, The nethermost worlds beneath, Till the Lord of Death, the undying, Ev'n Asrael the King, No more with Furies for heralds Came armed with scourge and sting, But gentle of voice and of visage, By calm Age ushered and led, A guest, serenely featured, Entering, woke no dread. And, as the rolling aeons Retreated with pomp of sound, Man's spirit, grown too lordly For this mean orb to bound, By arts in his youth undreamed of His terrene fetters broke, With enterprise ethereal Spurning the natal yoke, And, stung with divine ambition, And fired with a glorious greed, He annexed the stars and the planets And peopled them with his seed.
Then said he, "The infinite Scripture I have read and interpreted clear, And searching all worlds I have found not My sovereign or my peer. In what room of the palace of nature Resides the invisible God? For all her doors I have opened, And all her floors I have trod. If greater than I be her tenant, Let him answer my challenging call: Till then I admit no rival, But crown myself master of all." And forth as that word went bruited, By Man unto Man were raised Fanes of devout self-homage, Where he who praised was the praised; And from vast unto vast of creation The new evangel ran, And an odour of world-wide incense Went up from Man unto Man; Until, on a solemn feast-day, When the world's usurping lord At a million impious altars His own proud image adored, God spake as He stept from His ambush: "O great in thine own conceit, I will show thee thy source, how humble, Thy goal, for a god how unmeet."
Thereat, by the word of the Maker The Spirit of Man was led To a mighty peak of vision, Where God to His creature said: "Look eastward toward time's sunrise." And, age upon age untold, The Spirit of Man saw clearly The Past as a chart out-rolled,— Beheld his base beginnings In the depths of time, and his strife, With beasts and crawling horrors For leave to live, when life Meant but to slay and to procreate, To feed and to sleep, among Mere mouths, voracities boundless, Blind lusts, desires without tongue, And ferocities vast, fulfilling Their being's malignant law, While nature was one hunger, And one hate, all fangs and maw.
With that, for a single moment, Abashed at his own descent, In humbleness Man's Spirit At the feet of the Maker bent; But, swifter than light, he recovered The stature and pose of his pride, And, "Think not thus to shame me With my mean birth," he cried. "This is my loftiest greatness, To have been born so low; Greater than Thou the ungrowing Am I that for ever grow." And God forbore to rebuke him, But answered brief and stern, Bidding him toward time's sunset His vision westward turn; And the Spirit of Man obeying Beheld as a chart out-rolled The likeness and form of the Future, Age upon age untold; Beheld his own meridian, And beheld his dark decline, His secular fall to nadir From summits of light divine, Till at last, amid worlds exhausted, And bankrupt of force and fire, 'Twas his, in a torrent of darkness, Like a sputtering lamp to expire.
Then a war of shame and anger Did the realm of his soul divide; "'Tis false, 'tis a lying vision," In the face of his God he cried. "Thou thinkest to daunt me with shadows; Not such as Thou feign'st is my doom: From glory to rise unto glory Is mine, who have risen from gloom. I doubt if Thou knew'st at my making How near to thy throne I should climb, O'er the mountainous slopes of the ages And the conquered peaks of time. Nor shall I look backward nor rest me Till the uttermost heights I have trod, And am equalled with Thee or above Thee, The mate or the master of God."
Ev'n thus Man turned from the Maker, With thundered defiance wild, And God with a terrible silence Reproved the speech of His child. And man returned to his labours, And stiffened the neck of his will; And the aeons still went rolling, And his power was crescent still. But yet there remained to conquer One foe, and the greatest—although Despoiled of his ancient terrors, At heart, as of old, a foe— Unmaker of all, and renewer, Who winnows the world with his wing, The Lord of Death, the undying, Ev'n Asrael the King.
And lo, Man mustered his forces The war of wars to wage, And with storm and thunder of onset Did the foe of foes engage, And the Lord of Death, the undying, Was beset and harried sore, In his immemorial fastness At night's aboriginal core. And during years a thousand Man leaguered his enemy's hold, While nature was one deep tremor, And the heart of the world waxed cold, Till the phantom battlements wavered, And the ghostly fortress fell, And Man with shadowy fetters Bound fast great Asrael.
So, to each star in the heavens, The exultant word was blown, The annunciation tremendous, Death is overthrown! And Space in her ultimate borders Prolonging the jubilant tone, With hollow ingeminations, Sighed, Death is overthrown! And God in His house of silence, Where He dwelleth aloof, alone, Paused in His tasks to hearken: Death is overthrown!
Then a solemn and high thanksgiving By Man unto Man was sung, In his temples of self-adoration, With his own multitudinous tongue; And he said to his Soul: "Rejoice thou For thy last great foe lies bound, Ev'n Asrael the Unmaker, Unmade, disarmed, discrowned."
And behold, his Soul rejoiced not, The breath of whose being was strife, For life with nothing to vanquish Seemed but the shadow of life. No goal invited and promised And divinely provocative shone; And Fear having fled, her sister, Blest Hope, in her train was gone; And the coping and crown of achievement Was hell than defeat more dire— The torment of all-things-compassed, The plague of nought-to-desire; And Man the invincible queller, Man with his foot on his foes, In boundless satiety hungred, Restless from utter repose, Victor of nature, victor Of the prince of the powers of the air, By mighty weariness vanquished, And crowned with august despair.
Then, at his dreadful zenith, He cried unto God: "O Thou Whom of old in my days of striving Methought I needed not,—now, In this my abject glory, My hopeless and helpless might, Hearken and cheer and succour!" And God from His lonely height, From eternity's passionless summits, On suppliant Man looked down, And His brow waxed human with pity, Belying its awful crown. "Thy richest possession," He answered, "Blest Hope, will I restore, And the infinite wealth of weakness Which was thy strength of yore; And I will arouse from slumber, In his hold where bound he lies, Thine enemy most benefic;— O Asrael, hear and rise!"
And a sound like the heart of nature Riven and cloven and torn, Announced, to the ear universal, Undying Death new-born. Sublime he rose in his fetters, And shook the chains aside Ev'n as some mortal sleeper 'Mid forests in autumntide Rises and shakes off lightly The leaves that lightly fell On his limbs and his hair unheeded While as yet he slumbered well.
And Deity paused and hearkened, Then turned to the undivine, Saying, "O Man, My creature, Thy lot was more blest than Mine. I taste not delight of seeking, Nor the boon of longing know. There is but one joy transcendent, And I hoard it not but bestow. I hoard it not nor have tasted, But freely I gave it to thee— The joy of most glorious striving, Which dieth in victory." Thus, to the Soul of the Dreamer, This Dream out of darkness flew, Through the horn or the ivory portal, But he wist not which of the two.