THE VERSE-BOOK OF A HOMELY WOMAN
By Fay Inchfawn
[Elizabeth Rebecca Ward]
THE LONG VIEW
WITHIN MY HOUSE
IN SUCH AN HOUR
THE DAILY INTERVIEW
THE LITTLE HOUSE
A WOMAN IN HOSPITAL
ON WASHING DAY
WHEN BABY STRAYED
IF ONLY ——
THE DEAR FOLKS IN DEVON
THE PRIZE FIGHT
THE HOME LIGHTS
TO AN OLD TEAPOT
TO A REBELLIOUS DAUGHTER
THE NAUGHTY DAY
TO A LITTLE WHITE BIRD
WHEN HE COMES
OUT OF DOORS
SONG OF A WOODLAND STREAM
LUGGAGE IN ADVANCE
AT THE CROSS ROADS
SUMMER MET ME
THE LAD'S LOVE BY THE GATE
IN DORSET DEAR
THE FLIGHT OF THE FAIRIES
THE STREET PLAYER
ON ALL SOULS' EVE
THE LOG FIRE
GOD SAVE THE KING
MY FIRST LOVE, MY MOTHER
PART I. INDOORS
The Long View
Some day of days! Some dawning yet to be I shall be clothed with immortality!
And, in that day, I shall not greatly care That Jane spilt candle grease upon the stair.
It will not grieve me then, as once it did, That careless hands have chipped my teapot lid.
I groan, being burdened. But, in that glad day, I shall forget vexations of the way.
That needs were often great, when means were small, Will not perplex me any more at all A few short years at most (it may be less), I shall have done with earthly storm and stress.
So, for this day, I lay me at Thy feet. O, keep me sweet, my Master! Keep me sweet!
Within my House
First, there's the entrance, narrow, and so small, The hat-stand seems to fill the tiny hall; That staircase, too, has such an awkward bend, The carpet rucks, and rises up on end! Then, all the rooms are cramped and close together; And there's a musty smell in rainy weather. Yes, and it makes the daily work go hard To have the only tap across a yard. These creaking doors, these draughts, this battered paint, Would try, I think, the temper of a saint,
How often had I railed against these things, With envies, and with bitter murmurings For spacious rooms, and sunny garden plots! Until one day, Washing the breakfast dishes, so I think, I paused a moment in my work to pray; And then and there All life seemed suddenly made new and fair; For, like the Psalmist's dove among the pots (Those endless pots, that filled the tiny sink!), My spirit found her wings.
"Lord" (thus I prayed), "it matters not at all That my poor home is ill-arranged and small: I, not the house, am straitened; Lord, 'tis I! Enlarge my foolish heart, that by-and-by I may look up with such a radiant face Thou shalt have glory even in this place. And when I trip, or stumble unawares In carrying water up these awkward stairs, Then keep me sweet, and teach me day by day To tread with patience Thy appointed way. As for the house . . . . Lord, let it be my part To walk within it with a perfect heart."
See, I am cumbered, Lord, With serving, and with small vexa- tious things. Upstairs, and down, my feet Must hasten, sure and fleet. So weary that I cannot heed Thy word; So tired, I cannot now mount up with wings. I wrestle—how I wrestle!—through the hours. Nay, not with principalities, nor powers— Dark spiritual foes of God's and man's— But with antagonistic pots and pans: With footmarks in the hall, With smears upon the wall, With doubtful ears, and small unwashen hands, And with a babe's innumerable demands.
I toil with feverish haste, while tear-drops glisten,
(O, child of mine, be still. And listen— listen!)
At last, I laid aside Important work, no other hands could do So well (I thought), no skill contrive so true. And with my heart's door open—open wide— With leisured feet, and idle hands, I sat. I, foolish, fussy, blind as any bat, Sat down to listen, and to learn. And lo, My thousand tasks were done the better so.
I would that you should know, Dear mother, that I love you—love you so! That I remember other days and years; Remember childish joys and childish fears. And this, because my baby's little hand Opened my own heart's door and made me understand.
I wonder how you could Be always kind and good! So quick to hear; to tend My smallest ills; to lend Such sympathising ears Swifter than ancient seer's. I never yet knew hands so soft and kind, Nor any cheek so smooth, nor any mind So full of tender thoughts. . . . Dear mother, now I think that I can guess a little how You must have looked for some response, some sign, That all my tiresome wayward heart was thine.
And sure it was! You were my first dear love! You who first pointed me to God above; You who seemed hearkening to my lightest word, And in the dark night seasons always heard When I came trembling, knocking at your door. Forgive me, mother, if my whims outwore Your patient heart. Or if in later days I sought out foolish unfamiliar ways; If ever, mother dear, I loosed my hold Of your loved hand; or, headstrong, thought you cold, Forgive me, mother! Oh, forgive me, dear! I am come back at last—you see me here, Your loving child. . . . And, mother, on my knee I pray that thus my child may think of me!
In Such an Hour
Sometimes, when everything goes wrong: When days are short, and nights are long; When wash-day brings so dull a sky That not a single thing will dry. And when the kitchen chimney smokes, And when there's naught so "queer" as folks! When friends deplore my faded youth, And when the baby cuts a tooth. While John, the baby last but one, Clings round my skirts till day is done; When fat, good-tempered Jane is glum, And butcher's man forgets to come.
Sometimes, I say, on days like these, I get a sudden gleam of bliss. "Not on some sunny day of ease, He'll come . . but on a day like this!" And, in the twinkling of an eye, These tiresome things will all go by!
And, 'tis a curious thing, but Jane Is sure, just then, to smile again; Or, out the truant sun will peep, And both the babies fall asleep. The fire burns up with roar sublime, And butcher's man is just in time. And oh! My feeble faith grows strong Sometimes, when everything goes wrong!
The Daily Interview
Such a sensation Sunday's preacher made. "Christian!" he cried, "what is your stock- in-trade? Alas! Too often nil. No time to pray; No interview with Christ from day to day, A hurried prayer, maybe, just gabbled through; A random text—for any one will do." Then gently, lovingly, with look intense, He leaned towards us— "Is this common sense? No person in his rightful mind will try To run his business so, lest by-and-by The thing collapses, smirching his good name, And he, insolvent, face the world with shame."
I heard it all; and something inly said That all was true. The daily toil and press Had crowded out my hopes of holiness. Still, my old self rose, reasoning: How can you, With strenuous work to do— Real slogging work—say, how can you keep pace With leisured folks? Why, you could grow in grace If you had time . . . the daily Interview Was never meant for those who wash and bake.
But yet a small Voice whispered: "For My sake Keep tryst with Me! There are so many minutes in a day, So spare Me ten. It shall be proven, then, Ten minutes set apart can well repay You shall accomplish more If you will shut your door For ten short minutes just to watch and pray."
"Lord, if I do Set ten apart for You" (I dared, yes dared, to reason thus with Him) "The baker's sure to come; Or Jane will call To say some visitor is in the hall; Or I shall smell the porridge burning, yes, And run to stop it in my hastiness. There's not ten minutes, Lord, in all the day I can be sure of peace in which to watch and pray."
But all that night, With calm insistent might, That gentle Voice spake softly, lovingly— "Keep tryst with Me! You have devised a dozen different ways Of getting easy meals on washing days; You spend much anxious thought on hopeless socks; On moving ironmould from tiny frocks; 'Twas you who found A way to make the sugar lumps go round; You, who invented ways and means of making Nice spicy buns for tea, hot from the baking, When margarine was short . . . and can- not you Who made the time to join the butter queue Make time again for Me? Yes, will you not, with all your daily striving, Use woman's wit in scheming and con- triving To keep that tryst with Me?"
Like ice long bound On powdered frosty ground, My erring will all suddenly gave way. The kind soft wind of His sweet pleading blew, And swiftly, silently, before I knew, The warm love loosed and ran. Life-giving floods began, And so most lovingly I answered Him: "Lord, yes, I will, and can. I will keep tryst with Thee, Lord, come what may!"
It is a wondrous and surprising thing How that ten minutes takes the piercing sting From vexing circumstance and poison- ous dart Hurled by the enemy straight at my heart. So, to the woman tempest-tossed and tried By household cares, and hosts of things beside, With all my strength God bids me say to you: "Dear soul, do try the daily Interview!"
The Little House
One yestereve, in the waning light, When the wind was still and the gloaming bright, There came a breath from a far countrie, And the ghost of a Little House called to me.
"Have you forgotten me?" "No!" I cried. "Your hall was as narrow as this is wide, Your roof was leaky, the rain came through Till a ceiling fell, on my new frock too!
"In your parlour flooring a loose board hid, And wore the carpet, you know it did! Your kitchen was small, and the shelves were few, While the fireplace smoked—and you know it's true!"
The little ghost sighed: "Do you quite forget My window boxes of mignonette? And the sunny room where you used to sew When a great hope came to you, long ago?
"Ah, me! How you used to watch the door Where a latch-key turned on the stroke of four. And you made the tea, and you poured it out From an old brown pot with a broken spout
"Now, times have changed. And your footman waits With the silver urn, and the fluted plates. But the little blind Love with the wings, has flown, Who used to sit by your warm hearth- stone."
The little ghost paused. Then "Away!" I said. "Back to your place with the quiet dead. Back to your place, lest my servants see, That the ghost of a Little House calls to me."
Across the town the evening bell is ringing; Clear comes the call, through kitchen windows winging!
Lord, knowing Thou art kind, I heed Thy call to prayer. I have a soul to save; A heart which needs, I think, a double share Of sweetnesses which noble ladies crave. Hope, faith and diligence, and patient care, With meekness, grace, and lowliness of mind. Lord, wilt Thou grant all these To one who prays, but cannot sit at ease?
They do not know, The passers-by, who go Up to Thy house, with saintly faces set; Who throng about Thy seat, And sing Thy praises sweet, Till vials full of odours cloud Thy feet; They do not know . . . And, if they knew, then would they greatly care That Thy tired handmaid washed the children's hair; Or, with red roughened hands, scoured dishes well, While through the window called the evening bell? And that her seeking soul looks upward yet, THEY do not know . . . but THOU wilt not forget
A Woman in Hospital
I know it all . . . I know. For I am God. I am Jehovah, He Who made you what you are; and I can see The tears that wet your pillow night by night, When nurse has lowered that too-brilliant light; When the talk ceases, and the ward grows still, And you have doffed your will: I know the anguish and the helplessness. I know the fears that toss you to and fro. And how you wrestle, weariful, With hosts of little strings that pull About your heart, and tear it so. I know.
Lord, do You know I had no time to put clean curtains up; No time to finish darning all the socks; Nor sew clean frilling in the children's frocks? And do You know about my Baby's cold? And how things are with my sweet three- year-old? Will Jane remember right Their cough mixture at night? And will she ever think To brush the kitchen flues, or scrub the sink?
And then, there's John! Poor tired lonely John! No one will run to put his slippers on. And not a soul but me Knows just exactly how he likes his tea. It rends my heart to think I cannot go And minister to him. . . .
I know. I know.
Then, there are other things, Dear Lord . . . more little strings That pull my heart. Now Baby feels her feet She loves to run outside into the street And Jane's hands are so full, she'll never see. . . . And I'm quite sure the clean clothes won't be aired— At least, not properly. And, oh, I can't, I really can't be spared— My little house calls so!
I know. And I am waiting here to help and bless. Lay down your head. Lay down your hope- lessness And let Me speak. You are so weary, child, you are so weak. But let us reason out The darkness and the doubt; This torturing fear that tosses you about.
I hold the universe. I count the stars. And out of shortened lives I build the ages. . . .
But, Lord, while such high things Thy thought engages, I fear—forgive me—lest Amid those limitless eternal spaces Thou shouldest, in the high and heavenly places, Pass over my affairs as things of nought. There are so many houses just like mine. And I so earth-bound, and Thyself Divine. It seems impossible that Thou shouldst care Just what my babies wear; And what John gets to eat; . . . and can it be A circumstance of great concern to Thee Whether I live or die?
Have you forgotten then, My child, that I, The Infinite, the Limitless, laid down The method of existence that I knew, And took on Me a nature just like you? I laboured day by day In the same dogged way That you have tackled household tasks. And then, Remember, child, remember once again Your own beloveds . . . did you really think— (Those days you toiled to get their meat and drink, And made their clothes, and tried to under- stand Their little ailments)—did you think your hand, Your feeble hand, was keeping them from ill? I gave them life, and life is more than meat; Those little limbs, so comely and so sweet. You can make raiment for them, and are glad, But can you add One cubit to their stature? Yet they grow! Oh, child, hands off! Hands off! And leave them so. I guarded hitherto, I guard them still.
I have let go at last. I have let go. And, oh, the rest it is, dear God, to know My dear ones are so safe, for Thou wilt keep. Hands off, at last! Now, I can go to sleep.
Not long ago, I prayed for dying grace, For then I thought to see Thee face to face.
And now I ask (Lord, 'tis a weakling's cry) That Thou wilt give me grace to live, not die.
Such foolish prayers! I know. Yet pray I must. Lord help me—help me not to see the dust!
And not to nag, nor fret because the blind Hangs crooked, and the curtain sags be- hind.
But, oh! The kitchen cupboards! What a sight! 'T'will take at least a month to get them right.
And that last cocoa had a smoky taste, And all the milk has boiled away to waste!
And—no, I resolutely will not think About the saucepans, nor about the sink.
These light afflictions are but temporal things— To rise above them, wilt Thou lend me wings?
Then I shall smile when Jane, with towzled hair (And lumpy gruel!), clatters up the stair.
I shut my eyes to rest 'em, just a bit ago it seems, An' back among the Cotswolds I were wanderin' in me dreams. I saw the old grey homestead, with the rickyard set around, An' catched the lowin' of the herd, a pleasant, homelike sound. Then on I went a-singin', through the pastures where the sheep Was lyin' underneath the elms, a-tryin' for to sleep.
An' where the stream was tricklin' by, half stifled by the grass, Heaped over thick with buttercups, I saw the corncrake pass. For 'twas Summer, Summer, SUMMER! An' the blue forget-me-nots Wiped out this dusty city and the smoky chimbley pots. I clean forgot My Lady's gown, the dazzlin' sights I've seen; I was back among the Cotswolds, where me heart has always been.
Then through the sixteen-acre on I went, a stiffish climb, Right to the bridge, where all our sheep comes up at shearin' time. There was the wild briar roses hangin' down so pink an' sweet, A-droppin' o' their fragrance on the clover at my feet An' here me heart stopped beatin', for down by Gatcombe's Wood My lad was workin' with his team, as only my lad could!
"COME BACK!" was what the tricklin' brook an' breezes seemed to say. "'TIS LONESOME ON THE COTSWOLDS NOW THAT MARY DREW'S AWAY."
An' back again I'm goin' (for me wages has been paid, An' they're lookin' through the papers for another kitchen maid). Back to the old grey homestead, an' the uplands cool an' green, To my lad among the Cotswolds, where me heart has always been!
On Washing Day
"I'm going to gran'ma's for a bit My mother's got the copper lit; An' piles of clothes are on the floor, An' steam comes out the wash-house door; An' Mrs. Griggs has come, an' she Is just as cross as she can be. She's had her lunch, and ate a lot; I saw her squeeze the coffee-pot. An' when I helped her make the starch, She said: 'Now, Miss, you just quick march! What? Touch them soap-suds if you durst; I'll see you in the blue-bag first!' An' mother dried my frock, an' said: 'Come back in time to go to bed.' I'm off to gran'ma's, for, you see, At home, they can't put up with me.
"But down at gran'ma's 'tis so nice. If gran'ma's making currant-cake, She'll let me put the ginger spice, An' grease the tin, an' watch it bake; An' then she says she thinks it fun To taste the edges when it's done.
"That's gran'ma's house. Why, hip, hooray! My gran'ma's got a washing day; For gran'pa's shirts are on the line, An' stockings, too—six, seven, eight, nine! She'll let me help her. Yes, she'll tie Her apron round to keep me dry; An' on her little stool I'll stand Up to the wash-tub. 'Twill be grand! There's no cross Mrs. Griggs to say, 'Young Miss is always in the way.' An' me and gran'ma will have tea At dinner-time—just her an' me— An' eggs, I 'spect, an' treacle rice. My goodness! Won't it all be nice?
"Gran'ma, I'm come to spend the day, 'Cause mother finds me in the way. Gran'ma, I'll peg the hankies out; Gran'ma, I'll stir the starch about; Gran'ma, I'm come, because, you see, At home, they can't put up with me."
When Baby Strayed
When Baby strayed, it seemed to me, Sun, moon and stars waned suddenly.
At once, with frenzied haste, my feet Ran up and down the busy street.
If ever in my life I prayed, It was the evening Baby strayed.
And yet my great concern was this (Not dread of losing Baby's kiss,
And Baby's soft small hand in mine, And Baby's comradeship divine),
'Twas BABY'S terror, BABY'S fears! Whose hand but mine could dry her tears?
I without Baby? In my need I were a piteous soul indeed.
But piteous far, beyond all other, A little child without a mother.
And God, in mercy, graciously Gave my lost darling back to me.
O high and lofty One! THOU couldst have lived to all eternity Apart from ME! In majesty, upon that emerald throne. Thou, with Thy morning stars, Thy dawns, with golden bars, And all the music of the heavenly train. Possessing all things, what hadst Thou to gain By seeking me? What was I? . . . and, what am I? . . . less than nought. And yet Thy mercy sought. Yea, Thou hast set my feet Upon the way of holiness, and sweet It is, to seek Thee daily, unafraid . . .
But (this I learnt the night that Baby strayed) Here was Thy chief, Thy great concern for me: My desolate estate, apart from Thee!
If Only ——
If only dinner cooked itself, And groceries grew upon the shelf; If children did as they were told, And never had a cough or cold; And washed their hands, and wiped their boots, And never tore their Sunday suits, But always tidied up the floor, Nor once forgot to shut the door.
If John remembered not to throw His papers on the ground. And oh! If he would put his pipes away, And shake the ashes on the tray Instead of on the floor close by; And always spread his towel to dry, And hung his hat upon the peg, And never had bones in his leg.
Then, there's another thing. If Jane Would put the matches back again Just where she found them, it would be A save of time to her and me. And if she never did forget To put the dustbin out; nor yet Contrive to gossip with the baker, Nor need ten thunderbolts to wake her.
Ahem! If wishes all came true, I don't know what I'd find to do, Because if no one made a mess There'd be no need of cleanliness. And things might work so blissfully, In time—who knows?—they'd not need me!
And this being so, I fancy whether I'll go on keeping things together.
His step? Ah, no; 'tis but the rain That hurtles on the window pane. Let's draw the curtains close and sit Beside the fire awhile and knit. Two purl—two plain. A well-shaped sock, And warm. (I thought I heard a knock, But 'twas the slam of Jones's door.) Yes, good Scotch yarn is far before The fleecy wools—a different thing, And best for wear. (Was that his ring?) No. 'Tis the muffin man I see; We'll have threepennyworth for tea. Two plain—two purl; that heel is neat. (I hear his step far down the street.) Two purl—two plain. The sock can wait; I'll make the tea. (He's at the gate!)
The Dear Folks in Devon
Back in the dear old country 'tis Christ- mas, and to-night I'm thinking of the mistletoe and holly berries bright. The smoke above our chimbley pots I'd dearly love to see, And those dear folks down in Devon, how they'll talk and think of me.
Owd Ben'll bring the letters, Christmas morn, and if there's one As comes across from Canada straight from their absent son, My Mother's hands'll tremble, and my Dad'll likely say: "Don't seem like Christmas time no more, with our dear lad away."
I can see 'em carve the Christmas beef, and Brother Jimmy's wife Will say her never tasted such, no, not in all her life. And Sister Martha's Christmas pies melt in your mouth, 'tis true, But 'twas Mother made the puddin', as mothers always do!
Ah me! If I could just have wings, and in the dimsey light Go stealing up the cobbled path this lonesome Christmas night, Lift up the latch with gentle hand—My! What a shout there'd be! From those dear folks down in Devon! What a welcomin' for me!
"Why shouldest Thou be as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for a night?"—Jer. xiv. 8.
Nay, do not get the venison pasty out; I shall not greatly put myself about Hungry, he may be; yes, and we shall spare Some bread and cheese, 'tis truly whole- some fare. We have to-morrow's dinner still to find; It's well for you I have a frugal mind.
Not the best bed! No, no. Whatever next? Why with such questionings should I be vext? The man is naught to us; why should we care? The little attic room will do; 'tis bare, But he'll be gone before to-morrow's light; He has but come to tarry for a night.
I shall not speak with him. Oh, no, not I, Lest I should pity overmuch, or buy Some paltry ware of his. Nay, I'll to bed, And he can sup alone, well warmed and fed; 'Tis much to take him in a night like this. Why should I fret me with concerns of his?
Grey morning came, and at the break of day The Man rose up and went upon his way
"I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord"—Phil. iv. 2,
But if Paul heard her tattlings, I am sure He never would expect me to endure. There is a something in her very face Antagonistic to the work of grace. And even when I would speak graciously Somehow, Syntyche's manner ruffles me.
No, not for worlds! Euodias has no mind; So slow she is, so spiritually blind. Her tongue is quite unbridled, yet she says She grieves to see my aggravating ways Ah, no one but myself knows perfectly How odious Euodias can be!
Yet, "in the Lord." Ah, that's another thing!
Yet, "in the Lord." That alters it in- deed.
For His sake I'll endure her whispering
For His sake I'll consent to let her lead.
Lord, teach me to forbear; yes, day by day.
Lord, keep me gentle now, and all the way.
The Prize Fight
"I am a boxer, who does not inflict blows on the air, but I hit hard and straight at my own body."—1 Cor. ix. 26 (WEYMOUTH'S Translation).
'T'was breakfast time, and outside in the street The factory men went by with hurrying feet. And on the bridge, in dim December light, The newsboys shouted of the great prize fight. Then, as I dished the bacon, and served out The porridge, all our youngsters gave a shout. The letter-box had clicked, and through the din The Picture News was suddenly pushed in.
John showed the lads the pictures, and explained Just how the fight took place, and what was gained By that slim winner. Then, he looked at me As I sat, busy, pouring out the tea: "Your mother is a boxer, rightly styled. She hits the air sometimes, though," and John smiled. "Yet she fights on." Young Jack, with widened eyes Said: "Dad, how soon will mother get a prize?"
We laughed. And yet it set me thinking, how I beat the air, because a neighbour's cow Munched at our early cabbages, and ate The lettuce up, and tramped my mignon- ette! And many a time I kicked against the pricks Because the little dog at number six Disturbed my rest. And then, how cross I got When Jane seemed discontented with her lot. Until poor John in desperation said He wearied of the theme—and went to bed!
And how I vexed myself that day, when he Brought people unexpectedly for tea, Because the table-cloth was old and stained, And not a single piece of cake remained. And how my poor head ached! Because, well there! It uses lots of strength to beat the air!
"I am a boxer!" Here and now I pray For grace to hit the self-life every day. And when the old annoyance comes once more And the old temper rises sharp and sore, I shall hit hard and straight, O Tender- Wise, And read approval in Thy loving eyes.
The Home Lights
"In my father's house!" The words Bring sweet cadence to my ears. Wandering thoughts, like homing birds, Fly all swiftly down the years, To that wide casement, where I always see Bright love-lamps leaning out to welcome me.
Sweet it was, how sweet to go To the worn, familiar door. No need to stand a while, and wait, Outside the well-remembered gate; No need to knock; The easy lock Turned almost of itself, and so My spirit was "at home" once more. And then, within, how good to find The same cool atmosphere of peace, Where I, a tired child, might cease To grieve, or dread, Or toil for bread. I could forget The dreary fret. The strivings after hopes too high, I let them every one go by. The ills of life, the blows unkind, These fearsome things were left behind.
O trembling soul of mine, See how God's mercies shine! When thou shalt rise, And, stripped of earth, shall stand Within an Unknown Land; Alone, where no familiar thing May bring familiar comforting; Look up! 'Tis but thy Father's House! And, see His love-lamps leaning out to welcome thee!
To an Old Teapot
Now from the dust of half-forgotten things, You rise to haunt me at the year's Spring- cleaning, And bring to memory dim imaginings Of mystic meaning.
No old-time potter handled you, I ween, Nor yet were you of gold or silver molten; No Derby stamp, nor Worcester, can be seen, Nor Royal Doulton.
You never stood to grace the princely board Of monarchs in some Oriental palace. Your lid is chipped, your chubby side is scored As if in malice.
I hesitate to say it, but your spout Is with unhandsome rivets held together— Mute witnesses of treatment meted out In regions nether.
O patient sufferer of many bumps! I ask it gently—shall the dustbin hold you? And will the dust-heap, with its cabbage stumps, At last enfold you?
It ought. And yet with gentle hands I place You with my priceless Delft and Dresden china, For sake of one who loved your homely face In days diviner.
To a Rebellious Daughter
You call authority "a grievous thing." With careless hands you snap the leading string, And, for a frolic (so it seems to you), Put off the old love, and put on the new.
For "What does Mother know of love?" you say. "Did her soul ever thrill? Did little tendernesses ever creep Into her dreams, and over-ride her will? Did her eyes shine, or her heart ever leap As my heart leaps to-day? I, who am young; who long to try my wings!
How should she understand, She, with her calm cool hand? She never felt such yearnings? And, beside, It's clear I can't be tied For ever to my mother's apron strings."
There are Infinities of Knowledge, dear. And there are mysteries, not yet made clear To you, the Uninitiate. . . . Life's book Is open, yes; but you may only look At its first section. Youth Is part, not all, the truth. It is impossible that you should see The end from the beginning perfectly.
You answer: "Even so. But how can Mother know, Who meditates upon the price of bacon? On 'liberties' the charwoman has taken, And on the laundry's last atrocities? She knows her cookery book, And how a joint of English meat should look. But all such things as these Make up her life. She dwells in tents, but I In a vast temple open to the sky."
Yet, time was, when that Mother stooped to learn The language written in your infant face. For years she walked your pace, And none but she interpreted your chatter. Who else felt interest in such pitter-patter? Or, weary, joined in all your games with zest, And managed with a minimum of rest? Now, is it not your turn To bridge the gulf, to span the gap be- tween you? To-day, before Death's angel over-lean you, Before your chance is gone? This is worth thinking on.
"Are mothers blameless, then?" Nay, dearie, nay. Nor even tactful, always. Yet there may Come some grey dawning in the by and by, When, no more brave, nor sure, nor strong, you'll cry Aloud to God, for that despised thing, The old dear comfort—Mother's apron string.
Up to the Hall, my lady there'll wear her satin gown, For little Miss and Master'll be coming down from town. Oh ay, the childern's coming! The CHILDERN did I say? Of course, they're man and woman grown, this many and many a day. But still, my lady's mouth do smile, and squire looks fit to sing, As Master John and Miss Elaine is coming Mothering.
Then down to Farmer Westacott's, there's doings fine and grand, Because young Jake is coming home from sea, you understand. Put into port but yesternight, and when he steps ashore, 'Tis coming home the laddie is, to Somer- set once more. And so her's baking spicy cakes, and stir- ring raisins in, To welcome of her only chick, who's coming Mothering.
And what of we? And ain't we got no childern for to come? Well, yes! There's Sam and Henery, and they'll be coming home. And Ned is very nigh six foot, and Joe is six foot three! But childern still to my good man, and childern still to me! And all the vi'lets seem to know, and all the thrushes sing, As how our Kate, and Bess and Flo is coming Mothering.
When little Fanny came to town, I felt as I could sing! She were the sprackest little maid, the sharpest, pertest thing. Her mother were as proud as punch, and as for I—well, there! I never see sich gert blue eyes, I never see sich hair! "If all the weans in Somerset," says I, "was standin' here, Not one could hold a candle light, 'long- side our little dear."
Now FANNY'S little Fan have come! She's clingin' round my knees, She's asking me for sups of tea, and bites of bread and cheese. She's climbing into grandma's bed, she's stroking grandma's face. She's tore my paper into bits and strawed it round the place. "If all the weans in all the world," says I, "was standin' here, Not one could hold a farthin' dip to Fanny's little dear!" For Fanny's little Fanny—oh, she's took the heart of me! 'Tis childern's childern is the CROWN of humble folk like we!
The Naughty Day
I've had a naughty day to-day. I scrunched a biscuit in my hair, And dipped my feeder in the milk, And spread my rusk upon a chair.
When mother put me in my bath, I tossed the water all about, And popped the soap upon my head, And threw the sponge and flannel out.
I wouldn't let her put my hand Inside the arm-hole of my vest; I held the sleeve until she said I really never SHOULD be dressed.
And while she made the beds, I found Her tidy, and took out the hairs; And then I got the water-can And tipped it headlong down the stairs.
I crawled along the kitchen floor, And got some coal out of the box, And drew black pictures on the walls, And wiped my fingers on my socks.
Oh, this HAS been a naughty day! That's why they've put me off to bed. "He CAN'T get into mischief there, Perhaps we'll have some peace," they said.
They put the net across my cot, Or else downstairs again I'd creep. But, see, I'll suck the counterpane To PULP before I go to sleep!
To a Little White Bird
Into the world you came, and I was dumb, Because "God did it," so the wise ones said; I wonder sometimes "Did you really come?" And "Are you truly . . . DEAD?"
Thus you went out—alone and uncaressed; O sweet, soft thing, in all your infant grace, I never held you in my arms, nor pressed Warm kisses on your face!
But, in the Garden of the Undefiled, My soul will claim you . . . you, and not another; I shall hold out my arms, and say "MY CHILD!" And you will call me "MOTHER!"
Because He heard my voice, and answered me, Because He listened, ah, so patiently, In those dark days, when sorrowful, alone, I knelt with tears, and prayed Him for a stone; Because He said me "Nay," and then in- stead, Oh, wonderful sweet truth! He gave me bread, Set my heart singing all in sweet accord; Because of this, I love—I love the Lord!
When He Comes
"When He comes! My sweetest 'When'!" C. ROSSETTI.
Thus may it be (I thought) at some day's close, Some lilac-haunted eve, when every rose Breathes forth its incense. May He find me there, In holy leisure, lifting hands of prayer, In some sweet garden place, To catch the first dear wonder of His Face!
Or, in my room above, In silent meditation of His love, My soul illumined with a rapture rare. It would be sweet, if even then, these eyes Might glimpse Him coming in the East- ern skies, And be caught up to meet Him in the air.
But now! Ah, now, the days Rush by their hurrying ways! No longer know I vague imaginings, For every hour has wings. Yet my heart watches . . . as I work I say, All simply, to Him: "Come! And if to-day, Then wilt Thou find me thus: just as I am— Tending my household; stirring goose- berry jam; Or swiftly rinsing tiny vests and hose, With puzzled forehead patching some one's clothes; Guiding small footsteps, swift to hear, and run, From early dawn till setting of the sun."
And whensoe'er He comes, I'll rise and go, Yes, all the gladlier that He found me so.
PART II. OUT OF DOORS
Quick through the gates of Fairyland The South Wind forced his way. 'Twas his to make the Earth forget Her grief of yesterday. "'Tis mine," cried he, "to bring her joy!" And on his lightsome feet In haste he slung the snowdrop bells, Pushed past the Fairy sentinels, And out with laughter sweet.
Clear flames of Crocus glimmered on The shining way he went. He whispered to the trees strange tales Of wondrous sweet intent, When, suddenly, his witching voice With timbre rich and rare, Rang through the woodlands till it cleft Earth's silent solitudes, and left A Dream of Roses there!
The Master of the Garden said; "Who, now the Earth seems cold and dead, Will by his fearless witnessing Hold men's hearts for the tardy spring?"
"Not yet. I am but half awake," All drowsily the Primrose spake. And fast the sleeping Daffodils Had folded up their golden frills.
"Indeed," the frail Anemone Said softly, "'tis too cold for me." Wood Hyacinths, all deeply set, Replied: "No ice has melted yet."
When suddenly, with smile so bright, Up sprang a Winter Aconite, And to the Master joyfully She cried: "I will the witness be."
In Somerset they guide the plough From early dawn till twilight now. The good red earth smells sweeter yet, Behind the plough, in Somerset. The celandines round last year's mow Blaze out . . . and with his old-time vow The South Wind woos the Violet, In Somerset.
Then, every brimming dyke and trough Is laughing wide with ripples now, And oh, 'tis easy to forget That wintry winds can sigh and sough, When thrushes chant on every bough In Somerset!
Song of a Woodland Stream
Silent was I, and so still, As day followed day. Imprisoned until King Frost worked his will. Held fast like a vice, In his cold hand of ice, For fear kept me silent, and lo He had wrapped me around and about with a mantle of snow.
But sudden there spake One greater than he. Then my heart was awake, And my spirit ran free.
At His bidding my bands fell apart, He had burst them asunder. I can feel the swift wind rushing by me, once more the old wonder Of quickening sap stirs my pulses—I shout in my gladness, Forgetting the sadness, For the Voice of the Lord fills the air!
And forth through the hollow I go, where in glad April weather, The trees of the forest break out into singing together. And here the frail windflowers will cluster, with young ferns uncurling, Where broader and deeper my waters go eddying, whirling, To meet the sweet Spring on her journey —His servant to be, Whose word set me free!
Luggage in Advance
"The Fairies must have come," I said, "For through the moist leaves, brown and dead, The Primroses are pushing up, And here's a scarlet Fairy-cup. They must have come, because I see A single Wood Anemone, The flower that everybody knows The Fairies use to scent their clothes. And hark! The South Wind blowing, fills The trumpets of the Daffodils. They MUST have come!"
Then loud to me Sang from a budding cherry tree, A cheerful Thrush . . . "I say! I say! The Fairy Folk are on their way. Look out! Look out! Beneath your feet, Are all their treasures: Sweet! Sweet! Sweet! They could not carry them, you see, Those caskets crammed with witchery, So ready for the first Spring dance, They sent their Luggage in Advance!"
At the Cross Roads
There I halted. Further down the hollow Stood the township, where my errand lay. Firm my purpose, till a voice cried (Follow! Come this way—I tell you—come this way!)
Silence, Thrush! You know I think of buying A Spring-tide hat; my frock is worn and old. So to the shops I go. What's that you're crying? (Here! Come here! And gather primrose gold.) Well, yes. Some day I will; but time is going. I haste to purchase silks and satins fair. I'm all in rags. (The Lady's Smock is showing Up yonder, in the little coppice there.)
And wood anemones spread out their laces; Each celandine has donned a silken gown; The violets are lifting shy sweet faces. (And there's a chiff-chaff, soft, and slim, and brown.)
But what about my hat? (The bees are humming.) And my new frock? (The hawthorn's budding free! Sweet! Oh, so sweet!) Well, have your way. I'm coming! And who's to blame for that? (Why, me! Me! Me!)
Summer met Me
Summer met me in the glade, With a host of fair princesses, Golden iris, foxgloves staid, Sunbeams flecked their gorgeous dresses. Roses followed in her train, Creamy elder-flowers beset me, Singing, down the scented lane, Summer met me!
Summer met me! Harebells rang, Honeysuckle clustered near, As the royal pageant sang Songs enchanting to the ear. Rainy days may come apace, Nevermore to grieve or fret me, Since, in all her radiant grace, Summer met me!
"Owd John's got past his work," said they, Last week as ever was—"don't pay To send by him. He's stoopid, too, And brings things what won't never do. We'll send by post, he is that slow. And that owd hoss of his can't go."
But 'smornin', well, 'twas fun to see The gentlefolks run after we. Squire's lady stopped I in the lane, "Oh," says she, "goin' to town again? You'll not mind calling into Bings To fetch my cakes and buns and things? I've got a party comin' on, And nought to eat . . . so, DO 'ee, John."
Then, up the street, who should I see, But old Mam Bessant hail'n' me. And Doctor's wife, and Mrs. Higgs Was wantin' vittles for their pigs, And would I bring some? (Well, what nex'?) And Granny Dunn has broke her specs, And wants 'em mended up in town, So would John call and bring 'em down To-night . . . ? and so the tale goes on, 'Tis, "Sure you will, now DO 'ee, John."
Well, 'tis a hevil wind that blows Nobody any good; it shows As owd John haves his uses yet, Though now and then he do forget. Gee up, owd gal. When strikes is on, They're glad of pore owd stoopid John.
The Lad's Love by the Gate
Down in the dear West Country, there's a garden where I know The Spring is rioting this hour, though I am far away— Where all the glad flower-faces are old loves of long ago, And each in its accustomed place is blossoming to-day.
The lilac drops her amethysts upon the mossy wall, While in her boughs a cheerful thrush is calling to his mate. Dear breath of mignonette and stocks! I love you, know you all. And, oh, the fragrant spices from the lad's love by the gate!
Kind wind from the West Country, wet wind, but scented so, That straight from my dear garden you seem but lately come, Just tell me of the yellow broom, the guelder rose's snow, And of the tangled clematis where myriad insects hum.
Oh, is there any heartsease left, or any rosemary? And in their own green solitudes, say, do the lilies wait? I knew it! Gentle wind, but once— speak low and tenderly— How fares it—tell me truly—with the lad's love by the gate?
Across the land came a magic word When the earth was bare and lonely, And I sit and sing of the joyous spring, For 'twas I who heard, I only! Then dreams came by, of the gladsome days, Of many a wayside posy; For a crocus peeps where the wild rose sleeps, And the willow wands are rosy!
Oh! the time to be! When the paths are green, When the primrose-gold is lying 'Neath the hazel spray, where the catkins sway, And the dear south wind comes sigh- ing.
My mate and I, we shall build a nest, So snug and warm and cosy, When the kingcups gleam on the meadow stream, Where the willow wands are rosy!
In Dorset Dear
In Dorset Dear they're making hay In just the old West Country way. With fork and rake and old-time gear They make the hay in Dorset Dear. From early morn till twilight grey They toss and turn and shake the hay. And all the countryside is gay With roses on the fallen may, For 'tis the hay-time of the year In Dorset Dear.
The loaded waggons wend their way Across the pasture-lands, and stay Beside the hedge where foxgloves peer; And ricks that shall be fashioned here Will be the sweetest stuff, they say, In Dorset Dear!
The Flight of the Fairies
There's a rustle in the woodlands, and a sighing in the breeze, For the Little Folk are busy in the bushes and the trees; They are packing up their treasures, every one with nimble hand, Ready for the coming journey back to sunny Fairyland.
They have gathered up the jewels from their beds of mossy green, With all the dewy diamonds that summer morns have seen; The silver from the lichen and the powdered gold dust, too, Where the buttercups have flourished and the dandelions grew.
They packed away the birdies' songs, then, lest we should be sad, They left the Robin's carol out, to make the winter glad; They packed the fragrance of the flowers, then, lest we should forget, Out of the pearly scented box they dropped a Violet.
Then o'er a leafy carpet, by the silent woods they came, Where the golden bracken lingered and the maples were aflame. On the stream the starlight shimmered, o'er their wings the moonbeams shone, Music filtered through the forest—and the Little Folk were gone!
The Street Player
The shopping had been tedious, and the rain Came pelting down as she turned home again.
The motor-bus swirled past with rush and whirr, Nought but its fumes of petrol left for her.
The bloaters in her basket, and the cheese Malodorously mixed themselves with these.
And all seemed wrong. The world was drab and grey As the slow minutes wept themselves away.
And then, athwart the noises of the street, A violin flung out an Irish air.
"I'll take you home again, Kathleen." Ah, sweet, How tender-sweet those lilting phrases were!
They soothed away the weariness, and brought Such peace to one worn woman, over- wrought,
That she forgot the things which vexed her so: The too outrageous price of calico,
The shop-girl's look of pitying insolence Because she paused to count the dwindling pence.
The player stopped. But the rapt vision stayed. That woman faced life's worries unafraid.
The sugar shortage now had ceased to be An insurmountable calamity.
Her kingdom was not bacon, no, nor butter, But things more costly still, too rare to utter.
And, over chimney-pots, so bare and tall, The sun set gloriously, after all.
On All Souls' Eve
Oh, the garden ways are lonely! Winds that bluster, winds that shout, Battle with the strong laburnum, Toss the sad brown leaves about. In the gay herbaceous border, Now a scene of wild disorder, The last dear hollyhock has flamed his crimson glory out.
Yet, upon this night of longing, Souls are all abroad, they say. Will they come, the dazzling blossoms, That were here but yesterday? Will the ghosts of radiant roses And my sheltered lily-closes Hold once more their shattered fragrance now November's on her way?
Wallflowers, surely you'll remember, Pinks, recall it, will you not? How I loved and watched and tended, Made this ground a hallowed spot: Pansies, with the soft meek faces, Harebells, with a thousand graces: Dear dead loves, I wait and listen. Tell me, have you quite forgot?
HUSH! THEY COME! For down the path- way Steals a fragrance honey-sweet. Larkspurs, lilies, stocks, and roses, Hasten now my heart to greet. Stay, oh, stay! My hands would hold you . . . But the arms that would enfold you Crush the bush of lad's love growing in the dusk beside my feet.
The Log Fire
In her last hour of life the tree Gave up her glorious memories, Wild scent of wood anemone, The sapphire blue of April skies.
With faint but ever-strength'ning flame, The dew-drenched hyacinthine spires Were lost, as red-gold bracken came, With maple bathed in living fires.
Grey smoke of ancient clematis Towards the silver birch inclined, And deep in thorny fastnesses The coral bryony entwined.
Then softly through the dusky room They strayed, fair ghosts of other days, With breath like early cherry bloom, With tender eyes and gentle ways.
They glimmered on the sombre walls, They danced upon the oaken floor, Till through the loudly silent halls Joy reigned majestical once more.
Up blazed the fire, and, dazzling clear, One rapturous Spirit radiant stood. 'Twas you at last! Yes, YOU, my dear. We two were back in Gatcombe Wood!
God save the King
GOD SAVE OUR GRACIOUS KING. (It seems The Church is full of bygone dreams.)
LONG LIVE OUR NOBLE KING. (My own, 'Tis hard to stand here all alone.)
GOD SAVE THE KING. (But, sweetheart, you Were always brave to dare and do.)
SEND HIM VICTORIOUS. (For then, My darling will come home again!)
HAPPY AND GLORIOUS ('Twill be Like Heaven to him—and what to me?)
LONG TO REIGN OVER US. (My dear! And we'd been wedded one short year!)
GOD SAVE OUR KING. (And Lord, I pray Keep MY King safe this very day.)
Forgive us, thou—great England's kingly King That thus do women National Anthems sing.