Ada Cambridge Poem Part 2 : Ada Cambridge was a prolific novelist and poet who was born in Norfolk in 1844 and many of her works were published in serial form in Australian and British newspapers under the title AC. Her father was what would be considered a gentleman farmer at the time and she was educated at home by a governess, something which she did not take kindly to.
For most of her life she would say that she learned little that was of use during this time but she did start writing poetry in her late teens. It was then that she found her vocation and secured a little fame for herself in England when she wrote two books of hymns in her twenties and a collection of poetry under the title Echoes.
In 1870 she married curate George Cross and, when he was sent on colonial service to Australia, Cambridge joined him on the journey to Melbourne. George’s work would take him to some remote parts of Australia and Cambridge assisted him as she was expected to. She continued to write though and began sending poems and various stories to newspapers and magazines to help supplement the rather low curate’s income of her husband.
Cambridge gave birth to two children in those early days in Australia but both of them died, something which affected her deeply and she used her poetry as a way of coping with the grief. At the same time she also had a bad accident, falling from a carriage and severely damaging her back, leaving her with less mobility.
Ada Cambridge Poem Part 2
The Legend Of Lady Gertrude
Fallen the lofty halls, where vassal crowds
Drank in the dawn of Gertrude’s natal day.
The dungeon roof an Alpine snow-wreath shrouds,
The strong, wild eagle’s eyrie in the clouds–
The robber-baron’s nest–is swept away.
Bare is the mountain brow of lordly towers;
Only the sunbeams stay, the moon and stars,
The faithful saxifrage and gentian flowers,
The silvery mist, and soft, white, crystal showers,
And torrents rushing through their rocky bars.
More than three hundred years ago, the flag
Charged with that dread device, an Alpine bear–
By many storm-winds rent–a grim, grey rag–
Floated above the castle on the crag,
Above the last whose heads were shelter’d there.
He was the proudest of an ancient race,
The fiercest of the robber chieftain’s band,
That haughty Freiherr, with the iron face:
And she–his lady-sister, by God’s grace–
The sweetest, gentlest maiden in the land.
‘Twas a rude nest for such a tender bird,
That lonely fortress, with its warrior-lord.
Aye drunken revels the night-stillness stirred;
From morn till eve the battle-cries were heard,
The sound of jingling spur and clanking sword.
And Lady Gertrude was both young and fair,
A mark for lawless hearts and roving eyes,–
With sweet, grave face, and amber-tinted hair,
And a low voice soft-thrilling through the air,
Filling it full of subtlest melodies.
But the great baron, proudest of his line,
Fetter’d, with jealous care, his white dove’s wing;
Guarded his treasure in an inner shrine,
Till such a day as knightly hands should twine
Her slender fingers with the marriage-ring.
From all her household rights was she debarred–
Her chair and place within the castle-hall,
Her palfrey’s saddle in the castle-yard,
Her nursing ministries when blows fell hard
In border struggles–she was kept from all.
A stone-paved chamber, and the parapet
Opening above its winding turret-stair;
The castle-chapel, where few men were met,–
Round these the brother’s boundaries were set.
The sweet child-sister was so very fair!
She had her faithful nurse, her doves, her lute,
Her broidery and her distaff, and the hound–
Best prized of all–the grand, half-human brute,
Who aye watched near her, beautiful and mute,
With ears love-quicken’d, listening from the ground.
But the wild bird, so honourably caged,
Grew sick and sad in its captivity;
Longed–like those hills which time nor storm had aged,
And those deep glens where Danube waters raged–
In God’s own wind and sunshine to be free.
And on a day, when she had seen them ride,
Baron and troopers, on some border raid,
Wooed by the glory of the summer tide,
The hound’s soft-slouching footstep at her side,
Adown the valley Lady Gertrude stray’d.
Adown the crag, whose shadow, still and black,
Lay like the death-sleep on a mountain pool;
Through rocky glen, by silvery torrent’s track,
Through forest glade, ‘neath wild vines, fluttering back
From softest zephyr kisses, green and cool.
E’en till the woods and hamlets down below,
And summer meadows, were all broad and clear;
The river, moving statelily and slow,
A crimson ribbon in the sunset glow–
The dim, white, distant city strangely near.
She sat her down, a-weary, on the ground,
With tremulous long-drawn breath and wistful eyes;
Caress’d the velvet muzzle of the hound,
And listen’d vainly for some little sound
To come up from her world of mysteries.
She had forgotten of the time and place,
When clank of warrior’s harness smote her dream.
A growl, a spring, a shadow on her face,
And one strode up, with slow and stately pace,
And stood before here in the soft sun-gleam.
An armèd knight, in noblest knightly guise,
From golden spur to golden dragon-crest;
Through open vizor gazing with surprise
Into the fair, flush’d face and startled eyes,
While horse and hound stood watchfully at rest.
The sun went down, and, with long, stealthy stride,
The shadows came, blurring the summer light;
And there was none the lady’s step to guide
Up the lost pathway on the mountain-side–
None to protect her but this stranger knight!
He placed her gently on his dappled grey,
Clothed in his mantle–for the air was chill;
He led her all the long and devious way,
Through glens, where starless night held royal sway,
And vine-tressed woodlands, where the leaves were still:
Through pathless ravines, where swift waters roll’d;
Up dark crag-ramparts, perilously steep,
Where eagles and a she-bear watch’d the fold;–
Facing the mountain breezes, clear and cold–
In shy, sweet silence, eloquent and deep.
Holding his charger by the bridle-rein,
He led her through the robber-chieftain’s lands;
Led her, unchallenged by the baron’s train,
E’en to the low-brow’d castle-gate again,
And there he humbly knelt to kiss her hands.
Brave lips, o’er tender palms bent down so low,
Silent and reverent, as it were to bless–
‘Twas e’en a knightly love they did bestow,
Love true as steel and undefiled as snow;
No common courtesy, no light caress.
He rode away; and she to turret-lair
Sped, swift and trembling, like a hunted doe.
But wherefore, on the loopholed winding stair
Knelt she till morning, weeping, watching there?–
Because he was her brother’s deadliest foe.
Because the golden dragon’s blood had mixt
In all those mountain streams, had dyed the grass
Now trodden for her sake; because betwixt
Those two proud barons such a gulf was fixt
As never bridge of peace might overpass.
A bitter, passionate feud, that was begun
In ages long forgotten, and bequeath’d
With those rich baronies by sire to son–
A sacred charge, a great work never done,
A sharp and fiery weapon never sheath’d.
Yet, e’er a month slipped by, as summer slips
On noiseless wings, another kiss was laid,
Not on white palms or rosy finger-tips,
But softly on shut eyes and quivering lips;
And vows were sealèd in the forest glade.
The robber baron, who had hedged about
That fairest blossom of the sacred plant,
Saw he the insolent mailèd hand stretch’d out
To break down all his barriers, strong and stout?
Knew he aught of that gracious covenant?
His pride serenely slept. Nor did it wake
Till, in amaze, he saw his enemy stand
In his own castle, praying him to take
The pledge of peace for Lady Gertrude’s sake–
Praying him humbly for the lady’s hand.
Slowly the knitted brows grew fierce and black;
Slowly the eagle eyes began to shine.
“Sir knight,” he said, “I pray you get you back.
But one hour–and the Bears are on your track.
There’s naught but fire and sword ‘twixt mine and thine.”
And then the doors were barred on every side
Upon the innocent traitor, who had done
Such doubly-shameful despite to his pride.
Mocking, “I’ll satisfy your heart,” he cried,
“An’ you will have a husband, pretty one!”
Yet did she send a message stealthily,
Spurred by the torture of this ominous threat.
“Thou wilt not suffer it?” she said. And he,
“Fear not. To-morrow will I come for thee,–
At eve to-morrow, when the sun has set.”
And on the morrow, when the autumn light
Of red and gold had faded into grey,
She heard his signal up the echoing height,
Like hoarse owl-whistle, quivering through the night;
And in the dark she softly slipped away.
Her faithful nurse, with trembling hands, untwined
The new-forged fetters and drew back the bars.
The hound look’d up into her face, and whined,
And scratch’d the door; he would not stay behind.
And so she went–watch’d only by the stars.
Adown the mountain passes, with wing’d feet
And bright, blank eyes–her hand fast clutch’d around
A ragged slip of myrtle, white and sweet;
The hound beside her, velvet-footed, fleet
And silent, with his muzzle to the ground.
The knight was waiting, with his dappled steed,
Hard by the black brink of the waveless pool.
In his strong, tender arms–now safe indeed–
She cross’d the valley, with the wild bird’s speed,
Fanned by the whispering night-wind, clear and cool.
Away–away–far from the trysting-place–
Over the blood-stain’d border-lands at last!
One wandering hind alone beheld the race;
A sudden rush–a shadow on his face–
A glint of golden scales–and she was past.
She felt the shadow of a mighty wall,
And then the glow of torchlight, and again
The gloom of cloister’d stair and passage, fall
Upon her vacant eyes. She heard a call;
And, in the echoing mountains, its refrain.
Then all around her a great silence lay;
She knew not why, nor greatly seem’d to care,
Till, in low tones, she heard the baron say,
“Hast thou confess’d, my little one, to-day?”–
The while he weaved the myrtle in her hair.
She glanced up suddenly, in blank amaze;
And then remember’d. ‘Twas an altar, hung
With silk and rich embroidery, met her gaze;
‘Twas perfumed, waxen altar-tapers’ blaze
On her chill’d face and troubled spirit flung.
A holy father, with his open book,
Stood by the threshold of the chapel door.
Slowly, with bated breath and hands that shook,
Soft-clasped together–drawn with but a look–
She went, and knelt down humbly on the floor.
The baron left her, lowly crouching there,
Her bright, starred tresses trailing on the stones;
And waited, kneeling on the altar-stair–
Holding his sword-hilt to his lips, in prayer–
The while she pleaded in her tremulous tones.
A warning voice upon the still air dwelt,
A long, low cry of mingled hope and dread;–
A pause–a solemn silence–and she felt
The sweet absolving whisper as she knelt,
And hands of blessing covering her head.
The knight arose in silence, with a brow
Haughty and pale; and, softly drawing nigh,–
Love, life, and death in the new “I and thou”–
He gave and took each solemn marriage vow,
With all his arm’d retainers standing by.
The soft light fell upon their faces–still,
And calm, and full of rest. None now to part
The golden link between them!–naught to chill
The blest assurance that the father’s will
Laid hand in hand, and gather’d heart to heart.
And so ’twas done. Each finger now had worn
The rings that aye ring’d in the double life;
From each the pledge had been withdrawn in turn,
As one by one the hallow’d oaths were sworn;
And Lady Gertrude was the baron’s wife.
He led her to her chamber, when the glow
Of dawn began to quicken earth and sky;
They watch’d the rosy wine-cup overflow
The pale, cool, silvery track upon the snow
Of Alpine crests, uplifted far and high.
They saw the mountain floodgates open’d wide,
The downward streaming of unfetter’d day;
In blessed stillness, standing side by side–
Stillness that told how they were satisfied,
Those hearts whereon the new-born glamour lay.
And then, down cloister’d aisle and sculptured stair,
Through open courts, all bathed in shining mist,
They pass’d together, knight and lady fair;
She with the matron’s coif upon her hair,
Her golden hair by lip and finger kiss’d.
He throned her proudly in his castle hall,
High on the daïs above the festive board,
‘Neath shields and pennons drooping from the wall;
And they below the salt rose, one and all,
To greet the bride of their puissant lord.
Loud were the shouts, and fair with smiling grace
The blue eyes of the lady baroness;
And bright and eager was the haughty face
Of her brave husband, towering in his place,
Yet aye low-stooping for a mute caress.
There came a sudden pause–a thunder-cloud,
Darkening the sunshine of the golden noon–
An ominous stillness in the armèd crowd,
While slowly stiffening lips, all stern and proud,
Shut in the kindly laughter–all too soon!
“To arms! to arms!” A passionate crimson flush
Rose, sank, and blanched the fair face of the bride.
“To arms!” The cry smote sharply on the hush,
And broke it;–all was one tumultuous rush–
“The Bears have cross’d the border-land!” they cried.
But a few hours had Lady Gertrude dwelt
With her dear lord. Sad honours now were hers.
With white, hot hands she clasp’d his silver belt;
She held his dinted shield and sword; and knelt,
Like lowly squire, to don his golden spurs.
“Thou wilt not fight with him?–thou wilt forbear
For my sake?” So she pleaded, while the sun
Shone on her falling tears–each tear a prayer.
He whisper’d gravely, as he kissed her hair,
“I know not if I can, my little one.”
She held his hands, with infinite mute desire
To hold him back; then watch’d him to the field
With hungry, feverish eyes that could not tire,
Till sunny space absorb’d the fitful fire
Of the bright dragons on his crest and shield.
When he was gone–quite gone–she crept away,
Back to the castle chapel, still and dim;
And knelt where he had knelt but yesterday,
Low on the altar step, to watch and pray–
To pour her heart out for the love of him.
Her bower-maidens sat alone and spun
The while she pray’d, the terror-stricken wife.
The long hours slowly wanèd, one by one,
And evening came, and, with the setting sun,
The sudden darkness that eclipsed her life.
She listen’d, and she heard the sound at last,–
The ominous pause, the heavy, clanging tread;
She saw the strange, long shadow weirdly cast
Upon the floor, the red blood streaming fast,
The dear face grey and stiffen’d;–he was dead!
“Ay, dead, my lady baroness; and slain
By him you call your brother. Curses light
Upon his caitiff soul! Ah, ’tis in vain
To murmur thus,–he will not hear again–
He cannot heed your whisperings to-night.”
She lay down on her bridal couch–the stone
Whereon he lay in his eternal rest;
They, pitying, pass’d out, leaving her alone,
To kiss the rigid lips, and cry, and moan,
With her white face upon his bleeding breast.
‘Twas night–a wakeful, restless, troubled night,
Both wild and soft–mysteriously fair;
With clouds fast flying through the domèd height,
And shrieking winds, and silvery shining light,
And clear bells piercing the transparent air.
Down vale and fell a lonely figure stray’d,–
Now a dark shadow on the moonlit ground,
Now flickering white and ghostly in the shade
Of haunted glen and scented forest-glade–
A woman, watched and followed by a hound.
‘Twas Lady Gertrude, widow’d and forlorn,
Returning to the wild birds’ mountain nest;
Sent out with smiling insult and with scorn,
And creeping to the home where she was born,
To hide her sorrow, to lie down and rest.
She reach’d the gate and cross’d the castle-yard,
And stood upon the threshold, chill’d with fear.
The baron rose and faced her, breathing hard:
“Troopers,” he thunder’d, “Let the doors be barred
And double-barred!–we’ll have no traitors here.”
Such was her welcome. As she turn’d away,
Groping with sightless eyes and hands outspread,
The hound, unnoticed, slowly made his way
Along the hall, as if in track of prey,
With glistening teeth and stealthy velvet tread.
There was no clarion cry, none heard the sound
Of knightly challenge, till the champion rose,
Avenging. Lo! they saw upon the ground
The baron struggling with the savage hound,
And grim death grimly waiting for the close!
‘Twas done. He lay there unassoilzied, dead,
Ere scarcely fell’d by the relentless paws.
And the fierce hound, with painful, limping tread,
Was following still where Lady Gertrude led,
His own red life-blood dripping from his jaws.
‘Neath shadowy glades, with moonbeams interlaced,
Through valleys, at day-dawning, soft and dim,
Up mountain steeps at sunrise–uplands paced
By her dead lord in childhood–she retraced
The long miles stretching betwixt her and him.
She reach’d the castle, ere the torches’ glare
Had wanèd in the brightness of the sky–
Another lord than hers was feasting there!
She shudder’d at the sounds that fill’d the air,
Of drunken laughter and loud revelry.
And softly up the cloister’d stairs she crept,
Back to the lonely chapel, where all sound
Of human life in solemn silence slept.
With weary heart and noiseless feet she stept
Beneath the doorway into hallow’d ground.
Low at the altar, wrapped in slumber sweet
And still and deep, her murder’d lord lay here;
With waxen tapers at his head and feet–
Forcing reluctant darkness to retreat–
And cross-embroider’d pall upon his bier,
The blood-hound blindly stumbled, and fell prone
Across the threshold. Something came and prest
His huge head downward, stiffening him to stone.
And Lady Gertrude, passing up alone,
Spread her white arms above the baron’s breast.
The weapons which his lowly coffin bore–
His sword and spurs, his helm and shield and belt–
Like him, to rest from battle evermore,
Whose long-drawn shadows barred the chapel floor,–
She kiss’d them, for his dear sake, as she knelt.
She laid her cheek upon the velvet pall,
With one long, quivering sigh; and tried to creep
Where the soft shadow of the rood would fall,
‘Mid light of sunrise and of tapers tall,
Upon them both, and there she fell asleep.
She woke no more. But where her track had been,
On that last night, became a haunted ground.
And when the wild wind blows upon the sheen
Of summer moonlight, there may still be seen
The phantom of a lady and a hound.
Why stand dumbfounded and aghast,
As at invading armies sweeping by,
Surprised by haggard face and threatening cry,
The storm unheralded, that rose so fast?
Men, with gaunt wives and hungry children, cast
Upon the wintry streets to thieve or die,
They cannot always suffer silently;
Patience gives out. The poor worm turns at last.
And not ear listens to the warning call.
No eye awakes to see the portent dread.
Must brute force reign and social order fall
Ere these starved millions can be clothed and fed?
A strange phenomenon, this unconcern–
To live so fast and be so slow to learn!
The Old Manor House
An old house, crumbling half away, all barnacled and lichen-grown,
Of saddest, mellowest, softest grey,–with a grand history of its own–
Grand with the work and strife and tears of more than half a thousand years.
Such delicate, tender, russet tones of colour on its gables slept,
With streaks of gold betwixt the stones, where wind-sown flowers and mosses crept:
Wild grasses waved in sun and shade o’er terrace slab and balustrade.
Around the clustered chimneys clung the ivy’s wreathed and braided threads,
And dappled lights and shadows flung across the sombre browns and reds;
Where’er the graver’s hand had been, it spread its tendrils bright and green.
Far-stretching branches shadowed deep the blazoned windows and broad eaves,
And rocked the faithful rooks asleep, and strewed the terraces with leaves.
A broken dial marked the hours amid damp lawns and garden bowers.
An old house, silent, sad, forlorn, yet proud and stately to the last;
Of all its power and splendour shorn, but rich with memories of the past;
And pitying, from its own decay, the gilded piles of yesterday.
Pitying the new race that passed by, with slighting note of its grey walls,–
And entertaining tenderly the shades of dead knights in its halls,
Whose blood, that soaked these hallowed sods, came down from Scandinavian gods.
I saw it first in summer-time. The warm air hummed and buzzed with bees,
Where now the pale green hop-vines climb about the sere trunks of the trees,
And waves of roses on the ground scented the tangled glades around.
Some long fern-plumes drooped there–below; the heaven above was still and blue;
Just here–between the gloom and glow–a cedar and an aged yew
Parted their dusky arms, to let the glory fall on Margaret.
She leaned on that old balustrade, her white dress tinged with golden air,
Her small hands loosely clasped, and laid amongst the moss and maidenhair:
I watched her, hearing, as I stood, a turtle cooing in the wood–
Hearing a mavis far away, piping his dreamy interludes,
While gusts of soft wind, sweet with hay, swept through those garden solitudes,–
And thinking she was lovelier e-en than my young ideal love had been.
Tall, with that subtle, sensitive grace, which made so plainly manifest
That she was born of noble race,–a cool, hushed presence, bringing rest,
Of one who felt and understood the dignity of womanhood.
Tall, with a slow, proud step and air; with skin half marble and half milk;
With twisted coils of raven hair, blue-tinged, and fine and soft as silk;
With haughty, clear-cut chin and cheek, and broad brows exquisitely Greek;
With still, calm mouth, whose dreamy smile possessed me like a haunting pain,
So rare, so sweet, so free from guile, with that slight accent of disdain;
With level, liquid tones that fell like chimings of a vesper bell;
With large, grave stag-eyes, soft, yet keen with slumbering passion, hazel-brown,
Long-lashed and dark, whose limpid sheen my thirsty spirit swallowed down;–
O poor, pale words, wherewith to paint my queen, my goddess, and my saint!
You see that oriel, ivy-grown, with the blurred sculpture underneath?
Her sweet head, like the Clytie’s own, with a white stephanotis wreath
Inwoven with its coiling hair, first bent to me in greeting there.
I shall remember till I die that night when we were introduced!
The great Sir Hildebrand stood by–her cousin–scowling as he used
To scowl if e’en a poor dumb cur ventured to lift his eyes to her.
I cared not. Well I knew her grace was not for him. I watched them dance,
And knew it by her locked-up face, and her slow, haughty utterance.
I knew he chafed and raged to see how kind and sweet she was to me.
O dear old window!–nevermore the red and purple lights, that stray
Through your dim panes upon the floor on sunny summer-night, will lay
Soft rainbows on her glossy hair and the white dress she used to wear!
Those panes the ivy used to scratch–I hear it now when I’m alone!
A pair of martlets used to hatch their young ones in the sculptured stone;
Those warm slabs were the bloodhound’s bed, with fine yew-needles carpeted.
The missel-thrushes used to search there for the berries as they fell;
On that high twig, at morn, would perch a shy and shivering locustelle,–
From yon low sweep of furzy brake, we used to watch it thrill and shake.
The banksia roses twined a wreath all round that ancient coat and crest,
And trailed the time-worn steps beneath, and almost touched the martin’s nest;
The honey bees swarm in and out, and little lizards flashed about.
And when we flung the casement wide, the wind would play about her brow,
As she sat, etching, by my side,–I see the bright locks lifted now!
And such a view would meet our eyes of crimson woods and azure skies!
‘Twas there, when fell the twilight hush, I used to feed her wistful ears,
And make her cheek and forehead flush, and her dark eyes fill full of tears,
With tales of my wild, fighting life–our bitter, brave Crimean strife.
We had, too, little concerts in that dear recess,–I used to play
Accompaniments on my violin, and she would sing “Old Robin Gray,”
And simple, tender Scottish songs of loyal love and royal wrongs.
My violin is dead for me, the dust lies thick upon the case;
And she is dead,–yet I can see e’en now the rapt and listening face;
And all about the garden floats the echo of those crying notes!
‘Tis a sweet garden, is it not? So wild and tangled, nothing prim;
No quaint-cut bed, no shaven plot, no stunted bushes, stiff and trim;
Its flowers and shrubs all overblown, its long paths moss and lichen-grown.
‘Twas on that terrace that we read the “Idylls,” sauntering up and down
With gentle, musing, measured tread, while leaves kept falling, gold and brown,
And mists kept rising, silver-grey, one still and peaceful autumn-day.
In those long glades we roamed apart, and studied Spanish, and the tales
Of Chaucer,–there we talked of art, and listened to the nightingales;
E’en now, when summer daylight dies, I hear their bubbling melodies.
You see that bower, half-hidden, made by the low-branching willow-tree?
We used to lounge there in the shade, and laugh, and gossip, and drink tea:
I wreathed her head with ferns, one night, and little rose-buds sweet and white.
It grew my habit, by-and-by, to gather all the flowers she wore;
She used to take them silently, or I would leave them at her door,–
And wait about till she was drest, to see them nestling on her breast.
In that green nook she used to sit, and I would watch her as she worked.
Her face had such a spell in it, and such a subtle glamour lurked
In even motion of her hand!–why, I could never understand.
‘Twas there I tied the little strap that held her netting down, one day,
And kissed the soft palm in her lap, which she so gently drew away.
Ay me, we held our tongues for hours! and I plucked off and ate the flowers.
She would not look at me at first–I recollect it all so well!
Her delicate, downcast features, erst so pale, were tinted like a shell–
Then like the petals that enclose the inmost heart of a moss rose.
The others came and chatted round, but we could laugh and chat no more;
I propped my elbow on the ground, and watched her count her stitches o’er;
Their talk I did not comprehend,–she was too busy to attend.
The days passed on, and still we sat in our old place; but things were changed.
We were so silent after that!–so oddly formal–so estranged!
No more we met to worship art,–our little pathways branched apart.
All day I kept her face in view–scarce one low tone I failed to hear;
And, though she would not see, I knew she felt when I was far or near.
Yet brief and seldom was the chance that gave me word, or smile, or glance.
One night I came home in the gloom. The other guests were mostly gone.
A light was burning in her room, and from the lawn it shone upon
I plucked a flower for her to wear–a white rose, fringed with maidenhair.
I passed through that long corridor–those are its windows, to the west–
That I might leave it at her door,–and saw her cross her threshold, drest.
No lamps were lit,–the twilight shed a grey mist on her shiny head.
Her garments swept the oaken stairs; I stood below her, hushed and dumb;
She started, seeing me unawares, and stopped. “Come down,” I whispered; “come!”
She waited, but I waited too;–and she had nothing else to do.
She came down, slowly, haughtily, with sweet pretence of carelessness.
I watched each step as she drew nigh, each brighter gleam on her white dress.
I did not speak, I did not stir, but all my heart went out to her.
She would have passed me, shy and still,–she would not suffer herself to mark
That I was grown so bold, until I took her dear hands in the dark.
And then–and then—-Well! she was good and patient, and she understood.
My arms were strong, and rude, and rough–because my love was so intense;
She knew the reason well enough, and so she would not take offence;
Though ’twas by force I made her stay, she did not try to get away.
Ah, then we had some happy hours–some blessed days of peace and rest!
This garden, full of shady bowers and lonely pathways, from whose breast
A thousand blending perfumes rise, became a very Paradise.
‘Twas fair as the first Eden, then; and Adam had no fairer mate!
Nor grieved he more than I grieved, when the angel drove him from the gate.
When God cursed him from His high throne, He did not cast him out alone!
‘Twas on that broken step we sat, where the yew branch is fall’n and bent,
And read the Colonel’s letter, that recalled me to my regiment.
‘Twas there, on such a night as this, I stood to give my parting kiss.
‘Twas there I hugged the small Greek head upon my bosom, damp with dew;
‘Twas there she soothed my grief, and said, “But I shall still belong to you.”
O my sweet Eve, with your pure eyes!–you’re mine now, in God’s Paradise.
I sailed, you know, within a week, en route for Malta’s heat and blaze;
And tender letters came, to speak of love, and comfort, and bright days.
I tried to think it was not hard–of what was coming afterward.
I used to dream, and dream, and dream, from night till morn, from morn till night;
My future life just then did seem so full, so beautiful, so bright!
I could not see, I could not feel, the sorrow dogging at my heel.
At length it touched me. By-and-by the letters ceased. I looked in vain;
I roamed the streets dejectedly, and gnawed my long moustache in pain.
I wrote twice–thrice; no answer still. Surely, I thought, she must be ill.
Until one evening Eyre came in, to lounge and gossip, drink and smoke,
I gave him leisure to begin; and, when his pipe was lit, he spoke,
Through curling vapour, soft and blue–“Guy, I’ve a piece of news for you.
“One of the girls you met last year at that poor tumble-down old place–
The dark-haired one–she with the clear white skin and sweet Madonna face,–
She’s married now, I understand, to her rich cousin Hildebrand.”
I felt my limbs grow stark and stiff; I felt my heart grow cold as lead;
I heard Eyre’s quiet, musing whiff–the noise swam round and round my head.
I veiled my eyes, lest he should see their passionate, mute misery.
“I only heard,” he said, “to-day. It’s out in all the papers, though.
She did not care for him, they say. But the old house was falling low–
Her father’s name and fame at stake. She would do anything for his sake.
“Some mortgages foreclosed–the price of years and centuries of debt;
The manor doomed for sacrifice–or else the Lady Margaret.
Doubtless for Hildebrand’s red gold the rare Madonna face was sold.
“I fancy that’s the history,” he ended, in a bitter tone.
“It’s not a new one, by-the-bye.” And when he went, I sat alone,
And tried to ease me with a prayer, but ground my teeth in despair.
Then I grew stupid, numb, and tired. A fever crept through all my veins,
And wearied out my heart, and fired my dazed, tumultuous, teeming brains.
I hung suspended by a breath, for weeks and months, ‘twixt life and death.
Then I recovered, and had leave to go to England–where she dwelt;
In my home climate to retrieve my broken health and strength. I felt
Twice ten years older than before. I knew I should come back no more.
Soon as I touched my native land, my feet turned toward the manor house.
They told me that Sir Hildebrand was in the Highlands, shooting grouse;
That she was in her father’s care. That night I found her, sitting there,
On that third step, just where the trees cast down their greenest, coolest shade;
Her weary hands about her knees, her head against the balustrade;
And such dumb woe in her sweet eyes, uplifted to the fading skies.
She did not see me till I burst through the rose-thickets round about.
She sprang up with a cry at first–and then her arms were half stretched out–
And then caught backward, for his sake. I felt as if my heart would break.
I knew the truth. I did not care. I did not think. I flung me down,
And kissed her hands, her wrists, her hair, the very fringes of her gown;
While she sat cowering in a heap, and moaned, and shook, but could not weep.
It was soon over. O good God, forgive me!–I was sorely tried.
‘Twas a dark pathway that I trod; I could not see Thee at my side.
It was soon over. “I shall die,” she whispered, “if you stay here, Guy!
“O Guy! Guy! you were kind to me in our old days,–be kinder now,–
Be kind, and go, and let me be!” And then I felt on my hot brow
The brush of her cold finger-tips–the last soft contact of her lips.
And I obeyed her will and went, and vowed to tempt her nevermore.
I tried hard, too, to be content, and think of that which lay before.
I knew my dream of love was past, yet strove to serve her to the last.
I left my comrades–I had lost all taste for glory and for mirth–
And, without hopes or aims, I cross’d the seas and wander’d o’er the earth.
Without a light, without a guide, I drifted with the wind and tide.
My heart was broken when ’twas struck that bitter blow, and joy ran out!
Only a few stray treasures stuck–a few gleams flickered round about.
My old art-love still lingered there,–I think that kept me from despair.
With strange companions did I dwell, one scorching summer, on the heights
Of Tangiers’ Moorish citadel, and mused away the days and nights.
With loose white garments and long gun, I roamed the deserts in the sun.
I painted Atlas, capped with snow, and lifted, cool, and still, and fair,
Out of the burning heat and glow, into the solemn upper air;
And Tetuan’s gleaming walls I drew on fields of Mediterranean blue.
I haunted Cairo’s crowded ways, and sketched carved doors and gilded grates,
Mosque-domes and minarets ablaze, and sweet dark heads with shining plaits;
And now a grave old Arab sheikh, and then a slim, straight-featured Greek.
In a swift wing-sailed boat I slid across the stream where Libya looms,
And from King Cheop’s pyramid saw Pharaoh-cities, Pharaoh-tombs;
And, stretching off for many a mile, the sacred waters of the Nile.
I saw the graves of mighty states,–I saw Thebes’ temple, overturned–
The City of the Hundred Gates, where Moses and Greek sages learned,
Where hungry lions prowl at noon, and hyænas snarl at the bright moon.
I roamed through Nubian desert flats, where vultures sailed o’er burning seas;
And forests where the yellow bats hung, cloaked and hooded, from the trees;
And marshy wastes, where crocodiles slept on the shores of sandy isles.
I followed, through long days and nights, where, with their little ones and flocks,
Had passed the wandering Israelites; I read the writing on the rocks;
And e’en these restless feet of mine tracked holy feet in Palestine.
Roaming through India’s burning plains, I chased wild boars and antelopes;
Swam brawling nullahs in the rains, and haunted dew-wet mango-topes;
Shot bears and tigers in the gloom of the dense forests of Beerbhoom.
Through swathing-nets I watched at night the clear moon gild a palm-tree ledge;
And, through the flood of silver light, heard jackals at the compound-hedge;
While punkahs waved above my head, and faint airs hovered round my bed.
I mused by many a sacred tank, where lonely temples fell away,
Where the fat alligators drank, and scarlet lotus-flowers lay;
Smoked curling pipes ‘neath roof and tree, the while dark nautch-girls danced to me.
I trod the creeper-netted ground of deadly, beautiful, bright woods,
Where birds and monkeys chattered round, and serpents reared their crimson hoods.
I dwelt ‘neath breathless desert-glows, and Simla’s Himalayan snows.
From the hot glades of garden reach, I wandered upward to Cabool–
From the bright Hooghly’s flowering beach to the wild mountains, calm and cool.
I wept at Cawnpore’s fatal well, and where our heroes fought and fell.
I roamed through Lucknow’s battered gate–thick-thronged with memories so intense!
And Delhi’s ruins of wild state and old Mogul magnificence.
I pressed the rank, blood-nurtured grass that creeps along the Khyber Pass.
I sailed the Irrawaddy’s stream, ‘mid dense teak forests; saw the moon
Light up with broad and glittering gleam the golden Dagun of Rangoon–
The delicate, fretted temple-shells, whose roofs were rimmed with swaying bells.
In his gold palace, all alone, with square, hard face and eyes aslant,
I saw upon his royal throne the Lord of the White Elephant.
I mixed in wild, barbaric feasts with Buddha’s yellow-robèd priests.
I crept with curious feet within imperial China’s sacred bounds;
I saw the Palace of Pekin, and all its fairy garden-grounds;
The green rice-fields, the tremulous rills, the white azaleas on the hills;
The tea-groves climbing mountain backs; the girls’ rich robes of blue and white;
The cattle ‘neath the paddy-stacks; the gilt pagodas, tall and bright;–
And in a merchant-junk I ran across the waters to Japan.
I saw, where silk-fringed mats were spread, within his laquered, bare saloon,
With his curled roofs above his head, on muffled heels, the great Tycoon.
Familiar things they were to me–the pipes, and betel-nuts, and tea.
I dug in Californian ground, at Sacramento’s golden brim,
With hunger, murder, all around, and fever shaking every limb;
Saw, in lush forests and rude sheds, the Dyaks roasting pirates’ heads.
I shot white condors on the brows of snowy Andes; and I chased
Wild horses, and wild bulls and cows, o’er the wide Pampas’ jungle-waste;
And saw, while wandering to and fro, the silver mines of Mexico.
In Caffre waggons I was drawn up lone Cape gorges, green and steep,
And camped by river-grove and lawn, where nightly tryst the wild things keep;
Where glaring eyes without the line of circling watch-fires used to shine.
I chased o’er sandy plains and shot the ostrich,–at the reedy brink
Of pools, the lion, on the slot of antelopes that came to drink;
Giraffes, that held their heads aloof ‘neath the mimosa’s matted roof;
And brindled gnus, and cowardly, striped shard-wolves, and ‘mid water-plants
And flags, black hippopotami, and snakes, and shrieking elephants.
From courted sickness, hunger, strife, God spared my weary, reckless life.
In the bright South Seas did I toss through wild blue nights and fainting days,
With the snow-plumaged albatross. I saw Tahiti’s peaks ablaze;
And still, palm-fringed lagoons asleep o’er coral grottoes, cool and deep.
I built an Australian hut of logs, and lived alone–with just a noose,
A trap, a gun, my horse and dogs; I hunted long-legged kangaroos;
And oft I spent the calm night-hours beneath the gum-trees’ forest-bowers.
I threaded miles and miles and miles, where Lena’s sad, slow waters flow,
‘Mid silent rocks, and woods, and isles, and drear Siberian steppes of snow;
Where pines and larches, set alight, blaze in the dark and windless night.
I shot a wild fowl on the shore of a still, lonely mountain lake,
And, o’er the sheer white torrents’ roar, heard long-drawn, plaintive echoes wake;
Caught squirrels in their leafy huts, munching the little cedar-nuts.
I trapped the small, soft sables, stripped the bloomy fur from off their backs,
And hunted grey wolves as they slipped and snuffed and snarled down reindeer tracks;
I brought the brown, bald eagle down from the white sea-hill’s rugged crown.
I saw the oil-lamp shining through the small and dim ice window-pane;
And the near sky, so deeply blue, spangled with sparks, like golden rain;
While dogs lay tethered, left and right, howling across the arctic night.
I saw when, in my flying sledge, I swept the frozen tundra-slopes,
The white bears on some craggy ledge, far-off, where ocean blindly gropes
In her dim caves–where bones lie furled, the tokens of a vanished world.
I saw across the dread blue sky, spanning blue ice and bluer mist
(That shows where open waters lie), the bright Aurora keep her tryst,–
That arch of tinted flame–so fair! lighting the crystals in the air.
Then, all at once–I know not why–I felt I could no longer roam;
A voice seemed calling to my heart–Return to England and thy home;
I found my thoughts were yearning yet, for one more glimpse of Margaret.
So on a sudden I returned. I reached the village in the night.
At one small inn a candle burned with feeble, pale, unsteady light:
The hostess curtseyed, grave and strange. She did not know me for the change.
My broad white brows were bronzed, and scarred with lines of trouble, thought, and care;
My young bright eyes were dim and hard–the sunshine was no longer there;
My brown moustache was hid away in a great beard of iron-grey.
“The Manor House is habited,” to my brief question she replied.
“To-night my lady lies there dead. She’s long been ailing, and she died
At noon. A happy thing for her! Were you acquainted with her, sir?
“A sweeter lady never walked! So kind and good to all the poor!
She ne’er disdained us when she talked–ne’er turned a beggar from her door.
Ah, sir, but we may look in vain; we ne’er shall see her likes again.
“I heard the squire’s great bloodhound’s bark; I woke, and shook, and held my breath.
My man, he stirred too in the dark. Said he to me, ‘My lady’s death
Is not far off. Another night she’ll never see.’ And he was right.
“‘Twas over in twelve hours or less. She lies there, on the golden bed,
In her old confirmation dress, with the small white cap on her head
Which bore the bishop’s blessing hand,–she asked that of Sir Hildebrand.”
You see that window in the shade of those old beeches? ‘Twas that room
Wherein my dear dead love was laid. I climbed the ivy in the gloom
And silence–just once more to see the face that had belonged to me.
I stood beside her. No one heard. On the great rajah’s bed, alone
She lay. The night-breeze softly stirred the Cashmere curtains, and the moan
Of my wild kisses seemed to thrill the solitude. All else was still.
In the pale yellow taper light, I gazed upon her till the morn.
I see her now–so sweet and white! the fair, pure face so trouble-worn!
The thin hands folded on her breast, in peace at last, and perfect rest!
The Silence In The Church
O Holy Spirit, we entreat,
Send down Thy quickening fire;
Let Thine own presence, dread and sweet,
These waiting hearts in spire.
In every thought and word and deed,
Breathe Thou the breath of life–
The fulness of the grace they need
For their appointed strife.
Help them to hold, in clasp of prayer,
The rod and staff of God;
And lead them safely, surely, where
The Christ Himself hath trod.
Give power to speak Thy message, Lord,
To every feeble voice;
May they the true seed cast abroad
Till desert wastes rejoice.
Make strong the toiling hearts and hands,
Keep watching eyes from sleep,
That golden harvests crown the lands
When angels come to reap.
Pour now, O lord, all gifts of grace
From Thy most holy dwelling-place;
And let the living flame be shed
On each disciple’s bended head.
Light up his soul with light divine,–
A star of heaven on earth to shine,
A beacon on life’s stormy sea,
To guide the wandering bark to Thee.
Lord, clothe him now in white complete,
In Thine own spirit, pure and sweet;
Let him go forth to labour well,
In truth and strength invincible.
May his calm lips, that whisper now
The yearning prayer, the solemn vow,
Be ready, in the judgment-day,
The faithful servant’s words to say–
“Lord, I have tried, in faithful strife,
To win Thy lambs to light and life;
Lord, I have truly kept for Thee
The awful charge Thou gavest me.”
The Virgin Martyr
Every wild she-bird has nest and mate in the warm April weather,
But a captive woman, made for love — no mate, no nest has she.
In the spring of young desire, young men and maids are wed together,
And the happy mothers flaunt their bliss for all the world to see:
Nature’s sacramental feast for these — an empty board for me.
I, a young maid once, an old maid now, deposed, despised, forgotten —
I, like them have thrilled with passion and have dreamed of nuptial rest,
Of the trembling life within me of my children unbegotten,
Of a breathing new-born body to my yearning bosom prest,
Of the rapture of a little soft mouth drinking at my breast.
Time, that heals so many sorrows, keeps mine ever freshly aching;
Though my face is growing furrowed and my brown hair turning white,
Still I mourn my irremediable loss, asleep or waking —
Still I hear my son’s voice calling “mother” in the dead of night,
And am haunted by my girl’s eyes that will never see the light.
O my children that I might have had! my children, lost for ever!
O the goodly years that might have been — now desolate and bare!
O malignant God or Fate, what have I done that I should never
Take my birthright like the others, take the crown that women wear,
And possess the common heritage to which all flesh is heir?
O for wings! that I might soar
A little way above the floor,
A little way beyond the roar–
A little nearer to the sky!
To the blue hills, lifted high
Out of all our misery.
Where alone is heard the lark,
Warbling in the infinite arc
From the dawning to the dark;
Where the callow eaglets wink
On the bare and breezy brink,
And slow pinions rise and sink.
Where the dim white breakers beat
Under cloud-drifts at our feet,
Singing, singing, low and sweet;
Where we see the glimmering bay
Greyly melting far away,
On the confines of the day;
Where the green larch-fringes sweep
Rocky defiles, still and steep;
Where the tender lichens creep;
Where the gentian-blossoms blow,
Set in crystal stars of snow;
Where the downward torrents flow
To the plains and yellow leas,
Glancing, twinkling through the trees–
Pure, as from celestial seas.
Where the face of heaven has smiled
Aye on freedom, sweet and wild,
Aye on beauty undefiled.
Where no sound of human speech,
And no human passions, reach;
Where the angels sit and teach.
Where no troublous foot has trod;
Where is impressed on the sod
Only hand and heart of God!
Nay, ask me not. I would not dare pretend
To constant passion and a life-long trust.
They will desert thee, if indeed they must.
How can we guess what Destiny will send–
Smiles of fair fortune, or black storms to rend
What even now is shaken by a gust?
The fire will burn, or it will die in dust.
We cannot tell until the final end.
And never vow was forged that could confine
Aught but the body of the thing whereon
Its pledge was stamped. The inner soul divine,
That thinks of going, is already gone.
When faith and love need bolts upon the door,
Faith is not faith, and love abides no more.
“This Enlightened Age”
A Meditation in the British Museum.
I say it to myself–in meekest awe
Of Progress, electricity and steam,
Of this almighty age–this liberal age,
That has no time to breathe, or think, or dream,–
I ask it of myself, with bated breath,
Casting a furtive glance about the hall,–
Our fathers, were their times so very dark?
Were they benighted heathens after all?
Had they not their Galileo–Newton too–
And men as great, though not a Stephenson?
Had they not passable scholars in fair Greece,
Who traced the paths we deign to walk upon
Had they not poets in those dismal days–
Homer and Shakespeare, and a few between?
Had they not rulers in their barbarous states,
Who scattered laws for our wise hands to glean?
Had they not painters, who knew how to paint–
Raphael, to take an instance–well as we,
With near four hundred years of light the less?
Is Phidias matched in our great century?
And architects? Sure Egypt, and old Rome,
And ruined Athens tell of fair reputes!
The Pyramids, and temples of the Greeks,
May vie with our town-halls and institutes.
Their marble Venice, with her dappled tints,
Their grey old minsters, strong as chiselled rocks,
Their Tyrolean castles, lifted high,
May outlast all our brick-and-mortar blocks.
And were there not refinements in those days,
And elegant luxuries of domestic life?
I read the answer in the precious things
Whereof these clustering cabinets are rife.
What can we show so beautiful in art?
What new of ours can match their wondrous old?–
This fragile porcelain–this Venetian glass–
This delicate necklace of Etruscan gold.
And was there not religion–when the Church
Was one–a common mother–loved and feared?
When haughty souls rejoiced to bear her yoke?
When all those grand monastic piles were reared?
And were there not some preachers–Chrysostoms,
Whose golden words still linger, like a chime
Of falling echoes in lone alpine glens,
Amongst the sonorous voices of our time?
And soldiers–heroes? Do we shame them much?
Have men more courage than in days of yore?
Are they more jealous for their manhood now?
Do they respect and honour women more?
Are they more noble than those good old knights,
Who scorned to strike a foe save in the face–
Who reckoned gold as dross to gallant deeds,
And counted death far happier than disgrace?
Is life more grand with us, who bask at ease,
And count that only excellent which pays,
Than ’twas to the stout hearts that wore the steel
In those dark, turbulent, fearless, fighting days?
O nineteenth century! God has given you light;
The morning has been spreading–that is all.
O liberal age! stoop your conceited head,
And gather up the crumbs that they let fall.
We have heard many sermons, you and I,
And many more may hear,
When sitting quiet in cathedral nave,
With folded palms and faces meek and grave;–
But few like this one, dear.
We ofttimes watch together ‘fore the veil,
With reverent, gleaming eyes,
While priestly hands are busy with the folds,–
And pant to see the holy place, which holds
Life’s dreadest mysteries.
We watch weak, foolish fingers straying o’er
The broidered boss, to grasp
Vaguely at some small end of thread, and twist
And shake the glorious pattern into mist,
And leave us nought to clasp.
We watch, with eyes dilated, some strong hand
Of nerve and muscle, trace
The grand, faint outlines, erewhile undefined
To our slow earth-enfolded sense, and find
The great design–the shadow from behind–
Dawning before our face.
But seldom do we see, dear, you and I,
The pattern melt in light,
And all the shine flow out on us, uncheck’d–
With eyes of soul and not of intellect–
As we did see that night.
It was a summer-night–the sun was low,
But overlaid the sea,
And made gold-crystals of the wet sea-sand,
And drew our shadows short upon the strand
That stretched out shallowly.
It was a Sunday night–far off we heard
The solemn vesper-chime
From some grey wind-swept steeple by the shore,
Chanting “For ev-er-more! for ev-er-more!”
While the deep sea beat time.
We wandered far that night, dear, you and I,
We wandered out of reach,–
Until the golden distances grew grey,
And narrowed in the glory, as it lay
‘Mid horizon and beach.
We wandered far along the lonely waste,
Where seldom foot had trod;
The world behind us dared not to intrude–
The summer silence and the solitude
Were only filled with God.
We sat down on the sand there, you and I,
We sat down awed and dumb,
And watched the fiery circle fall and fall
Through solemn folds of purple, and the small
Soft ripples go and come.
There was not wind enough to stir the reeds
Around us, nor to curl
The sheeny, dimpled surface of the deep;
The waters murmured low, as half in sleep,
With measured swish and swirl.
Two sea-birds came and dabbled in the pools,
And cried their plaintive cry,
As their strong wings swept o’er us as we sat
(No profanation of the stillness that,
But added sanctity).
They flecked the crimson shallows with black streaks,
Low-wheeling to and fro,
Crying their bold, sweet cry, as knowing well
It was a place where God, not man, did dwell–
A father, not a foe.
Ah, we hear many sermons, you and I–
The poor words fall and drown;
But this, whose speech was silence, this has stirred
The stream of years,–and aye it will be heard
As when that sun went down!
Another mile–a year
Pass’d by for ever! And the warnings swell
From upper heaven to darkest depths of hell,–
O we are drawing near!
All through the waiting lands
Dim signs and tokens, if unheeded, throng;
We feel them thickening as we pass along,
Holding out fearful hands.
Light! which in love sent down
That tender gleam on Eden’s darken’d bowers,
When sin had breathed the blight upon the flowers
Whereof death made his crown:–
Light! which did deign to stamp
The tables on that Arab mountain-crest;–
Light! which, in shrouded glory, once did rest
On Israelitish camp:–
O day! whose dawn was spread,
Golden and clear, on Judæa’s terraced hills,–
O shining noon! whose waxèd beauty thrills
Earth and her quick and dead:–
Come to our hearts, we pray!
Through open doors let gracious gleams come in;
Fill us with light and life, and let the sin
And darkness pass away.
Lord, waken us who sleep,
Strengthen the feeble knees and weak hands now;
Teach us, with prayer and work, to measure how
The stealthy minutes creep.
Let not our lamp be dim
When in the night we hear the footsteps fall
Upon our threshold,–let death find us all
Watching in peace for him.
Let us lie down to rest
In surest hope of endless life in store,
With happy reverent hands, that strive no more.
Folded across our breast.
And when the angels come,
And the sharp echo of the herald’s cry
Pierces the dark and stillness where we lie
Cold in our sleep, and dumb,–
May we arise, O King!
In bridal garments, beautiful and white;
And do Thou, coming in Thy godly might,
Our crown of glory bring.
AS flower to sun its drop of dew
Gives from its crystal cup,
So I, as morning gift to you,
This poor verse offer up.
As flowers upon the summer wind
Their air-born odours shake,
So, in all fragrance you may find,
I give but what I take.
My tree blooms green through snow and heat;
Your love is sap and root,–
And this is but the breathing sweet
Of fairest blossom-shoot.
An outgrowth of the happy days
In wedded lives begun–
Two lives, in all their work and ways,
The force that was to bind us so
We very dimly knew.
Ah, love! it seems so long ago,
And yet the years are few.
We did not wait for tides to rise,
Nor cared that winds were rough;
They call’d us foolish–we were wise;
God gave us wealth enough.
He only knows what precious change
We took of Him for gold;
What blessing such a narrow range
Of circumstance can hold.
No troubles now could memory spare,
No lightest touch of pain;
No hand experience of care
Would we unlearn again.
Such love surrounds, such beauty lies
On our most common needs,
As silver hoar-frost glorifies
The wayside sticks and weeds.
All trials that are overpast,
All cares that are to be,
But make more sacred and more fast
The ties ‘twixt you and me.
They are but clear lights shining through
The mist that round us rolls;
They are but touchstones, fine and true
For fond and faithful souls.
They are but fires, to cleanse and clean
Our human love from stain;
For naught of sordid, false, or mean
From these blest fires remain.
They are but keys within the wards
Of that last, inmost door,
Where the heart’s dearest treasure-hoards
Are garner’d evermore.
Ah, dear! our very griefs are glad
Our every cross is crown’d;
We are not able to be sad,
Such comfort wraps us round.
How calm the haven where we rest,
Now passion’s storms are past!
How warm and soft the little nest
Which shelters us at last!
How–blue, pellucid, and divine–
Through all our days and nights,
The clear eyes of our children shine
Like heavenly beacon-lights!
We listen to the laughter sweet
Whose echoes come and go,
The music of little feet
That patter to and fro.
And deepest thoughts of God awake,
Who hath reveal’d Him thus,
And, in His goodness, deign’d to make
His own abode with us.
To God, in Christ, we kneel to-day
(Whose will on earth be done);
As He hath made us, let us pray
That He will keep us, one.
Together, may we feel Him stand
About our path and bed;
Together may we, hand in hand,
His royal highway tread.
The dear ones He has given, to be
Of His redeem’d the type–
Together, may we live to see
Their budding promise ripe.
And, O my dearest! may we lie,
In our last night of rest,
Asleep together, peacefully,
Upon our Father’s breast.
When the investing darkness growls,
And deep reverberates to deep;
When keyhole whines and chimney howls,
And all the roofs and windows weep;
Then, through the doorless walls of sleep,
The still-sealed ear and shuttered sight,
Phantoms of memory steal and creep,
The very ghosts of sound and light–
Dream-visions and dream-voices of a bygone night.
I see again, I hear again,
Where lightnings flash and house-eaves drip,
A flying swirl of waves and rain–
That storm-path between Sound and Rip.
I feel the swaying of the ship
In every gust that rocks the trees,
And taste that brine upon my lip
And smell the freshness of the breeze
That sped us through the welter of those racing seas.
I hear the menace of the call
To rope and rivet, wheel and mast,
In the swift onrush of the squall,
The challenge of the thundering blast
To daring men as it sweeps past;
And in my dream I have no dread.
Rivet and rope are firm and fast,
The clear lights shining, green and red,
The quiet eyes of sentry watching overhead.
What epic battles pass unsung!
It was a war of gods befell
On that wild night when we were young.
They rode, like cavalry of hell,
The mighty winds, the monstrous swell,
On their white horses, fierce and fleet;
They stood at bay, invincible,
Where pulsed beneath our sliding feet
The faithful iron heart that never lost a beat.
How the sharp sea-spume lashed and stung!
How the salt sea-wind tugged and tare
And clawed and mauled us where we clung,
With panting breasts and streaming hair,
To our frail eyrie in mid-air!
How we exulted in the fight–
With neither haste nor halt to dare
Those Titans furies in their might,
Undaunted and unswerving in our insect flight!
No lap of exquisite repose!
A mortar wherein souls are brayed;
An anvil ringing to the blows
Whereby true men are shaped, and made
Divinely strong and unafraid.
Such gallant sailor-men there be–
Never unready or dismayed,
Though ‘t’s the face of death they see
In cyclone, fire and fog, and white surf on the lee.
Not only in the sylvan bower,
On dreaming hill, by sleeping mere,
The holy place–the sacred hour.
Beset by every form of fear,
Darkness ahead and danger near,
Sorely hard-driven and hard-prest,
But still unspent and of good cheer–
He finds them who can pass the test,
Who never winks an eye and never stays to rest.