Author:

The Turn Of The Road

I was playing with my hoop along the road
Just where the bushes are, when, suddenly,
There came a shout.—I ran away and stowed
Myself beneath a bush, and watched to see
What made the noise, and then, around the bend,
I saw a woman running. She was old
And wrinkle-faced, and had big teeth.—The end
Of her red shawl caught on a bush and rolled
Right off her, and her hair fell down.—Her face
Was awful white, and both her eyes looked sick,
And she was talking queer. ‘O God of Grace!’
Said she, ‘where is the child?’ and flew back quick
The way she came, and screamed, and shook her hands;
… Maybe she was a witch from foreign lands.

The Cherry Tree

Come from your bed my drowsy gentleman!
And you, fair lady, rise and braid your hair,
And let the children wash, if wash they can;
If not, assist you them, and make them fair
As is the morning and the morning sky,
And every tree and bush and bird in air.

The sun climbed on the heights three hours ago,
He laughed above the hills and they were glad;
With bubbled pearl he made the rivers flow
And laced their mists in silver, and he clad
The meads in fragrant pomp of green and gold,
And bade the world forget it had been sad.

So lift yourself, good sir! and you, sweet dame,
Unlash your evening eyes of pious grey;
Call on the children by each loved name,
And set them on the grass and let them play;
And play with them a while, and sing with them
Beneath the cherry bush a roundelay.

The Spring In Ireland: 1916

I

Do not forget my charge I beg of you ;
That of what flow’rs you find of fairest hue
And sweetest odor you do gather those
Are best of all the best — a fragrant rose,
A tall calm lily from the waterside,
A half-blown poppy leaning at the side
Its graceful head to dream among the corn,
Forget-me-nots that seem as though the morn
Had tumbled down and grew into the clay,
And hawthorn buds that swing along the way
Easing the hearts of those who pass them by
Until they find contentment. — Do not cry,
But gather buds, and with them greenery
Of slender branches taken from a tree
Well bannered by the spring that saw them fall:
Then you, for you are cleverest of all
Who have slim fingers and are pitiful,
Brimming your lap with bloom that you may cull,
Will sit apart, and weave for every head
A garland of the flow’rs you gathered.

II

Be green upon their graves, O happy Spring,
For they were young and eager who are dead;
Of all things that are young and quivering
With eager life be they remembered :
They move not here, they have gone to the clay,
They cannot die again for liberty;
Be they remembered of their land for aye;
Green be their graves and green their memory.

Fragrance and beauty come in with the green,
The ragged bushes put on sweet attire,
The birds forget how chill these airs have been,
The clouds bloom out again and move in fire;
Blue is the dawn of day, calm is the lake,
And merry sounds are fitful in the morn;
In covert deep the young blackbirds awake,
They shake their wings and sing upon the morn.

At springtime of the year you came and swung
Green flags above the newly-greening earth;
Scarce were the leaves unfolded, they were young,
Nor had outgrown the wrinkles of their birth:
Comrades they thought you of their pleasant hour,
They had but glimpsed the sun when they saw you;
They heard your songs e’er birds had singing power,
And drank your blood e’er that they drank the dew.

Then you went down, and then, and as in pain,
The Spring affrighted fled her leafy ways,
The clouds came to the earth in gusty rain,
And no sun shone again for many days:
And day by day they told that one was dead,
And day by day the season mourned for you,
Until that count of woe was finished,
And Spring remembered all was yet to do.

She came with mirth of wind and eager leaf,
With scampering feet and reaching out of wings,
She laughed among the boughs and banished grief,
And cared again for all her baby things;
Leading along the joy that has to be,
Bidding her timid buds think on the May,
And told that Summer comes with victory,
And told the hope that is all creatures’ stay.

Go, Winter, now unto your own abode,
Your time is done, and Spring is conqueror
Lift up with all your gear and take your road,
For she is here and brings the sun with her:
Now are we resurrected, now are we,
Who lay so long beneath an icy hand,
New-risen into life and liberty,
Because the Spring is come into our land.

III

In other lands they may,
With public joy or dole along the way,
With pomp and pageantry and loud lament
Of drums and trumpets, and with merriment
Of grateful hearts, lead into rest and sted
The nation’s dead.

If we had drums and trumpets, if we had
Aught of heroic pitch or accent glad
To honor you as bids tradition old,
With banners flung or draped in mournful fold,
And pacing cortege; these would we not bring
For your last journeying.

We have no drums or trumpets ; naught have we
But some green branches taken from a tree,
And flowers that grow at large in mead and vale;
Nothing of choice have we, or of avail
To do you honor as our honor deems,
And as your worth beseems.

Sleep, drums and trumpets, yet a little time;
All ends and all begins, and there is chime
At last where discord was, and joy at last
Where woe wept out her eyes: be not downcast,
Here is prosperity and goodly cheer,
For life does follow death, and death is here.

‘The Old Leaven’

Mark:
So, Maurice, you sail to-morrow, you say?
And you may or may not return?
Be sociable, man! for once in a way,
Unless you’re too old to learn.
The shadows are cool by the water side
Where the willows grow by the pond,
And the yellow laburnum’s drooping pride
Sheds a golden gleam beyond.
For the blended tints of the summer flowers,
For the scents of the summer air,
For all nature’s charms in this world of ours,
‘Tis little or naught you care.
Yet I know for certain you haven’t stirred
Since noon from your chosen spot;
And you’ve hardly spoken a single word-
Are you tired, or cross, or what?
You’re fretting about those shares you bought,
They were to have gone up fast;
But I heard how they fell to nothing-in short,
They were given away at last.

Maurice:
No, Mark, I’m not so easily cross’d;
‘Tis true that I’ve had a run
Of bad luck lately; indeed, I’ve lost;
Well! somebody else has won.

Mark:
The glass has fallen, perhaps you fear
A return of your ancient stitch-
That souvenir of the Lady’s Mere,
Park palings and double ditch.

Maurice:
You’re wrong. I’m not in the least afraid
Of that. If the truth be told,
When the stiffness visits my shoulder-blade,
I think on the days of old;
It recalls the rush of the freshening wind,
The strain of the chestnut springing,
And the rolling thunder of hoofs behind,
Like the Rataplan chorus ringing.

Mark:
Are you bound to borrow, or loth to lend?
Have you purchased another screw?
Or backed a bill for another friend?
Or had a bad night at loo?

Maurice:
Not one of those, you’re all in the dark,
If you choose you can guess again;
But you’d better give over guessing, Mark,
It’s only labour in vain.

Mark:
I’ll try once more; does it plague you still,
That trifle of lead you carry?
A guest that lingers against your will,
Unwelcome, yet bound to tarry.

Maurice:
Not so! That burden I’m used to bear,
‘Tis seldom it gives me trouble;
And to earn it as I did then and there,
I’d carry a dead weight double.
A shock like that for a splintered rib
Can a thousand-fold repay-
As the swallow skims through the spider’s web,
We rode through their ranks that day!

Mark:
Come, Maurice, you sha’n’t escape me so!
I’ll hazard another guess:
That girl that jilted you long ago,
You’re thinking of her, confess!

Maurice:
Tho’ the blue lake flush’d with a rosy light,
Reflected from yonder sky,
Might conjure a vision of Aphrodite
To a poet’s or painter’s eye;
Tho’ the golden drop, with its drooping curl,
Between the water and wood,
Hangs down like the tress of a wayward girl
In her dreamy maidenhood:
Such boyish fancies seem out of date
To one half inclined to censure
Their folly, and yet-your shaft flew straight,
Though you drew your bow at a venture.
I saw my lady the other night
In the crowded opera hall,
When the boxes sparkled with faces bright,
I knew her amongst them all.
Tho’ little for these things now I reck,
I singled her from the throng
By the queenly curves of her head and neck,
By the droop of her eyelash long.
Oh! passionless, placid, and calm, and cold,
Does the fire still lurk within
That lit her magnificent eyes of old,
And coloured her marble skin?
For a weary look on the proud face hung,
While the music clash’d and swell’d,
And the restless child to the silk skirt clung
Unnoticed tho’ unrepelled.
They’ve paled, those rosebud lips that I kist,
That slim waist has thickened rather,
And the cub has the sprawling mutton fist,
And the great splay foot of the father.
May the blight–

Mark: Hold hard there, Maurice, my son,
Let her rest, since her spell is broken;
We can neither recall deeds rashly done,
Nor retract words hastily spoken.

Maurice:
Time was when to pleasure her girlish whim,
In my blind infatuation,
I’ve freely endangered life and limb;
Aye, perilled my soul’s salvation.

Mark:
With the best intentions we all must work
But little good and much harm;
Be a Christian for once, not a Pagan Turk,
Nursing wrath and keeping it warm.

Maurice:
If our best intentions pave the way
To a place that is somewhat hot,
Can our worst intentions lead us, say,
To a still more sultry spot?

Mark:
‘Tis said that charity makes amends
For a multitude of transgressions.

Maurice:
But our perjured loves and our faithless friends
Are entitled to no concessions.

Mark:
Old man, these many years side by side
Our parallel paths have lain;
Now, in life’s long journey, diverging wide,
They can scarcely unite again;
And tho’, from all that I’ve seen and heard,
You’re prone to chafe and to fret
At the least restraint, not one angry word
Have we two exchanged as yet.
We’ve shared our peril, we’ve shared our sport,
Our sunshine and gloomy weather,
Feasted and flirted, and fenced and fought,
Struggled and toiled together;
In happier moments lighter of heart,
Stouter of heart in sorrow;
We’ve met and we’ve parted, and now we part
For ever, perchance, to-morrow.
She’s a matron now; when you knew her first
She was but a child, and your hate,
Fostered and cherished, nourished and nursed,
Will it never evaporate?
Your grievance is known to yourself alone,
But, Maurice, I say, for shame,
If in ten long years you haven’t outgrown
Ill-will to an ancient flame.

Maurice:
Well, Mark, you’re right; if I spoke in spite,
Let the shame and the blame be mine;
At the risk of a headache we’ll drain this night
Her health in a flask of wine;
For a castle in Spain, tho’ it never was built;
For a dream, tho’ it never came true;
For a cup, just tasted, tho’ rudely spilt,
At least she can hold me due.
Those hours of pleasure she dealt of yore,
As well as those hours of pain,
I ween they would flit as they flitted before,
If I had them over again.
Against her no word from my lips shall pass,
Betraying the grudge I’ve cherished,
Till the sand runs down in my hour-glass,
And the gift of my speech has perished.
Say! why is the spirit of peace so weak,
And the spirit of wrath so strong,
That the right we must steadily search and seek,
Tho’ we readily find the wrong?

Mark:
Our parents of old entailed the curse
Which must to our children cling;
Let us hope, at least, that we’re not much worse
Than the founder from whom we spring.
Fit sire was he of a selfish race,
Who first to temptation yielded,
Then to mend his case tried to heap disgrace
On the woman he should have shielded.
Say! comrade mine, the forbidden fruit
We’d have plucked, that I well believe,
But I trust we’d rather have suffered mute
Than have laid the blame upon Eve.

Maurice (yawning):
Who knows? not I; I can hardly vouch
For the truth of what little I see;
And now, if you’ve any weed in your pouch,
Just hand it over to me.

How We Beat The Favourite

A Lay of the Loamshire Hunt Cup

‘Aye, squire,’ said Stevens, ‘they back him at evens ;
The race is all over, bar shouting, they say ;
The Clown ought to beat her ; Dick Neville is sweeter
Than ever—he swears he can win all the way.

‘A gentleman rider—well, I’m an outsider,
But if he’s a gent who the mischief’s a jock ?
You swells mostly blunder, Dick rides for the plunder,
He rides, too, like thunder—he sits like a rock.

‘He calls ‘hunted fairly’ a horse that has barely
Been stripp’d for a trot within sight of the hounds,
A horse that at Warwick beat Birdlime and Yorick,
And gave Abdelkader at Aintree nine pounds.

‘They say we have no test to warrant a protest ;
Dick rides for a lord and stands in with a steward ;
The light of their faces they show him—his case is
Prejudged and his verdict already secured.

‘But none can outlast her, and few travel faster,
She strides in her work clean away from The Drag ;
You hold her and sit her, she couldn’t be fitter,
Whenever you hit her she’ll spring like a stag.

‘And p’rhaps the green jacket, at odds though they back it,
May fall, or there’s no knowing what may turn up ;
The mare is quite ready, sit still and ride steady,
Keep cool ; and I think you may just win the Cup.’

Dark-brown with tan muzzle, just stripped for the tussle,
Stood Iseult, arching her neck to the curb,
A lean head and fiery, strong quarters and wiry,
A loin rather light, but a shoulder superb.

Some parting injunction, bestowed with great unction,
I tried to recall, but forgot like a dunce,
When Reginald Murray, full tilt on White Surrey,
Came down in a hurry to start us at once.

‘Keep back in the yellow ! Come up on Othello !
Hold hard on the chestnut ! Turn round on The Drag !
Keep back there on Spartan ! Back you, sir, in tartan !
So, steady there, easy !’ and down went the flag.

We started, and Kerr made strong running on Mermaid,
Through furrows that led to the first stake-and-bound,
The crack, half extended, look’d bloodlike and splendid,
Held wide on the right where the headland was sound.

I pulled hard to baffle her rush with the snaffle,
Before her two-thirds of the field got away ;
All through the wet pasture where floods of the last year
Still loitered, they clotted my crimson with clay.

The fourth fence, a wattle, floor’d Monk and Bluebottle ;
The Drag came to grief at the blackthorn and ditch,
The rails toppled over Redoubt and Red Rover,
The lane stopped Lycurgus and Leicestershire Witch.

She passed like an arrow Kildare and Cock Sparrow,
And Mantrap and Mermaid refused the stone wall ;
And Giles on The Greyling came down at the paling,
And I was left sailing in front of them all.

I took them a burster, nor eased her nor nursed her
Until the Black Bullfinch led into the plough,
And through the strong bramble we bored with a scramble—
My cap was knock’d off by the hazel-tree bough.

Where furrows looked lighter I drew the rein tighter—
Her dark chest all dappled with flakes of white foam,
Her flanks mud-bespattered, a weak rail she shattered—
We landed on turf with our heads turn’d for home.

Then crash’d a low binder, and then close behind her
The sward to the strokes of the favourite shook ;
His rush roused her mettle, yet ever so little
She shortened her stride as we raced at the brook.

She rose when I hit her. I saw the stream glitter,
A wide scarlet nostril flashed close to my knee,
Between sky and water The Clown came and caught her,
The space that he cleared was a caution to see.

And forcing the running, discarding all cunning,
A length to the front went the rider in green ;
A long strip of stubble, and then the big double,
Two stiff flights of rails with a quickset between.

She raced at the rasper, I felt my knees grasp her,
I found my hands give to her strain on the bit ;
She rose when The Clown did—our silks as we bounded
Brush’d lightly, our stirrups clash’d loud as we lit.

A rise steeply sloping, a fence with stone coping—
The last—we diverged round the base of the hill ;
His path was the nearer, his leap was the clearer,
I flogg’d up the straight, and he led sitting still.

She came to his quarter, and on still I brought her,
And up to his girth, to his breastplate she drew ;
A short prayer from Neville just reach’d me, ‘The Devil !’
He muttered—lock’d level the hurdles we flew.

A hum of hoarse cheering, a dense crowd careering,
All sights seen obscurely, all shouts vaguely heard ;
‘The green wins !’ ‘The crimson !’ The multitude swims on,
And figures are blended and features are blurr’d.

‘The horse is her master !’ ‘The green forges past her !’
‘The Clown will outlast her !’ ‘The Clown wins !’ ‘The Clown !’
The white railing races with all the white faces,
The chestnut outpaces, outstretches the brown.

On still past the gateway she strains in the straightway,
Still struggles, ‘The Clown by a short neck at most,’
He swerves, the green scourges, the stand rocks and surges,
And flashes, and verges, and flits the white post.

Aye ! so ends the tussle,—I knew the tan muzzle
Was first, though the ring-men were yelling ‘Dead heat !’
A nose I could swear by, but Clarke said, ‘The mare by
A short head.’ And that’s how the favourite was beat.

The Romance Of Britomarte

I’LL tell you a story ; but pass the ‘jack’,
And let us make merry to-night, my men.
Aye, those were the days when my beard was black—
I like to remember them now and then—
Then Miles was living, and Cuthbert there,
On his lip was never a sign of down ;
But I carry about some braided hair,
That has not yet changed from the glossy brown
That it show’d the day when I broke the heart
Of that bravest of destriers, ‘Britomarte.’

Sir Hugh was slain (may his soul find grace !)
In the fray that was neither lost nor won
At Edgehill—then to St. Hubert’s Chase
Lord Goring despatch’d a garrison—
But men and horses were ill to spare,
And ere long the soldiers were shifted fast.
As for me, I never was quartered there
Till Marston Moor had been lost ; at last,
As luck would have it, alone, and late
In the night, I rode to the northern gate.

I thought, as I pass’d through the moonlit park,
On the boyish days I used to spend
In the halls of the knight lying stiff and stark—
Thought on his lady, my father’s friend
(Mine, too, in spite of my sinister bar,
But with that my story has naught to do)—
She died the winter before the war—
Died giving birth to the baby Hugh.
He pass’d ere the green leaves clothed the bough,
And the orphan girl was the heiress now.

When I was a rude and a reckless boy,
And she a brave and a beautiful child,
I was her page, her playmate, her toy—
I have crown’d her hair with the field-flowers wild
Cowslip and crowfoot and colt’s-foot bright—
I have carried her miles when the woods were wet,
I have read her romances of dame and knight ;
She was my princess, my pride, my pet.
There was then this proverb us twain between,
For the glory of God and of Gwendoline.

She had grown to a maiden wonderful fair,
But for years I had scarcely seen her face.
Now, with troopers Holdsworth, Huntly, and Clare,
Old Miles kept guard at St. Hubert’s Chase,
And the chatelaine was a Mistress Ruth,
Sir Hugh’s half-sister, an ancient dame,
But a mettlesome soul had she forsooth,
As she show’d when the time of her trial came.
I bore despatches to Miles and to her
To warn them against the bands of Kerr.

And mine would have been a perilous ride
With the rebel horsemen—we knew not where
They were scattered over that country side,—
If it had not been for my brave brown mare.
She was iron-sinew’d and satin-skinn’d,
Ribb’d like a drum and limb’d like a deer,
Fierce as the fire and fleet as the wind—
There was nothing she couldn’t climb or clear—
Rich lords had vex’d me, in vain, to part
For their gold and silver, with Britomarte.

Next morn we muster’d scarce half a score
With the serving men, who were poorly arm’d
Five soldiers, counting myself, no more,
And a culverin, which might well have harm’d
Us, had we used it, but not our foes,
When, with horses and foot, to our doors they came,
And a psalm-singer summon’d us (through his nose),
And deliver’d—’This, in the people’s name,
Unto whoso holdeth this fortress here,
Surrender ! or bide the siege—John Kerr.’

‘Twas a mansion built in a style too new,
A castle by courtesy, he lied
Who called it a fortress—yet, ’tis true,
It had been indifferently fortified—
We were well provided with bolt and bar—
And while I hurried to place our men,
Old Miles was call’d to a council of war
With Mistress Ruth and with her, and when
They had argued loudly and long, those three,
They sent, as a last resource, for me.

In the chair of state sat erect Dame Ruth ;
She had cast aside her embroidery ;
She had been a beauty, they say, in her youth,
There was much fierce fire in her bold black eye.
‘Am I deceived in you both ?’ quoth she.
‘If one spark of her father’s spirit lives
In this girl here—so, this Leigh, Ralph Leigh,
Let us hear what counsel the springald gives.’
Then I stammer’d, somewhat taken aback—
(Simon, you ale-swiller, pass the ‘jack’).

The dame wax’d hotter—’Speak out, lad, say,
Must we fall in that canting caitiff’s power ?
Shall we yield to a knave and a turncoat ? Nay,
I had liever leap from our topmost tower.
For a while we can surely await relief ;
Our walls are high and our doors are strong.’
This Kerr was indeed a canting thief—
I know not rightly, some private wrong
He had done Sir Hugh, but I know this much,
Traitor or turncoat he suffer’d as such.

Quoth Miles—’Enough ! your will shall be done ;
Relief may arrive by the merest chance,
But your house ere dusk will be lost and won ;
They have got three pieces of ordnance.’
Then I cried, ‘Lord Guy, with four troops of horse,
Even now is biding at Westbrooke town ;
If a rider could break through the rebel force
He would bring relief ere the sun goes down
Through the postern door could I make one dart
I could baffle them all upon Britomarte.’

Miles mutter’d ‘Madness !’ Dame Ruth look’d grave,
Said, ‘True, though we cannot keep one hour
The courtyard, no, nor the stables save,
They will have to batter piecemeal the tower,
And thus——’ But suddenly she halted there.
With a shining hand on my shoulder laid,
Stood Gwendoline. She had left her chair,
And, ‘Nay, if it needs must be done,’ she said,
‘Ralph Leigh will gladly do it, I ween,
For the glory of God and of Gwendoline.’

I had undertaken a heavier task
For a lighter word. I saddled with care,
Nor cumber’d myself with corselet nor casque
(Being loth to burden the brave brown mare).
Young Clare kept watch on the wall—he cried,
‘Now, haste, Ralph ! this is the time to seize ;
The rebels are round us on every side,
But here they straggle by twos and threes.’
Then out I led her, and up I sprung,
And the postern door on its hinges swung.

I had drawn this sword—you may draw it and feel,
For this is the blade that I bore that day—
There’s a notch even now on the long grey steel,
A nick that has never been rasp’d away.
I bow’d my head and I buried my spurs,
One bound brought the gliding green beneath ;
I could tell by her back-flung, flatten’d ears
She had fairly taken the bit in her teeth—
(What, Jack, have you drain’d your namesake dry,
Left nothing to quench the thirst of a fly ?)

These things are done, and are done with, lad,
In far less time than your talker tells;
The sward with their hoof-strokes shook like mad,
And rang with their carbines and petronels ;
And they shouted, ‘Cross him and cut him off,’
‘Surround him,’ ‘Seize him,’ ‘Capture the clown,
Or kill him,’ ‘Shall he escape to scoff
In your faces ?’ ‘Shoot him or cut him down.’
And their bullets whistled on every side :
Many were near us and more were wide.

Not a bullet told upon Britomarte ;
Suddenly snorting, she launched along ;
So the osprey dives where the seagulls dart,
So the falcon swoops where the kestrels throng ;
And full in my front one pistol flash’d,
And right in my path their sergeant got.
How are jack-boots jarr’d, how are stirrups clash’d,
While the mare like a meteor past him shot ;
But I clove his skull with a backstroke clean,
For the glory of God and of Gwendoline.

And as one whom the fierce wind storms in the face
With spikes of hail and with splinters of rain,
I, while we fled through St. Hubert’s Chase,
Bent till my cheek was amongst her mane.
To the north full a league of the deer-park lay,
Smooth, springy turf, and she fairly flew,
And the sound of their hoof-strokes died away,
And their far shots faint in the distance grew.
Loudly I laughed, having won the start,
At the folly of following Britomarte.

They had posted a guard at the northern gate—
Some dozen of pikemen and musketeers.
To the tall park palings I turn’d her straight ;
She veer’d in her flight as the swallow veers.
And some blew matches and some drew swords,
And one of them wildly hurl’d his pike,
But she clear’d by inches the oaken boards,
And she carried me yards beyond the dyke ;
Then gaily over the long green down
We gallop’d, heading for Westbrooke town.

The green down slopes to the great grey moor,
The grey moor sinks to the gleaming Skelt—
Sudden and sullen, and swift and sure,
The whirling water was round my belt.
She breasted the bank with a savage snort,
And a backward glance of her bloodshot eye,
And ‘Our Lady of Andover’s’ flash’d like thought,
And flitted St. Agatha’s nunnery,
And the firs at The Ferngrove fled on the right,
And ‘Falconer’s Tower’ on the left took flight.

And over ‘The Ravenswold’ we raced—
We rounded the hill by ‘The Hermit’s Well’—
We burst on the Westbrooke Bridge—’What haste ?
What errand ?’ shouted the sentinel.
‘To Beelzebub with the Brewer’s knave !’
‘Carolus Rex and he of the Rhine !’
Galloping past him, I got and gave
In the gallop password and countersign,
All soak’d with water and soil’d with mud,
With the sleeve of my jerkin half drench’d in blood.

Now, Heaven be praised that I found him there—
Lord Guy. He said, having heard my tale,
‘Leigh, let my own man look to your mare,
Rest and recruit with our wine and ale ;
But first must our surgeon attend to you ;
You are somewhat shrewdly stricken, no doubt.’
Then he snatched a horn from the wall and blew,
Making ‘Boot and Saddle’ ring sharply out.
‘Have I done good service this day ?’ quoth I.
‘Then I will ride back in your troop, Lord Guy.’

In the street I heard how the trumpets peal’d,
And I caught the gleam of a morion
From the window—then to the door I reel’d ;
I had lost more blood than I reckon’d upon ;
He eyed me calmly with keen grey eyes—
Stern grey eyes of a steel-blue grey—
Said, ‘The wilful man can never be wise,
Nathless the wilful must have his way,’
And he pour’d from a flagon some fiery wine ;
I drain’d it, and straightway strength was mine.

. . . . . . .

I was with them all the way on the brown—
‘Guy to the rescue !’ ‘God and the king !’
We were just in time, for the doors were down ;
And didn’t our sword-blades rasp and ring,
And didn’t we hew and didn’t we hack ?
The sport scarce lasted minutes ten—
(Aye, those were the days when my beard was black ;
I like to remember them now and then).
Though they fought like fiends, we were four to one,
And we captured those that refused to run.

We have not forgotten it, Cuthbert, boy !
That supper scene when the lamps were lit ;
How the women (some of them) sobb’d for joy ;
How the soldiers drank the deeper for it;
How the dame did honours, and Gwendoline,
How grandly she glided into the hall,
How she stoop’d with the grace of a girlish queen,
And kiss’d me gravely before them all ;
And the stern Lord Guy, how gaily he laugh’d,
Till more of his cup was spilt than quaff’d.

Brown Britomarte lay dead in her straw
Next morn—we buried her—brave old girl !
John Kerr, we tried him by martial law,
And we twisted some hemp for the trait’rous churl ;
And she—I met her alone—said she,
‘You have risk’d your life, you have lost your mare,
And what can I give in return, Ralph Leigh ?’
I replied, ‘One braid of that bright brown hair.’
And with that she bow’d her beautiful head,
‘You can take as much as you choose,’ she said.

And I took it—it may be, more than enough—
And I shore it rudely, close to the roots.
The wine or wounds may have made me rough,
And men at the bottom are merely brutes.
Three weeks I slept at St. Hubert’s Chase ;
When I woke from the fever of wounds and wine
I could scarce believe that the ghastly face
That the glass reflected was really mine.
I sought the hall—where a wedding had been—
The wedding of Guy and of Gwendoline.

The romance of a grizzled old trooper’s life
May make you laugh in your sleeves : laugh out,
Lads ; we have most of us seen some strife ;
We have all of us had some sport, no doubt.
I have won some honour and gain’d some gold,
Now that our king returns to his own ;
If the pulses beat slow, if the blood runs cold,
And if friends have faded and loves have flown,
Then the greater reason is ours to drink,
And the more we swallow the less we shall think.

At the battle of Naseby, Miles was slain,
And Huntly sank from his wounds that week ;
We left young Clare upon Worcester plain—
How the ‘Ironside’ gash’d his girlish cheek.
Aye, strut, and swagger, and ruffle anew,
Gay gallants, now that the war is done !
They fought like fiends (give the fiend his due)—
We fought like fops, it was thus they won.
Holdsworth is living for aught I know,
At least he was living two years ago,

And Guy—Lord Guy—so stately and stern,
He is changed, I met him at Winchester ;
He has grown quite gloomy and taciturn.
Gwendoline !—why do you ask for her ?
Died ! as her mother had died before—
Died giving birth to the baby Guy !
Did my voice shake ? Then am I fool the more.
Sooner or later we all must die ;
But, at least, let us live while we live to-night.
The days may be dark, but the lamps are bright.

For to me the sunlight seems worn and wan :
The sun, he is losing his splendour now—
He can never shine as of old he shone
On her glorious hair and glittering brow.
Ah ! those days that were, when my beard was black,
Now I have only the nights that are.
What, landlord, ho ! bring in haste burnt sack,
And a flask of your fiercest usquebaugh.
You, Cuthbert ! surely you know by heart
The story of her and of Britomarte.

Finis Exoptatus

Boot and saddle, see, the slanting
Rays begin to fall,
Flinging lights and colours flaunting
Through the shadows tall.
Onward ! onward ! must we travel ?
When will come the goal ?
Riddle I may not unravel,
Cease to vex my soul.

Harshly break those peals of laughter
From the jays aloft,
Can we guess what they cry after ?
We have heard them oft ;
Perhaps some strain of rude thanksgiving
Mingles in their song,
Are they glad that they are living ?
Are they right or wrong ?
Right, ’tis joy that makes them call so,
Why should they be sad ?
Certes ! we are living also,
Shall not we be glad ?
Onward ! onward ! must we travel ?
Is the goal more near ?
Riddle we may not unravel,
Why so dark and drear ?

Yon small bird his hymn outpouring,
On the branch close by,
Recks not for the kestrel soaring
In the nether sky,
Though the hawk with wings extended
Poises over head,
Motionless as though suspended
By a viewless thread.
See, he stoops, nay, shooting forward
With the arrow’s flight,
Swift and straight away to nor’ward
Sails he out of sight.
Onward ! onward ! thus we travel,
Comes the goal more nigh ?
Riddle we may not unravel,
Who shall make reply ?

Ha ! Friend Ephraim, saint or sinner,
Tell me if you can—
Tho’ we may not judge the inner
By the outer man,
Yet by girth of broadcloth ample,
And by cheeks that shine,
Surely you set no example
In the fasting line—

Could you, like yon bird, discov’ring,
Fate as close at hand,
As the kestrel o’er him hov’ring,
Still, as he did, stand ?
Trusting grandly, singing gaily,
Confident and calm,
Not one false note in your daily
Hymn or weekly psalm ?

Oft your oily tones are heard in
Chapel, where you preach,
This the everlasting burden
Of the tale you teach :
We are d———d, our sins are deadly,
You alone are heal’d—
‘Twas not thus their gospel redly
Saints and martyrs seal’d.
You had seem’d more like a martyr,
Than you seem to us,
To the beasts that caught a Tartar,
Once at Ephesus !
Rather than the stout apostle
Of the Gentiles, who,
Pagan-like, could cuff and wrestle,
They’d have chosen you.

Yet, I ween, on such occasion,
Your dissenting voice
Would have been, in mild persuasion,
Raised against their choice ;
Man of peace, and man of merit,
Pompous, wise, and grave,
Ephraim ! is it flesh or spirit
You strive most to save ?
Vain is half this care and caution
O’er the earthly shell,
We can neither baffle nor shun
Dark-plumed Azrael.
Onward ! onward ! still we wander,
Nearer draws the goal ;
Half the riddle’s read, we ponder
Vainly on the whole.

Eastward ! in the pink horizon,
Fleecy hillocks shame
This dim range dull earth that lies on,
Tinged with rosy flame.
Westward ! as a stricken giant
Stoops his bloody crest,
And tho’ vanquished, frowns defiant,
Sinks the sun to rest.
Distant, yet approaching quickly,
From the shades that lurk,
Like a black pall gathers thickly,
Night, when none may work.
Soon our restless occupation
Shall have ceas’d to be ;
Units ! in God’s vast creation,
Ciphers ! what are we ?
Onward ! onward ! oh ! faint-hearted ;
Nearer and more near
Has the goal drawn since we started,
Be of better cheer.

Preacher ! all forbearance ask, for
All are worthless found,
Man must ay take man to task for
Faults while earth goes round.
On this dank soil thistles muster,
Thorns are broadcast sown ;
Seek not figs where thistles cluster,
Grapes where thorns have grown.

Sun and rain and dew from heaven,
Light and shade and air,
Heat and moisture freely given,
Thorns and thistles share.
Vegetation rank and rotten
Feels the cheering ray ;
Not uncared for, unforgotten,
We, too, have our day.
Unforgotten ! though we cumber
Earth, we work His will.
Shall we sleep through night’s long slumber
Unforgotten still ?
Onward ! onward ! toiling ever,
Weary steps and slow,
Doubting oft, despairing never,
To the goal we go !

Hark ! the bells on distant cattle
Waft across the range,
Through the golden-tufted wattle,
Music low and strange ;
Like the marriage peal of fairies
Comes the tinkling sound,
Or like chimes of sweet St. Mary’s
On far English ground.
How my courser champs the snaffle,
And with nostril spread,
Snorts and scarcely seems to ruffle
Fern leaves with his tread ;
Cool and pleasant on his haunches
Blows the evening breeze,
Through the overhanging branches
Of the wattle trees :
Onward ! to the Southern Ocean,
Glides the breath of Spring.
Onward, with a dreary motion,
I, too, glide and sing—
Forward ! forward ! still we wander—
Tinted hills that lie
In the red horizon yonder—
Is the goal so nigh ?

Whisper, spring-wind, softly singing,
Whisper in my ear ;
Respite and nepenthe bringing,
Can the goal be near ?
Laden with the dew of vespers,
From the fragrant sky,
In my ear the wind that whispers
Seems to make reply—

‘Question not, but live and labour
Till yon goal be won,
Helping every feeble neighbour,
Seeking help from none ;
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone :
Kindness in another’s trouble.
Courage in your own.’

Courage, comrades, this is certain,
All is for the best—
There are lights behind the curtain—
Gentiles let us rest.
As the smoke-rack veers to seaward
From ‘the ancient clay’,
With its moral drifting leeward,
Ends the wanderer’s lay.

The Undying One’

MOONLIGHT is o’er the dim and heaving sea,–
Moonlight is on the mountain’s frowning brow,
And by their silvery fountains merrily
The maids of Castaly are dancing now.
Young hearts, bright eyes, and rosy lips are there,
And fairy steps, and light and laughing voices,
Ringing like welcome music through the air–
A sound at which the untroubled heart rejoices.
But there are hearts o’er which that dancing measure
Heavily falls!
And there are ears to which the voice of pleasure
Still vainly calls !
There’s not a scene on earth so full of lightness
That withering care
Sleeps not beneath the flowers, and turns their brightness
To dark despair!

Oh! Earth, dim Earth, thou canst not be our home;
Or wherefore look we still for joys to come?
The fairy steps are flown–the scene is still–
Nought mingles with the murmuring of the rill.
Nay, hush! it is a sound–a sigh–again!
It is a human voice–the voice of pain.
And beautiful is she, who sighs alone
Now that her young and playful mates are gone:
The dim moon, shining on her statue face,
Gives it a mournful and unearthly grace;
And she hath bent her gentle knee to earth;
And she hath raised her meek sad eyes to heaven–
As if in such a breast sin could have birth,
She clasps her hands, and sues to be forgiven.
Her prayer is over; but her anxious glance
Into the blue transparency of night
Seems as it fain would read the book of chance,
And fix the future hours, dark or bright.
A slow and heavy footstep strikes her ear–
What ails the gentle maiden?–Is it fear?
Lo! she hath lightly raised her from the ground,
And turn’d her small and stag-like head around;
Her pale cheek paler, and her lips apart,
Her bosom heaving o’er her beating heart:
And see, those thin white hands she raises now
To press the throbbing fever from her brow–

In vain–in vain! for never more shall rest
Find place in that young, fair, but erring breast!
He stands before her now–and who is he
Into whose outspread arms confidingly
She flings her fairy self?–Unlike the forms
That woo and win a woman’s love–the storms
Of deep contending passions are not seen
Darkening the features where they once have been,
Nor the bright workings of a generous soul,
Of feelings half conceal’d, explain the whole.
But there is something words cannot express–
A gloomy, deep, and quiet fixedness;
A recklessness of all the blows of fate–
A brow untouch’d by love, undimm’d by hate–
As if, in all its stores of crime and care,
Earth held no suffering now for him to bear.
Yes–all is passionless–the hollow cheek
Those pale thin lips shall never wreathe with smiles;
Ev’n now, ‘mid joy, unmoved and sad they speak
In spite of all his Linda’s winning wiles.
Yet can we read, what all the rest denies,
That he hath feelings of a mortal birth,
In the wild sorrow of those dark bright eyes,
Bent on that form–his one dear link to earth.
He loves–and he is loved! then what avail
The scornful words which seek to brand with shame?

Or bitterer still, the wild and fearful tale
Which couples guilt and horror with that name?
What boots it that the few who know him shun
To speak or eat with that unworthy one?
Were all their words of scorn and malice proved,
It matters not–he loves and he is loved!
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
‘Linda! my Linda!’ thus the silence broke,
And slow and mournfully the stranger spoke,
‘Seat we ourselves upon this mossy bed,
Where the glad airs of heaven wave o’er thy head,
And thou shalt hear the awful tale which ne’er
Hath yet been breathed, save once, to mortal ear.
And if, my Linda–nay, love, tremble not–
Thou shudder’st to partake so dark a lot–
Go–and be happy in forgetfulness,
And take–I’d bless thee if my tongue could bless,’
There was that sudden sinking of the tone
That lingers in our memory when alone,
And thrills the heart to think how deep the grief
Which sues no pity–looks for no relief.
Oh! deep, beyond the feeble power of tears,
Such scene will dwell within our souls for years;
And it will seem but yesterday we heard
The faltering pause–the calm but broken word;

Saw the averted head, where each blue vein
Swell’d in its agony of mental pain;
And heard the grief confess’d:–no, not confess’d,
But struggling burst convulsive from the breast!
‘Isbal,’ that gentle voice half-murmuring said,
As from his shoulder she upraised her head;
‘Thou knowest I love thee. When I came to-night
I had resolved thy future, dark or bright,
Should still be mine–Beloved–so must it be,
For I have broke a fearful vow for thee.
This morning he who calls himself my brother
(Oh! can he be the child of my sweet mother?)
Pleaded once more for him–that hated friend
Whose bride I was to be; I could but bend
To the cold earth my faint and trembling knee,
And supplicate, with woman’s agony,
That he would spare me–but an hour–a day–
I clasp’d my brother’s knees–that brother said me nay!
He held a poinard to my shrinking heart,
And bade me breathe the vow–
Never in life or death from him to part
Who is–my husband now.
Isbal, we were betrothed; my lips in fear
Pronounced those words–but oh! my heart was here-
Here–in the calm cold moonlight by thy side,
Here–where the dark blue waters gently glide,

Here–in my childhood’s haunts, now ev’n more dear.
Than in those happy days, for thou art near.
Yes–while the unheeded vow my faint lip spoke,
Recall’d the echo which thy tones awoke–
Thy image rose between me and the shrine;
Surely the vow before it breathed was thine.
To-morrow’s sun proud Carlos claims his wife;
To-morrow’s sun shall see my span of life
Devoted unto thee–thy tale can make
No lot I would not share for thy sweet sake;
No–Ere I hear it, let love’s fond vow be–
To have no earth–no heaven–no hope but thee!
Now tell me all.’–Again that gentle head
With dewy eyes and flushing cheek is laid
Upon his arm; and with a thrill of pain
The broken thread is thus renew’d again:
‘From the first hour I saw thee, on that night
When dancing in the moonbeam’s chequer’d light
With those young laughing ones who now are gone,
By this same fountain which is murmuring on;
When my deep groan burst through the music’s sound,
And that soft eye went glancing, startled, round–
From that sweet hour, when pity seem’d to move,
I loved thee–as the wretched only love.
Oft since, when in the darkness of my day
I sit, and dream my wretched life away;

In the deep silence of my night of tears,
When Memory wakes to mourn for vanish’d years;
Shunn’d–scorn’d–detested–friendless and alone,
I’ve thought of thee–and stifled back my groan!
I’ve come in daylight, and have flung me down
By the bright fountain’s side,
Chased with dear thoughts of thee each gloomy frown,
And bless’d my promised bride.
I’ve come when stormy winds have howl’d around
Over the yielding flowers,
Bending their gentle heads unto the ground,
And thought of thee for hours.
I’ve come–my Linda knows that I have come
When the soft starlight told
That she had left her haughty brother’s home,
And hearts, as dead and cold
As the chill waters of a moonless sea,
For the light dance and music’s revelry.
With gay and loving maids; and I have watch’d
Till one by one those soft steps have departed,
And my young mournful Linda hath been snatch’d
To the sear bosom of the broken-hearted!
Linda, there is a land–a far dark land,
Where on this head the red avenging hand
Fell with its heaviest bolts–When watching by
The bitter cross of Him of Calvary

They stood who loved and did believe in Him,
I said, while all around grew dark and dim–‘
‘Isbal, dear Isbal!’ shriek’d the affrighted maid,
‘For that dear Saviour’s sake–for him who said
He died for sinners–mock me not, I pray–
Oh! yet, beloved, those words of Death unsay!’
She hung upon his bosom, and look’d up
Into those dark wild eyes with grief and fear.
Alas! poor maiden, ’twas a bitter cup
To drink from hands which love had made so dear.
As a knell o’er the river
Flings its lingering tone,
Telling of joys for ever
Lost and gone:
As the murmuring sound
Of a slow deep stream,
Where the sullen shadows round
Reject each sunny beam:
So o’er the maiden’s spirit, like a moan,
Falls the deep sameness of that strange calm tone.
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
‘I tell thee centuries have pass’d away,
And that dark scene is still like yesterday;
The lurid clouds roll’d o’er each failing head,
The Godlike dying, and the guilty dead:

And awful signs were seen, and I was there–
Woman, I was–or wherefore my despair?
I’ll whisper thee–* * * *
* * * * * *
Linda, my Linda! start not thus away–
My brain is ‘wilder’d–what, love, did I say?
Forget the words–forget! Eternal God!
Is not this earth the same which then I trod?
Do not the stars gleam coldly from above,
Mocking the lips that dare to talk of love?
I know–I feel it cannot be forgot;
Yet, oh! forsake me not–forsake me not!
Didst thou not bid me tell thee all? oh! rest
Still on this worn and sad and guilty breast;
Whatever sins the eye of Heaven may see,
Its last faint throb alone will end its love for thee!
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
I stood awhile, stifling my gasping breath,
Fearfully gazing on that scene of death:
Then with a shuddering groan of pain I shrouded
My straining eyes, and turn’d, a cowering worm,
To either side where grimly death had clouded
The image of his maker in man’s form.
On one low cross a dark and fearful brow,
On which the dews of death are standing now,

Shows black despair:
And on the other, though the eye be dim,
And quivering anguish in each stiffening limb,
Mercy and hope are there!
Then rose the wailing sound of woman’s woe
Appealing unto Heaven,
And sinners bow’d their heads, and bent them low,
And howl’d to be forgiven–
And I glanced madly round–One after one
They stole away, and I was left alone–
I–the Undying One, in that dim night!
Oh! words can never tell my soul’s affright;
The sickening, thrilling, dark, and fainting fear
That rose within my breast:–I seem’d to hear
A thousand voices round; I could not pray,
But fled in solitary shame away.
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
Linda! thou wilt not think that after this
Dark hour of agony,
A day, a moment ev’n, of fever’d bliss
Could yet remain for me:
But so it was, a wild and sudden hope
Sprung in my heart–if that my life could cope
With sickness and with time, I yet might be
Happy through half an immortality.

I sat at festal boards, and quaff’d red wine,
And sang wild songs of merriment and mirth;
And bade young sparkling eyes around me shine,
And made a guilty paradise of earth.
I built me palaces, and loved to dwell
‘Mongst all which most the eager heart rejoices;
Bright halls, where silvery fountains rose and fell,
And where were ringing light and cheerful voices;
Gay gardens where the bowery trees around
Their leafy branches spread,
And rosy flowers upon the mossy ground
Their honey’d perfume shed.
But yet the curse was on me; and it came
Tainting my life with pains like hell’s dark flame.
The flowers withered:
One after one
Death’s cold hand gathered,
Till all were gone:
And the eyes that were sparkling
With pleasure’s ray,
Lay cold and darkling
Till judgment-day.
Lonely and weeping
A few were left,
Of those who were sleeping
Too soon bereft ;

But they soon were lying
Beneath the sod–
And I, the Undying,
Remained–with God!
And the silvery fountains went murmuring on,
But the voices of music and pleasure were gone.
And I could not bear the banquet-room,
Reminding me ever of my doom;
When the purple goblet I tried to quaff,
In my ear there rang some forgotten laugh;
And when the lay I sought to pour,
Voices came round me which sang no more.
Yea! when I saw some lovely form,
I thought how soon it must feed the worm–
And shrank from the touch it left behind,
As if I were not of human kind;
Or that the thing I could not save
Were withering, then, in the cold dark grave.
I wandered through my halls
Broken-hearted:–
Is it my voice which calls
On the departed,
With that stern, sad tone?
Where are, beloved in vain,
Your countless numbers?
May you not wake again

From your dark slumbers?
Am I to be alone?
Oh! let but one return–
One fond one only;
Raise up the heavy urn,
Life is so lonely–
I ask no more of Heaven.
The mocking echoes round,
My words repeating
With their dim dreary sound,
Forbid our meeting–
I may not be forgiven!
Linda! my Linda! those, and those alone
Who have lived on, when more than life was gone;
And being yet young, look to the heavy years
Which are to come–a future all of tears–
Those only who have stood in some bright spot
With those beloved ones who shared their lot,
And stand again in that sweet fairy scene,
When those young forms are as they had not been;
When gazing wildly round, some fancied word
Strikes on the listening spirit, and it seems
As if again those gentle tones were heard
Which never more can sound except in dreams–
Those only who have started and awoke
In anguish’d pain,

And yearn’d (the gladsome vision being broke)
To dream again–
Can feel for me. It seem’d a little day
In which that generation pass’d away;
And others rose up round me, and they trod
In those same streets–upon the selfsame sod
They loved and were beloved: they ate–they laugh’d–
And the rich grape from ancient goblets quaff’d:
But I remain’d alone–a blighted thing,
Like one sere leaf amid the flowers of spring!
My sick worn heart refused to cling again
To dreams that pass away, and yearnings vain.
Thou canst not think how strange:–how horribly strange
It was to see all round me fade and change,
And I remain the same!–I sat within
My halls of light, a thing of care and sin;
The echoes gave me back the wild sad tone
Of every deep and solitary moan;
Fearful I gazed on the bright walls around,
And dash’d the mocking mirrors to the ground.
And when I wander’d through the desert crowd
Of all my fellow-men, I could have bow’d
And grovell’d in the dust to him who would
Have struck my breast, to slay me where I stood.
They shrank from me as from some venomous snake
Watchfully coil’d to spring from the dark brake

On the unwary. Fearful–fearful tales
Pass’d on from sire to son, link’d with my name,
With all the awful mystery which veils
A tale of guilt, and deepens its dark shame
They shrank from me, I say, as, gaunt and wild
I wander’d on through the long summer’s day
And every mother snatch’d her cowering child
With horror from my solitary way!
I fled from land to land, a hunted wretch;
From land to land those tales pursued me still:
Across the wide bright sea there seem’d to stretch
A long dark cloud my fairest hopes to kill.
I grew a wanderer: from Afric’s coast,
Where gaily dwelt the yet unfetter’d black,
To Iran, of her eager sons the boast,
I went along my dim and cheerless track.
O’er the blue Mediterranean, with its isles
And dancing waves, and wildly pleasing song,
By Lusitania’s land of sun and smiles,
My joyless bark in darkness sail’d along!
On many a soil my wandering feet have trod,
And heard the voice of nations worship God.
Where the dim-minded Heathen raised his prayer
To some bright spirit dwelling in mid-air,
I have stood by, and cursed the stiffen’d knee
Which would not bow like him to Deity.

Where the proud Ghebir, still at morning hour,
Confess’d a God of glory and of power
In the red sun that roll’d above his head,
There have I been, and burning tear-drops shed.
Where the Mahometan, through ages gone,
In his dark faith hath blindly wander’d on;
Where the incredulous Jew, yet unforgiven,
Still vainly waits the crucified of Heaven;
Where the meek Christian raises to the skies
His clasping hands, and his adoring eyes,
And prays that God–the All-seeing God–will bless
His heart with purity of holiness;
Where rosy infancy in smiles was kneeling,
With murmuring, half-imperfect word, appealing
Unto the giver of all good–where joy
Its tearful thanks return’d, and bless’d the day
When should be tasted bliss which cannot cloy,
And tears in heaven’s own light be dried away;
And where the frantic voice of love’s despair
Sends forth its thrilling sound, half wail, half prayer;
In every temple, and at every shrine
I’ve stood and wish’d the darkest worship mine–
So I might see, howe’er the beam mistaking,
Some smile from Heaven upon a heart that’s breaking!

”Twas on God’s glad and holy sabbath day,
When the wide world kneels down at once to pray,–
When every valley, every mountain sod,
Sends its faint tribute to the mighty God,
And the low murmurings of the voiceless airs
Waft on the echo of a thousand prayers–
I stood on England’s fresh and fairy ground.
All lay in dewy stillness far around,
Save the soft chiming of the village bell,
Which seem’d a tale of love and peace to tell.
I stood among the tombs–and saw the crowd
Of Christians enter in;
Each meek and humble head they gently bow’d,
And chased the thoughts of sin.
I watch’d them-one by one they onward pass’d
And from my sight were gone,
The welcome opening door received the last
And left me there alone.
The blood rush’d thickly to my panting heart,
And as I turn’d me sorrowing to depart,
An inward voice seem’d whispering–‘Sinner, go!
And with those meek adorers bend thee low.’
I trembled–hesitated–reach’d the door
Through which the pious crowd had ceased to pour:
A sudden faintness came upon me there,
And the relaxing limb refused to bear.

I sank upon a stone, and laid my head
Above the happy and unconscious dead;
And when I rose again, the doors were closed!
In vain I then my fearful thoughts opposed;
Some busy devil whisper’d at my heart
And tempted me to evil.–‘Shall the dart
Of pain and anguish (thus I wildly said,)
Fall only on my persecuted head?
Shall they kneel peaceful down, and I stand here
Oppress’d with horror’s sick and fainting fear?
Forbid it, Powers of Hell!’–A lowly cot
Stood near that calm and consecrated spot:
I enter’d it:–the morning sunshine threw
Its warm bright beams upon the flowers that grew
Around it and within it–’twas a place
So peaceful and so bright, that you might trace
The tranquil feelings of the dwellers there;
There was no taint of shame, or crime, or care.
On a low humble couch was softly laid
A little slumberer, whose rosy head
Was guarded by a watch-dog; while I stood
In hesitating, half-repentant mood,
My glance still met his large, bright, watchful eye,
Wandering from me to that sweet sleeper nigh.
Yes, even to that dumb animal I seem’d
A thing of crime: the murderous death-light gleam’d

Beneath my brow; the noiseless step was mine;
I moved with conscious guilt, and his low whine
Responded to my sigh, whose echo fell
Heavily–as ’twere loth within that cot to dwell.
My inmost heart grew sick–I turn’d me where
The smouldering embers of a fire still were;.
With shuddering hand I snatch’d a brand whose light
Appear’d to burn unnaturally bright;
And then with desperate step I bore that torch
Unto the chapel’s consecrated porch!
A moment more that edifice had fired
And all within in agony expired;
But, dimly swelling through my feverish soul,
A chorus as from heaven’s bright chancel came,
Dash’d from my madden’d lips Guilt’s venom’d bowl,
And quench’d in bitter tears my heart’s wild flame.
The pealing organ, with the solemn sound
Of countless voices, fill’d the air around;
And, as I leant my almost bursting brow
On the cold walls, the words came sad and slow
To me, the exiled one, who might not share
The joyfulness of their prayer.
Sadly I watch’d till through the open door
The crowd of worshippers began to pour;
The hour was over–they had pray’d to Heaven,
And now return’d to peaceful homes forgiven;

While I–one ‘wildering glance I gave around
Upon that sunny, consecrated ground;
The warbling birds, whose little songs of joy
The future and the past can ne’er alloy;
The rosy flowers, the warm and welcome breeze
Murmuring gently through the summer trees,
All–all to me was cursed–I could not die!
I stretch’d my yearning arms unto the sky,
I press’d my straining fingers on my brow,
(Nothing could cool its maddening pulses now,)
And flung me groaning by a tombstone there
To weep in my despair!
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
Long had I wept: a gentle sound of woe
Struck on my ear–I turn’d the cause to know.
I saw a young fair creature silently
Kneeling beside a stone,
A form as bright as man would wish to see,
Or woman wish to own;
And eyes, whose true expression should be gladness,
Beam’d forth in momentary tears of sadness,
Showing like sun-shine through a summer rain
How soon ’twill all be bright and clear again.
I loved her!–
* * * * * *

In truth she was a light and lovely thing,
Fair as the opening flower of early spring.
The deep rose crimson’d in her laughing cheek,
And her eyes seem’d without the tongue to speak;
Those dark blue glorious orbs!–oh! summer skies
Were nothing to the heaven of her eyes.
And then she had a witching art
To wile all sadness from the heart;
Wild as the half-tamed gazelle,
She bounded over hill and dell,
Breaking on you when alone
With her sweet and silvery tone,
Dancing to her gentle lute
With her light and fairy foot;
To our lone meeting-place
Stealing slow with gentle pace,
To hide among the feathery fern;
And, while waiting her return,
I wander’d up and down for hours–
She started from amid the flowers,
Wild, and fresh, and bright as they,
To wing again her sportive way.

‘And she was good as she was fair;
Every morn and every even

Kneeling down in meekness there
To the Holy One of Heaven;
While those bright and soul-fraught eyes
With an angel’s love seem’d burning,
All the radiance of blue skies
With an equal light returning.
The dream of guilt and misery
In that young soul had never enter’d;
Her hopes of Heaven–her love of me,
Were all in which her heart had centred:
Her longest grief, her deepest woe,
When by her mother’s tomb she knelt,
Whom she had lost too young to know
How deep such loss is sometimes felt.

‘It was not grief, but soft regret,
Such as, when one bright sun hath set
After a happy day, will come
Stealing within our heart’s gay home,
Yet leaves a hope (that heart’s best prize)
That even brighter ones may rise.
A tear, for hours of childhood wept;
A garland, wove for her who slept;
A prayer, that the pure soul would bless
Her child, and save from all distress;

A sigh, as clasp’d within her own
She held my hand beside that stone,
And told of many a virtue rare
That shone in her who slumber’d there–
Were all that clouded for a while
The brightness of her sunny smile.
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
It was a mild sweet evening, such
As thou and I have sometimes felt
When the soul feels the scene so much
That even wither’d hearts must melt;
We sat beside that sacred place–
Her mother’s tomb; her glorious head
Seem’d brightening with immortal grace,
As the impartial sun-light shed
Its beams alike on the cold grave,
Wandering o’er the unconscious clay,
And on the living eyes which gave
Back to those skies their borrow’d ray.
‘Isbal, beloved!’ ’twas thus my Edith spoke,
(And my worn heart almost to joy awoke
Beneath the thrill of that young silver tone
‘Isbal, before thou call’st me all thine own,
I would that I might know the whole
Of what is gloomy in thy soul.

Nay, turn not on me those dark eyes
With such wild anguish and surprise.
In spite of every playful wile,
Thou know’st I never see thee smile;
And oft, when, laughing by thy side
Thou think’st that I am always gay,
Tears which are hanging scarcely dried
By thy fond kiss are wiped away.
And deem me not a child; for though
A gay and careless thing I be,
Since I have loved, I feel that, oh!
I could bear aught–do aught for thee!’

‘What boots it to record each gentle tone
Of that young voice, when ev’n the tomb is gone
By which we sat and talk’d? that innocent voice,
So full of joy and hope, that to rejoice
Seem’d natural to those who caught the sound!
The rosy lips are moulder’d under ground:
And she is dead–the beautiful is dead!
The loving and the loved hath pass’d away,
And deep within her dark and narrow bed
All mutely lies what was but breathing clay.
* * * * * *
* * * * * *

Why did I tell the wildly horrible tale?–
Why did I trust the voice that told me she
Could bear to see beyond the lifted veil
A future life of hopeless misery?–
I told her all– * * * *
There was a long deep pause.
I dared not raise my eyes to ask the cause,
But waited breathlessly to hear once more
The gentle tones which I had loved of yore.
Was that her voice?–oh God!–was that her cry?
Were hers those smother’d tones of agony?
Thus she spoke; while on my brow
The cold drops stood as they do now :–
‘It is not that I could not bear
The worst of ills with thee to share:
It is not that thy future fate
Were all too dark and desolate:
Earth holds no pang–Hell shows no fear
I would not try at least to bear;
And if my heart too weak might be,
Oh! it would then have broke for thee!
No, not a pang one tear had cost
But this–to see thee, know thee, lost!’

‘My parch’d lips strove for utterance–but no,
I could but listen still, with speechless woe:
I stretch’d my quivering arms–‘Away! away!’
She cried, ‘and let me humbly kneel, and pray
For pardon; if, indeed, such pardon be
For having dared to love–a thing like thee!’

‘I wrung the drops from off my brow;
I sank before her, kneeling low
Where the departed slept.
I spoke to her of heaven’s wrath
That clouded o’er my desert path,
I raised my voice and wept!
I told again my heart’s dark dream,
The lighting of joy’s fever’d beam,
The pain of living on;
When all of fair, and good, and bright;
Sank from my path like heaven’s light
When the warm sun is gone.
But though ’twas pity shone within her eye,
‘Twas mingled with such bitter agony,
My blood felt chill.
Her round arms cross’d upon her shrinking breast,
Her pale and quivering lip in fear compress’d
Of more than mortal ill,
She stood.–‘My Edith!–mine!’ I frantic cried;
‘My Edith!–mine!’ the sorrowing hills replied;

And the familiar sound so dear erewhile,
Brought to her lip a wild and ghastly smile.
Then gazing with one long, long look of love,
She lifted up her eyes to heaven above,
And turned them on me with a gush of tears:
Those drops renew’d my mingled hopes and fears.
‘Edith!–oh! hear me!’ With averted face
And outspread arms she shrank from my embrace.
‘Away!–away!’–She bent her shuddering knee,
Bow’d her bright head–and Edith ceased to be!
She was so young, so full of life,
I linger’d o’er the mortal strife
That shook her frame, with hope–how vain!
Her spirit might return again.
Could she indeed be gone?–the love
Of my heart’s inmost core!–I strove
Against the truth.–That thing of smiles,
With all her glad and artless wiles–
She, who one hour ago had been
The fairy of that magic scene!–
She, whose fond playful eye such brilliance shed,
That laughter-loving thing–could she be cold and dead?–
I buried her, and left her there;
And turn’d away in my despair.

‘And Evening threw her shadows round
That beautiful and blessed ground,
And all the distant realms of light
Twinkled from out the dark blue night.
So calmly pure–so far away
From all Earth’s sorrows and her crimes,
The gentle scene before me lay;
So like the world of olden times,
That those who gazed on it might swear
Nothing but peace could enter there.
And yet there lay ungrown, untrod,
The fresh and newly turned-up sod,
Which cover’d o’er as fair a form
As ever fed the noxious worm.
There, but an hour ago–yea, less,
The agony and bitterness
Of human feelings, wrought so high
We can but writhe awhile and die,
Troubled the peace around; and sent
Wild shrieks into the firmament.
How strange the earth, our earth, should share
So little in our crime or care!
The billows of the treacherous main
Gape for the wreck, and close again
With dancing smiles, as if the deep
Had whelm’d not with eternal sleep

Many and many a warm young heart
Which swell’d to meet, and bled to part.
The battle plain its verdant breast
Will show in bright and sunny rest,
Although its name is now a word
Through sobs, and moans, and wailing heard;
And many, mourn’d for from afar,
There died the writhing death of war.
Yea, ev’n the stream, by whose cool side
Lay those who thirsted for its tide,
Yearning for some young hand of yore,
Wont in bright hours with smiles to pour
The mantling wine for him whose blood
Is mixing with the glassy flood–
Ev’n that pure fountain gushes by
With all its former brilliancy;
Nor bears with it one tint to show
How crimson it began to flow.
And thus an echo takes the tone
Of agony: and when ’tis gone,
Air, earth, and sea forget the sound,
And all is still and silent round.
And thus upon each cherish’d grave
The sunbeams smile, the branches wave;
And all our tears for those who now are not,
Sink in the flowery turf–and are forgot!

* * * * * *
* * * * * *
And I return’d again, and yet again,
To that remember’d scene of joy and pain:
And ev’n while sitting by the early tomb
Of her who had deserved a better doom,
Her laughing voice rang in my ear,
Her fairy step seem’d coming near,
Until I raised my heavy eyes:
Then on the lone and desert spot I bow’d,
And hid my groaning head, and wept aloud.’

The stranger paused–and Linda gently wept
For him who lived in pain–for her who slept;
And clung to him, as if she fear’d that fate
Would strike him there and leave her desolate.
He spoke–and deaf her ear to all below,
Save the deep magic of that voice of woe!

The Child Of Earth

I.

FAINTER her slow step falls from day to day,
Death’s hand is heavy on her darkening brow;
Yet doth she fondly cling to earth, and say,
‘I am content to die, but, oh! not now!
Not while the blossoms of the joyous spring
Make the warm air such luxury to breathe;
Not while the birds such lays of gladness sing;
Not while bright flowers around my footsteps wreathe.
Spare me, great God, lift up my drooping brow!
I am content to die–but, oh! not now!’
II.

The spring hath ripen’d into summer-time,
The season’s viewless boundary is past;
The glorious sun hath reach’d his burning prime;
Oh! must this glimpse of beauty be the last?
‘Let me not perish while o’er land and lea
With silent steps the lord of light moves on;
Nor while the murmur of the mountain bee
Greets my dull ear with music in its tone!
Pale sickness dims my eye, and clouds my brow;
I am content to die–but, oh! not now!’
III.

Summer is gone, and autumn’s soberer hues
Tint the ripe fruits, and gild the waving corn;
The huntsman swift the flying game pursues,
Shouts the halloo, and winds his eager horn.
‘Spare me awhile to wander forth and gaze
On the broad meadows and the quiet stream,
To watch in silence while the evening rays
Slant thro’ the fading trees with ruddy gleam!
Cooler the breezes play around my brow;
I am content to die–but, oh! not now!’
IV.

The bleak wind whistles, snow-showers, far and near,
Drift without echo to the whitening ground;
Autumn hath pass’d away, and, cold and drear,
Winter stalks on, with frozen mantle bound.
Yet still that prayer ascends:–‘Oh! laughingly
My little brothers round the warm hearth crowd,
Our home-fire blazes broad, and bright, and high,
And the roof rings with voices glad and loud;
Spare me awhile! raise up my drooping brow!
I am content to die–but, oh! not now!’
V.

The spring is come again–the joyful spring!
Again the banks with clustering flowers are spread;
The wild bird dips upon its wanton wing:–
The child of earth is number’d with the dead!
‘Thee never more the sunshine shall awake,
Beaming all redly thro’ the lattice-pane;
The steps of friends thy slumbers may not break,
Nor fond familiar voice arouse again!
Death’s silent shadow veils thy darken’d brow;
Why didst thou linger?–thou art happier now!’

The Reprieve

A MOMENT since, he stood unmoved–alone;
Courage and thought on his resolvēd brow;
But hope is quivering in the broken tone,
Whose bitter anguish seems to shake him now:
Her light foot woke no echo as it came,
The rustling robe her sudden swiftness told;
She pleads for one who dies a death of shame;
She pleads–for agony and love are bold.

‘Oh! hear me, thou, who in the sunshine’s glare
So calmly waitest till the warning bell
Shall of the closing hour of his despair
In gloomy notes of muffled triumph tell.

Let him not die! Avenging Heaven is just;
Thine, a like fate in after years may be:
Thy forfeit head may gasping bite the dust,
While those thou lovest, plead in vain for thee!
Thou smilest sternly: thou could’st well brave death;
Hast braved it often on the tented field.
So fought my hero on th’ ensanguined heath,
With desperate strength, that knew not how to yield:
But oh! the death whose punctual hour is set,
And waited for mid lingering thoughts of pain;
Where no excitement bids the heart forget,
And skill and courage are alike in vain;
Who shall find strength for that?–Oh! man, to whom
Fate, chance, or what thou wilt, hath given this hour–
Upon whose will depends his dreaded doom–
Doth it not awe thee, thinking of thy power?
In the wide battle’s hot and furious rage,
Where the mix’d banners flutter to and fro,
Where all alike the desperate combat wage,
One of a thousand swords may pierce him through:
But, now, his life is in thy single hand:
To thee the strange and startling power is given–
And thou shalt answer for this day’s command
When ye stand face to face in God’s own Heaven.

Bear with me! pardon me this sudden start!
My words are bitter, for my heart is sore;
And oh! dark soldier of the iron heart,
Fain would I learn the speech should touch thee more!
He hath a mother–age hath dimm’d her sight–
But when his quick returning step comes nigh,
She smiles, as though she saw a sudden light,
And turns to bless him with a stifled sigh.
When to her arms a lonely wretch I go,
And she doth ask for him, the true and the brave,
While on her cheek faint smiles of welcome glow,
How shall I answer ‘he is in the grave!’
He hath a little son–a mirthful boy,
Whose coral lips with ready smiles are curl’d;
Wilt thou quench all the spring-time of his joy,
And leave him orphan in a friendless world?
Hast thou no children?–Do no visions come,
When the low night-wind through the poplar grieves–
Echoes of farewell voices–sounds of home–
For which thy busy day no leisure leaves?
Some one doth love thee–some one thou dost love–
(For such the blessed lot of all on earth,)
Some one to whom thy thoughts oft fondly rove,
The sharer of thy sorrows and thy mirth;

Who with dim weeping eyes, and thoughts that burn,
Sees thy proud form lead forth th’ embattled host;
To whom ‘a victory’ speaks of thy return–
And ‘a defeat’ means only thou are lost!
If such there be, (and on thy helm-worn brow
Sternness, not cruelty, doth seem to reign,)
Think it is she, who kneels before thee now,
Her heart which bursts with agony of pain.

‘Hark–‘T is the warning stroke–his hour is come–
I hear the bell slow clanging on the air–
I hear the beating of the muffled drum–
Thou hast a moment yet to save and spare!
Oh! when returning to thy native land,
Greeted with grateful tears and loud acclaim;
While gazing on thy homeward march they stand,
And smiling children shout thy welcome name:
How wilt thou bear the joyous village chimes,
Whose ringing peals remind thee of to-day–
Will not my image haunt thee at those times?
And my hoarse desperate voice seem yet to pray?
When thy long term of bloody toil is past,
And the hush’d trumpet calls no more to arms–
Will not his death thy tranquil brow o’ercast,
And rob that peaceful hour of half its charms?

When thy child’s mother bends thy lip to press,
And her true hand lies clasp’d within thine own–
Will her low voice have perfect power to bless,
Remembering me, the widow’d and the lone?
When they embrace thee–when they welcome thee–
By all my hopes of Heaven, thy brow relents!
Oh! sign the paper–let his life go free–
Give it me quick!’–
‘What ho! Raise her–the woman faints!’

On Seeing Anthony, The Eldest Child Of Lord And Lady Ashley

I.

IT was a fair and gentle child
Stood leaning by his mother’s knee;
His noble brow was smooth and mild–
His eyes shone bright with frolic glee–
And he was stately, though so young;
As from a noble lineage sprung.
II.

So, gazing on him, as we gaze,
Upon a bud, whose promise yet
Lies shut from all the glowing rays
Which afterwards illumine it:
I marvell’d what the fruit might be
When that fair plant became a tree.
III.

Ah! then, what dreams of proud success,
That lordly brow of beauty brought,
With all its infant stateliness,
And all its unripe power of thought!
What triumphs, boundless, unconfined,
Came crowding on my wand’ring mind!
IV.

I gave that child, the voice might hold
A future senate in command;
Head clear and prompt–heart true and bold–
As quick to act as understand:
I dream’d the scholar’s fame achieved–
The hero’s wreath of laurel weaved!
V.

But as I mused, a whisper came
Which (like a friend’s reproachful tone,
Whose gentleness can smite with shame
Far more than fiercest word or frown
Roused my vex’d conscience by its spell,
And thus the whisper’d warning fell:–
VI.

‘Ah! let the shrouded future be,
With all its weight of distant care!
Cloud not with dreams of vanity
That blue bright eye, and forehead fair!
Nor cast thy worldly hopes and fears
In shadow o’er his happy years!
VII.

‘Desire not, even in thy dreams,
To hasten those remoter hours
Which, bright although their promise seems,
Must strip his spring-time of its flowers!–
What triumph, in the time to come,
Shall match these early days of home?
VIII.

‘This is the Eden of his life,–
His little heart bounds glad and free:
Amid a world of toil and strife,
All independent smileth he!
Nor dreams by that sweet mother’s side
Of dark Ambition’s restless pride.
IX.

‘But, like a bird in winter,–still
Fill’d with a sweet and natural joy,
Tho’ frost lies bleak upon the hill,
And mists obscure the cold grey sky,
Which sings, tho’ on a leafless bough,–
He smiles, even at the gloomiest brow!’
X.

Oh! looking a child’s fair face
Methinks should purify the heart;
As angel presences have grace
To bid the darker powers depart,
And glorify our grosser sense
With a reflected innocence!
XI.

And seeing thee, thou lovely boy,
My soul, reproach’d, gave up its schemes
Of worldly triumph’s heartless joy,
For purer and more sinless dreams,
And mingled in my farewell there
Something of blessing and of prayer.