Author:

What the Devil Said

It was night time! God, the Father Good,
Weary of praises, on a sudden stood
From His great Throne, and leaned upon the sky:
For He had heard a sound; a little cry,
Thin as a whisper, climbing up the Steep.

And so He looked to where the Earth, asleep,
Rocked with the moon: He saw the whirling sea
Swing round the world in surgent energy,
Tangling the moonlight in its netted foam;
And, nearer, saw the white and fretted dome
Of the ice-capped pole spin back again a ray
To whistling stars, bright as a wizard’s day.

But these He passed, with eyes intently wide,
Till, closer still, the mountains He espied
Squatting tremendous on the broad-backed Earth,
Each nursing twenty rivers at a birth!
And then, minutely, sought He for the cry
That had climbed the slant of space so hugely high.

He found it in a ditch outside a town:
A tattered hungry woman, crouching down
By a dead babe — So there was nought to do,
For what is done is done! And sad He drew
Back to His Heaven of ivory and gold:
And, as He sat, all suddenly there rolled,
From where the woman wept upon the sod,
Satan’s deep voice — O thou unhappy God!

The Horse

A sparrow hopped about the street,
And he was not a bit afraid;
He flew between a horse’s feet,
And ate his supper undismayed:
I think myself the horse knew well
The bird came for the grains that fell.

For his eye was looking down,
And he danced the corn about
In his nose-bag, till the brown
Grains of corn were tumbled out;
And I fancy that he said,
‘Eat it up, young Speckle-Head!’

The driver then came back again,
He climbed into the heavy dray;
And he tightened up the rein,
Cracked his whip and drove away.
But when the horse’s ribs were hit,
The sparrow did not care a bit.

The Feud: A Border Ballad

PLATE I
Rixa super mero

They sat by their wine in the tavern that night,
But not in good fellowship true :
The Rhenish was strong and the Burgundy bright,
And hotter the argument grew.

‘I asked your consent when I first sought her hand,
Nor did you refuse to agree,
Tho’ her father declared that the half of his land
Her dower at our wedding should be.’

‘No dower shall be given (the brother replied)
With a maiden of beauty so rare,
Nor yet shall my father my birthright divide,
Our lands with a foeman to share.’

The knight stood erect in the midst of the hall,
And sterner his visage became,
‘Now, shame and dishonour my ‘scutcheon befall
If thus I relinquish my claim.’

The brother then drained a tall goblet of wine,
And fiercely this answer he made—
‘Before like a coward my rights I resign
I’ll claim an appeal to the blade.

‘The passes at Yarrow are rugged and wide,
There meet me to-morrow alone ;
This quarrel we two with our swords will decide,
And one shall this folly atone.’

They’ve settled the time and they’ve settled the place,
They’ve paid for the wine and the ale,
They’ve bitten their gloves, and their steps they retrace
To their castles in Ettrick’s Vale.

PLATE II
Morituri (te) salutant

Now, buckle my broadsword at my side
And saddle my trusty steed ;
And bid me adieu, my bonnie bride,
To Yarrow I go with speed.
‘I’ve passed through many a bloody fray,
Unharmed in health or limb ;
Then why’s your brow so sad this day
And your dark eye so dim ?’

‘Oh, belt not on your broadsword bright,
Oh ! leave your steed in the stall,
For I dreamt last night of a stubborn fight,
And I dreamt I saw you fall.’

‘On Yarrow’s braes there will be strife,
Yet I am safe from ill ;
And if I thought it would cost my life
I must take this journey still.’

He turned his charger to depart
In the misty morning air,
But he stood and pressed her to his heart
And smoothed her glossy hair.

And her red lips he fondly kissed
Beside the castle door,
And he rode away in the morning mist,
And he never saw her more !

PLATE III
Heu ! deserta domus

She sits by the eastern casement now,
And the sunlight enters there,
And settles on her ivory brow
And gleams in her golden hair.
On the deerskin rug the staghound lies
And dozes dreamily,
And the quaint carved oak reflects the dyes
Of the curtain’s canopy.

The lark has sprung from the new-mown hay,
And the plover’s note is shrill
And the song of the mavis far away
Comes from the distant hill ;
And in the wide courtyard below
She heard the horses neigh,
The men-at-arms pass to and fro
The scraps of border-lay.
She heard each boisterous oath and jest
The rough moss-troopers made,
Who scoured the rust from spur or crest,
Or polished bit or blade.
They loved her well, those rugged men,—
How could they be so gay
When he perchance in some lone glen
Lay dying far away ?

She was a fearless Border girl,
Who from her earliest days
Had seen the banners oft unfurl
And the war-beacons blaze—
Had seen her father’s men march out,
Roused by the trumpet’s call,
And heard the foeman’s savage shout
Close to their fortress wall.
And when her kin were arming fast,
Had belted many a brand—
Why was her spirit now o’ercast ?
Where was her self-command ?
She strove to quell those childish fears,
Unworthy of her name ;
She dashed away the rising tears,
And, flushed with pride and shame,
She rose and hurried down the stair,
The castle yard to roam ;
And she met her elder sister there,
Come from their father’s home,
‘Sister, I’ve ridden here alone,
Your lord and you to greet.’
‘Sister, to Yarrow he has gone
Our brother there to meet ;
I dreamt last night of a stubborn fray
Where I saw him fall and bleed,
And he rode away at break of day
With his broadsword and his steed.’
‘Oh ! sister dear, there will be strife :
Our brother likes him ill,
And one or both must forfeit life
On Yarrow’s lonely hill.’

A stout moss-trooper, standing near,
Spoke with a careless smile :
‘Now, have no fear for my master dear,—
He may travel many a mile,
And those who ride on the Border side,
Albeit they like him not,
They know his mettle has oft been tried
Where blows were thick and hot.
He left command that none should go
From hence till home he came ;
But, lady, the truth you soon shall know
If you will bear the blame.
Your palfrey fair I’ll saddle with care,
Your sister shall ride the grey,
And I’ll mount myself on the sorrel mare,
And to Yarrow we’ll haste away.’

The sun was low in the western sky,
And steep was the mountain track,
But they rode from the castle rapidly—
Oh ! how will they travel back ?

PLATE IV
Gaudia certaminis

He came to the spot where his foe had agreed
To meet him in Yarrow’s dark glade,
And there he drew rein amd dismounted his steed,
And fastened him under the shade.

Close by in the greenwood the ambush was set,
And scarce had he entered the glen
When, armed for the combat, the brother he met,
And with him were eight of his men.

‘Now, swear to relinquish all claim to our land,
Or to give as a hostage your bride !
Or fly if you’re able, or yield where you stand,
Or die as your betters have died !’

His doublet and hat on the greensward he threw,
He wrapt round the left arm his cloak ;
And out of its scabbard his broadsword he drew,
And stood with his back to an oak.

‘My claim to your land I refuse to deny,
Nor will I restore you my bride,
Now will I surrender, nor yet will I fly :
Come on, and the steel shall decide !’

Oh ! sudden and sure were the blows that he dealt !
Like lightning the sweep of his blade !
Cut and thrust, point and edge, all around him they fell,
They fell one by one in the glade !

And pierced in the gullet their leader goes down !
And sinks with a curse on the plain ;
And his squire falls dead ! cut through headpiece and crown !
And his groom by a back stroke is slain.

Now five are stretched lifeless ; disabled are three !
Hard pressed, see the last caitiff reel !
The brother behind struggles up on one knee,
And drives through his body the steel.

PLATE V
Non habeo mihi facta adhuc cur Herculis uxor
Credar coniugii mors mihi pignus erit.

The traitor’s father heard the tale,
In haste he mounted then,
And spurred his horse from Ettrick Vale
To Yarrow’s lonely glen,
Some troopers followed in his track—
For them he tarried not,
He neither halted nor looked back
Until he found the spot.

The earth was trod and trampled bare,
And stained with dark red dew,
A broken blade lay here, and there
A bonnet cut in two ;
And stretched in ghastly shapes around
The lifeless corpses lie,
Some with their faces to the ground,
And some towards the sky.
And there the ancient Border chief
Stood silent and alone—
Too stubborn to give way to grief,
Too stern remorse to own.
A soldier in the midst of strife
Since he had first drawn breath,
He’d grown to undervalue life
And feel at home with death.
And yet he shuddered when he saw
The work that had been done ;
He knew his fearless son-in-law,
He knew his dastard son.
Despite the failings of his race
A brave old man was he,
Who would not stoop to actions base,
And hated treachery.
He loved his younger daughter well,
And though severe and rude,
For her sake he had tried to quell
That foolish Border feud.
Her brother all his schemes had marred,
And given his pledge the lie,
And sense of justice struggled hard
With nature’s stronger tie.
He knew his son had richly earned
The stroke that laid him low,
Yet had not quite forgiveness learned
For him that dealt the blow.

There came a tramp of horses’ feet :
He raised his startled eyes,
And felt his pulses throb and beat
With sorrow and surprise.
He saw his daughter riding fast,
And from her steed she sprung,
And on her lover’s corpse she cast
Herself, and round him clung.
Her head she pillowed on his waist,
And all her clustering hair
Hung down, disordered by her haste
In silken masses there.
Her sister and their sturdy guide
Dismounted and drew nigh,
The elder daughter stood aside—
Her tears fell silently.
The stout moss-trooper glanced around
But not a word he said ;
He knelt upon the battered ground
And raised his master’s head.
The face had set serene and sad,
Nor was there on the clay
The stamp of that fierce soul which had
In anger passed away.

With dagger blade he ripped the skirt,
The fatal wound to show,
And wiped the stains of blood and dirt
From throat and cheek and brow.
And all the while she did not stir,
She lay there calm and still,
Nor could he hope to comfort her,—
Her case was past his skill.
The father first that silence broke ;
His voice was firm and clear,
And every accent that he spoke
Fell on the listener’s ear.
‘Daughter, this quarrel to forgo,
I offered half our land
A dower to him—a feudal foe—
When first he sought your hand.
I only asked for some brief while,
Some few short weeks’ delay,
Till I my son could reconcile ;
For this he would not stay.
He was your husband, so I’m told ;
But you yourself must own
He took you to his fortress-hold
With your consent alone.

Of late the strife broke out anew ;
They blame your brother there ;
But he was hot and headstrong, too—
He doubtless did his share.
Oh ! stout of heart, and strong of hand,
With all his faults was he,
The champion of his Border land ;
I ne’er his judge will be !
Now, grieve no more for what is done ;
Alike we share the cost ;
For, girl, I too have lost a son,
If you your love have lost.
Forget the deed ! and learn to call
A worthier man your lord
Than he whose arm has vexed us all ;
Here lies his fatal sword.
Think, when you seek his guilt to cloak,
Whose blood has dyed it red.
Who fell beneath its deadly stroke,
Whose life is forfeited.’
The old man paused, for while he spoke
The girl had raised her head.

Her silken hair she proudly dashed
Back from her crimson face !
And in her bright eyes once more flashed
The spirit of her race !
He beauty made her stand abashed !
Her voice rang thro’ the place !

‘Who held the treacherous dagger’s hilt
When against odds he fought ?
My brother’s blood was fairly spilt !
But his was basely sought !
Now, Christ absolve his soul from guilt ;
He sinned as he was taught !
‘His next of kin by blood and birth
May claim his house and land !
His groom may slack his saddle-girth,
Or bid his charger stand !
But never a man on God’s wide earth
Shall touch his darling’s hand !’

The colour faded from her cheek,
Her eyelids drooped and fell,
And when again she sought to speak
Her accents came so low and weak
Her words they scarce could tell.
‘Oh ! father, all I ask is rest,—
Here let me once more lie !’
She stretched upon the dead man’s breast
With one long weary sigh ;
And the old man bowed his lofty crest
And hid his troubled eye !

They called her, but she spoke no more,
And when they raised her head
She seemed as lovely as before,
Though all her bloom had fled ;
But they grew pale at that they saw—
They knew that she was dead !

PLATE VI
Dies irae : dies illa

The requiem breaks the midnight air, the funeral bell they toll,—
A mass or prayer we well may spare, for a brave moss-trooper’s soul ;
And the fairest bride on the Border side, may she too be forgiven !
The dirge we ring, the chant we sing, the rest we leave to Heaven !

Podas Okus

Am I waking ? Was I sleeping ?
Dearest, are you watching yet ?
Traces on your cheeks of weeping
Glitter, ’tis in vain you fret ;
Drifting ever ! drifting onward !
In the glass the bright sand runs
Steadily and slowly downward ;
Hushed are all the Myrmidons.

Has Automedon been banish’d
From his post beside my bed ?
Where has Agamemnon vanished ?
Where is warlike Diomed ?
Where is Nestor ? where Ulysses ?
Menelaus, where is he ?
Call them not, more dear your kisses
Than their prosings are to me.

Daylight fades and night must follow,
Low, where sea and sky combine,
Droops the orb of great Apollo,
Hostile god to me and mine.
Through the tent’s wide entrance streaming,
In a flood of glory rare,
Glides the golden sunset, gleaming
On your golden, gleaming hair.

Chide him not, the leech who tarries,
Surest aid were all too late ;
Surer far the shaft of Paris,
Winged by Phoebus and by fate ;
When he crouch’d behind the gable,
Had I once his features scann’d,
Phoebus’ self had scarce been able
To have nerved his trembling hand.

Blue-eyed maiden ! dear Athena !
Goddess chaste, and wise, and brave,
From the snares of Polyxena
Thou wouldst fain thy favourite save.
Tell me, is it not far better
That it should be as it is ?
Jove’s behest we cannot fetter,
Fate’s decrees are always his.

Many seek for peace and riches,
Length of days and life of ease ;
I have sought for one thing, which is
Fairer unto me than these.
Often, too, I’ve heard the story,
In my boyhood, of the doom
Which the fates assigned me—Glory,
Coupled with an early tomb.

Swift assault and sudden sally
Underneath the Trojan wall ;
Charge, and countercharge, and rally,
War-cry loud, and trumpet call ;
Doubtful strain of desp’rate battle,
Cut and thrust and grapple fierce
Swords that ring on shields that rattle,
Blades that gash and darts that pierce ;—

I have done with these for ever ;
By the loud resounding sea,
Where the reedy jav’lins quiver,
There is now no place for me.
Day by day our ranks diminish,
We are falling day by day ;
But our sons the strife will finish,
Where man tarries man must slay.

Life, ’tis said, to all men sweet is,
Death to all must bitter be ;
Wherefore thus, oh, mother Thetis ?
None can baffle Jove’s decree ?
I am ready, I am willing,
To resign my stormy life ;
Weary of this long blood-spilling,
Sated with this ceaseless strife.

Shorter doom I’ve pictured dimly,
On a bed of crimson sand ;
Fighting hard and dying grimly,
Silent lips, and striking hand ;
But the toughest lives are brittle,
And the bravest and the best
Lightly fall—it matters little ;
Now I only long for rest.

I have seen enough of slaughter,
Seen Scamander’s torrent red,
Seen hot blood poured out like water,
Seen the champaign heaped with dead.
Men will call me unrelenting,
Pitiless, vindictive, stern ;
Few will raise a voice dissenting,
Few will better things discern.

Speak ! the fires of life are reeling,
Like the wildfires on the marsh,
Was I to a friend unfeeling ?
Was I to a mistress harsh ?
Was there naught save bloodshed throbbing
In this heart and on this brow ?
Whisper ! girl, in silence sobbing !
Dead Patroclus ! answer thou !

Dry those violet orbs that glisten,
Darling, I have had my day ;
Place your hand in mine and listen,
Ere the strong soul cleaves its way
Through the death mist hovering o’er me,
As the stout ship cleaves the wave,
To my fathers gone before me,
To the gods who love the brave !

Courage, we must part for certain ;
Shades that sink and shades that rise,
Blending in a shroud-like curtain,
Gather o’er these weary eyes.
O’er the fields we used to roam, in
Brighter days and lighter cheer,
Gathers thus the quiet gloaming—
Now, I ween, the end is near.

For the hand that clasps your fingers,
Closing in the death-grip tight,
Scarcely feels the warmth that lingers,
Scarcely heeds the pressure light ;
While the failing pulse that alters,
Changing ‘neath a death chill damp,
Flickers, flutters, flags, and falters,
Feebly, like a waning lamp.

Think’st thou, love, ’twill chafe my ghost in
Hades’ realm, where heroes shine,
Should I hear the shepherd boasting
To his Argive concubine ?
Let him boast, the girlish victor
Let him brag ; not thus, I trow,
Were the laurels torn from Hector,
Not so very long ago.

Does my voice sound thick and husky ?
Is my hand no longer warm ?
Round that neck where pearls look dusky
Let me once more wind my arm ;
Rest my head upon that shoulder,
Where it rested oft of yore ;
Warm and white, yet seeming colder
Now than e’er it seem’d before.

‘Twas the fraud of Priam’s daughter,
Not the force of Priam’s son,
Slew me—ask not why I sought her,
‘Twas my doom—her work is done !
Fairer far than she, and dearer,
By a thousand-fold thou art ;
Come, my own one, nestle nearer,
Cheating death of half his smart.

Slowly, while your amber tresses
Shower down their golden rain,
Let me drink those last caresses,
Never to be felt again ;
Yet th’ Elysian halls are spacious,
Somewhere near me I may keep
Room—who knows ?—The gods are gracious ;
Lay me lower—let me sleep !

Lower yet, my senses wander,
And my spirit seems to roll
With the tide of swift Scamander
Rushing to a viewless goal.
In my ears, like distant washing
Of the surf upon the shore,
Drones a murmur, faintly splashing,
‘Tis the splash of Charon’s oar.

Lower yet, my own Briseis,
Denser shadows veil the light ;
Hush, what is to be, to be is,
Close my eyes, and say good-night.
Lightly lay your red lips, kissing,
On this cold mouth, while your thumbs
Lie on these cold eyelids pressing—
Pallas ! thus thy soldier comes.

Wormwood And Nightshade

The troubles of life are many,
The pleasures of life are few ;
When we sat in the sunlight, Annie,
I dreamt that the skies were blue—
When we sat in the sunlight, Annie,
I dreamt that the earth was green ;
There is little colour, if any,
‘Neath the sunlight now to be seen.

Then the rays of the sunset glinted
Through the blackwoods’ emerald bough
On an emerald sward, rose-tinted,
And spangled, and gemm’d ;—and now
The rays of the sunset redden
With a sullen and lurid frown,
From the skies that are dark and leaden,
To earth that is dusk and brown.

To right and to left extended
The uplands are blank and drear,
And their neutral tints are blended
With the dead leaves sombre and sere :
The cold grey mist from the still side
Of the lake creeps sluggish and sure,
Bare and bleak is the hill-side,
Barren and bleak the moor.

Bright hues and shapes intertwisted,
Fair forms and rich colours ;—now
They have flown—if e’er they existed—
It matters not why or how.
It matters not where or when, dear,
They have flown, the blue and the green,
I thought on what might be then, dear,
Now I think on what might have been.

What might have been !—words of folly ;
What might be !—speech for a fool ;
With mistletoe round me, and holly,
Scarlet and green, at Yule,
With the elm in the place of the wattle,
And in lieu of the gum, the oak,
Years back I believed a little,
And as I believed I spoke.

Have I done with those childish fancies ?
They suited the days gone by,
When I pulled the poppies and pansies,
When I hunted the butterfly,
With one who has long been sleeping,
A stranger to doubts and cares,
And to sowing that ends in reaping
Thistles, and thorns, and tares.

What might be !—the dreams were scatter’d,
As chaff is toss’d by the wind,
The faith has been rudely shattered
That listen’d with credence blind ;
Things were to have been, and therefore
They were, and they are to be,
And will be ;—we must prepare for
The doom we are bound to dree.

Ah, me ! we believe in evil,
Where once we believed in good,
The world, the flesh, and the devil
Are easily understood ;
The world, the flesh, and the devil,
Their traces on earth are plain ;
Must they always riot and revel
While footprints of man remain ?

Talk about better and wiser,
Wiser and worse are one,
The sophist is the despiser
Of all things under the sun ;
Is nothing real but confusion ?
Is nothing certain but death ?
Is nothing fair save illusion ?
Is nothing good that has breath ?

Some sprite, malignant and elfish,
Seems present, whispering close,
‘All motives of life are selfish,
All instincts of life are gross ;
And the song that the poet fashions,
And the love-bird’s musical strain,
Are jumbles of animal passions,
Refined by animal pain.’

The restless throbbings and burnings
That hope unsatisfied brings,
The weary longings and yearnings
For the mystical better things,
Are the sands on which is reflected
The pitiless moving lake,
Where the wanderer falls dejected,
By a thirst he never can slake.

A child blows bubbles that glitter,
He snatches them, they disperse ;
Yet childhood’s folly is better,
And manhood’s folly is worse ;
Gilt baubles we grasp at blindly
Would turn in our hands to dross ;
‘Tis a fate less cruel than kindly
Denies the gain and the loss.

And as one who pursues a shadow,
As one who hunts in a dream,
As the child who crosses the meadow,
Enticed by the rainbow’s gleam,
I—knowing the course was foolish,
And guessing the goal was pain,
Stupid, and stubborn, and mulish—
Followed and follow again.

The sun over Gideon halted,
Holding aloof the night,
When Joshua’s arm was exalted,
Yet never retraced his flight ;
Nor will he turn back, nor can he,
He chases the future fast ;
The future is blank—oh, Annie !
I fain would recall the past.

There are others toiling and straining
‘Neath burdens graver than mine ;
They are weary, yet uncomplaining—
I know it, yet I repine ;
I know it, how time will ravage,
How time will level, and yet
I long with a longing savage,
I regret with a fierce regret.

You are no false ideal,
Something is left of you,
Present, perceptible, real,
Palpable, tangible, true ;
One shred of your broken necklace,
One tress of your pale, gold hair,
And a heart so utterly reckless,
That the worst it would gladly dare.

There is little pleasure, if any,
In waking the past anew ;
My days and nights have been many ;
Lost chances many I rue—
My days and nights have been many ;
Now I pray that they be few,
When I think on the hill-side, Annie,
Where I dreamt that the skies were blue.

Ars Longa

[A Song of Pilgrimage]

Our hopes are wild imaginings,
Our schemes are airy castles,
Yet these, on earth, are lords and kings,
And we their slaves and vassals ;
Yon dream, forsooth, of buoyant youth,
Most ready to deceive is,
But age will own the bitter truth,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

The hill of life with eager feet
We climbed in merry morning,
But on the downward track we meet
The shades of twilight warning ;
The shadows gaunt they fall aslant ;
And those who scaled Ben Nevis,
Against the mole-hills toil and pant,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

The obstacles that barr’d our path
We seldom quail’d to dash on
In youth , for youth one motto hath,
‘The will, the way must fashion.’
Those words, I wot, blood thick and hot,
Too ready to believe is,
But thin and cold our blood hath got,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

And ‘art is long’, and ‘life is short’,
And man is slow at learning ;
And yet by divers dealings taught,
For divers follies yearning,
He owns at last, with grief downcast
(For man disposed to grieve is)—
One adage old stands true and fast,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

We journey, manhood, youth, and age,
The matron, and the maiden,
Like pilgrims on a pilgrimage,
Loins girded, heavy laden :—
Each pilgrim strong, who joins our throng,
Most eager to achieve is,
Foredoom’d ere long to swell the song,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

At morn, with staff and sandal-shoon,
We travel brisk and cheery,
But some have laid them down ere noon,
And all at eve are weary ;
The noontide glows with no repose,
And bitter chill the eve is,
The grasshopper a burden grows,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

The staff is snapp’d, the sandal fray’d,
The flint-stone galls and blisters,
Our brother’s steps we cannot aid,
Ah me ! nor aid our sister’s :
The pit prepares its hidden snares,
The rock prepared to cleave is,
We cry, in falling unawares,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

Oh ! Wisdom, which we sought to win !
Oh ! Strength in which we trusted !
Oh ! Glory, which we gloried in !
Oh ! puppets we adjusted !
On barren land our seed is sand,
And torn the web we weave is,
The bruised reed hath pierced the hand,
‘Ars longa, vita brevis.’

We, too, ‘Job’s comforters’ have met,
With steps, like ours, unsteady,
They could not help themselves, and yet
To judge us they were ready ;
Life’s path is trod at last, and God
More ready to reprieve is,
They know,who rest beneath the sod,
‘Mors grata, vita brevis.’

The Mother’s Last Watch

Written on the occasion of the death of the infant daughter of Her Grace the Duchess of Sutherland.
I.

HARK, through the proudly decorated halls,
How strangely sounds the voice of bitter woe,
Where steps that dread their echo as it falls
Steal silently and sadly to and fro.
There, wither’d lies the bud so lately given,
And, beautiful in grief as when she smiled,
Bow’d ‘neath the unexpected stroke of Heaven,
The mourning Mother watches o’er her Child.
II.

‘Tis her last Watch! Sleep seals those infant lids,
Dark fall the lashes on that roseleaf cheek-
But oh!–the look is there, which Hope forbids;
Of Death–of Death those heavy eyelids speak!–
‘Tis her last Watch!–no more that gentle hand
With cautious love shall curtain out the light–
No more that graceful form shall mutely stand
And bless thy slumbers thro’ the shadowy night.
III.

Hush’d is the innocent heart which throbbing pain,
Vain hope, and vain regret had never moved.
The God who gave hath claim’d his gift again,
And angels welcome her, on earth so loved.
Yet still of hope and fear the endless strife
Within that Mother’s bosom faintly swells,
Still, still she gazes on, and dreams of life,
Though the fond falsehood Reason’s pow’r repels.
IV.

Unheard each word of comfort faintly falls
From lips whose tones in other days were dear,
Her infant’s smile is all her heart recalls,–
Her infant’s voice is all her heart can hear;–
She clasps its hand, the feverish glow of hers
Wakes into warmth the freezing current’s flow;
She bends,–her sobbing breath a ringlet stirs
With mimic life upon its pallid brow.
V.

Oh! what a mournful thing is human love!
In happier days of hope and bliss gone by
The Mother’s heart with pitying throb would move
If but a teardrop dimm’d that laughing eye:
And now she prays that Heaven the boon may give
To hear from those pale lips a cry of pain–
Aught that could bid her sinking soul revive,
And tell the mourner thou wert hers again!
VI.

Ah ! never more that dream of hope may be!–
The summer breeze among the boughs shall wave,
The summer sun beam bright o’er land and lea,
But thou, no spring shall wake thee from the grave!
No more those little rosy lips shall greet
With brightly sudden smile her look of pride;
No more with falt’ring steps those fairy feet
Shall totter onward to her cherish’d side.
VII.

All, all is over! See, with painful start
She wakens from her trance to feel the whole,
And know the pang even from thy corse to part–
Thou vainly guarded treasure of her soul!
The hand that, ah! so often hath caress’d,
Aids now to place thee in thy narrow bed!
The last wild kiss upon thy cheek is press’d–
The last fond tear upon thy coffin shed!
And all is hush’d: but oft thro’ Life’s dull track
(When time her present sorrow hath beguiled)
That pale, sweet brow shall dimly bring us back
The Mother’s last Watch o’er her fairy Child!

The Creole Girl; Or, The Physician’s Story

I.

SHE came to England from the island clime
Which lies beyond the far Atlantic wave;
She died in early youth–before her time–
‘Peace to her broken heart, and virgin grave!’
II.

She was the child of Passion, and of Shame,
English her father, and of noble birth;
Though too obscure for good or evil fame,
Her unknown mother faded from the earth.
III.

And what that fair West Indian did betide,
None knew but he, who least of all might tell,–
But that she lived, and loved, and lonely died,
And sent this orphan child with him to dwell.
IV.

Oh! that a fair and innocent young face
Should have a poison in its looks alone,
To raise up thoughts of sorrow and disgrace
And shame most bitter, although not its own!
V.

Cruel were they who flung that heavy shade
Across the life whose days did but begin;
Cruel were they who crush’d her heart, and made
Her youth pay penance for his youth’s wild sin;
VI.

Yet so it was;–among her father’s friends
A cold compassion made contempt seem light,
But, in ‘the world,’ no justice e’er defends
The victims of their tortuous wrong and right:–
VII.

And ‘moral England,’ striking down the weak,
And smiling at the vices of the strong,
On her, poor child! her parent’s guilt would wreak,
And that which was her grievance, made her wrong.
VIII.

The world she understood not; nor did they
Who made that world,–her, either, understand;
The very glory of her features’ play
Seem’d like the language of a foreign land;
IX.

The shadowy feelings, rich and wild and warm,
That glow’d and mantled in her lovely face,–
The slight full beauty of her youthful form,
Its gentle majesty, its pliant grace,–
X.

The languid lustre of her speaking eye,
The indolent smile of that bewitching mouth,
(Which more than all betray’d her natal sky,
And left us dreaming of the sunny South,)–
XI.

The passionate variation of her blood,
Which rose and sank, as rise and sink the waves,
With every change of her most changeful mood,
Shock’d sickly Fashion’s pale and guarded slaves.
XII.

And so in this fair world she stood alone,
An alien ‘mid the ever-moving crowd,
A wandering stranger, nameless and unknown,
Her claim to human kindness disallow’d.
XIII.

But oft would Passion’s bold and burning gaze,
And Curiosity’s set frozen stare,
Fix on her beauty in those early days,
And coarsely thus her loveliness declare;
XIV.

Which she would shrink from, as the gentle plant,
Fern-leaved Mimosa folds itself away;
Suffering and sad;–for easy ’twas to daunt
One who on earth had no protecting stay.
XV.

And often to her eye’s transparent lid
The unshed tears would rise with sudden start,
And sink again, as though by Reason chid,
Back to their gentle home, her wounded heart;
XVI.

Even as some gushing fountain idly wells
Up to the prison of its marble side,
Whose power the mounting wave for ever quells,–
So rose her tears–so stemm’d by virgin pride.
XVII.

And so more lonely each succeeding day,
As she her lot did better understand,
She lived a life which had in it decay,
A flower transplanted to too cold a land,–
XVIII.

Which for a while gives out a hope of bloom,
Then fades and pines, because it may not feel
The freedom and the warmth which gave it room
The beauty of its nature to reveal.
XIX.

For vainly would the heart accept its lot
And rouse its strength to bear avow’d contempt;
Scorn will be felt as scorn,–deserved or not,–
And from its bitter spell none stand exempt.
XX.

There is a basilisk power in human eyes
When they would look a fellow-creature down,
‘Neath which the faint soul fascinated lies,
Struck by the cold sneer, or the with’ring frown.
XXI.

But one there was, among that cruel crowd,
Whose nature half rebell’d against the chain
Which fashion flung around him; though too proud
To own that slavery’s weariness and pain.
XXII.

Too proud; perhaps too weak; for Custom still
Curbs with an iron bit the souls born free;
They start and chafe, yet bend them to the will
Of this most nameless ruler,–so did he.
XXIII.

And even unto him the worldly brand
Which rested on her, half her charm effaced;
Vainly all pure and radiant did she stand,–
Even unto him she was a thing disgraced.
XXIV.

Had she been early doom’d a cloister’d nun,
To Heaven devoted by a holy vow–
His union with that poor deserted one
Had seem’d not more impossible than now.
XXV.

He could have loved her–fervently and well;
But still the cold world, with its false allure,
Bound his free liking in an icy spell,
And made its whole foundation insecure.
XXVI.

But not like meaner souls, would he, to prove
A vulgar admiration, her pursue;
For though his glances after her would rove,
As something beautiful, and strange, and new,
XXVII.

They were withdrawn if but her eye met his,
Or, for an instant if their light remain’d,
They soften’d into gentlest tenderness,
As asking pardon that his look had pain’d.
XXVIII.

And she was nothing unto him,–nor he
Aught unto her; but each of each did dream
In the still hours of thought, when we are free
To quit the real world for the things which seem.
XXIX.

When in his heart Love’s folded wings would stir,
And bid his youth choose out a fitting mate,
Against his will his thoughts roam’d back to her,
And all around seem’d blank and desolate.
XXX.

When, in his worldly haunts, a smother’d sigh
Told he had won some lady of the land,
The dreaming glances of his earnest eye
Beheld far off the Creole orphan stand;
XXXI.

And to the beauty by his side he froze,
As though she were not fair, nor he so young,
And turn’d on her such looks of cold repose
As check’d the trembling accents of her tongue,
XXXII.

And bid her heart’s dim passion seek to hide
Its gathering strength, although the task be pain,
Lest she become that mock to woman’s pride–
A wretch that loves unwoo’d, and loves in vain.
XXXIII.

So in his heart she dwelt,–as one may dwell
Upon the verge of a forbidden ground;
And oft he struggled hard to break the spell
And banish her, but vain the effort found;
XXXIV.

For still along the winding way which led
Into his inmost soul, unbidden came
Her haunting form,–and he was visited
By echoes soft of her unspoken name,
XXXV.

Through the long night, when those we love seem near,
However cold, however far away,
Borne on the wings of floating dreams, which cheer
And give us strength to meet the struggling day.
XXXVI.

And when in twilight hours she roved apart,
Feeding her love-sick soul with visions fair,
The shadow of his eyes was on her heart,
And the smooth masses of his shining hair
XXXVII.

Rose in the glory of the evening light,
And, where she wander’d, glided evermore,
A star which beam’d upon her world’s lone night,
Where nothing glad had ever shone before.
XXXVIII.

But vague and girlish was that love,–no hope,
Even of familiar greeting, ever cross’d
Its innocent, but, oh! most boundless scope;
She loved him,–and she knew her love was lost.
XXXIX.

She gazed on him, as one from out a bark,
Bound onward to a cold and distant strand,
Some lovely bay, some haven fair may mark,
Stretching far inward to a sunnier land;
XL.

Who, knowing he must still sail on, turns back
To watch with dreaming and most mournful eyes
The ruffling foam which follows in his track,
Or the deep starlight of the shoreless skies.
XLI.

Oh! many a hopeless love like this may be,–
For love will live that never looks to win;
Gems rashly lost in Passion’s stormy sea,
Not to be lifted forth when once cast in!

PART II.
I.

So time roll’d on, till suddenly that child
Of southern clime and feelings, droop’d and pined
Her cheek wax’d paler, and her eye grew wild,
And from her youthful form all strength declined.
II.

‘Twas then I knew her; late and vainly call’d,
To ‘minister unto a mind diseased,’–
When on her heart’s faint sickness all things pall’d,
And the deep inward pain was never eased:
III.

Her step was always gentle, but at last
It fell as lightly as a wither’d leaf
In autumn hours; and wheresoe’er she pass’d
Smiles died away, she look’d so full of grief.
IV.

And more than ever from that world, where still
Her father hoped to place her, she would shrink;
Loving to be alone, her thirst to fill
From the sweet fountains where the dreamers drink.
V.

One eve, beneath the acacia’s waving bough,
Wrapt in these lonely thoughts she sate and read;
Her dark hair parted from her sunny brow,
Her graceful arm beneath her languid head;
VI.

And droopingly and sad she hung above
The open page, whereon her eyes were bent,
With looks of fond regret and pining love;
Nor heard my step, so deep was she intent.
VII.

And when she me perceived, she did not start,
But lifted up those soft dark eyes to mine,
And smiled, (that mournful smile which breaks the heart!)
Then glanced again upon the printed line.
VIII.

‘What readest thou?’ I ask’d. With fervent gaze,
As though she would have scann’d my inmost soul,
She turn’d to me, and, as a child obeys
The accustom’d question of revered control,
IX.

She pointed to the title of that book,
(Which, bending down, I saw was ‘Coralie,’)
Then gave me one imploring piteous look,
And tears, too long restrain’d, gush’d fast and free.
X.

It was a tale of one, whose fate had been
Too like her own to make that weeping strange;
Like her, transplanted from a sunnier scene;
Like her, all dull’d and blighted by the change.
XI.

No further word was breathed between us two;–
No confidence was made to keep or break;–
But since that day, which pierced my soul quite thro’,
My hand the dying girl would faintly take,
XII.

And murmur, as its grasp (ah! piteous end!)
Return’d the feeble pressure of her own,
‘Be with me to the last,–for thou, dear friend,
Hast all my struggles, all my sorrow known!’
XIII.

She died!–The pulse of that untrammell’d heart
Fainted to stilness. Those most glorious eyes
Closed on the world where she had dwelt apart,
And her cold bosom heaved no further sighs.
XIV.

She died!–and no one mourn’d, except her sire,
Who for a while look’d out with eyes more dim;
Lone was her place beside his household fire,
Vanish’d the face that ever smiled on him.
XV.

And no one said to him–‘Why mournest thou?’
Because she was the unknown child of shame;
(Albeit her mother better kept the vow
Of faithful love, than some who keep their fame.)
XVI.

Poor mother, and poor child!–unvalued lives!
Wan leaves that perish’d in obscurest shade!
While round me still the proud world stirs and strives,
Say, shall I weep that ye are lowly laid?
XVII.

Shall I mourn for ye? No!–and least for thee,
Young dreamer, whose pure heart gave way before
Thy bark was launch’d upon Love’s stormy sea,
Or treachery wreck’d it on the farther shore.
XVIII.

Least, least of all for thee! Thou art gone hence!
Thee never more shall scornful looks oppress,
Thee the world wrings not with some vain pretence,
Nor chills thy tears, nor mocks at thy distress.
XIX.

From man’s injustice, from the cold award
Of the unfeeling, thou hast pass’d away;
Thou’rt at the gates of light, where angels guard
Thy path to realms of bright eternal day.
XX.

There shall thy soul its chains of slavery burst,
There, meekly standing before God’s high throne,
Thou’lt find the judgments of our earth reversed,
And answer for no errors but thine own.

Sonnet Viii

TO MY BOOKS.

SILENT companions of the lonely hour,
Friends, who can never alter or forsake,
Who for inconstant roving have no power,
And all neglect, perforce, must calmly take,–
Let me return to YOU; this turmoil ending
Which worldly cares have in my spirit wrought,
And, o’er your old familiar pages bending,
Refresh my mind with many a tranquil thought:
Till, haply meeting there, from time to time,
Fancies, the audible echo of my own,
‘Twill be like hearing in a foreign clime
My native language spoke in friendly tome,
And with a sort of welcome I shall dwell
On these, my unripe musings, told so well.

When Poor In All But Hope And Love

WHEN, poor in all but hope and love,
I clasped thee to my faithful heart;
For wealth and fame I vowed to rove,
That we might meet no more to part!
Years have gone by-long weary years
Of toil, to win thee comfort now-
Of ardent hopes-of sickening fears-
And wealth is mine-but where art thou?

Fame’s dazzling dreams, for thy dear sake,
Rose brighter than before to me;
I clung to all I deemed could make
My burning heart more worthy thee.
Years have gone by-the laurel droops
In mockery o’er my joyless brow :
A conquered world before me stoops,
And Fame is mine-but where art thou?

In life’s first hours, despised and lone,
I wandered through the busy crowd;
But now that life’s best hopes are gone,
They greet with pride and murmurs loud.
Oh! for thy voice! thy happy voice,
To breathe its laughing welcome now;
Wealth, fame, and all that should rejoice,
To me are vain-for where art thou?

The Hunting Horn Of Chalemagne

SOUND not the Horn!–the guarded relic keep:
A faithful sharer of its master’s sleep:
His life it gladden’d–to his life belong’d,–
Pause–ere thy lip the royal dead hath wrong’d.
Its weary weight but mocks thy feeble hand;
Its desolate note, the shrine wherein we stand.
Not such the sound it gave in days of yore,
When that rich belt a monarch’s bosom wore,–
Not such the sound! Far over hill and dell
It waked the echoes with triumphant swell;

Heard midst the rushing of the torrent’s fall,
From castled crag to roofless ruin’d hall,
Down the ravine’s precipitous descent,
Thro’ the wild forest’s rustling boughs it went,
Upon the lake’s blue bosom linger’d fond,
And faintly answer’d from the hills beyond:

Pause!–the free winds that joyous blast have borne:–
Dead is the hunter!–silent be the horn!

Sound not the horn! Bethink thee of the day
When to the chase an Emperor led the way;
In all the pride of manhood’s noblest prime,
Untamed by sorrow, and untired by time,
Life’s pulses throbbing in his eager breast,
Glad, active, vigorous,–who is now at rest:–
How he gazed round him with his eagle eye,
Leapt the dark rocks that frown against the sky,
Grasp’d the long spear, and curb’d the panting steed
(Whose fine nerves quiver with his headlong speed),
At the wild cry of danger smiled in scorn,
And firmly sounded that re-echoing horn!

Ah! let no touch the ivory tube profane
Which drank the breath of living Charlemagne;
Let not like blast by meaner lips be blown,
But by the hunter’s side the horn lay down!

Or, following to his palace, dream we now
Not of the hunter’s strength, or forest bough,
But woman’s love! HER offering this, perchance,–
This, granted to each stranger’s casual glance,
This, gazed upon with coldly curious eyes,
Was giv’n with blushes, and received with sighs!
We see her not;–no mournful angel stands
To guard her love-gift from our careless hands;
But fancy brings a vision to our view–
A woman’s form, the trusted and the true:
The strong to suffer, tho’ so weak to dare
Patient to watch thro’ many a day of care,
Devoted, anxious, generous, void of guile,
And with her whole heart’s welcome in her smile;
Even such I see! Her maidens, too, are there,
And wake, with chorus sweet, some native air;
But tho’ her proud heart holds her country dear,
And tho’ she loves those happy songs to hear,

She bids the tale be hush’d, the harp be still,
For one faint blast that dies along the hill.
Up, up, she springs; her young head backward thrown;
‘He comes! my hunter comes!–Mine own–mine own!’

She loves, and she is loved–her gift is worn–
‘Tis fancy, all!–And yet–lay down the horn!

Love–life–what are ye?–since to love and live
No surer record to our times can give!
Low lies the hero now, whose spoken name
Could fire with glory, or with love inflame;
Low lies the arm of might, the form of pride,
And dim tradition dreameth by his side.
Desolate stand those painted palace-halls,
And gradual ruin mines the massy walls,
Where frank hearts greeted many a welcome guest,
And loudly rang the beaker and the jest;–
While here, within this chapel’s narrow bound,
Whose frozen silence startles to the sound
Of stranger voices ringing thro’ the air,
Of faintly echoes many a humble prayer;

Here, where the window, narrow arch’d, and high,
With jealous bars shuts out the free blue sky,–
Where glimmers down, with various-painted ray,
A prison’d portion of God’s glorious day,–
Where never comes the breezy breath of morn,
Here, mighty hunter, feebly wakes thy horn!