And weep not, though the Beautiful decay Within thy heart, as daily in thine eyes; Thy heart must have its autumn, its pale skies, Leading, mayhap, to winter's dim dismay. Yet doubt not. Beauty doth not pass away; Her form departs not, though her body dies. Secure beneath the earth the snowdrop lies, Waiting the spring's young resurrection-day, Through the kind nurture of the winter cold. Nor seek thou by vain effort to revive The summer-time, when roses were alive; Do thou thy work--be willing to be old: Thy sorrow is the husk that doth infold A gorgeous June, for which thou need'st not strive.
Time: Five years later.
SCENE I.--Night. London. A large meanly furnished room; a single candle on the table; a child asleep in a little crib. JULIAN sits by the table, reading in a low voice out of a book. He looks older, and his hair is lined with grey; his eyes look clearer.
What is this? let me see; 'tis called The Singer:
"Melchah stood looking on the corpse of his son, and spoke not. At length he broke the silence and said: 'He hath told his tale to the Immortals.' Abdiel, the friend of him that was dead, asked him what he meant by the words. The old man, still regarding the dead body, spake as follows:--"
"Three years ago, I fell asleep on the summit of the hill Yarib; and there I dreamed a dream. I thought I lay at the foot of a cliff, near the top of a great mountain; for beneath me were the clouds, and above me, the heavens deep and dark. And I heard voices sweet and strong; and I lifted up my eyes, and, Lo! over against me, on a rocky slope, some seated, each on his own crag, some reclining between the fragments, I saw a hundred majestic forms, as of men who had striven and conquered. Then I heard one say: 'What wouldst thou sing unto us, young man?' A youthful voice replied, tremblingly: 'A song which I have made for my singing.' 'Come, then, and I will lead thee to the hole in the rock: enter and sing.' From the assembly came forth one whose countenance was calm unto awfulness; but whose eyes looked in love, mingled with doubt, on the face of a youth whom he led by the hand toward the spot where I lay. The features of the youth I could not discern: either it was the indistinctness of a dream, or I was not permitted to behold them. And, Lo! behind me was a great hole in the rock, narrow at the entrance, but deep and wide within; and when I looked into it, I shuddered; for I thought I saw, far down, the glimmer of a star. The youth entered and vanished. His guide strode back to his seat; and I lay in terror near the mouth of the vast cavern. When I looked up once more, I saw all the men leaning forward, with head aside, as if listening intently to a far-off sound. I likewise listened; but, though much nearer than they, I heard nothing. But I could see their faces change like waters in a windy and half-cloudy day. Sometimes, though I heard nought, it seemed to me as if one sighed and prayed beside me; and once I heard a clang of music triumphant in hope; but I looked up, and, Lo! it was the listeners who stood on their feet and sang. They ceased, sat down, and listened as before. At last one approached me, and I ventured to question him. 'Sir,' I said, 'wilt thou tell me what it means?' And he answered me thus: 'The youth desired to sing to the Immortals. It is a law with us that no one shall sing a song who cannot be the hero of his tale--who cannot live the song that he sings; for what right hath he else to devise great things, and to take holy deeds in his mouth? Therefore he enters the cavern where God weaves the garments of souls; and there he lives in the forms of his own tale; for God gives them being that he may be tried. The sighs which thou didst hear were his longings after his own Ideal; and thou didst hear him praying for the Truth he beheld, but could not reach. We sang, because, in his first great battle, he strove well and overcame. We await the next.' A deep sleep seemed to fall upon me; and when I awoke, I saw the Immortals standing with their eyes fixed on the mouth of the cavern. I arose and turned toward it likewise. The youth came forth. His face was worn and pale, as that of the dead man before me; but his eyes were open, and tears trembled within them. Yet not the less was it the same face, the face of my son, I tell thee; and in joy and fear I gazed upon him. With a weary step he approached the Immortals. But he who had led him to the cave hastened to meet him, spread forth his arms, and embraced him, and said unto him: 'Thou hast told a noble tale; sing to us now what songs thou wilt.' Therefore said I, as I gazed on my son: 'He hath told his tale to the Immortals.'"
[He puts the book down; meditates awhile; then rises and walks up and down the room.]
And so five years have poured their silent streams, Flowing from fountains in eternity, Into my soul, which, as an infinite gulf, Hath swallowed them; whose living caves they feed; And time to spirit grows, transformed and kept. And now the day draws nigh when Christ was born; The day that showed how like to God himself Man had been made, since God could be revealed By one that was a man with men, and still Was one with God the Father; that men might By drawing nigh to him draw nigh to God, Who had come near to them in tenderness. O God! I thank thee for the friendly eye That oft hath opened on me these five years; Thank thee for those enlightenings of my spirit That let me know thy thought was toward me; Those moments fore-enjoyed from future years, Telling what converse I should hold with God. I thank thee for the sorrow and the care, Through which they gleamed, bright phosphorescent sparks Crushed from the troubled waters, borne on which Through mist and dark my soul draws nigh to thee. Five years ago, I prayed in agony That thou wouldst speak to me. Thou wouldst not then, With that close speech I craved so hungrily. Thy inmost speech is heart embracing heart; And thou wast all the time instructing me To know the language of thy inmost speech. I thought thou didst refuse, when every hour Thou spakest every word my heart could hear, Though oft I did not know it was thy voice. My prayer arose from lonely wastes of soul; As if a world far-off in depths of space, Chaotic, had implored that it might shine Straightway in sunlight as the morning star. My soul must be more pure ere it could hold With thee communion. 'Tis the pure in heart That shall see God. As if a well that lay Unvisited, till water-weeds had grown Up from its depths, and woven a thick mass Over its surface, could give back the sun! Or, dug from ancient battle-plain, a shield Could be a mirror to the stars of heaven! And though I am not yet come near to him, I know I am more nigh; and am content To walk a long and weary road to find My father's house once more. Well may it be A long and weary--I had wandered far. My God, I thank thee, thou dost care for me. I am content, rejoicing to go on, Even when my home seems very far away; For over grief, and aching emptiness, And fading hopes, a higher joy arises. In cloudiest nights, one lonely spot is bright, High overhead, through folds and folds of space; It is the earnest-star of all my heavens; And tremulous in the deep well of my being Its image answers, gazing eagerly.
Alas, my Lilia!--But I'll think of Jesus, Not of thee now; him who hath led my soul Thus far upon its journey home to God. By poor attempts to do the things he said, Faith has been born; free will become a fact; And love grown strong to enter into his, And know the spirit that inhabits there. One day his truth will spring to life in me, And make me free, as God says "I am free." When I am like him, then my soul will dawn With the full glory of the God revealed-- Full as to me, though but one beam from him; The light will shine, for I shall comprehend it: In his light I shall see light. God can speak, Yea, will speak to me then, and I shall hear. Not yet like him, how can I hear his words?
[Stopping by the crib, and bending over the child.]
My darling child! God's little daughter, drest In human clothes, that light may thus be clad In shining, so to reach my human eyes! Come as a little Christ from heaven to earth, To call me father, that my heart may know What father means, and turn its eyes to God! Sometimes I feel, when thou art clinging to me, How all unfit this heart of mine to have The guardianship of a bright thing like thee, Come to entice, allure me back to God By flitting round me, gleaming of thy home, And radiating of thy purity Into my stained heart; which unto thee Shall ever show the father, answering The divine childhood dwelling in thine eyes. O how thou teachest me with thy sweet ways, All ignorant of wherefore thou art come, And what thou art to me, my heavenly ward, Whose eyes have drunk that secret place's light And pour it forth on me! God bless his own!
[He resumes his walk, singing in a low voice.]
My child woke crying from her sleep; I bended o'er her bed,
And soothed her, till in slumber deep She from the darkness fled.
And as beside my child I stood, A still voice said in me-- "Even thus thy Father, strong and good, Is bending over thee."
SCENE II.--Rooms in Lord Seaford's house. A large company; dancers; gentlemen looking on.
Henry, what dark-haired queen is that? She moves As if her body were instinct with thought, Moulded to motion by the music's waves, As floats the swan upon the swelling lake; Or as in dreams one sees an angel move, Sweeping on slow wings through the buoyant air, Then folding them, and turning on his track.
You seem inspired; nor can I wonder at it; She is a glorious woman; and such eyes! Think--to be loved by such a woman now!
You have seen her, then, before: what is her name?
I saw her once; but could not learn her name.
She is the wife of an Italian count, Who for some cause, political I think, Took refuge in this country. His estates The Church has eaten up, as I have heard: Mephisto says the Church has a good stomach.
How do they live?
|Poorly, I should suppose;|
For she gives Lady Gertrude music-lessons: That's how they know her.--Ah, you should hear her sing!
If she sings as she looks or as she dances, It were as well for me I did not hear.
If Count Lamballa followed Lady Seaford To heaven, I know who'd follow her on earth.
SCENE III.--Julian's room. LILY asleep.
I wish she would come home. When the child wakes, I cannot bear to see her eyes first rest On me, then wander searching through the room, And then return and rest. And yet, poor Lilia! 'Tis nothing strange thou shouldst be glad to go From this dull place, and for a few short hours Have thy lost girlhood given back to thee; For thou art very young for such hard things As poor men's wives in cities must endure.
I am afraid the thought is not at rest, But rises still, that she is not my wife-- Not truly, lawfully. I hoped the child Would kill that fancy; but I fear instead, She thinks I have begun to think the same-- Thinks that it lies a heavy weight of sin Upon my heart. Alas, my Lilia! When every time I pray, I pray that God Would look and see that thou and I be one!
(starting up in her crib). Oh, take me! take me!
(going up to her with a smile). What is the matter with my little child?
I don't know, father; I was very frightened.
'Twas nothing but a dream. Look--I am with you.
I am wake now; I know you're there; but then I did not know it.
Lie down now, darling. Go to sleep again.
Not yet. Don't tell me go to sleep again; It makes me so, so frightened! Take me up, And let me sit upon your knee.--Where's mother? I cannot see her.
She's not at home, my child;
But soon she will be back.
|But if she walk|
Out in the dark streets--so dark, it will catch her.
She will not walk--but what would catch her, sweet?
I don't know. Tell me a story till she comes.
(taking her, and sitting with her on his knees by the fire). Come then, my little Lily, I will tell you A story I have read this very night.
[She looks in his face.]
There was a man who had a little boy, And when the boy grew big, he went and asked His father to give him a purse of money. His father gave him such a large purse full! And then he went away and left his home. You see he did not love his father much.
Oh! didn't he?--If he had, he wouldn't have gone!
Away he went, far far away he went, Until he could not even spy the top Of the great mountain by his father's house. And still he went away, away, as if He tried how far his feet could go away; Until he came to a city huge and wide, Like London here.
|Perhaps it was London.|
Perhaps it was, my child. And there he spent All, all his father's money, buying things That he had always told him were not worth, And not to buy them; but he would and did.
How very naughty of him!
|Yes, my child.|
And so when he had spent his last few pence, He grew quite hungry. But he had none left To buy a piece of bread. And bread was scarce; Nobody gave him any. He had been Always so idle, that he could not work. But at last some one sent him to feed swine.
Yes, swine: 'twas all that he could do; And he was glad to eat some of their food.
[She stares at him.]
But at the last, hunger and waking love Made him remember his old happy home. "How many servants in my father's house Have plenty, and to spare!" he said. "I'll go And say, 'I have done very wrong, my father; I am not worthy to be called your son; Put me among your servants, father, please.'" Then he rose up and went; but thought the road So much, much farther to walk back again, When he was tired and hungry. But at last He saw the blue top of the great big hill That stood beside his father's house; and then He walked much faster. But a great way off, His father saw him coming, lame and weary With his long walk; and very different From what he had been. All his clothes were hanging In tatters, and his toes stuck through his shoes--
[She bursts into tears.]
Like that poor beggar I saw yesterday?
Yes, my dear child.
|And was he dirty too?|
Yes, very dirty; he had been so long Among the swine.
Is it all true though, father?
Yes, my darling; all true, and truer far Than you can think.
What was his father like?
A tall, grand, stately man.
|Like you, dear father?|
Like me, only much grander.
|I love you|
The best though.
|Well, all dirty as he was,|
And thin, and pale, and torn, with staring eyes, His father knew him, the first look, far off, And ran so fast to meet him! put his arms Around his neck and kissed him.
|Oh, how dear!|
I love him too;--but not so well as you.
[Sound of a carriage drawing up.]
There is your mother.
|I am glad, so glad!|
Enter LILIA, looking pale.
You naughty child, why are you not in bed?
I am not naughty. I am afraid to go, Because you don't go with me into sleep; And when I see things, and you are not there, Nor father, I am so frightened, I cry out, And stretch my hands, and so I come awake. Come with me into sleep, dear mother; come.
What a strange child it is! There! (kissing her) go to bed.
[Lays her down.]
(gazing on the child).
As thou art in thy dreams without thy mother, So are we lost in life without our God.