Better to smell the violet
Than sip the glowing wine;
Better to hearken to a brook Than watch a diamond shine.
Better to have a loving friend Than ten admiring foes;
Better a daisy's earthy root Than a gorgeous, dying rose.
Better to love in loneliness Than bask in love all day;
Better the fountain in the heart Than the fountain by the way.
Better be fed by mother's hand Than eat alone at will;
Better to trust in God, than say, My goods my storehouse fill.
Better to be a little wise
Than in knowledge to abound; Better to teach a child than toil To fill perfection's round.
Better to sit at some man's feet Than thrill a listening state; Better suspect that thou art proud Than be sure that thou art great.
Better to walk the realm unseen Than watch the hour's event; Better the Well done, faithful slave! Than the air with shoutings rent.
Better to have a quiet grief Than many turbulent joys;
Better to miss thy manhood's aim Than sacrifice the boy's.
Better a death when work is done Than earth's most favoured birth; Better a child in God's great house Than the king of all the earth.
AN OLD SERMON WITH A NEW TEXT.
My wife contrived a fleecy thing
Her husband to infold,
For 'tis the pride of woman still
To cover from the cold:
My daughter made it a new text
For a sermon very old.
The child came trotting to her side,
Ready with bootless aid:
"Lily make veckit for papa,"
The tiny woman said:
Her mother gave the means and ways,
And a knot upon her thread.
"Mamma, mamma!--it won't come through!"
In meek dismay she cried.
Her mother cut away the knot,
And she was satisfied,
Pulling the long thread through and through,
In fabricating pride.
Her mother told me this: I caught
A glimpse of something more:
Great meanings often hide behind
The little word before!
And I brooded over my new text
Till the seed a sermon bore.
Nannie, to you I preach it now--
A little sermon, low:
Is it not thus a thousand times,
As through the world we go?
Do we not tug, and fret, and cry--
Instead of Yes, Lord--No?
While all the rough things that we meet
Which will not move a jot,
The hindrances to heart and feet,
The Crook in every Lot,
Mean plainly but that children's threads
Have at the end a knot.
This world of life God weaves for us,
Nor spares he pains or cost,
But we must turn the web to clothes
And shield our hearts from frost:
Shall we, because the thread holds fast,
Count labour vain and lost?
If he should cut away the knot,
And yield each fancy wild,
The hidden life within our hearts--
His life, the undefiled--
Would fare as ill as I should fare
From the needle of my child.
As tack and sheet unto the sail,
As to my verse the rime,
As mountains to the low green earth--
So hard for feet to climb,
As call of striking clock amid
The quiet flow of time,
As sculptor's mallet to the birth
Of the slow-dawning face,
As knot upon my Lily's thread
When she would work apace,
God's Nay is such, and worketh so
For his children's coming grace.
Who, knowing God's intent with him,
His birthright would refuse?
What makes us what we have to be
Is the only thing to choose:
We understand nor end nor means,
And yet his ways accuse!
This is my sermon. It is preached
Against all fretful strife.
Chafe not with anything that is,
Nor cut it with thy knife.
Ah! be not angry with the knot
That holdeth fast thy life.
- have a puppet-jointed child, She's but three half-years old;
Through lawless hair her eyes gleam wild
With looks both shy and bold.
Like little imps, her tiny hands
Dart out and push and take;
Chide her--a trembling thing she stands,
And like two leaves they shake.
But to her mind a minute gone
Is like a year ago;
And when you lift your eyes anon,
Anon you must say No!
Sometimes, though not oppressed with care,
She has her sleepless fits;
Then, blanket-swathed, in that round chair
The elfish mortal sits;--
Where, if by chance in mood more grave,
A hermit she appears
Propped in the opening of his cave,
Mummied almost with years;
Or like an idol set upright
With folded legs for stem,
Ready to hear prayers all the night
And never answer them.
But where's the idol-hermit thrust?
Her knees like flail-joints go!
Alternate kiss, her mother must,
Now that, now this big toe!
- turn away from her, and write For minutes three or four:
- tiny spectre, tall and white, She's standing by the door!
Then something comes into my head
That makes me stop and think:
She's on the table, the quadruped,
And dabbling in my ink!
- Elfie, make no haste to lose Thy ignorance of offence!
Thou hast the best gift I could choose,
A heavenly confidence.
'Tis time, long-white-gowned Mrs. Ham,
To put you in the ark!
Sleep, Elfie, God-infolded lamb,
Sleep shining through the dark.
Her mother, Elfie older grown,
One evening, for adieu,
Said, "You'll not mind being left alone,
For God takes care of you!"
In child-way her heart's eye did see
The correlation's node:
"Yes," she said, "God takes care o' me,
An' I take care o' God."
The child and woman were the same,
She changed not, only grew;
'Twixt God and her no shadow came:
The true is always true!
As daughter, sister, promised wife,
Her heart with love did brim:
Now, sure, it brims as full of life,
Hid fourteen years in him!
My little boy, with smooth, fair cheeks,
And dreamy, large, brown eyes,
Not often, little wisehead, speaks,
But hearing, weighs and tries.
"God is not only in the sky,"
His sister said one day--
Not older much, but she would cry
Like Wisdom in the way--
"He's in this room." His dreamy, clear,
Large eyes look round for God:
In vain they search, in vain they peer;
His wits are all abroad!
"He is not here, mamma? No, no;
I do not see him at all!
He's not the shadows, is he?" So
His doubtful accents fall--
Fall on my heart, no babble mere!
They rouse both love and shame:
But for earth's loneliness and fear,
I might be saying the same!
Nay, sometimes, ere the morning break
And home the shadows flee,
In my dim room even yet I take
Those shadows, Lord, for thee!
Heavily slumbered noonday bright Upon the lone field, glory-dight,
A burnished grassy sea:
The child, in gorgeous golden hours, Through heaven-descended starry flowers,
Went walking on the lea.
Velvety bees make busy hum; Green flies and striped wasps go and come;
The butterflies gleam white;
Blue-burning, vaporous, to and fro The dragon-flies like arrows go,
Or hang in moveless flight:--
Not one she followed; like a rill She wandered on with quiet will;
Received, but did not miss;
Her step was neither quick nor long; Nought but a snatch of murmured song
Ever revealed her bliss.
An almost solemn woman-child, Not fashioned frolicsome and wild,
She had more love than glee;
And now, though nine and nothing more, Another little child she bore,
Almost as big as she.
No silken cloud from solar harms Had she to spread; with shifting arms
She dodged him from the sun;
Mother and sister both in heart, She did a gracious woman's part,
Life's task even now begun!
They came upon a stagnant ditch, The slippery sloping banks of which
More varied blossoms line;
Some ragged-robins baby spies, Stretches his hands, and crows and cries,
Plain saying, "They are mine!"
What baby wants, that baby has--
- law unalterable as
The poor shall serve the rich:
They are beyond her reach--almost! She kneels, she strains, and, too engrossed,
Topples into the ditch.
Adown the side she slanting rolled, But her two arms convulsive hold
The precious baby tight;
She lets herself sublimely go, And in the ditch's muddy flow
Stands up, in evil plight.
'Tis nothing that her feet are wet, But her new shoes she can't forget--
They cost five shillings bright!
Her petticoat, her tippet blue, Her frock, they're smeared with slime like glue!
But baby is all right!
And baby laughs, and baby crows; And baby being right, she knows
That nothing can be wrong;
So, with a troubled heart yet stout, She plans how ever to get out
With meditation long.
The high bank's edge is far away, The slope is steep, and made of clay;
And what to do with baby?
For even a monkey, up to run, Would need his four hands, every one:--
She is perplexed as may be.
And all her puzzling is no good! Blank-staring up the side she stood,
Which, settling she, grew higher.
At last, seized with a fresh dismay Lest baby's patience should give way,
She plucked her feet from the mire,
And up and down the ditch, not glad, But patient, very, did promenade--
Splash, splash, went her small feet!
And baby thought it rare good fun, Sucking his bit of pulpy bun,
And smelling meadow-sweet.
But, oh, the world that she had left-- The meads from her so lately reft--
Poor infant Proserpine!
A fabled land they lay above,
- paradise of sunny love,
In breezy space divine!
Frequent from neighbouring village-green Came sounds of laughter, faintly keen,
And barks of well-known dogs,
While she, the hot sun overhead, Her lonely watery way must tread
In mud and weeds and frogs!
Sudden, the ditch about her shakes; Her little heart, responsive, quakes
With fear of uncouth woes;
She lifts her boding eyes perforce-- To see the huge head of a horse
Go past upon its nose.
Then, hark, what sounds of tearing grass And puffing breath!--With knobs of brass
On horns of frightful size,
A cow's head through the broken hedge Looks awful from the other edge,
Though mild her pondering eyes.
The horse, the cow are passed and gone; The sun keeps going on and on,
And still no help comes near.--
At misery's last--oh joy, the sound Of human footsteps on the ground!
She cried aloud, "_I_'m here!"
It was a man--oh, heavenly joy! He looked amazed at girl and boy,
And reached his hand so strong:
"Give me the child," he said; but no! Care would not let the burden go
Which Love had borne so long.
Smiling he kneels with outstretched hands, And them unparted safely lands
In the upper world again.
Her low thanks feebly murmured, she Drags her legs homeward painfully--
Poor, wet, one-chickened hen!
Arrived at length--Lo, scarce a speck Was on the child from heel to neck,
Though she was sorely mired!
No tear confessed the long-drawn rack, Till her mother took the baby back,
And the she cried, "I'm tired!"
And, intermixed with sobbing wail, She told her mother all the tale,
Her wet cheeks in a glow:
"But, mother, mother, though I fell,
- kept the baby pretty well-- I did not let him go!"
HE HEEDED NOT.
Of whispering trees the tongues to hear,
And sermons of the silent stone;
To read in brooks the print so clear
Of motion, shadowy light, and tone--
That man hath neither eye nor ear
Who careth not for human moan.
Yea, he who draws, in shrinking haste,
From sin that passeth helpless by;
The weak antennae of whose taste
From touch of alien grossness fly--
Shall, banished to the outer waste,
Never in Nature's bosom lie.
But he whose heart is full of grace
To his own kindred all about,
Shall find in lowest human face,
Blasted with wrong and dull with doubt,
More than in Nature's holiest place
Where mountains dwell and streams run out.
Coarse cries of strife assailed my ear,
In suburb-ways, one summer morn;
- wretched alley I drew near Whence on the air the sounds were borne--
Growls breaking into curses clear,
And shrill retorts of keener scorn.
Slow from its narrow entrance came,
His senses drowned with revels dire,
Scarce fit to answer to his name,
A man unconscious save of ire;
Fierce flashes of dull, fitful flame
Broke from the embers of his fire.
He cast a glance of stupid hate
Behind him, every step he took,
Where followed him, like following fate,
An aged crone, with bloated look:
- something checked his listless gait; She neared him, rating till she shook.
Why stood he still to be disgraced?
What hindered? Lost in his employ,
His eager head high as his waist,
Half-buttressed him a tiny boy,
An earnest child, ill-clothed, pale-faced,
Whose eyes held neither hope nor joy.
Perhaps you think he pushed, and pled
For one poor coin to keep the peace
With hunger! or home would have led
And given him up to sleep's release:
Well he might know the good of bed
To make the drunken fever cease!
Not so; like unfledged, hungry bird
He stood on tiptoe, reaching higher,
But no expostulating word
Did in his anxious soul aspire;
With humbler care his heart was stirred,
With humbler service to his sire.
He, sleepless-pale and wrathful red,
Though forward leaning, held his foot
Lest on the darling he should tread:
A misty sense had taken root
Somewhere in his bewildered head
That round him kindness hovered mute.
The words his simmering rage did spill
Passed o'er the child like breeze o'er corn;
Safer than bee whose dodging skill
And myriad eyes the hail-shower scorn,
The boy, absorbed in loving will,
Buttoned his father's waistcoat worn.
Over his calm, unconscious face
No motion passed, no change of mood;
Still as a pool in its own place,
Unsunned within a thick-leaved wood,
It kept its quiet shadowy grace,
As round it all things had been good.
Was the boy deaf--the tender palm
Of him that made him folded round
The little head to keep it calm
With a hitherto to every sound--
And so nor curse nor shout nor psalm
Could thrill the globe thus grandly bound?
Or came in force the happy law
That customed things themselves erase?
Or was he too intent for awe?
Did love take all the thinking place?
- cannot tell; I only saw
An earnest, fearless, hopeless face.
THE SHEEP AND THE GOAT.
The thousand streets of London gray
Repel all country sights;
But bar not winds upon their way, Nor quench the scent of new-mown hay
In depth of summer nights.
And here and there an open spot,
Still bare to light and dark,
With grass receives the wanderer hot; There trees are growing, houses not--
They call the place a park.
Soft creatures, with ungentle guides,
God's sheep from hill and plain,
Flow thitherward in fitful tides, There weary lie on woolly sides,
Or crop the grass amain.
And from dark alley, yard, and den,
In ragged skirts and coats,
Come thither children of poor men,
Wild things, untaught of word or pen--
The little human goats.
In Regent's Park, one cloudless day,
An overdriven sheep,
Come a hard, long, and dusty way, Throbbing with thirst and hotness lay,
A panting woollen heap.
But help is nearer than we know
For ills of every name:
Ragged enough to scare the crow, But with a heart to pity woe,
A quick-eyed urchin came.
Little he knew of field or fold,
Yet knew what ailed; his cap
Was ready cup for water cold; Though creased, and stained, and very old,
'Twas not much torn, good hap!
Shaping the rim and crown he went,
Till crown from rim was deep;
The water gushed from pore and rent, Before he came one half was spent--
The other saved the sheep.
- little goat, born, bred in ill, Unwashed, half-fed, unshorn,
Thou to the sheep from breezy hill Wast bishop, pastor, what you will,
In London dry and lorn!
And let priests say the thing they please,
My faith, though poor and dim,
Thinks he will say who always sees, In doing it to one of these
Thou didst it unto him.
THE WAKEFUL SLEEPER.
When things are holding wonted pace In wonted paths, without a trace
Or hint of neighbouring wonder,
Sometimes, from other realms, a tone,
- scent, a vision, swift, alone, Breaks common life asunder.
Howe'er it comes, whate'er its door, It makes you ponder something more--
Unseen with seen things linking:
To neighbours met one festive night, Was given a quaint and lovely sight,
That set some of them thinking.
They stand, in music's fetters bound By a clear brook of warbled sound,
A canzonet of Haydn,
When the door slowly comes ajar--
- little further--just as far As shows a tiny maiden.
Softly she enters, her pink toes Daintily peeping, as she goes,
Her long nightgown from under.
The varied mien, the questioning look Were worth a picture; but she took
No notice of their wonder.
They made a path, and she went through; She had her little chair in view
Close by the chimney-corner;
She turned, sat down before them all, Stately as princess at a ball,
And silent as a mourner.
Then looking closer yet, they spy What mazedness hid from every eye
As ghost-like she came creeping:
They see that though sweet little Rose Her settled way unerring goes,
Plainly the child is sleeping.
"Play on, sing on," the mother said; "Oft music draws her from her bed."--
Dumb Echo, she sat listening;
Over her face the sweet concent Like winds o'er placid waters went,
Her cheeks like eyes were glistening.
Her hands tight-clasped her bent knees hold Like long grass drooping on the wold
Her sightless head is bending;
She sits all ears, and drinks her fill, Then rising goes, sedate and still,
On silent white feet wending.
Surely, while she was listening so, Glad thoughts in her went to and fro
Preparing her 'gainst sorrow,
And ripening faith for that sure day When earnest first looks out of play,
And thought out of to-morrow.
She will not know from what fair skies Troop hopes to front anxieties--
In what far fields they gather,
Until she knows that even in sleep, Yea, in the dark of trouble deep,
The child is with the Father.
A DREAM OF WAKING.
- child was born in sin and shame, Wronged by his very birth,
Without a home, without a name,
One over in the earth.
No wifely triumph he inspired,
Allayed no husband's fear;
Intruder bare, whom none desired,
He had a welcome drear.
Heaven's beggar, all but turned adrift
For knocking at earth's gate,
His mother, like an evil gift,
Shunned him with sickly hate.
And now the mistress on her knee
The unloved baby bore,
The while the servant sullenly
Prepared to leave her door.
Her eggs are dear to mother-dove,
Her chickens to the hen;
All young ones bring with them their love,
Of sheep, or goats, or men!
This one lone child shall not have come
In vain for love to seek:
Let mother's hardened heart be dumb,
A sister-babe will speak!
"Mother, keep baby--keep him so;
Don't let him go away."
"But, darling, if his mother go,
Poor baby cannot stay."
"He's crying, mother: don't you see
He wants to stay with you?"
"No, child; he does not care for me."
"Do keep him, mother--do."
"For his own mother he would cry;
He's hungry now, I think."
"Give him to me, and let me try
If I can make him drink."
"Susan would hurt him! Mother will
Let the poor baby stay?"
Her mother's heart grew sore, but still
Baby must go away!
The red lip trembled; the slow tears
Came darkening in her eyes;
Pressed on her heart a weight of fears
That sought not ease in cries.
'Twas torture--must not be endured!--
A too outrageous grief!
Was there an ill could not be cured?
She would find some relief!
All round her universe she pried:
No dawn began to break:
In prophet-agony she cried--
"Mother! when shall we wake?"
- insight born of torture's might!-- Such grief can only seem.
Rise o'er the hills, eternal light,
And melt the earthly dream.
A MANCHESTER POEM.
'Tis a poor drizzly morning, dark and sad. The cloud has fallen, and filled with fold on fold The chimneyed city; and the smoke is caught, And spreads diluted in the cloud, and sinks, A black precipitate, on miry streets. And faces gray glide through the darkened fog.
Slave engines utter again their ugly growl,
And soon the iron bands and blocks of stone That prison them to their task, will strain and quiver Until the city tremble. The clamour of bells, Importunate, keeps calling pale-faced forms To gather and feed those Samsons' groaning strength With labour; and among the many come A man and woman--the woman with her gown Drawn over her head, the man with bended neck Submissive to the rain. Amid the jar, And clash, and shudder of the awful force, They enter and part--each to a different task, But each a soul of knowledge to brute force, Working a will through the organized whole Of cranks and belts and levers, pinions and screws Wherewith small man has eked his body out, And made himself a mighty, weary giant.
In labour close they pass the murky day,
'Mid floating dust of swift-revolving wheels, And filmy spoil of quick contorted threads, Which weave a sultry chaos all about; Until, at length, old darkness, swelling slow Up from the caves of night to make an end, Chokes in its tide the clanking of the looms, The monster-engines, and the flying gear. 'Tis Earth that draws her curtains, and calls home Her little ones, and sets her down to nurse Her tired children--like a mother-ghost With her neglected darlings in the dark. So out they walk, with sense of glad release, And home--to a dreary place! Unfinished walls, Earth-heaps, and broken bricks, and muddy pools Lie round it like a rampart against the spring, The summer, and all sieges of the year.
But, Lo, the dark has opened an eye of fire!
The room reveals a temple, witnessed by signs Seen in the ancient place! Lo, here is light, Yea, burning fire, with darkness on its skirts; Pure water, ready to baptize; and bread; And in the twilight edges of the light, A book; and, for the cunning-woven veil, Their faces--hiding God's own holiest place! Even their bed figures the would-be grave Where One arose triumphant, slept no more! So at their altar-table they sit down To eat their Eucharist; for, to the heart That reads the live will in the dead command, He is the bread, yea, all of every meal.
But as, in weary rest, they silent sit,
They gradually grow aware of light That overcomes their lamp, and, through the blind, Casts from the window-frame two shadow-glooms That make a cross of darkness on the white. The woman rises, eagerly looks out: Lo, some fair wind has mown the earth-sprung fog, And, far aloft, the white exultant moon, From her blue window, curtained all with white, Looks greeting them--God's creatures they and she! Smiling she turns; he understands the smile: To-morrow will be fair--as holy, fair! And lying down, in sleep they die till morn, While through their night throb low aurora-gleams Of resurrection and the coming dawn. They wake: 'tis Sunday. Still the moon is there, But thin and ghostly--clothed upon with light, As if, while they were sleeping, she had died. They dress themselves, like priests, in clean attire, And, through their lowly door, enter God's room.
The sun is up, the emblem on his shield.
One side the street, the windows all are moons To light the other side that lies in shade. See, down the sun-side, an old woman come In a red cloak that makes the whole street glad! A long-belated autumn-flower she seems, Dazed by the rushing of the new-born life Up hidden stairs to see the calling sun, But in her cloak and smile they know the spring, And haste to meet her through slow dissolving streets Widening to larger glimmers of growing green. Oh, far away the streets repel the spring! Yet every stone in the dull pavement shares The life that thrills anew the outworn earth, A right Bethesda angel--for all, not some!
A street unfinished leads them forth at length
Where green fields bask, and hedgerow trees, apart, Stand waiting in the air as for some good, And the sky is broad and blue--and there is all! No peaceful river meditates along The weary flat to the less level sea! No forest brown, on pillared stems, its boughs Meeting in gothic arches, bears aloft A groined vault, fretted with tremulous leaves! No mountains lift their snows, and send their brooks Down babbling with the news of silent things! But love itself is commonest of all, And loveliest of all, in all the worlds! And he that hath not forest, brook, or hill, Must learn to read aright what commoner books Unfold before him. If ocean solitudes-- Then darkness dashed with glory, infinite shades, And misty minglings of the sea and sky. If only fields--the humble man of heart Will revel in the grass beneath his foot, And from the lea lift his glad eye to heaven, God's palette, where his careless painter-hand Sweeps comet-clouds that net the gazing soul; Streaks endless stairs, and blots half-sculptured blocks; Curves filmy pallors; heaps huge mountain-crags; Nor touches where it leaves not beauty's mark.
To them the sun and air are feast enough,
As through field-paths and lanes they slowly walk; But sometimes, on the far horizon dim A veil is lifted, and they spy the hills, Cloudlike and faint, yet sharp against the sky; Then wakes an unknown want, which asks and looks As for some thing forgot--loved long ago, But on the hither verge of childhood dropt: 'Tis but home-sickness roused in the soul by Spring! Fresh birth and eager growth, reviving life, Which is because it would be, fill the world; The very light is new-born with the grass; The stones themselves are warm; the brown earth swells, Filled, sponge-like, with dark beams, which nestle close And brood unseen and shy, and potent warm In every little corner, nest, and crack Where buried lurks a blind and sleepy seed Waiting the touch of the finger of the sun. The mossy stems and boughs, where yet no life Oozes exuberant in brown and green, Are clad in golden splendours, crossed and lined With shuttle-shadows weaving lovely change. Through the tree-tops the west wind rushing goes, Calling and rousing the dull sap within: The fine jar down the stem sinks tremulous, From airy root thrilling to earthy branch. And though as yet no buddy baby dots Sparkle the darkness of the hedgerow twigs, The smoke-dried bark appears to spread and swell In the soft nurture of the warm light-bath.
The sun had left behind him the keystone
Of his low arch half-way when they turned home, Filled with pure air, and light, and operant spring: Back, like the bees, they went to their dark house To store their innocent spoil in honeyed thought.
But on their way, crossing a field, they chanced
Upon a spot where once had been a home, And roots of walls still peered out, grown with moss. 'Twas a dead cottage, mouldered quite, where yet Lay the old shadow of a vanished care; The little garden's blunt, half-blotted map Was yet discernible by thinner grass Upon the walks. There, in the midst of dry Bushes, dead flowers, rampant, uncomely weeds, A single snowdrop drooped its snowy drop, The lonely remnant of a family That in the garden dwelt about the home-- Reviving with the spring when home was gone: They see; its spiritual counterpart Wakes up and blossoms white in their meek souls-- A longing, patient, waiting hopefulness, The snowdrop of the heart; a heavenly child, That, pale with the earthly cold, hangs its fair head As it had nought to say 'gainst any world; While they in whom it dwells, nor knows itself, Inherit in their meekness all the worlds.
I love thee, flower, as a slow lingerer
Upon the verge of my humanity. Lo, on thine inner leaves and in thy heart The loveliest green, acknowledging the grass-- White-minded memory of lowly friends! But almost more I love thee for the earth Which clings to thy transfigured radiancy, Uplifted with thee from thine abandoned grave; Say rather the soiling of thy garments pure Upon thy road into the light and air, The heaven of thy new birth. Some gentle rain Will one day wash thee white, and send the earth Back to the earth; but, sweet friend, while it clings, I love the cognizance of our family.
With careful hands uprooting it, they bore
The little plant a willing captive home-- Fearless of dark abode, because secure In its own tale of light. As once of old The angel of the annunciation shone, Bearing all heaven into a common house, It brings in with it field and sky and air. A pot of mould its one poor tie to earth, Its heaven an ell of blue 'twixt chimney-tops, Its world the priests of that small temple-room, It takes its prophet-place with fire and book, Type of primeval spring, whose mighty arc Hath not yet drawn the summer up the sky. At night, when the dark shadow of the cross Will enter, clothed in moonlight, still and wan Like a pale mourner at its foot the flower Will, drooping, wait the dawn. Then the dark bird Which holds breast-caged the secret of the sun, And therefore hangs himself a prisoner caged, Will break into its song--Lo, God is light!
Weary and hopeful, to their sleep they go;
And all night long the snowdrop glimmers white Thinning the dark, unknowing it, and unseen.
* * * * *
Out of my verse I woke, and saw my room,
My precious books, the cherub-forms above, And rose, and walked abroad, and sought the woods; And roving odours met me on my way.
I entered Nature's church, a shimmering vault
Of boughs, and clouded leaves--filmy and pale Betwixt me and the sun, while at my feet Their shadows, dark and seeming solid, lay Like tombstones o'er the vanished flowers of Spring. The place was silent, save for the broken song Of some Memnonian, glory-stricken bird That burst into a carol and was still; It was not lonely: golden beetles crept, Green goblins, in the roots; and squirrel things Ran, wild as cherubs, through the tracery; And here and yonder a flaky butterfly Was doubting in the air, scarlet and blue.
But 'twixt my heart and summer's perfect grace,
Drove a dividing wedge, and far away It seemed, like voice heard loud yet far away By one who, waking half, soon sleeps outright:-- Where was the snowdrop? where the flower of hope? In me the spring was throbbing; round me lay Resting fulfilled, the odour-breathing summer! My heart heaved swelling like a prisoned bud, And summer crushed it with its weight of light!
Winter is full of stings and sharp reproofs, Healthsome, not hurtful, but yet hurting sore; Summer is too complete for growing hearts-- Too idle its noons, its morns too triumphing, Too full of slumberous dreams its dusky eves; Autumn is full of ripeness and the grave; We need a broken season, where the cloud Is ruffled into glory, and the dark Falls rainful o'er the sunset; need a world Whose shadows ever point away from it; A scheme of cones abrupt, and flattened spheres, And circles cut, and perfect laws the while That marvellous imperfection ever points To higher perfectness than heart can think; Therefore to us, a flower of harassed Spring, Crocus, or primrose, or anemone, Is lovely as was never rosiest rose; A heath-bell on a waste, lonely and dry, Says more than lily, stately in breathing white; A window through a vaulted roof of rain Lets in a light that comes from farther away, And, sinking deeper, spreads a finer joy Than cloudless noon-tide splendorous o'er the world: Man seeks a better home than Paradise; Therefore high hope is more than deepest joy, A disappointment better than a feast, And the first daisy on a wind-swept lea Dearer than Eden-groves with rivers four.
WHAT THE LORD SAITH.
Trust my father, saith the eldest-born;
I did trust him ere the earth began;
Not to know him is to be forlorn;
Not to love him is--not to be man.
He that knows him loves him altogether;
With my father I am so content
That through all this dreary human weather
I am working, waiting, confident.
He is with me; I am not alone;
Life is bliss, because I am his child;
Down in Hades will I lay the stone
Whence shall rise to Heaven his city piled.
Hearken, brothers, pray you, to my story!
Hear me, sister; hearken, child, to me:
Our one father is a perfect glory;
He is light, and there is none but he.
Come then with me; I will lead the way;
All of you, sore-hearted, heavy-shod,
Come to father, yours and mine, I pray;
Little ones, I pray you, come to God!
HOW SHALL HE SING WHO HATH NO SONG?
How shall he sing who hath no song? He laugh who hath no mirth? Will cannot wake the sleeping song! Yea, Love itself in vain may long To sing with them that have a song, Or, mirthless, laugh with Mirth! He who would sing but hath no song Must speak the right, denounce the wrong, Must humbly front the indignant throng, Must yield his back to Satire's thong, Nor shield his face from liar's prong, Must say and do and be the truth, And fearless wait for what ensueth, Wait, wait, with patience sweet and strong, Until God's glory fill the earth; Then shall he sing who had no song, He laugh who had no mirth!
Yea, if in land of stony dearth Like barren rock thou sit,
Round which the phantom-waters flit Of heart- and brain-mirage
That can no thirst assuage, Yet be thou still, and wait, wait long; A right sea comes to drown the wrong; God's glory comes to fill the earth, And thou, no more a scathed rock, Shalt start alive with gladsome shock, Shalt a hand-clapping billow be, And shout with the eternal sea!
To righteousness and love belong The dance, the jubilance, the song, When the great Right hath quelled the wrong, And Truth hath stilled the lying tongue! Then men must sing because of song, And laugh because of mirth! And this shall be their anthem strong-- Hallow! the glad God fills the earth, And Love sits down by every hearth!
Thy world is made to fit thine own,
A nursery for thy children small,
The playground-footstool of thy throne,
Thy solemn school-room, Father of all!
When day is done, in twilight's gloom, We pass into thy presence-room.
Because from selfishness and wrath,
Our cold and hot extremes of ill,
We grope and stagger on the path--
Thou tell'st us from thy holy hill,
With icy storms and sunshine rude, That we are all unripe in good.
Because of snaky things that creep
Through our soul's sea, dim-undulant,
Thou fill'st the mystery of thy deep
With faces heartless, grim, and gaunt;
That we may know how ugly seem The things our spirit-oceans teem.
Because of half-way things that hold
Good names, and have a poisonous breath--
Prudence that is but trust in gold,
And faith that is but fear of death--
Amongst thy flowers, the lovely brood, Thou sendest some that are not good.
Thou stay'st thy hand from finishing things
To make thy child love the complete;
Full many a flower comes up thy springs
Unshamed in imperfection sweet;
That through good all, and good in part, Thy work be perfect in the heart.
Because, in careless confidence,
So oft we leave the narrow way,
Its borders thorny hedges fence,
Beyond them marshy deeps affray;
But farther on, the heavenly road Lies through the gardens of our God.
Because thy sheep so often will
Forsake the meadow cool and damp
To climb the stony, grassless hill,
Or wallow in the slimy swamp,
Thy sicknesses, where'er they roam, Go after them to bring them home.
One day, all fear, all ugliness,
All pain, all discord, dumb or loud,
All selfishness, and all distress,
Will melt like low-spread morning cloud,
And heart and brain be free from thrall, Because thou, God, art all in all!
O Peter, wherefore didst thou doubt? Indeed the spray flew fast about, But he was there whose walking foot Could make the wandering hills take root; And he had said, "Come down to me," Else hadst thou not set foot on sea! Christ did not call thee to thy grave! Was it the boat that made thee brave?
"Easy for thee who wast not there To think thou more than I couldst dare! It hardly fits thee though to mock Scared as thou wast that railway shock! Who saidst this morn, 'Wife, we must go-- The plague will soon be here, I know!' Who, when thy child slept--not to death-- Saidst, 'Life is now not worth a breath!'"
Saint Peter, thou rebukest well! It needs no tempest me to quell, Not even a spent lash of its spray! Things far too little to affray Will wake the doubt that's worst of all-- Is there a God to hear me call? But if he be, I never think That he will hear and let me sink!
Lord of my little faith, my Lord, Help me to fear nor fire nor sword; Let not the cross itself appall Which bore thee, Life and Lord of all; Let reeling brain nor fainting heart Wipe out the soreness that thou art; Dwell farther in than doubt can go, And make I hope become I know. Then, sure, if thou should please to say, "Come to my side," some stormy way, My feet, atoning to thy will, Shall, heaved and tossed, walk toward thee still; No heart of lead shall sink me where Prudence lies crowned with cold despair, But I shall reach and clasp thy hand, And on the sea forget the land!
To whom the heavy burden clings,
It yet may serve him like a staff;
One day the cross will break in wings,
The sinner laugh a holy laugh.
The dwarfed Zacchaeus climbed a tree,
His humble stature set him high;
The Lord the little man did see
Who sought the great man passing by.
Up to the tree he came, and stopped:
"To-day," he said, "with thee I bide."
- spirit-shaken fruit he dropped, Ripe for the Master, at his side.
Sure never host with gladder look
A welcome guest home with him bore!
Then rose the Satan of rebuke
And loudly spake beside the door:
"This is no place for holy feet;
Sinners should house and eat alone!
This man sits in the stranger's seat
And grinds the faces of his own!"
Outspoke the man, in Truth's own might:
"Lord, half my goods I give the poor;
If one I've taken more than right
With four I make atonement sure!"
"Salvation here is entered in;
This man indeed is Abraham's son!"
Said he who came the lost to win--
And saved the lost whom he had won.
AFTER THOMAS KEMPIS.