The Project Gutenberg eBook, Songs of Womanhood, by Laurence Alma-Tadema

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Title: Songs of Womanhood

Author: Laurence Alma-Tadema

Release Date: August 19, 2011 [eBook #37132]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Suzanne Shell
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries


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Songs of Womanhood


Uniform with this Volume.


The Athenæum.—'In this volume the critic recognises with sudden joy the work of a true poet.'

The Saturday Review.—'It is a book in which deep feeling speaks ... and it has something of that essentially poetical thought, the thought that sees, which lies deeper than feeling.'


Songs of Womanhood




Edinburgh: Printed by T. and A. Constable

A great number of the following verses are already known to readers of The Herb o' Grace, and of the little reprint, Songs of Childhood. As these pamphlets, however, did not reach the public, it has been thought advisable to re-issue the verses in book-form, together with three or four more collected from various reviews, and a number that are here printed for the first time.




Bath-time 12
Bed-time 13
I. 18[viii]
II. 19
A Lark 24
Lambs 25
I. 34
II. 35
V.R.I.—JANUARY 22, 1901 83
THE CUCKOO 104[xi]



King Baby

King Baby on his throne
Sits reigning O, sits reigning O!
King Baby on his throne
Sits reigning all alone.
His throne is Mother's knee,
So tender O, so tender O!
His throne is Mother's knee,
Where none may sit but he.
His crown it is of gold,
So curly O, so curly O!
His crown it is of gold,
In shining tendrils rolled.
His kingdom is my heart,
[4] So loyal O, so loyal O!
His kingdom is my heart,
His own in every part.
Divine are all his laws,
So simple O, so simple O!
Divine are all his laws,
With Love for end and cause.
King Baby on his throne
Sits reigning O, sits reigning O!
King Baby on his throne
Sits reigning all alone.


A Blessing for the BlessedToC

When the sun has left the hill-top,
And the daisy-fringe is furled,
When the birds from wood and meadow
In their hidden nests are curled,
Then I think of all the babies
That are sleeping in the world....
There are babies in the high lands
And babies in the low,
There are pale ones wrapped in furry skins
On the margin of the snow,
And brown ones naked in the isles,
Where all the spices grow.
And some are in the palace
[6] On a white and downy bed,
And some are in the garret
With a clout beneath their head,
And some are on the cold hard earth,
Whose mothers have no bread.
O little men and women,
Dear flowers yet unblown!
O little kings and beggars
Of the pageant yet unshown!
Sleep soft and dream pale dreams now,
To-morrow is your own....
Though some shall walk in darkness,
And others in the light,
Though some shall smile and others weep
In the silence of the night,
When Life has touched with many hues
Your souls now clear and white:
God save you, little children!
[7] And make your eyes to see
His finger pointing in the dark
Whatever you may be,
Till one and all, through Life and Death,
Pass to Eternity....


To Raoul BouchardToC

Dear were your kisses, baby boy,
Your weight upon my arm:
Gay were your tuneful cries of joy
As I danced you round the farm:
And sweet your softness when we lay
Laughing and cooing in the hay.
The summer sun will shine again,
Old arms will mow and reap;
There'll be new flowers on the plain,
New lambs among the sheep;
But never in this world of men
Shall we two be as we were then.
Your feet have touched the ground, my bird,
[9] And now your wondering eyes
Will gaze no more as if they heard
A seraph in the skies:
A little boy, with leap and shout
You'll wildly chase your dreams about.
But when you are a man, soft thing,
And life has made you stern,
May we who watched you in your spring
Still feel our babe return
In hallowed moments, such as shine
When thought or deed makes man divine.


To-day and To-morrowToC

Little hands—what will you grasp
When you leave this nest, O?
Little arms—what will you clasp
Against that tender breast, O?
Cling to mother's finger, babe,
Throw sweet arms about me!
Here no noons may linger, babe,
Soon you'll love without me.
Little toes—where will you turn,
East or south or west, O?
Little feet—what sands that burn
Will you soon have pressed, O?
Lie on mother's knee, my own,
Dance your heels about me!
Apples leave the tree, my own,
Soon you'll live without me....


The Nesting HourToC

Robin-friend has gone to bed,
Little wing to hide his head—
Mother's bird must slumber too
Just as baby Robins do—
When the stars begin to rise,
Birds and babies close their eyes.


The Little SisterToC


Baby's got no legs at all,
They're soft and pinky, crumpled things;
If he stood up he'd only fall:
But then, you see, he's used to wings.


Baby baby bye,
Close your little eye!
When the dark begins to creep,
Tiny-wees must go to sleep.
Lammy lammy lie,
I am seven, I;
Little boys must sleep and wait,
If they want their bed-time late.
Fidgy fidgy fie,
There's no need to cry!
Soon you'll never dress in white,
But sit up working half the night....


A Twilight SongToC

Baby moon, 'tis time for bed,
Owlet leaves his nest now;
Hide your little horned head
In the twilight west now;
When you're old and round and bright,
You shall stay and shine all night.
Baby girl is going too
In her bed to creep now;
She is little, just like you,
Time it is to sleep now;
When she's old and tired and wise,
She'll be glad to close her eyes.


A Wintry LullabyToC

Blow, wind, blow,
The fields are white with snow—
Sleeping daisies, deep and warm,
Cannot hear the Winter storm.
Freeze, air, freeze,
The rime is on the trees—
Sleeping buds within the bough,
Dream of spring and cuckoos now.
Turn, earth, turn,
The flames of life do burn—
Sleeping girl, my baby dove,
Knows no world but mother's love.


The Warm CradleToC

Hush, baby, hush,
Sweet robin's in the bush—
All the birdies lie so quiet,
Won't my little dicky try it?
Hush, baby, hush.
Sleep, baby, sleep,
The lammies love the sheep—
Woolly babes all nestle cosy,
Lie, my lambkin, warm and rosy,
Sleep, baby, sleep.
Dream, baby, dream,
Our feet are in the stream—
Stones below but stars above, child,
Life is warm so long we love, child,
Dream, baby, dream.


The Drooping FlowerToC

Baby's rather ill to-night,
Little face is long and white,
Eyes are all too large and bright—
What shall mother do now?
Never leave him out of sight,
Hold him warm and still and tight,
Make him well with all her might,
That's what she will do now.


Mothers in the GardenToC


Wagtail—pied Wagtail—
What tremor's in your breast?
On nimble feet, when we draw near,
You run about to hide your fear,
As if to say: There's nothing here,
I have no nest....
Wagtail—pied Wagtail—
We too their voices heard;
Away then to the water-side,
And fetch the food for which they cried;
From us there is no need to hide,
My dainty bird.


The thrushes' nest has fallen
From the ivy on the wall:
The dear blue eggs are broken,
All broken by the fall.
But we heard a song at sundown
That said: O tears are vain!—
And babe and I ceased grieving:
We think they will build again.


The Gravel PathToC

Tiny mustn't frown
When she tumbles down;
If the wind should change—Ah me,
What a face her face would be!
Rub away the dirt,
Say she wasn't hurt;
What a world 'twould be—O my,
If all who fell began to cry!


The New PelisseToC

Baby's got a new pelisse,
Very soft and very neat—
Like a lammy in her fleece
She's all white from head to feet.
Thirty lambs each gave a curl,
Mother sewed them, stitch by stitch—
All to clothe a baby-girl:
Don't you think she's very rich?



Whom does Miss belong to?
Just to Mother, Mother only:
That's whom Miss belongs to,
—And Mother's never lonely.
Whom's this little song to?
Just to Baby, Baby only:
That's whom little song's to,
—And Baby's never lonely.


Strange LandsToC

Where do you come from, Mr. Jay?—
'From the land of Play, from the land of Play.'
And where can that be, Mr. Jay?—
'Far away—far away.'
Where do you come from, Mrs. Dove?—
'From the land of Love, from the land of Love.'
And how do you get there, Mrs. Dove?—
'Look above—look above.'
Where do you come from, Baby Miss?—
'From the land of Bliss, from the land of Bliss.'
And what is the way there, Baby Miss?—
'Mother's kiss—mother's kiss.'


March MeadowsToC

A Lark:

Lark-bird, lark-bird soaring high,
Are you never weary?
When you reach the empty sky,
Are the clouds not dreary?
Don't you sometimes long to be
A silent gold-fish in the sea?
Gold-fish, gold-fish diving deep,
Are you never sad, say?
When you feel the cold waves creep
Are you really glad, say?
Don't you sometimes long to sing
And be a lark-bird on the wing?


O little lambs! the month is cold,
The sky is very gray;
You shiver in the misty grass
And bleat at all the winds that pass;
Wait! when I'm big—some day—
I'll build a roof to every fold.
But now that I am small, I'll pray
At mother's knee for you;
Perhaps the angels with their wings
Will come and warm you, little things;
I'm sure that, if God knew,
He'd let the lambs be born in May.


The RobinToC

When father takes his spade to dig,
Then Robin comes along;
He sits upon a little twig
And sings a little song.
Or, if the trees are rather far,
He does not stay alone,
But comes up close to where we are
And bobs upon a stone.


The MouseToC

Little Master Mouse,
You'd better leave this house;
Crumbs are scarce upon the floor,
And pussy sleeps behind the door.
Mousie soft and grey,
I wish you'd run away!
Cook will catch you in a trap,
And mice mayn't sit in mother's lap....


The BatToC

Bat, Bat, that flies at night
When angels' breath has blown the light,
When all the bees are hived in bed
And swallow sleeps with hidden head:
Songless bird! until this hour,
Among the bells in the ivied tower
Have you hung dreaming in your house?
Are you a living wingèd mouse?—
Bat, Bat, I often doubt;
And when I see you flit about,
I wonder if the dead birds roam
In circles round their nestlings' home....


The SwallowToC

O Swallow! if I had your wings
I would not stay below;
I'd leave off catching flies and things
And up to Heaven I'd go.
I'd sail above the tallest tree
That waves its arms on high;
Beyond the furthest cloud we see,
And deeper than the sky.
Perhaps, when live birds find the way,
They're all sent down again,
And that is why you dive to-day
For insects in the rain.



Little ladies, white and green,
With your spears about you,
Will you tell us where you've been
Since we lived without you?
You are sweet, and fresh, and clean,
With your pearly faces;
In the dark earth where you've been
There are wondrous places:
Yet you come again, serene,
When the leaves are hidden;
Bringing joy from where you've been
You return unbidden—
Little ladies, white and green,
[31] Are you glad to cheer us?
Hunger not for where you've been,
Stay till Spring be near us!



The flowers in the garden
Are very cold at night;
When I look out of window
Their beds are hard and white.
The primrose and the scilla,
The merry crocus too—
O Jane! if we were flowers,
What should we children do?
We'd have to sleep all naked
Beneath the windy trees;
Yet we should die, I know it,
With even a chemise....



Red cheeks, red cheeks,
Will you play with me?
No boy, pale boy,
I want to climb that tree.
Red cheeks, red cheeks,
You will tumble down—
No boy, pale boy,
I'll eat the apples brown.
Red cheeks, red cheeks,
Barns are best for rain—
No boy, pale boy,
I'll soon be down again.


Lonely ChildrenToC


The trees are dusty in the Park,
The grass is hard and brown;
I'm glad I've got a Noah's ark,
But I'm sorry I'm in town.
A lot of little girls and boys
Are not so rich as me;
But O! I'd give them all my toys
For shells beside the sea....


The flowers are happy in the garden,
For the bees are always there;
The clouds are happy up in Heaven
With the angels in the air;
But little boy and little mouse
Are rather lonely in the house.



In summer I am very glad
We children are so small,
For we can see a thousand things
That men can't see at all.
They don't know much about the moss
And all the stones they pass:
They never lie and play among
The forests in the grass:
They walk about a long way off;
And, when we're at the sea,
Let father stoop as best he can
He can't find things like me.
But, when the snow is on the ground
[37] And all the puddles freeze,
I wish that I were very tall,
High up above the trees....



O, Father has donned his suit of brown
And saddled the gelding gray,
And he's ridden off to London town
Where the streets are fine and gay.
And Mother has asked for a yard of lace,
And Kate for a kerchief new,
And Moll for a mirror to look at her face,
And Bessie for beads, all blue;
And Dick has been promised a kite so tall,
And Jamie a leathern whip,
And Baby shall play with a painted ball,
And O! I have asked for a ship!—
But our eldest sister stood apart,
[39] And I think I heard her say:
'O bring me back a little white heart
Like the one I lost in May....'


The Flower to the BudToC

Tiny heart beneath my hand,
Say, what treasures will you hold?
O, what blossom will unfold,
Late to bloom, or soon to fade,
From this bud, my baby-maid?
Through what shallows will you wade,
To what heights will you aspire
In your spirit's white desire?
Will you mar or will you make?
Will you give or will you take?
Will you glow or will you break
With the running of the sand—
Tiny heart beneath my hand?...





Love and the MaidensToC

He seemed asleep; his wings were wet
With dew; he lay among the flowers,
Sweeter than Spring; his radiant curls
With primrose and with violet
Were crowned; and in a silent ring the girls
Watched, all an April morning's misty hours....
Not one dared wake him—yet each breast
Yearned to be pillow to a thing
So fair. 'How will he smile?' thought they,
'In waking?...' But between them pressed
One who with laughter bore the rogue away,
Ere they had touched a feather of his wing.



The first time she awoke,
Her room was filled with light;
Thought she: They've made a little fire
To warm me through the night....
The next time she awoke,
Sweet music stirred the air;
Thought she: They've brought a magic lyre
To make my dreams more fair....
The third time she awoke,
The dawn-swept sky was gray;
Thought she: I know my heart's desire
Will come to me to-day....
But empty was the street,
[45] And ashen was the hearth;
And the music-maker's nimble feet
Were speeding o'er the earth.


The Clouded SoulToC

O what have you done with your heart, daughter,
And what have you done to your soul, my dear?
Your heart was like a lily in June,
And your soul as a crystal clear....
O, I've thrown my heart in a well, mother,
For the lily was sick, and needed rain:
O, I've wept a cloud round my soul, mother,
And we never shall see it again....


The HealerToC

O will you have my heart, sweet maid,
My heart so true, my heart so red?
O will you have my heart, dear maid,
And give me yours instead?
O keep your heart, my good young man,
For mine is wounded, deep and sore;
O keep your heart, my kind young man,
For mine shall love no more....


The Open DoorToC

Why have you locked the door, my maid,
Why have you locked the door?
O! I have let Grief out, she said,
Never to enter more.
Open and set it wide, my maid,
Open and set it wide!
Lest Joy should come one day, he said,
And have to stand outside.


The FugitiveToC

When she returned to the clouded land,
She held sweet flowers in her hand;
Her eyes were bright
With a beaming light
That none could understand.
Said they: Where, sister, hast thou been?
What hidden glory hast thou seen?
What magic sod
Has thy white foot trod;
What song-filled groves of green?
Said she: I followed across the plain
To the gates of Love, to the gates of Pain:
By one, by two,
All the rest went through:
But I came back again....






The Faithful WifeToC

It was a banished chieftain
Returned from oversea,
And he saw his wife and children
Come smiling o'er the lea.
The moon had wrapped them in her beams,
The wind was in their hair,
Their feet that trod the wild bluebell
Were light as wings on air.
'O have you come to meet me, wife,
As you once did swear to do?
Full seven years have I been gone,
And was your word so true?'
He took her by the white cool hand
[54] Where the golden rings shone gay;
He took her youngest on his arm
And joyful led the way.
'O fair are ye, my father's towers,
And sweet my garden dear:
God grant I never leave you more
Till Death o'ertake me here!'
The lights were burning in the hall,
As they sat them down to meat;
The pipers piped a merry tune
The while their lord did eat.
He looked to right, he looked to left,
And a happy man was he,
As he stroked the head of the good gre-hound
That stood beside his knee.
'O, I am weary, wife, my wife,
[55] And the flames begin to pale;
Lead on, for I would sleep awhile
Before I tell my tale.'
She lifted the bright curtain
That led into her bower;
There came the tramp of parting feet
And silence held the tower.
'O wife, how long have I been gone?
The room smells of roses still—
O wife, our babes are very young,
Their limbs are cold and chill....'
She folded up their raiment small,
She smiled but said no word:
She laid her children in one bed,
Then came beside her lord.
He could not sleep, he could not wake,
[56] But lay in silence there;
His dear wife held him by the hand,
He felt her wind-blown hair—
'O Mother! Mother!' whispered one,
'Why must we sleep so soon?
The sun is hidden down below,
I still can see the moon.'
'Be quiet, be quiet, my little child,
And watch the moonbeams creep;
To-night you may not play about,
For your father lies asleep.'
'O Mother! Mother!' whispered one,
'It is not time for bed!
Where have you put my little lid?
I cannot hide my head.'
'Lie still, lie still, my tiny child,
[57] Your father dear is found:
We four shall never sleep again
In the dark and heavy mound.'
'O Mother! Mother!' whispered one,
'How shall that ever be?
We may not bide in the light of day
To watch upon the lea.'
'No need, no need, my pretty child,
For your father dear has come;
We'll kiss him once, we'll kiss him twice,
Then seek our own far home.'
He heard them laugh with baby joy,
He felt their kisses sweet,
He heard the patter to the door
Of their unearthly feet....
He could not stir when she bent low
[58] To kiss him on the lips—
He could not raise, to hold her fast,
His anguished finger-tips;
But his heart against her silent breast
Beat loud in wild despair—
He heard the swaying of her skirt,
And his soul leapt forth in prayer.
          .          .          .          .          .
A shepherd rose to call his sheep
When the morning sky was gray;
The owl flew back to the ruined tower—
He led his flock that way.
And lo! amid the scattered stones
That the foe had strewn around,
He saw his long-lost chieftain lie
A corpse upon the ground.
A smile was on his breathless lips,
[59] And he lay on the flowered sward,
Where his wife and babes had bled to death
Beneath a traitor's sword.






A Woman to her PoetToC

In three worlds King art thou of my desire,
O thou of many crowns! whose brow, birth-bound
With light, wears wisdom's diadem. Thou lyre
Of the speechless soul, in silence triple-crowned!
My love's proud empire smiles to know thee King;
And in the realms of Womanhood I wind
A coronet of Faith, a blood-rose ring
With azure chain of sapphire intertwined;
And where the mind's pure kingdom is, I seek
Bright crystals, pearls of Truth divine and rare
To honour thee; but on the aërial peak
That marks the Soul's eternal region—there
Thou thronest Monarch of a world serene,
Crowned with the emerald's unfathomed green.


The InfidelToC

My soul at times, outworn by length of woe,
A strange appeasement seeks in doubting thee,
And cries: My sacred mount's a thing as low
As any hillock; shallow rolls the sea
That should have quenched my deep unbounded thirst;
My star's a lamp that flickers earthly light;
Mere surf-worn glass my emerald; why burst,
O heart! for love of these?—Then, fullest night
Environs me, thou banished; stretching wide
My arms, I grope for refuge; all my pain
Cries babe-like for a breast whereon to hide,
And on to thine I fling myself again....
Thus fools, impatient of God's silence, cry:
There is no God!—and seek what they deny.


Love Within VowsToC

We love, and O! we know it; yet Love's name
Upon our lips a tremulous wish must die;
We both were made for loving, you and I,
And still was Love denied. To both it came,
More fleeting than the beauty of a flame:
Now each within the other's hungering eye
Beholds the corse of Joy embalmèd lie,
And smiles to know his penury the same.
There is no sorrow in this love, O Friend,
New-sprung from ruin, tho' our lips be sealed
By silence and the world's hard fetter. Dear
To me your being; yet we know nor fear
Of loss nor of possession; here's a shield
Shall part us nobly faithful to the end.


The ExileToC

You too mistook me; for no man is wise
Whom Love enclouds. Nor soul-piercing nor keen
Your vision, else there never would have been
A cause for parting. Love-enwrapped, your eyes
Failed in my love Love's self to recognise:
You saw its outer garment, where the green
Of perfect faith was marred by passion's sheen,
By outworn patience and desire's disguise.
Had you but read me to the inner soul,
You would have held me fast. I can forego
All that is sought of hand and lip, the whole
Of Love's poor joy. But I have need to know
That, when the heart fails, I may come and rest
My head upon your wide and sheltering breast.


The Scar IndelibleToC

O your voice, your voice in the night!
How shall I wipe your voice from the night?
Only Hope could wipe it away—
And you have driven Hope away.
O your eyes, your eyes in my sight!
How shall I hide your eyes from my sight?
Only Joy could hide them away,
And you have driven Joy away.
O your name, your name in the light!
How shall I thrust your name from the light?
Only Love could thrust it away,
And you have driven Love away.



My heart is weary of Love and Hate:
Too sick of its Love to love you still,
Too sick of its Hate to hate you yet—
My heart is weary and would forget.
O give me nothing! 'Tis far too late:
Your much were little my thirst to fill,
Your little were scorn of Faith so deep—
O give me nothing!—and let me sleep.


The CaptiveToC

I want to take my heart away,
Break it away from the branch where it clings;
I want to quit the barren spray
Where now no throstle sings.
The butterflies have long since gone,
Gone to the bough where the gay blossoms are;
The sinking sun now bears the dawn
To other lands afar.
I want to break my heart away,
Tear it away from the bough where it grows;
O for the light of a free new day,
On the hill beyond the snows!


Possession's AnguishToC

One tree in my garden, one tree
Out of all the forests of the world:
One little ship afloat upon the sea,
One shell beneath the waves, flawless and pearled:
One rose on my bower, one rose
For a day to scatter on the grass:
One shifting star agleam where the wind blows,
One gem upheld, that all may share who pass:
One heart to be ached for, one heart
Out of all the bosoms that are here:
One fragile hope alive, the starver's part,
One joy already faint and pale with fear:
One flame in the darkness, one flame
[71] For the night to sever with a breath:
One poor faith fettered to a mortal name—
And over all, the beating wings of death....


Treasures of PovertyToC

I sometimes watch the lips of other women
And think of all the kisses they have known;
I sometimes touch the hands of other women
In wonder at the memoried palms they own....
The kiss upon my brow was sadly given,
The hands I held but once were not my own;
And yet I would not change what I was given
For all the kisses I have never known....
Nor would I change again my heart's white desert;
O wondrous are the meetings I have known,
And strange the eyes that seek me in the desert,
Then smiling vanish to rejoin their own....



Now empty lies the house. The languid air
Unstirred by voices creeps from room to room;
No footstep falls upon the silent stair,
All's still and dark. In every nook the tomb
Of some thought lies; remembrance everywhere
Lingers to seek a joy no longer there;
And, as I sit here lonely in the gloom,
I ask myself which evil I would choose:
Never to have, or else to have, and lose.


The Heart AsleepToC

Within me now my heart's asleep
And none shall wake it more;
The silence of all pain is deep
Within me. Now my heart's asleep,
It dreams of joys it might not keep;
And nothing looks before
Within me now. My heart's asleep
And none shall wake it more.



Black winds of the world!
There is pity in your breath,
Against wild tempest weaponing.
Grey clouds of the sky!
You are gentle in your shade,
Against night-darkness tempering.
Red wounds of the heart!
There is mercy in your blood,
Against hope-murder hardening.
Pale swoons of the soul!
You are tender in your pangs
Against dire death emboldening.


Faces of the DeadToC

I dreamed that, wandering by a river's bank,
I came across a lonely ship that sank
In lifeless waters. Day was dim;—in dreams
We see nor sun, nor moon; unearthly gleams
Of deadened light fall strangely from the sky.—
There were but three that struggled not to die:
A man, a woman, and a tender child;
He sought to save them both with effort wild
And dragged his love to the entangled shore;
But down the slimy weeds she slid once more
Into the water, and her lover's breast
Received her, and together they found rest.
The child was saved; my hand towards her hand
Outstretched, drew all her sweetness to the land,
Where naked, like a lily wet with rain,
She sank and loudly wept at her life's gain.
Quite small she was, and light; I bore her fast
[77] To what seemed home, and there she smiled at last
And sat upright within my arms; I found
A bright-hued veil wherein to wrap her round,
Tissues that far in morning-lands were spun
By those who love the flowers and the sun.
I laid her softly in a silken bed,
Strewed fragrant violets about her head
And left her.
'Twas my dream then that I slept.
But when at dawn unto her bed I crept,
The child was lost. Her pillow was all wet
With tears that still flowed on; and faster yet
They flowed in quickening rills, until I thought
I stood beside a torrent wide that sought
An unknown sea. The day was sad, tho' young;
Upon a misty branch some bird had sung
And left a trembling silence; all around
I saw the little daisies on the ground
Fast closed, with folded arm-petals in vain
Shielding their yellow hearts from the cold rain.
—A voice invisible made murmur then:
[78] 'Come here and look upon these poor drowned men!
The ship was sunk a year ago to-day....'
But I stepped back and shuddering turned away,
For I had never seen the face of Death.
Yet Fear itself soon drew me with quick breath
Back to the place, even to the river's brink
Where I had seen that lonely vessel sink.
And there in waters deep I saw them lie,
With hands at rest and eyes that sought the sky:
Clear eyes wide open to an unseen day.
In wondrous silence motionless they lay,
With white lips smiling on their spirit's bliss.
'Is Death but this?' I cried, 'no more but this?'
And answer came: 'Among those faces there
Are all unknown?'
'Twas then I saw him, fair
With perfect peace, my enemy, even he
Of all the world who most had tortured me.
He lay there, blessed among the blessed, and smiled
With eyes more pure than any wakening child.
The little waves in passing—like the breeze
[79] That stirs the foliage of the unmoved trees—
Played in their hair, and fluttering grasses rose
And fell and danced about their mute repose.
But I gazed on until I too had drunk
Of their lips' joy, until their peace had sunk
Into my troubling earth-stirred heart that ached
To join them ... and then waked....


The SleeperToC

There lay a man on clovered ground
Whose life was death, he slept so sound;
A child bent low to watch his eyes—
He smiling waked, and saw the skies.
I know a soul now, fast asleep,
Whose dreams are sad: I hear him weep;
I bend and gaze for pity's sake—
But all in vain; he will not wake.



O Kings and Queens, that in my happy heart,
As in a royal chapel, warm and white,
Ensanctuaried are! I come to-night
Beneath the moonless sky—this radiant chart
Of the unfathomable Heavens where dart
Beam-trailing stars—with lamp of love alight
Unto your images; my reverent sight
Enfolds you, and I bring you each your part
Of piety. The Will that guides each star
Gave jewels to my hands I might not hold,
Whose grace remembered fills my palm. So rest,
O Joy-givers! your kingdoms are afar,
Yet here I own you, shrined in pearls and gold,
The sovereign captives of my loyal breast.


Trelawny's GraveToC

I know a garden near the gates of Rome
Where Life and Death hold hands in silence; here
In solemn shade where towering cypress rear
Their green eternal, white as wind-led foam
Lie scattered stones that shield the final home
Of exiles. Fair their bed; by violets dear
And swaying roses decked; above them, clear
In bluest glory arches Heaven's dome.
'Twas here my heart encountered peace one day
Beside an old man's grave that said: If God
Condemn you live beyond your friend, this way
You too may rest.—The heart is childish; dread
Of earth-loss fades before Trelawny dead
Close-gathered to his Shelley in the sod.



January 22, 1901.

As, in a house where solemn-footed Death
Has trodden, all the little children stand
Before a silent door, with quickened breath,
Holding each other tightly by the hand—
So we, O Mother! at the keyless door
Stand gathered, heart-astir with nameless fears:
A strength has left the hour; the world before
Was warmer; and we face the day with tears.


Lines on a Picture by Mary GowToC

O whirling World! I know a corner still
Unsoiled by Hate and Strife:
Where hushed and gentle is the voice of Life:
Where Time—a summer rill
Soft-flowing through the grass—in measure slow
Sings sweetly as we go.
Here is a room wherein the white day gleams:
Silence o'er Peace has spread her pearly wings:
A smiling woman reads of simple things:
A child's blue eyes are blinded by their dreams....


To SerenityToC

Before a Madonna—by Botticelli.

Thine is the face our driven souls shall wear,
O sweet serenity!—No earthly wind
Can rend thine azure mantle now, nor tear
Those veils that shield the radiant locks they bind.
Thy brow is calm with storm appeased; thy lids
Are heavy with the wisdom of all tears:
Thy mouth is strong with silence that forbids
Weary lament and craven wail of fears.
Within thy guarded bosom now no fire
Is ardent; thou hast hidden all thy scars:
We too may tread the ashes of desire,
And wing our spirits thus to touch the stars.







I will not close the door, O Love, on thee,
Although I fear thee still. In days of old
Thy magic echoes lured me on to be
The slave of dreams; but now that I behold
The earth again, and that my wings are gone,
I will take refuge, simply, on thy breast.
No miracle I seek, no rapturous dawn
Of an unearthly day; I will but rest
My weary eyes, and lay between thy hands
These empty fingers that have ceased to clutch
At stars. Because my spirit understands
Renouncement, thou wilt give, maybe. Not much
I ask of thee: I only ask to keep
Thee near, O Love! until my heart's asleep.



My Friend of Friends! in you my heart's at rest,
That wandered homeless as the ocean-wind
Hither and thither, seeking still to find
Some refuge. As a ship that east and west
Roams havenless, and quits each shore distressed,
So wandered I, so left each land behind,
Bearing my soul as helmsman, sage but blind;
And still we journeyed on at Fate's behest.
But now I hold my harbour, and the ship
Casts anchor here. The unnested winds that blow
May reach me still and rock me to and fro.
What matter? Here is Peace that bids me slip
Closer and closer to the enfolding shore,
Lower the sails, and stay for evermore.



Are we not happy? though this bond of ours
Be strange and out of harmony with life
As men accept it, in this world of strife
Between the spirit and the flesh?—Dark hours
Are in the doom of every love; no flowers
Bloom rainless; wind and war and pain are rife
Within us all.—Yet we are happy. Wife
Or sister, these are earth-words; the soul showers
Its gifts of love and seeks no earthly bond.
So ask we none but, smiling, soul to soul
Stand gathered in Love's very essence, whole
And indivisible. These white strong bands
Suffice; 'tis but the shell, too frail and fond,
That weeps, alas! and wrings her mortal hands.



Farewell! you cannot go from me, my dear,
For I have closed you in my inmost heart,
Beyond the reach of earthly things that part
The loving from the loved. Now far or near
Ceases to be; I am where you are; here
Or there, no matter. Mild should be the smart
Of leave-taking, where nothing stays apart
But what is mortal, and where souls are clear.
Beloved! I can but lose you earthly-wise;
The hunger of the years is stilled; no pain
Of solitude can chill my heart again,
Possessing you. Therefore with steadfast eyes
I say farewell, O brother! nor dare weep
My little loss, with all this wealth to keep.



I seek to call you near me in the dark
And silent prison of my solitude,
Where Memory with visions heaven-hued
Now mocks the night, and Hope with timid spark
Kindles vain torches. Lonely in my ark
Of Faith, on battling waves I float, pursued
By all those doubting monsters that delude
Pain-sunken breasts, and bid the soul embark
For perilous despair. I call you near
That I may cheat the helmsman of his fear:
And yet I know you far, I know you lost
To me, on this same ocean tempest-tossed
Alone—O you who should my pilot be!
You, whom my love could steer through any sea....



When Spring awakens and no Spring is there,
None for the heart, it is a joyless thing.
Yet Winter softens, and all breezes bring
To the hard earth now tidings vague and fair.
The lilac buds are swelling, the mild air
Tempts forth the green; at dusk the thrushes sing
Out in the garden, and their raptures wring
The heart whose joy is of the past. I bear
Remembrance in me of dear foliage gone,
Of wilted heather and of perished flowers.
For me not one of Spring's foreshadowed hours
Is quick with presages of joy. Alone
Who cares to creep? The solitary ways
Are primrose-less, and vain the violet days.



If I must live without you, I must learn
To love the earth and all that grows once more,
With the old good love that satisfied before
I saw you smile. Now, let me turn and turn,
Your memory covers earth and sky; I yearn
For you, and not for Spring; my heart is sore
With absence, not with Winter's length. Of yore,
When climbing noons began to softly burn,
There seemed a tender joy in every bud
That swelled and burst, in every little spear
That broke the clods; and Spring sang in my blood
As in the sap; and all that lived was dear.
These treasures now are veiled and strange and far,
Whilst I go wandering where your footprints are.



Beloved! are we not wanderers on a road
Unknown, that grope their way among the rocks
Together?—Yes, together; for these shocks
Our hearts have borne and given, part not, goad
Unto no hatred. Though I be your load
Of care and you my anguish, something locks
Our hands, my brother: Destiny, that mocks
Man's thinkings, and here finds a new strange mode
Of welding chance-divided loves, a link
That's more than human, that is half divine,
Since, beggared of you, still I hold you mine
Above all bonds. So love me well. We'll drink
Of all pure streams together, dear, and break
These rocks to sand for one another's sake.



Yes, love me, love me well. You need not fear
To hurt me further. Like a careless knight
That riding lonely, with averted sight,
Has struck a passer unawares, so here
Have you struck me amid the branches sere
Of this dark forest. If you now alight,
Give water to my lips and through the night
Keep peril from me, with the morning's clear
New dawn I'll rise again, and both will reap
The mercy of the wound you dealt. Asleep,
Awake, I'll be your shield-bearer, and guard
Your steps upon this road so long and hard.
Then help us both, for all the love you give
But turns to strength whereby we both may live.



Dearest of all, and nearest though most far!
My spirit follows you across both sea
And land; all bounds, all spaces, are to me
Erased; my heart upon its wingèd car
Of thought outstrips you; nothing now shall mar
My joy in you, O brother!—save that we
Are of the earth and ask to touch and see
The thing we love upon this yearning star.
O world of strange desires! Have not we two
Lived to behold each other and to smile?
Have our two notes not mingled in one chord?
What ails us? Were we joined this earthly while,
You would not love me better than you do,
Nor in my heart be otherwise adored.



Without, you seem forgotten. Am I sad
Or happy? None can tell. The lonely days
Recur, and draw me on the beaten ways
Of all who strive and toil. The things I had
Remain; all daily happenings, good or bad,
Fall as they did: success and loss, delays
That sweeten victory: the balance sways
Unceasingly, makes heavy, or makes glad.
And this is life, such as the world demands.
Within, 'tis otherwise; for in the far
Depths where my soul recoilèd sits, there are
No echoes of such wisdom; there my hands
Are folded, and in yours: I seek your eyes,
Your voice, your smile.... Within, 'tis otherwise.






Sunshine in FebruaryToC

O winter Sun!
How beautiful thy beams
Upon the chainèd earth!
The snows are melting and the gale
Is hushed; thou shinest, soft and pale,
O Winter Sun!
Upon a world that dreams,
And trembles with awakened hopes of birth.
O Joyful Green!
'Mid snowy patches gay
Thou peerest, and the sky
Shines blue through twiggèd boughs; each tree
Is aching now with thoughts of thee,
O Joyful Green!
Spring's heart is in the day
Though Winter's hands upon night's bosom lie.


The CuckooToC

Sing, cuckoo, sing,
Dear herald of the Spring!
Minstrels in all ages born,
Hearing thee on such a morn—
When the cowslips all around
Waft their fragrance from the ground,
And the blossom of the pear
Quivers white in bluest air—
Such as I, in all the ages
Thus have covered rapturous pages
With thy praise, O loveliest bird
Ear of man has ever heard!
Though thy note be one of sadness,
Messenger thou art of gladness
Only; for thou comest first
When the buds their prison burst,
When, upon an April day,
[105] Earth awakes to cast away
What remains of wintry sorrow,
And to don for summer's morrow
Joyful garb of newest green.
Spirit-like thou sing'st, unseen:
East and west thy piercing note
From the forest seems to float
Over plain and over hill,
And thy echoing cries instil
Hope into each breath that blows.
Who that hears thy voice but knows
That the joys of June are nearing?
See the lilies in the clearing,
How they raise their green young bells!
Every hasty bud that swells
Answers thee in joyfulness;
And the winter's long distress,
Like a lifted cloud at dawn,
Melts and quivers and is gone.
Autumn leaves that strew the ways
[106] Have outlived their kindly days:
Now the sun shall warm the earth:
Now all things of tender birth,
Newly waked from shielded sleep,
Lift their coverlet and peep
Gaily at the world.
Dear Voice,
Sing! and bid each soul rejoice!
Spring's for every breast that wills;
And thy note, O Cuckoo, stills
All the ache of winter here.
Lo! the scattered leaves are sere
Of my sorrow; and I tread them
Into earth. The bough that shed them,
Soon in budded joy shall be
Harmonious with the day's felicity.
Montmélian, April 1902.


A Song in the MorningToC

O sister! 'tis day-time,
The world's happy May-time,
Come out to the woods where the new nests are!
'Tis sin to be pining,
The hedge-drops are shining,
And the wild winds have fled to the snow-lands far.
O come! and be merry,
For white blows the cherry,
The bluebells ring out on their stem so tall:
Each cowslip's dear yellow
Cries joy to its fellow,
And the wind-flowers dance to the cuckoo's call.
O what is the sun for?
[108] Come, grief is all done for,
The folded leaves creep from their beds in the bough:
The seeds are awaking,
The furrows are breaking,
And the blessing of God's on the blackthorn now.


In a London SquareToC

The leaves are green, and in the grass
Lie daisy-patches, white and sweet,
That spring beneath the tender feet
Of baby-girls at play:
From ancient boughs, serenely tall,
The chequered shadows length'ning fall,
And town seems far away.
Such rest is here as woodland yields:
Here too are lambs in flowered fields—
Why heed the wheels that pass?
Thought sinks beneath our fitful speech
Into the tremor of our peace,
This hallowed hour of release
From dust and whirl and haste:
[110] Thus each may find within his breast
A respite to the world's unrest,
Fresh verdure in the waste:
Life's wheels encircle us—but, there
Where Friendship is, the untainted air
Of Heaven seems in reach.


The Call of the GreenToC

O who would dwell in the dingy town
When June is fair and green?
O who would stay in the chimneyed town
Where brooks are never seen?
Come! roses blow: sweet flower
Will snow the virgin's-bower:
The shaded lane, the woodland wild,
Are better both for man and child.
O who would live in the narrow street
When skies are broad and free?
O who would bide in the stony street
When the sun is on the sea?
Come! leave the dust and hasten
To the breath of winds that chasten:
The surging waves, the starry span,
Are better both for child and man.


Summer EndingToC

Over the world a breath
Has fallen as of Spring; the tender sky
Hangs tremulous, a shield through which the sun
Shines as the heart smiles in a mist of tears.
The trees are green still, but their branches bear
The blossoms of the fall; each quivering birch
Shakes golden coins upon her silver stem;
The little rowan rears his corals gay,
The purple sloes are thick upon the thorn,
And every breeze new-scatters to the ground
Spoils red and yellow. Here upon the hill
Where at our feet bee-haunted heather glows
Among the rocks, sweet peace enfolds us; see,
On velvet slopes afar the patient kine
In silence browse; the plough in furrows wide
Has turned the weary earth to rest; the sun
[113] Sinks and, across the valley, mountains fade
From blue to grey and pearl-like touch the sky.
The hour of silver comes now, for the moon
Awakes and softly films the dusk with light;
The narrow river in her ample bed
Answers the stars, and soft serenity
Has spread her wings upon the earth....
O Heart
Of man!—why must you throb apart and know
A tempered Peace where Nature's Peace is pure?
Already winter's snows upon the hills
Like phantoms to our vision rise; the trees
Groan leafless in the wind, and ghosts of pain
Flit dark between the present and our eyes.
'Tis thus we murder Joy, and let To-morrow,
A still-born Terror, anguish dear To-day:
'Tis thus, possessing Wealth, we shiver poor
Ere we are stricken: thus our claspèd hands
Grow cold and ache with Solitude to be....
Kąśna, September 1901.


Near AutumnToC

Red apple in the leaves,
Red robin on the bough,
The oats are all in sheaves—
Where's summer now?
White foam along the sea,
White mist upon the dawn,
No flower for the bee—
'Tis summer gone.
Black bird is silent, lone,
Black berry decks the spray;
And Autumn's breath has blown
Upon the day.



The grey clouds hide the sun now
And the leaves flow down with the rain:
The golden days are done now
And Winter looms again.
'Tis bed-time for the seeds now
For the earth is weary of green:
She'll hide the very weeds now
Till nothing gay be seen.
Yet wait! it is not death now
That strips the meadow and grove:
The rose but holds her breath now
In the garden that we love:
'Tis sleep—the earth must rest now.
[116] O Winter's a wondrous thing!
For she hides within her breast now
The jocund heart of Spring.


The Common WealthToC

O voices of the sea and land,
How sweet upon my ear you fall!
The curlew's cry, the heron's call,
The grey gull's chatter on the strand,
The robin on the mossy wall,
The coal-tit almost at my hand—
How I thank Heaven for you all!
O wonder of the hills and sky,
How dear your beauty to my sight!
The wintry noon, the sea's delight,
The ruddy moorland far and high,
The pendant larch's silver white,
The golden wind-blown leaves that lie—
How I thank God for all this light!

Edinburgh: Printed by T. and A. Constable




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