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 . Songs of Seven

Seven Times One. -- Exultation

    THERE'S no dew left on the daisies and clover,
    There's no rain left in heaven;
    I've said my "seven times" over and over,
    Seven times one are seven.

    I am old, so old, I can write a letter;
    My birthday lessons are done:
    The lambs play always, they know no better;
    They are only one times one.

    O moon! in the night I have seen you sailing
    And shining so round and low;
    You were bright! ah, bright! but your light is failing,--
    You are nothing now but a bow.

    You moon, have you done something wrong in heaven
    That God has hidden your face?
    I hope if you have, you will soon be forgiven,
    And shine again in your place.

    O velvet bee, you're a dusty fellow,
    You've powdered your legs with gold!
    O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,
    Give me your money to hold!

    O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
    Where two twin turtle-doves dwell!
    O cuckoopint, toll me the purple clapper
    That hangs in your clear green bell!

    And show me your nest with the young ones in it;
    I will not steal them away;
    I am old! you may trust me, linnet, linnet,--
    I am seven times one to-day.

Seven Times Two. -- Romance

    You bells in the steeple, ring, ring out your changes,
    How many soever they be,
    And let the brown meadow-lark's note as he ranges
    Come over, come over to me.

    Yet birds' clearest carol by fall or by swelling
    No magical sense conveys,
    And bells have forgotten their old art of telling
    The fortune of future days.

    "Turn again, turn again," once they rang cheerily,
    While a boy listened alone;
    Made his heart yearn again, musing so wearily
    All by himself on a stone.

    Poor bells! I forgive you; your good days are over,
    And mine, they are yet to be;
    No listening, no longing shall aught, aught discover
    You leave the story to me.

    The foxglove shoots out of the green matted heather
    Preparing her hoods of snow;
    She was idle, and slept till the sunshiny weather:
    Oh! children take long to grow.

    I wish and I wish that the spring would go faster,
    Nor long summer bide so late;
    And I could grow on like the foxglove and aster,
    For some things are ill to wait.

    I wait for the day when dear hearts shall discover,
    While dear hands are laid on my head;
    "The child is a woman, the book may close over,
    For all the lessons are said."

    I wait for my story,--the birds can not sing it,
    Not one, as he sits on the tree;
    The bells cannot ring it, but long years, oh, bring it!
    Such as I wish it to be.

Seven Times Three. -- Love

    I leaned out of window, I smelt the white clover,
    Dark, dark was the garden, I saw not the gate;
    "Now, if there be footsteps, he comes, my one lover,--
    Hush, nightingale, hush! O sweet nightingale, wait
           Till I listen and hear
           If a step draweth near,
           For my love he is late!

    "The skies in the darkness stoop nearer and nearer,
    A cluster of stars hangs like fruit in the tree,
    The fall of the water comes sweeter, comes clearer:
    To what art thou listening, and what dost thou see?
           Let the star-clusters grow,
           Let the sweet waters flow,
           And cross quickly to me.

    "You night-moths that hover where honey brims over
    From sycamore blossoms, or settle or sleep;
    You glowworms, shine out, and the pathway discover
    To him that comes darkling along the rough steep,
           Ah, my sailor, make haste,
           For the time runs to waste,
           And my love lieth deep,--

    "Too deep for swift telling; and yet, my one lover,
    I've conned thee an answer, it waits thee to-night."
    By the sycamore passed he, and through the white clover,
    Then all the sweet speech I had fashioned took flight;
           But I'll love him more, more
           Than e'er wife loved before,
           Be the days dark or bright.

Seven Times Four. -- Maternity

    Heigh-ho! daisies and buttercups!
    Fair yellow daffodils, stately and tall!
    When the wind wakes how they rock in the grasses,
    And dance with the cuckoo-buds slender and small!
    Here's two bonny boys, and here's mother's own lasses,
    Eager to gather them all.

    Heigh-ho! daisies and buttercups;
    Mother shall thread them a daisy chain;
    Sing them a song of the pretty hedge-sparrow,
    That loved her brown little ones, loved them full fain;
    Sing, "Heart, thou art wide though the house be but narrow,"--
    Sing once, and sing it again.

    Heigh-ho! daisies and buttercups!
    Sweet wagging cowslips, they bend and they bow;
    A ship sails afar over warm ocean waters,
    And haply one musing doth stand at her prow.
    O bonny brown sons, and O sweet little daughters,
    Maybe he thinks of you now.

    Heigh-ho! daisies and buttercups!
    Fair yellow daffodils, stately and tall!
    A sunshiny world full of laughter and leisure,
    And fresh hearts unconscious of sorrow and thrall!
    Send down on their pleasure smiles passing its measure,
    God that is over us all!

Seven Times Five. -- Widowhood

    I sleep and rest, my heart makes moan
    Before I am well awake;
    "Let me bleed! O let me alone,
    Since I must not break!"

    For children wake, though fathers sleep
    With a stone at foot and at head:
    O sleepless God, forever keep,
    Keep both living and dead!

    I lift mine eyes, and what to see
    But a world happy and fair!
    I have not wished it to mourn with me,--
    Comfort is not there.

    Oh, what anear but golden brooms,
    But a waste of reedy rills!
    Oh, what afar but the fine glooms
    On the rare blue hills!

    I shall not die, but live forlore,--
    How bitter it is to part!
    Oh, to meet thee, my love, once more!
    O my heart, my heart!

    No more to hear, no more to see!
    Oh, that an echo might wake
    And waft one note of thy psalm to me
    Ere my heart-strings break!

    I should know it how faint soe'er,
    And with angel voices blent;
    Oh, once to feel thy spirit anear;
    I could be content!

    Or once between the gates of gold,
    While an entering angel trod,
    But once,--thee sitting to behold
    On the hills of God!

Seven Times Six. -- Giving in Marriage

    To bear, to nurse, to rear,
    To watch, and then to lose:
    To see my bright ones disappear,
    Drawn up like morning dews,--
    To bear, to nurse, to rear,
    To watch, and then to lose:
    This have I done when God drew near
    Among his own to choose.

    To hear, to heed, to wed,
    And with thy lord depart
    In tears that he, as soon as shed,
    Will let no longer smart,--
    To hear, to heed, to wed,
    This while thou didst I smiled,
    For now it was not God who said,
    "Mother, give Me thy child."

    O fond, O fool, and blind!
    To God I gave with tears;
    But when a man like grace would find,
    My soul put by her fears,--
    O fond, O fool, and blind!
    God guards in happier spheres;
    That man will guard where he did bind
    Is hope for unknown years.

    To hear, to heed, to wed,
    Fair lot that maidens choose,
    Thy mother's tenderest words are said,
    Thy face no more she views;
    Thy mother's lot, my dear,
    She doth in naught accuse;
    Her lot to bear, to nurse, to rear,
    To love,--and then to lose.

Seven Times Seven. -- Longing for Home

            A song of a boat: --
    There was once a boat on a billow:
    Lightly she rocked to her port remote,
    And the foam was white in her wake like snow,
    And her frail mast bowed when the breeze would blow,
    And bent like a wand of willow.

    I shaded mine eyes one day when a boat
    Went curtsying over the billow,
    I marked her course till a dancing mote,
    She faded out on the moonlit foam,
    And I stayed behind in the dear-loved home;
    And my thoughts all day were about the boat,
    And my dreams upon the pillow.

    I pray you hear my song of a boat
    For it is but short:--
    My boat you shall find none fairer afloat,
    In river or port.
    Long I looked out for the lad she bore,
    On the open desolate sea,
    And I think he sailed to the heavenly shore,
    For he came not back to me --
                    Ah me!

          A song of a nest:--
    There was once a nest in a hollow:
    Down in the mosses and knot-grass pressed,
    Soft and warm and full to the brim--
    Vetches leaned over it purple and dim,
    With buttercup buds to follow.

    I pray you hear my song of a nest,
    For it is not long:--
    You shall never light in a summer quest
    The bushes among--
    Shall never light on a prouder sitter,
    A fairer nestful, nor ever know
    A softer sound than their tender twitter,
    That wind-like did come and go.

    I had a nestful once of my own,
    Ah, happy, happy I!
    Right dearly I loved them; but when they were grown
    They spread out their wings to fly--
    Oh, one after one they flew away
    Far up to the heavenly blue,
    To the better country, the upper day,
    And -- I wish I was going too.

    I pray you what is the nest to me,
    My empty nest?
    And what is the shore where I stood to see
    My boat sail down to the west?
    Can I call that home where I anchor yet,
    Though my good man has sailed?
    Can I call that home where my nest was set,
    Now all its hope hath failed?

    Nay, but the port where my sailor went,
    And the land where my nestlings be:
    There is the home where my thoughts are sent,
    The only home for me--
                Ah me!

    Jean Ingelow

 . Song of the Going Away

    "OLD man, upon the green hillside,
    With yellow flowers besprinkled o'er,
    How long in silence wilt thou bide
    At this low stone door?

    "I stoop: within 'tis dark and still;
    But shadowy paths methinks there be,
    And lead they far into the hill?"
    "Traveller, come and see."

    "'Tis dark, 'tis cold, and hung with gloom;
    I care not now within to stay;
    For thee and me is scarcely room,
    I will hence away."

    "Not so, not so, thou youthful guest,
    Thy foot shall issue forth no more:
    Behold the chamber of thy rest,
    And the closing door!"

    "O, have I 'scaped the whistling ball,
    And striven on smoky fields of fight,
    And scaled the 'leaguered city's wall
    In the dangerous night;

    "And borne my life unharmed still
    Through foaming gulfs of yeasty spray,
    To yield it on a grassy hill
    At the noon of day?"

    "Peace! Say thy prayers, and go to sleep,
    Till some time, ONE my seal shall break,
    And deep shall answer unto deep,
    When He crieth, 'AWAKE!'"

    Jean Ingelow

 . Song of Margaret

    AY, I saw her, we have met,--
    Married eyes how sweet they be,--
    Are you happier, Margaret,
    Than you might have been with me?
    Silence! make no more ado!
    Did she think I should forget?
    Matters nothing, though I knew,
    Margaret, Margaret.

    Once those eyes, full sweet, full shy,
    Told a certain thing to mine;
    What they told me I put by,
    O, so careless of the sign.
    Such an easy thing to take,
    And I did not want it then;
    Fool! I wish my heart would break,
    Scorn is hard on hearts of men.

    Scorn of self is bitter work,--
    Each of us has felt it now:
    Bluest skies she counted mirk,
    Self-betrayed of eyes and brow;
    As for me, I went my way,
    And a better man drew nigh,
    Fain to earn, with long essay,
    What the winner's hand threw by.

    Matters not in deserts old,
    What was born, and waxed, and yearned,
    Year to year its meaning told,
    I am come,--its deeps are learned,--
    Come, but there is naught to say,--
    Married eyes with mine have met.
    Silence! O, I had my day,
    Margaret, Margaret.

    Jean Ingelow

 . Apprenticed

      from Songs of the Night Watches

    COME out and hear the waters shoot, the owlet hoot, the owlet hoot;
    Yon crescent moon, a golden boat, hangs dim behind the tree, O!
    The dropping thorn makes white the grass, O sweetest lass, and sweetest lass;
    Come out and smell the ricks of hay adown the croft with me, O!"

    "My granny nods before her wheel, and drops her reel, and drops her reel;
    My father with his crony talks as gay as gay can be, O!
    But all the milk is yet to skim, ere light wax dim, ere light wax dim;
    How can I step adown the croft, my 'prentice lad, with thee, O?"

    "And must ye bide, yet waiting's long, and love is strong, and love is strong;
    And O! had I but served the time, that takes so long to flee, O!
    And thou, my lass, by morning's light wast all in white, wast all in white,
    And parson stood within the rails, a-marrying me and thee, O."

    Jean Ingelow

 . A Sea Song

    OLD Albion sat on a crag of late.
      And sang out--"Ahoy! ahoy!
    Long life to the captain, good luck to the mate.
      And this to my sailor boy!
    Come over, come home,
    Through the salt sea foam,
    My sailor, my sailor boy.

    "Here's a crown to be given away, I ween,
      A crown for my sailor's head,
    And all for the worth of a widowed queen,
      And the love of the noble dead;
    And the fear and fame
    Of the island's name
    Where my boy was born and bred.

    "Content thee, content thee, let it alone,
      Thou marked for a choice so rare;
    Though treaties be treaties, never a throne
      Was proffered for cause as fair.
    Yet come to me home,
    Through the salt sea foam,
    For the Greek must ask elsewhere.

    "'Tis a pity, my sailor, but who can tell?
      Many lands they look to me;
    One of these might be wanting a Prince as well,
      But that's as hereafter may be."
    She raised her white head
    And laughed; and she said
    "That's as hereafter may be."

    Jean Ingelow

 . Afterthought

      from Afternoon at a Parsonage

    MAN dwells apart, though not alone,
    He walks among his peers unread;
    The best of thoughts which he hath known.
    For lack of listeners are not said.

    Yet dreaming on earth's clustered isles,
    He saith "They dwell not lone like men,
    Forgetful that their sunflecked smiles
    Flash far beyond each other's ken."

    He looks on God's eternal suns
    That sprinkle the celestial blue,
    And saith, "Ah! happy shining ones,
    I would that men were grouped like you!"

    Yet this is sure, the loveliest star
    That clustered with its peers we see,
    Only because from us so far
    Doth near its fellows seem to be.

    Jean Ingelow

 . Duet

      from Preludes to a Penny Reading

    She.
    WHILE he dreams, mine old grand sire,
    And yon red logs glow,
    Honey, whisper by the fire,
    Whisper, honey low.

    He.
    Honey, high's yon weary hill,
    Stiff's yon weary loam;
    Lacks the work o' my goodwill,
    Fain I'd take thee home.
    O how much longer, and longer, and longer,
    An' how much longer shall the waiting last?
    Berries red are grown, April birds are flown,
    Martinmas gone over, ay, and harvest past.

    She.
    Honey, bide, the time's awry,
    Bide awhile, let be.
    He.
    Take my wage then, lay it by,
    Till 't come back with thee.
    The red money, the white money,
    Both to thee I bring--
    She.
    Bring ye ought beside, honey?
    He.
    Honey, ay, the ring.

    Duet.
    But how much longer, and longer, and longer,
    O how much longer shall the waiting last?
    Berries red are grown, April birds are flown,
    Martinmas gone over, and the harvest past.

    Jean Ingelow

 . Loss and Waste

    UP to far Osteroe and Suderoe
    The deep sea-floor lies strewn with Spanish wrecks,
    O'er minted gold the fair-haired fishers go,
    O'er sunken bravery of high carved decks.

    In earlier days great Carthage suffered bale
    (All her waste works choke under sandy shoals);
    And reckless hands tore down the temple veil;
    And Omar burned the Alexandrian rolls.
    The Old World arts men suffered not to last,
    Flung down they trampled lie and sunk from view,
    He lets wild forest for these ages past
    Grow over the lost cities of the New.

    O for a life that shall not be refused
    To see the lost things found, and waste things used.

    Jean Ingelow

 . On a Picture

    AS a forlorn soul waiting by the Styx
    Dimly expectant of lands yet more dim,
    Might peer afraid where shadows change and mix
    Till the dark ferryman shall come for him.

    And past all hope a long ray in his sight,
    Fall'n trickling down the steep crag Hades-black
    Reveals an upward path to life and light,
    Nor any let but he should mount that track.

    As with the sudden shock of joy amazed,
    He might a motionless sweet moment stand,
    So doth that mortal lover, silent, dazed,
    For hope had died and loss was near at hand.

    'Wilt thou?' his quest. Unready but for 'Nay,'
    He stands at fault for joy, she whispering 'Ay.'

    Jean Ingelow


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