CLEAVE thou the waves that weltering to and fro
Surge multitudinous. The eternal Powers
Of sun, moon, stars, the air, the hurrying hours,
The winged winds, the still dissolving show
Of clouds in calm or storm, for ever flow
Above thee; while the abysmal sea devours
The untold dead insatiate, where it lowers
O'er glooms unfathomed, limitless, below.
No longer on the golden-fretted sands,
Where many a shallow tide abortive chafes,
Mayst thou delay; life onward sweeping blends
With far-off heaven: the dauntless one who braves
The perilous flood with calm unswerving hands,
The elements sustain: cleave thou the waves.
ALL treasures of the earth and opulent seas,
Metals and odorous woods and cunning gold,
Fowls of the air and furry beasts untold,
Vineyards and harvest fields and fruitful trees
Nature gave unto Man; and last her keys
Vouched passage to her secret ways of old
Whence knowledge should be wrung, nay power to mould
Out of the rough, his occult destinies.
But tired of these he craved a wider scope:
Then fair as Pallas from the brain of Jove
From his deep wish there sprang, full-armed, to cope
With all life's ills, even very death in love,
The only thing man never wearies of--
His own creation--visionary Hope.
THE dead abide with us! Though stark and cold
Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still:
They have forged our chains of being for good or ill;
And their invisible hands these hands yet hold.
Our perishable bodies are the mould
In which their strong imperishable will--
Mortality's deep yearning to fulfil--
Hath grown incorporate through dim time untold.
Vibrations infinite of life in death,
As a star's travelling light survives its star!
So may we hold our lives, that when we are
The fate of those who then will draw this breath,
They shall not drag us to their judgment bar,
And curse the heritage which we bequeath.
THY life, O Man, in this brief moment lies:
Time's narrow bridge whereon we darkling stand,
With an infinitude on either hand
Receding luminously from our eyes.
Lo, there thy Past's forsaken Paradise
Subsideth like some visionary strand,
While glimmering faint, the Future's promised land,
Illusive from the abyss, seems fain to rise.
This hour alone Hope's broken pledges mar,
And joy now gleams before, now in our rear,
Like mirage mocking in some waste afar,
Dissolving into air as we draw near.
Beyond our steps the path is sunny-clear,
The shadow lying only where we are.
HURRYING for ever in their restless flight
The generations of earth's teeming womb
Rise into being and lapse into the tomb
Like transient bubbles sparkling in the light;
They sink in quick succession out of sight
Into the thick insuperable gloom
Our futile lives in flashing by illume--
Lightning which mocks the darkness of the night.
Nay--but consider, though we change and die,
If men must pass shall Man not still remain?
As the unnumbered drops of summer rain
Whose changing particles unchanged on high,
Fixed, in perpetual motion, yet maintain
The mystic bow emblazoned on the sky.
OH ye, all ye, who suffer here below,
Schooled in the baffling mystery of pain,
Who on life's anvil bear the fateful strain,
Wrong as forged iron, hammered blow on blow.
Take counsel with your grief, in that you know,
That he who suffers suffers not in vain,
Nay, that it shall be for the whole world's gain,
And wisdom prove the priceless price of woe.
Thus in some new-found land where no man's feet
Have trod a path, bold voyagers astray,
May fall foredone by torturing thirst and heat:
But from the impotent body of defeat--
The winners spring who carve a conquering way--
Measured by milestones of their perished clay.
LIKE a great rock which looming o'er the deep
Casts his eternal shadow on the strands,
And veiled in cloud inexorably stands,
While vaulting round his adamantine steep
Embattled breakers clamorously leap,
Sun-garlanded and hope-uplifted bands,
But soon with waters shattered in the sands
Slowly recoiling back to ocean creep:
So sternly dost thou tower above us, Fate!
For still our eager hearts exultant beat,
Borne in the hurrying tide of life elate,
And dashing break against thy marble feet.
But would Hope's rainbow-aureole round us fleet,
Without these hurtling shocks of man's estate?
LOVE-CRADLING Night, lit by the lucent moon,
Most pitiful and mother-hearted Night!
Blest armistice in life's tumultuous fight,
Resolving discords to a spheral tune!
When tired with heat and strenuous toil of noon,
With ceaseless conflict betwixt might and right,
With ebb and flow of sorrow and delight,
Our panting hearts beneath their burdens swoon:
To thee, O star-eyes comforter, we creep,
Earth's ill-used step-children to thee make moan,
As hiding in thy dark skirts' ample sweep;
--Poor debtors whose brief life is not their own;
For dunned by Death, to whom we owe its loan,
Give us, O Night, the interest paid in sleep.
MOTHER of the unfortunate, mystic form,
Who calm, immutable, like oldest fate,
Sittest, where through the sombre swinging gate
Moans immemorial life's encircling storm.
My heart, sore stricken by grief's leaden arm,
Lags like a weary pilgrim knocking late,
And sigheth--toward thee staggering with its weight--
Behold Love conquered by thy son, the worm!
He stung him mid the roses' purple bloom,
The Rose of roses, yea, a thing so sweet,
Haply to stay blind Change's flying feet,
And stir with pity the unpitying tomb.
Here, take him, cold, cold, heavy and void of breath!
Nor me refuse, O Mother almighty, death.
THY wings swoop darkening round my soul, Despair!
And on my brain thy shadow seems to brood
And hem me round with stifling solitude,
With chasms of vacuous bloom which are thy lair.
No light of human joy, no song or prayer,
Breaks ever on this chaos, all imbrued
With heart's-blood trickling from the multitude
Of sweet hopes slain, or agonising there.
Lo, wilt thou yield thyself to grief, and roll
Vanquished from thy high seat, imperial brain,
And abdicating turbulent life's control,
Be dragged a captive bound in sorrow's chain?
Nay! though my heart is breaking with its pain,
No pain on earth has power to crush my soul.
OH in this dearth and winter of the soul,
When even Hope, still wont to soar and sing,
Droopeth, a starveling bird whose downy wing
Stiffens ere dead through the dank drift it fall--
Yea, ere Hope perish utterly, I call
On thee, fond Memory, that thou haste and bring
One leaf, one blossom from that far-off spring
When love's auroral light lay over all.
Bring but one pansy: haply so the thrill
Of poignant yearning for those glad dead years
May, like the gusty south, breathe o'er the chill
Of frozen grief, dissolving it in tears,
Till numb Hope, stirred by that warm dropping rain,
Will deem, perchance, Love's springtide come again.
WOULD we but love what will not pass away!
The sun that on each morning shines as clear
As when it rose first on the world's first year;
The fresh green leaves that rustle on the spray.
The sun will shine, the leaves will be as gay
When graves are full of all our hearts held dear,
When not a soul of those who loved us here,
Not one, is left us--creatures of decay.
Yea, love the Abiding in the Universe
Which was before, and will be after us.
Nor yet for ever hanker and vainly cry
For human love--the beings that change or die;
Die--change--forget: to care so is a curse,
Yet cursed we'll be rather than not care thus.
LO, haply walking in some clattering street--
Where throngs of men and women dumbly pass,
Like shifting pictures seen within a glass
Which leave no trace behind--one seems to meet,
In roads once trodden by our mutual feet,
A face projected from that shadowy mass
Of faces, quite familiar as it was,
Which beaming on us stands out clear and sweet.
The face of faces we again behold
That lit our life when life was very fair,
And leaps our heart toward eyes and mouth and hair:
Oblivious of the undying love grown cold,
Or body sheeted in the churchyard mould,
We stretch out yearning hands and grasp--the air.
FROM out the front of being, undefiled,
A life hath been upheaved with struggle and pain;
Safe in her arms a mother holds again
That dearest miracle--a new-born child.
To moans of anguish terrible and wild--
As shrieks the night-wind through an ill-shut pane--
Pure heaven succeeds; and after fiery strain
Victorious woman smiles serenely mild.
Yea, shall she not rejoice, shall not her frame
Thrill with a mystic rapture! At this birth,
The soul now kindled by her vital flame
May it not prove a gift of priceless worth?
Some saviour of his kind whose starry fame
Shall bring a brightness to the darkened earth.
IT is a solemn evening, golden-clear--
The Alpine summits flame with rose-lit snow
And headlands purpling on wide seas below,
And clouds and woods and arid rocks appear
Dissolving in the sun's own atmosphere
And vast circumference of light, whose slow
Transfiguration--glow and after-glow--
Turns twilight earth to a more luminous sphere.
Oh heart, I ask, seeing that the orb of day
Has sunk below, yet left to sky and sea
His glory's spiritual after-shine:
I ask if Love, whose sun hath set for thee,
May not touch grief with his memorial ray,
And lend to loss itself a joy divine?
TO THE OBELISK.
DURING THE GREAT FROST, 1881.
THOU sign-post of the Desert! Obelisk,
Once fronting in thy monumental pride
Egypt's fierce sun, that blazing far and wide,
Sheared her of tree and herb, till like a disk
Her waste stretched shadowless, and fraught with risk
To those who with their beasts of burden hied
Across the seas of sand until they spied
Thy pillar, and their flagging hearts grew brisk:
Now reared beside out Thames so wintry grey,
Where blocks of ice drift with the drifting stream,
Thou risest o'er the alien prospect! Say,
Yon dull, blear, rayless orb whose lurid gleam
Tinges the snow-draped ships and writhing steam,
Is this the sun which fired thine orient day?
O'ER this huge town, rife with intestine wars,
Whence as from monstrous sacrificial shrines
Pillars of smoke climb heavenward, Night inclines
Black brows majestical with glimmering stars.
Her dewy silence soothes life's angry jars:
And like a mother's wan white face, who pines
Above her children's turbulent ways, so shines
The moon athwart the narrow cloudy bars.
Now toiling multitudes that hustling crush
Each other in the fateful strife for breath,
And, hounded on by diverse hungers, rush
Across the prostrate ones that groan beneath,
Are swathed within the universal hush,
As life exchanges semblances with death.
THE twilight heavens are flushed with gathering light,
And o'er wet roofs and huddling streets below
Hang with a strange Apocalyptic glow
On the black fringes of the wintry night.
Such bursts of glory may have rapt the sight
Of him to whom on Patmos long ago
The visionary angel came to show
That heavenly city built of chrysolite.
And lo, three factory hands begrimed with soot,
Aflame with the red splendour, marvelling stand,
And gaze with lifted faces awed and mute.
Starved of earth's beauty by Man's grudging hand,
O toilers, robbed of labour's golden fruit,
Ye, too, may feast in Nature's fairyland.
THE boding sky was charactered with cloud,
The scripture of the storm--but high in air,
Where the unfathomed zenith still was bare,
A pure expanse of rose-flushed violet glowed
And, kindling into crimson light, o'erflowed
The hurrying wrack with such a blood-red glare,
That heaven, igniting, wildly seemed to flare
On the dazed eyes of many an awe-struck crowd.
And in far lands folk presaged with blanched lips
Disastrous wars, earthquakes, and foundering ships,
Such whelming floods as never dykes could stem,
Or some proud empire's ruin and eclipse:
Lo, such a sky, they cried, as burned o'er them
Once lit the sacking of Jerusalem!
THERE was intoxication in the air;
The wind, keen blowing from across the seas,
O'er leagues of new-ploughed land and heathery leas,
Smelt of wild gorse whose gold flamed everywhere.
And undertone of song pulsed far and near,
The soaring larks filled heaven with ecstasies,
And, like a living clock among the trees,
The shouting cuckoo struck the time of year.
For now the Sun had found the earth once more,
And woke the Sleeping Beauty with a kiss;
Who thrilled with light of love in every pore,
Opened her flower-blue eyes, and looked in his.
Then all things felt life fluttering at their core--
The world shook mystical in lambent bliss.
THE year's grown songless! No glad pipings thrill
The hedge-row elms, whose wind-worn branches shower
Their leaves on the sere grass, where some late flower
In golden chalice hoards the sunlight still.
Our summer guests, whose raptures used to fill
Each apple-blossomed garth and honeyed bower,
Have in adversity's inclement hour
Abandoned us to bleak November's chill.
But hearken! Yonder russet bird among
The crimson clusters of the homely thorn
Still bubbles o'er with little rills of song--
A blending of sweet hope and resignation:
Even so, when life of love and youth is shorn,
One friend becomes its last, best consolation.
ALL night, all day, in dizzy, downward flight,
Fell the wild-whirling, vague, chaotic snow,
Till every landmark of the earth below,
Trees, moorlands, roads, and each familiar sight
Were blotted out by the bewildering white.
And winds, now shrieking loud, now whimpering low,
Seemed lamentations for the world-old woe
That death must swallow life, and darkness light.
But all at once the rack was blown away,
The snowstorm hushing ended in a sigh;
Then like a flame the crescent moon on high
Leaped forth among the planets; pure as they,
Earth vied in whiteness with the Milky Way:
Herself a star beneath the starry sky.
A STORMY light of sunset glows and glares
Between two banks of cloud, and o'er the brine
Thy fair lamp on the sky's carnation line
Alone on the lone promontory flares:
Friend of the Fisher who at nightfall fares
Where lurk false reefs masked by the hyaline
Of dimpling waves, within whose smile divine
Death lies in wait behind Circean snares.
The evening knows thee ere the evening star;
Or sees that flame sole Regent of the bight,
When storm, hoarse rumoured by the hills afar,
Makes mariners steer landward by thy light,
Which shows through shock of hostile nature's war
How man keeps watch o'er man through deadliest night.
EVEN as on some black background full of night
And hollow storm in cloudy disarray,
The forceful brush of some great master may
More brilliantly evoke a higher light;
So beautiful, so delicately white,
So like a very metaphor of May,
Your loveliness on my life's sombre grey
In its perfection stands out doubly bright.
And yet your beauty breeds a strange despair,
And pang of yearning in the helpless heart;
To shield you from time's fraying wear and tear,
That from yourself yourself would wrench apart,
How save you, fairest, but to set you where
Mortality kills death in deathless art?
THE storm which shook the silence of the hills
And sleeping pinnacles of ancient snow
Went muttering off in one last thunder throe
Mixed with a moan of multitudinous rills;
Yea, even as one who has wept much, but stills
The flowing tears of some convulsive woe
When a fair light of hope begins to glow
Athwart the gloom of long remembered ills:
So does the face of this scarred mountain height
Relax its stony frown, while slow uprolled
Invidious mists are changed to veiling gold.
Wild peaks still fluctuate between dark and bright,
But when the sun laughs at them, as of old,
They kiss high heaven in all embracing light.
IN tortuous windings up the steep incline
The sombre street toils to the village square,
Whose antique walls in stone and moulding bear
Dumb witness to the Moor. Afar off shine,
With tier on tier, cutting heaven's blue divine,
The snowy Alps; and lower the hills are fair,
With wave-green olives rippling down to where
Gold clusters hang and leaves of sunburnt vine.
You may perchance, I never shall forget
When, between twofold glory of land and sea,
We leant together o'er the old parapet,
And saw the sun go down. For, oh, to me,
The beauty of that beautiful strange place
Was its reflection beaming from your face.
AS opiates to the sick on wakeful nights,
As light to flowers, as flowers in poor men's rooms,
As to the fisher when the tempest glooms
The cheerful twinkling of his village lights;
As emerald isles to flagging swallow flights,
As roses garlanding with tendrilled blooms
The unweeded hillocks of forgotten tombs,
As singing birds on cypress-shadowed heights,
Thou art to me--a comfort past compare--
For thy joy-kindling presence, sweet as May,
Sets all my nerves to music, makes away
With sorrow and the numbing frost of care,
Until the influence of thine eyes' bright sway
Has made life's glass go up from foul to fair.
PEACE, throbbing heart, nor let us shed one tear
O'er this late love's unseasonable glow;
Sweet as a violet blooming in the snow,
The posthumous offspring of the widowed year
That smells of March when all the world is sere,
And, while around the hurtling sea-winds blow--
Which twist the oak and lay the pine tree low--
Stands childlike in the storm and has no fear.
Poor helpless blossom orphaned of the sun,
How could it thus brave winter's rude estate?
Oh love, more helpless, why bloom so late,
Now that the flower-time of the year is done?
Since thy dear course must end when scarce begun,
Nipped by the cold touch of relentless fate.
NO breath of wind stirs in the painted leaves,
The meadows are as stirless as the sky,
Like a Saint's halo golden vapours lie
Above the restful valley's garnered sheaves.
The journeying Sun, like one who fondly grieves,
Above the hills seems loitering with a sigh,
As loth to bid the fruitful earth good-bye,
On these hushed hours of luminous autumn eves.
There is a pathos in his softening glow,
Which like a benediction seems to hover
O'er the tranced earth, ere he must sink below
And leave her widowed of her radiant Lover,
A frost-bound sleeper in a shroud of snow,
While winter winds howl a wild dirge above her.
ALONE--with one fair star for company,
The loveliest star among the hosts of night,
While the grey tide ebbs with the ebbing light--
I pace along the darkening wintry sea.
Now round the yule-log and the glittering tree
Twinkling with festive tapers, eyes as bright
Sparkle with Christmas joys and young delight,
As each one gathers to his family.
But I--a waif on earth where'er I roam--
Uprooted with life's bleeding hopes and fears
From that one heart that was my heart's sole home,
Feel the old pang pierce through the severing years,
And as I think upon the years to come
That fair star trembles through my falling tears.
WAN mists enwrap the still-born day;
The harebell withers on the heath;
And all the moorland seems to breathe
The hectic beauty of decay.
Within the open grave of May
Dishevelled trees drop wreath on wreath;
Wind-wrung and ravelled underneath
Waste leaves choke up the woodland way.
The grief of many partings near
Wails like an echo in the wind:
The days of love lie far behind,
The days of loss lie shuddering near.
Life's morning-glory who shall bind?
It is the evening of the year.
ANOTHER full-orbed year hath waned to-day,
And set in the irrevocable past,
And headlong whirled long Time's winged blast
My fluttering rose of youth is borne away:
Ah rose once crimson with the blood of May,
A honeyed haunt where bees would break their fast,
I watch thy scattering petals flee aghast,
And all the flickering rose-lights turning grey.
Poor fool of life! plagued ever with thy vain
Regrets and futile longings! were the years
Not cups o'erbrimming still with gall and tears?
Let go thy puny personal joy and pain!
If youth with all its brief hope disappears,
To deathless hope we must be born again.
DIVEST thyself, O Soul, of vain desire!
Bid hope farewell, dismiss all coward fears;
Take leave of empty laughter, emptier tears,
And quench, for ever quench, the wasting fire
Wherein this heart, as in a funeral pyre,
Aye burns, yet is consumed not. Years on years
Moaning with memories in thy maddened ears--
Let at thy word, like refluent waves, retire.
Enter thy soul's vast realm as Sovereign Lord,
And, like that angel with the flaming sword,
Wave off life's clinging hands. Then chains will fall
From the poor slave of self's hard tyranny--
And Thou, a ripple rounded by the sea,
In rapture lost be lapped within the All.