Old John and Other Poems
Lynton to Porlock
THE EMPTY CUP
VERIS ET FAVONI
ST. BEE’S HEAD
AN OXFORD IDYLL
To K. H.
“NOT WILLING TO STAY”
IN MEMORIAM PAUL BRIDSON
IN MEMORIAM A. F.
IN A FAIR GARDEN
POETS AND POETS
A MORNING WALK
IN MEMORIAM J. MACMEIKIN
“GOD IS LOVE”
THE INTERCEPTED SALUTE
NATURE AND ART
THE PEEL LIFE-BOAT
DANTE AND ARIOSTO
To E. M. O.
ISRAEL AND HELLAS
M. T. W.
WESLEY IN HEAVEN
To E. M. O.
AT THE PLAY
OLD JOHN, if I could sit with you a day
At Abram’s feet upon the asphodel,
There, while the grand old patriarch dreamed away,
To you my life’s whole progress I would tell;
To you would give accompt of what is well,
What ill performed; how used the trusted talents,
Since last we heard the sound of Braddan bell—
“A wheen bit callants.”
You were not of our kin nor of our race,
Old John, nor of our church, nor of our speech;
Yet what of strength, or truth, or tender grace
I owe, ‘twas you that taught me. Born to teach
All nobleness, whereof divines may preach,
And pedagogues may wag their tongues of iron,
I have no doubt you could have taught the leech
That taught old Chiron.
For so it is, the nascent souls may wait,
And lose the flexile aptness of their years;
But if one meets them at the opening gate
Who fans their hopes and modifies their fears,
Then thrives the soul: the various growth appears,
Or meet for sunny blooms or tempests’ grappling—
No wind uproots, drought quells, frost nips, blight sears
The well-fed sapling.
Old John, do you remember how you ran
Before the tide that choked the narrowing firth,
When Cumbria took you, ere you came to Man,
From distant Galloway that saw your birth?
Methinks I hear you with athletic mirth
Deride the baffled sleuth-hounds of the ocean,
As on you sped, not having where on earth
You were a notion.
What joy was mine I what straining of the knees
To test the peril of that strenuous mile,
To hear the clamour of the yelping seas!
And step for step to challenge you the while,
And see the sunshine of your constant smile!
I loved you that you dared the splendid danger;
I loved you that you landed on our Isle
A helpless stranger.
Old John, Old John! the air of heaven is calm,
No ripple curls upon the glassy sea;
But, as you wave on high the golden palm,
Though love subdues the thrill of victory,
You must remember how at Trollaby
Your five-foot-one of sinew tough and pliant
Threw Illiam of the Union Mills, and he
Was quite a giant.
O wholesome food for keen and passionate hearts,
Tempering the fine pugnacity of youth
With timely culture of all generous arts,
Rejecting menial tricks and wiles uncouth!
Old John, your soul was valiant for the truth;
But ever ‘twas a chivalrous contention:
Love whispered justice, and the mild-eyed ruth
Kissed grim dissension.
Old John, if in the battle of this life
I have not sought your precepts to fulfil,
If ever I have stirred ignoble strife,
If ever struck foul blow, as bent to kill,
Not conquer, by the love you bear me still,
O! intercede that I may be forgiven.
Stern Protestant — not pray to saints? I will
To you in Heaven.
Old John, you must have much to do indeed
If I am all forgotten from your mind.
Ah! blame me not: I cannot hold a creed
That would impute you selfish or unkind.
Ask Luther, Calvin; ask the old man blind
That painted Eden; ask the grim Confession
Of Augsburg what black error lurks behind
Old John, you were an interceder here;
For me you interceded with great cries.
How have I stood with mingled love and fear,
And not a little merriment! My eyes
Beheld you not, Old John; your groans and sighs
And gasps I heard by listening at the gable,
Inside of which you knelt, and shook the skies —
But first the stable.
It was a mighty “wrastling” with the Lord:
The hot June air was feverish with the heat
And agony of that great monochord;
Our old horse, standing on his patient feet,
Ripped from the rack the hay that smelt so sweet;
And, when there came a pause, their breath soft pouring
I heard the cows; while prone upon “the street”
Our swine were snoring.
You prayed for all, but for my father most —
“The Maister,” as you called him — that on rock
Of sure foundation he might keep the post,
And (by a change of metaphor) might stock
God’s heritage with vines to endure the shock
Pf time and sense, being planted with his planting;
That so (another trope) of all the flock
Not one be wanting.
Old John, I think you must have met him there,
My father, somewhere in the fields of rest:
From doubt enlarged, released from mortal care,
Earth’s troubles heave no more his tranquil breast.
O! tell him what you once to me confessed,
That, all the varied modes of rhetorick trying,
You ever liked “the Maister’s” sermons best
When he was crying.
Old John, do you remember how we picked
Potatoes for you in the days of old?
Bright flashed the grep, and with its sharp prong pricked
The pink-fleshed tubers. We were blithe and bold.
Dear John, what jokes you cracked! what tales you told!
So garrulous to cheer your “little midges,”
What time the setting sun shot shafts of gold
Athwart the ridges!
And when the season changed, and hay was mown,
You weighed the balance of our emulous powers,
How “Maister” Hugh was strong the ponderous cone
To pitchfork; but to build the fragrant towers
Was none like “Maister Wulliam.” Blessed hours!
The empty cart we young ones scaled — glad riders
And screamed at beetles exiled from their bowers,
And homeless spiders.
But when the corn was ripe, and truculent churls
Forbade us, as we culled the cushaged1 stook,
Your eye flashed fire, your voice was loosed in skirls
Of rage. Old Covenanter, how could you look
The very genius of the pastoral crook —
Tythe-twined, established, dominant? “In our ashes
Still live our wonted fires.” You could not brook,
You said, “their fashes.”
A perfect treasury of rustic lore
You were to me, Old John: how nature thrives,
In horse or cow, their points; if less or more
Convex the grunter’s spine; the cackling wives
Of Chanticleer how marked; the bird that dives,
And he that gobbles reddening — all the crises
You told, and ventures of their simple lives,
Also their prices.
The matchless tales your own great Wizard penned
To us were patent when you gave the key:
I knew Montrose; stern Clavers was my friend;
I carved the tombs with Old Mortality;
I sailed with Hatterick on the stormy sea;
Curled Cavalier, and Roundhead atrabiliar,
The shifts of Caleb Balderstone, to me
Were quite familiar.
But most of all, where all was most, I liked
To hear the story of the martyrs’ doom:
The camp remote by stubborn hands bedyked;
The bones that bleached amid the heather bloom;
The gray-haired sire; the intrepid maid for whom
Old Soiway piled his waters monumental,
And gave that glorious heart a glorious tomb
Worth Scotia’s rental.
Old John, such stories were to me a proof
That ‘neath the dimpling of the temporal tides
A power is working still in our behoof
A primal power that in the world abides.
In virgins’ hearts it lives, and tender brides
Confess it. Veil your crests, ye powers of evil!
It is an older power, and it derides
Your vain upheaval.
Old John, do you remember Injebreck,
And that fine day we went to get a load
Of perfumed larch? From many a ruddy fleck
The resin oozed and dropped upon the road;
And ever as we trudged you taught the code
Traditional of woodcraft. Night came sparkling
With all her gems, and devious to Tromode
The stream ran darkling.
But we the westward height laborious clomb;
Then from Mount Rule descended on the Strang,
And saw afar the pleasant lights of home,
Whereat your cheering speech — “We’ll nae be lang”!
Also a wondrous chirp of eld you sang,
Till, when we came to Braddan Bridge, the clinging
Of that inveterate awe enforced a pang
That stopped the singing.
Yet when we gained the vantage of the hill,
And breathed more freely on the gentler slope,
Then quickly we recovered, as men will:
For Life’s sweet buoyancy with Death can cope,
Being strung by Nature for that genial scope:
And so, when you had ceased from your dejection,
You talked with me of God, and faith, and hope,
‘Twas thus I learned to love the various man,
Rich patterned, woven of all generous dyes,
Like to the tartan of some noble clan,
– Blending the colours that alternate rise.
So ever ‘tis refreshing to mine eyes
To look beyond convention’s flimsy trammel,
And see the native tints, in anywise,
Of God’s enamel.
Old John, you were not of the Calvinists; ”
The doctrine o’ yElaction,” you declared —
You gentlest of all gentle Methodists —
“A saul-destroying doctrine.”
Whoso dared God’s mercy limit, he must be prepared
For something awful, not propounded clearly,
But dark as deepest doom that Dante bared,
Or very nearly.
On Sunday morning early to the “class,”
Then Matins, as it’s called in ritual puff
Correct, then Evensong — but let that pass:
Our curate frowns. Nor then had you enough;
But, with your waistcoat pocket full of snuff,
You scorned the flesh, suppressed the stomach’s clamour,
And went where you could get “the rael stuff”
Absolved from grammar.
And who shall blame you, John?
Our prayers are good —
Compact of precious fragments, passion-clips
Of many souls, cemented with the blood
Of suffering. So we kiss them with the lips
Of awful love; but when the irregular grips
Of zeal constrain the cleric breast or laic,
Into a thousand fiery shreds it rips
Our old mosaic.
And so it was with you, Old John!
The form Was excellent; but you were timely nursed
Upon a Cameronian lap, the storm
Of that great strife inherited: the thirst
For God was in you from the very first!
The rushing flood, the energy ecstatic,
O’erwhelmed you that you could not choose but burst
All bonds prelatic.
No gentler soul e’er took its earthward flight
From Heaven’s high towers, or clove the ethereal blue
With softer wings, or full of purer light —
Sweet Saint Theresa, bathed in virgin dew,
Your sister was; but Jenny Geddes was too!
The false Archbishop feared the accents surly
Of your firm voice — you were John Knox, and you
Balfour of Burley.
Then is it wonderful in me you found
Disciple apt for every changing mood?
I also had a root in Scottish ground.
No tale of ancient wrong my spirit wooed
In vain: I loved the splendid fortitude,
Although we served in different battalions —
Your folk were Presbyterians, mine were lewd
What joy it was to you the day I came
To visit that dear home, no longer mine!
I sat belated, having seen the flame
Of sunset flash from well-known windows. Nine
Was struck upon the clock, and yet no sign
Of my departure; then some admiration
Of what I purposed; then I could divine
That I should sleep with you was their intent,
And so we slept, being comrades old and tried
It was to me a very sacrament,
As you lay hushed and reverent at my side.
Your comely portance filled my soul with pride
To think how human dignity surpasses
The estimate of those who “can’t abide
The lower classes.”
And, severed by a curtain on a string,
Slept Robert, and his wife, your daughter, slept;
Slept little Beenie, and the bright-eyed thing
You Maggie called — she to her mother crept
And snuggled in the dark. The night wind swept
“Aboon the thatch”; came dawn, and touched each rafter
With tongue of gold; then from the bed I leapt
As light as laughter.
But I must “break my fast ” before I went:
And so I sat, and shared the pleasant meal;
And all were up, and happy, and content;
And last you prayed. May Fashion ne’er repeal
That self-respect, those manners pure and leal
My countrymen, I charge you never stain them;
But, as you love your Island’s noblest weal,
Guard and maintain them.
O faithfullest! my debt to you is long:
Life’s grave complexity around me grows.
From you it comes if in the busy throng
Some friends I have, and have not any foes;
And even now, when purple morning glows,
And I am on the hills, a night-worn watchman,
I see you in the centre of the rose,
Dear, brave, old Scotchman!
[1. Marked with the Cushag (ragwort).]
CHALSE A KILLEY
To CHALSE IN HEAVEN
So you are gone, dear Chalse!
Ah! well: it was enough —
The ways were cold, the ways were rough —
O Heaven! O home!
No more to roam —
Chalse, poor Chalse.
And now it’s all so plain, dear Chalse!
So plain —
The wildered brain,
The joy, the pain —
The phantom shapes that haunted,
The half-born thoughts that daunted —
All, all is plain
All is plain.
Yet where you’re now, dear Chalse,
Have you no memory
Of land and sea,
Of vagrant liberty?
Through all your dreams
Come there no gleams
Of morning sweet and cool
On old Barrule?
Breathes there no breath,
Far o’er the hills of Death,
Of a soft wind that dailies
Among the Curragh sallies —
Shaking the perfumed gold-dust on the streams?
Chalse, poor Chalse
Or is it all forgotten, Chalse?
A fever fit that vanished with the night —
Has God’s great light
Pierced through the veiled delusions,
The errors and confusions;
And pointed to the tablet, where
In quaint and wayward character,
As of some alien clime,
His name was graven all the time?
All the time!
O Chalse! poor Chalse.
Such music as you made, dear Chalse!
With that crazed instrument
That God had given you here for use —
You will not wonder now if it did loose
Our childish laughter, being writhen and bent
From native function — was it not, sweet saint?
But when such music ceases,
‘Tis God that takes to pieces
The inveterate complication,
And makes a restoration
Most subtle in its sweetness,
Most strong in its completeness,
Most constant in its meetness
And gives the absolute tone,
And so appoints your station
Before the throne —
Chalse, poor Chalse.
And yet while you were here, dear Chalse,
You surely had more joy than sorrow:
Even from your weakness you did borrow
A strength to mock
The frowns of fortune, to decline the shock
Of rigorous circumstance,
To weave around your path a dance
Of “airy nothings,” Chalse; and while your soul,
Dear Chalse! was dark
As an o’erwanèd moon from pole to pole,
Yet had you still an arc
Forlorn, a silvery rim
Of the same light wherein the cherubim
Bathe their glad brows, and veer
On circling wings above the starry sphere —
Chalse, poor Chalse.
Yes, you had joys, dear Chalse! as when forsooth,
Right valiant for the truth,
You crossed the Baldwin hills,
And at the Union Mills,
Inspired with sacred fury,
You helped good Parson Drury
To “put the Romans out,”
A champion brave and stout —
Ah! now, dear Chalse, of all the radiant host,
Who loves you most?
I think I know him, kneeling on his knees —
Is it Saint Francis of Assise?
Chalse, poor Chalse.
Great joy was yours, dear Chalse! when first I met you
In that old Vicarage
That shelters under Bradda: we did get you
By stratagem most sage
Of youthful mischief — got you all unweeting
Of mirthful toys — A merry group of girls and boys,
To hold a missionary meeting;
And you did stand upon a chair,
In the best parlour there
And dear old Parson Corrin was from home,
And I did play a tune upon a comb;
And unto us
You did pronounce a speech most marvellous,
Dear Chaise! and then you said
And sthrooghed the head —
“If there’ll be no objection,
We’ll now purseed to the collection” –
Chalse, poor Chalse!
And do you still remember, Chalse,
How at the Dhoor —
Near Ramsey, to be sure —
I got two painters painting in the chapel
To make with me a congregation?
And you did mount the pulpit, and did grapple
With a tremendous text, and warn the nation
Of drunkenness; and in your hand
Did wave an empty bottle, so that we,
By palpable typology,
Might understand —
Dear Chalse, you never had
An audience more silent or more sad!
And have you met him, Chalse,
Whom you did long to meet?
You used to call him dear and sweet —
Good Bishop Wilson — has he taken you
In hand, dear Chalse? And is he true,
And is he kind,
And do you tell him all your mind,
Dear Chalse —
All your mind?
And have you yet set up the press;
And is the type in readiness,
Founded with gems
Of living sapphire, dipped
In blood of molten rubies, diamond-tipped?
And, with the sanction of the Governor,
Do you, a proud compositor,
Stand forth, and prent the Hemns?
Chalse, poor Chalse!
WHY do I make so much of Aber Fall?
Four years ago
My little boy was with me here —
That’s all —
He died next year:
He died just seven years old,
A very gentle child, yet bold,
Having no fear.
You have seen such?
They are not much?
No . . . no.
And yet he was a very righteous child,
Stood up for what was right,
Intolerant of wrong — Pure azure light
Was cisterned in his eyes;
We thought him wise
Beyond his years — so sweet and mild,
For justice, doing what he could —
Poor little soul — to make all children good.
I almost think — and yet I am to blame —
He was a different child from others;
He had three sisters and two brothers:
He seemed a little king:
Among the children — ah I ‘tis a common thing, —
Parents are all the same —
You’ve seen those kings — yes, yes —
Of course . . . and yet . . . the righteousness
The . . . Never mind! he came
With me to Aber Fall —
That’s all, that’s all.
Just listen to the blackbird — what a note
The creature has! God bless his happy throat!
He is so absolutely glad
I fear he will go mad.
Look here! this very grit
I crush beneath my boot
His little foot
Trod crisp that day — That’s it! that’s it
O, what is there to say?
The little foot so warm and pink!
O, what is there to think?
His mother kissed it every night
When she put out the light — And where?
What is it now? a fascicle
Of crumbling bones
J ammed in with earth and stones.
You say that this is old,
A tale twice-told — Say what you will:
Old, new, I swear
That it is horrible —
Horrible, blackbird, howsoe’er
The Spring rejoice you with its budding bloom —
Yes, horrible, most horrible!
Though you should carol to the crack of doom,
Poor blackbird! being so absolutely glad —
I hope he won’t go mad.
The stream is very sweet
To-day . . . Just see the swallow dart!
It sent a shiver to my heart.
If he had lived, you say —
Well, well — if he had lived, what then?
Will always argue — yes, I know . . . of course. . .
The argument has force.
If he had lived, he might have changed—
From bad to worse?
Nay, my shrewd balance-setter,
Why not from good to better?
Why not to best? to joy
And splendour? oh my boy!
I did not want this argument in the least,
My soul had ceased
From doubt and questioning —
That swallow’s wing!
What a transcendent rush!
Or, if you talk, talk low:
For . . . do you know . . .
Just as the swallow dipt,
I felt as if a soft hand slipt
Its fingers into mine he’s near
He’s with us . . . ‘tis not right the child should hear
This jangling . . . low then, low!
Or this is better . . . go,
Go, darling; play upon the bank,
Your hair with daisy and with buttercup,
And we will meet you higher up.
Now then . . . If he had lived? if my sweet son
Had lived? . . . You stare . . .
‘Tis gone, ‘tis gone —
It was the swallow’s dart
That sent a shiver to my heart.
We have not seen the sun for many days,
But now through East-wind haze
He makes a shift
To send a luminous drift,
To which, as to his full unclouded splendour,
The meek, contented earth makes glad surrender.
God bless the simple earth
That gave me birth!
God bless her that she looks so pleased —
The soul that is diseased
With this world’s sorrow — Well, sir? ought to look?
Beyond, and yet beyond: not in this narrow nook
Of His creation
Will God make up His book.
The whole is one great scheme
The net result
Is all . . . I too have had my dream,
As from my nonage dedicate a μνστης
Of that great cult.
I saw Lord Love upon his galley pass
Westward from Cyprus; smooth as glass
The sea was all before him. He, as κελενστης,
Stood at the stern, and piped
The rhythms; but, ever and anon,
As worked upon
By some familiar Fury, grasping a scourge
Fastened it to his wrist . . . Love’s wrist!),
He ran along the transtra, and did urge
The rowers, and striped
Their backs with blood; whereat they leapt
Like maddened hounds, and swept
The sea until it hissed.
Then I —
“Lord Love, what means this cruelty?”
But he to me
Deigned no reply:
Only I saw his face was wet with tears,
And he did look ” beyond, and yet beyond.”
But those men, fond
And fatuous, never turned
Their eyes from his, but yearned
With an insensate yearning, having confidence
That so it must be; but on what pretence
I know not — Ah, most cruel lord!
Ah, knotted cord!
Of livid tissues! flash
Of oars that smote the waters to a hum . .
You’ve had enough of this —
But what I meant, and what you seemed to miss,
Was simply how the meek, contented earth,
That gave me birth,
Was pleased . . .
Then you of soul diseased,
And what not . . . excellent!
But that is what I meant.
The shepherd calls —
How these great mountain walls
Re-echo! See his dog
Come limping from the bog!
How far he holds him
With that thin clamour! Scolds him?
Or cheers him — which?
Say both — most like. The pitch
Is steep, poor fellow!
And still that bellow —
And Echo from her niche
Shrieks challenged. Shout,
O shepherd! flout
The irritable Echo till she raves
As man behaves,
So God apportions, doing what is best
For you, and for the rest.
As man behaves! You do not help me much,
Nay, sir, nor touch
The central point at all —
Retributive, mechanical —
I see it. But outside all this
I miss . . . I miss . . .
Sir, know you Death?
Permit me introduce
No? What’s the use?
The use! . . . One thing I can collect,
You have but scant respect
For Death. Why, sir, he made a feint
That very minute at you — quaint!
The way he grins and skips — Whips! whips!
Down! down! good dog! good Death!
To heel, you rogue!
Good Death! good dog!
You’d rather not behold him?
I’ve told him — I’ faith,
He’d frighten you, would Death.
Provoked me — yes, you did —
The shepherd chid
His lagging hound —
I had no other thought
But how mad Echo caught
Of that exasperant call,
And made it bound
Back from the mountain wall.
Upon the crags!
The winter lags
Ha, little lamb upon the crags,
How fearlessly you go!
You little woolly atom! On and on
He goes . . . ‘tis steep . . . Hillo!
My friend is gone,
Friend orthodoxo-logical —
He could not argue with a waterfall!
And here it is — my Aber . . . Stay!
Upon these stones is dripping with the spray —
And now one turn, left hand,
And I shall stand
Before the very rock: not yet . . . not yet!
O let me think! No, no! I don’t forget
(Forget!) — but this is sacred . . . peace, then, peace!
From all dead things, that serve not to present
At my soul’s grate the lovely innocent.
He had heard some idle talk
Of how his father had great strength to walk
And so he thought that he must lose no time,
But instantly addressed
His little breast
To that tall cliff
Smooth, perpendicular, too stiff
For cragsman from the wildest Hebrides, —
But he did bend his knees,
And spread his little arms, and laid
His body to the work, and made
Such genuine effort of ascent
As though he meant
To reach the top, of course, and had no doubt
Of what he was about —
So serious — no passing whim —
O, no! ‘Twas thus his father clomb
And he had come
To climb like him.
And is he here?
O Braddan, are you here?
O darling, have no fear!
Speak to me! breathe some fond thing in my ear
But what should Braddan know
Of me, and what I am,
And what I want — the little lamb!
What should he know,
Who four brief years ago
Knew only what a little child should
Should some kind angel, who doth teach my child,
Some angel with the love-deep eyes,
Some angel charged to keep him undefiled,
Hear my sad cries,
And bring him unto me,
Is my whole heart a thing for him to see?
Am I prepared that his sweet honesty
Should search it through and through?
O, eyes of honest blue!
O, fearless eyes!
O, mild surprise!
O, is there one, one chamber of my heart
For him to sit
Therein, till it is time to part?
Or could I come to him?
No matter where — Swim,
Swim the dark river, and be there?
Could a deep acquiescence
Convey me to his presence?
And if it could,
What were it after all
But as a young prince stood
Upon the city wall,
And saw his foster-father at the gate,
And wondered at his mean estate,
And made no sign
Unto the warders? But my Braddan’s mine!
Mine! mine! and none’s beside!
O helpless men, has everything been tried?
Where does the secret bide?
Is it a simple thing perhaps?
Yea, after all, a very simple thing,
That through the lapse
Of all the ages any tide
Nay, every tide has brought
Up to the level of our thought?
Is the blest converse that I crave
The function of a faculty we have,
But know not how to use, being, by some dark mischance
Time-prisoned in a rooted ignorance?
A faculty which, if no God forbad it,
An accident might bring to light,
And some one, somewhere, waking in the night,
Would know he had it.
But we are cumbered with our egotisms;
A thousand prisms,
Hung round our souls, refract the single ray,
That else would show us instantly the way.
So even now, when my sad heart aspires
To height of paramount desires,
These verses mock it
With their rhyme-jangles, frustrate as a rocket,
That mounts, and breaks, and falls in coloured fading fires.
Upon the impotent verse!
Not so —
It may be that in these
The soul shall yet win something more than ease
For song is of the essence, and who sings
Touches the central springs —
Ah, vain imaginings!
Let be! let be!
O Braddan, pity me!
I know there is another way — press, press,
And I will press, sweet Braddan.
Sink thought! sink, sink
Is but to madden
You have no part
In this — die, soul,
Die, die! it must be soon —
The barrier’s but a film; one gasp, and I shall swoon
Into his arms —
Braddan! why, Braddan! see, I keep my tryst —
O God! O Christ!
Is very slow
To disappear: how winter lags!
I see the darn
Upon the crags
But nowhere can I see the little lamb
The heavens are very blue
Above the western hill;
The earth is very still —
I will draw near, and view
Where he is . . . not.
But O dear cliff, O big, good-natured giant,
I think some delicate dint must still remain
On your broad surface, from the strain
Of limbs so sweetly pliant.
The lamb! the lamb! fallen from the very rock!
His little head
Rests on the very block
That Braddan trod —
Dear lambs! twin lambs of God!
Old cliff, such things
Might move some stubborn questionings —
But now I question not —
See, see! the waterfall
Is robed in rainbows — what!
Our lambs? My Braddan shall have charge
Of him, and lead him by the marge
Of some bright stream celestial.
Braddan shall be a happy shepherd boy;
No trouble shall annoy
That soft green pasture — Ah, Murillo, saint!
Kind friend! that for all sorrowing hearts didst paint
John Baptist and the Lamb—those arms thrown round
That neck! Forgive me, God, that I have found
Some comfort in this little parable —
It gives me strength to climb the hill,
And humbly so return —
God bless the merry burn!
I have no will
But thine, O God! I know that Thou art true —
Be blue, O heavens, be blue!
Be still, O earth, be still!
LLANFAIRFECHAN, April 17, 1879.
EPISTOLA AD DAKYNS
DAKYNS, when I am dead,
Three places must by you be visited,
Three places excellent,
Where you may ponder what I meant,
And then pass on —
Three places you must visit when I’m gone.
Yes, meant, not did, old friend
For neither you nor I shall see the end,
And do the thing we wanted:
Natheless three places will be haunted
By what of me
The earth and air
And fire and sea
Let be — Three places only,
Three places, Dakyns
The first is by the Avon’s side,
Where tall rocks flank the winding tide.
There come when morning’s virgin kiss
Awakes from dreams the clematis,
And every thorn and briar is set
As with a diamond coronet —
There come, and pause upon the edge,
And I will lean in every ledge,
And melt in grays, and flash in whites,
And linger in a thousand lights;
And yield in bays, and urge in capes,
And fill the old familiar shapes;
And yearn in curves, and strain to meet
The pensive pressure of your feet
And you shall feel an inner sense,
A being kindred and intense;
And you shall feel a strict control,
A something drawing at your soul,
A going out, a life suspended,
A spirit with a spirit blended.
And you shall start as from a dream,
While I, withdrawing down the stream,
Drift vaporous to the ancient sea,
A wraith, a film, a memory —
Three places, Dakyns.
The next is where a hundred fells
Stand round the Lake like sentinels,
Where Derwent, like a sleeping beauty,
Girdled with that watchful duty,
At Skiddaw’s foot securely lies,
And gives her bosom to the skies.
O, come! and I will bid the moon
All subtle harmonies attune
That live in shadows and in heights,
A mystic chorus of delights.
O, come where many an island bevels
Its strand to meet the golden levels!
O, lay your heart upon each line,
So diamond-cut and crystalline,
That seams the marble of the mere,
And smoothes all trouble, calms all fear,
With that sweet natural straightness, free
From effort or inconstancy.
O, draw your thought with all its passion
Along the melancholy fashion
Of forms accentuate with the beat
Of the great Master’s rhythmic feet.
But when upon the finest verge
The sense no further flight can urge,
When the full orb of contemplation
Is stretched, a nameless tribulation
Shall sway the whole, a silent stress
Borne in upon that loveliness;
A burden as of human ills,
A human trouble in the hills;
A quickening pulse in earth and sky,
And you shall know that it is I —
Three places, Dakyns.
The next is where God keeps for me
A little island in the sea,
A body for my needs, that so
I may not all unclothed go,
A vital instrument whereby
I still may commune with the sky,
When death has loosed the plaited strands,
And left me feeling for the lands.
Even now between its simple poles
It has the soul of all my souls.
But then — whatever I have been,
Whatever felt, whatever seen,
Whatever guessed, or understood,
The tones of right, the tints of good,
The loves, the hates, the hopes, the fears,
The gathered strength of all my years —
All that my life has in me wrought
Of complex essence shall be brought
And wedded to those primal forms
That have their scope in calms and storms,
Attuned to the swells and falls
Of Nature’s holy intervals.
And, old coeval use surviving,
No need shall be for any striving,
No need from point to point to press,
And swell the growing consciousness,
But in a moment I shall sit
Sphered in the very heart of it.
And every hill from me shall shoot,
And spread as from a central root,
And every crag and every spur
To me its attitude refer;
And I shall be the living heart,
And I shall live in every part,
With elemental cares engrossed,
And all the passion of the coast.
Come then, true Dakyns, be the test
Most meet to make me manifest!
Come, and immediate recognise
To all your moods the dumb replies.
Or stretch across a kindly void
The golden life-chords unalloyed
With thought, and instant they shall wake
The music they were made to make.
Thus shall you grow into a sense
Of islandhood, not taking thence
Some pretty surfaces and angles,
Tricking your soul, as with fine spangles
A savage studs his wampum belt,
But patient till the whole is felt,
And you become incorporate
Into an undivided state.
Then shall your body be as dead;
And you shall take to you instead
The system of the natural powers,
The heath that blooms, the cloud that lowers,
The antithesis of things that bide,
The cliff, the beach, the rock, the tide —
The lordly things, whose generous feud
Is but a fixed vicissitude.
Wherefore, O Maughold, if he come,
If Dakyns come,
Let not a voice be dumb
In any cave;
Fling up the wave
In wreaths of giddy spray;
O’er all the bay
Flame out in gorse around the “kern,”1
And let his heart within him burn,
Until he gains the slope
Where, in the “sure and certain hope,”
Sleep the long rows:
Then let him quench the fiery gleams
In Death’s grey shadow of repose,
As one who dreams
He knows not what, and yet he knows
I have her there
That was a bud so rare.
But, Bradda, if he come to you,
I charge you to be true!
Sit not all sullen by the sea,
But show that you are conscious it is he.
It is no vulgar tread
That bends the heath:
Broad be the heavens spread
Above, the sea beneath
Blue with that blue!
And let the whispering airs
Move in the ferns.
By those strong prayers
Which rent my heart that day as lightning rends a cloud
And rips it till it glares
To open view: by all the vows I vowed,
I charge you, and I charge you by the tears
And by the passion that l took
From you, and flung them to the vale,
And had the ultimate vision, do not fail!
Three places only — Three places, Dakyns.
CLIFTON, December 1869.
IN THE COACH
No. 1. — JUS’ THE SHY
YES, comin’ home from the North Sea fishin’ we were, past John o’ Grotes,
Past the Pentlands and Cape Wrath theer, twenty boats
There’d be of us, and eight men and boys to every one, and how many are you making that?
A hunderd-and-sixty, says you — You’re smart though, what?
And sure enough it is — aw this ciphrin’ and figgurin’ and recknin’, aw grand! grand!
Well, when we hauled to the southward, the wind turned a foul, you’ll understand;
So we made for a bay though, the lot of us: ter’ble narra it was to get in —
That bay — but spreadin’ out astonishin’,
And the room you navar seen — acres! acres!
So swings to an anchor for all
As aisy as aisy, and plenty to spare, just that we could call
The time o’day and that: it’s comfible, you know, like yandhar, and mayve a matthar
Of ten fathom — good houldin’, fuss-rate ridin’, couidn’ be batthar.
And at the top of the bay there was a castle, ter’ble though,
Aw, bless ye, ter’ble uncommon, and the gardens theer all in a row,
And all above one another; and some guns that was took from the Rooshians, and a tower, and a flag goin’ a-haulin’ —
I don’ know the burgee, but as broad as a good tarpaulin;
And over the door, cut to a dot, aw, open your eyes the widest you can!
Over the door, if you plaze, over the door, what next? God bless us! the three legs of Man
That was the thing. My gough! the wondher we had;
And this and that; but at last Billy Fargher said
It muss ha’ been some of these ould Earls or Dukes, or their daughters, or their nieces, or their cousins
(Of coorse, there’d be dozens)
That got married on yandhar lek —
At laste you’d expeck
There’d be some workin’ in and out; and blood is blood,
That’s aisy understood;
And navar ashamed of the ould flag, not her; but heisin it to the wind, and carvin’ it on the stone, like defyin’,
Lek as bould as a lion.
Now there was a ter’ble great lady livin’ in this Castle, mind!
Aye, a lady, bless ye! and no mistake, grand, no doubt, but kind.
And she come to see us, aye, and she said she was once on the Islan’,
And the people was that good to her, and that civil, and that smilin’,
And that plazzant, she said, that she couldn’ forget it, she said,
No, she said; and it wasn’ no use, she said,
They were nice people, she said, the nice you couldn’ tell;
That’s what she said, and she liked them well.
And she wouldn’ take no res’ of us but we muss promise then and theer
To have dinner with her, aye! dinner, think of that now! a hunderd-and-sixty of us—what? aw, I’ll sweer.
Dinner though; so promised sure enough; and the day come,
And there wasn’ a sowl of us went, not a sowl, by gum!
No! and the pipers blawin’,
And the curks drawin’,
And the preparation they’d be havin’, so I’m toul’,
And there wasn’ a sowl, no, not a sowl.
And what for was that? What for? Just the shy, the shy,
That’s the what for, and that’s the why,
And that’s the way with the Manx; aw, it is though, aw, they are, they are,
Mos’ despard shy; aw, it’s a pity for all, but star’
They will, and wink and nudge and poke and bother,
And spit theer and laugh, and look like axin’ one another—
“Are you goin’, and you?” and takin’ rises, and all to that,
Till you can’t tell is it your granny’s cat
Or what is it that’s doin’ on you, but you feel jus’ a reg’lar fool,
And all the time bitendin’ to be as cool as cool.
Aw dear! it’s a pity! a pity! aw, a rum lot!
But, whether or not,
The great lady was agate of us again,
‘Deed for sure she was, and she seen the men
Was shy of the dinner; but it’s lek she thought
It was on account of not knowin’ how to behave theerselves the way they ought
With theer knives and theer plates and the lek; so axed them to tay —
Aw, she muss ha’ been a kind lady anyway!
And we promised faithful, and the day come, and she sent and she sent,
And there wasn’ a one of us went.
The shy, did ye say? Sartinly, nothin’ but the shy,
That’s the way we are; aye,
Treminjus though. I was raelly sorry for her, I was, I tell ye,
And all the throuble that was at her theer, fit for a melya,
And the disappointed_what? and, altogather, my chiarn!
These Manx chaps isn’ fit, no they ar’n’ —
Well the wind veered round, and we all sailed for the southward,
Excep’ two boats. Now, d’ye think she’d ha’ bothered
About such dunkies? Well, that’s jus’ what she did,
Perseverin’, aye! and considherin’, and waitin’. “Turn your quid!”
Says Juan Jem, lek futhee, lek no hurry! you know
Lek aisy all! lek keep her so!
Lek wait and see! Patient, is it? But anyway the strong
The kindness was in her — that’s it, and the long
Suff’rin’ lek, and navar not no capers of takin’ offince.
My gough! it’s many a time I’ve thought of it since.
What did she do but down to these chaps that was lavin’ behind —
Sixteen of them, aye — and axed them theer as kind as kind —
To tay? most sartin; what else? and I tell ye they took heart and went,
And enjoyed theerselves to the full the same’s it might be you or any other gent.
But the res’? you’re wond’rin’. Chut!
Jus’ the shy, and nothin’ but
The shy. Aw, no use a’ talkin’,
The shy it’s shawkin’.
No raison, says you: not a bit.
Amazin’, says you. Well, that’s all you’ll get,
That is the raison, and the for and the why —
Jus’ the shy!
No. II.—YES, MA’AM! NO, MA’AM!
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am;
We called him Joe, ma’am;
My name’s Cregeen —
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am;
Had to go, ma’am
Young to die;
Eighteen for spring.
(Chorus of sympathisers) “Poor thing! poor thing!”
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am;
I’m rather low, ma’am —
Not at say.
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am;
Just so, ma’am,
And the Pazon in his gown;
No stone, just marks.
(Chorus as before) “She’s thinkin’ of these sharks.”
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am,
Not like home, ma’am —
The clothes he died in
The corp was plied in.
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am;
But just to sew, ma’am,
But couldn’ be—
(Chorus as before) ” My chree! my chree!”
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am,
We were callin’ him Joe, ma’am —
His chiss come,
Not like to some;
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am,
Come by Crow, ma’am,
And, of a rule,
(Chorus as before) “She’s got his chiss! she’s got his chiss!”
Yes, ma’am, no. ma’am,
These feerns1 will grow, ma’am,
So I’m tould.
But I’m makin’ very bould.
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am —
Rather slow, ma’am,
Is this coach;
But I hope I don’t encroach —
In my head the pain‘s.
(Chorus as before) “In her heart she manes.”
Yes, ma’am, no, ma’am.
No. III.—CONJERGAL RIGHTS
Conjergal rights! conjergal rights!
I don’t care for the jink of her and I don’t care for the jaw of her,
But I’ll have the law of her.
Conjergal rights! yis, yis, I know what I’m sayin’
Fuss-rate, Misthress Corkhill, fuss-rate, Misther Cain,
And all the people in the coach — is there a man or a woman of the lot of ye —
Well now, that’s what I wudn’ have thought of ye,
I wudn’ raelly — No, I haven’ got a little sup,
Not me — is there one of ye that wudn’ stand up
For conjergal rights?
No, ma’am, tight’s
Not the word, not a drop since yesterday. But lizzen, good people, lizzen!
I’ll have her in the coorts, I’ll have her in prison —
It’s the most scandalous thing you ever — What! this woman and her daughter —
It’s dane murder, it’s abslit manslaughter,
Aye, and I wudn’ trus’ but beggamy, that’s what it is — Married yesterday mornin’
In Kirk Breddhan Church, and not the smallest taste of warnin’,
Takes her to her house in Castletown,
And jus’ for I axed a quashtin‘ — and I’ll be boun’
It’s a quashtin any one of you wud have axed — picks a quarrel, makes a row,
The two of them, aye, the two of them — bow-wow!
Hammer and tungs! sends for a pleeceman, puts me to the door —
But I’ll owe her! I’ll owe her!
Aisy, Mr. Cretney? No, I’ll not be aisy;
It’s enough to make a body crazy,
That’s what it is, and the supper on the table,
And the hoss in the stable.
And I said nothin’, nor I done nothin’. Aw, if there’s law in the land,
Law or justice, I’ll have it, dye understand?
Do ye see the thing? My grayshurs! married is married,
Isn’ it? what? and me that carried
The woman’s box. And that isn’ all; what raison? what sense?
Think of the expense! think of the expense!
Don’t ye know? God bless me! The certif’cake, that’s hafe-a-crown,
And the licence, that’s five shillin’, money down, money down!
And not a farlin’ off for cash, these Pazons, not a farlin’;
And said she was my darlin’
And all to that, guy heng! it’s thrue! it’s thrue!
And look at me now! boo-hoo-oo-oo!
Yis, cryin’ I am, and no wondher —
You don’t see me it’s that dark in the coach. By the livin’ thundher
I’m kilt mos’ly, that’s what I am, almos’ kilt
With throuble and disthress and all. A jilt,
You say, a jilt? But married, married, married, d’ye hear?
Married, Misthress Creer,
Married afore twelve at Kirk Breddhan,
Married, a reg’lar proper weddin’
And no mistake,
And this woman . . . O my gough! don’t spake of her! don’t spake!
It’s me that’s spakin? Yis, and I will! I will!
Who’s to spake if I amn’? But still —
It’s lek you don’t see, the coach is so dark, and no light from these houses,
But feel of this new coat, and the pair of new trousis,
Bought o’ puppose, o’ puppose! what else?
Bran new; and the shirt and the frells,
And the cuffs and the collar, every d — thing
As bran and as new as a gull’s wing —
And all to plaze her, and to look accordin’
To the occasion, and to do her credit, and ho’rdin’
The teens of months. And O, if I’d only borrowed them from a neighbour!
That’s the thing, but bought them, bought them! and even so they might ha’ been chaber,
Yis, they might, at another shop. But you don’ see the way I’m goin’,
No, no, you don’ —
But I’d lek you to — the tears! I’m jus’ slushin’ the sthraw
With the tears, makin’ the coach all damp for the people — yis, I know I am, but I’ll have the law, I’ll have the law.
Just a quashtin about a bit of proppity,
The house, in fac’, the very house we come into, dye see?
The house, her house! Of coorse! of coorse! But goodness grayshurs!
Who doesn’ know the law about a thing like that? the iggorant! the ordashurs!
If ever there was a thing on God’s earth
That was mine, it was yandhar house! But it isn’ worth
Talkin’ — no! There’s people that’ll go against anything. But what! no suttlement goin’ a-makin’,
Nor nothin’, jus’ everything goin’ a-takin’
Undher the common law of matrimony theer —
At my massy! at my massy! With your lave, Mr. Tear,
At my massy, sir. You’ll ‘scuse me.
But you know the law. Married — my chree! my chree!
What iss “married,” if that isn’? it’s as plain as a dus’bin —
Your own dear lovin’ husbin’
As kind as kind!
See the beauty of it! And “all that’s thine is mine,”
Isn’ it sayin’ that in the Bible?
And surely the woman is li’ble
As well as the man; and to “love, honour, and obey,”
Isn’ that what they say?
But it’s my heart, that’s it! my poor broken heart! aw dear! aw dear!
And my feelin’s I my feelin’s! and that son of mine girnin’ from ear to ear,
And his lip, and his imprince, and his disrespeck,
And the waste and the neglec’ —
O, it’s awful! it’s awful! O, the wounds that there’s no healin’s!
O, my feelin’s! my feelin’s!
But I’ll see aburt, I will, I’ll see aburt —
The wife of my bosom! Don’t be mockin
I heard a woman laughing: its shockin’
That a woman ‘d laugh at the lek of such doin’s, yis, it is,
Downright wickedness —
A woman that I could name —
Fie for shame! fie for shame!
But I’ll have law. Look here! Is James Gell a lawyer? You’ll hardly uphould me
He isn’, will ye? James Gell — the Attorney-Gineral: well, that’s the man that tould me.
Did I spake to him about it? was I axin’ him afore
I was anything to her?
Sartinly! my gough! was I goin’ to run my neck into a noose,
And navar no ‘pinion nor . . . I’m not such a goose
As yandhar ither, I’ve gorrit in writin’, yis, I have,
I’ve gorrit here—aw, you’ll get lave! you’ll get lave!
Not aisy to read, but God bless me! where’s my specs? But lar’t! lar’t!
It’s my feelin’s: O, my heart! my heart!
My poor heart! my poor heart! boo-hoo-oo-oo! Aye, and you’d think there’d be
Some . . . Crow, open this door and let me out! there’s no regard with ye
For a man’s . . . I’ll not ride another yard with ye. . .
Theer then! theer! No, I’ll have none of your goodnights. . .
Conjergal rights! conjergal rights!
No. IV.—GOING TO MEET HIM
A. Yes, yes, I’ll be seem’ him, seem’ Billy
This very night—aw, I’m almost silly
With the thought. Yes, Mrs. Quayle, just a year away,
And he’s comin’ home this very day.
Billy I Billy! aw, the foolish I am!
And you’ll ‘scuse me, ladies, won’t ye now? Aw, I’ll be as qui’t as a lamb,
Yes, I will: and it isn’ right
To be carryin’ on like this afore people, but aw, the delight!
O! I wonder how he’ll be lookin’; he’s that handsome and gud,
Aw yes, aw dear! I wud, I wud,
I wud fly, I wud die! O the darling! O! it’s shockin’,
And I can’t keep qui’t, no, I can’t, no, I can’t, and it’s no use O’ talkin’.
But I’ll try, Mrs. Quayle, you know me; yes, I’ll try, I’ll do my best,
O! I will though, and only proper lek. But how’l he be drest?
O Billy, Billy! will he have his white ducks? ho, ho!
It’s me that ‘d make them like the driven snow;
But these Liverpool washerwomen — chut! the nasty things! aw, I’ll be bail
No notion whatever, no, they haven’; what did ye say, Mrs. Quayle?
Not to be expectin’ too much and I’ll not be disappointed? and I’d batthar —
What, Mrs. Quayle, batthar what, what? what? I’ve got the latthar!
He’s comin’! he’s comin’!” On the spree,” did ye say?
Like the way
With such, Mrs. Quayle? With such!
Mrs. Quayle! Mrs Quayle! Who then? whuch?
This coach is chokin’ me, give me air—
No, no! it isn’ fair,
Navar! no, navar! navar!
No, no! you’re clavar,
You’ve seen a dale,
A dale, no doubt, but that you’ll navar see,
For I love Billy, and Billy loves me!
Is that plain? don’t you know that? It cudn’! it cudn’!
But ye come upon me that sudden.
No, no! that’s not Billy, nor natur’, nor nothin’; that’s foolishness —
But I can’t rest —
This coach is close — the hot I am and the coul’!
(Chorus of conscious women) “Poor sowl! poor sowl!”
B. Now then, now then, what do you say now?
Here he is, and I think you’ll allow,
Eh, Mrs. Quayle, you’ll allow, I think,
Not the smallest sign of drink.
And I ast your pardon humble I do —
I’m forgettin’ myself. But is it you?
Is it you? is it you? Whisper then,
The millish yen!
Close, Billy, close — God knows
I love you, Billy, and you love me,
Don’t you, Billy? my chree! my chree!
Aw, just to hear —
Chut! I’m foolish, but O, the dear!
The — Steady, did ye say? yis, Billy, yis!
Steady it is.
Now, Mrs. Quayle, is he drunk or sober?
Poor ould Billy! And last October
He sailed, poor chap! And it’s me that’s drunk —
With joy you mane? And have you got your trunk —
What am I talkin’? your chiss — dear me! and didn’ I see’t
Comin’ along the street —
Of coorse, and mended—
You tould me. O! isn’ all this beautiful? isn’ it splendid?
Closer, Billy, closer then
Nothin’, but . . . lizzen, Billy, whisp’rin’s free
I love Billy, and he loves me . . .
Do you, Billy? as God’s above,
Do you love
Me, Billy? The word, Billy, as soft as soft —
What am I thinkin of?
Aw, ye said it, ye said it. And now I’ll trouble ye
Is he drunk or sober, this young man, W.
Sayle, by name? Aw, you’ll ‘scuse me, won’t ye?
Aw I didn’ mane to ‘front ye,
Aw nothin’ of the surt! Only, ye see, the glad
I am it’s fit to drive me mad.
And I’m rather young . . . at laste, not that oul’,
You’ll ‘scuse me, won’t ye . . .
(Chorus of conscious women) “Poor sowl! poor sowl!”
No. V.—THE PAZONS
What’s the gud of these Pazons? They’re the most despard rubbage go’n’,
Reg’lar humbugs they are. Show me a Pazon, show me a drone!
Livin’ on the fat of the land, livin’ on the people’s money
The same ‘s the drones is livin’ on the beeses honey.
Aw bless ye! the use of them? not the smallest taste in the world, no!
Grindin’ down the honest workin’ man, just so;
Suckin’ the blood of the poor and needy,
And as greedy’s greedy.
See the tithes, see the fees, see the glebes and all;
What’s the call
For the lek? and their wives go’n’ a takin’ for ladies, and their childhar go’n’ sendin’ to College
Like the fuss of the land. Aw, it bates all knowledge
The uprisement of the lek! And fingerin’ with their piannas,
Them that shud be singin’ their hosannahs
To the King of glory constant. Clap them in the pulfit theer,
What can they do! Aw, come down the steer! come down the steer,
And don’t be disgracin’ yourself that way! That’s what I’ve been thinkin’ many a time:
And let a praecher take his turn, a local, aye, just try ‘m!
Aw, give your people a chance to get salvation.
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion!” That’s the style, and the prespiration
Pourin’ out all over his body! See the wrestlin’,
And the poor Pazon with his collec’ and his pestlin’
And his gosp’lin’. Gospel! Let it sound abroad,
The rael gospel of God!
Aw then the happy I am!
Give us the Lamb I give us the Lamb!
But he can’t, I tell ye, he can’t —
What’s that young man sayin’ theer — rant?
Rant indeed, is that what he’s learnin’
At Oxfoot College, to revile the spirit that’s burnin’
In the hearts of the faithful? Aye, and let it burn, let it blaze!
But here’s the Pazon, if ye plaze,
Cocked up with his little twinkle of a farlin’ rush,
And ‘ll hauk and blush,
And his snips and his snaps
And his scrips and his scraps,
And endin’ up with the Lord’s Prayer quite sudden
Lek the ould woman’s sauce to give a notion of a puddin’,
Aye, puddin’, and drabbin’ with their swishups and dishups
Of the stale ould broth of the law! If all the hands of all the bishops
Was goin’ crookin’ over his head, he wudn’ be a praecher,
Not him, nor a taecher.
You can’t be married without a Pazon? Can’t I though?
Can’t I, Masther Crow?
Give me the chance: I’m a married man with a fam’ly comin’,
But if it plazed the Lord to take Mrs. Creer, d’ye think there’s a woman
‘d refuse to go with me before the High Bailiff down
And ger’ a slick of matrimony put upon us?
Yes, honest thallure: but holy, “holy matrimony,” they’re say’n’:
Holy your grandmother! — At laste, I mane,
And astin’ your pardon, Mrs. Clague!
But the idikkilis people is about the lek o’ yandhar — Aisy with your leg,
Masthar Callow; thank ye! that’ll do —
Yis, Mrs. Clague, and crizzenin’s and funarls too —
Shuperstition., just shuperstition, the whole kit,
Most horrid, just popery, dane popery, that’s it —
Aye, popery and schamin’ and a lie and a delusion and snares
To get money out of the people, which is the Lord’s and not theirs!
Money, money every turn,
Money, money — pay or burn!
And where does it come from? I said it before, and I say it again,
Out of the sweat of the workin’ man,
Aw these priests! these priests! these priests —
Down with them, I say. The brute beasts
Has more sense till us, that’s willin’ to pay blackmail
To a set of rascals, to a pack of — — Good evenin’, Pazon Gale!
Good evenin’, sir, good evenin’! Step up, sir! Make room,
Make room for our respected Vicar — And may I persume
To ax how is Mrs. Gale, sir, and the family?
Does this weather agree —
Rather damp, I dessay! And the Governor’s got knighted?
I’m delighted to see you, sir, delighted, delighted
No. VI.— NOAH’S ARK
(On the road)
“Good gracious! what in the world is this?” — “A lil cauf, ma’am.”
“Why, you don’t mean to say . . .?” — “I’ll take it by the scruff ma’am;
We’ll just lave it at the door.
It’s belongin’ to Mr. Moore.”
“And to think the abominable brute
Was sucking at my boot!
Mr. Crow! Mr. Crow!
I’d have you to know . . .”
“Jus’ a lil cauf ma’am,
Jus’ a lil cauf.”
(Arrival at Ramsey)
“Mercy on us! what next?” — “A lil dunkey, ma’am.”
“A little what? Good heavens!” — “Aw, ye needn’ be funky, ma’am;
I’ll get him out as qui’t . . .
Good people, bring a light!”
“But a solitary female in the dark . . .
With half the beasts in Noah’s ark.
Mr. Crow! Mr. Crow! I’d have you to know . . .”
“Jus’ a lil dunkey, ma’am,
Jus’ a lil dunkey.”
I SAW a little stream to-day
That sprang right away
From the cornice of rock —
Sprang like a deer, not slid;
And the Tritons to mock —
Old dissolute Tritons — “Hurroo!”
They said, “We’ll teach him a thing or two,
This upland babe.” And I’ve no doubt they did.
But, as he lightly fell, midway
His robe of bright spray He flung in my face,
Then down to the soles and the cods
With his sweet young grace.
Ah, what will the stripling learn,
From those rude mates — that mountain burn,
What manners of th’ extremely early gods?
HALF-MAST the flag by sweet St. Mary’s shore,
Half-mast the schooner in Port Erin bay
Death has been with us in the night, of prey
Insatiate from a fold thrice robbed before;
And now he climbs to me upon the hoar
And ruinous rock, and shrouds the gladsome day
With sullen gloom, nor any word will say
That might to strength my sinking heart restore.
Speak, Death, O, speak! What high command restrains
The dark disclosure? Is it thine own will
Thou workest, I adjure thee, shape of fear?
Then from the awful face a shadow wanes,
And, clad in robes of light unspeakable,
God’s loveliest angel sits beside me here.
LOOK at me, sun, ere thou set
In the far sea;
From the gold and the rose and the jet
Look full at me!
Leave on my brow a trace
Of tenderest light;
Kiss me upon the face,
Kiss for good-night.
LITTLE Maggie sitting in the pew,
Eyes of light and lips of dew
What is that to you? what is that to you —
Little Maggie sitting in the pew?
Grinding like a saw-mill,
Worthy Doctor “Cawmill,”
What has he to do,
He so lank and prosy,
With Maggie plump and rosy —
Little Maggie sitting in the pew?
Is burd Maggie stupid?
No, by sweet Saint Cupid!
Rhythmic little sinner,
All that is within her
Chiming like a psalm
In the stellar calm;
Gracious warmth of blood
Making fancies bud
With a tender folly
Into belled corollæ;
Of half-conscious dreams,
Floating her on blisses
Of potential kisses;
Filling all the presence
With a balmy pleasance,
With a kind confusion,
With a quick elusion
Of all ponderous matter
That would fain come at her —
What is that to you,
Little Maggie, little Maggie, sitting in the pew?
Sink the ordered blocks:
Riven with the fiery rant
And hammered with the hammer of John Knox;
Cemented with the cant
Of glutinous emotion;
Riveted with logic
Something, mayhap, to us —
But Maggie, with a “mawgic”
Of which we have no notion,
Upborne upon the tide
Of her young life, has power to hide,
With unbroken sweetness
With a soul-completeness,
All the rock and rubble;
Knowing of no trouble;
With shadows of those lofty things and lonely,
That from the seventh sphere
Pencil their diamond traces
Nowhere but on the mere
Of hearts that stir not from their places.
AN empty laugh, I heard it on the road
Shivering the twilight with its lance of mirth;
And yet why empty? Knowing not its birth,
This much I know, that it goes up to God;
And if to God, from God it surely starts,
Who has within Himself the secret springs
Of all the lovely, causeless, unclaimed things,
And loves them in His very heart of hearts.
A girl of fifteen summers, pure and free,
Æolian, vocal to the lightest touch
Of fancy’s winnowed breath ah, happy such
Whose life is music of the eternal sea.
Laugh on, laugh loud and long, O merry child,
And be not careful to unearth a cause;
Thou art serenely placed above our laws,
And we in thee with God are reconciled.
HALLAM’S CHURCH, CLEVEDON
A GRASSY field, the lambs, the nibbling sheep,
A blackbird and a thorn, the April smile
Of brooding peace, the gentle airs that wile
The Channel of its moodiness, a steep
That brinks the flood, a little gate to keep
The sacred ground — and then that old gray pile,
A simple church wherein there is no guile
Of ornament; and here the Hallams sleep.
Blest mourner, in whose soul the grief grew song,
Not now, methinks, awakes the slumbering pain,
While joy, with busy fingers, weaves the woof
Of Spring. But when the Winter nights are long,
Thy spirit comes with sobbing of the rain,
And spreads itself, and moans upon the roof.
She knelt upon her brother’s grave,
My little girl of six years old —
He used to be so good and brave,
The sweetest lamb of all our fold;
He used to shout, he used to sing,
Of all our tribe the little king —
And so unto the turf her ear she laid,
To hark if still in that dark place he played.
No sound! no sound!
Death’s silence was profound;
And horror crept
Into her aching heart, and Dora wept.
If this is as it ought to be,
My God, I leave it unto Thee.
Each night when I behold my bed
So fair outspread,
And all so soft and sweet —
O, then above the folded sheet
His little coffin grows upon mine eye,
And I would gladly die.
Of all my grief? The Arabian grove
Is cut that costly gums
May float into the nostrils of great Jove.
My heart resembles more a desert land —
Who cuts it cuts but rock, or digs the sapless sand.
O, will it ever come again
That I upon the boundless main
Shall steer me by the light of stars?
Now, locked with sandy bars,
Life’s narrowing channel bids me mark
Each serviceable spark
That Holm or Lundy flings upon the dark.
Thus man is more to me—
But oh the gladness of the outer sea!
O Venus! Mars!
When shall I steer by you again, O stars?
PER OAINIA DEUS
What moves at Cardiff, how a man
At Newport ends the day as he began,
At Weston what adventure may befall,
What Bristol dreams, or if she dream at all,
Upon the pier, with step sedate,
Poor souls! whose God is Mammon.
Meanwhile, from Ocean’s gate,
Keen for the foaming spate,
The true God rushes in the salmon.
NORTON WOOD (Dora’s birthday)
In Norton wood the sun was bright,
In Norton wood the air was light,
And meek anemonies,
Kissed by the April breeze,
Were trembling left and right.
Ah, vigorous year!
Ah, primrose dear
With smile so arch!
Ah, budding larch
Ah, hyacinth so blue,
We also must make free with you!
Where are those cowslips hiding?
But we should not be chiding —
The ground is covered every inch —
What sayest, master finch?
I see you on the swaying bough!
And very neat you are, I vow!
And Dora says it is “the happiest day!”
Her birthday, hers!
And there’s a jay,
And from that clump of firs
Shoots a great pigeon, purple, blue, and gray.
And, coming home,
Well-laden, as we clomb Sweet Walton hill,
A cuckoo shouted with a will—
“Cuckoo! cuckoo!” the first we’ve heard!
“Cuckoo! cuckoo!” God bless the bird!
Scarce time to take his breath,
And now ” Cuckoo!” he saith —
Cuckoo! cuckoo! three cheers!
And let the welkin ring
He has not folded wing
Since last he saw Algiers.
THE BRISTOL CHANNEL
The sulky old gray brute!
But when the sunset strokes him,
Or twilight shadows coax him,
He gets so silver-milky,
He turns so soft and silky,
He’d make a water-spaniel for King Knut.
This sea was Lazarus, all day
At Dives’ gate he lay,
And lapped the crumbs. Night comes;
The beggar dies—
Forthwith the Channel, coast to coast,
Is Abraham’s bosom; and the beggar lies
A lovely ghost.
THE VOICES OF NATURE
This cluck of water in the tangles —
What said it to the Angles?
What to the Jutes,
This wave sip-sopping round the salt sea-roots?
With what association did it hit on
The tympanum of a Damnonian Briton
To tender Guinevere, to Britomart,
The stout of heart,
Along the guarded beach
Spoke it the same sad speech
It speaks to me —
This sopping of the sea
Surely the plash
Of water upon stones,
Encountering in their ears the tones
Of dominant passions masterful,
Made but a bourdon for the chord
Of a great key, that rested lord
Of all the music, straining not the bones
Of Merlin’s scull;
And in the ear of Vivian its frets
Were silver castanets,
That tinkled ‘mong the vanities, and quickened
The free, full-blooded pulse,
Her soul, nor stabbed her to the heart.
Strange! that to me this gurgling of the dulse
Allays no smart,
Consoles no nerve,
Rounds off no curve —
Comes rather like a sigh,
A question that has no reply —
Opens a deep misgiving
What is this life I’m living —
Our fathers were not so —
Silence, thou moaning wrack!
And yet . . . I do not know.
And yet . . . I would go back.
WHAT I can do I do, nor am I vexed,
Nor worn with aimless strife,
As you are, being perplexed
With suppositions, scribbling o’er the text
Of natural life.
And seeing that this is so,
And that I cannot know
The innumerous ills.
Therefore I strew the hills
And vallies with delight,
That, day or night,
In sad or merry plight,
You may catch sight
Of some sweet joy that thrills
And what if I impart
The same to frog or newt,
What if I steep the root
Of some old stump in bright vermilion,
And if the spider in his quaint pavilion
Catches a sunbeam where he thought a fly,
Should I not care for such?
I, who make all things, know it is not much.
And by analogy I must suppose
They have their woes
Therefore I still must strew
Joys that may wait for centuries,
And light at last on Socrates,
Or on the frog, whose eyes
You may have noticed full of bright surprise.
Or have you not? Ah then
You only think of men,
But I would have no single creature miss
One possible bliss.
Is certain: never be afraid!
I love what I have made.
I know this is not wit,
This is not to be clever,
Or anything whatever.
You see, I am a servant, that is it:
The mark – a servant, for the other word –
Why you are Lord, if any one is Lord.
“NE SIT ANCILLÆ”
POOR little Teignmouth slavey,
Squat, but rosy!
Slatternly, but cosy!
A humble adjunct of the British navy,
A fifth-rate dabbler in the British gravy —
How was I mirrored?
In what spiritual dress
Appeared I to your struggling consciousness?
Of first a knife and then a fork!
A mustard-pot! Then slump, stump, frump,
Like slates —
And lastly fearful wrestling with a cork
And so I thought:— “Poor thing
She has not any wing
To waft her from the grease,
To give her soul release
From this dull sphere
Of baccy, beef, and beer.”
But, as it Napped,
I spoke of Chagford, Chagford by the moor,
Sweet Chagford town. Then, pure
And bright as Burton tapped
By master hand,
Then, red as is a peach,
My little maid found speech —
Gave me to understand
She knew “them parts”;
We stood elate,
As each revealed to each
A mate —
She stood, I sate,
And saw within her eyes
The folly of an infinite surprise.
MAY MARGERY of Lynton
Is brighter than the day;
Her eye is like the sun in heaven —
Was ne’er so sweet a May.
May Margery has learnt a tune
To which her soul is set —
The voices of all happy things
Are in its cadence met —
The voices of all happy things
In air, and earth, and sea,
Make music in the little breast
Of sweet May Margery.
And has May Margery a heart?
Nay, child, God give thee grace!
He made it for thee years ago,
And keeps it in a place —
The heart of gold that shall be thine —
But who shall have the key
That opens it — ah, who? ah, who?
Ah, who, May Margery?
At Malmsmead, by the river side
I met a little lady,
And, as she passed, she sang a song
That was not Tate or Brady,
Or any song by art contrived
Of minstrel or of poet,
For baron’s hall, or chanter’s desk;
And yet I seemed to know it.
Good sooth! I think the song was mine —
The all unthinking sadness —
She read it from my longing eyes,
And gave it back in gladness.
And yet it was a challenge too,
As plain as she could make it,
So petulant, so innocent,
And yet I could not take it.
A breath, a gleam, and she is gone —
Just half a minute only —
So die the breaths, so fade the gleams,
And we are left so lonely.
Milk! milk! milk
Straight as the Parson’s bands,
Streaming like silk
Under and over her hands —
What is Mary scheming?
What is Mary dreaming?
Swish! swish! swish!
Pressing her sweet young brow,
Smooth as a dish,
To the side of the sober cow —
Can she tell no tale then?
Nought but milk and pail then?
Strip! strip! strip!
Far away over the sea
Comes there a ship,
The ship of all ships that be?
Ah, little fairy!
Ah, Mary, Mary!
LYNTON TO PORLOCK (Exmoor)
From Lynton when you drive to Porlock,
Just take old Tempus by the forelock —
In any case, don’t hurry; time and tide —
Of course — I know. But, where the roads divide,
Upon the moor,
To shun the via dextra,
And choose the marvellous ride
(One half-hour extra)
That zigzags to a gate
Nigh Porlock town — O, it is great,
That strip of Channel sea,
Backed with the prime of English Arcady!
It is not that the heather rushes
In mad tumultuous flushes
(Trickling ‘s the word I’d use);
But oh the greens and blues
And browns whereon the crimson dwells;
The buds, the bells;
The drop from arch to arch
Of pine and larch;
The scented glooms where soft sun-fainting culvers
Elude the eye,
And fox-gloves, like innumerous-celled revolvers
Shoot honey-tongued quintessence of July!
Sweet breeze that sett’st the summer buds a swaying,
Dear lambs amid the primrose meadows playing,
Let me not think
O floods, upon whose brink
The merry birds are maying,
Dream, softly dream! O blessed mother, lead me
Unsevered from thy girdle — lead me! feed me!
I have no will but thine;
I need not but the juice
Of elemental wine —
Perish remoter use
Of strength reserved for conflict yet to come!
Let me be dumb,
As long as I may feel thy hand —
This, this is all — do ye not understand
How the great Mother mixes all our bloods?
O breeze! O swaying buds!
O lambs, O primroses, O floods!
We saw her die, and she is dead —
Our little sister —
A March wind came and kissed her,
And sighed and fled —
Beyond the hill,
Far in the East we hear him sighing still.
But she is dead,
Our little sister’s dead!
Ah, chill! chill! chill!
Ah, see the drooping head ,
Our sister’s dead —
We know that she is dead.
Andante con moto.
Talitha cumi! O Thou Christ,
Hast kept the tryst?
Laugh not, O maidens! this is He
The Christ that conquers Death —
Dost catch a breath,
O Christ? O, Life!
Talitlie, cumi! See
The tumult as of some sweet strife
Strained tremulous up; up —
“Give her to drink!” He saith —
Yea, Lord, behold, a cup!
O gentle airs of Spring,
Come to the hills and the valleys,
From the South, from the West,
As seems you best,
Rocked in your golden galleys!
Bring the bread, bring the wine,
Bring the smell that’s fine,
Bring the scarf and the bright green wimple!
See, she dips! see, she sips! put your oozy lips
To the curve of each nascent dimple —
To her head, to her feet
So warm and sweet
Bring the rain and the sunshine after;
To the ordered limbs
Where the new life swims,
To the kneaded mesh
Of the soft pink flesh,
Bring baths of dew,
Bring skies of blue —
Bring love, and light, and laughter!
Goldfinch underneath the bough
You are happy now.
Blackbird, as you flit along,
Sing her but one song!
Dove, when twilight wakes unrest,
Lean to her your breast!
O God of Heaven!
These are Thy gifts, to all Thy creatures given —
Love, laughter, light —
Stablish the ancient right,
O God; and bend above them all Thy brooding arch —
Dove, blackbird, goldfinch, larch!
THE EMPTY CUP
FLY away, bark,
Over the sea!
Take thou my grief,
Take it with thee!
Bear it afar
Unto the shore
Where the old griefs are
O, it was hard!
Take it away —
Pressed on my heart
By night and by day.
I will not have it;
Let it go, let it go!
Shall I have nothing
But wailing and woe?
Let it be, let it be!
O, bring it again;
Bring my sorrow to me,
Bring weeping and pain.
Bring my sorrow to me —
After all, it is mine:
O God of my heart,
I will not repine.
For I feel such a lack,
And I am such a stone —
Bring it back, bring it back
It is better to groan
With my old, old load
Than to search within,
And find nothing there
But folly and sin.
O, I cannot bear
This empty cup;
If it must be with gall,
Fill it up! fill it up!
Fill my soul, fill my soul!
And I will bless
The hand that filleth
THE man that hath great griefs I pity not;
‘Tis something to be great
In any wise, and hint the larger state,
Though but in shadow of a shade, God wot!
Moreover, while we wait the possible,
This man has touched the fact,
And probed till he has felt the core, where, packer
In pulpy folds, resides the ironic ill.
And while we others sip the obvious sweet —
Of glutinous rind, lo! this man hath made haste,
And pressed the sting that holds the central seat.
For thus it is God stings us into life,
Provoking actual souls
From bodily systems, giving us the poles
That are His own, not merely balanced strife.
Nay, the great passions are His veriest thought,
Which whoso can absorb,
Nor, querulous halting, violate their orb,
In him the mind of God is fullest wrought.
Thrice happy such an one! Far other he
Who dallies on the edge
Of the great vortex, clinging to a sedge
Of patent good, a timorous Manichee;
Who takes the impact of a long-breathed force,
And fritters it away
In eddies of disgust, that else might stay
His nerveless heart, and fix it to the course.
For there is threefold oneness with the one;
And he is one, who keeps
The homely laws of life; who, if he sleeps,
Or wakes, in his true flesh God’s will is done.
And he is one, who takes the deathless forms,
Who schools himself to think
With the All-thinking, holding fast the link,
God-riveted, that bridges casual storms.
But tenfold one is he, who feels all pains
Not partial, knowing them
As ripples parted from the gold-beaked stem,
Wherewith God’s. galley onward ever strains.
To him the sorrows are the tension-thrills
Of that serene endeavour,
Which yields to God for ever and for ever
The joy that is more ancient than the hills.
OFTEN at a wayside fountain
You may see a pitcher stand,
Stooped beneath the mossy channel,
Purple slate on either hand.
And the streamlet, never heeding
If the pitcher’s brimming o’er,
With an innocent persistence
Lavishes its silver store.
And the crystal-beaded bubbles
Burst upon its lazy lip;
But the well-contented pitcher
Does not even care to sip;
Does not even know that o’er him
There is flowing from the hill
What would fill a thousand pitchers,
And a thousand pitchers still.
Wasted on his gurgling fulness
All its fretting soft and faint,
Wasted all its pretty urging,
All the music of its plaint!
But the streamlet, ever patient,
Ceaseless laves his churlish sides;
For the streamlet has the patience
That in Nature’s heart abides.
Even so at God’s sweet fountain
Some one left me long ago;
Left my shallow soul expectant
Of the everlasting flow.
And it came, and poured upon me,
Rose and mantled to the brim;
And I knew that God was filling
One more soul to carry Him.
So He filled me — then I lost Him,
Lost Him in His own excess;
For He could not but transcend me
In my very nothingness.
Wretched soul, that could’st not hold Him!
Soul incapable and base
Hardly ‘ware that He doth bathe thee
Steeped in largess of His grace!
Puny soul, that could’st not take Him
Torpid soul —that feel’st no need!
Perish from before the Godhead,
Let a larger soul succeed!
“Not so!” saith the God of goodness;
“I have many souls to fill;
From this soul a while desisting,
I will tarry in the hill.
“Then, when it is dry and dusty,
I will seek the thirsty plain;
I will wet the mossy channel,
And the purple slate again.”
“WEARY wind of the West
Over the billowy sea —
Come to my heart, and rest!
Ah, rest with me!
Come from the distance dim
Bearing the sun’s last sigh;
I hear thee sobbing for him
Through all the sky.”
So the wind came,
Purpling the middle sea,
Crisping the ripples of flame —
Came unto me;
Came with a rush to the shore,
Came with a bound to the hill,
Fell, and died at my feet —
Then all was still.
VERIS ET FAVONI
SING, Zephyr, sing
Shed from your dusky wing
Make music with your golden frets —
Sing, Zephyr, sing!
Sigh, Zephyr, sigh!
Give passion to the sky!
The tawny south
Has no such odorous mouth —
Sigh, zephyr, sigh!
Sue, Zephyr, sue!
Bring earth the sunny blue,
The pearly mist
With new-born love-fire kissed —
Sue, Zephyr, sue!
Sip, Zephyr, sip!
The primrose lends her lip,
The crocus thrills,
Love hides among the daffodils —
Sip, Zephyr, sip!
Seek, Zephyr, seek
The vermeil of my lady’s cheek!
So seeking, sipping, suing, sighing, singing,
While old Time his flight is winging,
Tell her to be
Most kind to me.
“Come unto God!” I heard a preacher call:
Immediate God to me,
Who in His bosom lay — “Mind not at all
Such accidents as he —
Mechanical alarum, sightless seer,
Who bids thee come, and knows not thou art here.”
TO-NIGHT I saw three maidens on the beach,
Dark-robed descending to the sea,
So slow, so silent of all speech,
And visible to me
Only by that strange drift-light, dim, forlorn,
Of the sun’s wreck and clashing surges born.
Each after other went,
And they were gathered to his breast —
It seemed to me a sacrament
Of some stern creed unblest;
As when to rocks, that cheerless girt the bay,
They bound thy holy limbs, Andromeda.
ST. BEE’S HEAD
I HAVE seen cliffs that met the ocean foe
As a black bison, with his crouching front
And neck back-coiled, awaits the yelping hunt,
That reck not of his horns protruding low.
And others I have seen with calm disdain
O’erlook the immediate strife, and gaze afar
Eternity was in that gaze; the jar
Of temporal broil assailed not its domain.
Some cliffs are full of pity: in the sweep
Of their bluff brows a kindly tolerance waits,
And smiles upon the petulant sea, that rates,
And fumes, and scolds against the patient steep.
And some are joyous with a hearty joy,
And in mock-earnest wage the busy fight
So may you see a giant with delight
Parrying the buffets of a saucy boy!
Remonstrant others stand — a wild surprise
Glares from their crests against the insolent throng;
Half frightened, half indignant at the wrong,
They look appealing to those heedless skies.
And other some are of a sleepy mood,
Who care not if the tempest does its worst;
What is’t to them if bounding billows burst,
Or winds assail them with their jeerings rude?
But like not unto any one of these
Is that tall crag, that northward guards the bay,
And stands, a watchful sentry, night and day
Above the pleasant downs of old St. Bee’s.
Straight-levelled as the bayonet’s dread array
His shelves abide the charge. Come one, come all!
The blustering surges at his feet shall fall
And writhe and sob their puny lives away.
AN OXFORD IDYLL
AH little mill, you’re rumbling still,
Ah sunset flecked with gold!
Ah deepening tinge, ah purple fringe
Of lilac as of old!
Ah hawthorn hedge, ah light-won pledge
Of kisses warm and plenty,
When she was true, and twenty-two,
And I was two-and-twenty.
I don’t know how she broke her vow —
She said that I was “horty”;
And there’s the mill a goin’ still,
And I am five-and-forty.
And sooth to tell, ’twas just as well,
Her aitches were uncertain;
Her ways though nice, not point-device;
Her father liked his “Burton.”
But there’s a place you cannot trace,
So spare the fond endeavour —
A cloudless sky, where Kate and I
Are twenty-two for ever.
JUST mark that schooner westward far at sea —
‘Tis but an hour ago
When she was lying hoggish at the quay,
And men ran to and fro,
And tugged, and stamped, and shoved, and pushed, and swore,
And ever and anon, with crapulous glee,
Grinned homage to viragoes on the shore.
So to the jetty gradual she was hauled:
Then one the tiller took,
And chewed, and spat upon his hand, and bawled;
And one the canvas shook
Forth like a mouldy bat; and one, with nods
And smiles, lay on the bowsprit-end, and called
And cursed the Harbour-master by his gods.
And, rotten from the gunwale to the keel,
Slime-slobbered, horrible, I saw her reel,
And drag her oozy flank,
And sprawl among the deft young waves, that laughed,
And leapt, and turned in many a sportive wheel,
As she thumped onward with her lumbering draught.
And now, behold! a shadow of repose
Upon a line of gray,
She sleeps, that transverse cuts the evening rose
She sleeps, and dreams away,
Soft-blended in a unity of rest
All jars, and strifes obscene, and turbulent throes
‘Neath the broad benediction of the West —
Sleeps; and methinks she changes as she sleeps,
And dies, and is a spirit pure.
Lo! on her deck an angel pilot keeps
His lonely watch secure;
And at the entrance of Heaven’s dockyard waits,
Till from Night’s leash the fine-breath’d morning leaps,
And that strong hand within unbars the gates.
O, CAN’T she? Listen! There’s a volley!
Stand to your guns, my Ipswich boy
“Ah, ain’t she jolly”
(Young Ipswich telegraphing
To us upon the quay)!
“Some credit chaffing
With her!” Decidedly —
The gen’lemen are looking.” Yes, we are,
My noble Ipswich tar —
“Ain’t her eyes brown?
Ah, can’t she laugh?
And ain’t she all so nice and pert?”
Yes, yes! stand up and flirt!
Flirt for the honour of your native town!
Flirt! flirt! my man of Ipswich. Not so bad!
A good sufficient lad!
See how the strong young hearts
Dance to the tongue-tips; lightning darts
From eye to eye:
The maiden is not shy!
See the two Manxmen on the schooner there,
With all their souls in silent admiration
Of such a very excellent flirtation!
Quite out of it —
Those Manxmen — wait a bit —
Poor fellows! Shall we hail them? No?
Ah well, let’s go.
I THOUGHT of life, the outer and the inner,
As I was walking by the sea:
How vague, unshapen this, and that, though thinner,
Yet hard and clear in its rigidity.
Then took I up the fragment of a shell,
And saw its accurate loveliness,
And searched its filmy lines, its pearly cell,
And all that keen contention to express
A finite thought. And then I recognised
God’s working in the shell from root to rim,
And said:— “He works till He has realised —
O Heaven! if I could only work like Him!”
You might have been as lovely as the dawn,
Had household sweetness nurtured you, and arts
Domestic, and the strength which love imparts
To lowliness, and chastened ardour drawn
From vital sap that burgeons in the brawn
Around the dreadful arms of Hercules,
And shapes the curvature of Dias’s knees,
And has its course in lilies of the lawn.
Even now your flesh is soft and full, defaced
Although it be, and bruised. Unblenched your eyes
Meet mine, as misinterpreting their call,
Then sink, reluctant, forced to recognise
That there are men whose look is not unchaste —
O God! the pain! the horror of it all!
Is it her face that looks from forth the glare
Of those dull stony eyes?
Her face! that used to light with meek surprise,
If I but said that she was fair!
Can it have come to this, since at the gate
Her lips between the bars
Fluttered irresolute to mine, for it was late
Beneath the misty stars!
It was our last farewell, our last farewell —
O heaven above!
And now she is a fearful thing of Hell —
My dove! my dove!
A hollow thing carved rigid on the shell
Of her that was my love!
Yet, if the soul remain,
There crouched and dumb behind the obdurate mask,
This would I ask —
Kill her, O God! that so, the flesh being slain,
Her soul my soul may be again.
I WONDER if in that far isle,
Some child is growing now, like me
When I was child, care-pricked, yet healed the while
With balm of rock and sea.
I wonder if the purple ring
That rises on a belt of blue
Provokes the little bashful thing
To guess what may ensue,
When he has pierced the screen, and holds the further clue.
I wonder if beyond the verge
He dim conjectures England’s coast,
The land of Edwards and of Henries, scourge
Of insolent foemen, at the most
Faint caught where Cumbria looms a geographic ghost.
I wonder if to him the sycamore
Is full of green and tender light,
If the gnarled ash stands stunted at the door,
By salt sea-blast defrauded of its right,
If budding larches feed the hunger of his sight.
I wonder if to him the dewy globes
Like mercury nestle in the caper leaf,
If, when the white narcissus dons its robes,
It soothes his childish grief,
If silver plates the birch, gold rustles in the sheaf.
I wonder if to him the heath-clad mountain
With crimson pigment fills the sensuous cells,
If like full bubbles from an emerald fountain
Gorse-bloom luxuriant wells,
If God with trenchant forms the insolent lushness quells.
I wonder if the hills are long and lonely
That North from South divide;
I wonder if he thinks that it is only
The hither slope where men abide,
Unto all mortal homes refused the other side.
I wonder if some day he, chance-conducted,
Attains the vantage of the utmost height,
And, by his own discovery instructed,
Sees grassy plain and cottage white,
Each human sign and pledge that feeds him with delight.
At eventide, when lads with lasses dally,
And milking Pei sits singing at the pail,
I wonder if he hears along the valley
The wind’s sad sough, half credulous of the tale
How from Slieu-whallian moans the murdered witches’ wail.
I wonder if to him “the boat,” descending
From the proud East, his spirit fills
With a strange joy, adventurous ardour lending
To the mute soul that thrills
As booms the herald gun, and westward wakes the hills.
I wonder if he loves that Captain bold
Who has the horny hand,
Who swears the mighty oath, who well can hold,
Half-drunk, serene command,
And guide his straining bark to refuge of the land.
I wonder if he thinks the world has aught
Of strong, or nobly wise,
Like him by whom the invisible land is caught
With instinct true, nor storms, nor midnight skies
Avert the settled aim, or daunt the keen emprise.
I wonder if he deems the English men
A higher type beyond his reach,
Imperial blood, by Heaven ordained with pen
And sword the populous world to teach;
If awed he hears the tones as of an alien speech:
Or, older grown, suspects a braggart race,
Ignores phlegmatic claim
Of privileged assumption, holding base
Their technic skill and aim,
And all the prosperous fraud that binds their social frame.
Young rebel! how he pants, who knows not what
He hates, yet hates: all one to him
If Guelph, or Buonaparte, or sans-culotte,
If Strafford or if Pym
Usurp the clumsy helm, if England sink or swim.
Ah! crude, undisciplined, when thou shalt know
What good is in this England, still of joys
The chiefest count it thou wast nurtured so
That thou may’st keep the larger equipoise,
And stand outside these nations and their noise.
TO K. H.
O FAR withdrawn into the lonely West,
To whom those Irish hills are as a grave
Cairn-crowned, the dead sun’s monument,
And this fair English land but vaguely guessed —
Thee, lady, by the melancholy wave
I greet, where salt winds whistle through the bent,
And harsh sea-holly buds beneath thy foot are pressed.
What is thy thought? ‘tis not the obvious scene
That holds thee with its grand simplicity
Of natural forms. Thou musest rather
What larger life may be, what richer sheen
Of social gloss in lands beyond the sea,
What nobler cult than where, around thy father,
The silent fishers pray in chapel small and mean.
Yes, thou art absent far — thy soul has slipt
The visual bond, and thou art lowly kneeling
Upon a pavement with the sacred kisses
Of emerald and ruby gleamings lipped;
And down the tunnelled nave the organ, pealing,
Blows music-storm, and with far-floating blisses
Gives tremor to the bells, and shakes the dead men’s crypt.
This is thy thought; for this thou heav’st the sigh.
Yet, lady, look around thee! hast thou not
The life of real men, the home,
The tribe, and for a temple that old sky?
Whereto the sea intones the polyglot
Of water-pipes antiphonal, and the dome,
Round-arched, goes up to God in lapis lazuli?
I’M here at Clifton, grinding at the mill
My feet for thrice nine barren years have trod;
But there are rocks and waves at Scarlett still,
And gorse runs riot in Glen Chass — thank God!
Alert, I seek exactitude of rule,
I step, and square my shoulders with the squad;
But there are blaeberries on old Barrule,
And Langness has its heather still — thank God!
There is no silence here: the truculent quack
Insists with acrid shriek my ears to prod,
And, if I stop them, fumes; but there’s no lack
Of silence still on Carraghyn — thank God!
Pragmatic fibs surround my soul, and bate it
With measured phrase, that asks the assenting nod;
I rise, and say the bitter thing, and hate it,
But Wordsworth’s castle’s still at Peel — thank God!
O broken life! O wretched bits of being,
Unrhythmic, patched, the even and the odd!
But Bradda still has lichens worth the seeing,
And thunder in her caves — thank God! thank God!
WHAT sees our mailie in the lily-pool,
What sees she with that large surprise?
What sees our mailie in the lily-pool
With all the violet of her big eyes —
Our mailie in the lily-pool?
She sees herself within the lily-pool,
Herself in flakes of brown and white —
Herself beneath the slab that is the lily-pool,
The green and liquid slab of light
With cups of silver dight,
Stem-rooted in the depths of amber night
That hold the hollows of the lily-pool —
Our own dear lily-pool!
And does she gaze into the lily-pool
. As one that is enchanted?
Or does she try the cause to find
How the reflection’s slanted,
That sleeps within the lily-pool?
Or does she take it all for granted,
With the sweet natural logic of her kind?
The lazy logic of the lily-pool,
Our own bright, innocent, stupid lily-pool!
She knows that it is nice — our lily-pool:
She likes the water-rings around her knees,
She likes the shadow of the trees,
That droop above the lily-pool;
She likes to scatter with a silly sneeze
The long-legged flies that skim the lily-pool —
The peaceful-sleeping, baby lily-pool.
So may I look upon the lily-pool,
Nor ever in the slightest care
Why I am there;
Why upon land and sea
Is ever stamped the inevitable me;
But rather say with that most gentle fool —
“How pleasant is this lily-pool!
How nice and cool!
Be off, you long-legged flies! oh what a spree!
To drive the flies from off the lily-pool!
From off this most sufficient, absolute lily-pool!”
“NOT WILLING TO STAY”
I SAW a fisher bold yestreen
At his cottage by the bay,
And I asked how be and his had been,
While I was far away.
But when I asked him of the child
With whom I used to play,
The sunniest thing that ever smiled
Upon a summer’s day —
Then said that fisher bold to me —
And turned his face away —
“She was not willing to stay with us —
She was not willing to stay.”
“But, Evan, she was brave and strong,
And blithesome as the May;
And who would do her any wrong,
Our darling of the bay?”
His head was low, his breath was short,
He seemed as he would pray,
Nor answer made in any sort,
That might his grief betray;
Save once again that fisher bold
Turned, and to me did say —
“She was not willing to stay with us,
She was not willing to stay.”
Then I looked upon his pretty cot,
So neat in its array,
And I looked upon his garden-plot
With its flowers so trim and gay;
And I said — “He hath no need of me
To help him up the brae;
God worketh in his heart, and He
Will soon let in the day.”
So I left him there, and sought yon rock
Where leaps the salt sea-spray;
For ah! how many have lost their loves
That were “not willing to stay” with them,
That were not willing to stay!
WE came from church, she from the Down was coming;
She with a branch of may,
We laden with persistence of the humming
Wherein men think they pray;
She winning to her faded face a beauty
From the kissed buds, we having heard “the duty
Performed,” with needful prayer-book thumbing;
We proper, she so gay.
Yet, as we met, her little joy was dashed
By our spruce decency;
She hung her head as who must be abashed
In her poor liberty;
Forgetting how in that damp city cellar
The sick child pines, whom none but God did tell her
To bring bright flowers Himself has splashed
With dew for such as she.
Or was it but the natural rebound
To what thou truly art,
O worn with life! whose soul-depths He would sound,
And prick upon His chart?
Is this thy “service”? Stay! for very grace!
One moment stay, and lift the faded face!
O woman! woman! thou hast found
The way into my heart.
Aw, Billy, good sowl! don’t cuss! don’t cuss!
Ye see, these angels is grand to nuss;
And it’s lek they’re feedin them on some nice air,
Or dew or the lek, that’s handy there,
O Billy, look at my poor poor bress
O Billy, see the full it is!
But . . . O my God! . . . but navar mind!
There’s no doubt them sperrits is very kind —
And of coorse they’re that beautiful it’s lekly
The childher is takin to them directly —
Eh, Billy, eh? . . . And . . . O my head!
Billy, Billy, come to bed! . . .
And the little things that navar knew sin —
And everything as nate as a pin:
And the lovely bells goin’ ding-a-lingin —
And of coorse we’ve allis heard of their singin.
But won’t he want me when he’ll be wakin?
Will they take him up when he’s wantin takin?
I hope he’ll not be left in the dark —
He was allis used to make a wark
If a body ‘d lave him the smallest minute —
Dear me! the little linnet—
But I forgot — it’s allis light
In yandhar place . . . All right! all right!
I forgot, ye see, . . . I’m not very well . .
Light, was I sayin? but who can tell?
Bad for the eyes, though . . . but a little curtain
On a string, ye know — aw certain! certain!
Let me feel your face, Billy! Jus’ us two!
Aw, Billy, the sorry I am for you!
Aw ‘deed it is, Billy, — very disthressin
To lave your childher to another pessin —
But . . . all the little rooms that’s theer —
And Jesus walkin’ up the steer,
And tappin’ lek — I see! I see! —
O Jesus Christ, have pity on me!
But He’ll come, He’ll come! He’ll give a look
Jus’ to see the care that’s took —
O! there’s no doubt He’s very gud —
O, I think He wud, I think He wud
But still . . . but still . . . but I don’t know . . .
O Billy! I think I’d like to go —
What’s that, Billy? did ye hear a cry?
O Illiam, the sweet it ‘d be to die!
IF thou couldst empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — “This is not dead,” —
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — “This is enow
Unto itself — ’Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”
IN sorrow and in nakedness of soul
I look into the street,
If haply there mine eye may meet
As up and down it ranges,
The servants of my Father bearing changes
Of raiment sweet —
Seven changes sweet with violet and moly,
Seven changes pure and holy.
But nowhere ‘mid the thick entangled throng
Mark I their proud sad paces,
Nowhere the light upon their faces
Serene with that great beauty
Wherein the singly meditated duty
Its empire traces:—
Only the fretful merchants stand and cry —
“Come buy! come buy! come buy!”
And the big bales are drunk with all the purple
That wells in vats of Tyre,
And unrolled damasks stream with golden fire
And broideries of Ind,
And, piled on Polar furs, are braveries winned
From far Gadire.
And I am waiting, abject, cold, and numb,
Yet sure that they will come.
O naked soul, be patient in this stead!
“Thrice blest are they that wait.
O Father of my soul, the gate
Will open soon, and they
Who minister to Thee and Thine alway
Will enter straight,
And speak to me, that I shall understand
The speech of Thy great land.
And I will rise, and wash, and they will dress me
As Thou wouldst have me dressed;
And I shall stand confest
Thy son; and men shall falter —
“Behold the ephod of the unseen altar
Thy raiment is not from the looms of earth,
But has a Heavenly birth.”
To live within a cave — it is most good.
But, if God make a day,
And some one come, and say —
“Lo! I have gathered faggots in the wood!”
E’en let him stay,
And light a fire, and fan a temporal mood!
So sit till morning! When the light is grown
That he the path can read,
Then bid the man God-speed!
His morning is not thine; yet must thou own
They have a cheerful warmth — those ashes on the stone.
TAKE him, O Braddan, for he loved thee well —
Take him, kind mother of my own dear dead!
And let him lay his head
On thy soft breast,
And rest —
He loved thee well; and thee, my father, thee
Also he loved. O, meet him! reassure
That heart thou prov’dst so pure —
And peace —
O countrymen, believe me! here is laid
A Manxman’s heart the simplest and the truest:
O Spring, when thou renewest
Thy sunny hours,
And bring them of thy sweetest
And bring them of thy meetest
And, till God’s trumpet wake him,
Take him, O Braddan, take him!
WHEN I would get me to the upper fields,
I look if anywhere
A man be found who craves what joyaunce yields
The keen thin air,
Who loves the rapture of the height,
And fain would snatch with me a perilous delight.
I wait, and linger on the village street,
And long for one to come,
And say — “The morning’s bright, it is not meet
That thou the hum
Of vulgar life shouldst leave, and seek the view
Alone from those great peaks; I surely will go too.”
But not to me comes ever any man;
Or, if he come, dull sleep
Still thickens in his eyes, so that to scan
The beckoning steep
He has no power; and of its scornful cone
Unconscious sits him down, and I go on alone.
Yet children are before me on the slope,
Their dew-bedabbled prints
Press the black fern-roots naked; sunny hope
Darts red, and glints
Upon their hair; but, devious, they remain
Among the bilberry beds, and I go on again.
And so there is no help for it, no mate
To share the arduous way:
Natheless I must ascend ere it grow late,
And, dim and gray,
The final cloud obstruct my soul’s endeavour,
And I see nothing more for ever and for ever.
IN MEMORIAM A. F.
OB. OCT. 12, 1879.
BRIGHT skies, bright sea —
All happy things
That, borne on wings,
Cleave the long distance, glad and free —
A boat — swift swirls
Of foam-wake — boys and girls
And innocence and laughter — She
Was there, and was so happy; and I said —
“God bless the children!”
Dead, say you? “Yes, the last sweet rose
Is gathered” — Close, O close,
O, gently, gently, very gently close
Her little book of life, and seal it up
To God, who gave, who took — O bitter cup O bell!
O folding grave — O mother, it is well —
Yes, it is well. He holds the key
That opens all the mysteries; and He
Has blessed our children — it is well.
METHINKS in Him there dwells alway
A sea of laughter very deep,
Where the leviathans leap,
And little children play,
Their white feet twinkling on its crisped edge,
But in the outer bay
The strong man drives the wedge
Of polished limbs,
Yet there is one will say—
“It is but shallow, neither is it broad” —
And so he frowns; but is he nearer
One saith that God is in the note of bird,
And piping wind, and brook,
And all the joyful things that speak no word:
Then if from sunny nook
Or shade a fair child’s laugh
Is not God half?
And if a strong man gird
His loins for laughter, stirred
By trick of ape or calf —
Is he no better than a cawing rook?
Nay ‘tis a Godlike function; laugh thy fill!
Mirth comes to thee unsought;
Mirth sweeps before it like a flood the mill
Of languaged logic; thought
Hath not its source so high;
Must let it by:
For though the heavens are still,
God sits upon His hill,
And sees the shadows fly;
And if He laughs at fools, why should He not?
“Yet hath a fool a laugh” — Yea, of a sort;
God careth for the fools;
The chemic tools
Of laughter He hath given them, and some toys
Of sense, as ‘twere a small retort
Wherein they may collect the joys
Of natural giggling, as becomes their state:
The fool is not inhuman, making sport
For such as would not gladly be without
That old familiar noise.
Since, though he laugh not, he can cachinnate —
This also is of God, we may not doubt.
“Is there an empty laugh?” Best called a shell
From which a laugh has flown,
A mask, a well
That hath no water of its own,
Part echo of a groan,
Which, if it hide a cheat,
Is a base counterfeit;
But if one borrow
A cloak to wrap a sorrow
That it may pass unknown,
Then can it not be empty. God doth dwell
Behind the feigned gladness,
Inhabiting a sacred core of sadness.
“Yet is there not an evil laugh?” Content —
When Satan fills the hollows
Of his bolt-riven heart
With spasms of unrest,
And calls it laughter; if it give relief
To his great grief,
Grudge not the dreadful jest.
But if the laugh be aimed
At any good thing that it be ashamed,
And blush thereafter,
Then it is evil, and it is not laughter.
There are who laugh, but know not why,
Whether the force
Of simple health and vigour seek a course
Extravagant, as when a wave runs high,
And tips with crest of foam the incontinent curve,
Or if it be reserve
Of power collected for a goal, which had,
Behold! the man is fresh. So when strung nerve,
Stout heart, pent breath, have brought you to the source
Of a great river, on the topmost stie
Of cliff then have you bad
All heaven to laugh with you; yet somewhere nigh
A shepherd lad
Has wondering looked, and deemed that you were mad.
I WAS in Heaven one day when all the prayers
Came in, and angels bore them up the stairs
Unto a place where he
Who was ordained such ministry
Should sort them so that in that palace bright
The presence-chamber might he duly dight;
For they were like to flowers of various bloom;
And a divinest fragrance filled the room.
Then did I see how the great sorter chose
One flower that seemed to me a hedgeling rose,
And from the tangled press
Of that irregular loveliness
Set it apart — and “This,” I heard him say,
“Is for the Master”: so upon his way
He would have passed; then I to him —
“Whence is this rose? O thou of cherubim
The chiefest?” — “Know’st thou not?” he said and smiled,
“This is the first prayer of a little child.”
IN A FAIR GARDEN
IN a fair garden
I saw a mother playing with her child,
And, with that chance beguiled,
I could not choose but look
How she did seem to harden
His little soul to brook
Her absence — reconciled
With after boon of kisses,
And sweet irrational blisses.
For she would hide
With loveliest grace
Of seeming craft
Till he was ware of none beside
Himself upon the place:—
And then he laughed;
And then he stood a space
Disturbed, his face
Prepared for tears;
And half-acknowledged fears
Met would-be courage, balancing
His heart upon the spring
Of flight — till, waxing stout,
He gulped the doubt.
So up the pleached alley
Full swift he ran
Not long delayed,
Rushed forth with joyous sally
Upon her little man.
Then was it good to see
How each to other made
A pretty rapture of discovery.
Blest child! blest mother! blest the truth ye taught —
God seeketh us, and yet He would be sought.
WHEN all the sky is pure
My soul takes flight,
Serene and sure,
Upward — till at the height
She weighs her wings,
But when the heaven is black,
And west-winds sigh,
Beat back, beat back,
She has no strength to try
The drifting rain
So cheaply baffled! see!
The field is bare —
Behold a tree —
Is’t not enough? Sit there,
Thou foolish thing!
SCARCE loosed from Crete —
Then, borne on wings of flame
The Euroclydon came.
Strained yard, bent mast,
With fury of his mouth
Compels us to the South
Canst see, for spume
And mist, and writhen air,
Of Clauda anywhere?
Balked hopes, fooled wit!
Ah soul, to gain this loss,
The shelter of His cross?
Dear Lord, if thou
Wouldst walk upon the sea,
Unblenched should turn to Thee.
Wind roars, wave yelps —
To Thy blest side I’d slip,
And undergird the ship.
HIGH stretched upon the swinging yard,
I gather in the sheet;
But it is hard
And stiff, and one cries haste:—
Then He that is most dear in my regard
Of all the crew gives aidance meet;
But from His hands, and from His feet,
A glory spreads wherewith the night is starred:
Moreover of a cup most bitter-sweet
With fragrance as of nard,
And myrrh, and cassia spiced,
He proffers me to taste.
Then I to Him — “Art Thou the Christ?”
He saith — “Thou say’st.”
Like to an ox
That staggers ‘neath the mortal blow,
She grinds upon the rocks:—
Then straight and low
Leaps forth the levelled line, and in our quarter locks.
The cradle’s rigged; with swerving of the blast
Our Captain last —
“Who fired that shot?” Each silent stands —
Ah, sweet perplexity!
This too was He.
I have an arbour wherein came a toad
Most hideous to see —
Immediate, seizing staff or goad,
I smote it cruelly.
Then all the place with subtle radiance glowed —
I looked, and it was He!
A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Ferned grot —
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not —
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
THERE is a place where He hath split the hills;
No water fills
A bow-shot wide
Side stands to side,
Indenture perfectly opposed,
The outlet closed
By seeming overlap —
So severed are our hearts, so rent our wills;
And yet the old correlatives remain —
Ah! brother, may we not be joined again?
I KNOW ‘tis but a loom of land,
Yet is it land, and so I will rejoice,
I know I cannot hear His voice
Upon the shore, nor see Him stand;
Yet is it land, ho! land.
The land! the land! the lovely land!
“Far off” dost say? Far off — ah, blessed home!
Farewell I farewell! thou salt sea-foam!
Ah, keel upon the silver sand —
Land, ho! land.
You cannot see the land, my land,
You cannot see, and yet the land is there —
My land, my land, through murky air —
I did not say ‘twas close at hand —
But — land, ho! land.
Dost hear the bells of my sweet land,
Dost hear the kine, dost hear the merry birds?
No voice, ‘tis true, no spoken words,
No tongue that thou may’st understand —
Yet is it land, ho! land.
It’s clad in purple mist, my land,
In regal robe it is apparelled,
A crown is set upon its head,
And on its breast a golden band —
Land, ho! land.
Dost wonder that I long for land?
My land is not a land as others are —
Upon its crest there beams a star,
And lilies grow upon the strand —
Land, ho! land.
Give me the helm! there is the land!
Ha! lusty mariners, she takes the breeze
And what my spirit sees it sees—
Leap, bark, as leaps the thunderbrand—
Land, ho! land.
EXPECTING Him my door was open wide:
Then I looked round
If any lack of service might be found,
And saw Him at my side:—
How entered, by what secret stair,
I know not, knowing only He was there.
EASTWARD the valley of my soul was lit
This morning: now the West hath laid
Upon its fields the festal robe,
And East hath shade.
Full soon the night shall fit
Her star-besprinkled serge
On hill, and rock, and bay;
But even then behind the mounting globe
God makes a verge
Of dawn that shall be day.
POETS AND POETS
HE fishes in the night of deep sea pools
For him the nets hang long and low,
Cork-buoyed and strong; the silver-gleaming schools
Come with the ebb and flow
Of universal tides, and all the channels glow.
Or, holding with his hand the weighted line,
He sounds the languor of the neaps,
Or feels what current of the springing brine
The cord divergent sweeps,
The throb of what great heart bestirs the middle deeps.
Thou also weavest meshes, fine and thin,
And leaguer’st all the forest ways;
But of that sea and the great heart therein
Thou knowest nought: whole days
Thou toil’st, and hast thy end — good store of pies and jays.
As I was carving images from clouds,
And tinting them with soft ethereal dyes
Pressed from the pulp of dreams, one comes, and cries —
“Forbear!” and all my heaven with gloom enshrouds.
“Forbear! Thou hast no tools wherewith to essay
The delicate waves of that elusive grain
Wouldst have due recompense of vulgar pain?
The potter’s wheel for thee, and some coarse clay
“So work, if work thou must, O humbly skilled!
Thou hast not known the Master; in thy soul
His spirit moves not with a sweet control;
Thou art outside, and art Dot of the guild.”
Thereat I rose, and from his presence passed,
But, going, murmured — “To the God above,
Who holds my heart, and knows its store of love,
I turn from thee, thou proud iconoclast.”
Then on the shore God stooped to me, and said —
“He spake the truth: even so the springs are set
That move thy life, nor will they suffer let,
Nor change their scope; else, living, thou went dead.
“This is thy life: indulge its natural flow;
And carve these forms. They yet may find a place
On shelves for them reserved. In any case,
I bid thee carve them, knowing what I know.”
A MORNING WALK
“LIE there,” I said, “my Sorrow! lie thou there!
And I will drink the lissome air,
And see if yet the heavens have gained their blue.”
Then rose my Sorrow as an aged man,
And stared, as such a one will stare,
A querulous doubt through tears that freshly ran;
Wherefore I said — “Content! thou shalt go too. ”
So went we through the sunlit crocus-glade,
I and my Sorrow, casting shade
On all the innocent things that upward pree,
And coax for smiles: but, as I went, I bowed,
And whispered — “Be no whit afraid!
He will pass sad and gentle as a cloud —
It is my Sorrow leave him unto me.”
And every floweret in that happy place
Yearned up into the weary face
With pitying love, and held its golden breath,
Regardless seeming he, as though within
Was nothing apt for their sweet grace,
Nor any sense save such as is akin
To charnel glooms and emptiness of death.
Then sung a lusty bird, whose throat was clear
And strong with elemental cheer,
Till very heaven seemed lifted with the joy:
Jet after jet tumultuous music burst
Fount-like, and filled the expanding sphere;
Whereat my soul was fain to slake its thirst,
Intent, and ravished with that blest employ.
The songster ceased:— articulate as a bell,
The rippling echoes fell and fell
Upon the shore of silence. Then I turned
To call upon my Sorrow — he was not;
But O, what splendour filled the dell!
There I there I O, there! upon the very spot
Where he had been an awful glory burned.
It was as though the mouth of God had kissed
And purpled into amethyst
Wan lips, as though red-quickening ichor rills
Had flushed his heart: ‘Twas he no more, no more!
‘Twas she, my soul’s evangelist,
My rose, my love, and lovelier than before,
Dew-nurtured on the far Celestial hills.
“O love,” I cried, “I come, I come to thee!
Stay! stay!” But softly, silently,
As pales the moon before the assault of day,
So, spectral-white against the brighter blue,
Faded my darling. But with me
Walks never more that shadow. God is true,
And God was in that bird, believe it as ye may.
IN MEMORIAM J. MACMEIKIN
DIED April 1883
EXCELLENT Manxman, Scotia gave you birth,
But you were ours, being apt to take the print
Of island forms, the mood, the tone, the tint;
Nor missed the ripples of the larger mirth:
A lovely soul has sought the silent firth;
Yet haply on our shores you still may hint
A delicate presence, though no visible dint
Betrays where you have touched the conscious earth.
You walk with our loved “Chalse”; you help him speak
A gracious tongue, to us not wholly clear,
And sing the “Hymns ” — fond dream that wont to dwell
In his confusion. Friend of all things weak,
Go down to that sweet soil you held so dear!
Go up to God, and joys unspeakable!
“GOD IS LOVE”
AT Derby Haven in the sweet Manx land
A little girl had written on the sand
This legend — “God is love.” But, when I said —
“What means this writing?” thus she answered —
“It’s father that’s at ‘say,’
And I come here to pray,
And . . . God is love.” My eyes grew dim —
Blest child! in Heaven above
Your angel sees the face of Him
Whose name is love.
THE INTERCEPTED SALUTE
A LITTLE maiden met me in the lane,
And smiled a smile so very fain,
So full of trust and happiness,
I could not choose but bless
The child, that she should have such grace
To laugh into my face.
She never could have known me: but I thought
It was the common joy that wrought
Within the little creature’s heart,
As who should say — “Thou art
As I; the heaven is bright above us;
And there is God to love us.
And I am but a little gleeful maid,
And thou art big, and old, and staid;
But the blue hills have made thee mild
As is a little child.
Wherefore I laugh that thou may’st see —
O, laugh! O, laugh with me!”
A pretty challenge! Then I turned me round,
And straight the sober truth I found:
For I was not alone; behind me stood,
Beneath his load of wood,
He that of right the smile possessed —
Her father manifest.
O, blest be God! that such an oveplus
Of joy is given to us;
That that sweet innocent
Gave me the gift she never meant,
A gift secure and permanent;
For, howsoe’er the smile had birth,
It is an added glory on the earth.
THE fashions change, for change is dear to men;
“Παντων γλνκντατον μεταβολη”
Opined the Greek who had the widest ken —
“Change of all things that be
Is sweetest.” Yet since Leda’s egg swans strive
To innovate no curvature on that,
And gannets dive as Noah saw them dive
O’er sunken Ararat.
[“ANOTHER unfortunate creature was soon afterwards subjected to the same treatment, although it was admitted she had ‘a degree of unsettledness and defect of understanding,’ and, as was certified by the clergy, that she had submitted ‘with as much submission and discretion as can be expected of the like of her,’ and ‘considering the defect of her understanding.’ The records state —’Forasmuch as neither Christian advice nor gentle modes of punishment are found to have any effect on Kath. Kinred of Kirk Christ, a notorious strumpet, who had brought forth three illegitimate children, and still continues to stroll about the country, and lead a most vicious and scandalous life on other accounts; all which tending to the great dishonour of the Christian name, and to her own utter destruction without a timely and thorough reformation. It is therefore hereby ordered (as well for the further punishment of the said delinquent as for the example of others) that the said Kath. Kinred be dragged after a boat in the sea at Peel, on Wed., the 17th inst. (being the fair of St. Patrick), at the height of the market To which end, a boat and boat’s crew are to be charged by the general sumner, and the constable and soldiers of the garrison are, by the Governor’s order, to be aiding and assisting in seeing this censure performed. And in case any owner, master, or crew of any boat are found refractory, by refusing or neglecting to perform this service for the restraining of vice, their names are to be forthwith given in by the general sumner, to the end they may be severally fined for their contempt, as the Governor’s order directs. Dated at Bishop’s Court this 15th day of March, 1713.
THOS SODOR AND MAN.
“It was certified by the Sumner General so long after as July 13th ensuing, that ‘St. Patrick’s day being so stormy and tempestuous that no boat could perform the within censure, upon St.German’s day about the height of the market the within Kath. Kinred was dragged after a boat in the sea according to the within order.’ However, poor Katherine Kinred is not yet done with, for on the 27th Oct., 1718, having had a fourth bastard child, and ‘after imprisonment, penance, dragging in the sea, continuing still remorseless,’ and notwithstanding her ‘defect of understanding,’ she is again ‘ordered to be twenty-one days closely imprisoned, and (as soon as the weather will permit) dragged in the sea again after a boat, and also perform public penance in all the churches of this island.’ After undergoing all this, she is apparently penitent ‘according to her capacity,’ and is ordered by the Bishop ‘ to be received into the peace of the Church, according to the forms appointed for that purpose.’ ‘Given under my hand this 13th day of Aug., 1720.”‘
See Manx Society’s Publications, vol. xi. pp. 98, 99.]
NONE spake when Wilson stood before
The throne —
And He that sat thereon
Spake not; and all the presence-floor
Burnt deep with blushes, as the angels cast
Their faces downwards. Then at last,
Awe-stricken, he was ware
How on the emerald stair
A woman sat, divinely clothed in white,
And at her knees four cherubs bright,
Their heads within her lap. Then, trembling, he essayed
To speak —”Christ’s mother, pity me!”
Then answered she —
“Sir, I am Catherine Kinrade.”
Even so — the poor dull brain,
Drenched in unhallowed fire,
It had no vigour to restrain —
God’s image trodden in the mire
Of impious wrongs — whom last he saw
Gazing with animal awe
Before his harsh tribunal, proved unchaste,
Incorrigible, woman’s form defaced
To uttermost ruin by no fault of hers —
So gave her to the torturers.
And now — some vital spring adjusted,
Some faculty that rusted
Cleansed to legitimate use —
Some undeveloped action stirred, some juice
Of God’s distilling drops into the core
Of all her life — no more
In that dark grave entombed,
Her soul had bloomed
To perfect woman — swift celestial growth
That mocks our temporal sloth —
To perfect woman — woman made to honour,
With all the glory of her youth upon her.
And from her lips and from her eyes there flowed
A smile that lit all Heaven — the angels smiled;
God smiled, if that were smile beneath the state that glowed
Soft purple — and a voice — “Be reconciled!”
So to his side the children crept,
And Catherine kissed him, and he wept.
Then said a seraph: —”Lo! he is forgiven.”
And for a space again there was no voice in Heaven.
NATURE AND ART
I ONCE loved Nature so that man was nought
And nought the works of man,
Whether the human force that inward wrought
My vital needs outran,
And, bidden by great Pan,
In its all-quickening arms the visible deadness caught —
Or was it accident of time and place?
For men were few to see
Where I was reared, and Nature’s copious grace
Of form and colour free
Eclipsed the piety
Of childish social loves, and motions of the race —
I know not quite: but this to me is known,
That, with a soft unrest,
Soul unto soul in perfect aptness grown,
I drew her to my breast,
A personal creature pressed,
Full of a passionate will, and moods that were her own.
Her own, yet, modulate and tuned to mine,
She shaped her meek replies
So that I ne’er bethought me to divine
If in her wondrous eyes
A light congenial lies,
Or, sprung from alien blood, insensate glories shine.
If homogeneous with me or not
The question never tried me,
Or when, or wherefore, or of whom begot,
She seemed to stand outside me,
To soothe me and to guide me,
Another, or myself reflex, who cared one jot?
Thrice blest if I might roam on fell or shore
In exquisite solitude,
And uncontrolled the οαριστνς pour
That with its interlude,
Far from all discord rude,
Comes once to fresh young hearts, and comes not evermore.
Oh poet flush of all-compelling youth!
Oh great interpreter!
Oh artist prescient of the higher truth!
Oh confident Lucifer!
Oh nobly prone to err!
Oh shadowless of doubt, oh innocent of ruth!
Oh instinct vast! oh indiscriminate mind!
Not thus, but hesitant long,
That sculptor won the marble to be kind;
Thus rather, right or wrong
Untaught, Ixion strong
Held Nephele in arms a god might not unbind.
Then came the interact of will on will
The monad soul to frame;
And I was one of many, passion still,
And use, and praise, and blame,
The different, the same,
Shaping the definite self with change of good and ill.
A man with other men I had to dwell;
I had to love and hate,
To traffic with my heart, to buy and sell
Love’s wares at current rate,
Mine enemies in the gate
With keen-edged sword of speech to harass and to quell.
Wherefore I come a being manifold,
Nature, to sue thy grace;
It is not that my heart is growing cold,
If, conscious of my race,
I look into thy face
With a less simple trust than that I felt of old.
It is because thou seem’st at our alarms
Unmoved: the ages fall
Helpless from out the rigour of thine arms,
Thou heeding not at all
If bridal veil or pall
Illustrate or obscure the glory of thy charms.
It is because, with all thy loveliness,
Thou hast no delicate flush
Of feeling instant in its brimmed excess,
And rippled at the brush
Of lightest thought: the hush
Is thine of ordered change, fixed and emotionless.
It is because thou canst not apprehend
Beyond our simplest needs,
Because, obedient to thy native end,
Thou knowest only deeds
Where link to link succeeds,
And no irrational gaps the golden sequence rend.
It is because the tracks of errant souls
Appear to thee so straight,
Unskilled to mark how latent force controls
The bias and the rate,
How inward grasping fate
Collects the various lines, and diverse sends the bowls.
Moreover, all the things that men have done
The things that men have said,
Have made another light beneath the sun,
Another darkness shed,
Another soul-stream fed,
To cool in other wells, o’er other weirs to run.
I grant thou hast the very notes of prime,
But of the thousand tunes
Wherewith our summer loads the growing time,
The joyaunce of our Junes,
The full chromatic noons,
There is no scale to fit thy diapason chime.
Nor wilt thou, kindly monished, recognise
Of life the complex game:
We are not now as when, ‘neath kindlier skies
Begot, to that great dame
Th’ auroral offspring came;
We are no babes astride upon Eve’s awful thighs.
So, haply, one has known a foster-sister,
And, when the years have gone,
Has felt, with all his hopes, as if he missed her,
And come, and looked upon
Her face, and proved anon
Her eyes were meaningless, and, sadly silent, kissed her.
Oh Heaven! the mannikin! Is this gratitude?
“A foster-sister,” saidst thou?
“A complex game?” What fell Locusta stewed
That damned fucus? Spread’st thou
The stuff upon thee? wed’st thou
That specious harlotry from Hell’s black bosom spewed?
Up, up! for shame! She is thy sister: love her,
Come to her yet again:
Think not thine own quintessenced self above her!
Oh see how she is fain
Her shyness to explain!
Oh! understand the blush her virgin cheek doth cover!
Eve, Adam! Yes, and all that Eden sap —
Is it impossible?
‘Twould do thee good to lie in her great lap,
To have thy utmost will,
To fill thy utmost fill,
Creamed from the copious duct of that primeval pap.
Thou talk’st of music, and of tunes accord
With specialties to flirt —
What wouldst thou have? a homily — good lord!
A logic malapert,
With pretty fence expert,
The play of thy caprice infallible to ward?
O fool! O fool! This is the very acme;
Far far within the cells
Of winding thought where man may never track me
She takes me, and she tells
The quaintest things, and spells
Ineffable spirit-tunes, and lulls the cares that rack me.
O twilight bliss! O happy even-song!
How well I know thy power!
O heather bells, that peal your faint ding-dong!
O bee in sunny hour
Urging from flower to flower
The shrill-resounding brass of thy most patient gong
O prelude of the windy-wailing morn!
O long-drawn moorland whistle!
O rustling of the multitudinous corn!
O sough of reed or thistle!
O holy, holy missal
Intoned by hooded clouds! oh joy that I was born!
But thou’rt a being manifold — alack!
And tak’st the simple sense
Into thy crucible, and giv’st it back
Brain-filtered and intense,
And Nature is too dense
Forsooth! to hit thy scope, and imitate the knack!
Nay, what is this thou of thyself hast made?
Is this development?
O Lord of all the souls! is this the trade
For which we here were sent?
Is’t not an accident,
By-play of function-work, by casual contact swayed?
Tis not essential, though the world is roomy,
That I should coexist
With any animal bipes implume,
It is the core and gist
Of life that I should list
To Nature’s voice alone, and hearken if she woo me.
But, as it is, innumerous bipeds press
And crowd on one another,
Nor would I have one animal the less,
And I must know my brother,
Some odd misgivings smother,
And smile, and chat, and take my commons with the mess.
Of course, the absolutest slave that crawls
Is social: so am I:
I have a place, I live within four walls —
Even horse to horse will try
Some matter of reply,
And hear his neighbour munch, and whinny o’er the stalls.
But this is accident, casual relation,
To the main purport of our earthly station,
Which is to permeate
One soul with fullest freight
Of constant natural forms, not factual complication.
Else were our life both frivolous and final,
A mere skiomachy,
Not succulent of growth, not officinal
To what shall after be,
But Fortune’s devilry
Of Harlequin with smirk theatro-columbinal —
A changeling life, that to the world’s great heart
Just leans its elfish lips,
And soon falls off, and dies an imp confest,
And seeks the void, and skips,
As the dull Fury whips
The ineffectual ghosts, and drives it with the rest.
And, if the man has ‘scaped such inanition,
Then why, returning here,
Does he not speak the language of contrition,
And strip the base veneer
From his poor soul, and fear,
And seek the long-lost love that saved him from perdition?
What means this talk of “complex game,” and matters
That she “cannot divine”?
I tear this wretched sham of his to tatters:
O blessed nature-wine!
O sacred anodyne!
He is fact-poisoned, he! and knows not what he chatters.
Let him come humbly, let him make confession
It is no fault of hers
If he is all too dull to catch th’ expression
Of her great thought, or blurs
Its mobile signatures
With mediate glare of self, and balks the true possession.
O sweet Titania, bedded in the cities! —
I hate to think of it —
Pranking that ass’s head with daffodillies,
That in his puzzled wit
Knows not thou art more fit
To hold in odorous arms the Peleid Achilles!
And yet he says, his lip fastidious-curled,
Take him, good Puck, I prythee have him hurled
To where he is more native,
To chums communicative —
Snout, Snug, the parish club he fondly calls the world.
For me the happiness — my good I find
In Nature’s energies,
And am not frustrate. Nature is not blind
In promptings such as these,
But holds the secret keys
Wherewith the wards that fence our hope she can unwind.
Both wrong, both right. Tis God appoints our state —
Nature and art are one —
True art, true nature, never separate
In things beneath the sun.
So is His pleasure done
Who moulds the wills of men, and grasps the bars of fate.
O LIFE of man, if life ’tis meet to call
This rolling with a rolling ball
Some seventy periods round the sun,
O life that only art to have begun
A life, then straight art not a life at all.
O rigid curve mechanical,
If thou wert only absolute,
If all our energies were summed in thee,
If one great pathos thrilled the iron ring,
If, points upon the circle, fixed and mute,
We felt the dominant spring
And strain of power, then were it blest to be —
Not death would all be death, if, truly free,
We had the motion of the sphere,
If no quick atom jarred
Oblique, and crossed the act divine,
And vexed the loyal round with idiot cheer
Of self, and scrabbled all the line
With zigzags of the will, and kindly oneness marred.
WHEN Jessie comes with her soft breast,
And yields the golden keys,
Then is it as if God caressed
Twin babes upon His knees —
Twin babes that, each to other pressed,
just feel the Father’s arms, wherewith they both are blessed.
But when I think if we must part,
And all this personal dream be fled —
O, then my heart! O, then my useless heart!
Would God that thou wert dead —
A clod insensible to joys or ills —
A stone remote in some bleak gully of the hills!
O MOTHER Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, oh I love thee!
And yet they say that I must leave thee soon;
And if it must be so,
Then to what sun or moon
Or star I am to go,
Or planet, matters not for me to know.
O mother Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, oh I love thee
Oh whither will you send me?
Oh wherefore will you rend me
From your warm bosom, mother mine —
I can’t fix my affections
On a state of conic sections,
And I don’t care how old Daedalus
May try to coax and wheedle us
With wings he manufactures,
Sure to end in compound fractures,
Or in headers at right-angles to the brine —
O mother Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, oh I love thee!
I cannot leave thee, mother;
I love thee, and not another;
And I can’t say “man and brother”
To a shadowy abstraction,
To an uncomfortable fraction,
To the skeletons of quiddities,
And similar stupidities.
Have mercy, mother, mercy!
The unjustest of novercae
Sometimes leaves off her snarlings
At her predecessor’s darlings;
And thou art all my mother,
I know not any other.
O mother Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, oh I love thee!
So let me leave thee never,
But cling to thee for ever,
And hover round thy mountains,
And flutter round thy fountains
And pry into thy roses fresh and red;
And blush in all thy blushes,
And flush in all thy flushes,
And watch when thou art sleeping,
And weep when thou art weeping,
And be carried, with thy motion,
As the rivers and the ocean,
As the great rocks and the trees are
And all the things one sees are —
O mother, this were glorious life,
This were not to be dead.
O mother Earth, by the bright sky above thee,
I love thee, oh love thee!
How cold and hungry is the sea to-day,
How clamorous against the thrifty shore,
That yields not of her store
Save sands, and weeds, and pebbles of the
“Give more! give more!”
Methinks I hear him say;
“And drive the hunger of my heart away!
“Give me of sunny flowers, of golden grain,
Of meadows sopped with sippings of the dew;
Small loss it were to you,
To me great solace of my endless pain;
For few! ah, few!
And shadowy and vain
The joys that haunt my solitary reign!
“Take me for ever to your constant breast,
O land, O lovely, most unchanging land!
Can you not understand
How all my restlessness desires your rest?
What murderer’s brand
Is stamped by God’s behest
Upon this brow, that you should loathe my quest?
O mute, insensate land! nor voiceless she,
For she can speak, and I have heard her speak,
When zephyrs kissed her cheek,
Love-whispering in the twilight on the lea;
Then, hushed, and meek,
I’ve heard her gentle glee,
And schooled my heart to think ’twas not for me.
“Sometimes at evening I have heard you pray,
And listened, looking up the misty glen,
And only said Amen,
Else silent, lest one sound uncaught should stray;
And then, O then!
‘Our Father,’ you did say;
But I have been a wanderer wild alway.
“Oh I am hungry, hungry at my heart!
Give me, O, give me, even of thy worst!
Give, as to one accurst,
Drear moorlands, and all rushy fens, where start
Black streams, that, nurst
In barrenness, must part!
Give me but wastes and snippets of the chart!”
Thus speaks the sea, his hue all ashen gray
With paleness of inveterate desires;
Then on the ebb retires —
Full strange it seems that that cold heart should sway
With passionate fires!
But ah! my soul can say
How vain it is when she requires
The coast, so near, yet on whose absolute spires
Looms the sad frown of an eternal “Nay.”
THE PEEL LIFE-BOAT
OF Charley Cain, the cox,
And the thunder of the rocks,
And the ship St. Georg,
How he balked the sea-wolf’s gorge
Of its prey —
Southward bound from Norraway;
And the fury and the din,
And the horror and the roar,
Rolling in, rolling in,
Rolling in upon the dead lee-shore.
See the Harbour-master stands,
Cries — “Have you all your hands?”
Then, as an angel springs
With God’s breath upon his wings,
And the black storm robe was rent
With the shout and with the din
And the horror and the roar
Rolling in, rolling in,
Rolling in upon the dead lee-shore.
And the castle walls were crowned,
And no woman lay in swound,
But they stood upon the height
Straight and stiff to see the fight,
For they knew
What the pluck of men can do:
With the fury and the din
And the horror and the roar, etc.
“Lay aboard her, Charley lad!”
“Lay aboard her! — Are you mad?
With the bumping and the scamper
Of all this loose deck hamper,
And the yards
Dancing round us here like cards,”
With the fury and the din
And the horror and the roar, etc.
So Charley scans the rout,
Charley knows what he’s about,
Keeps his distance, heaves the line —
“Pay it out there true and fine!
Not too much, men!
Take in the slack, you Dutchmen!”
With the fury and the din, etc.
Now the hauler’s fast and steady,
And the traveller rigged and ready.
Says Charley — “What’s the lot?”
“Twenty-four.” Then like a shot —
Says Charley, “‘s all I see” —
With the fury, etc.
“Not a soul shall leave the wreck,”
Says Charley, “till on deck
You bring the man that’s hurt.”
So they brought him in his shirt —
Oh it’s fain
I am for you, Charles Cain —
With the fury, etc.
And the Captain and his wife,
And a baby! odds my life!
Such a beauty! such a prize!
And the tears in Charlev’s eyes.
Arms of steel,
For the honour of old Peel
Haul away amid the din, etc.
Sing ho! the seething foam!
Sing ho! the road for home!
And the hulk they’ve left behind,
Like a giant stunned and blind
With the loom
And the boding of his doom —
With the fury, etc.
“Here’s a child! don’t let it fall! ”
Says Charley, “Nurse it, all!”
O the tossing of the breasts!
O the brooding of soft nests,
As each maid and mother yearns
For the babe that ‘soaped the din
And the fury and the roar, etc.
See the rainbow bright and broad!
Now, all men, thank ye God,
For the marvel and the token,
And the word that He hath spoken!
O Lord of all that be,
We have peace amid the din,
And the horror and the roar,
Rolling in, rolling in,
Rolling in upon the dead lee-shore.
OF two things one — with Chaucer let me ride,
And hear the Pilgrims’ tales; or, that denied,
Let me with Petrarch in a dew-sprent grove
Ring endless changes on the bells of love.
DANTE AND ARIOSTO
IF Dante breathes on me his awful breath,
I rise and go; but I am sad as death —
I go; but, turning, who is that I see?
I whisper — “Ariosto, wait for me!”
BOCCACCIO, for you laughed all laughs that are—
The Cynic scoff, the chuckle of the churl,
The laugh that ripples over reefs of pearl,
The broad, the sly, the hugely jocular;
Men call you lewd, and coarse, allege you mar
The music that, withdrawn your ribald skirl,
Were sweet as note of mavis or of merle —
Wherefore they frown, and rate you at the bar.
One thing is proved — To count the sad degrees
Upon the Plague’s dim dial, catch the tone
Of a great death that lies upon a land,
Feel nature’s ties, yet hold with steadfast hand
The diamond, you are three that stand alone —
You, and Lucretius, and Thucydides.
TO E. M. O.
CHANCE-CHILD of some lone sorrow on the hills,
Bach finds a babe: instant the great heart fills
With love of that fair innocence,
Conveys it thence,
Clothes it with all divinest harmonies,
Gives it sure foot to tread the dim degrees
Of Pilate’s stair — Hush! Hush! its last sweet breath
Wails far along the passages of death.
THREE kings from out the Orient
For Judah’s land were fairly bent,
To find the Lord of grace;
And as they journeyed pleasantlie,
A star kept shining in the sky,
To guide them to the place.
“O Star,” they cried, “by all confest
Withouten dreed, the loveliest!”
The first was Melchior to see,
The emperour hight of Arabye,
An aged man, I trow:
He sat upon a rouncy bold,
Had taken of the red red gold,
The babe for to endow.
“O Star,” he cried, etc.
The next was Gaspar, young and gay,
That held the realm of far Cathay —
Our Jesus drew him thence —
Yclad in silk from head to heel,
He rode upon a high cameel,
And bare the frankincense.
“O Star,” he cried etc.
The last was dusky Balthasar,
That rode upon a dromedary —
His coat was of the fur:
Dark-browed he came from Samarkand,
The Christ to seek, and in his hand
Upheld the bleeding myrrh.
“O Star,” he cried, etc.
ISRAEL AND HELLAS
I SOMETIMES wonder of the Grecian men,
If all that was to them for life appears —
Simple, full-orbed, they float across our ken,
And to their modern feres
Present the gathered light of all their years.
But was it all — the utmost of their reach —
That unto us the sedulous scribe has passed?
To carve on marble-slabs of that great speech
Great thoughts, that so might last —
Was that the single aim their copious souls forecast?
On them, high-strung (for so it seems to us),
Did no kind god distil a wholesome ease?
Laughed no fair child for good Herodotus?
Looked there no maiden of the midland seas
Into thy clear gray eyes,Thucydides?
One life, one work —was this to them the all —
God’s purpose marked, and followed fair and true?
Or were they slaves like us, whom doubts enthrall —
A hesitant, futile crew,
Who know not what our Lord would have us do?
Was mind supreme? Was animal craving nought?
Or that the essence? this the accident?
Did it suffice them to have nobly thought?
And, the whole impulse spent,
Did the vexed waters meet in smoothness of content?
They ate, they drank, they married in the prime,
And tied their souls with natural, homely needs,
They bowed before the beadles of the time,
And wore the common weeds,
And fed the priests, and ménagëd the creeds.
Or were they happier, breathing social free,
No smug respectability to pat
And soothe with pledges of equality,
The goodman glows through all his realms of fat?
And was it possible for them to hold
A creed elastic in that lightsome air,
And let sweet fables droop in flexile fold
From off their shoulders bare,
Loose-fitting, jewel-clasped with fancies rare?
For not as yet intense across the sea
Came the swart Hebrew with a fiery baste;
In long brown arms entwined Euphrosyne,
And round her snowy waist
Fast bound the Nessus-robe, that may not be displaced.
Yes, this is true; but the whole truth is more;
This was not all the burning Orient gave;
Through purple partings of her golden door
Carne gleams upon the wave,
Long shafts that search the souls of men who crave;
And probings of the heart, and spirit-balm,
And to deep questionings the deep replies
That echo in the everlasting calm —
All this from forth those skies,
Beside Gehenna fire and worm that never dies.
Yet, if the Greek went straighter to his aim,
If, knowing wholly what he meant to do,
He did it, given circumstance the same,
Or near the same, then must I hold it true
That from his different creed the vantage came,
Who, seizing one world where we balance two,
From its great secular heart the readier current drew.
M. T. W.
FAR swept from Lundy, spanned from side to side
With heaven’s blue arch, the ocean waters flow;
Sweet May has piled her pyramids of snow,
And the fair land is glorious as a bride,
That chooses summer for her hour of pride:
The lordly sun, with his great heart a-glow,
Is fain to kiss all things that bud and blow,
And Maurice sleeps, nor hears the murmuring tide.
Fine spirit, wheresoe’er, a quester keen,
You mark the asphodel with prints of pearl,
Breathing the freshness of the early lawns,
O darling, clad in light of tend’rest sheen,
Hard by the nest of some celestial merle
We yet shall see you when the morning dawns.
IT looks as if in dreams the soul was free,
No bodily limit checks its absolute play;
Then why doth it not use its liberty,
And clear a certain way
To further truth beyond the actual sea?
It is not so; for when, with loosened grip,
The warder sense unlocks the visible hold,
Then will my soul from forth its chamber slip,
An idiot blithe and bold,
And into vacancy of folly skip;
Or aimless wander on the poppied floor
Of gaudy fields, or, scarce upon the street,
Return unto the grim, familiar door,
And, coward, crave retreat,
As who had never been outside before.
What boots it that I hold the chartered space,
If I but fill it with th’ accustomed forms,
And load its breathless essence with the trace
Of casual-risen storms,
And drag my chain along the lovely place?
O, but if God would make a deep suspense,
And draw me perfect from th’ adhesive sheath;
If all the veils and swathings of pretence,
Dropt from me, sunk beneath,
Then would I get me very far from hence.
I’d come to Him with one swift arrow-dart,
Aimed at the zenith of th’ o’erbrooding blue;
Straight to the centre of His awful heart
The flight long-winged and true
Should bear me rapt through all the spheres that part.
But as it is, it is a waste of rest,
God uses not the occasion: on the rock
Stands prone my soul, a diver lean undrest,
And looks, and fears the shock,
And turns and hides its shame with some poor sorry jest.
WESLEY IN HEAVEN
WHEN Wesley died, the Angelic orders
To see him at the state
Pressed so incontinent that the warders
Forgot to shut the gate.
So I, that hitherto had followed
As one with grief o’ercast,
Where for the doors a space was hollowed,
Crept in, and heard what passed.
And God said — “Seeing thou hast given
Thy life to my great sounds,
Choose thou through all the cirque of Heaven
What most of bliss redounds.”
Then Wesley said — “I hear the thunder
Low growling from Thy seat
Grant me that I may bind it under
The trampling of my feet.”
And Wesley said — “See, lightning quivers
Upon the presence walls —
Lord, give me of it four great rivers,
To be my manuals.”
And then I saw the thunder chidden
As slave to his desire,
And then I saw the space bestridden
With four great bands of fire.
And stage by stage, stop stop subtending,
Each lever strong and true,
One shape inextricable blending,
The awful organ grew.
Then certain angels clad the Master
In very marvellous wise,
Till clouds of rose and alabaster
Concealed him from mine eyes.
And likest o a dove soft brooding,
The innocent figure ran;
So breathed the breath of his preluding,
And then the fugue began —
Began; but, to his office turning,
The porter swung his key;
Wherefore, although my heart was yearning,
I had to go; but he
Played on; and, as I downward clomb,
I heard the mighty bars
Of thunder-gusts that shook heaven’s dome,
And moved the balanced stars.
TO E. M. O.
OAKELEY, whenas the bass you beat
In that tremendous way,
I still could fancy at your feet
A dreadful lion lay.
Askance he views the petulant scores,
But, when you touch a rib, he roars.
HAST thou a cunning instrument of play,
‘Tis well ; but see thou keep it bright,
And tuned to primal chords, so that it may
Be ready day and night.
For when He comes thou know’st not, who shall say —
“These virginals are apt “; and try a note,
And sit, and make sweet solace of delight,
That men shall stand to listen on the way,
And all the room with heavenly music float.
WHO would be planted chooseth not the soil,
Or here or there,
Or loam or peat,
Wherein he best may grow,
And bring forth guerdon of the planter’s toil —
The lily is most fair,
But says not “I will only blow
Upon a southern land”; the cedar makes no coil
What rock shall owe
The springs that wash his feet;
The crocus cannot arbitrate the foil
That for its purple radiance is most meet —
Lord, even so
I ask one prayer,
The which if it be granted,
It skills not where
Thou plantest me, only I would be planted.
I NEEDS must meet him, for he hath beset
All roads that men do travel, hill and plain;
Nor aught that breathes shall pass
Unchallenged of his debt.
But what and if, when I shall whet
My front to meet him, then, as in a glass,
Darkly, I shall behold that he is twain —
Earthward a mask of jet,
Heavenward a coronet
Sun-flushed with roseate gleams — In any case
It hardly can be called a mortal pain
To meet whom met I ne’er shall meet again.
WHEN He appoints to meet thee, go thou forth
It matters not
If south or north,
Bleak waste or sunny plot.
Nor think, if haply He thou seek’st be late,
He does thee wrong;
To stile or gate
Lean thou thy head, and long!
It may be that to spy thee He is mounting
Upon a tower,
Or in thy counting
Thou hast mista’en the hour.
But, if he come not, neither do thou go
Till Vesper chime;
Belike thou then shalt know
He hath been with thee all the time.
O HAPPY souls, that mingle with your kind,
That laugh with laughers, weep with weepers,
Whom use gregarious to your like can bind,
Who sow with sewers, reap with reapers’ —
To me it is not known —
The gentle art to moan
With moaners, wake with wakers, sleep with sleepers.
It must be good to think the common thought,
To learn with learners, teach with teachers;
To hold the adjusted soul till it is brought
To pray with prayers, preach with preachers.
But I can never catch
The dominant mode, nor match
The tone, and whine with whiners, screech with screechers.
Yet surely there is warmth, if we combine
And loaf with loafers, hunt with hunters;
It is a comfort as of nozzling swine
To row with rowers, punt with punters —
How is it then that I
Am alien to the stye,
Nor ever swill with swillers, grunt with grunters?
I cannot choose but think it is a blessing
To fool with fools, to scheme with schemers;
To feel another’s arms your soul caressing,
To sigh with sighers, dream with dreamers —
But I can’t hit the span,
The regulation man,
Ephemer decent with his coephemers.
Yet, after all, if frustrate of this pleasure,
To eat with eaters, drink with drinker’s,
If I can’t find the Greatest Common Measure,
And cheat with cheaters, wink with winkers,
At any rate the struggle
My truer self to juggle,
And force my mind to fit
The standard ell of wit,
Shall never dwarf nor cramp me,
Shall never stint nor scamp me
So that I bleat with bleaters, slink with slinkers.
Thus spake I once, with fierce self-gratulation,
Nor hoped with hopers, feared with fearers;
Yet, discontent, it seemed a mere privation
To doubt with doubters, sneer with sneerers:
It seemed more happiness
A brother’s hand to press,
To talk with talkers, hear with hearers.
Wherefore, albeit I know it is not great
Mobbing with mobs, believing with believers,
Yet for the most it is a snugger state
To gain with gainers, grieve with grievers,
Than, desolate on a peak,
To whet one’s lonely beak,
And watch the beaver huddling with the beavers.
But though this boon denied, my soul, love thou
The lover, gibe not with the giber!
O ragged soul! I cannot piece thee now
That, thread to thread, and fibre unto fibre,
Thou with another soul
Shouldst make a sentient whole:
But I am proud thou dost retain
Some tinct of that imperial murex grain
No carrack ever bore to Thames or Tiber.
AT THE PLAY
As in a theatre the amused sense
Beholds the strange vicissitudes of things,
Young Damon’s loves, the fates of clowns and kings,
And all the motley of the gay pretence —
Beholds, and on an acme of suspense
Stands vibrant till the curtain falls, door swings,
Lights gutter, and the weary murmurings
Of o’er-watched varlets intimate us thence —
Even so we gaze not on the things that are,
Nor aught behold but what is adumbrate:
The show is specious, and we laugh and weep
At what is only meant spectacular;
And when the curtain falls, we may not wait:
Death takes the lights, and we go home to sleep.
Despite being his fourth collection of poetry, Old John and Other Poems, was the first of T. E. Brown’s books not presented from behind a fictional narrator. As well as having some of the most comically funny of his Manx dialect poems, the poems in this collection also show the Manx National Poet in a more personal light sometimes almost shocking in its heartrending frankness.
Amongst the many poems investigating personal themes in this book, undoubtedly the most striking is ‘Aber Stations’, a poem exploring the hole left in his life by the death of his seven-year-old son, Braddan. Probably one of the most harrowing poems in English, the seven ‘stations’ end with the weighted lines, “Be blue, O heavens, be blue! Be still, O earth, be still!”
Contrasting this, the book also includes some of Brown’s most quoted and most accessible Manx poetry, including his description of heroic lifeboat men in ‘The Peel Life-Boat’, a contemplation on the life of a half-mad Manx vagabond in ‘Chalse a Killey’, and the hilarious journey in an old stage coach with ‘In the Coach.’
“Happy are those who have learned to love and enjoy Brown’s poems; and happiest of all are those who also loved and enjoyed the man himself,” wrote his friend, Canon J. M. Wilson after his death. Reading these more personal poems of T. E. Brown gives us some insight into what drove that person of great genius and great heart, the Manx National Poet, T. E. Brown.
T. E. Brown is the Manx National Poet; a brilliant writer, a wonderful person, and someone with the Isle of Man and Manx identity at the centre of their life and work.