The Prince’s Progress, and other poems

Christina Rossetti

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Last updated Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 14:21.

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Table of Contents

  1. The Prince’s Progress
  2. Maiden-Song
  3. Jessie Cameron
  4. Spring Quiet
  5. The Poor Ghost
  6. A Portrait
  7. Dream-Love
  8. Twice
  9. Songs in a Cornfield
  10. A Year’s Windfalls
  11. The Queen of Hearts
  12. One Day
  13. A Bird’s-Eye View
  14. Light Love
  15. A Dream
  16. A Ring Posy
  17. Beauty is Vain
  18. Lady Maggie
  19. What Would I Give?
  20. The Bourne
  21. Summer
  22. Autumn
  23. The Ghost’s Petition
  24. Memory
  25. A Royal Princess
  26. Shall I Forget?
  27. Vanity of Vanities
  28. L. E. L.
  29. Life and Death
  30. Bird or Beast?
  31. Eve
  32. Grown and Flown
  33. A Farm Walk
  34. Somewhere or Other
  35. A Chill
  36. Child’s Talk in April
  37. Gone for Ever
  38. Under the Rose
  39. Devotional Pieces Despised and Rejected
  40. Long Barren
  41. If Only
  42. Dost Thou Not Care?
  43. Weary in Well-Doing
  44. Martyrs’ Song
  45. After this the Judgement
  46. Good Friday
  47. The Lowest Place

The Prince’s Progress

Till all sweet gums and juices flow,

Till the blossom of blossoms blow,

The long hours go and come and go,

  The bride she sleepeth, waketh, sleepeth,

Waiting for one whose coming is slow:—

    Hark! the bride weepeth.

‘How long shall I wait, come heat come rime?’ —

‘Till the strong Prince comes, who must come in time’

(Her women say), ‘there’s a mountain to climb,

  A river to ford. Sleep, dream and sleep;

Sleep’ (they say): ‘we’ve muffled the chime,

    Better dream than weep.’

In his world-end palace the strong Prince sat,

Taking his ease on cushion and mat,

Close at hand lay his staff and his hat.

  ‘When wilt thou start? the bride waits, O youth.’ —

‘Now the moon’s at full; I tarried for that,

    Now I start in truth.

‘But tell me first, true voice of my doom,

Of my veiled bride in her maiden bloom;

Keeps she watch through glare and through gloom,

  Watch for me asleep and awake?’ —

‘Spell-bound she watches in one white room,

    And is patient for thy sake.

‘By her head lilies and rosebuds grow;

The lilies droop, will the rosebuds blow?

The silver slim lilies hang the head low;

  Their stream is scanty, their sunshine rare:

Let the sun blaze out, and let the stream flow,

    They will blossom and wax fair.

‘Red and white poppies grow at her feet,

The blood-red wait for sweet summer heat,

Wrapped in bud-coats hairy and neat;

  But the white buds swell, one day they will burst,

Will open their death-cups drowsy and sweet —

    Which will open the first?’

Then a hundred sad voices lifted a wail,

And a hundred glad voices piped on the gale:

‘Time is short, life is short,’ they took up the tale:

  ‘Life is sweet, love is sweet, use today while you may;

Love is sweet, and tomorrow may fail;

    Love is sweet, use today.’

While the song swept by, beseeching and meek,

Up rose the Prince with a flush on his cheek,

Up he rose to stir and to seek,

  Going forth in the joy of his strength;

Strong of limb if of purpose weak,

    Starting at length.

Forth he set in the breezy morn,

Crossing green fields of nodding corn,

As goodly a Prince as ever was born;

  Carolling with the carolling lark; —

Sure his bride will be won and worn,

    Ere fall of the dark.

So light his step, so merry his smile,

A milkmaid loitered beside a stile,

Set down her pail and rested awhile,

  A wave-haired milkmaid, rosy and white;

The Prince, who had journeyed at least a mile,

    Grew athirst at the sight.

‘Will you give me a morning draught?’ —

‘You’re kindly welcome,’ she said, and laughed.

He lifted the pail, new milk he quaffed;

  Then wiping his curly black beard like silk:

‘Whitest cow that ever was calved

    Surely gave you this milk.’

Was it milk now, or was it cream?

Was she a maid, or an evil dream?

Here eyes began to glitter and gleam;

  He would have gone, but he stayed instead;

Green they gleamed as he looked in them:

    ‘Give me my fee,’ she said. —

‘I will give you a jewel of gold.’ —

‘Not so; gold is heavy and cold.’ —

‘I will give you a velvet fold

  Of foreign work your beauty to deck.’ —

‘Better I like my kerchief rolled

    Light and white round my neck.’ —

‘Nay,’ cried he, ‘but fix your own fee.’ —

She laughed, ‘You may give the full moon to me;

Or else sit under this apple-tree

  Here for one idle day by my side;

After that I’ll let you go free,

    And the world is wide.’

Loth to stay, but to leave her slack,

He half turned away, then he quite turned back:

For courtesy’s sake he could not lack

  To redeem his own royal pledge;

Ahead too the windy heaven lowered black

    With a fire-cloven edge.

So he stretched his length in the apple-tree shade,

Lay and laughed and talked to the maid,

Who twisted her hair in a cunning braid

  And writhed it shining in serpent-coils,

And held him a day and night fast laid

    In her subtle toils.

At the death of night and the birth of day,

When the owl left off his sober play,

And the bat hung himself out of the way,

  Woke the song of mavis and merle,

And heaven put off its hodden grey

    For mother-o’-pearl.

Peeped up daisies here and there,

Here, there, and everywhere;

Rose a hopeful lark in the air,

  Spreading out towards the sun his breast;

While the moon set solemn and fair

    Away in the West.

‘Up, up, up,’ called the watchman lark,

In his clear réveillée: ‘Hearken, oh hark!

Press to the high goal, fly to the mark.

  Up, O sluggard, new morn is born;

If still asleep when the night falls dark,

    Thou must wait a second morn.’

‘Up, up, up,’ sad glad voices swelled:

‘So the tree falls and lies as it’s felled.

Be thy bands loosed, O sleeper, long held

  In sweet sleep whose end is not sweet.

Be the slackness girt and the softness quelled

    And the slowness fleet.’

Off he set. The grass grew rare,

A blight lurked in the darkening air,

The very moss grew hueless and spare,

  The last daisy stood all astunt;

Behind his back the soil lay bare,

    But barer in front.

A land of chasm and rent, a land

Of rugged blackness on either hand:

If water trickled its track was tanned

  With an edge of rust to the chink;

If one stamped on stone or on sand

    It returned a clink.

A lifeless land, a loveless land,

Without lair or nest on either hand:

Only scorpions jerked in the sand,

  Black as black iron, or dusty pale;

From point to point sheer rock was manned

    By scorpions in mail.

A land of neither life nor death,

Where no man buildeth or fashioneth,

Where none draws living or dying breath;

  No man cometh or goeth there,

No man doeth, seeketh, saith,

    In the stagnant air.

Some old volcanic upset must

Have rent the crust and blackened the crust;

Wrenched and ribbed it beneath its dust

  Above earth’s molten centre at seethe,

Heaved and heaped it by huge upthrust

    Of fire beneath.

Untrodden before, untrodden since:

Tedious land for a social Prince;

Halting, he scanned the outs and ins,

  Endless, labyrinthine, grim,

Of the solitude that made him wince,

    Laying wait for him.

By bulging rock and gaping cleft,

Even of half mere daylight reft,

Rueful he peered to right and left,

  Muttering in his altered mood:

‘The fate is hard that weaves my weft,

    Though my lot be good.’

Dim the changes of day to night,

Of night scarce dark to day not bright.

Still his road wound towards the right,

  Still he went, and still he went,

Till one night he espied a light,

    In his discontent.

Out it flashed from a yawn-mouthed cave,

Like a red-hot eye from a grave.

No man stood there of whom to crave

  Rest for wayfarer plodding by:

Though the tenant were churl or knave

    The Prince might try.

In he passed and tarried not,

Groping his way from spot to spot,

Towards where the cavern flare glowed hot:—

  An old, old mortal, cramped and double,

Was peering into a seething-pot,

    In a world of trouble.

The veriest atomy he looked,

With grimy fingers clutching and crooked,

Tight skin, a nose all bony and hooked,

  And a shaking, sharp, suspicious way;

His blinking eyes had scarcely brooked

    The light of day.

Stared the Prince, for the sight was new;

Stared, but asked without more ado:

‘My a weary traveller lodge with you,

  Old father, here in your lair?

In your country the inns seem few,

    And scanty the fare.’

The head turned not to hear him speak;

The old voice whistled as through a leak

(Out it came in a quavering squeak):

  ‘Work for wage is a bargain fit:

If there’s aught of mine that you seek

    You must work for it.

‘Buried alive from light and air

This year is the hundredth year,

I feed my fire with a sleepless care,

  Watching my potion wane or wax:

Elixir of Life is simmering there,

    And but one thing lacks.

‘If you’re fain to lodge here with me,

Take that pair of bellows you see —

Too heavy for my old hands they be-

  Take the bellows and puff and puff:

When the steam curls rosy and free

    The broth’s boiled enough.

‘Then take your choice of all I have;

I will give you life if you crave.

Already I’m mildewed for the grave,

  So first myself I must drink my fill:

But all the rest may be yours, to save

    Whomever you will.’

‘Done,’ quoth the Prince, and the bargain stood,

First he piled on resinous wood,

Next plied the bellows in hopeful mood;

  Thinking, ‘My love and I will live.

If I tarry, why life is good,

    And she may forgive.’

The pot began to bubble and boil;

The old man cast in essence and oil,

He stirred all up with a triple coil

  Of gold and silver and iron wire,

Dredged in a pinch of virgin soil,

    And fed the fire.

But still the steam curled watery white;

Night turned to day and day to night;

One thing lacked, by his feeble sight

  Unseen, unguessed by his feeble mind:

Life might miss him, but Death the blight

    Was sure to find.

So when the hundredth year was full

The thread was cut and finished the school.

Death snapped the old worn-out tool,

  Snapped him short while he stood and stirred

(Though stiff he stood as a stiff-necked mule)

    With never a word.

Thus at length the old crab was nipped.

The dead hand slipped, the dead finger dipped

In the broth as the dead man slipped, —

  That same instant, a rosy red

Flushed the steam, and quivered and clipped

    Round the dead old head.

The last ingredient was supplied

(Unless the dead man mistook or lied).

Up started the Prince, he cast aside

  The bellows plied through the tedious trial,

Made sure that his host had died,

    And filled a phial.

‘One night’s rest,’ though the Prince: ‘This done,

Forth I start with the rising sun:

With the morrow I rise and run,

  Come what will of wind or of weather.

This draught of Life when my Bride is won

    We’ll drink together.’

Thus the dead man stayed in his grave,

Self-chosen, the dead man in his cave;

There he stayed, were he fool or knave,

  Or honest seeker who had not found:

While the Prince outside was prompt to crave

    Sleep on the ground.

‘If she watches, go bid her sleep;

Bit her sleep, for the road is steep:

He can sleep who holdeth her cheap,

  Sleep and wake and sleep again.

Let him sow, one day he shall reap,

    Let him sow the grain.

‘When there blows a sweet garden rose,

Let it bloom and wither if no man knows:

But if one knows when the sweet thing blows,

  Knows, and lets it open and drop,

If but a nettle his garden grows

    He hath earned the crop.’

Through his sleep the summons rang,

Into his ears it sobbed and it sang.

Slow he woke with a drowsy pang,

  Shook himself without much debate,

Turned where he saw green branches hang,

    Started though late.

For the black land was travelled o’er,

He should see the grim land no more.

A flowering country stretched before

  His face when the lovely day came back:

He hugged the phial of Life he bore,

    And resumed his track.

By willow courses he took his path,

Spied what a nest the kingfisher hath,

Marked the fields green to aftermath,

  Marked where the red-brown field-mouse ran,

Loitered a while for a deep-stream bath,

    Yawned for a fellow-man.

Up on the hills not a soul in view,

In a vale not many nor few;

Leaves, still leaves, and nothing new.

  It’s oh for a second maiden, at least,

To bear the flagon, and taste it too,

    And flavour the feast.

Lagging he moved, and apt to swerve;

Lazy of limb, but quick of nerve.

At length the water-bed took a curve,

  The deep river swept its bankside bare;

Waters streamed from the hill-reserve —

    Waters here, waters there.

High above, and deep below,

Bursting, bubbling, swelling the flow,

Like hill torrents after the snow, —

  Bubbling, gurgling, in whirling strife,

Swaying, sweeping, to and fro, —

    He must swim for his life.

Which way? — which way? — his eyes grew dim

With the dizzying whirl — which way to swim?

The thunderous downshoot deafened him;

  Half he choked in the lashing spray:

Life is sweet, and the grave is grim —

    Which way? — which way?

A flash of light, a shout from the strand:

‘This way — this way; here lies the land!’

His phial clutched in one drowning hand;

  He catches — misses — catches a rope;

His feet slip on the slipping sand:

    Is there life? — is there hope?

Just saved, without pulse or breath, —

Scarcely saved from the gulp of death;

Laid where a willow shadoweth —

  Laid where a swelling turf is smooth.

(O Bride! but the Bridegroom lingereth

    For all thy sweet youth.)

Kind hands do and undo,

Kind voices whisper and coo:

‘I will chafe his hands’ — ‘And I’ — ‘And you

  Raise his head, put his hair aside.’

(If many laugh, one well may rue:

    Sleep on, thou Bride.)

So the Prince was tended with care:

One wrung foul ooze from his clustered hair;

Two chafed his hands, and did not spare;

  But one held his drooping head breast-high,

Till his eyes oped, and at unaware

    They met eye to eye.

Oh, a moon face in a shadowy place,

And a light touch and a winsome grace,

And a thrilling tender voice that says:

  ‘Safe from waters that seek the sea —

Cold waters by rugged ways —

    Safe with me.’

While overhead bird whistles to bird,

And round about plays a gamesome herd:

‘Safe with us’ — some take up the word —

  ‘Safe with us, dear lord and friend:

All the sweeter if long deferred

    Is rest in the end.’

Had he stayed to weigh and to scan,

He had been more or less than a man:

He did what a young man can,

  Spoke of toil and an arduous way —

Toil tomorrow, while golden ran

    The sands of today.

Slip past, slip fast,

Uncounted hours from first to last,

Many hours till the last is past,

  Many hours dwindling to one —

One hour whose die is cast,

    One last hour gone.

Come, gone — gone for ever —

Gone as an unreturning river —

Gone as to death the merriest liver —

  Gone as the year at the dying fall —

To-morrow, today, yesterday, never —

    Gone once for all.

Came at length the starting-day,

With last words, and last words to say,

With bodiless cries from far away —

  Chiding wailing voices that rang

Like a trumpet-call to the tug and fray;

    And thus they sang:

‘Is there life? — the lamp burns low;

Is there hope? — the coming is slow:

The promise promised so long ago,

  The long promise, has not been kept.

Does she live? — does she die? — she slumbers so

    Who so oft has wept.

‘Does she live? — does she die? — she languisheth

As a lily drooping to death,

As a drought-worn bird with failing breath,

  As a lovely vine without a stay,

As a tree whereof the owner saith,

    “Hew it down today.”’

Stung by that word the Prince was fain

To start on his tedious road again.

He crossed the stream where a ford was plain,

  He clomb the opposite bank though steep,

And swore to himself to strain and attain

    Ere he tasted sleep.

Huge before him a mountain frowned

With foot of rock on the valley ground,

And head with snows incessant crowned,

  And a cloud mantle about its strength,

And a path which the wild goat hath not found

    In its breadth and length.

But he was strong to do and dare:

If a host had withstood him there,

He had braved a host with little care

  In his lusty youth and his pride,

Tough to grapple though weak to snare.

    He comes, O Bride.

Up he went where the goat scarce clings,

Up where the eagle folds her wings,

Past the green line of living things,

  Where the sun cannot warm the cold, —

Up he went as a flame enrings

    Where there seems no hold.

Up a fissure barren and black,

Till the eagles tired upon his track,

And the clouds were left behind his back,

  Up till the utmost peak was past,

Then he gasped for breath and his strength fell slack;

    He paused at last.

Before his face a valley spread

Where fatness laughed, wine, oil, and bread,

Where all fruit-trees their sweetness shed,

  Where all birds made love to their kind,

Where jewels twinkled, and gold lay red

    And not hard to find.

Midway down the mountain side

(On its green slope the path was wide)

Stood a house for a royal bride,

  Built all of changing opal stone,

The royal palace, till now descried

    In his dreams alone.

Less bold than in days of yore,

Doubting now though never before,

Doubting he goes and lags the more:

  Is the time late? does the day grow dim?

Rose, will she open the crimson core

    Of her heart to him?

Take heart of grace! the potion of Life

May go far to woo him a wife:

If she frown, yet a lover’s strife

  Lightly raised can be laid again:

A hasty word is never the knife

    To cut love in twain.

Far away stretched the royal land,

Fed by dew, by a spice-wind fanned:

Light labour more, and his foot would stand

  On the threshold, all labour done;

Easy pleasure laid at his hand,

    And the dear Bride won.

His slackening steps pause at the gate —

Does she wake or sleep? — the time is late —

Does she sleep now, or watch and wait?

  She has watched, she has waited long,

Watching athwart the golden grate

    With a patient song.

Fling the golden portals wide,

The Bridegroom comes to his promised Bride;

Draw the gold-stiff curtains aside,

  Let them look on each other’s face,

She in her meekness, he in his pride —

    Day wears apace.

Day is over, the day that wore.

What is this that comes through the door,

The face covered, the feet before?

  This that coming takes his breath;

The Bride not seen, to be seen no more

    Save of Bridegroom Death?

Veiled figures carrying her

Sweep by yet make no stir;

There is a smell of spice and myrrh,

  A bride-chant burdened with one name;

The bride-song rises steadier

    Than the torches’ flame:

‘Too late for love, too late for joy,

  Too late, too late!

You loitered on the road too long,

  You trifled at the gate:

The enchanted dove upon her branch

  Died without a mate;

The enchanted princess in her tower

  Slept, died, behind the grate;

Her heart was starving all this while

  You made it wait.

‘Ten years ago, five years ago,

  One year ago,

Even then you had arrived in time,

  Though somewhat slow;

Then you had known her living face

  Which now you cannot know:

The frozen fountain would have leaped,

  The buds gone on to blow,

The warm south wind would have awaked

  To melt the snow.

‘Is she fair now as she lies?

  Once she was fair;

Meet queen for any kingly king,

  With gold-dust on her hair.

Now these are poppies in her locks,

  White poppies she must wear;

Must wear a veil to shroud her face

  And the want graven there:

Or is the hunger fed at length,

  Cast off the care?

‘We never saw her with a smile

  Or with a frown;

Her bed seemed never soft to her,

  Though tossed of down;

She little heeded what she wore,

  Kirtle, or wreath, or gown;

We think her white brows often ached

  Beneath her crown,

Till silvery hairs showed in her locks

  That used to be so brown.

‘We never heard her speak in haste;

  Her tones were sweet,

And modulated just so much

  As it was meet:

Her heart sat silent through the noise

  And concourse of the street.

There was no hurry in her hands,

  No hurry in her feet;

There was no bliss drew nigh to her,

  That she might run to greet.

‘You should have wept her yesterday,

  Wasting upon her bed:

But wherefore should you weep today

  That she is dead?

Lo, we who love weep not today,

  But crown her royal head.

Let be these poppies that we strew,

  Your roses are too red:

Let be these poppies, not for you

  Cut down and spread.’


Long ago and long ago,

  And long ago still,

There dwelt three merry maidens

  Upon a distant hill.

One was tall Meggan,

  And one was dainty May,

But one was fair Margaret,

  More fair than I can say,

Long ago and long ago.

When Meggan plucked the thorny rose,

  And when May pulled the brier,

Half the birds would swoop to see,

  Half the beasts draw nigher;

Half the fishes of the streams

  Would dart up to admire:

But when Margaret plucked a flag-flower,

  Or poppy hot aflame,

All the beasts and all the birds

  And all the fishes came

To her hand more soft than snow.

Strawberry leaves and May-dew

  In brisk morning air,

Strawberry leaves and May-dew

  Make maidens fair.

‘I go for strawberry leaves,’

  Meggan said one day:

‘Fair Margaret can bide at home,

  But you come with me, May;

Up the hill and down the hill,

  Along the winding way

You and I are used to go.’

So these two fair sisters

  Went with innocent will

Up the hill and down again,

  And round the homestead hill:

While the fairest sat at home,

  Margaret like a queen,

Like a blush-rose, like the moon

  In her heavenly sheen,

Fragrant-breathed as milky cow

  Or field of blossoming bean,

Graceful as an ivy bough

  Born to cling and lean;

Thus she sat to sing and sew.

When she raised her lustrous eyes

  A beast peeped at the door;

When she downward cast her eyes

  A fish gasped on the floor;

When she turned away her eyes

  A bird perched on the sill,

Warbling out its heart of love,

  Warbling warbling still,

With pathetic pleadings low.

Light-foot May with Meggan

  Sought the choicest spot,

Clothed with thyme-alternate grass:

  Then, while day waxed hot,

Sat at ease to play and rest,

  A gracious rest and play;

The loveliest maidens near or far,

  When Margaret was away,

Who sat at home to sing and sew.

Sun-glow flushed their comely cheeks,

  Wind-play tossed their hair,

Creeping things among the grass

  Stroked them here and there;

Meggan piped a merry note,

  A fitful wayward lay,

While shrill as bird on topmost twig

  Piped merry May;

Honey-smooth the double flow.

Sped a herdsman from the vale,

  Mounting like a flame,

All on fire to hear and see,

  With floating locks he came.

Looked neither north nor south,

  Neither east nor west,

But sat him down at Meggan’s feet

  As love-bird on his nest,

And wooed her with a silent awe,

  With trouble not expressed;

She sang the tears into his eyes,

  The heart out of his breast:

So he loved her, listening so.

She sang the heart out of his breast,

  The words out of his tongue;

Hand and foot and pulse he paused

  Till her song was sung.

Then he spoke up from his place

  Simple words and true:

‘Scanty goods have I to give,

  Scanty skill to woo;

But I have a will to work,

  And a heart for you:

Bid me stay or bid me go.’

Then Meggan mused within herself:

  ‘Better be first with him,

Than dwell where fairer Margaret sits,

  Who shines my brightness dim,

For ever second where she sits,

  However fair I be:

I will be lady of his love,

  And he shall worship me;

I will be lady of his herds

  And stoop to his degree,

At home where kids and fatlings grow.’

Sped a shepherd from the height

  Headlong down to look,

(White lambs followed, lured by love

  Of their shepherd’s crook):

He turned neither east nor west,

  Neither north nor south,

But knelt right down to May, for love

  Of her sweet-singing mouth;

Forgot his flocks, his panting flocks

  In parching hill-side drouth;

Forgot himself for weal or woe.

Trilled her song and swelled her song

  With maiden coy caprice

In a labyrinth of throbs,

  Pauses, cadences;

Clear-noted as a dropping brook,

  Soft-noted like the bees,

Wild-noted as the shivering wind

  Forlorn through forest trees:

Love-noted like the wood-pigeon

  Who hides herself for love,

Yet cannot keep her secret safe,

  But coos and coos thereof:

Thus the notes rang loud or low.

He hung breathless on her breath;

  Speechless, who listened well;

Could not speak or think or wish

  Till silence broke the spell.

Then he spoke, and spread his hands,

  Pointing here and there:

‘See my sheep and see the lambs,

  Twin lambs which they bare.

All myself I offer you,

  All my flocks and care,

Your sweet song hath moved me so.’

In her fluttered heart young May

  Mused a dubious while:

‘If he loves me as he says’ —

  Her lips curved with a smile:

‘Where Margaret shines like the sun

  I shine but like a moon;

If sister Meggan makes her choice

  I can make mine as soon;

At cockcrow we were sister-maids,

  We may be brides at noon.’

Said Meggan, ‘Yes;’ May said not ‘No.’

Fair Margaret stayed alone at home,

  Awhile she sang her song,

Awhile sat silent, then she thought:

  ‘My sisters loiter long.’

That sultry noon had waned away,

  Shadows had waxen great:

‘Surely,’ she thought within herself,

  ‘My sisters loiter late.’

She rose, and peered out at the door,

  With patient heart to wait,

And heard a distant nightingale

  Complaining of its mate;

Then down the garden slope she walked,

  Down to the garden gate,

Leaned on the rail and waited so.

The slope was lightened by her eyes

  Like summer lightning fair,

Like rising of the haloed moon

  Lightened her glimmering hair,

While her face lightened like the sun

  Whose dawn is rosy white.

Thus crowned with maiden majesty

  She peered into the night,

Looked up the hill and down the hill,

  To left hand and to right,

Flashing like fire-flies to and fro.

Waiting thus in weariness

  She marked the nightingale

Telling, if any one would heed,

  Its old complaining tale.

Then lifted she her voice and sang,

  Answering the bird:

Then lifted she her voice and sang,

  Such notes were never heard

From any bird when Spring’s in blow.

The king of all that country

  Coursing far, coursing near,

Curbed his amber-bitted steed,

  Coursed amain to hear;

All his princes in his train,

  Squire, and knight, and peer,

With his crown upon his head,

  His sceptre in his hand,

Down he fell at Margaret’s knees

  Lord king of all that land,

To her highness bending low.

Every beast and bird and fish

  Came mustering to the sound,

Every man and every maid

  From miles of country round:

Meggan on her herdsman’s arm,

  With her shepherd May,

Flocks and herds trooped at their heels

  Along the hill-side way;

No foot too feeble for the ascent,

  Not any head too grey;

Some were swift and none were slow.

So Margaret sang her sisters home

  In their marriage mirth;

Sang free birds out of the sky,

  Beasts along the earth,

Sang up fishes of the deep —

  All breathing things that move

Sang from far and sang from near

  To her lovely love;

Sang together friend and foe;

Sang a golden-bearded king

  Straightway to her feet,

Sang him silent where he knelt

  In eager anguish sweet.

But when the clear voice died away,

  When longest echoes died,

He stood up like a royal man

  And claimed her for his bride.

So three maids were wooed and won

  In a brief May-tide,

Long ago and long ago.

Jessie Cameron

‘Jessie, Jessie Cameron,

  Hear me but this once,’ quoth he.

‘Good luck go with you, neighbor’s son,

  But I’m no mate for you,’ quoth she.

Day was verging toward the night

  There beside the moaning sea,

Dimness overtook the light

  There where the breakers be.

‘O Jessie, Jessie Cameron,

  I have loved you long and true.’ —

‘Good luck go with you, neighbor’s son,

  But I’m no mate for you.’

She was a careless, fearless girl,

  And made her answer plain,

Outspoken she to earl or churl,

  Kindhearted in the main,

But somewhat heedless with her tongue,

  And apt at causing pain;

A mirthful maiden she and young,

  Most fair for bliss or bane.

‘Oh, long ago I told you so,

  I tell you so today:

Go you your way, and let me go

  Just my own free way.’

The sea swept in with moan and foam,

  Quickening the stretch of sand;

They stood almost in sight of home;

  He strove to take her hand.

‘Oh, can’t you take your answer then,

  And won’t you understand?

For me you’re not the man of men,

  I’ve other plans are planned.

You’re good for Madge, or good for Cis,

  Or good for Kate, may be:

But what’s to me the good of this

  While you’re not good for me?’

They stood together on the beach,

  They two alone,

And louder waxed his urgent speech,

  His patience almost gone:

‘Oh, say but one kind word to me,

  Jessie, Jessie Cameron.’ —

‘I’d be too proud to beg,’ quoth she,

  And pride was in her tone.

And pride was in her lifted head,

  And in her angry eye

And in her foot, which might have fled,

  But would not fly.

Some say that he had gipsy blood;

  That in his heart was guile:

Yet he had gone through fire and flood

  Only to win her smile.

Some say his grandam was a witch,

  A black witch from beyond the Nile,

Who kept an image in a niche

  And talked with it the while.

And by her hut far down the lane

  Some say they would not pass at night,

Lest they should hear an unked strain

  Or see an unked sight.

Alas, for Jessie Cameron! —

  The sea crept moaning, moaning nigher:

She should have hastened to begone, —

  The sea swept higher, breaking by her:

She should have hastened to her home

  While yet the west was flushed with fire,

But now her feet are in the foam,

  The sea-foam, sweeping higher.

O mother, linger at your door,

  And light your lamp to make it plain,

But Jessie she comes home no more,

  No more again.

They stood together on the strand,

  They only, each by each;

Home, her home, was close at hand,

  Utterly out of reach.

Her mother in the chimney nook

  Heard a startled sea-gull screech,

But never turned her head to look

  Towards the darkening beach:

Neighbours here and neighbours there

  Heard one scream, as if a bird

Shrilly screaming cleft the air:—

  That was all they heard.

Jessie she comes home no more,

  Comes home never;

Her lover’s step sounds at his door

  No more forever.

And boats may search upon the sea

  And search along the river,

But none know where the bodies be:

  Sea-winds that shiver,

Sea-birds that breast the blast,

  Sea-waves swelling,

Keep the secret first and last

  Of their dwelling.

Whether the tide so hemmed them round

  With its pitiless flow,

That when they would have gone they found

  No way to go;

Whether she scorned him to the last

  With words flung to and fro,

Or clung to him when hope was past,

  None will ever know:

Whether he helped or hindered her,

  Threw up his life or lost it well,

The troubled sea, for all its stir

  Finds no voice to tell.

Only watchers by the dying

  Have thought they heard one pray

Wordless, urgent; and replying

  One seem to say him nay:

And watchers by the dead have heard

  A windy swell from miles away,

With sobs and screams, but not a word

  Distinct for them to say:

And watchers out at sea have caught

  Glimpse of a pale gleam here or there,

Come and gone as quick as thought,

  Which might be hand or hair.

Spring Quiet

Gone were but the Winter,

  Come were but the Spring,

I would go to a covert

  Where the birds sing;

Where in the whitethorn

  Singeth a thrush,

And a robin sings

  In the holly-bush.

Full of fresh scents

  Are the budding boughs

Arching high over

  A cool green house:

Full of sweet scents,

  And whispering air

Which sayeth softly:

  ‘We spread no snare;

‘Here dwell in safety,

  Here dwell alone,

With a clear stream

  And a mossy stone.

‘Here the sun shineth

  Most shadily;

Here is heard an echo

  Of the far sea,

  Though far off it be.’

The Poor Ghost

‘Oh whence do you come, my dear friend, to me,

With your golden hair all fallen below your knee,

And your face as white as snowdrops on the lea,

And your voice as hollow as the hollow sea?’

‘From the other world I come back to you,

My locks are uncurled with dripping drenching dew.

You know the old, whilst I know the new:

But tomorrow you shall know this too.’

‘Oh not tomorrow into the dark, I pray;

Oh not tomorrow, too soon to go away:

Here I feel warm and well-content and gay:

Give me another year, another day.’

‘Am I so changed in a day and a night

That mine own only love shrinks from me with fright,

Is fain to turn away to left or right

And cover up his eyes from the sight?’

‘Indeed I loved you, my chosen friend,

I loved you for life, but life has an end;

Through sickness I was ready to tend:

But death mars all, which we cannot mend.

‘Indeed I loved you; I love you yet,

If you will stay where your bed is set,

Where I have planted a violet,

Which the wind waves, which the dew makes wet.’

‘Life is gone, then love too is gone,

It was a reed that I leant upon:

Never doubt I will leave you alone

And not wake you rattling bone with bone.

‘I go home alone to my bed,

Dug deep at the foot and deep at the head,

Roofed in with a load of lead,

Warm enough for the forgotten dead.

‘But why did your tears soak through the clay,

And why did your sobs wake me where I lay?

I was away, far enough away:

Let me sleep now till the Judgment Day.’

A Portrait


She gave up beauty in her tender youth,

  Gave all her hope and joy and pleasant ways;

  She covered up her eyes lest they should gaze

On vanity, and chose the bitter truth.

Harsh towards herself, towards others full of ruth,

  Servant of servants, little known to praise,

  Long prayers and fasts trenched on her nights and days:

She schooled herself to sights and sounds uncouth

That with the poor and stricken she might make

  A home, until the least of all sufficed

Her wants; her own self learned she to forsake,

Counting all earthly gain but hurt and loss.

So with calm will she chose and bore the cross

  And hated all for love of Jesus Christ.


They knelt in silent anguish by her bed,

  And could not weep; but calmly there she lay.

  All pain had left her; and the sun’s last ray

Shone through upon her, warming into red

The shady curtains. In her heart she said:

  ‘Heaven opens; I leave these and go away;

  The Bridegroom calls, — shall the Bride seek to stay?’

Then low upon her breast she bowed her head.

O lily flower, O gem of priceless worth,

  O dove with patient voice and patient eyes,

O fruitful vine amid a land of dearth,

  O maid replete with loving purities,

Thou bowedst down thy head with friends on earth

  To raise it with the saints in Paradise.


Young Love lies sleeping

  In May-time of the year,

Among the lilies,

  Lapped in the tender light:

White lambs come grazing,

  White doves come building there:

And round about him

  The May-bushes are white.

Soft moss the pillow

  For oh, a softer cheek;

Broad leaves cast shadow

  Upon the heavy eyes:

There winds and waters

  Grow lulled and scarcely speak;

There twilight lingers

  The longest in the skies.

Young Love lies dreaming;

  But who shall tell the dream?

A perfect sunlight

  On rustling forest tips;

Or perfect moonlight

  Upon a rippling stream;

Or perfect silence,

  Or song of cherished lips.

Burn odours round him

  To fill the drowsy air;

Weave silent dances

  Around him to and fro;

For oh, in waking

  The sights are not so fair,

And song and silence

  Are not like these below.

Young Love lies dreaming

  Till summer days are gone, —

Dreaming and drowsing

  Away to perfect sleep:

He sees the beauty

  Sun hath not looked upon,

And tastes the fountain

  Unutterably deep.

Him perfect music

  Doth hush unto his rest,

And through the pauses

  The perfect silence calms:

Oh, poor the voices

  Of earth from east to west,

And poor earth’s stillness

  Between her stately palms.

Young Love lies drowsing

  Away to poppied death;

Cool shadows deepen

  Across the sleeping face:

So fails the summer

  With warm, delicious breath;

And what hath autumn

  To give us in its place?

Draw close the curtains

  Of branched evergreen;

Change cannot touch them

  With fading fingers sere:

Here the first violets

  Perhaps will bud unseen,

And a dove, may be,

  Return to nestle here.


I took my heart in my hand

  (O my love, O my love),

I said: Let me fall or stand,

  Let me live or die,

But this once hear me speak —

  (O my love, O my love) —

Yet a woman’s words are weak;

  You should speak, not I.

You took my heart in your hand

  With a friendly smile,

With a critical eye you scanned,

  Then set it down,

And said: It is still unripe,

  Better wait awhile;

Wait while the skylarks pipe,

  Till the corn grows brown.

As you set it down it broke —

  Broke, but I did not wince;

I smiled at the speech you spoke,

  At your judgement that I heard:

But I have not often smiled

  Since then, nor questioned since,

Nor cared for corn-flowers wild,

  Nor sung with the singing bird.

I take my heart in my hand,

  O my God, O my God,

My broken heart in my hand:

  Thou hast seen, judge Thou.

My hope was written on sand,

  O my God, O my God:

Now let thy judgement stand —

  Yea, judge me now.

This contemned of a man,

  This marred one heedless day,

This heart take Thou to scan

  Both within and without:

Refine with fire its gold,

  Purge thou its dross away —

Yea, hold it in Thy hold,

  Whence none can pluck it out.

I take my heart in my hand —

  I shall not die, but live —

Before Thy face I stand;

  I, for Thou callest such:

All that I have I bring,

  All that I am I give,

Smile Thou and I shall sing,

  But shall not question much.

Songs in a Cornfield

A song in a cornfield

  Where corn begins to fall,

Where reapers are reaping,

  Reaping one, reaping all.

Sing pretty Lettice,

  Sing Rachel, sing May;

Only Marian cannot sing

  While her sweetheart’s away.

Where is he gone to

  And why does he stay?

He came across the green sea

  But for a day,

Across the deep green sea

  To help with the hay.

His hair was curly yellow

  And his eyes were grey,

He laughed a merry laugh

  And said a sweet say.

Where is he gone to

  That he comes not home?

To-day or tomorrow

  He surely will come.

Let him haste to joy

  Lest he lag for sorrow,

For one weeps today

  Who’ll not weep tomorrow:

To-day she must weep

  For gnawing sorrow,

To-night she may sleep

  And not wake tomorrow.

May sang with Rachel

  In the waxing warm weather,

Lettice sang with them,

  They sang all together:—

    ‘Take the wheat in your arm

      Whilst day is broad above,

    Take the wheat to your bosom,

      But not a false love.

      Out in the fields

        Summer heat gloweth,

      Out in the fields

        Summer wind bloweth,

      Out in the fields

        Summer friend showeth,

      Out in the fields

        Summer wheat groweth;

    But in the winter

      When summer heat is dead

    And summer wind has veered

      And summer friend has fled,

    Only summer wheat remaineth,

      White cakes and bread.

    Take the wheat, clasp the wheat

      That’s food for maid and dove;

    Take the wheat to your bosom,

      But not a false false love.’

A silence of full noontide heat

  Grew on them at their toil:

The farmer’s dog woke up from sleep,

  The green snake hid her coil.

Where grass stood thickest, bird and beast

  Sought shadows as they could,

The reaping men and women paused

  And sat down where they stood;

They ate and drank and were refreshed,

  For rest from toil is good.

While the reapers took their ease,

  Their sickles lying by,

Rachel sang a second strain,

  And singing seemed to sigh:—

    ‘There goes the swallow —

    Could we but follow!

      Hasty swallow stay,

      Point us out the way;

Look back swallow, turn back swallow, stop swallow.

    ‘There went the swallow —

    Too late to follow:

      Lost our note of way,

      Lost our chance today;

Good bye swallow, sunny swallow, wise swallow.

    ‘After the swallow

    All sweet things follow:

      All things go their way,

      Only we must stay,

Must not follow; good bye swallow, good swallow.’

Then listless Marian raised her head

  Among the nodding sheaves;

Her voice was sweeter than that voice;

  She sang like one who grieves:

Her voice was sweeter than its wont

  Among the nodding sheaves;

All wondered while they heard her sing

  Like one who hopes and grieves:—

    ‘Deeper than the hail can smite,

    Deeper than the frost can bite,

    Deep asleep through day and night,

        Our delight.

    ‘Now thy sleep no pang can break,

    No tomorrow bid thee wake,

    Not our sobs who sit and ache

        For thy sake.

    ‘Is it dark or light below?

    Oh, but is it cold like snow?

    Dost thou feel the green things grow

        Fast or slow?

    ‘Is it warm or cold beneath,

    Oh, but is it cold like death?

    Cold like death, without a breath,

        Cold like death?’

If he comes today

  He will find her weeping;

If he comes tomorrow

  He will find her sleeping;

If he comes the next day

  He’ll not find her at all,

He may tear his curling hair,

  Beat his breast and call.

A Year’s Windfalls

On the wind of January

  Down flits the snow,

Travelling from the frozen North

  As cold as it can blow.

Poor robin redbreast,

  Look where he comes;

Let him in to feel your fire,

  And toss him of your crumbs.

On the wind in February

  Snowflakes float still,

Half inclined to turn to rain,

  Nipping, dripping, chill.

Then the thaws swell the streams,

  And swollen rivers swell the sea:—

If the winter ever ends

  How pleasant it will be!

In the wind of windy March

  The catkins drop down,

Curly, caterpillar-like,

  Curious green and brown.

With concourse of nest-building birds

  And leaf-buds by the way,

We begin to think of flowers

  And life and nuts some day.

With the gusts of April

  Rich fruit-tree blossoms fall,

On the hedged-in orchard-green,

  From the southern wall.

Apple-trees and pear-trees

  Shed petals white or pink,

Plum-trees and peach-trees;

  While sharp showers sink and sink.

Little brings the May breeze

  Beside pure scent of flowers,

While all things wax and nothing wanes

  In lengthening daylight hours.

Across the hyacinth beds

  The wind lags warm and sweet,

Across the hawthorn tops,

  Across the blades of wheat.

In the wind of sunny June

  Thrives the red rose crop,

Every day fresh blossoms blow

  While the first leaves drop;

White rose and yellow rose

  And moss-rose choice to find,

And the cottage cabbage-rose

  Not one whit behind.

On the blast of scorched July

  Drives the pelting hail,

From thunderous lightning-clouds, that blot

  Blue heaven grown lurid-pale.

Weedy waves are tossed ashore,

  Sea-things strange to sight

Gasp upon the barren shore

  And fade away in light.

In the parching August wind

  Corn-fields bow the head,

Sheltered in round valley depths,

  On low hills outspread.

Early leaves drop loitering down

  Weightless on the breeze,

First fruits of the year’s decay

  From the withering trees.

In brisk wind of September

  The heavy-headed fruits

Shake upon their bending boughs

  And drop from the shoots;

Some glow golden in the sun,

  Some show green and streaked,

Some set forth a purple bloom,

  Some blush rosy-cheeked.

In strong blast of October

  At the equinox,

Stirred up in his hollow bed

  Broad ocean rocks;

Plunge the ships on his bosom,

  Leaps and plunges the foam, —

It’s oh! for mothers’ sons at sea,

  That they were safe at home.

In slack wind of November

  The fog forms and shifts;

All the world comes out again

  When the fog lifts.

Loosened from their sapless twigs

  Leaves drop with every gust;

Drifting, rustling, out of sight

  In the damp or dust.

Last of all, December,

  The year’s sands nearly run,

Speeds on the shortest day,

  Curtails the sun;

With its bleak raw wind

  Lays the last leaves low,

Brings back the nightly frosts,

  Brings back the snow.

The Queen of Hearts

How comes it, Flora, that, whenever we

Play cards together, you invariably,

    However the pack parts,

    Still hold the Queen of Hearts?

I’ve scanned you with a scrutinizing gaze,

Resolved to fathom these your secret ways:

    But, sift them as I will,

    Your ways are secret still.

I cut and shuffle; shuffle, cut, again;

But all my cutting, shuffling, proves in vain:

    Vain hope, vain forethought too;

    The Queen still falls to you.

I dropped her once, prepense; but, ere the deal

Was dealt, your instinct seemed her loss to feel:

    ‘There should be one card more,’

    You said, and searched the floor.

I cheated once; I made a private notch

In Heart–Queen’s back, and kept a lynx-eyed watch;

    Yet such another back

    Deceived me in the pack:

The Queen of Clubs assumed by arts unknown

An imitative dint that seemed my own;

    This notch, not of my doing,

    Misled me to my ruin.

It baffles me to puzzle out the clue,

Which must be skill, or craft, or luck in you:

    Unless, indeed, it be

    Natural affinity.

One Day

I will tell you when they met:

In the limpid days of Spring;

Elder boughs were budding yet,

Oaken boughs looked wintry still,

But primrose and veined violet

In the mossful turf were set,

While meeting birds made haste to sing

And build with right good will.

I will tell you when they parted:

When plenteous Autumn sheaves were brown,

Then they parted heavy-hearted;

The full rejoicing sun looked down

As grand as in the days before;

Only they had lost a crown;

Only to them those days of yore

Could come back nevermore.

When shall they meet? I cannot tell,

Indeed, when they shall meet again,

Except some day in Paradise:

For this they wait, one waits in pain.

Beyond the sea of death love lies

For ever, yesterday, today;

Angels shall ask them, ‘Is it well?’

And they shall answer, ‘Yea.’

A Bird’s-Eye View

‘Croak, croak, croak,’

Thus the Raven spoke,

Perched on his crooked tree

As hoarse as hoarse could be.

Shun him and fear him,

Lest the Bridegroom hear him;

Scout him and rout him

With his ominous eye about him.

Yet, ‘Croak, croak, croak,’

Still tolled from the oak;

From that fatal black bird,

Whether heard or unheard:

‘O ship upon the high seas,

Freighted with lives and spices,

Sink, O ship,’ croaked the Raven:

‘Let the Bride mount to heaven.’

In a far foreign land,

Upon the wave-edged sand,

Some friends gaze wistfully

Across the glittering sea.

‘If we could clasp our sister,’

Three say, ‘now we have missed her!’

‘If we could kiss our daughter!’

Two sigh across the water.

Oh, the ship sails fast

With silken flags at the mast,

And the home-wind blows soft;

But a Raven sits aloft,

Chuckling and choking,

Croaking, croaking, croaking:—

Let the beacon-fire blaze higher;

Bridegroom, watch; the Bride draws nigher.

On a sloped sandy beach,

Which the spring-tide billows reach,

Stand a watchful throng

Who have hoped and waited long:

‘Fie on this ship, that tarries

With the priceless freight it carries.

The time seems long and longer:

O languid wind, wax stronger;’ —

Whilst the Raven perched at ease

Still croaks and does not cease,

One monotonous note

Tolled from his iron throat:

‘No father, no mother,

But I have a sable brother:

He sees where ocean flows to,

And he knows what he knows, too.’

A day and a night

They kept watch worn and white;

A night and a day

For the swift ship on its way:

For the Bride and her maidens

— Clear chimes the bridal cadence —

For the tall ship that never

Hove in sight for ever.

On either shore, some

Stand in grief loud or dumb

As the dreadful dread

Grows certain though unsaid.

For laughter there is weeping,

And waking instead of sleeping,

And a desperate sorrow

Morrow after morrow.

Oh, who knows the truth,

How she perished in her youth,

And like a queen went down

Pale in her royal crown:

How she went up to glory

From the sea-foam chill and hoary,

From the sea-depth black and riven

To the calm that is in Heaven?

They went down, all the crew,

The silks and spices too,

The great ones and the small,

One and all, one and all.

Was it through stress of weather,

Quicksands, rocks, or all together?

Only the Raven knows this,

And he will not disclose this. —

After a day and year

The bridal bells chime clear;

After a year and a day

The Bridegroom is brave and gay:

Love is sound, faith is rotten;

The old Bride is forgotten:—

Two ominous Ravens only

Remember, black and lonely.

Light Love

‘Oh, sad thy lot before I came,

  But sadder when I go;

My presence but a flash of flame,

  A transitory glow

  Between two barren wastes like snow.

What wilt thou do when I am gone,

  Where wilt thou rest, my dear?

For cold thy bed to rest upon,

  And cold the falling year

  Whose withered leaves are lost and sere.’

She hushed the baby at her breast,

  She rocked it on her knee:

‘And I will rest my lonely rest,

  Warmed with the thought of thee,

  Rest lulled to rest by memory.’

She hushed the baby with her kiss,

  She hushed it with her breast:

‘Is death so sadder much than this —

  Sure death that builds a nest

  For those who elsewhere cannot rest?’

‘Oh, sad thy note, my mateless dove,

  With tender nestling cold;

But hast thou ne’er another love

  Left from the days of old,

  To build thy nest of silk and gold,

To warm thy paleness to a blush

  When I am far away —

To warm thy coldness to a flush,

  And turn thee back to May,

  And turn thy twilight back to day?’

She did not answer him again,

  But leaned her face aside,

Weary with the pang of shame and pain,

  And sore with wounded pride:

  He knew his very soul had lied.

She strained his baby in her arms,

  His baby to her heart:

‘Even let it go, the love that harms:

  We twain will never part;

  Mine own, his own, how dear thou art.’

‘Now never teaze me, tender-eyed,

  Sigh-voiced,’ he said in scorn:

‘For nigh at hand there blooms a bride,

  My bride before the morn;

  Ripe-blooming she, as thou forlorn.

Ripe-blooming she, my rose, my peach;

  She woos me day and night:

I watch her tremble in my reach;

  She reddens, my delight,

  She ripens, reddens in my sight.’

‘And is she like a sunlit rose?

  Am I like withered leaves?

Haste where thy spicèd garden blows:

  But in bare Autumn eves

  Wilt thou have store of harvest sheaves?

Thou leavest love, true love behind,

  To seek a love as true;

Go, seek in haste: but wilt thou find?

  Change new again for new;

  Pluck up, enjoy — yea, trample too.

‘Alas for her, poor faded rose,

  Alas for her her, like me,

Cast down and trampled in the snows.’

  ‘Like thee? nay, not like thee:

  She leans, but from a guarded tree.

Farewell, and dream as long ago,

  Before we ever met:

Farewell; my swift-paced horse seems slow.’

  She raised her eyes, not wet

  But hard, to Heaven: ‘Does God forget?’

A Dream


Once in a dream (for once I dreamed of you)

  We stood together in an open field;

  Above our heads two swift-winged pigeons wheeled,

Sporting at ease and courting full in view.

When loftier still a broadening darkness flew,

  Down-swooping, and a ravenous hawk revealed;

  Too weak to fight, too fond to fly, they yield;

So farewell life and love and pleasures new.

Then as their plumes fell fluttering to the ground,

  Their snow-white plumage flecked with crimson drops,

  I wept, and thought I turned towards you to weep:

  But you were gone; while rustling hedgerow tops

Bent in a wind which bore to me a sound

    Of far-off piteous bleat of lambs and sheep.

A Ring Posy

Jess and Jill are pretty girls,

  Plump and well to do,

In a cloud of windy curls:

  Yet I know who

Loves me more than curls or pearls.

I’m not pretty, not a bit —

  Thin and sallow-pale;

When I trudge along the street

  I don’t need a veil:

Yet I have one fancy hit.

Jess and Jill can trill and sing

  With a flute-like voice,

Dance as light as bird on wing,

  Laugh for careless joys:

Yet it’s I who wear the ring.

Jess and Jill will mate some day,

  Surely, surely:

Ripen on to June through May,

While the sun shines make their hay,

  Slacken steps demurely:

Yet even there I lead the way.

Beauty is Vain

While roses are so red,

  While lilies are so white,

Shall a woman exalt her face

  Because it gives delight?

She’s not so sweet as a rose,

  A lily’s straighter than she,

And if she were as red or white

  She’d be but one of three.

Whether she flush in love’s summer

  Or in its winter grow pale,

Whether she flaunt her beauty

  Or hide it away in a veil,

Be she red or white,

  And stand she erect or bowed,

Time will win the race he runs with her

  And hide her away in a shroud.

Lady Maggie

You must not call me Maggie, you must not call me Dear,

  For I’m Lady of the Manor now stately to see;

And if there comes a babe, as there may some happy year,

  ’Twill be little lord or lady at my knee.

Oh, but what ails you, my sailor cousin Phil,

  That you shake and turn white like a cockcrow ghost?

You’re as white as I turned once down by the mill,

  When one told me you and ship and crew were lost:

Philip my playfellow, when we were boy and girl

  (It was the Miller’s Nancy told it to me),

Philip with the merry life in lip and curl,

  Philip my playfellow drowned in the sea!

I thought I should have fainted, but I did not faint;

  I stood stunned at the moment, scarcely sad,

Till I raised my wail of desolate complaint

  For you, my cousin, brother, all I had.

They said I looked so pale — some say so fair —

  My lord stopped in passing to soothe me back to life:

I know I missed a ringlet from my hair

  Next morning; and now I am his wife.

Look at my gown, Philip, and look at my ring,

  I’m all crimson and gold from top to toe:

All day long I sit in the sun and sing,

  Where in the sun red roses blush and blow.

And I’m the rose of roses says my lord;

  And to him I’m more than the sun in the sky,

While I hold him fast with the golden cord

  Of a curl, with the eyelash of an eye.

His mother said ‘fie,’ and his sisters cried ‘shame,’

  His highborn ladies cried ‘shame’ from their place:

They said ‘fie’ when they only heard my name,

  But fell silent when they saw my face.

Am I so fair, Philip? Philip, did you think

  I was so fair when we played boy and girl,

Where blue forget-me-nots bloomed on the brink

  Of our stream which the mill-wheel sent a whirl?

If I was fair then sure I’m fairer now,

  Sitting where a score of servants stand,

With a coronet on high days for my brow

  And almost a sceptre for my hand.

You’re but a sailor, Philip, weatherbeaten brown,

  A stranger on land and at home on the sea,

Coasting as best you may from town to town:

  Coasting along do you often think of me?

I’m a great lady in a sheltered bower,

  With hands grown white through having nought to do:

Yet sometimes I think of you hour after hour

  Till I nigh wish myself a child with you.

What Would I Give?

What would I give for a heart of flesh to warm me through,

Instead of this heart of stone ice-cold whatever I do;

Hard and cold and small, of all hearts the worst of all.

What would I give for words, if only words would come;

But now in its misery my spirit has fallen dumb:

Oh, merry friends, go your own way, I have never a word to say.

What would I give for tears, not smiles but scalding tears,

To wash the black mark clean, and to thaw the frost of years,

To wash the stain ingrain and to make me clean again.

The Bourne

Underneath the growing grass,

  Underneath the living flowers,

  Deeper than the sound of showers:

  There we shall not count the hours

By the shadows as they pass.

Youth and health will be but vain,

  Beauty reckoned of no worth:

  There a very little girth

  Can hold round what once the earth

Seemed too narrow to contain.


Winter is cold-hearted

  Spring is yea and nay,

Autumn is a weather-cock

  Blown every way:

Summer days for me

When every leaf is on its tree;

When Robin’s not a beggar,

  And Jenny Wren’s a bride,

And larks hang singing, singing, singing,

  Over the wheat-fields wide,

  And anchored lilies ride,

And the pendulum spider

  Swings from side to side,

And blue-black beetles transact business,

  And gnats fly in a host,

And furry caterpillars hasten

  That no time be lost,

And moths grow fat and thrive,

And ladybirds arrive.

Before green apples blush,

  Before green nuts embrown,

Why, one day in the country

  Is worth a month in town;

  Is worth a day and a year

Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion

  That days drone elsewhere.


I dwell alone — I dwell alone, alone,

  Whilst full my river flows down to the sea,

Gilded with flashing boats

  That bring no friend to me:

O love-songs, gurgling from a hundred throats,

  O love-pangs, let me be.

Fair fall the freighted boats which gold and stone

    And spices bear to sea:

Slim, gleaming maidens swell their mellow notes,

    Love-promising, entreating —

    Ah! sweet, but fleeting —

  Beneath the shivering, snow-white sails.

  Hush! the wind flags and fails —

Hush! they will lie becalmed in sight of strand —

  Sight of my strand, where I do dwell alone;

Their songs wake singing echoes in my land —

  They cannot hear me moan.

  One latest, solitary swallow flies

    Across the sea, rough autumn-tempest tossed,

    Poor bird, shall it be lost?

  Dropped down into this uncongenial sea,

        With no kind eyes

        To watch it while it dies,

     Unguessed, uncared for, free:

        Set free at last,

        The short pang past,

In sleep, in death, in dreamless sleep locked fast.

Mine avenue is all a growth of oaks,

    Some rent by thunder strokes,

Some rustling leaves and acorns in the breeze;

    Fair fall my fertile trees,

That rear their goodly heads, and live at ease.

A spider’s web blocks all mine avenue;

  He catches down and foolish painted flies

    That spider wary and wise.

Each morn it hangs a rainbow strung with dew

  Betwixt boughs green with sap,

  So fair, few creatures guess it is a trap:

    I will not mar the web,

Though sad I am to see the small lives ebb.

It shakes — my trees shake — for a wind is roused

    In cavern where it housed:

    Each white and quivering sail,

    Of boats among the water leaves

Hollows and strains in the full-throated gale:

    Each maiden sings again —

Each languid maiden, whom the calm

Had lulled to sleep with rest and spice and balm

    Miles down my river to the sea

      They float and wane,

    Long miles away from me.

    Perhaps they say: ‘She grieves,

      Uplifted, like a beacon, on her tower.’

      Perhaps they say: ‘One hour

More, and we dance among the golden sheaves.’

      Perhaps they say: ‘One hour

        More, and we stand,

        Face to face, hand in hand;

Make haste, O slack gale, to the looked-for land!’

      My trees are not in flower,

      I have no bower,

      And gusty creaks my tower,

And lonesome, very lonesome, is my strand.

The Ghost’s Petition

‘There’s a footstep coming: look out and see,’

  ‘The leaves are falling, the wind is calling;

No one cometh across the lea.’ —

‘There’s a footstep coming; O sister, look.’ —

  ‘The ripple flashes, the white foam dashes;

No one cometh across the brook.’ —

‘But he promised that he would come:

  To-night, tomorrow, in joy or sorrow,

He must keep his word, and must come home.

‘For he promised that he would come:

  His word was given; from earth or heaven,

He must keep his word, and must come home.

‘Go to sleep, my sweet sister Jane;

  You can slumber, who need not number

Hour after hour, in doubt and pain.

‘I shall sit here awhile, and watch;

  Listening, hoping, for one hand groping

In deep shadow to find the latch.’

After the dark, and before the light,

  One lay sleeping; and one sat weeping,

Who had watched and wept the weary night.

After the night, and before the day,

  One lay sleeping; and one sat weeping —

Watching, weeping for one away.

There came a footstep climbing the stair;

  Some one standing out on the landing

Shook the door like a puff of air —

Shook the door, and in he passed.

  Did he enter? In the room centre

Stood her husband: the door shut fast.

‘O Robin, but you are cold —

  Chilled with the night-dew: so lily-white you

Look like a stray lamb from our fold.

‘O Robin, but you are late:

  Come and sit near me — sit here and cheer me.’ —

(Blue the flame burnt in the grate.)

‘Lay not down your head on my breast:

  I cannot hold you, kind wife, nor fold you

In the shelter that you love best.

‘Feel not after my clasping hand:

  I am but a shadow, come from the meadow

Where many lie, but no tree can stand.

‘We are trees which have shed their leaves:

  Our heads lie low there, but no tears flow there;

Only I grieve for my wife who grieves.

‘I could rest if you would not moan

  Hour after hour; I have no power

To shut my ears where I lie alone.

‘I could rest if you would not cry;

  But there’s no sleeping while you sit weeping —

Watching, weeping so bitterly.’ —

‘Woe’s me! woe’s me! for this I have heard.

  Oh night of sorrow! — oh black tomorrow!

Is it thus that you keep your word?

‘O you who used so to shelter me

  Warm from the least wind — why, now the east wind

Is warmer than you, whom I quake to see.

‘O my husband of flesh and blood,

  For whom my mother I left, and brother,

And all I had, accounting it good,

‘What do you do there, underground,

  In the dark hollow? I’m fain to follow.

What do you do there? — what have you found?’ —

‘What I do there I must not tell:

  But I have plenty: kind wife, content ye:

It is well with us — it is well.

‘Tender hand hath made our nest;

  Our fear is ended, our hope is blended

With present pleasure, and we have rest.’ —

‘Oh, but Robin, I’m fain to come,

  If your present days are so pleasant;

For my days are so wearisome.

‘Yet I’ll dry my tears for your sake:

  Why should I tease you, who cannot please you

Any more with the pains I take?’



I nursed it in my bosom while it lived,

  I hid it in my heart when it was dead;

In joy I sat alone, even so I grieved

    Alone and nothing said.

I shut the door to face the naked truth,

  I stood alone — I faced the truth alone,

Stripped bare of self-regard or forms or ruth

    Till first and last were shown.

I took the perfect balances and weighed;

  No shaking of my hand disturbed the poise;

Weighed, found it wanting: not a word I said,

    But silent made my choice.

None know the choice I made; I make it still.

  None know the choice I made and broke my heart,

Breaking mine idol: I have braced my will

    Once, chosen for once my part.

I broke it at a blow, I laid it cold,

  Crushed in my deep heart where it used to live.

My heart dies inch by inch; the time grows old,

    Grows old in which I grieve.


I have a room whereinto no one enters

  Save I myself alone:

  There sits a blessed memory on a throne,

There my life centres.

While winter comes and goes — oh tedious comer! —

  And while its nip-wind blows;

  While bloom the bloodless lily and warm rose

Of lavish summer.

If any should force entrance he might see there

  One buried yet not dead,

  Before whose face I no more bow my head

Or bend my knee there;

But often in my worn life’s autumn weather

  I watch there with clear eyes,

  And think how it will be in Paradise

When we’re together.

A Royal Princess

I, a princess, king-descended, decked with jewels, gilded, drest,

Would rather be a peasant with her baby at her breast,

For all I shine so like the sun, and am purple like the west.

Two and two my guards behind, two and two before,

Two and two on either hand, they guard me evermore;

Me, poor dove, that must not coo — eagle that must not soar.

All my fountains cast up perfumes, all my gardens grow

Scented woods and foreign spices, with all flowers in blow

That are costly, out of season as the seasons go.

All my walls are lost in mirrors, whereupon I trace

Self to right hand, self to left hand, self in every place,

Self-same solitary figure, self-same seeking face.

Then I have an ivory chair high to sit upon,

Almost like my father’s chair, which is an ivory throne;

There I sit uplift and upright, there I sit alone.

Alone by day, alone by night, alone days without end;

My father and my mother give me treasures, search and spend —

O my father! O my mother! have you ne’er a friend?

As I am a lofty princess, so my father is

A lofty king, accomplished in all kingly subtilties,

Holding in his strong right hand world-kingdoms’ balances.

He has quarrelled with his neighbours, he has scourged his foes;

Vassal counts and princes follow where his pennon goes,

Long-descended valiant lords whom the vulture knows,

On whose track the vulture swoops, when they ride in state

To break the strength of armies and topple down the great:

Each of these my courteous servant, none of these my mate.

My father counting up his strength sets down with equal pen

So many head of cattle, head of horses, head of men;

These for slaughter, these for breeding, with the how and when.

Some to work on roads, canals; some to man his ships;

Some to smart in mines beneath sharp overseers’ whips;

Some to trap fur-beasts in lands where utmost winter nips.

Once it came into my heart, and whelmed me like a flood,

That these too are men and women, human flesh and blood;

Men with hearts and men with souls, though trodden down like mud.

Our feasting was not glad that night, our music was not gay:

On my mother’s graceful head I marked a thread of grey,

My father frowning at the fare seemed every dish to weigh.

I sat beside them sole princess in my exalted place,

My ladies and my gentlemen stood by me on the dais:

A mirror showed me I look old and haggard in the face;

It showed me that my ladies all are fair to gaze upon,

Plump, plenteous-haired, to every one love’s secret lore is known,

They laugh by day, they sleep by night; ah me, what is a throne?

The singing men and women sang that night as usual,

The dancers danced in pairs and sets, but music had a fall,

A melancholy windy fall as at a funeral.

Amid the toss of torches to my chamber back we swept;

My ladies loosed my golden chain; meantime I could have wept

To think of some in galling chains whether they waked or slept.

I took my bath of scented milk, delicately waited on,

They burned sweet things for my delight, cedar and cinnamon,

They lit my shaded silver lamp, and left me there alone.

A day went by, a week went by. One day I heard it said:

‘Men are clamouring, women, children, clamouring to be fed;

Men like famished dogs are howling in the streets for bread.’

So two whispered by my door, not thinking I could hear,

Vulgar naked truth, ungarnished for a royal ear;

Fit for cooping in the background, not to stalk so near.

But I strained my utmost sense to catch this truth, and mark:

‘There are families out grazing like cattle in the park.’

‘A pair of peasants must be saved even if we build an ark.’

A merry jest, a merry laugh, each strolled upon his way;

One was my page, a lad I reared and bore with day by day;

One was my youngest maid as sweet and white as cream in May.

Other footsteps followed softly with a weightier tramp;

Voices said: ‘Picked soldiers have been summoned from the camp

To quell these base-born ruffians who make free to howl and stamp.’

‘Howl and stamp?’ one answered: ‘They made free to hurl a stone

At the minister’s state coach, well aimed and stoutly thrown.’

‘There’s work then for the soldiers, for this rank crop must be mown.’

‘One I saw, a poor old fool with ashes on his head,

Whimpering because a girl had snatched his crust of bread:

Then he dropped; when some one raised him, it turned out he was dead.’

‘After us the deluge,’ was retorted with a laugh:

‘If bread’s the staff of life, they must walk without a staff.’

‘While I’ve a loaf they’re welcome to my blessing and the chaff.’

These passed. The king: stand up. Said my father with a smile:

‘Daughter mine, your mother comes to sit with you awhile,

She’s sad today, and who but you her sadness can beguile?’

He too left me. Shall I touch my harp now while I wait, —

(I hear them doubling guard below before our palace gate — )

Or shall I work the last gold stitch into my veil of state;

Or shall my woman stand and read some unimpassioned scene,

There’s music of a lulling sort in words that pause between;

Or shall she merely fan me while I wait here for the queen?

Again I caught my father’s voice in sharp word of command:

‘Charge!’ a clash of steel: ‘Charge again, the rebels stand.

Smite and spare not, hand to hand; smite and spare not, hand to hand.’

There swelled a tumult at the gate, high voices waxing higher; 91

A flash of red reflected light lit the cathedral spire;

I heard a cry for faggots, then I heard a yell for fire.

‘Sit and roast there with your meat, sit and bake there with your bread,

You who sat to see us starve,’ one shrieking woman said:

‘Sit on your throne and roast with your crown upon your head.’

Nay, this thing will I do, while my mother tarrieth,

I will take my fine spun gold, but not to sew therewith,

I will take my gold and gems, and rainbow fan and wreath;

With a ransom in my lap, a king’s ransom in my hand,

I will go down to this people, will stand face to face, will stand

Where they curse king, queen, and princess of this cursed land.

They shall take all to buy them bread, take all I have to give;

I, if I perish, perish; they today shall eat and live;

I, if I perish, perish; that’s the goal I half conceive:

Once to speak before the world, rend bare my heart and show

The lesson I have learned which is death, is life, to know.

I, if I perish, perish; in the name of God I go.

Shall I Forget?

Shall I forget on this side of the grave?

I promise nothing: you must wait and see

    Patient and brave.

(O my soul, watch with him and he with me.)

Shall I forget in peace of Paradise?

I promise nothing: follow, friend, and see

    Faithful and wise.

(O my soul, lead the way he walks with me.)

Vanity of Vanities


Ah, woe is me for pleasure that is vain,

  Ah, woe is me for glory that is past:

  Pleasure that bringeth sorrow at the last,

Glory that at the last bringeth no gain!

So saith the sinking heart; and so again

  It shall say till the mighty angel-blast

  Is blown, making the sun and moon aghast

And showering down the stars like sudden rain.

And evermore men shall go fearfully

  Bending beneath their weight of heaviness;

And ancient men shall lie down wearily,

  And strong men shall rise up in weariness;

Yea, even the young shall answer sighingly

  Saying one to another: How vain it is!

L. E. L.

‘Whose heart was breaking for a little love.’

Downstairs I laugh, I sport and jest with all;

  But in my solitary room above

I turn my face in silence to the wall;

  My heart is breaking for a little love.

    Though winter frosts are done,

    And birds pair every one,

And leaves peep out, for springtide is begun.

I feel no spring, while spring is wellnigh blown,

  I find no nest, while nests are in the grove:

Woe’s me for mine own heart that dwells alone,

  My heart that breaketh for a little love.

    While golden in the sun

    Rivulets rise and run,

While lilies bud, for springtide is begun.

All love, are loved, save only I; their hearts

  Beat warm with love and joy, beat full thereof:

They cannot guess, who play the pleasant parts,

  My heart is breaking for a little love.

    While beehives wake and whirr,

    And rabbit thins his fur,

In living spring that sets the world astir.

I deck myself with skills and jewelry,

  I plume myself like any mated dove:

They praise my rustling show, and never see

  My heart is breaking for a little love.

    While sprouts green lavender

    With rosemary and myrrh,

For in quick spring the sap is all astir.

Perhaps some saints in glory guess the truth,

  Perhaps some angels read it as they move,

And cry one to another full of ruth,

  ‘Her heart is breaking for a little love.’

    Though other things have birth,

    And leap and sing for mirth,

When springtime wakes and clothes and feeds the earth.

Yet saith a saint: ‘Take patience for thy scathe;’

  Yet saith an angel: ‘Wait, for thou shalt prove

True best is last, true life is born of death,

  O thou, heart-broken for a little love.

    Then love shall fill they girth,

    And love make fat thy dearth,

When new spring builds new heaven and clean new earth.’

Life and Death

Life is not sweet. One day it will be sweet

  To shut our eyes and die:

Nor feel the wild flowers blow, nor birds dart by

  With flitting butterfly,

Nor grass grow long above our heads and feet,

Nor hear the happy lark that soars sky high,

Nor sigh that spring is fleet and summer fleet,

  Nor mark the waxing wheat,

Nor know who sits in our accustomed seat.

Life is not good. One day it will be good

  To die, then live again;

To sleep meanwhile: so not to feel the wane

Of shrunk leaves dropping in the wood,

Nor hear the foamy lashing of the main,

Nor mark the blackened bean-fields, nor where stood

  Rich ranks of golden grain

Only dead refuse stubble clothe the plain:

Asleep from risk, asleep from pain.

Bird or Beast?

Did any bird come flying

  After Adam and Eve,

When the door was shut against them

  And they sat down to grieve?

I think not Eve’s peacock

  Splendid to see,

And I think not Adam’s eagle;

  But a dove may be.

Did any beast come pushing

  Through the thorny hedge

Into the thorny thistly world,

  Out from Eden’s edge?

I think not a lion,

  Though his strength is such;

But an innocent loving lamb

  May have done as much.

If the dove preached from her bough

  and the lamb from his sod,

The lamb and dove

  Were preachers sent from God.


‘While I sit at the door

Sick to gaze within

Mine eye weepeth sore

For sorrow and sin:

As a tree my sin stands

To darken all lands;

Death is the fruit it bore.

‘How have Eden bowers grown

Without Adam to bend them!

How have Eden flowers blown

Squandering their sweet breath

Without me to tend them!

The Tree of Life was ours,

Tree twelvefold-fruited,

Most lofty tree that flowers,

Most deeply rooted:

I chose the tree of death.

‘Hadst thou but said me nay,

Adam, my brother,

I might have pined away;

I, but none other:

God might have let thee stay

Safe in our garden,

By putting me away

Beyond all pardon.

‘I, Eve, sad mother

Of all who must live,

I, not another

Plucked bitterest fruit to give

My friend, husband, lover —

O wanton eyes, run over;

Who but I should grieve? —

Cain hath slain his brother:

Of all who must die mother,

Miserable Eve!’

Thus she sat weeping,

Thus Eve our mother,

Where one lay sleeping

Slain by his brother.

Greatest and least

Each piteous beast

To hear her voice

Forgot his joys

And set aside his feast.

The mouse paused in his walk

And dropped his wheaten stalk;

Grave cattle wagged their heads

In rumination;

The eagle gave a cry

From his cloud station;

Larks on thyme beds

Forbore to mount or sing;

Bees drooped upon the wing;

The raven perched on high

Forgot his ration;

The conies in their rock,

A feeble nation,

Quaked sympathetical;

The mocking-bird left off to mock;

Huge camels knelt as if

In deprecation;

The kind hart’s tears were falling;

Chattered the wistful stork;

Dove-voices with a dying fall

Cooed desolation

Answering grief by grief.

Only the serpent in the dust

Wriggling and crawling,

Grinned an evil grin and thrust

His tongue out with its fork.

Grown and Flown

I loved my love from green of Spring

  Until sere Autumn’s fall;

But now that leaves are withering

  How should one love at all?

  One heart’s too small

For hunger, cold, love, everything.

I loved my love on sunny days

  Until late Summer’s wane;

But now that frost begins to glaze

  How should one love again?

  Nay, love and pain

Walk wide apart in diverse ways.

I loved my love — alas to see

  That this should be, alas!

I thought that this could scarcely be,

  Yet has it come to pass:

  Sweet sweet love was,

Now bitter bitter grown to me.

A Farm Walk

The year stood at its equinox

  And bluff the North was blowing,

A bleat of lambs came from the flocks,

  Green hardy things were growing;

I met a maid with shining locks

  Where milky kine were lowing.

She wore a kerchief on her neck,

  Her bare arm showed its dimple,

Her apron spread without a speck,

  Her air was frank and simple.

She milked into a wooden pail

  And sang a country ditty,

An innocent fond lovers’ tale,

  That was not wise nor witty,

Pathetically rustical,

  Too pointless for the city.

She kept in time without a beat

  As true as church-bell ringers,

Unless she tapped time with her feet,

  Or squeezed it with her fingers;

Her clear unstudied notes were sweet

  As many a practised singer’s.

I stood a minute out of sight,

  Stood silent for a minute

To eye the pail, and creamy white

  The frothing milk within it;

To eye the comely milking maid

  Herself so fresh and creamy:

‘Good day to you,’ at last I said;

  She turned her head to see me:

‘Good day,’ she said with lifted head;

  Her eyes looked soft and dreamy,

And all the while she milked and milked

  The grave cow heavy-laden:

I’ve seen grand ladies plumed and silked,

  But not a sweeter maiden;

But not a sweeter fresher maid

  Than this in homely cotton,

Whose pleasant face and silky braid

  I have not yet forgotten.

Seven springs have passed since then, as I

  Count with a sober sorrow;

Seven springs have come and passed me by,

  And spring sets in tomorrow.

I’ve half a mind to shake myself

  Free just for once from London,

To set my work upon the shelf

  And leave it done or undone;

To run down by the early train,

  Whirl down with shriek and whistle,

And feel the bluff North blow again,

  And mark the sprouting thistle

Set up on waste patch of the lane

  Its green and tender bristle.

And spy the scarce-blown violet banks,

  Crisp primrose leaves and others,

And watch the lambs leap at their pranks

  And butt their patient mothers.

Alas, one point in all my plan

  My serious thoughts demur to:

Seven years have passed for maid and man,

  Seven years have passed for her too;

Perhaps my rose is overblown,

  Not rosy or too rosy;

Perhaps in farmhouse of her own

  Some husband keeps her cosy,

Where I should show a face unknown.

  Good-bye, my wayside posy.

Somewhere or Other

Somewhere or other there must surely be

  The face not seen, the voice not heard,

The heart that not yet — never yet — ah me!

    Made answer to my word.

Somewhere or other, may be near or far;

  Past land and sea, clean out of sight;

Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star

    That tracks her night by night.

Somewhere or other, may be far or near;

  With just a wall, a hedge, between;

With just the last leaves of the dying year

    Fallen on a turf grown green.

A Chill

  What can lambkins do

  All the keen night through?

Nestle by their woolly mother

  The careful ewe.

  What can nestlings do

  In the nightly dew?

Sleep beneath their mother’s wing

  Till day breaks anew.

  If in a field or tree

  There might only be

Such a warm soft sleeping-place

  Found for me!

Child’s Talk in April

I wish you were a pleasant wren,

  And I your small accepted mate;

How we’d look down on toilsome men!

  We’d rise and go to bed at eight

  Or it may be not quite so late.

Then you should see the nest I’d build,

  The wondrous nest for you and me;

The outside rough perhaps, but filled

  With wool and down; ah, you should see

  The cosy nest that it would be.

We’d have our change of hope and fear,

  Small quarrels, reconcilements sweet:

I’d perch by you to chirp and cheer,

  Or hop about on active feet,

  And fetch you dainty bits to eat.

We’d be so happy by the day,

  So safe and happy through the night,

We both should feel, and I should say,

  It’s all one season of delight,

And we’ll make merry whilst we may.

Perhaps some day there’d be an egg

  When spring had blossomed from the snow:

I’d stand triumphant on one leg;

  Like chanticleer I’d almost crow

  To let our little neighbours know.

Next you should sit and I would sing

Through lengthening days of sunny spring;

  Till, if you wearied of the task,

I’d sit; and you should spread your wing

  From bough to bough; I’d sit and bask.

Fancy the breaking of the shell,

  The chirp, the chickens wet and bare,

The untried proud paternal swell;

  And you with housewife-matron air

  Enacting choicer bills of fare.

Fancy the embryo coats of down,

  The gradual feathers soft and sleek;

Till clothed and strong from tail to crown,

  With virgin warblings in their beak,

  They too go forth to soar and seek.

So would it last an April through

And early summer fresh with dew:

  Then should we part and live as twain,

Love-time would bring me back to you

  And build our happy nest again.

Gone for Ever

O happy rose-bud blooming

  Upon thy parent tree,

Nay, thou art too presuming;

For soon the earth entombing

  Thy faded charms shall be,

And the chill damp consuming.

O happy skylark springing

  Up to the broad blue sky,

Too fearless in thy winging,

Too gladsome in thy singing,

  Thou also soon shalt lie

Where no sweet notes are ringing.

And through life’s shine and shower

  We shall have joy and pain;

But in the summer bower,

And at the morning hour,

  We still shall look in vain

For the same bird and flower.

Under the Rose

‘The iniquity of the fathers upon the children.’

Oh the rose of keenest thorn!

One hidden summer morn

Under the rose I was born.

I do not guess his name

Who wrought my Mother’s shame,

And gave me life forlorn,

But my Mother, Mother, Mother,

I know her from all other.

My Mother pale and mild,

Fair as ever was seen,

She was but scarce sixteen,

Little more than a child,

When I was born

To work her scorn.

With secret bitter throes,

In a passion of secret woes,

She bore me under the rose.

One who my Mother nursed

Took me from the first:—

‘O nurse, let me look upon

This babe that costs so dear;

To-morrow she will be gone:

Other mothers may keep

Their babes awake and asleep,

But I must not keep her here.’ —

Whether I know or guess,

I know this not the less.

So I was sent away

That none might spy the truth:

And my childhood waxed to youth

And I left off childish play.

I never cared to play

With the village boys and girls;

And I think they thought me proud,

I found so little to say

And kept so from the crowd:

But I had the longest curls

And I had the largest eyes

And my teeth were small like pearls;

The girls might flout and scout me,

But the boys would hang about me

In sheepish mooning wise.

Our one-street village stood

A long mile from the town,

A mile of windy down

And bleak one-sided wood,

With not a single house.

Our town itself was small,

With just the common shops,

And throve in its small way.

Our neighbouring gentry reared

The good old-fashioned crops,

And made old-fashioned boasts

Of what John Bull would do

If Frenchman Frog appeared,

And drank old-fashioned toasts,

And made old-fashioned bows

To my Lady at the Hall.

My Lady at the Hall

Is grander than they all:

Hers is the oldest name

In all the neighbourhood;

But the race must die with her

Though she’s a lofty dame,

For she’s unmarried still.

Poor people say she’s good

And has an open hand

As any in the land,

And she’s the comforter

Of many sick and sad;

My nurse once said to me

That everything she had

Came of my Lady’s bounty:

‘Though she’s greatest in the county

She’s humble to the poor,

No beggar seeks her door

But finds help presently.

I pray both night and day

For her, and you must pray:

But she’ll never feel distress

If needy folk can bless.’

I was a little maid

When here we came to live

From somewhere by the sea.

Men spoke a foreign tongue

There where we used to be

When I was merry and young,

Too young to feel afraid;

The fisher folk would give

A kind strange word to me,

There by the foreign sea:

I don’t know where it was,

But I remember still

Our cottage on a hill,

And fields of flowering grass

On that fair foreign shore.

I liked my old home best,

But this was pleasant too:

So here we made our nest

And here I grew.

And now and then my Lady

In riding past our door

Would nod to Nurse and speak,

Or stoop and pat my cheek;

And I was always ready

To hold the field-gate wide

For my Lady to go through;

My Lady in her veil

So seldom put aside,

My Lady grave and pale.

I often sat to wonder

Who might my parents be,

For I knew of something under

My simple-seeming state.

Nurse never talked to me

Of mother or of father,

But watched me early and late

With kind suspicious cares:

Or not suspicious, rather

Anxious, as if she knew

Some secret I might gather

And smart for unawares.

Thus I grew.

But Nurse waxed old and grey,

Bent and weak with years.

There came a certain day

That she lay upon her bed

Shaking her palsied head,

With words she gasped to say

Which had to stay unsaid.

Then with a jerking hand

Held out so piteously

She gave a ring to me

Of gold wrought curiously,

A ring which she had worn

Since the day I was born,

She once had said to me:

I slipped it on my finger;

Her eyes were keen to linger

On my hand that slipped it on;

Then she sighed one rattling sigh

And stared on with sightless eye:—

The one who loved me was gone.

How long I stayed alone

With the corpse I never knew,

For I fainted dead as stone:

When I came to life once more

I was down upon the floor,

With neighbours making ado

To bring me back to life.

I heard the sexton’s wife

Say: ‘Up, my lad, and run

To tell it at the Hall;

She was my Lady’s nurse,

And done can’t be undone.

I’ll watch by this poor lamb.

I guess my Lady’s purse

Is always open to such:

I’d run up on my crutch

A cripple as I am,’

(For cramps had vexed her much)

‘Rather than this dear heart

Lack one to take her part.’

For days day after day

On my weary bed I lay

Wishing the time would pass;

Oh, so wishing that I was

Likely to pass away:

For the one friend whom I knew

Was dead, I knew no other,

Neither father nor mother;

And I, what should I do?

One day the sexton’s wife

Said: ‘Rouse yourself, my dear:

My Lady has driven down

From the Hall into the town,

And we think she’s coming here.

Cheer up, for life is life.’

But I would not look or speak,

Would not cheer up at all.

My tears were like to fall,

So I turned round to the wall

And hid my hollow cheek

Making as if I slept,

As silent as a stone,

And no one knew I wept.

What was my Lady to me,

The grand lady from the Hall?

She might come, or stay away,

I was sick at heart that day:

The whole world seemed to be

Nothing, just nothing to me,

For aught that I could see.

Yet I listened where I lay:

A bustle came below,

A clear voice said: ‘I know;

I will see her first alone,

It may be less of a shock

If she’s so weak today:’ —

A light hand turned the lock,

A light step crossed the floor,

One sat beside my bed:

But never a word she said.

For me, my shyness grew

Each moment more and more:

So I said never a word

And neither looked nor stirred;

I think she must have heard

My heart go pit-a-pat:

Thus I lay, my Lady sat,

More than a mortal hour —

(I counted one and two

By the house-clock while I lay):

I seemed to have no power

To think of a thing to say,

Or do what I ought to do,

Or rouse myself to a choice.

At last she said: ‘Margaret,

Won’t you even look at me?’

A something in her voice

Forced my tears to fall at last,

Forced sobs from me thick and fast;

Something not of the past,

Yet stirring memory;

A something new, and yet

Not new, too sweet to last,

Which I never can forget.

I turned and stared at her:

Her cheek showed hollow-pale;

Her hair like mine was fair,

A wonderful fall of hair

That screened her like a veil;

But her height was statelier,

Her eyes had depth more deep;

I think they must have had

Always a something sad,

Unless they were asleep.

While I stared, my Lady took

My hand in her spare hand

Jewelled and soft and grand,

And looked with a long long look

Of hunger in my face;

As if she tried to trace

Features she ought to know,

And half hoped, half feared, to find.

Whatever was in her mind

She heaved a sigh at last,

And began to talk to me.

‘Your nurse was my dear nurse,

And her nursling’s dear,’ said she:

‘I never knew that she was worse

Till her poor life was past’

(Here my Lady’s tears dropped fast):

‘I might have been with her,

But she had no comforter.

She might have told me much

Which now I shall never know,

Never never shall know.’

She sat by me sobbing so,

And seemed so woe-begone,

That I laid one hand upon

Hers with a timid touch,

Scarce thinking what I did,

Not knowing what to say:

That moment her face was hid

In the pillow close by mine,

Her arm was flung over me,

She hugged me, sobbing so

As if her heart would break,

And kissed me where I lay.

After this she often came

To bring me fruit or wine,

Or sometimes hothouse flowers.

And at nights I lay awake

Often and often thinking

What to do for her sake.

Wet or dry it was the same:

She would come in at all hours,

Set me eating and drinking

And say I must grow strong;

At last the day seemed long

And home seemed scarcely home

If she did not come.

Well, I grew strong again:

In time of primroses,

I went to pluck them in the lane;

In time of nestling birds,

I heard them chirping round the house;

And all the herds

Were out at grass when I grew strong,

And days were waxen long,

And there was work for bees

Among the May-bush boughs,

And I had shot up tall,

And life felt after all

Pleasant, and not so long

When I grew strong.

I was going to the Hall

To be my Lady’s maid:

‘Her little friend,’ she said to me,

‘Almost her child,’

She said and smiled

Sighing painfully;

Blushing, with a second flush

As if she blushed to blush.

Friend, servant, child: just this

My standing at the Hall;

The other servants call me ‘Miss,’

My Lady calls me ‘Margaret,’

With her clear voice musical.

She never chides when I forget

This or that; she never chides.

Except when people come to stay,

(And that’s not often) at the Hall,

I sit with her all day

And ride out when she rides.

She sings to me and makes me sing;

Sometimes I read to her,

Sometimes we merely sit and talk.

She noticed once my ring

And made me tell its history:

That evening in our garden walk

She said she should infer

The ring had been my father’s first,

Then my mother’s, given for me

To the nurse who nursed

My mother in her misery,

That so quite certainly

Some one might know me, who . . .

Then she was silent, and I too.

I hate when people come:

The women speak and stare

And mean to be so civil.

This one will stroke my hair,

That one will pat my cheek

And praise my Lady’s kindness,

Expecting me to speak;

I like the proud ones best

Who sit as struck with blindness,

As if I wasn’t there.

But if any gentleman

Is staying at the Hall

(Though few come prying here),

My Lady seems to fear

Some downright dreadful evil,

And makes me keep my room

As closely as she can:

So I hate when people come,

It is so troublesome.

In spite of all her care,

Sometimes to keep alive

I sometimes do contrive

To get out in the grounds

For a whiff of wholesome air,

Under the rose you know:

It’s charming to break bounds,

Stolen waters are sweet,

And what’s the good of feet

If for days they mustn’t go?

Give me a longer tether,

Or I may break from it.

Now I have eyes and ears

And just some little wit:

‘Almost my Lady’s child;’

I recollect she smiled,

Sighed and blushed together;

Then her story of the ring

Sounds not improbable,

She told it me so well

It seemed the actual thing:—

Oh, keep your counsel close,

But I guess under the rose,

In long past summer weather

When the world was blossoming,

And the rose upon its thorn:

I guess not who he was

Flawed honour like a glass,

And made my life forlorn,

But my Mother, Mother, Mother,

Oh, I know her from all other.

My Lady, you might trust

Your daughter with your fame.

Trust me, I would not shame

Our honourable name,

For I have noble blood

Though I was bred in dust

And brought up in the mud.

I will not press my claim,

Just leave me where you will:

But you might trust your daughter,

For blood is thicker than water

And you’re my mother still.

So my Lady holds her own

With condescending grace,

and fills her lofty place

With an untroubled face

As a queen may fill a throne.

While I could hint a tale —

(But then I am her child) —

Would make her quail;

Would set her in the dust,

Lorn with no comforter,

Her glorious hair defiled

And ashes on her cheek:

The decent world would thrust

Its finger out at her,

Not much displeased I think

To make a nine days’ stir;

The decent world would sink

Its voice to speak of her.

Now this is what I mean

To do, no more, no less:

Never to speak, or show

Bare sign of what I know.

Let the blot pass unseen;

Yea, let her never guess

I hold the tangled clue

She huddles out of view.

Friend, servant, almost child,

So be it and nothing more

On this side of the grave.

Mother, in Paradise,

You’ll see with clearer eyes;

Perhaps in this world even

When you are like to die

And face to face with Heaven

You’ll drop for once the lie:

But you must drop the mask, not I.

My Lady promises

Two hundred pounds with me

Whenever I may wed

A man she can approve:

And since besides her bounty

I’m fairest in the county

(For so I’ve heard it said,

Though I don’t vouch for this),

Her promised pounds may move

Some honest man to see

My virtues and my beauties;

Perhaps the rising grazier,

Or temperance publican,

May claim my wifely duties.

Meanwhile I wait their leisure

And grace-bestowing pleasure,

I wait the happy man;

But if I hold my head

And pitch my expectations

Just higher than their level,

They must fall back on patience:

I may not mean to wed,

Yet I’ll be civil.

Now sometimes in a dream

My heart goes out of me

To build and scheme,

Till I sob after things that seem

So pleasant in a dream:

A home such as I see

My blessed neighbours live in

With father and with mother,

All proud of one another,

Named by one common name

From baby in the bud

To full-blown workman father;

It’s little short of Heaven.

I’d give my gentle blood

To wash my special shame

And drown my private grudge;

I’d toil and moil much rather

The dingiest cottage drudge

Whose mother need not blush,

Than live here like a lady

And see my Mother flush

And hear her voice unsteady

Sometimes, yet never dare

Ask to share her care.

Of course the servants sneer

Behind my back at me;

Of course the village girls,

Who envy me my curls

And gowns and idleness,

Take comfort in a jeer;

Of course the ladies guess

Just so much of my history

As points the emphatic stress

With which they laud my Lady;

The gentlemen who catch

A casual glimpse of me

And turn again to see,

Their valets on the watch

To speak a word with me,

All know and sting me wild;

Till I am almost ready

To wish that I were dead,

No faces more to see,

No more words to be said,

My Mother safe at last

Disburdened of her child,

And the past past.

‘All equal before God’ —

Our Rector has it so,

And sundry sleepers nod:

It may be so; I know

All are not equal here,

And when the sleepers wake

They make a difference.

‘All equal in the grave’ —

That shows an obvious sense:

Yet something which I crave

Not death itself brings near;

Now should death half atone

For all my past; or make

The name I bear my own?

I love my dear old Nurse

Who loved me without gains;

I love my mistress even,

Friend, Mother, what you will:

But I could almost curse

My Father for his pains;

And sometimes at my prayer

Kneeling in sight of Heaven

I almost curse him still:

Why did he set his snare

To catch at unaware

My Mother’s foolish youth;

Load me with shame that’s hers,

And her with something worse,

A lifelong lie for truth?

I think my mind is fixed

On one point and made up:

To accept my lot unmixed;

Never to drug the cup

But drink it by myself.

I’ll not be wooed for pelf;

I’ll not blot out my shame

With any man’s good name;

But nameless as I stand,

My hand is my own hand,

And nameless as I came

I go to the dark land.

‘All equal in the grave’ —

I bide my time till then:

‘All equal before God’ —

To-day I feel His rod,

To-morrow He may save:


Devotional Pieces

Despised and Rejected

My sun has set, I dwell

In darkness as a dead man out of sight;

And none remains, not one, that I should tell

To him mine evil plight

This bitter night.

I will make fast my door

That hollow friends may trouble me no more.

‘Friend, open to Me.’ — Who is this that calls?

Nay, I am deaf as are my walls:

Cease crying, for I will not hear

Thy cry of hope or fear.

Others were dear,

Others forsook me: what art thou indeed

That I should heed

Thy lamentable need?

Hungry should feed,

Or stranger lodge thee here?

‘Friend, My Feet bleed.

Open thy door to Me and comfort Me.’

I will not open, trouble me no more.

Go on thy way footsore,

I will not rise and open unto thee.

‘Then is it nothing to thee? Open, see

Who stands to plead with thee.

Open, lest I should pass thee by, and thou

One day entreat My Face

And howl for grace,

And I be deaf as thou art now.

Open to Me.’

Then I cried out upon him: Cease,

Leave me in peace:

Fear not that I should crave

Aught thou mayst have.

Leave me in peace, yea trouble me no more,

Lest I arise and chase thee from my door.

What, shall I not be let

Alone, that thou dost vex me yet?

But all night long that voice spake urgently:

‘Open to Me.’

Still harping in mine ears:

‘Rise, let Me in.’

Pleading with tears:

‘Open to Me that I may come to thee.’

While the dew dropped, while the dark hours were cold:

‘My Feet bleed, see My Face,

See My Hands bleed that bring thee grace,

My Heart doth bleed for thee,

Open to Me.’

So till the break of day:

Then died away

That voice, in silence as of sorrow;

Then footsteps echoing like a sigh

Passed me by,

Lingering footsteps slow to pass.

On the morrow

I saw upon the grass

Each footprint marked in blood, and on my door

The mark of blood for evermore.

Long Barren

Thou who didst hang upon a barren tree,

My God, for me;

  Though I till now be barren, now at length

  Lord, give me strength

To bring forth fruit to Thee.

Thou who didst bear for me the crown of thorn,

Spitting and scorn;

  Though I till now have put forth thorns, yet now

  Strengthen me Thou

That better fruit be borne.

Thou Rose of Sharon, Cedar of broad roots,

Vine of sweet fruits,

  Thou Lily of the vale with fadeless leaf,

  Of thousands Chief,

Feed Thou my feeble shoots.

If Only

If I might only love my God and die!

  But now He bids me love Him and live on,

  Now when the bloom of all my life is gone,

The pleasant half of life has quite gone by.

My tree of hope is lopped that spread so high,

  And I forget how summer glowed and shone,

  While autumn grips me with its fingers wan

And frets me with its fitful windy sigh.

When autumn passes then must winter numb,

  And winter may not pass a weary while,

    But when it passes spring shall flower again;

  And in that spring who weepeth now shall smile,

    Yea, they shall wax who now are on the wane,

Yea, they shall sing for love when Christ shall come.

Dost Thou Not Care?

I love and love not: Lord, it breaks my heart

  To love and not to love.

Thou veiled within Thy glory, gone apart

  Into Thy shrine, which is above,

Dost Thou not love me, Lord, or care

  For this mine ill? —

I love thee here or there,

  I will accept thy broken heart, lie still.

Lord, it was well with me in time gone by

  That cometh not again,

When I was fresh and cheerful, who but I?

  I fresh, I cheerful: worn with pain

Now, out of sight and out of heart;

  O Lord, how long? —

I watch thee as thou art,

  I will accept thy fainting heart, be strong.

‘Lie still,’ ‘be strong,’ today; but, Lord, tomorrow,

  What of tomorrow, Lord?

Shall there be rest from toil, be truce from sorrow,

  Be living green upon the sward

Now but a barren grave to me,

  Be joy for sorrow? —

Did I not die for thee?

  Did I not live for thee? Leave Me tomorrow.

Weary in Well-Doing

I would have gone; God bade me stay:

  I would have worked; God bade me rest.

He broke my will from day to day,

  He read my yearnings unexpressed

    And said them nay.

Now I would stay; God bids me go:

  Now I would rest; God bids me work.

He breaks my heart tossed to and fro,

  My soul is wrung with doubts that lurk

    And vex it so.

I go, Lord, where Thou sendest me;

  Day after day I plod and moil:

But, Christ my God, when will it be

  That I may let alone my toil

    And rest with Thee?

Martyrs’ Song

We meet in joy, though we part in sorrow;

We part to-night, but we meet tomorrow.

Be it flood or blood the path that’s trod,

All the same it leads home to God:

Be it furnace-fire voluminous,

One like God’s Son will walk with us.

What are these that glow from afar,

These that lean over the golden bar,

Strong as the lion, pure as the dove,

With open arms and hearts of love?

They the blessed ones gone before,

They the blessed for evermore.

Out of great tribulation they went

Home to their home of Heaven-content;

Through flood, or blood, or furnace-fire,

To the rest that fulfils desire.

What are these that fly as a cloud,

With flashing heads and faces bowed,

In their mouths a victorious psalm,

In their hands a robe and palm?

Welcoming angels these that shine,

Your own angel, and yours, and mine;

Who have hedged us, both day and night

On the left hand and the right,

Who have watched us both night and day

Because the devil keeps watch to slay.

Light above light, and Bliss beyond bliss,

Whom words cannot utter, lo, Who is This?

As a King with many crowns He stands,

And our names are graven upon His hands;

As a Priest, with God-uplifted eyes,

He offers for us His sacrifice;

As the Lamb of God for sinners slain,

That we too may live He lives again;

As our Champion behold Him stand,

Strong to save us, at God’s Right Hand.

God the Father give us grace

To walk in the light of Jesus’ Face.

God the Son give us a part

In the hiding-place of Jesus’ Heart:

God the Spirit so hold us up

That we may drink of Jesus’ cup;

Death is short and life is long;

Satan is strong, but Christ more strong.

At His Word, Who hath led us hither.

The Red Sea must part hither and thither.

As His Word, Who goes before us too,

Jordan must cleave to let us through.

Yet one pang searching and sore,

And then Heaven for evermore;

Yet one moment awful and dark,

Then safety within the Veil and the Ark;

Yet one effort by Christ His grace,

Then Christ for ever face to face.

God the Father we will adore,

In Jesus’ Name, now and evermore:

God the Son we will love and thank

In this flood and on the further bank:

God the Holy Ghost we will praise

In Jesus’ Name, through endless days:

God Almighty, God Three in One,

God Almighty, God alone.

After this the Judgement

As eager homebound traveller to the goal,

  Or steadfast seeker on an unsearched main,

Or martyr panting for an aureole,

  My fellow-pilgrims pass me, and attain

That hidden mansion of perpetual peace

  Where keen desire and hope dwell free from pain:

That gate stands open of perennial ease;

  I view the glory till I partly long,

Yet lack the fire of love which quickens these.

  O passing Angel, speed me with a song,

A melody of heaven to reach my heart

  And rouse me to the race and make me strong;

Till in such music I take up my part

  Swelling those Hallelujahs full of rest,

One, tenfold, hundredfold, with heavenly art,

  Fulfilling north and south and east and west,

Thousand, ten thousandfold, innumerable,

  All blent in one yet each one manifest;

Each one distinguished and beloved as well

  As if no second voice in earth or heaven

Were lifted up the Love of God to tell.

  Ah, Love of God, which Thine own Self hast given

To me most poor, and made me rich in love,

  Love that dost pass the tenfold seven times seven,

Draw Thou mine eyes, draw Thou my heart above,

  My treasure ad my heart store Thou in Thee,

Brood over me with yearnings of a dove;

  Be Husband, Brother, closest Friend to me;

Love me as very mother loves her son,

  Her sucking firstborn fondled on her knee:

Yea, more than mother loves her little one;

  For, earthly, even a mother may forget

And feel no pity for its piteous moan;

  But thou, O Love of God, remember yet,

Through the dry desert, through the waterflood

  (Life, death) until the Great White Throne is set.

If now I am sick in chewing the bitter cud

  Of sweet past sin, though solaced by Thy grace

And ofttimes strengthened by Thy Flesh and Blood,

  How shall I then stand up before Thy face

When from Thine eyes repentance shall be hid

  And utmost Justice stand in Mercy’s place:

When every sin I thought or spoke or did

  Shall meet me at the inexorable bar,

And there be no man standing in the mid

  To plead for me; while star fallen after star

With heaven and earth are like a ripened shock,

  And all time’s mighty works and wonders are

Consumed as in a moment; when no rock

  Remains to fall on me, no tree to hide,

But I stand all creation’s gazing-stock

  Exposed and comfortless on every side,

Placed trembling in the final balances

  Whose poise this hour, this moment, must be tried? —

Ah Love of God, if greater love than this

  Hath no man, that a man die for his friend,

And if such love of love Thine Own Love is,

  Plead with Thyself, with me, before the end;

Redeem me from the irrevocable past;

  Pitch Thou Thy Presence round me to defend;

Yea seek with piercèd feet, yea hold me fast

  With piercèd hands whose wounds were made by love;

Not what I am, remember what Thou wast

  When darkness hid from Thee Thy heavens above,

And sin Thy Father’s Face, while thou didst drink

  The bitter cup of death, didst taste thereof

For every man; while Thou wast nigh to sink

  Beneath the intense intolerable rod,

Grown sick of love; not what I am, but think

  Thy Life then ransomed mine, my God, my God.

Good Friday

Am I a stone and not a sheep

  That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,

  To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,

And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved

  Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

  Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;

Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon

  Which hid their faces in a starless sky,

  A horror of great darkness at broad noon —

I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,

  But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;

  Greater than Moses, turn and look once more

And smite a rock.

The Lowest Place

Give me the lowest place: not that I dare

  Ask for that lowest place, but Thou hast died

That I might live and share

  Thy glory by Thy side.

Give me the lowest place: or if for me

  That lowest place too high, make one more low

Where I may sit and see

  My God and love Thee so.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005