Alfred Austin.

England's darling online

. (page 4 of 5)
Online LibraryAlfred AustinEngland's darling → online text (page 4 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

How call you this ?

EDGIVA

We call it golden-withy.
This is bog-asphodel the Danish Jarls
Cull, so they say, to dye their yellow hair.
And this is Baldmoyne.

ALFRED

From great Balder named,
The son of Odin.

EDGIVA

Which, when steeped with hop,
Makes bright and brisk strong ale.

ALFRED

Now name me this.



SCENE IV ENGLAND'S DARLING 83

EDGIVA

Milkwort, or gang- flower.

ALFRED

Which the learned call
Rogation-Flower.

EDGIVA

And this? This is the spearmint
That steadies giddiness, and that the consound,
Whereby the lungs are eased of their grief.
The eyebright this, whereof, when steeped in wine,
I now must eat, as every learner should,
Because it strengthens mindfulness.

ALFRED

Daughter mine.
You have as much to teach as to be taught ;
Nor let new learning drive old lore away.
Rashly I spoke : There is a better friend,
A better, and a truer, even than books.
'Tis with us now, God's plainly written page.
For learned and simple, all may read who will.



84 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iii

SCENE V

[Evening in the Forest.]
EDGIVA

The goldings by the brooklet all are closed.
'Twill soon be nightfall.

ALFRED

And, like them, your lids
Droop on your eyes. 'Tis time for you to rest.

EDGIVA

First let me smooth for you a mossy bed.
Under this oak.

ALFRED

Think not, my child, of me ;
For I am wakeful, and there yet is Hght
Whereby to read a little. But your Hmbs
Are fain to doff the heavy load of day.
And sink upon their weariness. Lie there,
Within the hollow of that puckered yew.
Whose boughs hath fashioned many a Saxon bow.



SCENE V ENGLAND'S DARLING 85

EDGIVA

They say the Virgin Mother sought its shade,
Fleeing to Egypt ; so no bolt will smite
Its hallowed trunk.

[She falls asleep.]
ALFRED

Already doth she dream,
Way-weary child.

[He places a posy of cowslips in her hand.]

These sleepy cowslip bells

Will keep her dream-lids drowsy till the dawn.

******
How many hands it takes to build a State !
First there be those that shape and drive the share,
Yoke the meek oxen, fold and milk the ewes,
Hunt hart and boar and buck, harpoon the whale,
With cunning gin and bait ensnare the fowl.
From well-tanned fells weave hose and bridle-thongs,
Pouches and hide-vats, — skilled in toil and craft.
Then come the worthier sort that bear the shield.
Fear only God, and never show their backs
Though faced by spears a hundredfold their own.



86 ENGLAND'S DARLING act ill

Last but not least are those that watch and pray,

For under God it is we work and war.

All these there be, and they are at my side,

To fashion England. What it lacks is learning :

And o' how slow to learn is this stark stock.

Stark but unshapely, and with dullard ears

For sound and sense and soul of things unseen !

To every Bishop in the land, when once

The Danish Raven flickers, must I send

A copy of Pope Gregory's Pastoral,

With golden seal worth fifty mancuses,

And every English boy must read and con

The Chronicle of this his cradle-land.

Growing apace and nigh upon our time,

That tells him whence he came, and what those did

Whose deeds are in his veins. But, above all,

All men must learn its minstrelsy, and lift

Their hearts above the ground on wings of song.

For Song it is that spans the mighty world.

Brings the far near, lends light where all is dark.

Gives sorrow sweetness, and helps man to live

And die more nobly !

END OF ACT HI



ACT IV



ACT IV

SCENE I

[The Camp of Guthrum at Ethandune. Guthrum, Oskytel,
and their Jarls are feasting in Guthrum's tent.]

OSKYTEL

Out of the skull of the foe the mead smacks sweet.
Taste of it, Guthrum.

GUTHRUM (drinking)

Honey-sweet and strong !
For ale-feasts is there no such land as this,
And now 'tis ours to brew with. Do you mind
The day we fired the shrine at Huntingdon,
And supped amid the smoke ? I see them now,
Lean shavelings huddled round about the shrine,
89



90 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iv

Clutching the silver beakers set with gems,
And yielding but with life the shining robes,
Woven of silk and gold, that in their coffers
Lay thick as leaves fresh ruddled by the frost.

OSKYTEL

Aye, but at Lindsey was there fatter fare.

Your shrivelled friar is well enough to slay.

But worthless after slaying. Buxom maids.

To while away the weariness of peace.

And fair-haired boys to hand the mead-bowl round,

These are the boons of battle !

GUTHRUM

This to Woden !
Whose day will dawn with morrow ! This to Thor,
Who hammers out the thunder and the flash,
And slays the dragon !

OSKYTEL

This to boar-helmed Freyr,
The sender of the needfire and the rain !

[Turning to the Jarls.]
Why quaff you not ?



SCENE I ENGLAND'S DARLING 91

FIRST JARL

Because of Weird at hand.
Ask them that read the staves. This crimson-dawn,
The beechen sHps on the white cloth spelled out
The runes of death.

SECOND JARL

And the Shieldmaidens fled
Dim to the wood.

THIRD JARL

Aye, and the snow-white steeds,
Lashed to the holy chariot, neighed of doom,
Then reared and snorted backward to the staU.

FIRST JARL

I mind me of the day my lord me gave
Folkright and homestead, and I will not now
Hold back if need befall him, for unmeet
It were that I should homeward bear my shield.
But woeful are the lots.

SECOND JARL

I mind the time
I in the timbered beer-hall pledged my lord,



92 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iv

When gave he me both helm and ring, that I
Would pay him back my war-gear at his need.
So surely will I. But the runes are foul.

GUTHRUM

We know it, trusty Jarls ! You all speak sooth.
The ebon Raven which the daughters three
Of Regnor Lodbrog in one morning wove
For Hingvar and for Hubba, will not flap
Its wings for war, but droopeth listlessly,
Forewarning rout. So will we not now fight,
But hang our axes on the wall till Thor
Shine on their faces. Meanwhile, let us feast
Blithe in the land we have won.

" / trust my swordy I trust my steed:
But most I trust myself at need.^''

He's no true Jarl that doth not drink with me.

FOURTH JARL

An aged gleeman, with his daughter, craves
To cheer the night with song. His thews hang loose,
His back is bent like to a bow that keeps.
Unstrung, the bias of its former strain,



SCENE II ENGLAND'S DARLING 93

And wan as winter is his flaky hair.
But the unwedded helpmeet at his side,
A very bud of freshly-burgeoned May,
Vows in his voice that manhood lingers still,
And he can sing of war, and love, and aught
That's bidden of his craft.

GUTHRUM

Then bring him in.



SCENE II

[Alfred and Edgiva are led in, and placed, side by side, on
a high settle near the opening of the tent, opposite GuTH-

RUM andOSKYTEL.]

OSKYTEL

Give him to quaff, out of this cup of mine.
He'll troll the lustier if first warmed with ale.

GUTHRUM

Now for brave singing !

ALFRED

In the Beginning when, out of darkness^
The Earth, the Heaven,
The stars, the seasons,



94 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iv

The mighty mainland^
And whale -ploughed water.
By God the Maker
Were formed and fashionedy
Then God made England.

He made it shapely
With land-locked inlets y
And gray-green nesses ;
With rivers roaming
From fair-leafed forests
Through windless valleySy
Past plain and pasture y
To sloping shingle :
Thus God made England.

Then like to the long-backed bounding billows^
That foam and follow
In rolling ridges y
Before and after y
To bluff and headlandy
Hither there tided
The loose-limbed Briton y
The lording Roman,



SCENE II ENGLAND'S DARLING 95

And strong on his oars the sea-borne Saxon,
And now the Norsemen
Who hard with Alfred
Wrestle for England.

GUTHRUM

How lustily he trolls ! A glee like this
Would stave off bane and death.

OSKYTEL

Look on him now !
He gleams as though to-day and yesterday
Had with to-morrow trysted in his gaze.
A Seer ! A Seer ! Jarls ! Drink unto the Seer !

JARLS

Aye, and to his fair daughter must we quaff !

ALFRED

But onward and forward.
In far days fairer,
I see this England
Made one and mighty :
Mighty and master
Of all within it.



96 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iv

Mighty and master
Of men high-seated^
Of free-neeked labour ,
Lowland and upland.
And corn and cattle,
And ploughla nd peaceful,
Of happy homesteads
That warmly nestle
In holt and hollow.
This is the Efigland,
In fair days forward,
I see and sing of

GUTHRUM

And who shall have this England?

JARLS

Aye, who shall have this England?

ALFRED

Then^ mighty and master of all within her,
Of Celt and Briton,
Angle and Frisian,
Saxon and Norseman,



SCENE II ENGLAND'S DARLING 97

Shall England plough, like the whale and walrus.

The roaring ridges

Of foam-necked water,

With long-oared warships
And keels high-beaked ;
And never afoeman,
Eastivard or westward.
Shall dare to raven
Her salt-sea inlets,
Her grim gray nesses,
But, swift at the sight of her rearing cradles,
Shall scud and scatter,
Like wild geese fleeing

^Twixt wave and welkin,
Away from the dread of the shrilling weapons

Of foam-fenced England!

OSKYTEL

But who shall have this England ?

GUTHRUM

Aye, who shall have this England ?

[A born sounds, and shouts are heard without. Alfred throws
off his disguise, stands erect in kingly garb, and, drawing
bis sword, exclaims: ]
H



98 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iv

ALFRED

Alfred shall have this England !
Lord Christ shall have this England !

[Edward, Ethelred, Ethelnoth, and a body of the King's
Thanes, rush in. Alfred disarms Guthrum, who has
struck at him with his battle-axe. Edward fells and
disarms Oskytel, and the Jarls that do not yield are slain.]

EDWARD

The Golden Dragon floats o'er Ethandune.

We broke upon the Army in its sleep,

And bound the weaponless. Those that awoke

With battle-axe in grip, the ruffled vulture,

The swarthy raven, and the sallow kite.

Are rawly tattering with their tawny nibs ;

And wealden wolves will batten on the rest.

ALFRED {to Guthrum)

Now yet again the Lord of War hath placed
Your life within my hands. Forfeited once,
I gave it back to you, when first you swore,
Upon our sacred tokens and your own.
To dwell in peace with me and mine for aye.
Your hostages I held : I hold you now.



SCENE II ENGLAND'S DARLING

Why should the sword not fall upon your neck?

But, since Lord Christ hath won this fight for me,

And He is pitiful, I fain would spare

And leave you free within East Anglia,

But owning me for King and Overlord,

If you can tend me tighter pledge than that

Forsworn and broken.

GUTHRUM

Bind me, an you will.
To Christ your King, who henceforth shall be mine.
For He is mightier than our Gods, as you
Are mightier than our Vikings !

ALFRED

Henceforth, then,
Live, like to us, at peace within this land,
Our brothers, not our bane ; our were-gild yours,
Our foe your foe, our feud your feud, and you,
No less than we, English in name and heart.
Up from the mouth of Thames along the Lea
To where the Ouse leads on to Wathng Street
Hold you the land, but at my bidding still
If need should rise. Beyond, is Mercia ;



99



100 ENGLAND'S DARLING act iv

Which Ethelred, my sister's trusty lord,
Under my rod will rule. You, Ethelnoth,
Rebuild and strengthen London, and make good
Our name along the twistings of the Thames ;
While Werefrith, helped by Plegmund, shall renew
God's House at Winchester. Thanes, Freemen,

Friends,
Let each one strive to quit him worthily.
For me, I have no other wish on earth,
Save to leave long remembrance after me
Of something done for England !

OSKYTEL {gazing hard on Edgiva, who is standing by

Edward)
What is this token, wound about your wrist ?
Are you Sweyne's daughter ? my dead comrade's child,
Whom we left, motherless, within the fork
Of a high wychelm, thinking soon to fetch
Her safely from that cradle, on the day
That Ethelwulf and Wulfheard, Saxon Thanes,
Beset our Jarls, and over the White Horse
Drove us in headlong rout across the stream.

EDWARD

Noble I knew her !



SCENE II ENGLAND'S DARLING 101

ALFRED

Nobly wed her then !
And when God calls me to Himself, for men
Know not how long or little they will stay,
May offspring worthy of your fair love and you,
Saxon with Dane, hand down the English Throne !

ETHELRED {bursting into the tent)
Great news, my Lord ! The ships you bade us build
Full nigh on twice the length of pagan esks,
At Swanage on the robber swan-necks rode,
And wedged them through the waves. Their splin-
tered planks
Are weltering with the seaweed ; their snapped oars,
Like to their carcases, the gurgling ooze
Sucks down, then belches forth again, to rot
Upon the brackish furrows of the brine.

ALFRED

Now praised be God ! for this is news indeed,
And Swanage crowns us more than Ethandune.
In this strong Isle sequestered by the sea
From tread outlandish, victory upon ground
Our own to keep or lose, is half defeat ;



102 ENGLAND^S DARLING act iv

For why on English soil should foe's foot stand?
The battlemented Sea will beat him off,
So we but man it, and our bounding prows
Scatter him flying deathward o'er the foam,
Like loose leaves harried by autumnal wind.
Aye, and in those bright bodings that high Heaven
Vouchsafes at times to man, my ken foresees
That, once this land inviolably free
From threat without, its billow-suckled breed.
Yearning beyond the narrow bonds of birth,
Wherever shine the stars or rolls the tide.
Will lay their lordship on the waves, and be
Rulers and rovers of the widening world.

ALL

Long live Alfred I
Long rule Alfred!
England's Comfort,
England's Shepherd,
England's Oarsman,
England's Darling I



END OF ACT IV



THE PASSING OF MERLIN



The following Poem appeared in The Times of October 7th
1892, and is now republished, with the permission of the Pro-
prietors of that Journal.



THE PASSING OF MERLIN

I am Merlin,

And I am dying,

I am Merlin

Who follow The Gleam.

TENNYSON'S Merlin and The Gleam.

I

Merlin has gone — has gone ! — and through the land
The melancholy message wings its way ;
To careless-ordered garden by the bay,
Back o'er the narrow strait to island strand,
Where Camelot looks down on wild Broceliand.

n

Merlin has gone, Merhn the Wizard who found,
In the Past's glimmering tide, and hailed him King,
Arthur, great Uther's son, and so did sing
The mystic glories of the Table Round,
That ever its name will live so long as Song shall sound.
los



io6 THE PASSING OF MERLIN



m

Merlin has gone, Merlin who followed the Gleam,

And made us follow it ; the flying tale

Of the Last Tournament, the Holy Grail,

And Arthur's Passing ; till the Enchanter's dream

Dwells with us still awake, no visionary theme.

IV

To-day is dole in Astolat, and dole
In Celidon the forest, dole and tears.
In joyous Gard blackhooded lean the spears :
The nuns of Almesbury sound a mournful toll.
And Guinevere kneeling weeps, and prays for Mer-
lin's soul.



A wailing cometh from the shores that veil
Avilion's island valley ; on the mere,
Looms through the mist and wet winds weeping blear
A dusky barge, which, without oar or sail,
Fades to the far-off fields where falls nor snow nor
hail.



THE PASSING OF MERLIN 107

VI

Of all his wounds He will be healed now,
Wounds of harsh time and vulnerable life,
Fatigue of rest and weariness of strife,
Doubt and the long deep questionings that plough
The forehead of age, but bring no harvest to the
brow.

vn

And there He will be comforted ; but we
Must watch, like Bedivere, the dwindling hght
That slowly shrouds Him darkling from our sight.
From the great deep to the great deep hath He
Passed, and, if now He knows, is mute eternally.



VIII

From Somersby's ivied tower there sinks and swells
A low slow peal, that mournfully is rolled
Over the long gray fields and glimmering wold.
To where, 'twixt sandy tracts and moorland fells,
Remembers Locksley Hall his musical farewells.



lo8 THE PASSING OF MERLIN



IX

And many a sinewy youth on Cam to-day
Suspends the dripping oar and lets his boat
Like dreaming water-lily drift and float,
While murmuring to himself the undying lay
That haunts the babbhng Wye and Severn's dirgeful
bay.

X

The bole of the broad oak whose knotted knees
Lie hidden in the fern of Sumner Place,
Feels stirred afresh, as when Olivia's face
Lay warm against its rind, though now it sees
Not Love but Death approach, and shivers in the
breeze.

XI

In many a vicarage garden, dense with age,
The haunt of pairing throstles, many a grange
Moated against the assault and siege of change.
Fair eyes consult anew the cherished Sage,
And now and then a tear falls blistering the page.



THE PASSING OF MERLIN 109

xn

April will blossom again, again will ring
With cuckoo's call and yaffel's flying scream,
And in veiled sleep the nightingale will dream,
Warbling as if awake. But what will bring
His sweet note back ? He mute, it scarcely will be
Spring.

xm

The Seasons sorrow for Him, and the Hours
Droop, like to bees belated in the rain.
The unmoving shadow of a pensive pain
Lies on the lawn and lingers on the flowers.
And sweet and sad seem one in woodbine-woven
bowers.

XIV

In English gardens fringed with English foam,
Or girt with English woods. He loved to dwell.
Singing of English lives in thorp or dell.
Orchard or croft ; so that, when now we roam
Through them, and find Him not, it scarcely feels like
home.



no THE PASSING OF MERLIN

XV

And England's glories stirred Him as the swell

Of bluff winds blowing from Atlantic brine

Stirs mightier music in the murmuring pine.

Then sweet notes waxed too strong within his shell,

And bristling rose the lines, and billowy rose and fell.



XVI

So England mourns for Merlin, though its tears
Flow not from bitter source that wells in vain.
But kindred rather to the rippling rain
That brings the daffodil sheath and jonquil spears
When Winter weeps away and April reappears.



xvn

For never hath England lacked a voice to sing
Her fairness and her fame, nor will she now.
Silence awhile may brood upon the bough,
But shortly once again the Isle will ring
With wakening winds of March and rhapsodies of
Spring.



THE PASSING OF MERLIN in



xvm

From Arthur unto Alfred, Alfred crowned
Monarch and Minstrel both, to Edward's day,
From Edward to Elizabeth, the lay
Of valour and love hath never ceased to sound,
But Song and Sword are twin, indissolubly bound.



XEX

Nor shall in Britain Taliessin tire

Transmitting through his stock the sacred strain.

When fresh renown prolongs Victoria's Reign,

Some patriot hand will sweep the living lyre,

And prove, with native notes, that Merlin was his sire.



THE END



THE POETICAL WORKS



OF



ALFRED AUSTIN,

POET LAUREATE.



LYRICAL POEMS. One vol. Crown 8vo. ^^1.75.
NARRATIVE POEMS. One vol. Crown 8vo. $1.75.

THE TOWER OF BABEL: A Celestial Love Drama. One

vol. Crown 8vo. ^1.75.
SAVONAROLA: A Tragedy. One vol. Crown 8vo. ^1.75.
THE HUMAN TRAGEDY. One vol. Crown 8vo. ^1.75.
PRINCE LUCIFER. One vol. Crown 8vo. ^^1.75.
FORTUNATUS THE PESSIMIST. One vol. Crown 8vo.

MADONNA'S CHILD. One vol. Fcap. 8vo. ^i.oo.



MACMILLAN & CO.,

66 FIFTH AVENUE, NE^W YORK.
I



OTHER WORKS

BY

ALFRED AUSTIN,

POET LAUREATE.

THE GARDEN THAT I LOVE.

WITH FOURTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS.
Extra Crown 8vo. Price, $2.50.



TIMES. — " It is a description in lucid and graceful prose of an old-fash-
ioned garden and its cultivation, interspersed with genial colloquies between
its owners and their guests, and enriched with occasional verse. Mr. Austin,
who is greatly to be envied the possession of this delightful garden, and not
less to be congratulated on his sympathetic appreciation of its charms, has
rarely been so happily inspired. . . . Some of his admirers will wish for
more of Mr. Austin's verse ; for ourselves we are content with a volume
which, though not in verse, is unmistakably the work of a poet."

SPECTA TOR.— " We are glad to welcome Mr. Alfred Austin's delightful
Garden that I Love in a compact book form. Mr. Austin is the laureate of
gardens; he is, as Addison says, ' In love with a country life, where Nature
appears in the greatest perfection, and furnishes out all those scenes that are
most apt to delight the imagination.' In the preface to Mr. Austin's English
Lyrics, Mr. William Watson writes: 'A nobly filial love of country, and
a tenderly passionate love of the country — these appear to me the two
dominant notes of this volume ' ; and in the new volume that has just
appeared, the same dominant notes recur again and again. In his poems
Mr. Austin has described Spring's youthful face, where sunny smiles chase
away the fleeting tears ; Summer's serene rose-tinted beauty; the matured
brilliance of Autumn; and the withered homeliness of Winter; and now he
takes his readers behind the scenes, as it were, and shows them an ideal
country-house with its heavy mullioned windows looking towards the morn-
ing and noontide sun, and its gabled front almost smothered in climbing
roses and creepers. , . . The Garden that I Love is sure of a large and
appreciative audience."



MACMILLAN & CO.,

66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.

2



OTHER WORKS

BY

ALFRED AUSTIN,

POET LAUREATE.

IN VERONICA'S GARDEN.

WITH FOURTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS.
Extra Crown 8vo. Price, $2.50.



TIMES. — " Although sequels and continuations are proverbially perilous
undertakings, we have little doubt that Mr. Alfred Austin's readers will
gladly renew the acquaintance with Veronica's delightful garden and its
genial occupants which they made in The Garden that I Love. The
scheme of the new volume is the same as that of its predecessor. The
garden is richer and more luxuriant, and its owner's or creator's love for it is
more intense, than ever, and the illustrations with which the volume is
enriched will make Mr. Austin's readers more eager than ever to share his
love for and delight in it. The * friends in council ' whose colloquies enliven
the garden and give an air of cultured refinement to Mr. Austin's pages are
also the same as before, though their relationships are somewhat different.
Veronica is now the wife of the Poet, while the anonymous gardener and the
winsome Lamia appear to revolve somewhat erratically around this domestic
centre. In both cases Mr. Austin blends in very delightful fashion his love
of flowers and of simple rural delights with his love of gentle thoughts and
gracious converse."

GUARDIAN. — "^It. Austin has done well to follow up The Garden
that I Love by In Veronica's Garde7i. It is really a second volume of
the same work, and not only presupposes that the reader has read the first
by frequent references to it, but is written on exactly the same lines, with
the same dramatis per sonce, the same quiet humour, and the same mixture
of gardening, poetry, and moralising that made The Garden that I Love
such pleasant reading. In one respect only can we trace any difference :
the garden is still the central point of the book, but there is less of gardening
in it, and more of moralisings and short essays ; still the moralisings come in
very naturally, and the essays, though short, are always to the point. There
is the same healthy tone in this second volume that there was in the first; the
same love of the country in all its aspects."



MACMILLAN & CO.,

66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.
3



ENGLISH LYRICS*

A SELECTION FROM THE LYRICAL
POEMS OF ALFRED AUSTIN,

EDITED, WITH A PREFACE,

By WILLIAM WATSON.



Crown 8vo. $1.25.



EXTRACT FROM THE PREFACE.

" A nobly filial love of Country, and a tenderly passionate love
of the country — these appear to me the two dominant notes of this
volume. The phrases themselves stand for things widely different,
but it seems fated that the things themselves should be found present
together or together absent. . . . Our literature prior to Lord
Tennyson contains no such full utterance of this dual passion, this
enthusiasm of nationality underlying an intimate and affectionate
knowledge of every bird that makes an English summer melodious,
and every flower that sweetens English air ; and it seems to me that
if the question be asked, ' Who among the poets of a later genera-
tion can be said to share with Lord Tennyson the quality of being
in this double sense English through and through ? ' any competent
person trying to answer the question honestly will find the name of
the author of this volume of English Lyrics the first to rise to his lips.

" Mr. Alfred Austin would seem to love England none the less,
but rather the more, because he has also felt the spell of other


1 2 4

Online LibraryAlfred AustinEngland's darling → online text (page 4 of 5)