Beyond his dimpling wrists
Were never closed
For saving or for sparing â€”
For only deeds of daring
Unclenched, the gracious hands
Let slip their gifts like sands
Made rich with ore
272 A CHILD'S BATTLES.
That tongues of beggars ravish
From small stout hands so lavish
Of their store.
Sweet hardy kindly hands
Like these were his that stands
With heel on gorge
Seen trampling down the dragon
On sign or flask or flagon,
Sweet Saint George.
Some tournament, perchance,
Of hands that couch no lance,
Might mark this spot
Your lists, if here some pleasant
Small Guenevere were present,
My brave bright flower, you need
No foolish song, nor heed
It more than spring
The sighs of winter stricken
Dead when your haunts requicken
Here, my king.
Yet O, how hardly may
The wheels of singing stay
That whirl along
Bright paths whence echo raises
The phantom of your praises,
Child, my song !
A CHILD'S BATTLES. 273
Beyond all other things
That give my words fleet wings,
Fleet wings and strong,
You set their jesses ringing
Till hardly can I, singing,
Stint my song.
But all things better, friend,
And worse must find an end :
And, right or wrong,
'Tis time, lest rhyme should baffle,
I doubt, to put a snaffle
On my song.
And never may your ear
Aught harsher hear or fear,
Nor wolfish night
Nor dog-toothed winter snarling
Behind your steps, my darling,
My delight !
For all the gifts you give
Me, dear, each day you live,
Of thanks above
All thanks that could be spoken
Take not my song in token,
Take my love.
A CHILD'S FUTURE.
What will it please you, my darling, hereafter to be ?
Fame upon land will you look for, or glory by sea ?
Gallant your life will be always, and all of it free.
Free as the wind when the heart of the twilight is
Eastward, and sounds from the springs of the sunrise
are heard :
Free â€” and we know not another as infinite word.
Darkness or twilight or sunlight may compass us
Hate may arise up against us, or hope may confound ;
Love may forsake us ; yet may not the spirit be
Free in oppression of grief as in ardour of joy
Still may the soul be, and each to her strength as a
Free in the glance of the man as the smile of the boy.
A CHILD'S FUTURE. 275
Freedom alone is the salt and the spirit that gives
Life, and without her is nothing that verily lives :
Death cannot slay her : she laughs upon death and
Brightest and hardiest of roses anear and afar
Glitters the blithe little face of you, round as a star :
Liberty bless you and keep you to be as you are.
England and liberty bless you and keep you to be
Worthy the name of their child and the sight of their
Fear not at all j for a slave, if he fears not, is free.
ENGLISH DRAMATIC POETS
Crowned, girdled, garbed and shod with light and fire,
Son first-born of the morning, sovereign star !
Soul nearest ours of all, that wert most far,
Most far off in the abysm of time, thy lyre
Hung highest above the dawn-enkindled quire
Where all ye sang together, all that are,
â€¢ And all the starry songs behind thy car
Rang sequence, all our souls acclaim thee sire.
' If all the pens that ever poets held
Had fed the feeling of their masters' thoughts/
And as with rush of hurtling chariots
The flight of all their spirits were impelled
Toward one great end, thy glory â€” nay, not then,
Not yet might'st thou be praised enough of men.
Not if men's tongues and angels' all in one
Spake, might the word be said that might speak Thee.
Streams, winds, woods, flowers, fields, mountains,
yea, the sea,
What power is in them all to praise the sun ?
His praise is this, â€” he can be praised of none.
Man, woman, child, praise God for him j but he
Exults not to be worshipped, but to be.
He is ; and, being, beholds his work well done.
All joy, all glory, all sorrow, all strength, all mirth,
Are his : without him, day were night on earth.
Time knows not his from time's own period.
All lutes, all harps, all viols, all flutes, all lyres,
Fall dumb before him ere one string suspires.
All stars are angels j but the sun is God.
Broad-based, broad-fronted, bounteous, multiform,
With many a valley impleached with ivy and vine,
Wherein the springs of all the streams run wine,
And many a crag full-faced against the storm,
The mountain where thy Muse's feet made warm
Those lawns that revelled with her dance divine
Shines yet with fire as it was wont to shine
From tossing torches round the dance aswarm.
Nor less, high-stationed on the grey grave heights,
High-thoughted seers with heaven's heart-kindling lights
Hold converse : and the herd of meaner things
Knows or by fiery scourge or fiery shaft
When wrath on thy broad brows has risen, and laughed,
Darkening thy soul with shadow of thunderous wings.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
An hour ere sudden sunset fired the west,
Arose two stars upon the pale deep east.
The hall of heaven was clear for night's high feast,
Yet was not yet day's fiery heart at rest.
Love leapt up from his mother's burning breast
To see those warm twin lights, as day decreased,
Wax wider, till when all the sun had ceased
As suns they shone from evening's kindled crest.
Across them and between, a quickening fire,
Flamed Venus, laughing with appeased desire.
Their dawn, scarce lovelier for the gleam of tears,
Filled half the hollow shell 'twixt heaven and earth
With sound like moonlight, mingling moan and mirth,
Which rings and glitters down the darkling years.
Clouds here and there arisen an hour past noon
Chequered our English heaven with lengthening bars
And shadow and sound of wheel-winged thunder-cars
Assembling strength to put forth tempest soon,
When the clear still warm concord of thy tune
Rose under skies unscared by reddening Mars
Yet, like a sound of silver speech of stars,
With full mild flame as of the mellowing moon.
Grave and great-hearted Massinger, thy face
High melancholy lights with loftier grace
Than gilds the brows of revel : sad and wise,
The spirit of thought that moved thy deeper song,
Sorrow serene in soft calm scorn of wrong,
Speaks patience yet from thy majestic eyes.
Hew hard the marble from the mountain's heart
Where hardest night holds fast in iron gloom
Gems brighter than an April dawn in bloom,
That his Memnonian likeness thence may start
Revealed, whose hand with high funereal art
Carved night, and chiselled shadow : be the tomb
That speaks him famous graven with signs of doom
Intrenched inevitably in lines athwart,
As on some thunder-blasted Titan's brow
His record of rebellion. Not the day
Shall strike forth music from so stern a chord,
Touching this marble : darkness, none knows how,
And stars impenetrable of midnight, may.
So looms the likeness of thy soul, John Ford.
Thunder : the flesh quails, and the soul bows down.
Night : east, west, south, and northward, very night.
Star upon struggling star strives into sight,
Star after shuddering star the deep storms drown.
The very throne of night, her very crown,
A man lays hand on, and usurps her right.
Song from the highest of heaven's imperious height
Shoots, as a fire to smite some towering town.
Rage, anguish, harrowing fear, heart-crazing crime,
Make monstrous all the murderous face of Time
Shown in the spheral orbit of a glass
Revolving. Earth cries out from all her graves.
Frail, on frail rafts, across wide-wallowing waves,
Shapes here and there of child and mother pass.
Out of the depths of darkling life where sin
Laughs piteously that sorrow should not know
Her own ill name, nor woe be counted woe j
Where hate and craft and lust make drearier din
Than sounds through dreams that grief holds revel in ;
What charm of joy-bells ringing, streams that flow,
Winds that blow healing in each note they blow,
Is this that the outer darkness hears begin ?
O sweetest heart of all thy time save one,
Star seen for love's sake nearest to the sun,
Hung lamplike o'er a dense and doleful city,
Not Shakespeare's very spirit, howe'er more great,
Than thine toward man was more compassionate,
Nor gave Christ praise from lips more sweet with pity.
A wild moon riding high from cloud to cloud,
That sees and sees not, glimmering far beneath,
Hell's children revel along the shuddering heath
With dirge-like mirth and raiment like a shroud :
A worse fair face than witchcraft's, passion-proud,
With brows blood-flecked behind their bridal wreath
And lips that bade the assassin's sword find sheath
Deep in the heart whereto love's heart was vowed:
A game of close contentious crafts and creeds
Played till white England bring black Spain to shame
A son's bright sword and brighter soul, whose deeds
High conscience lights for mother's love and fame :
Pure gipsy flowers, and poisonous courtly weeds :
Such tokens and such trophies crown thy name.
Tom, if they loved thee best who called thee Tom,
What else may all men call thee, seeing thus bright
Even yet the laughing and the weeping light
That still thy kind old eyes are kindled from ?
Small care was thine to assail and overcome
Time and his child Oblivion : yet of right
Thy name has part with names of lordlier might
For English love and homely sense of home,
Whose fragrance keeps thy small sweet bayleaf young
And gives it place aloft among thy peers
Whence many a wreath once higher strong Time
And this thy praise is sweet on Shakespeare's tongue â€”
* O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world ! '
High priest of Homer, not elect in vain,
Deep trumpets blow before thee, shawms behind
Mix music with the rolling wheels that wind
Slow through the labouring triumph of thy train :
Fierce history, molten in thy forging brain,
Takes form and fire and fashion from thy mind,
Tormented and transmuted out of kind :
But howsoe'er thou shift thy strenuous strain,
Like Tailor l smooth, like Fisher 2 swollen, and now
Grim Yarrington 3 scarce bloodier marked than thou,
Then bluff asMayne's 4 or broad-mouthed Barry's 5 glee,
Proud still with hoar predominance of brow
And beard like foam swept off the broad blown sea,
Where'er thou go, men's reverence goes with thee.
1 Author of The Hog hath lost his Pearl.
2 Author of Fuimus Troes, or the True Trojans.
3 Author of Two Tragedies in One.
4 Author of The City Match.
5 Author of Ram-Alley, or Merry Tricks.
The bitterness of death and bitterer scorn
Breathes from the broad-leafed aloe-plant whence thou
Wast fain to gather for thy bended brow
A chaplet by no gentler forehead worn.
Grief deep as hell, wrath hardly to be borne,
Ploughed up thy soul till round the furrowing plough
The strange black soil foamed, as a black beaked prow
Bids night-black waves foam where its track has torn.
Too faint the phrase for thee that only saith
Scorn bitterer than the bitterness of death
Pervades the sullen splendour of thy soul,
Where hate and pain make war on force and fraud
And all the strengths of tyrants ; whence unflawed
It keeps this noble heart of hatred whole.
JOHN DA Y.
Day was a full-blown flower in heaven, alive
With murmuring joy of bees and birds aswarm,
When in the skies of song yet flushed and warm
With music where all passion seems to strive
For utterance, all things bright and fierce to drive
Struggling along the splendour of the storm,
Day for an hour put off his fiery form,
And golden murmurs from a golden hive
Across the strong bright summer wind were heard,
And laughter soft as smiles from girls at play
And loud from lips of boys brow-bound with May.
Our mightiest age let fall its gentlest word,
When Song, in semblance of a sweet small bird,
Lit fluttering on the light swift hand of Day.
The dusk of day's decline was hard on dark
When evening trembled round thy glowworm lamp
That shone across her shades and dewy damp
A small clear beacon whose benignant spark
Was gracious yet for loiterers' eyes to mark,
Though changed the watchword of our English camp
Since the outposts rang round Marlowe's lion ramp,
When thy steed's pace went ambling round Hyde Park.
And in the thickening twilight under thee
Walks Davenant, pensive in the paths where he,
The blithest throat that ever carolled love
In music made of morning's merriest heart,
Glad Suckling, stumbled from his seat above
And reeled on slippery roads of alien art.
THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN.
Sons born of many a loyal Muse to Ben,
All true-begotten, warm with wine or ale,
Bright from the broad light of his presence, hail !
Prince Randolph, nighest his throne of all his men,
Being highest in spirit and heart who hailed him then
King, nor might other spread so blithe a sail :
Cartwright, a soul pent in with narrower pale,
Praised of thy sire for manful might of pen :
Marmion, whose verse keeps alway keen and fine
The perfume of their Apollonian wine .
Who shared with that stout sire of all and thee
The exuberant chalice of his echoing shrine :
Is not your praise writ broad in gold which he
Inscribed, that all who praise his name should see?
2 9 4
'ARDEN OF FEVERSHAM. 1
Mother whose womb brought forth our man of men,
Mother of Shakespeare, whom all time acclaims
Queen therefore, sovereign queen of English dames,
Throned higher than sat thy sonless empress then,
Was it thy son's young passion-guided pen
Which drew, reflected from encircling flames,
A figure marked by the earlier of thy names
Wife, and from all her wedded kinswomen
Marked by the sign of murderess ? Pale and great,
Great in her grief and sin, but in her death
And anguish of her penitential breath
Greater than all her sin or sin-born fate,
She stands, the holocaust of dark desire,
Clothed round with song for ever as with fire.
Ye too, dim watchfires of some darkling hour,
Whose fame forlorn time saves not nor proclaims
For ever, but forgetfulness defames
And darkness and the shadow of death devour,
Lift up ye too your light, put forth your power,
Let the far twilight feel your soft small flames
And smile, albeit night name not even their names,
Ghost by ghost passing, flower blown down on flower :
That sweet-tongued shadow, like a star's that passed
Singing, and light was from its darkness cast
To paint the face of Painting fair with praise : l
And that wherein forefigured smiles the pure
Fraternal face of Wordsworth's Elidure
Between two child-faced masks of merrier days. 2
1 Doctor Dodypol. 2 Nobody and Somebody.
More yet and more, and yet we mark not all :
The Warning fain to bid fair women heed
Its hard brief note of deadly doom and deed ; l
The verse that strewed too thick with flowers the hall
Whence Nero watched his fiery festival ; 2
That iron page wherein men's eyes who read
See, bruised and marred between two babes that bleed,
A mad red-handed husband's martyr fall ; 3
The scene which crossed and streaked with mirth the strife
Of Henry with his sons and witchlike wife j 4
And that sweet pageant of the kindly fiend,
Who, seeing three friends in spirit and heart made one,
Crowned with good hap the true-love wiles he screened
In the pleached lanes of pleasant Edmonton. 5
1 A Warning for Fair Women.
2 The Tragedy of Nero.
3 A Yorkshire Tragedy,
4 Look about yon.
5 The Merry Devil of Edmonton.
Greene, garlanded with February's few flowers,
Ere March came in with Marlowe's rapturous rage :
Peele, from whose hand the sweet white locks of age
Took the mild chaplet woven of honoured hours :
Nash, laughing hard: Lodge, flushed from lyriQ bowers:
And Lilly, a goldfinch in a twisted cage
Fed by some gay great lady's pettish page
Till short sweet songs gush clear like short spring showers
Kid, whose grim sport still gambolled over graves :
And Chettle, in whose fresh funereal verse
Weeps Marian yet on Robin's wildwood hearse :
Cooke, whose light boat of song one soft breath saves,
Sighed from a maiden's amorous mouth averse :
Live likewise ye : Time takes not you for slaves.
Haughton, whose mirth gave woman all her will :
Field, bright and loud with laughing flower and bird
And keen alternate notes of laud and gird :
Barnes, darkening once with Borgia's deeds the quill
Which tuned the passion of Parthenophil :
Blithe burly Porter, broad and bold of word :
Wilkins, a voice with strenuous pity stirred :
Turk Mason : Brewer, whose tongue drops honey still :
Rough Rowley, handling song with Esau's hand :
Light Nabbes : lean Sharpham, rank and raw by turns,
But fragrant with a forethought once of Burns :
Soft Davenport, sad-robed, but blithe and bland :
Brome, gipsy-led across the woodland ferns :
Praise be with all, and place among our band.
Our mother, which wast twice, as history saith,
Found first among the nations : once, when she
Who bore thine ensign saw the God in thee
Smite Spain, and bring forth Shakespeare : once, when death
Shrank, and Rome's bloodhounds cowered, at Milton's breath
More than thy place, then first among the free,
More than that sovereign lordship of the sea
Bequeathed to Cromwell from Elizabeth,
More than thy fiery guiding-star, which Drake
Hailed, and the deep saw lit again for Blake,
More than all deeds wrought of thy strong right hand,
This praise keeps most thy fame's memorial strong,
That thou wast head of all these streams of song,
And time bows down to thee as Shakespeare's land.
A DARK MONTH.
'La maison sans enfants !'â€” Victor Hugo.
A month without sight of the sun
Rising or reigning or setting
Through days without use of the day,
Who calls it the month of May ?
The sense of the name is undone
And the sound of it fit for forgetting.
We shall not feel if the sun rise,
We shall not care when it sets :
If a nightingale make night's air
As noontide, why should we care ?
Till a light of delight that is done rise,
Extinguishing grey regrets ;
Till a child's face lighten again
On the twilight of older faces j
Till a child's voice fall as the dew
On furrows with heat parched through
And all but hopeless of grain,
Refreshing the desolate places â€”
Fall clear on the ears of us hearkening
And hungering for food of the sound
3 o4 A DARK MONTH.
And thirsting for joy of his voice :
Till the hearts in us hear and rejoice,
And the thoughts of them doubting and
Rejoice with a glad thing found.
When the heart of our gladness is gone,
What comfort is left with us after ?
When the light of our eyes is away,
What glory remains upon May,
What blessing of song is thereon
If we drink not the light of his laughter ?
No small sweet face with the daytime
To welcome, warmer than noon !
No sweet small voice as a bird's
To bring us the day's first words !
Mid May for us here is not Maytime :
No summer begins with June.
A whole dead month in the dark,
A dawn in the mists that o'ercome her
Stifled and smothered and sad â€”
Swift speed to it, barren and bad !
And return to us, voice of the lark,
And remain with us, sunlight of summer.
A DARK MONTH. 305
Alas, what right has the dawn to glimmer,
What right has the wind to do aught but
All the day should be dimmer
Because we are left alone.
Yestermorn like a sunbeam present
Hither and thither a light step smiled,
And made each place for us pleasant
With the sense or the sight of a child.
But the leaves persist as before, and after
Our parting the dull day still bears flowers ;
And songs less bright than his laughter
Deride us from birds in the bowers.
Birds, and blossoms, and sunlight only,
As though such folly sufficed for spring !
As though the house were not lonely
For want of the child its king !
3 o6 A DARK MONTH.
Asleep and afar to-night my darling
Lies, and heeds not the night,
If winds be stirring or storms be snarling ;
For his sleep is its own sweet light.
I sit where he sat beside me quaffing
The wine of story and song
Poured forth of immortal cups, and laughing
When mirth in the draught grew strong.
I broke the gold of the words, to melt it
For hands but seven years old,
And they caught the tale as a bird, and felt it
More bright than visible gold.
And he drank down deep, with his eyes broad
Here in this room where I am,
The golden vintage of Shakespeare, gleaming
In the silver vessels of Lamb.
A DARK MONTH. 307
Here by my hearth where he was I listen
For the shade of the sound of a word,
Athirst for the birdlike eyes to glisten,
For the tongue to chirp like a bird.
At the blast of battle, how broad they brightened,
Like fire in the spheres of stars,
And clung to the pictured page, and lightened
As keen as the heart of Mars !
At the touch of laughter, how swift it twittered
The shrillest music on earth ;
How the lithe limbs laughed and the whole child
With radiant riot of mirth !
Our Shakespeare now, as a man dumb-stricken,
Stands silent there on the shelf :
And my thoughts, that had song in the heart of them,
And relish not Shakespeare's self.
And my mood grows moodier than Hamlet's even,
And man delights not me,
But only the face that morn and even
My heart leapt only to see.
That my heart made merry within me seeing,
And sang as his laugh kept time :
But song finds now no pleasure in being,
And love no reason in rhyme.
308 A DARK MONTH.
Mild May-blossom and proud sweet bay-flower,
What, for shame, would you have with us here ?
It is not the month of the May-flower
This, but the fall of the year.
Flowers open only their lips in derision,
Leaves are as fingers that point in scorn :
The shows we see are a vision ;
Spring is not verily born.
Yet boughs turn supple and buds grow sappy,
As though the sun were indeed the sun :
And all our woods are happy
With all their birds save one.
But spring is over, but summer is over,
But autumn is over, and winter stands
With his feet sunk deep in the clover
And cowslips cold in his hands.
His hoar grim head has a hawthorn bonnet,
His gnarled gaunt hand has a gay green staff
With new-blown rose-blossom on it :
But his laugh is a dead man's laugh.
A DARK MONTH. 309
The laugh of spring that the heart seeks after,
The hand that the whole world yearns to kiss,
It rings not here in his laughter,
The sign of it is not this.
There is not strength in it left to splinter
Tall oaks, nor frost in his breath to sting :
Yet it is but a breath as of winter,
And it is not the hand of spring.
A DARK MONTH.
Thirty-one pale maidens, clad
All in mourning dresses,
Pass, with lips and eyes more sad
That it seems they should be glad,
Heads discrowned of crowns they had,
Grey for golden tresses.
Grey their girdles too for green,
And their veils dishevelled :
None would say, to see their mien,
That the least of these had been
Born no baser than a queen,
Reared where flower-fays revelled.
Dreams that strive to seem awake,
Ghosts that walk by daytime,
Weary winds the way they take,
Since, for one child's absent sake,
May knows well, whate'er things make
Sport, it is not Maytime.
A DARK MONTH. 311
A hand at the door taps light
As the hand of my heart's delight :
It is but a full-grown hand,
Yet the stroke of it seems to start
Hope like a bird in my heart,
Too feeble to soar or to stand.
To start light hope from her cover
Is to raise but a kite for a plover
If her wings be not fledged to soar.
Desire, but in dreams, cannot ope
The door that was shut upon hope
When love went out at the door.
Well were it if vision could keep
The lids of desire as in sleep
Fast locked, and over his eyes
A dream with the dark soft key
In her hand might hover, and be
Their keeper till morning rise ;
3 i2 A DARK MONTH.
The morning that brings after many
Days fled with no light upon any
The small face back which is gone ;
When the loved little hands once more
Shall struggle and strain at the door