They beat their summons upon.
A DARK MONTH. 313
If a soul for but seven days were cast out of heaven
and its mirth,
They would seem to her fears like as seventy years
Even and morrow should seem to her sorrow as long
As the passage of numberless ages in slumberless
Dawn, roused by the lark, would be surely as dark in
As her measureless measure of shadowless pleasure
Noon, gilt but with glory of gold, would be hoary
In her eyes that had gazed on the depths, unamazed
with the day.
Night hardly would seem to make darker her dream
When it could but withhold what a man may behold
of the sun.
3 H A DARK MONTH.
For dreams would perplex, were the days that should
vex her but seven,
The sight of her vision, made dark with division from
Till the light on my lonely way lighten that only now
I too am divided from heaven and derided of dreams.
A DARK MONTH. 315
A twilight fire-fly may suggest
How flames the fire that feeds the sun :
* A crooked figure may attest
In little space a million '
But this faint-figured verse, that dresses
With flowers the bones of one bare month,
Of all it would say scarce expresses
In crooked ways a millionth.
A fire-fly tenders to the father
Of fires a tribute something worth :
My verse, a shard-borne beetle rather,
Drones over scarce-illumined earth.
Some inches round me though it brighten
With light of music- making thought,
The dark indeed it may not lighten,
The silence moves not, hearing nought
Only my heart is eased with hearing,
Only mine eyes are soothed with seeing,
A face brought nigh, a footfall nearing,
Till hopes take form and dreams have being.
316 A DARK MONTH.
As a poor man hungering stands with insatiate eyes
Void of bread
Right in sight of men that feast while his famine with
Crumb is fed,
Here across the garden-wall can I hear strange chil-
Watch them play,
From the windowed seat above, whence the goodlier
child I love
Here the sights we saw together moved his fancy like
To and fro,
Now to wonder, and thereafter to the sunny storm of
Loud and low —
A DARK MONTH. 317
Sights engraven on storied pages where man's tale of
seven swift ages
All was told —
Seen of eyes yet bright from heaven — for the lips that
laughed were seven
Sweet years old.
318 A DARK MONTH.
Why should May remember
March, if March forget
The days that began with December,
The nights that a frost could fret ?
All their griefs are done with
Now the bright months bless
Fit souls to rejoice in the sun with,
Fit heads for the wind's caress ;
Souls of children quickening
With the whole world's mirth,
Heads closelier than field-flowers thickening
That crowd and illuminate earth,
Now that May's call musters
Files of baby bands
To marshal in joyfuller clusters
Than the flowers that encumber their hands.
Yet morose November
Found them no less gay,
With nought to forget or remember
Less bright than a branch of may.
A DARK MONTH. 319
All the seasons moving
Move their minds alike
Applauding, acclaiming, approving
All hours of the year that strike.
So my heart may fret not,
Wondering if my friend
Remember me not or forget not
Or ever the month find end.
Not that love sows lighter
Seed in children sown,
But that life being lit in them brighter
Moves fleeter than even our own.
May nor yet September
Binds their hearts, that yet
Remember, forget, and remember,
Forget, and recall, and forget.
320 A DARK M0N1H.
As light on a lake's face moving
Between a cloud and a cloud
Till night reclaim it, reproving
The heart that exults too loud,
The heart that watching rejoices
When soft it swims into sight
Applauded of all the voices
And stars of the windy night,
So brief and unsure, but sweeter
Than ever a moondawn smiled,
Moves, measured of no tune's metre,
The song in the soul of a child ;
The song that the sweet soul singing
Half listens, and hardly hears,
Though sweeter than joy-bells ringing
And brighter than joy's own tears j
The song that remembrance of pleasure
Begins, and forgetfulness ends
With a soft swift change in the measure
That rings in remembrance of friends
A DARK MONTH. 321
As the moon on the lake's face flashes,
So haply may gleam at whiles
A dream through the dear deep lashes
Whereunder a child's eye smiles,
And the least of us all that love him
May take for a moment part
With angels around and above him,
And I find place in his heart.
322 A DARK MONTH.
Child, were you kinless and lonely —
Dear, were you kin to me —
My love were compassionate only
Or such as it needs would be.
But eyes of father and mother
Like sunlight shed on you shine :
What need you have heed of another
Such new strange love as is mine ?
It is not meet if unruly
Hands take of the children's bread
And cast it to dogs ; but truly
The dogs after all would be fed.
On crumbs from the children's table
That crumble, dropped from above,
My heart feeds, fed with unstable
Loose waifs of a child's light love.
Though love in your heart were brittle
As glass that breaks with a touch,
You haply would lend him a little
Who surely would give you much.
A DARK MONTH.
Here is a rough
Rude sketch of my friend,
And unworthily penned.
And triumphant he stands,
And holds unaware
Friends' hearts in his hands ;
Stalwart and straight
As an oak that should bring
Forth gallant and great
Fresh roses in spring.
On the paths of his pleasure
All graces that wait
What metre shall measure,
What rhyme shall relate ?
Each action, each motion,
Each feature, each limb,
Demands a devotion
In honour of him :
324 A DARK MONTH.
Head that the hand
Of a god might have blest,
Laid lustrous and bland
On the curve of its crest :
Mouth sweeter than cherries
Keen eyes as of Mars,
Browner than berries
And brighter than stars.
Nor colour nor wordy-
Weak song can declare
The stature how sturdy,
How stalwart his air.
As a king in his bright
Presence-chamber may be,
So seems he in height —
Twice higher than your knee.
As a warrior sedate
With reserve of his power,
So seems he in state —
As tall as a flower :
As a rose overtowering
The ranks of the rest
That beneath it lie cowering,
Less bright than their best
A DARK MONTH. 325
And his hands are as sunny
As ruddy ripe corn
Or the browner-hued honey
From heather-bells borne.
When summer sits proudest,
Fulfilled with its mirth,
And rapture is loudest
In air and on earth,
The suns of all hours
That have ripened the roots
Bring forth not such flowers
And beget not such fruits.
And well though I know it,
As fain would I write,
Child, never a poet
Could praise you aright.
I bless you ? the blessing
Were less than a jest
Too poor for expressing ;
I come to be blest,
W T ith humble and dutiful
Heart, from above :
Bless me, O my beautiful
Innocent love !
326 A DARK MONTH.
This rhyme in your praise
With a smile was begun ;
But the goal of his ways
Is uncovered to none,
Nor pervious till after
The limit impend \
It is not in laughter
These rhymes of you end.
A DARK MONTH. 327
Spring, and fall, and summer, and winter,
Which may Earth love least of them all,
Whose arms embrace as their signs imprint her,
Summer, or winter, or spring, or fall ?
The clear-eyed spring with the wood-birds mating.
The rose-red summer with eyes aglow,
The yellow fall with serene eyes waiting,
The wild-eyed winter with hair all snow ?
Spring's eyes are soft, but if frosts benumb her
As winter's own will her shrewd breath sting :
Storms may rend the raiment of summer,
And fall grow bitter as harsh-lipped spring.
One sign for summer and winter guides me,
One for spring, and the like for fall :
Whichever from sight of my friend divides me,
That is the worst ill season of all.
328 A DARK MONTH.
Worse than winter is spring
If I come not to sight of my king :
But then what a spring will it be
When my king takes homage of me t
I send his grace from afar
Homage, as though to a star ;
As a shepherd whose flock takes flight
May worship a star by night.
As a flock that a wolf is upon
My songs take flight and are gone :
No heart is in any to sing
Aught but the praise of my king.
Fain would I once and again
Sing deeds and passions of men :
But ever a child's head gleams
Between my work and my dreams.
Between my hand and my eyes
The lines of a small face rise,
And the lines I trace and retrace
Are none but those of the face.
A DARK MONTH. 329
Till the tale of all this flock of days alike
All be done,
Weary days of waiting till the month's hand strike
Till the clock's hand of the month break off, and end
With the clock,
Till the last and whitest sheep at last be penned
Of the flock,
I their shepherd keep the count of night and day
With my song,
Though my song be, like this month which once was
All too long.
33© A DARK MONTH.
The incarnate sun, a tall strong youth,
On old Greek eyes in sculpture smiled :
But trulier had it given the truth
To shape him like a child.
No face full-grown of all our dearest
So lightens all our darkness, none
Most loved of all our hearts hold nearest
So far outshines the sun,
As when with sly shy smiles that feign
Doubt if the hour be clear, the time
Fit to break off my work again
Or sport of prose or rhyme,
My friend peers in on me with merry
Wise face, and though the sky stay dim
The very light of day, the very
Sun's self comes in with him.
A DARK MONTH. 331
Out of sight,
Out of mind !
Could the light
Prove unkind ?
Can the sun
What was done
Ere he set?
Does the moon
When she wanes
Leave no tune
In the void
Shell of night
With her light?
Must the shore
At low tide
Feel no more
Hope or pride,
332 A DARK MONTH.
Joy to be,
In the sense
Of the sea —
In the pulses
Of her shocks
When its rocks
Thrill and ring
As with glee ?
Has my king
Cast off me,
Whom no bird
Brings one word
From his mouth ?
Not the ghost
Of a word
Have I heard,
Since the day
When my king
With him spring,
A DARK MONTH. 333
And the cup
Of each flower
That same hour,
With no light
Out of sight,
Out of mind !
334 A DARK MONTH.
Because I adore you
On the knees of my spirit before you —
You need not insult,
With neglect, though your spirit exult
In the spring,
Even me, though not worth,
One word of you sent me in mirth,
Or one rose
Out of all in your garden
Where the frost and the wind never harden
Flakes of snow,
Nor ever is rain
But the roses rejoice to remain
Fair and tall —
A DARK MONTH. Z ZS
The roses of love,
Than blossoms that rain from above
Round our feet,
When under high bowers
Where the west wind freckles with flowers
All the grass.
But a child's thoughts bear
Sweet visions by day, and more fair
Dreams by night,
Than summer's whole treasure
Can be :
What am I that his thought should take pleasure,
Then, in me ?
I am only my love's
With a nestful of songs, like doves
That I bring in my cap
To be laid on my small king's lap —
Worth just nought.
336 A DARK MONTH.
Yet it haply may hap
When the mirth in his veins is as sap
In a tree,
Will remember me too
Ere the transit be thoroughly through
Of this May-
Or perchance, if such grace
Some night when I dream of his face,
Dream of me.
Or if this be too high
For me to prefigure in my
He may dream of the place
Basked once in the light of his face,
Who now see
Nought brighter, not one
Than the stars and the moon and the sun,
Day nor night.
A DARK MONTH. 337
Day by darkling day,
Overpassing, bears away
Somewhat of the burden of this weary May.
Night by numbered night,
Waning, brings more near in sight
Hope that grows to vision of my heart's delight
Nearer seems to burn
In the dawn's rekindling urn
Flame of fragrant incense, hailing his return.
Louder seems each bird
In the brightening branches heard
Still to speak some ever more delightful word.
All the mists that swim
Round the dawns that grow less dim
Still wax brighter and more bright with hope of him.
338 A DARK MONTH.
All the suns that rise
Bring that day more near our eyes
When the sight of him shall clear our clouded skies.
All the winds that roam
Fruitful fields or fruitless foam
Blow the bright hour near that brings his bright
A DARK MONTH. 339
I hear of two far hence
In a garden met,
And the fragrance blown from thence
Fades not yet.
The one is seven years old,
And my friend is he :
But the years of the other have told
To hear these twain converse
Or to see them greet
Were sweeter than softest verse
May be sweet.
The hoar old gardener there
With an eye more mild
Perchance than his mild white hair
Meets the child.
I had rather hear the words
That the twain exchange
Than the songs of all the birds
There that range,
34Q A DARK MONTH.
Call, chirp, and twitter there
Through the garden-beds
Where the sun alike sees fair
Those two heads,
And which may holier be
Held in heaven of those
Or more worth heart's thanks to see
No man knows.
A DARK MONTH. 341
Of such is the kingdom of heaven.
No glory that ever was shed
From the crowning star of the seven
That crown the north world's head,
No word that ever was spoken
Of human or godlike tongue,
Gave ever such godlike token
Since human harps were strung.
No sign that ever was given
To faithful or faithless eyes
Showed ever beyond clouds riven
So clear a Paradise.
Earth's creeds may be seventy times seven
And blood have denied each creed :
If of such be the kingdom of heaven,
It must be heaven indeed.
342 A DARK MONTH.
The wind on the downs is bright
As though from the sea :
And morning and night
Take comfort again with me.
He is nearer to-day,
Each night to each morning saith,
Whose return shall revive dead May
With the balm of his breath.
The sunset says to the moon,
He is nearer to-night
Whose coming in June
Is looked for more than the light.
Bird answers to bird,
Hour passes the sign on to hour,
And for joy of the bright news heard
Flower murmurs to flower.
A DARK MONTH. 343
The ways that were glad of his feet
In the woods that he knew
Grow softer to meet
The sense of his footfall anew.
He is near now as day,
Says hope to the new-born light :
He is near now as June is to May,
Says love to the night.
344 A DARK MONTH.
Good things I keep to console me
For lack of the best of all,
A child to command and control me,
Bid come and remain at his call.
Sun, wind, and woodland and highland,
Give all that ever they gave :
But my world is a cultureless island,
My spirit a masterless slave.
And friends are about me, and better
At summons of no man stand :
But I pine for the touch of a fetter,
The curb of a strong king's hand.
Each hour of the day in her season
Is mine to be served as I will :
And for no more exquisite reason
Are all served idly and ill.
A DARK MONTH. 345
By slavery my sense is corrupted,
My soul not fit to be free :
I would fain be controlled, interrupted,
Compelled as a thrall may be.
For fault of spur and of bridle
I tire of my stall to death :
My sail flaps joyless and idle
For want of a small child's breath.
346 A DARK MONTH.
Whiter and whiter
The dark lines grow,
And broader opens and brighter
The sense of the text below.
Nightfall and morrow
Bring nigher the boy
Whom wanting we want not sorrow,
Whom having we want no joy.
Clearer and clearer
The sweet sense grows
Of the word which hath summer for hearer,
The word on the lips of the rose.
Each deathlike day,
Till June rearising rekindles
The depth of the darkness of May.
A DARK MONTH. 347
' In his bright radiance and collateral light
Must I be comforted, not in his sphere. '
Stars in heaven are many,
Suns in heaven but one :
Nor for man may any
Star supplant the sun.
Many a child as joyous
As our far-off king
Meets as though to annoy us
In the paths of spring.
Sure as spring gives warning,
All things dance in tune :
Sun on Easter morning,
Cloud and windy moon,
Stars between the tossing
Boughs of tuneful trees,
Sails of ships recrossing
Leagues of dancing seas ;
348 A DARK MONTH.
Best, in all this playtime,
Best of all in tune,
Girls more glad than Maytime,
Boys more bright than June ;
Mixed with all those dances,
Far through field and street
Sing their silent glances,
Ring their radiant feet.
Flowers wherewith May crowned us
Fall ere June be crowned :
Children blossom round us
All the whole year round.
Is the garland worthless
For one rose the less,
And the feast made mirthless ?
Love, at least, says yes.
Strange it were, with many
Stars enkindling air,
Should but one find any
Welcome : strange it were,
Had one star alone won
Praise for light from far :
Nay, love needs his own one
Bright particular star.
A DARK MONTH. 349
Hope and recollection
Only lead him right
In its bright reflection
And collateral light.
Find as yet we may not
Comfort in its sphere :
Yet these days will weigh not
When it warms us here ;
When full-orbed it rises,
Now divined afar :
None in all the skies is
Half so good a star j
None that seers importune
Till a sign be won :
Star of our good fortune.
Rise and reign, our sun !
35° A DARK MONTH.
I pass by the small room now forlorn
Where once each night as I passed I knew
A child's bright sleep from even to morn
Made sweet the whole night through.
As a soundless shell, as a songless nest,
Seems now the room that was radiant then
And fragrant with his happier rest
Than that of slumbering men.
The day therein is less than the day,
The night is indeed night now therein :
Heavier the dark seems there to weigh,
And slower the dawns begin.
As a nest fulfilled with birds, as a shell
Fulfilled with breath of a god's own hymn,
Again shall be this bare blank cell,
Made sweet again with him.
A DARK MONTH. 351
Spring darkens before us,
A flame going down,
With chant from the chorus
Of days without crown —
Cloud, rain, and sonorous
Soft wind on the down.
She is wearier not of us
Than we of the dream]
That spring was to love us
And joy was to gleam
Through the shadows above us
That shift as they stream.
Half dark and half hoary,
Float far on the loud
Mild wind, as a glory
Half pale and half proud
From the twilight of story,
Her tresses of cloud ;
352 A DARK MONTH.
Like phantoms that glimmer
Of glories of old
With ever yet dimmer
Pale circlets of gold
As darkness grows grimmer
And memory more cold.
Like hope growing clearer
With wane of the moon,
Shines toward us the nearer
Gold frontlet of June,
And a face with it dearer
Than midsummer noon.
A BARK MONTH. 353
You send me your love in a letter,
I send you my love in a song :
Ah child, your gift is the better,
Mine does you but wrong.
No fame, were the best less brittle,
No praise, were it wide as earth,
Is worth so much as a little
Child's love may be worth.
We see the children above us
As they might angels above :
Come back to us, child, if you love us,
And bring us your love.
354 A DARK MONTH.
No time for books or for letters :
What time should there be ?
No room for tasks and their fetters
Full room to be free.
The wind and the sun and the Maytime
Had never a guest
More worthy the most that his playtime
Could give of its best.
If rain should come on, peradventure,
(But sunshine forbid !)
Vain hope in us haply might venture
To dream as it did.
But never may come, of all comers
Least welcome, the rain,
To mix with his servant the summer's
Rose-garlanded train !
A BARK MONTH. 355
He would write, but his hours are as busy
As bees in the sun,
And the jubilant whirl of their dizzy-
Dance never is done.
The message is more than a .letter,
Let love understand,
And the thought of his joys even better
Than sight of his hand.
356 A DARK MONTH.
Wind, high-souled, full-hearted
South-west wind of the spring !
Ere April and earth had parted,
Skies, bright with thy forward wing,
Grew dark in an hour with the shadow behind it, that
bade not a bird dare sing.
Wind whose feet are sunny,
Wind whose wings are cloud,
With lips more sweet than honey
Still, speak they low or loud,
Rejoice now again in the strength of thine heart: let
the depth of thy soul wax proud.
We hear thee singing or sighing,
Just not given to sight,
All but visibly flying
Between the clouds and the light,
And the light in our hearts is enkindled, the shadow
therein of the clouds put to flight.
A DARK MONTH. 357
From the gift of thine hands we gather
The core of the flowers therein,
Keen glad heart of heather,
Hot sweet heart of whin,
Twin breaths in thy godlike breath close blended of
wild spring's wildest of kin.
All but visibly beating
We feel thy wings in the far
Clear waste, and the plumes of them fleeting,
Soft as swan's plumes are, .
And strong as a wild swan's pinions, and swift as the
flash of the flight of a star.
As the flight of a planet enkindled
Seems thy far soft flight
Now May's reign has dwindled
And the crescent of June takes light
And the presence of summer is here, and the hope of
a welcomer presence in sight.
Wind, sweet-souled, great-hearted
Southwest wind on the wold !
From us is a glory departed
That now shall return as of old,
Borne back on thy wings as an eagle's expanding, and
crowned with the sundawn's gold.
358 A DARK MONTH.
There is not a flower but rejoices,
There is not a leaf but has heard :
All the fields find voices,
All the woods are stirred:
There is not a nest but is brighter because of the
coming of one bright bird.
Out of dawn and morning,
Noon and afternoon,
The sun to the world gives warning
Of news that brightens the moon ;
And the stars all night exult with us, hearing of joy
that shall come with June.
If the wind and the sunlight of April and August had
mingled the past and hereafter
In a single adorable season whose life were a rapture
of love and of laughter,
And the blithest of singers were back with a song ; if
again from his tomb as from prison,
If again from the night or the twilight of ages Aristo-
phanes had arisen,
With the gold-feathered wings of a bird that were also
a god upon earth at his shoulders,
And the gold-flowing laugh of the manhood of old at
his lips, for a joy to beholders,
He alone unrebuked of presumption were able to set
to some adequate measure
The delight of our eyes in the dawn that restores
them the sun of their sense and the pleasure.
For the days of the darkness of spirit are over for all
of us here, and the season
When desire was a longing, and absence a thorn, and
rejoicing a word without reason.
For the roof overhead of the pines is astir with delight
as of jubilant voices,
And the floor underfoot of the bracken and heather
alive as a heart that rejoices.
For the house that was childless awhile, and the light
of it darkened, the pulse of it dwindled,
Rings radiant again with a child's bright feet, with the
light of his face is rekindled.
And the ways of the meadows that knew him, the
sweep of the down that the sky's belt closes,
Grow gladder at heart than the soft wind made them
whose feet were but fragrant with roses,
Though the fall of the year be upon us, who trusted
in June and by June were defrauded,
And the summer that brought us not back the desire
of our eyes be gone hence unapplauded.
For July came joyless among us, and August went