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THE POEMS OF
WILLIAM WATSON




New York
MACMILLAN AND CO.
AND LONDON
1893




Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing & Co. - Berwick & Smith.
Boston, Mass., U.S.A.




CONTENTS

MISCELLANEOUS -
PRELUDE
AUTUMN
WORLD-STRANGENESS
"WHEN BIRDS WERE SONGLESS"
THE MOCK SELF
"THY VOICE FROM INMOST DREAMLAND CALLS"
IN LALEHAM CHURCHYARD
THE FLIGHT OF YOUTH
"NAY, BID ME NOT MY CARES TO LEAVE"
A CHILD'S HAIR
THE KEY-BOARD
"SCENTLESS FLOW'RS I BRING THEE"
ON LANDOR'S "HELLENICS"
To - -
ON EXAGGERATED DEFERENCE TO FOREIGN LITERARY OPINION
ENGLAND TO IRELAND
MENSIS LACRIMARUM
"UNDER THE DARK AND PINY STEEP"
THE BLIND SUMMIT
TO LORD TENNYSON
SKETCH OF A POLITICAL CHARACTER
ART MAXIMS
THE GLIMPSE
THE BALLAD OF THE "BRITAIN'S PRIDE"
LINES
THE RAVEN'S SHADOW
LUX PERDITA
ENGLAND AND HER COLONIES
HISTORY
THE EMPTY NEST
IRELAND
THE LUTE-PLAYER
"AND THESE - ARE THESE INDEED THE END"
THE RUSS AT KARA
LIBERTY REJECTED
LIFE WITHOUT HEALTH
TO A FRIEND, CHAFING AT ENFORCED IDLENESS
FROM INTERRUPTED HEALTH
"WELL HE SLUMBERS, GREATLY SLAIN"
AN EPISTLE
TO AUSTIN DOBSON
TO EDWARD CLODD
TO EDWARD DOWDEN
FELICITY
VER TENEBROSUM, SONNETS OF MARCH AND APRIL 1885 -
THE SOUDANESE
HASHEEN
THE ENGLISH DEAD
GORDON
GORDON _(concluded)_
THE TRUE PATRIOTISM
RESTORED ALLEGIANCE
THE POLITICAL LUMINARY
FOREIGN MENACE
HOME-ROOTEDNESS
OUR EASTERN TREASURE
REPORTED CONCESSIONS
NIGHTMARE
LAST WORD: TO THE COLONIES
EPIGRAMS
WORDSWORTH'S GRAVE
LACHRYMÆ MUSARUM
DEDICATION OF "THE DREAM OF MAN"
THE DREAM OF MAN
SHELLEY'S CENTENARY
A GOLDEN HOUR
AT THE GRAVE OF CHARLES LAMB
LINES IN A FLYLEAF OF "CHRISTABEL"
LINES TO OUR NEW CENSOR
RELUCTANT SUMMER
THE GREAT MISGIVING
"THE THINGS THAT ARE MORE EXCELLENT"
BEAUTY'S METEMPSYCHOSIS
ENGLAND MY MOTHER
NIGHT
THE FUGITIVE IDEAL
"THE FORESTERS"
SONG
COLUMBUS
THE PRINCE'S QUEST
ANGELO
THE QUESTIONER
THE RIVER
CHANGED VOICES
A SUNSET
A SONG OF THREE SINGERS
LOVE'S ASTROLOGY
THREE FLOWERS
THREE ETERNITIES
LOVE OUTLOVED
VANISHINGS
BEETHOVEN
GOD-SEEKING
SKYFARING





MISCELLANEOUS




PRELUDE

The mighty poets from their flowing store
Dispense like casual alms the careless ore;
Through throngs of men their lonely way they go,
Let fall their costly thoughts, nor seem to know. -
Not mine the rich and showering hand, that strews
The facile largess of a stintless Muse.
A fitful presence, seldom tarrying long,
Capriciously she touches me to song -
Then leaves me to lament her flight in vain,
And wonder will she ever come again.



AUTUMN

Thou burden of all songs the earth hath sung,
Thou retrospect in Time's reverted eyes,
Thou metaphor of everything that dies,
That dies ill-starred, or dies beloved and young
And therefore blest and wise, -
O be less beautiful, or be less brief,
Thou tragic splendour, strange, and full of fear!
In vain her pageant shall the Summer rear?
At thy mute signal, leaf by golden leaf,
Crumbles the gorgeous year.

Ah, ghostly as remembered mirth, the tale
Of Summer's bloom, the legend of the Spring!
And thou, too, flutterest an impatient wing,
Thou presence yet more fugitive and frail,
Thou most unbodied thing,
Whose very being is thy going hence,
And passage and departure all thy theme;
Whose life doth still a splendid dying seem,
And thou at height of thy magnificence
A figment and a dream.

Stilled is the virgin rapture that was June,
And cold is August's panting heart of fire;
And in the storm-dismantled forest-choir
For thine own elegy thy winds attune
Their wild and wizard lyre:
And poignant grows the charm of thy decay,
The pathos of thy beauty, and the sting,
Thou parable of greatness vanishing!
For me, thy woods of gold and skies of grey
With speech fantastic ring.

For me, to dreams resigned, there come and go,
'Twixt mountains draped and hooded night and morn,
Elusive notes in wandering wafture borne,
From undiscoverable lips that blow
An immaterial horn;
And spectral seem thy winter-boding trees,
Thy ruinous bowers and drifted foliage wet -
Past and Future in sad bridal met,
O voice of everything that perishes,
And soul of all regret!



WORLD-STRANGENESS

Strange the world about me lies,
Never yet familiar grown -
Still disturbs me with surprise,
Haunts me like a face half known.

In this house with starry dome,
Floored with gemlike plains and seas,
Shall I never feel at home,
Never wholly be at ease?

On from room to room I stray,
Yet my Host can ne'er espy,
And I know not to this day
Whether guest or captive I.

So, between the starry dome
And the floor of plains and seas,
I have never felt at home,
Never wholly been at ease.



"WHEN BIRDS WERE SONGLESS"

When birds were songless on the bough
I heard thee sing.
The world was full of winter, thou
Wert full of spring.

To-day the world's heart feels anew
The vernal thrill,
And thine beneath the rueful yew
Is wintry chill.



THE MOCK SELF

Few friends are mine, though many wights there be
Who, meeting oft a phantasm that makes claim
To be myself, and hath my face and name,
And whose thin fraud I wink at privily,
Account this light impostor very me.
What boots it undeceive them, and proclaim
Myself myself, and whelm this cheat with shame?
I care not, so he leave my true self free,
Impose not on me also; but alas!
I too, at fault, bewildered, sometimes take
Him for myself, and far from mine own sight,
Torpid, indifferent, doth mine own self pass;
And yet anon leaps suddenly awake,
And spurns the gibbering mime into the night.



"THY VOICE FROM INMOST DREAMLAND CALLS"

Thy voice from inmost dreamland calls;
The wastes of sleep thou makest fair;
Bright o'er the ridge of darkness falls
The cataract of thy hair.

The morn renews its golden birth:
Thou with the vanquished night dost fade;
And leav'st the ponderable earth
Less real than thy shade.



IN LALEHAM CHURCHYARD

(AUGUST 18, 1890)

'Twas at this season, year by year,
The singer who lies songless here
Was wont to woo a less austere,
Less deep repose,
Where Rotha to Winandermere
Unresting flows, -

Flows through a land where torrents call
To far-off torrents as they fall,
And mountains in their cloudy pall
Keep ghostly state,
And Nature makes majestical
Man's lowliest fate.

There, 'mid the August glow, still came
He of the twice-illustrious name,
The loud impertinence of fame
Not loth to flee -
Not loth with brooks and fells to claim
Fraternity.

Linked with his happy youthful lot,
Is Loughrigg, then, at last forgot?
Nor silent peak nor dalesman's cot
Looks on his grave.
Lulled by the Thames he sleeps, and not
By Rotha's wave.

'Tis fittest thus! for though with skill
He sang of beck and tarn and ghyll,
The deep, authentic mountain-thrill
Ne'er shook his page!
Somewhat of worldling mingled still
With bard and sage.

And 'twere less meet for him to lie
Guarded by summits lone and high
That traffic with the eternal sky
And hear, unawed,
The everlasting fingers ply
The loom of God,

Than, in this hamlet of the plain,
A less sublime repose to gain,
Where Nature, genial and urbane,
To man defers,
Yielding to us the right to reign,
Which yet is hers.

And nigh to where his bones abide,
The Thames with its unruffled tide
Seems like his genius typified, -
Its strength, its grace,
Its lucid gleam, its sober pride,
Its tranquil pace.

But ah! not his the eventual fate
Which doth the journeying wave await -
Doomed to resign its limpid state
And quickly grow
Turbid as passion, dark as hate,
And wide as woe.

Rather, it may be, over-much
He shunned the common stain and smutch,
From soilure of ignoble touch
Too grandly free,
Too loftily secure in such
Cold purity.

But he preserved from chance control
The fortress of his 'stablisht soul;
In all things sought to see the Whole;
Brooked no disguise;
And set his heart upon the goal,
Not on the prize.

With those Elect he shall survive
Who seem not to compete or strive,
Yet with the foremost still arrive,
Prevailing still:
Spirits with whom the stars connive
To work their will.

And ye, the baffled many, who,
Dejected, from afar off view
The easily victorious few
Of calm renown, -
Have ye not your sad glory too,
And mournful crown?

Great is the facile conqueror;
Yet haply he, who, wounded sore,
Breathless, unhorsed, all covered o'er
With blood and sweat,
Sinks foiled, but fighting evermore, -
Is greater yet.



THE FLIGHT OF YOUTH

Youth! ere thou be flown away.
Surely one last boon to-day
Thou'lt bestow -
One last light of rapture give,
Rich and lordly fugitive!
Ere thou go.

What, thou canst not? What, all spent?
All thy spells of ravishment
Pow'rless now?
Gone thy magic out of date?
Gone, all gone that made thee great? -
Follow thou!



"NAY, BID ME NOT MY CARES TO LEAVE"

Nay, bid me not my cares to leave,
Who cannot from their shadow flee.
I do but win a short reprieve,
'Scaping to pleasure and to thee.

I may, at best, a moment's grace,
And grant of liberty, obtain;
Respited for a little space,
To go back into bonds again.



A CHILD'S HAIR

A letter from abroad. I tear
Its sheathing open, unaware
What treasure gleams within; and there -
Like bird from cage -
Flutters a curl of golden hair
Out of the page.

From such a frolic head 'twas shorn!
('Tis but five years since he was born.)
Not sunlight scampering over corn
Were merrier thing.
A child? A fragment of the morn,
A piece of Spring!

Surely an ampler, fuller day
Than drapes our English skies with grey -
A deeper light, a richer ray
Than here we know -
To this bright tress have given away
Their living glow.

For Willie dwells where gentian flowers
Make mimic sky in mountain bowers;
And vineyards steeped in ardent hours
Slope to the wave
Where storied Chillon's tragic towers
Their bases lave;

And over piny tracts of Vaud
The rose of eve steals up the snow;
And on the waters far below
Strange sails like wings
Half-bodilessly come and go,
Fantastic things;

And tender night falls like a sigh
On _châlet_ low and _château_ high;
And the far cataract's voice comes nigh,
Where no man hears;
And spectral peaks impale the sky
On silver spears.

Ah, Willie, whose dissevered tress
Lies in my hand! - may you possess
At least one sovereign happiness,
Ev'n to your grave;
One boon than which I ask naught less,
Naught greater crave:

May cloud and mountain, lake and vale,
Never to you be trite or stale
As unto souls whose wellsprings fail
Or flow defiled,
Till Nature's happiest fairy-tale
Charms not her child!

For when the spirit waxes numb,
Alien and strange these shows become,
And stricken with life's tedium
The streams run dry,
The choric spheres themselves are dumb,
And dead the sky, -

Dead as to captives grown supine,
Chained to their task in sightless mine:
Above, the bland day smiles benign,
Birds carol free,
In thunderous throes of life divine
Leaps the glad sea;

But they - their day and night are one.
What is't to them, that rivulets run,
Or what concern of theirs the sun?
It seems as though
Their business with these things was done
Ages ago:

Only, at times, each dulled heart feels
That somewhere, sealed with hopeless seals,
The unmeaning heaven about him reels,
And he lies hurled
Beyond the roar of all the wheels
Of all the world.

* * * * *

On what strange track one's fancies fare!
To eyeless night in sunless lair
'Tis a far cry from Willie's hair;
And here it lies -
Human, yet something which can ne'er
Grow sad and wise:

Which, when the head where late it lay
In life's grey dusk itself is grey,
And when the curfew of life's day
By death is tolled,
Shall forfeit not the auroral ray
And eastern gold.



THE KEY-BOARD

Five-and-thirty black slaves,
Half-a-hundred white,
All their duty but to sing
For their Queen's delight,
Now with throats of thunder,
Now with dulcet lips,
While she rules them royally
With her finger-tips!

When she quits her palace,
All the slaves are dumb -
Dumb with dolour till the Queen
Back to Court is come:
Dumb the throats of thunder,
Dumb the dulcet lips,
Lacking all the sovereignty
Of her finger-tips.

Dusky slaves and pallid,
Ebon slaves and white,
When the Queen was on her throne
How you sang to-night!
Ah, the throats of thunder!
Ah, the dulcet lips!
Ah, the gracious tyrannies
Of her finger-tips!

Silent, silent, silent,
All your voices now;
Was it then her life alone
Did your life endow?
Waken, throats of thunder!
Waken, dulcet lips!
Touched to immortality
By her finger-tips.



"SCENTLESS FLOW'RS I BRING THEE"

Scentless flow'rs I bring thee - yet
In thy bosom be they set;
In thy bosom each one grows
Fragrant beyond any rose.

Sweet enough were she who could,
In thy heart's sweet neighbourhood,
Some redundant sweetness thus
Borrow from that overplus.



ON LANDOR'S "HELLENICS"

Come hither, who grow cloyed to surfeiting
With lyric draughts o'ersweet, from rills that rise
On Hybla not Parnassus mountain: come
With beakers rinsed of the dulcifluous wave
Hither, and see a magic miracle
Of happiest science, the bland Attic skies
True-mirrored by an English well; - no stream
Whose heaven-belying surface makes the stars
Reel, with its restless idiosyncrasy;
But well unstirred, save when at times it takes
Tribute of lover's eyelids, and at times
Bubbles with laughter of some sprite below.



TO - -

(WITH A VOLUME OF EPIGRAMS)

Unto the Lady of The Nook
Fly, tiny book.
There thou hast lovers - even thou!
Fly thither now.

Seven years hast thou for honour yearned,
And scant praise earned;
But ah! to win, at last, _such_ friends,
Is full amends.



ON EXAGGERATED DEFERENCE TO
FOREIGN LITERARY OPINION

What! and shall _we_, with such submissive airs
As age demands in reverence from the young,
Await these crumbs of praise from Europe flung,
And doubt of our own greatness till it bears
The signet of your Goethes or Voltaires?
We who alone in latter times have sung
With scarce less power than Arno's exiled tongue -
We who are Milton's kindred, Shakespeare's heirs.
The prize of lyric victory who shall gain
If ours be not the laurel, ours the palm?
More than the froth and flotsam of the Seine,
More than your Hugo-flare against the night,
And more than Weimar's proud elaborate calm,
One flash of Byron's lightning, Wordsworth's light.



ENGLAND TO IRELAND

(FEBRUARY 1888)

Spouse whom my sword in the olden time won me,
Winning me hatred more sharp than a sword -
Mother of children who hiss at or shun me,
Curse or revile me, and hold me abhorred -
Heiress of anger that nothing assuages,
Mad for the future, and mad from the past -
Daughter of all the implacable ages,
Lo, let us turn and be lovers at last!

Lovers whom tragical sin hath made equal,
One in transgression and one in remorse.
Bonds may be severed, but what were the sequel?
Hardly shall amity come of divorce.
Let the dead Past have a royal entombing,
O'er it the Future built white for a fane!
I that am haughty from much overcoming
Sue to thee, supplicate - nay, is it vain?

Hate and mistrust are the children of blindness, -
Could we but see one another, 'twere well!
Knowledge is sympathy, charity, kindness,
Ignorance only is maker of hell.
Could we but gaze for an hour, for a minute,
Deep in each other's unfaltering eyes,
Love were begun - for that look would begin it -
Born in the flash of a mighty surprise.

Then should the ominous night-bird of Error,
Scared by a sudden irruption of day,
Flap his maleficent wings, and in terror
Flit to the wilderness, dropping his prey.
Then should we, growing in strength and in sweetness,
Fusing to one indivisible soul,
Dazzle the world with a splendid completeness,
Mightily single, immovably whole.

Thou, like a flame when the stormy winds fan it,
I, like a rock to the elements bare, -
Mixed by love's magic, the fire and the granite,
Who should compete with us, what should compare?
Strong with a strength that no fate might dissever,
One with a oneness no force could divide,
So were we married and mingled for ever,
Lover with lover, and bridegroom with bride.



MENSIS LACRIMARUM

(MARCH 1885)

March, that comes roaring, maned, with rampant paws,
And bleatingly withdraws;
March, - 'tis the year's fantastic nondescript,
That, born when frost hath nipped
The shivering fields, or tempest scarred the hills,
Dies crowned with daffodils.
The month of the renewal of the earth
By mingled death and birth:
But, England! in this latest of thy years
Call it - the Month of Tears.



"UNDER THE DARK AND PINY STEEP"

Under the dark and piny steep
We watched the storm crash by:
We saw the bright brand leap and leap
Out of the shattered sky.

The elements were minist'ring
To make one mortal blest;
For, peal by peal, you did but cling
The closer to his breast.



THE BLIND SUMMIT

[A Viennese gentleman, who had climbed the Hoch-König
without a guide, was found dead, in a sitting posture, near the
summit, upon which he had written, "It is cold, and clouds shut
out the view." - _Vide_ the _Daily News_ of September 10, 1891.]

So mounts the child of ages of desire,
Man, up the steeps of Thought; and would behold
Yet purer peaks, touched with unearthlier fire,
In sudden prospect virginally new;
But on the lone last height he sighs: "'Tis cold,
And clouds shut out the view."

Ah, doom of mortals! Vexed with phantoms old,
Old phantoms that waylay us and pursue, -
Weary of dreams, - we think to see unfold
The eternal landscape of the Real and True;
And on our Pisgah can but write: "'Tis cold,
And clouds shut out the view."



TO LORD TENNYSON

(WITH A VOLUME OF VERSE)

Master and mage, our prince of song, whom Time,
In this your autumn mellow and serene,
Crowns ever with fresh laurels, nor less green
Than garlands dewy from your verdurous prime;
Heir of the riches of the whole world's rhyme,
Dow'r'd with the Doric grace, the Mantuan mien,
With Arno's depth and Avon's golden sheen;
Singer to whom the singing ages climb,
Convergent; - if the youngest of the choir
May snatch a flying splendour from your name
Making his page illustrious, and aspire
For one rich moment your regard to claim,
Suffer him at your feet to lay his lyre
And touch the skirts and fringes of your fame.



SKETCH OF A POLITICAL CHARACTER

(1885)

There is a race of men, who master life,
Their victory being inversely as their strife;
Who capture by refraining from pursuit;
Shake not the bough, yet load their hands with fruit;
The earth's high places who attain to fill,
By most indomitably sitting still.
While others, full upon the fortress hurled,
Lay fiery siege to the embattled world,
Of such rude arts _their_ natures feel no need;
Greatly inert, they lazily succeed;
Find in the golden mean their proper bliss,
And doing nothing, never do amiss;
But lapt in men's good graces live, and die
By all regretted, nobody knows why.

Cast in this fortunate Olympian mould,
The admirable * * * * behold;
Whom naught could dazzle or mislead, unless
'Twere the wild light of fatal cautiousness;
Who never takes a step from his own door
But he looks backward ere he looks before.
When once he starts, it were too much to say
He visibly gets farther on his way:
But all allow, he ponders well his course -
For future uses hoarding present force.
The flippant deem him slow and saturnine,
The summed-up phlegm of that illustrious line;
But we, his honest adversaries, who
More highly prize him than his false friends do,
Frankly admire that simple mass and weight -
A solid Roman pillar of the State,
So inharmonious with the baser style
Of neighbouring columns grafted on the pile,
So proud and imperturbable and chill,
Chosen and matched so excellently ill,
He seems a monument of pensive grace,
Ah, how pathetically out of place!

Would that some call he could not choose but heed -
Of private passion or of public need -
At last might sting to life that slothful power,
And snare him into greatness for an hour!



ART MAXIMS

Often ornateness
Goes with greatness;
Oftener felicity
Comes of simplicity.

Talent that's cheapest
Affects singularity.
Thoughts that dive deepest
Rise radiant in clarity.

Life is rough:
Sing smoothly, O Bard.
Enough, enough,
To have _found_ life hard.

No record Art keeps
Of her travail and throes.
There is toil on the steeps, -
On the summits, repose.



THE GLIMPSE

Just for a day you crossed my life's dull track,
Put my ignobler dreams to sudden shame,
Went your bright way, and left me to fall back
On my own world of poorer deed and aim;

To fall back on my meaner world, and feel
Like one who, dwelling 'mid some, smoke-dimmed town, -
In a brief pause of labour's sullen wheel, -
'Scaped from the street's dead dust and factory's frown, -

In stainless daylight saw the pure seas roll,
Saw mountains pillaring the perfect sky:
Then journeyed home, to carry in his soul
The torment of the difference till he die.



THE BALLAD OF THE "BRITAIN'S PRIDE"

It was a skipper of Lowestoft
That trawled the northern sea,
In a smack of thrice ten tons and seven,
And the _Britain's Pride_ was she.
And the waves were high to windward,
And the waves were high to lee,
And he said as he lost his trawl-net,
"What is to be, will be."

His craft she reeled and staggered,
But he headed her for the hithe,
In a storm that threatened to mow her down
As grass is mown by the scythe;
When suddenly through the cloud-rift
The moon came sailing soft,
And he saw one mast of a sunken ship
Like a dead arm held aloft.

And a voice came faint from the rigging -
"Help! help!" it whispered and sighed -
And a single form to the sole mast clung,
In the roaring darkness wide.
Oh the crew were but four hands all told,
On board of the _Britain's Pride_,
And ever "Hold on till daybreak!"
Across the night they cried.

Slowly melted the darkness,
Slowly rose the sun,
And only the lad in the rigging
Was left, out of thirty-one,
To tell the tale of his captain,
The English sailor true,
That did his duty and met his death
As English sailors do.

Peace to the gallant spirit,
The greatly proved and tried,
And to all who have fed the hungry sea
That is still unsatisfied;
And honour and glory for ever,
While rolls the unresting tide,
To the skipper of little Lowestoft,
And the crew of the _Britain's Pride_.



LINES

(WITH A VOLUME OF THE AUTHOR'S POEMS SENT TO M.R.C.)

Go, Verse, nor let the grass of tarrying grow
Beneath thy feet iambic. Southward go
O'er Thamesis his stream, nor halt until
Thou reach the summit of a suburb hill
To lettered fame not unfamiliar: there
Crave rest and shelter of a scholiast fair,
Who dwelleth in a world of old romance,
Magic emprise and faery chevisaunce.
Tell her, that he who made thee, years ago,
By northern stream and mountain, and where blow
Great breaths from the sea-sunset, at this day
One half thy fabric fain would rase away;
But she must take thee faults and all, my Verse,
Forgive thy better and forget thy worse.
Thee, doubtless, she shall place, not scorned, among
More famous songs by happier minstrels sung; -
In Shakespeare's shadow thou shalt find a home,
Shalt house with melodists of Greece and Rome,
Or awed by Dante's wintry presence be,
Or won by Goethe's regal suavity,
Or with those masters hardly less adored
Repose, of Rydal and of Farringford;
And - like a mortal rapt from men's abodes
Into some skyey fastness of the gods -
Divinely neighboured, thou in such a shrine
Mayst for a moment dream thyself divine.



THE RAVEN'S SHADOW

Seabird, elemental sprite,
Moulded of the sun and spray -
Raven, dreary flake of night
Drifting in the eye of day -
What in common have ye two,
Meeting 'twixt the blue and blue?


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