Amy Levy.

A London plane-tree, and other verse online

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A London Plane-Tree

and other _Verse_




1. The Lady from the Sea. By HENRIK IBSEN.

3. Wordsworth’s Grave, and Other Poems. By WILLIAM WATSON.

4. Sakuntalā; or, The Fatal Ring. By KĀLIDĀSA. Translated by Sir
WILLIAM JONES. Introduction by Prof. RHYS DAVIDS.

_The proofs of this volume were corrected by the Author about a week
before her death._

_Mine is an urban Muse, and bound_
_By some strange law to paven ground._

_To Clementina Black._

[Illustration: text decoration]

_More blest than was of old Diogenes,_
_I have not held my lantern up in vain._
_Not mine, at least, this evil - to complain:_
_“There is none honest among all of these.”_

_Our hopes go down that sailed before the breeze;_
_Our creeds upon the rock are rent in twain;_
_Something it is, if at the last remain_
_One floating spar cast up by hungry seas._

_The secret of our being, who can tell?_
_To praise the gods and Fate is not my part;_
_Evil I see, and pain; within my heart_
_There is no voice that whispers: “All is well.”_

_Yet fair are days in summer; and more fair_
_The growths of human goodness here and there._


[Illustration: text decoration]

A London Plane-Tree.

_A London Plane-Tree_ 17

_London in July_ 18

_A March Day in London_ 19

_Ballade of an Omnibus_ 21

_Ballade of a Special Edition_ 23

_Straw in the Street_ }
_Between the Showers_ } Roundels 25-27
_Out of Town_ }

_The Piano-Organ_ 28

_London Poets_ 29

_The Village Garden_ 30

Love, Dreams, and Death.

_New Love, New Life_ 35

_Impotens_ 36

_Youth and Love_ 37

_The Dream_ 38

_On the Threshold_ 39

_The Birch-Tree at Loschwitz_ 40

_In the Night_ 41

_Borderland_ 42

_At Dawn_ 43

_Last Words_ 44

_June_ 46

_A Reminiscence_ 47

_The Sequel to “A Reminiscence”_ 48

_In the Mile End Road_ 50

_Contradictions_ 51

_Twilight_ 52

_In September_ 53

Moods and Thoughts.

_The Old House_ 57

_Lohengrin_ 58

_Alma Mater_ 59

_In the Black Forest_ 61

_Captivity_ 62

_The Two Terrors_ 64

_The Promise of Sleep_ 65

_The Last Judgment_ 66

_Felo de Se_ 68

_The Lost Friend_ 71

_Cambridge in the Long_ 72

_To Vernon Lee_ 74

_The Old Poet_ 75

_On the Wye in May_ 77

_Oh, is it Love?_ 78

_In the Nower_ 79

_The End of the Day_ 80

Odds and Ends.

_Songs from_ THE NEW PHAON (_unpublished_) -

1. _A Wall-flower_ 85

2. _The First Extra_ 86

3. _At a Dinner Party_ 87

_Philosophy_ 88

_A Game of Lawn Tennis_ 90

_To E._ 91


[Illustration: text decoration]

A London Plane-Tree: The
Temple Church. By J. BERNARD PARTRIDGE. _Frontispiece._

Odds and Ends. By J. BERNARD PARTRIDGE. _Facing p. 83._

A London Plane-Tree.

_A London Plane-Tree._

[Illustration: text decoration]

Green is the plane-tree in the square,
The other trees are brown;
They droop and pine for country air;
The plane-tree loves the town.

Here from my garret-pane, I mark
The plane-tree bud and blow,
Shed her recuperative bark,
And spread her shade below.

Among her branches, in and out,
The city breezes play;
The dun fog wraps her round about;
Above, the smoke curls grey.

Others the country take for choice,
And hold the town in scorn;
But she has listened to the voice
On city breezes borne.

_London in July._

[Illustration: text decoration]

What ails my senses thus to cheat?
What is it ails the place,
That all the people in the street
Should wear one woman’s face?

The London trees are dusty-brown
Beneath the summer sky;
My love, she dwells in London town,
Nor leaves it in July.

O various and intricate maze,
Wide waste of square and street;
Where, missing through unnumbered days,
We twain at last may meet!

And who cries out on crowd and mart?
Who prates of stream and sea?
The summer in the city’s heart -
That is enough for me.

_A March Day in London._

[Illustration: text decoration]

The east wind blows in the street to-day;
The sky is blue, yet the town looks grey.
’Tis the wind of ice, the wind of fire,
Of cold despair and of hot desire,
Which chills the flesh to aches and pains,
And sends a fever through all the veins.

From end to end, with aimless feet,
All day long have I paced the street.
My limbs are weary, but in my breast
Stirs the goad of a mad unrest.
I would give anything to stay
The little wheel that turns in my brain;
The little wheel that turns all day,
That turns all night with might and main.

What is the thing I fear, and why?
Nay, but the world is all awry -
The wind’s in the east, the sun’s in the sky
The gas-lamps gleam in a golden line;
The ruby lights of the hansoms shine,
Glance, and flicker like fire-flies bright;
The wind has fallen with the night,
And once again the town seems fair
Thwart the mist that hangs i’ the air.

And o’er, at last, my spirit steals
A weary peace; peace that conceals
Within its inner depths the grain
Of hopes that yet shall flower again.

_Ballade of an Omnibus._

To see my love suffices me.
- _Ballades in Blue China._

Some men to carriages aspire;
On some the costly hansoms wait;
Some seek a fly, on job or hire;
Some mount the trotting steed, elate.
I envy not the rich and great,
A wandering minstrel, poor and free,
I am contented with my fate -
An omnibus suffices me.

In winter days of rain and mire
I find within a corner strait;
The ’busmen know me and my lyre
From Brompton to the Bull-and-Gate.
When summer comes, I mount in state
The topmost summit, whence I see
Crœsus look up, compassionate -
An omnibus suffices me.

I mark, untroubled by desire,
Lucullus’ phaeton and its freight.
The scene whereof I cannot tire,
The human tale of love and hate,
The city pageant, early and late
Unfolds itself, rolls by, to be
A pleasure deep and delicate.
An omnibus suffices me.

Princess, your splendour you require,
I, my simplicity; agree
Neither to rate lower nor higher.
An omnibus suffices me.

_Ballade of a Special Edition._

[Illustration: text decoration]

He comes; I hear him up the street -
Bird of ill omen, flapping wide
The pinion of a printed sheet,
His hoarse note scares the eventide.
Of slaughter, theft, and suicide
He is the herald and the friend;
Now he vociferates with pride -
A double murder in Mile End!

A hanging to his soul is sweet;
His gloating fancy’s fain to bide
Where human-freighted vessels meet,
And misdirected trains collide.
With Shocking Accidents supplied,
He tramps the town from end to end.
How often have we heard it cried -
A double murder in Mile End.

War loves he; victory or defeat,
So there be loss on either side.
His tale of horrors incomplete,
Imagination’s aid is tried.
Since no distinguished man has died,
And since the Fates, relenting, send
No great catastrophe, he’s spied
This double murder in Mile End.

Fiend, get thee gone! no more repeat
Those sounds which do mine ears offend.
It is apocryphal, you cheat,
Your double murder in Mile End.

_Straw in the Street._

[Illustration: text decoration]

Straw in the street where I pass to-day
Dulls the sound of the wheels and feet.
’Tis for a failing life they lay
Straw in the street.

Here, where the pulses of London beat,
Someone strives with the Presence grey;
Ah, is it victory or defeat?

The hurrying people go their way,
Pause and jostle and pass and greet;
For life, for death, are they treading, say,
Straw in the street?

_Between the Showers._

[Illustration: text decoration]

Between the showers I went my way,
The glistening street was bright with flowers;
It seemed that March had turned to May
Between the showers.

Above the shining roofs and towers
The blue broke forth athwart the grey;
Birds carolled in their leafless bowers.

Hither and thither, swift and gay,
The people chased the changeful hours;
And you, you passed and smiled that day,
Between the showers.

_Out of Town._

[Illustration: text decoration]

Out of town the sky was bright and blue,
Never fog-cloud, lowering, thick, was seen to frown;
Nature dons a garb of gayer hue,
Out of town.

Spotless lay the snow on field and down,
Pure and keen the air above it blew;
All wore peace and beauty for a crown.

London sky, marred by smoke, veiled from view,
London snow, trodden thin, dingy brown,
Whence that strange unrest at thoughts of you
Out of town?

_The Piano-Organ._

[Illustration: text decoration]

My student-lamp is lighted,
The books and papers are spread;
A sound comes floating upwards,
Chasing the thoughts from my head.

I open the garret window,
Let the music in and the moon;
See the woman grin for coppers,
While the man grinds out the tune.

Grind me a dirge or a requiem,
Or a funeral-march sad and slow,
But not, O not, that waltz tune
I heard so long ago.

I stand upright by the window,
The moonlight streams in wan: -
O God! with its changeless rise and fall
The tune twirls on and on.

_London Poets._


They trod the streets and squares where now I tread,
With weary hearts, a little while ago;
When, thin and grey, the melancholy snow
Clung to the leafless branches overhead;
Or when the smoke-veiled sky grew stormy-red
In autumn; with a re-arisen woe
Wrestled, what time the passionate spring winds blow;
And paced scorched stones in summer: - they are dead.

The sorrow of their souls to them did seem
As real as mine to me, as permanent.
To-day, it is the shadow of a dream,
The half-forgotten breath of breezes spent.
So shall another soothe his woe supreme -
“No more he comes, who this way came and went.”

_The Village Garden._

TO E. M. S.

Here, where your garden fenced about and still is,
Here, where the unmoved summer air is sweet
With mixed delight of lavender and lilies,
Dreaming I linger in the noontide heat.

Of many summers are the trees recorders,
The turf a carpet many summers wove;
Old-fashioned blossoms cluster in the borders,
Love-in-a-mist and crimson-hearted clove.

All breathes of peace and sunshine in the present,
All tells of bygone peace and bygone sun,
Of fruitful years accomplished, budding, crescent,
Of gentle seasons passing one by one.

Fain would I bide, but ever in the distance
A ceaseless voice is sounding clear and low; -
The city calls me with her old persistence,
The city calls me - I arise and go.

Of gentler souls this fragrant peace is guerdon;
For me, the roar and hurry of the town,
Wherein more lightly seems to press the burden
Of individual life that weighs me down.

I leave your garden to the happier comers
For whom its silent sweets are anodyne.
Shall I return? Who knows, in other summers
The peace my spirit longs for may be mine?

_Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire_
_To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,_
_Would not we shatter it to bits - and then_
_Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!_


Love, Dreams, & Death.

_New Love, New Life._

[Illustration: text decoration]


She, who so long has lain
Stone-stiff with folded wings,
Within my heart again
The brown bird wakes and sings.

Brown nightingale, whose strain
Is heard by day, by night,
She sings of joy and pain,
Of sorrow and delight.


’Tis true, - in other days
Have I unbarred the door;
He knows the walks and ways -
Love has been here before.

Love blest and love accurst
Was here in days long past;
This time is not the first,
But this time is the last.


[Illustration: text decoration]

If I were a woman of old,
What prayers I would pray for you, dear;
My pitiful tribute behold -
Not a prayer, but a tear.

The pitiless order of things,
Whose laws we may change not nor break,
Alone I could face it - it wrings
My heart for your sake.

_Youth and Love._

[Illustration: text decoration]

What does youth know of love?
Little enough, I trow!
He plucks the myrtle for his brow,
For his forehead the rose.
Nay, but of love
It is not youth who knows.

_The Dream._

_Believe me, this was true last night,_
_Tho’ it is false to-day._

A fair dream to my chamber flew:
Such a crowd of folk that stirred,
Jested, fluttered; only you,
You alone of all that band,
Calm and silent, spake no word.
Only once you neared my place,
And your hand one moment’s space
Sought the fingers of my hand;
Your eyes flashed to mine; I knew
All was well between us two.

* * * * *

On from dream to dream I past,
But the first sweet vision cast
Mystic radiance o’er the last.

* * * * *

When I woke the pale night lay
Still, expectant of the day;
All about the chamber hung
Tender shade of twilight gloom;
The fair dream hovered round me, clung
To my thought like faint perfume: -
Like sweet odours, such as cling
To the void flask, which erst encloses
Attar of rose; or the pale string
Of amber which has lain with roses.

_On the Threshold._

[Illustration: text decoration]

O God, my dream! I dreamed that you were dead;
Your mother hung above the couch and wept
Whereon you lay all white, and garlanded
With blooms of waxen whiteness. I had crept
Up to your chamber-door, which stood ajar,
And in the doorway watched you from afar,
Nor dared advance to kiss your lips and brow.
I had no part nor lot in you, as now;
Death had not broken between us the old bar;
Nor torn from out my heart the old, cold sense
Of your misprision and my impotence.

_The Birch-Tree at Loschwitz._

[Illustration: text decoration]

At Loschwitz above the city
The air is sunny and chill;
The birch-trees and the pine-trees
Grow thick upon the hill.

Lone and tall, with silver stem,
A birch-tree stands apart;
The passionate wind of spring-time
Stirs in its leafy heart.

I lean against the birch-tree,
My arms around it twine;
It pulses, and leaps, and quivers,
Like a human heart to mine.

One moment I stand, then sudden
Let loose mine arms that cling:
O God! the lonely hillside,
The passionate wind of spring!

_In the Night._

[Illustration: text decoration]

Cruel? I think there never was a cheating
More cruel, thro’ all the weary days than this!
This is no dream, my heart kept on repeating,
_But sober certainty of waking bliss_.

Dreams? O, I know their faces - goodly seeming,
Vaporous, whirled on many-coloured wings;
I have had dreams before, this is no dreaming,
But daylight gladness that the daylight brings.

What ails my love; what ails her? She is paling;
Faint grows her face, and slowly seems to fade!
I cannot clasp her - stretch out unavailing
My arms across the silence and the shade.


[Illustration: text decoration]

Am I waking, am I sleeping?
As the first faint dawn comes creeping
Thro’ the pane, I am aware
Of an unseen presence hovering,
Round, above, in the dusky air:
A downy bird, with an odorous wing,
That fans my forehead, and sheds perfume,
As sweet as love, as soft as death,
Drowsy-slow through the summer-gloom.
My heart in some dream-rapture saith,
_It is she_. Half in a swoon,
I spread my arms in slow delight. -
O prolong, prolong the night,
For the nights are short in June!

_At Dawn._

[Illustration: text decoration]

In the night I dreamed of you;
All the place was filled
With your presence; in my heart
The strife was stilled.

All night I have dreamed of you;
Now the morn is grey. -
How shall I arise and face
The empty day?

_Last Words._

_Dead! all’s done with!_

These blossoms that I bring,
This song that here I sing,
These tears that now I shed,
I give unto the dead.

There is no more to be done,
Nothing beneath the sun,
All the long ages through,
Nothing - by me for you.

The tale is told to the end;
This, ev’n, I may not know -
If we were friend and friend,
If we were foe and foe.

_All’s done with_ utterly,
_All’s done with_. Death to me
Was ever Death indeed;
To me no kindly creed

Consolatory was given.
You were of earth, not Heaven....
This dreary day, things seem
Vain shadows in a dream,

Or some strange, pictured show;
And mine own tears that flow,
My hidden tears that fall,
The vainest of them all.


[Illustration: text decoration]

Last June I saw your face three times;
Three times I touched your hand;
Now, as before, May month is o’er,
And June is in the land.

O many Junes shall come and go,
Flow’r-footed o’er the mead;
O many Junes for me, to whom
Is length of days decreed.

There shall be sunlight, scent of rose,
Warm mist of summer rain;
Only this change - I shall not look
Upon your face again.

_A Reminiscence._

[Illustration: text decoration]

It is so long gone by, and yet
How clearly now I see it all!
The glimmer of your cigarette,
The little chamber, narrow and tall.

Perseus; your picture in its frame;
(How near they seem and yet how far!)
The blaze of kindled logs; the flame
Of tulips in a mighty jar.

Florence and spring-time: surely each
Glad things unto the spirit saith.
Why did you lead me in your speech
To these dark mysteries of death?

_The Sequel to “A Reminiscence.”_

[Illustration: text decoration]

Not in the street and not in the square,
The street and square where you went and came;
With shuttered casement your house stands bare,
Men hush their voice when they speak your name.

I, too, can play at the vain pretence,
Can feign you dead; while a voice sounds clear
In the inmost depths of my heart: Go hence,
Go, find your friend who is far from here.

Not here, but somewhere where I can reach!
Can a man with motion, hearing and sight,
And a thought that answered my thought and speech,
Be utterly lost and vanished quite?

Whose hand was warm in my hand last week?...
My heart beat fast as I neared the gate -
Was it this I had come to seek,
“A stone that stared with your name and date;”

A hideous, turfless, fresh-made mound;
A silence more cold than the wind that blew?
What had I lost, and what had I found?
My flowers that mocked me fell to the ground -
Then, and then only, my spirit knew.

_In the Mile End Road._

[Illustration: text decoration]

How like her! But ’tis she herself,
Comes up the crowded street,
How little did I think, the morn,
My only love to meet!

Whose else that motion and that mien?
Whose else that airy tread?
For one strange moment I forgot


Online LibraryAmy LevyA London plane-tree, and other verse → online text (page 1 of 2)