Charlotte Grace O'Brien.

Charlotte Grace O'Brien; selections from her writings and correspondence online

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But the strong ivy waves its crested head

(Ah ! brave companion of the tombe*d dead),

And glories in the strength of the wild breeze

That racks and rends amid the ancient trees.



THE OLD ROOKERY

" Yes, miss, an' sure my father often tould
" Of thim that lived in the great house, and how
" The wild swine ran just where ye're standing now,
" In the old crow wood ; 'twas tangled then, and ould
" And full of scrub and thorns and miry mould,
" They were all for drinking then, and, faix ! ye know
" 'Twas blow for word with them, and blood for blow,
" And thim that lived above were bad and bould ;
" They'd come with guns and dogs, there where ye

stood,

" To shoot the wild swine in the old crow wood
" Thim Whelans they're all dead, and no loss too.
" But see ! my day is gone discoursing you !
" Work a drass, miss, rest a drass, pray a drass,
" 'Tis that way the Lord wills the day to pass."
141



Poems

THE WELL

The old wood well beautiful, full and clear,

Deep, brimming, bosomed in its own green nest,

With flickering sunny woodlights fairly dressed

In garlanded profusion brown and sere

And grey and gold, there in their watery bier

Autumn's late glories linger to their rest,

While fresh green leaflets on its glassy breast,

Speak of the summer winds, so near, so dear.

Ah ! bounteous fountain in thy full o'erflowing,

Thou hast seen the ancient life, its strength and mirth,

Its slow decay, and thou hast seen the sowing

Of those strange thoughts that now perplex the earth ;

They come and pass, even as a human tone,

Fleeting and warm o'er thee and thy grey stone.



THE HAY-FIELD

Gaily through the meadows rich and dry
Goes the sharp scythe, swishing long and loud.
Girls and merry boys clustered in a crowd
Are tossing, tossing, tossing up on high
The rich, sweet-scented green swathes where they lie.
The hot sun is regnant, and the bowed
Great arch of heaven fleckless of a cloud,
And the sweating mowers cast their garments by.
But, hark ! sweet voices, clear and pure and young,
Sing the dear songs of Erin and of home,
Sing of the loved ones far across the foam,
Sing the old notes to which the old hearts clung,
Old hearts, old heads, there bending, worn and grey,
Twisting sougawns from forth the scented hay.
142



Poems

THE STUDY

A quaint old room recesses deep and dark,
Well lined with books not for their bindings dear,
But for their inner voices sweet and clear
As is the note of the sun-tranced lark.
There we rejoiced o'er the world fame'd clerk
Shouting " Prodigious," or the jovial cheer
Of Athelstane fresh from his gloomy bier,
Still wrapt in ghastly death-weeds grim and stark.
Beside the homely fire of turf and wood
Young voices roll the " Lays of Ancient Rome,"
Or on the floor with heads together bowed
Follow the tale of each old pictured tome ;
While from the starry clematis peeps in
The blue tit, missing the accustomed din.



THE DRAWING-ROOM

Oh ! what a flood of summer sunshine poured
Through that small homely room from door to

door,

Casting strong shadows o'er the creaking floor ;
A floor so old and full of holes, we deemed
That treasure-hoards beneath our footsteps teemed.
This was the place from whence the miser's store
Had once been drawn and what had been before
Might be again, or so to us it seemed.
But we had treasures there more good than gold
Treasures of youth, of love, of trust untold,
Of health unbroken and of happy hours,
Of sweet blush-roses and brave winter flowers ;
Jasmine and myrtle were our chief estate,
Our gold was little but our peace was great.
H3



Poems

THE SCHOOL-ROOM

The miser in his suit of snuffy brown,

His short knee breeches and his buckled sheen,

In the full glare of mid-day, late was seen

In the inner room from which yon stair comes down

Straight into this. Aye ! let the music drown

Those sounds that moan from out the ivied, green

And ancient tower, where dreadful things have

been.

Hard by in the. vaulted room of fell renown,
Often and often on yon window ledge
I have sat, with slate in hand and eyes alert,
Watching the swallows on the long roof edge,
Watching the wagtails and the sparrows pert,
Watching the great rats hobbling to their feast,
The varied yard-life of man, bird, and beast.



THE BIRDS.

Carolling, carolling to greet the warm spring day
In the early morn amid the shining dew,
Or when evenings flush over heavens blue,
The merry birds are singing all so gay :
The blackbird's whistling thrill, the thrushes grey,
The linnet's softer song, the far cuckoo,
The bullfinch, and the goldfinch, and the robin true,
Sweet music lost to me for aye !
To me the hidden nests were then revealed,
I saw the tender leaflets gently stirred,
The lovely goldfinch-home was not concealed,
Where corn-crakes lay, I fed the soft shy bird,
I tracked the brbwn wrens to their winter rest,
And stroked the bullfinch mother on her nest.
H4



Poems

THE PARLOUR

No fine new-fangled words held us in awe,

This was our " Parlour," and no other name

Would suit for it however grand its claim :

Round that long table many a busy jaw,

And merry mouth, and brown beseeching paw,

Would find a place then spirits none could tame

O'er the old chairs raced round in boisterous game,

Or kneeling learnt the forfeit-ruler's law.

Here oft the household gathered, old and young,

To cut and pulp the orange rind of gold,

My mother reading with unwearied tongue

Of the brave tales and the brave deeds of old,

While 'neath the window, with impatient bark,

Old Seal shouts loud, " Come out ere it be dark."



THE TENANTS' BALL

Ours no ancestral halls wherein to greet

Our friendly neighbours only welcomes fraught

With loving memories and true kindly thought ;

The long lofts measured to the clanging feet,

The old walls bounded to the fiddle's beat,

The buxom girls from hand to hand were caught,

Youth and old age for jigging honours fought,

Till " Haste to the Wedding " sounded a retreat.

Then little cobwebbed windows wide were thrown,

Framing with light full many a fair young face,

O'er which sweet rose buds by the warm winds

blown

Were scarcely noticed for their own bright grace
But for the forehead they have dared to touch,
But for the tender words that mean so much.
145 K



Poems

THE HORSE CHESTNUT

Sweeping down with lovely rose-white spires

crowned,

Sweeping down to mother earth, and then again
With curved, carved, leaflets in their train,
Up and up the branches go, from the ground.
The hot beams enter not the mighty round
Of that wide-browed leafy tent, nor the rain :
Only at the outer gates the winds complain,
Whispering, whispering, with low subdued sound.
Within amid the branches strong and bare,
Each on his perch were gathered all our seven,
Knowing naught of death, or sorrow, or the heaven
Of a sweet wife's love and children fair
Nought o the long pain of a healthless life,
Nought of the dread, hard, bitter need of strife.



OLD SEAL.

These shadows of our life which I have drawn
Come with sweet touches from my inmost heart,
Ah ! what a tender, close and loving part
Hadst thou therein, dear Seal ! The dewy dawn
Saw thy brown curly self upon the lawn,
Watching and waiting till the door should start,
Then to our arms triumphant thou wouldst dart,
Growling o'er us as o'er a bone half gnawn.
Often thy bounding love would overturn
Some heedless child but thou wast very wise,
Thou readst our thoughts with thy brown tender eyes ;
And I, who loved not learning, loved to learn
All thou couldst tell me, darling, when my tears
Dried on thy golden crest and silky ears.
146



Poems

ROVER

Of all we loved, dear Seal, best loved and best
Wert thou ; but surely I must also tell
Of the dear little friend you loved so well,
Even to your death ; in silky softness dressed,
Rover went with you on each winding quest
Of hedgehogs, through the grassy, bosky dell,
Or seeking up and down the hidden cell
Wherein the field-mouse twines its twisted nest.
He had funny ways, too, had our little Rover
Must come to evening prayers, then bask in clover
Till the last prayer began, then haste to cover ,
Of the old seat to drink his milk, then hover
From chair to chair to kiss each childish lover,
Jumping and shouting, " Prayers are nearly over ! "



THE HEDGEHOGS

Of all the quaint, contrary, cranky things
Nature has made, sure hedgehogs are the worst ;
And I should know I who loved Gruff the First
And each succeeding Gruff that old Seal brings
Gingerly in her mouth, heedless of stings
From spiny armoured temper crossed and curst.
Oh, Gruffy ! Gruffy ! often have I nursed
And patted you till back the forehead swings,
The jetty nose peeps out, the beady eyes.
Then the small ears, and then the black legs kick,
The head turns to and fro with grunting sighs,
Then sudden up my elbow, scuttling quick,
You scrambling go, and we all joyful hail
The lovely beast fulfilled from nose to tail.
H7



Poems

THE SWING

As the white clouds, as the scattered white clouds lying

In the deep and cool recesses of the sky,

So we flew, up on high, up on high !

Fearing naught, but ever, ever trying

To emulate the wild birds in their flying

Up to the elm boughs and ash leaves nigh ;

The grassy earth below is fleeting by,

With brothers pushing ever 'mid great crying.

Then voices mingling rise and sweep afar,

From where the slender ash trees slightly swaying,

Yield to the swinging rope's prolonged jar,

And beneath and all round are children playing,

In the pure sweet happiness of heaven's air

Thou, too, my brother, thou vvert also there.

THE WAY TO CHURCH.

The unchanged charm of those sweet shady lanes
Still moves my heart, whene'er I pass the ways
Where thou and I, my brother, in old days,
Plucked the wild crab still wet with April rains,
Masses of tinted white with rose red stains.
There ! there we leant ! there where the ivy strays
From the old bridge, to where the sunshine plays
With the water rippling o'er its pebbly grains.
Now, while I think and think, a very maze
Of thoughts crowd in See ! there the hawthorn

sways,

There the sweet primrose decks the grassy plains,
Bee-haunted cherries there in the hot sun rays
Are garbed in maiden snow, a veiling haze
Of burnished bloom where heaven's white light

remains.

148



Poems

GLENVILLE

The shadows flicker on the coltsfoot sheaves :
There 'neath the bridge and o'er the sparkling

stream,

Often we traced the water's wavering gleam
Amid long trailing branches and green leaves ;
Often we rested, where the beech tree weaves
A liquid web for every wandering beam
O'er deep dark pools wherein the old trout dream,
And oft a shining foot the water cleaves.
A stream o'ergrown and shadowed all its length,
From the fairy fort and glen, to the old bridge,
Bringing its amber waters from the strength
Of yonder brown, bare, boggy, heathery ridge,
To where the fat land's heavy-footed kine
In their rich beds of luscious green recline.



THE FARM

These paths of memory step by step retracing,
The lingering mind broods o'er each dear detail-
I watch again the ever-falling flail,
I watch the sunbeams to dark corners chasing
The flying golden grain for bright embracing,
I see the dim floor where the brown mice trail
Their heavy loads past many a cobwebbed nail,
The great grey spiders up the rafters racing.
I lie among the winter-stored corn
Or in deep nests of warm hay with the dogs :
I mark with mingled fear, delight, and scorn,
White-bellied rats among the deep-piled logs ;
The frosty air is full of joyous sound,
And eager, hungry birds are crowding round.
149



Poems

COSHERING.

Where heavy-uddered herds were slowly treading,

A little lonely child I fearless went,

O'er great wide fields, past thorn trees gnarled

and bent,

To the simple folk I loved in the old farm steading,
Beneath the ancient sycamores broad-spreading.
They loved me too, and often there I spent
Hour after hour unheeded and content,
My devious way from roost to dairy treading.
There sat the old wife by the chimney wide,
Her head still nodding Why ? I knew not why :
The ever turning wheel went whirling by,
And oft to draw its thread in vain I tried,
And oft the patient cows in the grassy field
Some drops of milk to my soft hand would yield.



CHRISTMAS

Glittering and sparkling in the frosty air
Are the heavy boughs all laden with the snow ;
The deep green hollies and the laurels now
Even to the very ground white burdens bear.
Only the puffing robin redbreasts dare
To sing their little songs so soft and low,
While blackbirds, 'neath the great shrubs, to and fro
Toss sideways heaps of leaves, the insects' lair.
O ! gladly, gladly did we mark the fall
Of the soft feathery flakes that seldom came,
And merrily did we roll the gathering ball,
With the boys home once more, to make our game
So full and perfect we could rarely rest
From hugest laughter o'er each school-born jest.
150



Poems

THE FATHER

We led our life, a full and joyous life,

And knew but little of the world's deep grief,

Not even our own, though sad beyond belief

A father driven both from child and wife,

And broken-hearted through his weary strife,

Outcast because he sought our land's relief,

Exiled from home with every branded thief,

Torn from his love and scarred by insult's knife.

Ah ! Father, it was hard such lot to bear,

And well I mind when first I saw thy bowed

And seared grey head, bent low beneath a cloud

Of disappointment, silence, and despair.

Thy land lay in a trance, thou thought'st it dead,

And that deep sorrow aged thy downcast head



THE MOTHER

O'er all our lightsome life the watchful eye
Was still our mother's ; ever gay and brave
She rose triumphant o'er griefs deepest wave.
Oh ! think of her her husband judged to die,
To death in its ghastliest form : but strong and

high

She stood by that great heart to whom she clave,
Honouring the last and noblest word he gave,
When, death refused to him, exile drew nigh.
This was that faithful, true and high command
" Leave me, my wife, go back to our estate,
" Back to our poor, home to our broken land,
" This is our first best duty, this your fate
" And as for mine, God knowing what it may be,
" I leave my people and my sons to thee."



Poems

ABSENCE

Could I but see all that I loved once more,
The hidden fountains of the heart would spring
To welcome every little, uncared thing ;
Each leaf, each nook, each stain upon the floor,
The deep-bowered jasmine clustering round the door,
The myrtle boughs that to the old walls cling,
And all the garden's bright and bounteous store.
But where the old house stood, there now stands

one

Forsaken of all who love it, young and old,
Beautiful, home-like, but all, all alone,
While I am left to read the tale oft told,
Of wasted love, of sympathy unsought,
Of idle hands, and harsh bewildered thought.



DREAMS

Those hidden fountains on this sorrowing earth

Lie all forgotten, sealed, and buried deep :

But oft in the unguided hours of sleep

They wake the heart to sudden grief and mirth ;

Then once again the new old things have birth,

Then the soul yearns, in one strong, passionate

leap,

Embracing the lost dead, and heart-drops weep
In dim awakening consciousness of dearth.
O God ! The heart is there, the loves are there,
Folded and laid aside, but safe and warm ;
The very pulsing image of each form
Beats to our heart in the night watches bare ;
And we, lying still in silent, seeming death,
Revel in golden youth's abounding breath.
152



Poems

THE WALNUT TREE

Even so in dreams I saw the walnut tree,

Its green-cased fruit, its grey and silvery bark,

With certain spots or streaks all black or dark,

I know not what and straight there came to me

Such joy and strength of living youth and glee.

The very air upheld me, as a lark

Poised in the midmost heaven, and I could mark

Far off a chorus of sweet harmony.

Nor was I then alone, but as of yore

We sought the falling fruit in busy groups,

Or sent the shining sticks in flying troops

Up to the branches that rich promise wore ;

And while on scented leaves the sunbeams

gleamed,
Sudden I woke, and knew that I had dreamed.



THE STARS

If every picture of our long dead past
Rests in the framed light of our consciousness,
Even death's mysterious self may bring redress,
Giving to life all that it seems to blast,
Setting the strong caged spirit free at last,
Free to rejoin its love, free to express
Its very absolute self, nor more nor less,
With all the wealth by this worn body massed.
Sleep the Benumber gives us back our sight ;
Death the Destroyer what shall be thy gift ?
O ! once I thought each star a tiny rift
In the broad curtain drawn o'er heaven's light
It seemed then strange and sad to hear the truth :
Now higher law gives back the dream of youth
153



Poems

FAREWELL

The titmice linger in those bosky lanes,

The beech trees shed their leaves along the streams,

And I can see again, as one who dreams,

The old house with its mossy, time-worn stains,

Its sloping walls, its ancient rainbowed panes,

The deep green tufts where the sweet primrose

gleams,

The glancing daffodil's gay golden beams,
And glittering shrubs bedewed with softest rains.
Even thus, throughout this weary, wintry moon,
My hours with wistful musings sweetly guiled,
I have forgot myself and been a child
But now farewell, dear scenes, all, all too soon :
If worthless to all others, yet to me
These scattered verses some delight shall be.

DROMOLAND

Across the wastes of long-drawn years I gaze
On one bright hour when eve's bright sunshine

glowed

On thine high-towered beautiful abode,
Dromoland ! There I see thy pleasant ways,
Thy terraced walks, and above all a blaze
Of light-stemmed double poppies thickly sowed,
On which old Mother Nature had bestowed
A very wealth of white and rosy rays.
My little skirt I held before me straight
To catch those dainty flowers as they were

thrown

To me in handfuls by a dame of state,
Who, when their lovely petals were full-blown,
Drew from their juices the Lethean stream
To hide harsh pain in some bewitching dream.



Poems

TO MARY O'BRIEN 1864

When grief around me her sad watches kept,

'Mid sorrow, doubt, and fear, I came to thee,
Nor knew thee. But thy keen-eyed sympathy
Looked down into my heart and saw where slept
Shadows of jealous love and tears unwept :

Then with thyself thou didst encompass me,
Drawing me ever nearer tenderly,
Till the full flood of thy rich loving swept
Across my heart, and doubt was calmed to rest.

Mary, in vain I long for words to speak
Of all the loving thought hid in thy breast :

'Tis not forgotten. Though my life be weak,
I follow in the dusk where thou hadst light,
And strive, holding thine hand, near thee to fight.
1872-1884.

MARY HYERES, 1866

Beneath the shadow of grey branched planes
Our Mary sat and rested ; near her feet,
With small clasped hands, o'erbrimmed with

bunches sweet

Of daisy buds, her child, her Nell remains,
Or with quick bound some bright, strange flower attains ;
Then, weary with her joy and southern heat,
She flings herself awhile down by our seat
But for a moment ; now each nerve she strains
To catch those sun-stained leaves which on the bough
Waver around her head, now high, now low.

Her rose-bound hat, fallen back from off her brow,
Shows all her face, flushed bright as flowers that blow
In summer's fulness ; and her mother's eyes
Are soft and still, as one love satisfies.
1872.

155



Poems

MARY 1867

If in the hopeless night or weary day
I long for rest of sympathising eyes,
That rest of love wherein all comfort lies ;
Then, Mary, then I see the flowery way
By which you came there shadowed sunbeams sway,
And toss or float 'mid olive leaves above.
Silent you came, stretching forth hands of love,
Tearless, but flushed, and in your brown eyes lay
Deep, boundless pity to assuage my grief.
Silent you drew me, as a child, to rest,
Close to^your circling arms and sobbing breast,
Even through your sorrow giving mine relief.
Oh ! sister, dearest love, I mourn thee still,
Though long, long since we kissed our last farewell.
1872.

TO THE BUST OF MARY O'BRIEN 1868

Pure, bright, and calm art thou as spirits blest :
Semblance of her I loved, of her most dear ;
Thee neither sin, nor sorrow, nor any fear

Of death hath stained ; rather triumphant rest

And joy unknown unspeakable, exprest
Silently by each line tender and pure
Of shaded eyes, or curved chin rounded clear,

Or folded lips ah ! sweet lips often prest

To mine : but never more, oh ! never shall I touch
Thy fair head with its dusky, gold-streaked cloud,

Whereon light lingered, till it seemed that such
Should be its own first home, its last abode.

Oh ! never wilt thou lie where thou hast lain

Within these arms : Alas ! never again.
1872.

156



Poems

TO MARY. 1868

Silence has fallen on thy grave, and thou

Art passed from out our sight, leaving us nought
But memory for comfort and the thought
Of thy true soul, thy pure unstained brow,
Thy loving pity. I remember how

Thou sufferedst for sin and shame I deemed
Distant, intangible, until meseemed
That I by knowing thee might learn to know
The love of Christ. Oh ! sad that these thine own,
Thy well beloved, thy children must pass on
Unguided by the light that ever shone
From thy true uprightness : and yet I trust
Thy spirit in them to make them as thou wast,
To others tender, to thyself but just.
1872.

CHARLES MURROUGH O'BRIEN
I.

Thou art gone ! O my loved one ; O my brother !

Gone from me when the year was in its spring ;
Now without the snow is lying, and once more the world

rejoices

In the holly and the ivy, and the merry Christmas voices ;
But whither art thou gone, O my brother !

Oh, that cry from the bosoms of the mourners !

Old, so old, yet, alas ! for ever new,
Many hearts through Christmas laughter low and silently

are weeping,
While the watchers joyous deem hidden memories are

sleeping ;
But they know not the hearts of the mourners !

Thou hast borne me on thy heart, O my brother !

For thy love still was with me in my grief ;
Love unasking, love unspeaking, yet my shelter in all sorrow,
Oh, to whom shall I turn in the darkness of the morrow ?

Who can be to me as thou wert, O my brother ?
1877. 157



Poems

TO THE SAME
II.

When I behold how half my life with thee
Lies sleeping, sorrowless, benumbed not dead,
I wonder at the Christ-love round thy head
Which all who knew thee bowed to. Can it be
That thou, the child of sorrow, born to see
Thy first earth-light through prison windows shed,
Heardest even then the strong angelic tread
Self-sacrifice and love and loyalty ?
Begotten in a night of tears wert thou,
When famine o'er the land her hideous hands
Spread, crooning low ; and when thy tender brow
Was sprinkled with fair water, harshest strands
Of hopeless black were woven through the fate
Of him who found his son at death's dark gate.

1887.

SPRING

I.

Those subtle stirrings of the unconscious soul,

That with green leaves and quivering buds awake ;
Those memories of childhood's days that make

Of the on-coming spring a perfect whole

Delights that live within and yield no toll

To death or passion, or the hours that break
Their little wavelets o'er the unstable lake,

That life still pictures on Time's restless shoal ;

These, oh ! my brother, dedicate to thee

And to thy love, I hold within my heart :
Thou in their beauty, in their life hast part,

And amidst them thy steps pass on by me ;

Thou art within the sunshine, and I move
Now, as in years gone by, girt round with love.
158



Poems

SPRING
ii.

Ye primrose banks that were of old so sweet,

Your fragrance and your beauty live once more ;
For those that now are children let your store

Spread its world-old profusion round our feet ;

For me, these few torn buds the first to meet
My eyes long watchful are, as those of yore
(Those, brother, we together knelt before),

Fresh from the heart of spring-tide, pure, complete.

These hold the ripple of water, golden light,

And shadows on the green new-springing grass,

These bloom beneath a sky, more clear, more bright,
These laugh beside the streamlets as we pass,

With arms entwined we go, slow wandering on,

Where the light fancy leads us, free, alone.
1880.

OUTLIVING LOVE

The water as I passed was reddened o'er

With tiny sheaths shed from the bright-green beach,
Which gathered into fleets in every reach,

Or hid themselves 'mid young leaves by the shore,


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Online LibraryCharlotte Grace O'BrienCharlotte Grace O'Brien; selections from her writings and correspondence → online text (page 11 of 16)