Denis Florence MacCarthy.

Poems online

. (page 15 of 17)
Online LibraryDenis Florence MacCarthyPoems → online text (page 15 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Now she climbs the mighty mast,
When the sailor boy at last
Dreams of home in his hammock down below
There she watches in his stead
Till the morning sun shines red,
Then evanishes the Spirit of the Snow.

Or crowning with white fire.
The minster's topmost spire
With a glory such as sainted foreheads show;
She teaches fanes are given
Thus to lift the heart to heaven,
There to melt like the Spirit of the Snow.

Now above the loaded wain,
Now beneath the thundering train,
Doth she hear the sweet bells tinkle and the snorting engine blow;
Now she flutters on the breeze,
Till the branches of the trees
Catch the tossed and tangled tresses of the Spirit of the Snow.

Now an infant's balmy breath
Gives the spirit seeming death,
When adown her pallid features fair Decay's damp dew-drops flow;
Now again her strong assault
Can make an army halt,
And trench itself in terror 'gainst the Spirit of the Snow.

At times with gentle power,
In visiting some bower,
She scarce will hide the holly's red, the blackness of the sloe;
But, ah! her awful might,
When down some Alpine height
The hapless hamlet sinks before the Spirit of the Snow.

On a feather she floats down
The turbid rivers brown,
Down to meet the drifting navies of the winter-freighted floe;
Then swift o'er the azure walls
Of the awful waterfalls,
Where Niagara leaps roaring, glides the Spirit of the Snow.

With her flag of truce unfurled,
She makes peace o'er all the world -
Makes bloody battle cease awhile, and war's unpitying woe;
Till, its hollow womb within,
The deep dark-mouthed culverin
Encloses, like a cradled child, the Spirit of the Snow.

She uses in her need
The fleetly-flying steed -
Now tries the rapid reindeer's strength, and now the camel slow;
Or, ere defiled by earth,
Unto her place of birth,
Returns upon the eagle's wing the Spirit of the Snow.

Oft with pallid figure bowed,
Like the Banshee in her shroud,
Doth the moon her spectral shadow o'er some silent gravestone throw;
Then moans the fitful wail,
And the wanderer grows pale,
Till at morning fades the phantom of the Spirit of the Snow.

In her ermine cloak of state
She sitteth at the gate
Of some winter-prisoned princess in her palace by the Po;
Who dares not to come forth
Till back unto the North
Flies the beautiful besieger - the Spirit of the Snow.

In her spotless linen hood,
Like the other sisterhood,
She braves the open cloister when the psalm sounds sweet and low;
When some sister's bier doth pass
From the minster and the Mass,
Soon to sink into the earth, like the Spirit of the Snow.

But at times so full of joy,
She will play with girl and boy,
Fly from out their tingling fingers, like white fireballs on the foe;
She will burst in feathery flakes,
And the ruin that she makes
Will but wake the crackling laughter of the Spirit of the Snow.

Or in furry mantle drest,
She will fondle on her breast
The embryo buds awaiting the near Spring's mysterious throe;
So fondly that the first
Of the blossoms that outburst
Will be called the beauteous daughter of the Spirit of the Snow.

Ah! would that we were sure
Of hearts so warmly pure,
In all the winter weather that this lesser life must know;
That when shines the Sun of Love
From the warmer realm above,
In its light we may dissolve, like the Spirit of the Snow.



TO THE BAY OF DUBLIN.

My native Bay, for many a year
I've lov'd thee with a trembling fear,
Lest thou, though dear and very dear,
And beauteous as a vision,
Shouldst have some rival far away,
Some matchless wonder of a bay,
Whose sparkling waters ever play
'Neath azure skies elysian.

'Tis Love, methought, blind Love that pours
The rippling magic round these shores,
For whatsoever Love adores
Becomes what Love desireth:
'Tis ignorance of aught beside
That throws enchantment o'er the tide,
And makes my heart respond with pride
To what mine eye admireth,

And thus, unto our mutual loss,
Whene'er I paced the sloping moss
Of green Killiney, or across
The intervening waters,
Up Howth's brown sides my feet would wend,
To see thy sinuous bosom bend,
Or view thine outstretch'd arms extend
To clasp thine islet daughters;

Then would this spectre of my fear
Beside me stand - How calm and clear
Slept underneath, the green waves, near
The tide-worn rocks' recesses;
Or when they woke, and leapt from land,
Like startled sea-nymphs, hand-in-hand,
Seeking the southern silver strand
With floating emerald tresses:

It lay o'er all, a moral mist,
Even on the hills, when evening kissed
The granite peaks to amethyst,
I felt its fatal shadow:
It darkened o'er the brightest rills,
It lowered upon the sunniest hills,
And hid the wing`ed song that fills
The moorland and the meadow.

But now that I have been to view
All even Nature's self can do,
And from Gaeta's arch of blue
Borne many a fond memento;
And from each fair and famous scene,
Where Beauty is, and Power hath been,
Along the golden shores between
Misenum and Sorrento:

I can look proudly in thy face,
Fair daughter of a hardier race,
And feel thy winning well-known grace,
Without my old misgiving;
And as I kneel upon thy strand,
And kiss thy once unvalued hand,
Proclaim earth holds no lovelier land,
Where life is worth the living.



TO ETHNA.

First loved, last loved, best loved of all I've loved!
Ethna, my boyhood's dream, my manhood's light,
Pure angel spirit, in whose light I've moved,
Full many a year, along life's darksome night!
Thou wert my star, serenely shining bright
Beyond youth's passing clouds and mists obscure
Thou wert the power that kept my spirit white,
My soul unsoiled, my heart untouched and pure.
Thine was the light from heaven that ever must endure.

Purest, and best, and brightest, no mishap,
No chance, or change can break our mutual ties;
My heart lies spread before thee like a map,
Here roll the tides, and there the mountains rise;
Here dangers frown and there hope's streamlet flies,
And golden promontories cleave the main:
And I have looked into thy lustrous eyes,
And saw the thought thou couldst not all restrain,
A sweet, soft, sympathetic pity for my pain!

Dearest, and best, I dedicate to thee,
From this hour forth, my hopes, my dreams, my cares,
All that I am, and all I e'er may be,
Youth's clustering locks, and age's thin white hairs;
Thou by my side, fair vision, unawares -
Sweet saint - shalt guard me as with angel's wings;
To thee shall rise the morning's hopeful prayers,
The evening hymns, the thoughts that midnight brings,
The worship that like fire out of the warm heart springs.

Thou wilt be with me through the struggling day,
Thou wilt be with me through the pensive night,
Thou wilt be with me, though far, far away
Some sad mischance may snatch you from my sight,
In grief, in pain, in gladness, in delight,
In every thought thy form shall bear a part,
In every dream thy memory shall unite,
Bride of my soul! and partner of my heart!
Till from the dreadful bow flieth the fatal dart!

Am I deceived? and do I pine and faint
For worth that only dwells in heaven above,
And if thou'rt not the Ethna that I paint,
Then thou art not the Ethna that I love;
If thou art not as gentle as the dove,
And good as thou art beautiful, the tooth
Of venomed serpent will not deadlier prove
Than that dark revelation; but in sooth,
Ethna, I wrong thee, dearest, for thy name is TRUTH.



"NOT KNOWN."

On receiving through the Post-Office a Returned Letter from an old
residence, marked on the envelope, "Not Known."

A beauteous summer-home had I
As e'er a bard set eyes on -
A glorious sweep of sea and sky,
Near hills and far horizon.
Like Naples was the lovely bay,
The lovely hill like Rio -
And there I lived for many a day
In Campo de Estio.

It seemed as if the magic scene
No human skill had planted;
The trees remained for ever green,
As if they were enchanted:
And so I said to Sweetest-eyes,
My dear, I think that we owe
To fairy hands this paradise
Of Campo de Estio.

How swiftly flew the hours away!
I read and rhymed and revelled;
In interchange of work and play,
I built, and drained, and levelled;
"The Pope," so "happy," days gone by
(Unlike our ninth Pope Pio),
Was far less happy then than I
In Campo de Estio.

For children grew in that sweet place,
As in the grape wine gathers -
Their mother's eyes in each bright face,
In each light heart, their father's:
Their father, who by some was thought
A literary 'leo,'
Ne'er dreamed he'd be so soon forgot
In Campo de Estio.

But so it was: - Of hope bereft,
A year had scarce gone over,
Since he that sweetest place had left,
And gone - we'll say - to Dover,
When letters came where he had flown.
Returned him from the "P. O.,"
On which was writ, O Heavens! "NOT KNOWN
IN CAMPO DE ESTIO!"

"Not known" where he had lived so long,
A "cintra" home created,
Where scarce a shrub that now is strong
But had its place debated;
Where scarce a flower that now is shown,
But shows his care: O Dio!
And now to be described, "Not known
In Campo de Estio."

That pillar from the Causeway brought -
This fern from Connemara -
That pine so long and widely sought -
This Cedrus deodara -
That bust (if Shakespeare's doth survive,
And busts had brains and 'brio'),
Might keep his name at least alive
In Campo de Estio.

When Homer went from place to place,
The glorious siege reciting
(Of course I presuppose the case
Of reading and of writing),
I've little doubt the Bard divine
His letters got from Scio,
Inscribed "Not known," Ah! me, like mine
From Campo de Estio.

The poet, howsoe'er inspired,
Must brave neglect and danger;
When Philip Massinger expired,
The death-list said "a stranger!"
A stranger! yes, on earth, but let
The poet sing 'laus Deo'! -
Heaven's glorious summer waits him yet -
God's "Campo de Estio."



THE LAY MISSIONER.

Had I a wish - 'twere this, that heaven would make
My heart as strong to imitate as love,
That half its weakness it could leave, and take
Some spirit's strength, by which to soar above,
A lordly eagle mated with a dove.
Strong-will and warm affection, these be mine;
Without the one no dreams has fancy wove,
Without the other soon these dreams decline,
Weak children of the heart, which fade away and pine!

Strong have I been in love, if not in will;
Affections crowd and people all the past,
And now, even now, they come and haunt me still,
Even from the graves where once my hopes were cast.
But not with spectral features - all aghast -
Come they to fright me; no, with smiles and tears,
And winding arms, and breasts that beat as fast
As once they beat in boyhood's opening years,
Come the departed shades, whose steps my rapt soul hears.

Youth has passed by, its first warm flush is o'er,
And now, 'tis nearly noon; yet unsubdued
My heart still kneels and worships, as of yore,
Those twin-fair shapes, the Beautiful and Good!
Valley and mountain, sky and stream, and wood,
And that fair miracle, the human face,
And human nature in its sunniest mood,
Freed from the shade of all things low and base, -
These in my heart still hold their old accustom'd place.

'Tis not with pride, but gratitude, I tell
How beats my heart with all its youthful glow,
How one kind act doth make my bosom swell,
And down my cheeks the sweet, warm, glad tears flow.
Enough of self, enough of me you know,
Kind reader, but if thou wouldst further wend,
With me, this wilderness of weak words thro',
Let me depict, before the journey end,
One whom methinks thou'lt love, my brother and my friend.

Ah! wondrous is the lot of him who stands
A Christian Priest, with a Christian fane,
And binds with pure and consecrated hands,
Round earth and heaven, a festal, flower chain;
Even as between the blue arch and the main,
A circling western ring of golden light
Weds the two worlds, or as the sunny rain
Of April makes the cloud and clay unite,
Thus links the Priest of God the dark world and the bright.

All are not priests, yet priestly duties may
And should be all men's: as a common sight
We view the brightness of a summer's day,
And think 'tis but its duty to be bright;
But should a genial beam of warming light
Suddenly break from out a wintry sky,
With gratitude we own a new delight,
Quick beats the heart and brighter beams the eye,
And as a boon we hail the splendour from on high.

'Tis so with men, with those of them at least
Whose hearts by icy doubts are chill'd and torn;
They think the virtues of a Christian Priest
Something professional, put on and worn
Even as the vestments of a Sabbath morn:
But should a friend or act or teach as he,
Then is the mind of all its doubting shorn,
The unexpected goodness that they see
Takes root, and bears its fruit, as uncoerced and free!

One I have known, and haply yet I know,
A youth by baser passions undefiled,
Lit by the light of genius and the glow
Which real feeling leaves where once it smiled;
Firm as a man, yet tender as a child;
Armed at all points by fantasy and thought,
To face the true or soar amid the wild;
By love and labour, as a good man ought,
Ready to pay the price by which dear truth is bought!

'Tis not with cold advice or stern rebuke,
With formal precept, or wit face demure,
But with the unconscious eloquence of look,
Where shines the heart so loving and so pure:
'Tis these, with constant goodness, that allure
All hearts to love and imitate his worth.
Beside him weaker natures feel secure,
Even as the flower beside the oak peeps forth,
Safe, though the rain descends, and blows the biting North!

Such is my friend, and such I fain would be,
Mild, thoughtful, modest, faithful, loving, gay,
Correct, not cold, nor uncontroll'd though free,
But proof to all the lures that round us play,
Even as the sun, that on his azure way
Moveth with steady pace and lofty mien,
Though blushing clouds, like syrens, woo his stay,
Higher and higher through the pure serene,
Till comes the calm of eve and wraps him from the scene.



THE SPIRIT OF THE IDEAL.

Sweet sister spirits, ye whose starlight tresses
Stream on the night-winds as ye float along,
Missioned with hope to man - and with caresses

To slumbering babes - refreshment to the strong -
And grace the sensuous soul that it's arrayed in:
As the light burden of melodious song

Weighs down a poet's words; - as an o'erladen
Lily doth bend beneath its own pure snow;
Or with its joy, the free heart of a maiden: -

Thus, I behold your outstretched pinions grow
Heavy with all the priceless gifts and graces
God through thy ministration doth bestow.

Do ye not plant the rose on youthful faces?
And rob the heavens of stars for Beauty's eyes?
Do ye not fold within love's pure embraces

All that Omnipotence doth yet devise
For human bliss, or rapture superhuman -
Heaven upon earth, and earth still in the skies?

Do ye not sow the fruitful heart of woman
With tenderest charities and faith sincere,
To feed man's sterile soul and to illumine

His duller eyes, that else might settle here,
With the bright promise of a purer region -
A starlight beacon to a starry sphere?

Are they not all thy children, that bright legion -
Of aspirations, and all hopeful sighs
That in the solemn train of grave Religion

Strew heavenly flowers before man's longing eyes,
And make him feel, as o'er life's sea he wendeth,
The far-off odorous airs of Paradise? -

Like to the breeze some flowery island sendeth
Unto the seaman, ere its bowers are seen,
Which tells him soon his weary wandering endeth -

Soon shall he rest, in bosky shades of green,
By daisied meadows prankt with dewy flowers,
With ever-running rivulets between.

These are thy tasks, my sisters - these the powers
God in his goodness gives into thy hands: -
'Tis from thy fingers fall the diamond showers

Of budding Spring, and o'er the expectant lands
June's odorous purple and rich Autumn's gold:
And even when needful Winter wide expands

His fallow wings, and winds blow sharp and cold
From the harsh east, 'tis thine, o'er all the plain,
The leafless woodlands and the unsheltered wold,

Gently to drop the flakes of feathery rain -
Heaven's warmest down - around the slumbering seeds,
And o'er the roots the frost-blanched counterpane.

What though man's careless eye but little heeds
Even the effects, much less the remoter cause,
Still, in the doing of beneficent deeds -

By God and his Vicegerent Nature's laws -
Ever a compensating joy is found.
Think ye the rain-drop heedeth if it draws

Rankness as well as Beauty from the ground?
Or that the sullen wind will deign to wake
Only Aeolian melodies of sound -

And not the stormy screams that make men quake
Thus do ye act, my sisters; thus ye do
Your cheerful duty for the doing's sake -

Not unrewarded surely - not when you
See the successful issue of your charms,
Bringing the absent back again to view -

Giving the loved one to the lover's arms -
Smoothing the grassy couch in weary age -
Hushing in death's great calm a world's alarms.

I, I alone upon the earth's vast stage
Am doomed to act an unrequited part -
I, the unseen preceptress of the sage -

I, whose ideal form doth win the heart
Of all whom God's vocation hath assigned
To wear the sacred vesture of high Art -

To pass along the electric sparks of mind
From age to age, from race to race, until
The expanding truth encircles all mankind.

What without me were all the poet's skill? -
Dead, sensuous form without the quickening soul.
What without me the instinctive aim of will? -

A useless magnet pointing to no pole.
What the fine ear and the creative hand?
Most potent spirits free from man's control.

I, THE IDEAL, by the poet stand
When all his soul o'erflows with holy fire,
When currents of the beautiful and grand

Run glittering down along each burning wire
Until the heart of the great world doth feel
The electric shock of his God-kindled lyre: -

Then rolls the thunderous music peal on peal,
Or in the breathless after-pause, a strain
Simpler and sweeter through the hush doth steal -

Like to the pattering drops of summer rain
Or rustling grass, when fragrance fills the air
And all the groves are vocal once again:

Whatever form, whatever shape I bear,
The Spirit of high Impulse, and the Soul
Of all conceptions beautiful and rare,

Am I; who now swift spurning all control,
On rapid wings - the Ariel of the Muse -
Dart from the dazzling centre to the pole;

Now in the magic mimicry of hues
Such as surround God's golden throne, descend
In Titian's skies the boundaries to confuse

Betwixt earth's heaven and heaven's own heaven to blend
In Raphael's forms the human and divine,
Where spirit dawns, and matter seems to end.

Again on wings of melody, so fine
They mock the sight, but fall upon the ear
Like tuneful rose-leaves at the day's decline -

And with the music of a happier sphere
Entrance some master of melodious sound,
Till startled men the hymns of angels hear.

Happy for me when, in the vacant round
Of barren ages, one great steadfast soul
Faithful to me and to his art is found.

But, ah! my sisters, with my grief condole;
Join in my sorrows and respond my sighs;
And let your sobs the funeral dirges toll;

Weep those who falter in the great emprise -
Who, turning off upon some poor pretence,
Some worthless guerdon or some paltry prize,

Down from the airy zenith through the immense
Sink to the low expedients of an hour,
And barter soul for all the slough of sense, -

Just when the mind had reached its regal power,
And fancy's wing its perfect plume unfurl'd, -
Just when the bud of promise in the flower

Of all completeness opened on the world -
When the pure fire that heaven itself outflung
Back to its native empyrean curled,

Like vocal incense from a censer swung: -
Ah, me! to be subdued when all seemed won -
That I should fly when I would fain have clung.

Yet so it is, - our radiant course is run; -
Here we must part, the deathless lay unsung,
And, more than all, the deathless deed undone.



RECOLLECTIONS.

Ah! summer time, sweet summer scene,
When all the golden days,
Linked hand-in-hand, like moonlit fays,
Danced o'er the deepening green.

When, from the top of Pelier[111] down
We saw the sun descend,
With smiles that blessings seemed to send
To our near native town.

And when we saw him rise again
High o'er the hills at morn -
God's glorious prophet daily born
To preach good will to men -

Good-will and peace to all between
The gates of night and day -
Join with me, love, and with me say -
Sweet summer time and scene.

Sweet summer time, true age of gold,
When hand-in-hand we went
Slow by the quickening shrubs, intent
To see the buds unfold:

To trace new wild flowers in the grass,
New blossoms on the bough,
And see the water-lilies now
Rise o'er the liquid glass.

When from the fond and folding gale
The scented briar I pulled,
Or for thy kindred bosom culled
The lily of the vale; -

Thou without whom were dark the green,
The golden turned to gray,
Join with me, love, and with me say -
Sweet summer time and scene.

Sweet summer time, delight's brief reign,
Thou hast one memory still,
Dearer than ever tree or hill
Yet stretched along life's plain.

Stranger than all the wond'rous whole,
Flowers, fields, and sunset skies -
To see within our infant's eyes
The awakening of the soul.

To see their dear bright depths first stirred
By the far breath of thought,
To feel our trembling hearts o'erfraught
With rapture when we heard

Her first clear laugh, which might have been
A cherub's laugh at play -
Ah! love, thou canst but join and say -
Sweet summer time and scene.

Sweet summer time, sweet summer days,
One day I must recall;
One day the brightest of them all,
Must mark with special praise.

'Twas when at length in genial showers
The spring attained its close;
And June with many a myriad rose
Incarnadined the bowers:

Led by the bright and sun-warm air,
We left our indoor nooks;
Thou with my paper and my books,
And I thy garden chair;

Crossed the broad, level garden-walks,
With countless roses lined;
And where the apple still inclined
Its blossoms o'er the box,

Near to the lilacs round the pond,
In its stone ring hard by
We took our seats, where save the sky,
And the few forest trees beyond

The garden wall, we nothing saw,
But flowers and blossoms, and we heard
Nought but the whirring of some bird,
Or the rooks' distant, clamorous caw.

And in the shade we saw the face
Of our dear infant sleeping near,
And thou wert by to smile and hear,
And speak with innate truth and grace.

There through the pleasant noontide hours
My task of echoed song I sung;
Turning the golden southern tongue
Into the iron ore of ours!

'Twas the great Spanish master's pride,
The story of the hero proved;
'Twas how the Moorish princess loved,
And how the firm Fernando died.[112]

O happiest season ever seen,
O day, indeed the happiest day;
Join with me, love, and with me say -
Sweet summer time and scene.

One picture more before I close
Fond Memory's fast dissolving views;
One picture more before I lose
The radiant outlines as they rose.

'Tis evening, and we leave the porch,
And for the hundredth time admire
The rhododendron's cones of fire
Rise round the tree, like torch o'er torch.

And for the hundredth time point out
Each favourite blossom and perfume -
If the white lilac still doth bloom,
Or the pink hawthorn fadeth out:

And by the laurell'd wall, and o'er


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17

Online LibraryDenis Florence MacCarthyPoems → online text (page 15 of 17)