Copyright
E. (Edith) Nesbit.

Leaves of life.. online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryE. (Edith) NesbitLeaves of life.. → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


IC-NRLF





LIBRARY




UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.



Class










Leaves of Life



PRINTED BY

SPOTT1SWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
LONDON



LEAVES OF LIFE



Whether at Naishapiir or Babylon
Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run,

The Wine of Life is oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life are falling one by one



BY

E. NESBIT

AUTHOR OF 'LAYS AND LEGENDS'




LONDON
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.

AND NEW YORK : 15 EAST i6' h STREET
1888

All rights reserved



SOME of these verses herein have appeared before in various
periodicals. To the several editors and publishers I owe
my thanks for the courtesy which permits me to reprint such
verses here.

E. NESBIT.



CONTENTS.



EARTH AND HEAVEN . . . .... I

WINTER VIOLETS . . . . . .II

AMONG HIS BOOKS . . . . . 13

A YEAR'S COMEDY . . . . . 17

A DEFENCE . . . . . . 19

MORNING SONG . . . . . .21

EVENING SONG . . . . . . 23

THE DEAD MOTHER . . . . . .24

TWO LIVES . . . . . . 26

MARCHING SONG ..... . -35

DEAD LEAVES . ... . 37

AT THE GATE OF EDEN . . . . 38

BEWITCHED . . . . . . 41

THE KISS . . . . . . .44

UNDER CONVOY . . . . . . . 46

TORCH-BEARERS . . . . . -49

TREASON . . . . . . . 50



158437



vi CONTENTS

PAGE

THE SAILOR'S WIFE . . . . . .72

ON BIT . . . . . . 75

SWEET SUMMER . . . . . 76

NIGHT AND MORNING . . . . 78

TO OUR LADY . . . . . 80

REFUGIUM PECCATORUM . . . 8l
THE BETTER PART ...... 88

THE NEW FLOWER . . . . QO

ALL IN ALL . . . . . . QI

A WORD FOR THE FUTURE . . . 93

KNOWLEDGE . . . . . . .96

TO DIANA . . . . . 98

AN APPEAL . . . . . . . 99

THE BALLAD OF SPLENDID SILENCE . . . IOO

TO A CHILD READING . . . . . IO8

' WHATEVER THY HAND FINDETH ' . . . I IO

THE LILY AND THE CROSS . . . . .112

DE PROFUNDIS . . . . . . 117

THE MERMAID . . . . . .119

THE PIXIES' GARDEN . . . . , 121

RONDEAU . . . . . . .126

TOO LATE . . . . . 127

CHRISTMAS ROSES . . . . . . 129

SUMMER . . . . . . . 131

GOOD ADVICE . . . . . -132

BETROTHAL SONG . . . . . 134

IN PRAISE OF WORK . . . .136



CONTENTS vii

PAGE

ON AN AUTUMN DAY . . ... 140

THE MEADOWS OF LONG AGO . . . .143

A REASON . . . . . . . 145

THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE . . . -147

LOVE'S ECONOMY . . . . . . 154

THE LOVER TO HIS LASS . . . . .156

IN A NINETEENTH-CENTURY EDEN . . . 158

DIVORCED . . . . . . .l6l

A CITY CLERK'S CHRISTMAS DREAM . . . 164

THE BELFRY. ...... l68

THE CHILDREN . . . . . . 169

THE LOVERS' CHOICE . . . ... .172

SPRING . . . . . . . 176

A DEDICATION . . . . . .178

DAFFODILS . . . . . . . l8o

THE MESSAGE OP JUNE . . . . . 183




1 The leaves of life are falling one by one'

The woods once thick and green are brown and sere
And youth with all her bounteous hours is done.

And age is here.

1 The leaves of life are falling one by one '
And one by one the heavy hours fall past,
And the glad hours we prayed might ne'er be gone,

Are gone at last.

4 The leaves of life are falling one by one'

Old dreams, old friends ; we watch them fall away;
And all our music takes a minor tone.

Our skies grow gray.

* The leaves of life are falling one by one''

Best, worst) loved, hated, happy days and sad,
Each the inevitable course has run,

The present had.

* The leaves of life are falling one by one'

Till, after all the gladness and the strife,
We see the redness of the setfing sun

Light up our life.



And good seems not so good ill not so ill;

And things look other than they used to seem ;
Ourselves more vague, questions of fate and will
Less like a dream.

And then why leaves should fall we think we know,

Because the autumn comes before the spring
The Eternal Spring, when flowers will always blow,

Birds always sing.




EARTH AND HEA YEN.

[The mother of St. Simeon Stylites, hearing of his fame, came
to see him, but was not allowed to enter the enclosure round the
pillar. But when Simeon heard his mother's voice, he said to her,
' Bear up, my mother, a little while, and we shall see each other,
if God will.' But she began to weep and to rebuke him, saying,
' Sort, why hast thou done this ? In return for the body I bore
thee, thou hast filled me with grief. For the milk with which I
nourished thee, thou hast given me tears. For the kiss with which
I kissed thee, thou hast given me an aching heart. . . .' Simeon,
on his pillar, was deeply agitated, and covering his face with his
hands, he wept bitterly and cried to her, * O, lady mother, be still
a little while, and we shall see each other in eternal rest.' The
poor mother, with harrowed heart, hung about the place for three
days, crying to her son, and wrung with grief to see his terrible
penance, . . . and at the end of those three days she fell asleep.
. . . And he weeping, said, 'The Lord receive thee in joy, mother,'
&c. Lives of the Saints, S. BARING GOULD.]

HERE Time is strange, and keeps no even speed

As once, but checked or sped by dreams, moves on :

Whether it was or was not so, indeed,

I hardly know; but some four days agone

I thought she came, came near the inclosed space

Which men have walled about my pillar's base.

B



EARTH AND HEAVEN



(O mother! In her eyes was all the woe

That has been gathering there these many years,

Since that first day, a thousand lives ago,

When she watched for me, racked with doubts and fears;

And I was lying at the convent gate

Awaiting the unfolding of my fate.)

And there she stood. They would not let her in.

She reached her hands out to me, and she cried,
And beat her breast and moaned. (Oh me ! my sin !

This rebel soul not yet is sanctified !
Pardon, O God, that this weak heart did ache
With earthly sorrow for that woman's sake !)

And then I heard her voice : * My son, my son,
Why wilt thou shame God's body in this wise ?

What is this sacrilege that thou hast done ?

How wilt thou meet the Blessed Mother's eyes,

And hear her ask thee what thou gavest me

For that fair body which I bore for thee ? '

Then cried I God forgive, if I did ill

' Bear up, my mother, yet a little while,
And we shall see each other, if God will.

Pray, pray still, ever pray ! ' And then (O vile !



EARTH AND HEAVEN



To grieve for earthly things) I, also, wept,

As through my heart chill winds of memory crept.

And then I thought and yet it may have been
Only a craft of Satan, tempting me

I thought she wrung her hands, and let be seen
The mother's breast that once had nourished me,

And wept again, and spake ; and every word

Pierced to the fleshly heart of me who heard.

' Oh, son, I pray no more ! For once I prayed
A boon of God for sweetening of my days,

A little baby that should soft be laid
Upon my bosom to His endless praise.

At last God heard my cry thee did I bear, ,

The inexorable answer to my prayer !

1 little baby hands I used to kiss,

Cold, hard, and wasted reached not out to me.
Mother of Christ, judge thou how hard it is

To bear such wounds as in his feet I see
O little pink dear feet I used to hold,
, Kissed now but by fierce sun and night winds cold !

B 2



EARTH AND HEAVEN



' Ah ! when I hushed thee on my happy breast
And sang thee whispered lullabyes, and strove

To see the future work, and help, and rest,

And good deeds done of thee, child of my love

Why did no angel blast such sweet vain schemes,

And shed truth's withering light upon my dreams ?

' Thou wert God's answer to my prayer. And thou,
Who bade thee thus to mar God's gift and mine,

Thy body ? Not the Lord of heaven, I trow,
Who wore on earth a body like to thine.

He had a mother too ; yet day by day

Thou darest to raise thy hands to Him and pray ! '

Then I spoke I, not yet as saintly-still .

As penance should have made me, beat my breast :
* Patience, O lady mother ! If God will,

We two shall meet in an eternal rest ! '
' But, oh,' she cried, ' the human life divine
Was that in which God gave thee to be mine !

' Not for another life than this I bore

Travail and agony of thy birth morn,
The joy unspeakable, that pain no more

Could touch or mar, when my man-child was born



EARTH AND HEAVEN



For this life wert thou born and, O my son,

With life, God's gift, what good thing hast thou done ?

* Thou hast brought souls to God ? Poor souls that find
No refuge save the God thou dreamest of !

A "God who loves to see sad eyes wept blind,

Flesh wounded, and dead hearts cast out of love !

Better the heathen's life of soulless bliss

Than faith in such a Devil-God as this !

' What was it pricked thee on to this thy sin ?

What but desire that men should kneel and say,
" See the great saint the holy man, wherein

All fleshly lusts that sting our flesh to-day
Are dead " Ay ! all but pride, that finds no ways
Too sharp to tread, to meet a sick world's praise.

1 And now I know thou art too proud to heed
My voice too high for me to reach thee there,

Too small a thing it is, my heart's great need,

That thou, my body's fruit, shouldst know or care ;

Thou, that wouldst save thy soul and heaven win

By slighting earth, that God has set thee in !



EARTH AND HEAVEN



' Earth was thy home, on earth thy duties lay ;
And heaven lives on earth, in duties done.

son, Christ weeps to see thee turned away
From that straight simple way He set thee on.

Thy soul ? Thy soul ! The devil would not crave
That stunted crippled soul thou seekst to save ! '

She ceased. Her body, like a drooping flower,
Bowed towards earth, and she was borne away ;

But I have mercy, God for one mad hour

I might not, would not, could not, dared not pray ;

For all her words shrieked in my ears again,

And all my penances and prayers looked vain.

The royal sun in robes of gold had passed
Below the rocks and palm-trees in the west,

The long hard shadow that my pillar cast

Grew dim and vague. The sense of coming rest

Fell on all happy living things, and I

Got strength to pray again, and night went by.

With the new sun she came once more. Her cry,
Strong with a night of prayer, I would not hear.

1 turned my eyes up to the blazing sky,
Wrestling in prayer and sealing up mine ear.



EARTH AND HEAVEN



Yet there she stood all day and gazed on me ;
For my heart knew it, though I would not see.

Another night of prayer, another day

Of words I would not hear though my heart heard.
And then that evening, when I heard men say

' She is dead ! ' O God, forgive my first mad word
' God, be my soul damned in hell's fiercest pain,
But give my mother back to me again ! '

But all the people crowded round. I knew

They waited for the holy man to speak.
What could I say to them what could I do

To hide from them how wildly flesh was weak ?
I spoke and what I said I know no more
Twas not the thoughts with which my heart was sore !

I think I said what other men would say
I should have said gave thanks to God that she

From this vile world had so been caught away
Into the glory where I hoped to be.

And this I said the anguish to conceal

I felt but felt that it was sin to feel.



EARTH AND HEAVEN



But when the night had come, the people gone,
When 'twixt the silent earth and silent sky

I on my pillar was alone alone

As I must be till life's last night pass by

The world looked black, the sky was cloudy gray,

And even my pillar seemed to fade away,

And only I 'twixt heaven and earth was there ;

For heaven I could not find, and earth was lost.
I seemed to drift through chill and misty air,

In vague cloud -depths by storm- winds driven and

tossed,

Still floating on long ages did it seem
I, more a shadow than man's lightest dream

And still alone. At last the darkness riven
A light a presence ! and my whole soul cried :

' I am lost, I am lost ! O God, where is Thy heaven
For which I gave up love and all beside ?

How shall I find the garden of the blest

Where Christ and all His angels feast and rest ?'

And then I heard a voice that filled the skies,
Most terrible, most sweet, and answered me :



EARTH AND HEAVEN



' Heaven was on earth, the earth thou didst despise,

And now for ever it is lost to thee ;
And on the earth Christ is, and on the earth
The love thou hast accounted nothing worth.

* None for himself a heaven can win or make,
Since whoso seeks his life his life shall lose.

He who will labour for a sad world's sake,
And free pure life revile not nor refuse,

He is Christ's man ; he hath the better part ;

The angels dwell for ever in his heart.

' Where is a heaven but on the earth for man ?

What other life for man is there but one ?
Heaven, and the way to heaven lie in that span,

Eternal are the done and the undone.
Thine were the penance, prayer, and sun and frost,
Thine the earth wasted, and the heaven lost ! '

The vision faded, and I woke to earth
The night had fled away, the sky was fair

With lovely lights to greet the new day's birth ;
They shone upon my pillar high in air,

And on my body, maimed and seared, and thin

With the hard penance I have trusted in.



EARTH AND HEAVEN



It is too late too late! If this be true,
And all my life be wrong, at least I know

I did but what I thought God bade me do,
And went the way I thought He bade me go !

Tis Satan tempts me with these dreams and fears.

'Twas he who tempted through my mother's tears.

Oh, mother, if it had been otherwise !

It could not be life then had been too sweet!
How can smooth pathways lead to Paradise,

Or heaven be on earth, time being so fleet ?
Back, Satan I have fought and won the fight.
Life was so hard, it could not but be right!



WINTER VIOLETS II



WINTER VIOLETS.
To M. O.

DEATH-WHITE azaleas watched beside my bed,
And tried to tell me tales of Southern lands ;

But they in hothouse air were born and bred,
And they were gathered by a stranger's hands :

They were not sweet, they never had been free,

And all their pallid beauty had no voice for me.

And all I longed for was one common flower
Fed by soft mists and rainy English air,

A flower that knew the woods, the leafless bower,
The wet, green moss, the hedges sharp and bare

A flower that spoke my language, and could tell

Of all the woods and ways my heart remembers well.

Then came your violets and at once I heard
The sparrows chatter on the dripping eaves,



WINTER VIOLETS



The full stream's babbling inarticulate word,

The plash of rain on big wet ivy-leaves ;
I saw the woods where thick the dead leaves lie,
And smelt the fresh earth's scent the scent of memory.

The unleafed trees the lichens green and gray,
The wide sad-coloured meadows, and the brown

Fields that sleep now, and dream of harvest day,
Hiding their seeds like hopes in hearts pent down

A thousand dreams, a thousand memories

Your violets' voices breathed in unheard melodies

Unheard by all but me. I heard, I blessed
The little English, English-speaking things

For their sweet selves that laid my wish to rest,
For their sweet help that lent my dreaming wings ;

And, most of all, for all the thoughts of you

Which make them smell more sweet than other violets do.



AMONG HIS BOOKS 13



AMONG HIS BOOKS.

A SILENT room gray with a dusty blight

Of loneliness ;
A room with not enough of life or light

Its form to dress.

Books enough though ! The groaning sofa bears

A goodly store
Books on the window-seat, and on the chairs,

And on the floor.

Books of all sorts of soul, all sorts of age,

All sorts of face
Black-letter, vellum, and the flimsy page

Of commonplace.



I 4 AMONG HIS BOOKS

All bindings, from the cloth whose hue distracts

One's weary nerves,
To yellow parchment, binding rare old tracts

It serves deserves.

Books on the shelves, and in the cupboard books,

Worthless and rare
Books on the mantelpiece where'er one looks

Books everywhere !

Books ! books ! the only things in life I find

Not wholly vain.
Books in my hands books in my heart enshrined-

Books in my brain.

My friends are they : for children and for wife

They serve me too ;
For these alone, of all dear things in life,

Have I found true.

They do not flatter, change, deny, deceive

Ah no not they !
The same editions which one night you leave

You find next day.



AMONG HIS BOOKS 15

You don't find railway novels where you left

Your Elzevirs !
Your Aldines don't betray you leave bereft

Your lonely years !

And yet this common book of Common Prayer

My heart prefers,
Because the names upon the fly-leaf there

Are mine and hers.

It's a dead flower that makes it open so

Forget-me-not
The Marriage Service . . . well, my dear, you know

Who first forgot.

Those were the days when in the choir we two

Sat used to sing
When I believed in God, in love, in you

In everything.

Through quiet lanes to church we used to come,

Happy and good,
Clasp hands through sermon, and go slowly home

Down through the wood.



1 6 AMONG HIS BOOKS

Kisses ? A certain yellow rose no doubt

That porch still shows,
Whenever I hear kisses talked about

I smell that rose !

No I don't blame you since you only proved

My choice unwise,
And taught me books should trusted be and loved,

Not lips and eyes !

And so I keep your book your flower to show

How much I care
For the dear memory of what, you know,

You never were.



A YEAR'S- COMEDY 17



A YEAR'S COMEDY.

TWAS April, when the brown birds, sing

And woods with bursting buds are gray,
We sat and watched the face of Spring

Growing more lovely every day ;
But ere the woods were green, or half

The blue eggs hatched, one sunny morning
We found that we were made to laugh

You at my love, I at your scorning.

When Summer with her rose ablaze

Passed over all the tranced earth,
We found the sumptuous burning days

Too stately for such trivial mirth ;
And ere July had well passed by

We fell in love with melancholy,
And vowed that we were made to sigh

I at my woe, you at my folly.




1 8 A YEAR'S COMEDY

We walked among the beech-leaves brown

When Autumn crowned the hills with gold,
And as the leaves came drifting down

Love's story, needlessly, was told.
September's sun was gold above

The full earth's fruitful golden dower ;
We felt that we were made to love

I to love you, and you your power.

But when by paths made still with snow,

By gray -brown, lichen-covered trees,
One happy day we chanced to go

Under blue sky and biting breeze,
You slipped, I turned ; a hand to give,

A hand to kiss the play was over !
We knew that we were made to live

I for my love you for your lover.



A DEFENCE 19



A DEFENCE.

To S. W.

A SINGER sings of rights and wrongs

Of world's ideals vast and bright,
And feels the impotence of songs

To scourge the wrong or help the right,
And inly writhes to feel how vain

Are songs as weapons for his fight ;
And so he turns to love again

And sings of love for heart's delight.

For heart's delight the singers bind

The wreath of roses round the head,
And will not loose it lest they find

Time victor, and the roses dead.
* Man can but sing of what he knows

I saw the roses fresh and red ! '
And so they sing the deathless rose,

With withered roses garlanded.



20 A DEFENCE

And some within their bosom hide

Their rose of love still fresh and fair,
And walk in silence, satisfied

To keep its folded fragrance rare.
And some who bear a flag unfurled

Wreathe with their rose the flag they bear,
And sing their banner for the world,

And, for their heart, the roses there.

Yet thus much choice in singing is :

We sing the good the true the just,
Passionate duty turned to bliss,

And honour growing out of trust ;
Freedom we sing, and would not lose

Her lightest footprint in life's dust.
We sing of her because we choose

We sing of love because we must !



MORNING SONG



MORNING SONG.

BABY darling, wake and see,

Morning's here, my little rose ;
Open eyes and smile at me
Ere I clasp and kiss you close.
Baby darling, smile ! for then
Mother sees the sun again.

Baby darling, sleep no more !

All the other flowers have done
With their sleeping you, my flower,
Are the only sleepy one ;

All the pink-frilled daisies shout
' Bring our little sister out ! '

Baby darling, in the sun

Birds are singing, sweet and shrill ;
And my bird's the only one
That is nested softly still.

Baby if you only knew,
All the birds are calling you !



22 MORNING SONG

Baby darling, all is bright,

God has brought the sunshine here ;
And the sleepy silent night

Comes back soon enough, my dear !
Wake, my darling, night is done,
Sunbeams call my little one !



EVENING SONG 23



EVENING SONG.

SLEEP soft, my baby, all the world
Sleeps now, as you too should be sleeping
The sheep are still, the cattle rest,
Long since day slumbered in the west,
The sleepy daisy buds are curled

On lawns where glow-worms green are creeping.

Baby, sleep soft I softly go
And leave you softly, softly sleeping ;
Wrapped in my love I leave you here
And, singing very softly, dear,
I sit beside the lamp and sew
And know you safe, in love's safe keeping.

Baby sleep soft I do not fear

To leave you here for all things love you ;
The wind goes whispering lullabyes,

, And all sweet dreams have kissed your eyes ;
White wings light all the darkness here,

And all God's stars keep watch above you !



24 THE DEAD MOTHER



THE DEAD MOTHER.

SINCE you were tired and went away
We've brought you flowers every day ;
Now through your grass live daisies peer,
O mother, mother dear!

You used to listen every day
To everything we had to say;

But now we think you do not hear,
O mother, mother dear!

They say you are not very far
But, since we cry, we know you are ;
We should not cry if you were near,
O mother, mother dear!

Mother you know we sometimes cry
In the dark night, we don't know why ;
You would not let us cry for fear,
O mother, mother dear!



THE DEAD MOTHER 25

We think perhaps you did not know
Your little children loved you so,

Or you would not have left them here,
O mother, mother dear!

If we are good we think that then
Perhaps you will come back again ;
Come in a week a month a year
O mother, mother dear!

O mother, mother, come to-day!
Why did you ever go away ?
We are so tired of being here

Without you, mother dear!



a6 TWO LIVES



TWO LIVES.

I.

ONE stood with his face to the light ;

He held a sceptre of song
That ruled men's souls till they strove to the right,

And set their feet on the wrong.

' I am but a slave,' he said,

1 The servant of man am I,
To sing of the life that is more than bread,

And the deaths that are life to die.

1 And the might of my song shall sway

The millions who sit in shame,
Till they cast their idols of gold away,

And worship the true God's name.'



TWO LIVES 27



So he sang, and the nations heard
Through their drunken sleep of years,

And their limbs in their golden fetters stirred
As he sang to their drowsy ears.

Hope woke, in her spellbound bowers,
And gave heed to each clear keen word,

Till Love looked out from a net of flowers,
And called to his heart and he heard.

And his song rose higher, more sweet,

As his dreams rose more sweet, more high :

' Tis Love shall aid me, and shall complete
The spell I shall conquer by !

' We two to men's souls will sing,
And the work shall be ours, be ours ;

Together welcome the thorns that bring
More fruit than the sweetest flowers ! '

a

But the woman he loved said ' No !

To me all your soul is due,
Can I share with a world, whatever its woe,

My heart's one treasure, you?



28 TWO LIVES



1 There are plenty to sing of the right
And give their lives for the truth

But you are mine, and shall sing delight,
And beauty, and love, and youth.

' For these are the songs men love,
These stir their dull brains like wine.

They hate the songs you were proudest of
In the days when you were not mine.

' And if for the world you sing

It will pay you with fame and gold,

And the fame and the gold to me you shall bring
For my heart and my hands to hold.

' Besides what steads it to try,

One man against all the rest?
Let the world and its rights and its wrongs go by,

And hide your eyes on my breast ! '

Then the man bowed down his head
And she crowned him with roses sweet ;

And he laboured tor fame and bread,
And laid his wage at her feet.



TWO LIVES 29



And the millions who starve and sin,

He shut them out of his life
Where she was alone shut in

His ruin, his prize, his wife.

And all that he might have been,
And all that he might have done,

These lie with the things that shall not be seen
For ever under the sun.

His children play round his knee,


1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryE. (Edith) NesbitLeaves of life.. → online text (page 1 of 6)