E. (Edith) Nesbit.

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But he sighs as they come and go

For they speak of visions he cannot see,
In a tongue that he used to know.

He sings of love and of flowers,

And forgets what they used to mean

For gold is lord of his empty hours,
And fame of his soul is queen.

And the woman has long possessed

What she bade him win for her sake ;

But she holds with the gold accurst unrest,

And the fame with a wild heart-ache.


For the light in her eyes is dim,

Or dim are his eyes that gaze.
There is no light that can light for him

The gloom of his sordid days. .

He will die, and his name be enrolled
Where marble makes mock of clay ;

(Oh, the pitiful clay, made brave with gold !)
And there let it rot away !


One stood in the way of life
And said : c I will serve and strive

And never weary of strife
For just so long as I live.

' The sum of service I'm worth

I swear it, beyond recall,
To the mother of all, the earth,

To men, the brothers of all.


' I have no voice for a song,

No trumpet nor lyre is mine,
But my sword is sharp, and my arm is strong

Liberty ! these are thine ! '

So he followed where high hopes led,
And he paused not for blame or praise,

But ever rejoiced to tread

The roughest and. rightest ways.

He scorned ambitions and powers,

Delight was to him but a word,
Till Love looked out from a brake of flowers

And called to his heart, and he heard.

Then the man's whole soul cried sore :
' I am tired of patience and pain !

What if the lights that have gone before
Should be but visions and vain ?

1 Why should my youth be spent
In following a marsh-light's gleam ?

Why should my manhood be content
With what may be but a dream ?


1 The sword I am used to wield
Is as much as my hands can hold,

I will turn aside from the battle-field
To the fields where men gather gold.

' For while I carry the sword

I can hold neither gold nor you

And the sword is heavy, and your least word
Is music my life sings to ! '

But the woman who loved him spake,
She spake brave words with a sigh

' Rather than drop the sword for my sake
Turn its point to your heart and die !

' It is better to die than live
If life means nothing but greed

To clutch the gifts that the world can give
And turn your back on its need.

' And I have my life-work too,

A banner to bear have I ;
Shall my flag be dragged in the dust by you,

Who should help me to hold it high ?


1 Hard looks life's every line

When the colours of love are effaced,
But death would be harder, O heart of mine,

After a life disgraced !

' And what though we never see
Sweet Love's sweet fruit at its best ;

My children's play at your knee,
Your baby's sleep at my breast ?

1 Only one life is ours

Shall we die with no world's work done,
Having covered our shame with flowers,

And shrunk from sight of the sun ?

* No ! Be the sword for him,

Banner of light for me
Voice at the heart when the eyes grow dim,

"Liberty! This for thee !"'

Then he bowed him low at her knees,
And she gave him the thorny crown

Which whoso wears knows no rest nor ease
Till Death bids him lay it down.



And they turned, and they passed away
To parting, and longing, and tears,

To carry the sword and the flag alway
Through the cold clean desolate years,

To work for the world, and to hear
When the long race nearly is run,

Like a voice in a dream, a voice most dear,
1 Faithful and good, well done! '

And no man remembers his name,
Nor hers, who was never his wife.

Their names are written in letters of flame
In the book of eternal life.



1 O WHEREFORE do ye stand, a stern and steadfast band,
With your feet upon the pathway whence fame has turned

away ? '

We hunger not for fame, nor heed world's praise of blame,
Since fame and honour parted this many many a day !

' What colour do ye wear what banner do ye bear
When you turn your faces rightwards, and make your

weapons keen ? '
Our banner's folds are red as our blood, which we will

Ere that again be suffered, which heretofore has been !

' Whom, then, do ye befriend, whose cause do ye defend
Are there any need such champions and fighting men as


Our arms and hearts are strong, for all who suffer wrong,
And a world of woe can witness how many such there be !

D 2


1 But the golden calf stands high, and all its priests will cry,
" Ye are heretics and outcasts if ye worship not as we "! '
'Tis our only boast to-day that we worship not as they,
And to their cursed idol will never bow the knee !

{ What do ye hope to gain by all your strife and strain ?
Ve will win yourselves but bitterness, and bale, and bane,

and ban.'
Though we win all these and more, they outshine your

golden store
If they prove us unforgetting of the Brotherhood of Man!

1 What armies fight for you, O ye who are so few,
O ye who are so few in a world that is so wide ? '
The Spirits of the Light shall do battle for the Right
And who shall be against us, if these be on our side ?



NOT Summer's crown of scent the red rose weaves,
Not hawthorn perfume blown o'er bloom-strewn grass,
Not violets' whispers as the children pass,

Nor new-mown hay, crisp scent of yellow sheaves,

Nor lilac perfume in the soft May eves,
Nor any scent that Springtime can amass,
Or Summer squander, such a magic has

As scent of fresh wet earth and fallen leaves.

For sometimes lovers, in November days,
When earth is grieving for the vanished sun,

Have trod dead leaves in chill and wintry ways,
And kissed and dreamed eternal summer won.

Look back, look back! through memory's deepening haze,
See two who dreamed that dream, and you were one!



DEAR, so long through dusk or light
We have walked life's ways together,

Holding close when sun was bright,
Closer still in cloudy weather :

Blind with use, you hardly know

What it is that binds us so.

Just our clasping hands, my dear,
That cling close to one another,

These have linked us year by year,
And these fetters, and no other,

Bind us now for good or ill

We are joined but by our will.

For our old love's sake hold fast,
Tightly clasp relaxing never ;


Hold with me, our heart-warm past

Loosed but once, 'tis lost for ever :
Then will rush 'twixt you and me
All the waves of all the sea.

Once divided so, we may

Strive our lives long, vainly, vainly,
To outface the surge and spray,

Touch, and see each other plainly :
Nothing done can be undone
While the earth spins round the sun !

I my arms may open wide,

You may nestle in my breast
Sated but unsatisfied,

Unpossessing, unpossessed :
Knowing that between our souls
All this sea of parting rolls.

Then regret will eat our heart,

Till despair devours regret,
Knowing we are more apart

Than before we ever met :


Most divided by that past,
When we held each other fast.

We shall sigh, when sighs are vain,
' O, lost days that would not linger ! '

You will rule your world again,
I shall sing a soulless singer :

Each will look with longing eyes

On our foregone paradise.

Paradise, where now we stand,
Once lost, nothing can retrieve it ;

Still we hold it hand in hand,
Must we lose it ? Need we leave it ?

It is ours, my sweet, to-day ;

Shall we go, or shall we stay ?



ATTRACTED, repelled, and heart-sickened
By rhythmic delight and disdain,

Succeeding each other like wave-beats
On the storm -broken shore of my brain

I hate you until we are parted,
And ache till I meet you again !

I would give up my hopes, ah ! how gladly,
If I could take yours, you my part

I would give up my soul for your loving,
I would give up my life for your heart ;

Drop by drop I would drain all my blood out,
If each drop fell on you as a smart.

I desire you, despise you, deny you,
Am false to myself and to you,


I am false to the gods that I worship,
And could I, I would not be true.

To help you, or hurt you, or hold you,
There is nothing your fool would not do !

For the depths of the night and the silence,
Are alive with your dark malign face :

Your voice drowns all solitude's voices,

And your eyes oh, your eyes ! are all space ;

And yourself is the heaven of my dreaming
And the hell of my waking disgrace.

You are Fate, you are love, you are longing,
You are music, and roses, and wine,

You are devil, and man, and my lover,
You are hatefully mine and not mine.

You are all that's infernal in loving,
And all that in hate is divine.

If raising a hand would efface you,
Ah ! trust me, a hand should be raised !

Ah ! had I the tongue that could sting you,
Who too long and too well have been praised !

Could I kindle the fire in your being,
That on my life's ruin has blazed !


I hate you, but hate you too little,

You love me, but love not eriough,
And your love, which I never shall quicken

To a madness like mine, is pale stuff
For a star, yet you see how it leads me,

Where the way is unlovely and rough.

And all would be nothing to suffer,

If once at my feet you could lie,
And offer your soul for my loving

Could I know that your world was just I
And could laugh in your eyes and refuse you,

And love you and hate you and die !



THE snow is white on wood and wold,

The wind is in the firs,
So dead my heart is with the cold,

No pulse within it stirs,
Even to see your face, my dear,

Your face that was my sun ;
There is no Spring this bitter year,

And Summer's dreams are done.

The snakes that lie about my heart

Are in their wintry sleep ;
Their fangs no more deal sting and smart,

No more they curl and creep.
Love with the summer ceased to be ;

The frost is firm and fast.
God, keep the summer far from me,

And let the snakes' sleep last !


Touch of your hand could not suffice

To waken them once more ;
Nor could the sunshine of your eyes

A ruined Spring restore.
But ah your lips ! You know the rest :

The snows are summer rain,
My eyes are wet, and in my breast

The snakes' fangs meet again.



Too many the questions, too subtle
The doubts that bewilder my brain !

Too strong is the strength of old custom
For iron convention's cold reign ;

Too doubtful the issue of conflict,
Too leafless the crown and too vain !

Driven blindly by wind and by current,
Too weak to be strong as I would,

Too good to be bad as my promptings,
Too bad to be valued as good,

I would do the work that I cannot
And will not, the work that I could.

As a swimmer alone in mid-ocean
Breasts wave after green wave, until


He sees the horizon unbroken

By any coast-line so I still
Swam blindly through life, not perceiving

The infinite stretch of life's ill.

But wave after wave crowds upon me
I am tired, I can face them no more

Let me sink or not sink you receive me,
And I rest in your arms as before,

Which were waiting, O Love, to receive me,
Fulfilling the troth that you swore.

And so you are left me what matters

Of Freedom, or Duty, or Right ?
Let my chance of a life-work be ended,

End my chance of a soul's worthy fight !
End my chance to oppose ah, how vainly !

Vast wrong with its mass and its might !

Hold me fast kiss me close and persuade me

Tis better to lean upon you
Than to play out my part unsupported,

My share in the world's work to do.
'Tis better be safe and ignoble

Than be free, and be wretched, and true.


And you think that you offer a haven,

As you do, for the storm-blown and tossed,

And you know not how under your kisses
The soul of me shrinks and is lost :

And you save me my ease as a woman,
And the life of a soul is the cost !



DARK is the night ; and through its haunted shadows
We blindly grope and stumble sometimes fall ;

No star is near enough to light the darkness,
And priest-lit tapers cast no light at all,

Save such a feeble and delusive glimmer
As night-lamps cast upon a sick-room wall.

Yet, each a torch we bear lit or unlighted ;

Burning for self it is a marsh-light's gleam ;
Kindled for others 'tis the child of sunlight,

And darkness shrinks through twilight at its beam.
Were each torch duly lit, O world long darkened,

How would you bear the sudden light supreme ?

Vague dreams and vain ! See, thou who idly dreamest
Of what would be if every torch were lit,

See where thine own smoulders a wasted ember,
Thy torch for noblest uses framed and fit.

Light thine own torch and hold it to thy brother,
And his shall kindle at the flame of it.




I HAVE loved him all my life, since life had a meaning

at all,
I loved him, I think, in my heart, before ever the sound

of his name
Ran through our student-ranks with the light and the

speed of a flame.
He was my hero ; I loved him for all that he had gone


For all he had dared to be, for all he had dared to do ;
For all he had said and suffered, for all he had felt and

And the fire in his soul was the same that lit the dim

lamp of my own.

O my hero ! my man who is all that I fain would be,
The perfect picture whose outline is traced so rudely in

me !


He has trodden the path I trod when I deemed myself

lone in the way ;
He has striven, as I, through the night ; he has dreamed,

as I, of the day ;
One faith in one fate has led the feet of us, lonely,

apart ;

One infinite exquisite hope filled the void in his heart-
in my heart ;
And by desolate wearyful ways we have journeyed at last

to this place,
And he has not heard my name, and I have not seen his

Love needs no sight of his face : I know what his face

will be
The glass that the soul looks through the soul that is

one with me.
A Christ, who has borne our sorrows, upheld by a force

divine ? <j
Give me the man of my nature, whose soul has been torn

like mine,
Who, strong in his human weakness, out of the depths

has passed ;
He is myself as I would be ! And now I shall see him

at last I



Life has been hard. So it seems, when one tries to tell

how it sped,
A life made empty with losses, and cold as the lips of the

dead !
But to live, it has not been hard, being filled with

undying desire ;

And what is one's life but fuel, to feed the immortal fire ?
And what is one life to give though one gives it the

hardest way
For the sake of the splendid faith that lightens-our night

of to-day ?
O for a thousand lives, to live out to the last sad

breath !

for a million chances to agonise even to death !
The hardest thing in life is to know that life is so small,
So worthless a thing to give, though one's whole soul

gives it all !

1 was born in a twilight world, where the wrong looks one

with the right
But I passed through the shadow of death, and my soul

came into the light.
How did it first begin this hope that gives life its

worth ?


How does the Spring begin in the breast of the longing

earth ?
The seeds are at work, at work, unseen of their master,

the sun,
Till they pierce through the heavy mould, and behold !

the Spring is begun.
So blindly at work in my soul the seeds of the new hope

Till the sun of Freedom drew them to bud and blossom

and bear.
* I have but one life,' I said, * and I know where that life

is due ;
O people, oppressed and trampled, I owe it, I pay it, to

you !'

For the core of the thing is this, though few perceive it

as yet

We owe the labouring people a great unbearable debt.
The debt of all that we are, and all we are not, we

To the people who toiled unknowing, that we lintoiling

may know :
Our knowledge, our strength, our soul, our very body and



We owe to these who have made us, shaped us for ill or

And to them shall the debt be paid ; and all that they

gave I will spend
For them. They have nourished me. They shall find they

have nourished a friend !
A friend ? I will BE the people, one heart and one soul

with these,
Who have lived hard lives and bitter, to give me a life of

Their cause and my cause are one, and my cause and

their cause are his,
Who gave up his youth to teaching the people the thing

that is.
And he will come here. I shall show him my heart, he

will show me his heart.
The world shall see two men together are more than two

men are apart.
For this is the Holy Spirit, the union of men for the

The maker and giver of life, the soul and spirit of light.



It is not that he is not all I dreamed

O, more than all I ever dared to dream :

It is not that the splendour that he seemed
Is dwarfed by nearness to a tawdry gleam :

It is not that I am not glad, and filled

With wine of joy his presence has distilled :
It is a foolish fever of the soul

That burns and shivers, and will not be stilled.

It is not doubt ! Doubt ! when my every thought
Commends him that his is not otherwise.

Each word of his with fervent force is fraught,
And the world's light is in his earnest eyes,

And at the moment when he spoke my name

Our natures met and blended flame in flame !

His was my youth, and mine his larger view
His surer vision and more perfect aim.

It is not fear nor sadness nor unrest

That frets my soul and gnaws perpetually;

Is it a doubt if I who give my best
Remain his debtor still too utterly ?


No I give all and know that in his eyes
The loving heart best decks the sacrifice ;

And my poor all with all my heart thus given
For all he needs from me, shall well suffice !

Stay here 's his story. Noble, rich, and young,
Learned, as the young are learned, in books, not

With youth's great-small ambitions he had strung
Life's harp that gave him music back again

The music that is sweetest to man's ear,

Until that other song he comes to hear,
The harmony of visions, and he knows

No other music ever can be dear.

He heard the heavenly song, and then he knew
How, listening for its echo in his life,

He too must learn and labour, live and do
Through patient waiting, and glad easy strife.

He trod the quiet, bitter, cruel way,

Worked patiently for many a weary day
Among sad brothers sick with sordid cares,

Till Time should give him leave to say his say.


Two years of weeks of days of hard dull toil !

With no sweet restful speech to lighten it :
One in a workshop one upon the soil;

And then it seemed the time was ripe and fit.
He spoke men listened, and his voice and eyes
Turned slaves to men made patriots out of spies,

And, as spreads water over level land,
His spirit spread o'er men, to make them wise.

And hope sprang up, through tangled growth of fears,
And splendid dreams lit up the night like stars,

Making wild rainbows through men's lifelong tears
That mocked the strength of tyrants' prison-bars;

And Liberty flung glory over shame,

And walked beside men in the furnace flame,
And life seemed worth the living, and desire

Within a vision of completion came.

Then ruin ! On a sudden who knows how ?

Some spy, whose name the devil were sick to

Sold his own soul for power to break his vow

And, as a wave foams up a rocky creek,


Rushed on them loss, disaster and despair,
And death of faith more hard than all to bear ;
And he awoke from all those dreams of his
An exile, with a crown of thorns to wear.

(O crown of thorns, more dear than any crown,
Save victory's, that on men's brows is laid !

This thou hast woven, O Freedom, for thine own
With this our utmost pain is overpaid !

And, for the other crown, we know, we know

That while we wear the thorns, the laurels grow,
And on some head that wins thee shall be laid,

When these poor hearts that love thee, are laid low.)

An exile, with a crown of thorns for prize,

Had I been he, I might perhaps who knows ?

After the winter of strife and sacrifice,

Have sought to wreathe my thorn-crown with the rose;

Have known a bitter, blind, and wilful hour,

When all the world showed but one fruitless flower,
And in that hour I might have gathered it

For my wrecked heart's uncompensating dower.

He ? What he did ? He slowly, slowly grew
Accustomed to believe that all was lost ;


He knew, perhaps, that high dreams bud anew,
In spite of time, and fate, and wind and frost,

But he was weary, and he chanced to meet

A woman very fair and very sweet ;

And he was right, as always, when he laid

His broken life at her beloved feet.

O, she is fair, with wonderful gold eyes

That deepen into brown, or gleam to green,

And slow sweet speech, that softens into sighs
Sighs that her laughter ripples in between ;

And when she speaks he hears his own soul's cry

Through those soft scarlet lips of hers, and I

Hear his own voice by some sweet echo rendered

That ever makes me sad I know not why.

He came back to us here because he heard

In some electric flash across the sea
Of hope re-risen here : and at the word

He came, new named, for Freedom's sake to be
A slave in those same chains which once he wore,
Came back to love and labour as before,

Strive as before to reach the goal we see,
And grant it, Liberty! to fail no more!

or THE- X


OF /


And when we sit and talk, as talk we do,

Often, true friend to friend, the heart laid bare,

She smiles at us, and drops a word or two
That fits his mood as sunshine fits clear air ;

And he is glad to the sound core of him,

And life's sweet cup fills to its golden brim,
To see her eyes shine with reflected light

From the one Light that never can grow dim.

It must be sweet, that fellowship and faith
That love for love that passion and that trust

That she, as he, is faithful even to death,
That she, like him, esteems all gain as dust,

And only labours for the glorious goal,

For the freed body and enfranchised soul :
To one dear end vows every part of life,

And, with unspeakable content, Life's whole.

And so we talk, contrive and plan and scheme,
That what once failed, may fail not to succeed;

How to convert the yearning to the dream,
How to translate the dream into the deed ;


And when at last the time shall come, we three,
One now in soul, shall one in action be.

So says he and she smiles ; and I . . . O God,
If one must be a traitor, damn thou me !


It is not I ! It is not he. But she.

Twas that that sickened all the soul of me.

I felt betrayal in the very air,

Not naming it. The worst there is to bear

I know, to the inmost soul. What I shall do ?

With just as little doubt I know that too.

How hot the world is, suddenly ! I rest
My head against the night's vast quiet breast ;
Across the plains the night air blows this way.
The green fields round the town look cool and gray,
Chill looks the earth but I can feel its heat
In my parched lips and burning pulse's beat
Hot, hot as hell, wherein I must abide,
The world within mocking the world outside.


For many weeks our plans had all been laid,
Only the time when movement could be made
Remained unfixed.

* It may be years,' said he,
* But we are patient however long it be ! '
' It may be ere to-morrow's dawn shall break,
But we are ready, are ready ! ' so she spake.
And I said, 'Freedom triumphs! Hope endures,
Fed by such fervour and such faith as yours.'

And then I heard a word how all was fit
To aid our plan and our unfolding it.
I hurried to my friend to tell him all,
Glad to the soul of the long longed-for call
' To work ! ' I found them sitting silently,
Watching a splendid blood-red sunset die.
They turned and smiled at me: a quiet mood
Was on them, when peace seemed the deepest


And rest and love and happiness seemed right
In a disconsolate wronged world's despite.

I spoke my tidings. c You and I will go
And sow the seed upon the field we know,


And she the harder task shall do, and wait

To see what fruit is raised from it by fate;

Shall hold the threads of all our lives within

Her hands, and give the signals " Lose! " and " Win ! "

And now comes parting, and new life, new pain

For us, who, maybe, shall not meet again.'

His eyes showed lightning.

' O, I knew,' said he,
' Life was not over yet, for you for me.

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Online LibraryE. (Edith) NesbitLeaves of life.. → online text (page 2 of 6)