I can work now a work that may repay
For these five wasted years I have thrown away.
Intensity may compensate for time,
And new strong hope shall expiate my crime
Despair, the blackest crime that stains man's soul.
And you, my brother, friend, myself still strong,
Who have hoped, nor once despaired these five years
O, you are glad, as earth is glad of flowers,
Of this great good, and glorious chance of ours
To work, perform, achieve, retrieve, repair,
Justify hope, annihilate despair ! '
He reached his hands out to me as he spake,
With face all radiant for the new joy's sake ;
Born leader of men, born chief of enterprise,
With the deep voice and strong magnetic eyes ;
More than all others, fit and sure to lead,
To teach the soul the thought, the hand the deed !
She had sat silent, statue of repose,
Harkening to all our words from first to close.
Now while he stood transfigured there she rose.
Then, as he turned to her, she thundered
By all our love and joy, you shall not go !
You swore yourself to me to me. The vow
Shall firmly hold, and save you for me now.
Your safety and my love, my Love, are worth
A million times the million dreams of earth.
Let him go ! What he does or does not do,
Who cares? but all I am holds life from you.'
He did not speak. I spoke :
' But you have said
A thousand times . . . .'
' My lies upon my head,'
She cried to him. l What is it I would not do
Or say, if saying or doing pleasured you ?
Has it been hard to act this patriot's part
These years long prompted by a steady heart
To seem the thing you wished me, and to be
In soul more strong than you could fancy me ?
I have lied for all these years save in such word
As love has whispered, and you alone have heard.
Freedom ? A name ! The people ? None of them
Worthy to touch my lover's garment-hem !
Plenty there be are good enough to die
The deaths that Freedom must be purchased by ;
But nothing that the world could gain could pay
For your one life, if that were thrown away.
I have kept silence, I have spoken and lied,
That you most fully might be satisfied.
But now the time has come for speaking true,
For saying what you shall and shall not do.
Vain words he wastes, this foolish boy, your friend,
To me your life is vowed till life shall end.
Judge you what honour Freedom will confer
On him who breaks a vow to follow her !
What ? Urge dishonour and a broken vow ?
These were not things you willed for him till now !
Urge him, entreat in any words you know.
I hold his heart ; I say he shall not go ! '
She flung an arm across his neck. And he
Half moved his lips yet never spoke to me.
She spoke. ' To-morrow he will speak to you ! '
I came away.
O, I am patient too !
I waited till I heard what he would do.
To-day this came :
'Forgive her ; forgive me!
O more than brother, right is hard to see,
And mine eyes blind. Life's maze has many a turn.
Only this much unclouded I discern
A vow is sacred. So I yield. For she
Claims to the uttermost the soul of me.
But you go on ! It shall be given you
To do the deeds I was too weak to do.
Some day, perhaps, she may believe as I
As you. Till then, O more than friend, Good-bye!'
So the dream's ended !
Now comes action's turn.
What must I do? These scanty tears that burn
Like fire along my face heart of my heart,
These are for you, for me, since we must part ;
But all the other fire that burns me through
Is for the future. What remains to do ?
How end the contradiction of his life ?
All high dreams crushed a woman and a wife
Set in the place that Freedom once was in !
This is the one unpardonable sin,
Or were, if I should suffer it. I hold
The keys of fate, of issues manifold.
'If she were dead, he would be ours again.
How those four words danced through my dizzy brain
Last night ! Now within my weary head
Another phrase keeps time ' When she is dead'
His sensuous nature will be sad awhile,
To miss her face and eyes, her voice and smile ;
But the true self will conquer, and the man
Will do the work the work none other can.
And she has played a game for heavy stakes,
And wins the sleep from which none ever wakes.
And I gain nothing but the world shall gain !
Weigh, now, and balance ! Venture or refrain ?
Refrain have pity go my working way,
And hope to see the face I love, some day
After long years when somewhat we have won
To hear him say, ' What I, too, might have done
If . .
What a hope to feed the empty years !
Venture ! A sharp brief pain, some short-lived tears
For him. For me renouncement of my land,
Of all my right to hold him by the hand ;
Of all my chance of seeing him some day,
When all those shadows may have passed away.
For him a splendid future (when his hand
Alone shall execute what both have planned.
So that the travail shall not be in vain)
Sad, but not sorry, triumphing through pain !
This for the man I love ! This may I give ;
Its price my death and, dying, I shall live,
If by some glorious death I yield my breath
Making of life a hymn a song of death.
He is set free ! And she is dead.
Mine were the hands her blood made red ;
Mine were the eyes that saw her breast
Heave like a little child's at rest ;
Mine was the touch that changed the deep
Soft breathing beauty of her sleep
Into a horror that will cry
Against me till the day I die !
She looked so fair, so sweet, so good,
I almost blessed her as I stood
Grasping the knife that was to end
Her life, save honour, free my friend.
friend, it was for you, for you
1 paid this hard deed's heavy due !
I struck her eyes shone and she cried
1 Traitor ! ' I struck again she died.
And we were in the room alone
I, and the deed that I had done !
I fled but all along my flight
Through vastness of the empty night,
One face pursued me like the ghost
Of all that man has ever lost ;
Not her face dead and white and fair,
But his when he should find her there !
It will not hurt ! Not long, not long !
Soon the vast press of world-wide wrong,
And the great glory of the deed
Wherein he only can succeed
(The leading of the people), will
Outface for him this dream of ill.
Pass quickly, certain storm of tears !
And leave clear light for other years,
Years whose fair fruits I shall not know.
I go to strike some sterner blow,
To lay some butcher-tyrant low,
And die right gladly, dying so.
And when, through him, the day is won,
And men are free beneath the sun,
None shall remember them of me
Who gave my life that this might be.
In a dishonoured grave will I
Lie down contented there to lie,
Dying most glorious and most glad.
This was the one chance that I had
I took it ; I have set him free
And played my part out worthily ;
And yet his face, his anguished eyes
O brother, could I otherwise?
Who's this? A friend? The password? Right!
What ? You have travelled all the night
To find me, and you say you bear
News from the city ? I was there
But yesterday. How goes it ? Say,
Is there fresh news since yesterday ?
His wife is dead ? And he ... No, no
By heaven, you shall not cheat me so
Of my life's wage ! he is not dead
He is not dead but ill may be,
With drinking grief too greedily.
Soon that will pass and he will do
The work she has released him to.
He is not dead.
Then tell me why
Your face is wrenched with agony ?
What is the worst ? You loved him, too ?
Speak or I'll tear it out of you !
No no ! A lie ! You said that thing
To punish me for threatening !
It was not true, that thing you said
That he went mad to see her dead !
It is true !
Then, if God there be,
How he must laugh to think of me !
72 THE SAILOR'S WIFE
THE SAILOR'S WIFE.
' O, THE wind is cruel and keen and cold,
It is raging over the marsh and the wold
As if it would tear you out of my hold.
' Molly, hold fast ; we shall soon be there,
Where the room is warm with the fire's broad flare
(Where the silence is, and the empty chair.)
' The way is long from the sea and the town ;
(This is the wind to wreck and to drown ;
It blew the night that his ship went down.)
* Hold up that light, like a red red star,
Shows where the fire and the curtains are
(The mad waves roar through the night afar).
THE SAILORS WIFE 73
' O, the wind, how it drives ! we can hardly stand.
How it whistles and shrieks over sea and land !
Keep close, hold tightly to mother's hand.
' Sweet rest for my little ones soon will be !
(And for him his rest in the restless sea,
And the ache that is never at rest for me).
' The sheep on the wold show dully white
Against the darkness I have you tight.
O God, keep both of my lambs to-night !
' We shall soon be home we will shut the door,
And the wind shall not get at us any more.
(O, the shout of the surf on the far-off shore !) '
They have reached the door, they are safe inside ;
The wind wails over the trees and the tide
As it wailed and shrieked on the night he died.
Warm, lonely and firelit the cottage is.
Lonely! Then who and what is this
Whose voice, whose arms, whose tears, whose kiss ?
74 THE SAILORS WIFE
Ah, whose but his all her soul had stirred ?
What their hearts said only the angels heard,
For they held each other without a word.
For there is not a word that is not vain
When out of the darkness and night and pain
Two lovers come to each other again.
ON DIT 75
COLD is the wind the flowers below,
Fearful of winter's hand, lie curled ;
But Spring will come again you know,
And glorify the world.
Dark is the night no stars or moon ;
But at its blackest, night is done,
All after hastens to the noon,
The triumph of'the sun.
And life is sad, and love is brief.
Be patient ; there will be, they say,
New life, divine beyond belief,
Somehow, somewhere, some day.
76 SWEET SUMMER
THE spring has fled with its shine and shower,
And summer reigns, in the radiant hour
When noon burns sweetness from every flower
That turns its face to the sun.
She reigns in the waning blue of the skies,
When the lovely light of the evening lies
On pastures golden with memories
Of dear dreams, over and done.
O summer, royal crown of the year,
Beyond faint spring and wan autumn dear,
Hope and remembrance are all they bear,
But joy is the soul of thee
A soul that stirs in the unripe corn,
In the dewy hush of the new sweet morn,
When in leafy woods soft echoes are born
Of the far-off song of the sea.
SWEET SUMMER 77
O summer, sweet summer, when lovers stray
Past the green mill-pool by the shady way,
Through the fields soft-wreathed in the new-mown hay,
And down through the leafy lane ;
When as daylight lessens the old folks stand
And look out over the quiet land,
And sigh (not sadly, if hand clasps hand)
That youth comes never again !
For the summer dies as our youth must die,
And vain are the prayer and the passionate cry,
The roses and beautiful days go by
With all their wonder and worth ;
And snows are over the lily's head,
And a sheet of ice on the rose's bed,
And love may die, now the leaves are dead
And winter is lord of the earth.
Yet listen, sad heart, to the glad refrain
Of the brown-winged birds in the brown-hedged lane ;
Summer has gone, but she comes again !
Sweet summer never can die.
And youth, sweet youth, is immortal, too,
And will bloom again as the roses do,
And love is eternal, and lights life through,
Though youth and the rose go by.
78 NIGHT AND MORNING
NIGHT AND MORNING.
WHILE yet the woods were hardly more than brown,
Filled with the stillness of the dying day
The folds and farms and faint green pastures lay,
And bells chimed softly from the gray-walled town.
The dark fields with the corn and poppies sown,
The dark delicious dreamy forest way,
The hope of April for the soul of May
On all of these night's wide soft wings swept down.
One yellow star pierced through the clear, pure sky,
And showed above the network of the wood,
The silence of whose crowded solitude
Was broken but by little woodland things
Rustling dead leaves with restless feet and wings,
And by a kiss that ended in a sigh.
NIGHT AND MORNING 79
The wind of morn awoke before the line
Of dawn's pearl haze made pale the eastern sky,
And woke the birds and woodland creatures shy,
And sighed night's dirge through tremulous boughs
The north and south sky flushed, and the divine
Rose-radiance touched the moorland lone and high,
While still the wood was dusk, where, by and by,
Splendid and strong the risen sun should shine.
It shone on two that through the woodland came
With eyes averted and cold hands that clung,
And weary lips that knew forbidden things,
And hearts made sick with vain imaginings
And over all the wood its glory flung,
The wood that never more could be the same.
8o TO OUR LADY
TO OUR LADY.
(FOR A PICTURE BY GIOVANNI BELLINI.)
DEAR MOTHER, in whose eyes I see
All that I would and cannot be,
Let thy pure light for ever shine,
Though dimly, through this life of mine !
Though what I dream, and what I do,
In prayer's despite are always two,
Light me, through maze of deeds undone,
O thou whose deeds and dreams are one !
And though through mists of strife and tears,
A world away my star appears,
Yet let Death's sunrise shine on me,
Still reaching arms and heart to thee !
REFUGIUM PECCATORUM 81
For all human things do require to have an ideal in them .
were it only to keep the body unputrefied. Carlyh*
OUR Lady's chapel is ablaze with light
That burns against the close-pressed face of night ;
The echo of long centuries of prayer
Is mingled with the incense in the air,
And every soul that once breathed there a vow
Joins with the souls of those who pray there now..
And there, within the taper's softened glow,
Amid the flowers that in girls' gardens grow,
The lovely image of the Mother stands
Stands with her little baby in her hands,
And in her eyes, and in her perfect face,.
The eternal promise of ideal grace.
A woman, passing down the quiet street,
Heard sudden sound of singing voices sweet
82 REFUGIUM PECCATORUM
That seemed to call her in from out the night
To where it rose, through floods of softened light.
The music caught and held her sense as fast
As souls are held by fetters of their past.
O Mother-maiden what a woman-face !
Sordidly sensual, unlovely, base,
Scored with coarse lines burnt in by years of wrong,
Stamped with the signet of the vile and strong ;
Hopeless, impure, with eyes unwashed by tears
Through many soulless, desecrated years.
She sat there stupid, broken, lost, denied,
Before pure mother and ideal child ;
She on whose barren breast no little hand
Had ever rested in divine command,
She who had never known the unnamed bliss
Which thrills a mother through her baby's kiss.
How strange and sweet that music was ! She heard
The clear note of a long-forgotten bird
A certain thrush which used to come and sing
Upon the sweet-plumed lilac in the spring
When she was young, and there was time to think
Of other things than devilry and drink.
REFUG1UM PECCATORUM 83
That cottage garden with its hollyhocks
Each side the porch its gray and purple stocks,
The sweetbriar hedge, the climbing yellow rose,
How long it was since she had thought of those !
Such memories quickly fade in gaslit hours,
'Mid patchouli and tawdry hothouse flowers.
There was a church at home she minded well
Its ghastly tales of sin and death and hell ;
Yet it was pleasant in the summer days
To walk there through the quiet meadow ways,
And through the cornfields where the poppies grow
Or grew once bright as life seemed, long ago.
And then the churchyard on the thymy hill
Where the bees murmur and the world is still,
One grave is there wherein there buried lies
Something beyond a mother's heart and eyes :'
A woman's soul her soul might have been spared
Had there been any one on earth who cared.
Hark some one's speaking ! Listen, what says he ?
* In that dear Heaven, where we all may be,
A lady sits with the divinest eyes
Whose starry depths are still with Paradise.
84 REFUGIUM PECCATORUM
She sits and looks upon this world of ours
And sees alike its sunshine and its showers.
'And all her heart is overfull of love
For this poor world she knows the hardness of;
And when we are sad, she sighs and longs to rest
Our aching heads on her divinest breast ;
But when we sin, she weeps we are beguiled
So far from her and from her little child.
' She weeps for us who sin how can we dare
In such a mother's heart plant grief and care ?
She who is all we might be if we would,
Lovely and loving, gracious, great, and good ;
Only not happy how can she be glad
While all men sin, and, sinning, are made sad ?
' But saddest tears of all are those that rise,
Through the clear radiance of those crystal eyes,
When women sin the women who might be
Mothers as pure or maids as clean as she ;
Women whose souls might be as chaste and clear
As the calm eyes of her, divine and dear.'
REFUGIUM PECCA TOR UM 85
The worshippers had slowly passed away,
And one by one turned to their work or play ;
And one by one the dying tapers left
The church of all its golden glow bereft :
Only, before our Lady's altar, one
Love-lighted little twinkling taper shone.
Still with that peace which is the smile of God,
The priest along the empty chapel trod,
When Is the chapel empty? then what stirred
The silence with that half-articulate word ?
What breathed ? Who sobbed ? And what hand has
Thrust through the darkness, caught, and held him
' Is it all true about the Paradise,
And the dear lady with the crystal eyes,
And all her tears and loving is it true ? '
This is a woman speaks a woman, too,
Whom shame and sin have crushed and pressed awry
From all her possible peace and purity.
' It is not true speak, is it true ? ' she cried.
'True as your sorrow, child,' the priest replied.
86 REFUGIUM PECCATORUM
4 But not for me she does not weep for me,
Unworthy even of her memory ?
She weeps for those who do a little wrong,
Not me who outraged her my whole life long.
' She weeps the most for those whose hearts most bleed/
' Then, O my heart, she weeps for us indeed.
So, I can not go back. It shall not be
That she shall ever weep again for me.
O save me, save me ! once that threshold crossed,
Her crystal eyes must weep me doubly lost !
Outside the church the night pressed closely round,
Dark as despair, as wide and as profound.
Within, the one small taper kept at bay
All evil dreams that through the darkness stray.
' Here shall you stay safe, and no longer sad,
Since o'er your soul God's angels have grown glad.
' Before our Lady's altar kneel and pray,
Counsel of light will come with light of day,
And point us to some pathway, wherein you
May leave your past, and shape your life anew,
Fit for her eyes to see. Her mother-care
Shall keep your future undefiled and fair ! '
REFUGIUM FECCATORUM 87
Before our Lady's light all night she lay
Too passionately penitent to pray ;
Only within her heart the waves of woe
And joy went agonising to and fro.
' Thou lovest me. I am safe beside thy feet.
Have pity on me Mother-maiden sweet.'
The morning sunrise glorifies the face
Of Mary, Mother of ideal grace,
Touches the poor soiled face that has grown gray
Through rouge the tears have but half washed away ;
She does not weep now does not breathe nor stir,
The Maiden Mother has had pity on her.
88 THE BETTER PART
THE BETTER PART.
Tis weary treading every day
The same dull, dreary, uphill way,
While the desired and the divine
So fair and far above us shine
As unattainable as dear
To us who grope and stumble here.
Tis hard to hold our flag on high,
And never faint, until we die
To spread our banner on a wind
Scented with garlands left behind :
To give up all life's joy, that we
May humble banner-bearers be.
Tis hard to sing, in faith, of light
Through endless-seeming hours of night
To tune the harp, the voice upraise
For Freedom's sake, for Honour's praise
THE BETTER PART
To sing of good that is, not seems
To sing of duties, not of dreams.
'Tis hard to fix one's sleepy eyes
On faint, faint streaks of new sunrise,
When all one's being yearns to weep
Its tiredness out, and turn to sleep :
Sleep and forget, and cease to care
If sunrise be, if darkness were.
Tis weary fighting all one's life
In one long, bitter, desperate strife,
'Gainst hydra-headed, rampant wrong,
When one is fain of dance and song
To smell the rose, and hear the fail-
Soft wings of Pleasure in the air.
Yet would we choose the weary way,
The fighting, not the feasting day
To wear the armour, not the flowers,
To sing of Truth while voice is ours^
Because good fight's worst wounds are far
More dear than any pleasures are.
90 THE NEW FLOWER
THE NEW FLOWER.
WHY not give up the strife fold hands and wait
(Unmurmuring and unsubdued) our Fate,
Throw down the flower of hope, and let it lie ;
While we, with empty hands and heart, go by
To where despair's rank weeds grow thick and strong
Albeit we have cut and trampled them so long ?
Why not ? Ah, try, and see what bloom will bear
Your cultivated seedling of despair \
What flower of rest, whose fragrance will repay
For that sweet, hurtful flower you threw away ;
It blossoms Ah ! 'tis hope that blooms again
More beautiful, more chei shed, and more vain !
ALL IN ALL 91
ALL IN ALL.
WHEN all the night is horrible with clamour
Of voiceless curses darker than the night,
When light of sun there is not, neither starshine,
Nor any beacon on the hill of Right,
Shine, O thou Light of Life, upon our pathway
Freedom, be thou our light !
Since all life's ways are difficult and dreary,
And false steps echo thro' eternity,
And there is nought to lean on as we journey
By paths not smooth as downward paths would be,
We have no other help we need no other ;
Freedom, we lean on thee !
The slave's base murmur and the threats of tyrants,
The voice of cowards who cringe and cry 'Retreat,'
The whisper of the world, ' Come where power calls
thee ! '
The whisper of the flesh, ' Let life be sweet.'
92 ALL IN ALL
Silence all these with thy divine commanding ;
Guide thou thy children's feet !
For thee, for thee we bear the cross, the banner,
For thee are all our battles fought and won ;
For thee was every prayer we ever uttered,
For thee has every deed of ours been done ;
To thee we press to thee, triumphant splendour.
O Freedom, lead us on !
Where thou shalt lead we do not fear to follow.
Thou hast our hearts ; we follow them in thee.
Spirit of Light, whatever thou shalt show us,
Strong in the faith, we shall not fear to see ;
We reach to thee through all the waves of darkness
Of all the days to be.
A WORD FOR THE FUTURE 93
A WORD FOR THE FUTURE.
WHEN we sow the good seed of the present,
That the future will garner and gain,
For whom do we till, weed, and water,
For whom watch the sun and the rain,
With passionate faith that our waiting
And labour will not be in vain ?
Not the men and the women about us
Themselves but themselves can make free ;
Not they, more than we, the full harvest
Of the seed we are sowing will see ;
But the fruits will be reaped by the children
The men and the women to be.
O, the children ! the rose-leaf soft faces,
The sweet little voices, and mild,
94 A WORD FOR THE FUTURE
The arms that have clung and caressed us,
The lips that have babbled and smiled,
Have these blinded us so we discern not
That a child is not only a child ?
Not only a toy and a treasure
For mother's and father's delight,
Not only a flower want may wither,
Or lovelessness ruin and blight,
But a soul to be saved, in Truth's sunshine,
Or lost where Truth's absence makes night.
And the souls that shall shape the world's future
Are the souls we are shaping to-day !
Let the children have share in our justice,
Not just in our pity and play.
They will do the world's work, and our work is
To show them the work and the way.
And he who is helping the children,
Who are frail as the buds of a rose,
Who is keeping the canker from blighting
The blossoms before they unclose,
And making the future sons hardy
To face all the future's fell foes,
A WORD FOR THE FUTURE 95
He is doing the world's work eternal
That the first dawn of soul saw begun ;