E. (Edith) Nesbit.

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He is hastening the hour when the children
The battles we lost will have won :

When the deeds that we did not, and could not,
Those small hands grown strong will have done.




I SAW a people trampled on, oppressed,
With helpless hands, and eyes of light afraid,
With aching shoulders whereon burdens laid

By day and night choked hope and murdered rest ;

A people sordid, sad, unloved, unblessed,

Whose shroud by their own hands was ever made,
Whose never-ending toil was only paid

By death-in-life or death, of life's gifts best.

' What help,' I cried, ' for these whose hands are weak-
Too weak to hold the weapons they should wield ;

Too weak to grasp a helping hand, or seek
With armed battalions to dispute the field,

And on the oppressors just revenge to wreak ?
Then as I cried the helper was revealed.



I saw a woman, pure, and calm, and grand,

With strong broad brows, and eyes whose keen clear

Lit up men's hearts and showed them glory and shame,

And what things could, and what things could not stand,

Justice and Honour stood at her right hand ;
And blazoned on her forehead was her name,
Too bright for me to read ; and as she came

Men bowed and worshipped her through all the land.

And evil could not live before her eyes,

And good rose up to answer to her call.
* Who art thou,' then I said, ' that dost arise

Strong to redeem this people from their thrall?'
She answered me with tender voice and wise :

* My name is Knowledge and I conquer all ! '



As the moon that coldly shines though her worshippers
die as they kneel,

And feels but her coldness and brightness, and knows
not the death that they deal,

As the sun that shines and knows not that men are
parched by his heat,

As the world that whirls with its millions of hearts that
bleed as they beat,

So you shine, O my sun without shadow, my moon with-
out stain or spot,

And carry men's wrecked hearts with you, my world, and
know it not !



DEAR, do not die !

Of cypresses and grassy graves sing I !
I hang with wreaths of song death's grief-grown cross.
And weep to music for life's infinite loss,
And make the sweetest song of sharpest woe ;
I know the way, because I love you so.
If you died, what more could be sung or said ?
I could not sing of death if you were dead.

Dear, do not love !

Do not love me ! Keep still aloof, above !
While you and love in far-off glory stand,
Clear sounds the voice, and harp responds to hand.
But, if you loved me if you came quite near,
And set love 'mid life's common things and dear,
Mute would the song be love would be too fair
To waste upon the wide world's empty air
And, songless, I should droop and vainly pine
I could not sing of love if you were mine.

H 2



HUNGARY, 1848.

THIS is the story of Renyi,

And when you have heard it through,

Pray God He send no trial like his
To try the faith of you.

And if his doom be upon you,

Then may God grant you this :
To fight as good a fight as he,

And win a crown like his !

He was strong and handsome and happy,

Beloved and loving and young,
With eyes that men set their trust in,

And the fire of his soul on his tongue.


He loved the Spirit of Freedom,

He hated his country's wrongs,
He told the patriots' stories,

And he sang the patriots' songs.

With mother and sister and sweetheart

His safe glad days went by,
Till Hungary called on her children

To arm, to fight, and to die.

* Good-bye to mother and sister ;

Good-bye to my sweet sweetheart ;
I fight for you you pray for me,

We shall not be apart ! '

The women prayed at the sunrise,

They prayed when the skies grew dim ;

His mother and sister prayed for the Cause,
His sweetheart prayed for him.

For mother and sister and sweetheart,
But most for the true and the right,

He low laid down his own life's hopes
And led his men to fight.


Skirmishing, scouting, and spying,
Night-watch, attack, and defeat ;

The resolute, desperate fighting,
The hopeless, reluctant retreat ;

Ruin, defeat, and disaster,

Capture and loss and despair,
And half of his regiment hidden,

And only this man knew where !

Prisoner, fast bound, sore wounded,
They brought him roughly along,

With his body as weak and broken
As his spirit was steadfast and strong.

Before the Austrian general

' Where are your men ? ' he heard ;

He looked black death in its ugly face
And answered never a word.

' Where is your regiment hidden ?

Speak you are pardoned straight.
No ? We can find dumb dogs their tongues,

You rebel reprobate ! '


They dragged his mother and sister

Into the open hall.
' Give up your men, if these women

Are dear to your heart at all ! '

He turned his eyes on his sister,

And spoke to her silently ;
She answered his silence with speaking,

And straight from the heart spoke she :

4 If you betray your country,

You spit on our father's name ;
And what is life without honour ?

And what is death without shame ? '

He looked on the mother who bore him,
And her smile was splendid to see ;

He hid his face with a bitter cry,
But never a word said he.

' Son of my body be silent !

My days at the best are few,
And I shall know how to give them,

Son of my heart, for you ! '


He shivered, set teeth, kept silence :

With never a plaint or cry
The women were slain before him,

And he stood and he saw them die.

Then they brought his lovely beloved,
Desire of his heart and eyes.

' Say where your men are hidden,
Or say that your sweetheart dies/

She threw her arms about him,
She laid her lips to his cheek :

' Speak ! for my sake who love you !
Love, for our love's sake, speak ! '

His eyes are burning and shining
With the fire of immortal disgrace

Christ ! walk with him in the furnace
And strengthen his soul for a space !

Long he looked at his sweetheart
His eyes grew tender and wet ;

Closely he held her to him,
His lips to her lips were set.


' See ! I am young ! I love you !

I am not ready to die !
One word makes us happy for ever,

Together, you and I.'

Her arms round his neck were clinging,

Her lips his cold lips caressed ;
He suddenly flung her from him,

And folded his arms on his breast.

She wept, she shrieked, she struggled,

She cursed him in God's name,
For the woe of her early dying,

And for her dying's shame.

And still he stood, and his silence

Like fire was burning him through,
Then the muskets spoke once, and were silent,

And she was silent too.

They turned to torture him further,

If further might be in vain ;
He had held his peace in that threefold hell,

And he never spoke again :


The end of the uttermost anguish
The soul of the man could bear,

Was the madhouse where tyrants bury
The broken shells of despair.

By the heaven renounced in her service,
By the hell thrice braved for her sake,

By the years of madness and silence,
By the heart that her enemies brake ;

By the young life's promise ruined,
By the years of too living death,

By the passionate self-devotion,
And the absolute perfect faith ;

By the thousands who know such anguish,
And share such divine renown,

Who have borne them bravely in battle,
And won the conqueror's crown ;

By the torments her children have suffered,
By the blood that her martyrs will give,

By the deaths men have died at her altars,
By these shall our Liberty live !


In the silence of tears, in the burden
Of the wrongs we some day will repay,

Live the brothers who died in all ages
For the Freedom we live for to-day !



YES, read the pages of the old-world story,

Of kings of noble deed and noble thought,
Of heroes whose resplendent crown of glory
Bound their wide brows, unsought.

But be not sad because their work is ended,

And they have rest which life so long denied :
They still live in the world which they befriended,
For which they lived and died.

Great deeds can never die : all through the ages
Their fruits increasing ever grow and spread,
And many a deed unnamed in written pages
Lived once and is not dead


And, God be praised, man's work is not completed,

There still is work on earth for men to do ;
Not yet, not yet are all the false defeated,
Not yet crowned all the true.

Still the world needs brave deeds and true hearts


Not yet are all the noble battles won !
We too, my child, may do deeds great as any
That ever yet were done.



RED, red the sunset flames behind
The black, black elms and hedges,

All through the noon no least leaf stirred,
But crickets hummed and beetles whirred
Now comes a breath of fresh, sweet wind
From silent pools and sedges.

All through hot noon the reapers stand
And toil, with jests and laughter,
Beneath the blazing skies that burn.
Then, laughing still, they homeward turn
By threes and fours ; and hand in hand
Go two that linger after.


And here we linger hand in hand,
And watch the blackening shadows.
Had we been born to reap and sow,
To wake when swallows stir, and go
Forth in chill dawn to plough the land,
Or mow the misty meadows,

Had that been nobler ? Love of mine,
We still had only striven,

As now we strive, to do our best,
To do good work and earn good rest,
All work that's human is divine,
All life, lived well, makes heaven !



GIRDLED with elms, wherein the loud rooks build,
With dreamy hush of its remoteness filled,
Where every sound that breaks the slumb'rous air
Accentuates the peace that lingers there,
One of God's restful grave-set gardens lies,
Where His flowers sleep till He shall bid them rise.

The broken hearts that here have laid in faith
Their dearest dead, themselves have trysted Death,
Have gone themselves out of the light of day,
From scent of rose and fragrance of the may,
And in the spot left lonely for their sakes,
Have made that quietness life never makes.

But one new grave is there. And he who laid
Under its turf a dear and lovely maid,
Planted, before his bitterest tears were shed,
A lily over the beloved head :


And ere the lily bloomed he lay beside

That Lily lost who should have been his bride.

The lily that he planted lived and throve

Over the grave of buried human love.

All through the winter's cruel hours and cold,

She lay safe curled beneath the sheltering mould,

Yet ever longed for winter to be done,

That she might break to bud and see the sun.

Long was the winter, and the tardy spring

She dreamed of so seemed to be tarrying

In the far world of the eternal flowers,

Reluctant to revive this world of ours,

Where flowers must die, and spring herself must fade,

That summer's perfect tribute may be paid.

The birds who built high in the belfry tower,
Had heard the lily sigh for summer's hour,
And at the first low tremulous breath of spring,
A bird flew downwards to her, twittering,
' O Lily ! Spring is coming ; bud and break
Into your loveliest blossom, for her sake.'



Shivering with joy, the waiting lily heard
That long-desired, all but despaired-of word.
She pushed aside the sheltering mould, and thrust
Her sharp leaves upwards through earth's yielding


Did everything a lily could have done
To taste the hour when she should see the sun.

Then over all the earth was felt the dear

And gracious life of the re-risen year ;

And vows of love were whispered where the wet

Dead leaves lay thick about the violet.

And all the meadow, and the orchards gray,

Grew greener and more glorious every day.

The lily grew ; at last her drooping head

Hung over her forsaken winter bed ;

The sky was blue, the elms were green and fair,

And passionate life pulsated everywhere ;

'The sun, the sun,' she cried, 'for whom I grow !

O, I shall die with longing for it so ! '

She could not see the sun ! Upon her head
No golden heat and radiance were shed,


A shadow from the cross by which she grew
Fell on her and denied it to her view.
' What good at all is life,' she cried, ' to me,
If I the sun I love may never see ? '

But the birds whispered, ' Lily, be at rest \
The Master of the garden knoweth best ;
He gave the longing, and He is too good
To cheat the hope He planted in your blood ;
Trust Him and wait He will not mock desire
Which He Himself did in your soul inspire.'

The lily drooped and sorrowed yet resigned
Lived in the cross's shadow, nor repined.
She knew the sun would some day shine for her,
And all her leaves to fuller being stir.
And if it never smiled on her ? ' Instead
The Master of the garden will,' she said.

The days passed on, and every day the sun
Through higher heaven arose his course to run.
The lily woke from sleep on Easter day,
And her eyes opened to a tender ray
Shed through green leaves into the waiting cup
Which she so long had patiently held up.

I 2 '


And as completion seemed her life to crown,

All she had always longed for now her own

She saw the Master of the garden pass

Among His flowers, among the graves and grass,

And at His voice she felt a stronger bliss

Than had thrilled through her at the sun's first kiss.

* My lily now is strong enough to bear

The sunlight for which all her longings were.

The shadow of the cross was best before,

Which now, grown strong, she needs not any more.

Gaze on the sun, the shadow time is past,

My patient lily, and be glad at last ! '



TIRED with my work, and very tired indeed
Of all these things men seek, and do not need,
Not base to strive their way, and far too weak
To strive for what man needs and will not seek ;
Tired of the clamorous world, the strife and smart,
And, most of all, tired of this beating heart !

Ah ! if to-night my worn-out soul might glide

Outward, a quietly-retreating tide,

Lose conscious misery, and be at last

One with the mystic sea, divine and vast

And if the dawning of that hour supreme

Were lighted by your eyes, my soul's one dream !

All the persistent desolate refrain,

That moans forever in my throbbing brain,


Of ruined peace and blighted hopes, would be

Only a lovely lullaby to me,

If but my head with all its aches might rest

For one breath's space upon your breathing breast.

But even for that sleep, how could I bear
To lose this memory, that has fed despair
And starved my life of joy, yet has been all
Whereof my life could make a festival ?
Yet I might even bear to let it go
If you could lift it from my lips and know.

You shall not know, you never yet have known !

I choose to die, as I have lived alone.

The savage surges, swelling in my ears,

Will drown your voice, remembered all these years,

W r ill drown my memories, and the heart pain-tossed

That would have broken, knowing its memories lost



1 IF on some balmy summer night
You rowed across the moon-path white,
And saw the shining sea grow fair
With silver scales and golden hair,
What would you do ? '

* I would be wise,

And shut my ears and shut my eyes
Lest I should leap into the tide
To clasp the sea-maid as I died ! '

' But if she charmed you till you gazed
Deep in the sea-green eyes she raised,
Would you not lift her to the boat,
Let the oars drift, and moonwards float ? '
1 No, that could never, never be !
For sea-maids die who leave the sea,
And no sweet maiden knows a charm
Could make me work her any harm ! '


'But if you thus were strong to flee
From sweet spells woven of moon and sea,
Are you quite sure that you would reach,
Without one backward look, the beach ? '
* I might look back, my dear, and then
Row back into the snare again:
Or, if I safely got away,
Regret it to my dying day ! '




SLEEPLESS I lay, though softly rocked

Upon the bosom of the night ;
The steadfast stars looked down and mocked

My waking dreams of dead delight,

They everlastingly as bright
As when her hand in mine was locked.

The moon swept out through deeps of sky,
Dim trailing clouds she left behind ;

' Come out,' she said, c all clouds pass by ;
Thou for thy soul shalt solace find.
These fevers of a tortured mind

My light will soothe or sanctify.'

I rose and passed where hawthorns grow
Beside the path where, glad and gay,


I and my sweetheart used to go

By meadows wreathed with new-mown hay ;

Through fields by moonlit dew made gray,
I and my heart went, sad and slow.

I reached the garden where the hops
Make fairy garlands everywhere,

From each tall pole a dream-wreath drops,
And strong keen scent fills all the air.
I saw the pixies dancing there

Their magic dance that never stops.

Around the poles in circling rings
From dawn of moon till dawn of day,

With dewy cobwebs for their wings,

They glide and gleam and swing and sway,
And mortal lips may never say

The song that every pixy sings.

And rainbows day has never seen

With unnamed colours make them fair.

Their feet are shod with Spring's first green,
Green gems of glow-worms deck their hair
That floats upon the moonlit air,

Like golden webs on silver sheen.


Their dance goes on through all the years,
But those who see it, few they be.

Only by eyes which many tears

And vigils have made clear to see , '

Are they beholden : and wishes three

Are his to whom that dance appears.

My first wish ? Ah ! what room for doubt ?

The wish that eats me night and day :
* Would she were here ! ' No thought about

The other wishes came my way ;

For round my neck her dear arms lay,
And all the world was well shut out.

How glad each was of each, and how
Life blossomed then, one heart records ;

I shall remember that, I know,

When life is withered up past words,

And, shrunken, slips through earth's loose cords :

I shall remember then as now.

Lost dream, too perfect not to break !
Yet here I might have held her now,


And so for ever but she spake
(O my soul's voice, divinely low !)
' Ah, might we but our future know ! '

And I wished with her, for Love's sake.

And lo ! a sea of blackness broke
About us, and we knew our fate.

Close, close we clung, and neither spoke,
So widely, wildly desolate
The destiny we could not wait

For time to seal or to revoke.

Yet to my heart hers beat, although
It beat in fear and not in bliss.

O fool, to court a deeper woe
Together we had conquered this :
No woe could live beneath the kiss

That joined our souls an hour ago.

' Would that we two were dead ! ' I cried,
1 And in the quiet churchyard laid ;

We should sleep sweetly side by side,
Of past and future unafraid,
By never a hope or fear dismayed,

Together, still, and satisfied.'


And as I wished it, she was gone !

For that one gift no pixies give.
I only woke, and woke alone,

As I henceforth must wake and live,
Must serve and suffer, strain and strive,
And in my eyes the sunlight shone.



LONG ago, when youth was gay,
We two dreamed our lives should grow

Like two flowers in one sweet May
And we told each other so.

You are gone : Time's fingers gray
Blind my eyes with showered snow :

Hope and youth look far away

Long ago.

Yet the summer winds, I know,
Will blow soft, one perfect day,

Melt the snows and roses strow :
1 Ah, what cold winds used to blow

When I was alone,' you'll say

* Long ago ! '




LATE too late my bird is dead
Vain is all that can be said
All my tears are more than vain
To bring back his life again.

Here he lies upon the snow,
Little bird that loved life so
Never more to wake and sing
In the budding days of spring.

Never more, when winds of morn
Stir the green and dewy corn,
And awake the dreaming leaves,
Will he twitter 'neath the eaves.

I shall never hear him make
Music more for love's sweet sake-
Singing to his wee brown mate
In the pear-tree by the gate.


I will lay him in the earth,
Where all shapes of life have birth ;
Whence the flowers will grow and bring
Joy to other birds in spring.

I will lay him down to sleep,
Where the summer wind may heap
Drifted rose-leaves white and red
Over his green-curtained bed.




WHEN all the skies with snow were gray,
And all the earth with snow was white,
I wandered down a still wood way,

And there I met my heart's delight
Slow moving through the silent wood,
The spirit of its solitude :

The brown birds and the lichened tree
Seemed less a part of it than sbe.

Where pheasants' feet and rabbits' feet

Had marked the snow with traces small,
I saw the foot -prints of my sweet

The sweetest woodland thing of all.
With Christmas roses in her hand,
One heart-beat's space I saw her stand,
And then I let her pass, and stopd
Lone in an empty world of wood !



And, though by that same path I've passed

Down that same woodland every day,
That meeting was the first and last,

And she is hopelessly away.
I wonder was she really there
Her hands, and eyes, and lips, and hair ?
Or was it but my dreaming sent
Her image down the way I went ?

Empty the woods are, where we met

They will be empty in the spring ;
The cowslip and the violet

Will die without her gathering.
But I dare dream one radiant day
Red rose-wreathed she will pass this way
Across the glad and honoured grass,
And then I will not let her pass !




IT'S pleasant to rest on a stile at noon
When the meadow's aflower and the month
is June,

And to take your ease on a summer day
When nobody's likely to pass that way.

And it's pleasant to whistle and walk a mile
For the sake of passing a certain stile,

When it isn't likely that one would care
If somebody chanced to be resting there.

* 2



BE watchful guardian of those eyes of yours,

Those lights that lead the hearts of men your way :

Nor use them like the marsh-light that allures
All passers-by, and lures them all astray.

Indeed, 'twere better if on me alone

The light of those enchanting lamps were thrown.

For pity's sake laugh seldom and be slow
To smile that sudden smile that thrills one through ;

For when you smile, those four sweet dimples show,
And no one knows the mischief dimples do.

Or, if you must smile, smile on me. I fear

No danger from your daintiest dimples, dear.

Speak little. There is something in your voice
Which seems to send the English language mad.

And when you say ' Be sad ! ' men hear * Rejoice ! '
And when you say ' Despair ! ' they hear ' Be glad ! '

I know your harshest word must music be

To any man in Europe except me.


And never let a hand that holds a rose
Droop close to lips of man as this to mine.

It is the breath of roses, I suppose,

That stirs the blood of most of us like wine :

And most men would have kissed your hand to-day

Before you snatched it and its rose away.


And if your hand is threatened with a kiss,

Don't frown and blush and smile, if you are wise ;

For if you do, a hand may come like this
And turn your face round to your lover's eyes.

And then, and then for anything I know,

It's possible that he may kiss you so !



As he who the dead night through unhappy watches and

And is glad of the pallid surf where the first wave of

morning breaks,
As he long pent in a dungeon is glad of the first free

As he who is tortured with living is glad of the promise

of death,
As he who is weary to sickness is glad of the ceasing of

I am glad of the thought of your presence, of your feet in

the ways of my life !

As autumn weeps for the summer, and night grieves after

the day,

As age reaches arms back to youth, and December thrusts

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Online LibraryE. (Edith) NesbitLeaves of life.. → online text (page 4 of 6)