hands out to May,
BETROTHAL SONG 135
As all that is sad and unloved desires all that is happy
As all that is stormy and dark loves all that is quiet and
As despair yearns back for a life burnt out at an idol's
My heart yearns passionate after, whenever you leave me,
As the world, with its broken lives, hopes ever, for ever
For a new bright life that shall lighten its darkness and
right its wrongs,
As the starlight dreams of the moon, as the moonlight
dreams of the sun,
So I dream of the day that is coming, when I and my
heart shall be one :
When you who are one with my heart, with all. of its
pleasure and pain,
Shall be one with my life for ever, and never leave me
again ! .
136 IN PRAISE OF WORK
IN PRAISE OF WORK.
GOOD-MORNING, dear ! How the world is gay !
Kind sun, to shine on our holiday !
Well wander away, my girl, my queen,
To where the meadows are fresh and green,
And where the bluebells and wind-flowers grow,
And forget the city that hurts us so.
We work all our dull lives long, my dear,
With just four breathing days in the year,
Four whole fair days in which we may do
Whatever we care to, I and you,
May laugh and be merry, and see the sun.
Four days in the year and this is one.
Through all the other desolate days
We labour sadly, each in our place,
IN PRAISE OF WORK
And Sunday's a doleful holy day,
When we mustn't laugh, nor the children play ;
It's a breathing-place where the poor may gain
Strength to go on with their work again.
/ Work, work, still work ! It's always the cry,
Work if you'd live, and work till you die ;
Work for your masters, they who sit
And idly taste the sweet fruits of it ;
Work when they bid you and thank them, too,
If they'll only give you the work to do.
I don't mind work but it's hard to bear,
To know that my darling sits stitching there,
W T ith her white white face and her thin thin hand,
Just to keep a dainty and idle band,
Who would draw aside their silks and fur
For fear they should brush against one like her.
There is none like her gentle and wise,
With her patient mouth and her earnest eyes.
O, my little one, is it love or Fate
That gives us poor the rich to hate,
138 IN PRAISE OF WORK
And gives to the rich the poor as prey ?
a question to ask on a holiday !
So no more questions just let us sit
And watch the sun and the gold of it
As it touches the trees and the greener grass ;
Let us hear the laughing children pass,
And the song of the birds 'and the unsaid word
That in the city is never heard.
Let me hold your hand, and try to forget
That my heart is sore, and your eyes are wet.
O, my girl, my girl, there will never be
A home together for you and me,
With little voices and little feet. . . .
You have not much longer to work, my sweet.
Yes the work's soon over! To sew all day
And half the night is the common way.
Some live on, withered, and some, alas!
Die like the daisies we pull from the grass.
It is work that is killing our sweethearts and wives,
And the joy and hope of our broken lives!
IN PRAISE OF WORK
So hurrah for work, and our masters dear,
Who give us four days in the whole long year
Four days for hope and for love and for rest,
And the rest for work, the glorious and blest ! .
God hold our hand on the reckoning-day,
Lest all we owe them we should repay!
140 ON AN AUTUMN DAY
ON AN A UTUMN DA K
No man liveth to himself.
IN the mellow hush of the autumn days,
When summer is hardly dead,
When the corn is reaped and the hops are picked,
And the woods catching fire glow red,
It is sweet to dream thro' a lazy noon,
With the great sky over my head.
With your hand in mine it is sweet to lie
On this close-cropped meadow grass,
To watch the rooks go sailing by,
And count the sheep as they pass ;
To dream of our youth and the vanished days
That will come not again, alas !
O, the dear dead days of the long ago,
When we and the world were young,
ON AN AUTUMN DA Y 141
Before I guessed how the skies could frown,
And the heart of a man be wrung ;
When we walked, not wondering, over the flowers
That Fate in our pathway flung.
When I dreamed that the world would be always bright,
The skies would be always blue,
That I should be always strong in the right,
And my sweetheart be always true ;
And that man's best work was to build a nest
The softest of nests for two.
When I thought that the hearts of all men were pure,
And the hearts of all women brave ;
When I thought that all I dreamed I could do,
And all I desired could have.
O sea of time, you have wrecked those dreams,
Yet something you let me save !
For though life is rough and one's dear dreams die,
One learns by torture and tears
What things are worthy a true man's hopes,
And what is worth true men's fears.
And one holds some faiths to the last, thank God,
Through the wildest surge of the years.
H2 ON AN AUTUMN DAY
O the beautiful earth, O the pastures smooth,
The meadows quiet and fair,
The heaven of stillness and solitude
In the sun-warmed autumn air ;
O, the ache of our hearts as we think of the town
And the hearts that are aching there !
For this we have learned, that no true hearts dare
To live for themselves alone,
Alone be glad of the woods and fields,
Since no man's life is his own ;
Not his own but all men's, that right may reign
And wrong may be overthrown.
Sweet dream of my youth that never has changed,
Dear sweetheart, helper and wife,
Shall the woman I worship, the man you love,
Bear the shame of a peaceful life ?
No ! We fight till the Kingdom of God be come,
Or we break our heart in the strife !
THE MEADOWS OF LONG AGO 143
THE MEADOWS OF LONG AGO.
OH the sweet wide meadows, the elm-trees tall,
The lilac that grew by the southern wall,
The orchards white, and the gardens neat,
The may, the cowslips, the meadow-sweet,
The pale dog-roses in every hedge,
The narrow path, by the coppice edge,
The path we shall walk by, you and I,
When the white moon rises, by-and-by
The path we shall walk by ? No, ah no !
It leads through the meadows of long ago.
Our meadows ! They've built a chapel there,
And a row of villas, yellow and bare ;
And down the path where we used to go,
Stand squalid cottages, all in a row
And the elms are gone and our wood's green maze
Where do the lovers- walk now-a-days ?
I 4 4 THE MEADOWS OF LONG AGO
Not through our meadows ; the sordid years
Have built upon them and all our tears
Will never teach the dead grass to grow
On the trampled meadows of long ago !
A REASON' US
WHY should we toil when, after all,
A few short years are all we have
Wherein to make good things befall,
And such soul as we have to save ?
So little time is ours wherein
Work may be done, arid then we must,
The good and ill, be crumbled in,
A little handful of death's dust.
Why do we seek to sow a seed
Whose harvest we shall never reap ;
To say a word or do a deed
Whereof we shall no memory keep
When life is gone and death is here,
And good and ill report are one,
And the benign and joyless year
Alike for us are lived and done ?
146 A REASON
What does it matter what we do ?
What does it matter what we say ?
Why should we care for false or true
Who only live one doubtful day,
Why ? If this life be all we have,
At least we grudge not all to spend
The best wish we had, that best we gave-
And fight the battle to the end.
The future and the past of man
Each day call out for each man's best,
And he must bear his own soul's ban
Who locks his best within his breast.
If this is all that shall be ours,
At least therein be something won,
Lest the world weep our barren hours
Wherein no noble deed was done.
THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE 147
7 HE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE.
GOD help us all where'er we be,
God knows we need it sore!
God help the men at sea to-night,
God help the wives on shore
For O it is an easier thing
To sail the ocean wide,
Than to sit and see hope grow despair
By a desolate fireside.
Last night the angry sun dropped down
Like a ball of fire in the sea,
And the sullen water heaved and moaned
'Neath the weight of the storm to be.
And just one white sail flecked the sea
At the outer edge of the world,
And the level waste of the sand gleamed smooth
Where small waves played and curled.
H8 THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE
And, before the after-light was gone,
The wind began to roar.
God help the men at sea to-night,
God help the wives on shore!
The sun had set but a breathing-space
When the wind began to wail,
And over the waste of the leaden waves
Shone foam lines thin and pale.
The fainting west was streaked across
With black and cloudy bars,
The angry sunset bore a night
Without or moon or stars.
No moon nor stars, but a mad mad wind,
That flung the foam-flakes wide,
And lashed the sea till it smote with rage
Against the good ship's side.
No stars nor moon, but a strange wild light,
That was not moon nor star,
That lit the crests of the curling surf
That writhes where the rock reefs are.
THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE 149
High rose the waves with a bitter laugh
Each wave drew up its head,
And tumbled shoreward with a groan,
A laugh and a groan for the dead.
Black, black grew the night, and the gleaming spray
Hissed over the pebbly shore,
The wind caught it up in his evil grasp
To fling at the cottage door.
Warm-curtained the window, and on the wall
The lamplight and firelight play ;
The cottage would be a pleasant place
If he were not away.
The wife cowered down in the firelight glow,
Her head upon her knee :
* O Christ, have pity on us to-night,
And bring back my man to me ! '
The wind went shrieking about the house,
And fain would an entrance win,
But door and window were barred and fast,
And would not let it in.
150 THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE
There came a hush while the storm took breath,
And down came the driving rain :
* I wish it beat on my new-made grave,
For he will not come back again! '
But louder, louder thundered the waves,
The spray lashed window and door ;
' And what will my life be worth to me
If he should come home no more ? '
The wind went roaring across the foam
With its message of doom to be ;
Ah, what will the wind do out in the night
Betwixt the wide sky and sea ?
A rush a blast for the wind has won,
It has thrust the shutter aside,
The lamp leaps up and dies on a flash,
And the ashes are scattered wide.
And the wife sits on by the bare hearthstone
And the wind is lord of the place ;
It lays its hands on her loosened hair,
And smites on her pallid face.
THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE 151,
The night was black upon sea and land, ,
The night in her heart was black :
* I wish the earth was over my head,
For he will never come back ! '
Hark! In through the window a rush of wings; \
Had an angel been sent to save ?
Would her soul go up from the wind-swept home,
And his from the wind-swept wave ?
' Nay, I will not die till I know him dead,
For O if he should come,
Would I leave for him what I cannot face,
The sight of an empty home !
The wings still fluttered and nearer came,
Till a soft plume her cheek caressed,
She put up her hands 'twas a stray soft bird
She caught and held to her breast.
A stray lost pigeon, wearied with flight
In the stress of the stormy air,
The tempest had blown to her human heart,
And found it a shelter there.
152 THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE
The bird found shelter, and lighted peace
In the heart where it rested thus :
4 If God will care for a bird like this,
I trust Him He cares for us ! '
She closed the window and lit the lamp,
And she held the white dove fast,
That had been through the storm as her heart had done,
And anchored in peace at last.
And she knelt and prayed c Thou wilt hear me now,
O Mighty on sea and shore,
As the wings of Thy dove guide the boat's white wings,
And bring him safe home once more.'
And the storm raved on when at last it slept,
Worn out with the night of doom,
Sleep had come after the night of tears
In the little cottage room.
And the wind, grown kind, blew out of the sky
The clouds it had gathered there,
And the sun rose up on a blue blue sea,
And a heaven of clear sweet air.
THE MESSAGE OF THE DOVE 153
And the sun is mirrored in two brown eyes,
Where tears are still glittering
And a woman who stands by her cottage door
To see what the day will bring.
And his ship is there, and the sun, and joy,
And good-bye to the night and pain,
For Fate and Love are for once agreed
And the boat is safe home again.
Arid what had guided the white warm bird,
And what led the ship aright ?
Ask not of the birds that were lost in the storm
And the ships that went down that night;
But ask of the woman whose love was saved,
Or the bird whose tired wings found rest,
And they will answer God rules the storm,
And all that He does is best.
154 LOVE'S ECONOMY
LOVE filled my cup with tears and wine ;
I drank the mingled draught divine
Glad to the soul that it was mine.
Love crowned my head with thorn and rose ;
Such wreaths of rose no thorns disclose ;
Only the happy wearer knows.
Love gave me ashes, gave me bread,
Fed on the soul that on it fed,
And kissed my heart until it bled.
Love gave me sunlight, gave me rain,
Love taught me pleasure, brought me pain,
And scourged my soul with loss and gain.
Yet did the gain so far outweigh
The infinite loss, that till to-day
I never wished my pain away.
LOVE'S ECONOMY 155
Because I thought that you, at least,
Wore only roses at our feast,
And heard a song that never ceased.
But now I know that you, as I*
Hear knells in all our revelry,
And, not for passion only, sigh ;
That you, too, bear a heavy cross,
And sway 'twixt sense of gain and loss,
And, rent by tempests, turn and toss.
I know not whether, for your sake,
I would not choose this chain to break,
And dream-bereft meet life awake.
And you what would you choose ? Who knows ?
Since each one to the other shows
Only the wine the smile the rose.
156 THE LOVER TO HIS LASS
THE LOVER TO HIS LASS.
WREATHED with delight the world is bright,
A million buds are springing,
And June her dower of lavish flower
And scented air is bringing ;
And all the way is white with may,
The pale dog-rose is blowing,
And sweeter far, my dear, you are
Than any bud that's blowing.
The birds are gay this first June day,
And all the world is ringing,
With lovely notes from throstle's throats,
And linnet's tender singing.
Of love sing they along the way
Where you and I are going,
Love the one theme of summer's dream.
The one sweet truth worth knowing !
THE LOVER TO HIS LASS 157
What matter, dear, if vain and drear
Men say a world like this is ?
What can they know, who call it so,
Of summer, songs, and kisses ?
Life's sharpest thorn may well be borne
In youth's blue breezy weather ;
We'll not complain of any pain
That finds us still together.
Together now, when roses blow,
And youth blooms like the roses ;
Together too, we one, we two
When life's dear story closes.
And one at last, when we have passed
Pains, pleasure, prayers, and praises,
And you and I together lie
Beneath the churchyard daisies.
158 IN A NINE TEENTH- CENTUR Y EDEN
IN A NINETEENTH-CENTURY EDEN.
JUST for this once, this once I will be wise !
No blossom here shall turn to fruit for me.
This sweet half-certainty that is not doubt,
This sadness that joy's mists are wreathed about,
These long looks, lengthened out in dreams again,
I would keep these, renouncing other gain.
I pluck and wear my flower of Paradise ;
I will not have the apple it might be !
For flowers mean perfume, promise of delight
More dear than fruit has ever granted yet :
And fruit is much too sweet, and much too sour,
And, with the first bite, one regrets the flower.
The flower will die but your clear eyes shall weep
A gathered flower, whose fragrance time shall keep,
And its white memory shall light my night
Dark with the thousand things one would forget.
IN A NINETEENTH-CENTURY EDEN 159
For since we have not talked of love, but gazed
The one sweet second more than others do,
Touched hands, and known the electric flash that flies
From each to each, through meeting hands and eyes,
Have dreamed and doubted, questioned and replied,
And laughed not gaily, and not sadly sighed
All we might be and are not, heavens untried
In each for each eternally abide,
I am to you what no man else can be,
You, what no woman ever was to me,
A splendid light, a life's ideal raised
Above the dust mere loves degrade one to.
Yet, how refuse, when lips like yours invite ?
When eyes like yours look sad, how turn away ?
I cannot tell you why my lips are fain
From this sweet offered apple to refrain,
For, at the word, our blossom shed would be
And the mere fruit be left for you and me :
The only word could save, would ruin all !
So the old tale ! The bloom will slowly fall,
The fruit grows ripe I, spite of will and wit,
Must bite the apple if you offer it ;
160 IN A NINETEENTH CENTURY EDEN
Then will the dream-lights flicker out and die,
And we shall wail, awakened, you and I,
That I to you am nothing any more
Than what some other fool has been before,
And you to me no more my sweet Dream -queen,
But what some fifty other fools have been.
I cannot save you, Eve ! Your apple bite !
And ere your teeth have met our world grows gray.
His was a hard and common lot,
Which thousands bear as well ;
He bore it meekly his was not
The nature to rebel.
We never saw him sad but then
We never saw him gay
He never talked to the other men
He spoke to every day.
He seemed a commonplace, who tried
A good machine to be ;
The columns of a railway guide
Were not more dull than he.
The dreary round of office life
Where city clerks must move
He trod uncheered by child or wife,
Unsanctified by love.
And when he died, strange hands laid bare
His dull life's secret spring :
A rose, a lock of baby-hair,
And half a broken ring.
A beauty radiant as the sun,
And baleful as the moon,
A woman for whom youth was done
Too utterly, too soon !
A brilliant brain that, strong and keen,
Pierced lies with mocking thrust
A heroine that might have been
A jewel in the dust.
She never sighed but then men say
They never knew her glad ;
She was too gifted to be gay,
Too weary to be sad.
She often laughed a laugh, we knew,
To which joy lent no breath,
She laughed at all things sad and true
At children, love, and death.
Yet, when they nailed her coffin close,
They laid beside her there,
A broken ring, a withered rose,
And a little lock of hair !
164 A CITY CLERKS CHRISTMAS DREAM
A CITY CLERK'S CHRISTMAS DREAM.
THE office hours were ended
A little while ago,
And friendly and unfriended
Alike must homeward go.
Long since the noontide's high light
Died on the office skylight,
And dreary winter twilight
Was lost in gas-lit glow.
I tread the pavement crowded
With busy city men,
Whose souls dark veils have shrouded,
Woven by ink and pen.
Were but the veils once lifted,
The money-mist back-drifted,
What visions changed and shifted
Would rise before them then !
A CITY CLERK'S CHRISTMAS DREAM 165
For me, my fancy ranges
O'er silent hill and plain ;
The noisy pavement changes
Into a country lane,
Where crushed dead leaves are lying,
And day and year are dying,
And winter winds are sighing
Their desolate refrain.
Past ghostly elms and beeches,
Past hedgerows gaunt and bare,
My yearning heart outreaches
Through frosty Christmas air
To her, to her, my treasure,
My only prize and pleasure,
Beloved beyond measure,
And good beyond compare.
I thread the lanes and meadows,
I know each inch of way ;
'Twas here we saw our shadows
Cast by the moon of May.
!66 A CITY CLERK'S CHRISTMAS DREAM
With red, wet eyes that smarted,
Here at the church we parted,
Each almost broken-hearted,
The night I went away.
About her gate the roses
No more are sweet and red,
And all the snow discloses
Are rose-thorns brown and dead ;
But through her window gleaming
Her lamp's warm glow is streaming
The star of all my dreaming,
Which here my steps has led.
Haste through the gate go faster,
O feet, if that may be,
And bear your eager master
To where she waits for me ;
And haste, O longed-for hour,
Of all my life the flower,,
When in her winter bower
Mine eyes my rose shall see t
A CITY CLERK'S CHRISTMAS DREAM 167
Love, I am here O vision,
Dead e'er it gained its crown !
But that is Fate's derision,
And this is Camden Town ;
And dreams of love's creating
Fly at my latch-key's grating,
And Christmas bills are waiting
Good-evening, Mrs. Brown.
168 THE BELFRY
HERE bells once swung their heavy tongues
And called the faithful in to prayer.
Climb up the ladder's shaky rungs,
And let us see what now is there ;
There now no clamorous bell's tongue swings,
But gentle, soft, warm wings.
The birds build in the belfry high
In God's own house they make their nests ;
And we have watched them, you and I,
And envied their unruffled breasts,
And long to find some sure retreat,
And build our nest, my Sweet
Yet since we may not build a nest
Within the church's shadow, dear,
It surely were not all unblest
To build a happy nest out here,
Where all the winds of heaven blow
And rose and heartsease grow.
THE CHILDREN 169
SPRING ! almost summer ! The winter's gone,
His reign is over, his hour is done !
Here's the crumpled green of the new-born leaves,
Here are baby-sparrows 'neath cottage eaves ;
And the apple orchards are thick with bloom,
And the woods are gathering their summer gloom;
And the cottage gardens are gay and bright
With the wallflower brown and the rock-plant white ;
And the heart of the risen year beats free
In meadow and forest, in flower and tree ;
And beats in the prisoned hearts of men,
Till vaguely, vainly they long again
For the joy that is promised by every spring,
And which no summer can ever bring.
And the children wander by field and brake,
And clap their hands for the daisies' sake.
170 THE CHILDREN
The bountiful summer laughs and throws
Her garment of green and her wreath of rose
Over great vile cities that men have raised,
Where her name is unloved and herself unpraised,
And only gold is counted of worth
Of all good gifts of the goodly earth.
And in this desert that men have made
Grow white-faced children that never played
With daisies and cowslips, nor laughed and lay
On the hot gray heaps of the scented hay
The poor pale children who never have heard
The perfect song of an uncaged bird :
They never have gathered a single flower,
Or strayed through a wood for a single hour
They sit in groups and they seem to wait,
Unfriended and hopeless and desolate.
Do they wait for the hero who is to come
To teach them the meaning of love and home
To take them away from the heavy frown
Of the high black walls and the cruel town,
To where there is light and a rest from noise,
And love for the children of men, and toys ?
Who is to save them ? Ah ! I and you
Have the chance and the choice this fair deed to do.
THE CHILDREN 171
Where Gold is god, there the children must
Be ground 'neath his wheels in the bloody dust ;
But if Love be god and a temple raised
Where gold shall be cursed and love be praised
When the temple is clean and the altar fair,
The children their garlands shall bring and bear
The first of all who shall gather there !
172 THE LOVERS' CHOICE
THE LOVERS' CHOICE.
WE walked, we two, in the early May,
Ere yet the oaks or .the elms were green,
Hand in hand by a pleasant way,
Fresh-leafed hawthorn hedges between.
The sky seemed high as our hopes and dreams,
Our love was deep as the evening's peace ;
And we said : ' Our lives, where our love's light gleams,
What shall we do for the world with these ?
* We cannot sing and we cannot paint,
In science and letters we have no skill,
But we love sweet song, though our voice be faint,
And we love Art well, though we serve her ill.
And to love, it seems, is all we may do
To love fair dreams, it is all we can ! '
And as we spake, we came upon two
Who sat by the roadway a woman and man :