E. (Edith) Nesbit.

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A man and a woman, ragged and rough,

Dirty and desolate, idle and sad
Faces lowering and coarse enough

Bitter and brutal, base and bad.
They stupidly stared as we turned to pass

Sadly and silently, she and I,
When, with clouds of dust that made gray the

A man and a woman came riding by :

A woman lovely, weary and sweet,

Weary as he who sat by her side,
From her proud fair face to her dainty feet

Lapped in luxury, clothed in pride.
Too rich for goodness for joy too rich,

Kept warm from want in a shell of gold,
And the other woman, who crouched in the

Cursed the carriage as by it rolled.

She cursed the two who went smoothly by

And idly noted the filthy tramp,
' A pest of decent society

A leper to drive from the social camp.'


Fools, fools alike ! The sneering pair

And the cursing wretch in the wayside ditch !

O, you in your carriage, who put you there ?
Whose poverty pays life's price for the rich ?

The rich man wearies in all his state,

The poor man's heaven is vice and drink ;
Each weaves his own and the other's fate,

One cannot think, and one will not think ;
Each is of each a cause and a part,

And without the one must the other cease ;
Here is the work of our lives, my Heart,

To loose the fetters of such as these.

In the green hedgerow sang a happy thrush,

The east grew dappled with dreams of rain,
The red sun flamed through a blackthorn bush,

And the tramps slouched off down the narrow

Slouched through the beautiful world of flowers,

The world of remembrance, and love, and faith ;
Outrage to man, to this earth of ours,

A walking horror, a living death.


Then we said, ' Behold, we are young and weak,

And our only strength is the love we bear,
And this is our work, to see and to speak

This message, always and everywhere :
" If some are rich, then must some be poor

If none were rich, then none poor need be ! " '
Ah, love, this key will unlock the door !

The work is ready, for you and me !



' THE spring is here ! ' the primrose says ;
The birds exult c The spring is here ! '
A veil of buds, desired and dear,

Is thrown across the lengthening days.

The furrowed field that was so brown
Is faintly gray with wee green spears,
Which shall be fruitful wheaten ears,

The golden autumn's golden crown.

The sticky chestnut-buds unfold,
The almond-blossom pinkly gleams ;
The freshness of our childhood's dreams

Is on the moor, the wood, the wold.

The fat, blithe blackbirds on the lawn
Rejoice to see the grass grown green ;
And starlings, where the thatched roofs lean,

Chatter in gray and windy dawn.


And spring is here but with the spring
Come bitter winds, and cold, cold showers ;
Will these not slay the wakening flowers

And stay the buds from blossoming ?

No in despite of wind and rain,

The year will add to flowers new flowers,
Till summer comes with burning hours,

And all the roses live again.

And we no chill that time can bring,

No icy wind of worldly scorn,

Shall ever make our souls forlorn
Of this sweet promise of the spring 1

No cold, nor rain, nor wind is strong
To slay Hope's seed our hearts within ;
Freedom, we know, at last shall win,

Though Tyranny endures so long !



IN any meadow where your feet may tread,
In any garland that your love may wear,

May be the flower whose hidden fragrance shed
Wakes some old hope or numbs some old despair,
And makes life's grief not quite so hard to bear,

And makes life's joy more poignant and more dear

Because of some delight dead many a year.


Or in some cottage garden there may be
The flower whose scent is memory for you ;

The sturdy southernwood, the frail sweet-pea
Bring back the swallow's cheep, the pigeon's coo,
And youth and hope, and all the dreams they knew

The evening star, the hedges gray with mist,

The silent porch where Love's first kiss was kissed.

So in my garland may you chance to find
Or royal rose or quiet meadow flower,


Whose scent may be with some dear dream entwined,
And give you back the ghost of some sweet hour,
As lilies fragrant from an August shower,
Or airs of June that over bean-fields blow,
Bring back the sweetness of my long ago !

N 2



WHEN life was young, and supple-strong

As any hazel bough,
We two, my sweetheart, walked along

By ways I tread not now ;
And though the woods were brown ano\ rough,

The air was fresh and clear ;
We could not drink draughts deep enough

To pledge the new-born year.

The boxes on your window-sills

Were sown with mignonette ;
We used to gather daffodils

Where woods were wild and wet ;
The yellow of them, how it shone

Their blue-green leaves among
Before the taste of life was gone,

When you and I were young !


They grew in sheets of cloth of gold

Above the tree-roots brown,
And you and I, by farm, and fold,

And field, went wandering down ;
The might of spring was in the air,

Her praise was on my tongue,
Her daffodils were in your hair,

When you and I were young.

I wonder if the daffodils

Grow goldly now, as then
If still their flash of glory fills

The meadow, copse, or glen ?
I do not know, I only guess,

These bunches, tightly tied,
Of fading golden loveliness,

Once grew in golden pride ;

Not thick, green, juicy stalks, that bent

To turn the stately head
The way the wind's last whisper went ;

But thin stems, nearly dead,


Split at the ends, and curling up,
Torn from the kind, wet sod,

On which each bore its golden cup
And held it up to God.

These daffodils the flower-girls sell

Are only like in name
To those that decked the woody dell

With wreaths of pallid flame.
Ah ! do such grow or did I dream

They used to grow ? Who knows ?
As lost as hopes, my dear, they seem,

And you as lost as those !

And I the vigour and the life,

The freshness and the spring
That were to strengthen for the strife,

And bless me, conquering ;
Youth's dreams and hopes the latent power

Of life, when life was May
Dead dead as ever a golden flower

We plucked and threw away !



WHEN baby June kissed dying May,
And on her shroud wild roses laid,

I passed where leafy woods were gay
All gold, and green, and shine, and shade ;
With weary feet, and heart afraid

To tell itself how life was gray.

Aweary of the ways of men,
Aweary of my own way too ;

Tired to the soul of book and pen,
And what these do and will not do,
I passed the beechen coppice through

And reached a hidden quiet glen.

Blue sky, gold sun, and pearl-white cloud
And wealth of leaves and lavish flowers,


What were they to a heart the loud

Rough world had claimed too many hours ?
I felt I could not feel the powers

That are not felt among the crowd.

What could I care for bud or breeze,
Or any sweet the summer brought ?

My heart was shut away from these,

Close wound in mummy-folds of thought,
Out of the reach of all that sought

To teach life's open mysteries.

Gone was my youth, and hope was gone,
And love with these had ceased to be :

Old, ill, unchangeably alone,

What word could summer have for me
That would not be a mockery,

Since all the sweets of life were done ?

A blackbird whistled, and a bird
Far down the meadow made reply :

Then came a footstep, and I heard
A murmur and a slight light sigh,
And slowly passed two lovers by,

Without a single spoken word.


I saw them pass, and then I strove
Still to call summer vain, forsooth !

The summer laughed through all the grove,
Laughed, and declared the splendid truth,
The immortality of youth,

And the eternity of love !



Second Edition. Crown 8vo. price 5J.




' The author is one of the few lady poets who can pass on the wave of personal
emotion or enjoyment to the high swell of wider hopes, fears, longings, and doubts
involving toiling, suffering humanity.'


' In few or none of the lays is there absent a grace of thought and expression, and
that sense that the author has felt a genuine impulse to write in response to some
mood of his own, or some aspect of life or of nature.'


1 Setting aside the later work of such acknowledged sovereigns of song as Lord
Tennyson, Mr. Browning, and Mr. Swinburne, we do not know where to lookjamongst
contemporary singers for Mr. Nesbit's superior in many of the rarest and truest
poetic gifts.'


' Besides the beauty of the mechanical setting, there is a note of passion in every
poem, and a note of a quality which has only been attained hitherto by Mrs. Browning.
In short, we are introduced to a new poet, and we may expect something very fine
from her.'


' The reviewer's duty in the matter of so-called poetry is often such an unenviable
task, that a sense of surprise and relief is experienced in perusing this remarkable
volume of verse. The characteristics of the book are tenderness of sentiment, rare
strength of conception, and equal strength of expression.'


' The author's mastery over his various metres is well-night perfect. Also he
has much dramatic power ; his stories hold us almost breathless : and if the interest
is painful at times well, a true poet cannot always choose his subjects, they choose
him. We are thinking now of two powerful poems, "Tekel " and "Absolution" ;
but in each, pitiful as they both are, there is a grave lesson, and their music is a thing
to rejoice in. Still more so is this the case with the gem of the volume, "The
Singing of the Magnificat"; the legend is singularly beautiful, and there is an
almost Chaucerian spirit in the manner of telling."





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