Francis Howard Williams.

The flute-player and other poems online

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Beneath a plenitude of stars, caressing
The moony midnight of her tressed hair,

And draining from her fruitful lips the blessing
And guerdon of her immemorial charms.



C ILENCE, that art the harbinger of thought,

And Fancy, foster-child of Solitude ;
Companions of the meadow and the wood,
Whose cheer my early morning steps have sought ;
How fair the fabric by your cunning wrought
Upon my mild and meditative mood,
The while the unneighbored stars do bend and

Above the vasty darkness vision-fraught !

Ah ! beating heart of the soft sandaled night !
Slow pulse of sad hours orphaned of the sun !
Your rhythm is timed to measures of that song
Which strong seraphic voices roll along,
From mountain height to towering mountain height,
Like the proud paean for a victory won.




A POTENCY and promise. Far away

Gaunt figures grow to being in the mist ;
A woven wonder of pale amethyst,
Shot through with filaments of paler gray,
Spreads like a vestment for the unborn day,

Trailing imperial skirts where clouds have kissed
The silence-haunted hills which lean and list
The utterance of the everlasting Yea.

Let there be Light ! I seem to hear the cry
Down all the ample corridors of Night,

And dark infinitudes of lonesome sky

Grow voluble with that majestic calling,
Reverberant echoes ever faintlier falling

Through leagues of viewless air : Let there be Light !



"XT IGHT falls away and fades along the breeze,

Lost in the turning of diurnal tides,
The morning, like a pallid virgin, glides

In cool seclusion 'mid the spectral trees ;

And I, more early risen than the bees

Whose tardy wooing the laburnum chides,
Am ravished by an undersong that bides

The lapsing of the leafy harmonies.

I lift my lips to meet the kiss of Morn,

Breathing the breath of Day's sweet maiden-

And feel within my spirit, loverwise,
The deep, divine elation sometimes born
Of strains of music or a far-off chime
Or love-light lambent in a woman's eyes.



A LIQUID music wrought of many a trill,
Light as low laughter o'er a summer lea,
Pours down the greenwood aisles an ecstasy,
Utters its rapture, falters and is still.
Wood Robin ! Sylvan Poet that dost spill
Such dear delights through listening leaves

Thou free

Spendthrift of joy and hoarded melody !
What strange love philter hath beguiled thy will ?

For I do think there live within thy breast
The faith and fervor of an antique age,

Tuning thy note, at Beauty's soft behest,
Our sordid aspiration to assuage,

And to our dull ears making manifest
The pulse and passion of our heritage.




T T NHARROWED by the toiling town's alarm,

In blest seclusion from the daily fret
Which avarice and blinded greed beget,
Bask the broad acres of the peaceful farm ;
And in its special angle, walled from harm,

The barn-yard, deep with husks of corn which


Smell of the fields and tell of honest sweat,
Lies in the morning sunshine, wide and warm.

Here huddled fatlings slumber in the pens,

While the cocks' shrill defiances outsoar
The soft staccato of maternal hens ;

And from the populous tangles of a vine
Pert sparrows perch upon the stable door ;
And bright pails foam beneath large-uddered




"\JATURE is full of voices ; some that plead

And some that sorrow and yet more that

sing ;

Forever keeping for my questioning
A satisfying answer. This frail reed
Along the marshes whispers of its need ;
And in the whirring of a sudden wing
I catch the lilt of love, wherein the sting
Yet lingers of love's half-forgotten creed.

I hear a ditty made of woven sighs

A heart-break in a cadence ; and again
The little lisping of a crippled child
Full of the tender eloquence of pain ;
And evermore a monotone of mild
And mellow music born in Paradise.



JUST where the maples whisper morning vows
To the quick runnel with its mimic tides,
I know a field of clover which divides
The meadow grasses from the orchard boughs ;
And there, knee deep, stand contemplative cows,
With eyes benignant and swift shuddering hides
And beaded noses and a breath where 'bides
The garnered sweetness of the scented mows.

They stand, unmindful of a world of strife

Wherein men's souls are battered to a lie,
And hoarded dollars are the goal of life,

And every mart is tolling Beauty's knell,
Where he 's a hero who can cheapest buy,
And he a god who can the dearest sell.




A \7HAT sunlit spaces ! Is the world asleep,

Lulled by the murmurous voices of the morn,
The while amid the serried ranks of corn

The keen-edged leaves their idle gossip keep ?

Perhaps it is but fancy that some deep

And mythic message to my sense is borne,
Half a light song, and half a sigh forlorn,

Like laughter on the lips of them that weep.

Indeed I know not ; yet within my ears

Linger such honeyed accents as beteem

Strange sweetness to the melody of tears,

And to rejoicing new delights which seem

The tender lays of long-forgotten years,

Reechoed softly through a tranquil dream.




T3EAUTY is never wholly lost to sight,

For though she shrink affrighted at the din,
Haply her presence still does enter in

The open doorway of our hearts to light

Our lives to righteousness. Nor may the might
Of Mammon or the manacles of sin
Prevent her perfectness, nor ever win

The scent from roses or the stars from night.

So, lying prone along the summer grass,

I am content with all things ; and the air

Comes laden with a song, and clouds that pass
Above me to my soul a promise bear ;

And every meadow-lark a message has,
And every meadow flower is a prayer.




"THRICE-BLEST Tranquillity that dwellest


How like a guardian soul with silent wing
Thou hoverest above this wayside spring

Outgushing in mellifluence cool and clear !

Faring along the dusty road, I near

The dripping stones whereto wet mosses cling,
And sit me down in sheer content, and sing,

And hearken to the far-off chanticleer.

What art could so have satisfied my whim
As this half cocoanut ? I take it up
And dally with anticipation, then
Dip deep and drink to all wayfaring men
In liquid ecstasy which wooes the brim
Of this inimitable drinking cup.




PHE faultless fervor of a day in June ;
An insect-whisper vibrant in the air ;

The breath of daisies shedding everywhere
Soft wafture o'er the lids of nodding noon.
Deep in the listening woods an ancient croon

Of hermit crickets weaving a fanfare

Through slender undertones, elusive, rare
As songs in sleep sung to an antique tune.

The far-off Sabbath-voice of chiming bells
A peace evangel murmurs to the heart ;

A scent, half clover's and half asphodel's,

Falters through dusks wherein strange music
dwells ;

Is it the echo of Pan's pipe which tells
Its story to the ravished ears of Art ?




"\ ^\ /"HERE the warm upland melts against the blue,
An ancient fence, o'er which the lichen


Meets a more ancient wall ; and rare repose
Dwells in the myriad little sounds which sue
The aged silences in accents new ;

And in that sun-soaked angle blooms a rose,
Whose heart, blood-tinctured by the joy it knows,
Just forms the chalice for a drop of dew.

There will I lie and dream and idly wreathe
The tender grasses till my heart discover

Somewhat of their content ; and there, beneath
The vines o'er which pale butterflies do hover,

I '11 listen while the passionate rose doth breathe
Her soft love-secrets to her powdered lover.




A LONG the honest turnpike honest dust

Keeps its true color, mindless of the fields,
Scorning the brighter tints which summer yields,
Nor aping flowers that bloom because they must ;
It is a type of individual trust

In one's own selfhood, a true force that wields
The power which moves the world, and ever

Man from servility that breeds disgust.

I '11 bow to genius, every reverence show,
And sit all meekly at the feet of art,

Albeit I will not imitate a king,
Nor strive to be another's counterpart,
For though 't is great to be an Angelo,

To be one's self is yet a greater thing !



^HE ground slopes upward towards a little h i
Drenched in the sunlight, and within the


A field of wheat, o'er which the breezes trace
Tremors of light and shade that throb and thrill
In billowy undulations, quickening till
The field lies like a love-enamored face
Upturned to let the warm caresses chase
Each other, that the wind may have his will.

So have I seen a woman luring love

With quivering silk lips and breath of fire,

The while across her cheek in colors clear
The swift blood chased the pallors of desire,
And strange mistrust her tender bosom clove,

And half her heart was flame and half was fear.




A QUICK commotion in the startled leaves,
A shudder of the living green ; I know
It was a bird that winged its flight, although
I saw no creature. So my soul receives
Time's fleeting passage as my life it cleaves
With human happiness or human woe ;
Such are the memories that come and go,
The while the sun his dappled patchwork weaves.

And I, who lean and dream, am half in love

With things unreal and passion's whitened em-

Embracing shadowy shapes, nor asking why
A vanished beauty holds a joy above

All others, as the saddened night remembers
Dead meteors that have once illumed a sky.



f^\ROWSING beneath the hum of summer bees,
Marking with half-closed eyes the liberal sky,
Lulled to soft slumbers by the lullaby
Of winds grown voluble among the trees,
My seeking soul, as one who fain would seize
The passing passion of a song on high,
Leaps upward with the immemorial cry
Which God has echoed down the centuries.

The kindred spirits of the sunburnt day
Make earth a heaven and existence bliss,

Plume with Mercurial wings my feet of clay
And touch my brows with a celestial kiss,

Till lips that faltered lisp a loftier lay,

And from a fairer world bring peace to this




IMAGINATION is the highest truth ;

And I, upgazing through the spaces clear

To mark the clouds' caprices, am a seer,
From Fancy's fabric fashioning uncouth
Yet faithful images, such forms, in sooth,

As tempt to favor while they touch with fear ;

Misshapen giants with a changeful leer ;
Nude naiads glorious in perennial youth.

Then passionate faces yearning towards the West,
The nostrils palpitant with strange desire,
A shudder quickening the nether lip,

Wherefrom the blood dies of its own unrest ;
Again a sudden change ; a helmless ship ;
The chaos of the red sun's funeral pyre.




T IGHT-HEARTED babbler of a thousand tales,

Half sung, half spoken, and in broken trills
Borne lightly to my ear, thy music fills
My heart with joy when summer daylight pales,
And through the murmurous glooms of shadowy


Thou bearest whispers from the distant hills ;
And as the iterant voices of thy rills
Sing among pebbles, visions of white sails

That top quaint fishing craft upon the river
Wherein thou find'st at last thy resting-place,

Rise up before me and in silence quiver
Like sudden smiles across a questioning face ;

Till wider fancy seems to picture thee

Enfolded, yet still singing, in the sea.




A LIGHT wind loiters down the wooded ways,

** Bearing the breath of orchards and replete
With such an essence as alone should greet

A sense grown fine through many vagrant days.

A sigh among the slender leafage stays,

And married lights break into shafts and meet
Where weary Nature, in her green retreat,

Upon her lips a hushing finger lays.

A dying radiance through the thicket gleams,
The colors of the day are slowly furled,
A mystery trembles onward silverly,
A lily on the bosom of the world,
Elusive as the pageantry of dreams

Or moonlight sleeping on a summer sea.




T PAUSE upon a mystic borderland

Wherefrom the visible world seems all besprent
With flowers of changeful hue and colors blent

In strange confusion. I do think a band

Of those Greek heroes who once, hand to hand,
Fought for the prizes which the gods had sent,
Sometime their glowing presence must have lent

To these green aisles where wooded sentries stand.

How weirdly, through the glooms of yonder tree,
Wavers the owl's cry, with its minor strains

Fateful as dirges sung to murdered joy,
Sad as the sobs of pale Andromache

To see her Hector, foul with gory stains,
Dragged pitilessly 'neath the walls of Troy !




A S some luxurious beauty of the East,

Grown languid in the cassia-scented air,
With narrowed eyes looks through her sultry hair,
And toys the sweetmeats at a regal feast,
The while her bodice, from its cords released,
Stays still a-warm to know her bosom there,
So seems the night, with constellations fair,
Heavy with scents left when the breezes ceased.

Am I alone ? Is not some spirit here ?
Across the waiting air there comes a call ;

High overhead the tasselled branches nod,
With just a whisper flattering the ear,

And silence, with its million tongues, fills all
The woodland spaces with the name of God.




A NIGHT bird, from the hollow of the dark,

Beats upward through the pulseless air and


Into the mighty mystery of the skies
That bend, with large imperial brows, to mark
Earth's slumbering perfectness, mayhap to hark
Her little breathings as she lightly lies,
To-morrow's sunlight prisoned in her eyes,
And in her heart songs of to-morrow's lark.

So thoughts which will not wear the yoke of words,
Fretting the stillness with their whispering wings,

Take flight more swift and silent than the bird's,
Into a heaven of vaster fashionings ;

And unknown beauty all my vision girds,
And voiceless music through my spirit sings.




/'~ > \H ! tender benison of darkness, cast

^-^^ Upon the throbbing bosom of the earth,

Dropt as a mantle over all the mirth
And madness of the day, thou ever hast
A sweet compassion for us, and at last
A poppied peace ! I gaze upon the girth
Of heaven, heavy with the rare new birth
Of beauty crescent through the spaces vast,

The while the unruffled forehead of the night
Lifts royally its diadem of stars ;

Then, as a sleeper fares adown his way
'Mid dreamy meadows, lying still and white,

I thread the moonlit lane, pass through the bars,
And close the record of an idle day.






OETWEEN the sea sand and the sea
The yellow foam flakes lightly lie,
A very dross of waves, till free

Quick-kissing breezes surge and sigh,
And all the laurels on the lea

Bend low to listen as bends the sky
Where spaces throb with melody.

Then foam is wrought to gold, and I,
Silent, find Heaven surrounding me

In gilded fringe in breeze's sigh ;
Between the sea sand and the sea

Where yellow foam flakes lightly lie ;
Where spaces throb with melody

Between the skylark and the sky.

Between the sunset and the sun

Night slumbers on the sleeping bars.
And through its curtain, one by one,

Gleam tender glances of the stars
Between the sunset and the sun.
And so between my love's lips lies

An untold message meant for me ;
Whether 't will bring me sweet surprise
Or dole or doubt or Paradise

Is known alone to destiny.

1 1 2 Cradle Song.

Yet, as I wait, a dream of tears

Between her eyelids and her eyes

A mystery of mist appears,

That hints of hope and flatters fears,
And on her lips a shudder of sighs,
And on her lids a red that dies
To slumberous shadows that fall and rise,

Till as I seek some sign to see,
Between her eyelids and her eyes

Love lights his lamp and laughs at me.


C LEEP, my pretty one,
Sleep, my little one,
Rose in the garden is blooming so red ;

Over the flowers the fleet-footed hours
Dance into dreamland to melody wed

To the voice of the stream to a song in a dream,
Sung low by the brook to its stone-covered bed,
Sung soft as it goes ;
And the heart of the rose
Gives a tremulous leap
As the melody flows.
Ah, little one, sleep,

Cradle Song. i r 3

Peace, my little one,
Peace, my pretty one,
Lilies bend low to the breath of the breeze ;

Lithe as a willow, the boat on the billow
High tosses the spray for the sunlight to tease

With a kiss and a tear with a rainbow, a fear,
For the light is the sun's and the spray is the sea's.
And the wind o'er the lea
Breaks to cadences free
As the waves that release
The low laugh of the sea.
My pretty one, peace,

Joy, my pretty one,
Joy, my little one,

Fairies of night from their bright-jewelled cars
Fling a faint sheen and shimmer on ripples where


The up-gazing eyes of the down-gazing stars ;
And the boat, while it glides, sings the song of

the tides

As they kiss into languor the sand of the bars.
Oh, river flow fleet,
Ere the melody meet
The sea's breath to destroy
What the echoes repeat :
My little ope, joy,

H4 Caprice.


A SUMMER night with perfumed breath
** Told love-tales to the listening trees,
And hedge-row buds, in guise of death,

Dreamed of the kisses of the bees,
While, wheeling, circling, faint and far,

A firefly showed its shimmering spark,
And, like an evanescent star,

Painted its life along the dark ;
And I, who wandered in the lane,

Grew envious of a thing so free,
And sighed and gazed and sighed again,

And cried : " Kind Heaven give to me
The firefly's liberty."

My love came tripping down the lane ;

The boughs bent low to touch her head ;
The clover never felt the pain

Of death beneath so light a tread ;
And ere I knew, the firefly's wings

Were tangled in her burnished hair,
The intermittent glimmerings

Illumining a face more fair ;
Then I, who felt my heart beat wild

The love-light in her eyes to see,
Became capricious as a child,

And prayed : " Sweet Heaven grant to me
A like captivity."

A Serenade.

1 1



roses asleep in the starlight,
On daisies that dream of the sky,
The tremor and touch of a far light

Falls faint through the spaces on high,
Falls fair where the tendrils are clinging,
Lies light where the lilies are flinging
Perfumes to the winds that are singing
A song that is born of a sigh.


Low brows for a thousand caresses,

Lithe throat for a season's delight,
Ah ! spice-scented wonder of tresses

Dim-shadowed and duskily bright,
Pale passionate arms that embower

Light love that endures but an hour,
Lips pressed like a flower on a flower,

Eyes dark with the spell of the night.


Bitter-sweet though the pang and the pleasure,
I would rather be bounden than free ;

Life treadeth a statelier measure

With the finger of Love on the key ;

1 1 6 Loir Came to Me.

Pain kisses the rod of the Giver,
As the ripples in ecstasy quiver

Where breaks the sad heart of the river
In the turbulent heart of the sea.


I OVE came to me when I was young ;
*' He brought me songs, he brought me flowers ;
Love wooed me lightly, trees among,
And dallied under scented bowers ;

And loud he carolled : " Love is King ! "
For he was riotous as spring

And careless of the hours,
When I was young.

Love lingered near when I grew old ;

He brought me light from stars above ;
And consolations manifold
He fluted to me like a dove ;
And love leaned out of Paradise
And gently kissed my faded eyes

And whispered : " God is Love,"
When I grew old.

Flower o' the Sea. 1 1 7


A LITTLE maiden debonair
** With sunshine tangled in her hair,
Along with me, beside the sea,
Trod yellow sands, and clapped her hands
To see the foam come rolling home,
Come rolling home right royally.

She never dreamed that she was fair,
This little maiden debonair,
Nor questioned I the reason why
I found to stray with her alway
Was veriest joy, I but a boy
With small feet brown and bare.

And once a wave broke high in air,

Scattering foam flakes everywhere,

And something bright flashed in the sight

Of her, my maiden debonair ;

And when the tide went out, she cried :

" See, see ; a pearl ! The breakers hurl

Their gems to land for our delight."

And so we strayed, my little maid

And I, beside the sea ;

And onward sped the silent years,_

And silenter grew we,

For I was thoughtfuller, and she

Was not the same to me.

1 1 8 Floivcr d the Sea.

There grew a wonder in her eyes,
My maiden dainty, debonair,
And voices tuned to subtler art
Were voluble within her heart
And to her soul made questioning ;
She felt the spell, yet could not tell
Whence sudden shame so strangely came ;
Whence hopes and fears and tremulous tears
And sweet surprise and quivering sighs,
Half laughter, laid on lips that sing.
She could not tell ; she scarce need care,
My maiden slender, debonair.

But I knew well. The child had fled

And left a woman in her stead ;

My maiden shy and debonair

Had 'wakened in her Paradise,

And, fairer grown, had grown more wise,

Alas ! as wise as fair.

And as again beside the sea
We wandered homeward silently,
I leaned and lightly touched her hair,
And said : " Sweet maiden debonair,
A little girl once found a pearl
Left by the deep mysterious tide,
A thing of beauty from the wide
Unfathomed sea ; nor faltered she,
But in her hair the treasure fair
Set like a dew-drop in a rose.
And now, my maiden debonair,

Marguerite. 119

Your heart has found a gem more rare,
A pearl from out the sea of life,
Loi>e, that the flowing tides enclose.
The child knew not ; the woman knows ;
And knowledge ever bringeth strife ;
Yet where the pearl lies, is repose,
Repose which I would have you share
With me, dear maiden debonair."

She paused a space, then gently drew
From out her breast a pearl, and said :
" Forth from the sea it came to me,
And from my heart it goes to you."
And lo ! the starlight of the skies
Lay sleeping in her lifted eyes,
And on her brow a glory shed.
And faint across the meadows fell
The calling of a vesper bell
That high above sang Love ! and Love !
And ah ! my maiden debonair,
How fair you were ! How passing fair !
As through the sand we trod the strand
And gazed far out to sea.


AIR Marguerite, the red of parted lips

Grows deeper, and the glory of thy brow
More glorious yet, as lowered lids allow
Swift glances, fleeting, but as sweet as sips

1 20 The Way o the World.

Of honey from the hearts of flowers. So now,
Poised in the halo of the sun that dips

Behind the empurpled hills, thy presence seems
The realized perfection of my dreams.

Sweet, silent Marguerite ! How may I name

The hundred-tinted shadows of thy hair ?

Or count the liquid lights of eyes as rare
As polished pearls beneath white jets of flame,

Or soft stars scintillant through lambent air
In the hushed night? How, seeing thee, proclaim

The love I fain would bring, a sacrifice

To offer at the altar of thine eyes ?

Nay, Marguerite, I cannot ; for the soul

That reigns transcendent in the dwelling-place
Of thy fair form, irradiates thy face

With lustre pure as words writ on the scroll
Of God's own law. I would not dare erase

One faintest tracery, although the goal

Which whispered words of love ensured to me
Should be an answering whisper felt by thee.


~\T ELL and I set out together

In the spring the heyday ;
Nell and I, thro' fickle weather,
Fared afield where cows at tether
Waited for the May-day.

Philosophy-in- L it tic.

When the birds were all a-feather

Nell and I, like true loves,
Danced thro' sun and summer weather,
Singing all the while together,

Scorning thoughts of new loves.

But when frost had nip't the heather

And each hill and valley
Donned its gown of russet leather,
Nell and Ned went off together,

I made love to Sallie.


A DAY of toil amid the moil

And muddle of the city,
I passed in vain and sordid pain

And worry, more 's the pity !

1 2 4

Online LibraryFrancis Howard WilliamsThe flute-player and other poems → online text (page 4 of 5)