Jean Ingelow.

Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I online

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I might have heard the beating of her heart,
But that mine own beat louder; when she blushed,
The hand within mine own I felt to start,
But would not change my pitiless decree
To strive with her for might and mastery.

She looked again, as one that, half afraid,
Would fain be certain of a doubtful thing;
Or one beseeching "Do not me upbraid!"
And then she trembled like the fluttering
Of timid little birds, and silent stood,
No smile wherewith to mock my hardihood.

She turned, and to an open casement moved
With girlish shyness, mute beneath my gaze.
And I on downcast lashes unreproved
Could look as long as pleased me; while, the rays
Of moonlight round her, she her fair head bent,
In modest silence to my words attent.

How fast the giddy whirling moments flew!
The moon had set; I heard the midnight chime,
Hope is more brave than fear, and joy than dread.
And I could wait unmoved the parting time.
It came; for, by a sudden impulse drawn,
She, risen, stepped out upon the dusky lawn.

A little waxen taper in her hand,
Her feet upon the dry and dewless grass,
She looked like one of the celestial band,
Only that on her cheeks did dawn and pass
Most human blushes; while, the soft light thrown
On vesture pure and white, she seemed yet fairer grown.

Her mother, looking out toward her, sighed,
Then gave her hand in token of farewell.
And with her warning eyes, that seemed to chide,
Scarce suffered that I sought her child to tell
The story of my life, whose every line
No other burden bore than - Eglantine.

Black thunder-clouds were rising up behind,
The waxen taper burned full steadily;
It seemed as if dark midnight had a mind
To hear what lovers say, and her decree
Had passed for silence, while she, dropped to ground
With raiment floating wide, drank in the sound.

O happiness! thou dost not leave a trace
So well defined as sorrow. Amber light,
Shed like a glory on her angel face,
I can remember fully, and the sight
Of her fair forehead and her shining eyes,
And lips that smiled in sweet and girlish wise.

I can remember how the taper played
Over her small hands and her vesture white;
How it struck up into the trees, and laid
Upon their under leaves unwonted light;
And when she held it low, how far it spread
O'er velvet pansies slumbering on their bed.

I can remember that we spoke full low,
That neither doubted of the other's truth;
And that with footsteps slower and more slow,
Hands folded close for love, eyes wet for ruth:
Beneath the trees, by that clear taper's flame,
We wandered till the gate of parting came.

But I forget the parting words she said,
So much they thrilled the all-attentive soul;
For one short moment human heart and head
May bear such bliss - its present is the whole:
I had that present, till in whispers fell
With parting gesture her subdued farewell.

Farewell! she said, in act to turn away,
But stood a moment yet to dry her tears,
And suffered my enfolding arm to stay
The time of her departure. O ye years
That intervene betwixt that day and this!
You all received your hue from that keen pain and bliss.

O mingled pain and bliss! O pain to break
At once from happiness so lately found,
And four long years to feel for her sweet sake
The incompleteness of all sight and sound!
But bliss to cross once more the foaming brine -
O bliss to come again and make her mine!

I cannot - O, I cannot more recall!
But I will soothe my troubled thoughts to rest
With musing over journeyings wide, and all
Observance of this active-humored west,
And swarming cities steeped in eastern day,
With swarthy tribes in gold and striped array.

I turn away from these, and straight there will succeed
(Shifting and changing at the restless will),
Imbedded in some deep Circassian mead,
White wagon-tilts, and flocks that eat their fill
Unseen above, while comely shepherds pass,
And scarcely show their heads above the grass.

- The red Sahara in an angry glow,
With amber fogs, across its hollows trailed
Long strings of camels, gloomy-eyed and slow,
And women on their necks, from gazers veiled,
And sun-swart guides who toil across the sand
To groves of date-trees on the watered land.

Again - the brown sails of an Arab boat,
Flapping by night upon a glassy sea,
Whereon the moon and planets seem to float,
More bright of hue than they were wont to be,
While shooting-stars rain down with crackling sound,
And, thick as swarming locusts, drop to ground.

Or far into the heat among the sands
The gembok nations, snuffing up the wind,
Drawn by the scent of water - and the bands
Of tawny-bearded lions pacing, blind
With the sun-dazzle in their midst, opprest
With prey, and spiritless for lack of rest!

What more? Old Lebanon, the frosty-browed,
Setting his feet among oil-olive trees,
Heaving his bare brown shoulder through a cloud;
And after, grassy Carmel, purple seas,
Flattering his dreams and echoing in his rocks,
Soft as the bleating of his thousand flocks.

Enough: how vain this thinking to beguile,
With recollected scenes, an aching breast!
Did not I, journeying, muse on her the while?
Ah, yes! for every landscape comes impressed -
Ay, written on, as by an iron pen -
With the same thought I nursed about her then.

Therefore let memory turn again to home;
Feel, as of old, the joy of drawing near;
Watch the green breakers and the wind-tossed foam,
And see the land-fog break, dissolve, and clear;
Then think a skylark's voice far sweeter sound
Than ever thrilled but over English ground;

And walk, glad, even to tears, among the wheat,
Not doubting this to be the first of lands;
And, while in foreign words this murmuring, meet
Some little village school-girls (with their hands
Full of forget-me-nots), who, greeting me,
I count their English talk delightsome melody;

And seat me on a bank, and draw them near,
That I may feast myself with hearing it,
Till shortly they forget their bashful fear,
Push back their flaxen curls, and round me sit -
Tell me their names, their daily tasks, and show
Where wild wood-strawberries in the copses grow.

So passed the day in this delightful land:
My heart was thankful for the English tongue -
For English sky with feathery cloudlets spanned -
For English hedge with glistening dewdrops hung.
I journeyed, and at glowing eventide
Stopped at a rustic inn by the wayside.

That night I slumbered sweetly, being right glad
To miss the flapping of the shrouds; but lo!
A quiet dream of beings twain I had,
Behind the curtain talking soft and low:
Methought I did not heed their utterance fine,
Till one of them said, softly, "Eglantine."

I started up awake, 'twas silence all:
My own fond heart had shaped that utterance clear:
And "Ah!" methought, "how sweetly did it fall,
Though but in dream, upon the listening ear!
How sweet from other lips the name well known -
That name, so many a year heard only from mine own!"

I thought awhile, then slumber came to me,
And tangled all my fancy in her maze,
And I was drifting on a raft at sea.
The near all ocean, and the far all haze;
Through the while polished water sharks did glide,
And up in heaven I saw no stars to guide.

"Have mercy, God!" but lo! my raft uprose;
Drip, drip, I heard the water splash from it;
My raft had wings, and as the petrel goes,
It skimmed the sea, then brooding seemed to sit
The milk-white mirror, till, with sudden spring,
She flew straight upward like a living thing.

But strange! - I went not also in that flight,
For I was entering at a cavern's mouth;
Trees grew within, and screaming birds of night
Sat on them, hiding from the torrid south.
On, on I went, while gleaming in the dark
Those trees with blanched leaves stood pale and stark.

The trees had flower-buds, nourished in deep night,
And suddenly, as I went farther in,
They opened, and they shot out lambent light;
Then all at once arose a railing din
That frighted me: "It is the ghosts," I said,
And they are railing for their darkness fled.

"I hope they will not look me in the face;
It frighteth me to hear their laughter loud;"
I saw them troop before with jaunty pace,
And one would shake off dust that soiled her shroud:
But now, O joy unhoped! to calm my dread,
Some moonlight filtered through a cleft o'erhead.

I climbed the lofty trees - the blanchèd trees -
The cleft was wide enough to let me through;
I clambered out and felt the balmy breeze,
And stepped on churchyard grasses wet with dew.
O happy chance! O fortune to admire!
I stood beside my own loved village spire.

And as I gazed upon the yew-tree's trunk,
Lo, far-off music - music in the night!
So sweet and tender as it swelled and sunk;
It charmed me till I wept with keen delight,
And in my dream, methought as it drew near
The very clouds in heaven stooped low to hear.

Beat high, beat low, wild heart so deeply stirred,
For high as heaven runs up the piercing strain;
The restless music fluttering like a bird
Bemoaned herself, and dropped to earth again,
Heaping up sweetness till I was afraid
That I should die of grief when it did fade.

And it DID fade; but while with eager ear
I drank its last long echo dying away,
I was aware of footsteps that drew near,
And round the ivied chancel seemed to stray:
O soft above the hallowed place they trod -
Soft as the fall of foot that is not shod!

I turned - 'twas even so - yes, Eglantine!
For at the first I had divined the same;
I saw the moon on her shut eyelids shine,
And said, "She is asleep:" still on she came;
Then, on her dimpled feet, I saw it gleam,
And thought - "I know that this is but a dream."

My darling! O my darling! not the less
My dream went on because I knew it such;
She came towards me in her loveliness -
A thing too pure, methought, for mortal touch;
The rippling gold did on her bosom meet,
The long white robe descended to her feet.

The fringèd lids dropped low, as sleep-oppressed;
Her dreamy smile was very fair to see,
And her two hands were folded to her breast,
With somewhat held between them heedfully.
O fast asleep! and yet methought she knew
And felt my nearness those shut eyelids through.

She sighed: my tears ran down for tenderness -
And have I drawn thee to me in my sleep?
Is it for me thou wanderest shelterless,
Wetting thy steps in dewy grasses deep?
"O if this be!" I said - "yet speak to me;
I blame my very dream for cruelty."

Then from her stainless bosom she did take
Two beauteous lily flowers that lay therein,
And with slow-moving lips a gesture make,
As one that some forgotten words doth win:
"They floated on the pool," methought she said,
And water trickled from each lily's head.

It dropped upon her feet - I saw it gleam
Along the ripples of her yellow hair.
And stood apart, for only in a dream
She would have come, methought, to meet me there.
She spoke again - "Ah fair! ah fresh they shine!
And there are many left, and these are mine."

I answered her with flattering accents meet -
"Love, they are whitest lilies e'er were blown."
"And sayest thou so?" she sighed in murmurs sweet;
"I have nought else to give thee now, mine own!
For it is night. Then take them, love!" said she:
"They have been costly flowers to thee - and me."

While thus she said I took them from her hand,
And, overcome with love and nearness, woke;
And overcome with ruth that she should stand
Barefooted in the grass; that, when she spoke,
Her mystic words should take so sweet a tone,
And of all names her lips should choose "My own"

I rose, I journeyed, neared my home, and soon
Beheld the spire peer out above the hill.
It was a sunny harvest afternoon.
When by the churchyard wicket, standing still,
I cast my eager eyes abroad to know
If change had touched the scenes of long ago.

I looked across the hollow; sunbeams shone
Upon the old house with the gable ends:
"Save that the laurel trees are taller grown,
No change," methought, "to its gray wall extends
What clear bright beams on yonder lattice shine!
There did I sometime talk with Eglantine."

There standing with my very goal in sight,
Over my haste did sudden quiet steal;
I thought to dally with my own delight,
Nor rush on headlong to my garnered weal,
But taste the sweetness of a short delay,
And for a little moment hold the bliss at bay.

The church was open; it perchance might be
That there to offer thanks I might essay,
Or rather, as I think, that I might see
The place where Eglantine was wont to pray.
But so it was; I crossed that portal wide,
And felt my riot joy to calm subside.

The low depending curtains, gently swayed,
Cast over arch and roof a crimson glow;
But, ne'ertheless, all silence and all shade
It seemed, save only for the rippling flow
Of their long foldings, when the sunset air
Sighed through the casements of the house of prayer.

I found her place, the ancient oaken stall,
Where in her childhood I had seen her sit,
Most saint-like and most tranquil there of all,
Folding her hands, as if a dreaming fit -
A heavenly vision had before her strayed
Of the Eternal Child in lowly manger laid.

I saw her prayer-book laid upon the seat,
And took it in my hand, and felt more near
in fancy to her, finding it most sweet
To think how very oft, low kneeling there,
In her devout thoughts she had let me share,
And set my graceless name in her pure prayer.

My eyes were dazzled with delightful tears -
In sooth they were the last I ever shed;
For with them fell the cherished dreams of years.
I looked, and on the wall above my head,
Over her seat, there was a tablet placed,
With one word only on the marble traced. -

Ah well! I would not overstate that woe,
For I have had some blessings, little care;
But since the falling of that heavy blow,
God's earth has never seemed to me so fair;
Nor any of his creatures so divine,
Nor sleep so sweet; - the word was - EGLANTINE.



Living child or pictured cherub,
Ne'er o'ermatched its baby grace;
And the mother, moving nearer,
Looked it calmly in the face;
Then with slight and quiet gesture,
And with lips that scarcely smiled,
Said - "A Portrait of my daughter
When she was a child."

Easy thought was hers to fathom,
Nothing hard her glance to read,
For it seemed to say, "No praises
For this little child I need:
If you see, I see far better,
And I will not feign to care
For a stranger's prompt assurance
That the face is fair."

Softly clasped and half extended,
She her dimpled hands doth lay:
So they doubtless placed them, saying -
"Little one, you must not play."
And while yet his work was growing,
This the painter's hand hath shown,
That the little heart was making
Pictures of its own.

Is it warm in that green valley,
Vale of childhood, where you dwell?
Is it calm in that green valley,
Round whose bournes such great hills swell?
Are there giants in the valley -
Giants leaving footprints yet?
Are there angels in the valley?
Tell me - I forget.

Answer, answer, for the lilies,
Little one, o'ertop you much,
And the mealy gold within them
You can scarcely reach to touch;
O how far their aspect differs,
Looking up and looking down!
You look up in that green valley -
Valley of renown.

Are there voices in the valley,
Lying near the heavenly gate?
When it opens, do the harp-strings,
Touched within, reverberate?
When, like shooting-stars, the angels
To your couch at nightfall go,
Are their swift wings heard to rustle?
Tell me! for you know.

Yes, you know; and you are silent,
Not a word shall asking win;
Little mouth more sweet than rosebud,
Fast it locks the secret in.
Not a glimpse upon your present
You unfold to glad my view;
Ah, what secrets of your future
I could tell to you!

Sunny present! thus I read it,
By remembrance of my past: -
Its to-day and its to-morrow
Are as lifetimes vague and vast;
And each face in that green valley
Takes for you an aspect mild,
And each voice grows soft in saying -
"Kiss me, little child!"

As a boon the kiss is granted:
Baby mouth, your touch is sweet,
Takes the love without the trouble
From those lips that with it meet;
Gives the love, O pure! O tender!
Of the valley where it grows,
But the baby heart receiveth

Comes the future to the present -
"Ah!" she saith, "too blithe of mood;
Why that smile which seems to whisper -
'I am happy, God is good?'
God is good: that truth eternal
Sown for you in happier years,
I must tend it in my shadow,
Water it with tears.

"Ah, sweet present! I must lead thee
By a daylight more subdued;
There must teach thee low to whisper -
'I am mournful, God is good!'"
Peace, thou future! clouds are coming,
Stooping from the mountain crest,
But that sunshine floods the valley:
Let her - let her rest.

Comes the future to the present -
"Child," she saith, "and wilt thou rest?
How long, child, before thy footsteps
Fret to reach yon cloudy crest?
Ah, the valley! - angels guard it,
But the heights are brave to see;
Looking down were long contentment:
Come up, child, to me."

So she speaks, but do not heed her,
Little maid with wondrous eyes,
Not afraid, but clear and tender,
Blue, and filled with prophecies;
Thou for whom life's veil unlifted
Hangs, whom warmest valleys fold,
Lift the veil, the charm dissolveth -
Climb, but heights are cold.

There are buds that fold within them,
Closed and covered from our sight,
Many a richly tinted petal,
Never looked on by the light:
Fain to see their shrouded faces,
Sun and dew are long at strife,
Till at length the sweet buds open -
Such a bud is life.

When the rose of thine own being
Shall reveal its central fold,
Thou shalt look within and marvel,
Fearing what thine eyes behold;
What it shows and what it teaches
Are not things wherewith to part;
Thorny rose! that always costeth
Beatings at the heart.

Look in fear, for there is dimness;
Ills unshapen float anigh.
Look in awe, for this same nature
Once the Godhead deigned to die.
Look in love, for He doth love it,
And its tale is best of lore:
Still humanity grows dearer,
Being learned the more.

Learn, but not the less bethink thee
How that all can mingle tears;
But his joy can none discover,
Save to them that are his peers;
And that they whose lips do utter
Language such as bards have sung -
Lo! their speech shall be to many
As an unknown tongue.

Learn, that if to thee the meaning
Of all other eyes be shown,
Fewer eyes can ever front thee,
That are skilled to read thine own;
And that if thy love's deep current
Many another's far outflows,
Then thy heart must take forever,


(Written for THE PORTFOLIO SOCIETY, October 1861.)

The yellow poplar-leaves came down
And like a carpet lay,
No waftings were in the sunny air
To flutter them away;
And he stepped on blithe and debonair
That warm October day.

"The boy," saith he, "hath got his own,
But sore has been the fight,
For ere his life began the strife
That ceased but yesternight;
For the will," he said, "the kinsfolk read,
And read it not aright.

"His cause was argued in the court
Before his christening day,
And counsel was heard, and judge demurred,
And bitter waxed the fray;
Brother with brother spake no word
When they met in the way.

"Against each one did each contend,
And all against the heir.
I would not bend, for I knew the end -
I have it for my share,
And nought repent, though my first friend
From henceforth I must spare.

"Manor and moor and farm and wold
Their greed begrudged him sore,
And parchments old with passionate hold
They guarded heretofore;
And they carped at signature and seal,
But they may carp no more.

"An old affront will stir the heart
Through years of rankling pain,
And I feel the fret that urged me yet
That warfare to maintain;
For an enemy's loss may well be set
Above an infant's gain.

"An enemy's loss I go to prove,
Laugh out, thou little heir!
Laugh in his face who vowed to chase
Thee from thy birthright fair;
For I come to set thee in thy place:
Laugh out, and do not spare."

A man of strife, in wrathful mood
He neared the nurse's door;
With poplar-leaves the roof and eaves
Were thickly scattered o'er,
And yellow as they a sunbeam lay
Along the cottage floor.

"Sleep on, thou pretty, pretty lamb,"
He hears the fond nurse say;
"And if angels stand at thy right hand,
As now belike they may,
And if angels meet at thy bed's feet,
I fear them not this day.

"Come wealth, come want to thee, dear heart,
It was all one to me,
For thy pretty tongue far sweeter rung
Than coinèd gold and fee;
And ever the while thy waking smile
It was right fair to see.

"Sleep, pretty bairn, and never know
Who grudged and who transgressed:
Thee to retain I was full fain,
But God, He knoweth best!
And His peace upon thy brow lies plain
As the sunshine on thy breast!"

The man of strife, he enters in,
Looks, and his pride doth cease;
Anger and sorrow shall be to-morrow
Trouble, and no release;
But the babe whose life awoke the strife
Hath entered into peace.





I saw in a vision once, our mother-sphere
The world, her fixed foredooméd oval tracing,
Rolling and rolling on and resting never,
While like a phantom fell, behind her pacing
The unfurled flag of night, her shadow drear
Fled as she fled and hung to her forever.

Great Heaven! methought, how strange a doom to share.
Would I may never bear
Inevitable darkness after me
(Darkness endowed with drawings strong,
And shadowy hands that cling unendingly),
Nor feel that phantom-wings behind me sweep,
As she feels night pursuing through the long
Illimitable reaches of "the vasty deep."

* * * * *

God save you, gentlefolks. There was a man
Who lay awake at midnight on his bed,
Watching the spiral flame that feeding ran
Among the logs upon his hearth, and shed
A comfortable glow, both warm and dim,
On crimson curtains that encompassed him.

Right stately was his chamber, soft and white
The pillow, and his quilt was eider-down.
What mattered it to him though all that night
The desolate driving cloud might lower and frown,
And winds were up the eddying sleet to chase,
That drave and drave and found no settling-place?

What mattered it that leafless trees might rock,
Or snow might drift athwart his window-pane?
He bare a charméd life against their shock,
Secure from cold, hunger, and weather stain;
Fixed in his right, and born to good estate,
From common ills set by and separate.

From work and want and fear of want apart,
This man (men called him Justice Wilvermore), -
This man had comforted his cheerful heart
With all that it desired from every shore.
He had a right, - the right of gold is strong, -
He stood upon his right his whole life long.

Custom makes all things easy, and content
Is careless, therefore on the storm and cold,
As he lay waking, never a thought he spent,
Albeit across the vale beneath the wold,
Along a reedy mere that frozen lay,
A range of sordid hovels stretched away.

What cause had he to think on them, forsooth?
What cause that night beyond another night?
He was familiar even from his youth
With their long ruin and their evil plight.
The wintry wind would search them like a scout,
The water froze within as freely as without.

He think upon them? No! They were forlorn,
So were the cowering inmates whom they held;
A thriftless tribe, to shifts and leanness born,
Ever complaining: infancy or eld
Alike. But there was rent, or long ago
Those cottage roofs had met with overthrow.

For this they stood; and what his thoughts might be
That winter night, I know not; but I know
That, while the creeping flame fed silently
And cast upon his bed a crimson glow,
The Justice slept, and shortly in his sleep
He fell to dreaming, and his dream was deep.

He dreamed that over him a shadow came;
And when he looked to find the cause, behold
Some person knelt between him and the flame: -
A cowering figure of one frail and old, -
A woman; and she prayed as he descried,

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Online LibraryJean IngelowPoems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I → online text (page 10 of 18)