Jean Ingelow.

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

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But no, this Muriel was not yet to die;
And when she saw her little tender babe,
She felt how much the happy days of life
Outweigh the sorrowful. A tiny thing,
Whom when it slept the lovely mother nursed
With reverent love, whom when it woke she fed
And wondered at, and lost herself in long
Rapture of watching, and contentment deep.

Once while she sat, this babe upon her knee,
Her husband and his father standing nigh,
About to ride, the grandmother, all pride
And consequence, so deep in learned talk
Of infants, and their little ways and wiles,
Broke off to say, "I never saw a babe
So like its father." And the thought was new
To Muriel; she looked up, and when she looked,
Her husband smiled. And she, the lovely bloom
Flushing her face, would fain he had not known,
Nor noticed her surprise. But he did know;
Yet there was pleasure in his smile, and love
Tender and strong. He kissed her, kissed his babe,
With "Goody, you are left in charge, take care " -
"As if I needed telling," quoth the dame;
And they were gone.

Then Muriel, lost in thought,
Gazed; and the grandmother, with open pride,
Tended the lovely pair; till Muriel said,
"Is she so like? Dear granny, get me now
The picture that his father has"; and soon
The old woman put it in her hand.

The wife,
Considering it with deep and strange delight,
Forgot for once her babe, and looked and learned.

A mouth for mastery and manful work,
A certain brooding sweetness in the eyes,
A brow the harbor of grave thought, and hair
Saxon of hue. She conned; then blushed again,
Remembering now, when she had looked on him,
The sudden radiance of her husband's smile.

But Muriel did not send the picture back;
She kept it; while her beauty and her babe
Flourished together, and in health and peace
She lived.

Her husband never said to her,
"Love, are you happy?" never said to her,
"Sweet, do you love me?" and at first, whene'er
They rode together in the lanes, and paused,
Stopping their horses, when the day was hot,
In the shadow of a tree, to watch the clouds,
Ruffled in drifting on the jagged rocks
That topped the mountains, - when she sat by him,
Withdrawn at even while the summer stars
Came starting out of nothing, as new made,
She felt a little trouble, and a wish
That he would yet keep silence, and he did.
That one reserve he would not touch, but still
Respected.

Muriel grew more brave in time,
And talked at ease, and felt disquietude
Fade. And another child was given to her.

"Now we shall do," the old great-grandsire cried,
"For this is the right sort, a boy." "Fie, fie,"
Quoth the good dame; "but never heed you, love,
He thinks them both as right as right can be."

But Laurance went from home, ere yet the boy
Was three weeks old. It fretted him to go,
But still he said, "I must": and she was left
Much with the kindly dame, whose gentle care
Was like a mother's; and the two could talk
Sweetly, for all the difference in their years.

But unaware, the wife betrayed a wish
That she had known why Laurance left her thus.
"Ay, love," the dame made answer; "for he said,
'Goody,' before he left, 'if Muriel ask
No question, tell her naught; but if she let
Any disquietude appear to you,
Say what you know.'" "What?" Muriel said, and laughed,
"I ask, then."

"Child, it is that your old love,
Some two months past, was here. Nay, never start:
He's gone. He came, our Laurance met him near;
He said that he was going over seas,
'And might I see your wife this only once,
And get her pardon?'"

"Mercy!" Muriel cried,
"But Laurance does not wish it?"

"Nay, now, nay,"
Quoth the good dame.
"I cannot," Muriel cried;
"He does not, surely, think I should."

"Not he,"
The kind old woman said, right soothingly.
"Does not he ever know, love, ever do
What you like best?"

And Muriel, trembling yet,
Agreed. "I heard him say," the dame went on,
"For I was with him when they met that day,
'It would not be agreeable to my wife.'"

Then Muriel, pondering, - "And he said no more?
You think he did not add, 'nor to myself?'"
And with her soft, calm, inward voice, the dame
Unruffled answered, "No, sweet heart, not he:
What need he care?" "And why not?" Muriel cried,
Longing to hear the answer. "O, he knows,
He knows, love, very well": with that she smiled.
"Bless your fair face, you have not really thought
He did not know you loved him?"

Muriel said,
"He never told me, goody, that he knew."
"Well," quoth the dame, "but it may chance, my dear,
That he thinks best to let old troubles sleep:
Why need to rouse them? You are happy, sure?
But if one asks, 'Art happy?' why, it sets
The thoughts a-working. No, say I, let love,
Let peace and happy folk alone.

"He said,
'It would not be agreeable to my wife.'
And he went on to add, in course of time
That he would ask you, when it suited you,
To write a few kind words."

"Yes," Muriel said,
"I can do that."

"So Laurance went, you see,"
The soft voice added, "to take down that child.
Laurance had written oft about the child,
And now, at last, the father made it known
He could not take him. He has lost, they say,
His money, with much gambling; now he wants
To lead a good, true, working life. He wrote,
And let this so be seen, that Laurance went
And took the child, and took the money down
To pay."

And Muriel found her talking sweet,
And asked once more, the rather that she longed
To speak again of Laurance, "And you think
He knows I love him?"

"Ay, good sooth, he knows
No fear; but he is like his father, love.
His father never asked my pretty child
One prying question; took her as she was;
Trusted her; she has told me so: he knew
A woman's nature. Laurance is the same.
He knows you love him; but he will not speak;
No, never. Some men are such gentlemen!"




SONGS

OF

THE NIGHT WATCHES.

[Illustration]




SONGS OF THE NIGHT WATCHES,

WITH AN INTRODUCTORY SONG OF EVENING, AND A
CONCLUDING SONG OF THE EARLY DAY.


INTRODUCTORY.

(_Old English Manner._)

APPRENTICED.

Come out and hear the waters shoot, the owlet hoot, the owlet hoot;
Yon crescent moon, a golden boat, hangs dim behind the tree, O!
The dropping thorn makes white the grass, O sweetest lass, and sweetest
lass;
Come out and smell the ricks of hay adown the croft with me, O!"

"My granny nods before her wheel, and drops her reel, and drops her reel;
My father with his crony talks as gay as gay can be, O!
But all the milk is yet to skim, ere light wax dim, ere light wax dim;
How can I step adown the croft, my 'prentice lad, with
thee, O?"

"And must ye bide, yet waiting's long, and love is strong, and love is
strong;
And O! had I but served the time, that takes so long to flee, O!
And thou, my lass, by morning's light wast all in white, wast all in
white,
And parson stood within the rails, a-marrying me and thee, O."


THE FIRST WATCH.

TIRED.

I.

O, I would tell you more, but I am tired;
For I have longed, and I have had my will;
I pleaded in my spirit, I desired:
"Ah! let me only see him, and be still
All my days after."
Rock, and rock, and rock,
Over the falling, rising watery world,
Sail, beautiful ship, along the leaping main;
The chirping land-birds follow flock on flock
To light on a warmer plain.
White as weaned lambs the little wavelets curled,
Fall over in harmless play,
As these do far away;
Sail, bird of doom, along the shimmering sea,
All under thy broad wings that overshadow thee.

II.

I am so tired,
If I would comfort me, I know not how,
For I have seen thee, lad, as I desired,
And I have nothing left to long for now.

Nothing at all. And did I wait for thee,
Often and often, while the light grew dim,
And through the lilac branches I could see,
Under a saffron sky, the purple rim
O' the heaving moorland? Ay. And then would float
Up from behind as it were a golden boat,
Freighted with fancies, all o' the wonder of life,
Love - such a slender moon, going up and up,
Waxing so fast from night to night,
And swelling like an orange flower-bud, bright,
Fated, methought, to round as to a golden cup,
And hold to my two lips life's best of wine.
Most beautiful crescent moon,
Ship of the sky!
Across the unfurrowed reaches sailing high.
Methought that it would come my way full soon,
Laden with blessings that were all, all mine, -
A golden ship, with balm and spiceries rife,
That ere its day was done should hear thee call me wife.

III.

All over! the celestial sign hath failed;
The orange flower-bud shuts; the ship hath sailed,
And sunk behind the long low-lying hills.
The love that fed on daily kisses dieth;
The love kept warm by nearness, lieth
Wounded and wan;
The love hope nourished bitter tears distils,
And faints with naught to feed upon.
Only there stirreth very deep below
The hidden beating slow,
And the blind yearning, and the long-drawn breath
Of the love that conquers death.

IV.

Had we not loved full long, and lost all fear,
My ever, my only dear?
Yes; and I saw thee start upon thy way,
So sure that we should meet
Upon our trysting-day.
And even absence then to me was sweet,
Because it brought me time to brood
Upon thy dearness in the solitude.
But ah! to stay, and stay,
And let that moon of April wane itself away,
And let the lovely May
Make ready all her buds for June;
And let the glossy finch forego her tune
That she brought with her in the spring,
And never more, I think, to me can sing;
And then to lead thee home another bride,
In the sultry summer tide,
And all forget me save for shame full sore,
That made thee pray me, absent, "See my face no more."

V.

O hard, most hard! But while my fretted heart
Shut out, shut down, and full of pain,
Sobbed to itself apart,
Ached to itself in vain,
One came who loveth me
As I love thee....
And let my God remember him for this,
As I do hope He will forget thy kiss,
Nor visit on thy stately head
Aught that thy mouth hath sworn, or thy two eyes have said....
He came, and it was dark. He came, and sighed
Because he knew the sorrow, - whispering low,
And fast, and thick, as one that speaks by rote:
"The vessel lieth in the river reach,
A mile above the beach,
And she will sail at the turning o' the tide."
He said, "I have a boat,
And were it good to go,
And unbeholden in the vessel's wake
Look on the man thou lovedst, and forgive,
As he embarks, a shamefaced fugitive.
Come, then, with me."

VI.

O, how he sighed! The little stars did wink,
And it was very dark. I gave my hand, -
He led me out across the pasture land,
And through the narrow croft,
Down to the river's brink.
When thou wast full in spring, thou little sleepy thing,
The yellow flags that broidered thee would stand
Up to their chins in water, and full oft
WE pulled them and the other shining flowers,
That all are gone to-day:
WE two, that had so many things to say,
So many hopes to render clear:
And they are all gone after thee, my dear, -
Gone after those sweet hours,
That tender light, that balmy rain;
Gone "as a wind that passeth away,
And cometh not again."

VII.

I only saw the stars, - I could not see
The river, - and they seemed to lie
As far below as the other stars were high.
I trembled like a thing about to die:
It was so awful 'neath the majesty
Of that great crystal height, that overhung
The blackness at our feet,
Unseen to fleet and fleet
The flocking stars among,
And only hear the dipping of the oar,
And the small wave's caressing of the darksome shore.

VIII.

Less real it was than any dream.
Ah me! to hear the bending willows shiver,
As we shot quickly from the silent river,
And felt the swaying and the flow
That bore us down the deeper, wider stream,
Whereto its nameless waters go:
O! I shall always, when I shut mine eyes,
See that weird sight again;
The lights from anchored vessels hung;
The phantom moon, that sprung
Suddenly up in dim and angry wise,
From the rim o' the moaning main,
And touched with elfin light
The two long oars whereby we made our flight,
Along the reaches of the night;
Then furrowed up a lowering cloud,
Went in, and left us darker than before,
To feel our way as the midnight watches wore,
And lie in HER lee, with mournful faces bowed,
That should receive and bear with her away
The brightest portion of my sunniest day, -
The laughter of the land, the sweetness of the shore.

IX.

And I beheld thee: saw the lantern flash
Down on thy face, when thou didst climb the side.
And thou wert pale, pale as the patient bride
That followed; both a little sad,
Leaving of home and kin. Thy courage glad,
That once did bear thee on,
That brow of thine had lost; the fervor rash
Of unforeboding youth thou hadst foregone.
O, what a little moment, what a crumb
Of comfort for a heart to feed upon!
And that was all its sum;
A glimpse, and not a meeting, -
A drawing near by night,
To sigh to thee an unacknowledged greeting,
And all between the flashing of a light
And its retreating.

X.

Then after, ere she spread her wafting wings,
The ship, - and weighed her anchor to depart,
We stole from her dark lee, like guilty things;
And there was silence in my heart,
And silence in the upper and the nether deep.
O sleep! O sleep!
Do not forget me. Sometimes come and sweep,
Now I have nothing left, thy healing hand
Over the lids that crave thy visits bland,
Thou kind, thou comforting one:
For I have seen his face, as I desired,
And all my story is done.
O, I am tired!


THE MIDDLE WATCH.

I.

I woke in the night, and the darkness was heavy and deep:
I had known it was dark in my sleep,
And I rose and looked out,
And the fathomless vault was all sparkling, set thick round about
With the ancient inhabiters silent, and wheeling too far
For man's heart, like a voyaging frigate, to sail, where remote
In the sheen of their glory they float,
Or man's soul, like a bird, to fly near, of their beams to partake,
And dazed in their wake,
Drink day that is born of a star.
I murmured, "Remoteness and greatness, how deep you are set,
How afar in the rim of the whole;
You know nothing of me, nor of man, nor of earth, O, nor yet
Of our light-bearer, - drawing the marvellous moons as they roll,
Of our regent, the sun."
I look on you trembling, and think, in the dark with my soul,
"How small is our place 'mid the kingdoms and nations of God:
These are greater than we, every one."
And there falls a great fear, and a dread cometh over, that cries,
"O my hope! Is there any mistake?
Did He speak? Did I hear? Did I listen aright, if He spake?
Did I answer Him duly? For surely I now am awake,
If never I woke until now."
And a light, baffling wind, that leads nowhither, plays on my brow.
As a sleep, I must think on my day, of my path as untrod,
Or trodden in dreams, in a dreamland whose coasts are a doubt;
Whose countries recede from my thoughts, as they grope round about,
And vanish, and tell me not how.
Be kind to our darkness, O Fashioner, dwelling in light,
And feeding the lamps of the sky;
Look down upon this one, and let it be sweet in Thy sight,
I pray Thee, to-night.
O watch whom Thou madest to dwell on its soil, Thou Most High!
For this is a world full of sorrow (there may be but one);
Keep watch o'er its dust, else Thy children for aye are undone,
For this is a world where we die.

II.

With that, a still voice in my spirit that moved and that yearned,
(There fell a great calm while it spake,)
I had heard it erewhile, but the noises of life are so loud,
That sometimes it dies in the cry of the street and the crowd:
To the simple it cometh, - the child, or asleep, or awake,
And they know not from whence; of its nature the wise never learned
By his wisdom; its secret the worker ne'er earned
By his toil; and the rich among men never bought with his gold;
Nor the times of its visiting monarchs controlled,
Nor the jester put down with his jeers
(For it moves where it will), nor its season the aged discerned
By thought, in the ripeness of years.

O elder than reason, and stronger than will!
A voice, when the dark world is still:
Whence cometh it? Father Immortal, thou knowest! and we, -
We are sure of that witness, that sense which is sent us of Thee;
For it moves, and it yearns in its fellowship mighty and dread,
And let down to our hearts it is touched by the tears that we shed;
It is more than all meanings, and over all strife;
On its tongue are the laws of our life,
And it counts up the times of the dead.

III.

I will fear you, O stars, never more.
I have felt it! Go on, while the world is asleep,
Golden islands, fast moored in God's infinite deep.
Hark, hark to the words of sweet fashion, the harpings of yore!
How they sang to Him, seer and saint, in the far away lands:
"The heavens are the work of Thy hands;
They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure;
Yea, they all shall wax old, -
But Thy throne is established, O God, and Thy years are made sure;
They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure, -
They shall pass like a tale that is told."

Doth He answer, the Ancient of Days?
Will He speak in the tongue and the fashion of men?
(Hist! hist! while the heaven-hung multitudes shine in His praise,
His language of old.) Nay, He spoke with them first; it was then
They lifted their eyes to His throne;
"They shall call on Me, 'Thou art our Father, our God, Thou alone!'
For I made them, I led them in deserts and desolate ways;
I have found them a Ransom Divine;
I have loved them with love everlasting, the children of men;
I swear by Myself, they are Mine."


THE MORNING WATCH.

THE COMING IN OF THE "MERMAIDEN."

The moon is bleached as white as wool,
And just dropping under;
Every star is gone but three,
And they hang far asunder, -
There's a sea-ghost all in gray,
A tall shape of wonder!

I am not satisfied with sleep, -
The night is not ended.
But look how the sea-ghost comes,
With wan skirts extended,
Stealing up in this weird hour,
When light and dark are blended.

A vessel! To the old pier end
Her happy course she's keeping;
I heard them name her yesterday:
Some were pale with weeping;
Some with their heart-hunger sighed,
She's in, - and they are sleeping.

O! now with fancied greetings blest,
They comfort their long aching:
The sea of sleep hath borne to them
What would not come with waking,
And the dreams shall most be true
In their blissful breaking.

The stars are gone, the rose-bloom comes, -
No blush of maid is sweeter;
The red sun, half way out of bed,
Shall be the first to greet her.
None tell the news, yet sleepers wake,
And rise, and run to meet her.

Their lost they have, they hold; from pain
A keener bliss they borrow.
How natural is joy, my heart!
How easy after sorrow!
For once, the best is come that hope
Promised them "to-morrow."


CONCLUDING SONG OF DAWN.

(_Old English Manner._)

A MORN OF MAY.

All the clouds about the sun lay up in golden creases,
(Merry rings the maiden's voice that sings at dawn of day;)
Lambkins woke and skipped around to dry their dewy fleeces,
So sweetly as she carolled, all on a morn of May.

Quoth the Sergeant, "Here I'll halt; here's wine of joy for drinking;
To my heart she sets her hand, and in the strings doth play;
All among the daffodils, and fairer to my thinking,
And fresh as milk and roses, she sits this morn of May."

Quoth the Sergeant, "Work is work, but any ye might make me,
If I worked for you, dear lass, I'd count my holiday.
I'm your slave for good and all, an' if ye will but take me,
So sweetly as ye carol upon this morn of May."

"Medals count for worth," quoth she, "and scars are worn for honor;
But a slave an' if ye be, kind wooer, go your way."
All the nodding daffodils woke up and laughed upon her.
O! sweetly did she carol, all on that morn of May.

Gladsome leaves upon the bough, they fluttered fast and faster,
Fretting brook, till he would speak, did chide the dull delay:
"Beauty! when I said a slave, I think I meant a master;
So sweetly as ye carol all on this morn of May.

"Lass, I love you! Love is strong, and some men's hearts are tender."
Far she sought o'er wood and wold, but found not aught to say;
Mounting lark nor mantling cloud would any counsel render,
Though sweetly she had carolled upon that morn of May.

Shy, she sought the wooer's face, and deemed the wooing mended;
Proper man he was, good sooth, and one would have his way:
So the lass was made a wife, and so the song was ended.
O! sweetly she did carol all on that morn of May.




CONTRASTED SONGS.

[Illustration]




CONTRASTED SONGS.


SAILING BEYOND SEAS.

(_Old Style._)

Methought the stars were blinking bright,
And the old brig's sails unfurled;
I said, "I will sail to my love this night
At the other side of the world."
I stepped aboard, - we sailed so fast, -
The sun shot up from the bourne;
But a dove that perched upon the mast
Did mourn, and mourn, and mourn.
O fair dove! O fond dove!
And dove with the white breast,
Let me alone, the dream is my own,
And my heart is full of rest.

My true love fares on this great hill,
Feeding his sheep for aye;
I looked in his hut, but all was still,
My love was gone away.
I went to gaze in the forest creek,
And the dove mourned on apace;
No flame did flash, nor fair blue reek
Rose up to show me his place.
O last love! O first love!
My love with the true heart,
To think I have come to this your home,
And yet - we are apart!

My love! He stood at my right hand,
His eyes were grave and sweet.
Methought he said, "In this far land,
O, is it thus we meet!
Ah, maid most dear, I am not here;
I have no place, - no part, -
No dwelling more by sea or shore,
But only in thy heart."
O fair dove! O fond dove!
Till night rose over the bourne,
The dove on the mast, as we sailed fast,
Did mourn, and mourn, and mourn.


REMONSTRANCE.

Daughters of Eve! your mother did not well:
She laid the apple in your father's hand,
And we have read, O wonder! what befell, -
The man was not deceived, nor yet could stand:
He chose to lose, for love of her, his throne, -
With her could die, but could not live alone.

Daughters of Eve! he did not fall so low,
Nor fall so far, as that sweet woman fell;
For something better, than as gods to know,
That husband in that home left off to dwell:
For this, till love be reckoned less than lore,
Shall man be first and best for evermore.

Daughters of Eve! it was for your dear sake
The world's first hero died an uncrowned king;
But God's great pity touched the grand mistake,
And made his married love a sacred thing:
For yet his nobler sons, if aught be true,
Find the lost Eden in their love to you.


SONG FOR THE NIGHT OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.

(_A Humble Imitation._)

"And birds of calm sit brooding on the charméd wave."

It is the noon of night,
And the world's Great Light
Gone out, she widow-like doth carry her:
The moon hath veiled her face,
Nor looks on that dread place
Where He lieth dead in sealéd sepulchre;
And heaven and hades, emptied, lend
Their flocking multitudes to watch and wait the end.

Tier above tier they rise,
Their wings new line the skies,
And shed out comforting light among the stars;
But they of the other place
The heavenly signs deface,
The gloomy brand of hell their brightness mars;


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