Jean Ingelow.

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

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Yet high they sit in thronéd state, -
It is the hour of darkness to them dedicate.

And first and highest set,
Where the black shades are met,
The lord of night and hades leans him down;
His gleaming eyeballs show
More awful than the glow,
Which hangeth by the points of his dread crown;
And at his feet, where lightnings play,
The fatal sisters sit and weep, and curse their day.

Lo! one, with eyes all wide,
As she were sight denied,
Sits blindly feeling at her distaff old;
One, as distraught with woe,
Letting the spindle go,
Her star y-sprinkled gown doth shivering fold;
And one right mournful hangs her head,
Complaining, "Woe is me! I may not cut the thread.

"All men of every birth,
Yea, great ones of the earth,
Kings and their councillors, have I drawn down;
But I am held of Thee, -
Why dost Thou trouble me,
To bring me up, dead King, that keep'st Thy crown?
Yet for all courtiers hast but ten
Lowly, unlettered, Galilean fishermen.

"Olympian heights are bare
Of whom men worshipped there,
Immortal feet their snows may print no more;
Their stately powers below
Lie desolate, nor know
This thirty years Thessalian grove or shore;
But I am elder far than they; -
Where is the sentence writ that I must pass away?

"Art thou come up for this,
Dark regent, awful Dis?
And hast thou moved the deep to mark our ending?
And stirred the dens beneath,
To see us eat of death,
With all the scoffing heavens toward us bending?
Help! powers of ill, see not us die!"
But neither demon dares, nor angel deigns, reply.

Her sisters, fallen on sleep,
Fade in the upper deep,
And their grim lord sits on, in doleful trance;
Till her black veil she rends,
And with her death-shriek bends
Downward the terrors of her countenance;
Then, whelmed in night and no more seen,
They leave the world a doubt if ever such have been.

And the winged armies twain
Their awful watch maintain;
They mark the earth at rest with her Great Dead.
Behold, from antres wide,
Green Atlas heave his side;
His moving woods their scarlet clusters shed,
The swathing coif his front that cools,
And tawny lions lapping at his palm-edged pools.

Then like a heap of snow,
Lying where grasses grow,
See glimmering, while the moony lustres creep,
Mild mannered Athens, dight
In dewy marbles white,
Among her goddesses and gods asleep;
And swaying on a purple sea,
The many moored galleys clustering at her quay.

Also, 'neath palm-trees' shade,
Amid their camels laid,
The pastoral tribes with all their flocks at rest;
Like to those old-world folk,
With whom two angels broke
The bread of men at Abram's courteous 'quest,
When, listening as they prophesied,
His desert princess, being reproved, her laugh denied.

Or from the Morians' land
See worshipped Nilus bland,
Taking the silver road he gave the world,
To wet his ancient shrine
With waters held divine,
And touch his temple steps with wavelets curled,
And list, ere darkness change to gray,
Old minstrel-throated Memnon chanting in the day.

Moreover, Indian glades,
Where kneel the sun-swart maids,
On Gunga's flood their votive flowers to throw,
And launch i' the sultry night
Their burning cressets bright,
Most like a fleet of stars that southing go,
Till on her bosom prosperously
She floats them shining forth to sail the lulléd sea.

Nor bend they not their eyne
Where the watch-fires shine,
By shepherds fed, on hills of Bethlehem:
They mark, in goodly wise,
The city of David rise,
The gates and towers of rare Jerusalem;
And hear the 'scapéd Kedron fret,
And night dews dropping from the leaves of Olivet.

But now the setting moon
To curtained lands must soon,
In her obedient fashion, minister;
She first, as loath to go,
Lets her last silver flow
Upon her Master's sealéd sepulchre;
And trees that in the gardens spread,
She kisseth all for sake of His low-lying head,

Then 'neath the rim goes down;
And night with darker frown
Sinks on the fateful garden watched long;
When some despairing eyes,
Far in the murky skies,
The unwishéd waking by their gloom foretell;
And blackness up the welkin swings,
And drinks the mild effulgence from celestial wings.

Last, with amazéd cry,
The hosts asunder fly,
Leaving an empty gulf of blackest hue;
Whence straightway shooteth down,
By the Great Father thrown,
A mighty angel, strong and dread to view;
And at his fall the rocks are rent,
The waiting world doth quake with mortal tremblement;

The regions far and near
Quail with a pause of fear,
More terrible than aught since time began;
The winds, that dare not fleet,
Drop at his awful feet,
And in its bed wails the wide oceán;
The flower of dawn forbears to blow,
And the oldest running river cannot skill to flow.

At stand, by that dread place,
He lifts his radiant face,
And looks to heaven with reverent love and fear;
Then, while the welkin quakes,
The muttering thunder breaks,
And lightnings shoot and ominous meteors drear,
And all the daunted earth doth moan,
He from the doors of death rolls back the sealéd stone. -

- In regal quiet deep,
Lo, One new waked from sleep!
Behold, He standeth in the rock-hewn door!
Thy children shall not die, -
Peace, peace, thy Lord is by!
He liveth! - they shall live for evermore.
Peace! lo, He lifts a priestly hand,
And blesseth all the sons of men in every land.

Then, with great dread and wail,
Fall down, like storms of hail,
The legions of the lost in fearful wise;
And they whose blissful race
Peoples the better place,
Lift up their wings to cover their fair eyes,
And through the waxing saffron brede,
Till they are lost in light, recede, and yet recede.

So while the fields are dim,
And the red sun his rim
First heaves, in token of his reign benign,
All stars the most admired,
Into their blue retired,
Lie hid, - the faded moon forgets to shine, -
And, hurrying down the sphery way,
Night flies, and sweeps her shadows from the paths of day.

But look! the Saviour blest,
Calm after solemn rest,
Stands in the garden 'neath His olive boughs;
The earliest smile of day
Doth on His vesture play,
And light the majesty of His still brows;
While angels hang with wings outspread,
Holding the new-won crown above His saintly head.


Ay, I saw her, we have met, -
Married eyes how sweet they be, -
Are you happier, Margaret,
Than you might have been with me?
Silence! make no more ado!
Did she think I should forget?
Matters nothing, though I knew,
Margaret, Margaret.

Once those eyes, full sweet, full shy,
Told a certain thing to mine;
What they told me I put by,
O, so careless of the sign.
Such an easy thing to take,
And I did not want it then;
Fool! I wish my heart would break,
Scorn is hard on hearts of men.

Scorn of self is bitter work, -
Each of us has felt it now:
Bluest skies she counted mirk,
Self-betrayed of eyes and brow;
As for me, I went my way,
And a better man drew nigh,
Fain to earn, with long essay,
What the winner's hand threw by.

Matters not in deserts old,
What was born, and waxed, and yearned,
Year to year its meaning told,
I am come, - its deeps are learned, -
Come, but there is naught to say, -
Married eyes with mine have met.
Silence! O, I had my day,
Margaret, Margaret.


"Old man, upon the green hillside,
With yellow flowers besprinkled o'er,
How long in silence wilt thou bide
At this low stone door?

"I stoop: within 'tis dark and still;
But shadowy paths methinks there be,
And lead they far into the hill?"
"Traveller, come and see."

"'Tis dark, 'tis cold, and hung with gloom;
I care not now within to stay;
For thee and me is scarcely room,
I will hence away."

"Not so, not so, thou youthful guest,
Thy foot shall issue forth no more:
Behold the chamber of thy rest,
And the closing door!"

"O, have I 'scaped the whistling ball,
And striven on smoky fields of fight,
And scaled the 'leaguered city's wall
In the dangerous night;

"And borne my life unharméd still
Through foaming gulfs of yeasty spray,
To yield it on a grassy hill
At the noon of day?"

"Peace! Say thy prayers, and go to sleep,
Till _some time_, ONE my seal shall break,
And deep shall answer unto deep,
When He crieth, 'AWAKE!'"


(_Song of the uncommunicated Ideal._)


I opened the eyes of my soul.
And behold,
A white river-lily: a lily awake, and aware, -
For she set her face upward, - aware how in scarlet and gold
A long wrinkled cloud, left behind of the wandering air,
Lay over with fold upon fold,
With fold upon fold.

And the blushing sweet shame of the cloud made her also ashamed,
The white river-lily, that suddenly knew she was fair;
And over the far-away mountains that no man hath named,
And that no foot hath trod,
Flung down out of heavenly places, there fell, as it were,
A rose-bloom, a token of love, that should make them endure,
Withdrawn in snow silence forever, who keep themselves pure,
And look up to God.
Then I said, "In rosy air,
Cradled on thy reaches fair,
While the blushing early ray
Whitens into perfect day,
River-lily, sweetest known,
Art thou set for me alone?
Nay, but I will bear thee far,
Where yon clustering steeples are,
And the bells ring out o'erhead,
And the stated prayers are said;
And the busy farmers pace,
Trading in the market-place;
And the country lasses sit,
By their butter, praising it;
And the latest news is told,
While the fruit and cream are sold;
And the friendly gossips greet,
Up and down the sunny street.
For," I said, "I have not met,
White one, any folk as yet
Who would send no blessing up,
Looking on a face like thine;
For thou art as Joseph's cup,
And by thee might they divine.

"Nay! but thou a spirit art;
Men shall take thee in the mart
For the ghost of their best thought,
Raised at noon, and near them brought;
Or the prayer they made last night,
Set before them all in white."

And I put out my rash hand,
For I thought to draw to land
The white lily. Was it fit
Such a blossom should expand,
Fair enough for a world's wonder,
And no mortal gather it?
No. I strove, and it went under,
And I drew, but it went down;
And the waterweeds' long tresses,
And the overlapping cresses,
Sullied its admired crown.
Then along the river strand,
Trailing, wrecked, it came to land,
Of its beauty half despoiled,
And its snowy pureness soiled:
O! I took it in my hand, -
You will never see it now,
White and golden as it grew:
No, I cannot show it you,
Nor the cheerful town endow
With the freshness of its brow.

If a royal painter, great
With the colors dedicate
To a dove's neck, a sea-bight,
And the flickering over white
Mountain summits far away, -
One content to give his mind
To the enrichment of mankind,
And the laying up of light
In men's houses, - on that day,
Could have passed in kingly mood,
Would he ever have endued
Canvas with the peerless thing,
In the grace that it did bring,
And the light that o'er it flowed,
With the pureness that it showed,
And the pureness that it meant?
Could he skill to make it seen
As he saw? For this, I ween,
He were likewise impotent.


I opened the doors of my heart.
And behold,
There was music within and a song,
And echoes did feed on the sweetness, repeating it long.
I opened the doors of my heart: and behold,
There was music that played itself out in aeolian notes;
Then was heard, as a far-away bell at long intervals tolled,
That murmurs and floats,
And presently dieth, forgotten of forest and wold,
And comes in all passion again, and a tremblement soft,
That maketh the listener full oft
To whisper, "Ah! would I might hear it for ever and aye,
When I toil in the heat of the day,
When I walk in the cold."

I opened the door of my heart. And behold,
There was music within, and a song.
But while I was hearkening, lo, blackness without, thick and strong,
Came up and came over, and all that sweet fluting was drowned,
I could hear it no more;
For the welkin was moaning, the waters were stirred on the shore,
And trees in the dark all around
Were shaken. It thundered. "Hark, hark! there is thunder to-night!
The sullen long wave rears her head, and comes down with a will;
The awful white tongues are let loose, and the stars are all dead; -
There is thunder! it thunders! and ladders of light
Run up. There is thunder!" I said,
"Loud thunder! it thunders! and up in the dark overhead,
A down-pouring cloud, (there is thunder!) a down-pouring cloud
Hails out her fierce message, and quivers the deep in its bed,
And cowers the earth held at bay; and they mutter aloud,
And pause with an ominous tremble, till, great in their rage,
The heavens and earth come together, and meet with a crash;
And the fight is so fell as if Time had come down with the flash,
And the story of life was all read,
And the Giver had turned the last page.

"Now their bar the pent water-floods lash,
And the forest trees give out their language austere with great age;
And there flieth o'er moor and o'er hill,
And there heaveth at intervals wide,
The long sob of nature's great passion as loath to subside,
Until quiet drop down on the tide,
And mad Echo had moaned herself still."

Lo! or ever I was 'ware,
In the silence of the air,
Through my heart's wide-open door,
Music floated forth once more,
Floated to the world's dark rim,
And looked over with a hymn;
Then came home with flutings fine,
And discoursed in tones divine
Of a certain grief of mine;
And went downward and went in,
Glimpses of my soul to win,
And discovered such a deep
That I could not choose but weep,
For it lay, a land-locked sea,
Fathomless and dim to me.

O, the song! it came and went,
Went and came.
I have not learned
Half the lore whereto it yearned,
Half the magic that it meant.
Water booming in a cave;
Or the swell of some long wave,
Setting in from unrevealed
Countries; or a foreign tongue,
Sweetly talked and deftly sung,
While the meaning is half sealed;
May be like it. You have heard
Also; - can you find a word
For the naming of such song?
No; a name would do it wrong.
You have heard it in the night,
In the dropping rain's despite,
In the midnight darkness deep,
When the children were asleep,
And the wife, - no, let that be;
SHE asleep! She knows right well
What the song to you and me,
While we breathe, can never tell;
She hath heard its faultless flow,
Where the roots of music grow.

While I listened, like young birds,
Hints were fluttering; almost words, -
Leaned and leaned, and nearer came; -
Everything had changed its name.

Sorrow was a ship, I found,
Wrecked with them that in her are,
On an island richer far
Than the port where they were bound.
Fear was but the awful boom
Of the old great bell of doom,
Tolling, far from earthly air,
For all worlds to go to prayer.
Pain, that to us mortal clings,
But the pushing of our wings,
That we have no use for yet,
And the uprooting of our feet
From the soil where they are set,
And the land we reckon sweet.
Love in growth, the grand deceit
Whereby men the perfect greet;
Love in wane, the blessing sent
To be (howsoe'er it went)
Never more with earth content.
O, full sweet, and O, full high,
Ran that music up the sky;
But I cannot sing it you,
More than I can make you view,
With my paintings labial,
Sitting up in awful row,
White old men majestical,
Mountains, in their gowns of snow,
Ghosts of kings; as my two eyes,
Looking over speckled skies,
See them now. About their knees,
Half in haze, there stands at ease
A great army of green hills,
Some bareheaded; and, behold,
Small green mosses creep on some.
Those be mighty forests old;
And white avalanches come
Through yon rents, where now distils
Sheeny silver, pouring down
To a tune of old renown,
Cutting narrow pathways through
Gentian belts of airy blue,
To a zone where starwort blows,
And long reaches of the rose.

So, that haze all left behind,
Down the chestnut forests wind,
Past yon jagged spires, where yet
Foot of man was never set;
Past a castle yawning wide,
With a great breach in its side,
To a nest-like valley, where,
Like a sparrow's egg in hue,
Lie two lakes, and teach the true
Color of the sea-maid's hair.

What beside? The world beside!
Drawing down and down, to greet
Cottage clusters at our feet, -
Every scent of summer tide, -
Flowery pastures all aglow
(Men and women mowing go
Up and down them); also soft
Floating of the film aloft,
Fluttering of the leaves alow.
Is this told? It is not told.
Where's the danger? where's the cold
Slippery danger up the steep?
Where yon shadow fallen asleep?
Chirping bird and tumbling spray,
Light, work, laughter, scent of hay,
Peace, and echo, where are they?

Ah, they sleep, sleep all untold;
Memory must their grace enfold
Silently; and that high song
Of the heart, it doth belong
To the hearers. Not a whit,
Though a chief musician heard,
Could he make a tune for it.

Though a bird of sweetest throat,
And some lute full clear of note,
Could have tried it, - O, the lute
For that wondrous song were mute,
And the bird would do her part,
Falter, fail, and break her heart, -
Break her heart, and furl her wings,
On those unexpressive strings.


(_On the Advantages of the Poetical Temperament_.)


O happy Gladys! I rejoice with her,
For Gladys saw the island.
It was thus:
They gave a day for pleasure in the school
Where Gladys taught; and all the other girls
Were taken out, to picnic in a wood.
But it was said, "We think it were not well
That little Gladys should acquire a taste
For pleasure, going about, and needless change.
It would not suit her station: discontent
Might come of it; and all her duties now
She does so pleasantly, that we were best
To keep her humble." So they said to her,
"Gladys, we shall not want you, all to-day.
Look, you are free; you need not sit at work:
No, you may take a long and pleasant walk
Over the sea-cliff, or upon the beach
Among the visitors."
Then Gladys blushed
For joy, and thanked them. What! a holiday,
A whole one, for herself! How good, how kind!
With that, the marshalled carriages drove off;
And Gladys, sobered with her weight of joy,
Stole out beyond the groups upon the beach -
The children with their wooden spades, the band
That played for lovers, and the sunny stir
Of cheerful life and leisure - to the rocks,
For these she wanted most, and there was time
To mark them; how like ruined organs prone
They lay, or leaned their giant fluted pipes,
And let the great white-crested reckless wave
Beat out their booming melody.
The sea
Was filled with light; in clear blue caverns curled
The breakers, and they ran, and seemed to romp,
As playing at some rough and dangerous game,
While all the nearer waves rushed in to help,
And all the farther heaved their heads to peep,
And tossed the fishing boats. Then Gladys laughed,
And said, "O, happy tide, to be so lost
In sunshine, that one dare not look at it;
And lucky cliffs, to be so brown and warm;
And yet how lucky are the shadows, too,
That lurk beneath their ledges. It is strange,
That in remembrance though I lay them up,
They are forever, when I come to them,
Better than I had thought. O, something yet
I had forgotten. Oft I say, 'At least
This picture is imprinted; thus and thus,
The sharpened serried jags run up, run out,
Layer on layer.' And I look - up - up -
High, higher up again, till far aloft
They cut into their ether, - brown, and clear,
And perfect. And I, saying, 'This is mine,
To keep,' retire; but shortly come again,
And they confound me with a glorious change.
The low sun out of rain-clouds stares at them;
They redden, and their edges drip with - what?
I know not, but 't is red. It leaves no stain,
For the next morning they stand up like ghosts
In a sea-shroud and fifty thousand mews
Sit there, in long white files, and chatter on,
Like silly school-girls in their silliest mood.

"There is the boulder where we always turn.
O! I have longed to pass it; now I will.
What would THEY say? for one must slip and spring;
'Young ladies! Gladys! I am shocked. My dears,
Decorum, if you please: turn back at once.
Gladys, we blame you most; you should have looked
Before you.' Then they sigh, - how kind they are! -
'What will become of you, if all your life
You look a long way off? - look anywhere,
And everywhere, instead of at your feet,
And where they carry you!' Ah, well, I know
It is a pity," Gladys said; "but then
We cannot all be wise: happy for me,
That other people are.

"And yet I wish, -
For sometimes very right and serious thoughts
Come to me, - I do wish that they would come
When they are wanted! - when I teach the sums
On rainy days, and when the practising
I count to, and the din goes on and on,
Still the same tune and still the same mistake,
Then I am wise enough: sometimes I feel
Quite old. I think that it will last, and say,
'Now my reflections do me credit! now
I am a woman!' and I wish they knew
How serious all my duties look to me.
And how, my heart hushed down and shaded lies,
Just like the sea when low, convenient clouds,
Come over, and drink all its sparkles up.
But does it last? Perhaps, that very day,
The front door opens: out we walk in pairs;
And I am so delighted with this world,
That suddenly has grown, being new washed,
To such a smiling, clean, and thankful world,
And with a tender face shining through tears,
Looks up into the sometime lowering sky,
That has been angry, but is reconciled,
And just forgiving her, that I, - that I, -
O, I forget myself: what matters how!
And then I hear (but always kindly said)
Some words that pain me so, - but just, but true;
'For if your place in this establishment
Be but subordinate, and if your birth
Be lowly, it the more behooves, - well, well,
No more. We see that you are sorry.' Yes!
I am always sorry THEN; but now, - O, now,
Here is a bight more beautiful than all."

"And did they scold her, then, my pretty one?
And did she want to be as wise as they,
To bear a bucklered heart and priggish mind?
Ay, you may crow; she did! but no, no, no,
The night-time will not let her, all the stars
Say nay to that, - the old sea laughs at her.
Why, Gladys is a child; she has not skill
To shut herself within her own small cell,
And build the door up, and to say, 'Poor me!
I am a prisoner'; then to take hewn stones,
And, having built the windows up, to say,
'O, it is dark! there is no sunshine here;
There never has been.'"

Strange! how very strange!
A woman passing Gladys with a babe,
To whom she spoke these words, and only looked
Upon the babe, who crowed and pulled her curls,
And never looked at Gladys, never once.
"A simple child," she added, and went by,
"To want to change her greater for their less;
But Gladys shall not do it, no, not she;
We love her - don't we? - far too well for that."

Then Gladys, flushed with shame and keen surprise,
"How could she be so near, and I not know?
And have I spoken out my thought aloud?
I must have done, forgetting. It is well
She walks so fast, for I am hungry now,
And here is water cantering down the cliff,
And here a shell to catch it with, and here
The round plump buns they gave me, and the fruit.
Now she is gone behind the rock. O, rare
To be alone!" So Gladys sat her down,
Unpacked her little basket, ate and drank,

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Online LibraryJean IngelowPoems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I → online text (page 15 of 18)