Jean Ingelow.

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

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For do but turn aside your face,
A house on yonder hilly brow
Your eyes may trace.

"The chestnut shelters it; ah me,
That I should have so faint a heart!
But yester-eve, as by the sea
I sat apart,

"I heard a name, I saw a hand
Of passing stranger point that way -
And will he meet her on the strand,
When late we stray?

"For she is come, for she is there,
I heard it in the dusk, and heard
Admiring words, that named her fair,
But little stirred

"By beauty of the wood and wave,
And weary of an old man's sway;
For it was sweeter to enslave
Than to obey."

- The voice of one that near us stood,
The rustle of a silken fold,
A scent of eastern sandal wood,
A gleam of gold!

A lady! In the narrow space
Between the husband and the wife,
But nearest him - she showed a face
With dangers rife;

A subtle smile that dimpling fled,
As night-black lashes rose and fell:
I looked, and to myself I said,
"The letter L."

He, too, looked up, and with arrest
Of breath and motion held his gaze,
Nor cared to hide within his breast
His deep amaze;

Nor spoke till on her near advance
His dark cheek flushed a ruddier hue;
And with his change of countenance
Hers altered too.

"Lenore!" his voice was like the cry
Of one entreating; and he said
But that - then paused with such a sigh
As mourns the dead.

And seated near, with no demur
Of bashful doubt she silence broke,
Though I alone could answer her
When first she spoke.

She looked: her eyes were beauty's own;
She shed their sweetness into his;
Nor spared the married wife one moan
That bitterest is.

She spoke, and lo, her loveliness
Methought she damaged with her tongue;
And every sentence made it less,
All falsely rung.

The rallying voice, the light demand,
Half flippant, half unsatisfied;
The vanity sincere and bland -
The answers wide.

And now her talk was of the East,
And next her talk was of the sea;
"And has the love for it increased
You shared with me?"

He answered not, but grave and still
With earnest eyes her face perused,
And locked his lips with steady will,
As one that mused -

That mused and wondered. Why his gaze
Should dwell on her, methought, was plain;
But reason that should wonder raise
I sought in vain.

And near and near the children drew,
Attracted by her rich array,
And gems that trembling into view
Like raindrops lay.

He spoke: the wife her baby took
And pressed the little face to hers;
What pain soe'er her bosom shook,
What jealous stirs

Might stab her heart, she hid them so,
The cooing babe a veil supplied;
And if she listened none might know,
Or if she sighed;

Or if forecasting grief and care
Unconscious solace thence she drew,
And lulled her babe, and unaware
Lulled sorrow too.

The lady, she interpreter
For looks or language wanted none,
If yet dominion stayed with her -
So lightly won;

If yet the heart she wounded sore
Could yearn to her, and let her see
The homage that was evermore
Disloyalty;

If sign would yield that it had bled,
Or rallied from the faithless blow,
Or sick or sullen stooped to wed,
She craved to know.

Now dreamy deep, now sweetly keen,
Her asking eyes would round him shine;
But guarded lips and settled mien
Refused the sign.

And unbeguiled and unbetrayed,
The wonder yet within his breast,
It seemed a watchful part he played
Against her quest.

Until with accent of regret
She touched upon the past once more,
As if she dared him to forget
His dream of yore.

And words of little weight let fall
The fancy of the lower mind;
How waxing life must needs leave all
Its best behind;

How he had said that "he would fain
(One morning on the halcyon sea)
That life would at a stand remain
Eternally;

"And sails be mirrored in the deep,
As then they were, for evermore,
And happy spirits wake and sleep
Afar from shore:

"The well-contented heart be fed
Ever as then, and all the world
(It were not small) unshadowèd
When sails were furled.

"Your words" - a pause, and quietly
With touch of calm self-ridicule:
"It may be so - for then," said he,
"I was a fool."

With that he took his book, and left
An awkward silence to my care,
That soon I filled with questions deft
And debonair;

And slid into an easy vein,
The favorite picture of the year;
The grouse upon her lord's domain -
The salmon weir;

Till she could fain a sudden thought
Upon neglected guests, and rise,
And make us her adieux, with nought
In her dark eyes

Acknowledging or shame or pain;
But just unveiling for our view
A little smile of still disdain
As she withdrew.

Then nearer did the sunshine creep,
And warmer came the wafting breeze;
The little babe was fast asleep
On mother's knees.

Fair was the face that o'er it leant,
The cheeks with beauteous blushes dyed;
The downcast lashes, shyly bent,
That failed to hide

Some tender shame. She did not see;
She felt his eyes that would not stir,
She looked upon her babe, and he
So looked at her.

So grave, so wondering, so content,
As one new waked to conscious life,
Whose sudden joy with fear is blent,
He said, "My wife."

"My wife, how beautiful you are!"
Then closer at her side reclined,
"The bold brown woman from afar
Comes, to me blind.

"And by comparison, I see
The majesty of matron grace,
And learn how pure, how fair can be
My own wife's face:

"Pure with all faithful passion, fair
With tender smiles that come and go,
And comforting as April air
After the snow.

"Fool that I was! my spirit frets
And marvels at the humbling truth,
That I have deigned to spend regrets
On my bruised youth.

"Its idol mocked thee, seated nigh,
And shamed me for the mad mistake;
I thank my God he could deny,
And she forsake.

"Ah, who am I, that God hath saved
Me from the doom I did desire,
And crossed the lot myself had craved,
To set me higher?

"What have I done that He should bow
From heaven to choose a wife for me?
And what deserved, He should endow
My home with THEE?

"My wife!" With that she turned her face
To kiss the hand about her neck;
And I went down and sought the place
Where leaped the beck -

The busy beck, that still would run
And fall, and falter its refrain;
And pause and shimmer in the sun,
And fall again.

It led me to the sandy shore,
We sang together, it and I -
"The daylight comes, the dark is o'er,
The shadows fly."

I lost it on the sandy shore,
"O wife!" its latest murmurs fell,
"O wife, be glad, and fear no more
The letter L."




THE HIGH TIDE ON THE COAST OF LINCOLNSHIRE.

(1571.)


The old mayor climbed the belfry tower,
The ringers ran by two, by three;
"Pull, if ye never pulled before;
Good ringers, pull your best," quoth he.
"Play uppe, play uppe, O Boston bells!
Ply all your changes, all your swells,
Play uppe 'The Brides of Enderby.'"

Men say it was a stolen tyde -
The Lord that sent it, He knows all;
But in myne ears doth still abide
The message that the bells let fall:
And there was nought of strange, beside
The nights of mews and peewits pied
By millions crouched on the old sea wall.

I sat and spun within the doore,
My thread brake off, I raised myne eyes;
The level sun, like ruddy ore,
Lay sinking in the barren skies;
And dark against day's golden death
She moved where Lindis wandereth,
My sonne's faire wife, Elizabeth.

"Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
Ere the early dews were falling,
Farre away I heard her song.
"Cusha! Cusha!" all along;
Where the reedy Lindis floweth,
Floweth, floweth.
From the meads where melick groweth
Faintly came her milking song -

"Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
"For the dews will soone be falling;
Leave your meadow grasses mellow,
Mellow, mellow;
Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot
Quit the stalks of parsley hollow,
Hollow, hollow;
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
From the clovers lift your head;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot,
Come uppe Jetty, rise and follow,
Jetty, to the milking shed."

If it be long, ay, long ago,
When I beginne to think howe long,
Againe I hear the Lindis flow,
Swift as an arrowe, sharpe and strong;
And all the aire, it seemeth mee,
Bin full of floating bells (sayth shee),
That ring the tune of Enderby.

Alle fresh the level pasture lay,
And not a shadowe mote be seene,
Save where full fyve good miles away
The steeple towered from out the greene;
And lo! the great bell farre and wide
Was heard in all the country side
That Saturday at eventide.

The swanherds where their sedges are
Moved on in sunset's golden breath.
The shepherde lads I heard afarre,
And my sonne's wife, Elizabeth;
Till floating o'er the grassy sea
Came downe that kyndly message free,
The "Brides of Mavis Enderby."

Then some looked uppe into the sky,
And all along where Lindis flows
To where the goodly vessels lie,
And where the lordly steeple shows.
They sayde, "And why should this thing be?
What danger lowers by land or sea?
They ring the tune of Enderby!

"For evil news from Mablethorpe,
Of pyrate galleys warping down;
For shippes ashore beyond the scorpe,
They have not spared to wake the towne
But while the west bin red to see,
And storms be none, and pyrates flee,
Why ring 'The Brides of Enderby'?"

I looked without, and lo! my sonne
Came riding downe with might and main
He raised a shout as he drew on,
Till all the welkin rang again,
"Elizabeth! Elizabeth!"
(A sweeter woman ne'er drew breath
Than my sonne's wife, Elizabeth.)

"The olde sea wall (he cried) is downe,
The rising tide comes on apace,
And boats adrift in yonder towne
Go sailing uppe the market-place."
He shook as one that looks on death:
"God save you, mother!" straight he saith;
"Where is my wife, Elizabeth?"

"Good sonne, where Lindis winds away,
With her two bairns I marked her long;
And ere yon bells beganne to play
Afar I heard her milking song."
He looked across the grassy lea,
To right, to left, "Ho Enderby!"
They rang "The Brides of Enderby!"

With that he cried and beat his breast;
For, lo! along the river's bed
A mighty eygre reared his crest,
And uppe the Lindis raging sped.
It swept with thunderous noises loud;
Shaped like a curling snow-white cloud,
Or like a demon in a shroud.

And rearing Lindis backward pressed,
Shook all her trembling bankes amaine;
Then madly at the eygre's breast
Flung uppe her weltering walls again.
Then bankes came downe with ruin and rout -
Then beaten foam flew round about -
Then all the mighty floods were out.

So farre, so fast the eygre drave,
The heart had hardly time to beat,
Before a shallow seething wave
Sobbed in the grasses at oure feet:
The feet had hardly time to flee
Before it brake against the knee,
And all the world was in the sea.

Upon the roofe we sate that night,
The noise of bells went sweeping by;
I marked the lofty beacon light
Stream from the church tower, red and high -
A lurid mark and dread to see;
And awsome bells they were to mee,
That in the dark rang "Enderby."

They rang the sailor lads to guide
From roofe to roofe who fearless rowed;
And I - my sonne was at my side,
And yet the ruddy beacon glowed;
And yet he moaned beneath his breath,
"O come in life, or come in death!
O lost! my love, Elizabeth."

And didst thou visit him no more?
Thou didst, thou didst, my daughter deare;
The waters laid thee at his doore,
Ere yet the early dawn was clear.
Thy pretty bairns in fast embrace,
The lifted sun shone on thy face,
Downe drifted to thy dwelling-place.

That flow strewed wrecks about the grass,
That ebbe swept out the flocks to sea;
A fatal ebbe and flow, alas!
To manye more than myne and me:
But each will mourn his own (she saith).
And sweeter woman ne'er drew breath
Than my sonne's wife, Elizabeth.

I shall never hear her more
By the reedy Lindis shore,
"Cusha! Cusha! Cusha!" calling,
Ere the early dews be falling;
I shall never hear her song,
"Cusha! Cusha!" all along
Where the sunny Lindis floweth,
Goeth, floweth;
From the meads where melick groweth,
When the water winding down,
Onward floweth to the town.

I shall never see her more
Where the reeds and rushes quiver,
Shiver, quiver;
Stand beside the sobbing river,
Sobbing, throbbing, in its falling
To the sandy lonesome shore;
I shall never hear her calling,
"Leave your meadow grasses mellow.
Mellow, mellow;
Quit your cowslips, cowslips yellow;
Come uppe Whitefoot, come uppe Lightfoot;
Quit your pipes of parsley hollow,
Hollow, hollow;
Come uppe Lightfoot, rise and follow;
Lightfoot, Whitefoot,
From your clovers lift the head;
Come uppe Jetty, follow, follow,
Jetty, to the milking shed."




AFTERNOON AT A PARSONAGE.

(THE PARSON'S BROTHER, SISTER, AND TWO CHILDREN)


_Preface_.

What wonder man should fail to stay
A nursling wafted from above,
The growth celestial come astray,
That tender growth whose name is Love!

It is as if high winds in heaven
Had shaken the celestial trees,
And to this earth below had given
Some feathered seeds from one of these.

O perfect love that 'dureth long!
Dear growth, that shaded by the palms.
And breathed on by the angel's song,
Blooms on in heaven's eternal calms!

How great the task to guard thee here,
Where wind is rough and frost is keen,
And all the ground with doubt and fear
Is checkered, birth and death between!

Space is against thee - it can part;
Time is against thee - it can chill;
Words - they but render half the heart;
Deeds - they are poor to our rich will.

* * * * *

_Merton_. Though she had loved me, I had never bound
Her beauty to my darkness; that had been
Too hard for her. Sadder to look so near
Into a face all shadow, than to stand
Aloof, and then withdraw, and afterwards
Suffer forgetfulness to comfort her.
I think so, and I loved her; therefore I
Have no complaint; albeit she is not mine:
And yet - and yet, withdrawing I would fain
She would have pleaded duty - would have said
"My father wills it"; would have turned away,
As lingering, or unwillingly; for then
She would have done no damage to the past:
Now she has roughly used it - flung it down
And brushed its bloom away. If she had said,
"Sir, I have promised; therefore, lo! my hand" -
Would I have taken it? Ah no! by all
Most sacred, no!
I would for my sole share
Have taken first her recollected blush
The day I won her; next her shining tears -
The tears of our long parting; and for all
The rest - her cry, her bitter heart-sick cry,
That day or night (I know not which it was,
The days being always night), that darkest night.
When being led to her I heard her cry,
"O blind! blind! blind!"
Go with thy chosen mate:
The fashion of thy going nearly cured
The sorrow of it. I am yet so weak
That half my thoughts go after thee; but not
So weak that I desire to have it so.

JESSIE, _seated at the piano, sings_.

When the dimpled water slippeth,
Full of laughter, on its way,
And her wing the wagtail dippeth,
Running by the brink at play;
When the poplar leaves atremble
Turn their edges to the light,
And the far-up clouds resemble
Veils of gauze most clear and white;
And the sunbeams fall and flatter
Woodland moss and branches brown.
And the glossy finches chatter
Up and down, up and down:
Though the heart be not attending,
Having music of her own,
On the grass, through meadows wending,
It is sweet to walk alone.

When the falling waters utter
Something mournful on their way,
And departing swallows flutter,
Taking leave of bank and brae;
When the chaffinch idly sitteth
With her mate upon the sheaves,
And the wistful robin flitteth
Over beds of yellow leaves;
When the clouds, like ghosts that ponder
Evil fate, float by and frown,
And the listless wind doth wander
Up and down, up and down:
Though the heart be not attending,
Having sorrows of her own,
Through the fields and fallows wending,
It is sad to walk alone.

_Merton_. Blind! blind! blind!
Oh! sitting in the dark for evermore,
And doing nothing - putting out a hand
To feel what lies about me, and to say
Not "This is blue or red," but "This is cold,
And this the sun is shining on, and this
I know not till they tell its name to me."

O that I might behold once more my God!
The shining rulers of the night and day;
Or a star twinkling; or an almond-tree,
Pink with her blossom and alive with bees,
Standing against the azure! O my sight!
Lost, and yet living in the sunlit cells
Of memory - that only lightsome place
Where lingers yet the dayspring of my youth:
The years of mourning for thy death are long.

Be kind, sweet memory! O desert me not!
For oft thou show'st me lucent opal seas,
Fringed with their cocoa-palms and dwarf red crags,
Whereon the placid moon doth "rest her chin",
For oft by favor of thy visitings
I feel the dimness of an Indian night,
And lo! the sun is coming. Red as rust
Between the latticed blind his presence burns,
A ruby ladder running up the wall;
And all the dust, printed with pigeons' feet,
Is reddened, and the crows that stalk anear
Begin to trail for heat their glossy wings,
And the red flowers give back at once the dew,
For night is gone, and day is born so fast,
And is so strong, that, huddled as in flight,
The fleeting darkness paleth to a shade,
And while she calls to sleep and dreams "Come on,"
Suddenly waked, the sleepers rub their eyes,
Which having opened, lo! she is no more.

O misery and mourning! I have felt -
Yes, I have felt like some deserted world
That God had done with, and had cast aside
To rock and stagger through the gulfs of space,
He never looking on it any more -
Untilled, no use, no pleasure, not desired,
Nor lighted on by angels in their flight
From heaven to happier planets, and the race
That once had dwelt on it withdrawn or dead
Could such a world have hope that some blest day
God would remember her, and fashion her
Anew?

_Jessie_. What, dearest? Did you speak to me?

_Child_. I think he spoke to us.

_M_. No, little elves,
You were so quiet that I half forgot
Your neighborhood. What are you doing there?

_J_. They sit together on the window-mat
Nursing their dolls.

_C_. Yes, Uncle, our new dolls -
Our best dolls, that you gave us.

_M_. Did you say
The afternoon was bright?

_J_. Yes, bright indeed!
The sun is on the plane-tree, and it flames
All red and orange.

_C_. I can see my father -
Look! look! the leaves are falling on his gown.

_M_. Where?

_C_. In the churchyard, Uncle - he is gone:
He passed behind the tower.

_M_. I heard a bell:
There is a funeral, then, behind the church.

_2d Child_. Are the trees sorry when their leaves drop off?

_1st Child_. You talk such silly words; - no, not at all.
There goes another leaf.

_2d Child_. I did not see.

_1st Child_. Look! on the grass, between the little hills.
Just where they planted Amy.

_J._ Amy died -
Dear little Amy! when you talk of her,
Say, she is gone to heaven.

_2d Child_. They planted her -
Will she come up next year?

_1st Child_. No, not so soon;
But some day God will call her to come up,
And then she will. Papa knows everything -
He said she would before he planted her.

_2d Child_. It was at night she went to heaven. Last night
We saw a star before we went to bed.

_1st Child_. Yes, Uncle, did you know? A large bright star,
And at her side she had some little ones -
Some young ones.

_M_. Young ones! no, my little maid,
Those stars are very old.

_1st Child_. What! all of them?

_M_. Yes.

_1st Child_. Older than our father?

_M_. Older, far.

_2d Child_. They must be tired of shining there so long.
Perhaps they wish they might come down.

_J_. Perhaps!
Dear children, talk of what you understand.
Come, I must lift the trailing creepers up
That last night's wind has loosened.

_1st Child_. May we help?
Aunt, may we help to nail them?

_J._ We shall see.
Go, find and bring the hammer, and some shreds.

_[Steps outside the window, lifts a branch, and sings.]_

Should I change my allegiance for rancor
If fortune changes her side?
Or should I, like a vessel at anchor,
Turn with the turn of the tide?
Lift! O lift, thou lowering sky;
An thou wilt, thy gloom forego!
An thou wilt not, he and I
Need not part for drifts of snow.

_M. [within_] Lift! no, thou lowering sky, thou wilt not lift -
Thy motto readeth, "Never."

_Children_. Here they are!
Here are the nails! and may we help?

_J_. You shall,
If I should want help.

_1st Child_. Will you want it, then?
Please want it - we like nailing.

_2d Child_. Yes, we do.

_J_. It seems I ought to want it: hold the bough,
And each may nail in turn.

[_Sings._]

Like a daisy I was, near him growing:
Must I move because favors flag,
And be like a brown wall-flower blowing
Far out of reach in a crag?
Lift! O lift, thou lowering sky;
An thou canst, thy blue regain!
An thou canst not, he and I
Need not part for drops of rain.

_1st Child_. Now, have we nailed enough?

_J. [trains the creepers_] Yes, you may go;
But do not play too near the churchyard path.

_M. [within_] Even misfortune does not strike so near
As my dependence. O, in youth and strength
To sit a timid coward in the dark,
And feel before I set a cautious step!
It is so very dark, so far more dark
Than any night that day comes after - night
In which there would be stars, or else at least
The silvered portion of a sombre cloud
Through which the moon is plunging.

_J. [entering]_ Merton!

_M_. Yes

_J_. Dear Merton, did you know that I could hear?

_M_. No: e'en my solitude is not mine now,
And if I be alone is ofttimes doubt.
Alas! far more than eyesight have I lost;
For manly courage drifteth after it -
E'en as a splintered spar would drift away
From some dismasted wreck. Hear, I complain -
Like a weak ailing woman I complain.

_J_. For the first time.

_M_. I cannot bear the dark.

_J_. My brother! you do bear it - bear it well -
Have borne it twelve long months, and not complained
Comfort your heart with music: all the air
Is warm with sunbeams where the organ stands.
You like to feel them on you. Come and play.

_M_. My fate, my fate is lonely!

_J_. So it is -
I know it is.

_M_. And pity breaks my heart.

_J_. Does it, dear Merton?

_M_. Yes, I say it does.
What! do you think I am so dull of ear
That I can mark no changes in the tones
That reach me? Once I liked not girlish pride
And that coy quiet, chary of reply,
That held me distant: now the sweetest lips
Open to entertain me - fairest hands
Are proffered me to guide.

_J_. That is not well?

_M_. No: give me coldness, pride, or still disdain,
Gentle withdrawal. Give me anything
But this - a fearless, sweet, confiding ease,
Whereof I may expect, I may exact,
Considerate care, and have it - gentle speech,
And have it. Give me anything but this!
For they who give it, give it in the faith
That I will not misdeem them, and forget
My doom so far as to perceive thereby
Hope of a wife. They make this thought too plain;
They wound me - O they cut me to the heart!
When have I said to any one of them,
"I am a blind and desolate man; - come here,
I pray you - be as eyes to me?" When said,
Even to her whose pitying voice is sweet
To my dark ruined heart, as must be hands
That clasp a lifelong captive's through the grate,
And who will ever lend her delicate aid
To guide me, dark encumbrance that I am! -
When have I said to her, "Comforting voice,
Belonging to a face unknown, I pray
Be my wife's voice?"

_J_. Never, my brother - no,


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Online LibraryJean IngelowPoems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I → online text (page 6 of 18)