Lionel Pigot Johnson.

Selections from the poems of Lionel Johnson. Including some now collected for the first time. With a prefatory memoir online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryLionel Pigot JohnsonSelections from the poems of Lionel Johnson. Including some now collected for the first time. With a prefatory memoir → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

48 £6







Selections from tbe

poems of Xionel Jobnson


The Vigo Cabinet Series

An Occasional Miscellany oj Prose and Verse.

Royal i6mo. One Shilling, net, each Part


the Rev. Canon Serine.
No 2. HOME IN WAR TIME. Poems by Sidney Dobell.
No. 3. SILENCE ABSOLUTE. By F. E. Walrond.
No. 4. SEA VERSE. By Guy J. Bridges.
No. 6. THE CYNIC'S BREVIARY. Maxims and Anecdotes from

Nicolas De Chamfort.
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. [Second Edthon.


Translated by R. A. Streatfeild.
Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. [Second Edthon

No 10. THE BURDEN OF LOVE. By E. Gibson.
No. 12. VERSES. By E. H. Lacon Watson.
No. 13. BALLADS. By John Masefield.

No IS DANTESQUES. A Sonnet Companion to the Inferno. By
George A. Greene, Author of " Italian Lyrists of To-day.

VERSES. ByAnx Egerton.
' OF THE MAGI. By W. B. Yeats. Also an Edition de

Luxe, limited, 2s. 6d. net.

late Scholar of Balliol College, Oxford.
No 19. FROM A CLOISTER. By Elizabeth Gibson.
No. 20. SONGS AND SONNETS. By Eva Dobell.
No. 31. THE FORTUNE SEEKER By Evelyn Moore.
No 22. A FLOCK OF DREAMS. By Elizabeth Gibson.
No 23 SOUNDS AND SWEET AIRS. By John Todhunter.
THE SEA. By J. M. Synge.





Including some now collected for the first time
With a Prefatory Memoir

I #4 W 3




The Poems in this collection are chosen

from " Poems ," 1895, and "Ireland

and other 'Poems,' iSgy (the

latter volume is out of print).

The three poems at the

end are reprinted by

kind permission

of the Ed: tor

of the




I have been asked to write a few words of introduction

! to the following selection from the poems of the late Lionel

! Johnson. I am impressed by the fact that this should have

h been done by one who knew him more intimately — by

l Mrs. Tynan Hinkson or by Mr. Selwyn Image, for example.

~ My only claim to write is based upon a profound esteem for

3 Mr. Johnson's literary work ; he was distinguished alike as

a poet and a prose writer, and in both departments he must

ultimately command a larger public than has hitherto been his.

He was a true poet and a tine critic. Those who knew Lionel

Johnson mourned him deeply when his life was cut short in

1902 at the early age of thirty-five. That slight boyish frame

enclosed a brilliant intellect, remarkable intuitive power

t as to the best in literature, and an extraordinary fund of

^ knowledge. With some people the capacity for assimilating

books at an early age seems well nigh miraculous. When

Dr. Johnson said that he knew more at seventeen than " now,"

speaking as an old man, he did but note the facility with

which youth, in certain isolated cases, can acquire knowledge.

In the same way, there was something incredible, passing

wonderful, in the quantity of good books that Lionel Johnson

had absorbed at the age of twenty-two, when I first made

his acquaintance. He was at home with every phase of
Church History, and able to expose with accurate learning the
numerous errors in a certain " Biographical Dictionary of the
Fathers " in many volumes that appeared some fifteen years
back. He knew his Boswell's " Johnson " well nigh by
heart : that was a small matter ; but he knew the period from
a hundred other books with an equal familiarity. His
knowledge of the 18th century was indeed profound, and he
had the same keen knowledge of the 19th. His appreciation
of Thomas Hardy's genius led him to write a book on that
subject, only less masterly than his appreciations of a hundred
other authors of the Georgian or Victorian eras.

Born at Broadstairs in 1867, Lionel Johnson was
educated at Winchester and at New College, Oxford, where
in 1890 he came out in Class I. in the Final Classical School.
It was then that he threw himself with enthusiasm into all
questions concerning Ireland, although his relations with
that country were originally of the slightest, and could not
in the least have influenced the bend of his mind towards
sympathy with Ireland's aspirations. In fact his grandfather
had been a Captain of Yeomanry at New Ross in 1798.*
It pleased Lionel Johnson, however, in those years in
which I knew him, to consider himself an Irishman, and he
threw himself with zeal into all movements affecting the
welfare of that imaginative people ; he loved the land, visited
it frequently, assimilated its traditions, its aspirations. Those
of us who knew him in the years of his London life between
1890 and 1902, found him in intimate friendship with the Irish

* Lionel Johnson was of the family of Sir Henry Allen Johnson of Bath,
4th baronet, and was the son of Captain William Victor Johnson, second
son of the 2nd baronet. An elder brother of Lionel fought at Atbara and
Khartoum and was mentioned in despatches. Lionel Johnson's Irish descent
was through theist baronet, Sir Henry Johnson of Ballykilcaven, who was
Governor of Ross Castle.

colony in London and, indeed, essentially an Irishman
fighting the battles of that country's literature, sympathising
heartily with all its efforts to preserve individuality and
national character. Again and again in stirring lines he
breathed the spirit of enthusiasm for Ireland's great men
past and present. Addressing the late John O'Lcary, a dear
friend who was destined to survive him but a few short
years, he wrote in " Ways of War":—

" A terrible and splendid trust
Heartens the host of Inisfail,
Their dream is of the swift sword-thrust,
A lightning glory of the Gael."

We find the earliest poems by Lionel Johnson in the
" Book of the Rhymers' Club," of which two series are on
our shelves. After these he published, in 1895, a volume
entitled " Poems," and in 1897 one called " Ireland, with
Other Poems." Here, fairly complete, we have the poetical
work of Johnson, but, as I have said, he was also a prose
writer of distinction. We read his essays and reviews in
the Academy, the Daily Chronicle, and in the now extinct
Anti-Jacobin, I have often wished that the best of these
essays might be collected by one of his friends — by Mrs.
Hinkson, or by Mr. H. W. Nevinson for example.

Let us hope that the publication of this little volume will
give an impetus to the wider distribution of much other work
from the same pen.


Great Missenden, Bucks.



Winchester 9

To Morfydd ...... 16

Plato in London 18

In Falmouth Harbour 20

By the Statue of King Charles at Charing

Cross 24

The Precept of Silence .... 27

Hill and Vale . 28

Mystic and Cavalier 30

Summer Storm 32

Ireland's Dead 33

Hawthorne 35

Harmonies 37

Sancta Silvarum 38

The Dark Angel 40

Lucretius 43

Cadgwith 44

The Church of a Dream .... 45

The Age of a Dream ... -46

Trentals .47

Magic 48

Incense 50

Vespers 54

Upon Reading Certain Poems 55

Collins 56

Late Love 57

Love's Ways 58

Chalkhill -59

Hawker of Morwenstow 60

To a Friend ...... .61

Ash Wednesday 62

Brothers 62


To the fairest !

Then to thee
Consecrate and bounden be,
Winchester! this verse of mine.
Ah, that loveliness of thine !
To have lived enchaunted years
Free from sorrows, free from fears,
Where thy Tower's great shadow falls
Over those proud buttressed walls ;
Whence a purpling glory pours
From high heaven's inheritors,
Throned within the arching stone !
To have wandered, hushed, alone,
Gently round thy fair, fern-grown .
Chauntry of the Lilies, lying
Where the soft night winds go sighing
Round thy Cloisters, in moonlight
Branching dark, or touched with white


Round old, chill aisles, where moon-smitten
Blanches the Orate, written
Under each worn, old-world face
Graven on Death's holy place !

To the noblest !

None but thee.
Blest our living eyes, that see
Half a thousand years fulfilled
Of that age, which Wykeham willed
Thee to win ; yet all unworn,
As upon that first March morn,
When thine honoured city saw
Thy young beauty without flaw,
Born within her water-flowing,
Ancient hollows, by wind-blowing
Hills enfolded ever more.
Thee, that lord of splendid lore,
, Orient from old Hellas' shore,
Grocyn, had to mother : thee,
Monumental majesty
Of most high philosophy
Honours, in thy wizard Browne :
Tender Otway's dear renown,



Mover of a perfect pity,
Victim of the iron city,
Thine to cherish is : and thee,
Laureate of Liberty ;
Harper of the Highland faith,
Elf, and faery, and wan wraith ;
Chaunting softly, chaunting slowly,
Minstrel of all melancholy ;
Master of all melody,
Made to cling round memory ;
Passion's poet, Evening's voice,
Collins glorified. Rejoice,
Mother ! in thy sons : for all
Love thine immemorial
Name, august and musical.
Not least he, who left thy side,
For his sire's, thine earlier pride,
Arnold : whom we mourn to-day,
Prince of song, and gone away
To his brothers of the bay :
Thine the love of all his years ;
His be now thy praising tears.



To the dearest !

Ah, to thee !
Hast thou not in all to me
Mother, more than mother, been ?
Well toward thee may Mary Queen
Bend her with a mother's mien;
Who so rarely dost express
An inspiring tenderness,
Woven with thy sterner strain,
Prelude of the world's true pain.
But two years, and still my feet
Found thy very stones more sweet,
Than the richest fields elsewhere :
Two years, and thy sacred air
Still poured balm upon me, when
Nearer drew the world of men ;
When the passions, one by one,
All sprang upward to the sun :
Two years have I lived, still thine;
Lost, thy presence ! gone, that shrine,
Where six years, what years ! were mine.
Music is the thought of thee ;
Fragrance, all thy memory.



Those thy rugged Chambers old,
In their gloom and rudeness, hold
Dear remembrances of gold.
Some first blossoming of flowers
Made delight of all the hours ;
Greatness, beauty, all things fair
Made the spirit of thine air :
Old years live with thee ; thy sons
Walk with high companions.
Then, the natural joy of earth,
Joy of very health and birth !
Hills, upon a summer noon :
Water Meads, on eves of June :
Chamber Court, beneath the moon :
Days of spring, on Twyford Down,
Or when autumn woods grew brown ;
As they looked, when here came Keats,
Chaunting of autumnal sweets ;
Throught this city of old haunts,
Murmuring immortal chaunts ;
As when Pope, art's earlier king,
Here, a child, did nought but sing ;
Sang, a child, by nature's rule,
Round the trees of Twyford School :



Hours of sun beside Mead's Wall,
Ere the may begin to fall ;
Watching the rooks rise and soar,
High from lime and sycamore :
Wanderings by old-world ways,
Walks and streets of ancient days
Closes, churches, arches, halls,
Vanished men's memorials.
There was beauty, there was grace,
Each place was an holy place :
There the kindly fates allowed
Me too room ; and made me proud,
Prouder name I have not wist !
With the name of Wykehamist.
These thy joys : and more than these :
Ah, to watch beneath thy trees,
Through long twilights linden-scented,
Sunsets, lingering, lamented,
In the purple west ; prevented,
Ere they fell, by evening star I
Ah, long nights of Winter ! far
Leaps and roars the faggot fire ;
Ruddy smoke rolls higher, higher,
Broken through by name's desire;



Circling faces glow, all eyes
Take the light; deep radiance flies,
Merrily flushing overhead
Names of brothers, long since fled ;
And fresh clusters, in their stead,
Jubilant round fierce forest flame.
Friendship too must make her claim
But what songs, what memories end,
When they tell of friend on friend ?
And for them, I thank thy name.

Love alone of gifts, no shame
Lessens, and I love thee : yet
Sound it but of echoes, let
This my maiden music be,
Of the love I bear to thee,
Witness and interpreter,
Mother mine : loved Winchester I

To Morfydd

A voice on the winds,
A voice by the waters,

Wanders and cries :
Oh I what are the winds P
And ivhat are the waters P

Mine are your eyes !

Western the winds are,
And western the waters,

Where the light lies :
Oh/ what are the winds P
And what are the zvatersP

Mine are your eyes !

Cold, cold, grow the winds,
And wild grow the waters,

Where the sun dies :
Oh ! what are the winds P
And what are the waters P

Mine are your eyes !



And down the night winds,
And down the night waters,

The music flies .
Oh ! zvhat are the winds ?
And what are the waters ?
Cold be the zvitids,
A fid ivild be the zvaters,

So ?nine be your eyes !


Plato in London

The pure flame of one taper fall
Over the old and comely page :
No harsher light disturb at all
This converse with a treasured sage.
Seemly, and fair, and of the best,

If Plato be our guest,

Should things befall.

Without, a world of noise and cold :
Here, the soft burning of the fire.
And Plato walks, where heavens unfold,
About the home of his desire.
From his own city of high things,

He shows to us, and brings,

Truth of fine gold.



The hours pass : and the fire burns low ;
The clear flame dwindles into death :
Shut then the book with care ; and so,
Take leave of Plato, with hushed breath :
A little, by the falling gleams,

Tarry the gracious dreams :

And they too go.

Lean from the window to the air ;
Hear London's voice upon the night !
Thou hast hold converse with things rare
Look now upon another sight !
The calm stars, in their living skies :

And then, these surging cries,

This restless glare !

That starry music, starry fire,

High above all our noise and glare :

The image of our long desire,

The beauty, and the strength, are there.

And Plato's thought lives, true and clear,

In as august a sphere :

Perchance, far higher.

19 B 2

In Falmouth Harbour

The large, calm harbour lies below
Long terraced lines of circling light ;
Without, the deep sea currents flow :
And here are stars, and night.

No sight, no sound, no living stir,
But such as perfect the still bay :
So hushed it is, the voyager
Shrinks at the thought of day.

We glide by many a lanterned mast ;
Our mournful horns blow wild to warn
Yon looming pier : the sailors cast
Their ropes, and watch for morn.

Strange murmurs from the sleeping town,
And sudden creak of lonely oars
Crossing the water, travel down
The roadstead, the dim shores.


A charm is on the silent bay;
Charms of the sea, charms of the land.
Memories of open wind convey
Peace to this harbour strand.

Far off, Saint David's crags descend
On seas of desolate storm : and far
From this pure rest, the Land's drear End,
And ruining waters, are.

Well was it worth to have each hour
Of high and perilous blowing wind :
For here, for now, deep peace hath power
To conquer the worn mind.

I have passed over the rough sea,
And over the white harbour bar :
And this is Death's dreamland to me,
Led hither by a star.

And what shall the dawn be ? Hush thee, nay !
Soft, soft is night, and calm and still :
Save that day cometh, what of day
Knowest thou : good, or ill ?



Content thee ! Not the annulling light
Of any pitiless dawn is here ;
Thou are alone with ancient night :
And all the stars are clear.

Only the night air, and the dream ;
Only the far, sweet-smelling wave;
The stilly sounds, the circling gleam,
And thine : and thine a grave.


Hence, by stern thoughts and strong winds borne
Voyaged, with faith that could not fail,
Who cried : Lead, kindly Light ! forlorn
Beneath a stranger sail.

Becalmed upon a classic sea ;
Wandering through eternal Rome ;
Fighting with death in Sicily :
He hungered for his home.

These northern waves, these island airs !
Dreams of these haunted his full heart :
Their love inspired his songs and prayers,
Bidding him play his part.



The freedom of the living dead ;
The service of a living pain :
He chose between them, bowed his head,
And counted sorrow, gain.

Ah, sweetest soul of all ! whose choice
Was golden with the light of lights :
But us doubt's melancholy voice,
Wandering in gloom, unites.

Ah, sweetest soul of all ! whose voice
Hailed morning, and the sun's increase
We of the restless night rejoice,
We also, at thy peace.


By the Statue of King Charles
at Charing Cross

Sombre and rich, the skies ;
Great glooms, and starry plains.
Gently the night wind sighs ;
Else avast silence reigns.

The splendid silence clings
Around me : and around
The saddest of all kings
Crowned, and again discrowned.

Comely and calm, he rides
Hard by his own Whitehall :
Only the night wind glides :
No crowds, nor rebels, brawl.

Gone, too, his Court : and yet.
The stars his courtiers are :
Stars in their stations set ;
And every wandering star.



Alone he rides, alone,
The fair and fatal king :
Dark night is all his own,
That strange and solemn thing.

Which are more full of fate :
The stars ; or those sad eyes ?
Which are more still and great :
Those brows ; or the dark skies ?

Although his whole heart yearn
In passionate tragedy :
Never was face so stern
With sweet austerity.

Vanquished in life, his death
By beauty made amends :
The passing of his breath
Won his defeated ends.

Brief life, and hapless ? Nay :
Through death, life grew sublime.
Speak after sentence ? Yea :
And to the end of time.



Armoured he rides, his head
Bare to the stars of doom :
He triumphs now, the dead,
Beholding London's gloom.

Our wearier spirit faints,
Vexed in the world's employ :
His soul was of the saints;
And art to him was joy.

King, tried in fires of woe !
Men hunger for thy grace :
And through the night I go,
Loving thy mournful face.

Yet, when the city sleeps ;
When all the cries are still :
The stars and heavenly deeps
Work out a perfect will.


The Precept of Silence

I know you : solitary griefs,
Desolate passions, aching hours
I know you : tremulous beliefs,
Agonized hopes, and ashen flowers !

The winds are sometimes sad to me ;
The starry spaces, full of fear :
Mine is the sorrow on the sea,
And mine the sigh of places drear.

Some players upon plaintive strings
Publish their wistfulness abroad :
I have not spoken of these things,
Save to one man, and unto God.


Hill and Vale

Not on the river plains
Wilt thou breathe loving air,
O mountain spirit fine !
Here the cairn soul maintains
Calm : but no joy like thine,
On hill-tops bleak and bare,
Whose breath is fierce and rare.
Were beauty all thy need,
Here were an haunt for thee.
The broad laborious weald,
An eye's delight indeed,
Spreads from rich field to field :
And full streams wander free
Under the Alder tree.

Throw thee upon the grass,
The daisied grass, and gaze
Far to the warm blue mist :
Feel, how the soft hours pass
Over, before they wist,
Into whole day : and days
Dream on in sunny haze.



Each old, sweet, country scent
Comes, as old music might
Upon thee : old, sweet sounds
Go, as they ever went,
Over the red corn grounds :
Still sweeping scythes delight
Charmed hearing and charmed sight.

Gentle thy life would be :
To watch at morning dew
Fresh water-lilies : tell,
How bears the walnut tree :
Find the first foxglove bell,
Spare the last harebell blue :
And wander the wold through.

Another love is thine :
For thee the far world spied
From the far mountain top :
Keen scented, sounding pine,
The purple heather crop :
And night's great glorious tide
Of stars and clouds allied.


Mystic and Cavalier

Go from me : I am one of those, who fall.
What ! hath no cold wind swept your heart at all,
In my sad company ? Before the end,
Go from me, dear my friend !

Yours are the victories of light : your feet
Rest from good toil, where rest is brave and sweet.
But after warfare in a mourning gloom,
I rest in clouds of doom.

Have you not read so, looking in these eyes ?
Is it the common light of the pure skies,
Lights up their shadowy depths ? The end is set :
Though the end be not yet.

When gracious music stirs, and all is bright,
And beauty triumphs through a courtly night ;
When I too joy, a man like other men :
Yet, am I like them, then ?


And in the battle, when the horsemen sweep
Against a thousand deaths, and fall on sleep :
Who ever sought that sudden calm, if I
Sought not ? Yet, could not die.

Seek with thine eyes to pierce this crystal sphere :
Canst read a fate there, prosperous and clear ?
Only the mists, only the weeping clouds :
Dimness, and airy shrouds.

Beneath, what angels are at work ? What powers
Prepare the secret of the fatal hours ?
See ! the mists tremble, and the clouds are stirred
When comes the calling word ?

The clouds are breaking from the crystal ball,
Breaking and clearing : and I look to fall.
When the cold winds and airs of portent sweep,
My spirit may have sleep.

rich and sounding voices of the air !
Interpreters and prophets of despair :
Priests of a fearful sacrament ! I come,
To make with you mine home.


Summer Storm

The wind, hark ! the wind in the angry woods
And low clouds purple the west : there broods
Thunder, thunder ; and rain will fall ;
Fresh fragrance cling to the wind from all

Roses holding water wells,
Laurels gleaming to the gusty air ;
Wilding mosses of the dells,
Drenched hayfields, and dripping hedgerows fair

The wind, hark ! the wind dying again :
The wind's voice matches the far-off main,
In sighing cadences : Pan will wake,
Pan in the forest, whose rich pipes make

Music to the folding flowers,
In the pure eve, where no hot spells are :

Those be favourable hours
Hymned by Pan beneath the shepherd star.


Ireland's Dead

Immemorial Holy Land !
At thine hand, thy sons await
Any fate : they understand
Thee, the all compassionate.

Be it death for thee, they grieve
Nought, to leave the light aside :
Thou their pride, they undeceive
Death, by death unterrified.

Mother, dear and fair to us,
Ever thus to be adored !
Is thy sword grown timorous,
Mother of misericord ?

For thy dead is grief on thee ?
Can it be, thou dost repent,
That they went, thy chivalry,
Those sad ways magnificent ?



What, and if their heart's blood flow?
Gladly so, with love divine,
Since not thine the overthrow,
They thy fields incarnadine.

Hearts afire with one sweet flame,
One loved name, thine host adores :
Conquerers, they overcame
Death, high Heaven's inheritors.

For their loyal love, nought less,
Than the stress of death, sufficed :
Now with Christ, in blessedness,
Triumph they, imparadised.

Mother, with so dear blood stained !
Freedom gained through love befall
Thee, by thraldom unprofaned,
Perfect and imperial !

Still the ancient voices ring :
Faith they bring, and fear repel.
Time shall tell thy triumphing,
Victress and invincible !



Ten years ago I heard ; ten, have I loved ;

Thine haunting voice borne over the waste sea.

Was it thy melancholy spirit moved

Mine, with those gray dreams, that invested thee ?

Or was it, that thy beauty first reproved

The imperfect fancies, that looked fair to me ?

Thou hast both secrets : for to thee are known
The fatal sorrows binding life and death :
And thou hast found, on winds of passage blown,
That music, which is sorrow's perfect breath :
So, all thy beauty takes a solemn tone,
And art, in all thy melancholy saith.

Now therefore is thy voice abroad for me,
When through dark woodlands murmuring

sounds make way :
Thy voice, and voices of the sounding sea,
Stir in the branches, as none other may :
All pensive loneliness is full of thee,
And each mysterious, each autumnal day.

35 2c


Hesperian soul ! Well hadst thou in the West
Thine hermitage and meditative place :


Online LibraryLionel Pigot JohnsonSelections from the poems of Lionel Johnson. Including some now collected for the first time. With a prefatory memoir → online text (page 1 of 2)