Mary Botham Howitt.

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By your fathers' shall be laid.
Naught ye care for learning vain,
Which but dulleth pulse and brain :
Ye are neither deep nor wise ;
Ye shall ne'er philosophize.
Lowly ones, that matters not.
Doth not gloom your humble lot,
Doth not make one ray depart
From the sunshine of your heart.


Happy children ! here ye run
Gaily in the summer's sun ;
'Neath this village tree ye play ;
Down these shadowy lanes ye stray
Gathering flowers, or singing wild
To some younger laughing child.
'T is a kindly life ye lead ;
Such as poet hath decreed
To that earlier, happy time,
Ere the earth was gloomed by crime.

Simple ones, and full of gladness,
Ye shall school my spirit's sadness.
Never-ending joy ye find
In your own contented mind ;
Sending not your spirits out
Searching wearily about
For ideal things, that lie
Nowhere underneath the sky.
I, like you, will find delight
On the left hand and the right.
Nor o'erlook the treasure sweet
Which is lying at my feet.

Children, though untaught ye be,
Thus ye shall be guides to me.



The baron hath the landward park, the fisher hath the sea ;
But the rocky haunts of the sea-fowl belong alone to me.

The baron hunts the running deer, the fisher nets the brine ;
But every bird that builds a nest on ocean-cliffs is mine.

Come on then, Jock and Alick, let's to the sea-rocks bold :
I was trained to take the sea-fowl ere I was five years old.

The wild sea roars, and lashes the granite crags below ;
And round the misty islets the loud, strong tempests blow.

And let them blow ! Roar wind and wave, they shall not me

dismay ;
I've faced the eagle in her nest and snatched her young away.

The eagle shall not build her nest, proud bird although she be,
Nor yet the strong-winged cormorant, without the leave of me.

The eider-duck has laid her eggs, the tern doth hatch her young,
And the merry gull screams o'er her brood ; but all to me

Away, then, in the daylight, and back again ere eve ;

The eagle could not rear her young, unless I gave her leave.

The baron hath the landward park, the fisher hath the sea ;
But the rocky haunts of the sea-fowl belong alone to me.




Briskly blows the evening gale,

Fresh and free it blows ;
Blessings on the fishing-boat,

How merrily she goes !
Christ he loved the fishermen ;

Walking by the sea,
How he blessed the fishing- boats

Down in Galilee !
Dark the night, and wild the wave,

Christ the boat is keeping ;
Trust in him, and have no fear,

Though he seemeth sleeping.


Briskly blows the morning breeze,

Fresh and strong it blows ;
Blessings on the fishing-boat,

How steadily she goes !
Christ he loved the fishermen ;

And he blessed the net
Which the hopeless fishers threw

In Genesaret.
He has blessed our going out.

Blessed too our returning ;
Given us laden nets at night.

And fair wind in the morning.



Mine is no idle legend of romance,
No flowery tale of knights and chivalrie,
Of love-lorn damsel, or of elfin dance
Held in the moonlight 'neath some haunted tree ;
Nor fabled marvels of the far-off sea :
Such lighter themes I leave to younger men ;
HI would it suit an ancient man like me,
Whose days are verging to fourscore and ten,
On light and trivial tale to employ my feeble pen.

Fain would I, from my long experience,
Teach you what well beseemeth all to know :
How good it is to trust in Providence,
Who clothes the lilies in their vests of snow,
And from his high heaven sees our want and woe.
Counts every tear, and hears each secret sigh ;
Who bids the floods of righteous vengeance flow,
Yet bounds their devastation. Even I
Have seen his love displayed, and of it testify.

Bonds unto death my pious fathers knew.
For conscience' sake : the might of bigot power,
Even on their hearths and at their altars, slew,
As a fierce Moloch greedy to devour.


How strong the weak in persecution's hour,
Who put their trust in God ! Fair women stood,
Like the mailed champion in his vantage tower ;
And tender little ones, through fire and blood,
Maintained their holy fatth, pure martyrs unsubdued.

God saw his little band in their distress,
And heard their cry rise from the prison cell ;
For them he oped the pathless wilderness,
And led them from captivity, to dwell
In a broad land of summer rest, where fell
On them no bigot fury, no behest
Of king or priest their conscience to compel.
No ! in the wide free forests of the West
Fearless they worshipped God as they believed it best.

Hemmed by the mountains and the forests round,
Beside the margin of a mighty lake.
How quiet was the heritage they found !
How tranquilly each moi-ning did they wake !
How tranquilly, when day was done, betake
Themselves to rest ! and on the genial air
What holy sounds of psalmody did break
Forth from the silence of the forest, where
Those humble people met for fervent praise and prayer!

They laid their dead beneath the spreading trees,

Making the place about them holy ground.

Years passed : the men grew old, and on their knees

Seated their children's children, and the sound

Of prosperous human life rang gaily round.

No storms had been within their homes of peace ;

God's blessing went with them ; and they had found,

In flocks, and herds, and stores, a vast increase ;



In duuglitors uikI in sons, as though the blessing would not


I was among the children of those sires.
The forest in its beauty was our •\\n ;
And the wild creatures, and the woodland quires,
To us were as familiar playmates known ;
And every flower by liberal nature sown
We gathered in our sylvan revelry :
For gladness, as a robe, was o'er us thrown ;
And our grey fathers 'ncath some forest tree
Sate in their pleasant rest, as joyfully as we.

More joyfully ; for their tried hearts could measure
Their rest by knowledge all unknown to ours.
Alas! upon that dream of summer pleasure
Broke whirlwind rumors of contending powers ;
A quick alarm ran through those sylvan bowers,
With the wild tumult of approaching war ;
And in the deep hush of the midnight hours
The dismal war-whoop sounded from afar,
Rousing the slumberers up with its unearthly jar.

And then, with morning's light we sadly traced
Where those wild dwellers of the woods had gone ;
Behind them lay a black and smoking waste,
As carrying fire and terror they went on.
Then passed the hostile army ; and anon
Our flocks and herds were driven from the stall,
The harvests of our summer trampled down ;
And we were left in penury, stripped Oi all ;
Yet dreading worse distress and terror to befall.

Trouble on trouble came, and woe on woe,


And famine triumphed o'er our rylvan town ;
No more the hunters to the woods could go ;
For the fierce Indian ranging up and down,
Or skulking 'neath the dark low boughs, had done
His work of death so frequently and well,
That often of the hunter bands not one
Returned unto the desolate town, to tell
How hopeless was their quest, or where their brethren fell.

The winter came. Oh, sorrowful to see !
No longer food within the frozen lake,-
Nor corn, nor fruits, nor venison store had we,
Nor refuge was there whither to betake
Ourselves from wasting want ; and famine spake
Appalling truths in hale men's feebleness ;
But it was saddest, when the child did make
Piteous appeal, to dole forth less and less
Of miserable food, a mockery of distress.

One Sabbath night, one Christmas Sabbath night,
When the bright stars looked from the frosty sky,
And all around the silent earth was white
With the crisp snow, v/hich all untracked did lie,
A blank expanse 'neath Heaven's eternal eye,
We met, as was our wont, for prayer and praise,
Beneath the roof which in long years gone by
Our fathers in the wilderness did raise.
That they might serve the Lord who had redeemed their days.

My years were few : I was a thoughtless child,
Thoughtless till then ; but ne'er shall I forget
That solemn time. My hoary sire, a mild.
Strong-hearted man ; I can recall him yet ;


He was our minister, and there he met
His little flock, a pale dejected band.
He stood amid them, and his cheeks were wet
With sorrow which his strength could ill withstand,
And love, that o'er his soul had absolute command.

He prayed, and he exhorted all to hope,
And put in God undoubting confidence ;
He culled from Holy Writ the glorious scope
Of mercy, miracle, and providence.
Proving how faith 'gainst woe is sure defence.
He told of Israel, through the desert led,
Eating of food that came they knew not whence ;
And the seven thousand on the mountain fed.
In humble, holy faith, by Christ, the Living Bread.

Strong were his words, mighty and eloquent,
Unlike the usual tenor of his speech ;
And to all hearts a clear conviction went
That God spoke through him, graciously to reach
Their drooping sprits, to console, to teach
How He the fountain of all good would be.
Thus did the Apostles to the churches preach.
All bowed, that blessed night, the trembling knee,
Knowing that God could save, and praying fervently.

Oh, marvel of God's love ! The morning light
Put doubt and misbelieving fear to shame ;
For, from the forest, in the silent night.
Herds of the wild-deer trooping onward came
Into our empty folds, as come the tame
Flocks from the pasture. To the very door
Those shy, wild creatures, which all art disclaim,
Came a free sacrifice, a living store
Sent by their God and ours, that we might want no more.


Pity it seemed those gentle beasts to slay :
But hunger hath no mercies ; and so great
Had been our want, that on their easy prey
They fell and slew, and, thankfully elate,
They and their famished households freely ate.
There was no longer want, no longer fear,
All saw that God, in love compassionate.
Had in their sorest need vouchsafed to hear,
And given unto their prayers food to sustain and cheer.

From that day forth all vain and idle thought.
All cold and sinful doubt, I put aside ;
I felt that a strong power within me wrought,
Which changed my foolish heart and purified ;
God's power I saw, which could not be belied ;
His arm outstretched, as in the ancient day ;
Therefore, abasing all unholy pride,
I vowed to be his minister alway.
And preach to all His love, which hath no stint nor stay.



They had a lovely dream of old,
Of a pure, age, an Age of Gold,
Wherein they neither bought nor sold :
A reign of bliss, ere care was known,
Or sin the seed of death had sown ;
Ere human hearts had ached in sorrow,

Or human eyes had shed a tear ;
Ere men grew careful for the morrow.

Or pined in hope, or drooped in fear ;
Ere trusting faith had felt a blight,

Or love had aught to hide or shun ;
Ere the day's thought, from morn to night,

Was but to keep what it had won ;
Or the night's rest was broken from pain
Of weary count of loss and gain ;
When all was kind and fair and pure.
And love and joy, like truth, were sure.

Oh, Age of Gold ! wert thou a vision
By some enthusiast poet seen ?

The unveiling of the land Elysian,
Where death has never been ?

The foretaste of a happier lot.
The prelude of a state to be,


To show that this dim earth was not

The home of man's nativity ?
For what the aspiring soul desired,

And traced in its excursive flight,
Was truth in fancy's garb attired,

The shadowing forth of its delight,

A glimpse of glory infinite ;
The dawning of a perfect day,

Which prophet bards had long foretold,
When sin and woe should pass away.

And bring once more the Age of Gold.

Nay, leave these speculative themes,
Leave to the poet his sweet dreams,
And I will show thee a delicious page
Of living poetry, the real Golden Age.
A brighter, gladder Age of Gold, in sooth,
Than poets feigned, the Golden Age of Youth.

Oh, Youth ! thou hast a wealth beyond

What careful men do spend their souls to gain ;
A trustful heart, that knows not to despond ;

A joy unmixed with pain.
A world of beauty lies within thy ken ;

Another paradise becomes thy lot ;
Thou walk'st amid the ways of toiling men.

And yet thou knowest it not.
Thou thinkest not to plot and circumvent ;

Thou dost not calculate from morn till eve ;
They speak of guile, thou know'st not what is meant ;

Of broken faith, thou canst not it conceive.

Oh, happy Golden Age ! thy limbs are strong,
Thou boundest like the fawn amid its play ;


Thy speech is as the melody of song ;

Thy pulse like waters on their cheerful way ;
Beauty enrobes thee as a garment's fold ;

And, as a spring witliin thy heart's recess,
Wells up, more precious than the sands of gold,

Thy own great happiness.

Oh, beautiful and bright! That thou mightst keep

The kindness of thy soul as it is now !
That o'er thy heart no selfish chill might creep J

No sorrow dim thy brow !
That thou mightst gather up life's flowers.
Love, joy, and meditative hours.
And twine them as an amaranthine wreath
Around thy brows in death !
My daughter ! my own life ! to thee I turn,
And with a warm solicitude do yearn
Toward thee, in thy unpractised innocence.

And pour my longings out in fervent prayer :
God be thy blessing, thy assured defence.

Thy Comforter, thy Father, everywhere !

DEATH. 249


The flower-strewn earth is wondrous fair,
But Death, the strong, is everywhere.
It matters not how bright, how still.
Is valley green, or cloud-capped hill,
Death, like a hard unpitying foe,
Is there to strike the certain blow.
Thus, yesterday, to-day, to-morrow.
Till time is done, shall be this sorrow.
Thus is it in all distant climes ;
Thus was it in the ancient times.
The prophets are of former days ;
All those whom we delight to praise ;
The bard, whose soul was love and light ;
The arm that combated for right ;
The patriot-king ; the wise, the brave ;
All, all, are mouldering in the grave.
The gain was thine when rose on high
The Egyptian mothei* midnight cry ;
When God's strong angel, with a blast
Which smote among the Assyrians passed ;
When the unnumbered Persians lay
On Salamis at break of day ;
And when, 'mid revelry, came down


250 DEATH.

Darkness on the Italian town :
Then, Death, thou hadst the victory.

Oh, Death ! oh, spoiler, stern and strong !
The sea, the isles, to thee belong.
The hoary hills are all thine own,
With the grey cairn and cromlech-stone ;
The groves of oak, the woods of pine,
The sunless ocean-caves are thine.
Thy ancient slumbers lie beneath
The untilled verdure of the heath ;
The merchant meets thee 'mid his gold,
The hunter on the breezv wold :
The seaman finds no unknown bay.
But there thou lurkest for thy prey.
Thou spoiler of life's charm ! thou cold
Defaccr of time's purest gold !
Where is the spot to thee unknown ?
The whole wide world by thee is sown,
And years must pass in misery steeped.
Ere that dread harvest shall be reaped.

Yet, conqueror of conquerors stem !
Yet, deaf despoiler ! who dost spurn
All prayers, all tears ; thou yet must bow
Unto a mightier than thou.
Long in thy night was man forlorn.
Long didst thou laugh his hopes to scorn ;
Vain were philosophy's faint dreams.
Their liglit was but as meteor gleams ;
Till rose the conqueror of Death,
The humble man of Nazareth ;
He stood between us and despair ;
He bore and gave us strength to bear ;

DEATH. 251

The mysteries of the grave unsealed,
And our high destiny revealed.
Nor bard, nor sage, may comprehend
The heaven of rest to which we tend.
Our home is not this mortal clime ;
Our life hath not its bounds in time ;
And death is but the cloud that lies
Between our souls and paradise !

Oh, Death ! well might each thoughtful race
Give thee the high and holy place ;
Earth's loveliest scenes are meet for thee,
Thou portal of Eternity !



Not to cold-hearted, weary care

Give up thy heart, a votary won ;
Come now, a simple pleasure seize,
Where a thousand thousand crocuses
Are shining in the sun.

I have seen them oft, and loved them long.

Comparing them, in wild vagary,
To some enchanted lake that lies
Beneath the bright, enchanted skies,
In the old land of faery.

But why need we comparisons,

They are themselves so beautiful :
Are they not flowers, dear English flowers,
Growing in meadows that are ours,
, For any child to pull ?

And from the dim and treeless town

The little children have gone forth,
Running and leaping, happy bands,
With little baskets in their hands,
And hearts brimful of mirth.


And, darkly pondering on the past,

Slowly have come down aged men,
Feeble with years, and bent and hoar,
To gaze upon the flowers once more ;
Never to gaze again.

Here come the children of the poor.
Leaving their early cares behind.

Gamesome as the wild forest herd,

And free as is the mountain bird,
Or as the mountain wind. ■

Some like strong lambs at play ; and some
Culling of choicest flowers a few ;

And some, like gleaners, bending low.

Keep gathering in a steady row.
And never have enow.

The little infant 'mong the grass

Sits, meekly thinking to itself;
Until comes out a gaudy fly.
Or a small bee goes humming by.

Then shouts the merry elf.

Ay, sing unto the lark above ye.

And freely wander where ye list ;
And glean up, from the abounding earth,
Strong joy and rosy health and mirth ;
Good gifts too often missed :

For carelessly ye wander now ;

But passing life brings deepening shadows,
And ye, in some far burning clime,
May oft retrace the youthful time

Spent in your native meadows.


And God sent flowers to beautify

The earth, and cheer man's careful mood ;
And he is happiest who has power
To gather wisdom from a flower,
And wake his heart in every hour

To wholesome gratitude.



We meet around the board, thou art not there ;

Over our household joys hath passed a gloom ;
Beside the fire we see thy empty chair,

And miss thy sweet voice in the silent room.
What hopeless longings after thee arise !
Even for the touch of thy small hand I pine ;

And for the sound of thy dear little feet.
Alas ! tears dim mine eyes,
Meeting in every place some joy of thine, ^

Or when fair children pass me in the street.

Beauty was on thy cheek ; and thou didst seem

A privileged being, chartered from decay ;
And thy free spirit, like a mountain stream

That hath no ebb, kept on its cheerful way.

Thy laugh was like the inspiring breath of spring,
That thrills the heart, and cannot be unfelt,

The sun, the moon, the green leaves and the flowers.
And every living thing.
Were a strong joy to thee ; thy spirit dwelt

Gladly in life, rejoicing in its powers.

Oh ! what had death to do with one like thee.

Thou young and loving one ; whose soul did cling,


Even as the ivy clings unto the tree,

To those that loved thee ? Thou, whose tears would spring
Dreading a short day's absence, didst thou go
Alone into the future world unseen,
Solving each awful untried mystery,
The dread unknown to know ;
To be where mortal traveller hath not been.

Whence welcome tidings cannot come from thee ?

My happy boy ! and murmur I that death

Over thy young and buoyant frame had power ?
In yon bright land love never perisheth,

Hope may not mock, nor grief the heart devour.
The beautiful are round thee ; thou dost keep
Within the Eternal Presence ; and no more

Mayst death, or pain, or separation, dread :
Thy bright eyes cannot weep.
Nor they with whom thou art thy loss deplore ;

For ye are of the living, not the dead.

Thou dweller with the unseen, who hast explored

The immense unknown ; thou to whom death and heavon
Are mysteries no more ; whose soul is stored

With knowledge for which man hath vainly striven ;
Beloved child, oh ! wlien shall I lie down
With thee beneath fair trees that cannot fade ?

When from the immortal rivers quench my thirst ?
Life's journey speedeth on ;
Yet for a little while we walk in shade ;

Anon, by death the cloud is all dispersed ;
Then o'er the hills of heaven the eternal day doth burst.







" Green grow the budding blackberry hedges ;
What joy ! a violet meets my quest ;
The blackbird seeks the last year's sedges,

The merry chaffinch builds her nest ;
The snow has from each vale receded,
It only clothes the mountain's brow.
I from my home have stolen unheeded ;
This is the place ; I'll venture novv :

Riibezahl !

" Hears he my call ? I'll boldly face him :
He is not bad. Upon this stone
My pack of linen I will place him ;

It is a right good, heavy one,
And fine : yes, I'll uphold it ever,

I' th' dale no better 's wove at all.
He shows himself to mortal never ;
So courage, heart ! once more I call :

Riibezahl !


" No sound ! Adowri the wood I hasted,
That he might help us, hard bested.
My mother's face, so wan and wasted ;
Within the house no crumb of bread.
To market, cursing, went my father ;
Might he but there a buyer meet !
With Riibezahl I'll venture rather ;
Him for the third time I entreat :

Riibezahl !

" For he so kindly helped a many.

My grandmotlier oft to me has told ;
Yes, gave poor folks a good luck-penny,

Whose woe was undeserved, of old.
So here I am : my heart beats lightly.

My goods are justly measured all,
I will not beg, will sell uprightly.
Oh, that he would come ! Riibezahl !

Rubezahl !

" Suppose these goods should suit his taste,
And he should order more to come :
W^e could his wish fulfil with haste,

We've plenty more as fine at home.
Suppose he took them, every piece ;

Ah ! would his choice on them might fall !
What's pawned I would myself release :
That would be glorious ! Riibezahl !

Rubezahl !

" I'd enter then our small room gaily.

And cry, ' Here, father, 's gold in store !'
He would not curse ; that he wove daily

A hunger-web, would say no more.
Then, then again would smile my mother


And serve a plenteous meal to all ;
Then would rejoice each little brother —
Oh, that he would come ! Rubezahl !

Rubezahl !"

Thus spake the little weaver lonely,

Thus stood and cried he, weak and pale.
In vain ; the casual raven only

Flew o'er the old gnome-haunted dale.
Thus stood he while the hours passed slowly,

Till the night-shadows dimmed the glen.
And with white quivering lips said lowly.

Amid his tears, yet once again,

" Rubezahl !"

Then, softly from the greenwood turning,

He trembled, sighed, took up his pack,
And to the unassuaged mourning

Of his poor home went slowly back.
Oft paused he by the way, heart-aching.

Feeble, and by his burden bowed.
Methinks the famished father's making

For that poor youth, even now, a shroud.

Rubezahl !

Riibezahl, familiar to English readers as Number-nip, had his haunts
among the Riesen-Gebirge in Silesia, and was the especial friend and
patron of the poor. The Legend of Riibezahl is one of the most touch-
ing and beautiful of the German popular stories.




Whoe'er the ponderous hammer wields j

Whoe'er compels the earth to flourish ;
Or reaps the golden harvest fields,

A wife and little ones to nourish ;
Whoever guides the laden bark ;

Or, where the inazy wheels are turning,
Toils at the loom till after dark,

Food for })is whito-hairod children earning ;

To him be h(>nor atul renown !

Honor to handicraft and tillage ;
To every sweat-drop falling down

In crowded mills or lonesome villajje !
All honor to the plodding swain

Who holds the plough ! Be 't too awarded
To him who toils with soul and brain,

And starves ! Pass him not unregrarded :


Whether, in chambers close and small,

'Mid musty tomes he fancy smothers ;
Or of the trade the bondaged thrall,


He dramas writes and songs for others ;
Or whether he, for wretched pay,

Translate the trash which he despises ;
Or, learning's serf, puts, day by day,

Dunce-corps through classic exercises.

He, also, is a pray to care.

To him 'tis said, " Starve thou or borrow."
Grey grows betimes his raven hair.

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Online LibraryMary Botham HowittBallads and other poems .. → online text (page 10 of 11)