Mary Botham Howitt.

Ballads and other poems .. online

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An Eden to restore ;
Sent down to teach as never.
Taught worldly wisdom ; to make known the right ;
And the strong armor of sublime endeavor
To gird on for the fight.


I see whom thou hast called ;
The mighty men, the chosen of the earth,
Strong minds invincible and disenthralled,

Made freemen at their birth.
I see, on spirit-wings,
How thou hast set them high, each like a star,
More royal than the loftiest names of kings.

Mightier than conquerors are ;

How thou hast cast a glory
Over the dust of him sublimely wise,
The blind old man, with his itninortal story
Of a lost Paradise ;

How thou, by mountain-streams, '
Met'st the poor peasant, and from passion's leaven
Refined his soul, wooing with holy themes

In Mary's voice from heaven.

'T was thou didst give the key
Of human hearts to Goethe, to unlock
Their sealed-up depths, like that old mystery
Of the wand-stricken rock.
All these I see, and more ;
All crowned with glory, loftier than their race ;
And, trembling, I shrink back, abashed and poor,
Unworthy of thy grace.

For what am I, that thou
Shouldst visit me in love, and give me might
To touch, like these, man's heart, his pride to bow ;

Or, erring, lead him right ?

Oh ! dost thou visit me ?
Is it thy spirit that I feel in all ;
Thy light, yet brighter than the sun's, I see ?
Is thine this spiritual call ?


It is ! it is ! Though weak
And poor my spirit thou dost condescend
Thy beauty to unveil, and with me speak

As gentle friend with friend.

With thee I walk the ways «

Of daily life ; and, human tears and sighs
Interpreting, so learn to love my race.

And with them sympathize.

Hence is it that all tears
Which human sorrow sheds are dear to me ;
That the soul struggling with its mortal fears
Moveth me mightily.
Hence is it that the hearts
Of little children and unpractised youth
So gladden me with their unworldly arts,
Their kindness and their truth.

Hence is it that the eye
And sunken cheek of poverty so move,
Seen only by a glimpse in passing by,
My soul, to human love.
Spirit, I will not say
Thou dost not visit me ; nor yet repine,
Less mighty though I be, less great than they
Whom thou hast made divine.



What matters it, though spring-time

Upon the earth is glowing !
What, though a thousand tender flowers

On the garden beds are blowing !

What matters it, though pleasant birds
Among the leaves are singing ;

And a myriad lives, each passing hour,
From mother-earth are springing !

What matters it ! For one bright flower

Is pale, before them lying ;
And one dear life, one precious life,

Is numbered with the dying.

Oh ! spring may come, and spring may go ;

Flowers, sunshine, cannot cheer them :
This loving heart, this bright young life,

Will be no longer near them.

Two lights there were within the house,
Like angels round them moving ;

Oh ! must these two be parted now.
So lovely and so loving !


No longer on the same soft couch

Their pleasant rest be taking !
No longer by each other's smiles

Be greeted at their waking !

No longer, by each other's side,

Over one book be bending !
Take thy last look, thy last embrace.

That joy, that life is ending.

Henceforth thou wilt be all alone ;

What shalt thou do, poor weeper ?
Oh, human love ! oh, human woe !

Is there a pang yet deeper ?

Ah ! yes, the eyes perceive no more ;

The last dear word is spoken ;
The hand returns no pressure now ;

Heart, heart, thou must be broken !

Can it live on without that love

For which its pulse beat ever ?
Alas, that loving, trusting hearts

Must ache, and bleed, and sever [

Child, cease thy murmuring ; God is by

•To unseal that mortal prison.
Mother, look up ; for, like our Lord,
Thy blessed one is risen :

Raise thy bowed head, poor bruised reed ;

Hope comes to the believing.
Father, be strong, be strong in faith ;

The dead, the dead is living !


Even from outward things draw peace ;

Tli(> long night-watch is ended :
The morning sun upriseth now

In new day-glory splendid.

So, through the night of mortal life,
Your angel one hath striven :

The eternal suns shine not so bright
As the redeemed in heaven.

To join the spirits of the just
Your chosen hath departed :

Be comforted, be comforted.

Ye bruised and broken-hearted .'



How pleasant the life of a bird must be,
Flitting about in each leafy tree ;
In the leafy trees, so broad and tall,
Like a green and beautiful palace-hall,
With its airy chambers, light and boon,
That open to sun, and stars, and moon ;
That open unto the bright blue sky,
And the frolicksome winds as they wander by !


They have left their nests on the forest-bough,
Those homes of delight they need not now ;
And the young and the old they wander out.
And traverse their green world round about :
And hark ! at the top of this leafy hall.
How one to the other in love they call.
" Come up ! come up !" they seem to say,
'* Where the topmost twigs in the breezes sway.



" Conio up, come up ! for the world is fair
Where the merry leaves dance in the summer air."
And the birds below give back the cry,

" We come, we come to the branches high."
How pleasant the lives of the birds must be,
Living in love in a leafy tree !
And, away through the air, what joy to go ;
And to look on the green, bright earth below !


How pleasant the life of a bird must be,

Skimming about on the breezy sea,

Cresting the billows like silvery foam,

Then wheeling away to its cliff-built home ;

What joy it must be to sail, upborne

By a strong, free wing, through the rosy morn ;

To meet the young sun face tn face.

And pierce like a shaft the boundless space ;


To pass through the bowers of the silver cloud;
To sing in the thunder-halls aloud ;
To spread out the wings for a wild, free flight
With the upper cloud-winds, — oh, what delight !
Oh, what would I give, like a bird, to go.
Right on through the arch of the sun-lit bow.
And see how the water-drops are kissed
Into green and yellow and amethyst !



How pleasant the life of a bird must be,
Wherever it listeth there to flee ;
To go, when a joyful fancy calls,
Dashing adown 'mong the waterfalls ;
Then to wheel about with their mates at play,
Above and below and among the spray.
Hither and thither, with screams as wild
As the laughing mirth of a rosy child !


What joy it must be, like a living breeze,
To flutter about 'mid the flowering trees ;
Lightly to soar, and to see beneath
The wastes of the blossoming purple heath.
And the yellow furze, like fields of gold,
That gladdened some fairy region old !
On mountain-tops, on the billowy sea.
On the leafy stems of the forest-tree.
How pleasant the life of a bird must be !




The clock is on the stroke of si.x,

The father's work is done ;
Sweep up the hearth, and mend the fire,

And put the kettle on.
The wild night-wind is blowing cold,
'Tis dreary crossing o'er the wold.

He is crossing o'er the wold apace.
He is stronger than the storm ;

He does not feel the cold, not he,
His heart it is so warm.

For father's heart is stout and true

As ever human bosom knew.

He makes all toil, all hardship light :
Would all men w^ere the same !

So ready to be pleased, so kind,
So very slow to blame !

Folks need not be unkind, austere,

For love hath readier will than fear.


Nay, do not close the shutters, child ;

For far along the lane
The little window looks, and he

Can see it shining plain.
I've heard him say he loves to mark
The cheerful firelight through the dark.

And we'll do all that father likes ;

His wishes are so few,
Would they were more ! that every hour

Some wish of his I knew !
I'm sure it makes a happy day,
When I can please hun any way.

I know he's coming by this sign,

That baby's almost wild ;
See how he laughs and crows and stares —

Heaven bless the merry child !
He's father's self in face and limb,
And father's heart is strong in him.

Hark ! hark ! I hear his footsteps now ;

He's through the garden gate.
Run, little Bess, and ope the door,

And do not let him wait.
Shout, baby, shout ! and clap thy hands,
For father on the threshold stands.




There are furrows on thy brow, wife,

Thy hair is thin and grey,
And the light that once was in thine eye

Hath sorrow stolen away.
Thou art no longer fair, wife,

The rose has left thy cheek.
And thy once firm and graceful form

Is wasted now and weak.

But thy heart is just as warm, wife,

As when we first were wed ;
As when thy merry eye was bright.

And thy smooth cheek was red.
Ah ! that is long ago, wife.

We thought not then of care ;
We then were spendthrifts of our joy,

We now have none to spare.

Well, well, dost thou remember, wife,

The little child we laid,
The three-years' darling, fair and pure,

Beneath the yew-tree's shade.
The worth from life was gone, wife.

We said with foolish tongue ;
But we've blessed, since then, the Chastener

Who took the child so young.

There was John, thy boast and pride, wife.
Who lived to manhood's prime —


Would God I could have died for him

Who died before his time !
There is Jane, thy second self, wife,

A thing of sin and shame ;
Our poorest neighbors pity us

When they but hear her name.

Yet she's thy child and mine, wife,

I nursed her on my knee.
And the evil, woful ways she took

Were never taught by thee.
We were proud of her fair face, wife ;

And I have tamely stood.
And not avenged her downfall

In her betrayer's blood.

The thought was in my mind, wife,

I cursed him to his face :
But he was rich, and I was poor ;

The rich know no disgrace.
The gallows would have had me, wife ;

For that I did not care ;
The only thing that saved his life

Were thoughts of thy despair.

There's something in thy face, wife,

That calms my maddened brain :
Thy furrowed cheek, thy hollow eye,

Thy look of patient pain ;
Thy lips that neve^ smile, wife.

Thy bloodless cheeks and wan ;
Thy form which once was beautiful,

Whose beauty now is gone ;



Oh ! these they tell such tales, wife,

They fill my eyes with tears.
We have borne so much together

Through these long thirty years,
That I will meekly bear, wife.

What God appointeth here ;
Nor add to thy o'erflowing cup

Another bitter tear.

Let the betrayer live, wife ;

Be this our only prayer,
That grief may send our prodigal

Back to the father's care.
Give me thy faithful hand, wife

O God, who reign'st above,
We bless thee, in our misery,

For one sure solace — love !



My heart is very faint and low ;

My thoughts, like spectres, come and go ;

1 feel a numbing sense of woe :

Until to-day it was not so,

1 know not what this change may be.


// is my voice within, that calls ;
It is my shadoro, child, that falls


Upon thy spirit, and appals,
That hefns thee in like dungeon walls ;
My presence that o'ershadoiveth thee.

Oh, mother, leave me not alone !
I am a-feared ; my heart's like stone ;
A dull pain cleaveth brain and bone ;
I feel a pang till now unknown —

Stay with me for one little hour !
Oh ! soothe me with thy low replies ;
I cannot bear the children's cries ;
And when I hear their voices rise.
Impatient tears o'erflow my eyes ;

My will seems not within my power.

Poor Johnny brought me flowers last night,
The blue-bell and the violet white,
Then they were pleasant to my sight ;
But now they give me no delight.

And yet I crave for something still.
Reach me the merry bulfinch here.
He knows my voice ; I think 't will cheer
My heart, his piping song to hear.
— Ah ! I forgot that bird so dear

Was sold to pay the baker's bill.

Oh ! why was Mary sent away ?
I only asked that she might stay
Beside me for one little day ;
I thought not to be answered nay,

Just once — I would have asked no more.
— Forgive me if I'm hard to please —
Mother, weep not ! Oh, give me ease !
Raise me, and lay me on thy knees !
I know not what new pangs are these ;

I never felt the like before.


It is so stifling in this room —
Can it be closer in the tomb ?
I feel encompassed by a gloom.
O father, father, leave the loom,

It makes me dizzy like the mill.
Father, I feel thy hot tears fall ;
If thou hast thought my patience small,
Forgive me ! Fain would I recall
Each hasty word — I love you all :

I will be patient, will be still.


Be still f My pinions o'er thee spread ;
A duller, heavier weight than lead
Benumbs thee, and the life hathjled.
Child, thou hast passed the portals dread,

Thou noio art of the earth no more.
Arise, thy spiritual things unfold :
Poor slave of hunger, want, and cold,
Thou noiv hast wealth surpassing gold,
Hast bliss no poet's tongue hath told ;

Rejoice ! all fain, all fear is o'er.



Name her not, the guilty one.
Virtue turns aside for shame
At the mention of her name :

Very evilly hath she done.


Pity is on her misspeni :
She was born of guilty kin,
Her life's course hath guilty been ;

Never unto school she went,

And whate'er she learned was sin ;

Let her die !

She was nurtured for her fate ;

Beautiful she was, and vain ;

Like a child of sinful Cain,
She was born a reprobate.
Lives like hers the world defile ;

Plead not for her, let her die

As the child of infamy,
Ignorant and poor and vile,

Plague-spot in the public eye ;
Let her die !


I am young, alas ! so young ;

And the world has been my foe ;

And by hardship, wrong, and woe.
Hath my bleeding heart been stung.
There was none, O God ! to teach me

What was wrong and what was right.

I have sinned before thy sight ;
Let my cry of anguish reach thee,

Piercing through the glooms of night,

God of love !

Man is cruel, and doth smother
Tender mercy in his breast ;
Lays fresh burdens on the oppressed ;

Pities not an erring brother,


Pities not the stormy throes

Of the soul despair hath riven,
Nor the brain to madness driven.

No one but the sinner knows
What it means to be forgiven,

God of love \

Therefore will I put my trust
In thy mercy : and I cleave
To that love which can forcive :

To that judgment which is just ;

Which can pity all my weakness ;
Which hath seen the life-long strife
Of passions fiercer than the knife ;

Known the desolating bleakness

Of my desert path through life,

God of love !

I must perish in my youth ;
And had I been better taucrht,
And did virtue as it ought,

And had grey-haired wisdom ruth,

I should not have fallen so low.
'T is the power of circumstance,
'T is the wretch's dire mi.schance,

To be born to sin and woe.
Pity thou my ignorance,

God of love !

A SUNDAY. - 199


Our six days' toil is over :

This is the day of rest ;
The bee hums in the clover,

Tlie lark springs from her nest.
The old thatch, grey and mossy,

With golden stonecrop gleams ;
The pigeon, sleek and glossy,

Basks in the morning beams.
All living things are cheery

Upon this Sabbath morn ;
The blackbird cannot weary

Of singing on the thorn ;
The sheep within the meadow

Like driven snow they look ;
The cows stand in the shadow.

Within the willowy brook.
'T is like that famous picture

Which came from London down :
You must go and see that picture

When next you're in the town.
And then there's that engraving

I told you of last spring :
— I've been these six months saving,

To buy that lovely thing.
Well, both of them resemble

This view at early day.
When diamond dew-drops tremble
Upon the dog-rose spray :


In both there is the river,

The church-spire, and the mill ;
The aspens seem to shiver ;

The cloud floats o'er the hill.
As soon as breakfast's over

We '11 forth this merry mom,
Among the fragrant clover,

And through the summer corn :
In the great church of Nature,

Where God himself is priest,
We '11 join each joyful creature.

Flower, insect, bird, and beast.
The birds praise God in singing

Among the leafy sprays.
And a loving heart is worship,

A joyful soul is praise.
Dear wife, this day of seven,

God's gift to toil, shall be
A little bit of heaven

On earth for thee and me.
'T is I the babe will carry.

My youngest, darling boy ;
And Bess and little Harry,

They will be wild with joy :
For them the wild rose mintrles

With woodbine on the bough.
And birds in leafy dingles

Shout welcomes to them now.
Sweet wife, make haste : down yonder,

Down by the miller's farm.
Through old field-paths we '11 wander,

Thy hand within my arm.
For Sunday leisure heeding,


" The books I 've brought are these,
The very books for reading

Beneath the summer trees.
They 're by that brave young poet

Who wrote of Locksley Hall ;
That charming verse — you know it —

You saw it first of all
And 'neath the lime trees shady,

Among the summer corn,
I '11 read of Burleigh's lady,

A village maiden born.
Haste, haste, and get thee ready,

The morn is wearing on ;
The woodland lawns are shady ;

The dew dries ; let 's be gone !



Barley-mowers here we stand,
One, two, three, a steady band ;
True of heart and strong of limb.
Ready in our harvest-trim ;
All arow, with spirits blithe.
Now we whet the bended scythe.

Rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink-a-tink !

Side by side now, bending low,
Down the swaths of barley go ;
Stroke by stroke, as true as chime
Of the bells we keep in time :
Then we whet the ringing scythe,
Standing 'mid the barley lithe.

Rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink-a-tink !

After labor cometh ease ;
Sitting now beneath the trees,
Round we send the barley-wine.
Life-infusing, clear and fine ;
Then refreshed, alert and blithe.
Rise we all, and whet the scythe.

Rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink-a-tink !


Barley-mowers must be true,
Keeping still the end in view :
One with all, and all with one,
Working on till set of sun ;
Bending all with spirits blithe,
Whetting all at once the scythe.

Rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink-a-tink !

Day and night, and night and day.
Time, the mower, will not stay :
We may hear him in our path
By the falling barley-swath ;
While we sing with spirits blithe,
We may hear his ringing scythe.

Rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink-a-tink !

Time the mower cuts down all,
High and low, and great and small :
Fear him not, for we will grow
Ready like the field we mow :
Like the bending barley lithe.
Ready for Time's whetted scythe.

Rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink-a-tink !



Dwellers by lake and hill,
Merry companions of the bird and bee,

Go gladly forth and drink of joy your fill,
With unconstrained step and spirit free.

No crowd impedes your way,
No city wall proscribes your further bounds.

Where the wild flocks can wander, ye may stray
The long day through, 'mid summer sights and sounds.

The sunshine and the flowers,
And the old trees that cast a solemn shade ;

The pleasant evening, the fresh dewy hours,
And the green hills whereon your fathers played ;

The grey and ancient peaks,
Round which the silent clouds hang day and night ;

And the low voice of water, as it makes,
Like a glad creature, murmurings of delight :

These are your joys. Go forth.
Give your hearts up unto their mighty power ;

For in his spirit God has clothed the earth.
And speaks in love from every tree and flower.


The voice of hidden rills
Its quiet way into your spirit finds ;
And awfully the everlasting hills
Address you in their many-toned winds.

Ye sit upon the earth
Twining its flowers, and shouting, full of glee ;

And a pure mighty influence, 'mid your mirth,
Moulds your unconscious spirits silently.

Hence is it that the lands
Of storm and mountain have the noblest sons ;

Whom the world reverences, the patriot bands,
Were of the hills like you, ye little ones !

Children of pleasant song
Are taught within the mountain solitudes ;
For hoary legends to your wilds belong.
And yours are haunts where inspiration broods.

Then go forth : earth and sky
To you are tributary ; joys are spread

Profusely, like the summer flowers that lie
In the grer n path, beneath your gamesome tread.



At that sweet hour of even
When nightingales awake,

Low bending o'er her first-born son
An anxious mother spake.

" Thou child of prayer and blessing,
Would that my soul could know
Whate'er the unending future holds
For thee, of joy or woe !

" Thy life, will it be gladness,
A sunny path of flowers ;
Or strife with sorrow, dark as death,
A coil of wintry hours ?

" Oh child of love and blessing,
Fair blossom on life's tree.
My spirit trembles but to think
What time may make of thee.

" Yet, of the unveiled future.

Would knowledge might be given !"
And voices of the unseen ones
Made answer back from heaven.


First Voice.
Tears he must shed unnumbered ;

And he must strive with care,
As strives in war the armed man ;

Must human suffering bear ;

Must learn that joy is mockery ;

That man doth mask his heart ;
Must prove the trusted faithless ;

Must see the loved depart ;

Must find his hopes deceitful ;

Must weep when none can see,
Then lock his grief, like treasure, up,

For lack of sympathy ;

Must prove all human knowledge

A burden, a deceit ;
And many a flattering friendship find

A paltry, hollow cheat.

Well mayst thou weep, fond mother ;

For what can life bequeath
But tears and pangs unnumbered,

But watching, change and death ?

Second Voice.
Rejoice, rejoice, fond mother.

That thou hast given birth
To this immortal being,

To this sweet thing of earth :

For ocean's unsunned treasure.

Or gold within the mine.
Has not a thousandth part the worth

Of this fair child of thine.


Praise God both night and morning,
Be thine a joyful heart ;

The child for whom thy tears are shed
Hath with the Eternal part.

And what is human sorrow ?

The dew upon the earth
That boweth down the flower awhile

To call its odor forth.

Oh ! do not weep, fond mother ;

Look up with joyful eyes ;
For a boundless wealth of love and power

In that young spirit lies :

Love, to enfold all natures

In one benign embrace ;
Power, to diffuse a blessing wide

Upon the human race.

The stars shall dim their brightness.

And as a parched scroll
The world shall fade, but ne'er shall fade

The deathless human soul.



Go, child, and take them meat and drink,

And see that they be fed :
Alas, it is a cruel thing

The lack of daily bread !

Then come that I may speak with thee

Of things severely true ;
Love thou the poor, for Jesus Christ,

He was a poor man too.

They told me, when I was a child,

I was of English birth ;
They called a free-born Englishman

The noblest man on earth.

My home was in a pleasant place,

In England's history known ;
And pride in being English-born

Still with my growth had grown.

I thought all rich men good, the poor

Content with life's award ;
I thought each church throughout the land

A temple of the Lord.


I saw the high-born and the poor
Low bending side by side,

And the meek bishop's holy hands
Diffuse a blessing wide :

And round and round the sacred pile,
My reverent fancy went,

Till God and good King George at once
Within my heart were blent.

These were my days of innocence,
Of ignorance and mirth ;

When my wild heart leapt up in joy
Of my pure English birth.

Oh ! England, mother England,
Proud nurse of thriving men,
I've learned to look on many things
' With other eyes since then.

I've learned divers lessons ;

Have seen and heard and thought ;
And oftentimes the truest lore

By human woe was taught.

Thus, on a day I saw a man,

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