E. S. (W. N.) Clarke
The New Song, and Other Poems

THE NEW SONG,

AND OTHER POEMS

BY

MRS. W. N. CLARKE

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TORONTO:

THE STANDARD PUBLISHING COMPANY

(LIMITED),

117 YONGE STREET.

[unnumbered page]

[unnumbered page, includes illustration]

TO

THE OLD FRIENDS

WHO KNOW HOW IT CAME INTO EXISTENCE

AND TO

THE NEW FRIENDS WHO MAY GIVE IT WELCOME,

THIS LITTLE BOOK IS OFFERED.

E.S.C.

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 [unnumbered page, includes illustration]

[illustration]

THE NEW SONG.

I.

THE MINSTREL.

“MAKE me a song, O minstrel!” the royal lady bade;

“A song of light and gladness, to cheer me when I’m sad.

“No courtly panegyric, of flattering phrases wove,

No clashing sounds of battle, and never a word of love.”

Loyal the minstrel listened unto his queen’s behest;

To meet such inspiration he’d wander east or west;

Yet what might please a sovereign whom glory did not move,

Who scorned the praise of beauty, and would not hear of love? [page 5]

The queen had all life’s fullness, the queen was wise and sad:

Could he, an artless singer, find words to make her glad?

Yet haply, would she grant him absence and space of time,

To seek a theme befitting, and prune his wayward rhyme;

Thus ran the minstrel’s musing, and so he made his prayer,

That he awhile might wander, seeking the charm for care.

———————

The knight took up his cithern, the errant knight of song,

Upon the crowded highway he joined a jostling throng.

Elate with hope he journeyed, nor knew that by his side,

A viewless power of evil, there did a tempter glide.

He was a youth, this minstrel, shy-blushing as a maid;

His soul was like a wind-harp, by fitful breezes played, [page 6]

To wafts of aimless music, to broken sweetness stirred,

His song a part of nature, like the song of brook and bird.

And whoso loveth bird-song, and trill of brooklet clear,

When such a minstrel singeth, he cannot choose but hear.

To him the world was music, he was so blithe and young,

The air he breathed was thrilling with melodies unsung.

A warbling in the thicket, a swallow as it flew,

The grace of waving grasses, the sparkle of the dew,

All beauty, touched his spirit like a breath of mystic fire,

And woke within his bosom a sweet and vague desire,

As one forefeeleth spring time, that did his cithern haunt,

And touched to budding freshness the dust of old romaunt.

The minstrel-boy was welcome in hamlet and in hall,

For something in his music did every ear enthrall. [page 7]

Food and song by the wayside gleaning, he shared the peasant’s bread,

And oft at some festal season the merry-making led.

Proud nobles gave him bounty, fair ladies praised his glee,

He treasured smile and praising, but not the golden fee.

Not yet did he hear the tempter; his life seemed only good,

The changeful life that brought him new songs of varied mood.

But wheresoe’er he wandered and made his minstrelsy,

And whatsoe’er his singing, in gay or pensive key,

A theme of perfect gladness, a melody unknown,

Unto his soul was sounding in far-off silver tone,

A melody elusive, yet clear as crystal bell;

Whene’er he stopped to listen, a sudden silence fell.

’Twas like a hidden streamlet, faint flowing underground,

That darkling singeth brightly, yet never can be found. [page 8]

II.

THE FALSE SONG.

LONG was the minstrel’s journey, through many a land he strayed,

Full many a theme inspired him, full many a song he made,

Yet the song of perfect gladness came never to be sung,

And the crystal chime that called him more far and faintly rung.

Too brief the days he lingered in boyish innocence;

The swift years bore him onward to manhood’s life intense.

Ambition woke within him, and sweeter seemed acclaim;

Still poesy was cherished, but now he dreamed of fame.

And when applause grew colder, he thought the world was wrong,

Nor knew that something lovely had vanished from his song. [page 9]

For slowly in his spirit the tempter wrought a change,

And from his pure ideal his seeking did estrange.

The blithesomeness forsook him, as seasons came and went,

And now he felt the gnawing of weary discontent.

Sweet once the daily blessing God giveth unto all;

Now joys that had sufficed him upon his heart did pall,

And things once lit with glory grew common in his sight;

Dim was the seer’s vision, withdrawn the holy light.

The unseen wily tempter, that left him ne’er alone,

Oft said in stilly whisper, that seemed his very own,—

“Why choose the wayside fountain, the pilgrim’s scrip of bread?

The poet’s finest fancy with finest food is fed. [page 10]

“He who would clasp his vision, and soar above the clods,

Must take the food ambrosial, the nectar of the gods.

“What pleasures hang untasted on life’s full-fruited vine!

Into thine own pale chalice press thou the ruddy wine.

“Press life’s rich grapes unshrinking, distil their soul of bliss,

Quaff godlike inspiration, the immortals’ breath and kiss.”

Awhile the minstrel faltered; he fain had done no wrong

Unto his beauteous birthgift of bright, unsullied song;

Yet listened while he faltered, and stronger grew the spell

The tempter aye was weaving, till woful choice befell.

The sweet notes died in silence, that called his eager youth;

Confused were good and evil, and falsehood seemed truth. [page 11]

For now the wizard glamour had stolen o’er his sight,

That maketh dross and pebbles seem gold and jewels bright;

That hideth from the fallen the shame of his defeat,

Exalting things ignoble, adorning things unmeet.

Now at the tempter’s bidding he played a tempter’s part,

To sense and sin enslaving the minstrel’s heavenly art.

Oft would he snatch his cithern, and strike its chords amain,

Singing to who would listen some hell-inspired strain.

Then swift the crowd would gather, and call the song divine,

Whose flush and fumes allured them like hot and spiced wine;

Would drink with jest and plaudit the sweet and maddening lay;

But some, whose hearts were purer, in sadness turned away. [page 12]

Wildly, and yet more wildly, he flung himself to sin,

Till earth and ordered heavens a chaos seemed to spin,

An all-engulfing chaos, no God to sustain and bless;

Fiend-like he laughed to be whirling down to nothingness,

Singing in frightful revel the pæan of death and shame.

Ah! then God reached and caught him out of the burning flame.

’Twas a sweet dream of childhood undid the evil spell;

By that far glimpse of Eden, he knew he had fallen to hell.

His own face, dim-remembered, came back in vision mild—

A boy with the brow of an angel, uplifted, undefiled.

Pure lightning flashed from heaven, lit up the pit within,

And showed the ruling demon, a hideous shape of sin. [page 13]

Oh, scathing sight and loathly! sank wild delirium,

His heart seemed dead within him, his lips for ever dumb.

He knew, at last, his spirit was an accursed spot,

A dread and doleful region, where God and hope were not;

The lurking-place of demons and every baleful thing,

Whence all his warbling fancies for aye had taken wing.

No more for him the cithern, no more men’s hearts to win!

It seemed that every looker beheld him his hateful sin.

From eyes that coldly searched him, his face, his heart to hide,

He fled to a lonely refuge, far in a forest wide.

———————

III.

THE TRUE SONG.

THE forest green, great and solemn, was like a holy fane.

Its breath of balm and healing did soothe his spirit’s pain. [page 14]

His olden self had perished, his cithern lay unstrung,

All silently he listened, while other minstrels sung,—

The deep-voiced cataract breaking, the river rushing by,

The wailing in the pine trees, the thunder in the sky;

And as he humbly hearkened, came to his soul a sense

Of unimagined grandeur, a deepening reverence.

Through natural things, all dimly, a light began to shine,

A beam that came from heaven, a blessed truth divine.

’Twas a truth from out God’s bosom, from God’s own heart of good,

The truth of yearning holiness, of infinite fatherhood,

The love that could not leave him in sin’s self-loathing wild;

And now at last his spirit made answer, as a child.

He felt a blissful presence, his heart within him burned,

The father’s arms enfolded the prodigal returned. [page 15]

And now his heart was broken with penitential pain,

The bitter that is sweetness; his tears began to rain.

Not yet his eyes he lifted the Saviour’s look to meet;

He could but weep, and worship the wayworn, pierced feet.

Though vile he was as a leper, from his soul did pass its sin;

He opened his gates with gladness, and the holy dove came in.

———————

The Saviour’s hand had touched him, and healed his erring sight,

The world was all transfigured with deep, supernal light.

Celestial notes undreamed of came to his quickened ear,

The world’s wild discord melted in a choral, heavenly clear.

For he saw the mystery of evil, all in earth and heaven above

Ruled by the heart unerring of the God who is light and love. [page 16]

To his life came back the springtide, love burst full-blossoming,

Love fain to shed its sweetness on every living thing.

He longed to seek his brothers, and share his new-found joy.

The balm of perfect healing, the bliss without alloy.

He thought upon his sovereign; now he had found his quest,

Peace like a river flowing, to still her deep unrest.

Again he turned his cithern, for now he needs must sing:

The gladness in his bosom was like a living spring,

A leaping, laughing fountain that sparkled all day long,

And, brightly overbrimming, flowed forth in joyous song.

To the far-off court he hastened, still singing as he fared,

The song of light and cheering by prince and peasant shared,

A song at one with nature, and human life, and God;

And so it shed a brightness where’er the minstrel trod. [page 17]

’Twas like the quickening sunshine, and like the freshening dew;

It made the drooping spirit to bud and bloom anew.

———————

IV.

THE TOURNAMENT OF SONG.

“GOOD hap is this, Sir Minstrel, that brings thee to the gate,

And timely is thy coming, e’en though thou comest late;

“For he is dead—God rest him!—who bore the silver harp;

Hushed now his wild sweet clangor of shields and weapons sharp.

“I’ve tingled to his war-cry in the maddest of the fight;

But peace, methinks, is dawning; let the singers hail its light.

“Singers! A score are seeking our lady’s grace to win;

E’en now the lists are open, keen is the strife within. [page 18]

“Weary the queen doth listen, while emulous bards rehearse

Ballad, romaunt and epic, in tournament of verse.

“But would’st thou touch the cithern,—I trow thou mayest vie

With all who dare adventure in lists of minstrelsy.

“If manhood’s day fulfilleth thine early promise rare,

The bird-notes of thy morning, the laurel thou wilt wear.’

Thus spoke an ancient warder, who loved him as a child;

Oft had the boy’s bright music his lingering hours beguiled.

———————

V.

THE CROWNING.

HIS sovereign he saluted, he took his olden place,

A gladness in his bosom, a light upon his face.

His soul to heaven he lifted, came to it heavenly power,

Supremest inspiration for song’s supremest hour. [page 19]

Musing he touched the cithern, and to his lips unsprung

A brighter, stronger measure than he ever yet had sung.

Like a cool waft that bringeth the promise of the rain,

So freshly breathed the prelude; then swelled the song amain.

Like a summer rain with lightnings, it hushed the courtly throng.

The singer was forgotten—he filled them with his song.

Like a rain with roll of thunder, when sunshine intergleams,

And the lovely bow of promise in tender glory beams,

Like a summer rain of blessing to the arid heart of the queen;

New life her pulse did quicken, new hope was in her mien.

A smile broke through her sadness, like dew the teardrops shone,

And when she thought upon it her heaviness was gone. [page 20]

Slow on the strings of his cithern the minstrel’s hand did stray;

Like rain that gently ceaseth, dropt the last low notes away.

Through the moment’s hush expectant there drew a breeze-like thrill,

A thousand eyes were turning to note the sovereign’s will.

Oh, lightly from her dais, oh, sweetly stept she down!

At her feet was the minstrel kneeling, his head received the crown.

Then broke the tremulous silence in acclamation loud;

There beat no heart of envy in all the vanquished crowd.

For like a beauteous garment, that all who looked might see,

Clothed him with grace exceeding, his soul’s humility.

And a crown of joy unfading, a living light divine,

The sign and seal of heaven, upon his brow did shine. [page 21]

[illustration]

LISTEN.

CREATION hath two voices;

    One doth the many reach,

And one is deeper, subtler,

    As music in its speech.

One to the senses speaketh,

    One is the other’s soul;

Whoe’er its language learneth

    Interpreteth the whole.

This voice—its lightest whisper

    Is living, ravishing

Unto the ear attuned.

    Listen, and thou shalt sing. [page 22]

ARTIST AND IDEAL.

A FRAGMENT.

THERE cometh one to me in solitude,

    Who bringeth gifts, and doth strange tasks assign;

Ethereal, she doth my clasp elude—

    I worship one who never will be mine;

Yet all her bidding loyally I do,

For hers I am, and pledged for aye, and true.

She played last night—my soul was listening—

    A faery chime of crystal bells it seemed,

So pure, so clear, so bright each note did ring,

    And memory hears it now; say not I dreamed!

So drew she forth my spirit at her will,

The chords she touched tremble within me still.

A mimic orchestra, this crystal chime,

    Small, pattering drops, like elfin castanets,

Did mark with dancing steps the changeful time,

    And soft harmonics breathed as from the frets

Of lover’s lute; faint, far-off horns were wound,

And fine-strung viols wailing utterance found. [page 23]

And, like the flowing of a lovely stream,

    That now the shadow, now the sun doth find,

Now brightly waketh, now doth darkling dream,

    Gladsome and grieved, a theme did interwind,

Through tangled harmonies and clustering chords,

That deeplier reached the soul than speech of words.

A stream where little birds might drink their fill,

    And dip and shake the shining drops in spray;

A strain where warbling birds did seem to trill,

    A stream where shifting images did play.

A strain,—so sobbing-sweet did Undine sing

At the hid sources of her mystic spring!

———————

Dear are the glances of her luminous eyes,

    Fain would I kiss her garment’s floating hem;

Ever beyond, above my clasp she flies,

    Giving, for love’s sweet rose, the rose’s stem!

Yet nought of vain devotion can I rue,

Still hers I am, and pledged for aye, and true. [page 24]

THE MOSS-ROSE BUD.

I.

FAINT was the court with its heavy air,

Drooped the sweet queen in her garden rare.

She dreamed what kind of life might be

In the woodland far, and fresh and free.

There dwelt apart, in his crumbling hold,

A knight with naught save his lineage old;

A knight with heart more brave and true,

Than e’er a suitor who came to woo.

All darkly drest like the pine woods green,

He paid his court to the peerless queen.

He came like a breeze from the outer wild;

The queen she brightly blushed and smiled.

She loved, she bowed her stately head;

This simple knight she was fain to wed. [page 25]

II.

Have you seen the wonderful new-born child,

Heir of the garden and greenwood wild?—

By zephyrs rocked in its cradled hush,

With the rose’s breath and the rose’s blush,

But wrapt in a new and artless grace,

That proves it kin to a simpler race;

The dewiest, daintiest thing that grows—

Exquisite child of moss and rose! [page 26]

MINOR MUSIC.

YE minor strains that voice the unsatisfied heart,

    Vex me no more; too well I know your tale!

Ye yearn toward some sweet perfectness apart

    That ye shall never clasp, ye strive and fail;

Ye climb in tides, as doth the restless main—

Ever come short, and fall and climb in vain.

By incompleteness, failure, ye do hint

    Some crystal harmony, more bright and strong

Than ear hath heard, full, flowing without stint

    In rhythmic ecstasy, some lofty song

Of bliss attained, whereon the soul might rest,

And resting, soar, as on an angel’s breast.

Ye fain would set yourselves unto a law

    Whose limitations were your liberty,

Which inly, from afar, doth rule and draw;

    Not as the moon doth draw the earth-held sea,

But as the central sun its stars doth bind

Unto their orbits as they whirl and wind. [page 27]

Oh, if there be one starry race astray—

    An influence malign hath made to swerve

In erring orbits from its primal way.

    While all the rest in changeless cycles curve—

Some futile yearnings, plaintive minor bars

Must mingle with the music of the stars!

———————

IN APRIL.

AWAKENING stir within the ground,

    Quick germs their husks are cleaving,

The leaf buds feel the sun’s warm kiss,

    In the chrysalis wings are weaving.

Our listening souls that long and wait

    Catch a fine and far-off humming,

The wind-like rush and swell of life

    That with the May is coming. [page 28]

THE WARNING.

OH, maiden, mind thy spinning,

    And swiftly whirl the wheel,

Nor let that wistful glance, so shy,

    Adown the pathway steal.

Thou hast the charm of spring-time,

    Thy heart an opening flower;

He doth but seek its sweets to win,

    Doth woo thee for an hour.

To please a fancy flitting

    Through all the wide world’s room,

Doth lightly stay his footsteps near

    Thy cottage close abloom;

And, reaching o’er the paling,

     A careless hand anon

Will pluck sweet love, as ’twere a rose,

    Then saunter idly on. [page 29]

So, maiden, mind thy spinning,

    And faster whirl the wheel,

Nor let that wistful glance, so shy,

    Adown the pathway steal.

          The thread is all uneven,

              And low the wheel doth hum;

          A rustling in the alder shade—

              The little wheel is dumb.

———————

TEACH THOU MY HEART.

        SAVIOUR, I weary of this ceaseless mind,

That needs must spin and spin its tangling thought,

That needs must weave what Thou dost bring to naught—

        Rest I would find!

        Not thoughts of Thee but Thine own self impart.

Ever I learn thy precepts and thy way,

Yet know not how to follow and obey—

        Teach Thou my heart! [page 30]

DANDELIONS.

I.

IN meadows deep, till summer’s fullest flush,

    With burnished buttercups and clover sweet,

Where coy wild strawberries into ripeness blush,

    And eager children stray with restless feet,

The dandelions all at leisure grow,

    Their silvery stems reach upward day by day,

Awhile a gladsome golden light they show,

    Then change to filmy moons and pass away.

What need of haste? The summer days are long,

    And, ere the mower thinks upon his scythe,

Mid sunshine, hum of bees and warbled song,

    The dandelion has lived its life, full blithe.

———————

II.

Bright little dandelions on the lawn

    Shine out, like suns within a sky of green,

All new created at the morning’s dawn;

    Last evening not a blossom could be seen. [page 31]

Wind-sown upon a plot all smoothly clipt,

    In turf so deep they scarce find breathing room,

Where week by week their cherished buds are nipt,

    The dandelions claim the right to bloom.

And ever as they feel the ruthless knife

    They nestle closer to the friendly earth,

In leaf and root there stirs a fuller life,

    And now their strongest buds have come to birth.

Each in its place, set royally apart,

    They drink a season’s glory in a day;

What living splendours fill each glowing heart,

    For them no phantom future wan and gray!

They will not look upon to-morrow’s sky,

    The sun goes down, the mower brings their doom;

They seem to say, still smiling as they die,

    Bravely content, “We’ve had a day of bloom!” [page 32]

MORNING GLORIES.

THE morning glories had outgrown the wires

    That stretched like harp-strings to my casement high,

Yet climbed they sunward still in wavering spires,

    Blending old trust with new uncertainty;

Climbed for a while and blossomed to the light,

    Unfolding passionate, deep, adoring hues;

Then weary turned them backward from the height,

    The empty height, that did support refuse.

They lost their airy grace, their lifting hope—

    Strange that things made to rise must downward tend!—

Though still some sensitive shoots did yearn and grope,

    They wildly grew with many a freakish bend.

Not so within the garden of our Lord;

    He doth sustain each soul that climbs and clings,

Stretching ’twixt earth and heaven many a cord,

    To stay and guide the tender growing things.

O, blissful beams of uncreated light!

    Though sprung from earth, our Sun, our Joy we know;

We rise, for He doth draw us, toward a height

    That man or angel never can outgrow. [page 33]

AWKWARD KATHIE.

KATHIE is an awkward child,

Check and chidden, lonely, wild;

Grown too tall for childish plays,

All untrained in useful ways.

On the fringed rug she trips,

From her tray the china slips.

For the right hand using left—

Kathie never will be deft!

Dropping stitches while she knits,

Far-eyed dreaming, Kathie sits,

Spinning threads of gossamere,

Weaving rainbow fabrics sheer.

Weaving quaintest tapestry,

Swift the airy shuttles fly;

Truly ’tis a wondrous weft,

Kathie is a weaver deft.

Have you watched a fern uncurl?

Have you seen an awkward girl,

Like a fern in shadowed place,

Open into maiden grace? [page 34]

When the April days are told

May in beauty doth unfold.

Maytime cometh; then I know,

Kathie’s hidden grace will show.

———————

IMMORTALITY.

WHAT careth the green blade, thrilling to the light,

    That in the earth is hid its empty shell?

What careth Psyche, on her upward flight,

    For that dark chrysalis where she once did dwell?

So let the shrouded chrysalis decay,

    So let the seed-shell mix again with earth,

To sheathe new germs, shrivel, and fall away

    As each unfolding life shall come to birth.

My God, I thank Thee for the springing blade,

    I thank Thee for the radiant butterfly;

I wait the light: Oh, keep me unafraid,

    Thou who has taught me I shall never die. [page 35]

WILD SWEET CLOVER BY THE SEA.

    SLOPING sand and scarped rocks—

    There I stood with tossing locks,

And I felt the ocean wind so strong and free;

    But soon I was aware

    Of a sweetness on the air

That was not wafted from the sea.

    Rose a vision on the strand

    Of a cottage far inland—

Oh, sad memories! Oh, the home that is no more!—

    Whispering elms and shadows green,

    Clematis and eglantine,

And tall sweet clover by the door.

    Then I saw, as fresh as hope,

    On the spray-besprinkled slope,

Leafage green and flowers of fragrant gold;

    Wild it grew beside the wave!

    And the odour that it gave

Was the same that I knew of old.

    Musingly I plucked a spray,

    Musing up the slope did stray,

Through the pale shore butterflies; capricious flight, [page 36]

    As they touched with aimless wing

    Blooms where honey bees did cling

In a dreamy murmur of delight.

    Mystic clover! In my hand,

    Didst thou turn to wizard wand—

Wand of guiding power and blissful prophecy?

    Didst thou lead my errant feet

    To the hidden treasure, meet

For true knight of olden chivalry?

    In the lighthouse, bleak and bare,

    Lo! I found a maiden rare,

And as sweet as the clover by the way,

    Oh, the freshness of her face,

    And her simple-hearted grace,

They are like the very breath of May!

    Go, my ship, a-sailing wide,

    Fain I linger by her side,

My heart will never more go flying free

    For my blossom and my love

    Is a dearer treasure trove,

Than the wild sweet clover to the bee! [page 37]

IN AUGUST.

NO dip of oars, at even tide

Drifting, as in a trance we glide

    Adown the lake

Fair lake, fair shore, ethereal seem,

Mirage, to vanish like a dream,

    Should we awake.

Just where the sun went out of sight

There lingers still a fervid light—

    His parting kiss.

And sky and water keep awhile

Their lovely, unforgetting smile

    Of tender bliss.

Yon star, that faintly flashes through

The darkening mystery of blue,

    Will brighten soon;

O’er southern hills is rising now,

In regal calm, with ample brow,

    The harvest moon.

Where gold and rose-tints mirrored lie,

That keep the sun in memory,

    Pale lustre streams; [page 38]

The moonlight meets the afterglow,

And kindling colours interflow

    With opal gleams.

A fresh and quickening waft, a stir,

Some inward power awakens her,

    The tranced breeze—

Each spell-fixed barque, that hung above

Its mirror like a poised dove,

    Her whisper frees.

They all awake, the all take wing,

With pennons lightly flickering

    And gleaming spars.

See how the moon’s long silvery wake

Begins to quiver, see it break

    In countless stars!

Two figures in a tiny boat,

Across the galaxy they float

    In dark relief;

Young lovers, haply, unconfest,

Who scarce know if the throbbing breast

    Mean joy or grief. [page 39]

We think upon a night of bliss,

A night the very twin of this,

    How long ago!

When life was dewy-fresh and fair,

We drifted thus, but did not dare

    Our hearts to show.

How could we deem each other cold!

Yet thus we parted, love untold,

    In secret pain.

What years of loss and heartache, sweet,

Before our lonely ways could meet

    And blend again.

A sparrow’s song, like sudden light,

Falls brightly down the hush of night,

    Thus birds rejoice!

Ours is a joy so full and deep,

The joy of those who yet must weep,

    It has no voice. [page 40]

FIRE-FLIES.

I.

ONE by one appearing

    In their lower sky,

Come a host uncounted,

    Like the stars on high;

Flashing lights uncertain,

    Ever changing place—

Tricksy constellations

    That we cannot trace!

Throbbing through the elm-tree,

    Little heart of fire!—

One in lonely longing

    Rises ever higher;

Flits across the darkness

    Like a shooting star,

While the changeless heavens

    Calmly shine afar. [page 41]

II.

When the flames are lighting

    All the chimney dark,

When the green wood hisses,

    And its mossy bark

In the blaze doth redden,

    Glow, and snap, and curl,

Fire-flies, freed from prison,

    Merrily dance and whirl.

Children on the hearthstone,

    Peering up the flue,

See a mimic welkin,

    Lights that twinkle through,—

Sparks that flash and flicker,

    Little short-lived stars,

On the sooty darkness

    Glowing red as Mars!

Eager eyes a-watching

    Fain would have them pause,

Catch these fire-flies—can you?—

    In a web of gauze! [page 42]

Ever upward flying

    Toward the chimney’s crown,

Up to meet the snow-flakes

    As they flutter down!

———————

CONSECRATION.

MY Lord, what wilt Thou? I am but a lute,

    Too light and small to sing Thy majesty,

Thy smiting hand would make me dead and mute;

    Choose Thou some noble trumpet; let me lie

    Where summer winds may kiss me as they fly.

Lord, work Thy will! Why should I be afraid?

    Gentle the winds, but gentler far Thy love;

What hand like Thine to woo the strings it made?

    What touch like Thine my hidden soul to move?

    Strike, and the lute shall please Thine ear above. [page 43]

FATHER GRAFTON’S EYES.

ONE man in homely homespun,

    With dark and flashing eyes,

A brave and leading spirit

    No homespun could disguise.

One in commander’s costume,

    With nobly chiselled face,

A man of storied lineage,

    A man of courtly grace.

Once in the Revolution,

    Some unknown day, they met;

The one was Joseph Grafton,

    The other, Lafayette.

And both were full of ardour,

    Both in the flush of youth,

And both in love with freedom,

    Loyal to right and truth.

They met with souls unveiled,

    No record how or when,

And each one in the other

    Discerned a king of men. [page 44]

They met, and spoke, and parted;

    One made his noble name

A thousand-fold more noble—

    Each school-child knows his name

And one, obscurely serving,

    A rustic folk did guide

In love, and peace and wisdom,

    The fount of life beside.

Long had the war been over;

    Full forty years had passed,

Again to the land that loved him

    The hero came at last.

But oft in vain, and sadly,

    Familiar forms he sought,

These people were the children

    Of those for whom he fought.

Of all the patriot soldiers

    That long ago he led,

How few were left to greet him!

    And Washington was dead. [page 45]

But now once more in Boston,

    Upon the State House stair,

He saw among the strangers

    Thronging to meet him there

One somewhat quaint of figure,

    Somewhat old-fashioned grown,

In breeches, hose and buckles,

    And wig of rusty brown;

And might have seen unnoting,

    Save for a piercing glance—

A look still unforgotten

    Through years in far-off France—

That woke a recognition,

    A throb of pleased surprise;

He cried, “There’s Mr. Grafton,

    I know him by his eyes!”

Old people tell the story,

    Their loving pride aglow,

To think their modest pastor

    Should be remembered so. [page 46]

Yet ’twas indeed no marvel—

    Though even eyes grow old

When youth’s impulsive ardour

    Has left but ashes cold—

For in his soul was springing

    The well of holy truth,

The spirit’s strong elixir

    Of bright immortal youth.

Though years had left their traces,

    No age-marks could disguise

The soul that looked out grandly

    Through Father Grafton’s eyes. [page 47]

SONNET.

MY thought sings not; ’tis like a nameless stream

    That slowly lapses through a rustic vale,

Flushing and brightening at the morning’s beam,

    Saddened and sombre when the light doth fail;

Responding to the stars with flash and gleam,

    Held by the white moon in a stilly trance,

Reflecting all things in a charmed dream—

    A dream of tender spring, young leaves adance;

A dream of summer cloud and azure sky,

    Of autumn splendours, ere the bleak expanse

Of winter locks me in, and bright dreams die.

    A dream—no dream! Sometimes I feel a glance

From inmost heaven into my bosom pass,

That shows the substance of the shades I glass. [page 48]

FRANCONIAN WATERS.

SING through my dreams ye silver-voiced rills,

    Ye bright cascades, sky-cradled in your home,

That leap the rocky stairways of the hills,

    Laughing like eager children as ye come;

Ye streams that flush of springtide overfills,

    Ye brooks that murmur low through meadow grass,

And shake the bending reels with whispery trills,

    Through sombre visions let your brightness pass.

Dream through my dreams, ye lovely lakelets dear,

    For I am like a home-sick mountain child,

Along the crowded ways I fail and fear;

    Give to my sleep sweet memories of the wild.

Your mirrored rest my restless spirit stills—

Dream through my dreams, clear lakes and singing rills. [page 49]

ALL-HEAL.

GONE is the fever and pain,

The clouds break away from my brain,

And sense grows fine and clear.

Outside I hear

The sparrows chatter and scold,

There is life astir in the mould,

The crocus is pushing through;

I know that the sky is blue.

I rise up from my bed

Whence rest is fled,

Hateful it is and dread,

There ages I turned and tossed

In dark delirium lost,

    Wandering affrighted,

Though sweet love close did wind me,

Closer did terrors bind me,

    Nor God, nor love for me the darkness lighted.

No dread, no darkness now!

Cool freshness on palm and brow, [page 50]

How falls my hair so bright,

With the glory of youth alight?

Methought it was streaked with white.

That fever-blighted form

Whereon thy tears rain warm,

That lieth still

And groweth chill,

Sweet heart, that is not I—

I only seemed to die!

Oh, love, dost thou not hear?

Dost thou not feel me near?

Thou bowest grieving,

Al unperceiving,

Down-looking, self-deceiving

    In thy heart-break thou dost miss me.

Oh! could I draw thine eyes,

With radiant surprise

    Thou would’st clasp and kiss me. [page 51]

THE LIGHT ON A FALLING LEAF.

I LOOKED from a city window,

    One moment, over the street,

Soft was the sky above me—

    October is calm and sweet.

Just then, from the lovely azure

    To the shadowed pavement brown,

A leaf from an unseen elm-tree

    Floated slowly down.

It fell with a rhythmic motion,

    With a glint and a gleam of gold,

And it woke in my heart a music,

    A tenderness untold.

Other times I might have seen it

    With introverted eyes,

That could not refrain from searching

    For fine analogies.

But to-day I am looking outward,

    Outward and above,

And I feel the mellow sunshine

    Like an atmosphere of love. [page 52]

Oh, rich and bounteous autumn!

    To-day ’tis a joy to live,

And I take each good gift simply—

    Simply as God doth give.

I look up to Him with gladness,

     To-day I feel no grief,

He toucheth my heart to music

     By the light on a falling leaf.

———————

BELOEIL AND ROUGEMONT.

A LANDSCAPE pictured clear in memory;

    Two mountains couchant at the horizon lay,

One joyous blue, beneath a sunny sky,

    One under rain, dim-outlined, purple-gray,

We watched it long; do you remember dear?

As we sped southward in the sunshine clear

That bathed the peaceful prairie land between,

Whitening the hamlets gray amid the green. [page 53]

ETHELFLEDA AT THE WINDOW.

I.

KING OSWY’S CHILD.

CLAD in a garment coarse and gray,

    She needed no adorning,

As, lovely as the blush of day,

    She looked out on the morning

In living freshness, like the spring,

    A slender, growing maiden,

Her heart as light as bird on wing,—

    Not yet with vows ’twas laden.

Soft Saxon hair that flowed unclipt

    Still free from sober wimple;

Blue eyes, long lashes golden-tipt,

    A rose-leaf cheek, a dimple.

So fair to see Elfleda stood,

    The tender light, and fleeting,

Of dawning, dewy maidenhood,

    Her loveliness completing. [page 54]

Against the headland out of sight

    She heard the breakers dashing;

Before her, like an arrow bright,

    The little Esk was flashing.

“O Jesu, Lux Fidelium,”

    The morning hymn awaking,

Rose from the minster’s silent gloom,

    Like sudden glory breaking.

His trill of joy a lark did pour,

    With holy anthem vying;

The maiden’s heart did sing and soar

    To hymn and bird replying.

Lo! on her sweet and lofty mood

    There struck a discord jarring

Something all earthly, low and rude,

    The strain of brightness marring.

A shadow on the gladsome day

    That made the sunlight duller,

Upon the vivid hues of May

    A blot of lifeless colour. [page 55]

A churl uncouth, with limbs of might

    Half clad in shaggy leather,

His bushy locks unkempt and white,

    Went striding through the heather.

With hanging head and heavy tread,

    A herd of kine did follow,

Along the winding path that led

    From cliff to furzy hollow;

Passing, as she had seen him pass

    Since first she could remember,

Though May-dew sparkling on the grass

    And crisp rime of December.

When storms were hurrying from the north,

    And sharp the sleet would rattle,

Still, dumbly patient, fared he forth

    Herding the abbey’s cattle

As hard to quicken as a stone,

    Too dull for touch of sadness;

When all grew blithe, to him alone

    It seemed there came no gladness. [page 56]

She mused upon his joyless days

    With gentle pitying wonder;

“’Twas strange that human thoughts and ways

    Could lie so far asunder!”

———————

II.

THE ABBESS OF WHITBY.

THE land with springtime grew elate,

    And blithe were lark and sparrow,

The Abbess, Ethelfleda, sate

    Beside her casement narrow.

The hair that once like gold did shine,

    Was hid beneath the wimple,

There showed a tender, chastened line

    Where once had been a dimple.

The rose of youth had passed away,

    As fades the flush of morning,

But on her face a radiance lay,

    A heavenly adorning. [page 57]

Her heart had known life’s rending strife,

    Its human cords revealing,

Had felt the sacrificial knife

    And Jesu’s touch of healing.

She watched a brother bent and brown,

    Who sunned him on the heather;

His locks were white as thistle-down,

    His garb of russet leather.

She looked with wondering reverent eyes,

    That years had taught and chidden,—

That knew within that husk-like guise

    A winged life was hidden.

She knew God’s gift in Cædmon’s soul

    Toward God was brightly springing;

That, like a lark beyond control,

    Aloft his song was winging.

And as she gazed and pondered so,

    The well-spring, deep and living,

The throbbing heart did overflow

    With words of sweet thanksgiving: [page 58]

“My soul doth magnify Thee, Lord,

    Who seest not as man seeth,

Forever with Thy holy word

    Thy work of grace agreeth.

“The haughty ones still casting down,

    The lowly ones still raising,

The meek with honour thou dost crown,

    Dost loose dumb lips in praising.

“The little ones to Thee are dear,

    To them Thy heart is turning,

Their lightest whisper Thou dost hear,

    Amid the seraphs burning.

“Those living harps that thrill and flame

    Their ‘Holy! Holy! Holy!’

No dearer praises give Thy name

    Than earth-born singers lowly!” [page 59]

[unnumbered page, includes illustration]

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