Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
The Hasting Day

[handwritten: Mr. & Mrs. J. B. Tyrrell,

With [illegible word] regards

George Herbert Clarke]

[handwritten: Christmas, 1930] [unnumbered page]

THE HASTING DAY

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THE HASTING DAY

Poems by

GEORGE HERBERT CLARKE

LONDON & TORONTO

J. M. DENT & SONS LIMITED

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN AT

THE WESTMINSTER PRESS

FIRST PUBLISHED 1930

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To My Students

______

                                            Who, less insensible than sodden clay

                                            In a sea-river’s bed at ebb of tide,

                                            Could have beheld with undelighted heart

                                            So many happy youths, so wide and fair

                                            A congregation in its budding-time

                                            Of health, and hope, and beauty?

                                                    WORDSWORTH: The Prelude, Book III.

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PREFATORY NOTE

THE author has here brought together some fifty selections from his poems, old and new. A few of them have appeared in an earlier volume, and others have enjoyed the hospitality of the Atlantic Monthly, the Athenæum, the Forum, the Westminster Gazette, Saturday Night, the Dalhousie Review, Willison’s Monthly, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Queen’s Quarterly, the Sewanee Review, etc., to whose editors thanks are due for permitting their inclusion in this book.

G. H. C.

Queen’s University

Kingston, Canada [page vii]

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

I

Far-Wanderer

page   3

Life is No Gentleman

5

Transience

6

At the Shrine

7

A Wisdom from the Dead

9

On My Dog’s Death

11

To the Memory of Toby (a Cocker Spaniel)

14

On My Irish Terrier’s Shadow

16

En Route

17

Debate

18

Waiting

20

The Silent Sisters of the Poor

22

The Mother

23

Old

24

The Re-lighting

25

The Tenant of Time

26

To a Medical Humanist

30

In Memoriam W. M.

32

Cross-Appraisals

33

To One Called

34

Manna for Friendship?

35

[page ix]

II

Over Salève (Geneva)

page  39

A Shore Sunshine

40

Vagrant

41

Moon-Moments

42

Sun!

43

Eyebright

44

Rose in My Water-Jar

45

Revival

46

Midwinter

47

III

A Lavender Lady

51

Motionless

52

Siege

53

First and Second Thoughts

54

When She Gazes on the Skies

56

Non Omnis Moriar

58

Winter Twilight

59

Quiet She Rests

61

Valediction

62

IV

Santa Maria del Fiore

67

“No Man Hath Seen God”

69

The Wanderer’s England

70

[page x]

V

Lines Written in Surrey, 1917

page 73

The Last Mobilization

74

Ruins (Ypres, 1917)

77

The Virgin of Albert

78

Fallen

79

VI

Hamlet

83

To Mary Arden

84

Richard Abbey and John Keats

85

“Here Pause”

92

To Edgar Poe

93

Hudson Stuck

94

VII

God’s Eyes

97

A Small Boy Prays

99

[page xi]

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I

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FAR-WANDERER

MAN is not born of his mother’s pains,

But as the Vast Design ordains;

A stranger to his troubled mother,

A brute with no brute for a brother;

A loaf too heavy for its leaven,

God in blind grapple for a heaven.

He stirs at beauty in lake or linn,

Yet his homeless heart is woe within.

Bitter and brief the love he spurns

To haste to the killing with kings and kerns.

As the tale of a dream in low tones told,

Or a fading rune on a record old;

As the foam of a wave that swells unseen,

Rises, and ruins, and hath not been;

Lo man the minim that shouts his pride

O’er cities and ships and much beside; [page 3]

Lo man the lonely vagabond,

Aflounder in his own despond;

Lo who for wisdom hungereth

The fated, feeble prey of death;

Lo man afraid, yet gaily brave,

Hoping he has a soul to save!

Man who a thousand things doth guess

Knows only his own homelessness.

The birds have nests, the fox a bed—

Man hath not where to lay his head. [page 4]

LIFE IS NO GENTLEMAN

(Song)

LIFE is no gentleman—

    Life is a lout

Who boasteth and burneth,

Who turneth, returneth

    About and about.

Death is a gentleman—

    Generous Death

Forgotteth our errors,

Calmeth our terrors,

    Comforteth! [page 5]

TRANSIENCE

FRAIL shapes a Dreamer dreams

    We careful earthlings are—

From some far Moon moonbeams

    Afloat afar.

Born of that brooding Brain,
   Magical men o’ the Moon,

When must we home again?—

    Ah, soon, soon! [page 6]

AT THE SHRINE

Mary, humanity’s Woman, immaculate Mother,

Is it Thou, Thou alone, that art pure, and never another?

For the babe at my breast many deaths did my body endure:

The girl died, the virgin—yea, all that the Past counted pure.

Then the deepest last dying, the shudder so woeful and wild,

The smothering darkness . . . the pitiful cry of the child!

O Mary, the bliss that came after—the rapture of bliss—

How I would laugh him to laughter, and how we would kiss!

How I would clasp him in terror when trouble would linger and stay!

Trouble? for any but him, my masterful man-child alway. [page 7]

How he would lie in my bosom, and how I would breathe his name,

How I would watch him and love him and dream of his lordly far fame!

’Twas a wraith, a mistake—’twas not that I lived there in the Past,

A pale, futile girl—now a woman, a woman at last!

For how could she know, that pale one, so saintly and clean,

That Madonna dwells eternal in the breast of Magdalene?

Mary, humanity’s Woman, immaculate Mother,

Is it Thou, Thou alone, that art pure, and never another? [page 8]

A WISDOM FROM THE DEAD

SLOWLY all-devouring earth

Obliterates my death and birth—

Creeping cannibal of clay,

Wastes and crumbles me away.

All-devouring, for he feeds

On the fanes of countless creeds,

On prison-walls and palace-towers

And the immeasurable hours.

Thou that movest overhead,

Mark a wisdom from the dead:

I have learned, dissolving here,

Man’s sole enemy is fear.

My whole life long I was afraid,

Doubted, hesitated, prayed—

A minim lost within a maze

Of dusty and deceitful days.

Sorely worn I wandered till

Down I sank and lay right still,

Believing in my quiet bed

It was better to be dead. [page 9]

No. Light from heat, and peace from pain!

Ah, friend, were I to live again,

Fate I should face with stoic brow;

But I must pass to silence now.

We are. We cease. We shall not be.

Change only is eternity;

And good and evil, sweet or strange,

Are changing ministers of Change. [page 10]

ON MY DOG’S DEATH

MY friend has gone

Through the door of darkness;

Wearily waiting,

He fainted and fell

Upon its threshold,

And ghostly fingers

Out of the silence

Laid hold upon him

And drew him through.

He did not know the subtle secrets

Of Death the wary;

Deeply loved me,

My little comrade—

His eyes were shining

With lights of worship,

Of modest wonder,

When I caressed him.
Even at the last,

Before the darkness,

He never doubted:

He thought his lord

Was tired or troubled,

But would surely save him. [page 11]

Thy lord? Ah, comrade,

Futile thy faith,

And futile my will

To heal and keep thee!

We dwelt together

As midges merely,

Afloat in the fathomless

Dust of the ages.

Drifted we near

Unto each other,

Enjoying the sunlight

Playing upon us;

And then, on a sudden,

Came the chill glooming,

The separation.

And yet . . . I feel . . .

There are strange things about love:

Love is so loving,

So patient, enduring,

Through the doom of defeat

And utter sorrow!

There are strange things about love . . .

I feel their strangeness. [page 12]

Love may be somehow

More than the motes are

That flutter to feel it,

Older than ages,

Deeper than heartbreak

And death and distance—

Greater perhaps

Than It that orders

The swing of the planets,

Than all things else

That are or shall be.

The love I bear thee,

My little dead comrade,

Forever is trying

To tell me something.

I am learning to listen. [page 13]

TO THE MEMORY OF TOBY

(A Cocker Spaniel)

You loved to lie by the wizard winter fire,

Watching the flames flourish and fork and spire;

Or, if you dozed, growling with drowsy ire.

When you awoke, if you saw me reading a book,

Upon my shoe-strings longingly would you look;

To loose them by stealth what endless trouble you took!

How you would rush for your rations and leap elate!

You gobbled them, trencherman Toby, rather than ate,

Returning anon to linger and lick the plate.

More fearless you than your lord, freely I own;

You would march up to a mastiff guarding a bone,

And beguile or bedevil him somehow into a loan.

At the sound of the motor starting, you within hail,

Instant you were and urgent and sure to prevail,

Wagging the while your ridiculous wisp of a tail. [page 14]

Once aboard, you were drunk with doggish delight,

Barked at pedestrian pups, jumped left and right,

Or under my arm as I drove would wedge yourself tight.

When you were quiet in your nightly nest

We held rare talk together, while I caressed

Your silky ears, or ruffled your brow or breast.

And now—you are as though you had never been!

In a year you were born and perished—passed from the scene;

Is love like that but a memory? . . . What does it mean? [page 15]

ON MY IRISH TERRIER’S SHADOW

LIFTING little tawny feet,

Jerry patters down the street,

Hunting jolly bones to eat.

Jerry’s shadow trots beside,

Comically magnified,

Keeping step with awkward stride.

Something innocent, forlorn,

By that simple shade is borne—

Yet of Fate a puny scorn.

 

*             *             *             *

This wandering Shadow of the Sun

Laughs and laments till all is done

And mightier systems are begun. [page 16]

EN ROUTE

“No beauty, she!” I inwardly commented,

    Glancing across the aisle to where she sat,

    For she was slack and awkward, creased with fat,

(By men an ugly woman is resented,

Her presence, makes them vaguely discontented,

    She disappoints—they can’t forgive her that);

    I looked again and saw her restless brat

Pulling her skirt and driving her demented.

Bright-eyed and chubby was the little sweep,

    He worried till she took him under wing:

How gently round him did her huge arm creep

    Until he slept for bliss of mothering;

The woman was illumined!—Commonplace?—

She held him, watched him with a shining face. [page 17]

DEBATE

I. MIND SPEAKS

    TRIVIAL minim, renounce with shame

Your wavering will, your idle woes!

    Endless ages ere you became

    This planet drove from the sun aflame

To an end ordained, as I suppose.

    On she will plunge when you have died

(A dusty mote dissolved and gone),

    No chart to teach her reef or tide,

    Master nor mate to be her guide,

Secret and strange and all alone.

    She must go down to the wastes that wait,

The perilous pools that shall impend;

    The thing create shall be uncreate;

    Blindly she drives to find her fate—

Vast, vacant silence shall be the end. [page 18]

II. SOUL SPEAKS

    That I am a mote is doubtless true,

Yet the vert to be has a future tense;

    To cease is to change from “I” and “you”;

    The planet may pass, ay persons too,

Yet both persist, with a difference.

    “Create” and “uncreate,” word-worried Mind—

Have you only one key to interpret the Soul?

    Design is the Real, not things designed,

    And “life” is a symbol of Life behind:

Slowly the Weaver weaves the Whole. [page 19]

WAITING

AGAIN, a song!

Would he be silent? Silence and doubt are wrong.

It is not long. . . . Nay. . . . Nay, it is not long:

Even now his sturdy wings must beat toward home and me.

Oh, let me sing

As thou my notes he waited, listening

Somehow amazed;—let his mate’s music bring

His erring flight to yearned-for rest, unerringly!

Hark! . . . ’Tis not yet . . .

But I am happy; ’tis not meet to fret.

Am I not happy? The sun is well-nigh set,

And soon, and soon he homes him to the old beech tree.

Ay, soon! . . . Ay, soon!

Another might by lying dead, the wind a-croon;

Broken his wings, unheeding sun or moon;

But not my love; my strong one cometh back to me. [page 20]

Dear love, do not,

(If thou art hiding near the trysting-spot)

Do not delay, though sweet the little plot!

I wait, and oh, sing as I may, Fear also waits for thee.

*            *             *            *

All song is done. . . .

Shrunken to nothing is the shameful sun;

And out the stars are coming, one by one;

And in the cold night lies my life, under a beechen tree! [page 21]

THE SILENT SISTERS OF THE POOR

MEEKLY, with folded hands and patient brows,

    Come two from out the ivy-clustered door;

A cross is on the altar of their House—

It hushed their voices while it heard their vows;

    Ay me—the Silent Sisters of the Poor!

The cross upon the altar is of gold,

    And coldly gleams in the chill chapel air;—

Is it for this their bosoms are so cold,

Nor beat as they were wont to beat of old?—

    Or is a wintry cross enfixéd there?

The sun is dimly drooping down the west;

    The ancient House against his glory stands

Sombre and gaunt and dark; and, darkly drest,

Two figures seem to fade within its breast,

    Meekly, with patient brows and folded hands. [page 22]

THE MOTHER

    WISE with heart’s wisdom and divinely mild,

Storing her soul with stars and birds and flowers,

    She shapes the spirit of her little child

To secret patterns woven in holy hours. [page 23]

OLD

    SAYS the son of man: “I am old!”—

Yet he knows there are older things:

    The wary wolf on the wold;

The windy, spumy wings

    Of the sea-gull; and the sea-creatures, careful and cold.

    Likewise, though these be old,

There are ever older things;

    Mountain in snow-clouds stoled;

The golden downgoings

    Of the spent sun, in his harness of changing gold.

    Oh what is it then to be old?—

Still older and older things

    Pulse through the Vast untold

In æonian journeyings:

    Majestic orbs and orbits, mysterious, manifold. [page 24]

THE RE-LIGHTING

BEACONS were burning on the Cornish coast:

    One caught and blazed, another caught and blazed,

    Until a file of fiery fingers raised

Weird whispers, warnings, post unto lonely post. . . .

’Twas but an afterglow, a revived ghost

    Of the old custom worthy to be praised;

    Some looked, and lingered not; some longer gazed,

And some were strangely silent, awed almost.

Faint gleams in the gloom, wherefore did we forget

    The year of our Lord, the year of our king, the years

Of our brief lives, and feel the eternal fret

    Of the sea, and wonder with what faith and fears

Beside each flaming barrow dark forms had met,

    Begging their gods to hear what the soul hears? [page 25]

THE TENANT OF TIME

AGES departed

A great House was started

By that Unknown Builder

Whose methods bewilder

Less cunning contrivers.

He fashioned him divers

Galleries, towers;

Avenues, bowers;

Cool greening glades;

Courts, colonnades;

Spires, summits exalted

O’er chapels rock-vaulted;

Clear waters falling;

Birds cooing or calling;

Calm rivers creeping

Through lazy vales sleeping. . . .

(Ages hence ’twill be vapour

Again, for the Shaper.)

Room, river and glade

This Fashioner made

For our habitation,

Fixed the lease’s duration

At years not a hundred [page 26]

(Often I’ve wondered

Whether extensible

To tenants more sensible);

The rental exacted

Is slowly subtracted—

Mortality styled—

From each creature and child;

Nor is it a pittance

We pay for the quittance

That Death has in waiting,

Though we know not the dating.

I prize the proud spaciousness,

Grandeur and graciousness;

The rooms without number

For labour or slumber;

Bazaar-babels chartered

That things may be bartered;

High choirs with crypts under

For worship and wonder;

Yet, in all my sojourning,

My bosom keeps burning

With ache to remember,

To revive the lost ember,

Unriddle my mystery,

My prehuman history—

That earlier dwelling [page 27]

Past knowing or telling

Where I dreamed not of earthen

Blessing or burthen,

But, on the day fated,

Forsook all, migrated.

Now, mid new firmaments,

I feel my impermanence;

Live sadly or merrily,

This House is not verily

Mine, but a testing-house,

Traveller’s resting-house,

All life that is in it

But guests for Life’s minute;

Here they’ve halted, departed

On their journeys uncharted

In processional endless;

Each, fearful and friendless,

Futurity facing—

Aye tracing, retracing

New orbits and newer. . . .

O forlorn pursuer,

Eternally nearing

The peace disappearing,

The secret solution

Of the long Evolution;— [page 28]

O prober and porer,

Still baffled explorer,

Ponder the Prophet-Word

Brahma and Hakeem heard;

The Law Moses gave to men

(One Law in thunderous Ten);

The Flow Heraclitus felt;

The Star where the shepherds knelt;

The Poetry Plato made;

Prayers Zarathustra prayed

To Fire and its fervent feuds;

Mild Christ’s Beatitudes;—

Heed not mere scroll and stone,

Know what may not be known,

Heed but the Undertone

Sounding through all great souls unto thine own:

    Æon on æon climb

        The vastnesses of Space! . . .

        Thou shalt find the placeless Place,

    The timeless Time. [page 29]

TO A MEDICAL HUMANIST

OUR life is like a many-altared fane

Whose fundamentals are hidden, and whose spires

Lift and are lost in empyrean fires.

Mites multitudinous appear within:

Uncertain some and shrineless, but most remain

Telling worn beads, telling worn beads again.

Before their various altars priest of Art,

Of Labour, Law, their litanies begin,

And Commerce, and the Cure-of-Adam’s-Sin.

Lingered a youth (scant time had he to spare)

About a crowded chancel—contentless heart—

A little while, and then withdrew apart;

For he had seen (in dreams?) down the long nave

A shrine that few had found, surpassing fair,

And longed exceedingly to enter there.

(Healing had called him, and Hellenic Song;—

Lover of one, of the other a tired slave,

He blessed the “true” god, and “false” forgave.) [page 30]

At last, when he drew nigh that sacred seat—

Medicine’s acolyte, but mass-priest long

Of Poetry—he was ware that “right” and “wrong”

And “false” and “true” were gathered there at one;

Their ancient enmity was no more meet—

All they were hushed before the Paraclete.

For benison and beauty that far shrine

Gleamed like the Sun when autumn storms are done,

And comprehended all things like the Sun.

And all those lesser altars seemed but stairs

Leading to it—of Life the Soul divine

That knew that spirit’s needs, and knoweth thine.

*            *            *            *

Pale Keats strove thither on his path of pain,

And, though death took him, he had peace again;

That “pure serene” you breathe, for unawares

Your life in harmony enfolds your prayers. [page 31]

IN MEMORIAM W. M.

THE boy was born of the moor, the mist, the loam,

And the sun and the sky and the sea of his Scottish home.

He thought of the noisy world, unknown, unknowning,

And the strange symbols wrought in its ongoing.

He thought of God and longed to limn His features,

And trace His ways with His inconstant creatures,

And hear His footfalls from hill to valley ranging,

His voice of storm slowly to silence changing.

He thought—he dreamed—he prayed—and God approved him,

Touched him to wonder, and to wisdom moved him.

Scholar of God, he did not turn about,

But marked His voice, despite the pain of doubt

And the dark mysteries past finding out.

Honest his thought was and his heart was kind;

He did God’s work to the gain that God designed;

What light was wanting here, there he shall find,

But—we who loved him—we remain behind. [page 32]

CROSS APPRAISALS

I

    THAT dull clown at the plough,

Plodding till day be dim—

    There’s beauty in him, I vow,

Strange beauty in him!

II

    That idle chap by the wall,

Why is he mooning about?—

    There’s nothing in him at all,

Far as I can make out. [page 33]

TO ONE CALLED

    Too good to guess your goodness, long you trod

The rugged trail to the truth that makes men free;

    Until God said: “Be with the Friends of God,

The Elder Statesmen of Eternity!” [page 34]

MANNA FOR FRIENDSHIP?

    MANNA for friendship? Friendship faints not, fails not;

Self-nurturing, it fears no wilderness;

    Bravely the slopes of Time it climbs, bewails not,

But the blest past, each passing moment, blesses. [page 35]

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II

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OVER SALÈVE

(Geneva)

    OVER Salève I heard a skylark singing

Blessèd be Beauty, Beauty! He soared and swirled,

    In very ecstasy of flight outflinging

His breathless music on a broken world.

    Joy, the sole faith of that so tiny flyer

Twining unnumbered notes in psalms of praise,

    Lifted him up on high and even higher

Till the blue heaven hid from my gaze.

    Still he adored, flooding the sky and mountain

With delicate waves of the sound more silver-sweet

    Than the pure flowing of a pebbled fountain

To desert-farers fainting in the heat.

    Beggar am I for Beauty’s least caress;

The little lark knows all her loveliness. [page 39]

A SHORE SUNRISE

IN the long low haze of the lost horizon,

            Dim and dun,

The sea and the sun and the sky together

            Are as one—

So still and secret the sky and the sea there,

            And the sun!

Slowly, slowly the dawning waters

            Lift as they list,

Slowly the breath of the sea floats upward,

            And that pale mist,

Swimming and sifting through the sun’s fingers,

            Gleams amethyst. [page 40]

VAGRANT

O’ER leaves and logs, up and down dell,

    I scrambled. The oaks old

Dwindled in twilight. The Dark fell

    Fold on fold.

Long lost there, frantic for any light,

    I looked up: far abroad

The stars burned in the boundless night,

    Serving God. [page 41]

MOON-MOMENTS

I

    WRAITH o’ the Moon emaciate

As twilight clouds that drift and thin

    And linger near her ghostly gate,

And fail and fade within.

II

    Resurgent flow her golden tides,

For she and her Swart Swain have kissed . . .

    From shadowy vales of silence glides

Incense of midnight mist. [page 42]

SUN!

Sun! Sun! Sun!

Chorus of earth-birds, chorus of sky-birds, myriad matins begun—

Cross-tangled adventurous music, anthems of awe,

Of appeal, adoration: litanies now of law,

And now of raptured singings of trust in the truth of the light,

The Lighter’s proud power, and the rich-altared East, all bedight

With the glimmer, the glow, and the glory, till it mounts into flame,

And the mass-music mightily swells to the sovereign Name—

Sun!

As his garment, incredibly golden, the edge of the world has won,

And life is astir, and love is alive, and the sighing and sleeping are done—

Sun! Sun! Sun! [page 43]

EYEBRIGHT

(Canso, Nova Scotia)

ON the sea-cliff growing,

    Tiny wight,

With a brisk wind blowing

    You left and right;

Like a sturdy urchin,

    A merry mite,

The place you perch in

    Is your delight;

Your body braving

    The breeze at height,

Your wee arms waving

    Their pink and white;

In all my wending

    I’ve seen no sight

So full of friending

    As you, eyebright! [page 44]

ROSE IN MY WATER-JAR

    ROSE in my water-jar,

Low overleaning,

    Who may know what you are,

Your innermost meaning?

    (So, roses on roses—

Rapt from what Bower?—

    Bloom, till time closes

Their brief human hour.)

    Rose in my water-jar,

Sweet thing I have taken,

    Are you sad for your scar

And your fellows forsaken?—

    Or, drooping down frailly,

Afar from the garden,

    Breathe purely and palely

The fragrance of pardon?

    Rose in my water-jar,

Low overleaning,

    Who may know what you are,

Your innermost meaning? [page 45]

REVIVAL

ALIVE and awake and aware is Spring:

Busily, busily, birds are a-wing,

While tiny hepaticas hardily cling

To hidden hollows before the fling

Of breezes gustily freshening—

And O in my heart a strange, sweet thing:

Hopes of old that quicken and sing,

With magic and music burgeoning.

Above the plough, a radiant ring,

The sunbeams warm and life-giving—

And O in my heart a strange, sweet thing:

Alive and awake and aware is Spring! [page 46]

MIDWINTER

    VAGUE moons and misty valleys: ghostly cold

Enfolds the night, mute immobility;—

    Deeply defeated life, weary and old,

Stares at the shrivelled leaf, the stricken tree. [page 47]

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III

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A LAVENDER LADY

A LAVENDER lady,

    Holy and old,

Like a cool place and shady

    When summer is bold;

In her deep eyes Dimittis

    The long release!—

Innumerous pities,

    Healing peace,

O I worship unknown

    Her frail, worn face;

With lavender blown

    (An intangible trace,

A breath alone!)

    About creamy lace;—

All my sins I atone

    In this cool, shady place. [page 51]

MOTIONLESS

MOTIONLESS, upon her bed,

By pale roses garlanded,

    Little Dorothea lies,

    Incommunicably wise

With the wisdom of the dead.

’Twas but yesterday she wed:

Now her golden, girlish head

    Wears another bridal guise,

        Motionless.

Were her slumber mine instead,

She could not be comforted:

    Streaming tears would blind her eyes—

    Yet, when Dorothea dies,

Silent I wait, with doubt and dread

        Motionless. [page 52]

SIEGE

    SHOUT, shout, O Storm!

I have a shelter

    Safe and warm,

    Though lightnings form

And hail pelter.

    Advance, assault,

Swearing and swelling!—

    On your haunches halt

    (Not yours the fault)

Before my dwelling!

    Find you this place

Too firmly founded?—

    Love built the base,

    Love gave the grace,

By Love ’tis bounded. [page 53]

FIRST AND SECOND THOUGHTS

I. RESIGNATION

    LOVE touched you long ago, but not again—

A hint, a hope, a whisper, a surprise—

    Touched you, and turned, and parted; the slow pain

Of that long heartbreak lingers in your eyes.

    Love is a strange lord—many things in one:

Rapture ineffable and utter joy;

    Yet he can make a shadow the sun,

Break and beat down the battlements of Troy.

    We poets watch him, think we know his ways,

Yet all our songs of him himself inspires,

    And well he governs both our blame and praise

Once he hath lit us in his living fires.

    Love laughs to find my flame so fervent true

    And warms him well. Why should he kindle you? [page 54]

II. HOPE

    Should Fate involve me in his darkest fold

So you might thrive, I should not shrink from Fate.

    Day after weary day, through time untold,

Sorrow and I for you did sit and wait;

    Besieging Death would beat his sullen drum

All the hard hours, while Sorrow rocked her knees

    And cried: “She is a wraith, she will not come;

L’Amour de l’Impossible your soul doth seize!”

    Incredibly then you came, fairer than fair,

And Sorrow saw and faded, and a faint

    Retreating drum-beat died upon the air,

For life flowed through you, mother, bride and saint.

    O dear deliverance, to love you well!

    To love you better were a miracle. [page 55]

WHEN SHE GAZES ON THE SKIES

WHEN she gazes on the skies

Something holy in her eyes

Shines serenely clear and bright—

Beacon in my darkest night!

When she listens to the lark

Her quick spirit stands ahark—

Then light she dances down the dells,

Singing comrade ritornelles.

When she gathers laurel blooms

Sweeter seem their deep perfumes;

In her lissome arms they lie,

Fulfilling all their destiny.

When she merry grows, or pleases

To be mischievous, and teases,

Her bewildering witchery

Plays a thousand pranks on me.

When she looks upon a child,

A change—ineffable and mild— [page 56]

Touches her being, and she seems

Withdrawn in mystery and dreams.

Lark and laurel, sky and dell,

In her sanctuary dwell:

O that I might enter there

Like a little child at prayer! [page 57]

NON OMNIS MORIAR

HOW can this utter silence be?

    Why does she never say a word?

    Of old, before I spoke she heard,

Reached gentle hands to hearten me.

Silent upon her snow-white bed,

    Silent and very pale she lies,

    And she has closed her shining eyes—

She fears to dwell among the Dead.

Not for herself she fears: her breath

    Is spent, her little race is run;

    But must her love, too, be undone?

Her heart’s dear secret yield to Death?

Ah, that she could not bear . . . She waits.

    I watch her in the deepening night:

    Slow through the gloom a glimmering white

From her frail figure emanates.

Her eyelids open, her eyes shine,

    She lifts a thin and lingering hand;

    No words: we clasp and understand:

Death shall not touch the thing divine! [page 58]

WINTER TWILIGHT

THE year has reached December days,

    The fire is creeping into flame;

    Gently I call my comrade’s name,

And silent both we sit at gaze.

His head is prest again my knee,

    My hand upon his brow is set—

    The flames spring upward, and we let

Our fancies play with all they see.

I see the face of one who died

    Ere the low whisper she had heard

    That sought the moment and the word

To woo the maiden for my bride.

He sees a strange, enchanted land

    That wanes and waxes with flame;

    He does not sense himself the same,

And dimly deems I understand.

My listless form yields slowly down;

    He also droops with half-closed eyes,

    Yet with a mute regard that tries

To feel his master’s smile or frown. [page 59]

Still I behold her face, her smile,

    The fire sinks low, and I repose;

    The mystery of Wyrd who knows?

Are these real moments we beguile?

I cannot answer, yet am blest;

    And from the hearth he turns his eyes

    Till they meet mine in trustful wise,

And so he dreams himself to rest. [page 60]

QUIET SHE RESTS

QUIET she rests: unresting deeps

    Buffet and sway her straining barque;

    Mid the thick night, the starless dark,

In peace he sleeps.

What loveliness may rival hers?

    What soul so innocent and free?—

    Storm strikes across the swelling sea—

She wakes and stirs.

She prays a little. Her prayers cease.

    She smiles. Her lover far away

    Is caring for her. He will pray . . .

She sleeps in peace. [page 61]

VALEDICTION

UNDER this cold, cumbering stone

Lies a little girl, alone.

It was a joy her life to see—

So glad, and virginal, and free!

Her laughter gave the birds of spring

Sweet phrases for their musicking;

And when she ran and danced about

Quick elvish eyes peered in and out.

There is no laughter now, nor song—

Silent she lies here, all day long.

All day the roses over her

Blossom and blow; the winds murmur;

She heeds them not; she does not stir.

A little girl, so soon at rest

Vague, vernal longings unexpressed

Wakened, then paled within her breast. [page 62]

God knows I loved her; and I know

(E’en though she never whispered so)

Her heart was mine, for weal or woe.

And now—she lies beneath the roses,

While man his thousand tasks disposes . . .

And the day breaks, and the day closes. [page 63]

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IV

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SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE

SUMMITS and vales, slim cypresses and pines—

Arno and April and the Apennines!

And Giotto’s captive dream (what dream has ending?)

Lifting his Florence up to God for friending.

Her dream enfolded his. She willed and waited,

Conceived her popes and princes, and created.

Mother and Muse was she of mighty singers;

Grave Dante drank her beast; the beauty-bringers

In cell and cloister felt her mood and fashioned

Mystic Madonnas palely unimpassioned,

With cherubean Babes and saints immortal,

High men and humble kneeling at the portal.

She was the pale Madonna, hers the story

Of pilgrim lords at pause before her glory. [page 67]

And for the Babe she showed them Beauty solely

The while they worshipped: “Holy, O Thou holy!”

Fear was her fault, too cold a doubt of duty,

Of brows that burned, of hearts that beat, for Beauty.

So Florence fell. Yet strangely sweet and vernal

Beauty is born again in her eternal.

Summits and vales, slim cypresses and pines—

Arno and April and the Apennines! [page 68]

“NO MAN HATH SEEN GOD”

CLOUDY masks round an “Alpine peak,

    Huge formless fold involving fold:

    The castle of god when His mood is cold,

The cavern of God when He does not speak!

In Palestrina the angel choir

    Lifting together song and wing

    (At Munich they made their musicking),

Their robes aflame with celestial fire!

Wandering wraiths dissolved abroad,

    Visions whose focus was lost too soon,

    Echoes heard of an unheard tune,—

Those Alps and angels were ghosts of God. [page 69]

THE WANDERER’S ENGLAND

WHERE the gulls chide by the tidal cove lies home,

    Where the meadow meets the cliff, the cliff the sea;

    Cool-greening grass and old tranquility

Breed dream-content. Not so the flooding foam

Of giant breakers climbing still, that come

    And boom upon the beach, eternally,

    Mightily dying, yet again to be—

The selfsame seas Ragnar was wont to roam!

Ah, that is England! They that drink her breast

    Drink a stern sweetness,—pain and secret peace;

In thoughts of her they find their dearest rest,

    Though restless they adventure without cease.

Her ancient rainbow is their anadem,

And the salt strength that girds her girdeth them. [page 70]

V

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LINES WRITTEN IN SURREY

1917

A SUDDEN swirl of song in the bright sky—

    The little lark adoring his lord the sun;

    Across the corn the lazy ripples run;

Under the eaves, conferring drowsily,

Doves droop or amble; the agile waterfly

    Wrinkles the pool; and flowers, gay and dun,

    Rose, bluebell, rhododendron, one by one,

The buccaneering bees prove busily.

Ah, who may trace this tranquil loveliness

    In verse felicitous?—no measure tells;

But, gazing on her bosom, we can guess

    Why men strike hard for England in red hells,

Falling on dreams, mid Death’s extreme caress,

    Of English daisies dancing in English dells. [page 73]

THE LAST MOBILIZATION

    ENGLAND, we come—

Too hard was the waiting;

    We burn to the bugles’

Eager vibrating.

    Here are your old reserves,

Rovers and rangers,

    From the wild, rough places

And the dared dangers.

    Blood of your blood we were,

Salt of your savour;

    Spartan you moulded us,

Never to waver.

    Doom changed her iron lips,

A world swayed asunder . . .

    Stoutly you battled on,

Faced the fell thunder.

    You have not shamed us where

We shadows must tarry:

    Greenville is glad of you,

Drake, and King Harry! [page 74]

    Shades? but we’ve broken through,

The Border we’ve raided;

    Strange, stubborn sentinels

We have persuaded.

    Sidney salutes you know;

England, here’s Clive again;

    Wolfe, with his poet’s heart;

Richard’s alive again!

    What though to dusty death

Once we descended?

    Soul of your soul we are

Till time be ended.

    Nelson and Wellington,

Our captains, commanders,

    Marshal their men-at-arms

For France and Flanders.

    Let us lift up our hearts,

Devon and Dover,

    Men of antipodes,

    Sailors from frozen seas,

Each ranger and rover;— [page 75]

    Comrades, with us unite!

    God, and the freeman’s right!

    Lift we our hearts and fight

Till this hell-burst be over!

    England, our England,

We share your ongoing,

    With full, free banners

Gallantly flowing! [page 76]

RUINS

(Ypres, 1917)

RUINS of trees whose woeful arms

    Vainly invoke the sombre sky—

        Stripped, twisted boughs and tortured boles,

        Like lost souls—

How green they grew on the little farms!

Ruins of stricken wall and spire,

    Stretched mile on desolate mile along—

        Ghosts of a life of sweet intent,

        Riven and rent

By frantic shell and searching fire.

Ruins of soldiers torn and slain,

    Boyish bodies broken for you:

        Burned in their hearts the battle-cry! . . .

        Lifeless they lie,

Clay crumbling slow to clay again. [page 77]

THE VIRGIN OF ALBERT

(Notre Dame de Brebières)

TWO pause and linger, looking up at Her,

    Young comrades, Frank and Briton, side by side:

    Death they know well, for daily they have died,

Spending their boyhood ever bravelier;

They wait: here is no priest nor chorister;

    Birds skirt the stricken tower, terrified;

    Desolate, empty, is the Eastertide,

Yet still they wait, watching the Babe and her.

Broken, the Mother stoops: the scowling foe

    Hurled with dull hate his bolts and down She swayed,

Down, till She saw the toiling swarms below—

    Platoons, guns, transports, endlessly arrayed:

“Women are woe for them! Me be theirs,

And comfort them, and hearken all their prayers!” [page 78]

FALLEN

HE looked on life and art and man’s estate;

    Dear hopes he felt, though dim;

Cheerly he turned, and there, insatiate,

    Death looked on him.

You also! Come!” . . . there was no faltering;

    His boyish eyes and clear

Regarded It, and showed not anything

    Of coward fear.

Somewhere beyond the slopes of time he’ll find

    The stature of his soul;

So dream we who, remaining here behind,

    Not yet are whole. [page 79]

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VI

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HAMLET

HE would see all, this Thinker! He would see

Life’s changing legend, alien mystery;

He sees, and he is silent: Love and Hate

Fail while he faces unimagined Fate. [page 83]

TO MARY ARDEN

DID he, madonna, on thy bosom turning,

    Look in thy woman-eyes and see soft fires

Glowing and melting, passioning and yearning,

    Lit with the mother-light of far desires?

O did he fix his still regard upon them,

    Learning their meanings manifold and strange,

Climbing with wonder up to count and con them

    Ere they should vanish and the moment change?

The visions that thy soul revealed him then,

    Though thou hast died, madonna, may never die:

They dwell eternal in pure Imogen,

    Cordelia’s truth and Desdemona’s sigh,

Rosalind’s Arden, Miranda’s island wave,

Girlish Ophelia’s love, and Juliet’s grave. [page 84]

RICHARD ABBEY AND JOHN KEATS*

(1817)

ABBEY

SHEER folly, John, folly that might become

Stubborn perverseness! A grain of common-sense

Would teach you better. You’re a surgeon now,

Yet now precisely you declare, decide

You will not be a surgeon. What is this?

Are time and money and—my counselling,

The articles with Hammond, terms at Guy’s,

Nothing then, less than nothing, in your view?

O the sure views of striplings come of age!

Flighty, my lad, you’re flighty, like your mother;—

She often—


  *  After Keats had passed his twenty-first birthday and had resolved never to practise surgery, he sough an interview with his trustee and former guardian, Richard Abbey, a wholesale tea and coffee merchant, and announced his intention of adopting poetry as his sole profession. The careful, unimaginative Abbey was much annoyed and called Keats (as he afterwards told John Taylor, Keats’s friend and publisher) “a silly boy,” prophesying his early failure. Abbey says further, “He brought in not long after a little book which he had got printed. I took it and said that I would look at it because it was his writing, otherwise I should not have troubled my head with any such thing. When we next met I said, ‘Well, John, I have read your book, and it reminds me of the Quaker’s horse which was hard to catch, and good for nothing when caught. So your book is hard to understand and good for nothing when it is understood.’”


[page 85]

KEATS

                                You may let her, Sir, alone!

She is no theme for you. Touching this trade

Of surgeon, I have gained its rudiments,

Its disagreeables I have not shunned:

It proved my duty but the other day

To cut and bind a temporal artery;

I did it well enough, and yet it seemed

A miracle that it was done at all.

My busy fingers finished while my mind

Remembered ancient tales of love and rue . . .

I dare not dare again, accept the hazard

Of helpless lives that fade into a dream.

How may I serve two masters, with the one

Secretly swaying all my loyalty?

’Tis time to be the Poet that I am,

Become the Poet that I yet may be.

Nor was it easy, Sir, to reach the truth:

I’ve wrestled, made-believe, worked, and rebuked

My unbelief. It has not been enough.

The spirit I have wrestled is not

Of evil, but of good, and I have found

It stronger daily—mightier than I.

Yet you are hurt—how otherwise?—and think

John Keats a thankless fellow, unaware

Of his own better fortune, blamable,

Wayward. I would not wound you—anyone. [page 86]

George understands it has not been a choice—

And Tom, too—little Fanny will, some day.

Come, Sir, I am a man, however young;

I offer you a man’s hand, and affirm

I’m not ungrateful: you have kept your trust

And done your part. And now I shall do mine—

For woe are they who hear in vain the Word

Of Beauty kindling and dilating, Beauty

Calming the fume and fever of our life,

Beauty that bids her followers to forever

Be fain to echo her far harmonies!

ABBEY

I am to understand, then, that you think

You may in time become a sort of—scribbler?

Prosper as—Poet? You have used the word;

’Tis not the word I should have used, but let

That pass.

KEATS

                               I do intend, Sir, to rely

Upon the power of Beauty to make me one.

I’ve no few fears, my ignorance is much;

I would not seem presumptuous, yet I feel [page 87]

Flamings within me that will stifle me

Unless I feed them fiercer, yield to them,

Burn me into their fervent fellowship.

And Shakespeare is a great flame; Spenser one;

Marlowe and Milton, and a hundred more;

And some are mild and white, and slowly spire;

And some are cruel-ardent, that consume

And are consumed; and I must be with them . . .

Oh, if I can but glimmer, it is well!

And if I grow and glow through the years to come

In larger brotherhood, ’tis very well!

Beauty enlightened them and bade them burn;—

Me likewise, and I must not let her light

Flicker and gutter, least of all deny

Illumination.

ABBEY

                                           Harkee, John, I am

A patient man, I hope, and practical,

And hence have some acquaintance with the world.

I know that moonstruck minds are hard to move

From their delusions, yet the adage runs;

The pudding’s proof is in the eating of it.

I’ve seem, my boy, some of your random rhymes;

Frankly, they mind me of the Quaker’s mare,

Coy in the catching, yet, when caught at last,

A sorry, spavined jade. John, credit me, [page 88]

I like your spirit, but your stubbornness

Might provoke some to anger. Here are you,

Equipped, certificated, fit to be

A rising surgeon in a settled place—

A steady practice waits at Tottenham.

Within a year or two your principal

Will be again intact, for you will save

(A wife, I hope, to help you) and forget

This balk at the manger. Let the scribbling go!

At best it’s desultory, dubious,

At worst a waste of time and substance too.

Learn to be solid, John, and cast away

This talk of Poetry, well enough indeed

For girls, and children, and the playhouses,

But—decorative, eh? for men like us.

Let us be manly men, and know ourselves

Capable grapplers with reality,

Not dreamers of weak dreams! . . . You need a change

A holiday, to set you right again.

You’ve worked hard at your task-work, and you’re tired

And out of sorts. Let’s drop discussion now

As though it had not been. In better minds—

The two of us—we’ll further talk of this.

What say you? [page 89]

KEATS

                                         Sir, I’ll say a final word:

You jeer—and rightly—at my verse begun,

Hardly begun. ’Tis natural, and many,

Be sure, will join your jeering ere I pass.

I am content, yet I had ventured hope

That open speech between us might invite

Some sanction of my purpose at last.

Forgive the sanguine, moonstruck stripling, Sir!

No, I would not be bitter; but you are deaf:

You do not hear the beat of whispering wings,

The tumult-hearted thought, the spheral tune,

The vibrant voice of Beauty’s lover, Truth,

And the high hymning they together reach—

For this is Poetry, scorned by men like you.

Yet were it you knew aught of Her intent—

So hard to know—you might remind yourself

Her greatest prophets once were neophytes.

Dearly for this choice unescapable

In coinage you divine not I must pay. [page 90]

We shall not speak of this ever again,

My mind is fixed, and all my spirit shares

Its purposes. I do avow me Poet—

Poet, and—if ’twill make you comprehend—

POET, long after your damned counting-house

And coffee-mart have crumbled and dissolved,

Despite the squills and boluses of time.

I bid you, Mr. Abbey, a good morning!

I will see Fanny now—a girl, a child,

And fond of decoration. She has need

Of me, I think; I have sore need of her.

[Exit.]

ABBEY [solus]

These Keatses! They’re a burden to be borne!

Tom’s troublesome; Fanny’s a handful, too;

George has some gumption, may be guided yet.

John’s done for! . . . Still, his wispy-waspy way

Somehow does touch one. Catherine Jennings dead,

Let’s hope you mark these trials you’ve escaped!

Well, duty’s duty. . . . Where’s that invoice-book? [page 91]

“HERE PAUSE”

GULFED in the deep immensities of peace,

    You, who were Keats, unknown desire and pain;—

    She cannot burn upon your breast again:

Her little wiles, her fitful sobbings, cease;

At last the long sweet languor and release

    Of Death she likewise learned, and she was fain

    To lay her down (ah, not where you have lain!),

Clasping your fringe of Fame, your Golden Fleece.

That skyey lyre, rich dyed in Dorian wine,

    Blended the songs of brighter stars and this:

Lulling the dreams of dovelike Madeline,

    Chanting in moonlit clouds Endymion’s bliss:—

Love’s wingèd lyre!—but soon your striving wings

Faltered and failed. . . . Slowly Love broke the strings. [page 92]

TO EDGAR POE

DREAM-DIRGES of danger and doom,

Weird, wandering whispers of woe,

Wraith-whispers of infinite woe:

Ligeia! . . . Lenore! . . . Ulalume! . . .

Unearthly dream-dirges of doom—

Of such were your sorceries, Poe!

Wan wonder was fellow to fear,

And fear was funereal joy,

Your fear was a feverous joy;

In “the misty mid-region of Weir”

You followed the phantom of Fear

That fascinates but to destroy.

Pale passager, hardly you knew

The beauty of horror and harm,

The hurt and the healing of harm;—

Dark towers were challenging you,
Dark towers of terror and rue,

Star-litten with ominous charm.

Are your heart-strings a-tremble in heaven

With songs of the secret of pain,

Where peace is the angel of pain,

Where the Pleiads for ever are seven,

Where Israfel stilleth the Levin,

And one ye are now who were twain? [page 93]

HUDSON STUCK*

THE waste lies desolate about her dead . . .

    Himself he spared not, flaming his life away

    Freely upon God’s altar; to hear him pray

Made faith a credible thing, and when he read

Or reasoned, deep sincerities unsaid

    That shaped his soul—more eloquent were they

Than e’en that vibrant voice to stir, and stay

The hearts of men upon the living Bread.

Into the wilderness he went with Christ

    And wrestled with His spirit: the arctic vast

        Involved him, and imperial mountain peaks

Vouchsafed an awful kinship: these sufficed—

    These and a hapless folk—to hold him fast,

        And unto these eternally he speaks.


  * Hudson Stuck, Archdeacon of Alaska, geographer and explorer, reached the summit of Mount Denali (McKinley) on June 7, 1913. He died in Fort Yukon, October 10, 1920.


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VII

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GOD’S EYES

Marie:  Father, what colour are God’s eyes?

Father: Guess, sweetheart! You shall have three tries.

Marie:  Then are they blue?

Father:                                            Yes, bluer far

             Than where the highest heavens are.

Marie:  I cannot think of eyes so blue.

Father: God’s eyes are brown.

Marie:                                         Father, but you

             Told me just now my guess was true.

Father: Still, sweetheart, not the earthly loam

             Is brown as are His eyes, the home

             Of russet, sepia, and chrome.

Marie:  Father, I do not understand.

Father: God’s eyes are golden, dear; when land

             And sea are bathed in sunset glow,

             And holiness seems brooding low,

             The eyes of God are there also;

             And when the first faint violet hue

             Steals tremblingly the petals through [page 97]

             Till its full life is pulsing new,

             The flower lifts those eyes to you.

             When in the woods the drooping day

             Watches the whirling leaves at play,

             Then well we know God’s eyes are grey;

             And, sweetheart, when each quiet night

             You fold your hands so sure and tight,

             And, with your fresh young soul alight,

             Tell to the Father every mite,

             Those all-seeing eyes are purest white.

Marie:  Is it all true as true can be?

Father: I would not tease you, small Marie!

             Nay, you must watch and see, dear maid,

             When next the bow in heaven is laid,

             God’s eyes change slow from shade to shade. [page 98]

A SMALL BOY PRAYS

JESUS, I wish you’d come and be my brother:

Your mother has the same name as my mother;

I’ve a gold bugle and a big wheelbarrow,

And I would lend you my new bow and arrow

(The arrow at the end has a red feather)—

Oh, we’d have grand times, me an’ you together!

My mother says your mother wasn’t able

To reach an inn one time, but found a stable,

Where Joseph made her bed in the cows’ manger,

And oxen stood outside to guard from danger;

And when the angels in her lap were laying

God’s little Lamb, the other lambs came straying

And knelt down near it, in lamb language praying.

That Lamb was you! And then there were some shepherds,

And Wise Men riding along on lions or leopards,

Or camels, maybe. They called you Christ and Jesus

(Jim is my name), and mother says it frees us

From harm to love you; but I think I love you

Because your bird flies always just above you

(I caught thrush once, but it died from pining),

And something round your forehead keeps on shining. [page 99]

You’re living, mother says, in Heaven this minute;

Come down, and you can have my top and spin it!

She says that you can understand me, hear me,

And that the Christ-Child somehow can be near me,

Look, then, I’ll ask her, and you ask your mother,

To let you stay a while and be my brother;

I like you fine; we’ll climb a tree together,

And play ball after school (mine’s reg’lar leather),

And sit beside each other at the table,

And you can tell me all about that stable.

You’d love my mother: she’s little, like a fairy;

She’ll sing, and tell us tales, my mother Mary;

She knows what boys like—six and going on seven;

She says your mother Mary’s Queen of Heaven.

Queens’ sons in books are princes, and important,

But hurry an’ come quick, even if you oughtn’t;

And when it’s good-bye time, we’ll trade each other

Marbles and stamps, and I’ll have had a brother! [unnumbered page]

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