Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter



655                                                 Autumn

I SAW old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;—
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
   Pearling his coronet of golden corn.
Where are the songs of Summer?—With the sun,
Oping the dusky eyelids of the South,
Till shade and silence waken up as one,
And Morning sings with a warm odorous mouth.
Where are the merry birds?—Away, away,
On panting wings through the inclement skies,
   Lest owls should prey
   Undazzled at noonday,
And tear with horny beak their lustrous eyes.
Where are the blooms of Summer?—In the West,
Blushing their last to the last sunny hours,
When the mild Eve by sudden Night is prest
Like tearful Proserpine, snatch’d from her flow’rs
   To a most gloomy breast.
Where is the pride of Summer,—the green prime,—
The many, many leaves all twinkling?—Three
On the moss’d elm; three on the naked lime
Trembling,—and one upon the old oak-tree!
  Where is the Dryad’s immortality?—
Gone into mournful cypress and dark yew,
Or wearing the long gloomy Winter through
  In the smooth holly’s green eternity.
The squirrel gloats on his accomplish’d hoard,
The ants have brimm’d their garners with ripe grain,
   And honey bees have stored
The sweets of Summer in their luscious cells;
The swallows all have wing’d across the main;
But here the autumn Melancholy dwells,
   And sighs her tearful spells
Amongst the sunless shadows of the plain.
   Alone, alone,
   Upon a mossy stone,
She sits and reckons up the dead and gone
With the last leaves for a love-rosary,
Whilst all the wither’d world looks drearily,
Like a dim picture of the drownàd past
In the hush’d mind’s mysterious far away,
Doubtful what ghostly thing will steal the last
Into that distance, gray upon the gray.
O go and sit with her, and be o’ershaded
Under the languid downfall of her hair!
She wears a coronal of flowers faded
Upon her forehead, and a face of care;—
There is enough of wither’d everywhere
To make her bower,—and enough of gloom;
There is enough of sadness to invite,
If only for the rose that died, whose doom
Is Beauty’s,—she that with the living bloom
Of conscious cheeks most beautifies the light:
There is enough of sorrowing, and quite
Enough of bitter fruits the earth doth bear,—
Enough of chilly droppings for her bowl;
Enough of fear and shadowy despair,
To frame her cloudy prison for the soul!

656                                                 Silence

THERE is a silence where hath been no sound,
   There is a silence where no sound may be,
  In the cold grave—under the deep, deep sea,
Or in wide desert where no life is found,
Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound;
  No voice is hush’d—no life treads silently,
  But clouds and cloudy shadows wander free,
That never spoke, over the idle ground:
But in green ruins, in the desolate walls
  Of antique palaces, where Man hath been,
Though the dun fox or wild hyæna calls,
  And owls, that flit continually between,
Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan—
There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.

657                                                Death

IT is not death, that sometime in a sigh
  This eloquent breath shall take its speechless flight;
That sometime these bright stars, that now reply
  In sunlight to the sun, shall set in night;
  That this warm conscious flesh shall perish quite,
And all life’s ruddy springs forget to flow;
  That thoughts shall cease, and the immortal sprite
Be lapp’d in alien clay and laid below;
It is not death to know this—but to know
  That pious thoughts, which visit at new graves
In tender pilgrimage, will cease to go
  So duly and so oft—and when grass waves
Over the pass’d-away, there may be then
No resurrection in the minds of men.

658                                              Fair Ines

O SAW ye not fair Ines?
  She’s gone into the West,
To dazzle when the sun is down,
  And rob the world of rest:
She took our daylight with her,
  The smiles that we love best,
With morning blushes on her cheek,
  And pearls upon her breast.
O turn again, fair Ines,
  Before the fall of night,
For fear the Moon should shine alone,
  And stars unrivall’d bright;
And blessàd will the lover be
  That walks beneath their light,
And breathes the love against thy cheek
  I dare not even write!
Would I had been, fair Ines,
  That gallant cavalier,
Who rode so gaily by thy side,
  And whisper’d thee so near!
Were there no bonny dames at home,
  Or no true lovers here,
That he should cross the seas to win
  The dearest of the dear?
I saw thee, lovely Ines,
  Descend along the shore,
With bands of noble gentlemen,
  And banners waved before;
And gentle youth and maidens gay,
  And snowy plumes they wore:
It would have been a beauteous dream,—
  If it had been no more!
Alas, alas! fair Ines,
  She went away with song,
With Music waiting on her steps,
  And shoutings of the throng;
But some were sad, and felt no mirth,
  But only Music’s wrong,
In sounds that sang Farewell, farewell,
  To her you’ve loved so long.
Farewell, farewell, fair Ines!
  That vessel never bore
So fair a lady on its deck,
  Nor danced so light before,—
Alas for pleasure on the sea,
  And sorrow on the shore!
The smile that bless’d one lover’s heart
  Has broken many more!

659                                          Time of Roses

IT was not in the Winter
  Our loving lot was cast;
It was the time of roses—
  We pluck’d them as we pass’d!
That churlish season never frown’d
  On early lovers yet:
O no—the world was newly crown’d
  With flowers when first we met!
’Twas twilight, and I bade you go,
  But still you held me fast;
It was the time of roses—
  We pluck’d them as we pass’d!

660                                                 Ruth

SHE stood breast-high amid the corn,
Clasp’d by the golden light of morn,
Like the sweetheart of the sun,
Who many a glowing kiss had won.
On her cheek an autumn flush,
Deeply ripen’d;—such a blush
In the midst of brown was born,
Like red poppies grown with corn.
Round her eyes her tresses fell,
Which were blackest none could tell,
But long lashes veil’d a light,
That had else been all too bright.
And her hat, with shady brim,
Made her tressy forehead dim;
Thus she stood amid the stooks,
Praising God with sweetest looks:—
Sure, I said, Heav’n did not mean,
Where I reap thou shouldst but glean,
Lay thy sheaf adown and come,
Share my harvest and my home.

661                                            The Death-bed

WE watch’d her breathing thro’ the night,
  Her breathing soft and low,
As in her breast the wave of life
  Kept heaving to and fro.
So silently we seem’d to speak,
  So slowly moved about,
As we had lent her half our powers
  To eke her living out.
Our very hopes belied our fears,
  Our fears our hopes belied—
We thought her dying when she slept,
  And sleeping when she died.
For when the morn came dim and sad,
  And chill with early showers,
Her quiet eyelids closed—she had
  Another morn than ours.

662                                           The Bridge of Sighs

ONE more Unfortunate,
   Weary of breath,
Rashly importunate,
   Gone to her death!
Take her up tenderly
   Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
   Young, and so fair!
Look at her garments
Clinging like cerements;
Whilst the wave constantly
  Drips from her clothing;
Take her up instantly,
  Loving, not loathing.
Touch her not scornfully;
Think of her mournfully,
  Gently and humanly;
Not of the stains of her,
All that remains of her
  Now is pure womanly.
Make no deep scrutiny
Into her mutiny
  Rash and undutiful:
Past all dishonour,
Death has left on her
  Only the beautiful.
Still, for all slips of hers,
  One of Eve’s family—
Wipe those poor lips of hers
  Oozing so clammily.
Loop up her tresses
  Escaped from the comb,
Her fair auburn tresses;
Whilst wonderment guesses
  Where was her home?
Who was her father?
  Who was her mother?
Had she a sister?
  Had she a brother?
Or was there a dearer one
Still, and a nearer one
  Yet, than all other?
Alas! for the rarity
Of Christian charity
  Under the sun!
O, it was pitiful!
Near a whole city full,
  Home she had none.
Sisterly, brotherly,
Fatherly, motherly
  Feelings had changed:
Love, by harsh evidence,
Thrown from its eminence;
Even God’s providence
  Seeming estranged.
Where the lamps quiver
So far in the river,
  With many a light
From window and casement,
From garret to basement,
She stood, with amazement,
  Houseless by night.
The bleak wind of March
  Made her tremble and shiver;
But not the dark arch,
Or the black flowing river:
Mad from life’s history,
Glad to death’s mystery,
  Swift to be hurl’d—
Anywhere, anywhere
  Out of the world!
In she plunged boldly—
No matter how coldly
  The rough river ran—
Over the brink of it,
Picture it—think of it,
  Dissolute Man!
Lave in it, drink of it,
  Then, if you can!
Take her up tenderly,
  Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
  Young, and so fair!
Ere her limbs frigidly
Stiffen too rigidly,
  Decently, kindly,
Smooth and compose them;
And her eyes, close them,
  Staring so blindly!
Dreadfully staring
  Thro’ muddy impurity,
As when with the daring
Last look of despairing
  Fix’d on futurity.
Perishing gloomily,
Spurr’d by contumely,
Cold inhumanity,
Burning insanity,
  Into her rest.—
Cross her hands humbly
As if praying dumbly,
  Over her breast!

Owning her weakness,
  Her evil behaviour,
And leaving, with meekness,
  Her sins to her Saviour!


Table of Contents   Previous Chapter   Next Chapter