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725                                       Song from ‘Paracelsus’

HEAP cassia, sandal-buds and stripes
  Of labdanum, and aloe-balls,
Smear’d with dull nard an Indian wipes
  From out her hair: such balsam falls
  Down sea-side mountain pedestals,
From tree-tops where tired winds are fain,
Spent with the vast and howling main,
To treasure half their island-gain.
And strew faint sweetness from some old
  Egyptian’s fine worm-eaten shroud
Which breaks to dust when once unroll’d;
  Or shredded perfume, like a cloud
  From closet long to quiet vow’d,
With moth’d and dropping arras hung,
Mouldering her lute and books among,
As when a queen, long dead, was young.

726                                              The Wanderers

  OVER the sea our galleys went,
  With cleaving prows in order brave
To a speeding wind and a bounding wave—
  A gallant armament:
Each bark built out of a forest-tree
  Left leafy and rough as first it grew,
And nail’d all over the gaping sides,
Within and without, with black bull-hides,
Seethed in fat and suppled in flame,
To bear the playful billows’ game;
So, each good ship was rude to see,
Rude and bare to the outward view.
  But each upbore a stately tent
Where cedar pales in scented row
Kept out the flakes of the dancing brine,
And an awning droop’d the mast below,
In fold on fold of the purple fine,
That neither noontide nor star-shine
Nor moonlight cold which maketh mad,
  Might pierce the regal tenement.
When the sun dawn’d, O, gay and glad
We set the sail and plied the oar;
But when the night-wind blew like breath,
For joy of one day’s voyage more,
We sang together on the wide sea,
Like men at peace on a peaceful shore;
Each sail was loosed to the wind so free,
Each helm made sure by the twilight star,
And in a sleep as calm as death,
We, the voyagers from afar,
  Lay stretch’d along, each weary crew
In a circle round its wondrous tent
Whence gleam’d soft light and curl’d rich scent,
  And with light and perfume, music too:
So the stars wheel’d round, and the darkness past,
And at morn we started beside the mast,
And still each ship was sailing fast!
Now, one morn, land appear’d—a speck
Dim trembling betwixt sea and sky—
‘Avoid it,’ cried our pilot, ‘check
  The shout, restrain the eager eye!’
But the heaving sea was black behind
For many a night and many a day,
  And land, though but a rock, drew nigh
So we broke the cedar pales away,
Let the purple awning flap in the wind.
And a statue bright was on every deck!
We shouted, every man of us,
And steer’d right into the harbour thus,
With pomp and pæan glorious.
A hundred shapes of lucid stone!
  All day we built its shrine for each,
A shrine of rock for every one,
Nor paused till in the westering sun
  We sat together on the beach
To sing because our task was done;
When lo! what shouts and merry songs!
What laughter all the distance stirs!
A loaded raft with happy throngs
Of gentle islanders!
‘Our isles are just at hand,’ they cried,
  ‘Like cloudlets faint in even sleeping;
Our temple-gates are open’d wide,
  Our olive-groves thick shade are keeping
For these majestic forms’—they cried.
O, then we awoke with sudden start
From our deep dream, and knew, too late,
How bare the rock, how desolate,
Which had received our precious freight:
  Yet we call’d out—‘Depart!
Our gifts, once given, must here abide:
  Our work is done; we have no heart
To mar our work,’—we cried.

727                                          Thus the Mayne glideth

THUS the Mayne glideth
Where my Love abideth;
Sleep’s no softer: it proceeds
On through lawns, on through meads,
On and on, whate’er befall,
Meandering and musical,
Though the niggard pasturage
Bears not on its shaven ledge
Aught but weeds and waving grasses
To view the river as it passes,
Save here and there a scanty patch
Of primroses too faint to catch
A weary bee. ... And scarce it pushes
Its gentle way through strangling rushes
Where the glossy kingfisher
Flutters when noon-heats are near,
Glad the shelving banks to shun,
Red and steaming in the sun,
Where the shrew-mouse with pale throat
Burrows, and the speckled stoat;
Where the quick sandpipers flit
In and out the marl and grit
That seems to breed them, brown as they:
Naught disturbs its quiet way,
Save some lazy stork that springs,
Trailing it with legs and wings,
Whom the shy fox from the hill
Rouses, creep he ne’er so still.

728                                                Pippa’s Song

THE year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

729                                           Porphyria’s Lover

THE rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
  And did its worst to vex the lake:
  I listen’d with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
  She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneel’d and made the cheerless grate
  Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
  Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
  And laid her soil’d gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
  And, last, she sat down by my side
  And call’d me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
  And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
  And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
  And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me—she
  Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
  From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
  And give herself to me for ever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
  Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
  For love of her, and all in vain:
  So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I look’d up at her eyes
   Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipp’d me; surprise
   Made my heart swell, and still it grew
   While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
   Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
   In one long yellow string I wound
   Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
   I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
   I warily oped her lids: again
   Laugh’d the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untighten’d next the tress
   About her neck; her cheek once more
Blush’d bright beneath my burning kiss:
   I propp’d her head up as before,
   Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
   The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
   That all it scorn’d at once is fled,
   And I, its love, am gain’d instead!
Porphyria’s love: she guess’d not how
   Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
   And all night long we have not stirr’d,
And yet God has not said a word!

730                                            The Laboratory



Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly,
May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely,
As thou pliest thy trade in this devil’s-smithy—
Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?


He is with her; and they know that I know
Where they are, what they do: they believe my tears flow
While they laugh, laugh at me, at me fled to the drear
Empty church, to pray God in, for them!—I am here.


Grind away, moisten and mash up thy paste,
Pound at thy powder,—I am not in haste!
Better sit thus, and observe thy strange things,
Than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s.


That in the mortar—you call it a gum?
Ah, the brave tree whence such gold oozings come!
And yonder soft phial, the exquisite blue,
Sure to taste sweetly,—is that poison too?


Had I but all of them, thee and thy treasures,
What a wild crowd of invisible pleasures!
To carry pure death in an earring, a casket,
A signet, a fan-mount, a filligree-basket!


Soon, at the King’s a mere lozenge to give
And Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live!
But to light a pastille, and Elise, with her head
And her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead!


Quick—is it finished? The colour’s too grim!
Why not soft like the phial’s, enticing and dim?
Let it brighten her drink, let her turn it and stir,
And try it and taste, ere she fix and prefer!


What a drop! She’s not little, no minion like me—
That’s why she ensnared him: this never will free
The soul from those masculine eyes,—say, ‘no!’
To that pulse’s magnificent come-and-go.


For only last night, as they whispered, I brought
My own eyes to bear on her so, that I thought
Could I keep them one half minute fixed, she would fall,
Shrivelled; she fell not; yet this does it all!


Not that I bid you spare her the pain!
Let death be felt and the proof remain;
Brand, burn up, bite into its grace—
He is sure to remember her dying face!


Is it done? Take my mask off! Nay, be not morose
It kills her, and this prevents seeing it close:
The delicate droplet, my whole fortune’s fee—
If it hurts her, beside, can it ever hurt me?


Now, take all my jewels, gorge gold to your fill,
You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will!
But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings
Ere I know it—next moment I dance at the King’s!

731                                         Earl Mertoun’s Song

THERE’s a woman like a dewdrop, she’s so purer than
        the purest;
And her noble heart’s the noblest, yes, and her sure faith’s
      the surest:
And her eyes are dark and humid, like the depth on depth
      of lustre
Hid i’ the harebell, while her tresses, sunnier than the wild-
      grape cluster,
Gush in golden-tinted plenty down her neck’s rose-misted
Then her voice’s music... call it the well’s bubbling, the
      bird’s warble!
And this woman says, ‘My days were sunless and my nights
      were moonless,
Parch’d the pleasant April herbage, and the lark’s heart’s out-
      break tuneless,
If you loved me not!’ And I who (ah, for words of flame!)
      adore her,
Who am mad to lay my spirit prostrate palpably before her—
I may enter at her portal soon, as now her lattice takes me,
And by noontide as by midnight make her mine, as hers she
      makes me!

732                                              In a Gondola

THE moth’s kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made me believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide ope I burst.
The bee’s kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you enter’d gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is render’d up,
And passively its shatter’d cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.

733                                            Meeting at Night

THE gray sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

734                                           Parting at Morning

ROUND the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun look’d over the mountain’s rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.

735                                           The Lost Mistress

ALL’s over, then: does truth sound bitter
   As one at first believes?
Hark,’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter
   About your cottage eaves!
And the leaf-buds on the vine are woolly,
   I noticed that, to-day;
One day more bursts them open fully
   —You know the red turns gray.
To-morrow we meet the same then, dearest?
   May I take your hand in mine?
Mere friends are we,—well, friends the merest
   Keep much that I resign:
For each glance of the eye so bright and black.
   Though I keep with heart’s endeavour,—
Your voice, when you wish the snowdrops back,
   Though it stay in my soul for ever!—
Yet I will but say what mere friends say,
   Or only a thought stronger;
I will hold your hand but as long as all may,
   Or so very little longer!

736                                         The Last Ride Together

I SAID—Then, dearest, since ’tis so,
Since now at length my fate I know,
Since nothing all my love avails,
Since all, my life seem’d meant for, fails,
   Since this was written and needs must be—
My whole heart rises up to bless
Your name in pride and thankfulness!
Take back the hope you gave,—I claim
Only a memory of the same,
—And this beside, if you will not blame;
   Your leave for one more last ride with me.
My mistress bent that brow of hers,
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fix’d me a breathing-while or two
 With life or death in the balance: right!
The blood replenish’d me again;
My last thought was at least not vain:
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end to-night?
Hush! if you saw some western cloud
All billowy-bosom’d, over-bow’d
By many benedictions—sun’s
And moon’s and evening-star’s at once—
   And so, you, looking and loving best,
Conscious grew, your passion drew
Cloud, sunset, moonrise, star-shine too,
Down on you, near and yet more near,
Till flesh must fade for heaven was here!—
Thus leant she and linger’d—joy and fear!
   Thus lay she a moment on my breast.
Then we began to ride. My soul
Smooth’d itself out, a long-cramp’d scroll
Freshening and fluttering in the wind.
Past hopes already lay behind.
   What need to strive with a life awry?
Had I said that, had I done this,
So might I gain, so might I miss.
Might she have loved me? just as well
She might have hated, who can tell!
Where had I been now if the worst befell?
   And here we are riding, she and I.
Fail I alone, in words and deeds?
Why, all men strive and who succeeds?
We rode; it seem’d my spirit flew,
Saw other regions, cities new,
   As the world rush’d by on either side.
I thought,—All labour, yet no less
Bear up beneath their unsuccess.
Look at the end of work, contrast
The petty done, the undone vast,
This present of theirs with the hopeful past!
   I hoped she would love me; here we ride.
What hand and brain went ever pair’d?
What heart alike conceived and dared?
What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshly screen?
   We ride and I see her bosom heave.
There’s many a crown for who can reach.
Ten lines, a statesman’s life in each!
The flag stuck on a heap of bones,
A soldier’s doing! what atones?
They scratch his name on the Abbey-stones.
   My riding is better, by their leave.
What does it all mean, poet? Well,
Your brains beat into rhythm, you tell
What we felt only; you express’d
You hold things beautiful the best,
   And pace them in rhyme so, side by side.
’Tis something, nay’tis much: but then,
Have you yourself what’s best for men?
Are you—poor, sick, old ere your time—
Nearer one whit your own sublime
Than we who never have turn’d a rhyme?
   Sing, riding’s a joy! For me, I ride.
And you, great sculptor—so, you gave
A score of years to Art, her slave,
And that’s your Venus, whence we turn
To yonder girl that fords the burn!
   You acquiesce, and shall I repine?
What, man of music, you grown gray
With notes and nothing else to say,
Is this your sole praise from a friend?—
‘Greatly his opera’s strains intend,
But in music we know how fashions end!’
   I gave my youth: but we ride, in fine.
Who knows what’s fit for us? Had fate
Proposed bliss here should sublimate
My being—had I sign’d the bond—
Still one must lead some life beyond,
   Have a bliss to die with, dim-descried.
This foot once planted on the goal,
This glory-garland round my soul,
Could I descry such? Try and test!
I sink back shuddering from the quest.
Earth being so good, would heaven seem best?
   Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride.
And yet—she has not spoke so long!
What if heaven be that, fair and strong
At life’s best, with our eyes upturn’d
Whither life’s flower is first discern’d,
   We, fix’d so, ever should so abide?
What if we still ride on, we two
With life for ever old yet new,
Changed not in kind but in degree,
The instant made eternity,—
And heaven just prove that I and she
   Ride, ride together, for ever ride?

737                                      Love Among the Ruins


WHERE the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles
    Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward thro’ the twilight, stray or stop
   As they crop—


Was the site once of a city great and gay,
     (So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
     Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
     Peace or war.


Now—the country does not even boast a tree,
     As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
     From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
     Into one)


Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
     Up like fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
     Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest,
     Twelve abreast.


And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
     Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o’erspreads
     And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
     Stock or stone—


Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
     Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
     Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
     Bought and sold.


Now,—the single little turret that remains
     On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
While the patching houseleek’s head of blossom winks
     Through the chinks—


Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
     Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
     As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
     Viewed the games.


And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
     Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
     In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
     Melt away—


That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
     Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
     For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
     Till I come.


But he looked upon the city, every side,
     Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades,
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,—and then.
     All the men!


When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
     Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
     Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
     Each on each.


In one year they sent a million fighters forth
     South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
     As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force—
     Gold, of course.


Oh heart! oh, blood that freezes, blood that burns!
     Earth’s returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
     Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest.
     Love is best!

738                                             Misconceptions

        THIS is a spray the Bird clung to,
          Making it blossom with pleasure,
        Ere the high tree-top she sprung to,
          Fit for her nest and her treasure.
          O, what a hope beyond measure
Was the poor spray’s, which the flying feet hung to,—
So to be singled out, built in, and sung to!
        This is a heart the Queen leant on,
          Thrill’d in a minute erratic,
        Ere the true bosom she bent on,
          Meet for love’s regal dalmatic.
          O, what a fancy ecstatic
Was the poor heart’s, ere the wanderer went on—
Love to be saved for it, proffer’d to, spent on!

739                                         Home-thoughts, from Abroad

O TO be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

740                                        Home-thoughts, from the Sea

NOBLY, nobly Cape Saint Vincent to the North-west
died away;
Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay;
Bluish ’mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay;
In the dimmest North-east distance dawn’d Gibraltar grand
   and gray;
‘Here and here did England help me: how can I help Eng-
Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and
While Jove’s planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.


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