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THOUGH old the thought and oft exprest,
Life is a leaf of paper white
"Lo, time and space enough," we cry,
Muse not which way the pen to hold,
Ah, with what lofty hope we came ! But we forget it, dream of fame, And scrawl, as I do here, a name.
THE dandelions and buttercups
I need ye not, for I to-day
Will make one long sweet verse of play.
Snap, chord of manhood's tenser strain !
Hath stormed and rifled the nunnery
There, as of yore,
The rich, milk-tingeing buttercup
O unestranged birds and bees !
O never-unsympathizing trees!
Upon these elm-arched solitudes
While Roundheads prim, with point of fox,
I touch the silver side of the shield
How chanced it that so long I tost
Oh, might we but of such rare days
Would brook a marble god alone,
In our vext world here may not be,
Of some fallen nunnery's mossy sleep,
And lure some nunlike thoughts to take
IN THE BRANCACCI CHAPEL
HE came to Florence long ago,
The shadows deepened, and I turned
"And who were they," I mused, "that wrought
Through pathless wilds, with labor long, The highways of our daily thought? Who reared those towers of earliest song That lift us from the crowd to peace Remote in sunny silences?"
Out clanged the Ave Mary bells,
Shouldst here with brother sinners bow.
Thoughts that great hearts once broke for,
Breathe cheaply in the common air;
Throbbed once in saints and heroes rare,
Henceforth, when rings the health to those
O nameless dead, that now repose
Safe in Oblivion's chambers strong,
WITHOUT AND WITHIN
"Madrid, January 15, 1879. I wrote some verses thirty odd years ago called Without and Within, and they originally ended with the author's looking up at the stars through six feet of earth and feeling dreadfully bored, while a passer-by deciphers the headstone and envies the supposed sleeper beneath. I was persuaded to leave out this ending as too grimbut I often think of it. They have a fine name for this kind of feeling nowadays, and would fain make out pessimism to be a monstrous birth of our century. I suspect it has always been common enough, especially with naughty children who get tired of their playthings as soon as I do the absurdity being that then we are not content with smashing the toy which turns out to be finite- but everything else into the bargain." J. R. L. to Miss Grace Norton. Letters II. 236.
WRITTEN IN AID OF A CHIME OF BELLS
Whether 't was dreamed or heard;
And builds of half-remembered things
Through aisles of long-drawn centuries
Which God's own pity wrought;
That throbs with praise and prayer.
And all the way from Calvary down
The saints of many a warring creed
Where Self the feet have spurned.
And, as the mystic aisles I pace,
By aureoled workmen built, Lives ending at the Cross I trace Alike through grace and guilt; One Mary bathes the blessed feet With ointment from her eyes,
With spikenard one, and both are sweet, For both are sacrifice.
Moravian hymn and Roman chant
To speak the soul's eternal want
One prayer soars cleansed with martyr fire,
One choked with sinner's tears, In heaven both meet in one desire, And God one music hears.
Whilst thus I dream, the bells clash out Upon the Sabbath air,
Each seems a hostile faith to shout,
A selfish form of prayer;
My dream is shattered, yet who knows
O chime of sweet Saint Charity,
THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
WHO hath not been a poet? Who hath not, With life's new quiver full of winged
Shot at a venture, and then, following on, Stood doubtful at the Parting of the Ways?
There once I stood in dream, and as paused,
This slippery globe of life whirls of itself, Hasting our youth away into the dark; These senses, quivering with electric heats, Too soon will show, like nests on wintry boughs
Obtrusive emptiness, too palpable wreck, Which whistling north-winds line with downy snow
Sometimes, or fringe with foliaged rime, in vain,
Thither the singing birds no more return."
Then glowed to me a maiden from the left,
With bosom half disclosed, and naked
More white and undulant than necks of swans;
And all before her steps an influence ran Warm as the whispering South that opens buds
And swells the laggard sails of Northern May.
"I am called Pleasure, come with me!" she said,
Then laughed, and shook out sunshine from her hair,
Nor only that, but, so it seemed, shook out All memory too, and all the moonlit past, Old loves, old aspirations, and old dreams, More beautiful for being old and gone.
So we two went together; downward sloped
The path through yellow meads, or so I dreamed,
Yellow with sunshine and young green,
Saw naught nor heard, shut up in one close joy;
II only felt the hand within my own, Transmuting all my blood to golden fire, Dissolving all my brain in throbbing mist.
Looking this way and that, came forth
The figure of a woman veiled, that said, "My name is Duty, turn and follow me;" Something there was that chilled me in her voice;
I felt Youth's hand grow slack and cold in mine,
As if to be withdrawn, and I exclaimed: "Oh, leave the hot wild heart within my breast!
Duty comes soon enough, too soon comes Death;
Suddenly shrank the hand; suddenly burst A cry that split the torpor of my brain, And as the first sharp thrust of lightning loosens
From the heaped cloud its rain, loosened my sense:
"Save me!" it thrilled; "oh, hide me! there is Death!
Death the divider, the unmerciful,
The heart grows hardened with perpetual wont,
And palters with a feigned necessity,
To see it gray and thin, saw amplest gold;
"O Guide divine," I prayed, "although not yet
may repair the virtue which I feel Gone out at touch of untuned things and
With draughts of Beauty, yet declare how soon!"
"Faithless and faint of heart," the voice returned,
"Thou seest no beauty save thou make it first;
Man, Woman, Nature each is but a glass Where the soul sees the image of herself, Visible echoes, offsprings of herself.
But, since thou need'st assurance of how soon,
Wait till that angel comes who opens all,
I waited, and methought he came; but how,
Or in what shape, I doubted, for no sign, By touch or mark, he gave me as he
Only I knew a lily that I held