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Not less than her own works, pure gleams of light
And earnest parables of inward lore.
Hear now this fairy legend of old Greece,
As full of freedom, youth, and beauty still
As the immortal freshness of that grace
Carred for all ages on some Attic frieze.
A youth named Rhæcus, wandering in the wood
Saw an old oak just trembling to its fall,
And, feeling pity of so fair a tree,
He propped its gray trunk with admiring care,
And with a thoughtless footstep loitered on.
But, as he turned, he heard a voice behind
That murmured ‘Rhæcus!' 'Twas as if the leares
Stirred by a passing breath, had murmured it,
And, while he paused bewildered, yet again
It murmured 'Rhæcus!' softer than a breeze.
He started, and beheld with dizzy eyes
What seemed the substance of a happy dream
Stand there before him, spreading a warm glow
Within the green glooms of the shadowy oak.
It seemed a woman's shape, yet all too fair
To be a woman, and with eyes too meek
For any that were wont to mate with gods.
All naked like a goddess stood she there,
And like a goddess all too beautiful
To feel the guilt-born earthliness of shame.
Rhæcus, I am the Dryad of this tree,'
Thus she began, dropping her low-toned words
Serene, and full, and clear, as drops of dew,
And with it I am doomed to lire and die;
The rain and sunshine are my caterers,
Nor have I other bliss than simple life;
Now ask me what thou wilt, that I can give,
And with a thankful joy it shall be thine.'
Then Rhæcus, with a flutter at the heart,
Yet, by the prompting of such beauty, bold,
Answered: "What is there that can satisfy
The endless craving of the soul but love?
Give me thy love, or but the hope of that
Which must be evermore my spirit's goal.'
After a little pause she said again,
But with a glimpse of sadness in her tone,
• I give it, Rhæcus, though a perilous gift ;
An hour before the sunset meet me here.'
And straightway there was nothing he could see
But the green glooms beneath the shadowy oak,
And not a sound came to his straining ears
But the low trickling rustle of the leares,
And far away upon an emerald slope
The falter of an idle shepherd's pipe.
Now, in those days of simpleness and faith,
Men did not think that happy things were dreams
Because they orerstepped the narrow bourn
Of likelihood, but reverently deemed
Nothing ton wondrous or too beautiful
To be the guerdon of a daring heart.
So Rhæcus made no doubt that he was blest,
And all along unto the city's gate
Earth seemed to spring beneath him as he walked,
The clear, broad sky looked bluer than its wont,
And he c uld scarce believe he had not wings,
Such sunshine seemed to glitter through his veins
Instead of blood, so light he felt and strange.
Young Rhæcus had a faithful heart enough,
But one that in the present dwelt too much,
And, taking with blithe welcome whatsoe'er
Chance gave of joy, was wholly bound in that,
Like the contented peasant of a yale,
Deemed it the world, and never looked beyond.
So, haply meeting in the afternoon
Some comrades who were playing at the dice,
He joined them and forgot all else beside.
The dice were rattling at the merriest,
And Rhæcus, who had met but sorry luck,
Just laughed in triumph at a happy throw,
When through the room there hummed a yellow bee
That buzzed about his ear with down-dropped legs
As if to light. And Rhæcus laughed and said,
Feeling how red and flushed he was with loss,
• By Venus ! does he take me for a rose ?'
And brushed him off with rough, impatient hand.
But still the bee came back, and thrice again
Rhæcus did beat him off with growing wrath.
Then through the window flew the wounded bee,
And Rhæcus tracking him with
Saw a sharp mountain-peak of Thessaly
Against the red disc of the setting sun,-
And instantly the blood sank from his heart,
As if its very walls had caved away.
Without a word he turned, and, rushing forth,
Ran madly through the city and the gate,
And o'er the plain, which now the wood's long shade,
By the low sun thrown forward broad and dim,
Darkened wellnigh unto the city's wall.
Quite spent and out of breath he reached the tree,
And, listening fearfully, he heard once more
The low voice murmur · Rhæcus !' close at hand:
Whereat he looked around him, but could see
Nought but the deepening glooms beneath the oak.
Then sighed the roice, . Oh, Rhæcus ! nevermore
Shalt thou behold me or by day or night,
Me, who would fain hare blessed thee with a love
More ripe and bounteous than ever yet
Filled up with nectar any mortal heart:
But thou didst scorn my humble messenger,
And sent'st him back to me with bruised wings.
We spirits only show to gentle eyes.
We ever ask an undivided love;
And he who scorns the least of Nature's works
Is thenceforth exiled and shut out from all.
Farewell! for thou canst never see me more.'
Then Rhecus beat his breast, and groaned aloud, And cried, 'Be pitiful! forgive me yet This once, and I shall never need it more!' *Alas!' the voice returned, o'tis thou art blind, Not I unmerciful; I can forgive, But have no skill to heal thy spirit's eyes ; Only the soul hath power o'er itself.' With that again there murmured 'Nevermore!' And Rhæcus after heard no other sound, Except the rattling of the oak’s crisp leaves, Like the long surf upon a distant shore, Raking the sea-worn pebbles up and down. The night had gathered round him : o'er the plain, The city sparkled with its thousand lights, And sounds of rerel fell upon his ear Harshly and like a curse; above, the sky, With all its bright sublimity of stars, Deepened, and on his forehead smote the breeze: Beauty was all around him and delight, But from that eve he was alone on earth.
I KNOW a falcon swift and peerless
As e'er was cradled in the pine ;
No bird had ever eye so fearless,
Or wing so strong as this of mine.
The winds not better love to pilot
A cloud with molten gold o’errun,
Than him, a little burning islet,
A star above the coming sun.
For with a lark's heart he doth tower,
By a glorious, upward instinct drawn;
No bee nestles deeper in the flower
Than he in the bursting rose of dawn.
No harmless dove, no bird that singeth,
Shudders to see him overhead ;
The rush of his fierce swooping bringeth
To innocent hearts no thrill
Let fraud and wrong and baseness shiver,
For still between them and the sky
The falcon Truth hangs poised for ever
And marks them with his vengeful eye.
WHETHER the idle prisoner through his grate
Watches the waving of the grass-tuft small,
Which, having colonised its rift i' the wall,
Takes its free risk of good or evil fate,
And, from the sky's just helmet draws its lot
Daily of shower or sunshine, cold or hot ;-
Whether the closer captive of a creed,
Cooped up from birth to grind out endless chaff,
Sees through his treadmill-bars the noonday laugh,
And feels in vain his crumpled pinions breed;
Whether the Georgian slave look up and mark,
With bellying sails puffed full, the tall cloud-bark
Sink northward slowly,—thou alone seem'st good,
Fair only thou, O Freedom, whose desire
Can light in muddiest souls quick seeds of fire,
And strain life's chords to the old heroic mood.
Yet are there other gifts more fair than thine,
Nor can I count him happiest who has never
Been forced with his own hand his chains to sever,
And for himself find out the way divine;
He never knew the aspirer's glorious pains,
He never earned the struggle's priceless gains.
O, block by block, with sore and sharp endeavour,
Lifelong we build these human natures up
Into a temple fit for freedom's shrine,
And Trial ever consecrates the cup
Wherefrom we pour her sacrificial wine.
Ay, pale and silent maiden,
Cold as thou liest there,
Thine was the sunniest nature
That ever drew the air,
The wildest and most wayward,
And yet so gently kind,
Thou seemedst but to body
A breath of summer wind.
Into the eternal shadow
That girds our life around,
Into the infinite silence
Wherewith Death's shore is bound,
Thou hast gone forth, beloved !
And I were mean to weep,
That thou hast left Life's shallows,
And dost possess the Deep.
Thou liest low and silent,
Thy heart is cold and still,
Thine eyes are shut for ever,
And Death hath had his will ;
He loved and would have taken,
I loved and would have kept,
We strove,—and he was stronger,
And I have never wept.
Let him possess thy body,
Thy soul is still with me,
More sunny and more gladsomo
Than it was wont to be: