PLUTUS, God of
Riches, at thy shrine
Floated never incense-wreath of mine,
Word of supplication, song of praise;
I despised thee in my early days,
Thee and all thy worshippers. Behold,
Youthful joy and courage waxing cold,
I am punished by thy powerful hand,
Proving well its manifold command.
All earth-hidden treasures are thy dower,
On the earth great mastery and power,
Park and palace thy goodwill assigns,
Dainty victuals and flow'r-fragrant wines,
Horses, chariots, pleasure-ships that go
Where the world is sweetest, to and fro,
Various joy of music, pictures, books,
Soft perpetual service, smiling looks;
Almost all the Gods I find thy friends;
Wise is he who at thine altar bends!
Cupid, Hymen, are thy sworn allies,
Scarcely doth Apollo thee despise.
Nay, 'twould seem as if the Powers at large
Gave this earth completely to thy charge.
I am now too old to change my ways;
Still do I refuse thee pray'r or praise;
Change I will not, I'm too old a week,
Nor thine all-desirèd favour seek.
To thy vengeance, Earth-God!―power
Not my adoration, first or last.
THE COMING IN OF THE "MERMAIDEN."
THE moon is
bleached as white as wool,
And just dropping under;
Every star is gone but three,
And they hang wide asunder—
There's a sea-ghost all in grey,
A tall shape of wonder!
I am not satisfied with sleep,
The night is not ended;
But look how the sea-ghost comes
With wan skirts extended,
Stealing up in this weird hour
When dusk and dawn are blended!
A vessel! To the old pier-end
Her happy course she's keeping;
I heard them name her yesterday—
Some were pale with weeping,
Some with their heart-hunger sighed:
She's in, and they are sleeping.
O now with fancied greetings blest,
They comfort their long aching;
The sea of sleep hath borne to them
What would not come with waking,
But the dreams shall most be true
In their blissful breaking.
The stars are gone, the rose bloom comes,
No blush of maid is sweeter;
The red sun half way out of bed
Shall be the first to greet her:
None tell the news, yet sleepers wake,
And rise, and run to meet her.
Their lost they have, they hold; from pain
A keener bliss they borrow.
How natural is joy, my heart!
How easy after sorrow!
For once, the best is come, that hope
Promised them "to-morrow."
THE SIGHING OF THE SHELL.
darling, and tell to me
What the murmurer says to thee,
Murmuring 'twixt a song and a moan,
Changing neither tune nor tone."
"Yes, I hear it, far and faint,
Like thin-drawn prayer of drowsy saint;
Like the falling of sleep on a weary brain,
When the fevered heart is quiet again."
"By smiling lip and fixed eye,
You are hearing more than song or sigh:
The wrinkled thing has curious ways—
I want to know the words it says."
"I hear a wind on a boatless main
Sigh like the last of a vanishing pain;
On the dreaming waters dreams the moon,
But I hear no words in their murmured tune."
"If it does not say that I love thee well,
'Tis a senseless, ill-curved, worn-out shell;
If it is not of love, why sigh or sing?
'Tis a common, mechanical, useless thing."
"It whispers of love—'tis a prophet-shell—
Of a peace that comes, and all shall be well;
It speaks not a word of your love to me,
But it tells me to love you eternally."
O KITTY BELL,
'twas sweet, I swear,
To wander in the spring together,
When buds were blowing everywhere,
And it was golden weather!
And down the lanes beside the farm
You roared beside me, tripping lightly,—
Blushing you hung upon my arm,
And the small gloved hand press'd tightly!
And the orchis sprang
In the scented meadow,
And the throstle sang
In the greenwood shadow;
And your eyes were bright
With happy dew,—
Could I doubt a light
So divinely blue
When you kiss'd and sighed
"I will be true?"
Though far and wide
The brown bird cried—
O Kitty Bell, the cry seemed sweet,
For you were kind, and flowers were springing;
The dusty willow in the heat
Its woolly bells were swinging,
And round its boll the linnet brown
Finish'd her nest with wool and feather,
And we had thoughts of nestling down,
In the farm by the mill, together;
And over the hill
The breeze was blowing,
And the arms of the mill
Kept coming and going;
And who but Love
Was between us two,
When around and above
The flittermice flew.
And as night drew nigh,
You swore to be true?
And I heard the cry
From woods hard by—
O Kitty Bell, 'tis spring again,
But all the face of things looks iller;
The nests are built in wood and lane,
But you are nested with the miller
And other lovers kiss and swear,
While I look on in scorn and pity
For "all," I cry, "is false and fair,"
And curse the cuckoo and Kitty;
And over the hill
The breeze is blowing,
And the arms of the mill
Keep coming and going;
And the hidden bird
Is singing anew
The warning I heard
When I trusted you;
And I sicken and sigh,
With my heart thrill'd through,
And wherever I fly
I hear the cry—
THE ROUND OF PLAY.
THE horse and
cart are put away;
The wooden hack has run his course;
The tail and mane have gone astray
Of our abandoned rocking-horse.
We've bought the kite—the bran-new kite:
A bright red sun is on its breast
We pay out string to any height,
And hold it tugging to the West.
It drops—as falls the sundown wind:
We wind the string about the stick.
Now woe to him who lags behind,
Whether it be Will or Dick.
Our coach is ready for the start;
Our leaders chew the wooden bit:—
May they as bravely bear their part,
Nor by a heavier arm be hit,
In days to come. So now, a sport
About the measured bounds of play!
Mind, leader in the Scottish skirt,
That Garibaldi's in the way!
No, no! To stables! Wipe them down:
A plague upon the mimic course!
String reins I leave to junior Brown:
Papa has bought a real horse.
Go, babies, with your kites and tops—
Late partners in our pots of honey:
We leave our cress and mustard crops
Aside. And mark us ride our pony!
We ride into the real world:
Go—with the tart-man shilly-shally:
Know that our childhood's flag is furled:
We've done with that campaign called
Shut the playground gate behind us,
With rough men we have to reckon:
Soon the startled world shall find us
Place—where Fame and Cupid beckon.
Lagging crowds shall fail and stumble,
While we shall issue stern commands.
Fame, with look abash'd and humble,
Shall drop her laurel in our hands.
Pass! baubles of the full-grown man:
Ye stars of valour—wreaths of laurel!
Hot-blooded youth, pass to the van—
Then over shares of glory quarrel.
The riband warms the brave man's breast;
The laurel heats the scholar's brow:—
But time cools both—and peace and rest
Are all the playthings I crave now.
Save, grandchild prattling at my knee,
Beginning the old round once more.
"I'll buy the horse and cart for thee,
We mend the broken battledore;
And if my hands can steady be,
I'll wind the string, and wind it tight—
And through my spectacles may see
The bright red sun upon the kite.
"And then—but no, my flaxen boy;
Then comes the pony saddled new—
And pride's the play—and maid's the toy—
My head shall be beneath the dew.
Perhaps about that time you'll say
To some young chum: 'Grand-dad I
A gentleman who fought his way.'
And be it so, my lad, with you."
W. BLANCHARD JERROLD.
THE MORTAL IMMORTAL.
THE living Spring
has come once more,
And woos old Earth with smiles and tears,
Till he grows young again, and wears
The leafy crown he wore of yore.
She lifts her eyes, she spreads her hands,
She bids the waiting buds to spring,
She bids the birds to nest and sing,
Gives love and life to all the lands.
The bronze boughs with a greening haze
Of myriad infant leaves she veils,
Spreads blue-bell carpets o'er the dales,
With wind-flowers strews the woodland ways.
I sit beneath the hawthorn trees
Where you and I, a year ago,
Sat sprinkled with the scented snow
Shed by the passing of the breeze.
I see the daisies spring again,
I hear the cushat in the wood,
The twittering of the swallow's brood,
The soft hush of the silver rain;
The swelling of glad marriage bells,
The lowing of field-wending herds,
The morning chant of happy birds,
About, among the happy dells.
And all things to the outward ear,
And all things to the outward eye,
Sound, as I idly pass them by,
And look as they were wont last year.
But ah! the scented silver snow
That falls this year-upon my head,
Knows nothing of the snow, now dead,
Sprinkling two heads a year ago.
The daisies are not those we knew,
Upbringing 'mid the vernal grass,
O'er which our footsteps used to pass,
Leaving a track amid the dew.
Those swallows 'neath the shadowing eaves
Were breathless, lifeless, and the doves
Had other nests and other loves
Hid in the shade of other leaves.
A thousand times the years restore
Earth's jocund youth:—not so with man;
His days are but a little span,
His Spring departed comes no more.
So be it.—'Twere a weary thought
That, having warred with pain and strife,
Against the ills of human life
The battle must afresh be fought.
Rest is so sweet! the rest that ends
Vext tossings on tormented seas,
The unwilling sport of every breeze
That every passing cloudlet sends.
So be it: for we hold this truth,
That Time is monarch of the Earth
Once dead, the World has no new birth,
Man only owns Eternal Youth.
MARGUERITE A. POWER.
THEY were rowing
over a summer lake,
A lake deep blue and without a curl,
Save just the ripple the oars would make,
And the shoreward streak of pearl.
High over the water the mountains rise,
Deep under the water the mountains fall;
You may fathom the depths and mete the skies,
But the heart is deeper than all.
Some one said, "We shall miss you so,
"Robin, when you are away so far!"
And he said, with a smile, "It is hard to go,
"But things must be as they are."
"He can smile, so will I," she thought,
With her rosy fingers over the brink;
"But O! some lessons are hard to be taught;
Some cups are bitter to drink.
"The time that is past, like yonder shore,
Grows fainter and fainter under our sight;
God!" she prayed, "if I see him no more,
Help me to bear it aright!"
She groaned to herself, "I must look in his eyes,
And thrill and bear the touch of his hand,
Then go on alone 'neath the pitiless skies,
When the boat has touched the strand."
"Be a man, and care as little as she!"
Thought he, as they neared the farther shore;
Love is not made for fellows like me,
So farewell for evermore."
"A pleasant time it has been," he said;
"I wish we could have it over again."
"Ay," all bitterly murmured her heart,
"For pleasure is kin to pain!"
"We see people better in foreign lands,
Perhaps the fogs are too thick in our own,"
She said, frankly giving him both her hands,
Not a touch of pain in her tone.
Then as the shore grated under the keel,
She said, as she lightly stepped from the boat,
"How real and solid the pebbles feel
After all one's visions afloat."
The white towns glistened and glowed in the light,
And the children gathered to gaze,
And the sun poured down with a pitiless might,
As they went their several ways.
Straining of eyes and waving of hands,
And the trifles that make or mar—
These must happen in all the lands,
And things must be as they are.
WE loved two
Poets in that happy time;
And read together, sitting hand in hand,
Where the rocks cast a shadow on the sand,
And sunny waves made echo to the rhyme:
Theocritus of Sicily—who sung
Of many a dusky dryad-haunted grove,
Of shepherds' sorrows and of maidens' love,
In measures sweetest of the sweet Greek tongue;
And Milton—whose blind spirit could conceive
The Paradise no other mortals know,
The grand primeval passion and the woe
Of the first-born Adam and sweet Eve.
And as we read, we marvelled Love could be
So old, and yet so new to her and me!
thought them love;
Alas, how much mistaken!
A dream a dream will prove,
When time is come to waken.
She was friendly, fair, and kind;
I was weak of wit, I find.
Hope, adieu!—for now I see
Her look of love, and not for me.
I see within her eyes
A tender blissful token ;
Hope drops down and dies,
But no sad word is spoken.
Soon and silent let me go;
She, that knew not, shall not know.
Joy, good-bye!—for now I see
Her look of love, and not for me.
The fault was mine alone,
Who, from her gracious sweetness,
Made fancies all my own
Of heavenly love's completeness,—
This from me, poor fool! as far
As from the earthworm shines the star.
Dream, farewell!—for now I see
Her look of love, and not for me.
A LONDON LYRIC.
BELL from the
North hath journey'd hither,
She brings the scent of heather with her,
To show in what sweet glens she grew,—
Where'er she trips in any weather,
She steps as if she trod on heather,
And leaves a sense like dropping dew.
The mountains own her for their daughter,
Her presence feels like running water
Cool'd from the sun in a green glade:
So strange she seems to city seeing,—
A playmate of the winds, a being
Made of the dew and mountain shade.
In the strange street she stops to listen,
Her red lips part, her blue eyes glisten,
Wild windy voices round her speak;
She sees the streets roll dark and clouded,
Fearless as when she paused enshrouded
By mists upon a mountain peak.
And oft, while wondrous-eyed she wanders,
She meets a sweet face, pauses, ponders,
And then peers backward as she goes,—
As, in the far-off solemn places,
She drooped the tenderest of faces
Over some tender thing that grows.
Long have the clouds and winds been by her,
Long have the waters murmur's nigh her,
And sweet delight in those hath she
Long has she watch'd the shapes of wonder
Darken around with crying thunder,
Yet all have used her tenderlie.
Yea, she hath been a frail flow'r lying
Under the peak where storms were crying,
Feeling the hills quake through and through,
And, when the storm was ended, raising
A little dewy head and gazing
With pensive pleasure up the blue.
Yea, then the tameless Lightning often
Watch'd her with eyes that seemed to soften,
And smiled, and fled, and smiled again,
Till, all around her gentler growing,
She felt the moist winds blowing, blowing,
While shafts of cool light drank the rain.
When mighty shapes had love and pity,
What should appal her in the city?
What should she fear in sun or shower?
The cloud of life is pleasure-laden,—
She fears it not,—she is a maiden
Familiar with the things of power.
She is as sweet as maidens may be,
Yet does not seem as things of clay be,
But seemeth as she passes by
The shadow of a spirit-lady
(A wool-white cloud with image shady)
Floating above her in the sky!
Yet is she made in mortal fashion,—
A thing of pureness and of passion,
A winning thing of eyes and lips,
A maiden with a cheek to sigh on,
A waist to clasp, a heart to die on,—
Kiss-worthy to the finger-tips!
No pantaloon, no simpering sinner,
No little man of straw, shall win her,
No scented darling of the sun;
But he who wins must win in honour,
And stir her soul, and breathe upon her
Ev'n as the shapes of power have done.
And such a one his plaint should utter
Where the torn wings of tempests flutter,
Where waters stir and winds are loud;
Or in the dark mysterious city,
When she is stirred to human pity
In the windy motion of the cloud.
Bell from the North,—how shall I win her?
Wind, cloud, shade, water, dwell within her,
And she like those is meek and strong.
How shall I weave, O mountain daughter,
A song of wind, cloud, shade, and water?
How make thee mine with such a song?
Lo! here the things of power are meaner,
The flowers around our feet uncleaner,
Than where her vagrant footsteps climb,
And here we prize ignoble thinking,
And here sit latter rhymesters, drinking
The muddy lees of ancient rhyme.
And ah! the singing must be mournful;—
Strong things are tender, sweet things scornful,
And the fresh breath of faith grows foul;
While where she roams strong things are tender,
Great things are grand things,—sounds of
Drown the dull whooting of the owl.
The life-cloud round me thunders, lightens,
Strong without gentleness, it frightens
The timid Soul to grovelling deeds;
And when the brave Soul, hating error,
Upbraids the many-headed Terror,
It smites him down,—and no man heeds.
If, ere the song be uttered duly,
I who have served her long and truly
Should faint and fall, tho' strong and brave,
Last I will pray in loving duty
That Bell will come with all her beauty
To look a little on my grave.
And she will come (while up above her
The spirit-lady still will hover,
Pausing a space with white wings furled),
Her foot will rest, her eyes look nor'ward,—
And that one grave will be thenceforward
The sweetest grave in all the world.
And surely when she wanders thither,
The scent of heather will be with her,
The shady peace of mountains blue,
And she will breathe like fresh winds blowing,
And glide away like water flowing,
And leave a sense like dropping dew.
UP IN AN ATTIC.
HALF of a gold
Broken in days of old,
One yellow curl, whose light
Gladdened my gaze of old,
A heather-sprig thereto,
Plucks on the mountains blue,
When, in the shade and dew,
We roamed erratic;
Last, an old book of song,—
These have I treasured long,
Up in an Attic.
Held in one little hand,
They gleam in vain to me:
Of Love, Fame, Fatherland,
All that remain to me!
Love! with thy wounded wing,
Up the voids lessening,
Weeping, too sad to sing!
Fame,—dead to pity!
Land,—that denied me bread!
Count me as lost and dead,
Tomb'd in the City.
Daily the busy roar
Murmurs to me of men,
Dashing against its shore,
Groans the great Sea of men;
But night by night it flows
Slowly to strange repose,
Calm and more calm it glows
Under the moonshine:—
Then, only then, I peer
On each old souvenir,
Shut from the sunshine.
Half of a ring of gold,
Tarnish's and yellow now,
Broken in days of old,
Where is thy fellow now?
Upon the heart of her,
Feeling the sweet blood stir,
Still, though the mind demur,
Dept as a token.
Ah! does her heart forget
Or, with the pain and fret,
Is that, too, broken?
Thin threads of yellow hair,
Clips from the brow of her,
Lying so faded there,—
Why whisper now of her?
Strange lips are press'd unto
The sweet place where ye grew,
Strange fingers tremble through
The bright live tresses.
Does she remember still,—
Sobbing, and turning chill
To his caresses?
Sprig from the mountains blue,
Long left behind me now,—
Of moonlight, shade, and dew,
Why wilt remind me now?
Cruel and chill and gray,
Looming afar away,
Darks in the light of day,
Shall the hills daunt me?
My footsteps on the hill
Are overgrown,—yet still
Their echoes haunt me.
Old written book of Song,
Put with the dead away,
Wherefore wouldst thou prolong
Dreams that have fled away?
Thou art an eyeless skull,
Dead, fleshless, cold, and null,
Complexionless, dark, dull,
Yet, in thy time of pride,
How grandly hast thou lied
To all who heeded!
Yea, Fame, thou barren voice,
Shriek from the heights above.
Let all who will rejoice
In those false lights above!
When all are false save you,
Yet were so beauteous too,
O Fame, canst thou be true,
And shall I follow?
Nay, for the heart of man
Breaks in the dark, since Pan
Has slain Apollo.
O Fame, thy hill looks tame,
No vast wings flee from thence,—
Were I to climb, O Fame,
What could I see from thence
Only, afar away,
The mountains looming gray,
Crimson's at close of day,
Clouds swimming by me;
And in my hand a ring
And ringlet glimmering,—
And no one nigh me!
Better the busy roar,
Speaking to me of men,—
Dashing against its shore,
Groans the great sea of men.
O Love,—thou wouldst not wait
O Land,—thou art desolate !
O Fame,—to others prate
Thy joys ecstatic!—
Only, at evenfall,
Watching these tokens small,
I think about you all,
Up in an Attic!
THE POET AT HIS WIFE'S GRAVE.
OH! how I longed
to set you like a queen,
Above all sorrows in some happy place:
To crown you with my triumphs, and efface
The memory of such cares as came between
Our most dear love. I could not stay your tears
When critics blamed, or publishers said "Nay;"
Although I called myself more wise than they,
And prophesied a harvest with the years.
And now I stand among my sheaves alone,
My golden sheaves: that only make me weep
To think I cannot wake you from your sleep.
Oh, Sweet! my strength is spent, the race is won,
And fain I would be with you where you rest
One little child soft cradled on your breast.
THE LOVE OF YEARS.
WINDY and grey
Lifeless and low the light,
A woman wandered by me,
And oh, her cheeks were white!
A man came out to meet her,
And never a word he said,
Till she laid her hands upon his breast,
And whispered, "He is dead."
They two looked at each other,
And the love and loss of years
Went over their faces like a cloud,
Breaking into tears.
I knew she had been watching
A sorrowful long night through,
And when her watch was over,
A sweet life was over too;
I knew he had been waiting
For a word which he felt before,
But faint hope came with her coming step,
Then went for evermore.
They two looked at each other,
And silently passed away,
And the misty sun went mournfully up
To make another day.
M. B. SMEDLEY.
AGNES musing sat alone
Upon the lonely strand;
The breaking waves sighed soft and low
Upon the white sea sand.
Watching the thin white foam that broke
Upon the waves, sat she:
When up a beauteous Merman rose,
From the bottom of the sea.
And he was clad unto the waist
With scales like silver white,
And on his breast the setting sun
Put rosy gleams of light.
The Merman's spear a boat-mast was,
With crook of coral brown,
His shield was made of turtle-shells,
Of mussel-shells his crown.
His hair upon his shoulders fell,
Of bright and glittering tang,
And sweeter than the nightingale's
Sounded the song he sang.
"And tell to me, sweet Merman,
Fresh from the deep, deep sea,
When will a tender husband come
To woo and marry me?"
"O hearken, sweetest Agnes,
To the words I say to thee,
All for the sake of my true heart,
Let me thy husband be!
"For underneath the deep, deep sea,
I reign in palace-halls,
And all around, of crystal clear,
Uprise the wondrous walls.
"And seven hundred handmaids wait,
To serve my slightest wish;
Above the waist like milk-white maids,
Below the waists like fish.
"Like mother-of-pearl the sea-sledge
Wherein I journey crowned,
Along the sweet green paths it goes,
Dragged by the great sea-hound.
"And all along the green, green deeps,
Grow flowers wondrous fair;
They drink the wave, and grow as tall
As those that breathe the air."
Fair Agnes smiled, and stretched her arms,
And leapt into the sea,
And down beneath the tall sea-trees
He led her tenderly.
Eight happy years fair Agnes dwelt
Under the green sea wave;
And seven beauteous little ones
She to the Merman gave.
She sat beneath the tall sea-trees,
Upon a throne of shells,
And from the far-off land she heard
The sound of sweet kirk-bells.
Unto her gentle lord she stept,
And softly took his hand;
"And may I once, and only once,
Go say my prayers on land?"
"Then hearken, sweet wife Agnes,
To the words I say to thee;
Fail not, in twenty hours and four,
To hasten home to me."
A thousand times good-night she said
Unto her children small,
And ere she went away she stooped
And softly kissed them all.
And old and young the children wept,
As Agnes went away,
And loud as any cried the babe
Who in the cradle lay.
Now Agnes sees the sun again,
And steps upon the strand,
She trembles at the light, and hides
Her eyes with her white hand!
Among the folk she used to know,
As they walk to kirk, steps she;
"We know thee not, thou woman wild,
Come from a far countree."
The kirk-bells chime, and into kirk,
And up the aisle she flies,
The images upon the walls
Are turning away their eyes.
The silver chalice to her lips,
She lifteth tremblinglie;
For that her lips were all athirst
Under the deep, deep sea.
She tried to pray, and could not pray,
And still the kirk-bells sound;
She spills the cup of holy wine
Upon the cold, cold ground.
When smoke and mist rose from the sea,
And it was dark on land,
She drew her robe about her face,
And stood upon the strand.
Then folded she her thin, thin hands,
The Merman's weary wife;
"Heaven help me, in my wickedness,
And take away my life."
She sank among the meadow grass,
As white and cold as snow;
The roses growing round about
Turned white and cold also.
The small birds sang upon the bough,
And their song was sad and deep;
"Now, Agnes, it is gloaming hour,
And thou art going to sleep."
All in the twilight, when the sun
Sank down behind the main,
Her hands were pressed upon her heart,
And her heart had broke in twain.
The waves crept up across the strand,
Sighing so mournfullie;
And tenderly they wash'd the corse
To the bottom of the sea.
Three days she stayed beneath the sea,
And then came back again;
And mournfully, so mournfully,
Upon the sand was lain.
And sweetly deck'd by tender hands,
She lay a-sleeping there,
And all her form was wreath'd with weeds,
And a flower is in her hair!
The little herd-boy drove his geese
Seaward at peep o'day;
And there, her hands upon her breast,
Sweet Agnes sleeping lay.
He dug a grave behind a stone,
All in the soft sea sand;
And there the maiden's bones are dry,
Though the waves creep up the strand:
Each morning and each evening
The salt tide wets the stone,
While sad and low across the sands
The sweet kirk-bells intone.
cold, starry, silver night,
And the old year was a-dying;
Three pretty girls with melted lead
Sat gaily fortune-trying.
They drops the lead in water clear,
With blushing palpitations,
And, as it hissed, with fearful hearts
They sought its revelations.
In the deep night, while all around
The snow is whitely falling;
Each pretty girl looks down to find
Her future husband's calling.
The eldest sees a castle bright,
Girt round by shrubland shady;
And, blushing bright, she feels in thought
A lady rich already.
The second sees a silver ship,
And bright and glad her face is;
O, she will have a skipper bold,
Grown rich in foreign places!
The younger sees a glittering crown,
And starts in consternation;
For Molly is too meek to dream
Of reaching regal station.
And time went by, one maiden got
Her landsman, one her sailor—
The Lackey of a country count,
The Skipper of a whaler!
And Molly has her crown, although
She unto few can show it—
Her crown is true-love fancy-wrought,
Her husband, a poor Poet!
MARGARET felt a cold
cloud come down on her:
They made her a nun and put a black gown on her;
Young Roland went white
Thro' the winter moonlight,
Looming tall in the breath of the frost every night,
And gazed at the Convent, and plann'd how to win her there,
And his cheek gather'd dew till the dawn, and grew thinner there.
"A ruse, ho, a ruse!" cried his brother, Clerk John, to him,
When in vain both the monks and the leeches had gone to him,—
"Cease to fume and to frown,
Close thine eyes, lie thee down,
Stretch thee straight on a bier in thy chilly death-gown;
The great bell shall ring, and thy house gather gloom in it,
While I'll to the Convent, and beg thee a tomb in it!"
The Convent bell tolls, hung with black are the porches there,
Come tall black pall-bearers and pages with torches there,
Then the bier,—and thereon
The pale youth dead and gone;
And behind, grim as Death, weeping sore, goes Clerk John;
And the chapel is black, as the bearers pace slow in it,
And all the black nuns stand with lights in a row in it.
Ah! chill is the chapel, the great bell chimes weary there,
Black bearers, black nuns, and black pages, look dreary there;
The youth lies in death,
Not a murmur he saith;
But the tiny frost-cloud on his lips is his breath,—
And he who dared touch his cold cov'ring might feel beneath,
The glittering scales of a bosom of steel beneath!
Ho she screameth,—May Margaret! kneels by the side of him!—
"White Mary above, be the guardian and guide of him!
They parted us twain,
To their shame, to our pain,
And ah! that so soon I should clasp him again!"
Wan, wan, is her cheek, with dim torch-light the while on it—
Does she dream? . . Has the face changed? . . and is there a smile
She holds his cold hand to her heart, and doth call on him,
Drop by drop, warm and scented, her tender tears fall on him;
The nuns, sable-gown'd,
Chanting low, stand around;
Clerk John bites his lips, with his eyes on the ground . .
"Dear heart, that we meet but in woe such as this again!"
How she kisses his lips!—Does she dream? . . Did he kiss again?
Who opens the door with a terrible shout at once?—
A great wind sweeps in, and the lights are blown out at-once!
The Abbess screams low,
Moan the nuns in a row,
Thro' the gate on the wind drifts the sleet and the snow,
But the moon thro' the quaint-colour'd windows is beaming now,—
And wondrous bright shapes round the bier gather gleaming now!
The sable pall-bearers and pages are now amazed!
In armour that glitters like golden dew arrayed!
How chill the moon glows!
How it blows! how it snows!
Yet May Margaret's cheek is as red as a rose!
And "a miracle," murmurs the Abbess holy now,
For shiningly vested the dead rises slowly now!
He draweth May Margaret's sweet blushing cheek to him,
She kisses him softly, yet strives not to speak to him;
The nuns, sable-gown'd,
Shiver dismally round,
As he lifted the great sable pall from the ground,
And turneth it deftly, and flingeth it over her,—
And a glittering mantle doth wondrously cover her!
To the door of the chapel their feet pass hollow now,
Clerk John and the rest very silently follow now;
Hark! is it the beat
Of horses' feet?
Or the wild wind whistling in snow and in sleet?
Down the aisles of the chapel the echoes die away,
While fast in the snow-storm the happy ones hie away!
"Saints," crieth the Abbess, "pour down your dole on us!
To take our sweet sister an angel hath stole on us!"
And the nuns in a row,
Murmur sly and low—
"Would such angels might come unto us also!"
And they look at the bier, with the tingle of sin on them,
And the moon blushes faintly, still glimmering in on them.
Ay, fast in the snow-storm gallop the lovers now!
Young Roland's warm castle their merriment covers now!
To the bower they have run,
For the bridal is done,
And the jolly old priest hath made them one:
"May all who love true," cries the youth, "win such kisses, dear,
Die such death,—and be tomb'd in a bower such as this is, dear!"