Among the Millet

by Archibald Lampman


 

THE ORGANIST


 

    In his dim chapel day by day
    The organist was wont to play,
And please himself with fluted reveries;
    And all the spiritís joy and strife,
    The longing of a tender life,                                                  5
Took sound and form upon the ivory keys;
    And though he seldom spoke a word,
    The simple hearts that loved him heard
        His glowing soul in these.

    One day as he wrapped, a sound                                      10
    Of feet stole near; he turned and found
A little maid that stood beside him there.
    She started, and in shrinking-wise
    Besought him with her liquid eyes
And little features, very sweet and spare.                              15
    "You love the music, child," he said,
    And laid his hand upon her head,
        And smoothed her matted hair.

    She answered, "At the door one day
    I sat and heard the organ play;                                           20
I did not dare to come inside for fear;
    But yesterday, a little while,
    I crept half up the empty aisle
And heard the music sounding sweet and clear;
    To-day I thought you would not mind,                                 25
    For, master dear, your face was kind,
        And so I came up here."

    "You love the music then," he said,
    And still he stroked her golden head,
And followed out some winding reverie;                                30
    "And you are poor?" said he at last;
    The maiden nodded, and he passed
His hand across his forehead dreamingly;
    "And will you be my friend?" he spake,
    "And on the organ learn to make                                        35
        Grand music here with me?"

    And all the little maidenís face
    Was kindled with a grateful grace;
"Oh, master, teach me; I will slave for thee!"
    She cried; and so the child grew dear                               40
    To him, and slowly year by year
He taught her all the organís majesty;
    And gave her from his slender store
    Bread and warm clothing, that no more
        Her cheeks were pinched to see.                                  45

    And year by year the maiden grew
    Taller and lovelier, and the hue
Deepened upon her tender cheeks untried.
    Rounder, and queenlier, and more fair
    Her form grew, and her golden hair                                   50
Fell yearly richer at the masterís side.
    In speech and bearing, form and face,
    Sweeter and graver, grace by grace,
        Her beauties multiplied.

    And sometimes at his work a glow                                    55
    Would touch him, and he murmured low
"How beautiful she is?" and bent his head;
    And sometimes when the day went by
    And brought no maiden he would sigh,
And lean and listen to her velvet tread;                                  60
    And he would drop his hands and say,
    "My music cometh not to-day;
        Pray God she be not dead!"

    So the sweet maiden filled his heart,
    And with her growing grew his art,                                     65
For day by day more wondrously he played.
    Such heavenly things the master wrought,
    That in his happy dreams he thought,
The organís self did love the gold-haired maid:
    But she, the maiden, never guessedó                             70
    What prayers for her in hours of rest
      The sombre organ prayed.

    At last, one summer morning fair,
    The maiden came with braided hair,
And took his hands, and held them eagerly.                         75
    "To-morrow is my wedding day;
    Dear master, bless me that the way
Of life be smooth, not bitter unto me."
    He stirred not; but the light did go
    Out of his shrunken cheeks, and oh!                                  80
        His head hung heavily.

    "You love him, then?" "I love him well,"
    She answered, and a numbness fell
Upon his eyes and all his heart that bled.
    A glory, half a smile, abode                                                85
    Within the maidenís eyes and glowed
Upon her parted lips. The master said,
    "God bless and bless thee, little maid,
    With peace and long delight," and laid
        His hands upon her head.                                               90

    And she was gone; and all that day
    The hours crept up and slipped away,
And he sat still, as moveless as a stone.
    The night came down, with quiet stars,
    And darkened him: in coloured bars                                  95
Along the shadowy aisle the moonlight shone.
    And then the master woke and passed
    His hands across the keys at last,
        And made the organ moan.

    The organ shook, the music wept;                                   100
    For sometimes like a wail it crept
In broken moanings down the shadows drear;
    And otherwhiles the sound did swell,
    And like a sudden tempest fell
Through all the windows wonderful and clear.                     105
    The people gathered from the street,
    And filled the chapel seat by seató
        They could not choose but hear.

    And there they sat till dawning light,
    Nor ever stirred to awe. "To-night,                                   110
The master hath a noble mood," they said.
    But on a sudden ceased the sound:
    Like ghosts the people gathered round,
And on the keys they found his fallen head.
    The silent organ had received                                          115
    The masterís broken heart relieved,
        And he was white and dead.