Frederick George Scott

COLLECTED POEMS


 

Milton



I

O Mighty Spirit, who, from out the deep
And storehouse of God’s purposes, awhile
Didst breathe our air, awhile wast prisoned here,
In these dull chains of flesh and circumstance,
We hear at times in dreams, when all is dark,
5
Thy pinions nearing earth, and once again,
From mingling with the mighty elements
That throng the awful realms where God’s huge thoughts
Grow to star systems and the nebulæ
Are but His dim imagining of worlds,
10
Thy form revisits earth and gives man cheer
And spurs his spirit on to chafe and fret
And bound towards liberty in fearful leaps
Of insurrection. Yea, when palling night
Of human littleness and puny aims
15
Broods thick and starless over us, and when
With bestial opulence men feast and gorge
Upon the swine husks in the trough of life,
Thy steadfast spirit wakes some son of man,
And lo, before his wondering eyes there burns
20
The awful vision of the infinite;
And in his ears, from ocean, earth and sky,
There rings a constant music and a psalm
Of mighty harmonies which drowns the voice
Of human arrogance and slavish fear.
25

II

O glorious Master, as I sing, there dawns
Upon my soul, in dim, auroral light,
The vision of thy childhood, and I see
Thy face so beautiful with those large eyes
Filled with the wonder waking on the world
30
Hath brought thee, and with promise strange,
When darkness falls, of sights invisible,—
The Eternal City and the abysmal gulf [Page 88]
And thundering legions of the hosts on high.
No sorrow clouds thee yet. The hedgerows fair
35
Sparkle with dew, birds sing their songs to thee
In pleasant country lanes. Each day when dawn
Peers on thy sleep through bowery eglantine,
And scent of honeysuckle fills the air,
Thy dreams are fed with beauty; and when day
40
Brings forth thy books, then waking dreams are sweet
Until the dewy eve with gentle step
Creeps up the village street in livery
Of sober grey, and in the neighbouring folds
The patient sheep by watchful shepherds’ care
45
Are warmly housed, and nightingales begin
Among the trees to make sweet minstrelsy.
When Hesperus comes, and in the glowing west
The crescent moon follows the golden sun,
Then most thine unstained spirit feels the sense
50
Of the illimitable love of God,
Who midst the shouts of Angels hung the stars
Upon earth’s canopy, and built on fire
The firm foundation pillars of the world.
Nor is God less to thee that day by day
55
The Gods and Heroes of the olden world
Return, and people for thee in thy walks
The hills and valleys and the singing streams.
Beauty transcending truth doth lift thy mind
To highest truth where all things blend in one.
60
And, ever mingling with the joys of youth,
There comes that deeper joy of soul which springs
From lust of noble deeds and high resolve
To reach the topmost round of human fame
And make the ages thine through some great song
65
Whose strains will perish only with the world.
The vision grows before thee of the arched
And fretted vault and blazoned window panes
Of England’s Minster, where great England guards
Her noblest dead, and where the living past,
70
Nursed in the nation’s throbbing heart, waits on
And watches for the final hour, God’s doom
Upon man’s deeds. A whisper in thy soul [Page 89]
Tells thee thou too art kindred with the dead
Whom Death found deathless, and whom Time hath crowned
75
With glory deepening as the years go by.
Now comes the great resolve, the steadfast choice,
The barter of the present for the gain
Of some far future, which, like birth of dawn,
Gilds all the wide horizon of thy life.
80

III

So, towards the chosen goal thy youth speeds on,
The fair unfolding flower of purity
Bestrewing thy path, and avenues of fame
Thrown wide to thee, whose vast capacious mind
Goes searching through the chambers of the dead
85
For some high theme to sing in golden song.
And ever beauty lures thee, and the dreams
Of beauty not of Earth. Austere and cold
Thou shunn’st the paint and tinsel of the world.
The fire of prisoned passion in thy heart
90
Can find no vent. No mistress fair enough
For thine embrace breathes in the living world,
Until, by tortuous ways and anguished hours
And grievous battling with the realms of fact,
Thou find’st man’s fairest mistress—Liberty;
95
And catching at her skirts and wooing her,
High consecration crowns thee, and thy days
Are given in homage to the Queen of Queens,
The peerless one, against whose throne the sea
Beats furiously enwrapt in hideous mist,
100
And men make battle, mocking her and thee.
But thou, unflinching, dost through storm and hate
With faith unshaken face the maddened world,
And hurl defiance at it like a god
Dashing to atoms some rebellious star
105
That in the myriad clusters of the night
Provokes his fury.
                                      In those silent years—
Silent for thee though noisy with the din
Of babbling tongues—thy spirit bends itself
Into the common fray, and common men [Page 90]
110
Throng round thee, knowing thee not, and counting thee
A pedant babbling with the vulgar crowd.
But ’neath the iron yoke that bows thy neck
Self-immolation to the cause of man
Makes drudgery noble; and in thy vast soul
115
The phantom forms of evil, which thy pen
Joins battle with, begin to move and breathe
And grow a world around thee, and, behold,
The wondrous purpose of thy fixed resolve
Takes shape, till bonds of actual are burst
120
And thy soul rising up in majesty
Stands wonder-stricken viewing the sublime.

IV

Now darkness falls and night of hideous ruin,
And desolating tides of chance and fate
Bestrew the shore with wrecks. Thou art alone,
125
Once more alone, and more alone art thou,
Blind, weak and friendless, yet unconquerable.
But lo, the closing of the world to thee,
The shutting of life’s windows on the sun,
Uncloses vaster worlds of human thought;
130
And Liberty, thy mistress, takes thy hand
And leads thee fearless down the grim abyss
Where rebel angels hold their council dark,
Like thee, though overthrown, defiant still.
Thou hearest in their parliament the voice
135
Of one who stoops not at the feet of power
But courts damnation in magnificence
Of uttermost rebellion, and thy heart
Yearns towards the fallen fiend in sympathy;
For thou art fallen and unconquered too.
140
From out the deep, thy soaring spirit cleaves
The upper air and mounts to highest heaven,
And sees the beauty of the Father’s face,
And sights that blinding Death alone reveals.
Then round the singing spheres thy wingéd thoughts
145
Bear thee, thou skirt’st the utmost void.
Time, space, the giant march of human things, [Page 91]
Philosophies and those voluptuous gods
That hold in fee the sunshine of the earth,
Her streams and mountains and the sounding sea
150
That gnaws for ever at her coast, all these
Thy soul, unfettered, sees with sight divine,
E’en while thou sitt’st beside thy cottage door,
Crippled and blind, white hairs upon thy brow,
The kind sun warming thee, and humming bees
155
Making soft melody that dies away
In that great utterance rolling from thy lips
Of hidden things, beyond the power of man
To grasp, unaided by thy glorious soul,—
Those things which she, the pale girl at thy side,
160
Uncomprehending, duteous, noteth down.

V

Now fade the battlements of time, and Death,
In form of eagle, winged for loftiest flight,
Bears thy great soul triumphant to its throne
Among the stars, where Paradise regained
165
Rolls on in flowery meadows at thy feet;
And He whose face thou darkly saw’st before
Beyond all love is lovable, and thou
Know’st now the secret providence of God
And the sure concord of the Eternal’s ways.
170
Lave now thy feet in that clear stream of life
That issues from the throne, and raise thy voice
In the eternal harmonies which men
And rebel angels cannot discord make.
Now greet thee Michael, and the Heavenly Host,
175
Whom erstwhile thou didst sing in deathless song.
And those whom once thou scorned’st on the earth,
And who scorned thee in adverse ways of thought,
Thou see’st all white in God’s high favour too.
For on God’s hill the paths of duty wind
180
By devious courses to the sunlit top.
And lo, the riddle of the Universe,
The brightness and the darkness of the world,
The greatness and the meanness of the soul,
All, all are plain to thee, for all are solved
185
In the vast central heart whose being is Love. [Page 92]

VI

O Mighty Spirit, bend from out the Heavens;
Thou wast the greatest, noblest of our race;
The spirit of the Vikings wrought in thee;
The spirit of all warriors fired thy veins;
190
The cries of all our poets rang through thee;
The glories of all kingship crowned thee king;
Bend down to us, and on the ancient race
Which gave thee birth, whose speech rolls round the world,
Pour down thy gift of song, and rear us men
195
With courage noble in the stress of things
As thine was, men who cringe not, court no gain,
Who love but truth and follow liberty,
And whose exalted vision and vast mind
O’ertop the narrowing walls of life and scan
200
The glorious regions of unclouded light,
Where God reigns and the angels are at peace. [Page 93]