Lays of the ‘True North,’

AND

OTHER CANADIAN POEMS

BY

AGNES MAULE MACHAR


III.

ECHOES OF LIFE AND THOUGHT.

—————

 


 

 

THE MYSTIC SINGER.

I.


HE looked upon the world,—so fair
    In spring and morning light;
He breathed its draughts of incensed air
    With passionate delight.

Each blossom in the woodland glade

5

    A rune of beauty seemed;
The mystery of the hemlock shade
    With fairy visions teemed.

The glory of the skies and hills
    Into his spirit grew;

10

The music of the murmuring rills
    In him woke music too.

Deep organ-tones from wind and sea
    Blent with the softer strain,
And passion’s thrilling ecstasy

15

    Woke joy that verged on pain;

And shining locks and sparkling eyes
    With rapture filled his breast;
The wine-cup showed him Paradise—
    Here surely he was blest! [Page 79]

20


Here
he would win the laurel crown
    With joys and honours given;
In these all higher longings drown,
    And make of earth his heaven!

 

II.


But swift arose a withering blast

25

    Where all had seemed so fair;
The blossoms drooped and faded fast
    Before the biting air;

The glowing skies were swathed in gloom;
    No more the rosy west

30

Bathed, in an amethystine bloom,
    The mountain’s rugged crest;

The birds had hushed their carols gay;
    The gray and leaden hours
Had lost the beauty of the May,

35

    The fragrance of the flowers;

And sorrow stilled the joyous tone
    That thrilled his carol clear;
The music of the world was gone,
    Or silent to his ear.

40


The flowing cup was bitterness,
    The golden tresses dim;
They could not cheer the storm and stress
    That had surrounded him!

Black waves of misery and sin

45

    About his being crept;
He felt them numb his soul within;
    He looked without, and wept.

No hope or comfort could he find
    In earth or sky or air;

50

All nature seemed to him to be
    But sorrow and despair! [page 80]

 

III.


YET while in dark and hopeless mood
    He sat alone and wept,
An angel close beside him stood;

55

    She touched him, and he slept.

And, while he slept, a wondrous light
    Made all the darkness shine;
He saw a Form divinely bright;
    He heard a voice Divine:—

60


‘Grieve not for brightness that must change,
    For beauty that must go;
Grieve not for mysteries sad and strange,
    Which here thou mayst not know!

‘Trust Me, that yet behind it all—

65

    All change and pain above—
I am the Power that cannot fall;
    I AM—Eternal Love!

‘I only through the darkness see
    The light serene and clear;

70

I only pierce the mystery
    That wraps all being here;

‘Yet with Me ever by thy side,
    My spirit in thy breast,
Thou, too, mayst through the darkness guide

75

    To light and heaven and rest!’

 

IV.


A wondrous peace, a blissful calm,
    Falls on his heart like dew;
He wakes to breathe an air of balm
    That made an old world new.

80


The beauty of the morning skies
    Is all about him still,
But gone the earthly paradise
    That ne’er his heart could fill! [Page 81]

He turns his back on earthly pride,

85

    On earthly pomp and show;
Before him nobler visions glide
    Than earth-bound eyes can know.

He takes his lyre, divinely given;
    He tunes the jarring strings,

90

And sets them to the songs of heaven,
    Still listening while he sings!

Then, through the melody so clear
    Rings a new note of joy,
Whose gladness charms the careless ear

95

    Even of the laughing boy!

Upon the maiden’s heart it breaks,
    That music from above,
And sweeter, deeper chords awake
    Than those of earthly love;

100


That yet by this are purified
    From earthly soil and stain,
And love, that thus to earth hath died,
    Eternal lives again!

Upon the world-worn heart at last

105

    The heavenly vision falls,
And from the dim, forgotten past
    Sweet memory recalls

The simple faith of childhood’s years,
    The music that they knew,

110

And, through the mist of child-like tears,
    The child-heart waketh too!

Upon the soul with sin oppressed
    It breathes its sweetest strain;
Hope wakes within the hopeless breast,

115

    Love wakes its love again. [Page 82]

 

V.


And when besides the new-made grave
    The bitter tears fall fast,
And sense, that sees but what it gave,
    Clings only to the past,—

120


Faith, through the music clear and strong,
    Breathes hope and joy and calm;
The echoes of the angels’ song
    Fill Love’s triumphal psalm !

 


 

UNTRODDEN WAYS; OR, TWO VISIONS.


WHERE close the curving mountains drew
    To clasp the stream in their embrace,
With every outline, shade and hue
    Reflected in its placid face,

The ploughman stops his team to watch

5

    The train, as swift it thunders by;
Some distant glimpse of life to catch,
    He strains his eager, wistful eye.

His waiting horses patient stand
    With wonder in their gentle eyes,

10

As through the tranquil mountain land
    The snorting engine onward flies.

The morning freshness is on him,
    Just wakened from his balmy dreams;
The wayfarers, all soiled and dim,

15

    Think longingly of mountain streams.

Oh for the joyous mountain air,
    The long, delightful autumn day
Among the hills!—the ploughman there
    Must have perpetual holiday! [Page 83]

20


And he, as all day long he guides
    His steady plough with patient hand,
Thinks of the train that onward glides
    Into some new enchanted land,

Where, day by day, no plodding round

25

    Wearies the frame and dulls the mind,
Where life thrills keen to sight and sound,
    With ploughs and furrows left behind!

Even so to each the untrod ways
    Of life are touched by Fancy’s glow,

30

That ever sheds its brightest rays
    Upon the paths we do not know!

 


 

LOVE AND PRIDE.


HE spoke in low and earnest tone;
    He pled his long and faithful love;
He asked a token of her own,
    If but the gift of one small glove.
She pointed to the cruel wars

5

    That raged through a distracted land;
She bade him win his knightly spurs,
    And then returned to seek her hand.

He listened, bowed a mute assent;
    All silently he left her side,

10

And to the foremost ranks he went,
    Where Death was reaping far and wide;
And then she knew no craven fears
    Had kept him from the battle-plain.
The lady’s eyes grew dim with tears;

15

    She could not call him back again!

And daily prayed she in her bower,
    And nightly lay awake and wept,
Till came at length the fatal hour
    When ’neath the victor’s bays he slept. [Page 84]

20

They bore him to his father’s halls,
    With sorrow on each rugged face;
They laid him ’neath the ancient walls,
    Last scion of a noble race!

They sought to dry the lady’s tears;

25

    They brought her horse, her lute—in vain;
New lovers came, as passed the years—
    The lady never smiled again.
‘I sent away my love,’ she said;
    ‘My dearest joy to pride I gave.

30

He lies among the noble dead;
    My heart lies sleeping in his grave!’

 


 

SCHILLER’S DYING VISION.

    (Suggested by his dying, ‘Many things are growing clearer,’ and his poem ‘The Gods of Greece.’)

As the fuller light draws nearer,
    Steaming from the farther shore,
Many things are growing clearer
    That I dimly guessed before;
For, methinks, those legends olden

5

    Veiled a truth beyond their ken,
Telling us of ages golden
    When immortals walked with man.

Thus in symbol and in shadow
    Light through darkness dimly broke;

10

Poesy illumed the meadow,
    And the woodland’s music woke;
So the spirits, softly sighing
    Through the forest, in the stream,
On the wind’s swift pinions flying,

15

    Were not all an idle dream!

Now I see how faith immortal
    Oft hath worn a fable’s guise,
While she lingered at the portal
    Of unfathomed mysteries; [Page 85]

20

How the vague, half-conscious dreamings
    Of earth’s eager, artless youth
Shine with iridescent gleamings
    From the inmost heart of Truth;—

How the old Hellenic vision

25

    Read the soul in Nature’s face,
And the gods of her tradition
    Made our world their dwelling-place;—
High enthroned on hoary mountains,
    Walking earth in form divine;

30

In the spray of silvery fountains
    Naiads’ gleaming tresses shine;—

Dryads in the forest shadow
    Haunt the woods at eve and dawn,
While the fairies on the meadow

35

    Dance a measure with the faun!
Radiant forms to earth descending
    In the moonlight and the dew,
Earthly grace with heavenly blending,
    Shine before the poet’s view.

40


Now I see the truth that dwelleth
    In these faint and broken gleams
Of glory that excelleth
    Noblest poet’s fairest dreams;
For, with eyes no longer holden,

45

    We may know the Presence bright,
In the sunset’s radiance golden,
    In the dawn’s pale, rosy light;

In the beauty round us glowing,
    And in Nature’s changeless course,

50

We may trace with inward knowing
    Her eternal spring and source;
And, far more, the deathless story
    Through the ages we may read,
How infinite Love and Glory

55

    Bent itself to human need. [Page 86]

Now the asphodel for ever
    Fades before the amaranth bright;
Light hath touched the Stygian river,
    Dawn, the Acherontain night; —

60

For we hear a voice supernal
    Tell us—Pluto’s reign is o’er,
And the rays of love eternal
    Light our life for evermore!

Truth and love and faith and duty

65

    Mould the upward-striving soul,
Still evolving higher beauty
    As the ages onward roll;
Till the light of consecration
    Shine upon earth’s rudest clod,

70

And love’s fullest Incarnation—
    God in man—draw man to God!

 


 

THE ANGEL’S VISIT.


TWO angels of the heavenly choir
    That sang the Lord Christ’s birth
Came back from wanderings wide and far
    To look once more on earth.

Since in their circuit of the spheres

5

    Long centuries had fled,
They fain would see how, with the years,
    The great Evangel sped!

They saw great cities thronged with spires
    That tapered to the sky;

10

They heard the music of their choirs
    In praise of God most high;—

But ’neath their walls stalked spectres grim,
    Want, Vice, and dull Despair;—
Disease crouched in the shadows dim

15

    And filled the tainted air;— [Page 87]

Man wrestled with his fellow-man
    For gold in crowded mart,
And they whose glance the soul could scan
    Saw many a murderer’s heart!

20


They saw the alleys foul and dark
    Where men like cattle grew;—
They saw the corses cold and stark
    Of those whom Famine slew;—

They heard the groans of men—the sighs

25

    Of women tasked like slaves;
They saw the pestilence arise
    To fill a million graves;

Then saw they palaces of pride
    Reared on such toil and pain,

30

And Tullias, in their chariots, ride
    Remorseless o’er the slain;—

They heard the distant battle-cry
    From fields with carnage red—
Each angel breathed a bitter sigh,

35

    And veiled his radiant head!

‘“ Peace and goodwill” we sang, ‘ they said;
    ‘Long centuries agone;
Still Strife and Hatred reign instead,
    And Love to heaven hath flown!’

40


A voice came wafted from the blue
    On wind that breathed of spring;
Once more the Christmas choir breaks through,
    Once more the angels sing.

‘Peace and goodwill’ their endless song,

45

    Though strong the power of ill;
But, though its triumph tarry long,
    God’s love is stronger still!

Its silent force is stretching far,
    And, though the darkness stay,

50

Still glimmers , in the east, the star
    That heralds in the day. [Page 88]

Still breathes through strife the note of peace;
    Still Christ anew is born;
The angels’ song shall never cease

55

    That waked the Christmas morn!

And Love in silence still shall grow,
    And right shall conquer wrong,
Till earth no jarring chord shall know
    To mar the Christmas song!




 

IN A STUDIO.


YOU smile to see the canvas bear
    The golden sunshine of September,
And trace, in all its outlines fair,
    The landscape we so well remember.

You mark the sky, so softly blue;

5

    The dreamy haze, so golden mellow;
The woods, in greens of tenderest hue,
    Just turning here and there to yellow;

The solemn pines above the stream
    Where yon gray mountain rears its shoulder,

10

And, by the shore, the scarlet gleam
    Beside the lichened granite boulder.

You whisper, with a proud delight,
    That this reflection of September
Might cheer us on the wintriest night

15

    Amid the snows of dull December!

Ah, well! you kindly prise the whole;
    You cannot see the figure in it
That graved upon the artist’s soul
    The sunshine of that golden minute!

20


You
cannot see the earnest eyes
    That grew so dreamy and so tender,
While watching with a glad surprise
    The autumn landscape’s golden splendour. [Page 89]

You cannot see the soul-lit face

25

    That made the landscape’s central sweetness
Adding to Nature’s ripest grace
    The crowning charm of glad completeness!

Well, love, that charm is left me still,
    Though vanished is the bright September;

30

Though leaves lie strewn and winds blow chill,
    You make my sunshine in December!

 


 

THE SPIRIT OF BEAUTY.


THROUGH all our changing lives she flits before us,
    The subtle power that stirs each raptured  sense:
Now in the sunshine softly brooding o’er us;
    Now in the storm-cloud’s dark omnipotence;

On the young leaflets in the sunshine glancing,

5

    Nestling in dewy cups of soft-hued flowers;
On moonlit waves of fretted silver, dancing
    Round beetling crags and ivy-mantled towers.

Through the bright garden, through the dreamy wild wood,
    Still does she lure our longing, wondering sight,

10

The while we fancy, with the faith of childhood,
    That, somehow, we can stay her in her flight!

In rainbow tints we see her garments streaming,
    Wave through the forest aisles her locks of light,
And in the sunset’s gold and purple gleaming
    We seem to look upon her palace bright,

15


Where streamlets wander on by copse and meadow,
    With marge of daisied turf and swaying reeds,
Where bends the birchen bough to kiss its shadow—
    Still do we follow—still she onward leads!

Where, in dark forest pools, the snowy chalice

20

    ’Mid floating leaves shines, saint-like, through the gloom,
Or where the lily-queens, in garden palace,
    Keep royal state of beauty and perfume; [Page 90]

Where mountain summits rise, snow-capped and hoary,
    Or fade afar in soft ethereal blue,

25

Or wear, at eve, an amethystine glory,
    The spirit flits and lures us onward, too!

She seems to sit upon the torrent foaming
    Into the mystery of the dim ravine;
To smile from tiniest flowers that greet our roaming,

30

    Like stars that gleam from clouds of living green;—

She flits o’er purple wastes of ocean, flowing
    Round isles of silver sand and towering palm,
Where fadeless summer, ’mid her blossoms glowing
    Breathes o’er the orange groves and hills of balm.

35


In vain we look and long; we rise and follow
    O’er rock and moorland, river, lake and hill;
Not eagle’s mighty wing nor flight of swallow
    O’ertakes a swifter, more elusive still!

For not in earthly resting-place she dwelleth; 

40

    No outward form can keep that essence rare;
The soul we seek, the ‘Beauty that excelleth,’
    Foldeth her wings in more ethereal air.

The richest, purest gem can only grasp her
    In pulsing throbs—her home is not of earth;

45

But for a moment can our senses clasp her—
    Her essence is of that which gave them birth.

 Only in heart and soul can we enshrine her;
    Their kin is she, though nobler far than they.
We catch but glimpses of a form diviner,

50

     Immortal Beauty—set in endless day!

 


 

ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE.


PRESS on! press on! in all the strength of love
    And faith and hope, nor let thy courage fail;
The pure sweet light and air are just above,
    Beyond this sulphurous vale. [Page 91]
Clasp her more closely;—bear the unconscious form

5

Through the hot simoon and the blinding storm;
Let nought avail to make thee swerve or stay,
Till thou hast reached at last the realm of day!

Full well, full well thy prayers and tears have wrought;
    Haste onward with thy face set toward the light,

10

With her whom thy great love in darkness sought,
    And found her, in the night!
But look not back into that frightful tomb
Where grinning spectres chase thee through the gloom;
Not even to see the face thou lovest best

15

Let thine eye swerve;—above are light and rest;

Press on! Press on! the powers of Death are strong,
    And strong the hold they fasten on their prey;
Nought but they deathless love, they heavenly song,
    Could win her for the day;

20

Yet keep they face straight set unto the light,
Turn not thy glance back on the swallowing night;
Walk strong in faith,—before are light and rest;
There thou shalt see the face thou lovest best!

 


 

REALITY.

‘It is by love, only, that one keeps hold upon reality.’
                                                                       AMIEL.


THE rosy glow of the sunset’s glory
    On bounding hills, or their purple hue,
Is not in the mountains grim and hoary,
    Nor dwells in the heaven its depth of blue.
These lovely tints, have they no real being,

5

    The beauty of mountain and wave and tree?
Are they only born in the act of seeing?
    And what—oh, what!—are the things we see?

Our minds, we know, are each moment taking
    Impressions firm as if carved in stone;

10

Yet Fancy hovers about them, waking
    New shapes and forms and scenes unknown. [Page 92]
’Tis but reviving and recombining
    Old thoughts and images—empty air—
Memory and fancy together twinning,

15

    But what—oh, what!—awakes them there?

We walk in the midst of a maze of wonder,
    Beauty and mystery on either hand;
We pass, though a gulf still yawns to sunder,
    From the world of sense to the spiritland!

20

We see, we hear—it is all our knowing—
    The forms and sounds that will not stay,
But we know not what, beneath their showing,
    Beneath their changing, endures for aye.

In vain we question, we idly wonder,

25

    We may not o’erpass the mortal bound
That hems us in while we darkly wander
    In a shadowy region of sight and sound,
Sure alone that the forms that hover
    Vaguely before us with gleaming wings,

30

Still to our hearts some truth discover
    Out of the innermost heart of things:—

That beneath all glamour and all illusion,
    All changing colour and fleeting tone,
There lies the real that is no delusion,

35

    The truth we may grasp from the dark unknown;
That every vision so faintly stealing
    Into the brain by the way of sense
Brings to our souls some true revealing
    Of the hidden heart of Omnipotence!

40


Yet, nearer, closer than nerves or senses,
    Sweeter by far than the thought of will—
Stronger than linking of evidences—
    Is the voice within us, so small and still—
That tells us what we are vainly seeking

45

    By outward wisdom—all thought above—
The essence of life to our hearts low speaking,
    We know by the dearer name of LOVE! [Page 93]

 


 

THE BATTLE OF THE HUNS.*


THERE comes through mists of ages
    A tale of one dark day,
When by the yellow Tiber
    The massed barbarians lay.

The savage hordes of Attila

5

    Had swept the land like flame,
And Rome, in royal purple,
    Quaked at the conqueror’s name.

Yet, issuing from her portals
    In flashing panoply,

10

Her best and bravest warriors
    Went forth to fight and die.

Then, when the sunset glory
    Faded from tower and dome,
There was woe and bitter wailing

15

    Within the walls of Rome;

For the purple shades of evening,
    That hid the bloody field,
Veiled thousands sleeping silent
    ’Neath battered helm and shield.

20


Close by the pale, proud Roman
    Slept the fair, bearded Hun;
The lances lay unheeded—
    The cohort’s work was done! [Page 94]

Yet some said, with clear vision

25

    That pierced the mystic screen
Which ever parteth from us
    The spirit-world unseen,—

That o’er the stiffened corses,
     O’er the cold, silent dead,

30

A fierce and deadly battle
    Was raging overhead;

The shades of the departed
    Crowded the dusky air,
In quenchless hatred fighting

35

    A second combat there!

And days and nights that followed
    No truce or respite brought,
Where, o’er the clay-cold sleepers,
    The shadowy warriors fought.

40


So runs the weird, old legend
    Of warlike days of old,
Which veils a deeper meaning,
    Methinks, beneath its fold:

That life’s far-reaching issues

45

    Know not the bound of death;
The strife ’twixt good and evil
    Ends not with mortal breath;—

That long eternal ages
    Shall carry on the fight

50

We wage in life’s stern conflict
    For God and for the right! [Page 95]

 

* There is in the gallery at Berlin a world-renowned picture by Kaulbach, suggested by the legend which forms the subject of these verses. Through the shadowy gloom of night that has gathered over the silent battle-field, strewn with corpses are dimly discerned the spectral figures of the combatants, whose spirits are fabled to have renewed the deadly combat above their lifeless bodies, and carried it on without intermission for three days and nights. [back]

 


 

IN THE ELIZABETHAN GARDEN AT HEIDELBERG.*


HOW soft the summer sunshine plays
    About the grand old palace walls,
Where, from the billowy woodland maze,
The ruddy castle towers upraise
    Their ruined state, while Neckar crawls

5

Past the long town, in wandering ways!

And there, beneath the mouldering towers,
    An ancient royal garden lay,
Whose fair and fragrant old-world flowers
In alleys green, ’neath arching bowers,

10

    Might woo a princess fair as they
To while away the summer hours.

Methinks thine eyes, of self-same race,
    Are fair as hers of English blue
Who strolled in this enchanted place

15

In jewelled sheen and high-born grace,
    While coming woes she little knew
Were gathering round her life apace.

Beauty and love have passed away;
    Her stately tomb is otherwhere;

20

Yet still a rose-bush fresh and gay
Blooms out amid the ruins gray,
    And drops a rosebud on thy hair,
Fair maiden of a later day! [Page 96]

So—winsome maiden fair to see,

25

    When thou and life have shaken hands,
Some nobler tribute  meant for thee,
Some blossom form thy beauty’s tree,
    To other maids in other lands
An added grace and joy may be!

30


Yet shalt thou, dear one, have a care
    Such blossoms keep the rose’s sweetness;
If thou art good as thou art fair,
For thee, soul-gardens cannot bear
    Save what in beauty and in meetness

35

Shall fit into thine evening prayer!

 

* The Elizabethan garden at Heidelberg Castle, now shaded by tall trees, was made on the ramparts with great labour and expense for the beautiful and unfortunate young Electress, Elizabeth, daughter of James I., when she came as a bride to the palatinate. The story of the ruin that overtook the fortunes of this princess and her husband, after this fatal acceptance of the Bohemian crown, is well known to readers of  history. Her tomb is in Westminster Abbey, near that of Mary Queen of Scots, and of other unhappy princesses of the Stuart race. [back]

 


 

IN AFGHANISTAN.

IN THE PEIWAR PASS.*


ONLY an Afghan soldier,
    A man without a name;
In the ranks of the British army,
    To the Peiwar Pass he came.

Fate’s perverse chance had led him

5

    In alien ranks to stand,
And now they were marching onward
    To waste his native land.

Can he march ’neath the hostile colours
    Through the hills he loved so well,

10

With fire and sword for his childhood’s home,
    And give no sign to tell? [Page 97]

Though the alien flag waved o’er him,
    And its livery he wore,
He was still an Afghan warrior,

15

    And an Afghan heart he bore.

So he fired his English rifle,
    And its crack rang far and wide,
And only the echoing mountains
    And the frowning pass replied.

20


But they hanged him there for a traitor,
    And he uttered nor plaint nor sigh,
Save only this, that he fain had stood
    On his native soil to die.

And brightly the patriot’s glory

25

    Shines through the felon’s doom;
Since we know that ‘pro patria mori
    Est dulce et decorum!’

 

* During the Afghan War the telegraphic despatches informed us that an Afghan soldier had been hanged for firing his rifle to warn his countrymen of the British advance on the Peiwar Pass. The man ascended the platform, uttering only the remark that he should have preferred to be hung in his own country. Lord Roberts says of such cases, ‘It was with extreme regret that I confirmed these sentences.’ [back]

 


 

THE PRINCE AND HIS BRIDE.


FROM frost-bound realms of  ice and snow
    O Prince, bring home thy bride,
Returning towards the sunset glow
    From Neva’s frozen tide;
Sweet English snowdrops, pale and fair,

5

    Shall rear their drooping heads—
Meet bridal offerings, scattered where
    The northern princess treads.

Not as of old with battle-cry,
    And cannon’s thunder peal,

10

And blood-stained swords uplifted high,
    And flash of fire and steel;
But at the altar’s peaceful bounds
    Briton and Russian meet,
’Mid solemn vows and sacred sounds

15

    And blessings pure and sweet! [Page 98]

We bless the mystic power of love,
    We bless the spousal ring,
As goodly gifts from God above,
    Whence countless blessings spring.

20

May Love expand his holy strength
    Till war and hatred cease,
And the round world is bound at length
    In one bright ring of peace!

All precious things of heaven and earth,

25

    O Prince—be hers and thine,
But most the gifts of highest birth,
    The gift of love divine;
The sweetness of an English spring
    That waits your home bound feet

30

Be presage of life blossoming
    Before you fair and sweet.

Unwithered by the glare of State                      
    May your home-blessing be
The same that  humbler brides await,

35

    As gladsome and as free;
And chiefly blessed by Cana’s guest,
    Yours be the purpose high
That links this changing life below
    With God’s eternity!

40

 


 

THE STORMING OF THE ICE PALACE: A PARABLE. (JANUARY, 1885.)

MONTREAL.


BENEATH the clear Canadian winter night,
    What holds our spell-bound gaze?
A wondrous castle filled with lambent light
    From battlement to base;
And round about its glittering crystal halls,

5

    In martial pomp arrayed,
Torch-bearing thousands stand, and storm the walls
    With mimic cannonade. [Page 99]

Fast flash the hissing rockets to the sky—
    Fast fall the harmless showers

10

Of coloured stars, while mimic serpents fly
    About the crystal towers;
But see that lurid radiance wake and grow
    To bathe the turret high;—
The castle seems to burn with fiery glow

15

    Against the moonlit sky!

’Mid clouds of smoke and glare of crimson light,
    We think it shakes and falls,
When lo! they pass, and clear against the night
    Still rise the pearly walls;

20

Stills its pure radiance gleams undimmed and fair;
    Still do its lustrous towers
Seem fitting shrine for Balder sleeping there
    Till Spring awake the flowers!

 


 

KHARTOUM.*


It was a parable we smiled to see;
    To-day we read it true,
In shock of hell ’gaist faith and purity,
    But little then we knew
That, far away where Nile’s mysterious flood

5

    Winds through his storied lands,
Khartoum had fallen; England’s noblest blood
    Had drenched the desert sands.

The Christian knight, most dear to Britian’s heart,
    As faith outweigheth gold,

10

Had fallen, done to death by traitor art,
    As Balder died, of old; [Page 100]
And clouds of lurid smoke and streams of gore
    Met the sad tear-dimmed sight
Of  those who looked to see the wrong of yore

15

    Fall conquered by the right!

But patience! for we know God’s great designs
    Are wrought not in a day;—
Through clouds and darkness, still His purpose shines,
    And still shine for aye;

20

And through long ages owning bright and clear
    The brotherhood of man,
Humanity shall hold the memory dear
    Of Gordon of Soudan!

 

* During the last fatal days of the siege of Khartoum a brilliant winter carnival was being held in Montreal. The tragic ending of the siege and death of Gordon was very nearly contemporaneous with the storming of the Ice Palace above described. The conquering campaign of Lord Kitchener and the succeeding events have already verified the prediction of the last stanza. [back]

 


 

GARFIELD’S FUNERAL DAY.


GOD’S will be done—alas! we know not why,
    In spite of longing love and tender care,
    And a great nation’s mighty voice of prayer,
The foul blow triumphs, and the good must die!—

Yet, in this time of heavy loss and pain

5

    All party cries are hushed in one great grief,
    And bowed, in mourning o’er its fallen chief;—
The land, divided, breathes as one again.

Nor north nor south it knows, nor east nor west:
    Its mighty heart throbs with a single beat,

10

    While fall its tears upon the winding-sheet
That wraps to-day its noblest and its best.

Nor north nor south!—all boundaries are fled
    Where noble manhood falls for truth’s dear sake;
    We know no frontier line on land or lake—

15

A continent is mourning for the dead!

And far across the sea that rolls between
    Old England and the New, the grief is shared;
    Both nations bow their heads, in sorrow bared,
And with the mourners weepeth England’s Queen! [Page 101]

20


From Biscay’s Bay to Tiber’s yellow wave,
    Wherever freemen’s hearts beat true to-day,
    Unseen, they join the long and sad array
That bears the martyred ruler to his grave!

Yet, still, perhaps, his high heroic soul

25

    May guide the people’s destinies,—his trust,—
    And from the treasure of his sacred dust
His voice still urge them to the nobler goal;

And from the sorrow, since it must befall,
    May seeds of blessing for the nations grow;—

30

    A closer human brotherhood below,
More love and service to the Lord of all!

 


 

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.


     ‘Peace is, as ever, the greatest of British interests. Above all, peace with America is not only and interest, but a first condition of honourable life with both peoples.’ (London Chronicle.)

     ‘Together England and America may enwrap the world with liberty and fill it with peace.’ (Dr. Lyman Abbott.)

     ‘The British Foreign Minister has received a note from Mr. Bayard, U.S. Ambassador, saying that he has been instructed by his Government to tender thanks to Great Britain for her kind offices to Americans in the Transvaal.’ (Telegraphic Despatch.)


THEY had a difference once, in days of old—
    Mother and daughter—for the daughter’s heart
Was hot with fire of youth, and rash and bold,
The mother’s—proud and obstinate and cold,
    And so, in sullen gloom, they moved apart!

5


The long years passed, and changes come to each,
    Touching them with a subtle, altering power,
And both were wiser grown in thought and speech,
And kindly words and deeds that ancient breach
    Helped Time to close with every passing hour. [Page 102]

10


Then came a burst of sudden wrath that flamed
    O’er the new amity the years had wrought,
And angry thoughts found voice, and rash souls blamed,
And dreamed of such strange conflict as had shamed
    The bond of kindred each awhile forgot!

15


Then speeds the word that, in the heart of foes,
    Some dear to both in deadly peril stand,
And heart to heart in swift outreaching goes,
And wide her arms the generous mother throws
    Round all her children in that alien land.

20


But hark! what sad, heart-rending cry we hear
    From those fair plains that cradled once our faith,
Where walked of old the patriarch and seer!
Now loosed from hell are all the fiends of fear,
    And o’er the land there rolls a tide of death!

25


Mother and daughter, hear that piteous prayer!
    In this your noblest bond of union be,
To save the victim from the cruel snare,
To lift the load of terror and despair,
    And free the captive from captivity!

30


So speak the kindred blood, and from the soul
    Of two great nations swell one noble chord
Of diverse tones that yet harmonious roll,
In diapason full of one grand whole,
    Responsive to the impulse of their Lord!

35

 


 

TO THE HEIGHTS.
                       
‘Sic itur ad astra.’


As fair to the eyes of the prophet
    The desert pathway through
Were the distant shadowy mountains,
     So dreamy and soft and blue, [Page 103]

Although on their sunlit summits

5

    His feet might never stand,
And, but from the Mount of Vision,
    He might view the Promised Land!

So, fair to the inner vision,
    As on through life we go,

10

Loom the shadowy hills of promise
    Soft in the morning glow.

How long is the way to reach them,
    But little we heed or care;
How hard and steep the climbing

15

    To the summits that seem so fair!

Yet still the recede before us,
    And ever their promise sweet,
Like a spell they have woven o’er us,
     Lures on our wandering feet;

20


And although we may reach them never,
    Till the cold death-stream is passed,
For us they shall keep their promise,
    And the heights shall be ours at last!

 


 

A CHRISTMAS RIME.


WHAT may a poet find to praise,
    Or what the soul and heart to cheer,
What time the dark December days
    Are whitening towards the closing year,

When all the silent woods are bare,

5

    And all the streams lie still and dead,
And from the bleak and biting air
    Each woodland hermit hides his head;

When for the song of birds and brooks,
    For summer morn and sunset glow,

10

A wilderness of men and books
    Piles up the tide of human woe, [Page 104]

And sages tell us that, behind
    The song of birds, the opening flower,
Lies some—we may not call it blind—

15

    But only blank and formless power,

And still look down the unchanging stars
    On bitter feud and deadly fray;
On clash of arms and dungeon bars,
    And hate that seems to live always?

20


            *          *        *        *      *

Nay, on the branches brown and bare
    The buds grow, waiting for the spring,
With sunshine sweet and balmy air
    To wake them into blossoming!

And o’er the bleak expanse of snow

25

    What silvery music softly swells!
Its deep-voiced gladness well we know—
    Once more ring out the Christmas bells.

Then tell the tale so sweet and old:
    Too oft it cannot greet our ears;

30

Not mindless Power, but Love untold
    Controls the atoms and the spheres;—

Love that can stoop to low estate,
    Or rise aloft in angel song;
Divine, wise Love, not hard, blind Fate,

35

    And strong as Love alone is strong,—

Love that, like life, enwraps us round,
    Smiles on us here from human eyes;
Yet lifts our souls from earthly bound
    To breathe the air of paradise.

40


And in that mystic point afar,
    Towards which a myriad suns are led,
We see in parable the Star
    That shone about the manger-bed. [Page 105]

The wisdom of the East and West

45

    Must humbly seek that lowly shrine,
And find the object of their quest
    In worship of the Love Divine!

 


 

‘THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD.’


SWEET is the rustling of the young spring leaves,
And the glad song of birds beneath the eaves;—
Sweet the soft patter of the April rain,
And the bright sunshine bursting forth again;
Fair is the streamlet trickling through the wood,

5

And the spring blossoms born in solitude;
But sweeter still, and purer joy impart
Blossoms of love upspringing from the heart!

Sweet is the balmy air of summer morn,
When fragrant gales amid the flowers are born;

10

Rare is the breath of early opening rose,
Or waxen lily petals that unclose
Their alabaster vases of perfume
Amid a thousand wandering wafts of bloom;
Yet rarer still the incense that uprolls

15

When Love’s warm breezes quicken human souls!

Sweet is the peace that falls at eventide,
When—the day’s glow and glory cast aside—
More tender tints and shadows wake to birth,
A restful hush falls on the tranquil earth,

20

Unbroken save by vespers of the wood,
Or bird’s love carol to her listening brood;
Yet sweeter peace falls on the human breast
When God’s own curfew calls it home to rest! [Page 106]

 


 

SALVE, JUVENIS!

‘Et in Arcadia ego.’


WELCOME, young brother, into that fair land
    Which hath the home of all true poets been,
     Wherein the sunny glades are ever green,
And sparkling streams flow soft o’er silver sand
    Their flowery banks between;

5


Whereon a softer, purer radiance shines
    Than golden sunshine, or than moonlight clear;
    Nor change nor winter knows the tranquil year,
Because perennial summer there enshrines
    The spirit of the seer!

10


And though ’mid dry and dusty paths of life
    The weary feet may for a season stray,
    Still see thou keep an ever open way
Into that refuge calm from worldly strife
    And passion’s restless play!

15


Yet, oh, remember! though that land there lies—
    And straight its course from that more happy shore—
    A path that still ascends for evermore,
From height to height, to heaven’s eternal skies,
    Revealed to hearts that soar.

20


Above the changeful lights of time and earth,
    Which ne’er our longing hearts can satisfy,
    Follow the light that cannot fade or fly,
From whence our spirits draw their nobler birth—
    That life which cannot die!

25


And thus the blessed power perchance may be
    Bestowed on thee to catch some passing ray
    Of that pure light, to cheer the darkened way
Of hearts that droop in darkness, nor can see
    The light of endless day! [Page 107]

 


 

THE PILGRIMS IN THE DESERT.


IT chanced that, resting from this world’s turmoil,
    I had a dream as the gray morning broke
That roused from Sabbath rest to weekday toil;
    But if it came to one who slept or woke,
    Or if a secret meaning through it spoke,

5

I cannot tell—perchance it was a gleam
Of truth, too often hid ’neath things that seem,
    Which, thickly growing in the world’s rank soil,
Crowd out the real. And thus befell the dream:

I saw a dreary desert stretch afar;—

10

    The keenest sight could find no line or bound,
Save where the pale horizon set its bar
    Across the straining vision—all around
    There lay a waste of rough, uneven ground,
And ranges of low hillocks, partly sand

15

And partly grass, arose on either hand;
    And sometimes ’neath a stunted tree was found
A little shadow in this weary land!

Across the waste a beaten pathway led,
    Trodden by many a pilgrim company,

20

And they who had explored the region said
    It led at last to a great shoreless sea,
    And none can tell how wide those waters be;
Only this much,—that none who once set sail
On their dark tide came back to tell the tale

25

    Of what befell, or clear the mystery
That hangs about that distance dim and pale!

But through the waste, where one green margin showed,
    Bordered with flowers, begirt with pastures green
And bowery foliage—a clear streamlet flowed,

30

    Pellucid, sparkling—o’er its flow serene
    Arched bending boughs, all wet with dewy sheen,
And feathery grasses waved, and lilies white
Opened their snowy bosoms to the light;
    And swaying vines and ferns, a leafy screen,

35

With their lush green refreshed the aching sight. [Page 108]

And at those living waters, flowing free,
    The thirsting pilgrims their parched throats might slake,
Nor thirst again for ever! And to me,
    Watching with eager longing for their sake,

40

    It seemed that all should gladly stop and take
The crystal draught that flowed so sweet and clear!
(And there were some among them I held dear,
    And even with tears besought them to partake
Ere they pressed on their journey long and drear).

45


And as the train of seekers onward swept,       
    Scarce glancing towards me as they passed me by,
I sat upon the ground and sadly wept
    For those who thirsted so, but would not try
    The living waters gushing freshly nigh!

50

I saw them faint, exhausted;—saw them sink,
Weakened by thirst, so near the streamlet’s brink;
    But vain were pleading voice and warning cry
To those who, thirsting, said, ‘We will not drink!’

For most passed careless o’er the beaten track,

55

    Scorning the streamlet’s music in their ear;
In vain I sought to call and win them back,
    Nor could persuade even those I held most dear
    And knew were weary unto death!  Yet tear
And prayer were all in vain their steps to stay;

60

For they were gazing where a mirage lay
    Of places and towers that glimmered near,
And lured them o’er the desert waste to stray!

And as they onward pressed, with lagging feet,
    They dreamed a dream of paradisal bowers,

65

And days that pass in languor soft and sweet,
    ’Mid plashing fountains, feasts, and fadeless flowers!
    Yet, ever as they go, the leaden hours
Lag slower, while they thread the desert haze,
And still before the dancing mirage plays,

70

    Until at last the journey is complete,
And the dark, shoreless water fronts their gaze! [Page 109]

But I beheld where, by the streamlet, grew
    A lily-cup of pure and stainless white,
White in its bosom held, like drops of dew,

75

    Some of that living water, pure and bright,
    And this I seized and gathered with delight,
And put to parchèd lips the precious draught;
And some took gratefully the flower and quaffed,
    Others scarce looked and tuned in cold disdain,

80

And some passed scoffing by and loudly laughed.

Yet, still I filled and filled the lily-cup,
    And carried it to many a thirsting soul,
And some would simile and take my goblet up,
    Admire its graceful mould, its stainless bowl,

85

    And then would taste and thank me for the dole,
But scorn my guidance to the streamlet’s brink,
Where they could ever of its fullness drink,
    And walk, refreshed, to seek a fairer goal
Than those false gleams that into nothing sink!

90


But some there were, though few, who followed me
    To find the fountain of their waking dreams,
And quenched their thirst, and trod with footstep free,
    And pined no more for those delusive gleams,
    Walking through pastures green by living streams

95

That flowed through the dark water’s sullen tide,
And bore them safely to the farther side,
    Where shines th’ Eternal City, fair to see,
And every seeker shall be satisfied!

 


 

WAITING YET.


MARGARET, I see thee yet
    In the quiet woodland way
Where the sun, about to set,
    Crowned thee with a rosy ray. [Page 110]

Dost remember—dearest one—

5

    That October evening rare,
When the hazy, crimson sun
    Sank into the purple air?

How the scarlet maple burned
    Through the pine-tree’s dusky shade,

10

While the placid stream returned
    All the glory that it made?

How the river, sweeping wide,
    Wandered toward the glowing west,
Rosy red its glassy tide,

15

    Shadowy islets on its breast?

Dost remember all the pain,
    All the sweetness, all the glow?
How we found that loss was gain,
    Parting union, loving so?

20


Dost remember how, with tears,
    Then we sought, since part we must,
Strength to meet the lonely years,
    The sweet strength of love and trust?

How we looked across the long

25

    Vista of this lower life,
Knowing heaven completes the song
    Drowned amid the earthly strife?

How we felt that souls who love,
    Though the whole round world divide,

30

On the Father’s heart above
    Still together may abide?

Yes, for well I know thy heart
    Hath not learned the word ‘forget’;
Though our lives were torn apart,

35

    Still, my love, my Margaret,
    Thou, I know, art waiting yet! [Page 111]

 


 

A PRESAGE.


ONLY a winter day—but the sun lies warm on the snow,
And the air is touched with a softness from the summers of long             ago;
And the misty light gleams golden through the bare and leafless             trees,
And a dream of summer comes wafted from the far-off Southern         seas!

Only a winter day—but the cattle, as they go,

5

Drowsily through the sunshine the hidden presage know,
That breathes like a waft of perfume through the soft and balmy             air,
And whispers that Spring is coming, and tells us that she is fair!

Even so, through life’s long winter there falleth many a ray,
Strayed from th’ eternal summer to glorify the day;

10

And we were duller than cattle if we could not recognise
The Presence of Light that dwelleth beyond our earthly skies!

 


 

ARDENVOHR.


I KNOW a spot where, soft and fair,
    The early light is lying,
Where bird-notes, rippling through the air,
    Seem each to each replying.

O’ertopped by stately oak and pine,

5

    Begirt with lawn and meadow,
Where on the sward the happy kine
    Repose in grateful shadow.

There, through the dappled light and shade,
    The steam is softly flowing;

10

The lilies in the sunny glade
    With golden hearts are glowing. [Page 112]

I catch the odour of the pine,    
    Its balmy incense breathing,
The sweeter fragrance of the vine,

15

    The trellis closely wreathing.

Where lightly stirs the summer breeze,
    The billowy foliage swelling,
Rise distant spires behind the trees,
    And many a distant dwelling.

20


A pleasant place it is to pass
    The livelong summer day in;
For childhood sporting in the grass,
    Or age to wear away in!

The year must wane to wintry hours,

25

    And June and we must sever;
But in my heart those glades and bowers
    Stay fresh and green for ever!

 


 

A MOONLIGHT VISION.


SHADOWY islet and misty water,
    Dusky pine-trees, rugged and tall,
A pallid moon in her waning quarter
    With a sombre radiance bathing all;
The gurgling plash of the waves that never

5

    Tarry or break in their low, sweet song;
A boat that glides o’er the placid river,
    Scarce move its oars as it floats along.

Ah me! how real the shadowy vision
    That rises out of the vanished years!

10

Again we drift in a dream Elysian ,
     And the plash of the wavelets soothes our ears.
I listen once more to your low, sweet singing
    Still, though the weary years have flown;
Through my inmost heart your voice is ringing:

15

    I know each cadence, —each tender tone! [Page 113]

How we planned our course over life’s broad river,
    Flowing bright through our thoughts like that moonlit stream,
As though on its tide might float for ever
    The fragile bark of our airy dream!

20

How we strove to banish the present sorrow
    With smiles that trembled on verge of tears,
And the haunting thought of the coming morrow,
    The first long day of the parted years!

Ah! well we knew not how time, slow gliding,

25

    Could cool the love while it dulled the pain;
Ah! well we knew not how space dividing
    Could sever lives like a parted chain!
Yet, thinkst thou ne’er of that shadowy river,
    That summer eve and its happy dream,

30

That still through my heart flows on for ever
    With the rhythmic flow of that moonlit stream!

 


 

THE LOST PICTURE.


THE silver wavelets of the stream
    Float softly round the island shore,
And, like the image of a dream,
Two bright wild roses ever seem
From tangle of dark leaves to gleam;

5

Where blends the birch to kiss the tide,
And wild vines droop the rocks beside,
    Their fair, fresh faces, bending o’er,
    Shine from the stream—ah! nevermore!

I found them, as my boat one day

10

    Was drifting idly past the shore;
I loved them smiling on the spray,
I broke the stems, and bore away
The roses, for so fair were they,
They won my heart—I could not bear

15

To sail away and leave them there,
    So, from the crystal stream I tore
    Their image, trembling, from the shore. [Page 114]

Their sweet, fresh beauty faded fast,
    Nor could I aught of grace restore;

20

That hour of brightness was their last,
Their transient hour of bloom was past,
Their petals to the breeze were cast;—
Still, from the rock the vine droops low,
The birches kiss the river’s flow,

25

    But it gives back, ah! nevermore
     Their image, smiling, from the shore!

 


 

A MODERN DRYAD.


WITH soft blue eyes and curls of gold,
And cheeks like a rose-leaf fresh unrolled,
Like a very Dryad of story old,
She smiles at me from her bowery hold.
Sunny and bright and fair to see,

5

Brimming with laughter and bounding glee,
Is my fairy who dwells in the apple-tree!

When soft spring buds in the branches bare
Are kissed into life by the sweet spring air,
And rose-flushed clusters, so bight and rare,

10

Are bursting forth into promise fair
Of the coming fruit so fair to see,
Fairer still than the flowers is she,
My fairy who dwells in the apple-tree!

When the sun of June has turned to snow

15

The tree that was tinged with a rosy glow,
And over each bough that droops so low
Showers of white petals come and go—
Crowned with the snowy flowers is she,
And she shakes her curls and smiles at me,

20

My fairy who dwells in the apple-tree.

When autumn has brought the ripened glow
To rosy apples with hearts of snow,
My fairy is ready to merrily throw
Her treasures down on the grass below; [Page 115]

25

Laughing aloud with joyous glee,
As she shyly throws the largest at me,
My fairy who dwells in the apple-tree!

When winter comes and the tree is bare
Of the last brown leaflet that fluttered there,

30

And the snowdrifts whirl in the biting air,
I know a nest somewhere—somewhere—
Warmly lined—and there shall she—
If she’s more than a vision—dwell with me,
My fairy that haunts the apple-tree!

35

 


 

A MISUNDERSTANDING.

HIS REMINISCENCE.


METHINKS I see it once again—
    That sunset of the past,
The flood of  slanting golden rays
    Athwart the pine-trees cast;

I hear the murmur of the wave

5

    Upon the pebbly shore,
Soft plashing on the light canoe;—
    I hear your voice once more!

I see the shady, sheltered nook
    Where you awhile would stay;—

10

The lichened granite crag that rose
    Above the quiet bay.

Before me rise the moss-grown rocks
    With crests of plumy fern;
The very fragrance of the pines

15

    Seems almost to return.

I hear again the cat-bird’s cry,
    The cawing of the rook,
The while you sat and sketched in haste
    With grave abstracted look, [Page 116]

20


Until at length I spoke, resolved
    At least my fate to try,
And hushed the beating of my heart
    To catch your low reply.

Ah well! it changed my life for me,

25

    From hope to long regret,
Swiftly as fled the evening glow
    When that bright sun had set!

All silently, across the lake,
    Our bark retraced its way,

30

While the rich hues of wave and sky
    Were fading into gray.

I rowed—you steered—no spoken word
    The woodland echoes woke;
Your white hand dipping from the stern

35

    The quivering wavelets broke.

I did not blame you—well I know
    Love may not be compelled;
I would not take a heart that must
    In golden links be held;

40


And well I know—few are the hearts
    That grasp their brightest dreams;—
Some day, perchance, we yet shall know
    Why life so futile seems!

Since then, my feet have wandered far

45

    And wide by land and sea;
And, love! I trust that life has brought
    More jot to you than me.

For nothing—spite some lingering pain—
    Can sweeter memories wake

50

Than this dried blossom from the shore
    Of that Canadian lake! [Page 117]

 

HER REMINISCENCE.


’Tis such a fair June eventide
    As one remembered well—
In those old days the sunset rays

55

    With softer radiance fell!

They would not let me stay behind,
    Although I vainly pled;
Nor could I try to tell them—why
    The spot so much I dread.

60


Ah! how the scene, the woodland scent,
    Recalls the vanished grace
Of the past sunset glow, that still
    Lives in this haunted place!

Not many words, that eventide,

65

    There passed between us twain;
Yet such an hour can never more
    Come back to me again.

He asked if I could leave my home
    With him to cross the sea,

70

And strangely cold for lover bold
    His manner seemed to me!

I knew not then how surface calm
    A glowing heart may hide;
His words seemed weak true love to speak,

75

    Or please my maiden pride!

They called him rich, and I had said
    My love should ne’er be sold;
My heart was numb, my lips seemed dumb,
    And words cam few and cold.

80


Scarce can I tell what words were said;
    He bowed a grave assent,
And silently across the bay
    With heavy hearts we went. [Page 118]

The lake, as now, lay glassy calm,

85

    Soft in the evening light;
In pain and pride I turned to hide
    The tears that dimmed my sight.

I hoped, in vain, that he would speak
    Again, but one word more;

90

But nought was said, the moment fled;
    We parted on the shore!

Such things no doubt must always be;
    Yet still returns again
The thought how—different life had been

95

    Had he but spoken then!

He bade us all calm good-bye—
    The while I stood apart,—
With eyes averted, pressed my hand,
    Nor saw the vain tears start.

100

No doubt he has forgotten long
    The love he uttered then;
But here that hour resumes its power
    And breaths for me again!

       *       *       *       *       *    

But here come little Alice,
105

    And someone by her side,
Whose words I know have waked the blush
    She vainly tries to hide.

No more of dreaming now for me;
    Such fancies all are past;

110

Yet I would pray that many a day
    Her happy dream may last.

And yet perchance the love that here
    Its fuller growth may miss
Shall find new spring and blossoming

115

    In happier clime than this! [Page 119]

 


 

LEFT BEHIND.


THE sun rode down the glowing west,
    Turning to wine the stream below;
The woods in green and gold were dressed;
    The parting sun was loth to go!

And ere he went he pondered long

5

    The witching beauty of the scene:
How sweet the robin’s evensong,
    How fair the woods in living green.

Yet ceased the robin’s song full soon,
    The rose-flushed stream grew dull and gray;

10

And, dark beneath the rising moon,
    All colourless the greenwood lay.

The sun rode on and never knew
    The short-lived loveliness was gone;
He mourned the bright enchanting view—

15

    It could not live—his simile withdrawn!

Without him, all the brightness fled,
    For he it was who made it fair;
Love’s light removed, all Nature—dead,
    Must sink to chaos and despair!

20

 


 

THE ROYAL FUNERAL.

JANUARY, 1891.


     ‘The Princess of Wales remained looking mournfully at the coffin of her beloved son for some time after the service was ended.’


SADLY the old flag droops its crimson fold
    O’er all the lands that own our Empire’s sway;
Millions of hearts one common sorrow holds
    About the bier they carry forth to-day! [Page 120]

Death claims a nation’s hope—an Empire’s heir,

5

    The firstborn son—a loving mother’s pride,
An aged Queen’s young bud of promise fair,
    The cherished darling of his promised bride!

Slowly the sad procession winds its way
    Through sorrowing crowds to England’s royal tomb;

10

All the bright visions of the bridal day
    Are quenched in darkness and a nation’s gloom.

O death and sorrow! conquerors of kings!
    Nought that is earthly can resist your sway;
Yet, through the gloom, one balm your presence brings,

15

    The tender touch of human sympathy!

The mother weeping o’er her firstborn’s bier,
    The maiden’s tears that o’er her lover fall,
The grief of age that mourns a child so dear
    Are one in cottage and in royal hall!

20


From east to west, wherever true hearts beat
    Through the wide realm that knows no set of sun;
About that flag-draped bier to-day they meet,
    And multitudes of pulses throb as one!

O wondrous bond of sympathy divine,

25

    Linking our hearts with unseen powers above—
We hail you, ’mid our sorrow, as the sign
    That Death itself can never conquer Love!

 


 

THE SILENT HOUR.


WHEN the twilight’s brooding shadow
Spreads o’er hill and stream and meadow,
    Comes a season set apart;
From the din of earthly noises,
From the hum of human voices,

5

Hushed and still, the shadowy twilight
    Soothes the hot and restless heart! [Page 121]

For the quite stays the aching
Earth’s unrest is ever waking,
    With its myriad ills and wrongs;

10

For the silent hour enchanted
Seems by murmurous music haunted,—
Floating through the shadowy twilight,
    Echoes faint of spirit-songs.

And they whisper, Not for ever

15

Are the fretting and the fever,
    Nor eternal, wrong and sin;
And behind the turmoil fleeting
One grand rhythmic measure beating
Pulses through the shadowy twilight

20

    When we let God’s music in!

 


 

AN ADVENT HYMN.


THE Christmas stars shine clear and bright
As on the first glad Christmas night;
But where the gleams of angel wings?
Where the celestial choir that sings
A carol to the listening earth,

5

Glad tidings of that heavenly birth
With which a thousand anthems ring?
And where is He—the Heavenly King?

He cometh still in light of day,
O’er purple hilltops far away;

10

No sudden flash of dazzling light
Darts through the shadows of the night;—
But even while our waiting eyes
Are watching for the glad surprise,
We find that, ere we knew, the day

15

Clear on the hills and valleys lay.

He comes—but not to outward sight,
With herald angels robed in light
And choirs celestial ringing clear;
Yet comes He still, in Christmas cheer, [page 122]

20

In loving thought, in kindly deed,
In blessings shared with others’ need,
In gentle dews of peace and love
That drop in blessing from above—

In humble thoughts of penitence,

25

In comfort known to inward sense,
In consciousness of sin forgiven,
In love—the earnest, here, of heaven;
He comes, though not to outward ken,
To reign a King in hearts of men;

30

In all things pure and just and true,
The Christ to-day is born anew.

And though in human form no more
We see Him as He walked of yore,
At even on the hillside gray,

35

Or in the city’s crowded way,
Still may we see Him, dim or clear;
In every heart that holds him dear,
In every life that owns His sway,
The Life eternal lives to-day!

40


Not only where the minister towers
Rear high their fretted marble flowers
In vaulted aisles, whose echoes long
The chants of ages past prolong,
But ’neath the humblest chapel reared

45

’Mid stumps of virgin forest cleared,
The Babe who in the manger lay
Is near to bless the Christmas Day!

Yet still the waiting Church below
Looks onward to the daybreak’s glow,

50

When all the dim and scattered rays,
United in one lambent blaze,
Shall crown the holy brow that wore
The crown of thorns and anguish sore;
And His own ransomed earth shall ring

55

With anthems to her conquering King! [Page 123]

 


 

BE PATIENT AND ENDURE.


LONG is the toil, and weary is the way,
As up the mountain climb we—day by day;
Still struggling on, while still remoter seems
The purple summit of our longing dreams;
Jagged the stones, and rough the ground we tread,

5

Scarce seem we to progress,—but overhead,
Clearer the sky, the air more sweet and pure:
Be patient, then—be patient and endure!

Heavy the fog through which we grope our way,
Hid are the skies in clouds of ashen-gray;

10

All landmarks blotted out, and nought to show
The way beyond the next step, as we go;
The light is in the clouds, and just before
We see it breaking on the farter shore.
Long may the darkness last, but light is sure:

15

Be patient, then—be patient and endure!

Stormy the passage of the raging main
For the poor bark; how all her timbers strain
To stem the waves that rear their crests, to sweep
The trembling vessel downward, fathoms deep!

20

Yet if she surely hold her course, nor swerves,
While compass guides, and rudder faithful serves,
Though long the struggle, yet the harbour’s sure:
Be patient, then—be patient and endure!

The mountain summit gained, the toil’s forgot

25

In glorious outlook passing human thought;
The fog surmounted, depths unfathomed lie
Beyond remotest stars that gem the sky.
The vessel that so staunchly holds her way
At last casts anchor in a quite bay:

30

To faithful toilers the reward is sure;
It crowneth them who to the end endure! [Page 124]

 


 

THE STAR IN THE WEST.


‘THE world is sad and the year is old,
Life grows dark and faith grows cold;
So whispered at the sunset the chilling blast
Ere the brief December day was past.

But look where shines o’er the cloudy bar

5

The pure bright ray of one silver star!
Bright Hesper-Phosphor, herald of light,
Thou comest to cheer the dark wintry night!

Hesper-Phosphor, herald of day,
Winter and darkness shall pass away;

10

The sun turns back on his downward course,
And faith wakes fresh from her primal source!

The star that shone in the Syrian night
Shines ever anew with its promise bright
Of a warmer sun and a clearer day,

15

And the birth of a new humanity!

 


 

L’ENVOI.


THERMOMETER down below zero,
    And powdery snow-drifts headed high,
The bitter wind blowing by keenly,
    A gray pall obscuring the sky;
No sign of the gentle spring nearing,

5

    For winter mounts guard o’er the scene,
Save one snowy crocus appearing
    In the window, half shrouded in green.

Oh, welcome! you silver-robed princess,
    Looking out through your guard of green spears;

10

You come with a sweet, hopeful message,
    Like a smile that breaks brightly through tears;
Of such coming incredible wonders
    You tell us in prophecy sweet,
Of pure skies and of soft balmy breezes,

15

    And wonders like you, at our feet; [Page 125]

Of the quickening life that is flowing
    Through the boughs of the bare, budding trees,
Of the leaflets so silently growing
    To dance in the light summer breeze;

20

Like the bright rosy streak of the morning
    In silence a poem you sing,
Of the miracle yearly returning—
    The wonderful birth of the spring!

 


 

EASTER LILIES.


OH, where are the sweet white lilies
    That grew by the garden wall?
We wanted them for Easter,
    But there is not one at all!

Down on the bare brown garden

5

    Their roots lie hidden deep,
And the life is pulsing through them
    Although they seem to sleep;

And the gardener’s eye can see them—
    Those germs that hidden lie—

10

Shine in the stately beauty
    That shall clothe them by-and-by!

Even so, in our hearts are growing
    The lilies the Lord loves best:
The faith, the hope, the patience

15

    He planted in the breast.

Not yet is their rich full blossom,
    But He sees their coming prime
As they shall smile to met Him
    In earth’s glad Easter time!

20


The love that striveth towards Him
    Through earthly gloom and chill;
The humble sweet obedience
    Through darkness following still— [Page 126]

These are the Easter lilies,

25

    Precious and fair and sweet,
We may bring the risen Master
    And lay at His blessèd feet!

 


 

FOR THE TERCENENARY OF THE DEATH OF
JOHN KNOX.


SOUND high a hymn of grateful praise o’er Scotland’s shores to-         day;
Let ancient towns with battered walls and heath-clad mountains             gray,
And purple moors and dungeon floors by Scotland’s martyrs trod,
Give back an echo to the strain of grateful praise to God!

And let the notes an echo wake from our Canadian strand,

5

For Scotsmen love their native home in their adopted land,
Where many a settler’s cabin walls, far in the forest wild,
Have echoed to the Scottish psalm the mother taught her child.

Methinks, behind the gathered shades of these three hundred             years
We see a dark and troubled time of struggling hopes and fears,

10

When tumults raged, and brothers’ hands were dyed with crimson         strains,
And men, long fettered, woke at last to break away their chains.

Ah! brave young Patrick Hamilton, thy martyr-fires burn bright,
Thou first of Scotland’s witnesses, thou noble hero-knight!
And those blue wreaths that curled that day above thy murdered

15
        youth
Stirred up in Scotland many a soul to battle for the truth.
[Page 127]


Full soon that truth was spread abroad in Scotland far and wide,
Nor knightly sword nor priestly ban could stem the rising tide;
In vain the lurid flames delight proud Beatoun’s savage eyes,
If, for a Wishart done to death, God bids a Knox arise!
20

The lion-heart, the daring hand, the glance so keen and true,
The soul on fire with holy zeal, the will to dare and do,
The skill and wisdom to design—the boldness to perform—
A worthy pilot Scotland found to guide her through the storm!

It was no idle waking dream that cheered his soul that day,

25

When from the galley-deck he saw St. Andrew’s steeples gray,
And seemed to hear the welcome words borne from the well-                 known shore:
‘Here, where thou first didst preach the Word, thy voice shall                 sound once more.’

Full soon the presage was fulfilled, and tyranny’s dark night
Had vanished as the darkness flies before the dawning light;

30

For God was with His faithful ones, and His almighty hand
Broke priestly chains and dungeon bars o’er all the ransomed             land.

And we to whom this blessing comes through long succeeding             years,—
The faith our fathers won and kept through warfare, blood and             tears,
Still let us firmly guard its truth and spread its light abroad,

35

Till over every darkened land is shed the light of God. [Page 128]

 


 

THE GRAVE OF ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWING.


THE stately City of the Flowers keeps not her Dante’s grave;
The way-worn exile sleeps not in the land he toiled to save;
Yet falls her campanile’s shade on many a sacred tomb,
Dear to the hearts of other lands, —shrined in her cypress gloom.
And one most dear to English hearts should be to Florence dear;

5

If she must out of England sleep, then happiest sleeps she here!
And well may Florence of her soil give her so small a part;—
With myrtle wreathe her resting-place, o’er which the olives wave,
While balmiest breezes whisper low about that Tuscan grave!

She grew—a fair young girl—amid the English daisies springing,

10

And learning from the English larks the secret of their singing;
So sweet and bird-like were her notes, so rich and full their tone,
As she had caught their music up, and kept it for her own,
Twining, amid the songs she sang, fair flowers of English                     growing,
And murmurous sounds of rustling woods and streamlets softly    

15

        flowing,
Drawing though-treasures from old stores embalmed in rhythmic         Greek,
While the ‘old poetic mountains’ sent their breezes to her cheek.         [Page 129]
But sadder notes came all too soon to mingle with the strain;
Too soon the fine-strung lyre must feel the thrill of grief and pain!
Though cold and cruel seemed the wave that, one fair summer    

20

        day,
Flowed o’er the brightness of her life, and stole its joy away,
Yet not in vain the sorrow fell, for nobler work was hers
Than light, unruffled heart could meet, that nought but pleasure             stirs.
The harp that breathes the highest notes must be most tensely             strung,
The voice by suffering attuned ere noblest songs be sung;

25

So the shadow of thick darkness, that only passed away
Before the clear and shining light that heralds perfect day,
Woke deeper chords to thrilling life, to nobler thought the mind,
And stirred a subtler melody, more rich and unconfined;
And sorrow, conquered, left the soul, by suffering grown more    

30

        strong,
To seize the scattered threads of thought and bind them up in             song;—
To give a voice to noble dreams, to high heroic feeling;—
To point to heights yet unattained, their glories veiled revealing;—
To strike and scathe with burning words the evils of her time;—
To sing a Miserere sad o’er human woe and crime;

35

Or, changing to a happier theme, to love unselfish, pure,
To teach that, like its heavenly source, it must for aye endure;—
To whisper low to heavy hearts, to eyes half dimmed with tears,
To spirits sinking wearily ’neath sorrow-laden years,
The words of love and comfort sweet that to her heart were            

40

        spoken—
‘Songs given softly in the night’ to heal a spirit broken,
And guide hearts lying desolate, from anguish unavailing,
To love divine and fathomless, undying and unfailing! [Page 130]

And so her life flowed gently on, its heaven-taught task fulfilling,
Like cadence of some noble song, our hearts with music thrilling,

45

And love flowed softly through the strain ere yet its course was             run,
And blent in sweetest unison two poet-hearts in one;
And rosy childhood stirred new depths within the mother’s                     breast—
When baby-smiles gave back her own, perchance, most truly                 blest—
While wondering eyes looked into hers, new founts, of thought    

50

        unsealing,
And young life opened to her gaze, new mysteries revealing!

And still that harp of sweetest tone in full, sweet music rang,
Whether of English uplands fair or hedgerows green, she sang,
Or of the misty olive-woods, the bright ethereal sky
That arches her adopted land, her own loved Italy.

55

She communed with the mighty shades of that enchanted strand,
And cheered its gallant sons to win the freedom of their land.
The conflict thrilled her pulses through with keenest sympathy;
She shared the anguish of the bound, the triumph of the free;
And when she saw her Italy attain its glad release,

60

She left the storm-tossed earth, to dwell in never-ending peace!

Farewell, thou poet-soul! set free to sing a nobler strain!
We could not wish the warbler pent within the cage again.
So mourn we not for thy release from earthly pain and sadness,
To chant in sweeter, clearer notes of undisturbèd gladness,                 [Page 131]

65

To drink new truth with raptured soul to see with vision clear
The key to many a mystery that oft perplexed thee here;
To bind the broken links of earth in constancy undying,
To bathe in brimming tides of love most fully satisfying;
To tune thy harp to loftier songs, with more unwavering flight,

70

Since faith, in full fruition lost, has given place to sight.
Yes, thou hast won, at last, the boon desired so ardently;
God ‘giveth His beloved sleep,’ and He hath given it thee!

And thy reveillé glad shall be, when endless day is breaking,
The songs of loved ones missed awhile, whose voices greet thy

75

        waking;
And, sweet and low, one voice Divine in all that raptured meeting
Shall be to thine eternal rest thy best and dearest greeting!

 


 

ROBERT BROWNING DEAD.


NOT  dead— not dead! ’tis but the quiet sleep
    She sang of—she, his own,
Whose tender music in our hearts we keep,
    Blent with his clear, strong tone—

‘The sleep He giveth unto His belovèd,’

5

    Rest after lonely toil—
Reunion after love so long removed—
    One grave in Tuscan soil.*

And what beyond?  Nay, but we may not dare
    To follow on their way

10

Twin souls that blossom into radiance rare
    In light of perfect day. [Page 132]

But he, the seer, whose eye hath never lost
    The light through darkest cloud,
Who in a faithless age, by conflict tossed,

15

    Could sing his faith aloud;—

Who held so firm the thread of higher life
    That but beginneth here;
Who heard the heavenly music through the strife,
    And caught its cadence clear;—

20


Who gave it back to us as best he could;
    Who sang so nobly this,—
That service ever shall be highest good,
    And love the truest bliss—

He is not dead, for such can never die;

25

    We miss him here a space;
And yet, methinks, in yonder Christmas sky
    His voice hath found its place!

 

* This arrangement, at first expected, was eventually changed. [back]

 


 

TO JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER.

(Suggested by his poem on Burns.)


OH, poet, who so well hast worn
    The white flower of a blameless life,—
Hast all unstained thy laurels borne
    And the soil of earthly strife,

’Tis well, that, from thy vantage-post

5

    Thou canst look down with loving truth
On thy less happy brother, tossed
    By tempest-tides of stormy youth!—

Thou who hast shown by voice and tread
    The beauty of the upward way

10

That leads through life to God o’erhead,
    With faith and love for staff and stay;

Yet, with the larger charity
    That fills the poet’s heart and brain,
Canst see with tender sympathy

15

    The genius dimmed by soil and stain;—[Page 133]

Canst see the bitterness and pain
    Beneath the outward dark defeat;—
Canst see the precious golden grain
    Amid the tares that choke the wheat.

20


So in thy clearer judgement live
    The vision of the nobler man
To whom his grateful country gives
    A trade homage—all she can—

Because, ’mid every jarring tone

25

    That marred the music of his song,
One noble love still held its own
    Amid the bitter sense of wrong,—

The love for Scotia’s ‘bonnie braes’
    That held his heart in golden chains;

30

Now close to hers—his dearest praise—
    She holds his sweet, undying strains!

So with a fuller, clearer sight,
    Reversing judgement harsh and hard,
She hails thy tribute with delight

35

     To Scotia’s best-belovèd bard!

 


 

CHARLES KINGSLEY.


A SINGER who sang to a noble strain,
    A worker who wrought for all noble aims,
Winning a place in the golden chain
    Of England’s sacred, immortal names—
He has passed away to the blissful rest

5

Which the hardest toilers shall prize the best.

But his mellow richness of English speech,
    The musical rhythm of his simple song,
The noble lessons he loved to teach,
    His love of right, and his hate of wrong—

10

These are not gone, but shall live, enwrought
With the fibres of England’s soul and thought. [Page 134]

He brought to the dwellers in smoky towns
    The fragrance of country lanes and leas,
The salt sea-breath of the breezy downs,

15

    Fair dreams of Southern woods and seas,—
Of island lagoons, where the groves of palm
Lie mirrored clear in the waveless calm.

But, better still, to the toiling crowd,
    By furnace-fires, amid dizzy wheels,

20

He brought the glad message of brotherhood
    That the blest evangel of Christ reveals:
That not to be crushed by the rich man’s pride
Were those He loved, and for whom He died!

Yet not with the violence of lawless force,

25

    Of reckless mob, or with sword in hand,
Would he set men free;— ’twas the higher source
    Of Christian love should redeem the land,
And, linking true men o whate’er estate
In union of hearts, make his England great!

30


Be the dream fulfilled in the noble age
    That a nobler manhood shall grandly mould,
While his heroes win in the war they wage
    With oppression of class and lust of gold;—
So his truest monument shall rise

35

In England’s ennobled destines!

 


 

JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER.
    
Gone beyond the veil, September, 1892.


A TRANQUIL beauty brooded o’er the day,
    Fairer than summer at its midmost prime,
So softly bright the golden sunshine lay
    In deep content of happy harvest-time.
And looking from the gray, pine-crested height,

5

    In quiet, thoughtful mood, we spoke of thee,
Thy rippling verse, thy clear prophetic sight,
    Thy crystal purity. [Page 135]

And then came one who mournful tidings bore—
    For sorrow’s steeds fly swiftly on their way—

10

Who told us that on earth thou wert no more.
    Then stole a shadow o’er the autumn day;
Nor sky nor shore nor river seemed so fair
    Now thou wert gone, who loved all Nature well;
Even the gray squirrel, shyly chattering there,

15

    Seemed the sad news to tell!

Oh, thou who ever didst, through Nature’s face,
    Look inwards to the over-brooding Love;
Who, vainly straining human sight to trace
    The life unseen, the thought all thoughts above,

20

Didst meekly fold thy hands, and sweetly trust
    The love thy heart felt—though it could not see;—
Now thy pure soul is freed from earthly dust,
    We scarce may mourn for thee!

Fain would we trace thy flight to realms unseen,

25

    Fain would we catch one lingering note from far.
In vain, in vain!  We know what thou hast been,
    And fair thy memory shines, as evening star.
Fain would we feel thy spirit touch our own,
    Anointing our dim eyes to vision plain;

30

Yet, though the earth seems poorer—thou being gone,
    We may not grudge thy gain!

And as the dying day crimson glow
    Lays on the placid stream its evening kiss,
It seems to fit thy closing life below,

35

    Thine entrance into purer life than this.
We feel thy spirit’s presence with us still,
    Now thou hast gained a length thy longed-for rest;
And love Divine, that waits our hearts to fill,
    Still whispers, ‘This is best!’

40


Through ‘the great silence’ still thy voice we hear,
    Lifting our hearts all earthly change above;
Still in life’s stress and pain we hold most dear
    Thy tones divine of faith and hope and love. [Page 136]
And so we stand beside the ‘silent sea,’

45

    O’er which thine echoes seem to linger long,
And humbly thank Infinite Love for thee,
    Thy service and thy song!

 


 

WHITTIER’S ‘HOLY FLOWERS.’

A REMINISCENCE.

     It was a saying of Whittier’s that the lily of the valley is the holiest flower that blooms’


OH, incense-breathing lily-bells,
How, from your alabaster urns,
The very breath of spring returns!
Up from each tiny vase it wells,
To charm us with its mystic spells.

5

Though cold and bleak the April day,
It seems as though the breeze of May
Were floating soft through woodland dells.

We catch the odours, sweet and shy,
Of violets and bursting leaves,

10

Whose tender tracery interweaves
A misty web against the sky.
Across the lift the swallows fly;
The blue-bird’s music mingles clear
With the first cadence of the year—

15

The robin’s plaintive melody!

But sweeter memories they bring—
The memories of a day in June,
When dreams and Nature seemed in tune,
And summer kept a thought of spring;

20

For your pure bells, yet blossoming,
Shed fragrance through a quite room,
To whose still calm your ‘holy bloom’
Seemed the last crowning grace to bring.

Well might your stainless bloom belong

25

To him who wrought his music there, [Page 137]
Who sang of all things bright and fair,
Of love eternal, pure and strong,
Of right, that yet must conquer wrong,
Enthroned for evermore! So ye

30

Shall ever speak of him to me,
The Galahad of love and song!

 


 

OUR DEPARTED LAUREATE.


OH, bard, beloved of all, whose glorious lyre
    To such sweet harmony was ever strung,
That scarce we stopped to mark the heart of fire
    Beneath the music of thy silver tongue,
Thou, ’mid th’ immortals set by noble song,

5

Whose echoes coming centuries shall prolong.
Strange seems it now to us that thou hast said,
    In wistful thought of death’s eclipse,
    In shrinking dread of envious lips,
‘What will they say of me when I am dead?’

10


What say we of thee now?—That never song
    More tuneful rang from Britain’s cliff-bound coast,
That thou hast waked from sleep—forgotten long,
    Our island story—legends almost lost!
For us still smiles Avillon’s charmèd vale,

15

For us still breathe the knights of Holy Grail:
These still abide with us, though thou art fled;
    Though thou for aye hast ‘crossed the bar,’
    Thy lingering echoes with us are.
Thus do we speak of thee now thou art dead!

20


What say we of thee now? That Nature knew
    No warmer lover—clearer eye to trace
Her cheerful moods—and read with vision true
    The meanings hidden ’neath her outward face;
No finer soul could life’s long mystery feel,

25

No heart beat truer to his country’s weal;  [Page 138]
Thine organ tones from soul to soul shall spread!
    What living bard of all thy race
    Can fitly fill thine empty place?
Thus do we speak of thee now thou art dead!

30

 


 

IMMANUEL.


THE rustle of the branches that, low-bending,
    Weave their soft wavering shadows o’er the grass,
The play of light and shade, so subtly blending,
    The cloudlets scatter as they lightly pass;

The sweet vague secrets that the woodland keepeth,

5

    The solemn mystery of its light and shade,
Here scarce a prisoned ray of sunlight creepeth,
    While there in sunshine glows as sunny glade;

The sparkling ripples of the wide blue river,
    The sunset hues that tint its placid breast,

10

The shadowy lines that on its bosom quiver
    In murmuring cadence, lulling us to rest;

The tender roseate clouds that float at even
    Above, or in the mirrored sky below,
As fire with glass commingled—earth with heaven

15

    Transfused into one soft ethereal glow;—

Are they not all His raiment—to our senses,
    Revealing Him whom eye may ne’er behold,
Touching our hearts as subtle evidences
    That here we clasp His venture’s outer fold?

20


The smiles that flit o’er dear familiar faces,
    The looks of love that light our onward way—
All human loves—are they not but the traces
    Of Love that knows no shadow of decay?

And read we not His love for us, His creatures

25

    In completeness of the ordered whole,
In which we seem to know the heart and features
    Of Him who is its Center and its Soul? [Page 139]

 


 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

(Suggested by two poems of Matthew Arnold.)


NIGH nineteen hundred years ago
    The Christmas stars looked down
On a young mother and her Child
    In David’s ancient town;

And with deep eyes of reverent love

5

    Upon her Babe she smiled,
While humble men in simple faith
    Adored the wondrous Child.

‘Goodwill to men!’—the angels’ song
    Beneath the Syrian sky

10

Woke music out of human hearts
    That nevermore shall die.

‘Goodwill to men!’ The life that then
    In Syrian valleys grew,
Bore balm for human sin and pain,

15

    And made all old things new!

Old half-formed thoughts, old yearning cries,
    Old hopes, in sadness dumb,
Old myths—unconscious prophecies
    Of a bright day to come;

20


Dreams of a God to earth come down
    All evil to destroy,
A great Redeemer who should fill
    A waiting world with joy—

All found in Him the meaning sweet

25

    Hid  ’neath their misty veil;
The gods of Hellas at His feet
    Laid down their garlands pale.

Valhalla’s glories faded fast
    Before the conquering Child,

30

Nor helm nor shield could long resist
    That beauty undefiled. [Page 140]

To Him the pomp of court and hall
    Professed allegiance bring.
Before Him mailèd warriors fall,

35

    To hail Him Lord and King.

And gentle thoughts spring up like flowers
    Where’er He sets His feet;
In peasant huts and feudal towers
    Grow household graces sweet.

40


What thought he treads the Syrian soil
    No more in human guise,
To heal the sick, the lame, the blind,
    And bid the dead arise;—

And some for Him have turned away,

45

    And say—‘The Christ is dead’;—
A myriad voices answer—‘Nay!
    He is “the Living Bread”!’

The sense of His dear love to-day
    Makes many an eye grow dim;

50

He walks abroad where’er a heart
    Has made a place for Him.

Sill comes He to the poor man’s door,
    His scanty crust to bless,
The workhouse pauper knows Him near

55

    To cheer her loneliness!

The dying child still yields its breath
    To Him, and smiles to go;
The strong man, trusting Him in death,
    No chilling fear may know.

60


Alike to cottage and to throne
    He comes; where true hearts wait
He crowneth joy, and still the moan
    Of lives left desolate.

His love can cheer on arid shore

65

    Parched by the simoon’s breath;
The isles of ocean know His power
    To bless the martyr’s death! [Page 141]

To earth’s oppressed and suffering lands
    His cross breathes hope to-day;

70

Slaves raise Him to their suppliant hands—
    He casts their chains away!

Wherever struggling millions turn
    To cradle or to cross,
His love makes glad the hearts that mourn,

75

    And turns to gain their loss.

Faith is not dead; her victories
    Are fresh and living still;
Mountains of error roll away,
    His promise to fulfil.

80


And though His Church but ill maintains
    The trust He left to her,
He comes with life to fill her veins,
    Her pulse to rouse and stir.

Nor only storied panes are bright

85

    With that pure radiancy,
The common air has caught the light
    That woke in Galilee!

The angles’ music, onward borne,
    Earth’s toiling masses know;

90

Without it, countless lives must  mourn
    Unfathomable woe!

And still, where stars of Christmas burn,
    Comes the new Christmas birth,
Fresh hopes of joy and peace return     

95

    To all the waiting earth.

For still the call the rich may hear,
    The poor man’s lot to bless;
At His behest, the happy cheer
    The widow’s sore distress.

100


And every Christmas morn that gleams
    Upon the wintry year
Wakes millions from their careless dreams
    The joyous song to hear; [Page 142]

The presage of the glorious day

105

    Creation waits in pain,
When He who in the manger lay
    Shall come a King to reign!

 


 

IN MEMORIAM.

PROFESSOR J. H MACKERRAS.*

‘A man greatly beloved.’


LONG had we trembled for the life
    That to our prayers was given,
And looked with reverence on a face
    Touched with the glow of heaven.

The radiance of the better land

5

    In those clear eyes was shining;
So pure the spirit’s flame shone through
    The fragile form enshrining !

We sought to cheer foreboding hearts
    With hopes to fears replying;

10

For, listening to those cheery tones,
    We could not think him dying!

And so, as sudden came the end,
    As dreary seems the sorrow,
As though strong health had promised fair

15

    For many a bright to-morrow,

We little dreamed the parting year,
    With solemn, still transition,
Should bear that long familiar face
    Forever from our vision.

20


And tears unbidden have their way
    From eyes unused to weeping;
For life looks darker for the loss
    Of him—not dead, but sleeping! [Page 143]

And yet it seems to us who mourn,

25

    Even to the heaviest-hearted,
That set to music is the life
    Of him who hath departed;—

The music of a noble heart
    That beat, with quick vibration,

30

To every true and earnest call
    To serve its generation;

With noble zeal that knew no stint,
    With free, ungrudging labour,
Glad, while life lasted, to be spent

35

    For God and for his neighbour!

We scarce may mourn the shortened years,
    So full of truest living;
We may not grudge the health and strength
    He gave with ‘cheerful giving.’

40


True life runs not by earthly suns,
    But by the spirit’s growing,
And his are the eternal years
    Whence endless life is flowing!

One of God’s noble ones is gone,

45

    Yet hope smiles through our sorrow;
The ‘Resurrection and the Life’
    Points to a glorious morrow.

And as we feel, with clearer sense,
    That Spirit brooding o’er us,

50

We fain would follow in the path
    Our friend had trod before us—

That life divine, whose endless joy
    Transcends our poor expressing;
The ‘walk with God’—he knoweth now,

55

    The fulness of its blessing! [Page 144]

* Professor of Greek in Queen’s University, Kingston. [back]

 


 

IN VAIN.


SOME day, perchance, in future years,            
    When long and green the grass is growing
Above those eyes, whence now the tears
    Well up,—too ready in their flowing—

Your own may fill, as memory, stirred,

5

    Recalls old days returning never;
While springs to lip some kindly word
    That must remain unsaid for ever!

The word, the look, with kindness fraught,
    No human heart shall ever rue it;

10

But, left undone, unsaid, the thought
    Will haunt us—why we did not do it ?

The present only is our own;
    The past is gone beyond our fretting.
The future? Ah, it would atone—

15

    Too late for aught but vain regretting!

 


 

‘TENOS, THOU GOOD ONE: A TENDER FAREWELL.’

IN MEMORIAM REV. D.J. MACDONNELL (OF TORONTO).


     The inscription above quoted was found attached to one of the Egyptian tomb portraits, photographs of which were exhibited in Toronto.


THERE comes to us across the long dim ages
    The lingering echo of a last farewell,
And never from the lips of saints or sages
    A purer tribute fell.

‘Farewell, thou good one—now, a farewell tender’—

5

    So runs the legend on that ancient tomb,
Irradiating, with a sudden splendour,
    The dark Egyptian gloom. [Page 145]

And we, still shadowed by the same dread sorrow
    That swallows up all earthly joys in pain,

10

Can scarce do better, yet, than humbly borrow
    The simple, old refrain!

‘Farewell, thou good one!’ to whose human weakness
    Came strength and goodness from their Source Divine,
Illumining with light of love and meekness

15

    That earthly life of thine.

Strong because good—thy spirit, warm and fervent,
    Was fired from heaven, from selfish aims set free;
To His own path the Master called His servant,
    Still whispering, ‘Follow Me.’

20


And thou didst follow gladly where He beckoned;
    No path too rugged for thy willing feet,
No toil too humble; never cost was reckoned;
    Thine offering seemed complete!

Yet with the burdened years it grew completer,

25

    Deeper thy trust—more full and pure thy love;
And, touched with sorrow, still the song grew sweeter,
    More like the choir above!

And now the beauty of that likeness—growing
    Through cloud and sunshine of the fruitful years—

30

The fuller radiance of the spirit glowing
    We clearer see through tears.

Farewell, thou good one—then —a farewell tender,
    Till shadows fade before the morning light,
Touched with the pathos of a sunset splendour,

35

    Thy memory shall be bright;

Till hope and faith are lost in full fruition,
    And we, with thee, all earthly mists above,
Shall clearer see, in ‘beatific vision,’
    The truth—that ‘God is love!’ [Page146]

40

 


 

THE AFTER-GLOW.

Ad superos.


THE sun behind his purple bars
    Passed with the bright October day,
That now, beneath the glittering stars,
    Must live alone in memory.
But on the cloudy retinue

5

    That thronged to catch his parting smile,
A beam of light he backward threw,
    That made them glorious for awhile.

So, poets, who have shed so long
    About our age your nobler light,

10

Ere silence quench your lingering song,
    Ere you have left us to the night—
Throw back, we pray, a parting ray
    On those who follow as you go,
That, when the sun has passed away,

15

    We still may keep the after-glow!

 


 

BON VOYAGE!


’MID winds so chill and skies so gray,
And boughs so bare of birds to say
    A word of spring—’tis hard to sing
A note to cheer you on your way.

Yet, after all, what words can vie

5

With the old, simple, sweet ‘Good-bye,’
    That means so much our hearts to touch,
And yet is said so carelessly?

He who is near, whoe’er be far,
’Neath Southern cross or Polar star,

10

    ’Mid trackless seas, or tropic tress,
Be with you whersoe’er you are: [Page 147]

In Southern ocean’s clustered isles,
Round which the blue Pacific smiles;
    At gates of day in far Cathay—

15

Through all the journey’s countless miles.

With you upon your wandering way,
With the beloved ones who stay
    ’Mid home’s dear walls or college halls,
With all, until the meeting day!

20


So fitly o’er the silent throng
Float those sweet notes of solemn song,
    Filling the ear with truest cheer
For partings, be they short or long.

God be with you till we shall meet

25

Again! and may His comfort sweet
    Abide with you, your wanderings through,
Until life’s journey be complete!

 


 

THE SOWER.


To sow the precious seed with tears,
Speak truth to half-reluctant ears,
To warn, to counsel, watch, and pray,
Yet mark no fruit from day to day—

Is this  the task the Master still

5

Appoints to those who delve and till
His earthly field from day to day,
Half hopeless while they work and pray?

Yes; for His laws are ever one
In all His realm beneath the sun.

10

Long seems it ere the blade appear
That promises the ripened ear.

All through the dreary winter snows
The swelling bud in silence grows
That shall unfold in vernal air

15

Its fresh young leaves and blossoms fair. [Page 148]

So is it, in the higher sphere,
Long ere the blade foretell the ear,
And longer ere the harvest wain
Shall garner in the golden grain.

20


Have patience, then! His years are long;
Let quiet waiting keep thee strong;
No precious seed in vain is cast,
And thou shalt reap in joy at last!

 


 

AT LAST.


THERE is no wrong but growing years shall right it
    In God’s eternal reign;
There is no evil seen but hath to fight it
    An unseen angel-train.

To all who strive for good—the crow is given;

5

    So patience, and endure:
To those who fight—for them the hosts of heaven
    Shall make the victory sure!

What though the prophet hath his day of sorrow,
    And suffer for awhile?

10

God’s host is there, and His eternal morrow
    Is lighted with His smile.

Then let us hope and pray, and love and labour,
    Cheered by that promise bright,
Trusting through darkness, working for our neighbour—

15

    For God and for the right!

 


 

A NEW YEAR’S WISH.

‘To know the love of Christ, that passeth knowledge.


To know by surest inner sight
    The love that ‘passeth being known’;
To know that this, the Infinite,
    Is yet for evermore our own: [Page 149]

As gentle as the falling dew,

5

    Stronger than mightiest waves are strong,
New, as each opening day is new
    Old as the eternal years are long!

Wider that heaven’s blue above
    The stars that most remotely shine;

10

Nearer than human looks of love
    That are but gleams of the Divine.

To know that love, most tender, true,
    Closer than earthly ties most dear—
This be the blessing ever new

15

    To gladden this and every year.

 


 

IN MEMORIAM.

H.W.L.,* A NOBLE TEACHER.


’Tis once again the Eastertide,
    So bright, so full of summer calm;
So fair the quiet waters glide,
    The air so full of fragrant balm,
That earth and sky and crystal tide

5

    Seem chanting sweet an Easter psalm;
So, to her risen Saviour-King,
Methinks—a ransomed earth might sing.

How brightly in the sacred chain
    Of thoughts that with the season blend

10

Thy well-known image shines again
    In memory’s light, belovèd friend!
Though now we seek thy smile in vain,
    Our converse hath not here its end;
So linked art thou with this blest day

15

Thou scarcely seemest passed away!

Thine Easter song shall sweetly flow
    Unmingled now with loss or pain, [Page 150]
And we in shadow here below
    Can almost hear the joyous strain;

20

For ‘Worthy is the Lamb,’ we know,
    Is evermore the glad refrain;
How, in the sunshine of His grace,
Must thou rejoice to see His face!

We still must keep the feast below,

25

    Partake the sacramental wine;
Thou needest no memorials now
    In presence of the Living Vine.
Yet, though our tears will have their flow
    We would not at thy gain repine;

30

For our communion still shall be
With thee through Christ—in Him with Thee!

We know not what new realms of thought
    Have opened to thine eager gaze;
We know not how thy soul is taught

35

    The knowledge of God’s hidden ways.
How problems once with mystery fraught
    Now fill thy heart with grateful praise,
While we must wander still and wait
In the dim light without the gate!

40


But well we know thy longing heart
    Hath seen fulfilled its sweetest dreams;
Hath found its ever-blessèd part
    In that deep love whose gladsome beams
It sought afar—as seeks the hart,

45

    Athirst, the crystal-flowing streams,
Now, bathing in that glorious tide,
At last, at last—is satisfied!

Well—though we cannot grasp the bliss
    That fills thy cup of gladness there,

50

Nor know what we shall gain or miss
    In life that tends—we know not where,
We may go forward, knowing this—
    Who cared for thee for us will care— [Page 151]
And, in the ‘many mansions,’ we

55

At last shall share thy rest with thee.

But while on earth shall lie our lot,
    We cherish still the thought of thee;
The living lesson thou hast taught
    Of faith and hope and charity.

60

The life with patient labour fraught,
    From self and selfish aims set free;
A power our slower hearts to move,
To follow in thy path of love!

We thank God for thy life below,

65

    We thank Him for the quiet rest
Of which such toilers only know
    The sweetness, when at length possessed.
The words that here thou lovedst so,
    In whose fulfilment thou art blest,

70

Those words of comfort, still and deep,
We softly murmur while we weep:
‘He giveth His beloved sleep!’

 

* Hannah W. Lyman, first Principle of Vassar college, New York State, and previously an esteemed teacher in Montreal, Canada. [back]

 


 

 

‘WHO SHALL ROLL AWAY THE STONE?’


    IN silence of the morning gray,
    Ere one pale streak foretold the day,
To the still garden and the tomb
    The mourning women took their way,
Scarcely discerning ’mid the gloom

5

    The cave; and—‘Who shall roll away
    The stone?’ ask wistfully.

    The stone was gone, the open grave
    Was empty!  He who came to save
Had risen, as Himself had said,

10

    To reign, the Lord of life and light,
And there, to soothe their grief and dread,
    Behold! an angel robed in white
    To cheer their tear-dimmed sight. [Page 152]

    So, often, on our hearts we bear

15

    The stony weight of dull despair;
Still seems the Christ to fail and die,
    And Hope to hide her cheering ray,
Till by the grave we mournful cry,
    ‘The stone! oh, who shall roll away

20

    The bar that blocks our way?’

    Until the Presence by our side
    Our half-closed eyes hath opened wide
And shown us He is with us still;
    So they who labour day by day,

25

Their heaven-sent mission to fulfil,
    Shall know in Him their strength and stay—
    All barriers rolled away!

 


 

THE SPRING IN THE WILDERNESS.


BRIGHT broke the rosy dawn o’er Edom’s hills,
And, like a fairy shower, the sunbeams fell
On leaf and flower, all diamonded with dew;—
Glistening upon the tendrils of the vine,
And, glancing through the spreading cedar’s shade,

5

Where coo the turtle-doves at early dawn.
They glimmered through the silent, shadowy grove
Of terebinths, by Abraham’s dwelling-place—
A living temple for the living God—
Columned and arched with giant-spreading boughs,

10

Its canopy green leaves and azure sky.
Close by it, on a fair and fertile glade,
In long array of tents, the patriarch dwelt,
With all the men and maidens of his house,
And wealth of flocks, and lowing herds of kine.

15

Gaily the early birds were carolling
Their morning songs beneath a sky serene;
All sights and sounds with summer gladness gay,
Save where, with lingering foot and backward glance—
Unwilling outcasts from that peaceful home—

20

Wandered a weeping mother and her child. [Page 153]
Her sunburnt brow and dark, soft drooping eye
Betrayed her birthplace, where the fruitful Nile
Floods arid Egypt with his yearly tides;—
A slave bestowed by Egypt’s royal lord

25

Upon the Hebrew stranger’s stately wife,
Faring with him through the mysterious land
Where Isis rules supreme.  Th’ Egyptian maid
Forgot full soon her country’s idol shrines
That rise in massive grandeur to the sky,

30

And learned to bow the knee with reverent awe
To Abraham’s God, the high and mighty One,
Who dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
And He, who, throned in majesty, looks down
With pitying love on all his feeble folk,

35

Had sent a radiant messenger from heaven
To counsel and to succour the poor slave
When, once before, she wandered o’er the wild,
Seeking a refuge from the upbraiding words
Of her stern mistress.  Then, with docile heart,

40

Yielding obedience to the heavenly Voice,
She turned and bowed her to the yoke once more;
And when her baby, smiling on her breast,
Woke in her heart the joy of motherhood,
She called the child by the great name of Him

45

Who looked upon her in her hour of need.
That child, now grown almost to manhood’s height,
Though not to manhood’s years, strode by her side
As forth she wandered, outcast once again.
For the youth’s lofty mien and haughty ways

50

And flashing eye and bold, defiant glance
Had shown the untamed pride that could not brook
To yield his hopes, as Abraham’s first-born son,
To Sarah’s child; and her maternal fears
Had pressed the patriarch till, with heavy heart,

55

Reluctantly he banished from his home
The weeping mother and her stripling son,
To find another home as best they might!
They wandered towards Beersheba’s wilderness—

60

At first o’er swelling glades and flowery sward,
And where the tamarisk and cypress grew [Page 154]
Beside dry water-courses.  Then the way
More sterile grew and arid, till the grass
Lay dry and parched beneath their weary feet;

65

Low hills of shifting sand their steps delayed
As painfully they climbed them one by one;
The sun blazed hotly in the cloudless sky;
The outline of the distant mountain ridge
Showed dim and wavering through the dazzling glare;

70

No breeze was stirring in the bending broom,
Or rustled through the foliage of the palm.
The silence round them more oppressive grew;
No sound broke on the dreary solitude,
Save the wild bee, on drowsy humming wing,

75

Looking in vain for some stray clover bloom,
Or the ill-omened raven’s distant cry,
That struck strange terror to the mother’s heart;
For they had drained, to the last precious drop,
Their little store of water, and for more

80

They strained their weary, wistful eyes in vain!
And, even while she watched him, Hagar knew
The boy’s young strength was failing.  His dark eye,
So lately sparkling with fresh, vigorous life,
Was dim and drooping now;—the buoyant step

85

Lagged wearily; the glad and silvery tones,
That oft had cheered her heart in many an hour
Of trial, now she longed in vain to hear.
And while she watched him pining, all forgot
Were her own weakness, weariness, and thirst:

90

Of him alone she thought! Her burning lips
Seemed coolness to the burning heart within!
Still with undaunted will, but frame unstrung,
The boy strove on, till Nature’s spring gave way,
And he sank swooning to the burning ground.

95

Full well the mother’s anguished heart foreknew
That death was hovering o’er her fainting boy.
In vain she looked, once more, with frantic gaze:
No fountain gushing from its rocky bed
Poured forth its sparkling tide beside her now!

100

How wistfully her restless thoughts flew back
To the sweet waters of her childhood’s Nile, [Page 155]
That had so often quenched her thirst in youth!
Oh for one draught of that life-giving tide,
To give new vigour to her sinking boy!

105

Alas! it might not be!  Then, with a cry
Exceeding bitter, of despairing grief,
She turned her from the spot where Ishmael lay
Unconscious ’neath the broom-plant’s scanty shade,
That scarcely screened him from the westering sun;

110

Then, bowing low, she closed her burning eyes,
That so she might not see the dying pangs
Of her belovèd one; and bitter thoughts
Trooped one by one across her dreaming soul:—
Sweet memories of peaceful eventides,

115

When she is baby lullaby had sung,
And sat beside him as he sank to sleep
In quiet rest of guileless infancy;
Then visions of his childhood—and her pride
When the brave stripling, foremost in the chase,

120

Bravest in manly sport, still proudly owned
His cherished mother in the Egyptian slave.
What proud, ambitious dreams of future power
And greatness for her darling she had dreamed!
Now all had vanished, and her bleeding heart

125

Could look for nothing but a lonely death
Unseen, unwept, in that dread wilderness!

The thunder-cloud, retiring in the west,
Looks blackest where it meets the golden sky;
The dreary night is darkest ere the dawn

130

Outspreads the rosy mantle of the morn.
Thus often human woe is deepest then,
When—though we know it not—help is at hand!
And even while Hagar sat, absorbed in grief,
A gentle touch aroused her.  With a start

135

She turned, and saw the well-remembered form,
The radiant brow, the gracious, pitying eye,
That once before had blessed her wandering way.
The Angel of the Covenant stood revealed—
He who is ever near in time of need

140

To succour and support the sons of grief. [Page 156]
And as she knelt, imploring Him for aid,
He raised her up with words of gracious cheer,
And led her where a rising slope concealed
A fountain welling clear from pebbly bed.

145

With rushing tears of joy and grateful love,
She turned to thank and bless her gracious Friend,
But He had vanished!
                                   Then, with eager haste,
She ran to fill her bottle, and to pour
The cooling draught o’er Ishmael’s parching lips—

150

Bright pledge of strength restored, of life, of hope
To reach at last a spot where they could rest,
And find new friends, new helpers, and a home,
Knowing that He who hears the young raven’s cry
Will not forsake the human seeker’s need!

155

 


 

‘LORD, THAT I MAY RECEIVE MY SIGHT!’


PRISONED in perpetual night,
Pierced by no sweet ray of light;
Vainly turning vacant eyes
Toward the sunlit summer skies.
Not for him the sunbeams played,

5

Quivering through the cedar shade—
Faces dear and children’s smile,
His dark hours might ne’er beguile!

But he hears the people cry:
‘One called Jesus passeth by—

10

One whose wondrous strength can quell
All the demon powers of hell;
When He speaks, Death quits his prey,
Blind eyes catch the light of day.
Haste to claim that healing might—

15

He can give thee back thy sight.’

Not in vain the suppliant cries:
Towards Him turn those tender eyes;
O’er his dark and bitter lot
Yearns the Master’s pitying thought. [Page 157]

20

Straightaway from the gracious Lord
Speeds the swift-restoring word,
Answering the cry for light:
‘Let me, Lord, receive my sight!’

From the darkness deeper still,

25

Brooding o’er the sin-bound will;
From the blindness that beclouds
Those whom error’s night enshrouds;
From the rising fogs of doubt,
Shutting heaven’s own sunshine out,

30

Clear our vision withy Thy light—
Let us, Lord, receive our sight!

From the scales the light which hide,
Passion—prejudice, and pride—
Darkling films of sin and sense,

35

False mirage of vain pretence,
Making truth as falsehood seem;
From the mote and from the beam
Free our eyes to hold Thy light—
Let us, Lord, receive our sight!

40


So that, with a vision clear
From the mists that blind us here—
Mists from this dark earth that rise,
Casting glamour o’er our eyes—
We may see the narrow way

45

Lighted by a heavenly ray,
Till in God’s own perfect light
We at last receive our sight!

 


 

THE BETTER PART.


BETTER a thousand times the yearning sadness
    That clusters round the thought of the departed,
Of those who shared thy sorrow, made thy gladness,
    And when they left thee—left thee broken-hearted;
Better to bear the weary aching sorrow

5

    That fills the long hours of the sleepless night,
The restless search on every new to-morrow
    For those who nevermore may bless thy sight! [Page 158]

Yes, better all the pain and all the longing,
    The ceaseless craving for the loved and lost,

10

Than doom of feeling, ’mid all blessings thronging,
    Thy cold heart bound in icy chain of frost.
Oh, thou who lovest not, thy doom unfathomed,
    Thou knowest not—’tis well thou mayst not know;—
Yet pray that love Divine thy heart awaken,

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    And save it from this lowest depth of woe!

 


 

A BURNS ANNIVERSARY.

(Lines suggested by a lecture on the poet by Principal Grant at a birthday celebration.)


WITHOUT, the ‘blast of Janwar’ wind’
    Seemed in our ears and hearts to linger,
That on a wintry night lang syne
    Blew hansel in on Scotland’s singer.

Within we listened, all intent

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    On words inspired by tenderest feeling;
The music of the poet’s soul
    Seemed softly o’er our pulses stealing.

We saw the eager ploughman lad,
    As by the banks of Ayr he wandered,

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With burning eyes and swelling heart,
    And first on song and Scotland pondered,

And thought of Bruce and Wallace Wight,
    Who freed his land from tyrant’s fetter,
And longed to make, for her dear sake,

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    A ‘sang’ at least, if nothing better!

We saw him, as from Nature’s hand
    His own drew draughts of joy o’erflowing;—
The plover’s voice, the briar-rose,
    The tiny harebell lightly growing,

20


The blue sky o’er the gowaned lea,
    The foxglove’s bell, the hawthorn blossom
Unsealed the fount of love that rose
    So strongly in his youthful bosom. [Page 159]

The wounded hare that ‘hirpled past,’

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    The ‘tim’rous mousie’s’ ruined dwelling,
The cattle cowering ’neath the blast,
    The dying sheep her sorrows telling—

All touched the heart that kept so strong
    Its kinship with all sentient being,

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And saw in simplest things of life
    The poetry that waits the seeing.

We saw him ’mid the golden grain,
    Conning the oldest of romances,
As, first, his boyish pulses stirred

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    A bonnie lassie’s gentle glances.

We saw the birk and hawthorn shade
    Droop o’er the tiny rippling river,
Where he and his dear Highland maid
    Sobbed their farewell, alas! for ever!

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There be the poet’s wish fulfilled,
    That ‘simmer ever langest tarry;’
For all who love the poet’s song
    Must love his gentle ‘Highland Mary.’

Alas! that other things than these

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    Were written on the later pages,
Which made that tortured soul of his
    A byword to the coming ages.

For many see the marring sins
    They lightly judge on slight acquaintance;

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But not the agony of grief
    That proved his passionate repentance.

’Twas his to feel the anguish keen
    Of noblest powers to mortals given,
While tyrant passions chained to earth

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    The soul that might have soared to heaven.

’Twas his to feel in one poor heart
    Such war of strong conflicting feeling
As makes this life of ours too deep
    A mystery for our unsealing: [Page 160]

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The longing for the nobler course,
    The doing of the thing abhorrent,
Because the lower impulse rose
    Resistless as a mountain torrent—

Resistless to a human will,

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    But not to that which had been given
Had he but grasped the anchor true
    Of ‘correspondence fixed wi’ heaven.’

Ah well! he failed; but let us look
    Through tears upon our sinning brother,

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As thankful that we are not called
    To hold the balance for each other.

And never lips than his have pled
    More tenderly and pitifully
To leave the erring heart with Him

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    Who loves it, and will judge it truly.

And yet, it is not all a dream
    That we have heard a voice from heaven:
‘Behold this heart hath lovèd much,
    And much to it shall be forgiven!’

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A NEW YEAR’S GREETING.


BENEATH the frosty starlight of December,
    The Old Year silently hath sped away,
And solemn chimes are bidding us remember
    That this is New Year’s Day.

Yet as old friends who, faithful and true-hearted,

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    Gather to talk of one just laid to rest,
And cherish looks and tones of the departed,
    And think they loved him best—

So, round the vanished year, its joys and sorrows,
    Our thoughts still linger with a tender clasp;

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Even its saddest hour some sweetness borrows,
    Since wrested from our grasp! [Page 161]

Its springtide promise—months of summer gladness,
    Bright autumn days when Nature’s bounties fall,
And hours when faith and hope have conquered sadness,

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    Perchance the best of all!

And though too conscious sin and failure darken
    The shadowy retrospect our thoughts pursue,
Yet at the Cross our hearts may leave the burden,
    And so begin anew!

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Then turning to the dear familiar pages—
    Dear, although some are blurred with many a tear—
We add them to the roll of by-past ages,
    And say, ‘A glad New Year’

For all we love, yet knowing well that never

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    Since Eden’s gates the angel closed for aye
Could human wishes shut out pain, or sever
    Sorrow from life’s brief day!

Still, hope is ours—man’s dearest gift from heaven—
    And so the old familiar wish is said,

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That sunny days and bright hours may be given;
    Or if, indeed, instead,

Dark ones are sent by wisdom never-failing,
    Our little love and wisdom far above—
His presence may go with them still, unveiling

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    The sunshine of His love!

And still we hope and wait that better season
    That shall ring out the evil of the times;
Not yet, not yet we hear its glad orison—
    Its clear unclouded chimes.

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Still lasts the weary reign of pain and terror,
    Man grinding in the dust his fellow-man,
Upholding in his blindness wrong and error,
    Brute force and tyrant’s ban;

Still wrong, unblushing, sitteth in high places,

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    And falsehood stalks with bold triumphant tread,
And greed and avarice, with brazen faces,
    Would sell the poor for bread! [Page 162]

And still does brother alien stand from brother,
    Though fighting side by side with kindred aims;

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Wounding, misjudging, hindering one another,
    Because of differing names.

Soon may He come to whom the right is given
    To rule the nations, while He makes them free;
Whose reign is light and love, and peace and heaven,

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    Unto the utmost sea!

When shall it dawn, that golden age of gladness,
    The world’s long hope—and it hath waited long—
Ringing out war and discord, sin and sadness,
    In a new Christmas song?

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Perchance, perchance, that glorious day is breaking
    Whose hope the weary heart with rapture fills;
Lone watchers see its golden dawn awaking
    Beyond the distant hills!

Meantime, for all we love, and fain would gather

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    Beneath the wings of Thy most tender care,
We thank Thee, oh, our living, loving Father,
    That Thou dost answer prayer;—

That every helpless, longing, wordless yearning,
    Fain to bring help, yet powerless to redress,

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Laid on Thy heart, to strength our weakness turning,
    Even our love can bless!

But if, as some would dream, Thy love were banished
    From being’s cold, material, loveless sphere,
Oh, who could breathe, in realms whence hope had vanished

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    The prayer, ‘A glad New Year’!

 


 

A FAREWELL.


ACROSS the sky the birds their flight are winging,
    Chanting their warbled matins wild and sweet;
Amid the grass the year’s first blossoms, springing
    Are opening at our feet. [Page 163]

Oh, strange and sad it seems that here no longer

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    Thy radiant smile our earthly path may light,
That through the whole wide world though we may wander,
    It cannot meet our sight.

So clearly rise thy form and face before us,
    Thy silvery tones we almost seem to hear;

10

Alas! ’tis memory throws its glamour o’er us,
    And fancy cheats the ear.

In vain we turn to the forsaken dwelling
    Where thy bright welcome was so dear and sweet;
For there, all fond illusions quick dispelling,

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    A dreary blank we meet.

In vain we look where the long pine-boughs, swaying,
    Breathe fresh sweet incense on the warm spring air;
On that green mound, the chequered sunbeams playing
    Tell us—thou art not there!

20


Ah, no, not there! and yet, though death divide us,
    We can divine that thou mayst nearer be
Than when thou still wert walking here beside us,
    Now—from earth’s trammels free;—
 
Thy heart more loving still, thine insight clearer,

25

    Thy ready sympathy more full and deep.—
Yes, we may feel thee closer still and dearer,
    Not lost in dreamless sleep!

 


 

VALE ET SALVE!


                FAREWELL, Old Year!
We hailed thy birth with joyous hope and glee,
    With chime of welcoming bells and festal cheer
We gave Thee joy for all Thou wert to be—
The heir of centuries; we greeted thee,

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    And now we silent stand beside thy bier,
                Thou old dead year. [Page 164]

                Oh, treacherous year!
Thou camest, bringing blessings manifold.
    But yet some precious things to us more dear

10

Than gleam of gem or miser’s hoarded gold
Thy hands, relentless, loosened from our hold,
    As from the tree the leaflets brown and sere,
                Oh, ruthless year!

                Nay! more, Old Year!

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Some well-beloved taking by the hand,
    Thou led’st into the silence, where no tear
Or call of ours may reach the unknown strand,
Whence none returns again;—the silent land,
    Whence comes no sign to longing mourners here.

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                Farewell, sad year!

                Now thou, Old Year,
Hast passed away into the silence, too;
    No strongest will or grasp could keep thee here.
Nor fancy bright, nor memory fond and true

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One parted hour of thine can e’er renew—
    One sunny gleam or word of joy and cheer,
                Dead, vanished year!

                And yet, Old Year,
Deep in our inmost hearts thou livest yet,

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    Thy saddest hours are still to memory dear;
Close woven in our web of life is set
Each gleam of joy or hope—each dark regret
    That marked thy changeful course among us here,
                Departed year!

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                All hail, New Year!
Again the air with joyous greeting rings;
    Once more we hopeful say, ‘A glad New Year!’
For in our hearts God’s angel ever sings
The hope that each returning season brings,

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    Of unknown, endless good that yet shall cheer
                Some new, glad year! [Page 165]