« PreviousContinue »
A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot!
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not-
Not God ! in gardens ! when the eve is cool ?
Nay, but I have a sign:
'Tis very sure God walks in mine.
T. E. BROWN.
69. HE THAT LOOKS STILL ON YOUR EYES
HE that looks still on your eyes,
Though the winter have begun
To benumb our arteries,
Shall not want the summer's sun.
He that still may see your cheeks,
Where all rareness still reposes,
Is a fool, if e'er he seeks
Other lilies, other roses.
He to whom your soft lip yields,
And perceives your breath in kissing,
All the odours of the fields,
Never, never, shall be missing.
Welcome, welcome! do I sing,
Far more welcome than the Spring;
He that parteth from you never
Shall enjoy a Spring for ever.
70. THE SUBJECT OF ALL VERSE
UNDERNEATH 'this sable hearse
Lies the subject of all verse,
Sidney's sister, Pembroke's
Death, ere thou hast slain another,
Fair and learned and good as she,
Time shall throw a dart at thee.
Marble piles let no man raise
To her name ; for after days,
born she, Reading this, like Niobe, Shall turn marble, and become Both her mourner and her tomb.
71. VENUS, BY ADONIS' SIDE VENUS, by Adonis' side,
On his face, still as he bled, Crying kissed, and kissing cried, For each drop a tear she shed, Wrung her hands and tore her hair, Which she kissed or wiped away, For Adonis dying there.
Else had drowned him where he
‘Stay,' quoth she, “Oh, stay and lay.
Fair Proserpina,' quoth she,
Nature, surely, doth not give Shall not have thee yet from me;
To the earth her sweetest flowers, Nor thy soul, to fly begin ;
To be seen but some few hours.' While my lips can keep it in!'
Here she ceased again. And some
Say, Apollo would have come
To have cured his wounded limb,
But that she had smothered him. W. BROWNE.
72. BUT THEN THE THRUSHES SANG
But then the thrushes sang
And shook my pulses and the elms' new leaves ;
At which I turned, and held my finger up,
And bade him mark that, howsoe'er the world
Went ill, as he related, certainly
The thrushes still sang in it. At the word
His brow would soften,--and he bore with me
In melancholy patience, not unkind,
While breaking into voluble ecstasy
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets use, the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
The primroses run down to, carrying gold ;
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Impatient horns and tolerant churning-mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs,-hedge-rows all alive
With birds, and gnats, and large white butterflies
Which look as if the May-flower had caught life
And palpitated forth upon the wind ;
Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farms, granges, doubled up among the hills ;
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. 'See,' I said,
‘And see! is God not with us on the earth ?
And shall we put Him down by aught we do ?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile
Save poverty and wickedness ? behold !'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped
And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.
E. B. BROWNING (Aurora Leigh).
73. THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years ?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers,
And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows,
The young birds are chirping in the nest,
The young fawns are playing with the shadows,
The young flowers are blowing toward the west-
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
They are weeping bitterly !
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
In the country of the free.
Do you question the young children in the sorrow,
Why their tears are falling so ?
The old man may weep for his to-morrow
Which is lost in Long Ago ;
The old tree is leafless in the forest,
The old year is ending in the frost,
The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest,
The old hope is hardest to be lost.
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
Do you ask them why they stand
Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,
In our happy Fatherland ?
They look up with their pale and sunken faces,
And their looks are sad to see,
For the man's hoary anguish draws and presses
Down the cheeks of infancy.
'Your old earth, they say, “is very dreary;
Our young feet,' they say,
are very weak
Few paces have we taken, yet are weary-
Our grave-rest is very far to seek.
Ask the aged why they weep, and not the children ;
For the outside earth is cold ;
And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering.
And the graves are for the old.'
Alas, alas, the children ! they are seeking
Death in life, as best to have ;
They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,
With a cerement from the grave.
Go out, children, from the mine and from the city,
Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do ;
Pluck you handfuls of the meadow cowslips pretty,
Laugh aloud to feel your fingers let them through !
But they answer, Are your cowslips of the meadows
Like our weeds anear the mine ?
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,
From your pleasures fair and fine !
' For oh,' say the children, we are weary,
And we cannot run or leap;
If we cared for any meadows, it were merely
To drop down in them and sleep.
Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping,
We fall upon our faces, trying to go ;
And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,
The reddest flower would look as pale as snow ;
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring
Through the coal-dark, undergroundOr, all day, we drive the wheels of iron
In the factories, round and round.
And well may the children weep before you !
They are weary ere they run ;
They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory
Which is brighter than the sun.
They know the grief of man, without its wisdom;
They sink in man's despair, without its calm ;
Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom,
Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm, – Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly
The harvest of its memories cannot reap, —
Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly.
Let them weep! let them weep!
They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,
And their look is dread to see,
For they mind you of their angels in high places,
With eyes turned on Deity !-
How long,' they say, “how long, O cruel nation,
Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart,Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,
And tread onward to your throne amid the mart?
Our blood splashes upward, O gold-heaper,
And your purple shows your path !
But the child's sob in the silence curses deeper
Than the strong man in his wrath.'
E. B. BROWNING,
74. A PORTRAIT FACE and figure of a child, And if any poet knew her, Though too calm, you think, He would sing of her with and tender,
For the childhood you would Used in lovely madriga.s.
And if any painter drew her, Yet child-simple, undefiled,
He would paint her unaware Frank, obedient,-waiting still With a halo round the hair. On the turnings of your will.
E. B. BROWNING.
75. HOW DO I LOVE THEE ?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,-I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life !—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
E. B. BROWNING (Sonnets from the Portuguese).
76. THE SEA-MEW
How joyously the young sea-mew
Lay dreaming on the waters blue,
Whereon our little bark had thrown
A little shade, the only one,
But shadows ever man pursue.
Familiar with the waves and free
As if their own white foam were he,
His heart upon the heart of ocean
Lay learning all its mystic motion,
And throbbing to the throbbing sea.
And such a brightness in his eye,
As if the ocean and the sky
Within him had lit up and nurst
A soul God gave him not at first
To comprehend their majesty.