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Full text of "Unguarded gates and other poems"

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HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY, 
BOSTON AND NEW YORK. 



POEMS 



UNGUARDED GATES 



AND OTHER POEMS 



BY 



THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH 








BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 



1895 




K 



A 



Copyright, 1894 
Bv THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH 

All rights reserved 



The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A. 
Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co. 



CONTENTS 

PAGB 

PRELUDE . 7 

UNGUARDED GATES . ..... . .13 

ELMWOOD 18 

A SHADOW OF THE NIGHT . . . . .25 
SEA LONGINGS . . . . . . . 28 

THE LAMENT OF EL MOULOK 31 

NECROMANCY . 34 

WHITE EDITH 35 

INTERLUDES 

Insomnia 49 

Seeming Defeat 5 2 

Two Moods 54 

A Parable ........ 57 

" Great Captain, glorious in our Wars " . .58 

A Refrain 6o 

At Nijnii-Novgorod .61 

The Winter Robin . .... 64 
The Sailing of the Autocrat . , . . .65 
Cradle Song . ..... 68 

Broken Music 69 

Art . 72 



CONTENTS 

INTERLUDES 

"When from the tense chords of that mighty 

tyre" 74 

A Serenade 76 

A Bridal Measure . 78 

Imogen . 80 

SEVEN SONNETS 

Outward Bound 85 

Ellen Terry in " The Merchant of Venice " . .87 

The Poets . . 89 

The Undiscovered Country . . 9 1 

Books and Seasons 93 

Reminiscence ....... 95 

Andromeda 97 

NOURMADEE . . . . . . .99 

FOOTNOTES 

Fireflies . . . . . . . .117 

Problem 117 

Originality . c 118 

Kismet 118 

A Hint from Herri ck 119 

Pessimistic Poets 119 

Hospitality 120 

Points of View . 120 

The Two Masks . 121 

Quits . . . . . . . ,i2i 



PRELUDE 



PRELUDE 

IN youth, beside the lonely sea, 
Voices and visions came to me. 

Titania and her furtive broods 
Were my familiars in the woods. 

From every flower that broke in flame, 
Some half-articulate whisper came. 

In every wind I felt the stir 
Of some celestial messenger. 



10 PRELUDE 

Later, amid the city s din 

And toil and wealth and want and sin, 

They followed me from street to street, 
The dreams that made my boyhood sweet. 

As in the silence-haunted glen, 
So, mid the crowded ways of men, 

Strange lights my errant fancy led, 
Strange watchers watched beside my bed. 

Ill fortune had no shafts for me 
In this aerial company. 

Now one by one the visions fly, 
And one by one the voices die. 



PRELUDE II 

More distantly the accents ring, 
More frequent the receding wing. 

Full dark shall be the days in store, 
When voice and vision come no more 1 



UNGUARDED GATES 



UNGUARDED GATES 

WIDE open and unguarded stand our gates, 
Named of the four winds, North, South, East, and 

West; 

Portals that lead to an enchanted land 
Of cities, forests, fields of living gold, 
Vast prairies, lordly summits touched with snow, 
Majestic rivers sweeping proudly past 
The Arab s date-palm and the Norseman s 

pine 

A realm wherein are fruits of every zone, 
Airs of all climes, for lo ! throughout the year 
The red rose blossoms somewhere a rich land, 



1 6 UNGUARDED GATES 

A later Eden planted in the wilds, 

With not an inch of earth within its bound 

But if a slave s foot press it sets him free. 

Here, it is written, Toil shall have its wage, 

And Honor honor, and the humblest man 

Stand level with the highest in the law. 

Of such a land have men in dungeons dreamed, 

And with the vision brightening in their eyes 

Gone smiling to the fagot and the sword. 

Wide open and unguarded stand our gates, 
And through them presses a wild motley throng 
Men from the Volga and the Tartar steppes, 
Featureless figures of the Hoang-Ho, 
Malayan, Scythian, Teuton, Kelt, and Slav, 
Flying the Old World s poverty and scorn ; 
These bringing with them unknown gods and rites, 



UNGUARDED GATES 17 

Those, tiger passions, here to stretch their claws. 

In street and alley what strange tongues are loud, 

Accents of menace alien to our air, 

Voices that once the Tower of Babel knew ! 

O Liberty, white Goddess ! is it well 

To leave the gates unguarded ? On thy breast 

Fold Sorrow s children, soothe the hurts of fate, 

Lift the down-trodden, but with hand of steel 

Stay those who to thy sacred portals come 

To waste the gifts of freedom. Have a care 

Lest from thy brow the clustered stars be torn 

And trampled in the dust. For so of old 

The thronging Goth and Vandal trampled Rome, 

And where the temples of the Caesars stood 

The lean wolf unmolested made her lair. 



ELMWOOD 

IN MEMORY OF JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL 

HERE, in the twilight, at the well-known gate 
I linger, with no heart to enter more. 
Among the elm-tops the autumnal air 
Murmurs, and spectral in the fading light 
A solitary heron wings its way 
Southward save this no sound or touch of life. 
Dark is that window where the scholar s lamp 
Was used to catch a pallor from the dawn. 

Yet I must needs a little linger here. 
Each shrub and tree is eloquent of him, 



ELM WOOD 19 

For tongueless things and silence have their 

speech. 

This is the path familiar to his foot 
From infancy to manhood and old age ; 
For in a chamber of that ancient house 
His eyes first opened on the mystery 
Of life, and all the splendor of the world. 
Here, as a child, in loving, curious way, 
He watched the bluebird s coming ; learned the 

date 

Of hyacinth and goldenrod, and made 
Friends of those little redmen of the elms, 
And slyly added to their winter store 
Of hazel-nuts : no harmless thing that breathed, 
Footed or winged, but knew him for a friend. 
The gilded butterfly was not afraid 
To trust its gold to that so gentle hand, 



20 ELM WOOD 

The bluebird fled not from the pendent spray. 
Ah, happy childhood, ringed with fortunate stars ! 
What dreams were his in this enchanted sphere, 
What intuitions of high destiny ! 
The honey-bees of Hybla touched his lips 
In that old New-World garden, unawares. 

So in her arms did Mother Nature fold 
Her poet, whispering what of wild and sweet 
Into his ear the state-affairs of birds, 
The lore of dawn and sunset, what the wind 
Said in the tree-tops fine, unfathomed things 
Henceforth to turn to music in his brain : 
A various music, now like notes of flutes, 
And now like blasts of trumpets blown in wars. 
Later he paced this leafy academe 
A student, drinking from Greek chalices 



ELM WOOD 21 

The ripened vintage of the antique world. 

And here to him came love, and love s dear 

loss; 

Here honors came, the deep applause of men 
Touched to the heart by some swift-winged word 
That from his own full heart took eager flight 
Some strain of piercing sweetness or rebuke, 
For underneath his gentle nature flamed 
A noble scorn for all ignoble deed, 
Himself a bondman till all men were free. 

Thus passed his manhood ; then to other lands 
He strayed, a stainless figure among courts 
Beside the Manzanares and the Thames. 
Whence, after too long exile, he returned 
With fresher laurel, but sedater step 
And eye more serious, fain to breathe the air 



22 ELM WOOD 

Where through the Cambridge marshes the blue 

Charles 

Uncoils its length and stretches to the sea : 
Stream dear to him, at every curve a shrine 
For pilgrim Memory. Again he watched 
His loved syringa whitening by the door, 
And knew the catbird s welcome ; in his walks 
Smiled on his tawny kinsmen of the elms 
Stealing his nuts ; and in the ruined year 
Sat at his widowed hearthside with bent brows 
Leonine, frosty with the breath of time, 
And listened to the crooning of the wind 
In the wide Elmwood chimneys, as of old. 
And then and then . . . 

The after-glow has faded from the elms, 
And in the denser darkness of the boughs 



ELM WOOD 23 

From time to time the firefly s tiny lamp 
Sparkles. How often in still summer dusks 
He paused to note that transient phantom spark 
Flash on the air a light that outlasts him ! 

The night grows chill, as if it felt a breath 
Blown from that frozen city where he lies. 
All things turn strange. The leaf that rustles 

here 
Has more than autumn s mournfulness. The 

place 

Is heavy with his absence. Like fixed eyes 
Whence the dear light of sense and thought has 

fled 

The vacant windows stare across the lawn. 
The wise sweet spirit that informed it all 
Is otherwhere. The house itself is dead. 



24 ELM WOOD 

O autumn wind among the sombre pines, 
Breathe you his dirge, but be it sweet and low, 
With deep refrains and murmurs of the sea, 
Like to his verse the art is yours alone. 
His once you taught him. Now no voice but 

yours ! 

Tender and low, O wind among the pines. 
I would, were mine a lyre of richer strings, 
In soft Sicilian accents wrap his name. 



A SHADOW OF THE NIGHT 

CLOSE on the edge of a midsummer dawn 
In troubled dreams I went from land to land, 
Each seven-colored like the rainbow s arc, 
Regions where never fancy s foot had trod 
Till then yet all the strangeness seemed not 

strange, 

At which I wondered, reasoning in my dream 
With two-fold sense, well knowing that I slept. 
At last I came to this our cloud-hung earth, 
And somewhere by the seashore was a grave, 
A woman s grave, new-made, and heaped with 

flowers ; 



26 A SHADOW OF THE NIGHT 

And near it stood an ancient holy man 
That fain would comfort me, who sorrowed not 
For this unknown dead woman at my feet. 
But I, because his sacred office held 
My reverence, listened ; and t was thus he spake : 
" When next thou comest thou shalt find her still 
In all the rare perfection that she was. 
Thou shalt have gentle greeting of thy love ! 
Her eyelids will have turned to violets, 
Her bosom to white lilies, and her breath 
To roses. What is lovely never dies, 
But passes into other loveliness, 
Star-dust, or sea-foam, flower, or winged air. 
If this befalls our poor unworthy flesh, 
Think thee what destiny awaits the soul ! 
What glorious vesture it shall wear at last ! " 
While yet he spoke, seashore and grave and 
priest 



A SHADOW OF THE NIGHT 27 

Vanished, and faintly from a neighboring spire 

Fell five slow solemn strokes upon my ear. 

Then I awoke with a keen pain at heart, 

A sense of swift unutterable loss, 

And through the darkness reached my hand to 

touch 

Her cheek, soft-pillowed on one restful palm 
To be quite sure ! 



SEA LONGINGS 

THE first world-sound that fell upon my ear 
Was that of the great winds along the coast 
Crushing the deep-sea beryl on the rocks 
The distant breakers sullen cannonade. 
Against the spires and gables of the town 
The white fog drifted, catching here and there 
At over-leaning cornice or peaked roof, 
And hung weird gonfalons. The garden walks 
Were choked with leaves, and on their ragged 

biers 

Lay dead the sweets of summer damask rose, 
Clove-pink, old-fashioned, loved New England 

flowers. 



SEA LONGINGS 29 

Only keen salt sea-odors filled the air. 

Sea-sounds, sea-odors these were all my world. 

Hence is it that life languishes with me 

Inland ; the valleys stifle me with gloom 

And pent-up prospect ; in their narrow bound 

Imagination flutters futile wings. 

Vainly I seek the sloping pearl-white sand 

And the mirage s phantom citadels 

Miraculous, a moment seen, then gone. 

Among the mountains I am ill at ease, 

Missing the stretched horizon s level line 

And the illimitable restless blue. 

The crag-torn sky is not the sky I love, 

But one unbroken sapphire spanning all ; 

And nobler than the branches of a pine 

Aslant upon a precipice s edge 

Are the strained spars of some great battle-ship 



3 SEA LONGINGS 

Plowing across the sunset. No bird s lilt 

So takes me as the whistling of the gale 

Among the shrouds. My cradle-song was this, 

Strange inarticulate sorrows of the sea, 

Blithe rhythms upgathered from the Sirens caves. 

Perchance of earthly voices the last voice 

That shall an instant my freed spirit stay 

On this world s verge, will be some message 

blown 

Over the dim salt lands that fringe the coast 
At dusk, or when the tranced midnight droops 
With weight of stars, or haply just as dawn, 
Illumining the sullen purple wave, 
Turns the gray pools and willow-stems to gold. 



THE LAMENT OF EL MOULOK 

WITHIN the sacred precincts of the mosque, 
Even on the very steps of St. Sophia, 
He lifted up his voice and spoke these words, 
El Moulok, who sang naught but love-songs once, 
And now was crazed because his son was dead : 

O ye who leave 

Your slippers at the portal, as is meet, 

Give heed an instant ere ye bow in prayer. 

Ages ago, 

Allah, grown weary of His myriad worlds, 
Would one star more to hang against the blue. 



32 THE LAMENT OF EL MOULOK 

Then of men s bones. 

Millions on millions, did He build the earth. 

Of women s tears, 

Down falling through the night, He made the sea. 

Of sighs and sobs 

He made the winds that surge about the globe. 

Where er ye tread, 

Ye tread on dust that once was living man. 

The mist and rain 

Are tears that first from human eyelids fell. 

The unseen winds 

Breathe endless lamentation for the dead. 



THE LAMENT OF EL MOULOK 33 

Not so the ancient tablets told the tale, 
Not so the Koran ! This was blasphemy, 
And they that heard El Moulok dragged him 

hence, 

Even from the very steps of St. Sophia, 
And loaded him with triple chains of steel, 
And cast him in a dungeon. 

None the less 

Do women s tears fall ceaseless day and night, 
And none the less do mortals faint and die 
And turn to dust ; and every wind that blows 
About the globe seems heavy with the grief 
Of those who sorrow, or have sorrowed, here. 
Yet none the less is Allah the Most High, 
The Clement, the Compassionate. He sees 
Where we are blind, and hallowed be His Name ! 



NECROMANCY 

THROUGH a chance fissure of the churchyard 

wall 

A creeping vine puts forth a single spray, 
At whose slim end a starry blossom droops 
Full to the soft vermilion of a rose 
That reaches up on tiptoe for the kiss. 
Not them the wren disturbs, nor the loud bee 
That buzzes homeward with his load of sweets : 
And thus they linger, flowery lip to lip, 
Heedless of all, in rapturous mute embrace. 
Some necromancy here ! These two, I think, 
Were once unhappy lovers upon earth. 



WHITE EDITH 

ABOVE an ancient book, with a knight s crest 
In tarnished gold on either cover stamped, 
She leaned, and read a chronicle it was 
In which the sound of hautboys stirred the pulse, 
And masques and gilded pageants fed the eye. 
Though here and there the vellum page was 

stained 

Sanguine with battle, chiefly it was love 
The stylus held some wan-cheeked scribe, 

perchance, 

That in a mouldy tower by candle-light 
Forgot his hunger in his madrigals. 
Outside was winter : in its winding-sheet 



3 6 WHITE EDITH 

The frozen Year lay. Silent was the room, 

Save when the wind against the casement pressed 

Or a page rustled, turned impatiently, 

Or when along the still damp apple-wood 

A little flame ran that chirped like a bird 

Some wren s ghost haunting the familiar bough. 

With parted lips, in which less color lived 
Than paints the pale wild-rose, she leaned and 

read. 

From time to time her fingers unawares 
Closed on the palm ; and oft upon her cheek 
The pallor died, and left such transient glow 
As might from some rich chapel window fall 
On a girl s cheek at prayer. So moved her soul, 
From this dull age unshackled and divorced, 
In far moon-haunted gardens of romance. 



WHITE EDITH 37 

But once the wind that swept the palsied oaks, 
As if new-pierced with sorrow, came and moaned 
Close by the casement j then she raised her eyes, 
The light of dreams still fringing them, and spoke : 
"Tell me, good cousin, does this book say true? 
Is it so fine a thing to be a queen? " 

As if a spell of incantation dwelt 
In those soft syllables, before me stood, 
Colored like life, the phantasm of a maid 
Who, in the savage childhood of this world, 
Was crowned by error, or through dark intent 
Made queen, and for the durance of one day 
The royal diadem and ermine wore. 
In strange sort wore for this queen fed the 

starved, 
The naked clothed, threw open dungeon doors ; 



38 WHITE EDITH 

Could to no story list of suffering 
But the full tear was lovely on her lash ; 
Taught Grief to smile, and wan Despair to hope ; 
Upon her stainless bosom pillowed Sin 
Repentant at her feet like Him of old ; 
Made even the kerns and wild-men of the fells, 
That sniffing pillage clamored at the gate, 
Gentler than doves by some unknown white art, 
And saying to herself, " So, I am Queen ! " 
With lip all tremulous, held out her hand 
To the crowd s kiss. What joy to ease the hurt 
Of bruised hearts ! As in a trance she walked 
That live-long day. Then night came, and the 

stars, 

And blissful sleep. But ere the birds were called 
By bluebell chimes (unheard of mortal ear) 
To matins in their branch-hung priories 



WHITE EDITH 39 

Ere yet the dawn its gleaming edge lay bare 

Like to the burnished axe s subtle edge, 

She, from her sleep s caresses roughly torn, 

The meek eyes blinking in the torches glare, 

Upon a scaffold for her glory paid 

Her cheeks two roses. For it so befell 

That from the Northland there was come a prince, 

With a great clash of shields and trailing spears 

Through the black portals of the breathless night, 

To claim the sceptre. He no less would take 

Than those same roses for his usury. 

What less, in faith ! The throne was rightly his 

Of that sea-girdled isle ; so to the block 

Needs go the ringlets and the white swan-throat. 

A touch of steel, a sudden darkness, then 

Blue Heaven and all the hymning angel-choir ! 

No tears for her keep tears for those who live 



40 WHITE EDITH 

To mate with sin and shame, and have remorse 
At last to light them to unhallowed earth. 
Hers no such low-hung fortunes. Thus to stand 
Supreme one instant at that dizzy height, 
With no hoarse raven croaking in her ear 
The certain doom, and then to have life s rose 
Struck swiftly from the cheek, and so escape 
Love s death, black treason, friend s ingratitude, 
The pang of separation, chill of age, 
The grief that in an empty cradle lies, 
And all the unspoke sorrow women know 
That was, in truth, to have a happy reign ! 
Has thine been happier, Sovereign of the Sea, 
In that long-mateless pilgrimage to death ? 
Or thine, whose beauty like a star illumed 
Awhile the dark and angry sky of France, 
Thy kingdom shrunken to two exiled graves ? 



WHITE EDITH 41 

Sweet old-world maid, a gentler fate was yours ! 
Would he had wed your story to his verse 
Who from the misty land of legend brought 
Helen of Troy to gladden English eyes. 
There s many a queen that lived her grandeur out, 
Gray-haired and broken, might have envied you, 
Your Majesty, that reigned a single day ! 

All this, as t were between two beats of heart, 
Flashed through my mind, so lightning-like is 

thought. 

With lifted eyes expectant, there she sat 
Whose words had sent my fancy over-sea, 
Her lip still trembling with its own soft speech, 
As for a moment trembles the curved spray 
Whence some winged melody has taken flight. 
How every circumstance of time and place 



42 WHITE EDITH 

Upon the glass of memory lives again ! 

The bleak New England road ; the level boughs 

Like bars of iron across the setting sun ; 

The gray ribbed clouds piled up against the West ; 

The windows splashed with frost ; the fire-lit 

room, 

And in the antique chair that slight girl-shape, 
The auburn braid about the saintly brows 
Making a nimbus, and she white as snow ! 

" Dear Heart," I said, " the humblest place is 

best 
For gentle souls the throne s foot, not the 

throne. 

The storms that smite the dizzy solitudes 
Where monarchs sit most lonely folk are 

they ! 



WHITE EDITH 43 

Oft leave the vale unscathed ; there dwells 

content, 

If so content have habitation here. 
Never have I in annals read or rhyme 
Of queen save one that found not at the end 
The cup too bitter ; never queen save one, 
And she her empire lasted but a day ! 
Yet that brief breath of time did she so fill 
With mercy, love, and holy charity 
As more rich made it than long-drawn-out years 
Of such weed-life as drinks the lavish sun 
And rots unflower d." " Straight tell me of that 

queen ! " 

Cried Edith ; " Brunhild, in my legend here, 
Is lovely was that other still more fair? 
And had she not a Siegfried at the court 
To steal her talisman ? that Siegfried did 



44 WHITE EDITH 

At Giinther s bidding. Was your queen not 

loved ? 

Tell me it all ! " With chin upon her palm 
Resting, she listened, and within her eyes 
The sapphire deepened as I told the tale 
Of the girl-empress in the dawn of Time 
A flower that on the vermeil brink of May 
Died, with its folded whiteness for a shroud ; 
A strain of music that, ere it was mixed 
With baser voices, floated up to heaven. 

Without was silence, for the wind was spent 
That all the day had pleaded at the door. 
Against the crimson sunset elm and oak 
Stood black and motionless ; among the boughs 
The sad wind slumbered. Silence filled the 
room, 



WHITE EDITH 45 

Save when from out the crumbled apple branch 
Came the wren s twitter, faint, and fainter now, 
Like a bird s note far heard in twilight woods. 
No other sound was. Presently a hand 
Stole into mine, and rested there, inert, 
Like some new-gathered snowy hyacinth, 
So white and cold and delicate it was. 
I know not what dark shadow crossed my heart, 
What vague presentiment, but as I stooped 
To lift the slender fingers to my lip, 
I saw it through a mist of strangest tears 
The thin white hand invisible Death had 
touched ! 



INTERLUDES 



INSOMNIA 

SLUMBER, hasten down this way, 
And, ere midnight dies, 

Silence lay upon my lips, 
Darkness on my eyes. 

Send me a fantastic dream ; 

Fashion me afresh ; 
Into some celestial thing 

Change this mortal flesh. 

Well I know one may not choose ; 
One is helpless still 



5 INSOMNIA 

In the purple realm of Sleep : 
Use me as you will. 

Let me be a frozen pine 
In dead glacier lands ; 

Let me pant, a leopard stretched 
On the Libyan sands. 

Silver fin or scarlet wing 
Grant me, either one ; 

Sink me deep in emerald glooms, 
Lift me to the sun. 

Or of me a gargoyle make, 
Face of ape or gnome, 

Such as frights the tavern-boor 
Reeling drunken home. 



INSOMNIA 5 1 

Work on me your own caprice, 

Give me any shape ; 
Only, Slumber, from myself 

Let myself escape ! 



SEEMING DEFEAT 

THE woodland silence, one time stirred 
By the soft pathos of some passing bird, 

Is not the same it was before. 
The spot where once, unseen, a flower 
Has held its fragile chalice to the shower, 
Is different for evermore. 
Unheard, unseen, 
A spell has been ! 

O thou that breathest year by year 
Music that falls unheeded on the ear, 

Take heart, fate has not baffled thee ! 
Thou that with tints of earth and skies 



SEEMING DEFEAT 53 

Fillest thy canvas for unseeing eyes, 
Thou hast not labored futilely. 
Unheard, unseen, 
A spell has been ! 



TWO MOODS 

i 

BETWEEN the budding and the falling leaf 

Stretch happy skies ; 

With colors and sweet cries 

Of mating birds in uplands and in glades 

The world is rife. 

Then on a sudden all the music dies, 

The color fades. 

How fugitive and brief 

Is mortal life 

Between the budding and the falling leaf ! 



TWO MOODS 55 

O short-breathed music, dying on the tongue 
Ere half the mystic canticle be sung ! 

harp of life, so speedily unstrung ! 

Who, if t were his to choose, would know again 
The bitter sweetness of the lost refrain, 
Its rapture, and its pain ? 

n 

Though I be shut in darkness, and become 
Insentient dust blown idly here and there, 

1 count oblivion a scant price to pay 
For having once had held against my lip 
Life s brimming cup of hydromel and rue 
For having once known woman s holy love 
And a child s kiss, and for a little space 
Been boon companion to the Day and Night, 
Fed on the odors of the summer dawn, 



5 6 TWO MOODS 

And folded in the beauty of the stars. 
Dear Lord, though I be changed to senseless clay, 
And serve the potter as he turns his wheel, 
I thank Thee for the gracious gift of tears ! 



A PARABLE 

ONE went East, and one went West 

Across the wild sea-foam, 
And both were on the self-same quest. 
Now one there was who cared for naught, 

So stayed at home : 
Yet of the three t was only he 
Who reached the goal by him unsought. 



"GREAT CAPTAIN, GLORIOUS IN OUR 
WARS " 

GREAT Captain, glorious in our wars 
No meed of praise we hold from him ; 
About his brow we wreathe the stars 
The coming ages shall not dim. 

The cloud-sent man ! Was it not he 
That from the hand of adverse fate 
Snatched the white flower of victory ? 
He spoke no word, but saved the State. 

Yet History, as she brooding bends 
Above the tablet on her knee, 



GREAT CAPTAIN 59 

The impartial stylus half suspends, 
And fain would blot the cold decree : 

" The iron hand and sleepless care 
That stayed disaster scarce availed 
To serve him when he came to wear 
The civic laurel : there he failed." 

Who runs may read ; but nothing mars 
That nobler record, unforgot. 
Great Captain, glorious in our wars 
All else the heart remembers not. 



A REFRAIN 

HIGH in a tower she sings, 

I, passing by beneath, 
Pause and listen, and catch 

These words of passionate breath 
" Asphodel, flower of Life; amaranth, flower of 
Death!" 

Sweet voice, sweet unto tears ! 

What is this that she saith ? 
Poignant, mystical hark ! 

Again, with passionate breath 
" Asphodel, flower of Life; amaranth, flower of 
Death!" 



AT NIJNII-NOVGOROD 

" A CRAFTY Persian set this stone ; 

A dusk Sultana wore it ; 
And from her slender finger, sir, 
A ruthless Arab tore it. 

" A ruby, like a drop of blood 
That deep-in tint that lingers 
And seems to melt, perchance was caught 
From those poor mangled fingers ! 

" A spendthrift got it from the knave, 
And tost it, like a blossom, 



62 AT NIJNII-NOVGOROD 

That night into a dancing-girl s 
Accurst and balmy bosom. 

" And so it went. One day a Jew 

At Cairo chanced to spy it 
Amid a one-eyed peddler s pack, 
And did not care to buy it 

" Yet bought it all the same. You see, 

The Jew he knew a jewel. 
He bought it cheap to sell it dear : 
The ways of trade are cruel. 

" But I be Allah s all the praise ! 

Such avarice, I scoff it ! 
If I buy cheap, why, I sell cheap, 
Content with modest profit. 



AT NIJNII-NOVGOROD 63 

"This ring such chasing! look, milord, 

What workmanship ! By Heaven, 
The price I name you makes the thing 
As if the thing were given ! 

" A stone without a flaw ! A queen 

Might not disdain to wear it. 
Three hundred roubles buys the stone ; 
No kopeck less, I swear it ! " 

Thus Hassan, holding up the ring 

To me, no eager buyer. 
A hundred roubles was not much 

To pay so sweet a liar ! 



THE WINTER ROBIN 

Sursum corda 

Now is that sad time of year 
When no flower or leaf is here ; 
When in misty Southern ways 
Oriole and jay have flown, 
And of all sweet birds, alone 
The robin stays. 

So give thanks at Christmas-tide : 
Hopes of spring-time yet abide ! 
See, in spite of darksome days, 
Wind and rain and bitter chill, 
Snow, and sleet-hung branches, still 
The robin stays ! 



THE SAILING OF THE AUTOCRAT 



ON BOARD THE S. S. CEPHALONIA, APRIL 26, 
1886 



I 

O WIND and Wave, be kind to him ! 
So, Wave and Wind, we give thee thanks ! 
O Fog, that from Newfoundland Banks 
Makest the blue bright ocean dim, 
Delay him not ! And ye who snare 
The wayworn shipman with your song, 
Go pipe your ditties otherwhere 
While this brave vessel plows along ! 
If still to lure him be your thought, 
O phantoms of the watery zone, 



66 THE SAILING OF THE AUTOCRAT 

Look lively lest yourselves get caught 
With music sweeter than your own ! 

ii 

Yet, soft sea-spirits, be not mute ; 
Murmur about the prow, and make 
Melodious the west-wind s lute. 
For him may radiant mornings break 
From out the bosom of the deep, 
And golden noons above him bend, 
And fortunate constellations keep 
Bright vigils to his journey s end ! 

in 

Take him, green Erin, to thy breast ! 
Keep him, gray London for a while ! 
In him we send thee of our best, 



THE SAILING OF THE AUTOCRAT 67 

Our wisest word, our blithest smile 
Our epigram, alert and pat, 
That kills with joy the folly hit 
Our Yankee Tsar, our Autocrat 
Of all the happy realms of wit ! 
Take him and keep him but forbear 
To keep him more than half a year. . . . 
His presence will be sunshine there, 
His absence will be shadow here ! 



CRADLE SONG 

i 

ERE the moon begins to rise 

Or a star to shine, 
All the bluebells close their eyes 

So close thine, 

Thine, dear, thine ! 

ii 
Birds are sleeping in the nest 

On the swaying bough, 
Thus, against the mother-breast 
So sleep thou, 

Sleep, sleep, sleep ! 



BROKEN MUSIC 

A note 
All out of tune in this world s instrument. 

AMY LEVY. 

I KNOW not in what fashion she was made, 

Nor what her voice was, when she used to 

speak, 

Nor if the silken lashes threw a shade 
On wan or rosy cheek. 

I picture her with sorrowful vague eyes 

Illumed with such strange gleams of inner light 
As linger in the drift of London skies 
Ere twilight turns to night. 



70 BROKEN 1 MUSIC 

I know not ; I conjecture. T was a girl 

That with her own most gentle desperate hand 
From out God s mystic setting plucked life s 
pearl - 

T is hard to understand. 

So precious life is ! Even to the old 

The hours are as a miser s coins, and she 
Within her hands lay youth s unminted gold 
And all felicity. 

The winged impetuous spirit, the white flame 

That was her soul once, whither has it flown ? 
Above her brow gray lichens blot her name 
Upon the carven stone. 

This is her Book of Verses wren-like notes, 
Shy franknesses, blind gropings, haunting fears ; 



BROKEN MUSIC 71 

At times across the chords abruptly floats 
A mist of passionate tears. 

A fragile lyre too tensely keyed and strung, 

A broken music, weirdly incomplete : 
Here a proud mind, self-baffled and self-stung, 
Lies coiled in dark defeat. 



ART 

" LET art be all in all," one time I said, 
And straightway stirred the hypercritic gall : 
I said not, " Let technique be all in all," 
But art a wider meaning. Worthless, dead 
The shell without its pearl, the corpse of things 
Mere words are, till the spirit lend them wings. 
The poet who wakes no soul within his lute 
Falls short of art : t were better he were mute. 

The workmanship wherewith the gold is wrought 
Adds yet a richness to the richest gold : 
Who lacks the art to shape his thought, I hold, 
Were little poorer if he lacked the thought. 



ART 73 

The statue s slumber were unbroken still 
In the dull marble, had the hand no skill. 
Disparage not the magic touch that gives 
The formless thought the grace whereby it lives ! 



"WHEN FROM THE TENSE CHORDS 
OF THAT MIGHTY LYRE" 

JANUARY, 1892 

i 

WHEN from the tense chords of that mighty lyre 
The Master s hand, relaxing, falls away, 

And those rich strings are silent for all time, 
Then shall Love pine, and Passion lack her fire, 
And Faith seem voiceless. Man to man shall 

say, 

"Dead is the last of England s Lords of 
Rhyme." 

ii 

Yet stay ! there s one, a later laureled brow, 
With purple blood of poets in his veins ; 



WHEN FROM THE TENSE CHORDS 75 

Him has the Muse claimed ; him might Mar 
lowe own ; 
Greek Sappho s son ! men s praises seek him 

now. 

Happy the realm where one such voice re 
mains ! 

His the dropt wreath and the unenvied 
throne. 

in 

The wreath the world gives, not the mimic wreath 
That chance might make the gift of king or 

queen. 

O finder of undreamed-of harmonies 1 
Since Shelley s lips were hushed by cruel death, 
What lyric voice so sweet as this has been 
Borne to us on the winds from over seas ? 



A SERENADE 

IMP of Dreams, when she s asleep, 
To her snowy chamber creep, 
And straight whisper in her ear 
What, awake, she will not hear 
Imp of Dreams, when she s asleep. 

Tell her, so she may repent, 
That no rose withholds its scent, 
That no bird that has a song 
Hoards the music summer-Ions: 

O 

Tell her, so she may repent. 



A SERENADE 77 

Tell her there s naught else to do, 
If to-morrow s skies be blue, 
But to come, with civil speech, 
And walk with me to Chelsea Beach 
Tell her there s naught else to do ! 
Tell her, so she may repent 

Imp of Dreams, when she s asleep ! 



A BRIDAL MEASURE 

FOR S. F. 

GIFTS they sent her manifold, 
Diamonds and pearls and gold. 
One there was among the throng 
Had not Midas touch at need : 
He against a sylvan reed 
Set his lips and breathed a song. 

Bid bright Flora, as she comes, 
Snatch a spray of orange blooms 
For a maiden s hair. 



A BRIDAL MEASURE 79 

Let the Hours their aprons fill 
With mignonette and daffodil, 
And all that s fair. 

For her bosom fetch the rose 

That is rarest 
Not that either these or those 

Could by any happening be 

Ornaments to such as she ; 
They 11 but show, when she is dressed, 

She is fairer than the fairest 
And out-betters what is best ! 



IMOGEN 

LEONATUS POSTHUMUS speaks: 

SORROW, make a verse for me 

That shall breathe all human grieving ; 
Let it be love s exequy, 

And the knell of all believing ! 

Let it such sweet pathos have 

As a violet on a grave, 
Or a dove s moan when his mate 
Leaves the new nest desolate. 

Sorrow, Sorrow, by this token, 

Braid a wreath for Beauty s head. . . . 



IMOGEN 8 1 

Valley-lilies, one or two, 
Should be woven with the rue. 
Sorrow, Sorrow, all is spoken 
She is dead ! 



SEVEN SONNETS 



I 

OUTWARD BOUND 

I LEAVE behind me the elm-shadowed square 
And carven portals of the silent street, 
And wander on with listless, vagrant feet 
Through seaward-leading alleys, till the air 
Smells of the sea, and straightway then the care 
Slips from my heart, and life once more is sweet. 
At the lane s ending lie the white-winged fleet. 
O restless Fancy, whither wouldst thou fare ? 
Here are brave pinions that shall take thee far 
Gaunt hulks of Norway ; ships of red Ceylon ; 



86 OUTWARD SOUND 

Slim-masted lovers of the blue Azores ! 
T is but an instant hence to Zanzibar, 
Or to the regions of the Midnight Sun : 
Ionian isles are thine, and all the fairy shores ! 



II 

ELLEN TERRY IN "THE MERCHANT 
OF VENICE" 

As there she lives and moves upon the scene, 
So lived and moved this radiant womanhood 
In Shakespeare s vision ; in such wise she 

stood 

Smiling upon Bassanio ; such her mien 
When pity dimmed her eyelids golden sheen, 
Hearing Antonio s story, and the blood 
Paled on her cheek, and all her lightsome mood 
Was gone. This shape in Shakespeare s 

thought has been ! 



\ ELLEN TERRY 

Thus dreamt he of her in gray London town ; 
Such were her eyes ; on such gold-colored hair 
The grave young judge s velvet cap was set ; 
So stood she lovely in her crimson gown. 
Mine were a happy cast, could I but snare 
Her beauty in a sonnet s fragile net ! 



Ill 

THE POETS 

WHEN this young Land has reached its wrinkled 

prime, 

And we are gone and all our songs are done, 
And naught is left unchanged beneath the sun, 
What other singers shall the womb of Time 
Bring forth to reap the sunny slopes of rhyme ? 
For surely till the thread of life be spun 
The world shall not lack poets, though but one 
Make lonely music like a vesper chime 
Above the heedless turmoil of the street. 
What new strange voices shall be given to these, 



90 THE POETS 

What richer accents of melodious breath ? 
Yet shall they, baffled, lie at Nature s feet 
Searching the volume of her mysteries, 
And vainly question the fixed eyes of Death. 



IV 
THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY 

FOREVER am I conscious, moving here, 

That should I step a little space aside 

I pass the boundary of some glorified 

Invisible domain it lies so near ! 

Yet nothing know we of that dim frontier 

Which each must cross, whatever fate betide, 

To reach the heavenly cities where abide 

(Thus Sorrow whispers) those that were most 

dear, 

Now all transfigured in celestial light ! 
Shall we indeed behold them, thine and mine, 



92 THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY 

Whose going hence made black the noonday 

sun ? 

Strange is it that across the narrow night 
They fling us not some token, or make sign 
That all beyond is not Oblivion. 



BOOKS AND SEASONS 

BECAUSE the sky is blue ; because blithe May 
Masks in the wren s note and the lilac s hue ; 
Because in fine, because the sky is blue 
I will read none but piteous tales to-day. 
Keep happy laughter till the skies be gray, 
And the sad season cypress wears, and rue ; 
Then, when the wind is moaning in the flue, 
And ways are dark, bid Chaucer make us gay. 
But now a little sadness ! All too sweet 
This springtide riot, this most poignant air, 



94 BOOKS AND SEASONS 

This sensuous sphere of color and perfume ! 
So listen, love, while I the woes repeat 
Of Hamlet and Ophelia, and that pair 
Whose bridal bed was builded in a tomb. 



VI 
REMINISCENCE 

THOUGH I am native to this frozen zone 
That half the twelvemonth torpid lies, or dead ; 
Though the cold azure arching overhead 
And the Atlantic s never-ending moan 
Are mine by heritage, I must have known 
Life otherwhere in epochs long since fled ; 
For in my veins some Orient blood is red, 
And through my thought are lotus blossoms 

blown. 

I do remember ... it was just at dusk, 
Near a walled garden at the river s turn 



9 6 REMINISCENCE 

(A thousand summers seem but yesterday !), 
A Nubian girl, more sweet than Khoorja musk, 
Came to the water-tank to fill her urn, 
And, with the urn, she bore my heart away ! 



VII 
ANDROMEDA 

THE smooth-worn coin and threadbare classic 

phrase 

Of Grecian myths that did beguile my youth, 
Beguile me not as in the olden days : 
I think more grief and beauty dwell with truth. 
Andromeda, in fetters by the sea, 
Star-pale with anguish till young Perseus came, 
Less moves me with her suffering than she, 
The slim girl figure fettered to dark shame, 
That nightly haunts the park, there, like a shade, 
Trailing her wretchedness from street to street. 



9 8 ANDROMEDA 

See where she passes neither wife nor maid. 
How all mere fiction crumbles at her feet ! 
Here is woe s self, and not the mask of woe : 
A legend s shadow shall not move you so ! 



NOURMADEE 



NOURMADEE 

THE POET MIRTZY MOHAMMED-ALI TO HIS 
FRIEND ABOU-HASSEM IN ALGEZIRAS 

O HASSEM, greeting ! Peace be thine ! 
With thee and thine be all things well ! 
Give refuge to these words of mine. 
The strange mischance which late befell 
Thy servant must have reached thine ear ; 
Rumor has flung it far and wide, 
With dark additions, as I hear. 
When They-Say speaks, what ills betide ! 



102 NOURMADEE 

So lend no credence, O my Friend, 
To scandals, fattening as they fly. 
Love signs and seals the roll I send : 
Read thou the truth with lenient eye. 



NOURMADEE 103 



IN Yussuf s garden at Tangier 
This happened. In his cool kiosk 
We sat partaking of his cheer 
Thou know st that garden by the Mosque 
Of Irma ; stately palms are there, 
And silver fish in marble tanks, 
And scents of jasmine in the air 
We sat and feasted, with due thanks 
To Allah, till the pipes were brought ; 
And no one spoke, for Pleasure laid 
Her finger on the lips of Thought. 
Then, on a sudden, came a maid, 
With tambourine, to dance for us 
Allah il Allah ! it was she, 



104 NOURMADEE 



The slave-girl from the Bosphorus 
That Yussuf purchased recently. 

Long narrow eyes, as black as black ! 
And melting, like the stars in June ; 
Tresses of night drawn smoothly back 
From eyebrows like the crescent moon. 
She paused an instant with bowed head, 
Then, at a motion of her wrist, 
A veil of gossamer outspread 
And wrapt her in a silver mist. 
Her tunic was of Tiflis green 
Shot through with many a starry speck ; 
The zone that claspt it might have been 
A collar for a cygnet s neck. 
None of the twenty charms she lacked 
Demanded for perfection s grace ; 



NOURMADEE 105 

Charm upon charm in her was packed 

Like rose leaves in a costly vase. 

Full in the lanterns colored light 

She seemed a thing of Paradise. 

I knew not if I saw aright, 

Or if my vision told me lies. 

Those lanterns spread a cheating glare ; 

Such stains they threw from bough and vine 

As if the slave-boys, here and there, 

Had spilt a jar of brilliant wine. 

And then the fountain s drowsy fall, 

The burning aloes heavy scent, 

The night, the place, the hour they all 

Were full of subtle blandishment. 

Much had I heard of Nourmadee 
The name of this fair slenderness 



io6 NOURMADEE 

Whom Yiissuf kept with lock and key 
Because her beauty wrought distress 
In all men s hearts that gazed on it ; 
And much I marveled why, this night, 
Yiissuf should have the little wit 
To lift her veil for our delight. 
For though the other guests were old 
Grave, worthy merchants, three from Fez 
(These mostly dealt in dyes and gold), 
Cloth merchants two, from Mekinez 
Though they were old and gray and dry, 
Forgetful of their youth s desires, 
My case was different, for I 
Still knew the touch of springtime fires. 
And straightway as I looked on her 
I bit my lip, grew ill at ease, 
And in my veins was that strange stir 
Which clothes with bloom the almond-trees. 



NOURMADEE 107 

O Shape of blended fire and snow ! 
Each clime to her some spell had lent 
The North her cold, the South her glow, 
Her languors all the Orient. 
Her scarf was as the cloudy fleece 
The moon draws round its loveliness, 
That so its beauty may increase 
The more in being seen the less. 
And as she moved, and seemed to float 
So floats a swan ! in sweet unrest, 
A string of sequins at her throat 
Went clink and clink against her breast. 
And what did some birth-fairy do 
But set a mole, a golden dot, 
Close to her lip to pierce men through ! 
How could I look and love her not ? 



108 NOURMADEE 

Yet heavy was my heart as stone, 
For well I knew that love was vain ; 
To love the thing one may not own ! 
I saw how all my peace was slain. 
Coffers of ingots Yiissuf had, 
Houses on land, and ships at sea, 
And I alas ! was I gone mad, 
To cast my eyes on Nourmadee ! 
I strove to thrust her from my mind, 
I bent my brows, and turned away, 
And wished that Fate had struck me blind 
Ere I had come to know that day. 
I fixed my thoughts on this and that ; 
Assessed the worth of Yiissuf s ring ; 
Counted the colors in the mat 
And then a bird began to sing, 
A bulbul hidden in a bough. 



NOURMADEE 109 

From time to time it loosed a strain 
Of moonlit magic that, somehow, 
Brought comfort to my troubled brain. 

But when the girl once, creeping close, 
Half stooped, and looked me in the face, 
My reason fled, and I arose 
And cried to Yiissuf, from my place : 

" O Yiissuf, give to me this girl ! 
You are so rich and I so poor ! 
You would not miss one little pearl 
Like that from out your countless store ! " 

" This girl ? What girl ? No girl is here ! " 
Cried Yiissuf with his eyes agleam ; 

" Now, by the Prophet, it is clear 
Our friend has had a pleasant dream ! " 
(And then it seems that I awoke, 



HO NOURMADEE 

And stared around, no little dazed 
At finding naught of what I spoke : 
The guests sat silent and amazed.) 

Then Yussuf of all mortal men 
This Yussuf has a mocking tongue ! 
Stood at my side, and spoke again : 
" O Mirtzy, I too once was young. 
With mandolin or dulcimer 
I ve waited many a midnight through, 
Content to catch one glimpse of Her, 
And have my turban drenched with dew. 
By Her I mean some slim Malay, 
Some Andalusian with her fan 
(For I have traveled in my day), 
Or some swart beauty of Soudan. 
No Barmecide was I to fare 



NOURMADEE ill 

On fancy s shadowy wine and meat ; 
No phantom moulded out of air 
Had spells to lure me to her feet. 

Mirtzy, be it understood 

1 blame you not. Your sin is slight ! 
You fled the world of flesh and blood, 
And loved a vision of the night ! 
Sweeter than musk such visions be 

As come to poets when they sleep ! 
You dreamed you saw fair Nourmadee ? 
Go to ! it is a pearl I keep ! " 

By Allah, but his touch was true ! 
And I was humbled to the dust 
That I in those grave merchants view 
Should seem a thing no man might trust. 
For he of creeping things is least 



H2 NOURMADEE 

Who, while he breaks of friendship s bread, 
Betrays the giver of the feast. 

" Good friends, I m not that man ! " I said. 

" O Yiissuf, shut not Pardon s gate ! 
The words I spake I no wise meant. 
Who holds the threads of Time and Fate 
Sends dreams. I dreamt the dream he sent. 
I am as one that from a trance 
Awakes confused, and reasons ill ; 
The world of men invites his glance, 
The world of shadows claims him still. 
I see those lights among the leaves, 
Yourselves I see, sedate and wise, 
And yet some finer sense perceives 
A presence that eludes the eyes. 
Of what is gone there seems to stay 
Some subtlety, to mock my pains : 



NO URMADEE 113 

So, when a rose is borne away, 
The fragrance of the rose remains i " 
Then Ydssuf laughed, Abdallah leered, 
And Melik coughed behind his hand, 
And lean Ben-Auda stroked his beard 
As who should say, " We understand ! " 
And though the fault was none of mine, 
As I explained and made appear, 
Since then I Ve not been asked to dine 
In Yiissuf s garden at Tangier. 



H4 NO URMADEE 



FAREWELL, O Hassem ! Peace be thine ! 

With thee and thine be always Peace ! 

To virtue let thy steps incline, 

And may thy shadow not decrease ! 

Get wealth wealth makes the dullard s jest 

Seem witty where true wit falls flat ; 

Do good, for goodness still is best 

But then the Koran tells thee that. 

Know Patience here, and later Bliss ; 

Grow wise, trust woman, doubt not man ; 

And when thou dinest out mark this 

Beware of wines from Ispahan ! 



FOOTNOTES 



FIREFLIES 

SEE where at intervals the firefly s spark 
Glimmers, and melts into the fragrant dark ; 
Gilds a leaf s edge one happy instant, then 
Leaves darkness all a mystery again ! 



PROBLEM 

So closely knit are mind and brain, 
Such web and woof are soul and clay, 
How is it, being rent in twain, 
One part shall live, and one decay ? 



Il8 FOOTNOTES 



ORIGINALITY 

No bird has ever uttered note 
That was not in some first bird s throat ; 
Since Eden s freshness and man s fall 
No rose has been original. 



KISMET 

A GLANCE, a word and joy or pain 
Befalls what was no more shall be. 
How slight the links are in the chain 
That binds us to our destiny ! 



FOOTNOTES 119 



A HINT FROM HERRICK 

No slightest golden rhyme he wrote 
That held not something men must quote ; 
Thus by design or chance did he 
Drop anchors to posterity. 



PESSIMISTIC POETS 

I LITTLE read those poets who have made 
A noble art a pessimistic trade, 
And trained their Pegasus to draw a hearse 
Through endless avenues of drooping verse. 



120 FOOTNOTES 



HOSPITALITY 

WHEN friends are at your hearthside met, 
Sweet courtesy has done its most 
If you have made each guest forget 
That he himself is not the host. 



POINTS OF VIEW 

BONNET in hand, obsequious and discreet, 

The butcher that served Shakespeare with his 

meat 

Doubtless esteemed him little, as a man 
Who knew not how the market prices ran. 



FOOTNOTES 121 



THE TWO MASKS 

I GAVE my heart its freedom to be gay 
Or grave at will, when life was in its May \ 
So I have gone, a pilgrim through the years, 
With more of laughter in my scrip than tears. 



QUITS 

IF my best wines mislike thy taste, 
And my best service win thy frown, 
Then tarry not, I bid thee haste ; 
There s many another Inn in town. 




. 



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