The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan
(3 vols. London: Henry S. King & Co., 1874. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1874.)
Vol. II. continued
‘Summer Moon’ - from Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, 1865, where it was Part III of ‘Village Voices’.
‘Two Sons’ - This seems to be the first publication of ‘Two Sons’ (at least in book form). In 1882 Buchanan chose to open his volume of Selected Poems with the poem, for his new publisher Chatto & Windus, but then omitted it from their 1884 edition of the Poetical Works. However, it does appear in the ‘Miscellaneous Poems’ section of the second volume of the 1901 edition.
I HAVE two Sons, Wife—
Two, and yet the same;
One his wild way runs, Wife,
Bringing us to shame.
The one is bearded, sunburnt, grim, and fights across the sea,
The other is a little Child who sits upon your knee. [1:6]
One is fierce and cold, Wife,
As the wayward Deep;
Him no arms could hold, Wife,
Him no breast could keep.
He has tried our hearts for many a year, not broken them; for he
Is still the sinless little one that sits upon your knee.
One may fall in fight, Wife—
Is he not our son?
Pray with all your might, Wife,
For the wayward one;
Pray for the dark, rough soldier, who fights across the sea,
Because you love the little shade who smiles upon your knee. [3:6]
One across the foam, Wife,
As I speak may fall;
But this one at home, Wife,
Cannot die at all.
They both are only one; and how thankful should we be,
We cannot lose the darling Son who sits upon your knee!
Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
v. 1, l. 6: The other is a little son who sits upon your knee.
v. 3, l. 6: Because you love the little son who smiles upon your knee. ]
‘The Widow Mysie’ - from Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, 1865.
‘Poet Andrew’ - from Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, 1865. A revised version of ‘Poet Andrew’ was published in the 1874, King edition of the Poetical Works but for the 1884, Chatto & Windus Poetical Works, Buchanan largely reverted to the original version. Buchanan’s note at the end of the 1874 version refers to the’’speaker’ of the poem - the father of ‘Poet Andrew’ and thus, the father of David Gray. Buchanan’s letter to David Gray Snr., replying to his note informing him of his son’s death, is available in the Letters Section.
POET ANDREW *
O Loom, that loud art murmuring
What doth he hear thee say or sing?
Thou hummest o’er the dead one’s songs,
He cannot choose but hark,
His heart with tearful rapture throngs,
But all his face grows dark.
O cottage Fire, that burnest bright,
What pictures sees he in thy light?
A city’s smoke, a white white face,
Phantoms that fade and die,
And last, the lonely burial-place
On the windy hill hard by.
’TIS near a year since Andrew went to sleep—
A winter and a summer. Yonder bed
Is where the boy was born, and where he died,
And yonder o’er the lowland is his grave:
The nook of grass and gowans where in thought
I found you standing at the set o’ sun . . .
The Lord content us—’tis a weary world.
* See the ‘Life of David Gray.’
These five-and-twenty years I’ve wrought and wrought
In this same dwelling;—hearken! you can hear
The looms that whuzzle-whazzle ben the house,
Where Jean and Mysie, lassies in their teens,
And Jamie, and a neighbour’s son beside,
Work late and early. Andrew who is dead
Was our first-born; and when he crying came,
With beaded een and pale old-farrant face,
Out of the darkness, Mysie and mysel’
Were young and heartsome; and his smile, be sure,
Made daily toil the sweeter. . . . Weel! . . . in time
Came other children,
And Andrew quitted Mysie’s breast for mine.
So years roll’d round, like bobbins on a loom;
And Mysie and mysel’ had work to do,
And Andrew took his turn among the rest,
No sweeter, dearer; till, one Sabbath day,
When Andrew was a curly-pated tot
Of sunny summers six, I had a crack
With Mister Mucklewraith the Minister,
Who put his kindly hand on Andrew’s head,
Call’d him a clever wean, a bonnie wean,
Clever at learning, while the mannikin
Blush’d red as any rose, and peeping up
Went twinkle-twinkle with his round black een;
And then, while Andrew laugh’d and ran awa’,
The Minister went deeper in his praise,
And prophesied he would become in time
A man of mark. This set me thinking, sir,
And watching,—and the mannock puzzled me.
Would sit for hours upon a stool and draw
Droll faces on the slate, while other lads
Were shouting at their play; dumbly would lie
Beside the Lintock, sailing, piloting,
Navies of docken-leaves a summer day;
Had learn’d the hymns of Doctor Watts by heart,
And as for old Scots songs, could lilt them a’—
From Yarrow Braes to Bonnie Bessie Lee—
And where he learn’d them, only Heaven knew;
And oft, altho’ he feared to sleep his lane,
Would cowrie at the threshold in a storm
To watch the lightning,—as a birdie sits,
With fluttering fearsome heart and dripping wings,
Among the branches. Once [I mind it weel]
In came he, running, with a bloody nose,
Part tears, part pleasure, to his fluttering heart
Holding a callow mavis golden-bill’d,
The thin white film of death across its een,
And told us, sobbing, how a neighbour’s son
Harried the birdie’s nest, and how by chance
He came upon the thief beside the burn
Throwing the birdies in to see them swim,
And how he fought him, till he yielded up
This one, the one remaining of the nest;—
And ‘O the birdie’s dying!’ sobb’d he sore,
‘The bonnie birdie’s dying!’—till it died;
And Andrew dug a grave behind the house,
Buried his dead, and cover’d it with earth,
And cut, to mark the grave, a grassy turf
Where blew a bunch of gowans. After that,
I thought and thought, and thick as bees the thoughts
Buzz’d to the whuzzle-whazzling of the loom—
I could make naething of the mannikin!
But by and by, when Hope was making hay,
And web-work rose, I settled it and said
To the good wife, ‘’Tis plain that yonder lad
Will never take to weaving—and at school
They say he beats the rest at all his tasks
Save figures only: I have settled it:
Andrew shall be a minister—a pride
And comfort to us, Mysie, in our age:
He shall to college in a year or twa
(If Fortune smiles as now) at Edinglass.’
You guess the wife open’d her een, cried ‘Foosh!’
And call’d the plan a silly senseless dream,
A hopeless, useless castle in the air;
But ere the night was out, I talk’d her o’er,
And here she sat, her hands upon her knees,
Glow’ring and heark’ning, as I conjured up,
Amid the fog and reek of Edinglass
Life’s peaceful gloaming and a godly fame.
So it was broach’d, and after many talks
With Mister Mucklewraith, we plann’d it all,
And day by day we laid a penny by
To give the lad when he should quit the bield.
And years wore on; and year on year was cheer’d
By thoughts of Andrew, drest in decent black,
Throned in a Pulpit, preaching out the Word,
A house his own, and all the country-side
To touch their bonnets to him. Weel, the lad
Grew up among us, and at seventeen
His hands were small and white, and he was tall,
And slim, and narrow-shoulder’d: pale of face,
Silent, and bashful. Then we first began
To feel how muckle more he knew than we,
To eye his knowledge in a kind of fear,
As folk might look upon a crouching beast,
Bonnie, but like enough to rise and bite.
Up came the cloud between us silly folk
And the young lad that sat among his Books
Amid the silence of the night; and oft
It pain’d us sore to fancy he would learn
Enough to make him look with shame and scorn
On this old dwelling. ’Twas his manner, sir!
He seldom look’d his father in the face,
And when he walk’d about the dwelling, seem’d
Like one superior; dumbly he would steal
To the burnside, or into Lintlin Woods,
With some new-farrant book,—and when I peep’d,
Behold a book of jingling-jangling rhyme,
Fine-written nothings on a printed page;
And, press’d between the leaves, a flower perchance,
Anemone or blue Forget-me-not,
Pluck’d in the grassy woodland. Then I peep’d
Into his drawer, among his papers there,
And found—you guess?—a heap of idle rhymes,
Big-sounding, like the worthless printed book:
Some in old copies scribbled, some on scraps
Of writing paper, others finely writ
With spirls and flourishes on big white sheets.
I clench’d my teeth, and groan’d. The beauteous dream
Of the good Preacher in his braw black dress,
With house and income snug, began to fade
Before the picture of a drunken loon
Bawling out songs beneath the moon and stars,—
Of poet Willie Clay, who wrote a book
About King Robert Bruce, and aye got fu’,
And scatter’d stars in verse, and aye got fu’,
Wept the world’s sins, and then got fu’ again,—
Of Ferguson, the feckless limb o’ law,—
And Robin Burns, who gauged the whiskey-casks
And brake the seventh commandment. So at once
I up and said to Andrew, ‘You’re a fool!
You waste your time in silly senseless verse,
Lame as your own conceit: take heed! take heed!
Or, like your betters, come to grief ere long!’
But Andrew flush’d and never spake a word,
Yet eyed me sidelong with his beaded een,
And turn’d awa’, and, as he turn’d, his look—
Half scorn, half sorrow—stang me. After that,
I felt he never heeded word of ours,
And tho’ we tried to teach him common-sense
He idled as he pleased; and many a year,
After I spake him first, that look of his
Came dark between us, and I held my tongue,
And felt he scorn’d me for the poetry’s sake.
This coldness grew and grew, until at last
We sat whole nights before the fire and spoke
No word to one another. One fine day,
Says Mister Mucklewraith to me, says he,
‘So! you’ve a Poet in your house!’ and smiled;
‘A Poet? God forbid!’ I cried; and then
It all came out: how Andrew slyly sent
Verse to the paper; how they printed it
In Poets’ Corner; how the printed verse
Had turn’d his head; how Mistress Mucklewraith
Had cut the verses out and pasted them
In albums, and had praised them to her friends.
I said but little; for my schemes and dreams
Were tumbling down like castles in the air,
And all my heart seem’d hardening to stone.
But after that, in secret stealth, I bought
The papers, hunted out the printed verse,
And read it like a thief; thought some were good,
And others foolish havers, and in most
Saw naething, neither common-sense nor sound—
Words pottle-bellied, meaningless, and strange,
That strutted up and down the printed page,
Like Bailies made to bluster and look big.
’Twas useless grumbling. All my silent looks
Were lost, all Mysie’s flyting fell on ears
Choke-full of other counsel; but we talk’d
In bed o’ nights, and Mysie wept, and I
Felt stubborn, wrothful, wrong’d. It was to be!
But mind you, though we mourn’d, we ne’er forsook
The college scheme. Our sorrow, as we saw
Our Andrew growing cold to homely ways,
And scornful of the bield, but strengthen’d more
Our wholesome wish to educate the lad,
And do our duty by him, and help him on
With our rough hands—the Lord would do the rest,
The Lord would mend or mar him. So at last,
New-clad from top to toe in homespun cloth,
With books and linen in a muckle trunk,
He went his way to college; and we sat,
Mysie and me, in weary darkness here;
For tho’ the younger bairns were still about,
It seem’d our hearts had gone to Edinglass
With Andrew, and were choking in the reek
Of Edinglass town.
It was a gruesome fight,
Both for oursel’s at home, and for the boy,
That student life at college. Hard it was
To scrape the fees together, but beside,
The lad was young and needed meat and drink.
We sent him meal and bannocks by the train,
And country cheeses; and with this and that,
Though sorely push’d, he throve, though now and then
With empty wame: spinning the siller out
By teaching grammar in a school at night.
Whiles he came home: weary old-farrant face
Pale from the midnight candle; bringing home
Good news of college. Then we shook awa’
The old sad load, began to build again
Our airy castles, and were hopeful Time
Would heal our wounds. But, sir, they plagued me still—
Some of his ways! When here, he spent his time
In yonder chamber, or about the woods,
And by the waterside,—and with him books
Of poetry, as of old. Mysel’ could get
But little of his company or tongue;
And when we talkt, atweel, a kind of frost,—
My consciousness of silly ignorance,
And worse, my knowledge that the lad himsel’
Felt sorely, keenly, all my ignorant shame,
Made talk a torture out of which we crept
With burning faces. Could you understand
One who was wild as if he found a mine
Of golden guineas, when he noticed first
The soft green streaks in a snowdrop’s inner leaves?
And once again, the moonlight glimmering
Thro’ watery transparent stalks of flax?
A flower’s a flower! . . . But Andrew snooved about,
Aye finding wonders, mighty mysteries,
In things that every learless cottar kenn’d.
Now, ’twas the falling snow or murmuring rain;
Now, ’twas the laverock singing in the sun,
And dropping slowly to the callow young;
Now, an old tune he heard his mother lilt;
And aye those trifles made his pallid face
Flush brighter, and his een flash keener far,
Than when he heard of yonder storm in France,
Or a King’s death, or, if the like had been,
A City’s downfall.
He was born with love
For things both great and small; yet seem’d to prize
The small things best. To me, it seem’d indeed
The callant cared for nothing for itsel’,
But for some special quality it had
To set him poetry-making, or bestow
A tearful sense he took for luxury.
He loved us in his silent fashion weel;
But in our feckless ignorance we knew
’Twas when the humour seized him—with a sense
Of some queer power we had to waken up
The poetry—ay, and help him in his rhyme!
A kind of patronising tenderness,
A pitying pleasure in our Scottish speech
And homely ways, a love that made him note
Both ways and speech with the same curious joy
As fill’d him when he watch’d the birds and flowers.
He was as sore a puzzle to us then
As he had been before. It puzzled us,
How a big lad, down-cheek’d, almost a man,
Could pass his time in silly childish joys . . .
Until at last, a hasty letter came
From Andrew, telling he had broke awa’
From college, pack’d his things, and taken train
To London city, where he hoped (he said)
To make both fortune and a noble fame
Thro’ a grand poem, carried in his trunk;
How, after struggling on with bitter heart,
He could no longer bear to fight his way
Among the common scholars; and the end
Bade us be hopeful, trusting God, and sure
The light of this old home would guide him still
Amid the reek of evil.
Sae it was!
We twa were less amazed than you may guess,
Though we had hoped, and fear’d, and hoped, sae long!
But it was hard to bear—hard, hard to bear!
Our castle in the clouds was gone for good;
And as for Andrew—other lads had ta’en
The same mad path, and learn’d the bitter task
Of hunger, cold, and tears. She wept. I sat
In silence, looking on the fuffing fire,
Where streets and ghaistly faces came and went,
And London city crumbled down to crush
Our Andrew; and my heart was sick and cold.
Ere long, the news across the country-side
Spread quickly, like the crowing of a cock
From farm to farm—the women talk’d it o’er
On doorsteps, o’er the garden rails; the men
Got fu’ upon it at the public-house,
And whisper’d it among the fields at work.
A cry was quickly raised from house to house,
That all the blame was mine, and canker’d een
Lookt cold upon me, as upon a kind
Of upstart. ‘Fie on pride!’ the whisper said,
‘The fault was Andrew’s less than those who taught
His heart to look in scorn on honest work,—
Shame on them!—but the lad, poor lad, would learn!’
O sir, the thought of this spoil’d many a web
In yonder—tingling, tingling, in my ears,
Until I fairly threw my gloom aside,
Smiled like a man whose heart is light and young,
And with a future-kenning happy look
Threw up my chin, and bade them wait and see . . .
But, night by night, these een look’d Londonways,
And saw my laddie wandering all alone
’Mid darkness, fog, and reek, growing afar
To dark proportions and gigantic shape—
Just as the figure of a sheep-herd looms,
Awful and silent, thro’ a mountain mist.
Ye ken the rest. At first, he sent us home
Proud letters, swiftly writ, telling how folk
Now roundly call’d him ‘Poet,’ holding out
Bright pictures, which we smiled at wearily—
As people smile at pictures in a book,
Untrue but bonnie. Then the letters ceased,
There came a silence cold and still as frost,—
We sat and hearken’d to our beating hearts,
And pray’d as we had never pray’d before.
Then lastly, on the silence broke the news
That Andrew, far awa’, was sick to death,
And, weary, weary of the noisy streets,
With aching head and heavy hopeless heart,
Was coming home from mist and fog and noise
To grassy lowlands and the caller air.
’Twas strange, ’twas strange!—but this, the bitter end
Of all our bonnie castles in the clouds,
Came like a tearful comfort. Love sprang up
Out of the ashes of the household fire;
And Andrew, our own boy, seem’d nearer now
To this old dwelling and our aching hearts
Than he had ever been since he became
Wise with book-learning. With an eager pain,
I met him at the train and brought him home;
And when we met that sunny day in hairst,
The ice that long had sunder’d us had thaw’d,
We met in silence, and our een were dim.
O, I can see that look of his this night!
Part pain, part tenderness—a famish’d look,
Yearning for comfort such as God the Lord
Puts into parents’ een. I brought him here.
Gently we set him here beside the fire,
And spake few words, and hush’d the noisy house;
Then eyed his hollow cheeks and lustrous een,
His clammy hueless brow and faded hands,
Blue vein’d and white like lily-flowers. The wife
Forgot the sickness of his face, and moved
With light and happy footstep but and ben,
As though she welcomed to a merry feast
A happy guest. In time, out came the truth:
Andrew was dying: in his lungs the dust
Of cities stole unseen, and burn’d like fire.
Too late for doctor’s skill, tho’ doctor’s skill
We had in plenty; but the ill had ta’en
Too sure a grip. Andrew was dying, dying;
The dazzling dream had melted like a mist
The sunlight feeds on: all remaining now
Was Andrew, bare and barren of his pride,
Stark of conceit, a weel-belovëd child,
Helpless to help himsel’, and dearer thus,
As when his yaumer*—like the corn-craik’s cry
Heard in a field of wheat at dead o’ night—
Brake on the hearkening darkness of the bield.
* ‘Yaumer,’ a child’s cry.
And as he nearer grew to God the Lord,
Nearer and dearer day by day he grew
To Mysie and mysel’—our own to love,
The world’s no longer. For the first last time,
We twa, the lad and I, could sit and crack
With open hearts—free-spoken, at our ease;
I seem’d to know as muckle then as he,
Because I was sae sad.
Thus grief, sae deep
It flow’d without a murmur, brought the balm
Which blunts the edge of worldly sense and makes
Old people weans again. In this sad time,
We never troubled at his childish ways;
We seem’d to share his pleasure when he sat
List’ning to birds upon the eaves; we felt
Small wonder when we found him weeping o’er
His old torn books of pencill’d thoughts and verse;
And if, outbye, I saw a bonnie flower,
I pluck’d it carefully and bore it home
To my sick boy. To me, it somehow seem’d
His care for lovely earthly things had changed—
Changed from the curious love it once had been,
Grown larger, sadder, holier, peacefuller;
And though he never lost the luxury
Of loving beauteous things for poetry’s sake,
His heart was God the Lord’s, and he was calm.
Death came to lengthen out his solemn thoughts
Like shadows from the sunset. So no more
We wonder’d. What is folly in a lad
Healthy and heartsome, one with work to do,
Befits the freedom of a dying man. . . .
Mother, who chided loud the idle lad
Of old, now sat her sadly by his side,
And read from out the Bible soft and low,
Or lilted lowly, keeking in his face,
The old Scots songs that made his een so dim.
I went about my daily work as one
Who waits to hear a knocking at the door,
Ere Death creeps in and shadows those that watch;
And seated here at e’en i’ the ingleside,
I watch’d the pictures in the fire and smoked
My pipe in silence; for my head was fu’
Of many rhymes the lad had made of old
(Rhymes I had read in secret, as I said),
No one of which I minded till they came
Unsummon’d, murmuring about my ears
Like bees among the leaves.
The end drew near.
Came Winter moaning, and the Doctor said
That Andrew could not live to see the Spring;
And day by day, while frost was hard at work,
The lad grew weaker, paler, and the blood
Came redder from the lung. One Sabbath day—
The last of winter, for the caller air
Was drawing sweetness from the barks of trees—
When down the lane, I saw to my surprise
A snowdrop blooming underneath a birk,
And gladly pluckt the flower to carry home
To Andrew. Ere I reach’d the bield, the air
Was thick wi’ snow, and ben in yonder room
I found him, mother seated at his side,
Drawn to the window in the old arm-chair,
Gazing wi’ lustrous een and sickly cheek
Out on the shower, that waver’d softly down
In glistening siller glamour. Saying nought,
Into his hand I put the year’s first flower,
And turn’d awa’ to hide my face; and he . . .
. . . He smiled . . . and at the smile, I knew not why,
It swam upon us, in a frosty pain,
The end was come at last, at last, and Death
Was creeping ben, his shadow on our hearts.
We gazed on Andrew, call’d him by his name,
And touch’d him softly . . . and he lay awhile,
His een upon the snow, in a dark dream,
Yet neither heard nor saw; but suddenly,
He shook awa’ the vision wi’ a smile,
Raised lustrous een, still smiling, to the sky,
Next upon us, then dropt them to the flower
That trembled in his hand, and murmur’d low,
Like one that gladly murmurs to himsel’—
‘Out of the Snow, the Snowdrop—out of Death
Comes Life;’ then closed his eyes and made a moan,
And never spake another word again. *
* The speaker in this poem lived, as I have painted him, and died after the poem was written.
It was from the living intercourse of such as he that I first began to awaken to the sense of the
Divine life at work in the common world; and, therefore, as I painted him in this early sketch, I
leave him—adding only this last word of sympathy and reverence. The artistic quality of the sketch
is another matter. It was written (with ‘Willie Baird,’ ‘John,’ and others easily identified) in or about
my twentieth year, when I tried with somewhat mistaken conceptions to disregard all adornment
and rely on simple realistic substance. Strong earnestness in the artists is the sole justification of
pictures so hard in outline; and whatever I lacked, I was terribly in earnest.—R. B.
‘Liz’ - from London Poems, 1866.
‘Tom Dunstan, Or, The Politician’ - although this was its first appearance in book form, ‘Tom Dunstan’ was included in the ‘London Poems (1866-70)’ section of the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works.and can be found in the ‘Additional London Poems’ section of the site.
‘O’Murtogh’ - originally published in Scribner’s Monthly, December, 1872. ‘O’Murtogh’ was included in the ‘London Poems (1866-70)’ section of the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works.and can be found in the ‘Additional London Poems’ section of the site.
‘The Bookworm’ - originally published in All The Year Round, October, 1871. ‘The Bookworm’ was included in the ‘London Poems (1866-70)’ section of the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works.and can be found in the ‘Additional London Poems’ section of the site.
‘Edward Crowhurst’ - from London Poems, 1866.
‘Barbara Gray’ - from London Poems, 1866.
‘Artist And Model’ - from London Poems, 1866.
‘Jane Lewson’ - from London Poems, 1866.
‘Lord Ronald’s Wife’ - from Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, 1865.
‘The Last Of The Hangmen’ - originally published in The Saint Pauls Magazine, January, 1872. ‘The Last Of The Hangmen’ was included in the ‘London Poems (1866-70)’ section of the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works.and can be found in the ‘Additional London Poems’ section of the site.
There follows a sequence of four poems under the title, ‘PASTORAL PICTURES’. The second edition of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, published in 1866, contained a similar sequence under the same title, with the following poems: ‘The River’, ‘In The Mountains’ and ‘Snow’. The revised sequence from the 1874 Poetical Works is available in the Idyls and Legends of Inverburn section.
‘I. Down The River’ - originally published in All The Year Round (15 September, 1860), included in the second edition of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn (1866) in the Juvenilia section as the first poem, ‘The River’, in the ‘Pastoral Pictures’ sequence.
‘II. The Summer Pool’ - originally published in All The Year Round (28 August, 1869).
‘III. Up The River’ - originally published in The St. James’s Magazine (October, 1862). Revised and retitled, this was included in the second edition of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn (1866) in the Juvenilia section as the second poem, ‘In The Mountains’, in the ‘Pastoral Pictures’ sequence.
‘IV. Snow’ - originally published in All The Year Round (29 December, 1860), included in the second edition of Idyls and Legends of Inverburn (1866) in the Juvenilia section as the third poem in the ‘Pastoral Pictures’ sequence.
The next section is comprised of four poems from Undertones (1863) - ‘The Satyr’, ‘Iris’, ‘The Naiad’ and ‘Selene’ - linked by a subtitle, ‘Greek Shapes and Summer Fancies’, and brief introductions, followed by ‘Pygmalion’ and a concluding note:
GREEK SHAPES AND SUMMER FANCIES
In the greenwood resting still,
Idly, gladly, with no will,
Watching clouds and flowers and trees
In a warm poetic ease,
Fresh from college, full of joy,
With a book, now broods the Boy;
And the waters and the skies,
And the earth on which he lies,
Yield to him their spirit-show
As in Hellas long ago;
And the Boy’s soul enters each
Fair sweet spirit, and finds speech,
Flitting fast from gleam to gleam
Of a fair Hellenic dream.
What is he first?
The fleet Faun, nurst
In sylvan gloom and glee;
He lies by the stream,
In a summer dream,
Under the greenwood tree.
THE trunk of this tree,
Is a pillow well suited
To a being like me,
For the boughs of the glade
Meet above me, and throw
A cool pleasant shade
On the greenness below;
Dusky and brown’d
Close the leaves all around;
And yet, all the while,
Thro’ the boughs I can see
A star, with a smile,
Looking at me.
All day long,
I run about
With a madcap throng,
And laugh and shout.
My ears, and strides
On my shaggy hips,
And up and down
In an ivy crown
And when in a dose
His eyelids close,
Off he tumbles, and I
Can his wine-skin steal,
I drink—and feel
The grass roll—sea-high!
Then with shouts and yells,
Down mossy dells,
I stagger after
The wood-nymphs fleet,
Who with mocking laughter
And smiles retreat;
And just as I clasp
A yielding waist,
With a cry embraced,
—Gush! it glides from my grasp
With a gurgle cool,
I stumble and gasp
In some icy pool!
All suborn me,
Flout me, scorn me!
And cares are mine,
Romp and noise,
And the dregs of wine
And whene’er in the night
Diana glides by
The spot where I lie,
With her maids green-dight,
I must turn my back
In a rude affright,
And blindly fly
From her shining track;
Or if only I hear
Her bright footfall near,
Fall with face to the grass,
Not breathing for fear
Till I feel her pass.
I know not what:
Neither what I am,
Nor what I am not—
I seem to have rollick’d,
In this wood for aye,
With a beast’s delight
Romping all day,
Dreaming all night!
Yet I seem
To remember awaking
Just here, and aching
With the last forsaking
Of a droll strange dream.—
When I lay at mine ease,
With a sense at my heart
Of being a part
Of the grass and trees
And the scented earth,
And of drinking the bright
With a leafy mirth:
Then behold, I could see
A wood-nymph peeping
Out of her tree,
And closer creeping,
Looking at me!
So still, so still,
I lay until
She trembled close to me,
Soft as a rose to me,
And I leapt with a thrill
And a shout, and I threw
Arms around her, and press’d her,
Kiss’d her, caress’d her,—
Ere she scream’d, and flew.
Then I was ’ware
Of a power I had—
To drink the air,
Laugh and shout,
And be consciously glad—
So I follow’d the maiden
’Neath shady eaves,
Thro’ groves deep-laden
With fruit and leaves,
Till, drawing near
To a brooklet clear,
I shuddering fled
From the monstrous Shape
Which seem’d to espy me,
And grin and gape,
And leap up high
In the air with a cry,
And fly me!
Whence I seem to have slowly
Grown conscious of being
A thing wild, unholy,
And foul to the seeing.—
But ere I knew aught
Of others like me,
I would lie, fancy-fraught,
In the greenness of thought,
Beneath a green tree;
And seem to be deep
In the scented earth-shade
’Neath the grass of the glade,
In a strange half-sleep:
When the wind seem’d to move me,
The cool rain to kiss,
The sunlight to love me,
The stars in their bliss
To tingle above me;
And I crept thro’ deep bowers
That were sparkling with showers
And sprouting for pleasure,
And I quicken’d the flowers
To a joy without measure—
Till my sense seem’d consuming
With warmth, and, upspringing,
I saw the flowers blooming,
And heard the birds singing!
Wherever I range,
Thro’ the greenery,
That vision strange,
Whatsoever it be,
Is a part of me
Which suffers not change.—
The changes of earth,
Water, air, ever-stirring,
Disturb me, conferring
My sadness or mirth:
Wheresoever I run,
I drink strength from the sun;
The wind stirs my veins
With the leaves of the wood,
The dews and the rains
Mingle into my blood.
I stop short
In my sport,
Panting, and cower,
While the blue skies darken
With a sunny shower;
And I lie and hearken,
In a balmy pain
To the tinkling clatter,
Of the rain
On the leaves close to me,
While sweet thrills pass
Thro’ and thro’ me,
Till I tingle like grass.
When Lightning with noise
Tears the wood’s green ceiling,
When the black sky’s voice
Is terribly pealing,
I hide me, hide me, hide me,
With wild averted face,
In some terror-stricken place,
While flowers and trees beside me,
And every streamlet near,
Darken whirl, and wonder,
Above, around, and under,
And murmur back the thunder
In a palpitating fear!
Ay; and when the earth turns
A soft bosom of balm
To the darkness that yearns
Above it, and grows
To dark, dewy, and calm
I, apart from rude riot,
Partake of the quiet
The night is bequeathing,
Lie, unseen and unheard,
In the greenness just stirr’d
By its own soft breathing—
And my heart then thrills
With a strange sensation
Like the purl of rills
Down moonlit hills
That loom afar,
With a sweet sensation
Like the palpitation
Of yonder Star!
—Did she hear me, I wonder?—
She trembles upon
Her throne—and is gone!
The boughs darken under,
Then thrill, and are stirr’d
By the notes of a bird.
The green grass brightens
With pearly dew,
And the whole wood whitens
As the dawn creeps thro’.—
Flung the echoes about
The boughs, like balls!
’Tis the noisy rout
Of my fellows upspringing
From sleep and dreaming,
To the birds’ shrill singing,
The day’s soft beaming:
And they madly go
To and fro,
Though o’ nights they are dumb.
I come! I come!
Hark!—to the cry
‘Ha, there, ha!’
And starting afraid
At the cries,
In the depths of the glade
‘Ho, there!’—‘ho, there!’—
By the stream below there
The answer dies.
While a summer shower sings by,
Smiles the Rainbow in the sky;
In the cloud it rises pale,
But its bright feet light the vale.
Now the Boy’s soul slipping warm
From the Satyr’s shaggy form,
Turns to Iris, standing still
On a heaven-kissing hill!
’MID the cloud-enshrouded haze
Of Olympus I arise,
With the full and rainy gaze
Of Apollo in mine eyes;
But I shade my dazzled glance
With my dripping pinions white,
Where the sunlight sparkles dance
In a many-tinted light:
My foot upon the woof
Of a cloud wool-white and small,
I glimmer thro’ the roof
Of the paven banquet-hall,
And a soft pink radiance dips
Thro’ the floating mists divine,
Touching eyes and cheeks and lips
Of the mild-eyed gods supine,
And the odorous vapour rolls
Round their foreheads, while I stain,
With a blush like wine, the bowls
Of transparent porcelain:
Till the whole calm place has caught
A deep flush of rosy fire—
When I darken to the thought
In the eyes of Zeus the Sire.
Then Zeus, arising, stoops
O’er the ledges of the skies,
Looking downward, thro’ the loops
Of the starry tapestries,
On the evident dark plain
Speck’d with wood and hill and stream,
On the wrinkled tawny Main
Where the sleepless surge doth gleam;
And with finger without swerve,
While all darkens unaware,
He draws a magic curve
In the dark and dreamful air;
When with waving wings display’d,
On the Sun-god’s threshold bright
I upleap! and seem to fade
In a humid flash of light!
But I plunge thro’ vapours dim
To the dark low-lying land,
And I tremble, float, and swim,
On the strange curve of the Hand:
From my wings, that drip, drip, drip,
With cool rains, shoot jets of fire,
As across green capes I slip
With the sign of Zeus the Sire.
Thence, with wings that droop bedew’d,
Folded close about my form,
I alight with feet unview’d
In the centre of the Storm!
For a moment, cloud-enroll’d,
Mid the murm’rous rain I stand,
And with meteor eyes behold
Vapoury ocean, misty land;
Till the thought of Zeus outsprings
From my ripe mouth with a sigh,
And unto my lips it clings
Like a golden butterfly;
When I brighten, gleam, and glow
And my glittering wings unfurl,
And the melting colours flow
To my foot of dusky pearl;
And the Ocean mile on mile
Gleams thro’ capes and straits and bays,
And the vales and mountains smile,
And the leaves are wet with rays,—
While I wave the humid Bow
Of my wings with flash of fire,
And the Tempest, crouch’d below,
Knows the sign of Zeus the Sire.
Next, he’ll in a green grot rest,
As the naiiad in her nest.
DIAN white-arm’d has given me this cool shrine,
Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine:
The silver-sparkling showers
That curtain me, the flowers
That prink my fountain’s brim, are hers and mine;
And when the days are mild and fair,
And grass is springing, buds are blowing,
Sweet it is, ’mid waters flowing,
Here to sit, and know no care,
’Mid the waters flowing, flowing, flowing,
Combing my yellow, yellow hair.
The ounce and panther down the mountain-side
Creep thro’ dark greenness in the eventide;
And at the fountain’s brink
Casting great shades they drink,
Gazing upon me, tame and sapphire-eyed;
For, awed by my pale face, whose light
Gleameth thro’ sedge and lilies yellow,
They, lapping at my fountain mellow,
Harm not the lamb that in affright
Throws in the pool so mellow, mellow, mellow,
Its shadow small and dusky-white.
Oft do the fauns and satyrs, flusht with play,
Come to my coolness in the hot noon-day.
Nay, once indeed, I vow
By Dian’s truthful brow,
The great god Pan himself did pass this way,
And, all in festal oak-leaves clad,
His limbs among these lilies throwing,
Watch’d the silver waters flowing,
Listen'd to their music glad,
Saw and heard them flowing, flowing, flowing,
And ah! his face was worn and sad!
Now he’s the Moon,
Mid the silvern swoon
Of a night in June!
I HIDE myself in the cloud that flies
From the West and drops on the hill’s gray shoulder,
And I gleam thro’ the cloud with my panther-eyes,
While the stars turn paler, the dews grow colder;
I veil my naked glory in mist,
Quivering downward and dewily glistening;
His sleep is as pale as my lips unkist,
And I tremble above him, panting and listening.
As white as a star, as cold as a stone,
Lost as my light in a sleeping lake,
With his head on his arm he lieth alone.
And I sigh ‘Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and see!’
And he stirs in his sleep for the love of me;
But on his eyelids my breath I shake:
And the yellow grass stirs with the mystic moan,
And the tall pines groan,
And Echo sighs in her grot forsaken
The name of Endymion!
A dewy foam from the Ocean old,
Whence I rise with shadows behind me flying,
Drops from my sandals and glittereth cold
On the long spear-grass where my love is lying;
My face is dim with departed suns,
And my eyes are dark from the depths of ocean,
A starry shudder throughout me runs,
And my pale cloud stirs with a radiant motion,
When the darkness wherein he slumbers alone
Ebbs back from my brightness, as black waves break
From my shining ankle with shuddering tone;
And I sigh ‘Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and hear!’
And he stirs in his sleep with a dreamy fear,
And his thin lips part for my sweet sake:
And the skies are moved, and a shadow is blown
From the Thunderer’s throne,
And the spell of a voice from Olympus shaken
Then under his lids like a balmy rain
I put pale dreams of my heavenly glory;—
And he sees me lead with a silver chain
The tamed Sea-Tempest white-tooth’d and hoary;
And he sees me fading thro’ forests dark
Where the leopard and lion avoid me in wonder,
Or ploughing the sky in a pearly bark,
While the earth is bright with my beauty under!
Then he brightens and yearns where he lies alone,
And his heart grows dumb with a yearning ache,
And the thin lips part with a wondering moan,
As I sigh ‘Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and see
All things grow bright for the love of me,
With a love that grows gentle for thy sweet sake!
And my glory grows paler, the deep woods groan,
And the waves intone,
Ay, all things whereon my glory is shaken
The black Earth brightens, the Sea creeps near
When I swim from the sunset’s shadowy portal;
But he will not see, and he will not hear,
Though to hear and see were to be immortal:
Pale as a star and cold as a stone,
Dim as my ghost in a sleeping lake,
In an icy vision he lieth alone,
And I sigh ‘Awake!
Wake, Endymion, wake and be
Divine, divine, for the love of me!’
And my odorous breath on his lids I shake:
But Zeus sitteth cold on his cloud-shrouded throne,
And heareth my moan,
And his stern lips form not the hope-forsaken
Name of Endymion.
AN ALLEGORY OF ART
This dream the Boy dreamt too,
This shape too wore the Boy,
And, as Pygmalion, knew
The shame of impious joy!
UPON the very morn I should have wed
Death put his silence in a sorrowing house;
And, coming fresh from feast, I saw her lie
In stainless marriage samite, white and cold,
With orange blossoms in her hair, and gleams
Of the ungiven kisses of the bride
Lingering round the edges of her lips.
Then I, Pygmalion, kiss’d her as she slept,
And drew my robe across my face whereon
The midnight revel linger’d dark, and pray’d;
And the sore trouble hollow’d out my heart
To hatred of a harsh unhallow’d youth
As I fared forth. Next, day by day, my soul
Grew conscious of itself and of its fief
Within the shadow of her sleep: therewith,
Waken’d a sigh for silence such as slumbers
Under the ribs of death: until I felt
Her voice sink down from heaven on my soul,
And stir it as a wind that droppeth down
Unseen, unfelt, unheard, until its breath
Troubles the shadows in a sleeping lake.
And the voice said, ‘Pygmalion,’ and ‘Behold,’
I answer’d, ‘I am here;’ when thus the voice:
‘Put men behind thee—take thy tools, and choose
A rock of marble white as is a star,
Cleanse it and make it pure, and fashion it
After mine image: heal thyself: from grief
Comes glory, like a rainbow from a cloud.’
I barred the entrance-door unto my tower
Against the tumult of the world, I prayed
In my pale chamber. Then I wrought, and chose
A rock of marble white as is a star,
And to her heavenly image fashion’d clay,
And labour’d on in silence. And at last,
Fair-statured, noble, like an awful thing
Frozen upon the very verge of life,
And looking back along eternity
With rayless eyes that keep the shadow Time,
She rose before me in the snow-white stone,
White-limb’d, immortal; and I gazed and gazed,
Like one that sees a vision, and in awe
Half hides his face, yet looks, and seems to dream.
Blue night. I threw the lattice open wide,
Drinking the dewy air; and from my height
I saw the watch-fires of the town and heard
The gradual dying of the murmurous day.
Then, as the twilight deepen’d, on her limbs
The silver lances of the stars and moon
Were shatter’d, and the shining fragments fell
Like jewels at her feet. The Cyprian star
Quiver’d to liquid emerald where it hung
On the black ledges of the darkening hills,
Gazing upon her glory from afar.
Whereat there swam upon me utterly
A drowsy sense wherein my holy dream
Was melted, as a pearl in wine: bright-eyed,
Keen, haggard, passionate, with languid thrills
Of insolent unrest, I watch’d the stone,
And lo, I loved it: not as men love fame,
Not as the warrior loves his laurel wreath,
But with prelusion of a passionate joy
That threw me from the height whereon I stood
To grasp at Glory, and in impiousness
Of sweet communing with some amorous Soul
Chamber’d in that chill bosom. As I gazed,
There was a buzz of revel in mine ears,
And tinkling fragments of a song of love,
Warbled by wantons over wine-cups, swam
Within the weary brain.—But I was shamed
By her pale beauty, and I scorn’d myself,
And standing at the lattice dark and cool
Watch’d the dim winds of twilight enter in,
And draw a veil about that loveliness
White, dim, and breathed on by the common air.
Still, like a snake’s moist eye, the dewy Star
Of Lovers drew me; and I watch’d it grow
Large, soft, and tremulous; and as I gazed
I pray’d the lifeless silence might assume
A palpable life, and soften into flesh,
And be a beautiful and human joy
To crown my love withal; and thrice I pray’d;
And thro’ the woolly fleece of a thin cloud
The cool star dripping emerald from the baths
Of Ocean brighten’d in upon my tower,
And touch’d the marble forehead with a gleam
Soft, green, and dewy; and I said ‘The prayer
The live-long night, the breathless night,
I waited in a darkness, in a dream,
Watching the snowy figure faintly seen,
And ofttimes shuddering when I seem’d to see
Life, like a taper burning in a scull,
Gleam thro’ the rayless eyes: and, shuddering,
Fearing the thing I hoped for, awful eyed,
On her cold breast I placed a hand as cold
And sought a fluttering heart.—But all was still,
And chill, and breathless; and she gazed right on
With rayless orbs, nor marvell’d at my touch.
When Shame lay heavy on me, and I hid
My face, and almost hated her, my work,
Because she was so fair, so human fair,
Yea, not divinely fair as that pure face
Which, when mine hour of loss and travail came,
Haunted me, out of heaven. Then the Dawn
Stared in upon her: when I open’d eyes,
And saw the gradual Dawn encrimson her
Like blood that blush’d within her,—and behold
She trembled—and I shriek’d!
With haggard eyes,
I gazed on her, my fame, my work, my love!
Red sunrise mingled with the first bright flush
Of palpable life—she trembled, stirr’d, and sigh’d—
And the dim blankness of her stony eyes
Melted to azure. Then, by slow degrees,
She tingled with the warmth of living blood:
Her eyes were vacant of a seeing soul,
But dewily the bosom rose and fell,
The lips caught sunrise, parting, and the breath
Fainted thro’ pearly teeth.
I was as one
Who gazes on a goddess serpent-eyed,
And cannot fly, and knows to look is death.
O apparition. of my work and wish!
The weight of awe oppress’d me, and the air
Swung as the Seas swing around drowning men.
About her brow the marble hair had clung
With wavy tresses, in a simple knot
Bound up and braided; but behold, her eyes
Droop’d downward, as she wonder’d at herself,
Then flush’d to see her naked loveliness,
And trembled, stooping downward; and the hair
Unloosening fell, and brighten’d as it fell,
Till gleaming ringlets tingled to the knees
And cluster’d round about her, pouring down
And throwing moving shadows o’er the floor
Whereon she stood and brighten’d.
With softly heaving breast and outstretch’d arms,
She thrust a curving foot and touch’d the ground,
And stirr’d; and, downcast-lidded, saw not me.
Then as the foot descended with no sound,
The whole live blood grew pink within the veins
For joy of its own motion. Step by step,
She paced the chamber, groping till she gain’d
One sunlight-slip that thro’ the curtain’d pane
Crept slant—a gleaming line on roof and floor;
And there, in light, she pausing sunn’d herself
With half-closed eyes; there, stirring not, she paused;
With drooping eyelids that grew moist and warm,
What time, withdrawn into the further dark,
I watch’d her face, and still she saw me not,
But gather’d glory while she sunn’d herself,
Drawing deep breath of gladness such as earth
Breathes dewily in the sunrise after rain.
What follow’d was a strange and wondrous dream
Wherein, half conscious, wearily and long
I wooed away her fears with gentle words;
And all the while thick pulses of my heart
Throng’d hot in ears and eyelids,—for my Soul
Seem’d swooning, deaden’d in the sense, like one
Who sinks in snows, and sleeps, and wakes no more.
Then, further, I was conscious that my face
Had lull’d her fears; that close to me she came
Tamer than beast, and toy’d with my great beard;
And murmur’d sounds like prattled infants’ speech,
And yielding to my kisses kissed again.
Whereat, in scorn of my pale Soul, I cried,
‘Here will I feast in honour of this night!’
And spread the board with meats and bread and wine,
And drew the curtain with a wave of arm
Bidding the sunlight welcome: lastly, snatch’d
A purple robe of richness from the wall,
And flung it o’er her while she kiss’d and smiled,
Girdling the waist with clasp and cord of gold.
Then sat we, side by side. She, queenly stoled,
Amid the gleaming fountain of her hair,
With liquid azure orbs and rosy lips;
And, like a glorious beast, she ate and drank,
Staining her lips in crimson wine, and laugh’d
To feel the vinous bubbles froth and burst
In veins whose sparking blood was meet to be
An goddess’ habitation. Cup on cup
I drain’d in fulness—careless as a god—
A haggard bearded head upon a breast
In tumult like a sun-kist bed of flowers.
But ere, suffused with light, the eyes of Heaven
Widen’d to gaze upon the white-armed Moon,
Stiller than stone we reign’d there, side by side.
Brightly apparellëd I sat above
The tumult of the town, as on a throne,
Watching her wearily; while far away
The sunset dark’d like dying eyes that shut
Under the waving of an angel’s wing.
Three days and nights the vision dwelt with me,
Three days and nights we dozed in dreadful state,
Look’d piteously upon by sun and star;
But the third night there pass’d a homeless sound
Across the city underneath my tower,
And lo! there came a roll of muffled wheels,
A shrieking and a hurrying to and fro
Beneath, and I gazed forth. Then far below
I heard the people shriek ‘The Pestilence!’
But, while they shriek’d, they carried forth their Dead,
And flung them out upon the common ways,
And moaning fled: while far across the hills
A dark and brazen sunset ribb’d with black
Glared, like the sullen eyeballs of the plague.
I turn’d to her, the partner of my height:
She, with bright eyeballs sick with wine, and hair
Gleaming in sunset, on a couch asleep.
And lo! a horror lifted up my scalp,
The pulses plunged upon the heart, and fear
Froze my wide eyelids. Peacefully she lay
In purple stole array’d, one little hand
Bruising the downy cheek, the other still
Clutching the dripping goblet, and the light,
With gleams of crimson on the ruinous hair,
Spangling a blue-vein’d bosom whence the robe
Fell back in rifled folds; but dreadful change
Grew pale and hideous on the waxen face,
And in her sleep she did not stir, nor dream.
O apparition of my work and wish!
Shrieking I fled, my robe across my face,
And left my glory and my woe behind,
And sped, thro’ pathless woods, o’er moonlit peaks,
Toward sunrise;—nor have halted since that hour,—
But wander far away, a homeless man,
Prophetic, orphan’d both of name and fame.
Nay, like a timid Phantom evermore
I come and go with haggard warning eyes;
And some, that sit with lemans over wine,
Or dally idly with the glorious hour,
Turn cynic eyes away and smile aside;
And some are saved because they see me pass,
And, shuddering, yet constant to their task,
Look up for comfort to the silent stars. *
* This, and the preceding ‘Lyrical Poems,’ are, as may be inferred, juvenilia. In thus preserving them, I cannot refrain from connecting them with one to whom they were read as written, and to whom they were full of interest—I mean my dear old friend, Thomas Love Peacock, known to students as one of the wisest thinkers and ripest scholars of the century. The good and gracious ‘master’ is now no more; and the happy days I spent with him at Lower Halliford are now, alas! a dream within a dream. R. B.
The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan, Vol. II - continued
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