ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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COLLECTIONS (13)

 

The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan.

In Two Volumes.

(London: Chatto & Windus, 1901.)

Volume II continued

 

‘The Burial Of Parnell’ - originally published in The Echo (12th October, 1891), reprinted in The Buchanan Ballads, Old and New, 1892.

‘The Good Professor’s Creed’ - from The Buchanan Ballads, Old and New, 1892.

‘A Dedication’ - the two apologies to Dante Gabriel Rossetti from God and the Man. ‘To An Old Enemy’ appeared in the first edition of the novel, published in November, 1881. The second dedication first appeared (following the death of Rossetti) in a cheap edition of God and the Man, published by Chatto & Windus in September, 1882.

 

A DEDICATION.

I.

TO AN OLD ENEMY.

I WOULD have snatch’d a bay leaf from thy brow,
     Wronging the chaplet on an honoured head;
In peace and tenderness I bring thee now
     A lily-flower instead.

Pure as thy purpose, blameless as thy song,
     Sweet as thy spirit, may this offering be!
Forget the bitter blame that did thee wrong,
     And take the gift from me!

     October 1881.

II.

TO DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.

Calmly, thy royal robe of Death around thee,
     Thou sleepest, and weeping Brethren round thee stand;
Gently they placed, ere yet God’s angel crown’d thee,
     My lily in thy hand!

I never knew thee living, O my brother!
     But on thy breast my lily of love now lies;
And by that token, we shall know each other,
     When God’s voice saith ‘Arise!’

     August 1882.

___

 

‘Colonel Shark’ - originally published, anonymously, in The Saint Pauls Magazine (March,1872).

 

COLONEL SHARK.

I WAS raised in the land where the sun don’t set,
     And the men ain’t crook-neck squashes;
I can see as fur as most I’ve met,
     And know what almighty bosh is.
I guess I rile when I see a snake,
     And I jedge a dog by his bark,
I’m putty consid’rable wide-awake;
So I do admire at my own mistake
     In the matter of Cunnle Shark.

The Cunnle he was the pride of the place,
     And his ways were most amazin’;
The hair was singed from his cheeks and face
     With etarnal powder blazin’;
His skin was covered with red tattoo
     Like a tree with a streaked-up bark;
He’d been ripp’d and riddled till all was blue,—
You'd star’ a spell if you heard a few
     Of the ways of Cunnle Shark.

One eye was glass, and the other real,
     His cheeks were scarred and bony,
A bullet had blown away his heel,
     So he limped on an iron pony;
For hands he’d only a thumb on his right,
     And nothin’ else to remark;
With his left, I guess, he used to fight,
And to see his style was a pleasant sight,
     For a cur’ous man was Shark.

The Cunnle he had a hickory stick,
     All notches you couldn’t number,
For he took his knife and he made a nick
     When he sent a man to slumber;
He notched it neat as an almanack,
     Or a ledger kept by a clerk;
’Twas ‘Blood and thunder! stick slick! crick! crack!’
And he wiped his tools, and he turned his back
     To nick the slain, did Shark.

His style in the street was a sight to see,
     And the way’d be cleared politely,
And he’d chaw and swagger and spit so free,
     With his glass eye glaring brightly.
At the bar he’d stand and the paper read,
     As ready to bite as bark,
And the folk would whisper, they would indeed,
‘Ah, there’s a man who’s no pumkin seed!’
     The pride o’ the place was Shark.

What hed he done? Why, he’d fought and bled,
     And was ready late and early;
He shot his own brother as dead as lead,
     On a p’int of honour, fairly.
He’d never flinch and he paid his way,
     And he never drew in the dark;
He’d been known to sarse six men in a day,—
And sure as ever there rose a fray,
     Why, in went Cunnle Shark.

Though the bullets were thick as hail somehow
     He’d keep as fresh as a tulip,
Then out he’d come and wipe his brow,
     And call for a sherry-julep.
His life by a sort of charm was kept,
     And the smartest missed their mark;
So when on the shady side he stept,
To the other side creation crept,
     At the sight o’ Cunnle Shark.

The Cunnle drank with his friends down here,
     And let ’em pay for the liquor;
But his way with strangers was rayther queer,
     Sharper, I guess, and quicker.
When a stranger entered he’d rile a few,
     And his brow would wrinkle dark:
‘Stranger,’ he’d say, ‘I’ll liquor with you!’
And if the poor cuss said, ‘I’m dern’d if you do,’
     Why, in went Cunnle Shark.

There was a man!—Jest the sort o’ grit
     You don’t raise out of Ameriky,
Honest and ready, lickety-split,
     For white man, nigger, or Cherokee;
And useful in bringin’ of Cain to book
     When thieves were beginnin’ to lark;
And the Sheriff of Grizzly, R. S. Rooke,
Was the only party that dared to look
     In the eye of Cunnle Shark.

Whenever the Sheriff had work on hand,
     And a dern’d deep case to tunnel,
He’d load his persuaders and dress up grand,
     And send up town for the Cunnle;
Then off they’d slip, and the thieves pursue,
     And hunt ’em light and dark,
And livin’ or dead they’d nail the crew;
And drunk for a week they’d be, them two,
     The Sheriff and Cunnle Shark.

Now when two men are particklar great,
     Of the same proud flesh and feather,
The same free airth, by a kind o’ fate,
     Won’t hold them both together.
And it came about that these two fine cocks,
     All flitter, flutter, and squark,
Began to fret in the same old box;
And each grew sarsier in his socks,
     The Sheriff and Cunnle Shark.

Friends they had been, and wal content!
     But the best o’ weather grows windy,
And they saw the chaps wherever they went
     Lookt out by rights for the shindy;
To funk because they were bosom friends,
     Would be to miss the mark,
And so, for to serve the public ends,
To Cheriss’s Store each party wends,
     The Sheriff and Cunnle Shark.

Wal, how it riz, and which side began,
     I know no more ’n a nigger,
But the Cunnle he clean ript up his man
     Before he could touch a trigger;
And R. S. Rooke, for a partin’ spell,
     Made this yer dyin’ remark,
‘Cunnle, yur hand!’ (then he flopped and fell):
‘Of all the game critters that’s out o’ hell
     The gamest is Cunnle Shark!’

So Cunnle Shark was left alone
     For our particklar glory,
And he stalk’d about, and the place was his own,
     And was praised in song and story:
And when the Sheriff had run his race,
     And been snuff’d like any spark,
It soon was settled in all the place
That the Sheriff’s post, as an act of grace,
     Should go to Cunnle Shark.

So we wash’d our faces and fixed our clothes,
     And got up a deputation,
And down to the end of the town we goes
     For the Sheriff’s consecration;
And cockin’ under his Kansas hat
     His old glass eye to mark,
With his legs in the air, as lean as a rat,
Squirting the juice around him, sat
     The pride o’ the people, Shark.

‘Cunnle!’ says I; and ‘Sir!’ he says,
     And ‘Cunnle!’ again I utter’d,
‘You are the pride of the human race,
     And your bread ain’t yet half butter’d!
Hon’rable, chipper, bold, and free,
     A man for the world to mark—
Grit of the earth and salt of the sea;’
And there I stopt, and the Cunnle he
     Says, ‘My name is Cunnle Shark!’

‘Ongcore!’ cries one, and the Cunnle set
     His eye in the chap’s direction.
‘I was born in the sunny South, I bet!
     And to sarse I’ve some objection;
My words is few, and my deeds is known—
     I never kept ’em dark.
You want me to be your Sheriff? Done!’
And he rose and stretch’d his limbs in the sun;
     ‘Let’s liquor!’ says Cunnle Shark.

That very moment we hear a cry,
     And in rush’d Abner Yoker
(Though Abner’s small, he’s fierce and spry,
     And as hard as any poker).
His cheeks were hollow and all aghast,
     And he spoke with a gulp and a jark;
‘Stop! stop!’ he shrieks, all fierce and fast:
‘I’ve found who stole my hosses at last—
     Thet cuss of the airth, E. Shark!’

We stared and shiver’d, and gasped for breath,
     And each was a panting funnel,
For we thought that Abner was in for death,
     To talk so fierce to the Cunnle;
But the Cunnle he was pale a few,
     And he seem’d all staring stark
‘He stole my hosses, and sold ’em too!’
Pale and shivering through and through,
     ‘It’s a Lie!’ gasped Cunnle Shark.

He skew’d one eye, and he twitched his mouth,
     And the glass eye glared and glisten’d;
‘O yes! I was riz in the sunny South,
     And Ephraim Shark I was christen’d!’
‘What’s this? The Cunnle a thief!’ we cried—
     ‘Thet man—of honour the spark!
Couldn’t be true! What—creation’s pride!’
‘Wal, here’s my witnesses at my side,’
     Cried Abner; ‘I charges Shark!’

Then before the Cunnle could draw or speak,
     The little one sprang and tript him;
While we admired at his thunderin’ cheek,
     Slick hand and foot he clipt him:
And he drew his teeth (one big bowie,
     And pistols) with no remark—
Then tied him fast with a grin o’ glee!
‘I call for a Court to sit,’ says he,
     ‘In the case of Cunnle Shark!’

It’s orful how guilt unnerves a cuss—
     The Cunnle was clean dumfounded;
And now no longer he’d charms for us,
     Though his dern’d old teeth he grounded,
But I confess I was full o’ grief
     To see a man o’ mark,
Respected, happy, of all the chief,
Turn out that scum of the airth, a thief,
     And I wept for Cunnle Shark.

For a moral place was Grizzly Creek,
     No spot to pilfer and pick in.
If a thief was caught, ’twas slickity squeak,
     And up he was sent a-kickin’.
The preciousest thing in the Creek was a Hoss,
     As dear as the dove to the Ark!
But a man or two was no grit loss,
And life, you guess, was a pitch and a toss
     To more than Cunnle Shark.

We form’d a court on the spot jest there,
     With his geese around us sissin’,
Jedge and jury, and all things square,
     And a Testament for kissin’.
The bob’link cried from the laylock spray
     And answer’d the meadow-lark;
The corn was yellow upon thet day,
And the mornin’ glories lookt bright and gay
     Round the hut o’ Cunnle Shark.

Natur’ is natur’! When Shark was bound,
     And beyond more ruination,
No end o’ witnesses were found
     Who’d been part of the deputation!
And they said they’d allays long’d to speak
     Of his doin’s in the dark,
Only—they’d never found the cheek
T’ accuse such a pop’lar man in the Creek
     As the fightin’ Cunnle Shark.

Guilty!’—Guilty, and no mistake,
     For the proofs were black as thunder.
I saw the Cunnle tremble and shake,
     And his knees a-knocking under.
With a voice that shook, for the Cunnle he
     Had been sech a man o’ mark,
I spoke his sentence, and it should be
‘To be swung by the neck to the nearest tree!’
     ‘Euchred!’ shrieked Cunnle Shark.

‘Pris’ner,’ says I, ‘it unnerves a man
     To hev this ugly duty,
And to think how promisin’ you began—
     A character full of beauty.
In the ways of virtue you shot ahead,
     War’ honour’d both light and dark;
And you’ve come to this! To be jedged,’ I said,
‘To be hung by the neck till you air dead.’
     ‘O Lord!’ cried Cunnle Shark.

Yes, he stared at fust like a skeery child,
     And all his game departed.
I could have kick’d him—I felt so riled
     To find him chicken-hearted.
But, you see, to be stript of his hard-eern’d fame
     And life at one big jark,
To find his glory all brought to shame,
And to go from life with so bad a name,
     Was dern’d hard lines on Shark.

But when he saw his last kerd was play’d,
     The Cunnle show’d his mettle.
‘Wal, boys,’ says he, ‘it’s a mess I’ve made,
     And this durn’d old neck must settle.
Let this yer teach ye to mind the law,
     And play no tricks in the dark.
Abner Yoker, jest shake my paw!
Neow, feel in my pants, and give me a chaw!’
     Was the last words spoke by Shark.

He could see the men in the corn-patch nigh,
     And could hear the lark a-singin’,
As we carried him to the wood jest by,
     Where the hang-birds cried a-swingin’;
For Abner Yoker he found a cord
     On the hitchin’-post in the park:
We gave him one minute to pray to the Lord,
And with glass eye glaring and cheeks scar-scored,
     Swish! up ran Cunnle Shark!

I was raised in the land where the sun don’t set,
     And the men ain’t crook-neck squashes!
I can see as fur as most I’ve met,
     And know what almighty bosh is;
But I never have seen a career to break
     So bright, and to end so dark;
I’m putty consid’rable wide-awake,
So I do admire at my own mistake
     In the matter of Cunnle Shark.

___

 

‘The Fisher Boy: A Song In Time Of War’ -originally published in the Reynolds’s Newspaper ‘Jubilee Supplement’ (27 May, 1900).

 

THE FISHER BOY: A SONG IN TIME OF WAR.

     [On Saturday, October 28, 1890, the fishing-boat ‘Truelight,’ of Gordon, Kincardineshire, manned by a fisherman named Taylor and his four sons, foundered and sank. The old man saw three of his sons swept away, but managed to get hold of an oar; and by and by his second son, Alexander, appeared swimming by his side. Seeing that the oar would be unlikely to support more than one, the lad calmly said to his father, ‘Weel, father, it’s time I was awa’,’ and sank beneath the waves.]

PERCHANCE ’tis well that lips should tell
     The fallen Warrior’s praise:
Life against life he staked, and fell,—
     He loses, and he pays;
We hail him brave, and to his grave
     We bring the meed of Fame,
But ’neath the sun some deeds are done
     That put his pride to shame!

Turn from the scene where dark and dread
     The Storms of Battle grow,
Follow the Christ whose feet still tread
     The Sea, as long ago;—
He leaves afar the strife of War
     And o’er the waves walks He,—
Yea, through the night He bears a Light
     For loving eyes to see!

There’s Storm, too, here!—with shrieks of strife
     The angry Ocean runs:
In their frail boat strive hard for life
     A father and four sons;
An old Scots Fisher of the Deep,
     Four lads, his flesh and blood,—
Around them fierce and angry leap
     The waves of that fierce flood!

A blast,—a crash,—the little boat
     Hath sunk,—but look once more!
The old man on the flood doth float,
     Clinging to one frail oar;
Three of his sons have sunk and died,
     Their death-cry fills his ears,—
When, struggling by his father’s side,
     The fourth, and last, appears!

God help them! to their piteous cries
     Deaf is the angry Deep,
Still darker grow the stormy skies,
     Higher the white waves leap!—
The wild winds roar,—too frail the oar
     That weight of two to bear,—
Then crieth one, the Fisher’s son,
     ’Mid the black storm out there,—

‘The oar’s too weak to carry twa,—
     And one must surely dee,—
Faither, ’tis time I was awa’,
     For God can best spare me!
His hands just touch but do not clutch
     The floating oar,—and then
‘Farewell!’ he saith, and down to Death
     Sinks, ne’er to rise again!

On the wild waves the gray old wight
     Now floateth safely on,—
He is saved from Death this woeful night
     Though his brave son hath gone! . . .
O surely He who on the sea
     Walks yet, looks down in joy
Flashing His light this woeful night
     To bless that Fisher Boy!

Doubtless ’tis well that lips should tell
     The fallen Warrior’s praise.
Life against life he staked, and fell,—
     He loses, and he pays!
We hail him brave, and to his grave
     We bring the meed of Fame,—
But ’neath the sun some deeds are done
     That put his pride to shame!

___

 

‘The Dumb Bairn’ - from Red and White Heather: North Country tales and ballads, 1894.

 

THE DUMB BAIRN.

MY tale is brief yet strange (the Elder said);
Altho’ the days of miracles are fled,
Hear it and mark, all ye who smile at prayer!

John Sutherland, a minister of Ayr,
Stern and unbending, yet a man of worth,
Had one weak child, who, deaf and dumb from birth,
Had never spoke a word or heard a sound.
The mother, with her wild arms folded round
The breathing babe, and eyes upraised to see
Her husband’s face set hard in agony,
Had blest them both, the father and the child,
And sank to slumber, even as she smiled
That last farewell and tryst to meet again
Beyond earth’s clouds of cruelty and pain.
Thus was the weary widower left alone
To keep sad watch o’er his afflicted son,
A tiny tender waif of feeble breath,
Wordless and still, a thing of life-in-death.

Now God, who to this little child forbad
The pretty speech that makes a parent glad
Who shut the tender doorways of his head,
Closing his soul in silence deep and dread,
Had made him very beautiful and bright,
With golden hair and eyes of heavenly light,
As sweet and bright a bairn in sooth was he
As ever crowed upon a father’s knee!
And lo! the father loved him with a love
Passing the love of women and above
All dreams of men more lonely and more blest,
Fondly he reared him, sleeping and at rest,
And ever as he grew more strong and fair
Watching him with a haggard eye of care.
And so, though in that lonely house was heard
No baby prattling and no half-lisp’d word
To show the little spirit was astir,
The child became a silent messenger
Of love and blessing to the afflicted man;
And after, when the little one began
To move upon its feet, and when it knew
The joy of life as happier children do,
The minister thanked God that it was sent
To be his loving comfort and content.

But ever in his hour of happiness
One thought to this good man brought dire distress,
Exceeding pity, and a nameless fear,
’Twas that the little one could never hear
The living voice of prayer,—nor understand
The Book of blessing writ by God’s own hand.
How, then, since our salvation we must reach
Only by what the holy gospels teach
(Nay, smile not, for his faith was absolute!),
Could that afflicted stem bear heavenly fruit?
How, never having even heard Christ’s name,
And how to atone for Adam’s fall He came,
Could this poor child be saved?

                                                   In secret fear
He watched the child grow on from year to year,
Till it was four years old; and then at length,
Having in secret prayed with all his strength,
He said, ‘The bairn shall not forsaken be
Through any lack of fitting faith in me,
But daily in his presence I will read
A chapter of the Holy Book, and plead
That God, who works all wonders, may convey
The message to his soul in some strange way
I comprehend not.’

                                 Ever after that
Each day with book in hand the father sat,
Reading a portion of the Holy Word
To his beloved, who neither spoke nor heard,
But ever with a silent sweet distress,
Shut in his little cloud of silentness,
Seem’d trying prettily to understand;
And sometimes he would stretch his tiny hand
And lay it softly on the leaves, meanwhile
Uplooking with a bright and heavenly smile.
And presently this time to read and pray
Became so loved a duty of the day
Ev’n to the child, that oft the little one,
Eager to see the silent service done,
Would run and lift the great book merrily,
And setting it upon his father’s knee,
Look up, and wait, with sweet expectant gaze.

And ever after, on the Sabbath days
When in the church the father preached and taught,
Thither the little silent one was brought,
And while the deep hymn rose, or from above
The good man preached of God’s great strength and love
(Nay, very often, if the truth be told,
Of God’s avenging judgments manifold—
For the man’s creed was gloomy enough and sad),
Below him, looking round with glances glad
Out of his cloud of silence, the pale boy
Beheld the service with mysterious joy,
Smiled, while the light on painted windows played,
Watch’d while the black-robed preacher preached and prayed,
Saw the folk rise and fall like waves of the sea,
Standing erect or kneeling on the knee,
And mimick’d dumbly what he saw them do,
Knelt when they knelt, and seemed to hearken too!
Ah, oftentimes the preacher from his place
Looking with blinding tears upon his face,
Seeing his darling listening as it were,
Quickened his cry of agony and despair,
And as he blest his congregation, blest
The little silent form o’er all the rest!

Thus over father and child the seasons rolled
Until the little one was seven years old,
When suddenly, with some obscure disease
That wastes the tender blood by slow degrees,
The boy fell sick, and feebly, without pain,
The rosy light of life began to wane.
Doctors were called; they came with solemn tread
And coldly went. ‘He was not strong,’ they said.
‘Nay, ’twas a miracle that one so frail
Had lived so long and scarcely seemed to ail,
But now the end of all was surely nigh,
And in a little while the child must die.’

The father heard, and darkening in despair
Wrestled with God in agonies of prayer,
Then with the strength of loving faith moaned low,
‘My God knows best, maybe ’tis better so,
And in the air of heaven more sweet and clear
My bairn at last shall find a tongue, and hear
A music more divine than ours below!’
Thenceforward, grim as death, his hair like snow,
His body bent, with heavy hanging head,
He sat for hours beside the child and read
Out of the Holy Book! As the days passed
His hope grew stronger and less overcast,
And with a stronger voice of faith he poured
His soul forth, that his boy might know the Lord.
But ever when the seventh day came, alas!
Wearily to the pulpit would he pass,
And as he preached the news of heavenly grace
Look down and miss the upturn’d and smiling face,
The little kneeling form that once knelt there,
The tiny hands clasp’d tight in mimic prayer,
And oft his strong soul shook, his head was bowed,
And in the people’s sight he sobbed aloud!

At last one quiet Sabbath eventide,
When home he hastened to the bairn’s bedside,
He found him lying very wan and white,
His face illumed by the red sunset light
That crept across the pane, and on the bed
Like roses bright was luminously shed.
His eyes were closed, and on his face there fell
The shadow of some peace ineffable,
And very softly, thinking that he slept,
The father by the bedside knelt, and wept.
But suddenly the piteous eyes of azure
Were opened with a heavenly look of pleasure,
The little arms up-reach’d, the pale face yearned,
The soft mouth pouting for a kiss upturned,
And while the strong man in his anguish shook,
The sick bairn smiled, and pointing to the Book,
Which lay by open, made a sign he knew
That he should read as he was wont to do.
He took the Book, and on it fixed his eyes,
And choking down the tears that still would rise,
Read in a broken voice that chapter blest
Which tells of ‘Quiet Waters,’ peace and rest,
Where all the weary shall have comforting.

Now, mark what followed:—I but tell this thing,
As it was told to me, by one who heard
The very man relate it word by word.
Even as he sat and read, and seem’d to hear
Those heavenly waters softly murmuring near,
There came a cry, and startled at the sound
He raised his eyes and saw with glory crowned
The child’s seraphic face! and lo! he heard,
With all his being mystically stirred,
The dumb lips speak! Yea, on his ears there fell
A faint last cry of rapture and farewell;
The bairn stretched out his little arms and cried,
Yes, papa!—quiet waters!’—smiled, and died! . . .

O faith divine of days ere faith was fled!
Light of a creed once quick that now is dead!
Was it reality or but a dream?
Did the voice call indeed, or only seem?
Who knows? and who can tell which most doth prove,—
A miracle of fact or one of Love?
Yet this is sure—could such deep faith have seat
Again in some few hearts of all that beat,
Mammon and Antichrist would cease to reign,
Doubts die, and miracles be wrought again!

___

 

‘Proem To “The Shadow Of The Sword”’ - from The Shadow of the Sword, 1876.

 

PROEM TO ‘THE SHADOW OF THE SWORD.’

NINETEEN sad sleepless centuries
Had shed upon the dead CHRIST’S eyes
Dark blood and dew, and o’er them still
The waxen lids were sealèd chill.
Drearily through the dreary years
The world had waited on in tears,
With heart clay-cold and eyelids wet,
But He had not arisen yet.
Nay, Christ was cold; and, colder still,
The lovely Shapes He came to kill
Slept by His side. Ah, sight of dread!
Dead CHRIST, and all the sweet gods dead!
He had not risen, tho’ all the world
Was waiting; tho’, with thin lips curl’d,
Pale ANTICHRIST upon his prison
Gazed yet denying, He had not risen;
Tho’ every hope was slain save Him,
Tho’ all the eyes of Heaven were dim,
Despite the promise and the pain,
He slept—and had not risen again.

Meantime, from France’s funeral pyre,
Rose, god-like, girt around with fire,
Napoleon!
                     —On eyes and lips
Burnt the red hues of Love’s eclipse;
Beneath his strong triumphal tread
All days the human winepress bled!
And in the silence of the nights
Pale Prophets stood upon the heights,
And, gazing thro’ the blood-red gloom
Far eastward, to the dead CHRIST’S tomb,
Wail’d to the winds. Yet CHRIST still slept:—
And o’er His white Tomb slowly crept
The fiery Shadow of a Sword!
Not Peace; a Sword.
                                     And men adored
Not Christ, nor Antichrist, but CAIN;
And where the bright blood ran like rain
He stood, and looking, men went wild:—
For lo! on whomsoe’er he smiled
Came an idolatry accurst,
But chief, Cain’s hunger and Cain’s thirst
For bloodshed and for tears; and when
He beckon’d, countless swarms of men
Flew thick as locusts to destroy
Hope’s happy harvests, sown in joy;
Yea, verily; at each finger-wave
They swarm’d—and shared the crimson grave
Beneath his Throne.
                                   Then, ’neath the sun
One man of France—and he, indeed,
Lowest and least of all man’s seed—
Shrank back, and stirr’d not!—heard Cain’s cry,
But flew not!—mark’d across the sky
The Shadow of the Sword, but still
Despair’d not!—Nay, with steadfast will,
He sought Christ’s Tomb, and lying low,
With cold limbs cushion’d on the snow,
He waited!—But when Cain’s eye found
His hiding-place on holy ground,
And Cain’s hand gript him by the hair,
Seeking to drag him forth from there,
He clutch’d the stones with all his strength,
Struggled in silence—and at length,
In the dire horror of his need,
Shrieked out on CHRIST!
                             Did CHRIST rise?
                                                         Read!

___

 

‘Proem to “God And The Man”’ - from God and the Man, 1881.

 

PROEM TO ‘GOD AND THE MAN.’

‘ALL men, each one, beneath the sun,
I hate, shall hate, till life is done,
But of all men one, till my race is run,
And all the rest for the sake of one!

‘If God stood there, revealed full bare,
I would laugh to scorn His love or care,—
Nay, in despair, I would pray a prayer
Which He needs must grant—if a God He were!

‘And the prayer would be, “Yield up to me
This man alone of all men that see!
Give him to me, and to misery!
Give me this man, if a God Thou be!”’

               .     .     .     .     .     .

Shape on the headland in the night,
     Gaunt, ghastly, kneeling on his knee
He prays; his baffled prayers take flight,
Like screaming sea-birds, thro’ the light
     That streams across the sleeping sea.
From the black depths of man’s despair
Rose ever so accurst a prayer?
His hands clench and his eyeballs roll,
Hate’s famine sickens in his soul.
Meantime the windless waves intone
Their peaceful answer to his moan,
The soft clouds one another chase,
The moon-rays flash upon his face,
The mighty deep is calm; but see!
This man is as a storm-swept tree.

And, silvern-sandall’d, still as death,
The white moon in her own pure breath
Walks yonder. Doth he see her pass
Over the glimmering water-glass?
Sees he the stars that softly swing
Like lamps around her wandering,
Sown thick as early snowdrops now
In the dark furrows of the Plough?
Hears he the sad, still, rhythmic throb
     Of the dark ocean where he stands,—
The great strong voice still’d to a sob,
     Near darken’d capes and glimmering sands?
Nay, nay; but, even as a wight
Who on a mirror fixeth sight,
And screams at his own face of dread
Within the dimness picturèd,
He useth God’s great sleeping sea
To image hate and agony.
He kneels, he prays,—nay, call it not
A prayer that riseth in his throat;
’Tis but a curse this mortal cries,
Like one who curses God and dies.

               .     .     .     .     .     .

‘Yield up to me, to hate and me,
One man alone of all men that see!
Give him to me, and to misery!
Give me this man if a God Thou be!

‘But the cruel heavens all open lie,
No God doth reign o’er the sea or sky;
The earth is dark and the clouds go by
But there is no God, to hear me cry!

‘There is no God, none, to abolish one
Of the foul things thought and dreamed and done!
Wherefore I hate, till my race is run,
All living men beneath the sun!’

               .     .     .     .     .     .

To-night he rose when all was still,
     Left like a thief his darkened door,
And down the dale and o’er the hill
     He flew till here upon the shore
Shivering he came; and here he trod
Hour after hour the glooms of God,
Nursing his hate in fierce unrest,
Like an elfin babe upon the breast!
And all his hunger and his thirst
Was vengeance on the man he cursed!
‘O Lord my God, if a God there be,
Give up the man I hate to me!
On his living heart let my vengeance feed,
And I shall know Thou art God indeed!’

Again rings out that bitter cry
Between the dark seas and the sky—
Then all is hushed, while quivering,
With teeth and claws, prepared to spring,
He crouches beast-like . . . Hark, O hark
What solemn murmur fills the dark?
What shadows come and go up there,
Through the azure voids of the starry air?

The night is still; the waters sleep; the skies
Gaze down with bright innumerable eyes:
A voice comes out of heaven and o’er the sea:
‘I AM; AND I WILL GIVE THIS MAN TO THEE!’

___

 

‘Proem to “The New Abelard”’ - from The New Abelard, 1884.

 

PROEM TO ‘THE NEW ABELARD.’

Shipwreck . . . What succour?—  
                             On the gnawing rocks
The ship grinds to and fro with thundershocks,
And thro’ her riven sides with ceaseless rush
The foam-fleck’d waters gush:
Above, the soot-black sky; around, the roar
Of surges smiting on some unseen shore;
Beneath, the burial-place of rolling waves—
Flowerless, for ever shifting, wind-dug graves!

A moment on the riven deck he stands,
Praying to Heaven with wild uplifted hands,
Then sees across the liquid wall afar
A glimmer like a star;
The lighthouse gleam! Upon the headland black
The beacon burns and fronts the stormy wrack—
Sole speck of light on gulfs of darkness, where
Thunder the sullen breakers of despair . . .

The ship is gone . . . Now in that gulf of death
He swims and struggles on with failing breath:
He grasps a plank—it sinks—too frail to upbear
His leaden load of care;
Another and another—straws!—they are gone!
He crles aloud, stifles, and struggles on;
For still thro’ voids of gloom his straining sight
Sees the sad glimmer of a steadfast light!

He gains the rocks . . . What shining hands are these
Reached out to pluck him from the cruel seas?
What shape is this, that clad in raiment blest
Now draws him to its breast? . . .
Ah, Blessèd One, still keeping, day and night,
The lamp well trimmed, the heavenly beacon bright,
He knows Thee now!—he feels the sheltering gleam—
And lo! the night of storm dissolves in dream!

___

 

‘Proem to “The Moment After”’ - from The Moment After, 1890.

 

PROEM TO ‘THE MOMENT AFTER.’ *

I.

BETWEEN the Dead and the living the veil of the glamour lies,
But softly it melts asunder, just as the Spirit flies.

Wait by the bed of the Dying, wait till the last sharp breath,
Then sit in the silence watching the eyes that are closed in Death.

Thinkest thou all is o’er, now thy heart stands still for fear?
Nay, something stirs in the silence!—listen, and thou mayst hear!

Thou art closed around by the glamour, its darkness covers thy head,—
But something walks in the chamber, and looks in the face of the Dead!

Wait for a little season—be patient yet for a day—
Before the breath of thy going, the veil shall dissolve away;

Thou too shalt stir in the darkness, no man dreaming thee nigh,
And look on thy worn white raiment, before they put it by!

 

II.

Hast thou counted the stars? hast thou measured the mastodon’s bed in the stone?
Rejoice, thou art wise who wast foolish! the days of thy dreaming are done!

Hast thou taken the Cross from thy spirit, and lifted the veil from thine eyes!
Hast thou emptied the heavens of their godhead?—Rejoice, for, O Fool, thou art wise!

And now that thou knowest the heavens and the Earth, the Beginning and End,
I will tell thee the last great Secret. . . Lie down on thy bed and attend!

Thou lookest, but dost not listen—thou seest but dost not rejoice—
Thou pickest the coverlit moaning, and shuttest thine ears to my voice.

I bend to thine car and whisper—thou turnest away with a tear. . .
’Tis but a childish Secret, yet all thou hast yet to hear!

Gather thy senses a moment and listen, low on thy bed. . .
Now, Hearken!—Alas, thou hast fallen asleep, ere the Secret is said!

* By kind permission of Mr. Wm. Heinemann.

___

 

‘L’Envoi: ‘I End As I Began’’ - from The New Rome, 1898.

‘The Last Cry’

 

THE LAST CRY.

FORGET me not, but come, O King,
And find me softly slumbering
     In dark and troubled dreams of Thee,
Then, with one waft of Thy bright wing,
                     Awaken me!

_____

 

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