ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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POEMS FROM OTHER SOURCES - 6

 

BARSTONE WATER.

 

I.

MIRIAM HART was the miller’s daughter,
     Bertram Barth was the son of the squire;
And they met at gloaming by Barstone Water,
Under the mill by Barstone Water,
     With yearning faces and hearts of fire.
Leadenly hung the wheels of the mill,
The nightingale sang, the woods were still,
     And the place was meet for love;
And their young hearts danced to a golden tune,
While the silver scythe of the April moon
     Grew luminous up above.

 

II.

Dark was the hair of the miller’s daughter,
    
Calm her face as the peaceful skies;
As the sweet moon trembles on Barstone Water,
Troubling the blackness of Barstone Water,
     The love-dream gleam’d in the depths of her eyes.
The mill-wheels paused in their busy round,
The night was full of a syren-sound,
     That witch’d her spirit to bliss;
And the scythe of the early moon grew dim
As she tremblingly yielded her heart to him,
     And clung to his lips with a kiss.

 

III.

Passing proud was the miller’s daughter,
    
Proud in the love of the rich squire’s son;
And she met him o’ nights by Barstone Water,
And their shades clung together in Barstone Water,
     While the miller slept after labours done.
The mill was silent, the miller slept,
And close to her lover’s heart she crept
     Till the nightingale ceased its song;
And she loved him, fearing nor scath nor scorn,
Till the pale moon broaden’d o’er yellowing corn,
     And the summer nights grew long.

 

IV.

The widow’d miller look’d on his daughter,
    
With a proud heart full of her loveliness,
The mill chimed blithely by Barstone Water,
All the day long by Barstone Water,
     While he dream’d of his child in her bridal dress.
And the miller watch’d her with eyes that yearn’d,
And counted his guineas proudly earn’d
     To dower a daughter dear;
But her foot was stealthy upon the ground,
And it haunted the house with a heavier sound,
     Through the weight of a passionate fear.

 

V.

For a spirit haunted the miller’s daughter,
    
Whispering evil by day and night:
When the gloaming was dark on Barstone Water,
Her pale face, mirror’d in Barstone Water,
     Look’d ghastly cold as the dim moonlight.
The mill was silent, the wind was shrill,
The nightingale sang not, the woods were chill,
     And the golden summer was dead,
When he left her weeping amid the dark,
While the moon grew grey to her autumn arc,
     And the leaves fell wither’d and red.

 

VI.

Pale was the cheek of the miller’s daughter,
    
Cold her heart as a churchyard stone,
When the winter darken’d on Barstone Water,
Chilling the blackness on Barstone Water,
     And the wind and the whistling rain made moan.
The mill was silent, the air was chill,
And a thin black frost encrusted the still
     Breast of the water cool;
Then a wild wind rose with an eldritch croon,
And drew a black veil round the flying moon,
     And clouded the sleeping pool.

 

VII.

Strangely fair look’d the miller’s daughter,
    
When the dim dawn whiten’d the gruesome air,
And they found her floating on Barstone Water,
In the rushy shallows of Barstone Water,
     With her wild, blank eyes and her dripping hair.
The sun rose bright, the wild wind dropp’d,
A wild cry rose, and the mill-wheel stopp’d,
     And they bore her from the place;
But when she lay on her death-bed white,
The pallid peace of the spring moonlight
     Had faded into her face.

                                                               R. WILLIAMS BUCHANAN.

_____

 

‘Barstone Water’ was published in The St. James's Magazine (June, 1863).

_____

 

MORDRED

BY R. WILLIAMS BUCHANAN.

 

PART THE FIRST.

                   “FAREWELL! farewell!”
                         I softly sigh’d;
                   Clear as a bell
                         Her voice replied:
The boughs closed round, the whispering wind dropt low,
               And it was eventide.

                   While dim and gray
                         Dropt down the night,
                   Her fair face lay,
                         Snow-cold, snow-white,
Close to my heart, and, sparkling on her tears,
               Glimmer’d a pale starlight.

                   Under the shade
                         Of Arthur’s Towers,
                   Within a glade
                         Of garden bowers,
We linger’d, heart to heart, and the cool air
               Was sweet with scent of flowers.

                   In sweet unrest,
                         Forlorn and weak,
                   Upon my breast
                         She leant her cheek,
Whispering lowly, “Whither dost thou go?”
               I frown’d, and did not speak:

                   For blushful shame
                         And coward dread,
                   A face like flame,
                         A heart like lead,
Oppress’d me, and I shudder’d to behold
               The faith from which I fled.

                   I could not dare
                         To tell a thing
                   So sweet, so fair,
                         So suffering,
That a dark demon urged me on to join
               Against the blameless king;

                   That, spite of shame
                         And shame’s award,
                   A blacken’d name,
                         A recreant sword,
My soul had leagued with Lancelot’s red powers
               Against my sovereign lord.

                   Than falsehood she
                         Was fairer far,—
                   Fairer to me
                         Than spirits are;
And on the tumbled waters of my life
               She glimmer’d like a star.

                   But like a cloud
                         Rose, far away,
                   The dark and proud
                         Rebel array,
And over bloody graves to Camelot
               It redden’d day by day.

                   And I was drawn,
                         As by a chain,
                   By stealth to pawn
                         Body and brain,
Turn traitor to my liege, and to a love
               Sweet and without a stain.

                   Her beauty chid
                         My shame and fear:
                   How could I bid
                         A thing so dear
Fly from her loyal sweetness, peace, and truth,
               For falsehood sad and sere?

                   “Farewell!” I cried,
                         With heart wrung dry,—
                   The black wind sigh’d
                         Mournfully by.
And “When wilt thou return?” she whisper’d low—
               I answer’d with a lie.

                   With lips like ice,
                         And pulses hot,
                   I kiss’d her thrice,
                         And waited not,
But tore myself away, and through deep night
               Rode swift from Camelot.

                   By gleaming Usk
                         Fell branches green,
                   And through the dusk,
                         In silver sheen,
I saw the river glimmer to the hills,
               With Arthur’s Towers between.

                   And salt, salt tears
                         Flash’d large and fell,
                   And in mine ears
                         “Farewell! farewell!”
Rang as a voice from some diviner life,
               And warn’d me like a knell.

                   But blind to sight,
                         To feeling dead,
                   Along the night
                         Swiftly I fled,
Till on the ledges of the hills I saw
               The rebel watch-fires red.

 

PART THE SECOND.

                   Through summer leas,
                         Yellow with gold,
                   ’Neath shady trees,
                         The river roll’d,
And on its rush-fringed banks to Camelot
               Came lances manifold.

                   With fire and sword
                         We swept along,
                   A traitor horde,
                         A warlike throng,
And in our track the many hamlets mourn’d,
               For rapine, blood, and wrong.

                   Fairest of all,
                         And sinfullest,
                   Towering tall
                         Above the rest,
Upon a coal-black steed rode Lancelot,
               In sombre armour drest;

                   With form that stoop’d,
                         And unkempt beard,
                   A brow that droop’d
                         O’er lips that sneer’d,—
But the mere meekness of his henchman’s eye
               Seem’d something that he fear’d.

                   Forward we rode
                         ’Neath branches green,
                   By Usk that flow’d
                         In silver sheen,
Until the river glimmer’d to the hills,
               With Arthur’s Towers between.

                   The dewy mist
                         Of morn upwound;
                   And ere we wist,
                         A trumpet sound
Spake like a human cry; and, lo, the boughs
               Grew populous around.

                   And loudly then
                         Arose the shout
                   Of armèd men
                         And henchmen stout,
Who sprang upon us like a storm, and whirl’d
               Rude swords around about.

                   But swift as wind
                         We struggled through,
                   And left behind
                         That hireling crew;
While, turning at a cry, our meanest horse
               Assail’d them, and they flew.

                   When brightly o’er us
                         The morning flush’d,
                   And far before us,
                         To meet us, rush’d
The flower of loyal steedsmen—Lancelot
               Gript his great sword, but blush’d.

                   The greenwood rang
                         Again, again,
                   Till with a clang,
                         On the green plain,
We struck the foe, with hoofs that sparkled fire,
               And blows that fell like rain.

                   The shrill death-cry
                         Arose aloud.
                   Tumultuously,
                         In a pale cloud
Of fiery dust, we eddied to and fro—
               A fierce and shrieking crowd.

                   With deafen’d ears,
                         And blood-blurr’d sight,
                   Amid my peers
                         I strove in fight,
Till, hurl’d apart, I singled out for death
               A strange and visor’d knight.

                   For, in a place
                         Removed, we came
                   Full face to face
                         With hearts of flame,
And through his mask of mail he breathed in scorn
               My loyal lady’s name.

                   Then “Yield!” I cried,
                         With wrath grown higher;
                   But he defied
                         My murderous ire:—
I made a burning circle of my sword,
               And smote him down in fire!

                   With this red brand
                         His helm I clove,
                   And, sword in hand,
                         I strode above
His breast, and drew his visor down—and lo!
               My loyal lady-love!

                   Pale as the moon
                         On Snowdon’s crest,
                   In a cold swoon
                         She lay at rest;
And as I loosed her helm, her yellow hair
               Fell, blood-stain’d, on her breast.

                   Then, with low sighs,
                         Quick breath she drew,
                   And, opening eyes
                         Of fading blue,
She look’d upon me; and I moan’d aloud
               With heart as weak as dew.

                   Her pale lips stirr’d
                         Without a sound;
                   Without a word
                         She gazed around;
And then she smiled, as only Love can smile
               When Love is blest and crown’d!

                   And with a shriek
                         I raised her head;
                   And, cold and meek,
                         Apparellèd
In the new mystery of diviner life,
               She moan’d, and softly said,—

                   “From sorrow past
                         Come peace and gain;
                   And, love, at last
                         We meet again.—
I die, content with this poor blood to show
               Your honour its one stain.

                   “For when you fled
                         With shame-flush’d face,
                   To honour dead,
                         And dead to grace,
I arm’d my woman’s limbs at dead of night,
               And rose and took your place.

                   “Wherefore, in ruth,
                         I pay for thee
                   The love, the truth,
                         The loyalty
Which wait on noble deeds, and which you owed
               To Heaven, the King, and me!

                   “To sweeter climes
                         Of love I fly;
                   Sweet music chimes
                         Through earth and sky.—
O Mordred, take me softly in your arms,
               And kiss me ere I die!

                   “Farewell! farewell!”
                         She softly sigh’d;
                   And, like a knell,
                         My heart replied.
Then, in her eyes, I broke my sword in twain,
               And kiss’d her, and she died.

_____

 

‘Mordred’ was published in The St. James's Magazine (August, 1863).

_____

 

HERMIONÉ.

 

WHEREVER I wander, up and about,
This is the puzzle I can’t make out—
Because I care little for books, no doubt:

I have a Wife, and she is wise,
    
Deep in philosophy, strong in Greek;
Spectacles shadow her pretty eyes,
     Coteries rustle to hear her speak;
She writes a little—for love, not fame;
Has published a book with a dreary name;
     And yet (God bless her!) is mild and meek.
And how I happened to woo and wed
     A wife so pretty and wise withal
Is part of the puzzle that fills my head—
Plagues me at daytime, racks me in bed,
     Haunts me, and makes me appear so small.
The only answer that I can see
Is—I could not have married Hermioné
(That is her fine wise name), but she
Stoop’d in her wisdom and married me.

For I am a fellow of no degree,
Given to romping and jollity;
The Latin they thrash’d into me at school
    
The world and its fights have thrash’d away:
At figures alone I am no fool,
     And in City circles I say my say.
But I am a dunce at twenty-nine,
And the kind of study that I think fine
Is a chapter of Dickens, a sheet of the Times,
     When I lounge, after work, in my easy-chair;
Punch for humour, and Praed for rhymes,
     And the butterfly mots blown here and there
     By the idle breath of the social air.
A little French is my only gift,
Wherewith at times I can make a shift,
Guessing at meanings, to flutter over
A filigree tale in a paper cover.

Hermioné, my Hermioné!
What could your wisdom perceive in me?
And, Hermioné, my Hermioné!
How does it happen at all that we
Love one another so utterly?
Well, I have a bright-eyed boy of two,
    
A darling who cries with lung and tongue about:
As fine a fellow, I swear to you,
     As ever poet of sentiment sung about!
And my lady-wife with the serious eyes
     Brightens and lightens when he is nigh,
And looks, although she is deep and wise,
     As foolish and happy as he or I!
And I have the courage just then, you see,
To kiss the lips of Hermioné—
Those learnëd lips that the learnëd praise—
And to clasp her close as in sillier days;
To talk and joke in a frolic vein,
     To tell her my stories of things and men;
And it never strikes me that I’m profane,
For she laughs and blushes and kisses again,
     And, presto! fly! goes her wisdom then!
For Boy claps hands, and is up on her breast,
     Roaring to see her so bright with mirth,
And I know she deems me (O the jest!)
     The cleverest fellow on all the earth!

And Hermioné, my Hermioné,
Nurses her boy and defers to me;
Does not seem to see I’m small—
Even to think me a dunce at all!
And wherever I wander, up and about,
Here is the puzzle I can’t make out:
That Hermioné, my Hermioné,
In spite of her Greek and philosophy,
When sporting at night with her boy and me,
Seems sweeter and wiser, I assever—
Sweeter and wiser, and far more clever,
And makes me feel more foolish than ever,
Through her childish, girlish, joyous grace,
And the silly pride in her learnëd face!

That is the puzzle I can’t make out—
Because I care little for books, no doubt;
But the puzzle is pleasant, I know not why,
    
For, whenever I think of it, night or morn,
I thank my God she is wise, and I
     The happiest fool that was ever born!

                                                                                                 R. B.

hermione

‘Hermioné’ was published in The Argosy (No. 1, December 1865).

_____

 

THE BACHELOR DREAMS.

 

THE world is dreary, I am growing old,
     Wife nor bairn makes glad my chamber still,
The wintry season cometh with its cold,
     The hearth is dark, and the wind without is shrill;
Yea! twilight gloams around me—hope and power
Depart, like scent and colour from a flower—
     Yet, where I sit, sweet music floats to me:
’Tis the falling, falling, of a silver shower
     Around a forest tree!

Ah! can I hear the scented rain intone?
     Can I hear the leaves that stir and sigh
Or hear I but the movement and the moan
     Of busy folk that hurry darkly by?
Nay!—for a white hand lies in mine, sweet eyes
Shine on me, and a happy maiden cries!
     Nay! for my blood again flows fresh and free,—
To the falling, falling, of the shower that sighs
     Around the forest tree!

And can it be so many years ago,
     Since I clasp’d her, ’neath the leaves, that summer day?
And were there words of parting, words of woe?
     Sits she among her children far away?
Can she hear the sweet and melancholy sound?
Doth she see the shining dewdrops on the ground?
     Doth she flutter like the leaves and dream of me,—
To the falling, falling, of the rain around
     The murmurous forest tree?

The city closes round me, I am old,
     Yet ’tis melody from country lanes I hear;
The wintry season cometh with its cold,
     The hearth is dark, and the end of all is near;
Yet, love, the city fadeth with its pain!
The old bright dream is drowsy on my brain!
     And my life is flowing earthward fast and free,—
To the falling, falling, of the summer rain
     Around a forest tree!

                                                                         ROBERT BUCHANAN.

_____

 

‘The Bachelor Dreams’ was published in The Argosy (No. 6, May 1866).

_____

 

Hugo the Bastard.

 

BY ROBERT BUCHANAN.
_____

 

I.

I PICKED this quarrel, D’Avanne, with thee,
And I thank thee for giving that death-thrust sure.
Little, I swear, did it matter to me
Whether Blanche thy mistress was stained or pure;
All that I sought, when I picked this fight,
Was a knightly death by the hand of a knight.
Hold thy kerchief, De Loye, to my breast,
And stanch the red gap as well as you can—
Ugh! Jesu be praised, I shall soon be at rest—
A priest—no, by heaven! your hand, D’Avanne.
We’re friends, I trust? you forgive the lie?
Injure you, slander you, faith not I!
Thy Blanche is as pure as my sin is small;
I questioned her purity—only to die.
And I’ve proved she is pure with my blood, that’s all.
Ah, friend, all slander is most accurst,
But the slander of one’s own eyes is the worst.
Doubt not, doubt not, doubt not, D’Avanne,
By thy faith in thy mistress ever trust,
So walk erect the full height of a man,
When I am dust.

 

II.

De Loye, you knew her? my wife that is dead?
Nay, man, never tremble and hang your head!
I know what I’m talking about, and moreover
The scandalmongers of dull Navarre
Have cropped the whole tale up, spawn that they are,
Chew’d the cud, too, as cattle eat succulent clover.
Let them! who hinders! not I, I swear,
I who am going to join her up there!
Hush—lift me, De Loye, prop my head on your knee—
Your hands, but come closer—and listen to me.

 

III.

What was I but a sin in the night
Sprung up at last to a human height,
Hugo the Bastard, sans name, sans treasure,
The mortal scum of a monarch’s pleasure?
But I strode to the Court, with my sword on loin,
Rugged of feature, but scant of coin,
Till over his golden beard smiled Francis,
And gave me some little fighting to do;
So I rose in the world by the merest chances
And rose in my own opinion too.
But look at this head, like the head of an elf;
This beak of a nose, these eyeballs yellow;
I’ve looked in the mirror and hated myself—
I was ever the same—an ill-favoured fellow!
Base-born, moreover, of no degree!
God bless her, therefore, for smiling on me.

 

IV.

How they stared! Just as you, De Loye, stare now!
Even King Francis made a grimace!
None of the gad-flies could understand how
A lady so perfect of form and face
Should place her white little dove of a hand
In the great black palm of M’sieu Hugo—
She did it, though! and they tied the band
Snug enough in a town where few go.
From Paris we came to Navarre, and bade
Francis adieu and his gorgeous train—
How firm I felt on my legs! how glad!
The bright blood sparkled through every vein
With the beaded brilliance of bright champagne!
I was rich, pretty rich, as you guess, by this time—
I was never a man to waste money or miss time.
And here in Navarre, at Castle Blois—
A place to be proud of, though small, we led
Such a life! a summer dream of joy!
Till she lay in the darkness and bare me my boy,
Who caught but a glimpse of her beauty and fled.
Fled? Nay, I avow, De Loye, my friend,
His soul dwelt like light on her face till the end—
Just then came a line from the King: I must fain
Ride over the mountains and fight in Spain!
I have never forgot how she looked that night
When I showed her his Majesty’s mandate to leave—
While she rose on her pillow and strained me tight,
While her wild black hair in the dim lamp-light
Sparkled dark on a bosom too stony to grieve.
But she wept not, but gazed in a pale affright
With her great dark eyes. Ay, D’Avanne was right—
Women are nobler than men believe.

 

V.

Off I rode! Shall I own it, not so unwilling
To return to the business of wounding and killing?
I was happy, most happy, though pleasure seemed tame,
I had feared any change, yet was pleased when it came.
Ah, we men! we male weathercocks! what are we,
That women should love us so utterly?
Off I rode, sword on hip; and was soon far away,
Tickling the Spaniard’s yellow gizzards,
Fighting, tramping, ’neath sun and star, away,
Till these cheeks of mine were as brown as lizards.
Not a scratch got I! The sharp steel shaved me
Closely as razors, and hissed as it fell—
What might have happened I cannot tell,
But on two occasions angels saved me—

 

VI.

Angels! Ah, I forgot: a boy—
(How I bleed!—press the kerchief closer, De Loye)—
An Italian boy, with great black eyes,
Tanned cheeks and an elfin head,
And a drooping underlip, berry-red,
Where the senses lighted like butterflies.
He turned up, pale, in the midst of the strife,
And brought me a letter from madam my wife—
Blessings, injunctions, protestations,
Kisses, prayers, asseverations;
Then: “The boy who brings you this, my Hugo,
A poor Italian, Angelo,
Craves that in battle he may with you go,
And learn what grown men, warriors, know;
Thy page, thy henchman, let him be—
I knew his mother in Italy.”
More blessings, injunctions, protestations,
Kisses, prayers, asseverations;
I kissed the letter, then turned me round
To the boy, who stood with his eyes on the ground,
With cheeks blushing ruddy as junipers,
And I liked him—because he had eyes like hers.

 

VII.

I made him my henchman, as she bade—
A capital henchman, too, he made,
Though once or twice, in the thick of the fight,
I fancied I saw his cheeks turn white;
Yet he bit his lips and upheld his head,
Struggled among the living and dead,
And saved my life three times, as I said.
Tanned and yellow’d, but full of fun,
Home we rode when the war was done;
Some dozen leagues from Castle Blois
I parted from Angelo, the boy,
Who promised to join me, his master, anon,
At home at the Castle. I galloped on.
And the rest was a dream, for my soul was astir,
And my heart was bounding to look on her
Till she stood at the gate with her arms outheld,
And I slipt from the saddle and clasped her to me,
While the servants shouted, the mastiff yelled,
And a bliss like quicksilver sparkled through me!

 

VIII.

The very next morning there came a billet
From Francis, compelling me, willy nilly,
On urgent affairs to the Court to repair straight;
Grumbling a little, I jumped on my mare straight;
Rode, entered Paris, saw Gold Beard again,
Who held out his hand with an air that delighted me—
Who praised me galore for my doings in Spain,
And, drawing his sword, with that grace of his, knighted me.
How glorious I felt when I mounted to ride
To Marie, in the pride of my honour new-gained!
How the hedges and fields whistled by, as I strained
Every nerve of the brute, hasting on to her side;
But lo! a tried servitor met me midway—
(Tried, mark you, and true—be he damned with my hate!)
Who whispered—(now mark how De Loye turns away—
You know what he whispered, De Loye—ay, but wait!)
That the dark-eyed Italian, Angelo,
The stripling whose face I had fancied so,
Had been watched one night as he quietly crept
Into the room where my lady slept.
I listened, dumb, then white as death,
Struck the grey fiend on the mouth, and he fell,
But followed, with all the devils of hell,
As I galloped onward, and scarce drew breath
Till I came to Castle Blois by night,
When the moon was up and the fields wore a light
Like the gleam of a lamp on a face that is dead.

 

IX.

(Higher—and grasp me under the shoulder;
There’s a hammering, clamouring, here in my head!
I’m growing weaker—I’m growing colder!)

 

X.

Swiftly I sprang to my lady’s room,
The grey slave followed, and bore a lamp—
We rushed upstairs with a hasty tramp—
And, crouching back in the scatter’d gloom,
Without the door of her chamber, ho!—
His bright eyes sparkling, Angelo.
’Twas enough—by the throat I gripped him tight;
He could not speak—but his eyes were bright
With a beautiful horror, strange to see—
I hissed to the knave, “A death by steel
Were too sweet an end for such as he;
Help me to grip him neck and heel,
And place him in the great oaken chest
That lies in my chamber—for there he shall rest
Till he rot!” The grey knave, who was used to such work—
He had camped with the Arab, and smoked with the Turk—
Lent a hand, and ’twas done; and along the gloom,
The boy was borne to his living tomb:
And can I ever forget, De Loye,
That last despairing look of the boy,
Who strove in vain to utter a cry,
As we tomb’d him in silence, and left him to die?

 

XI.

Then strode I back, with a fiend in my soul,
These yellow eyes glaring, my face white as snow,
Firmly gripping the sword, free to settle the whole
Black account with the woman, my mistress. But no!
Her chamber was empty, the bird had fled,
I sat me down on the side of the bed,
Thought, trembled, and muttered “Let her go!”
[Raise me higher—prop my head!”
You know what the scandalmonger said.]

 

XII.

I kept my secret,—till now (I die!
De Loye, De Loye, bend down and hark!)
I fought, I swaggered, but by and by,
I rose one night, and groped in the dark,
Lit a lamp, and lifted the lid of the chest,
And saw HER . . . in her stripling’s raiment drest;
Her face shrivelled up, with her horror, dead eyes
Blankly staring on me—
Fair limbs twisted up in their agonies,
And . . . Marie!—Marie!

_____

 

‘Hugo the Bastard’ was published in Temple Bar (October, 1866). Apparently Buchanan wished it to appear anonymously according to this item in The Patriot (1 November, 1866):

“Then it is said Mr. Robert Buchanan is going to try what the law will do for him. His last volume of poems he dedicated to Mr. Hepworth Dixon, of the Athenæum; whereupon a critic in the Westminster Review, reviewing the volume, and who, being a poet himself, has, perhaps, a right to devote himself to ‘the choking of singing birds,’ chose to fall foul of this dedication, and to attribute ‘sycophancy’ to the poet, whereat the great wrath and the threatened lawsuit. The same plaintiff will appear in another action against Mr. Bentley, the proprietor of Temple Bar, for publishing his name as that of the author of a poem called ‘Hugo the Bastard.’ Mr. Buchanan does not deny his paternity, but as the piece is not a favourable specimen of his style he thinks that he had a right to maintain his anonymity if he chose.”

Buchanan also wrote a letter to The Athenæum on 10th November, 1866 on the same matter.

_____

 

THE SKEIN.

 

Slip, yes, slip your skein, my Kitty,
     O’er my hands, and wind, and wind,
All the while, with little pity,
     Tangling, tangling, heart and mind:
Kitty! eyes upon the wool!
Not on me, my beautiful!

Now you droop your eyes completely,
     Winding, winding, dreamilie;
Wherefore, wherefore smile so sweetly
     On a thing that cannot see?
If you must smile, smile this way!
I will bear it as I may!

Ah! the rosebud fingers flitting
     Swift about the colored ball!
How my heart beats time, while sitting;
     Still, I try to bear it all:
Kitty, do you know or care
’Tis my heart you’re winding there?

Kitty, I am in a vision!
     All the world to mist doth die;
Only, in an air Elysian,
     Little fairy fingers fly:
Surely, if they flit too near,
I shall catch and kiss them, dear!

Tangled! pout not, frown not, Kitty!
     Though I gladly bear the pain;
For your anger is so pretty,
     It may make me sin again.
There! ’tis well! Now, wind, and wind,
Tangling further heart and mind!

Now, ’tis done! the last thread lingers
     Sadly from me, slow to part;
Can’st thou see that in my fingers
     I am holding up my heart?
Wind and wind! I do not care!
Smile or frown! and I will bear!

Ah! so fast and quick you wind it,
     I no more can keep it mine;
Do you wonder that you find it
     Throbbing now, close, close to thine:
Tangled, tangled are the twain;
Kiss, kiss, kiss them free again!

_____

 

‘The Skein’ was published in the Broadway Magazine (No. 4, December 1867). It was reprinted in The New York Times, December 8th, 1867.

_____

 

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