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{The New Rome 1898}







CHANGED in a trice you find me,
     Man, my Master of yore!
Vainly you seek to bind me,
     For I’m your Slave no more.
Fast as you fly behind me,
     I now fly on before!



Out from my prison breaking,
     Wherein so long I lay,
Into my lungs I’m taking
     Draughts of the glad new Day—
Out! where the world is waking!
     Presto! up and away!



Praise to the Luck which sent me
     This magical Wheel I ride,
For now I know God meant me
     To match Man, side by side!
Wings the good Lord hath lent me,
     And oh, the world is wide!



Scornful of all disaster,
     On to the goal I flee!
My wheel grows faster and faster,
     My soul more strong and free!
Pedal your best, good Master,
     If you’d keep pace with me!



Bees may hum in the clover,
     Sheep in the fold may cry,
My long siesta is over,—
     Onward at last I fly—
He who would be my lover
     Must now be swift as I!



All that I missed he misses
     Who lags behind distressed,—
Sweet were the old-time blisses
     But Freedom and Life are best—
Still, there’s a time for kisses,
     When now and then we rest!



And now I heed not a feather
     The chains I used to feel—
Soon in the golden weather,
     Edenward back we’ll steal!
Adam and Eve together!
     Throned on the Double Wheel!


‘Bicycle Song (For Women)’ was published in The Wheelwoman (8 January, 1898) under the title, ‘The New Woman’s Bicycle Song’, reprinted from The Morning Leader. A scan of the page from The Wheelwoman is available below.]

The New Woman’s Bicycle Song






SUDDENLY, as the busy crowd
     Surges and roars along the street,
Over the housetops broods the cloud,
     And down the first loose raindrops beat!
While black umbrellas here and there
Flutter up in the troubled air,
With pitter-patter of many feet
Into shelter the throngs retreat;
In a moment the rush and roar
Are still’d, and the Shower begins to pour,
The eager Shower, with its twofold sound—
The splash close by, and the murmur all round!



Splash, splash! while the murmurous sound
Gathers and deepens all around!
And on the streets with leaden strokes
Strikes the Rain, till the pavement smokes
And where the great drops plash and pelt
Quicksilver-rings are made and melt!
While under the archways, at open doors,
The wet folk gather, down it pours,—
The eager Shower, with its twofold sound,—                                     158
The splash close by, and the murmur around!



And now . . . how quiet all things look!
Still as a picture in a book!
And lo! the crowding people seem
Spell-bound, like figures in a Dream!
Silently they shelter and stare
On the rain-lash’d street, thro’ the misty air:—
Trembling the little sempstress stands,
Holding her bandbox in her hands,
Lifting her skirt and peeping down
At her thin wet shoes with a shrug and a frown;
The fop his silk umbrella grips,
Holding it from him while it drips;
The city man with impatient glance
Looks at the clouded sky askance,
Mutters, and quietly unfolds
The evening newspaper he holds;
The loafer leaneth against the wall,
Straw in his mouth, with a grin for all;
The urchin, reaching out his foot,
Into the puddle dips his boot,
Or cap in hand thrusts out his bare
Head, that the drops may pelt his hair!
’Buses and cabs crawl slowly by,
Glistering moistly under the sky;
A mist steams up from the slippery ground,
While louder and louder grows the sound—
The splash close by, and the murmur around!



Then, all of a sudden, the air grows bright!
The moist black pools flash back the light,
The sun shines cheerily over all,
And lo, the Shower has ceased to fall!
The spell is broken, and now once more
The crowd flows onward with busy roar!






Her Portrait.

THE medium, Seraphina Snowe,
Hath come to town with her Spirit-show:
A lady whom many a humbug think,
Raised in the land of the bobolink;
Has bothered philosophers many a day
In the land of notions over the way;
And over to England cometh she,
Blown like a feather across the sea.

A little lady with very white teeth,
White high forehead, and underneath
Eyes of strange forget-me-not blue
Wash’d more pale by a dreamy dew;
Lips rose-red and ever apart,
Full of the pants of a passionate heart;
Yellow and silken is her hair,
With a gleam of blood-red here and there;
As light, as bright, as a gleaming dove,
Is the little lady the Spirits love!
Hold her hand up to the light!
How transparent, how waxen white,
Save where the pink blood glimmers through!
Observe the slight little body, too!
A mingling, all tinted well,                                                                   161
Of “Ariel” and “Little Nell,”
With a spice of “Puck!”

     With the wise men round her,
And the savants dying to confound her,
She seems like some bright beautiful bird
Singing to snakes,—who think song absurd;
Or a wave, that breaks and sparkles and dances,
While the dark rocks scowl, until each rock glances
With the dew it scatters; or best, some hold,
One of those spiders whose threads of gold
Cross the woodland pathway, and (though so thin)
The light and the dew and the glory win,—
While close at hand, with watchful wits,
The lithe and luminous lady sits,
Her body all beauty, her home all gay,
And her two eyes waiting for common prey!




Poor little spider, so soft, so white!
What! doth she think in a web so slight
To catch enormous insects like these,
Or the critical wasps, or the busy bees? . . .
Buzz! . . . in the silent séance you mark
The wise blue-bottles hovering dark:
Doctor That and Professor This,
Each one finding the thing amiss,
Seeking to learn the trick of the show.
Poor little Seraphina Snowe!                                                             162

Hush! . . . How brightly she doth brood
In the midst of us all, with the gentle blood
All flown to her heart, and her face all hoar.
Darken the room a little more!
Is that the wind on the pane, or the rain? . . .
Something is stirring in my brain. . . .
What is that? . . .

. . . In the darkness of the room
Her face grows up and fills the gloom
Like a Lily of light. I feel her eyes,
Tho’ I cannot see them. My spirits rise
And shiver—my heart ticks like a clock.
O hush! O hush! was that a knock?
Half a tap and half a creak,
Partly bubble and partly squeak,—
The room seems rising,—and still I see
The gleam of the face. Strange raptures rain
Thro’ my blood, and my bones, and my bursting brain!
She draws me nearer to her place,
I seem to be coming face to face;
She drinks my life,—her soft lips shoot
Warmth to my spirit’s uttermost root,
Her glittering soul is in mine,—and hark!
The sounds continue in the dark,—

Break the charm! On the company                                                    163
Comes a scream like a spirit’s in pain!—
Something sweet dies out of my brain;
And as lights are brought, great, yellow, and bright,
There the medium sits so white
Staring round with bewildered looks;
And beneath her croucheth Doctor Snooks
With a grin on his lanthorn jaws;—for he
Has gript her delicate lissome knee,
And holds the muscles as in a vice;
And “Lo!” he crieth, “in a trice
I have stopped the raps; ’tis a muscular trick,
And nothing more.” Then, rising quick,
He addeth, seizing his hat, “Good day!
Madam, I wish you a wiser way
Of gulling the public!” Out they go,
Reproachful, melancholy, slow;
But still like a bird at bay sits she,
Half in a swoon,—so silently
Watching them all as they flit by
With her pallid spectral eyes!

                                               . . . And I
With eyes that burn and heart astir,
Would linger behind and speak to her;
But she waves me hence with a little scream,
And out I follow in a dream,
A haunted man; and when I meet
The chuckling Doctor in the street,
I pass him by with a bitter frown,
And my hot fist burns to knock him down!



The Gospel According to Philosophy.

O eyes of pale forget-me-not blue,
Wash’d more pale by a dreamy dew,
O red red lips, O dainty tresses,
O breast the breath of the world distresses!
O little lady, do they divine
That they hath fathom'd thee and thine?
Fools! Let them fathom fire,—and beat
Light in a mortar; ay, and heat
Soul in a crucible! Let them try
To conquer the Light, and the Wind, and the Sky!
Darkly the secret forces lurk,
We know them least where most they work,
And here they meet and mix in thee,
For a strange and mystic entity,
Making of thy pale soul in sooth
A life half trickery and half truth.

Well? . . . O my philosophic friend,
Does Nature herself ne’er condescend
To cheats and shams, and freaks and tricks,
Or doth she rather affect to mix
Reason with revel? Are you certain
That all is honest behind the curtain
Of lovely things you rejoice to meet?
Doth the Earth never sham, the Sky never cheat?
And do we question and rebel
If the cheat is pleasant and plausible?
Do we growl at the Rainbow in the air,
Or frown at the Mirage here and there?
Nay, we take these things as they come, my friend,                             165
And let them into our being blend!
Passive we yield to the Sun and the Light,
To the scent of the flowers, to the sense and the sight,
Taking all changes with souls serene . . .
And so I take poor Seraphine!
Beautiful mingling, tinted well,
Of “Ariel” and “Little Nell,”
With a spice of “Puck!”

                                         True, as you aver,
I never was a philosopher!
But I do not envy Doctor Snooks
His scientific tools and books,
And I cheerfully let the grim old boy
Dissect the humbug that I enjoy.

Names,—more names? Let the lady be,—
Fie upon your philosophy!
And so the tricksy little bird
Is a “grass widow” (is that the word?)
Or cast-off mistress, left to shame
By a New York rowdy of evil fame.
He thrash’d her, did he? Go on. What more?
Finish your story, and o’er and o’er,
Proving things beyond human guess,
Blacken the little adventuress.

Now you have done, and I have heard,
Patiently, every cruel word,
Listen to me,—or rather, no!                                                             166
Why should I argue with you so,
O wise Philosophy? Frown and go!
. . . I turn to Seraphina Snowe!



Mesmeric Flashes.

O eyes of pale forget-me-not blue,
Wash’d more pale with a dreamy dew,
What faces wicked, what haunts unclean,
Have ye not in your wanderings seen!
Poor little lady, so frail and wan,
Bruised in the brutal embrace of Man!
Thin white hands where the blood doth run,
Like the light in a shell held up to the sun,
How often have ye lifted been
To ward away from hands obscene
Not a wicked touch but a ruffian blow!
God help thee, Seraphina Snowe!
Found out, exposed, the jest of the day,
With thy spectral eyes on the world, at bay!
While the sense of the Sun and the Wind and the Light
Surge thro’ thee, and leave thee more wild and white,
And a mystic touch is in thy hair,
And a whisper of awe is everywhere,
And thou almost fearest in thy sin
The spirits thou half believest in!

Always imposing, little Elf,
And most on thy delicate silken self!
Making the raps with thy cunning knee,                                               167
Smiling to hear them secretly,—
And all the while thy pulses beat,
Thou tremblest at thine own deceit,
Listening, yielding, till there comes
Out of thy veins, and out at thy thumbs,
A wave of emotion, a swift flame
Blanching thy spiritual frame
To more ivory whiteness, a wild dew
Washing the spectral eyes more blue—
The secret Soul with its blinding light
Confirming thee in thy lie’s despite!

Would to God that thou and I
Might put our hands together and fly
To some far island lone and new
Where the sun is golden, the sea dark blue,
Where the scented palm and the coca-tree
Should make a bower for thee and me,
And all should be wild and bright and keen,
The flowers all colour, the leaves all sheen,
The air and the warm earth all aglow
With the life, the fever, the ebb and flow,
With the spirit-waves that, flowing free,
Foam up to a crest in Elves like thee!

There, like the spider silvern and soft
Spinning its thread of gold aloft,
Thou shouldst sit among the leaves and look
Out at me from a golden nook;
And draw me nearer with those dim eyes,                                          168
And kindle thyself to pants and sighs,
And I would crouch and gaze at thee
Through life that would seem Eternity;
While a wondrous spiritual light
Flash’d through and through me so wild and bright,
Till I faded away beneath thy hand,
Through thy Soul, to the Spirit Land!


‘Seraphina Snowe’ was first published (anonymously, i.e. “By the author of ‘St. Abe and his Seven Wives’) in the April, 1872 edition of The Saint Pauls Magazine.]




(After a Matinée of “Pelléas and Melisande.”)


WHY art thou dead, John Keats, not listening here
     To this faint melody from Shadow-land? . . .
The world dissolves, the Elfin groves appear,
     And naked in their midst young Love doth stand!

Naked and wan, and, like a rose leaf, thin,
     With strange sad silver on his golden hair,
He creeps o’er shadowy dew-soak’d lawns, to win
     Some fairy casement glimmering ghost-like there!

The lights sink low, while sitting with no sound,
     Sunk in our shadowy stalls, we two recline,—
Frock-coated men and silk-clad ladies round,
     And thou beside me, Demi-vierge divine!

The world dissolves, the garish streets are gone,
     Fled is the City’s strident harsh unrest—
Silent we watch the blind sad Love creep on
     With wet weak wings and piteous wounded breast!

I cannot see thee, but my hand seeks thine,—
     And following Love’s faint feet we steal away,—
How shall I name thee, Demi-vierge divine,
     Morgan le Faye, or Blanche la Desirée?

Ay me, the spell enwoven of woman’s tears!
     The sound of kisses and soft madrigals!
The forest path is haunted,—on our ears
     The warm melodious rain of Dreamland falls!

And thin and pale and naked, side by side,                                                   170
     We follow naked Love through woodlands wan;
By all the wondering eyes of Elfland spied,
     We cling and kiss as ghostly lovers can!

How shall I count our kisses in the dark?
     How shall I count our feverish words and sighs?
Birds in a rain-wash’d nest, we cling and mark
     Love stealing sadly on with blind red eyes! . . .

The music fades, the lights go up once more,
     Silk dresses rustle, murmuring voices sound,
The spell of that lost Fairyland is o’er,
     But dreaming still we rise and look around!

Then following with the crowd that seeks the light,
     Out to the garish street we pass again,
And lo, thy face is glad and warm and bright,
     Redeem’d from Fairyland and all its pain!

“How quaint! how odd! why, one would almost think
     We’d spent a chilly hour in some old tomb!
No wonder people say that Maeterlinck
     Is Shakespeare’s wraith, all creepiness and gloom!”

Sighing I stand and watch thee drive away,
     Smiling and nodding gaily as we part,—
Morgan le Faye, or Blanche la Desirée,
     Changed to a modern maid without a heart!





“O who will worship the great god Pan
     Out in the woods with me,
Now the chestnut spreadeth its seven-leaved fan
     Over the hive of the bee?
Now the cushat cries, and the fallow deer
     Creep on the woodland way,
O who will hearken, and try to hear
     The voice of the god to-day?”

One May morning as I woke
Thus the sweet Muse smiling spoke,
Resting pure and radiant-eyed
On the pillow at my side,—
Sweetest Muse that ever drew
Light from sunlight, earth, and dew,
Sweeter Muse and more divine
Than the faded spinsters Nine!
Up I sprang and cried aloud,
“May-day morn, and not a cloud!
Out beyond the City dark
Spring awakes in Bushey Park;
There the royal chestnuts break
Into golden foam and make
Waxlike flowers like honeycomb,
Whither humming wild bees roam;
While upon the lakes, whereon                                                          172
Tritons blow through trumps of stone,
The great water-lily weaves
Milk-white cups and oilèd leaves.
Phillis dear, at last ’tis May!
Take my hand and come away!”

Out of town by train we went,
Poor but merrily content,
Phillis in her new spring dress,
     Dainty bonnet lily-white,
Warm with youth and loveliness,
     Full of love and love’s delight;
I, the lonely outcast man,
Happy and Bohemian.                                                                        [3:8]
Soon, a dozen miles away,
     From the train we lightly leapt,
Saw the gardens glancing gay
     Where the royal fountains leapt,
Heard the muffled voices cry
In the deep green Maze hard by,
Heard the happy fiddler’s din
From the gardens of the inn;
Saw the ’prentice lads and lasses,
     Pale with dreary days of town,
Shuffling feet and jingling glasses,
While, like flies around molasses,
     Gipsies gathered dusky brown!
O the merry, merry May!
O the happy, golden day!
Pan was there, and Faunus too,
All the romping sylvan crew,
Nature’s Mænads flocking mad                                                         173
From the City dark and sad,
Finding once again the free
Sunshine and its jollity!
Phillis smiled and leapt for joy,
I was gamesome as a boy;
Gaily twang’d the fiddle-string,
Men and maids played kiss-in-ring,
Fountains leapt against the sun,
     Roses bloom’d and children played,
All the world was full of fun,
     Lovers cuddled in the shade!
What though God was proved to be
Paradox and fantasy?
What though Christ had ceased to stir
From his lonely Selpulchre?
“If the Trinity be dead,
     Pagan gods are still alive!
Fast they come to-day,” I said,
     “Thick as bees from out a hive!
Pan is here, with all his train
     Flocking out of street and lane;
Flora in a cotton gown
     Ties her garter stooping down;
Town bred Sylvan plump and fat
Weareth lilac in his hat;
Faun and satyr laughing pass,
     Hither and thither Venus roams,
Gay Bacchantes on the grass
     Laughingly adjust their combs!—
Phillis, all the world is gay
In the merry, merry May!”

“O who will worship the great god Pan                                           174
     At Hampton Court with me?”
She cried, and unto the Maze we ran
     Laughing so merrily.
“The sun is bright, and the music plays,
     And all is May,” sang she:
And I caught my love in the heart of the Maze
     With kisses three times three.

Down the chestnut colonnades
Full of freckled light and shades,
Soon we saw the dappled deer,
Pricking hairy tail and ear,
Stand like Fauns with still brown eyes
     Looking on us as we came.
Faint behind us grew the cries,
     Merry music and acclaim,
Till we found beneath a tree
All the peace of Arcady.
Lying there, where green boughs spread
     Curtains soft against the sky,
While the stock-dove far o’erhead
     Pass’d with solitary cry,
Now and then we look’d around
     Listening, till distinct and clear
Came the cuckoo’s call profound
     From some happy Dreamland near!
Happy as a heart of gold
     Shook the sunshine everywhere,
Throbbing pulses manifold
     Through the warmly panting air;
On the leaves and o’er the grass
     Living things were thronging bright,                                                175
’Neath a sky as clear as glass
     Flashing rays of life and light.
All things gladden’d ’neath the blue,
While we kiss’d and gladden’d too.
“Praised be golden Pan,” I said,
“All the duller gods are dead;
But the wood-god wakes to-day
In the merry, merry May!”

“O who will worship the great god Pan?”
     I cried as I clasped you, dear;
“Form of a Faun and soul of a Man,

     He plays for the world to hear;
Sweetly he pipeth beneath the skies,
     For a brave old god is he!”
O I kissed my love on the lips and eyes!
     And O my love kissed me!

Slowly, softly, westward flew
Day on wings of gold and blue;
As she faded out of sight
Dark and balmy fell the Night.
Silent ’neath the azure cope,
Earth, a naked Ethiope
Reach’d black arms up through the air,
     Dragging down the branches bright
Of the flowering Heavens, where
     Starry fruitage glimmer’d white!
As he drew them gently near,
Dewdrops dim and crystal clear
     Rain’d upon his face and eyes!
Listening, watching, we could hear                                                     176
     His deep breathing ’neath the skies;—
Suddenly, far down the glade,
Startled from some place of shade,
Like an antelope the dim
Moon upsprang, and looked at him!
Panting, trembling, in the dark,
Paused to listen and to mark,
Then with shimmer dimly fair
     On from shade to shade did spring,
Gain’d the fields of Heaven, and there
     Wander’d, calmly pasturing!

“O who will worship the great god Pan
     Out in the woods with me?
Maker and lover of woman and man,
     Under the stars sings he;
And Dian the huntress with all her train
     Awakes to the wood-notes wild!”
O I kissed my love on the lips again,
     And Dian looked down and smiled!                                             [8:8]

Hand in hand without a care
Following the Huntress fair,
Wheresoe’er we went we found
Silver footprints on the ground:
Grass and flowers kept the shine
Of the naked feet divine.
Now and then our eyes could see,
     As we softly crept along
Through the dusky greenery,
     Glimmers of the vestal throng—
Locks of gold and limbs of snow
     Fading on as we came near,                                                          177
Faint soft cries and laughter low
     Ceasing as we paused to hear!
O the night more sweet than day!
O the merry, merry May!
O the rapture dark and deep
Of the woodlands hush’d to sleep!
O the old sweet human tune
Pan is piping to the moon!
“Though the systems wax and wane,
Thou and I,” he sings, “remain—
Both by night and one by day
Witch a world the old warm way!
Foot it, foot it! Where you tread
Woods are greenly carpeted.
Foot it round me as I sing
Nymphs and satyrs in a ring!

“Gnarled and old sits the great god Pan—
     (Peep through the boughs, and see!)—
He plays on his pipes Arcadian
     Under the dark oak-tree.
But the boughs are dark round his sightless eyes—
     And Dian, where is she?
O follow, follow, and where she flies
     Follow her flight with me!”

Slowly, dreamily, we crept
     From the silent sleeping park,
Join’d the merry throng that swept
     Townward through the summer dark.
Shining round our path again,                                                              178
Dian flash’d before the train,
In upon our comrades shone,
Smiled and beckon’d, bounding on!
Satyrs brown in corduroys
     Smoked their pipes and join’d in song;
Gamesome girls and merry boys
     Fondled as we swept along;
Here a flush’d Bacchante prest
     Heavy head and crumpled bonnet
On her drowsy lover’s breast,
     Sprawling drowsily upon it;
Flush’d from dancing sports of Pan
Sat the little artizan,
With his wife and children three,
And the baby on his knee;
Here a little milliner,
     Smart in silk and shape-improver,
All the happy Spring astir
     In her veins, sat by her lover;
Mounted somewhere on the train,
     Pan on the accordion played!
Rough feet shuffled to the strain,
     Happy hearts the spell obeyed;
While fair Dian, looking in,
Saw the throng and heard the din,
Touch’d the young heads and the grey
With the magic of the May!

“O who will worship the great god Pan,
     Where life runs wild and free?
Form of a Faun and soul of a Man,                                               
     He playeth eternallie.
And Dian is out on the azure waste
     As bright as bright can be!”
O my arm embraced my love’s small waist,
     And my love crept close to me!

When we reached the streets of stone
     Dian there was bright before us,
Wading naked and alone
     In the pools of Heaven o’er us!
Fainter came the wood-god’s sound
     As we crossed the Bridge, and there
Saw the City splendour-crown’d
     Sleeping dark in silver air;
Saw the river dark beneath
Rippling dim to Dian’s breath.
Phillis nestling to my side
     Watch’d the sad street-walker pass
Hollow-voiced and weary-eyed,
     Painted underneath the gas.
Paler, sadder, looked the moon,
Sadder grew the old sweet tune;
Shapes of sorrow and despair
Flitted ghostwise in the air,
And among them, wan and slow,
Stalked the spectral Shape of Woe—
Piercèd hands and piercèd feet
Passing on from street to street;
Silently behind Him crept
Foolish Magdalens who wept!                                                            [13:24]
All the world at His footfall                                                                180
     Darken’d, and the music ceased—
Dark and sacrificial
     Loom’d the altars of the priest,
All the magic died away
     And the music of the May!                                                             [13:30]

“O who will worship the great god Pan
     Here in the streets with me!                                                       [14:2]
Sad and tearful and weary and wan
     Is the god who died on the Tree;
But Pan is under and Dian above,
     Though the dead god cannot see,
And the merry music of youth and love
     Returns eternallie!”

Homeward went my love and I
To our lodging near the sky;
There beside the snow-white bed
     Dian stood with radiant eyes!
Smiled a moment ere she fled—
Then, with halo round her head,
     Hung above us in the skies!
By the casement open wide
Long we watch’d her side by side;
While from the dark streets around
Came again the sylvan sound—
Pan was softly piping there
     As he pipes in field and grove,
Conquering sorrow and despair
     With the strains of life and love!
Phillis in her bedgown white
     Kissed me, standing in the moon;                                                  181
Louder, sweeter, through the night
     Rang the olden antique tune;
Gently on my knee I drew her
     Smiling as I heard her say,
All her warm life kindling through her,
     “Dearest, what a happy day!”
“’Tis a happy world,” I said;
“Pan still pipes, though Christ is dead!”


‘Pan at Hampton Court’ was originally published as part of The Earthquake (1885) and is included in that section of the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan. The following alterations refer to this earlier version which is also available on this site:
v. 3, l. 8: Happy and Bohemian,
The following lines are omitted:
Loving all and hating none
Of my brethren ’neath the sun.
v. 8, l. 8: And Dian looked down and smiled.
v.13, l. 24: Pallid Magdalens who wept!
v. 13, l. 30: And the music of the May.
v. 14, l. 2: Here in the streets with me? ]








STORM in the Night, Buchanan! a Voice in the night still crying,
“They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where He is lying!”

Thou, too, singer of songs and dreamer of dreams, art weeping
For the Form that lay in the tomb, the Face so peacefully sleeping;

And now he hath gone indeed, and his worshippers roam bereaven,
Thou, by the Magdalen’s side, art standing and looking at Heaven!

Woe unto thee, Buchanan! and woe to thy generation!
The harp of the heart he strung, the Soul he set in vibration,

Are lost since he is lost, the beautiful Elder Brother;
For the harp of the heart was his, the song could gladden no other!

’Twas something,—nay, ’twas much!—to know, though his life was over,               183
That the fair, bright Form was there, with the wool-white shroud for a cover!

He did not speak or stir, he did not hark to our weeping,
But his grave grew wide as the World, and the stars smiled down on his sleeping.

He made no speech, no sign, for Death has disrobed and discrown’d him,—
But the scent of spikenard and myrrh was sweet in the air around him!

So we kept our Brother, tho’ dead! The Lily Flower of Creation!
And to touch his dear dead hands was joy in our desolation.

But now, the Tomb is void, and the rain beats over the portal:
Thieves like wolves in the night have stolen the dead Immortal!

So peacefully he slept, the Lily Flower of Creation,
That we said to ourselves, “He dreams! and his Dream is the World’s salvation!”

But now by the Tomb we stand, despairing and heavy-hearted;
The stars look silently down, but the Light of the World hath departed.

And yet, should he be risen? Should he have waken’d, to wander                           184
Out ’mid the winds of the night, out ’mid the Tempest yonder,

Holding his Lamp wind-blown, while the rain-cloud darkens and gathers,
Feeling his way thro’ the gloom, naming our names, and our Father’s?

Nay, for the World would know the face of the fair New Comer,
The graves would open wide, like buds at the breath of the summer,—

The graves would open, the Dead within them quicken and blossom,
And over the World would rain the flowers that had grown in his bosom!

Nay, then, he hath fled, not risen! in vain we seek and implore him!
Deeper than Death he hath fall’n, and the waves of the World roll o’er him!

Storm in the night, Buchanan! A Voice in the night still crying,
“They have taken away our Lord! and we know not where he is lying!”


The four poems in the section, ‘The Last Christians’, were originally published in The Buchanan Ballads Old and New (London: John Haddon and Company, 1892).

An earlier version of ‘Storm in the Night’ is included in The Earthquake (1885). Although the two versions share the same theme and form, there is no exact replication of lines. The original version is available on this site.

The second and final lines of the poem are variations on Mary Magdalene’s response to the angels at the sepulchre: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” John 20:13. ]








I SAW on the Bridge of Sorrow, when all the City slept,
The shape of a woful Woman, who look’d at Heaven, and wept.

Loose o’er her naked shoulders trembled her night-black hair;
Her robe was ragged and rent, and her feet were bleeding and bare.

And, lo! in her hands she carried a vessel with spices sweet,
And she cried, “Where art thou, Master? I come to anoint thy feet.’

Then I touch’d her on the shoulder: “What thing art thou?” I said;
And she stood and gazed upon me with eyes like the eyes of the dead.

But I saw the painted colour flash on her cheeks and lips,
While she stood and felt in the vessel with tremulous finger-tips.

And she answer’d never a word, but stood in the lonely light,
With the evil of earth upon her, and the darkness of Death and Night.

And I knew her then by her beauty, her sin and the sign of her shame,                    186
And touch’d her again more gently, and sadly named her name.

She heard, and she did not answer; but her tears began to fall,
And again, “Where art thou, Master?” I heard her thin voice call.

And she would have straightway left me, but I held her fast and said,
While the chill wind moan’d around us, and the stars wept overhead,

“O Mary, where is thy Master? Where does he hide his face?
The world awaits his coming, but knows not the time or the place.

“O Mary, lead me to him—he loved thee deep and true;
Since thou hast risen to find him, he must be risen too.”

Then the painted lips made answer, while the dead eyes gazed on me:
“I have sought him all through the Cities, and yonder in Galilee.

“I have sought him and not found him, I have search’d in every land,
Though the door of the Tomb was open, and the shroud lay shrunk in the sand.

“Long through the years I waited, there in the shade of the Tomb,                          187
Then I rose and went to meet him, out in the World’s great gloom.

“And I took pollution with me, wherever my footsteps came;
Yes, I shook my sin on the Cities, my sin and the sign of my shame.

“Yet I knew if I could find him, and kneel and anoint his feet,
That his gentle hands would bless me, and our eyes at last would meet.

“And my sin would fall and leave me, and peace would fill my breast,
And there, in the Tomb he rose from, I could lie me down and rest.”

Tall in the moonlit City, pale as some statue of stone,
With the evil of earth upon her, she stood and she made her moan.

And away on the lonely bridges, and under the gaslight gleam,
The pale street-walker heard her, a voice like a voice in a dream.

For, lo! in her hands she carried a vessel with spices sweet,
And she cried, “Where art thou, Master? I come to anoint thy feet.”

Then my living force fell from me, and I stood and watch’d her go                          188
From shrine to shrine in the starlight, with feeble feet and slow.

And the stars look’d down in sorrow, and the earth lay black beneath,
And the sleeping City was cover’d with shadows of night and death,

While I heard the faint voice wailing afar in the stony street,
“Where art thou, Master, Master? I come to anoint thy feet.”


‘The Ballad of the Magdalen’ is a reworking of ‘Mary Magdalen’ from The City of Dream (1888), which is available on this site. In the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan, this later version of the poem is omitted.]



The New Rome continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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