BY THE LATE
JOHN LUCAS TUPPER
SELECTED AND EDITED BY
WILLIAM MICHAEL ROSSETTI
LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO.
Note: “1897” is handwritten at the bottom of the page.
LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY
Note: The book's call number and library stamp appear on the bottom of the page.
CHISWICK PRESS:—CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO.
CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.
Note: Page numbers are aligned in a column under the heading “PAGE” on this and the next page.
Books and writings about the
hood,” which was established in
the autumn of 1848, are
by this time tolerably numerous. Among them, here and
there, occurs the name of John Lucas Tupper, and some
faint suggestion of who he was and
what he did. The
time seems to have come at last for impressing his name
definitely upon the public memory, and for indi-
cating—and indeed, I think,
proving—that he was a
man with a very considerable poetic gift of his own, and
highly deserving of explicit and honourable record.
I will only cite one testimony to John Tupper's claims
as a poet. In the book
which I published in 1895—“
Gabriel Rossetti, his Family Letters, with a Memoir
occurs a note to the following effect:
“There was a little
lyric of Tupper's on the Garden of Eden in
decay, of which Dante Rossetti thought very highly. He
compared it to
Ebenezer Jones's lyric, ‘When the world
is burning’; and said
that, had it been the writing of
Edgar Poe, it would have enjoyed world-wide
I include this poem in the
present selection, though it
was, I believe, published in a review soon after the date
of Mr. Tupper's death.
Transcribed Footnote (page [vii]):
1 Vol. i., p. 151.
John Lucas Tupper was born in London in or about
1826. It may perhaps be as well
to say at the outset
that he had no sort of
Farquhar Tupper, the author of “Proverbial Philosophy,”
although it is said that the two men were “eleventh
father was a lithographic and general
printer in the city of London, and the business is
kept up by two of John's brothers. John Tupper, ex-
hibiting an early bias
towards the arts of design, became a
student at the Royal Academy. He was, I think,
undecided for a while whether he should take to painting
or to sculpture;
ultimately he settled upon the latter. In
the Academy classes he become known to the
artists who formed the Præraphaelite Brotherhood—
Millais, Holman Hunt, Woolner, Stephens, Collinson,
and Dante Rossetti: Hunt and
Stephens, and after a
time Rossetti, more particularly knew him well. My
introduction to him may have taken place early in
1849; by that date, without abandoning
profession, he had shunted himself off into a special line
being installed as anatomical draughtsman at
Guy's Hospital—an employment for
which he was ex-
ceptionally well qualified. As a young man he exhibited
sculptural works at the Royal Academy, and per-
haps elsewhere—works showing
advanced studentship and
the severest tenets of truthful rendering—but nothing
his ever fixed the public attention. The tendency of his
mind was certainly
quite as much scientific as artistic;
and, though I conceive him to have been fully
producing sound works of art, had circumstances been
favourable, he did
in fact pass through life without realiz-
ing anything considerable in sculpture, if we
life-sized statue of Linnæus in the Oxford
Museum—a work of the most conscientious order in
intention and unsparing precision of detail.
Quitting Guy's Hospital in 1863, Mr. Tupper received,
in March 1865, the
appointment of Master of the classes
for geometrical or scientific drawing at Rugby
where he was distinguished for solid and ingenious learn-
devotion to his work, and successful train-
ing of his pupils. He married in 1871 (the
last day of
the year), and has left a widow and two children. At
Rugby he died on
September 29th 1879. His health
had for some years been precarious, more especially after
a very dangerous illness of a spasmodic or convulsive
kind which attacked him in
Florence in 1869, when I
was his travelling-companion.
A man of stricter principle than John Tupper, more
bent upon doing right, more
honourable in act, more
tenacious of the truth as he discerned it, has not been
known to me. He was not without ambition, founded
upon a well-justified, but always very
ness of abilities—scientific, artistic, speculative,
and yet was content with his rather secluded and incon-
spicious lot in
life. He was a steadfast and affectionate
friend, as no one knows better than myself.
Even before I knew him in 1849, Tupper had written
a good deal of verse. The
issued in 1850, and printed by the Tupper
firm, contains the following
contributions of his: in verse,
“A Sketch from Nature,”
“Viola and Olivia,”
“An Incident in the Siege of Troy,”
; in prose,
“The Subject in Art.”
Perhaps one of the most marked symptoms of the
poetical temperament is an acute susceptibility to impres-
A scene or an object in nature, a human person-
ality or passion, is discerned, and
discerned with peculiar
vividness; but the matter does not remain there—the
perception of the eye and mind becomes an impression on
the whole individuality of
the poet, the nutriment of his
emotion, and of his fancy or imagination, which swathe
it like a lambent flame. That which entered into him as
a perception issues forth as
a transmuted entity—real, and
also visionary. I apprehend that this poetical
strongly, and even rather abnormally, marked in the verse
of John Tupper.
There is also, in various instances, a
true lyrical impetus, and a certain cosmic feeling,
which his peculiar turn for science (contemplated rather
in the abstract than
merely physically) contributed. A
repugnance to some aspects of modernism, whether in
the domain of physics or of mind, will be observed here
and there. A few of the
poems now collected are
humorous (these are grouped together in the latter half
the volume): they have, I think, a genuine mingling
of oddity and sprightliness, or what
we call quaintness.
The general tone and tenor of Tupper's poetry is summed
inaptly in his sonnet “To Annie” (his wife),
where he speaks of
himself as singing of
- “Rarest things
- That make the earth a perfume and a song,
- And of vague solace of imaginings.”
John Tupper did not during his lifetime publish any
volume of verse; and it
appears to me that, after the
of his, in the
poetic form, got into print, even in magazines etc. He
left, however, a substantial bulk of verse, which his widow
copied out—no light task. Her copies form the manu-
scripts which have come
into my hands. Some of the
pieces, besides being confusedly jotted down by himself,
had obviously not received his final revision; and I have
thought it not only a right but
a duty to rectify here and
there some stumble of metre or of diction, or some lapse
of rhyme. The reader may rely upon it that what I have
thus done is really a trifle, and
not such as to impair in
any appreciable degree the authenticity of the work. In
fact, while I should have regarded it as unkind to the
memory of my old friend to omit
doing what I have
done, I should have deemed it impertinence to go beyond
Mr. Tupper was the author of two published books:
in each instance he wrote under
the fancy name of
“Outis.” These are “The True Story of Mrs.
Stowe” (concerning Lord Byron), and (1869) “Hiatus,
or the Void in Modern
Education”: the latter received
at the time some fair amount of press notice. There are
several MS. poems besides those which I have as yet
examined; also a prose story and
various papers on scien-
tific and other subjects. Possibly some of these may yet
the light of publication.
In the present volume I have added a few notes, but
only where there were some
allusions etc. which seemed
not likely to explain themselves. The dates appended to
the poems are mostly correct, but sometimes only approxi-
W. M. Rossetti.
- 'Twas a god-haunted meadow, grassed and wide;
- Poplars grew on the eastern side,
- The brown wood rose behind.
- It was not low, it was not high,
- For the woods all round went higher: the sky
- Was next to these; and the sunset blind
- Tore through the deepest forestry.
- There was no empty plain for the eye
- To wander over, remote or nigh.
10There was no ground but the meadow grass;
- Dusk woods walled out the world somewhere—
- Away where no one strove to pass;
- And whether there was another sky
- Or other earth we did not care.
- The sky and the meadow belonged to each other,
- The life that I led to me was new
- In a world that was new, and the wonder grew,
- As the flowers every day
- Changed their array,
20Or changed into berry and fruit the flower.
- Through the long day and hour by hour
- I could talk and play and talk with my mother.
- And oh it was glad when the evening came
- To sit by the small lamp's flickering flame,
- And read of a world that was more than a name,
- And less than a substance. The histories passed
- Of Noah and Enoch and Solomon,
- Of Theseus, Alcides and Telamon,
- And haunters of forest and fountain and sod.
30I grew up in love without method amassed,
- Loving, hating, desiring, and wondering,
- A haunter of autumn and haunter of spring,
- And sometimes conceiving I might be a god.
- I will not come to thee,
- Although my eyes are tranced
- And full of thy dear face.
- And on this side the day of doom
- We shall not meet, because the world
- Works change on what it wears away.
- For I design to think of thee
- Only as now I think, and so
- To think of thee until I die.
10For thou to me a sunrise art,
- To which a thousand drops of dew
- Belong and thousand flowers,—
- Which when the thousand drops of dew
- And when the thousand flowers are not,
- Is not the same sunrise.
- Thou art to me a sound of bells
- At night—a moment of the night
- When winds lift sound away.
- Thou art to me the crystal song
20Of thrushes to the stars ere morn,
- While yet the lawns are white;
- Or nightingale's song poured away
- Profuse with thunder standing near,
- To keep the long night wild;
- Or else a sempiternal sky
- With nine blue stars in rocking leaves,
- And a little golden mood.
- Listen ! a sweet bird singing now,
- Although it is not light;
- He sits on yon acacia bough
- To watch the wane of night.
- O mystery of mysteries!
- What are these festivals and cries
- Of birds, of flowers in summer weather?
- Badly the dull ear keeps together
- Notes flung down from the plectral rod,
10That thrills all nature with the beat
- Of mystic life announcing God,
- And wakes the ever active heat
- Through earth, and tunes the ether-string
- That throbs in colour, to make sing
- The undulous sea of charmèd air.
- What shall be deemed of life? O where
- Begin its vague interpreting?
- Ere night steps down the western stair,
- The stir comes over all—along
20Our forest tops no lack of song:
- All flowers resume their colours fair
- When the Light-god comes, and on the string
- Whereon he does his messaging
- Vibrate their answer keen and clear.
- And I, a mere spectator here
- Without a function, fear to call
- In worship to the Spirit of all.
- My tongue would scream a note of woe
- At dissonance from nature so;
30My voice would be a leaden pall
- Upon the glad flowers' golden glow.
- A million king-cups mean to flare
- Bright eyes to heaven, which turns to flash
- A sun back. There will be a clash
- Of jubilant branches in the air,
- And out of earth will rise a breath
- Of gladness, and the only death
- Lurks in my heart—no other-where?
- Resolve the mystery; bring me aid,
40Strange Spirit! Dwelleth harmony
- With one? And now thy thought hath made
- The shadow of death be dead in me.
- Strangely I rise to a ministry—
- The mountain pine hath nothing said.
- Beneath the eye of evening, plain
- The sleepy hills are lying:
- Fields are green from recent rain,
- Green the rugged grassy lane.
- And how have I wrought on, who die,
- Now die, wrung brain in vain
- Striving to find them living! Dying,
- Look, they come again—
- The common, and the children playing
10With hoop and bat and bow, the straying
- Lambs beyond. So pass them by:
- We left them; and we leave them; try
- For flowers this rugged grassy lane.
- Look, your flowers again!
- Why, the flowers you wore for hours—
- Not one withered—as I gave them
- You, who lost them. I, who have them,
- I, who brook no coy gainsaying,
- Now have all: the children playing—
20All, the sun, the grass, the flowers;
- Time—its minutes, hours remain:
- I feel the minutes throb again;
- Moans the bee, and thrills the bird;
- Glimmer sunlit grass and flower;
- Flies the white cloud fringed with rain.
- So you droop your eyelids lower,
- And we have no whisper heard:
- So we feel no pain.
- And we shut the prison house;
30Outside—world, and inside—brain,
- Weary world, dark, onerous!
- All is here—
- A sunset clear:
- Eyes clear of scorn, grass fresh with rain.
- We'll not wake again!
- Over the evening-misty hills
- White villas in the stare of the sun:
- The heads of elms and chestnuts dun
- Take tawny fire, each one by one;
- February is not done,
- Although the grass is soft and green,
- And warm air blows and flows between
- These blind bare arms that trees uprear
- To feel for summer somewhere near.
10Sitting upon the stile, I fain
- Would fancy summer up the lane,
- Where both the hedges rusty grey
- With blackthorn bushes say me nay.
- The winter time has left its stain
- Of snow upon the thorn and rain
- Upon the pales. Like black hairs turning
- Grey, it has a look of yearning
- Back to youth again.
- Oak trees nigh, non 'gainst the sky,
20But how black and bare and knotted,
- And the sunset clings on high
- To the summer mockery
- Mournfully bedropped and dotted
- Where the ivy dangles by.
- And I cannot draw my eyes
- From the bare sun-gilded trees,
- Because it seems as by degrees
- An old grey man is standing there
- Letting some damsel trick his hair
30As gaily as the sun decks these,
- While he bears all without surprise.
- And when into the west at last
- I turn, the day is sinking fast;
- The sun has gapped the hedge with light,
- Laid fervid fire on thousand sprays,
- Shooting shadows thousand ways
- Until they vanish. But the white
- Slow mists have muffled up the night,
- And all is changed; for now the air
40Is chilly, and the moon has shone
- Down dimly on the sea unknown,
- With sunk rocks visible here and there,
- Whereon one cloud-ship sails alone.
- Fold up her fan: it will not stir
- The air for her.
- Outside acacias wave and whirr,
- Fanning breaths that pass
- From earth to heaven—and what, alas!
- Do we with fans?
- Also these rings, now? Talismans
- Perchance—keep them. We must dispense
- With much now useless: whence
10A use for what
she will not use?
- Little things that did amuse,
- Employ her daily, no—
- Perhaps they should not go;
- But all her wardrobe, straight
- Hide it. Or, wait—
- The sofa with her work thereon
- Must not begone:
- These tables—she was wont to arrange
- Their ornaments. The Grange
20Will vanish altogether so.
- Trees hold her accents; grass blades know
- Her footstep; garden knots, and flowers
- Within doors, watered with her hands.
- Alas, she leaves us nothing ours
- Unsignatured! Dim seas and lands
- Remote we needs must seek to be
- Remindless of her. For I see
- As yet no fleeting cloud along
- The rounding verge, hear no faint song
30Of wind or bird that doth not say,
- “In such attire, on such a day
- She pointed, listened.”
- The dumb ground,
- Blind sky, are witnesses around.
- The chiming hours will speak in round
- That still she hither goes and there;
- Her chamber window would not dare
- Be bright with daylight if she were
- Not in her chamber; every stair
40In the still house expects her foot:
- And I am conscious, when the mute
- Midnight affirms she sleeps, the morn
- Will ask for her. To live, and scorn
- These witnesses in dumb array?
- No—all must go or all must stay.
- No more—no more! It will not sound!
- The strings relapse with shattering jar,
- And leave their mournful whisper. Far
- That harp hath travelled over ground
- Rugged and smooth—a long way round.
- The plectrum now, till music rings!
- I feel its weight how dead and cold!
- And wonder who could be so bold
- As touch with it these delicate strings,
10To force out such faint sorrowings.
- Sorrowings, submissive, like a wife
- To rugged brute intoxicate—
- Or flowers, to winds infuriate,
- That shed their perfume with their life
- Upon the senseless northern knife.
- O harp! if I were born anew,
- And thou unruined mine again,
- The mosses of the calmest rain,
- The offspring of the sweetest dew,
20Should be too hard, too hard for you.
- But something culled from thistle down,
- From cygnet plume, or sleepy owl,
- With moultage of the eider-fowl,
- Wherewith a queen fay lines her crown,
- Would shield thee from the loud renown;
- Cradle thee soft in solitude,
- With nothing save they will to creep
- Self-stirred, in cadence faint or deep,
- Through thine own strings in thine own mood,
30Unquestioned of the multitude.
- Low down within some mountain dell
- Where comes not sun, nor wind, and where
- Grows dream-like up that maiden-hair
- That knows the ghostly twilights well,
- There shouldst thou throb inaudible.
- There are rows of poplars
- Down the garden walks;
- There are cedars standing
- On the dewy lawns;
- They have waited many
- Mornings of the Spring;
- Many swallows fly there,
- Many birds sing;
- And now is the Summer.
10Here be great white lilies
- Leaning down their stalks.
- The roses like lamps
- Standing on their stems,
- Burning out their spirit
- From morning unto even,
- Are dying and born,
- And all the perfume given
- Is given to waste.
- The flowers upon the trees
20Are mixed with withered flowers,
- And black shrivelled seeds
- Of last year's growing.
- There is no knowing
- How long time ago—
- If there were hours
- And flowers did grow—
- A hand took the flowers.
- Cystus, anemone,
- Olive and myrtle,
30Cypress and cinnamon,
- Orange and lime,
- Go high or low;
- And the wandering vine
- And ivies entwine,
- And stretch at the bough,
- The bough of the pine.
- The palm tree is weeping,
- The gums ever dropping,
- The long lawns sleeping,
40Nothing is dying,
- Growth is not stopping.
- Cumbered with nothing,
- The low lawns are lying
- In their green clothing.
He must be coming,
- These must be waiting.
- Are the bees not humming?
- Are they not translating
- The golden pollen
50From flower to flower?
- Are they not debating
- In converse sullen
- About the hour?
- Still the great sun gets up and holds a light
- That men may see what ugly things they do;
- And still the pendent plummet hangeth true;
- And still the sky is sempiternal blue:
- And man gets older, and there cometh night.
- The wind was talking in the poplar trees
- Over my head, and in this fashion still.
- Nor heard I, for the running of the rill,
- The chirp of grasshoppers that count and shrill
10Some anguished minutes; but I knew of these
- And all the other pain-enforcèd voice
- Of swallow, or expostulating bee;
- Because there was no creature I could see,
- Or animal, or wind, or shaken tree,
- That deemed the sun had reason to rejoice.
- Trust me, the river gurgled chokingly,
- The mill went jarring round, and blear and dun
- Clouds in the eye of the insulting sun
- Escaped towards the west: and one by one
20Hot sheep rose up, then sank along the lea;
- As if they had not rightly settled which,
- Motion or rest, were painfuller; and still
- The light was everywhere, with prying skill
- Demonstrating a present, visible ill,
- Though it might lurk in furrow or in ditch:—
- Showing the lizard murdered by the rat,
- The spider, with his prey, tongued by a toad,
- The caterpillar writhing at the goad
- Of tugging emmets, black into the road,
30The chafer by the cow's hoof trodden flat.
- Death everywhere, or pain!—until one deemed
- The blessedest of all things must be sleep:
- A rest that would continue calm and deep
- (Although this shepherd will betray his sheep
- Unto the slaughterer). And then it seemed,
- As I was walking round that labouring mill,
- There came a young girl with a lamb to play,
- And she had many flowers with bloom a day
- But dare not, though we love them, longer stay,
50Because the hours are ravenous to kill,
- And eat up all:—which, entering not the head
- Of this poor child, had almost changed my mind,
- To find a happiness I could not find
- Attend such blindness.—But the mill was blind,
- Whirled round its sail, and struck her lamb stone dead.
- So then I said, “Go home, die in your bed;
- Sleep first, the only peace before you die!”
- The sail went round, and all the wind did sigh:
- The poplars whispering contumeliously
60“Of winds below, and calm heaven overhead!”
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- I saw a youth walking upon the hills
- In the breme Lapland morning, while the sun
- Not swerving upward (as a swallow turns
- That has not rested on the earth) emblazed
- The close fur wrapping him with gold that rippled
- I' the flying wind: what time I certified
- His cap of fox-skin, and his coat of deer:
- And, as he walked, how he would stay his step,
- Against the unconquered wind to scrutinize
10The ground with flowers and rare growths mottled o'er
- In that high region; and the rocks and pools
- Sucked there by spongy herbage—not as a girl
- Culling wild flowers, who looks for these alone,
- But taking with a wide glance all that was
- As each a limb of one great animal.
- For whether it were moss or flower or fern,
- Or fungus growth of rottenness, the bare
- Bleached jaw-bone of some stag, or wind-bleached rock,
- Or raven's wing in rocky cleft, or foot
20Of hare the eagle-owl left, nesting close:
- Each sang keen notes of one great anthem still,
- Of which the dominant (man, in health, disease,
- Or death) rang joyous, with a cry that rent
- The harmony up through sunny air to heaven.
- Grandly he walked, or grander stood, the wind
- Passing, and great thoughts passing on more swift
- Within him, what the world had been and was;
- While in his hand the flower, held listlessly,
- I saw he saw not, for his soul was rapt—
30As one who has fasted feels a lightness go
- Throughout his frame, conversing more with air
- Than solid earth, and running seems to fly.
- I saw him hovering about that hill
- Like an alighted eagle, staring round
- A strange world with a glory in his gaze:
- A visitant who momently we fear
- Even while we gaze may find his task complete,
- And merge into the skies in mystery.
“The fairies feed on scent.”
- You say that fairies feed on scent:
- And then you stay, and check your speech
- For fear lest you should seem to reach
- Too near the faëry land;—
- Too near the spirit-realm for each
- To fathom what the fancy meant:
- You knew we should not understand.
- And so it was, with eyes down bent,
- You said “'Twas thus with fairies,
They lived at least,” nor answer then
- Followed the argument.
- But I have had a fancy since,
- Dreaming or musing a vague hour,
- That raised up many a faëry flower
- Cradling its faëry queen and prince
- At banquet there: and I can say
- The fairies feed thus to this day.
- Nor need you much misgive the event
- When next you teach us faëry lore,
20For fairies are not less, but more
- (So thrive they on this subtile scent);
you expound their nourishment
- To our dull ears, that doubt at first,
- All too terrestrially nursed
- To know of spirits till we hear
- That voice, and see those eyes, fine Faye,
- That lift our earthly lids halfway
- Till into faëry lands we peer.
- Those eyes that beam the very light—
30The hue that only flowers can bring:
- That mouth, the honied murmuring
- Of bees enamoured in their flight!
- We listen, and we gaze, and fight
- In vain against this lore you teach,
- Because those faëry lips that preach
- Must feed on perfume day and night.
- Alas for me who have been nursed
- Ever with spirits (bad or good)!
- 'Twere hard if I not understood
40The faintest whisper of their wings—
- The scent which hints their presence first.
- But ah! when some world-fatted calf
- Wakens to first vague glimmerings
- Of soul beneath your reasonings—
- Then, Mab, I see your eyelids laugh!
- As when the half-god Orpheus stood
- Steeped to the soul in ecstasy
- Of expectation strained to see,
- What melody would do with wood.
50I fancy how the harp-string stopt
- Just as the trees began to prance;
- Fancy the muttered words he dropt,
- “I might have known that they would dance.”
- It was a fervid Summer's eve;
- And deep in Penge's woodbine bowers,
- I walked to wear away the hours,
- And snatch a short reprive
- From that unending coil the world
- Kept dinning in mine ears and head:
- And now the latest sun-glance red
- The twilight sky impearled.
- The blaze upon the forest spread
10Was golden-misty, splendent-dead;
- The sounds that in the wood were heard
- Were those the ringdove and the bird
- Of night and sorrow alternate
- To any ear that listens late,—
- Listens what nature doth alone
- When men are sleep-o'erthrown.
- I saw a Lady in the wood
- Come watering every tree and herb,
- And fixing such as winds disturb
20With storm-blast over-rude.
- She closed the cups of hundred flowers,
- She held a starlight lantern dim
- To those whose stalk is slight and slim
- Throughout the silent hours.
- She wakened mouse and hedgehog's sight,
- Enkindled many a glow-worm spark,
- And showed the mole in chamber dark
- A transitory light;
- Until a rustling stirring soon
30Went through the leaves across the ground;
- And listening silence pressed around
- To pry into night's noon.
- Myriads were moving and awake,
- Myriads were moving to and fro;
- Whisperings along the ground did go,
- And grass and leaflets shake.
- The stars were twinkling in and out:
- The Lady ever with her hand
- Tree, bush, herb, floweret, leaflet, fanned,
40And showered their scents about.
- Then from the holt my footsteps went
- In wonder-silent shrinking awe;
- For still where last I trod I saw
- She raised the grass down bent.
- And she caresses every blade,
- And lifts up every floweret's head,
- Whatever with unheedful tread
- I trod on and God made.
Note: Library stamp appears at bottom of page
- If, when I lay me down to sleep,
- This night I lose my wonted breath,
- And pale and silent pass away
- To some undreamed-of realm of death;
- I wonder, love, if I would keep
- Remembrance of this mortal sphere—
- If that which is so dear to life
- Would be to shadowy death as dear.
- Could I not wed my faith with that,
10To love you so were naught of bliss.
- We soon shall know! Sit near me—here
- We have not long to love and kiss!
- You wear a rose-bud in your hair;
- Is it the one you wore last June?
- The moon comes with the sunset. Look!
- It has the shape of last year's moon.
- There's no one coming, 'twas a bird
- The same that swung on cherry boughs
- Last year, and chirped and twittered so
20About the garden and the house.
- Hark how the marvelous music floats,
- Beyond the elms by Arthur's Grange:
- The bird is young, the song is old;
- Shapes, but not spirits, suffer change.
- What was I saying? Love shall last,
- And never old and tarnished grow?
- Dear heart, I think to those who love
- All things in Nature promise so.
- No word of question would I ask:
- I would not learn in this dim world
- Thy doom, or move aside the mask,
- And find, as I have found before,
- Beneath this flower the worm up-curled
- That eats my flowers for evermore.
- But now, before the ensanguined worm
- That kills thy beauty leaves his nest;
- And ere I probe the inward germ
10And look down on a blinding blight—
- Shall I be grudged an hour of rest,
- An hour of rest in fate's despite?
- To lie entranced and sing the songs
- Appointed for the bower of God—
- To drink the grandeur that belongs
- To summer suns and golden moons—
- The opiate languor roses nod
- On the faint wind till he too swoons?
- And that bemisted odour breathed
20From golden-centred lilies? Deep
- Now grows the charm; and interwreathed
- With rings of radiance, lo, these brows
- Are aching through a weight of sleep
- Thy presence breathes among the boughs,—
- Hanging on pendent bud and bell,
- Charmed leaf, and fruit, and list'ning bird,
- That dare not let its warble swell
- Because the blank chasm widens round,
- Engirding, till thy lips have stirred,
30Silence, at watch for that sole sound.
- Because the summer-bee will pause
- Within the cactus' fulgid glare;
- The wasp stand still in the hot air;
- And down the deep white calla cup
- There will not rise the soft applause
- Until thou lift thine eyelids up.
- So demons whisper woe in vain!
- For I have neither ear nor sight.
- I dream here on the edge of night;
40Here where the calm cold ghosts have passed
- A girdle round the placid plain
- To hold the charmèd sunset fast.
- O get ye into the boat with me
- For I am the witch of the winding Rhine—
- And ye shall see
- How sleepily
- The lights that fly
- Across the sky
- Under the run of the river shine.
- And ye shall see how winsomely
- The flowers do grow beneath the river:
10Marvel to see
- What things they be
- That grow so low
- Where no winds blow,
- And waters stream on on for ever.
- The stars are out, the stars are in,
- The moon in here and there on the stream;
- And let it glimmer
- In sheen or dimmer,
- There's nothing ye
20In the waters see
- That's half so empty as life's thin dream.
- Lispeth and lappeth the wave on the boat,
- For I am the witch of the winding Rhine,
- I lived with you
- In sun and dew,
- Wind, ice, and snow,
- And only know
- There was nothing real in that life of mine.
- Wherefore in—into the boat with me;
30On the surface go and the current under,
- And under and deeper
- Where never a sleeper
- (Who dreams more true
- Than all of you)
- Was wakened even by loudest thunder.
- O sun, has earth no influence
- To win thee back in time of spring?
- And heed'st thou not the year's intense
- Desire, the eager blossoming,
- The yearning of the birds to sing
- Bewrayed by this vain fluttering?
- I hear the blackbird, and anon
- The thrush—but oh their hearts are faint,
- And there's a chilly twitter on
10The pear tree. 'Tis thy turn to paint
- Some cloud with crimson now: the quaint
- Spring pageant waits for thee alone.
- I've walked the garden three times round,
- Have questioned with the bustling ants,
- And solitary bee that chants
- A dismal drone—we cannot find
- What keeps thee all so long behind;—
- The seeds are swollen in the ground.
- And cumbrous forms of life have changed
20To comelier, demanding wings.
- The secret motion of the Spring's
- Desire anew hath atoms ranged,
- And even now the whisperings
- Of life pervade the germ of things.
- That gold-striped snail I could but spare
- A fortnight since for promising
- The early coming of the spring,
- Although he makes the gardens bare,
- Hath closed the gummy shutters fast
30Against this snowing eastern blast.
- And were it not the faithful birds
- Persist to say, O cruel sun,
- That springtime must be—is begun,
- I would believe, with snail, and herds
- There sheltering beside the wall,
- That we shall see no spring at all.
- And, by some error unobserved
- Before, December followeth
- On April's heel, with winter-breath
40To blow out all the golden lamps,
- And starry flowers whose stems unnerved
- Hang sidewise in the freezing damps—
- I would believe; but that the thrush
- Says resolutely still “the Spring!”
- With faith so firm against this rush
- Of winter wind that rocks him now,
- That hoping spring, he dares to sing,
- Without a leaf upon the bough.
- And, if you listen, you shall hear
50How he has clothed, in ecstasy,
- With summer leaves each garden tree,
- And brought a heated atmosphere
- To that pale calm which keeps afloat
- The thrillings of his evening throat.
- Dear bird, (if thou art nothing more
- Than what we see—a three years thing,)
- With faith so firm thou canst defy
- Thy present, and thy future sing
- So gladly, I would fain that I
60Had something of thy prophet lore:
- For I am pined with sorrowing:
- The present presses me so sore,
- And of my future, less or more,
- I cannot augur anything
- With thy large faith, but beat the floor
- Of hopeless human reasoning.
- Not any fragrance blown from flowers,
- Not any growth of summer hours,
- Nor all the whispers of the sea,
- Kissed by relenting winds;
- Nor that thrilled bliss the mountain finds
- By Dian nightly visited;—
- Only the rapture of the dead,
- Voyaging the unvoyaged sea
- To its mysterious shore, may be
10The rapture that thy beauty breeds in me.
- Death-craving stars that passionately
- Burn and die,
- And they that listen
- The music of the amethystine
- Turning heavens eternally,
- Are all too ardent or too cold—
- For lo, thy beauty, like the radiance rolled
- Out of yon closing sunset gates of gold,
- Rains soft upon the spirit and wraps it fold in fold.
20O lady, what is this thou art on earth?
- A vision of the unvexed world, a dream
- Of the eternal peace, where sorrow and sin
- And failure, and the aching spirit's dearth
- No more will enter in?
- Yea, thou art mocking us—before the time
- Tormenting us—a cruel clearest gleam
- Of heaven too high to climb!
- Or rather is it, this world sleepy grown,
- And cumbered in sciential self-conceit,
30Needs a reminder of forgotten love?
- Wherefore thou with gentle feet
- Hast journeyed here in person of love's own
- Sweet spirit to reprove.
- The nightingale hath fled into the grove,
- The skylark telleth to the fainting stars
- What no brain dreameth of,
- The lily breathes her joy. And yet ye groan
- Within your prison-bars
- Of knowledge, whereas love may here be seen and known.
- Come a little way on the lea, Mary.
- Let us, at least, say our good-bye;
- That fervid gaze of fire that burns the west
- Turns to the cold star in the sky.
- The merle and the mavis lingering
- With music till the daylight die,
- And small birds weary with sleepy eye that sing,
- Grudge not the time for their good-bye.
- The clouds are heaped: the winds have blown
- The wandering flock in a fleecy sea,
- And left clear space for the moon, alone
- Descending to the level lea
- Where stands a black rude Rocking Stone.
- In her clear path circling down,
- Growing broader gradually,
- Staring on the level lea,
- Standing on the Rocking Stone;
10She shall sink down suddenly,
- Yet she pauses drowsily—
- A final linger ere she fall:
- Hearken now the clear wind call!
- To the bare wolds calleth he:
- The moon hears not his song.
- For a giant lies along,
- Sleeping in the shadow, rocking
- Like one sleeping, but the mocking
- Moon says he will not awake
20As of old his thirst to slake.
- Musing yet upon this stone?
- Can she even see the stain
- Of what he will not drink again—
- Is it not his elbow-bone
- She slideth down?
- Was the giant arm upthrown
- In his first sleep; does he never
- More unbend it, rocking ever?
- Circling him with golden ring
30She answers, “Once a king.”
- The moon knows what a god he was,
- And she knows how deadly deep
- He lieth in petrific sleep:
- And she knows each god that has
- Slept since his time, and count will take
- Of other gods of rarer make:
- These gods of vapour, and of gas,
- And lightning, these that lure the mass
- To worship them, that spout and shake
40Their periods, and pass.
- I heard the wheel that clattered still,
- And on the common where I stood
- Was little sign of human ill,
- Nor hint that pestilence could brood
- Where shadows wrapped the distant wood.
- And many a white-faced village post
- That here and there, with chain between,
- Gave stir of life to all the green,
- Said nothing of the hearse that crossed
10A while ago. And you had been
- Persuaded all the village throve
- In life and health, and that the trees
- Which stand so stately in the grove
- Were fanned by no dead airs that seize
- At midnight on pale mouths we love.
- I had been reading, half the day,
- Of wondrous change by science wrought:
- But here the children seemed to play
- As hitherto, and art had brought
20No sweetness to the blackbird's lay;
- Nor any solemn-suited thought
- To infants who would play no more
- A bow-shot from the accustomed door
- Because a mother's life was not.
- And nature moved as heretofore.
- Ho! singing high on the hill,
- Ah! singing under the vale.
- Fleet sun and shadow
- Move over the meadow,
- Nothing abiding still;
- The cattle, cloud, wind-moving:
- A laughing on hill and in gale,
- A voice in the valley reproving
- And laughing and loving at shepherds' will.
10Sing me, you thrush in the elm,
- A single song and stay;
- The song-waves overwhelm,
- Over the meadows all day
- Move sun and shadow—nay,
- Rest, rest!
- There is aching in the breast
- Whatever idle shepherds say.
- And the perdurable green
- Of holly, and the running river,
20And the ash that holds its mast,
- Will they last?
- When we have passed, and shiver
- In the wood's serene,
- Whose branches dream and grieve?
- Whereof it were not good
- Ye shepherds understood,
- Dreaming on November eve.
- Love, when I meet thee face to face,
- I feel thou art not of my race;
- I know thy language is not mine,
- Or only so in the hollow sign
- The lips make. Of my world of things
- Thou hast no care or questionings,
- Nor I of thine.
- What words are said between us twain
- I strive to recollect, in vain.
10Such merest sounds the words we say,
- Our souls might be in separate spheres
- That own another night and day;
- Thy smile, God knows, may count for tears!
- And with thy smile, and with thy sighs,
- A subtle effluence of thine eyes,
- And a dim woven atmosphere
- Around me when thy voice is near,
- My spirit is taken swooning-wise
- As death would take it, swathed in sleep.
20Fatal enchantress, take thy spell,
- Spell passion-deep
- From off me, for I love not thee—
- I know thee not—thy heart can tell
- Thou know'st not me.
- What converse can be ours this way?
- More natural to sit dumb and stare,
- As two strange creatures, wondering, glare
- Each upon each in silent fear,
- Conjecturing what keen weapons they
30Conceal to poison, crush or tear—
- Conceal to unsheathe but once, and slay.
- “Wherefore,” I said, “no hope
within my heart
- Where hate was dead and sorrow laid asleep?
- Wherefore,” I said, “play out thy sorry part,
- Neither to laugh nor weep?
- “Arming for ever with no foe to fight,
- And girding up thy loins where goal is none,
- Or making for the goal of final night
- Wherein no work is done.”
- Yea then (as if a word could cheer the sight)
10I knew thee and I said at last: “The song
- Wherewith I hailed my morning doth belong
- To none but thee, O Night!
- “Is due at last to thee, strange speechless Night!
- Thee who hast followed me with faithful feet,
- To be mine own, my mistress sole and sweet,
- Knowing me thine of right.
- “Well laugh'st thou, who didst know me from the first
- A thriftless wanderer on the sunny ways—
- Through all the heat and strife of long-drawn days,
20And strain and toil and thirst.
- “When I stood still, as one who having spied
- A light on water springs, on nearing it
- Finds shining rushes in the moon-flame lit,
- But dusty all and dried.
- “And didst thou see my heart in its delight
- Counting on ease at last and holidays,
- And building labyrinths with pleasant ways?
- And didst thou smile, O Night,
- “Knowing how soon thy truant would return
30With festal torches dipt in funeral gloom,
- And birthdays bearing dates of death and doom?
- All this didst thou discern,
- “But bodest waiting for me all the same,
- Letting me taste and weary of the light,
- And taking me at last with tears of shame
- Which thou wilt dry, O Night!
- “Content thee if I weave my crown aright,
- A dainty faultless-fitting cypress wreath,
- That grew in the charmed darkness underneath
40Thy tresses, noiseless Night.
- “And tell me, queen, how we may live together
- Now all the vain pursuit of light has ended:
- What deep-wrought haven for thy last-befriended
- Waits in the stormless weather.
- “What glimmering mountains, what dim ghosts of trees?
- Whisper in thy most calm and quiet breath,
- As calm but scarcely quite so cold as death,
- Unfold thy realms of peace.
- “Dark, yea, for thou art Darkness' queen, I know,
50And imageless,—save what dim imagery
- Around the spirit dreaming nakedly
- In phosphor gleam doth glow.
- “So in thy secret arms, encircling Night,
- Communing close, without restraint or bar,
- Absolved from fret of sun or moon or star,
- Beyond all gaze of light,
- “I have essayed to rest me while the spheres
- Roll round in anguish, and we dream of peace.
- But, O divinest mistress, what be these
60Phantoms of hopes or fears?
- “What portraiture up-growing in the gloom?
- What eyes like stars that burn through moonless skies?
- What mouth the black-red peony petal dyes?
- What hair of raven's plume?”
- And lo, obscurest dream or lucid dream
- (Out of the darkness woven and the clime
- Of death, but all untouched by death or time
- The soul's self-kindled beam,
- Growing to more than mundane permanence
70Of vital verity as pored upon
- By form-engendering spirit) to thought puts on
- Its outmost evidence.
- Even as the slow-resolving plants supply
- A foodful soil whereon new growths are fed,
- So the spent thought its pristine form will shed
- Fresh thought to vivify;
- Or as a man left on a lonely isle
- Hath sometimes spoken aloud to hear the sound
- Of his own voice, and listening hath found
80Words lost to him erewhile;
- Even so the spirit spins from subtlest thread
- New robes in which she wraps her with delight.
- No form of earth or heaven will fester dead
- In these thy courts, O Night.
- And here will blossom every flowret sweet,
- And every carol of the blithest bird
- I hear in springtime will again be heard
- No more to fade or fleet.
- Only thou sayest, thou art darkness all.
90And I—am I not weary of the light?
- What hand is painting on thy lifeless pall
- These forms of life, O Night?
- What, sitting in the underwood, I heard—
- If I should tell it now, who would believe?
- Not thou, my Annie! But the wind will weave
- Words in his own song-tissue till the bird
- Sings more than notes to me, when not a third
- Hearer participates the summer's eve—
- Oh the wood hearkens when her children grieve!
- Wilt listen? I will tell thee word for word.
- Only this human harp must change its strings
10To take the tone of sylvan minstrelsy,
- And we must couple to our fancy wings
- Who mean to hear the depth and mystery
- Of what within my ear still plains and rings—
- The burden of the thrush's threnody.
- “Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!”
- So I sang, and so
- She seemed to listen.
- Then I said, “Sing low,
- Sun, these stars will glisten,
20Let summer come or summer go.”
- I sang, “Be quick! Be quick!”
- But then she said, “No, no.”
- She would not listen.
- Then I sang, “What though
- The night make speed to go,
- The morrow's sun to glow,
- Will mine be risen?
- Let winter come, let summer go.”
- I sang, “Alight, alight!”
30The morning drove the night
- Westward, and hung the high boughs all with dew:
- To these or those she flew,—
- The starry eyes of dew!
- If she listened
- I know not, and the starry droplets glistened.
- I sang, “Alight, alight!” from my dark yew;
- If she did listen
- I never knew.
- I sang, “Alight, alight!” from this dark yew;
40If she could listen
- I shall not know.
- I sang, “Alight, alight!” until the night.
- I sang, “Let night come now and never go.”
- The larks sang gay in Long Law-ford:
- The sky was ruddy at even;
- Each day had heard as cruel a wind
- As ever sang through heaven.
- “How many a day
- Will the mad wind stay?”
- I heard her say, on the dusty way,—
- Overhead the larks sang gay.
- The larks sang gay in Long Law-ford
10Even to the set of sun:
- And I saw dip a cloud-built ship
- Whose masts snapt one by one.
- It bred in me
- Thought silently:
- “This girl she knows of a ship at sea,”—
- Down the last lark dropt on the lea.
- The larks sing gay in Long Law-ford
- All day to the fall of dew:
- For what they sing, a God-given thing,
20Is joy the summer through.
- So gaily they sing: but to me never ring
- The notes of their joy-rhyme true,
- Since I heard that maiden rue.
- O Lady, deign with me to walk,
- Awhile to walk within the wood;
- What thrushes sing and turtles brood
- To hearken while the dim walks strew'd
- With whispering leaves we trace and talk.
- Ah, Lady, had you seen the wood,
- And seen the secret conscious sky
- Beyond the beechen branchery
- So calm yestreen at sunset brood
10Before the crows began to cry!
- And in the wood are mysteries,
- Unchanted songs, that float away
- Off solid solemn cypresses,
- A something from where nothing is:
- No birds are sitting on the spray.
- The blossoms flash in yellow flames,
- They glimmer in a purple glow;
- They wake in all the woods below
- Occulted flowers that find no names
20With men—so quick they bloom and go.
- Few footsteps on these paths intrude!
- A spirit of fear through all its boughs
- Defends our charmèd forest house,
- That musing owls may dream and drowse,
- And hares sleep safely unpursued.
- The stars have spaces in the wood
- Wherein they circle dreamily
- All the night long till bat and bee
- Cross in flight, when, day renewed,
30The star-dance ceases suddenly.
- But when the gold-disked daylight stood,
- Stood gazing ere he went away,
- I heard a strange sweet singing say,
- Say and repeat it (were it good
- That I repeat such song to-day?
- He sang it soothly yesterday.)
- “The wood is growing dark,” he said,
- He said, “the gloom begins to grow:
- Come quickly, night, and quickly go,
40To-morrow all the past is dead.
- “To-morrow comes a queenly maid,
- The maid our minstrel pines to know;
- Come quickly, night, and quickly go,
- For neither have the stars delayed,
- And silence wills to have it so.”
- Hearken the wonders of the wood:
- The thrushes have a quainter throat,
- The blackbird has a bolder note,
- The squirrel has a softer coat,
50The oak tree has a grander mood.
- O Lady, will you scorn the wood?
- Ah, Lady, will you say me nay?
- And that true bird did promise yea,
- And I have trusted long and woo'd
- Your shadow through the morning grey.
- And at the hour of waning day
- Two turtles colloquied the same.
- Ah, Lady, is my heart to blame?
- I dreamed the sun was dropt away,
60And all the world a burning flame.
- Nay, Lady, what is this you say,
- You are no substance but of air?
- But, Lady, this is all my care,
- That in the wood these limbs I lay,
- So we may walk together there.
- Hate and love and hope and fear,
- Never more to enter here,
- O night!
- Thou saw'st the sorry race was run:
- In the dim
- Thou saw'st me swim—
- How I strove and how I won
- In the sun.
- Then how I learned to loathe the light,
- Thou my Queen, my loveliest,
- Thy domain is rest.
- Is there anything to see
- In thy house of ebony?
- Surely overhang thy house
- Cypress boughs:
- As calm but scarce so cold as death
- Is thy breath.
- I will not say, “Forget me not”
- To you,
- For if it means true friends are true
- For ever, as the freshet's brink
- Is to the sky,
- Shall I
- Tell you of whom to think?
- Or say “Forget me not”—
- For what?
- The dell was deep and darkly screened,
- Over its brink the maple leaned,
- And in its sides grew larch and thorn,
- And ash upreared to greet the morn—
- Morn which ne'er glimmered on the grass—
- And nettles down the dell. You pass
- There as a place meant to be passed,
- Not visited. But when, at last,
- Chance, fate, or what you will, had taught
10My feet to stay here, I was caught
- Strangely as in a magic net
- (Like one foredoomed whose task is set)
- To where the bare roots writhe and twine
- In dragonish fashion; it was mine
- To lie, and dream and strive and unbind
- The shrouded mystery enshrined
- In these dark boughs. For you could know,
- Having once sat there, it was so:
- Some deed done here by man or heaven
20Or hell, in years long gone, had given
- A touch of shivering to the place,
- And if you looked your eye could trace
- A track beneath the trees where grew
- No grass nor any herb, where dew
- Fell not, nor summer shower, a track
- Half round the dell, barren and black.
- From east to west in crescent-wise
- It goes, as you look up the rise:
- You see where the dark line begins;
30But be it sorrow's mark or sin's,
- All else is fair. Not lovelier
- Grows maple, hawthorn, ash, or fir,
- Than there, when springtime breathings stir,
- Or summer hears the grasshopper.
- The guilt is in the blighted ground
- Alone, and if these trees have found
- A somewhat melancholy mood,
- Believe 'tis where the branches brood
- Over that black and baleful earth;
40And if the birds withhold their mirth,
- Believe 'tis from these lowest boughs
- Alone, left to the dull carouse
- Of bat and beetle and wood-louse.
- “When will she come?”
- Night by night and day by day,
- Sore at heart, I sigh and say.
- “Where lies my home?”
- Seven weeks ago this way it lay,
- And yet I cannot find my way.
- “Is this the sun?”
- Sore at heart I sigh and say,
- Cold is the sun, my love away.
10“The day is done,”
- Sore of heart I sigh and say,
- The night is drear and drear the day.
- O Annie, if your hand could be
- Within my hand beside the sea,
- With sky, and sea, and sunny mist,
- In sapphire and in amethyst,
- Dreaming their early morning dream,
- As from the Cliff's head it did seem
- The morn I left. If we could stand
- Beside that sea-wall, hand in hand!
- The sea-wall there is tawny sand,
10Brown, yellow, rough with broom and gorse,
- And little water-runnels course
- Their way down to the tide-washed strand,
- Where we have seen them fade, as if
- The spirit of their native cliff,
- Jealous of ocean's briny reign,
- Had sucked them back through earth again.
- And, Annie, when the noon is clear,
- Have we not watched upon the wave
- The sea-birds sitting,—lost in grave
20Conjecture how their seat could be
- So firm upon the moving sea?
- Love, you remember this, and more;
- And how we wandered up the shore
- With our bold boy, in search of shells,
- To where the bright spa-water wells.
- Ah, love, I dare not muse on those
- Dull, drooping hours which followed close
- That noonday walk, but rather dwell
- On minutes stol'n, while he slept well,
30When we would nimbly thrid the town,
- With all its evening shadows brown,
- Till, in the starry blackness, we
- Came out upon the rushing sea.
- Then the walk home, in converse low,
- Of what is given to few to know,
- Nature's own words of light and shade
- That yellow sands and pine trees made
- At sunset, for no eye but ours,
- The mystery of the cloud-built towers,
40Mute music of green moss and flowers,
- And magic morn and evening hours.
- These things we talked of, O my sweet!—
- Do you, who see them now, repeat
- The old words, as I do, leagues away?
- Or will you chide me if I say
- (For your own silent secret ear)
- Some presence must have touched more near
- Than Nature's even—or else why prove
- Thy words more blissful, O my love?
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- From mere
ennui the very cat
- Walked out—it was so precious flat.
- Due on the sofa Gabriel sat,
- And next to him was Stephens found;
- I think, but am not certain, that
- The fender William's legs were round.
- However, all was drowsy, mild,
- And nothing like to break the charm,
- Though John essayed in some alarm
10To read his latest muse-born child;
- Then Gabriel moved his active arm,
- And some believe that Stephens smiled.
- But certain 'tis that Aleck, who
- Had watched that arm, as anglers do
- Their quiet gloat, an hour or two,
- Was pleased to find it move at last.
- He therefore filled his pipe anew,
- And doubled the mundungus blast.
- The poem yet went on and on:
20The poet kept his eyes upon
- The paper till the piece was done;
- And then the coke-fire's roof fell in.
- Another accident, which one
- Should mention, William scorched his shin.
- And nothing more till supper time:
- Except that Gabriel read a rhyme
- Of Hell and Heaven and ghosts and crime
- That gave the room a kind of chill,
- And rapture followed—so sublime
30That forty minutes all was still.
- Till all the solemn company
- Went down to supper—verily
- The supper went off quietly.
- Trying to talk was all in vain:
- And then we went up silently
- Into the lonesome room again.
- Oh was it quiet? I can swear
- I heard the separate gas lights flare,
- The creak of the vibrating chair
40The balanced Aleck swung upon:
- The balanced Aleck swinging there
- Knew it, and so went swinging on.
- Six men, each seated in his seat,
- With body, arms, and legs complete—
- A passive mass of flesh, alack!
- That none but human cattle make!
- The wonder was that they could meet
- So silent and so long awake.
- But Gabriel coiled himself, at last,
50Upon the sofa—Stephens cast
- His weary arms out, William past
- A thoughtful hand across his eyes,
- And George has blown a fainter blast
- To listen till the snores arise.
- And somewhat quickly they arose—
- He could distinguish Gabriel's nose
- From William's mouth in sweet repose,
- Whose measured murmurs now began;
- While John L. Tupper, half in dose,
60Was crooning as he only can.
- And Stephens—no, he took to flight
- Before he slept. Then Aleck's sight
- Denied his pipe was yet alight;
- He put it down and grimly stared,
- Then crammed it to the muzzle tight,
- And listened—that was all he dared.
- For not a waking P. R. B.
- Was left; a blinding mystery
- Of smoke was over all the three
70Enduring souls that kept awake.
- They listened—'twas the harmony
- Of cats!—or there was some mistake.
- Then looking on the garden plot
- Without, they verified the not
- Unwelcome fact: the cats had got
- Convivial, sure enough; and we
- Could recognize friend Thomas hot
- In mirth like Burns “among the three.”
- But if the cats held conference,
80What then? We might not make pretence
- To such—witness the prudent sense
- Of Stephens getting up to go.
- I'd give my cat the preference,
- Who left us somewhat sooner, though.
Note: The line number for every fifth line is handwritten in the left margin of this poem.
- You're sanguine, very sanguine, a good sign
- You have discovered an invisible power
- That runs along your wires around the world
- Called electricity—the word is much.
- Then comes another invisible in your pipes
- To nullify the night,—gas. Call it so,
- The visible candle is a vulgar thing!
- That handy artist light who flits about
- Ready, at beck, to paint your visages,
10What name will ye be pleased to accost him by?
- John, James, were scarce
distingué, let him be
- Dear man, you must have hated tangibles.
- Push further yet—the chairs and table dance
- By simple touching. You must look, nay, think
- These into physical obedience. Call
- The chair you wish to sit on to your side,
- And these are dead trees, do you understand,
- The dead ones of your kin. Be sure, they'll come
20(Hailed by a potent over-mastering will)
- In terrible haste—all the old mouldy sticks,
- Kepler and Newton, Tycho, Verulam,
- To knock out lame excuses in your ears
- For their lugubrious existences.
- Oh we'll have such a rout of them! But you
- Go on—stagnation's death, only hold fast
- On galvanism, and mesmerism, and steam,
- And gas, and anæsthetics! . . . How d'ye do,
- My dearest Smith? you see I know a bare
30Truth—your euphonious patronymic.
- “Why, what in Mammon's name can bring you here?
- Are you lichen hunting, out for orchids—cut
- Grey ledgers for a green day in the woods?”
S.] “No, I'm going to the Palace. Pretty
- “Excellent, excellent! such an appetite!
- I dine directly—won't you stay?”
S.] “How? where?”
- “Here, just by.”
S.] “In the wood?”
“There, Smith, behold
- My restaurant. This host of mine so shifts
- His tables, I have no monotony
- Of scene while feasting, look you, to keep pace
- With keen requirements of this ultimate age,
- This last perfection of the toiling world.
- I choose to balance well the dignities
- That decorate this human microcosm;
- To give the bodily ministers—the gross
- Slaves of the mind—their grosser nutriment;
50But not, while these are glutted (far, so far
- Below in their material house), to have
- Their supreme lord, the spirit, intoxicate,
- Or sleeping on his throne. The Romans built
- Baths high into the air, that while they swam,
- Ridding their bodies of gross scale and slough,
- And drinking in the purer lymph, their eyes
- Might wander far along the coasts below,
- And feed their minds with thought, or greet the dawn
- Through slumbrous floods of summer-purple night;
60For we must dip back into Rome and Greece,
- For fear we miss some handy requisite,
- Just as our traveller in Naples says,
- Who, having thridded Herculaneum,
- Pompeii, and the obvious treasure-heaps,
- Must look well to the guide book lest he miss
- What's underneath the house he lodges in,—
- A catacomb with cinerary urns.
- And tell me, is it fair, my sapient Smith,
- To cheat the nineteenth century microcosm
70One atom of accumulated wealth?
- Or, whilst you harbour galvanism and steam
- As household slaves discreetly ministrant,
- To so, so far forget your grosser needs,
- As, if you wanted hazel-kernels, now
- To rush into the wood and gobble down
- The hazel leaves and all? What folly then
- Is here! we know—blest science teaches us—
- The stomach craves matter to triturate;
- The lacteal glands, albumen; and so forth.
80Inside the wood's a certain bark, my friend:
- Moistened or dry, 'twill serve the stomach well
- For grinding purposes. Albumen next,
- And olein for the lacteals—look there!
- Creeping so slowly, turning every view
- To tempt a man, the partidge has his leave
- To whirr away—we'll not go after him.
- The long slow slug cased o'er with silver light,
- (What's meant for man is well within his reach,)
- Two coloured spiral snails that seem to screw
90Into the craving appetite—these have
- Excess of the nutritious element,
- Minus the fibre of the barbarous ox.
- See—covers laid for two—observe both shells,
- What elegant ornamental cookery!
- The Romans didn't shut their eyes to this—
- Even the shell has nutrient properties—
- The crust of a raised pie. You'll stop and dine?”
- “I thank you, thanks, but appetite won't serve
- So early in the day as this with me.
100You see my office keeps me on till four,
- And then, when I get home, I have to dress.”
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- The pigs are whistling on the hill,
- The cart-horse singeth blithe,
- The crows are tinkling faint and shrill,
- The fox-glove wets his scythe;
- And shall we linger slumbering still
- While such sweet sounds are rife?
- Oh quit thy slothful window-sill,
- And plunge into the strife.
- Hark to the bobby's bounce and buzz,
- And this hot pavement's hum:
- As jocund as the Man of Uz
- Singeth the East end slum.
- Oh were it not a bitter thought,
- To live and never die,
- How cheerfully (but dearly bought)
- Such sounds might meet the eye!
- Where ocean stays his warbling flight,
- And rocks no further roam,
- But listen midst the glare of night,
- The yellow, sounding foam;
- No minstrelsy is half so sweet,
- No perfume half so gay:
- The lips are dazzled, and the feet
- Of watch-dogs melt away.
- That last gust must have blown away the gable,
- The chimney-pots, or something. To depart
- Were safest now—and here goes for a start:
- Not that I wish it, but because I'm able
- Just now. This bedroom may be in the stable
- A minute hence, and I have not the heart
- To stand my ground, and own (however tart
- Your sarcasm) I hold it just a fable
- That men are best-wise by experience taught,
10Unless that soundest maxim you select
- From interesting facts that are not fraught
- With fatal consequences—You detect
- My meaning doubtless. Make a grand onslaught
- On turkeys, and be certain you'll be pecked.
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- “Sordello” I confess has puzzled me,
- And I have read it—some will never read;
- But go on to their end, like dogs indeed
- Feeding and snarling almost equally:
- But, that such tykes have just capacity
- To value nobly that on which they feed,
- Loathing Sordello, is not quite agreed—
- We doubt they judge ev'n horse flesh righteously.
- If ever any man should cut my throat,
10I should be anxious, ere they hanged the knave,
- That the phrenologists should ascertain
- Whether his brain had ventricle or moat
- Wherein perchance Sordello might have lain;
- Demonstrate that, and I the man would save.
- Easy to say “there's nothing that we know,”
- But do we really
know this? If we do,
- 'Tis surely something, and the first 's not true.
- We know, it seems, our knowledge does not go
- Beyond the knowing this same knowledge so
- Contracted that we have not mastered two
- Truths yet; and then—after so long ado—
- One empty truth is all we have to show.
- A positive negative, but something yet:
Short men a
long way off of being
- Income of poverty vast and secure!
- Courage, O mortals! see the over-set
- Of abstract doubt achieved, and, spite of all
- The destinies, be sure you are not sure.
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- When whoso merely hath a little grain
- Of faith, will keep that faith that is in him,
- Not running after other for a whim,
- Not keeping true men waiting in the rain:
- When whoso keeps a covenant (on pain
- Of pocket) from respect to custom trim,
- Or some idea of honour very dim,
- Or even from the dirty one of gain:
- Be not too keen to cry, “So this is all—
10A thing I might myself have done as well,
- But would not do it for it was not worth.”
- Ask, is this far? For is it still to tell
- That of all blessed nuisances on earth,
- The worst is waiting, quizzed by great and small?
- A slow moon lifteth out her luculent horn
- Above the umbrage: steering through the pines
- She looks slant downward through the shafted lines
- Of shadow, brightening bramble, sharpening thorn,
- And forked toadstool, to where mists are born
- At bottom of the dell: there sleeps she; shines
- There broodingly among the eglantines,
- Leaving the hillside utterly forlorn.
- So seems it. But to one who climbs the hill
10Slant-darkling through the thorny hanging ground,
- Weak creeping lanterns glimmer green and chill.
- There for a purpose will the dew drip round,
- Holding nocturnal converse without sound,
- And something through the grass at periods thrill.
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- I see so much of sorrow on the earth,
- O Hunt, that—were it not for natural things,
- The careless loitering of lucent springs,
- The evening sweetness, and the morning mirth
- Of songsters, and (far most, amidst this dearth
- Of earthly love) thy brave endeavourings
- To catch the far harmonious murmurings
- That tell how calm a region gave them birth,—
- I might be led to doubt, in evil hour,
10(With such a failure as the world doth seem,
- Where love and ruth front churlishness and hate)—
- I might be won in darkened hour to dream
- Of chance misrule, or evil guiding power,
- But for these counsellings to hope and wait.
An editorial note by WMR with regard to this poem is included on
- Stephens, although you worked with heart and soul
- And hand, to compass what has now been wrought;
- And thought for others when was need of thought,
- And comforted when weary weakness stole
- On other workers—sharing half the dole;
- Now that the labour to an end is brought,
- The victors blazoned and the battle fought,
- I do not read you on the popular roll.
- Much comfort! other work demands your hand.
10God shall appoint a day when you will bear
- Your own peculiar fruit. For it was planned
- That these should no part of your guerdon share,
- Toiling for others. God gave that command,
- And wills that He give
all the guerdon there.
- My mother, is it even two months to-day?
- Like very truth, it seemed now I stood near
- This window—with the bird's song at mine ear—
- Moulding some fancied form in plastic clay;
- Which suddenly began to sink away
- Under my fingers, holding it in fear,
- But that a voice came from the lawn as clear
- As thrushes thrill the sinking sun to stay.
- The voice cried, “Wait, I'll come.” A voice no less
10Moved by the mouth than was the heart in pain
- To help me. So I watched the door for you,—
- Which opened not. And soon the ghastly guess
- That some grim gulph had rolled between us twain,
- Grew into waking knowledge. And I knew.
- No wonder when I call upon thy name
- I hear no low reply to comfort me:
- No wonder doubt endures eternally
- Around the dwelling of the dead, and flame
- Of fervid love burns dim beyond the frame
- Of our terrene: no wonder fitfully
- I catch the far-off tone of memory,
- And know not through which gate the tidings came;
- For so my world of sleep derives a power
10Wanting whilom, and fashions thee more clear
- Than daylight memory; and I believe
- Thy visit actual at the midnight hour:
- Without which solace, O companion dear,
- A woeful life were mine, who wake and grieve.
- Love's triumph this! I would not have her sigh,
- Nor hear her fine voice falter which is keen
- And sweet as falling water heard between
- Steep rocks in summer. My extremity
- Of passion should not weigh upon her eye
- And blanch her hue; and she should walk serene,
- And pass me by, an inaccessible queen;
- And I should offer her idolatry.
- For, so, there comes, at least, no emptiness
10Of heart and spirit. All the sorrow and teen,
- And far-off hopeless hope, will last—will last;
- My once clear moon will not wane lustreless;
- Its glory never shall be overpast;
- Unreached, it still must be what it has been.
- But if you linger near to even-song,
- When the calm flood of twilight overwhelms,
- And hear the drone of wind pass down the elms,
- And watch the night draw nearer to the long
- Horizon's bend, and the belfry's tongue
- Awake you: then unbar ambiguous realms
- Of rock and lake, where barques with magic helms
- Pursue their windless way bright isles among.
- Pray Heaven you wake not in that forest land
10Whose former cheerful glimpse of town and spire
- Is banished by the baffling gloom, or stand
- To feel the guilty trunks still winding higher,
- And (while the spirits in bonds pant and suspire)
- Clicking their dragon rind beneath your hand.
- This autumn wanes—the day is ebbing out.
- Upon the round of a bare, stubbly hill,
- Four rugged stones are standing huge and still
- And black against the west. Round, round about
- I walk betwixt two spirits, wonder and doubt,
- Pondering this witness to the invincible will;
- Until I know the tyrant Time can kill
- No purpose, where the heart is true and stout.
- While lo and look you! moving round again,
10What a weird misty moon is rising! Late
- The night and year grow. Garnered is the grain;
- All that can die is arming desperate
- To brave the binding winter's straitening chain:
- While these throughout all seasons “stand and
- I walked within the vine-clad garden wall
- At even hush, as moonlight came to aid
- The waning day: and while the day decayed,
- Faint shade, that solely on white flowers would fall,
- Followed me; till I thought—Indeed we call
- This interval of neither shine nor shade
- Nor sleep nor toil “twilight.” Yet who essayed
- To name a thing so unsubstantial?
- For, wisdom, with thy boundaries limiting
10God's creatures here, art thou not foolishness—
- Naming far points and knowing merely these?
- What is the thing and what the nothingness?
- What all this labouring change from clouds to trees,
- Through light to dark, beginning, vanishing?
- What might it mean? The thrush at eventide
- When the red sun was lingering on the line
- Where frozen earth and glowing sky combine,
- Sang as if less to sing than speak he tried.
- For oh to me, “Be quick!” it seemed he cried,
- To me whom, waiting for a fond design
- To be fulfilled (if Heaven my way incline),
- Some hope now near my sunset has espied.
- “Be quick! Be quick!” Alas, amen, said I.
10Is it thy mate thou callest to thy nest?
- Or dost thou to the woodland muses cry,
- To bring thee thy full throat? or wouldst thou wrest
- Some touch of magic beauty unpossessed
- By other sunsets from this sanguine sky?
- The lovingness of souls must needs be great
- When they have moulted off their vain disguise,
- If we dare picture them in any wise
- From children, newly entering on our state
- Of wonder, having not yet learned to hate,
- Or hide the love they carry in their eyes,
- Or look unfaithful passion, that belies
- The heart, to leave it scarred and obdurate.
- Alas alas! would all of us be glad
10To enter in Christ's kingdom where the folk
- Are such as these? We surely should repine,
- And sigh for old disguises—grown so mad
- That God's true heaven would seem an arduous yoke
- If age first grew not meek and infantine.
- After a thirsting summer came the rain,
- Laggard, unwelcome at September's end;
- But, as one dying revives to know his friend,
- The faint earth brightened and looked green again:
- And I, who walked and watched the daylight wane,
- And saw the wet clouds silently descend,
- And the half-famished sheep where they were penned,
- Said “Surely this comes mockingly in vain!”
- “Vain?” laughed an echo: “Shrunken brooks are
10Some bird's throat opens thankfully between
- This light and dark; some weeds say, We are willing
- Again before the winter to be green;
- Some newt's ear hearkens to the drops distilling.
thy delights all that the angels
- When wind was fresh at morn, and early sun
- Smote the top story of the high-built street,
- And these roof-shadows sprang across to greet
- The windows opposite, half walk, half run
- (So light this air of Paris maketh one)
- I went; and not with the old grave, discreet,
- Staid step—it is a charm, it is a cheat
- That wins—and no one knows till he is won.
- Even so! Then to a place where fountains play
10I came, and saw a solemn obelisk,
- Graven with dynasties long fallen away,
- Climb up the morning. Here the Frenchmen frisk,
- And fountains spurt, and bubbles burst to spray
- Round Egypt's granite—time's blank asterisk!
- If, cuckoo, it bodes any good in love
- To hear thy note after the nightingale,
- Little, alas, for him should it avail
- Whose hair is growing scant and grey above
- His temples: little profits he thereof:
- Therefore thou leavest me, alone to hail
- The bird of love who now thou know'st would fail
- To bring me any help in wood or grove.
- So hold'st thou up a mirror for my life,
10Despiteful bird that grudgest me my gains,
- Me who have little sorrow that 'tis so.
- So have I dreamed of calm 'mid storm and strife,
- And I have mused of mountains in the plains,
- And I have sung of summer in the snow.
- O fervid poet, chanting even and morn,
- Who so ador'st the sun thou dost not tire
- Singing for aye his glory to the higher
- Regions I may not reach, a thought forlorn
- Hath seized me, that thou own'st a love inborn
- I know not, nor can know, though I aspire
- In spirit to thy constant quenchless fire
- Which, save one idol, all things seems to scorn.
- For neither sun nor star nor witching moon
10Can hold me long, but still my heart doth rove,
- Seeking for ever some unknown delight:
- Beauty in man or woman cannot smite
- My heart so deep but still a new-found love
- Enchants it to be disenchanted soon.
- After a day of heat at end of June,
- While the last rain mist swathed the lawns in white,
- And when no breath of wind breathed on the night,
- There rolled along the heaven a magic moon.
- My spirit spoke,“Lest ye be home too soon
- For sleep, stay here, and turn your bodily sight
- On earth and sky, dreaming in silent night
- Of all that will be done by morrow-morn.”
- Then did I yearn in that thrice charmed hour,
10Dream with the dreaming trees, glow with the stars
- That faint in odour and drip cold in dew;
- Yet never gained I glimpse of all the power
- Behind the five insuperable bars,
- Who held me swooning till the first cock crew.
- O nightingale, that singest till the dawn
- Through all the starry changes of the night,
- Wasting thy passionate heart with fervid might,
- The sun is sunk away and the day gone:
- Now unto what dark sanctuary withdrawn,
- Beyond the reach of peevish sound and sight,
- Pourest thou forth such wild and wild delight,
- And sittest thrilling this dim moon-lit lawn?
- Triumph of song thou pauseless dost outpour
10By thy great faith in the great stress of love,
- That moves the worlds to music as of yore;
- Now the night creepeth down with yearning sore
- At heart of silence—meadow and wood and grove,
- And bending moon and listening stars approve.
- Ah if I knew that thy divinest eyes
- Had read the story of my heart's heart-love,
- Knowing (what little profits me to know)
- That neither sleep nor night nor dim remove
- Avails to quench their fire that, like moonrise,
- Rose on my ravished spirit a year ago!
- How all my hope is like a lamp gone low,
- And all my heart burnt out in ecstasies!
- Only the knowing this were known to thee
10Would make some tide of life-blood to renew
- My heart, and some sweet hope come back to me.
- The lonely realms of paradisal dew,
- The golden isles within the enchanted sea
- Were not so far to voyage. Ah if I knew!
- Now know I well this nation's strength doth wane.
- But not because its eager intellect
- Hath taken means for end, losing respect
- Of self, industrious (in a miser's vein)
- To heap up ever what is counted gain,
- Much too intent on hoarding to detect
- If that be gain or no. Even this defect,
- This trick of mind might right itself, with strain.
- But when I see our heart of woman turned
10To worship in this wise, her brow engrossed
- And hardened with a weight of wisdom earned
- At such an impious and unnatural cost,
- Her dower of beauty dim and undiscerned:—
- Then know I that the land I loved is lost.
- Annie, if any verse of mine might win
- The obdurate heart of Time to let it live,
- When I am mingled with the fugitive
- Fleet elements wherein all lives begin
- And end: if any echo ghostly thin
- Survive of me for men to hear at eve
- When the boughs tremble as the sunbeams leave,—
- That echo thy dear name shall tremble in.
- For singing ever of thee and rarest things
10That make the earth a perfume and a song,
- And of vague solace of imaginings,
- Thou wilt so closely unto these belong,
- That they will tell thy name as with a tongue,
- And bring the sighs thy poet's passion brings.
A Vision of Linnæus
This relates to Tupper's
statue of Linnæus, executed for the Oxford University
(see the Prefatory Note,
). Linnæus is here
as quite a young man, clad in skins suited for a traveller in
he is abstractedly contemplating a flower
which he has plucked as a specimen.
A Quiet Evening
. This, it will be
a piece of friendly “chaff,” relating to an evening which
members of the Præraphaelite Brotherhood—Stephens, my
myself—spent at the family residence of the
Tuppers in South Lambeth. The date must
have been in
1850. “John” is Tupper himself;
“George” and “Aleck”
his brothers. The
“rhyme of Hell and Heaven,” which
Gabriel read, must clearly be his
. I need scarcely say
that this is
absolute intentional nonsense. One may surmise that it was
written after Tupper
had read some pieces of similar aim by
Edward Lear or by Lewis Carroll.
This again is “chaff.”
was always an extreme—indeed a quite passionate—
admirer of Browning, and
he revelled in “Sordello,” though it
may readily be believed that he
found the poem difficult in
The Debit Side
. This sonnet is a
burlesque of a
which I wrote in 1849, and which
was printed on the
cover of each number of “The Germ.” “The
appears to me to relate to a certain affair in which
I, as John
Tupper's nominee, took an active part at the time, but I am
not at all sure.
To my Friend Holman Hunt
this sonnet on the copy of “The Germ” belonging to Mr.
“The Germ” was published in 1850, and I give that
date to the sonnet;
but possibly its true date is later on.
To Frederic Stephens
. The date of
may be towards 1855, when the leading members of the P.R.B.
—I need only
specify Millais and Hunt—had triumphed over
all opposition; whereas Stephens, who
had been an art student
along with them, and otherwise a zealous co-operator, had
relinquished the actual exercise of the painting
Editorial Note (page ornament): Rampant lion grappling a ship's anchor. A serpent or a fish is twined around the
CHISWICK PRESS:—CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO.
CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.