As One who, in a strange and far Country,
In presence of his future Bride may be,
That keeps the secret of her face concealed,
Until, as Wife, the Maiden stands revealed:
And who doth make blind guesses at the face;
Its wealth of nature and its gifts of grace:
Much marvelling if the form beneath the folds
Be like the picture that at heart he holds!
And who, as chance befall, may furtively
Feel the hid features that he cannot see—
Trying to gather, with a Lover's touch,
The least of all he longs to know so much:
Even thus, before the Next World's face I stand,
And o'er its clouded features pass my hand;
Groping to get, where mortal sight doth fail,
Some likeness of the face behind the Veil!
It is the voice of Vision in the night;
I learned in darkness what I speak in light:
Perchance such ne'er attains the perfect True,
And yet may utter meaning for the few,
As sandiest Desert wastes reflect afar
Light from our Sun to some benighted Star!
NIGHT after night I wakened with a start
That tore the curtain-cloud of Sleep apart,
As though I had been fettered fast by Death,
Who imaged Sleep to take away my breath.
The silence looked so ominous, the gloom
Just losing shape and feature in the room:
Had I but wakened sooner, without doubt,
I should have found some dreadful secret out!
Nothing to grapple with; nothing to see:
Yet something fearful there must somewhere be;
Some shadow of the Unapparent stole
Over me, with a shiver of the soul:
Dim horrors loomed from out each hiding-nook;
A strange life lurked in the familiar look
Of innocent things, as though upon the eve
Of issuing, terrible as its prey perceive
The Mantis in the likeness of a leaf,
Changed in a moment to a Murderous Thief.
I peered out of the window,—nothing there
But the vast heavens with all their loneness
The phantom presence of Immensity
That from behind its dumb mask whispered me.
At times a noise, as though a dungeon door
Had grated, with set teeth, against the floor:
A ring of iron on the stones; a sound
As if of granite into powder ground;
A mattock and a spade at work! sad sighs
As of a wave that sobs and faints and dies.
And then a shudder of the house; a scrawl
As though a knife scored letters in the wall.
About the room a gush and gurgle went,
As if the water-pipe got sudden vent;
Drop after drop, I heard it plop, and ping,
Into some vessel, with metallic ring.
Yet, on these very nights there was no rain;
And then, betwixt the ear's suspense and strain,
A faint voice crying in the air or brain.
The wind would rise and wail most humanly
With a low scream of stifled agony
Over the birth of life about to be.
Through all the house its coldest wave hath
Although a moment since the night was hushed.
And ere the hurried gust had ceased to moan,
The dreaming dog would answer with its groan.
At times I seemed to waken at a call,
And rose up listening for the next footfall
Which never came, as though it could not keep
The step with that my spirit caught in sleep;
For I, in waking, must have crossed the line
Bounding the range of spirit-life from mine.
I felt the Presence on that other side
Grope where some secret door might open wide.
I knew the brain might strike the electric spark
Which should make live this phantom of the
Once as I woke I could have sworn I saw
A white face from the window-pane withdraw!
But, softly in its place the curtain slid,
Even in the unlifting of the swift eyelid.
Sometimes I woke with lashes wet and bright
With a strange glory of delicious light,
As though an Angel had shone my shut eyes
And filled my soul with heaven, as Dawn with
A fragrance from afar with me would stay,
And at my work my heart sang all next day.
I am no Coward; never did believe
That spirits can their hell or heaven leave
To walk by night in the old human ways.
For forty years this was my creed o' days.
Somehow the dark another tale doth tell:
We are so fearful of the Unfathomable!
The Infinite is full of whisperings;
With mortal tug the wildered spirit clings
To its known shore of firm reality,
Yet feels drawn outward—like the ebbing sea
That hugs its beach so closely and in vain—
In this vast ebb of Being to its main.
And it is eerie in the night to lie
Lonesome, all naked to the awful sky—
This secret spawning-time of hell on earth,
When mist and midnight give the toadstools
And worlds of shy leaf-shadowed life steal forth,—
What time the Powers of Darkness have their
Our world asleep and Heaven so far away:
When in the shroud-like stillness there may be
Shapes moving round us that we do not see!
Our little sphere of life is darkly rimmed
In the wide universe of Being brimmed
With life perhaps inimical to us!
Nor could we live if all were luminous.
But is it certain we have lost the sight
They had of old in watches of the night,
Who heard the voices, saw the shape that stood
Before them in the Soul's similitude?
They saw with eyes of spirit—Heaven keep
The veil of flesh about me dark and deep!
What does the Darkness mutter? Is it Death
That makes the light burn bluer with his breath?
Was that a creaking of the stair? a Rat
Nibbling the wainscot? did a flittering Bat
Flap at the window? Floors will crack for sure,
But may not unseen feet be on the floor?
Spirits stand rapping at Life's outer gate,
And, if we dare not open, will they wait?
Was that the Death-Watch ticking in the wall?
One's hair with reptile-life begins to crawl.
Is there some Whispering Gallery of the ear,
In which the other world we overhear?
The very Mirror is a doorway, through
Whose dark another face may look at you!
Who knows with what those ghostly gleams are
In spectral semblance of our sunlit life?
What Night hath shielded from pursuing Day
In sanctuary darkness, hid away,
As Paramour of hers in some foul play?
What viewless horrors in the wind may lurk,
That fill the mind with Shadows grim and murk?
What demons may be audibly at work?
Maybe the voices of a sunless world
That in the eclipse of night is doomward hurled:
What groping outcasts of ignoble soul
Are working through the darkness, like the
Crouching in dreams to steal on sleeping Men:
Red-handed spirits that flung life back again
To Him who gave, and hide their murder-mark
In any secret corner of the dark:
Eaves-droppers leaning listening with a grin,
To think how some small keyhole-creeping sin
Will ope the door and let the Tempter in.
What wappened wantons lurking 'twixt the
May lie in wait for wanderers o' nights:
What phantom shapes forlorn may meet and
In long procession under Night's dark arch,
Stretching their arms to us, worm-fretted, all
Hueless and featureless and weirdly tall:
What rootless strays of life are ever blown
About like floating ghosts of thistle-down,
That seek a foothold and are whirled away—
Dead leaves a-dancing—vanishing sea-spray;
Homeless, as drifted clouds are hurried past
Their heaven for ever, by the driving blast.
And now we come to think, may we not hold
Ghost-hands in ours, that turn them icy cold?
A ghostly presence whitens in the cheek,
And makes the blood run water,—wan and weak
The swooning life from out us faintly fleets,
And turns to drops at the chill touch it meets.
The walls of flesh are waxing all too thin
To keep the world of spirits from crowding in.
We wrap the clothes about us; but, still bare
In soul, we feel a wave of chillier air,
Like that which brings the dawn, but that's a
Of sweet new life, this hath the feel of death!
The spirit-spiracles all open wide,
And life seems drowning in the flooding tide;
We cannot cry, the Unseen world doth strive
To seal the mouth and bury the soul alive.
I must believe in Ghosts, lying awake
With them o' nights, when flesh will creep and
And lustily one pulls the Bell of Prayer,
From this thick snow of Spirits to clear the air.
No marvel that the Birds salute the Dawn,
For all the dangers of the dark withdrawn;
Break into singing with their first free breath,
That they have swum the dim, vast sea of death,
And hymn the resurrection of the Light,
In praise to Him who kept them through the
And cared for His least little feathered things,
Encompassed with the safety of His Wings;
While those that cannot warble, twittering tell
Of darkness passed once more, and all is well.
With what a thankful heart I often heard
The blessed cry of Morning's earliest Bird!
How eagerly watched the weird and waning
Turn deathly pale and pass away in light.
Yet, I believe that God is master still.
He reigneth; He whose lightest breath can
The universe of worlds like drops of dew,
And if the Spirit-world hath broken through
It cannot be unknown, unseen by Him;
It must be with His will, not their mere whim.
And if our world of breath be set aflood,
Swimming in supra-normal neighbourhood,
There is a soul within will not be drowned,
Even though a sea of spirits surges round:
An inner infinite with power to reach
The level of its outer ocean-beach!
Therefore I trust Him; shut mine eyes and say "Lead on, O Thou, who only know'st the way! Father in Heaven, take my hand in Thine; Be at my heart, and in my countenance shine. Then, all unfearing, shall I face the gate At which the powers of Darkness lie in wait."
ONCE on a time, the ancient story saith,
Some foolish Mummers danced a masque of
They bore his emblems, trying, every one,
To out-parody the bony Skeleton;
And, as the merriment grew, there glided in
Grim Death Himself, mocking with ghastly grin
At their poor make-believe; as who should say, "This is the real thing and no mere play."
"Talk of the Devil," say we, "and he's here,"
Sudden as thunder-claps, when skies are clear.
'Twas thus all fears and phantoms of the past,
Shaped into something palpable at last.
One night, as I lay musing on my bed,
The veil was rent that shows the Dead not dead.
Upon a Picture I had fixed mine eyes,
Till slowly it began to magnetize.
So the Ecstatics on their symbol stare,
Until the Cross fades and the Christ is there!
Thus, while I mused upon the picture's face,
A veil of white mist wavered in its place;
And to a lulling motion I sank deep,
With spirit awake and senses fallen asleep,
Down through an air that palpitatingly
Breathed with a breath of life unknown to me;
And when the motion ceased, against the gloom,
There lived another Form within the room,
As if the Dark had suddenly made a face
I saw the haunting Presence of the Place
Embodied, strange and horrible, as rise
The Torturers that stare in dying eyes:
Or, as the Serpent—ere a leaf be stirred—
Looks through the dark on some bewildered
A face in which the life had burned away
To cinders of the soul and ashes gray:
The forehead furrowed with a sombre frown
That seemed the image, in shadow, of Death's
His look a map of misery that told
How all the under-world in blackness rolled.
A human face in hideous eclipse;
No lustre on the hair, nor life i' the lips;
The faintest gleam of corpse-light, lurid, wan,
Showed me the lying likeness of a Man!
The old soiled lining of some mortal dress:
A Spirit sorely stained with earthiness.
But, almost ere I could have time to fear,
I saw what seemed an Angel standing near,
And on Her face a smile for my relief:
A dream of glory in my night of grief,
Shedding an influent mildness through the
Pleasant to feel, as was the smile I saw:
Indeed, methought she breathed a fragrance
That overcame some rotting charnel-taint.
She wore a purple vesture thin as mist,
The Breath of Dawn, upon the plum dew-kissed.
No flame-hued, flame-shaped, Golden-Holly tree
Ere kindled at the sun so splendidly
As that self-radiant head, with lifted hair
A-wave in many a fiery scimitar.
The purple shine of Violets wet with dew
Was in her eyes that looked me through and
We think of Shades as native to the night;
We photograph the other world in white,
That will not paint its tints upon our sight.
But there are Colours of the Eternal Light,
And these were of them; pulsing such live
As never reddened blood or ripened rose:
No Mist from the past life as some have deemed
The Dead to be; no pallid shadow dreamed
By Greeks of old, but Life itself this seemed.
And such a light was in the Angel's face,
It made a glory round about the place
To see by: as you mark in the gold ray
The Motes that dance invisibly in the gray.
But, deep in shadow of his inner night,
The Dark Shape stood and sinned against the Light.
As men have felt, when earth rocked underfoot,
Their trust in it was wrenched up by the root;
The firm foundations of all things had given,
And any instant they might be in heaven:
As one midway across a wide, white road,
In winter, when all night the skies have snowed,
Learns 'tis not earth but frozen stream beneath,
And he is leaning on the arms of Death:
So did I feel to find our earthy bound
Of Substance was no longer safe or sound;
That spirit-springs make quicksand of firm
That spirit-hands withdraw our curtains round;
That spirit between particles can pass
Surely and visibly, as light through glass;
With power to come and go, stand upright,
Dense to the eye, outlined against the gloom.
The Dark Shape on me turned its eyes of guile,
Sullen yet fierce. I read the wicked smile
That sneered—"Behold the cause of all your fear! You need not shudder though while She is near."
And then he spoke, or seemed to speak, in words,
Although I saw his thoughts like murderous
Or toothèd wheels, go whirling round within
The fearsome face so shadowy and thin,
And did not always need the speech to know
What dreadful thing it was he had to show.
"Lo! I am one of those doomed souls who dwell
In Heaven's vast Shadow which the Good call Hell.
Lo! I am he, most miserable, who did
His deed of darkness, fancying all was hid;
The Awful eyes being on me all the while,
And demons pointing at me with their smile;
Who carry such a hell within my breast,
That all about me throbs with my unrest,
As though the heavens were shaken, or the earth
Were overtaken in the throes of birth:
Doors tremble open, walls disintegrate,
And world to world flings wide its secret gate.
With such a pulse of power my pangs awake
At midnight, that from sleep they sometimes shake
You! Matter, with Mind's thrillings, doth so quake,
That atoms from their fellow atoms start,
As though each felt the heave of some live heart."
Then seeing the questioning wonder in my look,
He answered, as my turn of thought he took,
"Yes, it is true, all true, the thing you dreamed;
Most real is the life that only seemed.
Soul's no mere shadow that gross substance throws;
Our passions are not pageantary shows,
Exhaled from Matter, like the cloud from cape,
They are the life's own lasting final shape.
This scheme of things with all the sights you see,
Are only pictures of the things that be.
What you call Matter is but as the sheath,
Shaped, even as bubbles are, by spirit-breath.
The mountains are but firmer clouds of earth,
Still changing to the breath that gave them birth.
Spirit aye shapeth Matter into view,
As Music wears the forms it passes through.
Spirit is lord of substance, Matter's sole
First cause, formative power and final goal."
"And who is this," I asked, "that in Her face
Doth image humanly celestial grace;
That calms my soul as when the Moon looks
Whose smile in heaven makes stillness on the
"One of those Ministers who are sent below
To walk the earth, patrolling to and fro,
As sentinels on guard, night after night,
That in the darkness make a watch-fire light,
Lest sleeping souls be helplessly surprised
By the wild beasts of worlds not realized."
I looked, the shining face serenely smiled
Away all terror like a thing beguiled.
"One of the dreadful Angels of the Lord,
Who are His fiery-flaming two-edged sword,
Which at each door and window waves and burns
Until the Angel of the Dawn returns.
They are with you, watching through the murkest hour,
And seen, or unseen, hold us in their power,
That when the devil rages in us, lo!
We strike and strike, and yet there falls no blow.
They maze and daze us standing there behind,
And, as in dreams, we struggle bound and blind.
The sharpest tortures that I have to bear
Are when I feel Her presence hovering near.
A ray from heaven turns to a sword in hell;
The flash is maddening, we so darkly dwell!
The heat of heaven is like the blazing ring
Of fire that makes the Scorpion try to sting
Itself to death; an air of Heaven's breath
Is poison; hell is spiritual death:
And this awakes us, with its stir and strife,
Like tinglings of the drowned recalled to life."
I glanced again: I saw the look arise
As of a drawn Sword in the Angel's eyes!
"We have met here for years. She comes to see
Me digging nightly; grope for my lost key;
Her presence kindles round me such a light,
All heaven can see me prowling through the night;
All hell make merry at the gruesome sight.
"I never told my secret in your world,
I kept it at the heart too closely curled;
There, at my life-springs, did I nestle and nurse
The hidden snake, my bosom's clinging curse;
My worm of torment biting bitterly,
And fed it fat for all eternity.
And no eye saw it writhe in my white face,
Or heard it hiss in its dark hiding-place,
When any voice of secret murders told,
And in its might it wantoned and grew bold.
It gnawed my heart as with hell-fire for years.
Drink would not drown it, nor a sea of tears
Quench it, nor all the waters of the land
Whiten my soul, or wash my red right hand!
Whate'er I did, my heart with hell-fire burned;
Mine eyes with redness swam where'er I turned.
I fled and fled, and could not leave behind
The still, unwinking Bloodhounds of the mind.
I dared not slumber soundly, lest asleep
The unsleeping secret from my lips should leap
In dreams, and I on waking might have found
Myself had turned Informer, and was bound
In handcuffs, with the accusing faces round.
"And so, at last, I pricked the bubble of breath,
I plunged to hide me from Myself in death:
I found the hell-hole in the wild whirlpool;
Plucked the cold hand down on my brain to cool:
I grovelled out my own deep grave; I fell
Right through it, into open arms of hell.
"I fancied, when I took the headlong leap,
That death would be an everlasting sleep;
And the white Winding-sheet and green sod might
Shut out the world, and I have done with sight.
Cold water from my hand had sluiced the warm
And crimson carnage; safe the little form
Lay underground: the tiny trembling waif
Of life hid from the light; my secret safe.
In vain. You cannot hide a deed like this,
With all the heavens one cloud of witnesses:
Useless to blot the blood out with the dust,
When it hath eaten with its ruddy rust
Into your spirit's hand, where, visibly
The murder-stain leers through eternity!
looked, and saw what seemed a hand,
Or gore-soaked shadow of one that, like a brand
When breathed on, kindled fiercely as he sighed;
And plucked it from his bosom, where he tried
To hide its guilty red.
"That gripped the knife
That slew my child. This is its ruddy life,
Red-hot; on fire of hell! In burning rings,
The blood my fingers clutched, for ever clings,
And clamps them with relentless ache and smart
So closely that they will not pull apart.
Once only, while I wept and almost prayed,
They yielded just a little: then was played
A spectral trick upon me; all between,
They shone, thin-webbed with gore, and clearly seen
As through a window, through the web there smiled
Up in my face the face of my dead child.
Better to bear this fiery grip of pain,
Than they should open on that sight again.
"The whirling world had flung my life from it,
And I felt falling through the Infinite,
For weeks and months, and years on years of nights
Innumerable, from stupendous heights;
For, as a minute's slumber may be all
As one with that of a million years, my fall
So quickened being, that a minute's fears
Made instantaneous a million years.
No God to call upon, no Power to stay,
No hand to clutch at on my endless way!
When just as I was plunging in a cloud
That lightened with the laugh of Hell, and showed
It made of devilish faces, which grew glad
And kindled at my coming, and all had
A gap-toothed wicked grin, as though each one
Saw in my face the kindred of its own,—
All the dark host rejoicing as I came;
All making sure as Marksman of his aim,
When lo! a Hawk swoops from its height unheard,
And from before his gun bears off his Bird!—
So, while the gulf I gazed on grew and gaped,
The black cloud curled about me demon-shaped,
And all their claws for cruel welcome spread,
I was caught up; borne swiftening overhead,
By one on wings of light, with lightning shod,
And then I knew that I was going to God,—
That life but sets in life still more profound,
As sunset into sunrise the world round;
That all who enter by the gate of breath,
Must pass before the Awful eyes in death,
And stand all naked to the searching mien.
I could not shrivel nor slink away unseen!
"To me the vast and horrible Unknown
Was one dread face, and all the face one frown!
Pain, sternness, pity eternal in a look
That read my life, wide-open as a book.
Not that the leaves turned over one by one,
Revealing, page by page, all I had done,—
The Sense is as a scroll where manifold
Indelible things are day by day uprolled
And registered for Memory to recall;
Maps of the mental world hung on the wall:
But Life is more than Letter or than Law,
And deftly as the brain may take or draw
Its daily tallies, never can it keep
In fixèd figure all the fathomless Deep
Of Consciousness conceals, whose restless sea
Ripples on changing sands unceasingly.
Spirit is one. It is the crystal book,
Clear through and through; read at a single look.
To all the thoughts that ever passed through us
In life, in death we grow diaphanous.
We do not think what we have been, we are
Past, present, future, without near or far.
A glimpse of this is lightened, when the blind
Is raised, in drowning, from the seeing Mind!
So the electric flash, thrown on the wheel
Revolving swift in darkness, will reveal
Each whirling spoke distinctly standing still.
In spirit-world at once you find the whole
Of life contemporary with the soul.
"There is strange writing of the passing guest
Featured upon the form it leaves at rest,
Which men in some dim wise may read, but here
Is the live Chronicler itself! the clear
Truth naked—brain and body were but dress—
Quickened by the Eternal consciousness.
"So, when before that face, I felt the frown,
There was no need of Hell to drag me down,
I could have welcomed wafts of burning flame
To clothe my nakedness of deadly shame.
I lifted to my brow one shading hand,
But snatched it burning from the Murderer's
The other to mine eyes I pressed; 'twas red
And wet and dripping with the blood I shed.
I tried to cover up my aching sight,
And found myself all eye to pitiless light.
"In olden times, it was the wont, they say,
To bring the Murderer where his victim lay,
And at his touch, as to his slaying knife,
The wound would flush: Death speak with lips of
"So, from the frown, a little tiny Child
Looked out on me and innocently smiled!
"I shrieked my guiltiness at sight of it,
And downward plunged, for hiding in the Pit.
"'Curse God and die,' the Tempter said of old. I curse, and back the curses crowd tenfold. Against the cold Heaven strikes my burning breath, To fall in dews of wrath with second death. And still I curse, and yet I cannot die; And still I watch for Death with pleading eye, To find that he will nevermore draw nigh. Would the Almighty One had spit on me, And wiped the blot from His eternity!
"MY Temptress lives on still.
She is a Wife
And Mother; lives an unsuspected life.
She hath grown fat and flourished on the ill,
The poison, that should naturally kill.
That cruel stain of Murder seemed to pass
From off her face of life as breath from glass.
I sometimes play the devil in her dream,
And plague her with a glimpse, one lurid gleam
Of all my torment; her thick veil I tear,
And lay the unholy of unholies bare,
Else were her heart untroubled, deaf and blind.
Things out of sight with her are out of mind,
And should she hear a voice from the Unknown
She takes it for an echo of her own.
"Ah, Mistress, did you know we have to stand
Together yet, as equals, hand in hand,
Like Eve and Adam, shivering side by side,
Where not a leaf our nakedness can hide;
Our secret blazoned, as a flag unfurled
High on the housetops of another world!
"She was a buxom beauty! In her way
Imperious as the Thane's Wife in the Play.
A woman who upon the outside smiled,
Burnished like beetles, inwardly defiled;
With hair that like a thunder-cloud,
Caught the sunlight, and flashed it back in
No Demon ever toyed with worthier folds,
About a comelier throat, to strangle souls;
A face that dazzled you with life's white-heat,
Devouring, as it drew you off your feet,
With eyes that set the Beast o' the blood astir,
Leaping in heart and brain, alive for her;
Melted the sword of soul within its sheath:
The knee-joints loosened, smitten by her breath,
Until you bowed, as the strong beast bowëth,
When taken captive by the dark of death:
Lithe, amorous lips, cruel in curve and hue,
Which, greedy as the grave, my kisses drew
With hers, that to my mouth like live things clung
Long after, and in memory fiercely stung:
A dainty morsel of the Devil's meat
To roll beneath my tongue, as poison sweet!
Had not the Mother ate forbidden food,
This was the Daughter among Women who would
"But what avails to cast on her the blame?
I will not: will not name her by her name.
The deed is done; the sin is sinned; the brand
Is on my brow; the blood burns on my hand.
"I must have been a beast myself from birth.
We lived as Beasts in that old burrow of earth
They called a House; the Cot where I was born;
One of those dwellings Poets will adorn
Outside with Honeysuckle and climbing Rose,
But where, within, no flower of Heaven blows
With sweetening breath, for want of air and
And in the wild weeds crawl the things of night:
Where any life-warmth quickens the dark slime
Of hovelled sin to swarm in shame and crime.
"My Pastoral Home was one wherein are grown
Boys for the Hulks; girls for the pitiless Town
That flaunts beneath the gaslights on the highway,
The full-blown flowers of many a filthy by-way!
Where Virtue has no safeguard, Vice no veil;
The Devil sowed his seed, never to fail—
With such a soil—in growing harvest meet
For him, as sure as corn is grown to eat.
"I should have been the beast that Nature binds
To beaten ways, and with her blinkers blinds,
But, was a Beast with scope to work all ill;
Treat Wife and dumb things cruelly—sin—kill—
And go to Hell by freedom of the will.
And yet I knew not—such the curse of sin!—
Until the fall came, what was ripe within;
What demon I had nursed past suckling-time,
To find that it could go alone in crime.
"She came to me, her great black eyes aglare
Like stars of bale, yet with the hunted stare
Of wild things; such as made me stare to see
What danger followed her and threatened me.
I knew that Nemesis was drawing near,
And in the beating of my heart could hear
The footsteps that will shake strong men with fear.
'What is it?' I asked. What need for her to tell?
'Twas writ all over her. I knew too well.
And still I stared beyond, as if that way
The blackness rose that blotted out my day.
For days, and weeks, and months her secret lay
Safe-nestled, unsuspected by her friends,
But one day all disguise in sinning ends,
And every way-side hiding-place is past.
She had to leave her home and flee at last—
Mad with the misery of a Mother's pain,
She ran to me, through fire, and hail, and rain,
And mire below, and thunder overhead;
Ran lightning-dazed, and drenched, till nearly dead.
"Well I remember that Last Day. I see
It lightning-lit. I feel it stamped in me,
As with the black seal of Eternity.
It was about mid-Spring, when suddenly
The rear of beaten Winter turned in ire,
And there was battle fierce of Frost and Fire.
The Birds stopped singing; all the golden flame
O' the Sun went out; the Cattle homeward came.
With a forerunning shiver rushed the breeze,
And, in the Woods, the hushed and listening trees,
That had been standing deathly-dark and still,
Wind-whitened sprang, with every leaf athrill.
I watched the tortured clouds go hurrying by,
Racked with the rending spirit of prophecy:
Like Pythonesses in the pangs, they tossed
And writhed in shadowy semblance of the Lost:
They met, they darted death, they reared, they
And down the torrent of the tempest poured!
Through heaven's windows the blue lightnings
And like a fractured pane the sky was seamed:
Hailstones made winter on the whitened ground,
And for two hours the thunder warrayed round.
And then I heard the Thrush begin again,
With his more liquid warble after rain.
"Tearing through all the fearful storm she came;
Worse storm within, and in her eyes hell-flame
Had broken loose to kindle, past control,
In huge dare-devilry of reckless soul.
As springs a Madman, dancing upon deck,
Who hath doomed the Ship, and glories in the
As at a Prison-window one may stand
Who fired the house, and waves the lighted brand,
Her spirit sprang at mine. Her looks were wild.
She had come to me, she said, to bring the child,
For no one had a greater right to it!
This was God's truth, not merely meant for wit.
She swore that she had come there and would stay
Till it was born, and safely put away.
And even while I cursed her pangs grew worse,
And stopped me with an everlasting curse.
"Good God! this is too bad,' I thought; and laughed A laugh as bitter as the cup I quaffed. I had been married just a month! my Wife Knew nothing of this dead love come to life. As Fate would have it, she had gone from home: I knew that any minute she might come. With desperate voice the woman made me writhe; Harsh as the whetstone on the Mower's scythe She rasped me all on edge; the hell-sparks flew, Till there seemed nothing that I dared not do.
'Kill it, you Coward! Why not kill us both?' She taunted me; and I felt little loth. Then something whispered, 'Why not kill them both?' I said I would, and clenched it with an oath."
Now, while he spake, there came a frightful change
Upon him with transfiguration strange,
And slowly he assumed his mortal dress
With a last look of dying consciousness:
The eyes turned stony in a sightless stare,
And of all presence he grew unaware:
Clouded and lost within his dreadful dream
He went; a Man once more, each pore a stream
Of inner agony; his body shook,
And from his mazèd face did "Murder" look.
It was as when in dreams you see a dumb
Mouth shaped to cry it, though no sound will come!
While in his hand he grasped a gleaming knife,
So keen, you saw it thirst for a drink of life:
And, as he passed into his haunted gloom,
His dreadful purpose drew him from the room. So terrible the scene, I should have cried
For help in the death-eddies,—must have died
But for the strong calm Spirit at my side,
Who took me by the hand and turned on mine
Her cordial face with comfortable shine.
And then the darkness gave a sudden sigh,
And a wind rose that went lamenting by.
"Listen," She said. I leaned, all ear, to hark;
I felt the quake of footsteps through the dark,
Heavily hurrying down a distant stair,
And caught a piteous wail faint on the air.
The dog howled his lone cry, as he would fain
Give warning, knowing it was all in vain.
Then came the liquid gurgle and the ring
Metallic, with the heavy plop and ping,
Heavier than largest water-drops that fall
From melting icicles on house-eaves tall.
I knew them now; this resurrection night
Sounds were translated into things of sight.
These were the innocent drops a father shed;
They had the weight of blood, fell heavy as
And now again I felt the grinding sound
O' the grating door; the digging underground;
The shudders of the house; the sighs and moans;
The ring of iron dropped upon the stones;
The cloudy presence prowling near; the quake
Of walls that vibrate with the parting shake;
Then the relief. As they who stoop with dread,
While the Simoon goes withering overhead
Like iron red-hot, look up and breathe at last,
So felt I when that thing of Night had passed.
'Tis but a dream, methought, and I shall wake
Ere long and from its dread embraces break.
And if I could but only wake, I knew
By light of day these things could not be true!
How many a dream before had wraith-like gone
To nothing at the sceptic smile of Dawn.
And still I could not wake, nor wake my Wife;
And still the dream went on, and like as life
There stood the Angel in it; overshone
The well-known room.
And then Her voice went on.
"The nether world hath opened at your feet,
And you have seen ascending from the Pit
The torment-smoke, where furnace-fires of Crime
Have cracked the crust of this your world of Time.
"It was an awful hour of storm and rain
And starless gloom in which the Child was slain.
Wild, windily the Night went roaring by,
As if loud seas broke in the woodlands nigh,
Or all the blasts of Heaven at once were hurled
To stop the onward rolling of the world.
The firmament was all one flash, and fled:—
The lightning laughed, as Hell were overhead.
"He had dug his grave amid this war of storm;
He bore the murdered Babe upon his arm
For burial, where no eye should ever mark!
Just then Heaven opened at him with the bark
Of all the Hell-hounds loosed. And in the dark
Out went the light, and down he dropped the key,
That was to lead to safety secretly.
He was alone with Death, and paces three
Beyond the door an open grave gaped, free
For all the daylight world to come and see;
And he was fastened.
Like the luckless wight
Who wagered he would enter a Vault at night
In some old Graveyard, and, in proof he did,
Would leave his dagger stuck in a Coffin-lid.—
He ventured: bravely dashed the weapon down,
And turned to triumph, when, by the student-gown
He was held fast, as if the living Tomb
Had closed upon him; clutched him in the gloom.
He had pinned his long robe to the coffin! Fright
Came on him like a snow-fall! Weirdly-white
His hair turned, and the youth was a forlorn,
Old, gray-faced, gibbering Idiot next morn.
"The murderer did not madden thus, but he
Was stamped as if for all Eternity.
He stooped with his dead child, he groped and found
The key, and got the Corse safe underground,
And out of sight had hid his murder-hole,
Ere Dawn looked ghostly on his guilty soul,
And on his hands no man could see the stain.
His madness went beyond the burning brain;
His was the frenzy of a soul insane.
"The hour came when he lost that key again.
As the death-rattles thundered in his throat,
And earth was rushing past his soul afloat,
And pain had fiercely throbbed itself to rest,
And time stopped ticking in the brain and breast,
It gleamed and vanished from his fading sight,
And snapped his eye-strings straining through the
Thenceforth it was his hottest hell to be
Living the moment when he lost his key:
Hell that is permanent insanity!
"There was a man who died ages ago,
And 'tis his madness still to wile his woe
At work for ever, perfecting the plan
That should have, must have shown his fellow-man
How innocent he was of that old crime
He died for justly—had he thought in time.
"Even so this lost soul whirls and eddies round
The grave-place where the lost key must be found,
If the mad motion would a moment cease,
And he could only get a moment's peace;
He often sees it, but he cannot touch
It; like a live thing it eludes his clutch—
Gone like that glitter from the eyes of Death
In the black river at night that slides beneath
The Bridges, tempting souls of Suicides
To find the promised rest it always hides.
"For seven years it was his curse to come
At midnight and fulfil his dreadful doom,
Looking for that lost key, lest it revealed
The secret he so carefully concealed;
Feeling at times he could endure his hell
If in one world of torment he might dwell.
And still from world to world he had to go
Wandering with incommunicable woe;
Well knowing that, for every moment lost,
His soul would be in treble anguish tossed,
While every storm of wind and rain would beat
Down on him, kindle hell to tenfold heat,
And make him hurry to your upper air,
Lest it should blow and wash the bones all bare.
For often will a wind of God arise
At midnight, and the voice of Murder cries
From it, and bones of murdered babes are found;
Earth will no longer be their burial ground.
And so on stormy nights his pangs are worst;
More live the portent in the blackness hearsed:
More dread the gnashings of that soul accursed.
"For seven years he came, unseen, unheard.
'Twas but the other day the bones were stirred.
As men were delving heedless underground,
They broke in on them, scattered them around:
Not guessing they were human.
Lower in hell
His spirit sank, like waters in a well
Before there springs the Earthquake. Tremblings
Shook him with vengeance never felt before.
He came; he found the murder had leaped out;
The grave was burst; the bones were strewn about
For all the world to find!
It mattered not
To him that no one knew them; they might rot
To undistinguishable dust in peace;
That Death had signed his order of release
From this world's law; Death had no shadows
Enough to hide the blacker truth from him.
He was the Murderer still, who had to hide
The proofs of murder on the human side!
The Child was his; these were its tender bones,
Blown with the dust and dashed against the stones.
And all his care, his self-enfolded pain
And midnight watchings lone, were all in vain.
"The worms that in the dead flesh riot and roll
Are poor faint types of those that gnawed his soul!
For ever beaten now; though he should find
And grasp the key he lost when he went blind
In death: In vain he mounts upon a wind
Of torment; tries to fan the dry dust over them
With endless toil; no sooner does he cover them
Than there's an ominous muttering in the air,
And in an instant all the bones lie bare;
While lurking devils grin through masks at him,
In likeness of his Child's head, gorily grim!
"It comes upon him, almost with a gleam
Of comfort, when he's rapt into the Dream
You saw him change in, and he passes through
His night of murder; lives it all anew,
So vividly each sound is heard by you;
Each particle of Matter set afloat
Upon a Mind-wave, tossing like a boat
The Spirit rides.
For, as, upon his brain,
The sounds one midnight smote in a ruddy rain,
Till sense had dyed the spirit with their stain,
And Memory was branded deep as Cain,
So now his spirit echoes back again
The fixed ideas of a soul insane,
Till Matter taking impress of his pain,
Reverberates the sounds within your brain."
I MUSED and mused in great astonishment,
While on, and on, the growing wonder went
Within, without, on wings that widelier spread.
"How many things," oft to myself I had said, "I have to ask, if one came from the dead."
And now I had my wish. My thought could rise
No fleeter than the answer filled her eyes
And flashed electric utterance with the whole
Illumined figure of a living soul!
"More Laws than Gravitation keep us down
To the old place from whence the soul had flown.
Not every one in death can get adrift
Freely for life. Some have no wings to lift
Their weary weight: the body of their sin
Which they so evilly have laboured in:
Others will touch as 'twere the window-sill
To flutter back upon the ground-floor still.
Others yet grovel like the beast belogged
In the old ways, to which they are self-clogged.
Just as the Spirits of an earlier race
Of Man in dwarfhood, kept their dwelling-place
On earth, and revelling in the moon's pale rays,
Were seen as Wee Folk in old wondering days.
"A-many wander this side of the grave
To get the last glimpse they can ever have
Of those they loved, who will be lost in light,
While they go darkling and are lost in night.
They see them sometimes in the world of breath;
They part for ever at the second death.
Others would blot from out the book of Time
The published proofs of their long-secret crime
That glare so guiltily to spirit-sight.
Teachers who called Good evil; darkness light;
Who see more clearly in the unclouding day,
Strive to recall the souls they led astray,
And find the world, that once hung on their breath,
Goes by them now; heedless, and deaf as Death.
Some, who have done a wrong that, unperceived,
Ran to a sea of sin, are sorely grieved,
And ready to spend the next life shut from bliss,
Might they but right the wrong they did in this:
So clear, so awful, when the past is seen,
Grows the dark mystery of might-have-been.
"This happened under the broad shining day,
Right in the rush of life that makes its way
Through London streets.
Slowly, 'mid that swift throng,
A thoughtful man went mooningly along;
More lonely in that wilderness of men.
And at a corner where the Devil's den
Is palace-fronted now—all gilt and glass—
Illuminating nightly all who pass
By the broad way to Hell with gin and gas,
And souls are sloughed, like city sewage, down
Dead-Sea-ward, through the sink-holes of the town,
He heard a pitiful voice that took strange hold
Of him; ran through his blood in lightnings cold;
Mournful, remote, and hollow, as if the tomb
Had buried a live spirit in its gloom,
Monotonously praying on below
A vast unutterable weight of woe;
A voice that its own speaker would not know!
As if unbreathing life were doomed to bear
Shut down on it the load of all the air.
clothed in rags he saw
With fixed beseeching eyes begin to draw
Him to her; left no power to say them nay.
With one stretched arm she begged; on the other
Soft in a snow of gold, a Cherub Child!
So have you seen a Glowworm on the wild
Wide moorland; all the dusk a moment smiled.
"For the babe's sake he thrust a coin of gold
Into her hand! but, it fell through, and rolled
Ringing along the stones: he followed, found
It, brought it back and looked around:
There was no woman waiting with her hand
Outstretched, no Child, where he had seen them
In vain he searched each by-way round about;
Through life even, never made the mystery out.
"The truth is, he was one of those who see
At times side-glimpses of eternity.
The Beggar was a Spirit, doomed to plead
With hurrying way-farers, who took no heed,
But passed her by, indifferent as the dead,
Till one should hear her voice and turn the head;
Doomed to stand there and beg for bread, in tears,
To feed her child that had been dead for years!
This was the very spot where she had spent
Its life for drink, and this the punishment;
She felt she had let it slip into the grave,
And now would give eternal life to save:
Heartless and deaf and blind the world went by,
Until this Dreamer came, with seeing eye;
The good Samaritan of souls had given
And wrought the change that was to her as Heaven.
"It is not Crime alone brings Spirits back
To pull beside you in the wonted track.
Shadows of mortal care will cloud the brow
That should have shone as clear as sunlit snow:
And those who hindered here must help you now.
Not always can the soul forgive in heaven
Itself for deeds that have been long forgiven.
"A wedded couple, bedded, snug as birds
In nested peace, one night must needs have words
Of strife before they slept. A foolish thing
Had on a sudden set them bickering;
Some wild-fire wisp had dropped a subtle spark
That kindled at a breath blown through the dark,
And all their passion burst in tongues of flame:
Their anger blinding both to personal blame.
She had been pillowed on his beating heart,
And in an instant they had sprung apart!
The arm that wound about her he withdrew,
And Night, with dark divorce, came 'twixt the
"A little thing had plucked them palm from palm;
A little thing had broke their happy calm;
A little thing fall'n in the pleasant path
Of their life-stream, that turned to bubbling wrath!
And little might have made them yield and cling
Repentant; yea, a very little thing.
A touch would have sufficed to make the stream
Flow calm once more; dream out its happy
A kiss have fused them into one again,
And saved them many a year of piteous pain.
'Twas such a little thing they had to do;
Both yearned to make it up, and this each knew.
If one could but have said 'Good-night,' scared
Would have come down to brood like Holy Dove.
And, being done, all would have been so well.
Not being done, it left the rift for Hell
To break through, and another triumph win,—
Ever the worst of Traitors are within:
But neither spoke, though long upon the wing
Love waited lingeringly listening!
"Waking, he heard her in her slumbers weep,
And then he slept, and in the guise of Sleep
Death came for him, nor gave him time to say
' Good-night,' ' Good-bye,' and at his side she lay
A Widow! And upon that dark no day
Hath broke for her. For him, no hell nor heaven
Will open; praying still to be forgiven,
Night after night at her bedside he stands,
Wringing his soul as one may wring the hands;
By natural law of grievèd love; not sent
By Vengeance for unnatural punishment.
"The unslain shadows of the Martyrs slain,
Rise on their fields of old heart-ache and pain,
To fight their battle over and over again.
Half-buried hands, still thrust up through the sod,
From fields of carnage, prayerfully to God,
Will grasp the weapons of immortal war.
Freed spirits make their conquering battle-car
Of human hearts: they do but hold their breath
To smite unheard in their dark cloud of death.
They work for Freedom still, though out of sight;
They are torch-bearers in your mortal night.
The Tyrants may destroy the body; drench
The life out with the blood, but cannot quench
It! They may string the corses high in air,
But cannot keep the soul suspended there.
"Wide as the wings of Sleep by night are spread,
Are Freedom's Exiles scattered, and her dead
Have lain them wearily down beneath God's dome.
But every banished spirit hurries home,
Soon as the free, long-fettered life up-springs
Awave one day on mighty warrior-wings.
Each soul, let out, fights with the strength of seven,
Under God's shield, and on the side of Heaven.
"The other world is not cut off from this:
Forgetfulness is not the gate of bliss.
At times the buried dead within you rise
To look out on their old world through your eyes;
They touch you with the waving of their wing,
Lightly as airs of heaven the Æolian string.
At times as Comforters above you stoop,
To lift the burden from you when ye droop!
As parents on their little ones may peep
Ere going to rest, they bend to bless your sleep.
They show you Pictures which are faintly wrought
In shadows that take life in waking thought.
With fruit from our Lord's Garden dear ones
To bring you a foretaste: try to lure you home.
"With clap o' the shoulder, friends behind you steal
The old glad way which ye no longer feel:
They watch you as ye watch the darkened mind
Of some arrested spirit; try to unwind
A way to it; with drops of pity melt
The clod about it; have your fondness felt:
Even as ye turn your thoughts to them above,
Do they return to you; look back for love.
"They left you standing still at gaze upon
The cloud they entered, where the light last shone.
And while the wet eyes yearn and watch the track,
As if by that same way they might come back,
And through the dark ye stretch the ungrasped
There, at some window of the soul, they stand
All whitely clothed with immortality,
Closer to you than flesh and blood can be.
The cloud is lifted from the vapoury bourne;
Although you know them not, the dead return;
To dry the Mourner's tear and hush the wail,
There's nought between you but a Viewless veil!
"Old loves are with you in your dreams; but fear
Lest they should make their presence felt too near;
The face of Love in Heaven they dare not show,
Lest with its glory they might set aglow
Your earthly love, which leaps to embrace a bliss
That lives and dies in a consuming kiss.
So warm Laodamïa wooed her dead
Dear Husband's Shade, as if they were new-wed!
"And certain spirits are perplexed to find
How like their life to that they left behind
In natural nearness to their darlings here,
Who lose them just because they are so near
In life that grows impenetrably clear!
"Many who tossed together on the sea,
And parted in the storm; lost utterly;
Find they were only wrecked to meet again,
Safe on the same shore, after all the pain.
God hath so many paths by which we come
To Him; through many doors He draws us Home.
'Tis but His wilderness of secret ways
That to our vision seems a trackless maze.
"Others are horribly startled at the change
Revealed in death, all is so wondrous strange!
So many weeds, your blind world flung aside,
Are gathered up as flowers, thrice-glorified.
So many Masters in the realms of breath
Serve at the feet of those who are crowned in
So many who ruled the world are set to rule
Themselves for ages in a painful school.
The Invisible dawns! The sleepers wake to find
Less death in dying than in living blind:
And now the eyes their earthly scales let fall,
They see that they have never lived at all.
"I knew a follower of the strictest faith,
Whose dead religion rested on a death,
And frequent praying in the market-place,
With proclamation of his private grace;
Who sat among the loftiest Self-Elect,
But had not learned through life to walk erect—
Strait-waistcoated in stony pieties—
And when Death came—the Iconoclast who frees—
He could not stand without their rigid stay:
The Maker's image had but stamped the clay.
As one may don the fashion of a day,
On earth he wore the mask of Man awhile,
But when the Searchers stripped him, with a
The wizened spirit shrank from man's disguise:
It fled, and fell, and wriggled, reptile-wise.
Some had been hailed immortals upon Earth—
Immortals prematurely brought to birth.
' And are you happy in your Heaven,' they said,
' O Great One?' But he sadly shook his head,
And with both clutching hands upheld his crown
That only kept on—toppling, tumbling down.
His earthly halo was a world too wide;
His glory of greatness shrank so when he died,
That blatant Fame evoked with her misfit
Derisive laughter from the Infinite.
"I have seen the foolish slaves of luxury,
Who loll at ease and live deliciously;
In Pleasure's poppy-garden drowse and press
With amorous arms my Lady Idleness;
Who, floating downward in voluptuous dream,
Just lean to catch the sparkles from Life's stream
That runs with Siren-sound and dizzying
And hides its wrecks with winking radiance,—
Who, risen from life's feast, came reeling thence
Immortals, drunken with the fumes of Sense;
I've seen them in a pleasure-seeking group,
At Death's low door with mock politeness stoop,
And wantonly they went, nodding the head,
As though to lightsome music they were led:
Heedless the merry madcaps came before
The awful gate, as 'twere a Playhouse door;
It opened, and the darlings entered in
As to the secret Paradise of Sin!
But in a moment what a change there was.
In front of them there rose a mocking glass
In place of drop-scene—this was not a Play—
In which they stared, and could not turn
But still stared on, in silence one and all,
To see their finery fade, their feathers fall;
In this grim moulting of the plumes of pride
They had to lay all ornaments aside;
And on the face of every Woman and Man,
Like wet paint on a mask, the colours ran;
The skin grew writhled, and within the head
Their eyes looked like gray ghosts of hopes long
"The naked image of their own Selves they see,
Stripped in the Mirror of Eternity;
Worm-eaten through and through with thoughts
On life itself, and eat the soul away.
Wine-cups await them; though well-kept for years
The wine, it had been made of human tears,
And tasted bitter! Fruit was given to eat,
The fruit of their own life; so smiling-sweet
It looked! like apples when the shining round
Is made of rose-leaf on a golden ground;
The crimson and the golden melting through,
Right to the core, in one delicious hue.
But these were Apples of the Dead-Sea shore;
Ashes without, and maggots at the core.
Saluting their fine nostrils Odours rise;
The scent of lifelong human sacrifice!
The brother's blood, that climbs to them and cries.
Then are they led where healing waters wait
To wash the soilèd soul; repristinate
The image of God so earthily concealed;
But while they lave find, more and more revealed,
Deeper disfigurement and deadlier stain,
As wetted marble shows the darker grain.
"THE dim world of the dead is all alive;
All busy as the bees in summer hive;
More living than of old; a life so deep,
To you its swifter motion looks like sleep.
Whether in bliss they breathe, in bale they burn,
His own eternal living each must earn.
We suck no honeycomb in drowsy peace,
Because ennobling natural cares all cease;
We live no life, as many dream, caressed
By some vast lazy sea of endless rest—
For there, as here, unbusy is unblest.
"Man is the wrestling-place of Heaven and Hell,
Where, foot to foot, Angel and Devil dwell,
With both attractions drawing him. This gives
The perfect poise in which his freedom lives.
No one so near to heaven to lack for scope;
No one so near to hell to lose all hope.
Whichever way he wills, to left or right,
Lets in a flood of supernatural might.
He flames out hellward, and all hell is free,
Rejoicing in the gust of liberty,
To rush in on him, work its devilry!
In strength of faith, or feebleness of fear,
He bows and bends the highest heavens near.
The brightness upon Prayer's uplifted face
Reflects some spirit-presence in the place.
"Each impure nature hath its parasites,
That live and revel in unclean delights.
Like moths around a flame they float and swarm;
Like flies about a horse, they ride the warm
And reeking air which is their atmosphere,
Their breath of life, the ranker the more dear.
They glory in the grossness of the blood,
For, reptile-like, they lay their eggs in mud.
In every darksome corner of the mind
They hang their webs, the wingèd life to bind;
Weaving the shadow of the Evil One
To darken 'twixt the spirit and its sun.
"If those blind Unbelievers did but know
Through what a perilous Unknown they go
By light of day; what furtive eyes do mark
Them fiercely from their ambush of the dark;
What motes of spirit dance in every beam;
What grim realities mix with their dream;
What serpents try to pull down fallen souls,
As earth-worms drag the dead leaves through their
What cunning sowers scatter seed by night
That flames to fatal flower in broad daylight;
And rub their hands at having danced it in
Ere the sun rise to ripen it in sin!
What foul birds drop their eggs in innocent nests,
To win their heat from warmth of innocent breasts:
What snaky thieves surmount each garden wall;
On life's fresh leaves what caterpillars crawl;
What cool green pleasaunces and brooding bowers
Are set with soul-snares hid among the flowers;
What Tempters in the Chamber of Sleep will break,
And with insidious whisperings keep awake
The Soul! How, toad-like, at the ear will lurk
The squatted Satan, wickedly at work:
What evil spirits hover in amorous hate
Round him who nibbles at the devil's bait,
Or him who dallies, fingering the sharp edge
Of peril, or sits with feet beyond the ledge,
By some dark water, with his face ash-wan,
Until they urge him over: a doomed Man!
What cruel demons try to break a way,
Through weak brains, back to their lost world of
Till from some little rift in nature yawns
A black abysm of madness, and Hell dawns:
What starvelings seek to drink Corruption's breath
From rosy life, more rich than rot of death;
What ghosts of drinkers old would quench their
At the wine-bibber's dreaming stertorous mouth;
What Sirens seek to kindle at your fire
Of passion some live spark of dead desire—
They would be ready even to doubt God's power
To shield their little life from hour to hour,
And many would be going, with idiot-grin,
Out of their mind to let the marvel in.
"But do not think the Devil hath his will.
Whate'er he doth he is God's servant still.
And in the larger light of day divine
The spark of his hell-fire shall cease to shine.
God maketh use of him; what he intends
For evil Heaven will turn to its own ends.
With subtle wile he tries to circumvent
The Lord, and works just what the Master meant.
He hangs the dark cloud round this world of
God smileth, and a rain of good down-pours.
He strove to found the Empire of the Slave,
It crumbled in: he had but delved its grave.
"He stole upon a Nation, in disguise
Of thieves that prowled by night; day-lurking
Plotters who privily set their eyes to mark
Her weakness, and garrotted her i' the dark!
The face of Freedom frightfully they scarred,
That men might know her not, so sadly marred,
And, seeing her in the dust, misjudge her stature;
And, finding she grew calm, mistake her nature!
They built about her; dreamed not she would
Up, terribly tall once more; and, in her hand—
Clenched, till the knuckles whiten with their
And the blood blackens 'neath the nails that nip—
The sword set sharp as is her red-edged lip:
And in her eyes the lightnings that should break
In blinding, black, irreparable wreck:—
Rending their roof to heaven, their walls to earth,
(The sorer travail the more glorious birth!)
An Earthquake crash! the edifice is crowned,
And there's a heap of ruin on the ground!—
Arise, to sweep them from her onward path,
Stern as the Spectre of God's whitest wrath.
Even while they clutched the gains of their foul
And parted them, I heard the Avengers say—
'They plant in dust a breath will blow away,
Although they wet it well with blood to-day.
"'Ay, Traitor, mount your topmost pinnacle.
The merry-making Heavens would mark you well,
Where all the gazers of the world may see
You throned upon the peak of infamy!' So crooned the implacable ministers of Fate, Standing in shadow where they watch and wait. "'Well done. Now place the crown upon your brow,
With its brave glitter all eyes dazzle now:
Lost in its splendour is that frightful stain
Branded beneath; the murder-mark of Cain!' So crooned the implacable ministers of Fate, Standing in shadow where they watch and wait. "'Well done. Now fold the Imperial Purple round,
And let a Pope's Anointed, robed and crowned, Thus glorify the blood so basely spilt; Thus image to all time the loftiest guilt.' So crooned the implacable ministers of Fate, Standing in shadow where they watch and wait. "'Well done, thou faithful servant. Hell shall rise
From half her thrones to offer you their prize,
And meet you coming; greet you with a kiss
Of benison, for such a deed as this!' So crooned the implacable ministers of Fate, Standing in shadow where they watch and wait."
"Was Satan sent from heaven to ruin earth?"
I asked, "or what the story of his birth?"
"Both heaven and hell are from the human race,
And every soul projects its future place:
Long shadows of ourselves are thrown before,
To wait our coming on the eternal shore.
These either clothe us with eclipse and night,
Or, as we enter them, are lost in light.
"We look on Evil as the shadow dark
Of the reflected bridge; the nether Arc,
That makes some perfect circle of night and day,
Through which our river of life runs on its way
To that wide sea where, all Time-shadows past,
It shall but mirror one clear heaven at last.
"There is no Devil such as Milton saw;
No fallen Angel's eyes divined the flaw
In God's work, whereby Man might be accursed.
The Devil was a murderer from the first,
Was said of old. But it was softly nursed
Up from a babe in arms. A little seed
Of sin was sown that grew with little heed.
By door or window little sins will win
A way that widens for the larger sin,
As tiniest lichens, climbing up the wall,
May lend a hand to help the Ivy crawl
That is to tower a conqueror over all
The house in ruin, crumbling to the fall.
Once life is set in motion there upspring
Infinite issues to the smallest thing.
A finger's breadth in swerving as we start
May land us in the end two worlds apart.
"Our parents were not tempted by a Tree
That hung out luscious fruitage, visibly
Held in God's hand, on purpose to beguile
Their simpleness with its suggesting smile.
Take this as symbol of a world within;
There was the serpent born, there bred the
The trees that midmost in the Garden stood,
Took root in soul and blossomed in the blood.
Nor were they left without the inward light,
The starry presence shining through your night,
That shows the wrong while it reveals the
The magnet in the soul that points on through
All tempests and still trembles to be true.
"The still small voice within cried
'Do not this,
Or it will lead from me, and ye will miss
The innocent brightness of your morning bliss,
And long in a wild wilderness will stray,
Farther and farther from the primal way,
Until ye lose me, darkling in a cloud
Of your own making, winding like a shroud
About the life I gave; nor feel me near
When ye do call and think there's none to hear.'
"And yet men dally with the thought of wrong
Until they do it: looking down too long,
Like him who, on a perilous mountain ledge,
Gazes upon the gulf, dark o'er the edge,
Till he grows dizzy, and, with brain a-swim,
Forgetting to look up—drops! Or, like him
Who stood and watched that Titan, face to face,
The vast Steam-Hammer, with its monster mace,
Until the blows of its recurrent sound
Snapped his last trembling hold of things around;
Mazed him and drew him nigher, slip by slip,
To thrust his hand into its crushing grip.
"They dallied with wrong-doing, and it grew
Too strong to wrestle with, and overthrew.
Eyes play with Pleasure! Looking overmuch
Sets all the blood a-tingle for the touch!
How the fruit smiles, delicious to the eyes;
How quietly the Snake behind it lies,—
The Beast that in the man erect and crowned
Tends ever to go grovelling on the ground,—
With all his weight bending the branch down near;
The reptile music, sliding through the ear,
Winds round the soul, makes it a-tiptoe stand
With love-sick longing till it lifts the hand
To pluck, and feel, and smell, and taste just one
Ripe Apple, whose gold glistens so i' the sun!
But one step over the forbidden marge;
The sin so little, the delight so large!
"Thus is the Devil born: born every day,
Harmless at first as toothless whelps at play;
Is born in thoughts which are the quick live
That will be striving to take shape in deeds;
So would be born could any race begin
Afresh; so form the protoplasm of Sin,
The pustule raised at just a prick of pin;
The nest-egg which the Devil is hatched in.
For Man, the outcome of Creation's past,
Is flower of all earth's life from first to last:
No lower life hath ever passed away
But left its larvæ in the human clay.
No reptile of the slime, no beast of prey,
But human passions personate to-day.
And these break loose to rend in deadly strife,
And will break loose, till, in the higher life,
The soul arisen to her immortal stature
Leads, Una-like, these grim necessities of Nature.
"To picture what I mean: see here, a Wife,
With bosom just a-brood o'er life-in-life,
Who in a fury-fit snatched up a knife
And hurled it at her husband. 'Twas a miss,
Though near enough to hear Death's arrow hiss!
She had not dyed her hand in human blood,
But she had dipped her Unborn in a flood
Of wrath that surged and smoked and flashed
Given her babe baptism in the Devil's name:
Stained the pure thing of heaven a lurid hue
With fume o' the pit, the white star reddened
And from that Mother-stricken life there grew
A Murderer whose own hand that Mother slew.
"The ghosts of our own crimes long-buried will
Live after us and haunt our children still.
Our vices, hid for generations past,
Break out and blab their secret tale at last.
"BUT Earth is not the Devil's merry-go-round.
The Angels of the Lord are ever found
Encamped about the soul that looks to Him:
These are an inner lamp when all is dim
Without, they light poor souls through horrors
Even as a myriad sunbeams hour by hour
Melt to make rich one little summer flower;
Or as a myriad souls of flowers fleet
Away to make a single summer sweet—
So many spirits make one smile of God
That feeds your life transfiguring from its clod.
There is no lack of Angel-carriers
When mortals post to heaven their fervent prayers!
And these are happy in their work, for still
They find their heaven in doing the Father's will.
The Blessèd do not leave some happy seat
When they draw near ye upon silent feet.
They have no need to thread their starry way
Through worlds of night, or wilderness of day.
Spirit to Spirit hath not far to run,
Because in God all souls are verily one
Throughout all worlds: there are no walls of
Where all eternity is dwelling-place.
"Distance is nothing in the world of Thought;
So in the world of Spirit space is nought.
You hear of dying men whose souls have been
Present with distant friends; most surely seen
Before the breathing ceased; for they were there
In Thought so fixed, intense, that, on the air,
Their lineaments the utter yearning wrought,
In spiritual apparition of their thought,
Till they grew visible. This Murderer dwells
In Spirit where his Thought is—hottest Hell's
For him where his infernal deed was done!
The blood effaced so safely from the sun
Hath stained right through beyond this world of
Red to the other side, with his old crime.
He does not merely come and go; he is
All presence to the proofs and witnesses.
"Spirits may touch you, being, as you would say,
A hundred thousand million miles away.
Those wires that wed the Old World with the
And do your bidding hidden out of view,
Are not the only links Mind lightens through!
The Angels, singing in their heaven above,
Feel when ye strike the unison of love.
The prayers of heaven fall in a blessèd rain
On souls that parch in purgatorial pain.
Desires uplift from earth with a sense of wings,
Poor souls that drift as helpless outcast things.
"A luminiferous motion of the soul
Pervades the universe, and makes the whole
Vast realm of Being one;—all breathing breath
Of the same life that is fulfilled in death,
And human spirits, from their earthy bound,
Can thrill the Immortals, in their crystal round,
Like flames that leap to a point at some sweet
As though they rose on tiptoe listening;
And set the farthest heavens vibrating,
As air will dance close to a live harpstring.
"God, the Creator, doth not sit aloof,
As in a picture painted on the roof,
Occasionally looking down from thence.
He is all presence and all providence;
Sentient in whatsoever life may draw
Breath from Him, and, beyond, He lives in law.
He doth not sit at one end of the chain
Of Being, thrilling it now and again;
He who is Being and doth bound and bind
Its particles in the Eternal Mind.
Outside His providence we cannot stand.
His presence makes the smallest room expand
Wider than wings of Day and Night e'er fanned.
I who am here, His Messenger, to-night,
But bring that presence to a point in light.
We are the agencies, the living laws,
Whereby Creation is eternal Cause.
"This human life is no mere looking-glass,
In which God sees His shadows as you pass.
He did not start the pendulum of Time,
To go by Law, with one great swing sublime;
Resting Himself in lonely joy apart:
But to each pulse of life is beating heart.
And, as a parent sensitive, is stirred
By falling sparrow, or heart-wingèd word.
"As the Babe's life within the Mother's, dim
And deaf, you dwell in God, a-dream of Him
Ye stir and put forth feelers which are clasped
By airy hands, and higher life is grasped
As yet but darkly. Life is in the root
And looking heavenward, from the ladder-foot.
Wingless as worms, with earthiness fast bound,
Up which ye mount but slowly, round on round.
Long climbing brings ye to the Father's knee;
Ye open gladsome eyes at last to see
That face of Love ye felt so inwardly.
"In this vast universe of worlds no waif
Of spirit looks to Him but floateth safe.
No prayer so lowly but is heard on high;
And if a soul should sigh, and lift an eye,
That soul is kept from sinking with a sigh.
"All life, down to the worm beneath the sod,
Hath spiritual relationships to God—
The Life of Life, the love of all, in all;
Lord of the large and infinitely small.
"Birds find their home across the pathless sea
By no hereditary memory.
From land to land they move, their way illumed
By the inflowing Love that bore them, plumed
For flight, through which the Mother Bird is
To know which youngling had the last worm
The Insect led to garner food in nook
For young, on which it never lives to look.
"The veriest atoms, even as worlds above,
Are bridal chambers of creative Love,
Quick with the motion that suspends the whole
Of Matter spiral-spinning toward Soul.
A spirit of life rides every tiny grain
Of flower-seed flying through the air, for rain
And wind to feed until its heavenly Sower
Drops it to earth and it takes form,—a flower!
And nothing is, but groping turns to Him,
Like babe to bosom, though the sight be dim:
Nothing but what reflects in some faint wise
The image that is God in Angel eyes—
The Infinite One, whose likeness we but see
Glassed in the Infinite of Variety:
Just as the waters fix a fluttering beam,
Caught in this chamber, and, with golden gleam,
Throw on the ceiling, limned in little, one
Pale image of the glory of the Sun!
"No seed of life blown down a dark abysm
Of earth or sea but feels the magnetism
That draws us Godward! Flowers sunk in mines,
Or plants in ocean, where no sunbeam shines,
Will blindly climb up toward their Deity,
Far off in Heaven, whom they can never see.
"There is a Spirit of Life within the Tree
That's fed and clothed from Heaven continually,
And does not draw all nourishment from earth.
It puts a myriad tender feelers forth,
That breathe in heaven and turn the breath to sap:
In every leaf it spreads a tiny lap
To take its manna from the hand of God,
And gather force for fingers 'neath the sod
To clutch the earth with; moulds, from sun and
Its leaves; with spirit-life feeds every vein,
And through each vein makes wood for bough and
Girth for the bole, and rootage down the dark.
"So Man is fed by God and lives in Him:
Not merely nourished by his rootage dim
In a far Past; a dead world underground,
But spirit to spirit reaches life all round.
"Creative heat is current in the soul
From ages past, like sunshine in the coal,
Some fire of heaven in fossil stored away,
But spirit-life yet kindles at the ray
Warm from our Sun that shines for us to-day!
"Not in one primal Man before the Fall
Did God set life a-breathing once for all,
He is the breath of life from first to last;
He liveth in the Present as the Past.
But ye, like rowers, turn your eyes behind;
Ye look Without, and vainly feel to find,
Raised in relief, like letters for the blind,
The substance of that Glory in the mind.
"Hints of the higher life, the better day,
Visit the human soul, outlining aye
The perfect statue now rough-cast in clay;
And with a mournful sigh ye think and say,
' This is the type that was, and passed away!'
God holds a flower to you, it only yields
The fragrance fading from forgotten fields.
' Ah, only Eden could have wafted it!'
Immortal imagery His hand hath writ
Within ye is with revelation lit
By secret shinings of the Infinite.
' These are but glimmers of a glory gone!'
I tell you they are prophecies of dawn,
And glimpses of the life that still goes on.
Man hath not fall'n from Heaven, nor been cast
Out from some Golden Age lived in the Past!
His fall is from the possible Life before ye:
His fall is from the Crown of Life held o'er ye:
The falling short from an impending glory!
Ye stoop by Corpse-light, groping on the ground,
And lo! the living God, a-shine all round!
Even while I speak there is a quickening,
The unrest of a world that feels the spring;
The crust o' the Letter cracks; new life takes
A strong ground-swell will heave, a wave will
The Eternal grows more visibly awake.
"Upon the verge of sunrise ye but stand—
The door of life just open in your hand.
Behind you is the slip of space ye passed;
Before you an illimitable vast.
Not backward point the footprints that ye trace
Of those who ran the foremost in the race,
With light of God full-shining on their face!
Look up, as Children of the Light, and see
That ye are bound for immortality,
Not passing FROM it: Heirs of Heaven ye,
Not Exiles. God reverses human growth
For spirits; they go ripening toward youth
For ever. The fair Garden that still gleams
Across the desert, miraged in your dreams,
Smiles from the spirit, rather than the sod,
Wherever hallowed feet of Love have trod;
Wherever souls yet walk and talk with God.
And Heaven is as near Earth now as when
The Angels visibly conversed with Men.
'Neath human roofs still stoopeth the Divine
Closer than ever; makes the heart its shrine.
"God hath been gradually forming Man
In His own image since the world began,
And is for ever working on the soul,
Like Sculptor on his Statue, till the whole
Expression of the upward life be wrought
Into some semblance of the Eternal Thought.
Race after Race hath caught its likeness of
The Maker as the eyes grew large with love.
"You ask me ' how the lamp of life burns on
When all that visibly fed the flame is gone?'
"Man does not live alone by visible breath,
And He who brings to life will lead through death.
Wait yet a little while, and ye shall see
The flame was breathed on; fed invisibly:
And that its motion springs with force seven-fold
When the life-heat is clashed against Death's cold.
"You think of spirit as prison-walled about
By substance, marvelling how it can get out!
But to my vision radiates the soul
Through body; by its pulses lights the whole
With life, and makes it luminous as the glass
Through which you see but only in spirit pass.
The wee babe nestled in the Mother's lap,
Feels her soul radiate in love, and wrap
It softly in the very heart of bliss,
And draw all heaven through it in a kiss.
"As chalk is formed at bottom of the sea
From life that sheds its shell continually;
As bones are built up out of life's decay,
The body is shaped of substance sloughed away
From soul in ripening: 'tis a husk which yields
The earthy scaffold whereby spirit builds
Its heavenly house, that stands when the world-
Is made of dropped and perished human dust.
Spirit is Lord and Master at the death,
As in beginning, of its house of breath.
And from it the new shape is surely given,
When visible form fades, cloud-like, into Heaven.
"Man does not live alone by hunger and drouth,
But by the breath which kindles from love's
'Tis breathing spirit makes the body breathe,
And sets in outer type the life beneath.
So print makes visible the unseen thought
To pass away, the miracle being wrought.
Life is an inner energy, unfurled
In visible shows from an invisible world;
Still fed and fed from that Almighty force
Of which no science yet hath grasped the source,
Whose infant germ from the dead seed reborn,
Is greater than a realm of ripened corn.
Like worlds warmed into being by their Sun,
Ye are embodied by the rays that run
Mysteriously across a gulf of night;
A bridge of spirit laid in beams of light.
And that which is the centre of the blaze
Travels in life unseen along the rays.
The book will pass; the living Mind works on;
The Visible fades; still shines the Eternal sun.
"I tell you these things are: I may not show
You how: there's much the senses cannot know.
Who knows the links of that invisible chain
Which runs from soul to soul, from brain to
Whereby thought passes into other thought,
And out of sound its silent shape is wrought?
You see the miracle done before your eyes,
And in the flash of spirit to spirit dies
The common daylight: visual sense is blind
To see how Matter is made quick by Mind.
And there's a power in the hidden soul
To pass in at the eyes and print its whole
Self, in a picture finished infinitely
Beyond the portrait that the eyes can see.
Eyes ne'er behold your own souls face to face:
Your real selves invisibly embrace.
"You know not how a prayer ascends to God.
You saw no ladder Angel-feet e'er trod
In answer; hear no door turn on the hinge
When heaven opens, or the hells impinge
Upon the soul with their suggestion dark.
Good spirits help, but how you cannot mark:
The bridge is still invisible that doth span
Your known and unknown: reach from God to
"With labours infinite your Science seeks
Footing on inaccessible cloud-peaks.
Yet, must the Climbers know that there are things
Only attainable at last with wings;
That skies will not be scaled howe'er they clasp
The solid rock; that heaven thus mocks their
On these they may not speak the final word.
On these the great Hereafter must be heard.
At best Man doth but darkly draw his light:
Each step ye take, each secret wrest from Night,
Must furnish food for faith as well as sight.
"The more ye feel the chain whereby ye are spanned,
The more its missing links elude the hand.
So Saturn's perfect rings, when, closer seen,
Are broken with dark gaps of night between!
Nor can ye more than mark the Visible shine
And in the gloom accept the Hand Divine.
"Live fruitfully the life ye may possess
With rootage beyond reach of consciousness,
And wait till the Unseen in flower blows.
"To find what gems lie hidden where it grows
Ye must not pluck the plant up by the root.
Wait till its treasures hang in precious fruit.
Nor shall we see within the seed concealed
That world of wonder by the flower revealed!
"There is no pathway Man hath ever trod
By faith or seeking sight but ends in God.
Yet 'tis in vain ye look Without to find
The inner secrets of the Eternal Mind,
Or meet the King on His external Throne.
But when ye kneel at heart, and feel so lone,
Perchance behind the veil you get the grip
And spirit-sign of secret fellowship;
Silently as the gathering of a tear
The human want will bring the helper near:
The very weakness, that is utterest need
Of God, will draw Him down with strength
"Enough to know ye live because He lives!
And love, because in love Himself He gives!
The gift is ever held sufficient sign
There is a Giver! And if it be Divine
And like the Heaven ye dream, but may not see,
Giver Divine and Heaven there must be.
"Lean nearer to the Heart that beats through night:
Its curtain of the dark your veil of light.
Peace Halcyon-like to founded Faith is given,
And it can float on a reflected Heaven
Surely as Knowledge that doth rest at last
Isled on its 'Atom' in the unfathomed vast
Life-ocean, heaving through the infinite,
From out whose dark the shows of being flit,
In flashes of the climbing wave's white crest:
Some few a moment luminous o'er the rest!"
The voice ceased: the form faded in the beam
Of dawn, that swam down like the gladsome gleam
Of heaven to him who struggles, nearly drowned,
And melts to a gold mist the dim green round,
And draws him lifeward from the gulf profound.
Who hath not marked how graciously the Dawn
Comes smiling when some stormy night hath gone?
As Beauty lifts the heaven of her eyes
Full on you large with their serene surprise
That you should dream such gentleness could dart
The looks that hurt you to the very heart!
Calm eyes, that through luxurious reaches roll
The richness of their rest upon the soul. So comes the Morning; new heavens rise above,
And open wider arms of larger love
Than ever: glad blue Ether, with the bliss
Of sunshine, laughs and kindles at its kiss.
There lie the tears of tempest, softly-bright
As Heaven had only rained in drops of light.
The air, an overflow of Heaven's own balm,
Nought but Earth's music breaks the divine calm. Yet that same Morning looks on ruin and wreck,
And soothes a sea that lifeless swept the deck
Of some proud ship, and glorifies the wave
That landward heaves the mariner's glassy grave;
Playfully rippling, shoaling goldenly o'er
Dead seamen dimly drifting to the shore!
Terribly innocent, Morning laughs on high,
While Ocean rocks them with its lullaby. So came the Morning, smiling, crowned with calm,
After my night of trouble, breathing balm.
Fair Earth with all her night-long-tearful eyes
A-sparkle with the soul of new sunrise!
On every blade there hung a drop of dew,
And every drop a live star shimmered through:
All phantoms of the night by shadowy stealth
Retired with Darkness from our world of health;
All life unshrouded, to Heaven's influence bare,
Took wings of morning in the open air.
Our world, a warm safe nest of happy souls,
Basked in the brightness as the lily lolls
In whiteness bosomed on the sunny stream,
Whose ripples lip her where she lies a-dream. The stream, that crept a river of death by night,
Full of dark secrets, ran a river of light!
Such sense of rest to all glad things was given,
As earth were cradle to the peace of heaven.
A more than common freshness fed the breath
Of being; there was no least taint of death.
My nightmare over, I would dream no more
Of murder and the charnel at life's core;
Or nameless creatures that may haunt old graves
Bat-like, and flit from out lone, twilight caves.
Green earth, glad heaven, gladly vied to win
Thought out-of-doors, yet would it brood within,
Sullen and shy as fish that will not rise
To any tempting lure of feathered flies,
But haunt the pool where, horribly quiet, lies
A dead child, with its wide-awake blue eyes. Lonely I wandered in my garden-ground,
Musing on Life, the Death's-head rosily crowned,
And of the mystery that shrouds us round,
And of the mournful possibility
That, in some blindness, we may lose the key
Which to the keeping of each soul is given
To ope the door, and so be shut from Heaven;
Raking the ashes and the dust of death,
Long after we have done with human breath;
And of the features printed on my brain
In vision that would evermore remain,
And, any instant, sinister and swart,
From out the light, at turn of eye, might start;
And I should see him! as 'neath the Tunnel's arc,
Where, down the shaft, day lightens through the dark,
Some chosen victim momently may mark
His murderer, with those snaky eyes at work
Fixed on him; in whose spark malignant lurk
Cold fires of death drawn inward for the spring;
The dagger-flash leaps in their glittering! So, till its horrors almost lived to sight,
My spirit brooded o'er the bygone night;
Reflecting all the strife in upper air,
As you have seen, by some sea-margin, where
The circling sea-bird hovers, dreamily slow,
In likeness of the wave that sways below,
The Spirit of its motion on the wing:
Over that night my mind kept hovering.
At length the growing image of my thought
To some such final shape as this was wrought— From end to end of things we may not see,
Nor square the circle of Eternity;
But, I can not believe in endless hell
And heaven side by side. How could one dwell
Among the Saved, for thinking of the Lost?
With such a lot the Blest would suffer most.
Sitting at feast all in a Golden Home,
That towered over dungeon-grates of Doom,
My heart would ache for all the lost that go
To wail and weep in everlasting woe:
Through all the music I must hear the moan,
Too sharp for all the harps of Heaven to drown. I cannot think of Life apart from Him
Who is the life, from cell to Seraphim:
And, if Hell flame unquenchably, must be
The life of hell to all eternity!
A God of Love must expiate the stain
Of Sin Himself, by suffering endless pain;
Sit with eternal desolation round
His feet; His head with happy heavens crowned. From Him the strength immortal must be sent,
By which the soul could bear the punishment.
I cannot think He gave us power to wring
From one brief life eternal suffering:
And prove the Infinite's own limiting!
If this were so the Heavens must surely weep,
Till Hell were drowned in one salt vast, sea- deep.
Forgive me, Lord, if wrongly I divine;
I dare not think Thy pity less than mine. I cannot image Heaven as Triumph-Car,
That rolleth red and reeking from the war,
Upborne on wheels of torture whirling round
With writhing souls for ever broke and bound! God save me from that Heaven of the Elect,
Who half rejoice to count the numbers wrecked,
Because, such full weight to the balance given,
Sends up the scale that lands them safe in heaven;
Who some fallen Angel would devoutly greet
And praise the Lord for another vacant seat,
And the proud Saved, exulting, soar the higher,
The lower that the Lost sank in hell-fire. I think Heaven will not shut for evermore,
Without a knocker left upon the door,
Lest some belated wanderer should come
Heart-broken, asking just to die at home,
So that the Father will at last forgive,
And looking on His face that soul shall live.
I think there will be Watchmen through the night,
Lest any, afar off, turn them to the light;
That He who loved us into life must be
A Father infinitely Fatherly,
And, groping for Him, these shall find their way
From outer dark, through twilight, into day.
I could not sing the song of Harvest Home,
Thinking of those poor souls that never come;
I could not joy for Harvest gathered in,
If any souls, like tares and twitch of sin,
Were flung out by the Farmer to the fire,
Whose smoke of torment, rising high and higher,
Should fill the universe for evermore.
I could not dance along the crystal floor
Through which the damned looked up at Paradise,
For ever fixed, like fishes frozen in ice. Such mournful eyes from out their night would gleam
And haunt for ever all my happy dream!
I could not take my fill for thinking of
Those empty places in the heart of Love. The New World's poorest emigrant will lend
A kindly hand to help a poorer friend.
And I must pray to God from out my bliss
For those who are beyond all help but His—
Pray and repray, the same old prayer anew;
Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do.
Because they were so utterly accurst,
Self-doomed, that bitterness would be the worst.
O look down on them from Thy place above,
The look of pity, Lord, half-way to love! Mere human love, in this, its narrow sphere,
Can never think of those it once held dear,
Who, down the darkened way will pull apart,
But with a pitying eye, an aching heart.
And still, as less the beckoning hand they heed,
The strength of Love grows with their greater need;
The less they heed, the more it yearns to save.
And shall this love be dwarfed beyond the grave,
To lose, on wings, its feet-attainèd height?
Better its blindness, than the eye of light
That coldly down on endless hell could glance
With all its mortal sympathies in trance. Or will some Lethean wave the soul caress,
And numb it into dull forgetfulness;
Washing away all memory of distress
That others feel, while we but lift the hand
To pluck and eat the lotus of the land,
And those far wailings of the world of tears
Come mellowed into music for our ears,
With just the zestful dash of discord given,
That makes the pleasure pungent—perfects Heaven? 'Tis hard to read the Handwriting Divine;
The vanishing up-stroke so invisibly fine!
There must be issues that we do not see.
The whole horizon of Futurity
Is nowise visible from where we stand;
We are but dwellers in a lowly land:
We think the sun doth set, the sun doth rise,
And yet our world's but turning in the skies.
Seen from our lower level there must pass
Mysteries, so high and starry, we but glass
Them darkly, as we strain our mortal sight,
While 'twixt our souls and them there stands the night.
And then we scratch upon our window-pane,
Dimming its clearness, and we are so fain
To read our own imaginations fond,
For the true figures of the world beyond.
We model from the human life, and so
Feature the future from the face we know.
'Tis always sunless one side of our globe,
And thus we fashion the Eternal's robe.
God made Man in His image, but our plan's
To mould and make God's image in the Man's;
And if my thought be human as the rest,
At least the likeness shall be Man's at best. Our Science grasps with its transforming hand;
Makes real half the tales of wonder-land.
We turn the deathliest fetor to perfume;
We give decay new life and rosy bloom;
Change filthy rags to paper virgin white;
Make pure in spirit what was foul to sight.
Even dead, recoiling force, to a fairy gift
Of help is turned, and taught to deftly lift.
How can we think God hath no crucible
Save some Black Country of a burning Hell?
Or the great ocean of Almighty power,
No scope to take the life-stream from our shore,
Muddy and dark, and make it pure once more? Dear God, it seems to me that Love must be
The Missionary of Eternity!
Must still find work, in worlds beyond the grave,
So long as there's a single soul to save;
Gather the jewels that flash Godward in
The dark, down-trodden, toad-like head of Sin;
That all divergent lines at length will meet,
To make the clasping round of Love complete;
The rift 'twixt Sense and Spirit will be healed,
Before creation's work is crowned and sealed;
Evil shall die like dung about the root
Of Good, or climb converted into fruit!
The discords cease, and all their strife shall be
Resolved in one vast peaceful harmony:
That all these accidents of Time and breath
Shall bear no black seal of a Second Death:
And, freed from branding heats that burn in Time,
The lost Black Race shall whiten in that clime:
All blots of error bleached in Heaven's sight;
All life's perplexing colours lost in light:
That Thou hast power to work out every stain,
That purifying is the end of Pain;
And, waking, we shall know what we but dream
Dimly, our darkness touched by morning's gleam;
There is no punishment but to redeem;
And here, or There, the penitent thrill must leaven
The earthiest soul, and wing it toward Heaven;
That when the Angel-Reapers shall up-sheave
The harvest, Angel-Gleaners will not leave
One least small grain of good—and there are none
So evil but some precious germ lives on,—
The grimiest gutter crawling by the way
Still hath its reflex of the face of Day;
And all the seeds divine foredoomed by fate
To bear blind blossoms here shall germinate,
And have another chance, in other place,
Where tears of gratitude and dews of grace
Shall warm and quicken to the feeblest root,
Till in Thy garden they are ripe for fruit:
For all who have made shipwreck on that shore
Another outfit and one venture more.
So shall we find the Dark of our old Earth
Twin with the eternal Daylight from the birth,
And trodden in the grave-dust we shall see
The serpent-symbol of Eternity,
That only maketh ends meet, head and tail,
A world all blessing with a world all bale. Thus, in its maze, my mind went round and round,—
Like him, lost in the Bush, who thought he found
The pathway that he sought, because he beat
His track with constant tread of his own feet,—
As round the dew-drenched garden-walks I went
Till, pausing, all unconscious of intent,
Nigh where a greenery of Syringas grew,
And, shedding shadow round, there leaned a Yew,—
Sombrely-ancient watcher by the tomb!
A Nest of Thrushes the live heart o' the gloom;
I saw the earth was cracked, where recent rain
Had crushed and crumbled in a new-made drain,
And human bones were plainly peering through,
As if Death grinned and show'd a tooth or two!
I searched, and, ere the ghastly work was done,
Had gathered half a tiny skeleton,
That had been once a Child.
And then it came
On me that in my dream I saw the same,
And had been warned to calcine them in flame,
And pound them small as is the finest rust,
And on the winds of heaven fling the dust.
I did it, and, although that soul, self-cursed,
Still walks the darkness, we had passed the worst,
And there was peace o' nights at the Haunted Hurst.