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- In Divers Tones - 5/14 -


If beauty flies, fain would I vanish too.

CONCERNING CUTHBERT THE MONK.

Cuthbert, open! Let me in! Cease your praying for a minute! Here the darkness seems to grin, Holds a thousand horrors in it; Down the stony corridor Footsteps pace the stony floor.

Here they foot it, pacing slow, Monk-like, one behind another!-- Don't you hear me? Don't you know I'm a little nervous, Brother? Won't you speak? Then, by your leave, Here's a guest for Christmas Eve!

Shrive me, but I got a fright! Monks of centuries ago Wander back to see to-night How the old place looks.--Hello! This the kind of watch you keep! Come to pray--and go to sleep!

Ah, this mortal flesh is weak! Who is saintly there's no saying. Here are tears upon his cheek, And he sleeps that should be praying;-- Sleeps, and dreams, and murmurs. Nay, I'll not wake you.--Sleep away!

Holy saints, the night is keen! How the nipping wind does drive Through yon tree-tops, bare and lean, Till their shadow seems alive,-- Patters through the bars, and falls, Shivering, on the floor and walls!

How yon patch of freezing sky Echoes back their bell-ringings! Down in the gray city, nigh Severn, every steeple swings. All the busy streets are bright. Many folk are out to-night.

--What's that, Brother? Did you speak?-- Christ save them that talk in sleep! Smile they howsoever meek, Somewhat in their hearts they keep. We, good souls, what shifts we make To keep talking whilst awake!

Christ be praised, that fetched me in Early, yet a youngling, while All unlearned in life and sin, Love and travail, grief and guile! For your world of two-score years, Cuthbert, all you have is tears.

Dreaming, still he hears the bells As he heard them years ago, Ere he sought our quiet cells Iron-mouthed and wrenched with woe, Out of what dread storms who knows-- Faithfulest of friends and foes!

Faithful was he, aye, I ween, Pitiful, and kind, and wise; But in mindful moods I've seen Flame enough in those sunk eyes! Praised be Christ, whose timely Hand Plucked from out the fire this brand!

Now in dreams he's many miles Hence, he's back in Ireland. Ah, how tenderly he smiles, Stretching a caressing hand! Backward now his memory glides To old happy Christmas-tides.

Now once more a loving wife Holds him; now he sees his boys, Smiles at all their playful strife, All their childish mirth and noise; Softly now she strokes his hair.-- Ah, their world is very fair!

--Waking, all your loss shall be Unforgotten evermore! Sleep alone holds these for thee. Sleep then, Brother!--To restore All your heaven that has died Heaven and Hell may be too wide!

Sleep, and dream, and be awhile Happy, Cuthbert, once again! Soon you'll wake, and cease to smile, And your heart will sink with pain. You will hear the merry town,-- And a weight will press you down.

Hungry-hearted, you will see Only the thin shadows fall From yon bleak-topped poplar-tree,-- Icy fingers on the wall. You will watch them come and go, Telling o'er your count of woe.

--Nay, now, hear me, how I prate! I, a foolish monk, and old, Maundering o'er a life and fate To me unknown, by you untold! Yet I know you're like to weep Soon, so, Brother, this night sleep.

IMPULSE.

A hollow on the verge of May. Thick strewn with drift of leaves. Beneath The densest drift a thrusting sheath Of sharp green striving toward the day! I mused--"So dull Obstruction sets A bar to even violets, When these would go their nobler way!"

My feet again, some days gone by. The self-same spot sought idly. There, Obstruction foiled, the adoring air Caressed a blossom woven of sky And dew, whose misty petals blue, With bliss of being thrilled athrough, Dilated like a timorous eye.

Reck well this rede, my soul! The good The blossom craved was near, tho' hid. Fret not that thou must doubt, but rid Thy sky-path of obstructions strewed By winds of folly. Then, do thou The Godward impulse room allow To reach its perfect air and food!

THE ISLES--AN ODE.

I.

Faithful reports of them have reached me oft! Many their embassage to mortal court, By golden pomp, and breathless-heard consort Of music soft-- By fragrances accredited, and dreams. Many their speeding herald, whose light feet Make pause at wayside brooks, and fords of streams, Leaving transfigured by an effluence fleet Those wayfarers they meet.

II.

No wind from out the solemn wells of night But hath its burden of strange messages, Tormenting for interpreter; nor less The wizard light That steals from noon-stilled waters, woven in shade, Beckons somewhither, with cool fingers slim. No dawn but hath some subtle word conveyed In rose ineffable at sunrise rim, Or charactery dim.

III.

One moment throbs the hearing, yearns the sight. But tho' not far, yet strangely hid--the way, And our sense slow; nor long for us delay The guides their flight! The breath goes by; the word, the light, elude; And we stay wondering. But there comes an hour Of fitness perfect and unfettered mood, When splits her husk the finer sense with power, And--yon their palm-trees tower!

IV.

Here Homer came, and Milton came, tho' blind. Omar's deep doubts still found them nigh and nigher, And learned them fashioned to the heart's desire. The supreme mind Of Shakspere took their sovereignty, and smiled. Those passionate Israelitish lips that poured The Song of Songs attained them; and the wild Child-heart of Shelley, here from strife restored, Remembers not life's sword.


In Divers Tones - 5/14

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