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- Music and Other Poems - 6/10 -
And fanned the fire of love to clearest flame.
I would not even ask my heart to say If I could love some other land as well As thee, my country, had I felt the spell Of Italy at birth, or learned to obey The charm of France, or England's mighty sway. I would not be so much an infidel As once to dream, or fashion words to tell, What land could hold my love from thee away.
For like a law of nature in my blood I feel thy sweet and secret sovereignty, And woven through my soul thy vital sign. My life is but a wave, and thou the flood; I am a leaf and thou the mother-tree; Nor should I be at all, were I not thine.
A LEGEND OF SERVICE
It pleased the Lord of Angels (praise His name!) To hear, one day, report from those who came With pitying sorrow, or exultant joy, To tell of earthly tasks in His employ: For some were sorry when they saw how slow The stream of heavenly love on earth must flow; And some were glad because their eyes had seen, Along its banks, fresh flowers and living green. So, at a certain hour, before the throne The youngest angel, Asmiel, stood alone; Nor glad, nor sad, but full of earnest thought, And thus his tidings to the Master brought: "Lord, in the city Lupon I have found "Three servants of thy holy name, renowned "Above their fellows. One is very wise, "With thoughts that ever range above the skies; "And one is gifted with the golden speech "That makes men glad to hear when he will teach; "And one, with no rare gift or grace endued, "Has won the people's love by doing good. "With three such saints Lupon is trebly blest; "But, Lord, I fain would know, which loves Thee best?"
Then spake the Lord of Angels, to whose look The hearts of all are like an open book: "In every soul the secret thought I read, "And well I know who loves me best indeed. "But every life has pages vacant still, "Whereon a man may write the thing he will; "Therefore I read in silence, day by day, "And wait for hearts untaught to learn my way. "But thou shalt go to Lupon, to the three "Who serve me there, and take this word from me: "Tell each of them his Master bids him go "Alone to Spiran's huts, across the snow; "There he shall find a certain task for me: "But what, I do not tell to them nor thee. "Give thou the message, make my word the test, "And crown for me the one who answers best." Silent the angel stood, with folded hands, To take the imprint of his Lord's commands; Then drew one breath, obedient and elate, And passed, the self-same hour, through Lupon's gate.
First to the Temple door he made his way; And there, because it was an holy-day, He saw the folk by thousands thronging, stirred By ardent thirst to hear the preacher's word. Then, while the echoes murmured Bernol's name, Through aisles that hushed behind him, Bernol came; Strung to the keenest pitch of conscious might, With lips prepared and firm, and eyes alight. One moment at the pulpit steps he knelt In silent prayer, and on his shoulder felt The angel's hand: --"The Master bids thee go "Alone to Spiran's huts, across the snow, "To serve Him there." Then Bernol's hidden face Went white as death, and for about the space Of ten slow heart-beats there was no reply; Till Bernol looked around and whispered, "WHY?" But answer to his question came there none; The angel sighed, and with a sigh was gone.
Within the humble house where Malvin spent His studious years, on holy things intent, Sweet stillness reigned; and there the angel found The saintly sage immersed in thought profound, Weaving with patient toil and willing care A web of wisdom, wonderful and fair: A seamless robe for Truth's great bridal meet, And needing but one thread to be complete. Then Asmiel touched his hand, and broke the thread Of fine-spun thought, and very gently said, "The One of whom thou thinkest bids thee go "Alone to Spiran's huts, across the snow, "To serve Him there." With sorrow and surprise Malvin looked up, reluctance in his eyes. The broken thought, the strangeness of the call, The perilous passage of the mountain-wall, The solitary journey, and the length Of ways unknown, too great for his frail strength, Appalled him. With a doubtful brow He scanned the doubtful task, and muttered "HOW?" But Asmiel answered, as he turned to go, With cold, disheartened voice, "I do not know."
Now as he went, with fading hope, to seek The third and last to whom God bade him speak, Scarce twenty steps away whom should he meet But Fermor, hurrying cheerful down the street, With ready heart that faced his work like play, And joyed to find it greater every day! The angel stopped him with uplifted hand, And gave without delay his Lord's command: "He whom thou servest here would have thee go "Alone to Spiran's huts, across the snow, "To serve Him there." Ere Asmiel breathed again The eager answer leaped to meet him, "WHEN?"
The angel's face with inward joy grew bright, And all his figure glowed with heavenly light; He took the golden circlet from his brow And gave the crown to Fermor, answering, "Now! "For thou hast met the Master's bidden test, "And I have found the man who loves Him best. "Not thine, nor mine, to question or reply "When He commands us, asking 'how?' or 'why?' "He knows the cause; His ways are wise and just; "Who serves the King must serve with perfect trust."
THE VAIN KING
In robes of Tyrian blue the King was drest, A jewelled collar shone upon his breast, A giant ruby glittered in his crown-- Lord of rich lands and many a splendid town. In him the glories of an ancient line Of sober kings, who ruled by right divine, Were centred; and to him with loyal awe The people looked for leadership and law. Ten thousand knights, the safeguard of the land, Lay like a single sword within his hand; A hundred courts, with power of life and death, Proclaimed decrees of justice by his breath; And all the sacred growths that men had known Of order and of rule upheld his throne.
Proud was the King: yet not with such a heart As fits a man to play a royal part. Not his the pride that honours as a trust The right to rule, the duty to be just: Not his the dignity that bends to bear The monarch's yoke, the master's load of care, And labours like the peasant at his gate, To serve the people and protect the State. Another pride was his, and other joys: To him the crown and sceptre were but toys, With which he played at glory's idle game, To please himself and win the wreaths of fame. The throne his fathers held from age to age, To his ambition, seemed a fitting stage Built for King Martin to display at will, His mighty strength and universal skill.
No conscious child, that, spoiled with praising, tries At every step to win admiring eyes,-- No favourite mountebank, whose acting draws >From gaping crowds loud thunder of applause, Was vainer than the King: his only thirst Was to be hailed, in every race, the first. When tournament was held, in knightly guise The King would ride the lists and win the prize; When music charmed the court, with golden lyre The King would take the stage and lead the choir; In hunting, his the lance to slay the boar; In hawking, see his falcon highest soar; In painting, he would wield the master's brush; In high debate,--"the King is speaking! Hush!" Thus, with a restless heart, in every field He sought renown, and found his subjects yield As if he were a demi-god revealed.
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