The Child Of The Islands - Spring
Never, oh! never more, shall these afford
Her stifled heart their innocent delight!
Never, oh! never more, the rich accord
Of feathered songsters make her morning bright!
Earning scant bread, that finds no appetite,
The sapless life she toils for, lingers on;
And when at length it sinks in dreary night,
A shallow, careless grave is dug,--where none
Come round to bless her rest, whose ceaseless tasks are done!
But for the Christian's hope, how hard, how cold,
How bitterly unjust, our lot would seem!
How purposeless and sad, to young and old!
How like the struggles of a torturing dream,
When ghastly midnight bids us strive and scream!
All fades--all fleets--of which our hearts grow fond;
Pain presses on us to the last extreme,--
When lo! the dawn upriseth, clear beyond,
And, radiant from the East, forbids us to despond.
And many a crippled child, and aged man,
And withered crone, who once saw 'better days,'
With just enough of intellect to scan
This gracious truth; uncheered by human praise,
Patient plods through the thorn-encumbered ways:
Oh, trust God counts the hours through which they sigh,
While His green Spring eludes their suffering gaze,
And flowers along Earth's spangled bosom lie,
Whose barren bloom, for them, must unenjoyed pass by!
For while that silk the weaver's time beguiled,
His wife lay groaning on her narrow bed,
The suffering mother of a new-born child,
Without a cradle for its weakly head,
Or future certainty of coarsest bread;
Not, in that hour of Nature's sore affright,
A fire, or meal that either might be fed;
So, through the pauses of the dreadful night,
Patient they lay, and longed for morning's blessed light.
Onward she moves, in Fashion's magic glass,
Half-strut, half-swim, she slowly saunters by:
A self-delighting, delicate, pampered mass
Of flesh indulged in every luxury
Folly can crave, or riches can supply:
Spangled with diamonds--head, and breast, and zone,
Scorn lighting up her else most vacant eye,
Careless of all conditions but her own,
She sweeps that stuff along, to curtsey to the throne.
Nor,--since by giving working hands employ,
Her very vanity must help their need
Whom, in her life of cold ungenerous joy,
She never learned to pity or to heed,--
Would sentence harsh from thoughtful minds proceed;
But that the poor man, dazzled, sees encroach
False lights upon his pathway, which mislead
Those who the subject of his wrongs would broach,
Till Rank a bye-word seems,--and Riches a reproach.
How oft some friendly voice shall vainly speak
The sound true lessons of Life's holier school;--
How much of wholesome influence prove weak,
Because one tinselled, gaudy, selfish fool,
Hath made the exception seem the practiced rule!
In Luxury, so prodigal of show,--
In Charity, so wary and so cool,--
That wealth appeared the poor man's open foe,
And all, of high estate, this language to avow:--
'A life of self-indulgence is for Us,
'A life of self-denial is for them;
'For Us the streets, broad-built and populous,
'For them, unhealthy corners, garrets dim,
'And cellars where the water-rat may swim!
'For Us, green paths refreshed by frequent rain,
'For them, dark alleys where the dust lies grim!
'Not doomed by Us to this appointed pain,--
'God made us, Rich and Poor--of what do these complain?'
That, being gleaners in the world's large field
(And knowing well they never can be more,)
Those unto whom the fertile earth must yield
Her increase, will not stand like him of yore,
Large-hearted Boaz, on his threshing-floor,
Watching that weak ones starve not on their ground.
How many sills might frame a beggar's door,
For any love, or help, or pity found,
In rich men's hearts and homes, to help the needy round!
Meanwhile, enjoy your Walks, your Parks, your Drives,
Heirs of Creation's fruits, this world's select!
Bask in the sunshine of your idle lives,
And teach your poorer brother to expect
Nor share, nor help! Rouse up the fierce-toned sect
To grudge him e'en the breeze that once a-week
Might make him feel less weary and deject;
And stand, untouched, to see how thankful-meek
He walks that day, his child close nestling at his cheek.
Compel him to your creed; force him to think;
Cut down his Sabbath to a day of rest
Such as the beasts enjoy,--to eat, and drink,
And drone away his time, by sleep opprest:--
But let 'My lady' send, at her behest,
A dozen different servants to prepare,
Grooms, coachmen, footmen, in her livery drest,
And shining horses, fed with punctual care,
To whirl her to Hyde Park, that she may 'take the air.'
Yet, even with her, we well might moralise;
(No place too gay, if so the heart incline!)
For dark the Seal of Death and Judgment lies
Upon thy rippling waters, Serpentine!
Day after day, drawn up in linkèd line,
Your lounging beauties smile on idle men,
Where Suicides have braved the Will Divine,
Watched the calm flood that lay beneath their ken,
Dashed into seeming peace, and never rose again!
Cross from that death-pond to the farther side,
Where fewer loiterers wander to and fro,
There,--buried under London's modern pride,
And ranges of white buildings,--long ago
Stood Tyburn Gate and gallows! Scenes of woe,
Bitter, heart-rending, have been acted here;
While, as he swung in stifling horrid throe,
Hoarse echoes smote the dying felon's ear,
Of yells from fellow-men, triumphant in his fear!
Betwixt the deathly stream and Tyburn Gate
Stand withered trees, whose sapless boughs have seen
Beauties whose memory now is out of date,
And lovers, on whose graves the moss is green!
While Spring, for ever fresh, with smile serene,
Woke up grey Time, and drest his scythe with flowers,
And flashed sweet light the tender leaves between,
And bid the wild-bird carol in the bowers,
Year after year the same, with glad returning hours.
What see the old trees THEN? Gaunt, pallid forms
Come, creeping sadly to their hollow hearts,
Seeking frail shelter from the winds and storms,
In broken rest, disturbed by fitful starts;
There, when the chill rain falls, or lightning darts,
Or balmy summer nights are stealing on,
Houseless they slumber, close to wealthy marts
And gilded homes:--there, where the morning sun
That tide of wasteful joy and splendour looked upon!
Her history is written in her face;
The bloom hath left her cheek, but not from age;
Youth, without innocence, or love, or grace,
Blotted with tears, still lingers on that page!
Smooth brow, soft hair, dark eyelash, seem to wage
With furrowed lines a contradiction strong;
Till the wild witchcraft stories, which engage
Our childish thoughts, of magic change and wrong,
Seem realised in her--so old, and yet so young!
Eager thou'lt gaze, where, down the river's tide,
The proud swan glides, and guards its lonely nest;
Or where the white lambs spot the mountain's side,
Where late the lingering sunshine loves to rest;
Midst whom, in frock of blue and coloured vest,
Lies the young shepherd boy, who little heeds
(The livelong day by drowsy dreams opprest)
The nibbling, bleating flock that round him feeds,
But to his faithful dog leaves all the care it needs.
For, like the Spring, Man's heart hath buds and leaves,
Which, sunned upon, put forth immortal bloom;
Gifts, that from Heaven his nascent soul receives,
Which, being heavenly, shall survive the tomb.
In its blank silence, in its narrow gloom,
The clay may rest which wrapped his human birth;
But, all unconquered by that bounded doom,
The Spirit of his Thought shall walk the earth,
In glory and in light, midst life, and joy, and mirth.
Thou'rt dead, oh, Sculptor--dead! but not the less
(Wrapped in pale glory from th' illumined shrine)
Thy sweet St. Mary stands in her recess,
Worshipped and wept to, as a thing divine:
Thou'rt dead, oh, Poet!--dead, oh, brother mine!
But not the less the curbèd hearts stoop low
Beneath the passion of thy fervent line:
And thou art dead, oh, Painter! but not so
Thy Inspiration's work, still fresh in living glow.