The Child Of The Islands - Autumn
BROWN Autumn cometh, with her liberal hand
Binding the Harvest in a thousand sheaves:
A yellow glory brightens o'er the land,
Shines on thatched corners and low cottage-eaves,
And gilds with cheerful light the fading leaves:
Beautiful even here, on hill and dale;
More lovely yet where Scotland's soil receives
The varied rays her wooded mountains hail,
With hues to which our faint and soberer tints are pale.
For there the Scarlet Rowan seems to mock
The red sea coral--berries, leaves, and all;
Light swinging from the moist green shining rock
Which beds the foaming torrent's turbid fall;
And there the purple cedar, grandly tall,
Lifts its crowned head and sun-illumined stem;
And larch (soft drooping like a maiden's pall)
Bends o'er the lake, that seems a sapphire gem
Dropt from the hoary hill's gigantic diadem.
And far and wide the glorious heather blooms,
Its regal mantle o'er the mountains spread;
Wooing the bee with honey-sweet perfumes,
By many a viewless wild flower richly shed;
Up-springing 'neath the glad exulting tread
Of eager climbers, light of heart and limb;
Or yielding, soft, a fresh elastic bed,
When evening shadows gather, faint and dim,
And sun-forsaken crags grow old, and gaunt, and grim.
Oh, Land! first seen when Life lay all unknown,
Like an unvisited country o'er the wave,
Which now my travelled heart looks back upon,
Marking each sunny path, each gloomy cave,
With here a memory, and there a grave:--
Land of romance and beauty; noble land
Of Bruce and Wallace; land where, vainly brave,
Ill-fated Stuart made his final stand,
Ere yet the shivered sword fell hopeless from his hand--
I love you! I remember you! though years
Have fleeted o'er the hills my spirit knew,
Whose wild uncultured heights the plough forbears,
Whose broomy hollows glisten in the dew.
Still shines the calm light with as rich a hue
Along the wooded valleys stretched below?
Still gleams my lone lake's unforgotten blue?
Oh, land! although unseen, how well I know
The glory of your face in this autumnal glow!
I know your deep glens, where the eagles cry;
I know the freshness of your mountain breeze,
Your brooklets, gurgling downward ceaselessly,
The singing of your birds among the trees,
Mingling confused a thousand melodies!
I know the lone rest of your birchen bowers,
Where the soft murmur of the working bees
Goes droning past, with scent of heather flowers,
And lulls the heart to dream even in its waking hours.
I know the grey stones in the rocky glen,
Where the wild red-deer gather, one by one,
And listen, startled, to the tread of men
Which the betraying breeze hath backward blown!
So,--with such dark majestic eyes, where shone
Less terror than amazement,--nobly came
Peruvia's Incas, when, through lands unknown,
The cruel conqueror with the blood-stained name
Swept, with pursuing sword and desolating flame!
So taken, so pursued, so tracked to death,
The wild free monarch of the hills shall be,
By cunning men, who creep, with stifled breath,
O'er crag and heather-tuft, on bended knee,
Down-crouching with most thievish treachery;
Climbing again, with limbs o'erspent and tired,
Watching for that their failing eyes scarce see,--
The moment, long delayed and long desired,
When the quick rifle-shot in triumph shall be fired.
Look! look!--what portent riseth on the sky?
The glory of his great betraying horns;
Wide-spreading, many-branched, and nobly-high,
(Such spoil the chieftain's hall with pride adorns.)
Oh, Forest-King! the fair succeeding morns
That brighten o'er those hills, shall miss your crest
From their sun-lighted peaks! He's hit,--but scorn
To die without a struggle: sore distrest,
He flies, while daylight fades, receding in the West.
Ben-Doran glows like iron in the forge,
Then to cold purple turns,--then gloomy grey;
And down the ravine-pass and mountain-gorge
Scarce glimmers now the faintest light of day.
The moonbeams on the trembling waters play,
(Though still the sky is flecked with bars of gold
And there the noble creature stands, at bay;
His strained limbs shivering with a sense of cold,
While weakness films the eye that shone so wildly bold.
His fair majestic head bows low at length;
And, leaping at his torn and bleeding side,
The fierce dogs pin him down with grappling strength;
While eager men come on with rapid stride,
And cheer, exulting in his baffled pride.
Now, from its sheath drawn forth, the gleaming knife
Stabs his broad throat: the gaping wound yawns wide:
One gurgling groan, the last deep sigh of life,
Wells with his gushing blood,--and closed is all the strife!
'Tis done! The hunted, animal Despair,
That hoped and feared no future state, is past:
O'er the stiff nostril blows the evening air;
O'er the glazed eye real darkness gathers fast;
Into a car the heavy corse is cast;
And homeward the belated hunter hies,
Eager to boast of his success at last,
And shew the beauty of his antlered prize,
To Her he loves the best,--the maid with gentle eyes!
And she, whose tender heart would beat and shrink
At the loud yelping of a punished hound,
With rosy lips and playful smile shall drink
The Highland health to him, that circles round.
And where the creature lies, with crimson wound,
And cold, stark limbs, and purple eyes half-closed,
There shall her gentle feet at morn be found!
Of such strange mixtures is the heart composed,
So natural-soft,--so hard, by cunning CUSTOM glozed.
But, lo! the Sabbath rises o'er those hills!
And gathering fast from many a distant home,
By wild romantic paths, and shallow rills,
The Highland groups to distant worship come.
Lightly their footsteps climb, inured to roam
Miles through the trackless heather day by day:
Lasses, with feet as white as driven foam,
And lads, whose various tartans, brightly gay,
With shifting colour deck the winding mountain way.
And some, with folded hands and looks demure,
Are nathless stealing lingering looks behind,
Their young hearts not less reverently pure
Because they hope to welcome accents kind,
And, in that Sabbath crowd, the Loved to find;
And children, glancing with their innocent eyes,
At every flower that quivers in the wind;
And grey-haired shepherds, calm, and old, and wise,
With peasant-wisdom,--drawn from gazing on the skies.
And Auld-Wives, who with Sabbath care have donned
Their snowy mutches, clean, and fresh, and white;
And pious eyes that well The BOOK have conned;
And snooded heads, bound round with ribands bright;
And last,--an old man's grandchild, treading light
By his blind footsteps; or a Mother mild,
Whose shadowy lashes veil her downcast sight,
Bearing along her lately christened child:--
And still by friendly talk their journey is beguiled.
Oh, Scotland, Scotland!--in these later days,
How hath thy decent worship been disgraced!
Where, on your Sabbath hills, for prayer and praise,
Solemn the feet of reverend elders paced,
With what wild brawling, with what ruffian haste,
Gathering to brandish Discord's fatal torch,
Have men your sacred altar-grounds defaced;
Mocking with howling fury, at the porch,
The ever-listening God, in his own holy Church!
The Taught would choose their Teacher: be it so!
Doubtless his lessons they will humbly learn,
Bowing the meek heart reverently low,
Who first claim right to choose him or to spurn;
Drop sentences of suffrage in the urn;
And ballot for that Minister of God,
Whose sacred mission is to bid them turn
Obedient eyes toward the chastening rod,
And walk the narrow path by humbler Christians trod!
Choose,--since your forms permit that choice to be,--
But choose in brotherhood, and pious love;
Assist at that selection solemnly,
As at a sacrifice to One above.
What! fear ye Rome's high altars? Shall THEY prove
The error and the stumbling-block alone?
Their crucifixes, meant your hearts to move,--
Their pictured saints--their images of stone--
Their Virgins garlanded--their Jesu on his Throne?
Yea! rather fear 'the image of a Voice,'
Set up to be an idol and a snare:
Fear the impression of your prideful choice,
The human heart-beat mingling with the prayer;
The heavy sigh that comes all unaware;
The sense of weeping, strugglingly represt;
The yearning adoration and despair,
With which unworthiness is then confest;
Mortal disturbance sent to break Religion's rest!
Fear the excitement--fear the human power
Of eloquent words, which 'twixt you and the skies,
Stand like a fretted screen; and, for that hour,
Confuse and mar the tranquil light that lies
Beyond, unbroken! Fear the glow that dies
With the occasion: darkest dangers yawn
'Neath the foundation where your hope would rise:
For true light fadeth not, nor is withdrawn,
The Lamb's calm City wrapt in one Eternal Dawn!
Children, who playing in their ignorant mirth,
Behold the sunbeam's warm reflected ray,
Reaching to grasp it, touch the blank cold earth,
Their eyes averted from the Source of Day,
Not knowing where the Actual Glory lay.
Fear YE to snatch at glittering beams, and lose
The light that should have cheered your mortal way:
Tremble, responsible yet weak, to choose;
'Ye know not what ye ask,'--nor what ye should refuse!
Say, was it word of power, or fluent speech,
Which marked those simple men of Galilee,
For Christ's disciples? was it theirs to preach
With winning grace, and artful subtilty,
The Saviour's message,--'Die to live with me?'
Bethsaida's fisherman, who bare the spite
Of heathen rage at Patras,--or those three
Who saw HIM glorified on Tabor's height,
And bathed in bloody sweat on dark Gethsemane's night?
The homeliest voice that weakly leads the van
Of many prayers, shall sound as sweet among
The angel host,--as his, the eloquent man,
Who with miraculous sweet, and fervent tongue,
Charms with a spell the mute, applauding throng;
No better, (as respects his human gift)
Than many a Heathen Poet, whose great song,
Age after age continues yet to lift,
As down the Stream of Time melodious treasures drift.
Brothers, why make ye War? and in His Name,
Whose message to the earth was Peace and Love;
What time the awful voice to Shepherds came,
And the clear Herald-Star shone out above?
When shall the meaning of that message move
Our bitter hearts? When shall we cease to come
The patience of a gentle God to prove;
Cainlike in temper,--though no life we doom,--
Our prayer a curse, although our altar be no tomb?
When that indulgence which the PERFECT grants,
By the IMPERFECT also shall be granted;
When narrow light that falls in crooked slants,
Shines broad and bright where'er its glow is wanted;
When cherished errors humbly are recanted;
When there are none who set themselves apart,
To watch how Prayers are prayed, and sweet hymns chanted;
With eyes severe, and criticising heart,--
As though some Player flawed the acting of his part.
From Saints on Earth,--defend us, Saints in Heaven!
By their un-likeness to the thing they ape;
Their cheerlessness, where God such joy hath given,
(Covering this fair world with a veil of crape)
Their lack of kindliness in any shape;
Their fierce, false judgments of another's sin;
And by the narrowness of mind they drape
With full-blown fantasies, and boasts to win
A better path to Heaven, than others wander in!
And ye, calm Angels in that blissful world,
From whence (close knit in brotherhood of strife)
The strong rebellious spirits, downward hurled,
Came to this Earth, with love and beauty rife,
And poisoned all the fountain-wells of life;
Spread the soft shelter of your peaceful wings,
When hard looks stab us like a two-edged knife,
And hearts that yearned for Pity's healing springs,
Are mocked, in dying thirst, by gall which Malice brings.
From the cold glare of their self-righteous eyes,--
From scornful lips, brimful of bitter words,--
From the curled smile that triumphs and defies,--
From arguments that sound like clashing swords,--
Save us, ye dwellers among music-chords!
Whose unseen presence doubtless lingers nigh,
Although no more our blinded sense affords
Your radiant image to the craving eye,
Nor sees your herald-wings, swift-spreading, cleave the sky!
No more to Ishmael's thirst, or Hagar's prayer,
The suffering or the longing heart on Earth;
No more to soothe funereal despair;
No more to fill the cruise in bitter dearth,
Or turn the widow's wailing into mirth;
Shall they return who watched in holy pain
The Human Death, that closed the Heavenly Birth!
Rebellious earth, twice sanctified in vain,
Lonely from those pure steps must evermore remain.
But deep in each man's heart, some angel dwells,--
Mournfully, as in a sepulchral tomb;
Set o'er our nature like calm sentinels,
Denying passage to bad thoughts that come
Tempting us weakly to our final doom,
Patient they watch, whatever may betide;
Shedding pure rays of glory through the gloom,
And bowing meek wings over human pride,--
As once in the lone grave of Him, the Crucified!
Angels of Grief,--who, when our weak eyes tire
Of shedding tears, their sad sweet lessons teach;
Angels of Hope,--who lift with strong desire
Our mortal thoughts beyond a mortal reach;
Angels of Mercy,--who to gentle speech,
And meek, forgiving words, the heart incline,
Weaving a link of brotherhood for each;
Angels of Glory,--whose white vestments shine
Around the good man's couch, in dying life's decline.
Need of such heavenly counterpoise have we
To bear us up, when we would grovel down;
To keep our clogged and tarnished natures free
From the world-rust that round our hearts hath grown
Like mouldering moss upon a sculptured stone;
To soften down the cruelty and sin
Of crabbèd Selfishness, that stands alone,
With greedy eyes that watch what they may win,
The whole wide world a field to gather harvest in!
To gather Harvest! In this Autumn prime,
Earth's literal harvest cumbers the glad land!
This is the sultry moment--the dry time,
When the ripe golden ears, that shining stand,
Fall, rustling, to the Reaper's nimble hand:
When, from those plains the bright sheaves lie among,
(Whose fertile view the sloping hills command,)
Float cheerful sounds of laughter and of song,
And merry-making jests from many a rural throng.
Sweet is the prospect which that distance yields!
Here, honest toil;--while there a sunburnt child
Sleeps by the hedge-row that divides the fields,
Or where the sheltering corn is stacked and piled;
And as the groups have one by one defiled,
(Leaving unwatched the little sleeper's place,)
You guess the Mother, by the way she smiled;
The holy Love that lit her peasant-face,
The lingering glance, replete with Feeling's matchless grace.
He lieth safe until her task be done--
Lulled, basking, into slumber sound and deep;
That Universal Cherisher, the Sun,
With kindly glow o'erlooks his harmless sleep,
And the rough dog close neighbourhood shall keep,
(Friend of the noble and the lowly born)
Till careful shepherds fold the wandering sheep,
And wearied reapers leave the unfinished corn--
Resting through dewy night, to recommence at morn.
Oh, picture of Abundance and of Joy!
Oh, golden Treasure given by God to Man!
Why com'st thou shaded by a base alloy?
What root of evil poisons Nature's plan?
Why should the strain not end as it began,
With notes that echo music as they come?
What mournful silence--what mysterious ban--
Hushes the tones of those who onward roam,
With choral gladness singing,--'happy Harvest-Home?'
What altered cadence lingers in the Vale,
Whose mass of full-eared sheaves the reapers bind?
A sound more sad than Autumn-moaning gale,
More dreary than the later whistling wind
That ushers Winter, bitter and unkind.
Again!--it soundeth like a human sigh!
A horrid fear grows present to my mind:
Here, where the grain is reaped that stood so high,
A Man hath lain him down: to slumber?--no,--to die!
Past the Park gate,--along the market-road,--
And where green water-meadows freshly shine,
By many a Squire and Peer's unseen abode,--
And where the village Alehouse swings its sign,
Betokening rest, and food, and strengthening wine,--
By the rich dairy, where, at even-tide,
Glad Maidens, singing, milk the lowing kine,--
Under blank shadowing garden-walls, that hide
The espaliered fruit well trained upon their sunnier side,--
Jaded and foot-sore, he hath struggled on,
Retracing with sunk heart his morning track;
In vain to HIM the Harvest and the Sun;
Doomed, in the midst of plenteousness, to lack,
And die unfed, beneath the loaded stack,
He hath been wandering miles to seek RELIEF;
(Disabled servant--Labour's broken hack!)
And he returns--refused! His Hour is brief;
But there are those at home for whom he groans with grief.
My pulse beats faster with the coming fear!
I cannot lift his dull expiring weight:
What if the fainting wretch should perish here?
Here,--sinking down beside the rich man's gate,--
On the cropped harvest;--miserable fate!
He tells me something--what, I cannot learn:
Feeble--confused--the words he fain would state:
But accents of complaint I can discern,
And mention of his wife and little ones in turn!
He's DEAD! In that last sigh his weak heart burst!
An end hath now been put to many woes:
The storm-beat mariner hath reached the worst,--
His 'harbour and his ultimate repose.'
He to a world of better justice goes,
We to the Inquest-Room, to hear, in vain,
Description of the strong convulsive throes,
The mighty labour, and the petty gain,
By which a struggling life gets quit at last of pain.
To hear, and to forget, the oft-told story,
Of what forsaken Want in silence bears:
So tarnishing commercial England's glory!
To hear rich men deny that poor men's cares
Should be accounted business of theirs;
To hear pale neighbours (one degree less poor
Than him who perished) prove, all unawares,
The generous opening of THEIR lowly door,
The self-denying hearts that shared the scanty store.
To hear, and acquiesce in, shallow words,
Which make it seem the sickly labourer's fault,
That he hath no accumulated hoards
Of untouched wages; wine, and corn, and malt;
To use when eyesight fails, or limbs grow halt;
To hear his character at random slurred,--
'An idle fellow, sir, not worth his salt;'
And every one receive a bitter word
For whom his clay-cold heart with living love was stirred:
His Wife, a shrew and slattern, knowing not
(What all her betters understand so well)
How to bring comfort to a poor man's lot,
How to keep house,--and how to buy and sell;
His Daughter, a degraded minx, who fell
At sixteen years,--and bore a child of shame,
Permitted with th' immoral set to dwell!
His eldest Son, an idiot boy, and lame,--
In short, the man WAS starved--but no one was to blame.
No one:--Oh! 'Merry England,' hearest thou?
Houseless and hungry died he on thy breast!
No one: Oh! 'Fertile England,' did thy plough--
Furrow no fields; or was their growth represt
By famine-blights that swept from east to west?
No one:--'Religious England,' preach the word
In thy thronged temples on the Day of Rest,
And bid the war of Faith and Works accord:--
'Who giveth to the Poor, he lendeth to the Lord!'
Trust me, that not a soul whose idle hand
Stinted to spare, and so declined to save;
Not one of all who call it 'Native Land,'
Which to their dead and starved compatriot gave
A humble cradle,--and a lowlier grave,--
Stands blameless of this death before the face
Of judging Heaven! The gathered store they have,
That shall condemn them. National disgrace
Rests on the country cursed by such a piteous case.
And yet not once, nor twice, but countless times,
We, in blind worship of the golden calf,
Allow of deaths like these! While funeral chimes
Toll for the rich, whose graven paragraph
Of vanished virtues (too complete by half),
The heirs of their importance soothe and please.
The poor man dies--and hath no EPITAPH!
What if your churchyards held such lines as these,
The listless eye to strike,--the careless heart to freeze?
'Here lies a man who died of Hunger-pain,
In a by-street of England's Capital.
Honest, (in vain!) industrious, (in vain!)
Willing to spend in useful labour all
His years from youth to age. A dangerous fall
Shattered his limbs, and brought him to distress.
His health returned: his strength was past recall:
He asked assistance (earnings growing less,)
Received none, struggled on, and died of Want's excess.'
'Here rests in Death, (who rested not in Life!)
The worn-out Mother of a starving brood:
By night and day, with most courageous strife,
She fought hard Fortune to procure them food:
(A desert-pelican, whose heart's best blood
Oozed in slow drops of failing strength away!)
Much she endured; much misery withstood;
At length weak nature yielded to decay,
And baffled Famine seized his long-resisting prey.'
Oh! the green mounds, that have no head-stones o'er them,
To tell who lies beneath, in slumber cold;
Oh! the green mounds, that saw no Mutes deplore them,
The Pauper-Graves, for whom no church-bells tolled;
What if our startled senses could behold,
(As we to Sabbath-prayer walk calmly by,)
Their visionary epitaphs enrolled;
Upstanding grimly 'neath God's equal sky,
Near the white sculptured tombs where wealthier Christians lie!
Then we should THINK: then we should cry, ALAS!
Then many a pulse would flutter mournfully,
And steps would pause, that now so reckless pass:
For, in this chequered world of ours, we see
Much Carelessness, but little Cruelty;
And (though Heaven knows it is no boast to tell,)
There dwelleth in us a deep sympathy,
Too often, like the stone-closed Arab well,
Sealed from their helpless thirst whose torments it should quell.
We shelter SELFISHNESS behind the mask
Of INCREDULITY: we will not own
What, if admitted, leaves a heavy task
To be performed; or spurned if left undone,
Stamping our frozen hearts as made of stone.
Or, if we grant such suffering exists,
Wide-spread and far, we plead,--'how vain for ONE
To strive to clear away these hopeless mists,
'Striking a few sad names from off these endless lists!'
'WHAT CAN I DO? I know that men have died
'Of their privations; truly, I believe
'That honest labour may be vainly plied:
'But how am I this sorrow to relieve?
'Go, let our Rulers some great plan achieve,
'It rests with These to settle and command,--
'We, meaner souls, can only sigh and grieve.'
So, sitting down, with slack and nerveless hand,
Supine we hear the cry that waileth through the land.
But let us measure help, by their deep woe:
Are we, indeed, as powerless to aid
As they to struggle? Conscience whispers, 'NO!'
Conscience, who shrinks uneasy and afraid,
Condemned,--if that brief answer must be made.
Though, in the Cowardice that flies the pain,
A spark of better nature is betrayed,
Proving, if their appeal could entrance gain,
Our hearts would not be roused and spoken to in vain.
But because generous minds stand few and far,
Like wholesome ears of grain in fields of blight:--
Because one earnest soul, like one great star,
Rises,--without the power in single light
To break the darkness of surrounding night:--
Because the sufferings of the Mass require
The Many, not the Few, their wrongs to right;-
Therefore, Great Hearts grow sick with vain desire,
And, baffled at each turn, the weaker spirits tire.
The GRADUAL is God's law. And we all fail
Because we will not copy it, but would
Against deep-rooted obstacles prevail,
(Which have the change of centuries withstood)
By hurried snatching in our rashest mood:
So, leaving dying branches in our grasp,
Vanishes all the growth of promised good;
Or from the green leaves darts some poisonous asp,
And stings the hand outstretched the fruitage fair to clasp.
So the Mock-Patriot leaves the Poor man's home
A thousand times more wretched, than when first
Loud declamation, full of froth and foam,
Weak discontent to strong rebellion nurst!
By those to whom he proffered aid, accurst,--
Called to account for days of helpless woe,--
The bubble promises give way, and burst,
Which left his rash lips with such ready flow:
The Idol of Himself,--the Orator for show!
Solemn the malediction set on him
Who doth 'pervert the judgment' of the poor,
Mislead the blind and ignorant, and dim
The meagre light which led them heretofore.
Faces he knows not,--weak ones who deplore
The ruin wrought by him,--in dreams shall rise;
Night's veil of darkness cannot cover o'er
The wild reproaching of their blood-shot eyes,
Nor its deep silence hush their hoarse lamenting cries!
While those whom he opposed, pronounce it Sin,
That, with mad Discord in his meteor track,
Some shallow theory of hope to win,
He hounded on a wild infuriate pack:
The feet he taught to leave the quiet track,
Who shall prevent, or whither shall they tread?
What mighty force shall dam the waters back,
When the swoln torrent hath found room to spread?
Rolling and fierce it comes, and whelms his reckless head!
Yet, let no man who feels himself secure
That Wrong exists, believe that humble tools
May not amend, what pining they endure.
Let him not fear the ridicule of fools,
Nor sneers of cold utilitarian schools,
To whom enthusiasts ever seem insane:
Nor to old laws and inappropriate rules
Bow slavish down because his lot is plain,
Unstarred by Rank or Power, ungilt by Wealth or Gain.
What! were they demi-gods and angels, then,
Who have done deeds of glory in our land?
Or only honest, earnest-hearted men,
Born their great mission here to understand,
And nobly labour at it, heart and hand?
Were they all Princes and great Lords, who trod
Their share of Earth in natural command?
No! THEY believed the Breath that woke the clod,
And honoured in themselves the sentient spark from God!
HE did not breathe a different breath of life
Into the noble and the lowly born:
Sprung from one clay, though now in parted strife,
Brothers,--though some may crouch and some may scorn.
WE framed a difference, such as bids the Morn
Shine veiled or bright; but, sent through latticed pane,
Or mullioned arch, or prison-bars forlorn,
Or gleaming through dim aisles with painted stain,
God's outward light it was, God's light it must remain!
Not in the body, or the body's gauds,--
Not in the coronet a goldsmith wrought,--
Not in the pomp a gaping crowd applauds
(Like a pleased child when spangled toys are brought,)
But in the proud pre-eminence of THOUGHT
Lies the true influence that shall aspire:
The Victory in a battle mutely fought:
For that light, none can trample out,--that fire
The breath of fierce disdain but teaches to rise higher!
Hath Science, in her march, avowed no claims
But theirs, first trained in Academic letters?
Doth History give no roll of patriot-names,
Peasants themselves, of peasant sons begetters,
Who taught that light to some, miscalled their BETTERS?
Men, who with iron hands, and hearts as stout,
Filed through the links of Folly's golden fetters;
And rough smith's work they made of it, no doubt,
Small choice of tools, when Souls from Prison would break out.
Yet doubly beautiful it is to see
One, set in the temptation of High Class,
Keep the inherent deep nobility
Of a great nature, strong to over-pass
The check of circumstance and choking mass
Of vicious faults which youthful leisure woo;
Mirror each thought in Honour's stainless glass;
And, by all kindly deeds that Power can do,
Prove that the brave good heart hath come of lineage true.
His gladdest welcome shall be giv'n by those
Who seemed to hold aloof from gentle blood:
Men, falsely deemed RANK'S democratic foes,
Because they love not FASHION'S selfish brood,
And look on idle Pomp with bitter mood.
Straightforward is their judgment; true, and keen;
The English Oak disowns the grafted wood,--
Spurns the high title, linked with spirit mean,--
And scorns the branch whereon the Lowly dare not lean!
Oh! Graceful seems the bending of his brow;
Lovely the earnestness that fills his eyes;
Holy the fire that gave his heart its glow
(Spark of that same great Light which never dies.)
With hope, not fear, they watch his gradual rise:--
His youth's glad service in his age recall:--
Cheer in the race,--and glory in the prize,--
For his sake loving Rank, and Pomp, and all,--
Deeming such statue needs a lofty Pedestal!
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! May such men as these
Alone be teachers of thy childhood pure;
Greet thy fair youth with friendly courtesies,
And to thine age with happy bond endure.
Feel with them; act with them; those ills to cure
That lie within the reach of brotherhood;
For these are men no shallow hopes allure,
Whose loyalty is current in their blood,
But who the people's claims have wisely understood.
Hear a brief fable. One, with heedless tread,
Came o'er the wild fair grass that ne'er was mown:
Then said the grass,--'Your heel is on my head;
And, where in harmless freedom I have grown,
Sorely your iron foot hath tramped me down;
But God,--who to my veins such freshness gave,
Shall heal me with a healing of his own,
Till I, perchance, may lift my head to wave
Above the marble tomb that presses down your grave.'
If he had trod the path within his reach,
And let the wild grass hear the cricket sing,
Think you it would have turned with bitter speech?
No! but saluted him as Nature's king.
Oh, fable,--but not folly,--for the thing
We trample down, if life from God be in it,
Sooner or later takes the upward spring;
And sorely we may rue the reckless minute
We strove to crush its strength, and not in peace to win it.
And not alone in this same trampling strife
Consists Oppression's force; that creeping eft,
That lizard-blooded, frozen death-in-life,
NEUTRALITY, the cursed of Heaven, hath left
More misery to be borne by those bereft
Of power to strive against ill-fortune's spite.
The dagger hath gone home unto the heft;
And those stood by, who would not, but who might
Have turned the assassin steel, and stayed the unequal fight.
Oh! there are moments of our lives, when such
As will not help to lift us, strike us down!
When the green bough just bends so near our clutch,
When the light rope so easily were thrown,
That they are murderers who behold us drown.
Well spoke the Poet-Heart so tried by woe,
That there are hours when left despairing, lone,
'Each idle ON-LOOKER appears a FOE:'
For Hate can scarce do worse, than no compassion show.
Neutrality Is Hate: the aid withheld,
Flings its large balance in the adverse scale;
And makes the enemy we might have quelled,
Strong to attack, and certain to prevail;
Yea, clothes him, scoffing, in a suit of mail!
Those are the days which teach unhappy elves
No more such callous bosoms to assail;
The rocky soil no more the weak-one delves;
Upright we stand, and trust--in God, and in ourselves.
'The flesh will quiver when the pincers tear;'
The heart defies, that feels unjustly slighted;
The soul, oppressed, puts off its robe of Fear,
And warlike stands, in gleaming armour dighted;
And whensoe'er the Wronged would be the Righted,
There always have been, always must be, minds
In whom the Power and Will are found united;
Who rise, as Freedom fit occasion finds,
Skilled Workmen in a Craft which no Apprentice binds.
And therefore should we aid who need our aid,
And freely give to those who need our giving;
Look gently on a brother's humbler trade,
And the coarse hand that labours for its living,
Scorn not because our fortunes are more thriving;
Spurn the cold rule,--'all BARTER, no BESTOWING,'
And such good plans as answer our contriving,
Let no false shame deter from open shewing;--
The crystal spring runs pure,--though men behold it flowing.
But granting we in truth were weak to do
That which our hearts are strong enough to dream;
Shall we, as feeble labourers, wandering go,
And sit down passive by the lulling stream,
Or slumber basking in the noon-tide beam?
Shall we so waste the hours without recall,
Which o'er Life's silent dial duly gleam;
And from red morning to the dewy fall,
Folding our listless hands, pursue no aim at all?
Would not the lip with mocking smile be curled,
If some poor reaper of our autumn corn,
Some hired labourer of the actual world,
Treated our summons with neglect forlorn;
Pleading that Heaven, which made him weakly-born,
Had thus excused him from all settled task?
Should we not answer, with a kind of scorn,
'Do what thou canst,--no more can Reason ask,
But think not, unemployed, in idleness to bask?'
In Heaven's own land,--the heart,--shall we put by
All tasks to US allotted and assigned,--
While thus the mote within a Brother's eye
Clearly we see, but to the beam are blind?
How can we set that reaper sheaves to bind,
According to his body's strength; yet seek
Excuse for our soul's indolence to find?
Oh! let the red shame flush the conscious cheek,--
For duties planned by God, NO man was born too weak!
Task-work goes through the world! the fluent River
Turneth the mill-wheels with a beating sound,
And rolleth onward toward the sea for ever!
The Sea heaves restless to its shoreward bound;
The Winds with varying voices, wander round;
The Branches, in their murmur, bend and thrill;
Flower after flower springs freshly from the ground;
The floating Clouds move ceaseless o'er the hill;
Nothing is set in calm; nothing (save Death) is still.
That glorious orb of Heaven, the blessèd Sun,
A daily journey makes from East to West;
Nightly the Moon and Stars their courses run.
Yea, further we may learn our Lord's behest,
Taught by the pulse that heaves each living breast,
Our folding of the hands is in the GRAVE
And fixed in HEAVEN the Sabbath of our Rest!
Meanwhile, with Sun, and Wind, and Cloud, and Wave,
We ply the life-long task our great Creator gave.
CHILD OF THE ISLANDS! when to thy young heart
Life's purpose pleads with mighty eloquence,--
Hear, Thou, as one who fain would act his part
Under the guiding of Omnipotence;
Whose clay-wrapped Spirit, looking up from hence,
Asketh what labour it may best perform
Ere the NIGHT cometh; when quick life and sense
Are fellow-sleepers with the slow blind worm,--
And Death's dark curtain hides the sunshine and the storm!