A Celebration of Women Writers


The Drift of Pinions by Marjorie Lowrey Christie Pickthall (1883-1922) Montreal: The University Magazine; London: John Lane, The Bodley Head; New York: John Lane Company, 1913.

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THE DRIFT OF PINIONS


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[Title Page]

THE DRIFT OF PINIONS BY
MARJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL

THE UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE
MONTREAL
1913
LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD
NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY


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COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1913
BY MARJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL


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Many of the poems contained in this book have been published in various periodicals. My thanks are due to the editors of The University, Scribner's, Harper's, The Century, The American, and the Metropolitan Magazines, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Youth's Companion, for permission to offer this verse in its present form.

                   M. L. C. P.

Victoria College, Toronto,
   September, 1913.


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IN MEMORY OF
MY MOTHER


[Page vii]

CONTENTS

ARMOREL 3
THE LITTLE FAUNS TO PROSERPINE 5
WANDERLIED 8
TO ALCITHOË 10
THE SEA WITCH 11
THE IMMORTAL 12
DAWN 13
EVENING 16
THE GREEN MONTH 18
SONG OF LATE SEPTEMBER 19
FROST SONG 21
DREAM RIVER 22
SWALLOWS 23
THE POOL 34
O SILVER ROSE 26
THE BRIDEGROOM OF CANA 27
A MOTHER IN EGYPT . 30
ST. YVES' POOR 34
THE LITTLE SISTER OF THE PROPHET 38
PIETER MARINUS . 40
THE LAMP OF POOR SOULS 42
IN THE GARDENS OF SHUSHAN 44

[Page viii]
PÈRE LALEMANT 46
BEGA49
IN A MONASTERY GARDEN 51
A CHILD'S SONG 53
A CHILD'S SONG OF CHRISTMAS 54
YOUTH'S END . 55
JASPER'S SONG 56
THE HILLMAN'S LASS 58
THE SHEPHERD BOY 60
DUNA 62
MY FATHER HE WAS A FISHERMAN 63
JENNIFER'S LAD 64
THREE ISLAND SONGS 65
SERENADE 68
THE LOVERS OF MARCHAID 69
THE HOUSE'S SETTING 72
DEUS MISEREATUR 73
FAME 74
KWANNON 76
MONS ANGELORUM 79
A SAXON EPITAPH 93

 


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THE DRIFT OF PINIONS


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[Page 3]

ARMOREL

WHEN within the rippling tide
Shakes the silver-pointed moon,
When the rainbow flies of noon
All have died,
When the bats go wheeling far,
And the mournful owl has cried
Twice or thrice a-down the glen
Gray with gathering shade, and when
Gates o' dream are held ajar,–
From the alders in the dell,
From the bracken fronds astir,
Elfin voices call to her,–
                   "Armorel!"

She shall glide the garden down,
Treading softly, treading slow,
And with silent feet shall go
Past the Mary-lilies white,
Past the pansies, gold and brown,
Grown for her delight.

[Page 4]

One white moth her guide shall be,
She shall follow where he flies,
Patiently, with dream-lit eyes;
Past the thyme and savoury,
Past the mystic asphodel,
For the voices in her ear
Call her softly, call her clear,–
                   "Armorel!"

Into valleys strange and dim,
All unseen and all unknown,
Fleetly shall she follow him,
Fairy-led, alone.
She shall hear within the brake
Elfin crickets pipe and sing,
While the elfin spiders make
Sendal for her furnishing,
Red as pimpernel.
She shall see the dreams go by,
Silver-pinioned, through the sky;
Where she wanders none may tell,
But the voices come and go,
Calling sweetly, calling low,
                   "Armorel!"

[Page 5]

THE LITTLE FAUNS TO PROSERPINE

BROWNER than the hazel-husk, swifter than the wind,
Though you turn from heath and hill, we are hard behind,
Singing, "Ere the sorrows rise, ere the gates unclose
Bind above your wistful eyes the memory of a rose."

Dark Iacchus pipes the kine shivering from the whin,
Wraps him in a she-goat's fell above the panther skin.
Now we husk the corn for bread, turn the mill for hire,
Hoof by hoof and head by head about the herdsman's fire.

Ai, Adonis, where he gleams, slender and at rest,
One has built a roof of dreams where the white doves nest.
Ere they bring the wine-dark bowl, ere the gates unbar,
Take, O take within your soul the shadow of a star.

[Page 6]

Now the vintage feast is done, now the melons glow
Gold along the raftered thatch beneath a thread of snow.
Dian's bugle bids the dawn sweep the upland clear,
Where we snared the silken fawn, where we ran the deer.

Through the dark reeds wet with rain, past the singing foam
Went the light-foot Mysian maids, calling Hylas home.
Syrinx felt the silver spell fold her at her need.
Hear, ere yet you say farewell, the wind along the reed.

Golden as the earliest leaf loosened from the spray,
Grave Alcestis drank of grief for her lord's delay.
Ere you choose the bitter part, learn the changeless wrong,
Bind above your breaking heart the echo of a song.

[Page 7]

Now the chestnut burrs are down; aspen-shaws are pale;
Now across the plunging reef reels the last red sail.
Ere the wild, black horses cry, ere the night has birth,
Take, ere yet you say good-bye, the love of all the earth.

[Page 8]

WANDERLIED

O, WEST of all the westward roads that woo ye to their winding,
O, south of all the southward ways that call ye to the sea,
There's a little lonely garden that would pay ye for the finding,
With a fairy-ring within it and an old thorn tree.

O, there upon the brink of morn the thrushes would be calling,
And the little lilting linnets, sure they'd wake me from the dead;
With the lime trees all in blossom and the soft leaf-shadows falling,
O, there I'd have a place at last to lay my head.

O, would I had a swallow's wings, for then I'd fly and find it;
O, would I had a swallow's heart, for then I'd love to roam!
With an orchard on the hillside and an old, old man to mind it,
O, there I'd lift my lodge at last and make my home.

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O, there I'd see the tide come in along the whispering reaches,
O, there I'd lie and watch the sails go shining to the west.
And where the fir-wood follows on the wide unswerving beaches,
It's there I'd lay me down at last and take my rest.

[Page 10]

TO ALCITHOË

IN your dim Greece of old, Alcithoë,
Death like a lover sought and crowned you young,
Between the olive orchards and the sea.

When they had twined your myrtle-buds, and hung
The stately cypress at your door, they said,
"Alcithoë is dead,
Before whose feet the flaming crocus sprung,
For whom the red rose opened ere the prime;
Those the gods love are taken before their time."–

Ah! why did no one, watching you alone,
Snare your dead beauty in undying stone?
The gold hair bound beneath its golden band,
The milk-white poppies closed within your hand;
That the harsh world a little space might keep
The last, still, exquisite vision of your sleep.

[Page 11]

THE SEA WITCH

ENDLESSLY fell her chestnut flowers,
Faint snow throughout the honeyed dark;
The myrtle spread his boughs to drink
Deep draughts of salt from the sea's brink,
And like a moon-dial swung her tower's
Straight shadow o'er her warded park.

From her calm coasts the galleons fled,
The fisher steered him further west,
No port was hailed, no keel came home
Across that pale, enchanted foam,
But by her roof the thrushes fed
And wandering swallows found their rest.

The shadows touched her tenderly,
The red beam lingered on her dress;
The white gull and the osprey knew
Her tower across the leagues of blue.
The wild swan when he sought the sea
Was laggard through her loveliness.

[Page 12]

THE IMMORTAL

BEAUTY is still immortal in our eyes;
When sways no more the spirit-haunted reed,
When the wild grape shall build
No more her canopies,
When blows no more the moon-gray thistle seed,
When the last bell has lulled the white flocks home,
When the last eve has stilled
The wandering wing and touched the dying foam,
When the last moon burns low, and, spark by spark,
The little worlds die out along the dark,–

Beauty that rosed the moth-wing, touched the land
With clover-horns and delicate faint flowers,
Beauty that bade the showers
Beat on the violet's face,
Shall hold the eternal heavens within their place
And hear new stars come singing from God's hand.

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DAWN

O KEEP the world forever at the dawn,
Ere yet the opals, cobweb-strung, have dried,
Ere yet too bounteous gifts have marred the morn
Or fading stars have died.
O, keep the eastern gold no wider than
An angel's finger-span,
And hush the increasing thunder of the sea
To murmuring melody
In those fair coves where tempests ne'er should be.

Hold back the line of shoreward-sweeping surge
And veil each deep sea-pool in pearlier mist,
Ere yet the silver ripples on the verge
Have turned to amethyst.
Fling back the chariot of encroaching day
And call the winds away
Ere yet they sigh, and let the hastening sun
Along his path in heaven no higher run,
But show through all the years his golden rim
With shadows lingering dim
Forever o'er the world awaiting him.

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Hold every bird with still and drowsy wing,
That in the breathless hush no clamorous throat
Shall break the peace that hangs on everything
With shrill awakening note;
Keep fast the half-seen beauties of the rose
In undisturbed repose,
Check all the iris buds where they unfold
Impatient from their hold,
And close the cowslips' cups of honeyed gold.

Keep all things hushed, so hushed we seem to hear
The sounds of low-swung clouds that sweep the trees;
Let now no harsher music reach the ear,
No earthlier sounds than these,
When whispering shadows move within the grass,
And airy tremors pass
Through all the earth with life awakening thrilled,
And so forever stilled,
Too sweet in promise e'er to be fulfilled.

[Page 15]

O keep the world forever at the dawn,
Yet, keeping so, let nothing lifeless seem,
But hushed, as if the miracle of morn
Were trembling in its dream.
Some shadowy moth may pass with downy flight
And fade before the sight,
While in the unlightened darkness of the wall
The chirping crickets call;
From forest pools where fragrant lilies are
A breath shall pass afar,
And o'er the crested pine shall hang one star.

[Page 16]

EVENING

WHEN the white iris folds the drowsing bee,
When the first cricket wakes
The fairy hosts of his enchanted brakes,
When the dark moth has sought the lilac tree,
And the young stars, like jasmine of the skies,
Are opening on the silence, Lord, there lies
Dew on Thy rose and dream upon mine eyes.

Lovely the day, when life is robed in splendour,
Walking the ways of God and strong with wine,
But the pale eve is wonderful and tender,
And night is more divine.
Fold my faint olives from their shimmering plain,
O shadow of sweet darkness fringed with rain.
Give me to night again.

[Page 17]

Give me to day no more. I have bethought me
Silence is more than laughter, sleep than tears.
Sleep like a lover faithfully hath sought me
Down the enduring years.
Where stray the first white fatlings of the fold,
Where the Lent-lily droops her earlier gold
Sleep waits me as of old.

Grant me sweet sleep, for light is unavailing
When patient eyes grow weary of the day.
Young lambs creep close and tender wings are failing,
And I grow tired as they.
Light as the long wave leaves the lonely shore,
Our boughs have lost the bloom that morning bore.
Give me to day no more.

[Page 18]

THE GREEN MONTH

WHAT of all the colours shall I bring you for your fairing,
Fit to lay your fingers on, fine enough for you?–
Yellow for the ripened rye, white for ladies' wearing,
Red for briar-roses, or the skies' own blue?

Nay, for spring has touched the elm, spring has found the willow,
Winds that call the swallow home sway the boughs apart;
Green shall all my curtains be, green shall be my pillow,
Green I'll wear within my hair, and green upon my heart.

[Page 19]

SONG OF LATE SEPTEMBER

IN this irised net I keep
All the moth-winged winds of sleep,
In this basket woven of willow
I have silk-weed for your pillow.
In this pouch of plaited reeds
Stars I bear for silver beads.
Choose my pippins for your money,
Reddening pears as smooth as honey,
Golden grapes and apricots,
Herbs from well-grown garden plots;
Basil, balm, and savoury,
All sweet-smelling things there be,
Fruits a many and flowers a few,–
Fiery dahlias drooped in dew,
Wood-grown asters faint as smoke,
Flame of maple, frond of oak.

In this box of foreign woods
I have delicate woven goods;
Orient laces light as mist,
Amber veils and amethyst,
Ivory pins like hardened milk,
Cloaks of silver-shining silk
Wrought with strange embroideries
Of peacock plumes and rose-berries.
Buy a king's crown lost of old,

[Page 20]

Dark with sardius sunk in gold.
Buy my gloves of spiders spun,
Cool as water, warm as sun;
Buy my shoon of yellow leathers
Lined with fur and owlet feathers;
Buy a chain of emerald stones
Or scarlet seeds or cedar cones.
All sweet, delicate things there be
Honest folk may buy of me.
Ere the earliest thrush has flown
In my eyes the dawns are shown.
On my lips the summer lingers,
Rain has jewelled all my fingers;
In my hand the crickets sing,
And the moon's my golden ring.

[Page 21]

FROST SONG

HERE where the bee slept and the orchis lifted
Her honeying pipes of pearl, her velvet lip,
Only the swart leaves of the oak lie drifted
In sombre fellowship.
Here where the flame-weed set the lands alight,
Lies the bleak upland, webbed and crowned with white.

Build high the logs, O love, and in thine eyes
Let me believe the summer lingers late.
We shall not miss her passive pageantries,
We are not desolate,
When on the sill, across the window bars,
Kind winter flings her flowers and her stars.

[Page 22]

DREAM RIVER

WIND-SILVERED willows hedge the stream,
And all within is hushed and cool.
The water, in an endless dream,
Goes sliding down from pool to pool.
And every pool a sapphire is,
From shadowy deep to sunlit edge,
Ribboned around with irises
And cleft with emerald spears of sedge.

O, every morn the winds are stilled,
The sunlight falls in amber bars.
O, every night the pools are filled
With silver brede of shaken stars.
O, every morn the sparrow flings
His elfin trills athwart the hush,
And here unseen at eve there sings
One crystal-throated hermit-thrush.

[Page 23]

SWALLOWS

O LITTLE hearts, beat home, beat home,
Here is no place to rest.
Night darkens on the falling foam
And on the fading west.
O little wings, beat home, beat home.
Love may no longer roam.

O, Love has touched the fields of wheat
And Love has crowned the corn,
And we must follow Love's white feet
Through all the ways of morn.
Through all the silver roads of air
We pass and have no care.

The silver roads of Love are wide,
O winds that turn, O stars that guide.
Sweet are the ways that Love has trod
Through the clear skies that reach to God.
But in the cliff-grass Love builds deep
A place where wandering wings may sleep.

[Page 24]

THE POOL

COME with me, follow me, swift as a moth,
Ere the wood-doves waken.
Lift the long leaves and look down, look down
Where the light is shaken,
Amber and brown,
On the woven ivory roots of the reed,
On a floating flower and a weft of weed
And a feather of froth.

Here in the night all wonders are,
Lapped in the lift of the ripple's swing,–
A silver shell and a shaken star,
And a white moth's wing.
Here the young moon when the mists unclose
Swims like the bud of a golden rose.

I would live like an elf where the wild grapes cling,
I would chase the thrush
From the red rose-berries.
All the day long I would laugh and swing
With the black choke-cherries.

[Page 25]

I would shake the bees from the milkweed blooms,
And cool, O cool,
Night after night I would leap in the pool,
And sleep with the fish in the roots of the rush.
Clear, O clear my dreams should be made
Of emerald light and amber shade,
Of silver shallows and golden glooms.
Sweet, O sweet my dreams should be
As the dark, sweet water enfolding me
Safe as a blind shell under the sea.

[Page 26]

O SILVER ROSE

THE dark hour turns so slowly and so sweet,
The last still hour soft-fallen from the stars.
To-morrow I may kneel and touch thy feet,
O Rose of all Shiraz.

Lay wide thine amorous lattice to the south,
O Silver Rose, when roses breathe thy name,
And thou at dawn shalt feel upon thy mouth
The kiss I dared not claim.

Discrowned, dishonoured, reft of pride and power,
From the red battle where they hailed me lord,
O Silver Rose, O sweet Pomegranate Flower,
I turn me to their sword.

Life hath so held me to an empty part,
Life hath so snared me, bound and made me blind.
To-morrow I may rest upon thy heart,
For death shall prove more kind.

[Page 27]

THE BRIDEGROOM OF CANA

"There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. . . . And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage."

VEIL thine eyes, O belovéd, my spouse,
Turn them away,
Lest in their light my life withdrawn
Dies as a star, as a star in the day,
As a dream in the dawn.

Slenderly hang the olive leaves
Sighing apart;
The rose and silver doves in the eaves
With a murmur of music bind our house.
Honey and wine in thy words are stored,
Thy lips are bright as the edge of a sword
That hath found my heart,
That hath found my heart.

[Page 28]

Sweet, I have waked from a dream of thee,–
And of Him.
He who came when the songs were done.
From the net of thy smiles my heart went free
And the golden lure of thy love grew dim.
I turned to them asking, "Who is He,
Royal and sad, who comes to the feast
And sits Him down in the place of the least?"
And they said, "He is Jesus, the carpenter's son."

Hear how my harp on a single string
Murmurs of love.
Down in the fields the thrushes sing
And the lark is lost in the light above,
Lost in the infinite, glowing whole,
As I in thy soul,
As I in thy soul.

Love, I am fain for thy glowing grace
As the pool for the star, as the rain for the rill.
Turn to me, trust to me, mirror me
As the star in the pool, as the cloud in the sea.
Love, I looked awhile in His face
And was still.

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The shaft of the dawn strikes clear and sharp;
Hush, my harp.
Hush my harp, for the day is begun,
And the lifting, shimmering flight of the swallow
Breaks in a curve on the brink of morn,
Over the sycamores, over the corn,
Cling to me, cleave to me, prison me
As the mote in the flame, as the shell in the sea,
For the winds of the dawn say, "Follow, follow
Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter's son."

[Page 30]

A MOTHER IN EGYPT

"About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon the throne, even unto the firstborn of the maid-servant that is behind the mill."

IS the noise of grief in the palace over the river
For this silent one at my side?
There came a hush in the night, and he rose with his hands a-quiver
Like lotus petals adrift on the swing of the tide.
O small soft hands, the day groweth old for sleeping!
O small still feet, rise up, for the hour is late!
Rise up, my son, for I hear them mourning and weeping
In the temple down by the gate.

[Page 31]

Hushed is the face that was wont to brighten with laughter
When I sang at the mill,
And silence unbroken shall greet the sorrowful dawns hereafter,
The house shall be still.
Voice after voice takes up the burden of wailing,–
Do you heed, do you hear?–in the high-priest's house by the wall;
But mine is the grief, and their sorrow is all unavailing.
Will he wake at their call?

Something I saw of the broad, dim wings half folding
The passionless brow.
Something I saw of the sword the shadowy hands were holding,–
What matters it now?
I held you close, dear face, as I knelt and harkened
To the wind that cried last night like a soul in sin,
When the broad, bright stars dropped down and the soft sky darkened,
And the Presence moved therein.

[Page 32]

I have heard men speak in the market-place of the city,
Low voiced, in a breath,
Of a god who is stronger than ours, and who knows not changing nor pity,
Whose anger is death.
Nothing I know of the lords of the outland races,
But Amun is gentle and Hathor the Mother is mild,
And who would descend from the light of the peaceful places
To war on a child?

Yet here he lies, with a scarlet pomegranate petal
Blown down on his cheek.
The slow sun sinks to the sand like a shield of some burnished metal,
But he does not speak.
I have called, I have sung, but he neither will hear nor waken;
So lightly, so whitely he lies in the curve of my arm,
Like a feather let fall from the bird that the arrow hath taken.
Who could see him, and harm?

[Page 33]

"The swallow flies home to her sleep in the eaves of the altar,
And the crane to her nest,"–
So do we sing o'er the mill, and why, ah, why should I falter,
Since he goes to his rest?
Does he play in their flowers as he played among these with his mother?
Do the gods smile downward and love him and give him their care?
Guard him well, O ye gods, till I come; lest the wrath of that Other
Should reach to him there!

[Page 34]

ST. YVES' POOR

JEFFIK was there, and Matthieu, and brown Bran,
Warped in old wars and babbling of the sword,
And Jannedik, a white rose pinched and paled
With the world's frosts, and many more beside,
Lamed, rheumed and palsied, aged, impotent
Of all but hunger and blind lifted hands.
I set the doors wide at the given hour,
Took the great baskets piled with bread, the fish
Yet silvered of the sea, the curds of milk,
And called them, Brethren, brake, and blest, and gave.

For O, my Lord, the house dove knows her nest
Above my window builded from the rain;
In the brown mere the heron finds her rest,
But these shall seek in vain.

[Page 35]

And O, my Lord, the thrush may fold her wing,
The curlew seek the long lift of the seas,
The wild swan sleep amid his journeying,–
There is no rest for these.

Thy dead are sheltered; housed and warmed they wait
Under the golden fern, the falling foam;
But these, Thy living, wander desolate
And have not any home.

I called them, Brethren, brake, and blest, and gave.
Old Jeffik had her withered hand to show,
Young Jannedik had dreamed of death, and Bran
Would tell me wonders wrought on fields of war,
When Michael and his warriors rode the storm,
And all the heavens were thrilled with clanging spears,–
Ah, God, my poor, my poor.–Till there came one
Wrapped in foul rags, who caught me by the robe,
And pleaded, "Bread, my father."

[Page 36]

                           In his hand
I laid the last loaf of the daily dole,
Saw on the palm a red wound like a star,
And bade him, "Let me bind it."
                           "These my wounds,"
He answered softly, "daily dost thou bind."
And I, "My son, I have not seen thy face.
But thy bruised feet have trodden on my heart.
I will get water for thee."
                           "These my hurts,"
Again he answered, "daily dost thou wash."
And I once more, "My son, I know thee not,
But the bleak wind blows bitter from the sea,
And even the gorse is perished. Rest thou here."
And he again, "My rest is in thy heart.
I take from thee as I have given to thee.
Dost thou not know Me, Breton?"
                           I,–"My Lord!"–

A scent of lilies on the cold sea-wind,
A thin, white blaze of wings, a face of flame
Over the gateway, and the vision passed,
And there were only Matthieu and brown Bran,

[Page 37]

And the young girl, the foam-white Jannedik,
Wondering to see their father rapt from them,
And Jeffik weeping o'er her withered hand.

[Page 38]

THE LITTLE SISTER OF THE PROPHET

"If there arise among you a prophet or dreamer. . ."

I HAVE left a basket of dates
In the cool dark room that is under the vine,
Some curds set out in two little crimson plates
And a flask of the amber wine,
And cakes most cunningly beaten
Of savoury herbs, and spice, and the delicate wheaten
Flour that is best,
And all to lighten his spirit and sweeten his rest.

This morning he cried, "Awake,
And see what the wonderful grace of the Lord hath revealed!"
And we ran for his sake,
But 'twas only the dawn outspread o'er our father's field,
And the house of the potter white in the valley below.
But his hands were upraised to the east and he cried to us, "So

[Page 39]

Ye may ponder and read
The strength and the beauty of God outrolled in a fiery screed!"

Then the little brown mother smiled,
As one does on the words of a well-loved child,
And, "Son," she replied, "have the oxen been watered and fed?
For work is to do, though the skies be never so red,
And already the first sweet hours of the day are spent."
And he sighed, and went.

Will he come from the byre
With his head all misty with dreams, and his eyes on fire,
Shaking us all with the weight of the words of his passion?
I will give him raisins instead of dates,
And wreathe young leaves on the little red plates.
I will put on my new head-tyre,
And braid my hair in a comelier fashion.
Will he note? Will he mind?
Will he touch my cheek as he used to, and laugh and be kind?

[Page 40]

PIETER MARINUS

LORD, I have known all fruits of this thy world;
Like Solomon king, I have been fain of all,–
War, women, and wine,–but mine was spirit of Nantes.
And now, O Lord, I'm old and fain for Thee.
But, Lord, my soul's so grimed and weather-worn,
So warped and wrung with all iniquities,
Piracies, brawls, and cheated revenues,
There's not a saint but would look twice at it.

So, when my time comes, send no angels down
With lutes, and harps, and foreign instruments,
To pipe old Pieter's spirit up to heaven
Past his tall namesake sturdy at his post.

But let me lie awhile in these Thy seas.
Let the soft Gulf Stream and the long South Drift,
And the swift tides that rim the Labrador,
Beat on my soul and wash it clean again.

[Page 41]

And when Thy waves have smoothed me of my sins,
White as the sea-mew or the wind-spun foam,
Clean as the clear-cut images of stars
That swing between the swells,–then, then, O Lord,
Lean out, lean out from heaven and call me thus,
"Come up, thou soul of Pieter Marinus,"
And I'll go home.

[Page 42]

THE LAMP OF POOR SOULS

In many English churches before the Reformation there was kept a little lamp continually burning, called the Lamp of Poor Souls. People were reminded thereby to pray for the souls of those dead whose kinsfolk were too poor to pay for prayers and masses.

ABOVE my head the shields are stained with rust,
The wind has taken his spoil, the moth his part;
Dust of dead men beneath my knees, and dust,
Lord, in my heart.

Lay Thou the hand of faith upon my fears;
The priest has prayed, the silver bell has rung,
But not for him. O unforgotten tears,
He was so young!

Shine, little lamp, nor let thy light grow dim.
Into what vast, dread dreams, what lonely lands,
Into what griefs hath death delivered him,
Far from my hands?

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Cradled is he, with half his prayers forgot.
I cannot learn the level way he goes.
He whom the harvest hath remembered not
Sleeps with the rose.

Shine, little lamp, fed with sweet oil of prayers.
Shine, little lamp, as God's own eyes may shine,
When He treads softly down His starry stairs
And whispers, "Thou art Mine."

Shine, little lamp, for love hath fed thy gleam.
Sleep, little soul, by God's own hands set free.
Cling to His arms and sleep, and sleeping, dream,
And dreaming, look for me.

[Page 44]

IN THE GARDENS OF SHUSHAN

BE pitiful! Her lips have touched this cool
Clear stream that sets the long green leaves astir.
The very doves that dream beside the pool
Sang their soft notes to her.

For her these doors that claim the amorous south,
Bound in red bronze and stayed with cedar-wood.
And here the bees sought honey from her mouth,
So like a flower she stood.

For her the globed pomegranates grew, and all
Sweet savoury fruits rose perfect from their flower.
Here has her soul known silence and the fall
Of each enchanted hour.

[Page 45]

Under her feet all beauty was laid low,
In her deep eyes all beauty was made clear.
When the king called her through the evening glow,
"O Vashti, I am here!"

Still the sweet wells return to me her face,
Still her lost name on every wind is blown.
The shadows and the silence of this place
Are hers alone.

[Page 46]

PÈRE LALEMANT

I LIFT the Lord on high,
Under the murmuring hemlock boughs, and see
The small birds of the forest lingering by
And making melody.
These are mine acolytes and these my choir,
And this mine altar in the cool green shade,
Where the wild soft-eyed does draw nigh
Wondering, as in the byre
Of Bethlehem the oxen heard Thy cry
And saw Thee, unafraid.

My boatmen sit apart,
Wolf-eyed, wolf-sinewed, stiller than the trees.
Help me, O Lord, for very slow of heart
And hard of faith are these.
Cruel are they, yet Thy children. Foul are they,
Yet wert Thou born to save them utterly.
Then make me as I pray,
Just to their hates, kind to their sorrows, wise
After their speech, and strong before their free
Indomitable eyes.

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Do the French lilies reign
O'er Mont Royal and Stadacona still?
Up the St. Lawrence comes the spring again,
Crowning each southward hill
And blossoming pool with beauty, while I roam
Far from the perilous folds that are my home,
There where we built St. Ignace for our needs,
Shaped the rough roof tree, turned the first sweet sod,
St. Ignace and St. Louis, little beads
On the rosary of God.

Pines shall Thy pillars be,
Fairer than those Sidonian cedars brought
By Hiram out of Tyre, and each birch-tree
Shines like a holy thought.
But come no worshippers; shall I confess,
St. Francis-like, the birds of the wilderness?
O, with Thy love my lonely head uphold.
A wandering shepherd I, who hath no sheep;
A wandering soul, who hath no scrip, nor gold,
Nor anywhere to sleep.

[Page 48]

My hour of rest is done;
On the smooth ripple lifts the long canoe;
The hemlocks murmur sadly as the sun
Slants his dim arrows through.
Whither I go I know not, nor the way,
Dark with strange passions, vexed with heathen charms,
Holding I know not what of life or death;
Only be Thou beside me day by day,
Thy rod my guide and comfort, underneath
Thy everlasting arms.

[Page 49]

BEGA

FROM the clouded belfry calling,
Hear my soft ascending swells;
Hear my notes like swallows falling;
I am Bega, least of bells.
When great Turkeful rolls and rings
All the storm-touched turret swings,
Echoing battle, loud and long.
When great Tatwin wakening roars
To the far-off shining shores,
All the seamen know his song.
I am Bega, least of bells:
In my throat my message swells.
I with all the winds a-thrill,
Murmuring softly, murmuring still,
     "God around me, God above me,
      God to guard me, God to love me."

I am Bega, least of bells,
Weaving wonder, wind-born spells.
High above the morning mist,
Wreathed in rose and amethyst,
Still the dreams of music float
Silver from my silver throat,
Whispering beauty, whispering peace.
When great Tatwin's golden voice
Bids the listening land rejoice,

[Page 50]

When great Turkeful rings and rolls
Thunder down to trembling souls,
Then my notes like curlews flying,
Lifting, falling, sinking, sighing,
Softly answer, softly cease.
I with all the airs at play
Murmuring sweetly, murmuring say,
     "God around me, God above me,
      God to guard me, God to love me."

[Page 51]

IN A MONASTERY GARDEN

OVER the long salt ridges
And the gold sea-poppies between,
They builded them wild-briar hedges,
A church and a cloistered green.
And when they were done with their praises,
And the tides on the Fore beat slow,
Under the white cliff-daisies
They laid them down in a row.

Porphyry, Paul, and Peter,
Jasper, and Joachim,–
Was the psaltery music sweeter
Than the throat of the thrush to him?
Tired of their drones and their dirges,
Where the young cliff-rabbits play,
Wet with the salt of the surges,
They laid them down for a day.

One may not call to the other
There on the rim of the deep,
Only the youngest brother
Lies and smiles in his sleep.
When the wild swan's shadow passes,
When the ripe fruit falls to the sod,
When the faint moth flies in the grasses
He dreams in the hands of God.

[Page 52]

Here for his hopes there follow
The violets one by one.
The dove is here and the swallow
And the young leaf seeking the sun.
And here when the last sail darkens
And the last lone path is trod,
Under the rose he harkens
And smiles in the eyes of God.

[Page 53]

A CHILD'S SONG

WHEN the Child played in Galilee,
He had no wine-clear maple leaves,
No west winds singing of the sea
Over the frosted sheaves;
But with pale myrrh His head was bound
And crowned.

When the Child lived in Nazareth,
He watched the golden anise seed,
With daisies white in the wind's breath,
And hyssop flowering for His need,
While the late crocus from the sod
Flamed for her God.

When the Child dwelt in Palestine,
Over the brooks the willow grew,
Olive and aspen, oak and pine,
Sweet sycamore and yew,
But one dark Tree of all the seven
Stood high as heaven.

[Page 54]

A CHILD'S SONG OF CHRISTMAS

MY counterpane is soft as silk,
My blankets white as creamy milk.
     The hay was soft to Him, I know,
     Our little Lord of long ago.

Above the roof the pigeons fly
In silver wheels across the sky.
     The stable-doves they cooed to them,
     Mary and Christ in Bethlehem.

Bright shines the sun across the drifts,
And bright upon my Christmas gifts.
     They brought Him incense, myrrh, and gold,
     Our little Lord who lived of old.

O, soft and clear our mother sings
Of Christmas joys and Christmas things.
     God's holy angels sang to them,
     Mary and Christ in Bethlehem.

Our hearts they hold all Christmas dear,
And earth seems sweet and heaven seems near.
     O, heaven was in His sight, I know,
     That little Child of long ago.

[Page 55]

YOUTH'S END

I HAVE held my life too high,
Spring and harvest, love and laughter, smile and sigh.
I should have held it lightly, like a young leaf rent in haste
From the willow in the waste.
A moment in my fingers; then it fluttered, then it fled,
A little flame of red,
To the God-beholding desert where the soundless years go by,–
I have held my life too high.

I have held my death too dear,
Shame or honour, peace or peril, pride or fear.
I should have held it softly, as the little cloud that flies
When the heron takes the skies.
I should have held it kindly as a passing whisper,–"Friend,
Here's the end,
Here the silver cord is loosened and the bowl is broken here,"–
But I held my death too dear.

[Page 56]

JASPER'S SONG

WHO goes down through the slim green sallows,
Soon, so soon?
Dawn is hard on the heels of the moon,
But never a lily the day-star knows
Is white, so white as the one who goes
Armed and shod, when the hyacinths darken.
Then hark, O harken!
And rouse the moths from the deep rose-mallows,
Call the wild hares down from the fallows,
Gather the silk of the young sea-poppies,
The bloom of the thistle, the bells of the foam;
Bind them all with a brown owl's feather,
Snare the winds in a golden tether,
Chase the clouds from the gipsy's weather, and follow, O follow, the white spring home.

Who goes past with the wind that chilled us,
Late, so late?
Fortune leans on the farmer's gate,
Watching the round sun low in the south,

[Page 57]

With a plume in his cap and a rose at his mouth.
But O, for the folk who were free and merry
There's never so much as a red rose-berry.
But old earth's warm as the wine that filled us,
And the fox and the little gray mouse skull build us
Walls of the sweet green gloom of the cedar,
A roof of bracken, a curtain of whin;
One more rouse ere the bowl reposes
Low in the dust of our lost red roses,
One more song ere the cold night closes, and welcome, O welcome the dark death in!

[Page 58]

THE HILLMAN'S LASS

OVER the field where the grass is cool,
(Follow the road who must!)
With a song for the beech and the brown pool,
And the noiseless tread in the dust,
With a laugh for the lazy hours that go,
And the folk who pass us by.
(The trees they grow so broad, so low,
They shut me from the sky.)

Here be strawberries wild and sweet,
(Follow the road who may!)
And here's a rest for a bairn's feet
And a kiss at the close o' day.
And here's a cloud from the shining sea
Like a white moth in the night.
(On the edge o' the barley field, may be
The stars would show more bright.)

Cut me a flute where the reeds are brown.
(Follow the road who will!)
O, I'll dress you fair in a green gown
And a cloak that is finer still.
Your sleeves shall be o' the fairies' lawn,
Your shoon as red as the rose.
(Do you think that the wind which wakes at dawn
Will bring us a breath o' the snows?)

[Page 59]

O, the world's wide, and the world is long.
(Follow the road who may!)
And here's a lilt of the wild song
The Romany pipers play.
And "Mine," it sings, "is the moon's shield,
And the cloak o' the cloud is mine."
(Do you think that the lowland clover field
Is sweet as the upland pine?)

[Page 60]

THE SHEPHERD BOY

WHEN the red moon hangs over the fold,
And the cypress shadow is rimmed with gold,
O little sheep, I have laid me low,
My face against the old earth's face,
Where one by one the white moths go,
And the brown bee has his sleeping place.
And then I have whispered, Mother, hear,
For the owls are awake and the night is near,
And whether I lay me near or far
No lip shall kiss me,
No eye shall miss me,
Saving the eye of a cold white star.

And the old brown woman answers mild,
Rest you safe on my heart, O child.
Many a shepherd, many a king,
I fold them safe from their sorrowing.
Gwenever's heart is bound with dust,
Tristram dreams of the dappled doe,
But the bugle moulders, the blade is rust;
Stilled are the trumpets of Jericho,
And the tired men sleep by the walls of Troy.

[Page 61]

Little and lonely,
Knowing me only,
Shall I not comfort you, shepherd-boy?

When the wind wakes in the apple-tree,
And the shy hare feeds on the wild fern stem,
I say my prayers to the Trinity,–
The prayers that are three and the charms that are seven
To the angels guarding the towers of heaven,–
And I lay my head on her raiment's hem,
Where the young grass darkens the strawberry star,
Where the iris buds and the bellworts are.
All night I hear her breath go by
Under the arch of the empty sky.
All night her heart beats under my head,
And I lie as still as the ancient dead,
Warm as the young lambs there with the sheep.
I and no other
Close to my Mother,
Fold my hands in her hands, and sleep.

[Page 62]

DUNA

WHEN I was a little lad
With folly on my lips,
Fain was I for journeying
All the seas in ships.
But now across the southern swell,
Every dawn I hear
The little streams of Duna
Running clear.

When I was a young man,
Before my beard was gray,
All to ships and sailormen
I gave my heart away.
But I'm weary of the sea-wind,
I'm weary of the foam,
And the little stars of Duna
Call me home.

[Page 63]

MY FATHER HE WAS A FISHERMAN

MY father he was a fisherman,
That wrought at the break o' day,
And hither and thither the long tides ran
I' the long blue bay.

"The tides go up and the tides go down,
But what do you know of the sea?"
Her voice, i' the long gray streets o' the town,
Is singing to me.

"What do you know of the sails at dawn,
What of the shell-white foam?"
Cheerly and sweet, from a world withdrawn,
They are calling me home.

"What is the grief you fain would tell
When your eyes are turned on me?"
O, well it was taught and I learned it well,–
The grief o' the sea.

"Where do you travel and where do you sleep,
Where shall you take your rest?"
At the inn that shelters my father, deep
I' the seas o' the west.

[Page 64]

JENNIFER'S LAD

SWEET Jennifer came calling me
Along the shining beach.
"There's green upon the hawthorn tree
There's bloom upon the peach.
O, April's found the upland larch,
The hazel in the hollow,"–
But louder was the snare-drum with it's "March, march, march!"
And clearer called the bugle, "Will you follow?"

Young Jennifer came seeking me
With love upon her lips.
"O, all kind angels keep the sea
And fortune guard the ships.
The Autumn winds have rent the larch,
The south has won the swallow,"–
But clearer beat the snare-drum with it's "March, march, march!"
And sweeter sang the bugle, "Will you follow?"

[Page 65]

THREE ISLAND SONGS

AFTER the wind in the wood,
Peace, and the night.
After the bond and the brood,
Flight.
After the height and the hush
Where the wild hawk swings,
Heart of the earth-loving thrush
Shaken with wings.

After the bloom and the leaf
Rain on the nest.
After the splendour and grief,
Rest.
After the hills and the far
Glories and gleams,
Cloud, and the dawn of a star,
And dreams.


O, THE gray rocks of the islands and the hemlock green above them,
The foam beneath the wild rose bloom, the star above the shoal.
When I am old and weary I'll wake my heart to love them,
For the blue ways of the islands are wound about my soul.

[Page 66]

Here in the early even when the young gray dew is falling,
And the king-heron seeks his mate beyond the loneliest wild,
Still your heart in the twilight, and you'll hear the river calling
Through all her outmost islands to seek her lastborn child.


I SAT among the green leaves, and heard the nuts falling,
The broad red butterflies were gold against the sun,
But in between the silence and the sweet birds calling
The nuts fell one by one.

Why should they fall and the year but half over?
Why should sorrow seek me and I so young and kind?
The leaf is on the bough and the dew is on the clover,
But the green nuts are falling in the wind.

[Page 67]

O, I gave my lips away and all my soul behind them.
Why should trouble follow and the quick tears start?
The little birds may love and fly with only God to mind them,
But the green nuts are falling on my heart.

[Page 68]

SERENADE

DARK is the iris meadow,
Dark is the ivory tower,
And lightly the young moth's shadow
Sleeps on the passion-flower.

Gone are our day's red roses.
So lovely and lost and few,
But the first star uncloses
A silver bud in the blue.

Night, and a flame in the embers
Where the seal of the years was set,–
When the almond-bough remembers
How shall my heart forget?

[Page 69]

THE LOVERS OF MARCHAID

DOMINIC came riding down, sworded, straight and splendid,
Drave his hilt against her door, flung a golden chain.
Said: "I'll teach your lips a song sweet as his that's ended,
Ere the white rose call the bee, the almond flower again."

But he only saw her head bent within the gloom
Over heaps of bridal thread bright as apple-bloom,
Silver silk like rain that spread across the driving loom.

Dreaming Fanch, the cobbler's son, took his tools and laces,
Wrought her shoes of scarlet dye, shoes as pale as snow;
"They shall lead her wildrose feet all the fairy paces
Danced along the road of love, the road such feet should go"–

But he only saw her eyes turning from his gift

[Page 70]

Out towards the silver skies where the white clouds drift,
Where the wild gerfalcon flies, where the last sails lift.

Bran has built his homestead high where the hills may shield her,
Where the young bird waits the spring, where the dawns are fair,
Said: "I'll name my trees for her, since I may not yield her
Stars of morning for her feet, of evening for her hair."

But he did not see them ride, seven dim sail and more,
All along the harbour-side, white from shore to shore,
Nor heard the voices of the tide crying at her door.

Jean-Marie has touched his pipe down beside the river
When the young fox bends the fern, when the folds are still,
Said: "I send her all the gifts that my love may give her,–
Golden notes like golden birds to seek her at my will."

[Page 71]

But he only found the waves, heard the seagull's cry,
In and out the ocean caves, underneath the sky,
All above the wind-washed graves where dead seamen lie.

[Page 72]

THE HOUSE'S SETTING

HERE is no hedge of yewe to hold in griefe,
No cypresse nor long willow for despaire.
But the young birch displayes his cheerfulle leaf
In tracerie most faire.

Where the sunne falls at morn stand poplars seven
Where freely I of all sweete joyes may borrowe,
An elm that lifts his prayerfulle arms to Heaven,
And three tall pines for sorrowe.

[Page 73]

DEUS MISEREATUR

PLEASANT the ways whereon our feet were led,
Sweet the young hills, the valleys of content,
But now the hours of dew and dream have fled.
Lord, we are spent.

We did not heed Thy warning in the skies,
We have not heard Thy voice nor known Thy fold;
But now the world is darkening to our eyes.
Lord, we grow old.

Now the sweet stream turns bitter with our tears,
Now dies the star we followed in the west,
Now are we sad and ill at ease with years.
Lord, we would rest.

Lo, our proud lamps are emptied of their light,
Weary our hands to toil, our feet to roam;
Our day is past and swiftly falls Thy night.
Lord, lead us home.

[Page 74]

FAME

HAVE I played fellowship with night, to see
The allied armies break our gates at dawn
And let our general in? By Bacchus, no!
I have not left my stall, sir, I'm too poor
For lazy prentices to hand my wares,–
Such delicate chains, like amber linked with love!
Such silvered pins, like hate to let love out!–
What know I? But my Guidarello went
To the fountain of the coppersmiths, when first
The double cypress showed upon the east.
He's home, poor fool, hoarse as a moulting bird
From loud throat-loyalty.
                  "The banners burn
Still in my soul," he cries, "as then in air.
The gray air, the gray houses, and the flowers,
The flowers, my father! Thyme and twisted sweets
From the blue hills I dream of, and thin bells
Of faery folds; pomegranates spun in flame,

[Page 75]

Flame of red rose and golden, flame of sound
Blown from hot-throated trumpets, and the flame
Of her proud eyes!–
            She rode beside the duke
In velvet coloured as a pansy is
And threaded round with gold. Her mantle strained
On the warm wind behind her, golden too,
Gold as the spires of lilies, and her hair
And her dark eyes were danced across with gold."
      Gold, gold, poor fool, and she was bought for gold,
A golden grief to ride at a duke's rein.
Eh well! The great grow love-in-idleness
About their courts. Did Guidarello see
Our general too? "A little, tired old man,
Clad in worn sables with a silver star,"
He told me, "fain to find his house and sleep."

[Page 76]

KWANNON

Kwannon, the Japanese goddess of mercy, is represented with many hands, typifying generosity and kindness. In one of these hands she is supposed to hold an ax, wherewith she severs the threads of human lives.

I AM the ancient one, the many-handed,
The merciful am I.
Here where the black pine bends above the sea
They bring their gifts to me–
Spoil of the foreshore where the corals lie,
Fishes of ivory, and amber stranded,
And carven beads
Green as the fretted fringes of the weeds.

Age after age, I watch the long sails pass.
Age after age, I see them come once more
Home, as the gray-winged pigeon to the grass,
The white crane to the shore.
Goddess am I of heaven and this small town
Above the beaches brown.
And here the children bring me cakes, and flowers,
And all the strange sea-treasures that they find,

[Page 77]

For "She," they say, "the Merciful, is ours,
And she," they say, "is kind."

Camphor and wave-worn sandalwood for burning
They bring to me alone,
Shells that are veined like irises, and those
Curved like the clear bright petals of a rose.
Wherefore an hundredfold again returning
I render them their own–

Full-freighted nets that flash among the foam,
Laughter and love, and gentle eyes at home,
Cool of the night, and the soft air that swells
My silver temple bells.
Winds of the spring, the little flowers that shine
Where the young barley slopes to meet the pine,
Gold of the charlock, guerdon of the rain,
I give to them again.

Yet though the fishing boats return full-laden
Out of the broad blue east,
Under the brown roofs pain is their handmaiden,

[Page 78]

And mourning is their feast.
Yea, though my many hands are raised to bless,
I am not strong to give them happiness.

Sorrow comes swiftly as the swallow flying
O, little lives, that are so quickly done!
Peace is my raiment, mercy is my breath,
I am the gentle one.
When they are tired of sorrow and of sighing
I give them death.

[Page 79]

MONS ANGELORUM

MOSES, JOSHUA, THE THREE ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSE

Evening: a slope of Pisgah

Moses –Our span of life is lessening with the years,
    Our little sun rolls swiftlier to its end
    Among the eternal stars. It is a feather
    Blown from a careless lip into the dark,
    A fallen feather, the lily of a day,
    Brimming with blood and tears instead of dew,
    And dying with its sleep. Having known life,
    Having known day, I pass into the night;
    Having long spoken with God, I hold my peace;
    Having long held the sword, I lay it down,
    And the new watch believes me. Is all well?

Joshua –O father of my soul, I cannot tell.
    The burden of the Lord is heavy on me,

[Page 80]

    And I am broken beneath it.

Moses –             Since I knew,
    All my desires and cares have gone from me.
    Rather I think on old forgotten things–
    A song within the temple-court, to her,
    Isis, the Lady of Love. How white she sat
    Above the crowded gate! I was a boy:
    I ran and laid a lotus on her knees,
    Dreaming she smiled in answer. Ah, those dreams
    Far on the shining level of the sands,–
    Thebes and old Tanis builded of a cloud!
    The reeds beside the river, those sweet trees
    Full of warm buds that ripen and unclose
    At eve; the barges passing on the Nile
    Like golden water-fowl with ivory wings;
    The gardens and the great pomegranate flowers,
    And she, my gentle mother in Mizraim,
       Calling me, "Mesu, Mesu."

Joshua –            I cannot think.
    My sorrow stays me and my grief prevents.

[Page 81]

    Yet there are heathen foes and wars to come.
    I take thy sword. I cannot take thy soul,
    Master of Law, unshaken friend of God,
    But I can fight for Israel.

Moses –             Fight, and stand
    Firmly for God. Jehovah is salvation.
    And now, beloved son in all but blood,
    Go, get you down again.

Joshua –             A little longer,
    Leave me a little longer with you, lord!

Moses –No longer, for the gates of life are lonely.
    Out of the dark man cometh to his life,
    Into the dark he goeth.
                    Down, look down,
    Down to the clustered tents, each with its lives
    Of foolish children, vexed with many fears,
    Agonies, hopes, beliefs inherited,
    Dark hates, fond dreams, divine humilities.
    Shall they go leaderless from stream to stream,
    Following the far-flung visions of despair,

[Page 82]

    These that have been my sheep?

Joshua –             I cannot, father..
    I am a man of war and not of wisdom.
    They will not know my voice nor follow me.

Moses –Man, is it thy faint voice shall be uplifted,
    To soothe the fearful and uphold the strong.
    To lead the unshaken tribes to victory
    Against the men of Amalek and Ai,
    Lords of the plain and coast? Is it thy strength?
    Nay, but Jehovah's in thee. As the cloud
    Filling the empty valley of the hills,
    As the white flood along the water courses
    That once were barren, so His strength will pass
    Into the pits and runnels of thy soul.
    Fight, for the Lord is with thee. Stand thou firm.

Joshua –Lo, I would rather stay and die with thee
    Than pass with shining banners and with song

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    Of silver shawms and trumpets, in thy place
    Over the river Jordan.

Moses –             Nay, I pass
    Over a deeper river, with no songs,
    No mighty trumpetings, no pride of banners.
    Toil have I borne but triumph is not mine.
    Once, once mine eyes shall see the Promised Land,
    Her forts and towers, cities and pleasant fields,
    Her palms and cedars, vines and olive trees,
    And then be darkened. Here's my heritage,
    Here by these mighty chasms, these Godward peaks,
    My last resort, my lone abiding place.
    See, the night comes. How is it with thee, son?

Joshua –A cloud has drawn between us and the plain,
    A darkness moves between us and the sky,
    Full of vague voices, mighty whisperings,

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    Wings, and the sound of them.
                    O, never man
    Has breathed such chilling air as this which blows
    Out of the dark. O, never man has heard
    Such sounds as these which beat upon my soul,
    Known, yet unknown; familiar, yet most dread!
    Lord, must I go?

Moses –         This is the wind of death,
    And this the cold that lies without the world,
    And these the sounds that thrill the untrodden void
    Beyond the lonelier stars. Go down, go down
    To darknened Israel mourning in his tents.
    I can no longer see thee. Stand thou firm.

  (Joshua goes; the cloud surrounds Moses.)

    O ye celestial presences, great shapes
    With terrible fair faces, towering wings,–
    Wings with the wine-deep glow of amethyst,

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    Sheath over sheath like folded waterbuds
    Lit with an inward flame; wings pale as foam,
    Faint plumes showered with silver; wings serene
    Uplifted in a radiant arc of dawn,–
    Unchain the prisoned pinions of this soul,
    Say to the blind bird, Fly. Bid life recede,
    A bubble before the advancing wave of death.
    From my youth upward I have spoken of death,
    Nor knew the word so sweet. There's music in it,
    Music to break the heart. O, heavenly guards,
    Looking so long in your immortal eyes
    I am grown old. Death calls me as a sleep,
    A rest desired, a rich forgetfulness,
       After too much of life.

Angel of Darkness –         Life is no more.
    A little flame soon swallowed in the night,

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    A harp that hath no voice, a bow unstrung.
    Pride of the grass and power of the reed,
    Life is as swift in breaking. Peace be on thee;
    Mine are the wings of peace. Men call me death,
    But so God hath not named me.

Angel of Light –            Life is past,
    Thy ground is taken, thy tent is pitched forever.
    Drink of these wells and be forsworn of sorrow,
    Forsaken of weeping. Men have called me death,
    Yet am I less and greater.

Angel of Dreams –            Peace be on thee.
    Peace and good rest. Mine are the wings of silence
    Folded in silver sleep before my face;
    This in my hand is golden fruit of Eden,
    Whose scent is sleep; its flame-white flower grew
    Along the glades where Adam walked with God.
    Death have men called me, yet I am not death
    Take thy last look on life.

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Moses –            O, Land of Promise.
    From the great plains of Moab to the sea,–
    Thy blossoming orchards, streams, and palaces
    Like golden beads threaded on silver strings,
    Thy towering walls and pinnacles of pride,–
    A fruitful field it is, ripe for the harvest,
    The harvest of the sword.
                I shall not reap it,
    The winepress of His wrath I shall not tread.
    Plighted am I to silence; I go down,
    Dead, to the dead, and am no more remembered
    Upon the lips of men.
                Those sceptred kings,
    The solemn dead of old Mizraim, who sit
    Forever in the sun beside their tombs,
    With blank eyes smiling on eternity,
    Crowned with the reed and lotus, do they live
    More than their grass and lilies? Those I knew,

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    Princes and scribes, lords of the desert, priests
    Learned above the wit of common minds,
    Captains and merchants, rulers over gold,
    Feathers and spices, emeralds, ivories,
    Brought to the feet of Pharaoh: what of them?
    What of the King, Lord of the North and South,
    Son of the Sun, like to the Sun forever?
    A sun? A darkened light, a star o'erwhelmed,
    When his fierce horsemen sank beneath that surge
    Whose crest was blood and terror,–when there died
    On one hushed night, all the firstborn of Egypt.

    O night divine, I set thine excellence
    Above the twice-crowned noon. Here is no star,
    No slenderest crescent poised above the world,
    No lingering love of day. But the soft dark
    Folds inward as a flower, enfolding me,

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    My length of little days, wisdom and grief,
    Light as a drop of rain.

Angel of Dreams –        Tender is night,
    But tenderer far the limits of this death,
    This dream-encompassed city. Here no sound
    Shall wake thee, from thy sleep no storm disturb,
    Though here all storms are born. Tempest and cloud,
    Thunder and hail, the mightiest airs of God,
    The hosts of night, the hot triumphant dawn,
    Seasons, and times, and days, unknown shall march
    O'er thy surrendered head.

Moses –            O loneliest rest!
    On my lost grave only the winds shall mourn,
    The white rain do me service, the sad stars
    Age after age with endless circling eyes
    View this last desolation. In thy hands,
    Into thy hands, O death. Break the worn thread

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    That binds the rifted pattern of the loom.
    O King of kings, forsake not now Thy servant.

Angel of Darkness –Lo, the black crags leap to the vaulted cloud,
    Towering without a sound. The dark takes substance
    In domes and depths of mightiest design
    And seals him from the world. Pillared like Thebes,
    Straight as the tall palm-orchard lift the walls
    Of this vast grave. Life has no meaning here,
    Light has no name nor place. O human heart,
    Fain for the little shows of grief, for tears
    And kindlier sepulchre, no king shall sleep
    So royally housed as thou.

Moses –            Draw near, draw near.
    The string is all but parted. Shape thy wings
    Into a roof of silver silences,
    A dome of deep repose. O murmuring flood,

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    O tide of death lifting the weed of life,
    O passive arbiter, indifferent power
    In whose still hand the kingdoms of the world
    Lie like a beggar's coin, beneath whose heel
    Nations are drifted dust, accept thou me.
    The bubble of life is broken.

Angel of Light –         Life begins
    Cover his face, kind Darkness, with thy wings
    Smooth as the wild swan's breast. Let no wind wake
    An echo in this holy solitude.
    Let the enduring seasons with soft tread
    Circle these sacred hills; no falling star
    Shiver the fine perfection of repose.
    God hath his life. Guard Thou his mighty dust.

Angel of Darkness –I am the firstborn angel. Ere this world
    Was shapen, I endured within the void
    Waiting the word of God. Beyond this world
    I shall endure, when the young stars are driven

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    Outworn in dust along the roads of space,
    Blown by the breath of chaos. When this plan,
    This present firmament, vision and light,
    Princes of heaven, dominions, powers, are past,
    I shall remain about the eternal throne
    Veiling the thoughts of God. Leave him with me,
    Ye younger spirits; such silence is too old
    For your bright souls to bear. Leave me my dead.

  (The angels of Light and Dreams take flight.
  The angel of Darkness covers Moses with his wings.)

    The dead are mine. Swift they come down to me.
    The little life they suffer, their frail dream
    Is past. Here is no memory, here no hope,
    No reason, no despair nor happiness.
    Only the dust and I. It is His will.

Voices of Israel –Who now shall stand between us and our God?

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A SAXON EPITAPH

The earth builds on the earth
Castles and towers;
The earth saith of the earth:
All shall be ours.

Yea, though they plant and reap
The rye and the corn,
Lo, they were bond to Sleep
Ere they were born.

Yea, though the blind earth sows
For the fruit and the sheaf,
They shall harvest the leaf of the rose
And the dust of the leaf.

Pride of the sword and power
Are theirs at their need
Who shall rule but the root of the flower
The fall of the seed.

They who follow the flesh
In splendour and tears,
They shall rest and clothe them afresh
In the fulness of years.

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From the dream of the dust they came
As the dawn set free.
They shall pass as the flower of the flame
Or the foam of the sea.

The earth builds on the earth
Cities and towers.
The earth saith of the earth:
All shall be ours.

THE END

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom