A night was near, a day was near,
Between a day and night
I heard sweet voices calling clear,
I heard a whirr of wing on wing,
But could not see the sight;
I long to see my birds that sing,
I long to see.
Below the stars, beyond the moon,
Between the night and day
I heard a rising falling tune
I long to see the pipes and strings
Whereon such minstrels play;
I long to see each face that sings,
I long to see.
Today or may be not today,
Tonight or not tonight,
All voices that command or pray
Shall kindle in my soul such fire
And in my eyes such light
That I shall see that heart’s desire
I long to see.
The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,
Where through the lattice ivy—shadows crept.
He leaned above me, thinking that I slept
And could not hear him; but I heard him say,
‘Poor child, poor child’: and as he turned away
Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept.
He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold
That hid my face, or take my hand in his,
Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head:
He did not love me living; but once dead
He pitied me; and very sweet it is
To know he still is warm though I am cold.
‘Oh, where are you going with your love—locks flowing
On the west wind blowing along this valley track?’
'The downhill path is easy, come with me an’ it please ye,
We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.'
So they two went together in glowing August weather,
The honey—breathing heather lay to their left and right;
And dear she was to doat on, her swift feet seemed to float on
The air like soft twin pigeons too sportive to alight.
‘Oh, what is that in heaven where grey cloud—flakes are seven,
Where blackest clouds hang riven just at the rainy skirt?’
'Oh, that’s a meteor sent us, a message dumb, portentous,—
An undeciphered solemn signal of help or hurt.'
‘Oh, what is that glides quickly where velvet flowers grow thickly,
Their scent comes rich and sickly?’—'A scaled and hooded worm.'
'Oh, what’s that in the hollow, so pale I quake to follow?'
'Oh, that’s a thin dead body which waits th’ eternal term.'
'Turn again, O my sweetest,—turn again, false and fleetest:
This way whereof thou weetest I fear is hell’s own track.'
'Nay, too steep for hill—mounting,—nay, too late for cost—counting:
This downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.'
If he would come to—day, to—day, to—day,
O, what a day to—day would be!
But now he’s away, miles and miles away
From me across the sea.
O little bird, flying, flying, flying
To your nest in the warm west,
Tell him as you pass that I am dying,
As you pass home to your nest.
I have a sister, I have a brother,
A faithful hound, a tame white dove;
But I had another, once I had another,
And I miss him, my love, my love!
In this weary world it is so cold, so cold,
While I sit here all alone;
I would not like to wait and to grow old,
But just to be dead and gone.
Make me fair when I lie dead on my bed,
Fair where I am lying:
Perhaps he may come and look upon me dead—
He for whom I am dying.
Dig my grave for two, with a stone to show it,
And on the stone write my name;
If he never comes, I shall never know it,
But sleep on all the same.
Motherless baby and babyless mother,
Bring them together to love one another.
Keep love for youth, and violets for the spring:
Of if these bloom when worn—out autumn grieves,
Let them lie hid in double shade of leaves,
Their own, and others dropped down withering;
For violets suit when home birds build and sing,
Not when the outbound bird a passage cleaves;
Not with dry stubble of mown harvest sheaves,
But when the green world buds to blossoming.
Keep violets for the spring, and love for youth,
Love that should dwell with beauty, mirth, and hope:
Or if a later sadder love be born,
Let this not look for grace beyond its scope,
But give itself, nor plead for answering truth—
A grateful Ruth tho’ gleaning scanty corn.
I took my heart in my hand
(O my love, O my love),
I said: Let me fall or stand,
Let me live or die,
But this once hear me speak—
(O my love, O my love)—
Yet a woman’s words are weak;
You should speak, not I.
You took my heart in your hand
With a friendly smile,
With a critical eye you scanned,
Then set it down,
And said: It is still unripe,
Better wait a while;
Wait while the skylarks pipe,
Till the corn grows brown
As you set it down it broke—
Broke, but I did not wince;
I smiled at the speech you spoke,
At your judgment that I heard:
But I have not often smiled
Since then, nor questioned since,
Nor cared for corn—flowers wild,
Nor sung with the singing bird.
I take my heart in my hand,
O my God, O my God,
My broken heart in my hand:
Thou hast seen, judge Thou
My hope was written on sand,
O my God, O my God:
Now let Thy judgment stand—
Yea, judge me now
This contemned of a man,
This marred one heedless day,
This heart take Thou to scan
Both within and without:
Refine with fire its gold,
Purge Thou its dross away—
Yea, hold it in Thy hold,
Whence none can pluck it out.
I take my heart in my hand—
I shall not die, but live—
Before Thy face I stand;
I, for Thou callest such:
All that I have I bring,
All that I am I give,
Smile Thou and I shall sing,
But shall not question much.
Jesus, do I love Thee?
Thou art far above me,
Seated out of sight
Hid in Heavenly Light
Of most highest height.
Martyred hosts implore Thee,
Seraphs fall before Thee,
Angels and Archangels,
Cherub throngs adore Thee;
Blessed She that bore Thee!
All the Saints approve Thee,
All the Virgins love Thee.
I show as a blot
Blood hath cleansed not,
As a barren spot
In Thy fruitful lot.
I, fig—tree fruit—unbearing;
Thou, righteous Judge unsparing:
What canst Thou do more to me
That shall not more undo me?
Thy Justice hath a sound—
Why cumbereth it the ground?
Thy Love with stirrings stronger
Pleads—Give it one year longer.
Thou giv’st me time: but who
Save Thou shall give me dew;
Shall feed my root with Blood,
And stir my sap for good?
Oh, by Thy Gifts that shame me,
Give more lest they condemn me:
Good Lord, I ask much of Thee,
But most I ask to love Thee;
Kind Lord, be mindful of me,
Love me, and make me love Thee.
I will tell you when they met:
In the limpid days of Spring;
Elder boughs were budding yet,
Oaken boughs looked wintry still,
But primrose and veined violet
In the mossful turf were set,
While meeting birds made haste to sing
And build with right good will.
I will tell you when they parted:
When plenteous Autumn sheaves were brown,
Then they parted heavy—hearted;
The full rejoicing sun looked down
As grand as in the days before;
Only they had lost a crown;
Only to them those days of yore
Could come back nevermore.
When shall they meet? I cannot tell,
Indeed, when they shall meet again,
Except some day in Paradise:
For this they wait, one waits in pain.
Beyond the sea of death love lies
For ever, yesterday, to—day;
Angels shall ask them, ‘Is it well?’
And they shall answer, ‘Yea.’
Too late for love, too late for joy,
Too late, too late!
You loiter’d on the road too long,
You trifled at the gate:
The enchanted dove upon her branch
Died without a mate;
The enchanted princess in her tower
Slept, died, behind the grate;
Her heart was starving all this while
You made it wait.
Ten years ago, five years ago,
One year ago,
Even then you had arrived in time,
Though somewhat slow;
Then you had known her living face
Which now you cannot know:
The frozen fountain would have leap’d,
The buds gone on to blow,
The warm south wind would have awaked
To melt the snow.
Is she fair now as she lies?
Once she was fair;
Meet queen for any kingly king,
With gold—dust on her hair.
Now there are poppies in her locks,
White poppies she must wear;
Must wear a veil to shroud her face
And the want graven there:
Or is the hunger fed at length,
Cast off the care?
We never saw her with a smile
Or with a frown;
Her bed seem’d never soft to her,
Though toss’d of down;
She little heeded what she wore,
Kirtle, or wreath, or gown;
We think her white brows often ached
Beneath her crown,
Till silvery hairs show’d in her locks
That used to be so brown.
We never heard her speak in haste:
Her tones were sweet,
And modulated just so much
As it was meet:
Her heart sat silent through the noise
And concourse of the street.
There was no hurry in her hands,
No hurry in her feet;
There was no bliss drew nigh to her,
That she might run to greet.
You should have wept her yesterday,
Wasting upon her bed:
But wherefore should you weep to—day
That she is dead?
Lo, we who love weep not to—day,
But crown her royal head.
Let be these poppies that we strew,
Your roses are too red:
Let be these poppies, not for you
Cut down and spread.
Oh why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.
I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.
I never watch the scatter’d fire
Of stars, or sun’s far—trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:
For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.