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{London Poems 1884}


The ‘London Poems’ section of the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan (published by Chatto & Windus) contained a further 18 poems which had not been published in the earlier editions of London Poems. These can be accessed from the list below, as well as the revised versions of ‘Nell’ and London, 1864’.


The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan

Chatto & Windus,




BEXHILL, 1866          .         .          .           .           .         .          .         113

THE LITTLE MILLINER; OR, LOVE IN AN ATTIC              .          115

LIZ        .          .         .          .          .          .         .          .         .        119

THE STARLING       .         .          .           .           .         .          .         124

JANE LEWSON        .         .          .           .           .         .          .         125

LANGLEY LANE (a Love Poem)             .           .         .          .           135

EDWARD CROWHURST; OR, ‘A NEW POET’         .         .          136

ARTIST AND MODEL (a Love Poem)               .         .          .         147

NELL             .         .          .           .           .         .          .         .        149

ATTORNEY SNEAK         .          .           .           .         .          .         152

BARBARA GRAY               .         .          .          .          .         .          155

THE BLIND LINNET           .         .          .          .          .         .          157

‘TIGER BAY’ (a Stormy Night’s Dream)
1. The Tigress       .          .         .          .          .          .         .          157
2. ‘Ratcliffe Meg’           .          .           .           .         .          .         158
3. Intercession       .         .          .           .           .         .          .         159

THE CITY ASLEEP               .           .           .         .          .         159

UP IN AN ATTIC         .          .           .           .         .          .         160

TO THE MOON             .         .          .          .          .         .          161

SPRING SONG IN THE CITY       .         .          .         .          162

IN LONDON, MARCH 1866         .          .          .         .          163

A LARK’S FLIGHT       .          .           .           .         .          .         163

DE BERNY               .         .          .           .           .         .          .         165

THE WAKE OF TIM O’HARA       .           .         .          .         166

KITTY KEMBLE             .         .          .          .          .         .          168

THE SWALLOWS         .          .           .           .         .          .         173

TOM DUNSTAN; OR, THE POLITICIAN     .          .         174

O’MURTOGH                   .         .          .          .          .         .          175

THE BOOKWORM       .          .           .           .         .          .         176

THE LAST OF THE HANGMEN               .          .         .          177

LONDON, 1864               .          .           .           .         .          .         182

THE MODERN WARRIOR               .          .          .         .          183

PAN: EPILOGUE             .          .           .           .         .          .         185

L’ENVOI TO LONDON POEMS               .         .          .         185






She gazes not at her who hears,
     But, while the gathering darkness cries,
Stares at the vacancy through tears,
     That burn upon her glistening eyes,
Yet do not flow. Her hair falls free
     Around a face grown deathly thin;
Her elbow rests upon her knee,
     And in her palms she props her chin.


SEE, Nan! his little face looks pinch’d with fright,
His little hands are clench’d together tight!
Born dead, that’s comfort! quiet too; when one
     Thinks of what kill’d him! Kiss him, Nan, for me.
Thank God, he never look’d upon the sun
     That saw his father hang’d on gallows-tree.
O boy, my boy! you’re better dead and sleeping,
Kill’d by poor mother’s fear, and shame, and weeping:
She never loved another living man,
     But held to father all thro’ right and wrong—
Ah, yes! I never turn’d against him, Nan,
     I stuck by him that stuck by me so long!

You’re a kind woman, Nan! ay, kind and true!
     God will be good to faithful folk like you!
You knew my Ned?
     A better, kinder lad never drew breath—
We loved each other true, though never wed
     In church, like some who took him to his death:
A lad as gentle as a lamb, but lost
     His senses when he took a drop too much—
Drink did it all—drink made him mad when cross’d—
     He was a poor man, and they’re hard on such.
O Nan! that night! that night!
     When I was sitting in this very chair,
Watching and waiting in the candle-light,
     And heard his foot come creaking up the stair,
And turn’d, and saw him standing yonder, white
     And wild, with staring eyes and rumpled hair!
And when I caught his arm and call’d, in fright,
     He push’d me, swore, and to the door he pass’d
     To lock and bar it fast!
Then down he drops just like a lump of lead,
     Holding his brow, shaking, and growing whiter,
     And—Nan!—just then the light seem’d growing brighter,
And I could see the hands that held his head,
All red! all bloody red!
What could I do but scream? He groan’d to hear,
     Jump’d to his feet, and gripp’d me by the wrist;
‘Be still, or I shall kill thee, Nell!’ he hiss’d.
And I was still, for fear.
‘They’re after me—I’ve knifed a man!’ he said.
‘Be still!—the drink—drink did it—he is dead!
And as he said the word, the wind went by
With a whistle and cry—
The room swam round—the babe unborn seem’d to scream out, and die!

     Then we grew still, dead still. I couldn’t weep—
     All I could do was cling to Ned and heark—
And Ned was cold, cold, cold, as if asleep,
But breathing hard and deep.
     The candle flicker’d out—the room grew dark—
And—Nan!—although my heart was true and tried,—
     When all grew cold and dim,
I shudder’d—not for fear of them outside,
     But just afraid to be alone with him.
For winds were wailing—the wild rain cried,—
Folk’s footsteps sounded down the court and died—
What could I do but clasp his knees and cling?
     And call his name beneath my breath in pain?
Until he threw his head up, listening,
     And gave a groan, and hid his face again;
‘Ned! Ned!’ I whisper’d—and he moan’d and shook—
But did not heed or look!
‘Ned! Ned! speak, lad! tell me it is not true!’
     At that he raised his head and look’d so wild;
Then, with a stare that froze my blood, he threw
     His arms around me, crying like a child,
And held me close—and not a word was spoken—
     While I clung tighter to his heart and press’d him—
And did not fear him, though my heart was broken—
     But kiss’d his poor stain’d hands, and cried, and bless’d him!

     Then, Nan, the dreadful daylight, coming cold
     With sound o’ falling rain,—
When I could see his face, and it look’d old,
     Like the pinch’d face of one that dies in pain;
Well, though we heard folk stirring in the sun,
We never thought to hide away or run,
Until we heard those voices in the street,
That hurrying of feet.
And Ned leap’d up, and knew that they had come.
     ‘Run, Ned!’ I cried, but he was deaf and dumb!
‘Hide, Ned!’ I scream’d, and held him—‘hide thee, man!’
He stared with bloodshot eyes, and hearken’d, Nan!
And all the rest is like a dream—the sound
     Of knocking at the door—
A rush of men—a struggle on the ground—
     A mist—a tramp—a roar;
For when I got my senses back again,
     The room was empty—and my head went round!
The neighbours talk’d and stirr’d about the lane,
     And Seven Dials made a moaning sound;
And as I listen’d, lass, it seem’d to me
Just like the murmur of the great dark Sea,
     And Ned a-lying somewhere, stiff and drown’d!

God help him? God will help him! Ay, no fear!
     It was the drink, not Ned—he meant no wrong;
So kind! so good!—and I am useless here,
     Now he is lost that loved me true and long.
Why, just before the last of it, we parted,
And Ned was calm, though I was broken-hearted;
And ah, my heart was broke! and ah, I cried
And kiss’d him,—till they took me from his side;
And though he died that way, (God bless him!) Ned
     Went through it bravely, calm as any there:
They’ve wrought their fill of spite upon his head,
     And—there’s the hat and clothes he used to wear!

. . . That night before he died,
I didn’t cry—my heart was hard and dried;
But when the clocks went ‘one,’ I took my shawl
     To cover up my face, and stole away,
And walk’d along the silent streets, where all
     Look’d cold and still and gray,—
Only the lamps o’ London here and there
     Scatter’d a dismal gleaming;
And on I went, and stood in Leicester Square,
     Ay, like a woman dreaming:
But just as ‘three’ was sounded close at hand,
     I started and turn’d east, before I knew,—
Then down Saint Martin’s Lane, along the Strand,
     And through the toll-gate, on to Waterloo.
How I remember all I saw, although
     ’Twas only like a dream!—
The long still lines o’ lights, the chilly gleam
     Of moonshine on the deep black stream below;
While far, far, far away, along the sky
     Streaks soft as silver ran,
And the pale Moon look’d paler up on high,
     And little sounds in far-off streets began!
Well, while I stood, and waited, and look’d down,
And thought how sweet ’twould be to drop and drown,
Some men and lads went by,
     And turning round, I gazed, and watch’d ’em go,
Then felt that they were going to see him die,
     And drew my shawl more tight, and follow’d slow.
     How clear I feel it still!
The streets grew light, but rain began to fall;
I stopp’d and had some coffee at a stall,
     Because I felt so chill;
A cock crew somewhere, and it seem’d a call
     To wake the folk who kill!
The man who sold the coffee stared at me!
I must have been a sorry sight to see!
     More people pass’d—a country cart with hay
Stopp’d close beside the stall,—and two or three
     Talk’d about it! I moan’d, and crept away!

Ay, nearer, nearer to the dreadful place,
     All in the falling rain,
I went, and kept my shawl upon my face,
     And felt no grief or pain—
Only the wet that soak’d me through and through
     Seem’d cold and sweet and pleasant to the touch—
It made the streets more drear and silent, too,
     And kept away the light I fear’d so much.
Slow, slow the wet streets fill’d, and all seem’d going,
     Laughing and chatting, the same way,
And grayer, sadder, lighter, it was growing,
     Though still the rain fell fast and darken’d day!
Nan!—every pulse was burning—I could feel
My heart was made o’ steel—
As crossing Ludgate Hill, I saw, all blurr’d,
     Saint Paul’s great clock and heard it slowly chime,
And hadn’t power to count the strokes I heard,
     But strain’d my eyes and saw it wasn’t time.
Ah! then I felt I dared not creep more near,
     But went into a lane off Ludgate Hill,
And sitting on a doorstep, I could hear
     The people gathering still!
And still the rain was falling, falling,
     And deadening the hum I heard from there;
And wet and stiff, I heard the people calling,
     And watch’d the rain-drops glistening down my hair,
My elbows on my knees, my fingers dead,—
My shawl thrown off, now none could see,—my head
     Dripping and wild and bare.
I heard the crying of a crowd of men,
     And next, a hollow sound I knew full well,
For something gripp’d me round the heart!—and then
     There came the solemn tolling of a bell!
O God! O God! how could I sit close by,
And neither scream nor cry?
As if I had been stone, all hard and cold,
     I listen’d, listen’d, listen’d, still and dumb,
While the folk murmur’d, and the death-bell toll’d,
     And the day brighten’d, and his time had come. . . .
. . . Till—Nan!—all else was silent, but the knell
Of the slow bell!
And I could only wait, and wait, and wait,
     And what I waited for I couldn’t tell,—
At last there came a groaning deep and great—
Saint Paul's struck ‘eight’—
     I scream’d, and seem’d to turn to fire, and fell!

God bless him, live or dead!
     Oh, he was kind and true—
They’ve wrought their fill of spite upon his head—
     Why didn’t they be kind, and take me too?
And there’s the dear old things he used to wear,
And here’s a lock o’ hair!
And Ned! my Ned!
     Is fast asleep, and cannot hear me call;—
God bless you, Nan, for all you’ve done and said,
     But don’t mind me! My heart is broke, that’s all!









A DREAM I had in the dead of night:
     Darkness—the Jungle—a black Man sleeping—
     Head on his arm, with the moon-dew creeping
Over his face in a silvern light:
The Moon was driving, the Wind was crying;
     Two great lights gleam’d, round, horrid, and red,
     Two great eyes, steadfast beside the bed
Where the man was lying.
               Hark! hark!
         What wild things cry in the dark?
         Only the Wind as it raves,
         Only the Beasts in their caves,
         Where the Jungle waves.

The man slept on, and his face was bright,
     Tender and strange, for the man was dreaming—
     Coldly the light on his limbs was gleaming,
On his jet-black limbs and their folds of white;—
Leprous-spotted, and gaunt, and hated,
     With teeth protruding and hideous head,
     Her two eyes burning so still, so red,
The Tigress waited.
               Hark! hark!
         The wild things cry in the dark;
         The Wind whistles and raves,
         The Beasts groan in their caves,
         And the Jungle waves.

From cloud to cloud the cold Moon crept,
     The silver light kept coming and going—
     The Jungle under was bleakly blowing.
The Tigress watch’d, and the black Man slept.
The Wind was wailing, the Moon was gleaming:
     He stirr’d and shiver’d, then raised his head;—
     Like a thunderbolt the Tigress sped,
And the Man fell screaming—
               Hark! hark!
         The wild things cry in the dark;
         The wild Wind whistles and raves,
         The Beasts groan in their caves,
         And the Jungle waves.





Then methought I saw another sight:
     Darkness—a Garret—a rushlight dying—
     On the broken-down bed a Sailor lying,
Sleeping fast, in the feeble light;—
The Wind is wailing, the Rain is weeping,
     She croucheth there in the chamber dim,
     She croucheth there with her eyes on him
As he lieth sleeping—
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray,
         In Tiger Bay.

Still as a child the Sailor lies:—
     She waits—she watches—is she human?
     Is she a Tigress? is she a Woman?
Look at the gleam of her deep-set eyes!
Bloated and stain’d in every feature,
     With iron jaws, throat knotted and bare,
     Eyes deep sunken, jet black hair,
Crouches the creature.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray,
         In Tiger Bay.

Hold her! scream! or the man is dead;
     A knife in her tight-clench’d hand is gleaming;
     She will kill the man as he lieth dreaming!
Her eyes are fixed, her throat swells red.
The Wind is wailing, the Rain is weeping;
     She is crawling closer—O Angels that love him!
     She holds her breath and bends above him,
While he stirreth sleeping.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray
         In Tiger Bay.

A silken purse doth the sleeper clutch,
         And the gold peeps through with a fatal glimmer!
         She creepeth near—the light grows dimmer—
Her thick throat swells and she thirsts to touch.
She looks—she pants with a feverish hunger—
         She dashes the black hair out of her eyes—
         She glares at his face . . . he smiles and sighs—
And the face looks younger.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray
         In Tiger Bay.

She gazeth on,—he doth not stir—
         Her fierce eyes close, her brute lip quivers;
         She longs to strike, but she shrinks and shivers:
The light on his face appalleth her.
The Wind is wailing, the Rain is weeping:
         Something holds her—her wild eyes roll;
         His Soul shines out, and she fears his Soul,
Tho’ he lieth sleeping.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray
         In Tiger Bay.





I saw no more, but I woke,—and prayed:
     ‘God! that made the Beast and the Woman!
     God of the Tigress! God of the human!
Look to these things whom Thou hast made!
Fierce and bloody and famine-stricken,
     Knitted with iron vein and thew—
     Strong and bloody, behold the two!—
We see them and sicken.
               Mark! mark!
         These outcasts fierce of the dark;
         Where murmur the Wind and the Rain,
         Where the Jungle darkens the plain,
         And in street and lane.’

God answer’d clear, ‘My will be done!
     Woman-tigress and tigress-woman—
     I made them both, the beast and the human,
But I struck a spark in the brain of the one.
And the spark is a fire, and the fire is a spirit;
         Tho’ ye may slay it, it cannot die—
         Nay, it shall grow as the days go by,
For my Angels are near it—
               Mark! mark!
         Doth it not burn in the dark?
         Spite of the curse and the stain,
         Where the Jungle darkens the plain,
         And in street and lane.’

God said, moreover: ‘The spark shall grow—
     ’Tis blest, it gathers, its flame shall lighten,
     Bless it and nurse it—let it brighten!
’Tis scatter’d abroad, ’tis a Seed I sow.
And the Seed is a Soul, and the Soul is the Human;
     And it lighteth the face with a sign and a flame.
     Not unto beasts have I given the same,
But to man and to woman.
               Mark! mark!
         The light shall scatter the dark:
         Where murmur the Wind and the Rain,
         Where the Jungle darkens the plain,
         And in street and lane.’

. . . So faint, so dim, so sad to seeing,
     Behold it burning! Only a spark!
     So faint as yet, and so dim to mark,
In the tigress-eyes of the human being.
Fan it, feed it, in love and duty,
     Track it, watch it in every place—
     Till it burns the bestial frame and face
To its own dim beauty.
               Mark! mark!
         A spark that grows in the dark;
         A spark that burns in the brain;
         Spite of the Wind and the Rain,
         Spite of the Curse and the Stain;
         Over the Sea and the Plain,
         And in street and lane.


The original version of ‘Tiger Bay’ was published in the July, 1871 edition of Good Words.]





STILL as the Sea serene and deep,
     When all the winds are laid,
The City sleeps—so still, its sleep
     Maketh the soul afraid.

Over the living waters, see!
     The Seraphs shining go,—
The Moon is gliding hushfully
     Through stars like flakes of snow.

In pearl-white silver here and there
     The fallen moon-rays stream:
Hark! a dull stir is in the air,
     Like the stir of one in dream.

Through all the thrilling waters creep
     Deep throbs of strange unrest,
Like washings of the windless Deep
     When it is peacefullest.

A little while—God’s breath will go,
     And hush the flood no more;
The dawn will break—the wind will blow,
     The Ocean rise and roar.

Each day with sounds of strife and death
     The waters rise and call;
Each midnight, conquer’d by God’s breath,
     To this dead calm they fall.

Out of His heart the fountains flow,
     The brook, the running river,
He marks them strangely come and go,
     For ever and for ever.

Till darker, deeper, one by one,
     After a weary quest,
They, from the light of moon and sun,
     Flow back, into His breast.

Love, hold my hand! be of good cheer!
     For His would be the cost,
If, out of all the waters here,
     One little drop were lost.

Heaven’s eyes above the waters dumb
     Innumerably yearn;
Out of His heart each drop hath come,
     And thither must return.





‘Do you dream yet, on your old rickety sofa,
in the dear old ghastly bankrupt garret at No. 66’
Gray to Buchanan (see The Life of David Gray).


HALF of a gold-ring bright,
     Broken in days of old,
One yellow curl, whose light
     Gladden’d my gaze of old;
A sprig of thyme thereto,
Pluckt on the mountains blue,
When in the gloaming-dew
     We roamed erratic;
Last, an old Book of Song,—
These have I treasured long,
     Up in an Attic.

Held in one little hand,
     They gleam in vain to me:
Of Love, Fame, Fatherland,
     All that remain to me!
Love, with thy wounded wing,
Up the skies lessening,
Sighing, too sad to sing!
     Fame, dead to pity!
Land,—that denied me bread!
Count me as lost and dead,
     Tomb’d, in the City.

Daily the busy roar,
     Murmur and motion here;
Surging against its shore,
     Sighs a great Ocean here!
But night by night it flows
Slowly to strange repose,
Calm and more calm it grows
     Under the moonshine:
Then, only then, I peer
On each old souvenir
     Shut from the sunshine.

Half of a ring of gold,
     Tarnish’d and yellow now,
Broken in days of old,
     Where is thy fellow now?
Upon the heart of her?
Feeling the sweet blood stir,
Still (though the mind demur)
     Kept as a token?
Ah! doth her heart forget?
Or, with the pain and fret
     Is that, too, broken?

Thin threads of yellow hair,
     Clipt from the brow of her,
Lying so faded there,—
     Why whisper now of her?
Strange lips are press’d unto
The brow o’er which ye grew,
Strange fingers flutter through
     The loose long tresses.
Doth she remember still,
Trembling, and turning chill
     From his caresses?

Sprig from the mountains blue
     Long left behind me now,
Of moonlight, shade, and dew,
     Wherefore remind me now?
Cruel and chill and gray,
Looming afar away,
Dark in the light of day,
     Shall the Heights daunt me?
My footsteps on the hill
Are overgrown,—yet still
     Hill-echoes haunt me!

Book of Byronic Song,
     Put with the dead away,
Wherefore wouldst thou prolong
     Dreams that have fled away?
Thou art an eyeless skull,
Dead, fleshless, cold, and null,
Complexionless, dark, dull,
     And superseded;
Yet, in thy time of pride,
How loudly hast thou lied
     To all who heeded!

Now, Fame, thou hollow Voice,
     Shriek from the heights above!
Let all who will rejoice
     In those wild lights above!
When all are false save you,
Yet were so beauteous too,
O Fame, canst thou be true,
     And shall I follow?
Nay! for the song of Man
Dies in his throat, since Pan
     Hath slain Apollo!

O Fame, thy hill looks tame,
     No vast wings flee from thence,—
Were I to climb, O Fame,
     What could I see from thence?
Only, afar away,
The mountains looming gray,
Crimson’d at close of day,
     Clouds swimming by me;
And in my hand a ring
And ringlet glimmering,—
     And no one nigh me!

Better the busy roar,
     Best the mad motion here!
Surging against its shore,
     Groans a great Ocean here.
O Love,—thou wouldst not wait!
O Land,—thou art desolate!
O Fame,—to others prate
     Of flights ecstatic!
Only, at evenfall,
Touching these tokens small,
I think about you all,
     Up in an Attic!





THE wind is shrill on the hills, and the plover
     Wheels up and down with a windy scream;
The birch has loosen’d her bright locks over
     The nut-brown pools of the mountain stream;
Yet here I linger in London City,
     Thinking of meadows where I was born—
And over the roofs, like a face of pity,
     Up comes the Moon, with her dripping horn.

O Moon, pale Spirit, with dim eyes drinking
     The sheen of the Sun as he sweepeth by,
I am looking long in those eyes, and thinking
     Of one who hath loved thee longer than I;
I am asking my heart if ye Spirits cherish
     The souls that ye witch with a harvest call?—
If the dream must die when the dreamer perish?—
     If it be idle to dream at all?

The waves of the world roll hither and thither,
     The tumult deepens, the days go by,
The dead men vanish—we know not whither,
     The live men anguish—we know not why;
The cry of the stricken is smother’d never,
     The Shadow passes from street to street;
And—o’er us fadeth, for ever and ever,
     The still white gleam of thy constant feet.

The hard men struggle, the students ponder,
     The world rolls round on its westward way;
The gleam of the beautiful night up yonder
     Is dim on the dreamer’s cheek all day;
The old earth’s voice is a sound of weeping,
     Round her the waters wash wild and vast,
There is no calm, there is little sleeping,—
     Yet nightly, brightly, thou glimmerest past!

Another summer, new dreams departed,
     And yet we are lingering, thou and I;
I on the earth, with my hope proud-hearted,
     Thou, in the void of a violet sky!
Thou art there! I am here! and the reaping and mowing
     Of the harvest year is over and done,
And the hoary snow-drift will soon be blowing
     Under the wheels of the whirling Sun.

While tower and turret lie silver’d under,
     When eyes are closed and lips are dumb,
In the nightly pause of the human wonder,
     From dusky portals I see thee come;
And whoso wakes and beholds thee yonder,
     Is witch’d like me till his days shall cease,—
For in his eyes, wheresoever he wander,
     Flashes the vision of God’s white Peace!





WHO remains in London,
     In the streets with me,
Now that Spring is blowing
     Warm winds from the sea;
Now that trees grow green and tall,
     Now the Sun shines mellow,
And with moist primroses all
     English lanes are yellow?

Little barefoot maiden,
     Selling violets blue,
Hast thou ever pictured
     Where the sweetlings grew?—
Oh, the warm wild woodland ways,
     Deep in dewy grasses,
Where the wind-blown shadow strays,
     Scented as it passes!

Pedlar breathing deeply,
     Toiling into town,
With the dusty highway
     Thou art dusky brown,—
Hast thou seen by daisied leas,
     And by rivers flowing,
Lilac ringlets which the breeze
     Loosens lightly blowing?

Out of yonder waggon
     Pleasant hay-scents float,
He who drives it carries
     A daisy in his coat:
Oh, the English meadows, fair
     Far beyond all praises!
Freckled orchids everywhere
     Mid the snow of daisies!

Now in busy silence
     Broods the nightingale,
Choosing his love’s dwelling
     In a dimpled dale;
Round the leafy bower they raise
     Rose-trees wild are springing;
Underneath, thro’ the green haze,
     Bounds the brooklet singing.

And his love is silent
     As a bird can be,
For the red buds only
     Fill the red rose-tree,—
Just as buds and blossoms blow
     He’ll begin his tune,
When all is green and roses glow
     Underneath the Moon!

Nowhere in the valleys
     Will the wind be still,
Everything is waving,
     Wagging at his will:
Blows the milkmaid's kirtle clean,
     With her hand prest on it!
Lightly o’er the hedge so green
     Blows the ploughboy’s bonnet!

Oh, to be a-roaming
     In an English dell!
Every nook is wealthy,
     All the world looks well,
Tinted soft the Heavens glow,
     Over Earth and Ocean,
Brooks flow, breezes blow,
     All is light and motion!





TO-DAY the streets are dull and dreary,
     Heavily, slowly the Rain is falling,
I hear around me, and am weary,
     The people murmuring and calling;
The gloomy room is full of faces,
     Firelight shadows are on the floor,
And the deep Wind cometh from country places,
     And the Rain hath a voice I would hear no more.
         Ah! weary days of windy weather!
               And will the Rain cease never, never!
         A summer past we sat together,
               In that lost life that lives for ever!

Ah! sad and slow the Rain is falling,—
     And singing on seems sad without him.
Ah! wearily the Wind is calling!
     Would that mine arms were round about him!
For the world rolls on with air and ocean
     Wetly and windily round and round,
And sleeping he feeleth the sad still motion,
     And dreameth of me, though his sleep be sound!
         Ah! weary days of windy weather!
               And will the Rain cease never, never!
         A summer past we sat together,
               In that lost life that lives for ever!

I sing, because my heart is aching,
     With hollow sounds around me ringing:
Ah! nevermore shall he awaking
     Yearn to the Singer and the Singing!
Yet sleep, my father, calm and breathless,
     And if thou dreamest, dream on in joy!
While over thy grave walks Love the deathless,
     Stir in the darkness, and bless thy boy!
         Ah! weary days of windy weather!
               And will the Rain cease never, never!
         A summer past we sat together,
               In that lost life that lives for ever!


‘In London, March 1866’ was originally published in the April 1866 edition of The Argosy. This earlier version contains four verses, the additional one coming second:

If yonder, where the clouds part slowly,
     The face for which my soul is sighing
Should smile upon me, I should solely
     Cover my face in terror, crying;–
He nurst his boy in days departed
     In such a firelight long ago,
And I am dull and human-hearted,
     And ’tis hard to feel that he loved me so!
         Ah! weary days of windy weather!
               And will the Rain cease never, never!
         A summer past we sat together,
               In that lost life that lives for ever! ]





IN the quiet City park,
Between the dawn and the dark,
     Loud and clear,
     That all may hear,
Sings the Lark.

Beyond the low black line
     Of trees the dawn peeps red,—
Clouds blow woolly and fine
     In the ether overhead,
Out of the air is shaken
     A fresh and glistening dew,
And the City begins to awaken
     And tremble thro’ and thro’;
See! (while thro’ street and lane
The people pour again,
And lane and alley and street
Grow hoarse to a sound of feet,)
Here and there
     A human Shape comes, dark
Against the cool white air,
     Flitting across the park—
While over the dew-drench’d green,
     Singing his ‘Hark! Oh, hark!’
Hovering, hovering, dimly seen,
     Rises the Lark.

‘Mystery! Oh, mystery!’
     Clear he lilts to lightening day.
‘Mystery! Oh, mystery!
Up into the air with me,
     Come away, come away!’

Who is she that, wan and white,
Shivering in the chilly light,
Shadeth weary eyes to see
Him who makes the melody?
She is nameless, she is dull,
She has ne’er been beautiful,
She is stain’d in brain and blood,
Gross with mire, and foul with mud,—
Thing of sorrow, what knows she
Of the mighty mystery?

The Lark sings sad and low,—
     ‘The City is dull and mean—
There is woe! there is woe!
     Never a soul is clean;
The City is dark, the wrong is deep;
Too late to moan, too late to weep!
Tired, tired! sleep, sleep!’

Who is he, the stooping one,
Smiling coldly in the sun,
Arms behind him lightly thrown,
Pacing up and down alone?
’Tis the great Philosopher,
Smoothly wrapt in coat of fur,
Soothly pondering, man-wit wise,
At his morning exercise.
He has weigh’d the winds and floods,
He is rich in gather’d goods,
He is crafty, and can prove
God is Brahma, Christ, nor Jove;
He is mighty, and his soul
Flits about from pole to pole,
Chasing signs of God about,
In a pleasant kind of doubt;—
What, to help the mystery,
Sings the Lark to such as he?

The Lark cries:
     ‘Praise to Nature’s plan!
Year on year she plies
Her toil of sun and skies,
     Till the beast flowers up in Man,
Lord of effect and cause,
     Proud as a King can be;
But a Voice in the cloud cries, “Pause!”
     And he pauses, even he,
     On the verge of the Mystery.’

Oh, loud and clear, that all may hear,
     Rising higher, with ‘Hark! Oh, hark!’
Higher, higher, higher, higher,
Quivering as the dull red fire
     Of dawn grows brighter, cries the Lark:
And they who listen there while he
Singeth loud of Mystery,
Interpret him in under-tone
With a meaning of their own,
Measuring his melody
By their own soul’s quality.

Tall and stately, fair and sweet,
Walketh maiden Marguerite,
Musing there on maid and man,
In her mood patrician;
To all she sees her eyes impart
The colour of a maiden heart;
Heart’s chastity is on her face,
She scents the air with nameless grace,
And where she goes with heart astir,
Colour and motion follow her.

         What should the Singer sing
         Unto so sweet a thing,
               But, ‘Oh, my love loves me!
     And the love I love best is guarding the nest,
         While I cheer her merrily,—
     Come up high! come up high! to a cloud in the sky!
         And sing of your love with me!’

Elbows on the grassy green,
Scowling face his palms between,
Yonder gaunt Thief meditates
Treason deep against his mates;
For his great hands itch to hold
Both the pardon and the gold.
Still he listens unaware,
Scowling round with sullen stare,
Gnawing at his under-lip,
Pond’ring friends and fellowship,
Thinking of a friendly thing
Done to him in suffering,
And of happy days and free
Spent in that rough companie:
Till he seeks the bait no more,—
And the Lark is conqueror.

For the Lark says plain,
     ‘Who sells his pal is mean:                                                 [12:2]
Better hang than gain
     Blood-money to save one’s skin—                                     [12:4]
A whip for the rogue who’d tell,’
     He hears the Singer say,—                                                 [12:6]
‘Better the rope and the cell—
Better the devils of Hell!
     Come away! come away!’

O Lark! O Lark!
     Up, up, for it is light—
The Souls stream out of the dark,
     And the City’s spires gleam bright;
The living world is awake again,
     Each wanders on his way,
The wonderful waters break again
     In the white and perfect Day.
Nay! nay! descend not yet,
     But higher, higher, higher!
Up thro’ the air, and wet
     Thy wings in the solar fire!
There, hovering in ecstacy,
Sing, ‘Mystery! Oh, mystery!’

O Lark! O Lark! hadst thou the might
     Beyond the cloud to wing thy way,
To sing and soar in ceaseless flight,
     It might be well for men this day.
Beyond that cloud there is a zone,
     And in that zone there is a land,
And in that land, upon a throne,
A mighty Spirit sits alone,
     With musing cheek upon His hand.
And all is still and all is sweet
Around the silence of His seat,—
     Beneath, the waves of wonder flow,—
And melted on His shining feet
     The years flash down as falling snow.

O Lark! O Lark!
     Up! for thy wings are strong;
While the Day is breaking,
And the City is waking,
     Sing a song of wrong—
Sing of the weak man’s tears,
     Of the strong man’s agony;
The passion, the hopes, the fears,
The heaped-up pain of the years,
     The human mystery.
O Lark! we might rejoice,
     Could’st reach that distant land,
For we cannot hear His voice,
     And we often miss His hand!
And the lips of each are ice
     To the kiss of sister and brother;
And we see that one man’s vice
     Is the virtue of another.
Yea, each that hears thee sing
     Translates thy song to speech,
And, lo! the rendering
     Is so different with each!
The gentle are oppress’d,
The foul man fareth best;
Wherever we seek, our gain
Is full of a poisonous pain.                                                       [15:26]
In one soft note and long
Gather our sense of wrong;
Rise up, O Lark! from the sod,
     Up, up, with soundless wings,—
Rise up to God! rise up, rise up, to God!
     Tell Him these things!


The original version of ‘A Lark’s Flight’ was published in The Spectator of 22nd August, 1868. A revised version was published in the 1874, H. S. King edition of The Poetical Works. The following lines were changed in the 1884 version:
v. 12, l. 2: ‘Who sells his friend is mean:
v. 12, l. 4: The poison’d gold of the Queen—
v. 12, l. 6: The lives of his mates away:
v. 15, l. 26: Is bitter, and salt with pain. ]





YOU knew him slightly. We, who knew him well,
Saw something in his soul you could not see:
A strength wherein his very vices throve,
A power that darken’d much the outer man,
Strange, yet angelically innocent.
His views were none of ours; his morals—well,
Not English morals at the best; and yet
We loved him and we miss him;—the old haunts
Seem dull without that foolish full-grown child;
The world goes on without him:—London throngs
With sport and festival; and something less
Than poor De Berny haunts us everywhere—
The buying and the selling, and the strife
Of little natures.

                             What a man was that!—
Just picture him as you perceived him, Noel,
Standing beyond his circle. Spare and tall,
Black-bearded and black-eyed; a sallow face,
With lines of idle humour round the lips;
A nose and eyebrow proudly curved; an eye
Clear as a child’s. But thirty summers old!
Yet wearied out, save only when he warm’d
His graces in the sunshine. What an air
Was his, when, cigarette in mouth, and hands
Thrust in the pockets of his pantaloons,
He took his daily walk down Regent Street,
Stared at the pretty girls, saluted friends,
And, pleased as any lady, stopp’d to study
The fashions in the windows of the shops!
Did he not walk as if he walk’d on thrones,
With smiles of vacant patronage for all?
And who could guess he had not breakfasted,
Had little chance of dining, since his purse
Held just the wherewithal to buy a loaf—
Change from the shilling spent in purchasing
The sweet post-prandial cigar!

                                                   He lived—
Ah! Heaven knew how—for ’twas a mystery!
While the sun shone, he saunter’d in the sun;
But late at night sat scribbling, by the light
Of a wax-candle. Wax? De Berny’s way;
For, mark, this wanderer let his body suffer,
Hunger’d and pinch’d, rather than bate a jot
Of certain very useless luxuries:
Smoked nought but real Havannah, ’tis averr’d,
And sat at night within his dingy lodging,
Wrapt, king-like, in a costly dressing-gown
His mother gave him; slippers on his feet;
His cat, Mignonne, the silken-hair’d Chinese,
Seated upon his shoulder, purring low;
And something royal in his look, despite
His threadbare pantaloons!

                                             A clever man!
A nature sparkling o’er with jeux d’esprit!
Well read in certain light philosophies
Down from Voltaire; and, in his easy way,
A sceptic—one whose heart belied his brain.
Oft, leaning back and puffing his cigar,
Pushing his wan white fingers through his hair—
His cat Mignonne, the velvet-paw’d Chinese,
Rubbing her soft white cheek against his beard,
And purring her approval—he would sit,
Smiling his sad, good-humour’d, weary smile,
And lightly launch his random, reckless shafts
At English thrift, the literary cant,
The flat, unearnest living of the world,
And (last and lightest) at the tender sex,
Their little virtue and their mighty vows.

     This was the man whose face went pale with pain,
When that shrill shriek from Poland fill’d his ear;
This was the man who pinch’d himself to send
A mite to Garibaldi and the Cause;
Who cried, or nearly cried, o’er Lamartine,
And loved the passionate passages of Sand;
Who would have kiss’d the ground beneath the feet
Of any shape called ‘Woman,’ plain or fair;
Gave largess royal to children in the streets;
Treated an unclean beggar seeking alms
To a clean shirt, and sent him off amazed;
And when he heard sweet voice or instrument,
Breath’d passionate breath, like one that drinks with pain
An atmosphere too heavenly rare and sweet.
Pleasure? Ah me! what pleasure garner’d he,
Who fasted oftener than ate; who pawn’d
His coat to serve a neighbour, and was cold;
Whose only little joy was promenading
On sunny summer days in Regent Street?
His talk? Why, how he talk’d, as I have said;
Incubus could not prove his neighbours worse,
Or himself blacker, or the cold world colder;
His jests so oft too broad for decent ears,
His impiousness so insolently strong,
His languid grace so callous unto all
Save the sad sunshine that it flutter’d in.
Yet, Noel, I could swear that Spirits—those
Who see beneath the eyes, and hear the breathing
The Soul makes as it stirs within the breast—
Bent not unlovingly, not angrily,
Above that weary, foolish, full-grown Child!

Weary—of what? Weary, I think, for want
Of something whose existence he denied;
Not sick of life, since he had never felt
The full of living—wearied out, because
The world look’d falsehood, and his turn was truth.

Well, late one morning in the summer time,
They found him lying in his easy-chair,
Wrapt royally in the costly dressing-gown
His mother gave him, slippers on his feet,
And something royal in his look,—cold, dead!
A smell of laudanum sicken’d all the air
Around him; on the table at his side
A copy of De Musset’s Elle et Lui;
And close at hand a crumpled five-pound note,
On which was written in his round clear hand
‘Pour Garibaldi. Vive la Liberté!’



London Poems (additional) continued

London Poems (additional) - Contents

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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