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O little fairies of the snow,
Hushing the heart where’er ye go,
Sighing and singing as ye fall
Your melancholy madrigal,
Taking the sad and silent air
With hints of music unaware,—
Like sister sounds of thought that roll
Within the chancel of the Soul!

O little fairies of the snow,
Hushing the heart where’er ye go,
Painting the earth in winter hours
With stainless pictures of the flowers,
Kissing the season till it shows
The Sabbath-silence of repose,
Till Nature’s universal sense
Seems hush’d in breathless reverence!

O little fairies of the snow
Hushing the heart where’er ye go—
Weaving with slender fingers sweet
Our dying Winter’s winding-sheet,
Singing for ever as ye place
Your parting kisses on his face,
And leaving on the face ye bless
Soft signs of unborn loveliness!

O little fairies of the snow,
Working for weal where’er ye go,
Warming the infant of the Spring
Beneath your silken carpetting;
Working for Summer while ye sing
Your dying songs across the plain,
A-dying to be born again—
Breath’d gently back in summer hours,
The voiceless fairies of the flowers!



‘Snow-Music’ was published in The Athenæum (3 March, 1860, No. 1688, p.303). This is the first of the poems signed ‘B.’ in The Athenæum. Buchanan’s first reviews for The Athenæum were published in July, 1860. Buchanan’s first poems for Temple Bar’ commencing publication in December, 1860 were also initialled ‘B’. In June, 1862, The Athenæum published another poem by ‘B.’, ‘Sitting By The Sea.—June’, which was subsequently published in Buchanan’s Undertones as part of ‘Fine Weather By Baiae’, so I would suggest that it is reasonable to assign all the poems by ‘B.’ in The Athenæum from 1860 to 1862 to Robert Buchanan.



ITALY, 1859-60.


THE widow of a golden world,
     The daughter of a deathless Past,
The foster-child of Pity, hurl’d
     Her voice across the night, at last;
And underneath the night she stood,
     Beneath the star that was her Lord’s,—
But ere the morning broke in blood
     Her strength was symbolized with swords!

And while the widow’d nation fought,
     The song her Roman mother sung,
The function and the form of thought
     Took might and meaning on her tongue;
She track’d her own immortal cause
     Across the paths her mother trod,
And sought the riddle of the laws
     Whose slow progression leads to God!

The golden Past was uninurn’d,
     The bitter sin of sloth had ceased,
And, rising all her height, she spurned
     The perfum’d cushions of the priest;
She doffed the ragged robe she wore,
     The woof of miserable creeds,
And like a saving armour, bore
     The fame of unforgotten deeds!

And while the widow’d nation strove,
     Out of the old immortal heart,
To watch the altar of her love
     And wear her widow’s weeds apart;
And lit her lands with old renown,
     And led the new heroic race,
A kestrel playing with a crown
     Sharpened his eyes upon her face:

The throned despair of freedom, taught
     In schools where flowers of freedom die,
In whom the eagle-light of thought
     Was darkened to a lawless lie—
Who ranged his lands as robbers do,
     Cloak’d in another’s bastard fame,
Untaught that Freedom, whom be slew,
     Was Glory with a gentler name!

But when he drew his golden knife,
     And took the widow’d nation’s hand,
Low-wooing while they walked in strife
     They hurl’d a tyrant from the land.—
Before the morn that bore the day
     Her strength was symbolized with swords,
But in the southern eve she lay
     Stabbed to the heart with honied words!



‘Italy, 1859-60’ was published in The Athenæum (31 March, 1860, No. 1692, p.442).





I pluckt a crocus yestermorn
     And placed it in a poet’s page—
A tiny prophet, newly born
     Within its snowy hermitage;
And all the hushëd winter day
It breath’d its little life away,
And faded like a tone of thought—
But left the promise that it brought!

In that sweet season of the year,
     Ere April leaves her rainbow-bower,
And windy March is husht to hear
     Her footsteps in the distant shower,
I pluckt it, where it seemed at strife
To vindicate a hermit’s life,
And caught within a lonely place
The coming summer on its face!

And where the withered crocus lies,
     Among the rhymes my poet wore,
Soft memories emparadise
     A song it does me good to lore:
A hinted odour that will stay
Whene’er I lift the flower away,
A little melancholy dower—
Yet all the fortune of the flower!

Believe, the flower thro’ snow and wind
     Fulfilled the promise that it brought;
The poet passed and left behind
     Those hints of unperfected thought:
The poet and the flower achieved
The little end for which they lived.
For Beauty’s sake, believe, content
To die in its accomplishment.



‘The Crocus’ was published in The Athenæum (14 April, 1860, No. 1694, p.508).





WHEN, breathing balm o’er flock and fold,
     Low winds bring sweetness from the south,
When still the winter-toucht and old
     October biteth in the mouth—
I stand beside my cottage door,
And see above me and before,
Across the skies and o’er the plain,
The shadows of the Rain.

O watch them blown from hill to hill,
     O’er lonely streams and windy downs,
From thorpe to thorpe, from vill to vill,
     And over solitary towns;
Like stragglers from the skirts of Night,
Slow-squadron’d by a wind of light,
Torn down to music as they roll,
Bobbing as with a Soul!

Across the skies and o’er the plain,
     Below the silence of the spheres,
The hidden Angel of the Rain
     Is sighing with a sense of tears:
And list’ning to her voice it seems
Some fancy muffled-up in dreams,
Some shapeless thought our visions keep,
Meaning thro’ shades of Sleep!

I hear the voice and cannot doubt
     The wisdom of the thought I win—
That all the changeful world without
     Must type the changeful world within;
Nor may the poet fail to gain
One hint of kindred with the Rain,
Type of a life whose hopes and fears
Are rainbow’d out from tears!

For, standing now between the shower
     And sun, I glory to behold
The Rainbow leave her cloudy bower,
     Transfigur’d in a mist of gold:
Her trembling train of clouds retreat,
The Earth yearns up to kiss her feet,—
She wears the many-hued and gay
Robe of the unborn May!



‘Rain’ was published in The Athenæum (26 May, 1860, No. 1700, p.719). A shorter, revised version of the poem was published in Wayside Posies (1866).





NOW sheaves are slanted to the sun
     Amid the golden meadows,
And little sun-tanned gleaners run
     To cool them in their shadows;
The reaper binds the bearded ear
And gathers in the golden year,
And where the sheaves are glancing
The Farmer’s heart is dancing.

There pours a glory on the land,
     Flasht down from heaven’s wide portals,
As Labour’s hand grasps Beauty’s hand
     To vow good-will to mortals:
The golden Year brings Beauty down
To bless her with a marriage crown,
While Labour rises, gleaning
Her blessings and their meaning.

The work is done, the end is near,
     Beat, Heart, to flute and tabor,
For Beauty wedded to the Year
     Completes herself from Labour:
She dons her marriage gems and then
She casts them off as gifts to men,
And sunbeam-like, if dimmer,
The fallen jewels glimmer.

There is a hush of joy and love
     Now giving hands have crowned us;
There is a heaven up above
     And a heaven here around us!
And Hope, her prophecies complete,
Creeps up to pray at Beauty’s feet,
While with a thousand voices
The perfect Earth rejoices!

When to the autumn heaven here
     Its sister is replying,
’Tis sweet to think our Golden Year
     Fulfils itself in dying;
That we shall find, poor things of breath,
Our own Souls’ loveliness in death,
And leave, when God shall find us,
Our gathered gems behind us.



‘Autumn’ was published in The Athenæum (20 October, 1860 - No. 1721, p.515).



London Poems.



FOR evermore through Temple Bar
     A mighty music rolls,
A troublous motion urging on
     The march of human Souls;
The City palpitates around
     With streets that seethe and roar,
And still that living sea of sound
     Aches to an unseen shore:
The music goes and comes—who knows
From whence it comes or whither goes?

From East to West, from West to East,
     Like some dark dream or care
Hid uncompleted in the heart
     Till uttered out in prayer,
Through Temple Bar it ebbs and flows,
     Swift as a crude March-wind,—
The Future darkling veiled before,
     The stone-struck Past behind—
Whose mingling shadows, while we pray,
Make the Eternity,—To-Day.

By Temple Bar I stand and watch
     The crowd rush on, a flood
Of Life, whose seeming darkness takes
     Fine meaning in my blood.—
Oh, there is always poesy
     Where human feet have trod,
These men and women, each and all,
     Are poems made by God;
Their birth is death, their death is birth,
Their Souls are lilies grown in earth !

O City!—Poet darkly veiled,
     In songs of sin and ruth,
Cry to thy children that thou art
     The Metaphor of Truth;
That Truth and Beauty are but one,
     Eternal, changeless, true,
And that where’er the shadow falls
     God sends the sunshine too!
Sing us this poesy sublime,
The climbing element of Time.

O City!—Poet darkly veiled,
     Unveil thy secret heart,
Breathe out thy song of toil, and show
     The Prophet that thou art;
Sing, Life is equal in us all—
     Blind arms stretcht out on air
To touch the robe of Beauty, who
     Is with us unaware—
Part of the Eden yet untrod,
Th’ unfathomable secret,—God!

Sad faces, faces fierce with sin,
     Swim on through Temple Bar,
While here and there a face beams by
     As stainless as a star!
Ay, here is Want, and here is Woe,
     Blotting the clouded street;
But every life is creeping on
     To break at Beauty’s feet,
And every little life, in sooth,
Assists the motion on to truth.

To take these mingled lives apart,
     To view each sin and flaw,
Is weeping work and thriftless work,
     Denying use and law;
For each is part, and has no life
     Dissolved from that great Whole,
Wherein the strength and meaning lies
     Of every human Soul—
It is a wave of that great sea,
Apart from which it cannot be.

And the great sea rolls on in power
     O’er black and shifting sand,
To cast its gathered jewels on
     Some dark mysterious strand;
But clearer, dearer day by day
     We grow in troublous strife,
And while we work, the hands of Death
     Are making wings for Life—
Completing, ’neath a risen sun,
The godhead of a duty done.

God sets a Scripture in the Soul,
     Whereby we breathe and live;
“Live up,” it saith, “I ask but this,
     To those good gifts I give;
I make thee capable by gifts
     Of Loveliness and Love,
Which prove the lower darkness means
     Excess of light above;
For Life is Hope,—a sense forlorn
Of Beauty out of which ’tis born.”

This Scripture indicates the strength
     Whereby we toil and climb,
Setting our thoughts and deeds like stars
     Amid the clouds of Time;
Our Use is Love, our Love is Use,
     And Hope, that urging voice,
Is something in ourselves beyond
     Our common cares and joys:—
We climb the mountains, grand and dumb,
With sacrifice for years to come.

Oh, doubt not, doubt not!—Journey on,
     Heart strong and sinews stout;
For when we doubt our work, the work
     Is poorer for the doubt.
For Love will come, since Use is Love,
     Our hardened dust ’twill leaven,
And proving all our faith in earth,
     ’Twill prove our faith in Heaven—
Pure in its patieuce and its trust,
’Twill vindicate our lives from dust.

Oh, doubt not, doubt not!—Labour on,
     And prove our hidden worth—
Good lives, that are the heart of Hope,
     Spring oft from lowly earth;
Work on, hope on, with hearts and hands
     No petty fear controls;
And when the Future comes, ’twill take
     The sweetness of your Souls;
And every lovely deed, at last,
Will help to dignify the Past.

Flow on, dark flood, through Temple Bar;
     Breathe, City, busy breath;
Let the broad work move on till Life
     Shall read the riddle, Death;
There is a music in your toil,
     A meaning richly given—
Each struggling wave assists to push
     Its fellow on to Heaven;
Each helps, and has no life apart—
All ebb from one mysterious Heart.



’Temple Bar’ (the first of Buchanan’s ‘London Poems’) was published in the first number of Temple Bar (No. 1, December 1860). In a review of the magazine in the Illustrated Times (8 December, 1860), the poem received this mention:
     “the first of the London poems, ‘Temple Bar,’ has a grand, rich, harmonious flow, and contains many illustrations and similes betokening great and rare genius.”

And Edmund Yates has a brief mention of Buchanan (and the poem) in his memoirs, Edmund Yates: his Recollections and Experiences. Volume II. (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1884. pp. 59-61):

“... and there were contributions from two acknowledged poets, whose acquaintance I had recently made. One was Mortimer Collins, of whom I had heard frequently . . .
     The other was by Mr. Robert Buchanan, who came to my house in the Abbey Road, to which I had just removed, one evening in November, with a letter of introduction from W. H. Wills, who had previously spoken to me about him. Mr. Buchanan had recently arrived from Scotland to seek his fortune in London, and had greatly impressed Mr. Wills, not merely by his undoubted talents, but by the earnestness and gravity of his demeanour. He wrote a series of poems in our new magazine, the first one having ‘Temple Bar’ for its subject, and became a constant contributor.”





The common tongue held William Garnett hard,—
A man bound up in self and dreams of gain;
And Margaret Arnold, whom he seemed to love,
Who dwelt with all her beauty at his hearth,
Was giddy, and approved the common lie
In secret, judging William by herself. . . .
If that sweet Angel, whom the world calls Love,
Once droops, he dies,—and so she loved him not.

But Margaret dwelt in William’s house, a maid
Upon the hither side of womanhood,
Younger than he, his cousin twice removed.
For it had come to pass in other years,
That ere her pretty childhood seemed full-blown,
The little baby, Margaret Arnold, missed
The woman’s hand that tended her; and she,
The seven-years’ child, left to a harder heart
And rougher hands—a father’s hands and heart—
Grew nearer to her mother’s soul, and caught
That voiceless poesy which doth inform
The looks of little children when they ail.
But Edward Arnold sickened, grappling hard
With the Gin-Demon, and at last he died,
And baby Margaret, left alone in life,
Yearned for another heart to keep her warm
And love her. Then the small and ailing thing
Drew one with something of her mother’s face,
Who set her in her woman’s heart beside
William, her boy; and Margaret Arnold grew
By William, grafted on the household tree,
His playmate and his cousin twice removed.

When William Garnett was a black-hair’d boy,
He wrought and served his time with Gilbert Hope,
The village blacksmith; and the daily toil
Fitted the staff of labour to his strength
So soon and aptly, that when Gilbert died,
The sometime ’prentice lad assumed the man,
And kinged it o’er the anvil in his stead.
Thus William cheered his mother’s age, and cast
An eye of hope on her who loved him not,
Because the common liar called him hard.

But Margaret Arnold, with her soft girl’s face,
Her pining pansy eyes, and yellow hair,
Throve with the seasons: innocent and weak,
With that large woman’s glance of men and things
Which takes too wide a scope of men and things
To see ought clearly. Thus the maiden grew,
Until she caught God’s blessing in the glass—
His bane or blessing—and her beautiful face
Was busy with its image night and morn.
Not proud, indeed,—too pretty to be proud,—
But gentle beyond gentleness, smooth-tongued
Beyond the lowliness of lowly thoughts,—
A beauteous girl, who knew her beauty well;
Meek as a lamb, but certain of her face.

Then Margaret felt William’s silent eyes
Upon her, as she reared her innocent days
Among the lowly household; and she thrust
A sister’s smile between them, beating back
His love with sister’s kisses. But the man,
Whom men called hard, dreamed many-coloured dreams,
And, calmly toiling, often counted o’er
The neighbours, men and women, who should dance
At Margaret’s wedding, hoarding, as he toiled,
To make the maiden glad with wedding gifts.
But she, whose hope was harder than his heart,
Who stood between mute heaven and the man,
And darkened on him like an English night
Whose starry silence pains the heart with prayer,
Smiled on his face because she loved him not,
And heard the common liar call him hard.

And William slept o’ nights with golden dreams,
Nor hard, nor cold, if peaceful dreams be true:
For I am one who holds that happy dreams
Are just the poetry of righteous acts,—
The flash of angel-kinsmen of the Soul,
Seen through the gossamer-web of that dark death
To which our sleep is nearer than we know.
So love was in the man’s mute heart. He seemed
To dwell for ever in a sunny song,
Part of the music in it. Spare of words,
And spinning out his thrifty nights and days,
He wore the woman’s image in his heart,
An amulet to frighten aims less clean.
But Margaret Arnold held for other hope,
And wore a lie of kindness on her face,
Because she loved him not, and deemed him hard.

At last his passion trembled into words.
Beside the ingle, when the April eve
Put forth the fragrant-budding night, and wore
Its silver sickle, William Garnett said,
Reading her beauty, while his close lips cut
Deliberate speech,—“I love you. You and I,
Of old, were fond and friendly, Margaret.
We grew together, and our home was one;
And now I love you, not with brother’s love,
But deeplier, with a man’s love, open-arm’d
To wed thee!” But she turned her eyes away,
Half smiling, with a riddle on her face,
Blushing a little. Then he said again:
“You hear me, Margaret. I am open-arm’d
To wed thee.” When she lifted up her eyes,
And faltered from him; called it sudden; prest
His rough hard hand and talked of sister’s love;
And, at the last, she smiled the sister’s smile,
And sought for breathing-space to weigh his words
In quiet; then he frowned, not doubting her,
But answering not the sister’s smile she thrust
Between them; and he trembled, as he said:
“Think over it, not idly, Margaret:
I look for mutual help and mutual love,
Not idle; and the love the greater help.
The seasons thrive, and I am open-arm’d
To wed thee.” So he turned the stream of talk
To fresher channels; and the homely dame—
That metaphor of peace half canonized
Within the household—lit the evening hours
With lights of laughter, thinking Margaret sure,
Though silent. But the maiden sat apart,
Holding strange trystes with Hope, and, loving not,
Deemed William Garnett hard.

                                         But once again,
When the pent fulness of the summer yearned
Under the ribs of earth, and birds of May
Were warbling in the woodbine-lighted lanes,
He sought her face with words; and yet again,
When the swart face of perfect June arose
To golden music. But she paused and smiled,
Delaying with a pretty trick of love;
But shrinking oftentimes from William’s eyes,
As if they hurt her; paler than of old,
And quicker-tempered. Lastly, sad and calm
As summer swooning westward to the dark
In golden trances, waiting twilight tears.

Now darkness gathered o’er the silent house;
For in the time when farmers’ hearts are high,
And tannéd reapers bind the bearded ears,
The fair-hair’d light of William Garnett’s hearth
Lifted the latch, and darkened from the door,
And, passing westward with a light footfall,
Departed. Then the faded morning broke
Thro’ blocks of amber cloud, and William rose
To find the early twilight of the house
Emptied of music; for the musical face
Was faded wholly out of hope and sight.
Yet William doubted Margaret not as men
Doubt sinners; for he murmured, with a face
Dark as the face of heaven when it wears
Soft scars of summer thunder, sad, not wroth,—
“We chained her here, and she has slipt the chain,
Bearing her youth to other hearths, because
She loved me not. ’Tis better: let her go.
O fool! I might have seen it in her eyes—
She loved me not.” But William stood apart,
Hardened to hope, and, passing forth his eyes,
Approved the common tongue which called him hard.

Then William’s mother took a tougher turn,
Heaping a store of bitter woman’s words
On Margaret’s head, because she loved her son;
Called her ingrate; and, harping on her face,
Much marvelled that he ever thought it fair—
A doll’s face, nothing more. Then vowed the girl
Should lie upon her bed of gathered thorns:
She made it; she had chosen; let her sleep
Upon it: or perchance her comely face
Might buy a better. But a storm of tears
Passed by with silence, bringing thoughts that moved
The mother in her, pity which meant love.
“Poor child! young child! she little knew the world;
The world was cruel; and, she doubted much,
Might teach her tears, and stain her; for the girl
Was weak, and weaker for her comely looks.”
But William clenched his lips, and stood as firm
And calm as hills within whose iron loins
The many waters rankle. So the night
Dropt down with moon and stars, and found the house
Sick as the room wherein a murdered man
Lies stretched where mourners weep not, far from home.

But ere the silver star had risen thrice,
A naked rumour stabbed him: tales whereof
There went a bitter fame about the vale:
For there were tongues to tell, and ears to hear,
That Margaret left her foster-mother’s door
Not guiltless, lending cruel love to one
Who owed to heaven the debt of guilt she bore;
Not guiltless, by the secret-snake that stirred
Beneath her bosom. There were tongues to tell
She bore the chiding secret at her heart
To a far town, where Death and sinners walk
On stone beneath the lamps, and long to know
The tender feeling of the grass again,
Where grass and flowers are none, and Hope is dead.
Then William Garnett bowed his head and groaned,
Crushed down to tears. “God help her!” William cried;
“God help her! I have driven her to this:
Oh, I have sinned against her!” and again:
“O mother! I have sinned against my hope;
She loved me not. I go to seek her out
And save her.” But the aged woman saw
The terrible light in William’s eyes, her son,
And stayed him not. Then William took his staff,
And robbed the hidden stocking of its hoard,
And left his home to seek his sorrow out,
And save her, looking harder than of old.

And William Garnett hailed for London town,
Blind with his grief, on a mad search to find
A straw afloat upon a sea of life.
Across a summer-breadth of harvest home,  
Blue-veined with rivers fair, and toucht with towns;
Thro’ copsy hamlets, belted in the hills;
Across the many-acred golden shires,
Three nights and days he rode like one in sleep,
Until the panting suburbs rose and held
Their truce between the country and the town.
Above him throbbed the silver English night,
The lady-moon in star-paved bower of heaven;
And, pushing to the sable east, he saw
The City sleeping in its thousand lights.

At break of dawn the mammoth city moved,
And faltered back to being, feeling forth
Toward an ocean dark with coming ships,
With many voices. Then he sought her, pale
And haunted with a noise of rushing lives,
Weak as a lamb new-fallen, swallowed up
In multitudinous being, hurt with Day,
Till Day died moaning. So he wandered on
Beneath the mute, unutterable night,
Under the azure silence, white with stars;
While all around the sleeping city throbbed
With palpable pulses, breathing in its sleep
Like little happy babes whose sleep is sound.
But the mad search was void; he found her not.
The midnight deadened round him as he stood,
Pained past degree of hope, and all the night
He sought his sorrow out, and found her not.
The gray morn glimmered in the pallid east;
The mammoth city shook itself, and stirred;
And, leaning over lonely London bridge,
He looked along the river, black with wealth,
Seaward, toward the sunrise. Then his soul
Closed inward to its sorrow, as a stream
Narrows thro’ mountain chasms; and he wept
Like one who weeps for being all alone,
In silence, looking harder than of old.

But in the end, he took his staff, and said:
“God bless her! I have wronged her once again;
God bless her! I will wrong her never more.
They lied who drove me hither with their tongues.
God’s blessing on her!” So he journeyed back
The way he came, until the country breeze
Beat balm upon him at his mother’s door;
And Margaret’s name lay gently in his heart,
Unstained and clean, but foreign to his lips.
Then the old life lay heavy on the man,
And marred him with the dream of other days,
The many-coloured dream, the marriage dream,
Which faded wholly with the face he loved.

And William Garnett, he whom men called hard,
Heard with a bitter heart the common tongue,
Which made a mock of Margaret whom he loved,
Thinking no ill because he loved so well.
And William’s mother fretted thro’ the house,
Peevish, and quick, and with an altered face;
But loving William with the added love
Which erring Margaret Arnold left to spare.
So William toiled, and when a year had passed,
The dame would have him take another wife;
But the hard face grew harder at her words,
And the low voice grew lower as he cried:
“May God bear witness that I cannot wed
Other than Margaret, your sometime child;
For I believe her pure, and have no ears
To take the common lie and credit it.
I say, God bless her,—till she comes again
To make this bitter hope and sorrow good,
And bless our bosoms, mother, yours and mine.”

But in the time of flowers a letter came.
“Mother, O mother,” thus the letter ran,
“To London, come to London, for I die;”
And underneath it, in another hand,
The name of some poor place where Margaret dwelt.
Whereat the old dame wept with broken words,
But William kissed her as she wept, and said:
“I little dreamed that it would come to this;
She dies, your child—your daughter Margaret dies;
Yet kiss me—comfort—all may yet be well.
For I myself will go to London town,
And bring our sorrow, Margaret Arnold, back,
Where there is still a little love to spare,
True love, a mother’s and a brother’s love,
Both proven. There is comfort, let me go.”
When William’s mother took him in her arms,
And hung about his neck, and eased her heart
With many tears and kisses.

                                             In the end,
Mother and son set out for London town
Together, judging well that woman’s hands
Are potent in the household, where the hands
Of man are weak and helpless. So they rode
Thro’ English summer many golden miles,
And brought their faded hope to London town.
When William said, “Go, seek her out alone,
My playmate, Margaret Arnold, your lost child.
I hold it wiser, mother, for my face
May haply trouble her who loves me not;
But you shall comfort her with mother’s words,
And break my wish to see her once again,
Not doubting her, but friendly as of old,
And open-arm’d with only brother’s love,
Content with sister’s smiles, as in the days
When we were younger. Quickly, lest she die!”
So the good dame left William’s side, her son,
And sought the house where Margaret Arnold lay
Sick, pale, and disallowed of use and aim,
While William chafed and fretted in himself,
Impatient to forgive, a broken man,
Yet strong in duty, looking hard and cold.

But after many hours the dame returned,
And fell about his neck without a tear,
While busy workings of the under-lip
Interpreted the conflict raged within
’Tween love, and pride, and duty. Then she placed
A paper in his hand without a word,
And left him with her eyebrows knitted down,
Bearing her weakness with her, stern and pale,
To grieve in secret. William Garnett clenched
His lips, and seemed to harden as he read
The paper, writ in Margaret Arnold’s hand.
“Pity me, William Garnett, for I die;
Upbraid me with your pity—I, your shame,
Your blight and bane, your sorrow and your curse,
Who loved me once, not idly.

                                                 “I have sinned
Against you, William Garnett, sinned the sin
Men teach but pardon never, and my life
Comes now to bitter ending. I believe
You loved me, William. Times to which I may
Look back with comfort take new meaning now,
But then I thought you hard, a man of self,
Who buys a helpmeet as he buys a horse,
For use, and not for joy, not loving her.
And so I rose and thrust a sister’s love
Between us. I have wronged you, but I die!

“One came, no matter whom, and soon I felt
Misplaced within the dear old house—a life
That turned on rusty hinges. He was higher
Than simple folk, a master among those
Who wound the earth for gold, and in the end,
Making my hope as lofty as his sin,
He drew my footsteps from the path of peace.
I fled with him, and left a name whereof
Fame was not silent, William Garnett. Thus
I wronged you.

             “When a year had come and gone
(Bear with me, William Garnett, for I die),
I loosened on his kindness like a robe
Thrust off to the elbows. Then he cast me off,
A tatter’d garment, and I stood alone,
Alone amid the streets of London town,
This London, with a music in mine ears
Of those rough phrases of the household, learnt
When we were younger. But I shrunk in fear,
And seemed to feel the curse upon your face,
Because I thought you hard.

                                             “At last the light
Of God was quenched within me; I became
The living sin I am, your curse and shame,
A life blaspheming against womankind.
I wronged you, William Garnett, but I die!
I thought you hard and cold, a loveless man,
But the long sin is sinned, my heart is healed,
And now I send you blessings ere I die.”

And William Garnett wept not, though his heart
Leapt loudly in his bosom as he read,
Pleading her pardon. But he stood like one
Who stands dead-frozen on a sea-bound crag,
Waiting the moon-led waves to cover him,
Sterner than granite. While he waited thus,
His mother fell upon his neck again,
Weeping aloud, and crying as she wept,—
“Margaret is dead, is dead—my child is dead—
O William, my son William, she is dead—
Margaret is dead!” Then William Garnett kissed
The woman on the cheek, without a tear,
And hardening inn his outer manhood said,
“God bless her—we forgive her—it is well.
Mother, give thanks to God that she is dead—
Our shame, a sinner. But she sins no more.
Our name is blighted, mother, our good name
Is spat upon and tainted. Let her sleep.
Forgive, but name her never, never more;
Judge not, but let us bury and forgive.”
They buried Margaret Arnold where she died,
A sinner, in the heart of London town.

And when two English springs had come and gone,
Young William Garnett, with his youth in heaven,
Knowing the need of woman’s helping hands
Within his household (for the dame was aged)
Grew harder than of old, forgot his vow,
And took a helpmeet, less for love than use.

                                                               R. WILLIAMS BUCHANAN.


‘The Country Curate’s Story’ was published in the Christmas edition of The Welcome Guest (December, 1860), as part of a linked series of tales, under the title ‘Snowbound’.



London Poems.



O CITY, that liest at rest
     In the robe the snow-fairies have given,
With the graves of the dead on thy breast,
     And the stars, like their Souls, up in heaven!
Sleep!—like the slumber called Death,
Not a sound, not a breath,
     While I sing of the Dead in your keeping;
Let me feel in your stillness to-night
The mute unapproachable might
     Of the sleep they are sleeping!

City, so husht, as in fear!
     Asleep, with thy lives without number!
Each life little knoweth how near
     To the secret of Death is its slumber;
And each Soul proves the labour of life
Is divine in its strife,
     Its patience, its pain, and its duty,
By clothing the Day dead and dumb
With the glory which ne’er seems to come,
     The hopeful To-Morrow, called Beauty.

The Dead! They are still as thy Heart,
     This midnight of cold winter-weather,
Yet what are the Dead but a part
     Of the goal not yet won altogether?
Each life thou hast lost, thou the whole,
Is a step to that goal,—
     Something won, something beautiful spoken;
Each life had its labour to give
To the cause of the millions who live,
     And thou keepest the dust as a token.

With the shades of the Dead as they flee
     Your laws (which are Memory) lengthen—
E’en the suicide proveth in thee
     A weakness his weakness will strengthen.
The Temple of Truth, born of breath,
Darkens on us from Death,
     And our sleep is its sweeter reflection;
For nothing is lost, great or small,
Without something well-gained to us all,
     And our Dead are our steps to perfection.

The multitudes passing away
     Toil up to the goal happy-hearted,
And the Day yet unborn is a Day
     More fair than the Day just departed;
We strain and we toil and we climb
Up the mountain of Time,
     With Love the dark moments beguiling;
From the womb to the tomb let us go,
For high on the mountain, we know,
     Stands Labour transfigured and smiling.

The Dead! They have laboured to show
     Earth and Heaven a closer communion;
We are nearer the Dead than we know,
     And our sleep is the sign of the union;
And we daily grow nearer our Dead
Who have laboured and fled,
     The types of a duty completed!
Let us on—we shall join them at length,
Let us labour, for unto our strength
     The labour before us is meted.

We labour together—’t is best;
     We slumber with Hope for a neighbour,
And slowly departing to rest
     Find the infinite end of our labour;
We toil in an infinite crowd,
And our toil is a cloud
     The end of our pilgrimage screening—
But God, if His worshippers weep,
In the link of His death and their sleep
     Hides hints of a beautiful meaning.

Sleep, City, and symbol the time
     When our sleep bursts to lovely awaking,
When Death shows the Temple sublime
     Our toil is unconsciously making!
Each is weak, each is small, each is vain,
In his pride and his pain,
     But he leans on the rest if he falter;
And if taken together we show
The work that must brighten and grow,
     When the Dead are the stones of God’s Altar!



’The Dead’ was published in Temple Bar (No. 2, January 1861). A review of the magazine in the Illustrated Times (5 January, 1861) referred to “a second of the ‘London Poems,’ full of fine thought and eloquent expression.”



London Poems.



THEY haunt the streets of the town by night,
     But are banished from day for ever;
They come and go like the shadows cast
     By clouds on a flowing river;
The ghosts of a sweetness long since lost,
     Unpitied and dead to pity,
They wander, lonely and tempest-tost,
     Where blackness clotheth the city;
They live their lives, forgotten and dead,
     Forgiveless and unforgiven,—
For the angel of childhood seems to smile
     Them back from the portals of heaven.
While far away, among English dales,
     In beautiful country places,
Old couples whisper in bed o’ nights
     And talk of the absent faces!

The old, old tale with the doleful end!—
     A heart either wicked or broken,
A vacant place by the ingleside,
     A name that is never spoken.
The end?—It is yonder beneath the gas,
     The sin, the paint, and the patches;
Or in yonder house, where a woman dies
     To a chorus of drunken catches.
The end ?—a shriek from the moonlit bridge,
     A plunge to the death beneath,
And a bubble of light round a fluttering dress
     Where the waters circle and seethe.

What curse lies yonder without the town,
     Where the blue fresh rivers run,
There, in the pastoral homes whose hearths
     Are smiled upon by the sun?
What taint is alive in that free clear air
     Which comes not hither to woo us,
That it sends these pitiful shadows forth
     To mock us and to undo us?
What blight is upon it, that it gives
     These wandering daughters to us?

God made the country and man the town,
     So runneth the trite old saying;
Yet half this wormwood has grown as flowers
     Where country breezes are playing,
In little hamlets and tiny towns
     Where children wander a-maying.
Fresh from the fields and the streams they come,
     And the simple household duty,
To mock the march of the busy time
     With error, new-born of beauty.

O City, the voice of the mountain breeze,
     Where every leaflet rejoices,
The echo that rings in the hill and glen,
     Is echoed in these sad voices;
And, ’mid the light of the midnight lamps
     I see in some azure eye
Just such a beauty as brooklets catch
     When full of the sun and sky;
And looking thro’ tears at the pale sad face
     Of some sorrowful fair new-comer,
I trace a glory like that which clothes
     The village church in the summer.
Sinners! they wander in wind and rain,
     Haply remembering often
Old rough home phrases that time has power
     To sweeten with tears and to soften—
Remembering how, when strong in toil,
     Their hands were hardened and brown,
The mother went to church in her rags,
     And purchased the girl a gown.

Ah, me! the wedded deny themselves
     To buy the baby a toy,
They work with a will upon scanty fare
     While they educate the boy;
But the boy as he grows to his proper height
     Looks higher than mother or sire—
Too tall to sit in the cosy place
     Kept for him beside the fire;
Or, falling perchance into evil ways,
     Grows bitter and harsh and cold;
Or blocks their path to his cottage-door
     With a slattern or a scold.

They load the girl with their homely gifts,
     They rear her in wifely arts;
They dream of the girl in her bridal-dress,
     While she sins and breaks their hearts.
Ah, me! to see the faces that haunt
     The streets with their ghastly mirth,
To watch the vacant delight and see
     The woman so gross with earth;
To find the sinner sweetening sin,
     Mad with a vile unrest—
And then to think of the mother’s hope
     As she smiles on the babe at her breast!

O City, rich in money and men,
     And richer in work divine!
Whose is the sorrow and whose the sin?
     And how much of the sin is thine?
Enough to know that the sin was born
     Of a bitter delight or sorrow;
That the sorrow and sin can be cleansed away
     Neither to-day nor to-morrow.
Enough to know that the broken heart
     Needs the beauty of Christ to mend it;
That, ere we labour to kill the sin,
     We must labour to comprehend it.

We men are narrow and harsh and vain,
     We are petty amid our scorn!
But oh, to gaze on the crowded street
     Where the sinners wander forlorn,
And then to kiss our daughters and wives
     And our little babes new-born!
To see the sin and the sorrow flaunt
     When the beautiful day is done,
And then to think of the homeless heart
     Which mourns for the absent one,—
Of the free blue air and the country dales,
     Where the bright fresh rivers run,—
Of the girl who sings in her mother’s house,
     And the children that laugh in the sun!



’Outcasts’ was published in Temple Bar (No. 3, February 1861).



London Poems.



THE heart of the City is black with sin,
     Black in its inmost core;
For Sorrow, God’s shadow, falls dark within
     The hopeless homes of the poor;
The strong man gnaweth his iron chain,
     And hungers from night to morn,
The woman lying apart in pain
     Curses the babe unborn;
The little children make moan alway,
     Shelterless, starven, bereaven,
With souls that glimmer thro’ slender clay,
     And beacon their mothers from heaven.
         The rich man’s larder is richly stored,
               But the poor look-up unfed;
         The rich man cries, “Give us light, O Lord!”
               The hungry, “Give us bread!”

Blackness from morn till the pitiless stars
     Veil their religion of light,
And blackness too when the brazen bars
     Of sunset are molten in night;
Blackness on alley, and street, and lane,
     Where singeth never a bird;
And yet in the midst of the pang and pain
     No prayer for the light is heard:
The starving and destitute would not know:
     Their spirits unclean and stark,
Circumscrib’d to their need and their woe,
     Are better, they say, in the dark.
         The rich man seeketh a pleasant sky
               Beyond the graves of the dead;
         And “Lord, give us light!” the wealthy cry,
               The hungry, “Give us bread!”

The rich man hoardeth his nobler woe
     To savour his pleasure and love;
The sweet delight of his earth below
     Doth colour his heaven above;
His hopes lie beautiful on before,
     He knoweth no petty strife,
And he has raiment and food in store
     For his little ones and wife;
He craveth for light, while overhead
     He perceives the golden day;
In flowery pleasures his babes are led,
     And he has leisure to pray.
         The rich man worshiping God by night
               Sees the beckoning stars overhead;
         The rich man prayeth, “Lord, give me light!”
               The hungry, “Give me bread!”

The poor man hungereth in his doubt,
     He can see nor stars nor sky,
For his eyes are on earth as he hollows out
     Graves for the loved as they die;
He struggles onward in troublous breath,
     With no holy of holies above,
Subtracting the wormwood of life and death
     From the pity of God and His love;
The dead and buried are not to Him
     Sweet charters to conquer the tomb,—
They gleam like angry devils and dim
     On the brink of a fathomless gloom.
         The rich man’s earthier paradise
               Hints a heaven beyond the dead;
         And “Lord, give us light!” the rich man cries,
               The hungry, “Give us bread!”

“Bread, give us bread!” the poor man says;
     “Bread, bread!” cry children and wives;
And “Lord, give us light!” the rich man prays,
     The light of Thy holier lives.
The cries clash daily without accord,
     They cease not morning or night,
The wealthy ask not for bread, O Lord,
     The starving ask not for light;
There cometh no rest to low or to high,
     Woe mirroreth earth, joy, heaven;
The poor ask bread, and the wealthy try
     To sweeten the bread which is given.
         The rich man, master of earth, seeks more
               Beyond the graves of the dead;
         But, narrow’d to that they lack, the poor
               Cry loudly, “Give us bread!”

Ah, me!—to wander with ears and eyes,
     Thro’ alley, and street, and lane,
To see the visions of paradise
     Obscured by the grosser pain;
To see the strong man shrink from the path
     That leadeth up to the sky,
To see the hungry arise in wrath,
     And deny the light, and die;—
Oh, heal the earthly bitterness first,
     Sisters and brothers mine;
And after bread shall follow the thirst
     For the light which is divine!
         The rich man’s plentiful nights and days
               Are radiant with pleasures fled;
         And “Lord, give me light!” the rich man prays,
               The hungry, “Give me bread!”

Out in the fields where the sun is bright,
     Upspringeth the yellow corn,
It springs and grows in the shining light
     Till the bountiful acres are shorn;
The reaper reapeth on golden ground,
     And the sun-tanned gleaners glean,
And the wheels of the mill go busily round
     With the rich white grain between.
But the hungry live in the crowded street,
     In poverty, sickness, and pain—
’Tis the blessed and beautiful grain they entreat,
     Not the light that has ripened the grain!
         In the wealthy granary corn is stored,
               But the poor look up unfed:
         The rich man prays, “Give us light, O Lord!”
               The hungry, “Give us bread!”

Black is the heart of the man who hears
     No beckoning voice sublime,
Who hardens inward until his tears
     Are frozen at last into crime;
And bitter-sad is the woman’s mood,
     And full of a hate untold,
Who hears her baby moaning for food
     And shivering in the cold;
And sad are the children of wedded wives
     As they die in the alleys dun,
To think of the rosy children whose lives
     Are shone upon by the sun.
         The rich man’s child has bountiful gifts,
               The poor man’s child is unfed;
         The rich ask light, but the poor man lifts
               A threatening hand for bread.

And toiling downward, the homeless poor
     Seek graves as their only goals;
The draught that comes from the rich man’s door
     Blows out the lamps of their souls;
And reft of the guarding and guiding light
     The beautiful Soul must give,
They hunger on in the pitiless night,
     Knowing only by need that they live;
And stretched apart as the dregs of life,
     They rot on the rich man’s land,
And when Death cometh for baby or wife,
     They gnaw at his outstretch’d hand!
         They ask not light to reveal the hate
               In the eyes of living and dead:
         “Light!” cry the wealthy early and late,
               The poor ask only for bread!



‘The Destitute’ was published in Temple Bar (No. 4, March 1861).



Poems from Other Sources - continued

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