The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
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The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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You must know,
(Quoth a jolly old rubicund Country Squire,
As he sat, while his mansion was covered with snow,
With his wife and sons round the winter’s fire,)
You must know
That, many a year ago,
In the rollicking days of King Charles the Second,
Sir Leonard Curll was everywhere reckoned
The very pink of a dissolute knight;
But, in spite of that, he’d a wonderful knack
Of looking quite valiant when turning his back,
Sheathing his sword, and declining to fight.
At the time of my tale he was sixty odd,
A thin, spare wight, with a scraggy neck,
The pitiful wreck
Of a beau who had always forgotten God.
He hadn’t yet learned to be sober and quiet;
He filled his house with the noble, certes,
But they helped him to gamble, and swear, and hurt his
Constitution in drunken riot.
Yet faults dwindle down when a fallow is able
To dip his forefinger in rosy wine,
And etch out the plan of a family line,
As old as the hills, on a tavern table.

He’d a bullying way, quite as useful as bravery,
That kept all his household in durance and slavery.
His pale little wife
Led a deuce of a life;
And if Edith, his daughter,
Had lived up to the pitiful doctrine he taught her,
When placed on his knee, ’mid the household quandary,
She was forced to sip sin from his cup of Canary,
Why, I fear that the big-bellied parson would rather
Have split with her father,
And left that fat capon his cure in the lurch,
Than allowed her to speak twenty words in his church.
But, you know, in this hog of a world, with its bristles—
No! this green little world, with its sunshine and showers—
There are some human flowers
That the ugliest common can’t change into thistles,
For donkeys to gnaw at and munch at for hours.
I’m glad to be able to say, at the least,
That she was the Beauty, and he was the Beast.
For Edith, in spite of the treatment she found,
Grew—thanks to the care of her beaten-down mother—
Sweeter and purer than any other
Maiden for miles around.

She had hair, like a rillet of gold, that flowed,
Burnished even more bright by the gold of the sun,
Braided close on her forehead in Saxon mode,
And eyes that would suddenly flash into fun,
With a twinkling blue light, when her face was in gloom;
And two lips like the innermost leaves of a rose,
Threaded softly together in quiet repose,
Half-opened, half-shut, sunning out into bloom
Of a sweet, sunny smile,
That might even beguile
A monk from his low Miserere, and render
The dryest old abbot quite juicy and tender.
And even her Sire, spare Sir Leonard Curll,
Would relax in his cups, with an oath, and in sport
Would compare the beatified face of the girl
With those of the syrens who flaunted in Court—
The mermaids of Charles, who sing early and late did,
On whom hung the tales that Grammont has narrated.
She was pretty and good, neither more, neither less,
Though the knight didn’t spend many pence on her dress,
And her pride was the sign of her lowliness.
When her heart was glad, and the sun shone upon her,
In her Norman blood and her milk-white honour,
She seemed like a delicate porcelain cup,
Where the red wine is curdling with cloudlets of cream,
When the lamps are alight, and you hold it up
To the gleam.

She was fond of the poets. Perchance they had lent her
Some part of her sweetness, and tenderly bent her
Mind into Beauty, that passionate mentor.
I’ve a fancy that much of her thought, where soft sweetness
Was mingled by pride to a stately completeness,
Might early in life have been nourished and built on
Such songs as the full “Penseroso” of Milton.
She had favourites, Roundheads and Royalists both,
Whom she judged by no standard of popular froth,
Nor cared if their praises, as sons of the Nine,
Were drawled through the nose, or roared out over wine.
Perchance she had learnt half her sweet, sober thought from
The stately, sweet hymnings of Herbert and Quarles;
And perchance the light mirth of her laugh had been caught from
The wine-loving Herrick, who worshipped King Charles;
The grace of her motions, and sweet, self-contained
Warmth, might have come from the dreamland of Spenser;
And much of her chasteness of look she had gained
From the incense that burns in the richly-wrought censer
Dan Chaucer has swung o’er Lucrece the unstained;
The music of Shakespeare was troublous within her
First dreams of the sweetness whence Juliet plained;
And Drayton’s long line may have aided to win her
To watch our green hills, and our streams as they roll,
And to draw their home-tenderness into her soul.
But the whence and the wherefore apart, I’m inclined
To think that she took—(though I perfectly know it’s
The custom to make very light of the poets)—
That she took some such melodies into her mind,
And, in turn, to the Soul, which, at work in its place,
Tried to sculpture them out day by day on her face;
For I hope that the poets, if rightly we know them,
Are not tape-measured out by a critical rod;
And believe that some angels in heaven may owe them
The debt of their earthly aspirings to God!

But a story’s a story. I’d better proceed—
For I’m too old a bird to be pecking at flowers,
And wrangling with sparrows for fanciful seed—
To say that Sir Leonard’s family spent
Their pastoral hours
In a mansion with quaint-looking gables and towers,
In the midst of the hop-growing county of Kent,
While Sir Leonard sported his scraggy old body
’Mid the bevy of belles around Nelly the favoured,
And paraded a sack-seasoned fancy that savoured
Like a Scotchman’s wit when replenished with toddy.

How many a rascal has learned to note,
By cutting the cards, how to cut a throat!
One December night, when the streets were in gloom,
Sir Leonard sat in a tavern room,
With his flesh wine-soaked, and his heart stone-dry,
Quaffing French liquors, and losing his money
(A kind of pastime which some think funny)
To a high-born knave, with a watery eye—
Sir Templeton Trench—a man about town,
With the blood of a lady, the brain of a clown.
Quoth Trench, with a leer,
Placing his friend’s lost crowns on the table:
“Look here!
I’ll make a proposal by which you’ll be able
To recover the fortune you’ve squandered to-night;
And the cards at my elbow shall set us right.”
Sir Leonard paused, with a drunken stare,
And then and there
Clutched at the cards with his fingers unsinew’d.
“You’ve a daughter,—Miss Edith?” the other continued.
“A baggage!” cried Curll. Quoth Sir Templeton: “Come!
She’s probably tired of a single life;
And who wouldn’t sour in an air that’s so glum?
For myself, Curll, I’m willing to make her my wife.
Now, the gold versus Edith! If I am the winner,
The money is yours, and Miss Edith is mine.”
“You’ll marry her, Trench?” said the other old sinner,
While his eyes bled wine.
Trench laughed and assented: “Of course, I’m aware
You look higher than one of my station and rank—
His Highness, of course.” “By my sword, Trench”—“There!
I’ve made you the offer; accept or refuse—
You're fully as likely to win as to lose.
Here’s the bank!
If you conquer, you keep both the wench and the gold.”
The bloodshot eyes of Sir Leonard rolled
Like a drunken Jew’s;
At first he had deemed it a comical jest
At the best.
“I agree!” he cried, with a croak, “for—pshaw!
You won’t make a bad sort of son-in-law.”
So they pitted the money against the wench,
And, silent as wolves, until cock-crow played,—
When Curll won the money, and Templeton Trench
The maid!

Well. The thing we call honour, Wife, differs in men;
In some it is blind as the perilous foam;
But I’d say to our children, again and again,
That the heart of all honour is truth to Home;
That the hopes of pure honour are centred above;
That the crown of man’s honour is wifely love:
But the honour Sir Leonard Curll understood
Was to sin against duty and youth, but be good
To every frothy and fulsome lie
He spoke in the heat of his revelry.
So he said unto Trench, “I have lost and I’ll pay;
And whether she comes with a yea or a nay,
You shall marry Miss Edith on Christmas Day.”

So Sir Templeton Trench and Sir Leonard Curll
Rode there and then to the home of the girl,
Thro’ the midst of the hop-growing county of Kent,
To announce the event.

Now, Sir Templeton Trench, this old blackguard, was rather
Younger than Edith’s old wine-bibbing father;
And was simply a silly old hogshead, where sack
Was mixed with Bordeaux and the sharp Cognac.
Just imagine the fuss when Sir Leonard bore his
Golden old goose to the manor, and made his
Proposal in language too ugly for Hades;
While Templeton swore his
Tenderest oaths at the two trembling ladies.
Argutos inter strepere anser olores!

Curll, with an oath:
“Little matters, young madam, your yea or your nay,
For I’ve brought you a husband of title and credit;
You’ll be Templeton’s lady come Christmas Day,—
I’ve said it.”

Poor Edith flew sobbing away to her room,
And wept all that night in the new-gathered gloom,
But the Lady, her mother, sat quiet and staid
By her lord and his friend as they tippled and quaffed,
And laughed
At the jests they made.
Her eyes were fixed on Sir Templeton Trench,
With the light of an innermost sorrow intense,
When Sir Leonard roared—“Bravely done, old wench,
For once in your life you’re a woman of sense.”
But the Lady Curll, as she sat beside them,
Spake not a word till the cold gray light
Cut sharp as steel thro’ the shadows of night.
When she passed from the hall with a look that defied them.
Sir Templeton grunted the maiden’s name,
Maudlinly trolling an amorous ditty,
More meaning than witty,
Starved out of a bard by some yellow-hued dame,
Who used as cosmetics to catch such ninnies
(Poets who dandle both babies and fame)
Those types of her Soul and complexion, her guineas!

Well, the hours glided onward, till country swains
Pluckt the mistletoe branches, in country lanes;
Till the holly was hanging from North unto South,
And the cook had the flavour of plums in his mouth!

They had hounded the girl into half-consent,
And the big-bellied priest had announced the event.
So on Christmas Eve old Sir Leonard’s house
Was the scene of a drunken and noisy carouse;
And the Lady Curll, with her sickly face,
Sat quiet and bland
By her husband’s place,
Filling his glass with a trembling hand.

On the Christmas morn, when the joyous chimes
Were tingling and trembling in musical rhymes,
The parson’s young wife took particular care,
With his cassock, his wristband, his face, and his hair;
The butler replenished his corpulent pottle
While tapping the cask and uncorking the bottle;
The bridal guests were both merry and many,
And the Lady Curll seemed the gayest of any,
But they found Sir Leonard Curll in his bed—
         .          .         .          .         .

A year had passed since Sir Leonard’s death;
Since Sir Templeton left, with his drunken brain;
And the alchemyst Winter, with frosty breath,
Was mimicking flowers on the cottage-pane.
It was Christmas Eve, and the fog-wrapt gloom
Was full of the wind and the shuddering rain.
The Lady Curll, with Edith, her pride,
Sat quiet and pale in a lighted room;
And the sweets of the season when Leonard died
Were far from the hearts of the mother and maid,
In the blackness they bought with his gold arrayed.

There was terror, unholy and undefined,
That Christmas Eve on the maiden’s mind,
And you knew by her murmuring lips that she prayed.

The Lady said:
“He sinned so against us that, truth to tell,
I would often wish he were buried and dead—
But now I would he were here, and well.”
And after a moment she murmured again,
“The wind is roaring around with rain,
But the beautiful, stainless snow that fell
When my lord was alive in this lonely spot—
The beautiful stainless snow falls not;
So I would my lord were alive and well.”
And she moaned with her face in the red firelight,
“I would that the beautiful snow, which seems
Like the voices of angels we hear in dreams,
Would fall on the desolate world this night;
For it falls on the earth and it entereth in,
Like the tears of the Christ on the eyelids of Sin.”
Then she stood erect, very cold and white.
And with bosom that trembled and eyelids that glistened,
She listened!

Then she sank with a shriek at her daughter’s feet,
And Edith looked pale by the light of her eyes:
“The blood of thy father, Sir Leonard, lies
On the Soul of thy mother, my Sweet, my Sweet!
I crouched like a lamb when he struck at me,
But I stung like a snake when he injured thee:
For, to save thee, my darling, my sorrow, my pride,
I poisoned the cup of my lord as he drank.”
Then, shuddering close to her daughter’s side,
And kissing her lips with a sob, she sank
On her breast, and died!
         .          .         .          .         .

The tale is old.
As I’ve told it to you, I heard it told.
’Tis one of those tales which we only tell
In the mirth-making season when all seems well,
To season our malt
With the salt
Of a good-natured horror by no means annoying,
Which sharpens our sense of the mirth we’re enjoying.
Ah, Edith!—I’d almost forgotten. Why, she,—
Thanks partly to youth and a certain fond lover,
And partly to something within and above her,—
Though sadder at seasons than most women be,
Died blessing six children at seventy-three.

                                                                                                                                     NEWTON NEVILLE.


‘The Lady Curll’ was published in The Welcome Guest (March, 1861). More information about Buchanan’s pseudonym, ‘Newton Neville’ is available here.





GONE is the wintery woe,
With the fairies that sang in the snow
     A hinted rhyme
     Of the sunny time
When the seasons gain glory, and glow;
     But I look on the earth—and, lo!
One lingers alone below.

The fairy lingers behind
The flight of its snowy kind;
     And its sunlit lamp
     Gleams in the damp
Darkness of rain and wind,—
     And its solitude seems to bind
Its sorrow to humankind.

Is it sent to utter some true
Sweet prophecy, old or new?
     Can it be sent
     Without wise intent?—
I hold it has work to do,
     For use is the privilege due
To beauty and sorrow too.

Does it prophesy summer hours,
When the snow is re-born in the showers?
     Does it bind
     The season of winter wind
To the season of buds and bowers?
     Does it hint two separate powers
United,—the snow and the flowers?

When its errand is done, let it go!
For it hath an errand below;
     And for beautiful ends
     The snowdrop blends
Green leaves with the cold white snow!—
     When the summer is here, you shall know
If the errand be gentle or no.



‘The Snowdrop’ was published in The Athenæum (23 March, 1861 - No. 1743, p.395).






You ask my story? I have led
     A dull and even life—
Little to hope for, less to love,
     Save little ones and wife;
But those sweet chimes stir up old days,
     I like their merry singing—
They mind me of the Christmas morn
     My marriage bells were ringing;
When, thinking not of things above,
I found that hope of heaven, Love.

At that imperfect time when youth
     Yearns back on early years,
And hard’ning down to manhood oft
     Takes childhood back in tears,—
I—working hand and throbbing heart—
     Mourning the years passed o’er me,
Turned from the early heaven behind
     And saw a heaven before me:
Plain words, I married—saw the skies
Untroubled in a bride’s blue eyes.

We twain were poor; folk called our match
     A hasty match and mad,—
But when two earnest hearts combine
     To make each other glad,
With work to do and hands to work,
     There’s little fear of fooling—
(Besides, our training was not nice
     And we had little schooling).
We joined our hands and made a plight
To help each other as we might.

There’s something in a woman’s face
     Invincible in trust;
It sends a kind of second soul
     Through men of meanest dust;
To hearts like mine, slow-blunting down,
     To selfish aims and uses,
A woman often vindicates
     The folly she produces;
And she I married came to bless
A heart grown hard with loneliness.

No slender girl with golden hair,
     No stately girl and tall—
In fact, a woman plump and set,
     And not a girl at all;
A bustling, buxom, busy life,
     Complete in love and duty,
Which, making all things beautiful,
     Caught half the given beauty:
A little woman, wifely wise,
With laughing babies in our eyes.



God interposes purer things
     Between our hearts and toil—
Sweet flowers that take the sun and air
     But bloom on shifting soil;
But at the best the heart ground down
     In narrow creeds and feelings,
Becomes a sunless heart and blind
     To most divine revealings—
A hearth-flame, growing scant and thin,
And often going out in sin.

The ambler down the road of life
     Upon an easy pad,
May bid us eat in joy because
     The world he sees is glad;
But Beauty dwells in time and place,
     Parch’d throats are sorry preachers,
And I have thought that toil and want
     Are gross and evil teachers—
They choke the undevelop’d trust,
The seed of godhead, down to dust.

For faith in God and beauty grows
     From faith in man and woman,
From that freemasonry of hope
     Embracing all things human;
And those who deem their brother man
     Cold, loveless, false to duty,
Subtract this want of loveliness
     From God the Father’s beauty.
The man who lies with smiling eye
Deems every smiling face a lie.

Religion shapes itself to life
     And grows from thoughts and deeds,
And he who questions his own Soul
     Must question all the creeds;
Oh, often, when my lot seem’d hard,
     And bitter thoughts would win me,
I’ve asked if God could be, because
     I found no God within me—
I knew not then, as now I know,
Doubt is the shade God casts below

When times were bitter, hard, and cold,
     And want was bringing pains,
When wages fell, and starving men
     Were gnawing at their chains,
My heart grew hard and seemed stone-dead,
     My tongue was oft unruly—
I curst myself for bringing want
     On her who loved so truly.
(Two years had passed since we were wed—
A child was coming, to be fed.)

Well, times grew harder every day,
     My life grew hard, lives will,
But when I knew the child was near
     My life grew harder still;
I cursed my marriage in my heart,
     My fire and folly rueing—
For babes must eat, and bread was dear,
     And there was nothing doing—
I thought hard thoughts and frowned to see
The patient face that smiled on me.

I knew the men who crushed us down,
     Who sat in pomp and peace,
Denied the right the wretched have
     To marry and increase;
I thought of this with bitter heart,
     Half owning and half scorning,
And while the woman lay apart
     I cursed my marriage morning;
Methought I saw a birth accurst,
With body starving, soul a-thirst.

And when our ailing marriage-tree
     Put forth its baby-bud,
I brooded by the fire and felt
     A demon in my blood;
I cursed the men that kept us down,
     I cursed the coming morrow,
I cast my bitterness at God
     With more of hate than sorrow,—
But I confessed His just control
By owning Satan in my soul!

But gentler music touched my heart,
     My blood felt fresh and free,
When Wife brought forth the little one
     And set him on my knee;
I liked his dreamy querulous face,
     And eyes that laughed so drolly,
I mingled with the innocence
     That made him seem so holy—
The Future seemed a fairer place,
And took the sweetness of his face.

And so when times were black and hard,
     When men were gross with strife,
Our dove came with its olive-branch
     To bless our ark of life;
Over our little helpless one
     Wife leant in tearful blisses,
And I could see her marriage day
     Blush back between her kisses—
A patient sign that, born from death,
Christ then was in our Nazareth.

Christ came in stainless infant-robes
     To heal the wounds of earth,
And Christ, I do believe, returns
     In every baby-birth;
A laughing wisdom lights his face,
     And calm is in his carriage.
He routs the Pharisees within
     The Temple men call Marriage;
And oft, while sense and eyes grow dim,
We leave our hearths and follow Him!

I thought, “This trouble is too weak
     To drag a strong man down,
God gives a property in Love
     Alike to king and clown;
This is an earnest, I believe,
     Between our hearts and heaven,
That when we help each other on
     The gift of strength is given.”
Howe’er it be, I left the door
With thrice the strength I had before.

And being young and hale and stout,
     I drove the clouds away,
And when times brightened, blessed the wife
     Who taught me tears that day;
I had been hot with those I served,
     Unused to smooth professions,
And somehow that new face compelled
     My mind to make concessions;
Joy came upon me in a flood—
A second boyhood in my blood.

To think those little pleading hands,
     That little wife and true,
Should draw so many clouds apart
     And show a sky so blue!
Oh, mine became a willing heart
     That ruled a willing hand—
Wife, with my baby at her breast,
     Was lady of the land.
Our hearts were prayers, our hopes were high,
And joy was with my wife and I.



Mine is an uneventful tale,
     But take it at its worth—
It tells how simply lowly hearts
     Grow out of lowly earth:
For every sorrow, every sin,
     That proved me basely human,
I gained a broader faith in God,
     Though broader faith in woman:
A saving patience touch’d my years,
Tried with the mystery of tears.

Hot, angry blood was always mine,
     Impatient of control,
But love, unconscious, veiled in toil,
     Kissed down my sterner soul.
Those pleading hands, that patient heart,
     Complete in hope and duty,
Wove in the gloomy web of work
     A rainbow thread of beauty.
I saw at last, and seeing throve,
The golden link ’tween use and love.

Love is another name for Use,
     A bond of hand and heart,
Use is another name for Love—
     They cannot dwell apart.
Love is the poetry of toil,
     And toil is faith supernal,
Framed as a human law to hint
     The law of things eternal,
Christ was of woman born to prove
Use, through the mystery of Love.

Oh, ere I bravely swam to shore
     From that unhappy wreck,
How wise was I to stay and tie
     My jewels round my neck!
While the salt tears yet dimm’d mine eye,
     Warm prayers my lips were saying,
With benediction of white hands
     I stoop’d to kiss them, praying;
Caught, far away from petty things,
Within a music made by wings.

I vindicate the task of all
     Who mean true love to life,
The help of heaven was with me when
     I blessed my babe and wife.
Measure not human love and use,
     In flesh of man or woman:
The mountains and the valleys share
     The sun and stars in common—
The sun completes the mountain shower,
And both complete the valley-flower.


‘An Artisan’s Story’ was published in Good Words (April 1861).



London Poems.



THE lady sips
With butterfly lips
     The sweets of the last new novel;
Close to her feet,
As she rides through the street,
     The sinning and hungry grovel.
Tell me, does madam
Descend from Adam?
     Or that bold baron of German mud,
Who, ferrying over
In a tub to Dover,
     Painted escutcheons with Saxon blood?

The lady’s face
Has a nameless grace,
     And her stainless soul is proud;
But yonder sinner,
Who sews for a dinner,
     Is sewing my lady’s shroud!
Tell me, then,
Are women and men
     Equal by virtue of mother-earth;
Or, when the breath
Has blackened in death,
     Will the worms pay honour to noble birth?

Again, I ask,
Is it beauty’s task
     To loll past sin in a carriage;
Or is the woman
Made lowly-human
     In the Bethlehem men call Marriage?
There are humble needs
That determine creeds,
     And the mother is bound by blessed bands:
She is evermore,
When she strives to soar,
     Dragged down to duty by infant hands.

The lady there
Is stately and fair,
     And her stars seem bright above her;
Yet a heart, I know,
In her breast of snow,
     Beats for a high-born lover.
And to high and low
Comes the mother’s woe,
     When she kneels by a grave, bereaven—
The churchyard tryst
With the bleeding Christ,
     And a beckoning babe in heaven!

Is it a scorn
To be nobly born?
     Nay, I hold it is good, my brother;
For the stately bride
Shall humble her pride
     To the bloody tears of the mother.
The lady and lord,
In a sweet accord,
     With the equal music of married minds,
Shall bend above
The baby they love,
     For joy that levels but never blinds.

But yonder woman,
So grossly human,
     Walks in the lamp-lit rain,
With a babe at rest
On her ragged breast,
     And a drunkard’s dream in her brain.
Will the babe, if it dies,
Startled back to the skies,
     Startled back by the drunken frown,
Make the bitterness
And the sin weigh less
     Than the love that wooed it down?

In raiments white,
By day and by night,
     Fresh from the quiet sky,
An angel of pity
Glides through the City,
     And lifteth the low to the high;
With pleading face,
Where the human trace
     Loveliness holy and undefiled,
He enters the door
Of the rich and poor,—
     And this Christ is a little child.

And the God above us,
Whose angels love us,
     Has blinded this angel’s eyes,
That they look not sinward,
But brighten inward,
     To a soul that is sweetly wise;
That the tender angel,
And sweet evangel,
     May grope his way to the human door,
And, seeing not sin,
Enter softly in,
     To smile alike upon rich and poor.

So that sinners even,
And lives bereaven
     Of Hope in the shadows of sadness,
Chasten and soften
To tears, and often
     Welcome the guest in gladness;
So the angel doles
His pity to souls
     That sorrow has striven to smother,
And there cometh rest
To the sinner’s breast,
     Newly white with the milk of the mother.

A blessed vision
Of things Elysian,
     Of the hope we all inherit,
Swims for a space
From the angel’s face
     To the mother’s trancèd spirit;
The frenzied pain
Of the blood and brain,
     Sweet tears of the angel leaven:
Radiant and dumb
Little children come,
     And of such is the kingdom of Heaven.

And from our sorrow
The children borrow
     The light of a common lot;
They come unto us,
And heavenward woo us,
     And the Father forbids them not.
In weal or woe,
It is sweet to know
     That the little children have power to bind
Gently together,
In every weather,
     The highest and lowest of humankind.

Thus the lady who sips
With butterfly lips
     The sweets of the last new novel,
Close to whose feet,
As she rides through the street,
     The sinning and hungry grovel,
Will be purified
With the tears of the bride,
     And lowly and weak will unconsciously be,
As the woman who lags
Behind her in rags,
     And smiles on the baby that crows on the knee.

The blessed meaning
Of this intervening
     Is heard in the voice of labour;
In the wealthy man’s
Proud heart, as he plans
     The work of his humbler neighbour:
For the wrong-redressers,
And intercessors,
     The little children who conquer sin,
The labour implore
Of both rich and poor
     For the generation they herald in.

And the lady sweet,
Whose pulses beat
     For love of a proud patrician,
And the woman who lags
Behind her in rags,
     Are working the self-same mission.
No empty or vital
Descent or title,
     No plea of blood and no right of station,
No creed can ever
Have power to sever
     Eve from her use and her tribulation.

So through the City
That angel of pity
     Walks, teaching by night and day
A lesson that blends
To beautiful ends
     The high and the low alway:
He sees not darkness,
Or want or starkness,
     He is blind, and he looks not sinward;
For his blind eyes roll
Round back to his soul,
     And burn, like the ruby, inward.

And while we climb
The mountain of time,
     Smiling and beckoning stand,
Far above us,
The angels that love us,—
     A beautiful infant-band;
And ever-increasing
With love unceasing,
     Bathe unaware in the bright and fond
Heaven we plain for,
And toil and strain for,
     Which floats in dreams from the vale beyond.

It is no scorn
To be nobly born,
     To be lofty and grand as madam:
We are fathers and mothers,
Sisters and brothers,
     And the head of the house is Adam.
Like the woman in rags
That behind her lags,
     The lady who waits for a lordly lover
Sees the undefiled
Face of a child
     Shine, like a star in a cloud, above her.



‘Belgravia’ was published in Temple Bar (No. 6, May 1861).



The Dead Baby.



LEAN your wet face upon my breast,
Dear wife, and on my strong love rest;
Bring all the comfort that you can
     (As the small child did comfort us),
     By stealing to mine arms, and thus
Appealing to my sterner man.

For now the little infant hands
That served as stainless marriage bands,
And caused the pleasing, teasing toil
That kept us sure on steadfast soil,
And taught us almost unaware
A larger love through larger care,—
Now those small hands no more can plead
For union equal to their need—
’Tis better that your woe at length
Should lean upon my grosser strength.

And yet the pain and bitter smart
That seem, dear love, to clothe your heart
With a new charity divine
Have only power to harden mine;
My faith, when tried, is less than thine.—
I lift up eyes to heaven, and say:
Why take our little child away?
Why will our little boy should die
With one Spring’s sunshine in his eye?
Why hear us pray on bended knee,
Yet rob us of our claim on Thee?

It seems so hard to lose him, dear,
Just when he grew so lovely here—
To let him leave us as he came
Just when he learned to lisp your name!
He was our Bible for a year.

He was a little common child,
     A little grieving baby-boy,
     Not fairer than the rest,—yet joy
Came down from heaven when he smiled:
Common and human, yet more fair
To us than other children were.
We loved him for his innocent eyes,
We loved him for his pleading cries,
We loved him for the anxious fears
That caused us sleepless nights of tears,
We loved him for the pain he caused;
But when his heart grew cold and paused,
We folded hands, as if we knew
Love left us little more to do;
Turned faces from the sun, and thought
The bitterness our sorrow taught
Rent us asunder, passion-fraught;
And, hungering o’er the little one,
We thought our blood too cold to run
Out from the fireside to the sun,
In sparkles, as it once had done.

I watched you, darling, when the breath
     Had darkened from the little face,
     Comfort your bosom for a space
With tender offices of death.
You placed the little snowy gown,
And drew the cap more softly down
Over the face without a frown,
And wrapt the tiny clay-cold feet
Within the little winding-sheet,
And smoothed the gleaming golden hair;
And somehow, dear, the bitter care
Seemed to make music in your breast,
And hush it into dreamful rest.
Till, bending down, you touched the meek
And patient sleeper on the cheek,
And all the mother’s buried bliss
Surged in upon you with the kiss;
When, helpless with your utter woe,
You swam towards me cold as snow;
And hung about me, while your pain,
Communing with my burning brain,
Brought back the love of other years
In a white trance of sighs and tears.

We were so happy, best of wives!
The quiet current of our lives
In pleasant peaceful music played,
Caught sunshine in the very shade.
We were so happy, dear, that we,
Made perfect in our just degree,
Dreamed not that you, a mother bland,
Bearing your jewel in your hand,
Were swimming with it to a strand
Where shadows fall and angels stand,
To leave it there at God’s command.

My darling, in this moment dire,—
     When Death lies white in yonder room,
     And we are sitting in the gloom,
Watching the faces in the fire,
Shut in from all the pitiless stars,—
     I mind of the days past o’er,
The tiny frets and puny jars,
     Which only made us love the more
     Our little babe now gone before.
For when our love should shudder down
Behind the darkness of a frown,
We somehow felt in either heart,
When for the moment rent apart,
That the sweet love we hid behind
Some passing shadow of the mind
Shone downwards, and in secret smiled
Upon the slumbers of our child;
And so, in turn, we learned to gain
A sweet remorse within the brain,
Which brought the sunshine and the rain!

He was a Peacemaker divine!
     Why does the sorrow which has power
     To shape your beauty to the hour,
Sweeten your heart, yet blacken mine?



And was your sleep so sound last night,
     And he so near in calm forlorn,
Dressed in his raiments snowy white,
     Ere laid so low to-morrow morn?
And did you fancy, dear, that he
Was sitting smiling on your knee?
I scarcely slept at all. It seems
     So strange that you, who treasured best
     Our little baby gone to rest,
Should sleep such sleep and dream such dreams.
The love that women seldom speak
Perchance lies deeper than the weak
Man’s passion breathed in words of heat;
And you, whose joy was calm and sweet
As Autumn lights in time of wheat,
Are in your sorrow hushed and bowed
     To faith that wears a firmer form.
     Far from the tumult fierce and warm
Which makes me mouth my grief aloud,
Thou movest as a quiet cloud
     Across a driving mist of storm.

Stand by the window here, and place
Your hand in mine, and try to chase
Those quiet shadows from your face.

The tiny fairies of the snow
In cloudy squadrons waver slow,
     To some sweet musical refrain
     Supplied within the listening brain,
Toward the trancèd earth below;
The skies are thick with driving mist,
Smote by the sun to amethyst;
The air is husht, the snowy fays
Float swiftly past the eyes that gaze,
And flash a dreamy peace intense
Across the dim mesmeric sense.
All is so sadly sweet and fair,
The snow-clad earth, the moving air,
That the lost babe whose name we bless
Seems part of all sad loveliness.

But death is with us where we stand
     So close together, husht in awe;—
Now pass within, and clasp my hand
     More closely with your own, dear.

The stainless curtains, raise thine eyes—
Lo, there our little darling lies.

Careless to human eyes that weep,
Calmly he sleeps his coffin’d sleep;
     With white clench’d hands and closed eyes,
Sweetly he sleeps, our pearl of pearls,
     And light in common with the skies
Mingling with earth among his curls.
A remnant of the soul that fled
Ere morning broke and found him dead,
Unto his lips a half smile clings,
Like gold-down from a butterfly’s wings.
I see in that calm face alone
Your tender fancy—’tis my own:
So calm he sleeps, rebuking sin,
     And paining down all petty doubt,
You think the snow-calm death within
     Is like the falling snow without?

And more. Nay, take your hand away,
You need no help from my rough clay;
Your sorrow is of God—you need
No help from any meaner creed.
Sweet wife, that patient grief of thine
Is nearer baby’s soul than mine:
That patient grief that knows not speech
     Is like the chamber with its woe,
     And like the season of the snow—
And harmonises GOD with each.



To-day our little one was laid
Within a place of peaceful shade;
The soft green grass and white snow keep
Our footprints o’er his quiet sleep—
But in the early April hours
He’ll fill those footprints full of flowers.

A pleasant thought. The flowers shall bloom
In natural sequence from his tomb,
And fill the tracks that sorrow raises
With tender thoughts and prayerful praises—
The heart’s forget-me-nots and daisies.

Is it not so, my darling wife?
His memory with our grief at strife
Will hush the tumult of our life.
Our hearts a calmer peace have found
Now he is laid beneath the ground;
He seems so far away, my dear,
So far away and yet so near—
He sleeps so deeply darkly down,
Yet is he near enough to hear
The children shouting in the town.
A bitter thought; that quite unmans
My soul, and mocks our tender plans
To keep his memory sweet and green
As if this death had never been:
It seems so hard to lose him, dear,
Just when he seemed so lovely here,
And looking forth in tears to-day,
To see the other children play
With roses on their cheeks,—while he
     Is white as lilies on the wave!
     (Comfort, sweet heart, be brave, be brave)
Ah! yes, it seems so hard to see
The little children run in glee
     Between our shadows and his grave!

Yet comfort. If our shadows fall
     Across the children in their joy,
     They reach not him, our baby-boy,—
There where he sleeps, our all in all;
Our grief’s dark shadows interpose
Between our earth and heaven, sweet wife,
But cannot reach his sweet repose.
It means that this our troublous breath
     May lend a sadder gloom to life,
     May shadow others with its strife,
But cannot reach the light of death:
The peaceful light which lies above
The little baby that we love,
And, falling on us unaware
     (Here where we stand and try to cope
With sorrow that is not despair,
     And lean on one another’s hope),
Teaches a pain akin to prayer.

In this snow-white and sad December,
     When we are sitting quite alone,
It seems a comfort to remember
     The sweet lost joys that we have known.
So place your hand in mine again
     (You need my help a little now),
And while I talk of loss and gain,
Of buried joy and present pain,
     Keep this calm kiss upon your brow.

Do you remember, dear, the night
     You first did place him on my knee,
     And laught and clapt your hands in glee
Because I could not hold him right;
     And called me awkward in your joy,
Then snatched him up, pretending fright,
     And showering kisses on the boy?
And, dear, do you remember too
How merrily I bantered you
Because, when first his querulous eyes
     Began to notice us and smile,
You praised his wisdom, held him wise
     Beyond the statesmen of our isle?
We often said, you know, that he
     Would be a statesman, sage, or bard;
We little dreamt that he would be
     So soon, through trial keen and hard,
A teacher wiser than the three.

’Tis over now. His face, placed far,
Pathetic as the evening star,
Shines down upon our earthly way:
The face was marble yesterday—
A common little thing of clay.
Is it not strange that we should steal
Our lost joys back again, and feel
So much more calm and patient now
     Than when he lay in yonder room
     Amid the sorrow and the gloom,
With our last kisses on his brow?

But God is good—in woe or bliss:—
     Your patient grief, O best of wives,
At least has served to teach me this;
And I believe, by this fond kiss,
     Death has bound closelier our twin lives.
If God our suffering hearts should bless
With such another loveliness;
If God, who took our child, dear wife,
     Should bless our lives with such another,
     I think his little angel-brother
Will plead in heaven for his life!

God giveth His belovèd sleep.
He makes your sorrow calm and deep
As this still season of the snow,
As that calm churchyard with its woe.
Let us not doubt, dear, while we weep!
For Nature is in unison
With death and with our little one;
And with the patient woe you keep
Hid from the sunshine of the sun.
His dust, communing with a light
From heaven, morning, noon, and night,
Will in the summer season bloom
In flowers that beautify the tomb;—
Your hidden grief, communing high
With a small angel in the sky,
Will bring forth blessings by and by;—
Thus will those fairy snowy showers,
Falling in sadly lovely hours
To the deep caves and granite bowers,
Commune with summer’s secret powers,
And change to fairies of the flowers.

Is it not so? You bow your face
     Upon my bosom, prouder, truer:
Come to my heart, then,—’tis your place—
     And, praying prayers there, make me pure.

                                                           WILLIAMS BUCHANAN.


‘The Dead Baby’ was published in Temple Bar (No. 7, June 1861).



Poems from Other Sources - continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
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Harriett Jay


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