HERE, too, Man’s unrestful spirit
Once at least hath tried to dwell:
See, a ruined Hut, and near it,
Bubbling darkly, springs a well.
Still the roofless walls stand lonely,
Round a floor of weeds and grass;
Not a soul lives near, and only
Red deer of the mountain pass.
’Tis the barrenest of places!
Yet, all round the ghostly bield,
Man has left his mark—dim traces
Of the furrows of a field.
Long ago, some lonely mortal
Held this dwelling desolate,
Stood out-looking from the portal,
Lone, or with some savage mate.
All around loom crags and boulders
With black shadows in the heat;
Higher, on the mountain’s shoulders,
With the valleys at his feet,
Broods the eagle; seeing under,
How the misty morning breaks
With a bright’ning touch of wonder
On the glistening fjords and lakes.
All is still; on the hill’s summit
Sleeps white vapour sinking slow—
Rain within it, fading from it
Ghostly colours of the Bow.
Here man is not; here sounds never
Cry of hate or sob of strife;
Far away, like a great river,
Rolls the wrath of human life.
Oh, to roof this lonely cottage,
And amid the heights to dwell,
Happy with a mess of pottage,
Drinking water of the well!
Here like yonder eagle sitting
To survey a world grown fair,
With the rain-clouds round me flitting,
With the wild wind in my hair!
While some woman, in whose nature
Blows the wind that maketh free
Some large-hearted mountain creature,
Turned her lustrous eyes on me.
So to dwell apart from trouble,
So to let the ages roll,
And to feel the still songs bubble
From the well within my soul.
Thus to make in Art’s dominions
Such a silent solitude,
Where the eagle-thought, with pinions
Folded silently, might brood;
Where the wind might ever present
Wander in the glens of dream,
Where the vapours iridescent
With the ghostly bow might gleam;
Where God’s sun might sit in fulness
While the pensive thoughts arose
Dark and gentle, fresh with coolness
From the silence and repose.
Then, some Pilgrim upward straying
Might look round on such a scene—
Ruins of a dwelling—saying,
“Here the hand of man hath been.”
And the Pilgrim downward hasting
Might, with weary world-worn face,
Stoop to taste the well, and tasting,
Bless the spirit of the place.
‘The Mountain Ruin’ was published in Cassell’s Magazine, May, 1874.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “WHITE ROSE AND RED.”
[A GARDEN. THE NUPTIAL NIGHT OF HYACINTHUS AND IRENE.]
Two shapes that walk together, and caress,
Amid a garden sweet with silentness,
And watching every flower and pulsing star,
Share their souls’ rapture with all things that are.
Thro’ the wide casement, open to the sky,
White-footed gleams the bed where they shall lie;
And from the chamber, luminously dim,
Red marble steps slope downward to the brim
Of a white fountain in the garden, where
A marble dryad glimmers thro’ the air.
Scented the garden lies and blossom-strewn,
And still as sleep beneath the rising Moon,
Save from a blooming rose-grove warm and still
Soft steals the nightingale’s thick amorous trill.
SEEST thou two waifs of cloud in the dim blue
Meandering moonward in the vap’rous light?
Methinks they are two spirits bright and true,
Blending their silvern breaths, and born anew,
In the still rapture of this heavenly night!
See! how like flowers the stars their path bestrew,
Till the Moon turns, and smiles, and looks them thro’,
Breathing upon them, when with bosoms white
They melt on one another, and unite.
Now they are gone! they vanish from our view,
Lost in that rapture exquisitely bright!
O love! my love! methinks that thou and I
Resemble those thin waifs in Heaven astray;
We meet, we blend, grow bright!
And we must die!
Nay, sweet, for Love can never pass away!
Are they not gone? and, dear, shall we not go?
O Love is life, but after life comes death!
No flower, no drop of rain, no flake of snow,
No beauteous thing that blossometh below,
May perish, tho’ it vanish ev’n as breath!
The bright Moon drinks those wanderers of the west,
They melt in her warm beauty, and are blest.
We see them not, yet in that light divine
Upgather’d, they are happy, and they shine:
Not lost, but vanish’d, grown ev’n unawares
A part of a diviner life than theirs!
Thro’ our throats the raptures rise,
In the scented air they swim;
From the skies,
With their own love-lustre dim,
Gaze innumerable eyes!—
Sweet, O sweet,
Grows the music from each throat,
Thick and fleet,
Note on note,
Till in ecstasy we float!
How vast looks Heaven! how solitary and deep!
Dost thou believe that Spirits walk the air,
Treading those azure fields, and downward peep
With sad great eyes when Earth is fast asleep?
One spirit, at least, immortal LOVE, walks there!
A SHOOTING STAR.
Swift from my bliss, in the silence above,
I slip to thy kiss, O my star! O my love!
SPIRITS IN THE LEAVES.
Who are these twain in the garden-bowers?
They glide with a rapture rich as ours.
Touch them, feel them, and drink their sighs,
Brush their lips and their cheeks and eyes!
How their hearts beat! how they glow!
Brightly, lightly, they come and go;
Upward gazing they look in bliss,
Save when softly they pause, to kiss.
Kiss them also and share the light
That fills their breathing this golden night.
Touch them! clasp them! round them twine,
Their lips are burning with dews divine.
Love, tread this way with rosy feet;
And resting on the shadowy seat
’Neath the laburnum’s golden rain,
Watch how with murmurous refrain
The fountain leaps, its basin dark
Flashing in many a starry spark.
With such a bliss, with such a light,
With such an iteration bright,
Our souls upbubbling from the clay,
Leap, sparkle, blend in silvern spray,
Gleam in the Moon, and, falling still,
Sink duskily with a thick thrill,
Together blent with kiss and press,
In the dark silence of caress.
Yet there they pause not, but, cast free
After surcease of ecstasy,
Heavenward they leap together clinging,
And like the fountain flash, upspringing!
THE FOUNTAIN LEAPING.
Higher, still higher!
With a trembling and gleaming
Still upward streaming,
In the silvern fire
Of a dim desire;
Still higher, higher,
With a bright pulsation
Higher, still higher!
To the lights above me;
They gleam, they love me,
They beckon me nigher,
And my waves aspire,
Still higher, higher;—
But I fall down failing,
Still wildly wailing—
Deeper let the glory glow;
Sweeter let our voices croon!
Yet more slow,
Let our happy music flow,
Sweet and slow, hush’d and low,
Now the gray cloud veils the Moon.
Sweet, O sweet!
Watch her as our wild hearts beat.
See! she quits the clasping cloud,
Forth she sails on silvern feet,
Smiling with her bright head bow’d!
Pour the living rapture loud!
Thick and fleet,
Sweet, O sweet,
Let the notes of rapture crowd!
IRENE (to herself).
And this is Love!—Until this hour
I never lived; but like a flower
Close prest i’ the bud, with sleeping senses,
I drank the dark dim influences
Of sunlight, moonlight, shade, and dew.
At last I open, thrilling thro’
With Love’s strange scent, which seemeth part
Of the warm life within my heart,
Part of the air around. O bliss!
Was ever night so sweet as this?
It is enough to breathe, to be,
As if one were a flower, a tree,
A leaf o’ the bough, just stirring light
With the warm breathing of the night!
SPIRITS IN THE LEAVES.
Whisper, what are they doing now?
He is kissing his lady’s brow,
Holding her face up to the light
Like a beautiful tablet marble-white.
The Moon is smiling upon it—lo!
Whiter it is than driven snow,
He kisses again and speaketh gay;
Whisper, whisper, what doth he say?
For ever and ever! for ever and ever!
As the fount that upleaps, as the breezes that blow,
Love thou me!
For ever and ever, for ever and ever,
While the nightingales sing and the rose garlands glow,
Love I thee!
For ever and ever, with all things to prove us,
In this world, in that world that bendeth above us,
Asleeping, awaking, in earth, as in Heaven,
By this kiss, this other, by thousands ungiven,
By the hands which now touch thee, the arms that enfold thee,
By the soul in my eyes that now swoons to behold thee,
By starlight, by moonlight, by scented rose-blossoms,
By all things partaking the joy of our bosoms,
By the rapture within us, the rapture around us,
By God who has made us and Love who hath crown’d us,
One sense and one soul we are blent, ne’er to sever.
For ever and ever! for ever and ever!
More kisses to seal it.——For ever and ever!
THE WOOD ECHOES.
For ever and ever!
THE WIND SINGS.
Hush, no more—for they are fled.
Foot by foot and tread by tread
I pursue them; all is said,
Till Apollo rises red.
Here they sat, and there, and there!
Here stood clinging thou may’st swear,
For the spirit of the air
Still their scented breath doth bear.
All is done, and all grows chill.
Here upon the window-sill
I will lean and feel a thrill
From the sleeping chamber still.
Blow the curtain back and peep:
Silvern bright the moonbeams creep.
Hush! Still pale with passion deep,
See them lying, fast asleep.
’Erôs Athanatos’ was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, May, 1874.
THE LAST POET.
BY ROBERT BUCHANAN.
“If ever there should come a time when MAN, having measured heavens and
earth, counted the ocean drop by drop, fathomed the ether and all therein, shall
proclaim that there is no God but one—his own image glass’d in the rapid river of
Time—all things perchance may bring him the worship he deemeth due; but if
there be left in the world one POET, Man’s self-constituted deity will not arise
without such a protest as may shake the very foundations of Nature itself.”—
“Of the World will be made a World-Machine, of the Ether a Gas, of God a
Force, and of the Second World——a Coffin!”—JEAN PAUL.
I HAD a dream, and saw him. All the rest
Were dead, or worse than dead; but he survived,
Old, gaunt, aple, famine-stricken, hugging rags
To keep him from the bleak breath of the wind.
God help him! God’s last Poet! the last Soul
Who kept his faith in God!
The lonely Earth,
His Mother, and the gray Mother of all men,
Was older by a thousabd years than now,
And on her hair Eternity’s thin snow
Was visible already; and for long
All mortals had forgotten their old thirst
And stifled their old hunger. They had search’d
The Ocean to its depths, soar’d into air
Higher than living eagle ever soar’d
In wingëd chariots soft as eagle-plumes,
Measured the stars, set right by their hearts’ throbbings
The tangled clockwork of the Sun and Moon,
Clomb to the peaks and seized the hand of air
That smoothed the snow and poised the avalanche,
Tamed all things to their bidding—Thunder, Frost,
Fever, and Lightning with his luminous eyes.
Then hating gloom and the dim sheen of stars,
They hung the world with variegated lamps,
Sapphire, and ruby, and chalcedony,
So that Night was not. Then the Poets cried,
Flinging their wild hair backward, “Pause a space!
Kneel now,—give thanks to GOD!”
Up rose to heaven,
Like one vast tidal wave, supremely strong,
The mocking laugh of men. “To God? what God?”
They cried—“all gods are dead, dissolved, destroyed—
Zeus, Astaroth, Brahm, Odin, Christ, Menu,
Balder, Pan, Demiurgus, all are dead,—
But Man survives,—Man, God unto himself,
Potent, serene, calm, strong, and beautiful,—
Man who hath strangled Sin and conquer’d Night,—
Kneel now, and worship him!” Half mockingly,
With kingly smile they knelt, these sons of Man,
And many of their Poets also knelt,
That passed. All struggle passed.
Pain was not, nor starvation, nor unrest;
For every living thing was clothed and fed,
And calmly, slowly, like a Titan’s heart,
Thrill’d the still tide of life. Much peace abode
With mortals; for the voice of Wars was hush’d,
The restless cried of Poets died away,
And Pestilence, and Sorrow, and Disease
Had gone away with all the other gods.
At last, all men were busy and content
(Since all was known that mortals cared to know,
And all was gain’d that mortals cared to gain),
Coming and going in the happy light
Of variegated lamps a thousandfold,
And one Man only—old, pale, desolate
(Ev’n as in a dream I saw him)—crept away
In silence, to a silent place [for yet
One still was silent, where the dead were sleeping];
And there he found the Earth, his Mother, in tears,
Sitting alone, with her blind orbs upgazing,
As if they felt a light they could not see.
He crept upon her breast, and round him softly
Trembled her wasting arms. “Why dost thou weep,
Dear Mother?” said he, weeping too. Her lips,
Dumb as in the beginning, answer’d not.
“Mother,” he murmured, “who is coming yonder,
Silently, with a light in his right hand?”
She answer’d not, but seemed to clutch him closer;
For down the tombs a silent Shadow came—
A Shadow with a lamp. “I know him, mother!
It is my Father’s Son, my Brother Death,
The last sad spirit that still walks unslain.
All’s o’er; he comes to raze me with the rest.
But first uplift me, high as thou canst reach,
Into the air—up, up, in thy strong arms,
That like a lark, prest close against the blue,
I sing my last strong song!”
The Shadow crept
Nearer, but waited. In her trembling arms
The mighty Mother lifted up her son,
High, high as is the highest mountain peak.
And lo, again he saw the stars, and felt
Their light upon his eyelids blown like breath.
Then sang he! In my dream I heard that song:
Despairing, yet in scorn ineffable,
It rang thro’ heaven, one perpetual note,
Like the one trill-trill of the nightingale,
And all the umbrage of the upper heaven
Was hush’d around it like dark forest leaves.
THE POET’S SONG.
He clasps the strong Stream by the hair,
He links the Avalanche to its lair,
All things obey him, frail or fair—
He sits as gods sat, god down there.
The vast Sea like a human frame
Bends to his bidding; Frost and Flame
Fly eager at his finger aim;
The Lightning like a serpent tame
Coils round his neck; before his look
Each god hath withered in his nook.
Under the might of his rebuke
Pan died and Demiurgus shook.
Man the god or god the Man,
Greater than Odin, Zeus, or Pan,
All blooms according to his plan,
All withers underneath his ban.
All things that are beneath the sky
Obey him as he passeth by,
All things save only Death and I:
Death smiles and lives; I smile and die.
O Father! Father! God Supreme!
Light! Passion! Glory! Rapture! Dream!
Thou who hast served with silent gleam
A thousand poets for a theme!
All these are dumb, and one alone,
About to clasp within his own
His brother Death’s hand, cold as stone,
Cries to Thee, flies to Thee, sees Thy Throne.
Like to the thin prick of a star,
Throbbing deep down the Void afar!—
Thou art not as those dead gods are,
Crush’d underneath Man’s conquering car.
Oh, blest be Death, the sweet, the still,
The last calm servant of Thy Will;
Sweet as the cool lips of a rill
His kiss will come, his love fulfil
Thy love, my Father! Gentle-eyed
Thou and Thy servant both abide:
Take me, while this last song is sighed,
From Man the mocker, deified.
And as for him, the great god-Man,
Chief of earth’s gods since Time began,
Forgive him! Pardon his wild plan
The Void to plumb, the Arch to span,
Seeking Thee never. For a space
Let him drink godhead in his place,
Lord of the reason, fair of face,
God of the human, race by race.
Then, smite him gently! With a kiss
Let Death unloose him from his bliss.
Unking’d, let him depart like this,
And softly slip to the Abyss!
Ev’n so he sang. Then suddenly the Voice
Was hush’d, the fond arms set their burthen down,
The Shadow crept up close, and bent above him,
Flashing its Lamp on the dead Poet’s face,
And lo! ’twas smiling like a sleeping child’s!
‘The Last Poet’ was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, June, 1874.
THE GOD-LIKE LOVE.
BY ROBERT BUCHANAN.
IN bright Hellas, long ago,
Did fair mortals come and go
In a larger light than ours,—
For the gods came earthward, passing
Thro’ its sunshine and its showers.
Gods who God’s creation trod,
They were seraphim of God:
Zeus the Lover, fair and white,
Hermes too, with blue eyes glassing
All life’s revel, all love’s light!
Then Agenor’s child beheld
How the mystic glory well’d
From the breast of the Divine;
Then did Leda seek her lover
On the waters crystalline;
Then round Danaë’s naked form
Fell that lustre golden-warm
With the thrill of kisses bright,
While the Blest One bent above her
In the silence of the night.
Very beautiful and fair,
With a glory on their hair,
With a secret in their eyes,
Walk’d these gods, these sweet Immortals,
Down the darkness of the skies.
Yea, and Erôs!—one and all,
In the night, with soft foot-fall,
Crept they down the starry stair,
And they paused at human portals,
And they hung their garlands there.
Then, O Erôs, thou wast young!
And thy twinkling lamps were hung
Round the white bed of the Bride:
She lay waiting, she lay dozing,
She lay dreaming, drowsy-eyed.
And the nightingales around
Sooth’d her swooning soul with sound,
While the pale Moon shrank her beam,
Till, her queenly lids unclosing,
Psyche look’d upon her Dream!
Then, indeed, Love lived below!
When Earth’s vestal souls might glow
On the bosoms of the Best,
With one kiss of fire might capture
Love or Death, and so be blest.
Tho’ the godlike Form might fly,
Yet the wonder could not die—
’Twas enough for souls supine
To have sipt life’s honest rapture,
To have known the Love Divine.
O nightingales, last night,
While the leaves thrill’d silvern white
’Neath the cold feet of the Moon,
Here in England, by still waters,
I could hear your voices croon.
Yet not so ye sang of old,
For your melody seem’d cold,
Cold and cheerless, sad and still,—
And the sweetest of Love’s daughters
Listen’d too, and felt no thrill.
All is ended! all is done!
They are perish’d, every one!
E’en as shapes of marble stone,
In the dark Earth’s silent places,
Lie those gods, all overthrown!
There they linger dark and dim,
Shatter’d, broken, limb by limb,
In the woods of pine and yew—
And a white Christ’s silent face is
Bent above them, turning too
Into marble. Nevermore
Will they walk on sea or shore,
Nevermore will those gods teach
The immortal love and glory,
The immortal kiss and speech.
Only one survives; and he
Walks in silence by the Sea,
While the sparkling waters laugh:
It is Erôs, old and hoary,
Leaning heavy on a staff.
For he looketh on the Main,
Sighing, “Nevermore again
Will my brethren lift the head,
And the hearts of men are frozen,
And the Love Divine seems dead.”
O Woman-Soul! O thou
Of the pale-as-marble brow!
Be of courage, tho’ no more
Down from Heaven comes the Chosen,
Whom thy bosom doth adore.
“Whom the Love Divine doth bless,
Shall be ne’er content with less!”
And that Love doth still arise—
Thou wilt know him, by the beauty
Of the heavenly lips and eyes!
Tho’ a lower love have rest
On the pillow of thy breast,
Thou shalt cast that love aside,
And shalt follow in deep duty
Where the god-like Love doth guide.
Thou shalt follow, sense and soul,
Tho’ the tempest round thee roll,
Wheresoe’er Love’s feet shall wend—
Yea, tho’ all thy life be wasted,
And thou lose him in the end.
Tho’ thou lose him, ev’n as they,
In the ages pass’d away,
Lost their gods; thou too shalt cry:—
“’Tis enough once to have tasted
Love immortal, tho’ it fly!
“I have loved, and I am wise,
I am proven, I arise
To thy statue, O my Dream!
And upon my head there lingers
Thy deep consecrated gleam!
“Thou hast left me, thou art lost,
And I sit with soft hands cross’d
Praying here:—and unaware
Comes the thrill of thy soft fingers
On my brow and on my hair.
“Thou hast left me, but I know
Something stays that cannot go,
Something lives that cannot flee:
I have found my Soul; say rather,
Thou didst find that Soul for me!
“Tho’ I lose, my loss is gain!
Tho’ thou ne’er wilt come again,
On the very path we trod,
Stooping silently, I gather
The immortelle-flowers of God!”
‘The God-like Love’ was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, October, 1874.
THE SPIRIT OF THE SNOW:
A WINTER IDYLL.
BY ROBERT BUCHANAN.
WONDROUS are flowers, strangely wrought
By unseen mystic hands;
Wondrous are lilies of the lake,
Pink shells of the sea sands.
Oh, wondrous is the green deep grass,
Forever bright and new,
And wondrous on the grass-blades hang
The crystals of the dew.
The Rain is wondrous; soft and slow
Her measured footsteps chime;—
No touch is softer than the Rain’s
In the sweet summer time.
[You feel soft fingers tingling warm
Across your brows and hair,
And glancing up oft catch a glimpse
Of eyes divinely fair;
A moment thus upon thine own
They glimmer, then they fade,
But thro’ the dim damp air there thrills
The brightness they have made!]
Wondrous are all the secret Shapes
That silent come and go,
But sweetest, blessedest of all
Is the Spirit of the Snow!
A Spirit ever with blind eyes,
And silent feet and swift,
A Spirit white and beautiful,
In the dark world adrift!
To and fro, and up and down,
She walks the Frozen Sea;
Up and down, and to and fro,
She wanders silently.
For ’neath the kiss of her cold feet
Grow flow’rs of strange device,
Yea, glittering drops of diamond dew,
And lilies wrought of ice.
Oh, she is fair, and very fair,—
An Angel with blind eyes,
She walketh in that lonely air,
Or croucheth low, and sighs.
But when the summer days are here,
And blow with warm sweet breath,
She lies stone-still in the still North,
Yea, in a trance of Death!
Then o’er her bends the Phantom Frost,
And doth not breathe nor stir,
But holds his finger lean and cold
Upon the lips of her!
And this is when our grasses blow
And pale sea-pinks unfold,
And in the meres our lilies’ hearts
Are heapen up with gold.
And when the eight Winds rise and wail
The Frozen Pole around,
Where darkness like a vulture broods
And brooding makes no sound;—
She wakens!—rises with low cry
And stretches out her hands,
While Frost, the silent Phantom Frost,
Would clutch her where she stands.
A brand of fire as red as blood
Shoots from the thunder cloud;
The gods glare out with dreadful eyes
Until she shrieks aloud!
Southward she rusheth down the blast,
She plungeth on thro’ night,
Across the rayless Frozen Sea
Her robes pass, flashing white.
Far south she flies with swiftest feet
And leaves the night afar,
And slower, softer as she comes
Her wingëd footsteps are.
Until she gains these silent thorpes,
Where men and women bide,
And here with light around her head
She faltereth, blind-eyed.
She stretcheth out her hand so cold,
And slowly gropeth now,—
The world is white below her feet,
Heaven blue above her brow!
See! as she slowly stealeth on
The kirk-bells ring out clear!
Across her face there comes a gleam,
And softly smiling, in a dream,
She standeth still to hear!
‘The Spirit of the Snow: a Winter Idyll’ was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine, April, 1875.
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