Later Poems

The Shepherdess | The Two Poets | The Lady Poverty | November Blue | A Dead Harvest | The Watershed (for R.T.) | The Joyous Wanderer | The Rainy Summer | The Roaring Frost | West Wind in Winter | The Fold | "Why Wilt Thou Chide?" | Veneration of Images | "I am the Way" | Via, et Veritas, et Vita | Parentage | The Modern Mother | Unto Us a Son is Given | Veni Creator | Two Boyhoods | To Sylvia | Saint Catherine of Siena | Chimes | A Poet's Wife | Messina, 1908 | The Unknown God | A General Communion | The Fugitive | In Portugal, 1912 | The Crucifixion | The Newer Vainglory | In Manchester Square | Maternity | The First Snow | The Courts | The Launch | To the Body | The Unexpected Peril | Christ in the Universe | Beyond Knowledge | Easter Night | A Father of Women | Length of Days: To the Early Dead | Nurse Edith Cavell | Summer in England, 1914 | To Tintoretto in Venice | A Thrush Before Dawn | The Two Shakespeare Tercentenaries | To O--, of Her Dark Eyes | The Treasure | A Wind of Clear Weather in England | In Sleep | The Divine Privilege | Free Will | The Two Questions | The Lord's Prayer

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She walks--the lady of my delight-- 
  A shepherdess of sheep. 
Her flocks are thoughts. She keeps them white; 
  She guards them from the steep; 
She feeds them on the fragrant height, 
  And folds them in for sleep.

She roams maternal hills and bright, Dark valleys safe and deep. Into that tender breast at night The chastest stars may peep. She walks--the lady of my delight-- A shepherdess of sheep.

She holds her little thoughts in sight, Though gay they run and leap. She is so circumspect and right; She has her soul to keep. She walks--the lady of my delight-- A shepherdess of sheep.

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    Whose is the speech 
That moves the voices of this lonely beech? 
Out of the long west did this wild wind come-- 
O strong and silent! And the tree was dumb, 
    Ready and dumb, until 
The dumb gale struck it on the darkened hill.

Two memories, Two powers, two promises, two silences Closed in this cry, closed in these thousand leaves Articulate. This sudden hour retrieves The purpose of the past, Separate, apart--embraced, embraced at last.

``Whose is the word? Is it I that spake? Is it thou? Is it I that heard?'' ``Thine earth was solitary, yet I found thee!'' ``Thy sky was pathless, but I caught, I bound thee, Thou visitant divine.'' ``O thou my Voice, the word was thine.'' ``Was thine.''

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The Lady Poverty was fair: 
But she has lost her looks of late, 
With change of times and change of air. 
Ah slattern! she neglects her hair, 
Her gown, her shoes; she keeps no state 
As once when her pure feet were bare.

Or--almost worse, if worse can be-- She scolds in parlours, dusts and trims, Watches and counts. O is this she Whom Francis met, whose step was free, Who with Obedience carolled hymns, In Umbria walked with Chastity?

Where is her ladyhood? Not here, Not among modern kinds of men; But in the stony fields, where clear Through the thin trees the skies appear, In delicate spare soil and fen, And slender landscape and austere.

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The golden tint of the electric lights seems to give a complementary colour to the air in the early evening.--Essay on London

O heavenly colour, London town 
  Has blurred it from her skies; 
And, hooded in an earthly brown, 
  Unheaven'd the city lies. 
No longer, standard-like, this hue 
  Above the broad road flies; 
Nor does the narrow street the blue 
  Wear, slender pennon-wise.

But when the gold and silver lamps Colour the London dew, And, misted by the winter damps, The shops shine bright anew-- Blue comes to earth, it walks the street, It dyes the wide air through; A mimic sky about their feet, The throng go crowned with blue.

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Along the graceless grass of town 
They rake the rows of red and brown,-- 
Dead leaves, unlike the rows of hay 
Delicate, touched with gold and grey, 
Raked long ago and far away.

A narrow silence in the park, Between the lights a narrow dark. One street rolls on the north; and one, Muffled, upon the south doth run; Amid the mist the work is done.

A futile crop!--for it the fire Smoulders, and, for a stack, a pyre. So go the town's lives on the breeze, Even as the sheddings of the trees; Bosom nor barn is filled with these.

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Lines written between Munich and Verona

Black mountains pricked with pointed pine 
  A melancholy sky. 
Out-distanced was the German vine, 
  The sterile fields lay high. 
From swarthy Alps I travelled forth 
Aloft; it was the north, the north; 
  Bound for the Noon was I.

I seemed to breast the streams that day; I met, opposed, withstood The northward rivers on their way, My heart against the flood-- My heart that pressed to rise and reach, And felt the love of altering speech, Of frontiers, in its blood.

But O the unfolding South! the burst Of summer! O to see Of all the southward brooks the first! The travelling heart went free With endless streams; that strife was stopped; And down a thousand vales I dropped, I flowed to Italy.

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Translated from M. Catulle Mendès

I go by road, I go by street-- 
    Lira, la, la! 
O white highways, ye know my feet! 
A loaf I carry and, all told, 
Three broad bits of lucky gold-- 
    Lira, la, la! 
And O within my flowering heart, 
(Sing, dear nightingale!) is my Sweet.

A poor man met me and begged for bread-- Lira, la, la! ``Brother, take all the loaf,'' I said, I shall but go with lighter cheer-- Lira, la, la! And O within my flowering heart (Sing, sweet nightingale!) is my Dear.

A thief I met on the lonely way-- Lira, la, la! He took my gold; I cried to him, ``Stay! And take my pocket and make an end.'' Lira, la la! And O within my flowering heart (Sing, soft nightingale!) is my Friend.

Now on the plain I have met with death-- Lira, la, la! My bread is gone, my gold, my breath. But O this heart is not afraid-- Lira, la, la! For O within this lonely heart (Sing, sad nightingale!) is my Maid.

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There's much afoot in heaven and earth this year; 
  The winds hunt up the sun, hunt up the moon, 
Trouble the dubious dawn, hasten the drear 
  Height of a threatening noon.

No breath of boughs, no breath of leaves, of fronds, May linger or grow warm; the trees are loud; The forest, rooted, tosses in her bonds, And strains against the cloud.

No scents may pause within the garden-fold; The rifled flowers are cold as ocean-shells; Bees, humming in the storm, carry their cold Wild honey to cold cells.

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A flock of winds came winging from the North, 
Strong birds with fighting pinions driving forth 
    With a resounding call:--

Where will they close their wings and cease their cries-- Between what warming seas and conquering skies-- And fold, and fall?

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Another day awakes. And who-- 
  Changing the world--is this? 
He comes at whiles, the winter through, 
  West Wind! I would not miss 
His sudden tryst: the long, the new 
  Surprises of his kiss.

Vigilant, I make haste to close With him who comes my way. I go to meet him as he goes; I know his note, his lay, His colour and his morning-rose, And I confess his day.

My window waits; at dawn I hark His call; at morn I meet His haste around the tossing park And down the softened street; The gentler light is his: the dark, The grey--he turns it sweet.

So too, so too, do I confess My poet when he sings. He rushes on my mortal guess With his immortal things. I feel, I know, him. On I press-- He finds me 'twixt his wings.

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The time is now! Bring back, bring back 
Thy flocks of fancies, wild of whim. 
O lead them from the mountain-track 
    Thy frolic thoughts untold. 
O bring them in--the fields grow dim-- 
    And let me be the fold!

Behold, The time is now! Call in, O call Thy pasturing kisses gone astray For scattered sweets; gather them all To shelter from the cold. Throng them together, close and gay, And let me be the fold!

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    Why wilt thou chide, 
Who hast attained to be denied? 
    O learn, above 
All price is my refusal, Love. 
    My sacred Nay 
Was never cheapened by the way. 
Thy single sorrow crowns thee lord 
Of an unpurchasable word.

O strong, O pure! As Yea makes happier loves secure, I vow thee this Unique rejection of a kiss. I guard for thee This jealous sad monopoly. I seal this honour thine; none dare Hope for a part in thy despair.

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Thou man, first-comer, whose wide arms entreat, 
  Gather, clasp, welcome, bind, 
Lack, or remember; whose warm pulses beat 
  With love of thine own kind:--

Unlifted for a blessing on yon sea, Unshrined on this highway, O flesh, O grief, thou too shalt have our knee, Thou rood of every day!

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    Thou art the Way. 
Hadst Thou been nothing but the goal, 
    I cannot say 
If Thou hadst ever met my soul.

I cannot see-- I, child of process--if there lies An end for me, Full of repose, full of replies.

I'll not reproach The road that winds, my feet that err. Access, Approach Art Thou, Time, Way, and Wayfarer.

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``You never attained to Him?'' ``If to attain 
    Be to abide, then that may be.'' 
``Endless the way, followed with how much pain!'' 
    ``The way was He.''

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``When Augustus Caesar legislated against the unmarried citizens of Rome, he declared them to be, in some sort, slayers of the people.''

    Ah! no, not these! 
These, who were childless, are not they who gave 
So many dead unto the journeying wave, 
The helpless nurslings of the cradling seas; 
Not they who doomed by infallible decrees 
Unnumbered man to the innumerable grave.

But those who slay Are fathers. Theirs are armies. Death is theirs-- The death of innocences and despairs; The dying of the golden and the grey. The sentence, when these speak it, has no Nay. And she who slays is she who bears, who bears.

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    Oh, what a kiss 
With filial passion overcharged is this! 
    To this misgiving breast 
This child runs, as a child ne'er ran to rest 
Upon the light heart and the unoppressed.

Unhoped, unsought! A little tenderness, this mother thought The utmost of her meed. She looked for gratitude; content indeed With thus much that her nine years' love had bought.

Nay, even with less. This mother, giver of life, death, peace, distress, Desired ah! not so much Thanks as forgiveness; and the passing touch Expected, and the slight, the brief caress.

O filial light Strong in these childish eyes, these new, these bright Intelligible stars! Their rays Are near the constant earth, guides in the maze, Natural, true, keen in this dusk of days.

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Given, not lent, 
And not withdrawn--once sent, 
This Infant of mankind, this One, 
Is still the little welcome Son.

New every year, New born and newly dear, He comes with tidings and a song, The ages long, the ages long;

Even as the cold Keen winter grows not old, As childhood is so fresh, foreseen, And spring in the familiar green--

Sudden as sweet Come the expected feet. All joy is young, and new all art, And He, too, Whom we have by heart.

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So humble things Thou hast borne for us, O God, 
Left'st Thou a path of lowliness untrod? 
Yes, one, till now; another Olive-Garden. 
For we endure the tender pain of pardon,-- 
One with another we forbear. Give heed, 
Look at the mournful world Thou hast decreed. 
The time has come. At last we hapless men 
Know all our haplessness all through. Come, then, 
Endure undreamed humility: Lord of Heaven, 
Come to our ignorant hearts and be forgiven.

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    Luminous passions reign 
High in the soul of man; and they are twain. 
Of these he hath made the poetry of earth-- 
Hath made his nobler tears, his magic mirth.

Fair Love is one of these, The visiting vision of seven centuries; And one is love of Nature--love to tears-- The modern passion of this hundred years.

O never to such height, O never to such spiritual light-- The light of lonely visions, and the gleam Of secret splendid sombre suns in dream--

O never to such long Glory in life, supremacy in song, Had either of these loves attained in joy, But for the ministration of a boy.

Dante was one who bare Love in his deep heart, apprehended there When he was yet a child; and from that day The radiant love has never passed away.

And one was Wordsworth; he Conceived the love of Nature childishly As no adult heart might; old poets sing That exaltation by remembering.

For no divine Intelligence, or art, or fire, or wine, Is high-delirious as that rising lark-- The child's soul and its daybreak in the dark.

And Letters keep these two Heavenly treasures safe the ages through, Safe from ignoble benison or ban-- These two high childhoods in the heart of man.

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Long life to thee, long virtue, long delight, 
  A flowering early and late! 
Long beauty, grave to thought and gay to sight, 
  A distant date!

Yet, as so many poets love to sing (When young the child will die), ``No autumn will destroy this lovely spring,'' So, Sylvia, I.

I'll write thee dapper verse and touching rhyme; ``Our eyes shall not behold--'' The commonplace shall serve for thee this time: ``Never grow old.''

For there's another way to stop thy clock Within my cherishing heart, To carry thee unalterable, and lock Thy youth apart:

Thy flower, for me, shall evermore be hid In this close bud of thine, Not, Sylvia, by thy death--O God forbid! Merely by mine.

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Written for Strephon, who said that a woman must lean,
or she should not have his chivalry.

The light young man who was to die, 
  Stopped in his frolic by the State, 
Aghast, beheld the world go by; 
  But Catherine crossed his dungeon gate.

She found his lyric courage dumb, His stripling beauties strewn in wrecks, His modish bravery overcome; Small profit had he of his sex.

On any old wife's level he, For once--for all. But he alone-- Man--must not fear the mystery, The pang, the passage, the unknown:

Death. He did fear it, in his cell, Darkling amid the Tuscan sun; And, weeping, at her feet he fell, The sacred, young, provincial nun.

She prayed, she preached him innocent; She gave him to the Sacrificed; On her courageous breast he leant, The breast where beat the heart of Christ.

He left it for the block, with cries Of victory on his severed breath. That crimson head she clasped, her eyes Blind with the splendour of his death.

And will the man of modern years --Stern on the Vote--withhold from thee, Thou prop, thou cross, erect, in tears, Catherine, the service of his knee?

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Brief, on a flying night, 
  From the shaken tower 
A flock of bells take flight, 
  And go with the hour.

Like birds from the cote to the gales, Abrupt--O hark! A fleet of bells set sails, And go to the dark.

Sudden the cold airs swing. Alone, aloud, A verse of bells takes wing And flies with the cloud.


I saw a tract of ocean locked inland, 
  Within a field's embrace-- 
The very sea! Afar it fled the strand, 
  And gave the seasons chase, 
And met the night alone, the tempest spanned, 
  Saw sunrise face to face.

O Poet, more than ocean, lonelier! In inaccessible rest And storm remote, thou, sea of thoughts, dost stir Scattered through east to west,-- Now, while thou closest with the kiss of her Who locks thee to her breast.

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Lord, Thou hast crushed Thy tender ones, o'er-thrown 
  Thy strong, Thy fair; Thy man thou hast unmanned, 
Thy elaborate works unwrought, Thy deeds undone, 
  Thy lovely sentient human plan unplanned; 
Destroyer, we have cowered beneath Thine own 
  Immediate, unintelligible hand.

Lord, thou hast hastened to retrieve, to heal, To feed, to bind, to clothe, to quench the brand, To prop the ruin, to bless, and to anneal; Hast sped Thy ships by sea, Thy trains by land, Shed pity and tears:--our shattered fingers feel Thy mediate and intelligible hand.

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One of the crowd went up, 
And knelt before the Paten and the Cup, 
Received the Lord, returned in peace, and prayed 
Close to my side. Then in my heart I said:

``O Christ, in this man's life-- This stranger who is Thine--in all his strife, All his felicity, his good and ill, In the assaulted stronghold of his will,

``I do confess Thee here, Alive within this life; I know Thee near Within this lonely conscience, closed away Within this brother's solitary day.

``Christ in his unknown heart, His intellect unknown--this love, this art, This battle and this peace, this destiny That I shall never know, look upon me!

``Christ in his numbered breath, Christ in his beating heart and in his death, Christ in his mystery! From that secret place And from that separate dwelling, give me grace!''

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I saw the throng, so deeply separate, 
  Fed at one only board-- 
The devout people, moved, intent, elate, 
  And the devoted Lord.

O struck apart! not side from human side, But soul from human soul, As each asunder absorbed the multiplied, The ever unparted, whole.

I saw this people as a field of flowers, Each grown at such a price The sum of unimaginable powers Did no more than suffice.

A thousand single central daisies they, A thousand of the one; For each, the entire monopoly of day; For each, the whole of the devoted sun.

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``Nous avons chassé ce Jesus-Christ.''--FRENCH PUBLICIST

Yes, from the ingrate heart, the street 
Of garrulous tongue, the warm retreat 
  Within the village and the town; 
  Not from the lands where ripen brown 
A thousand thousand hills of wheat;

Not from the long Burgundian line, The Southward, sunward range of vine. Hunted, He never will escape The flesh, the blood, the sheaf, the grape, That feed His man--the bread, the wine.

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And will they cast the altars down, 
  Scatter the chalice, crush the bread? 
In field, in village, and in town 
  He hides an unregarded head;

Waits in the corn-lands far and near, Bright in His sun, dark in His frost, Sweet in the vine, ripe in the ear-- Lonely unconsecrated Host.

In ambush at the merry board The Victim lurks unsacrificed; The mill conceals the harvest's Lord, The wine-press holds the unbidden Christ.

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"A Paltry Sacrifice"--PREFACE TO A PLAY

    Oh, man's capacity 
For spiritual sorrow, corporal pain! 
Who has explored the deepmost of that sea, 
With heavy links of a far-fathoming chain?

That melancholy lead, Let down in guilty and in innocent hold, Yea into childish hands deliverèd, Leaves the sequestered floor unreached, untold.

One only has explored The deepmost; but He did not die of it. Not yet, not yet He died. Man's human Lord Touched the extreme; it is not infinite.

But over the abyss Of God's capacity for woe He stayed One hesitating hour; what gulf was this? Forsaken He went down, and was afraid.

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Two men went up to pray; and one gave thanks, 
    Not with himself--aloud, 
With proclamation, calling on the ranks 
    Of an attentive crowd.

``Thank God, I clap not my own humble breast, But other ruffians' backs, Imputing crime--such is my tolerant haste-- To any man that lacks.

``For I am tolerant, generous, keep no rules, And the age honours me. Thank God, I am not as these rigid fools, Even as this Pharisee.''

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(In Memoriam T. H.)

The paralytic man has dropped in death 
  The crossing-sweeper's brush to which he clung, 
One-handed, twisted, dwarfed, scanted of breath, 
  Although his hair was young.

I saw this year the winter vines of France, Dwarfed, twisted, goblins in the frosty drouth-- Gnarled, crippled, blackened little stems askance On long hills to the South.

Great green and golden hands of leaves ere long Shall proffer clusters in that vineyard wide. And O his might, his sweet, his wine, his song, His stature, since he died!

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One wept whose only child was dead, 
  New-born, ten years ago. 
``Weep not; he is in bliss,'' they said. 
  She answered, ``Even so,

``Ten years ago was born in pain A child, not now forlorn. But oh, ten years ago, in vain, A mother, a mother was born.''

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Not yet was winter come to earth's soft floor, 
The tideless wave, the warm white road, the shore, 
The serried town whose small street tortuously 
    Led darkling to the dazzling sea.

Not yet to breathing man, not to his song, Not to his comforted heart; not to the long Close-cultivated lands beneath the hill. Summer was gently with them still.

But on the Apennine mustered the cloud; The grappling storm shut down. Aloft, aloud, Ruled secret tempest one long day and night, Until another morning's light.

O tender mountain-tops and delicate, Where summer-long the westering sunlight sate! Within that fastness darkened from the sun, What solitary things were done?

The clouds let go, they rose, they winged away; Snow-white the altered mountains faced the day, As saints who keep their counsel sealed and fast, Their anguish over-past.

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The poet's imageries are noble ways, 
Approaches to a plot, an open shrine. 
Their splendours, colours, avenues, arrays, 
    Their courts that run with wine;

Beautiful similes, ``fair and flagrant things,'' Enriched, enamouring,--raptures, metaphors Enhancing life, are paths for pilgrim kings Made free of golden doors.

And yet the open heavenward plot, with dew, Ultimate poetry, enclosed, enskied, (Albeit such ceremonies lead thereto) Stands on the yonder side.

Plain, behind oracles, it is; and past All symbols, simple; perfect, heavenly-wild, The song some loaded poets reach at last-- The kings that found a Child.

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Forth, to the alien gravity, 
Forth, to the laws of ocean, we, 
  Builders on earth by laws of land, 
  Entrust this creature of our hand 
Upon the calculated sea.

Fast bound to shore we cling, we creep, And make our ship ready to leap Light to the flood, equipped to ride The strange conditions of the tide-- New weight, new force, new world: the Deep.

Ah thus--not thus--the Dying, kissed, Cherished, exhorted, shriven, dismissed; By all the eager means we hold We, warm, prepare him for the cold, To keep the incalculable tryst.

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    Thou inmost, ultimate 
Council of judgment, palace of decrees, 
Where the high senses hold their spiritual state, 
    Sued by earth's embassies, 
And sign, approve, accept, conceive, create;

Create--thy senses close With the world's pleas. The random odours reach Their sweetness in the place of thy repose, Upon thy tongue the peach, And in thy nostrils breathes the breathing rose.

To thee, secluded one, The dark vibrations of the sightless skies, The lovely inexplicit colours, run; The light gropes for those eyes. O thou august! thou dost command the sun.

Music, all dumb, hath trod Into thine ear her one effectual way; And fire and cold approach to gain thy nod, Where thou call'st up the day, Where thou awaitest the appeal of God.

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Unlike the youth that all men say 
  They prize--youth of abounding blood, 
In love with the sufficient day, 
  And gay in growth, and strong in bud;

Unlike was mine! Then my first slumber Nightly rehearsed my last; each breath Knew itself one of the unknown number. But Life was urgent with me as Death.

My shroud was in the flocks; the hill Within its quarry locked my stone; My bier grew in the woods; and still Life spurred me where I paused alone.

``Begin!'' Life called. Again her shout, ``Make haste while it is called to-day!'' Her exhortations plucked me out, Hunted me, turned me, held me at bay.

But if my youth is thus hard pressed (I thought) what of a later year? If the end so threats this tender breast, What of the days when it draws near?

Draws near, and little done? Yet lo, Dread has forborne, and haste lies by. I was beleaguered; now the foe Has raised the siege, I know not why.

I see them troop away; I ask Were they in sooth mine enemies-- Terror, the doubt, the lash, the task? What heart has my new housemate, Ease?

How am I left, at last, alive, To make a stranger of a tear? What did I do one day to drive From me the vigilant angel, Fear?

The diligent angel, Labour? Ay, The inexorable angel, Pain? Menace me, lest indeed I die, Sloth! Turn; crush, teach me fear again!

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    With this ambiguous earth 
His dealings have been told us. These abide: 
The signal to a maid, the human birth, 
The lesson, and the young Man crucified.

But not a star of all The innumerable host of stars has heard How He administered this terrestrial ball. Our race have kept their Lord's entrusted Word.

Of His earth-visiting feet None knows the secret, cherished, perilous, The terrible, shamefast, frightened, whispered, sweet, Heart-shattering secret of His way with us.

No planet knows that this Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave, Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss, Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.

Nor, in our little day, May His devices with the heavens be guessed, His pilgrimage to thread the Milky Way, Or His bestowals there be manifest.

But, in the eternities, Doubtless we shall compare together, hear A million alien Gospels, in what guise He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

O be prepared, my soul! To read the inconceivable, to scan The million forms of God those stars unroll When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

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``Your sins . . . shall be white as snow.''

Into the rescued world newcomer, 
  The newly-dead stepped up, and cried, 
``O what is that, sweeter than summer 
  Was to my heart before I died? 
Sir (to an angel), what is yonder 
  More bright than the remembered skies, 
A lovelier sight, a softer splendour 
  Than when the moon was wont to rise? 
Surely no sinner wears such seeming 
  Even the Rescued World within?''

``O the success of His redeeming! O child, it is a rescued sin!''

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All night had shout of men and cry 
    Of woeful women filled His way; 
Until that noon of sombre sky 
    On Friday, clamour and display 
Smote Him; no solitude had He, 
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was Death; but Power, but Might, But Life again, but Victory, Were hushed within the dead of night, The shutter'd dark, the secrecy. And all alone, alone, alone, He rose again behind the stone.

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``Thy father was transfused into thy blood.''
Dryden: Ode to Mrs. Anne Killigrew.

    Our father works in us, 
The daughters of his manhood. Not undone 
Is he, not wasted, though transmuted thus, 
    And though he left no son.

Therefore on him I cry To arm me: ``For my delicate mind a casque, A breastplate for my heart, courage to die, Of thee, captain, I ask.

``Nor strengthen only; press A finger on this violent blood and pale, Over this rash will let thy tenderness A while pause, and prevail.

``And shepherd-father, thou Whose staff folded my thoughts before my birth, Control them now I am of earth, and now Thou art no more of earth.

``O liberal, constant, dear, Crush in my nature the ungenerous art Of the inferior; set me high, and here, Here garner up thy heart!''

Like to him now are they, The million living fathers of the War-- Mourning the crippled world, the bitter day-- Whose striplings are no more.

The crippled world! Come then, Fathers of women with your honour in trust; Approve, accept, know them daughters of men, Now that your sons are dust.

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    There is no length of days 
But yours, boys who were children once. Of old 
The Past beset you in your childish ways, 
    With sense of Time untold.

What have you then forgone? A history? This you had. Or memories? These, too, you had of your far-distant dawn. No further dawn seems his,

The old man who shares with you, But has no more, no more. Time's mystery Did once for him the most that it can do: He has had infancy.

And all his dreams, and all His loves for mighty Nature, sweet and few, Are but the dwindling past he can recall Of what his childhood knew.

He counts not any more His brief, his present years. But O he knows How far apart the summers were of yore, How far apart the snows.

Therefore be satisfied; Long life is in your treasury ere you fall; Yes, and first love, like Dante's. O a bride For ever mystical!

Irrevocable good,-- You dead, and now about, so young, to die,-- Your childhood was; there Space, there Multitude, There dwelt Antiquity.

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Two o'clock, the morning of October 12th, 1915

    To her accustomed eyes 
The midnight-morning brought not such a dread 
As thrills the chance-awakened head that lies 
In trivial sleep on the habitual bed.

'Twas yet some hours ere light; And many, many, many a break of day Had she outwatched the dying; but this night Shortened her vigil was, briefer the way.

By dial of the clock 'Twas day in the dark above her lonely head. ``This day thou shalt be with Me.'' Ere the cock Announced that day she met the Immortal Dead.

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On London fell a clearer light; 
  Caressing pencils of the sun 
Defined the distances, the white 
  Houses transfigured one by one, 
The ``long, unlovely street'' impearled. 
O what a sky has walked the world!

Most happy year! And out of town The hay was prosperous, and the wheat; The silken harvest climbed the down: Moon after moon was heavenly-sweet, Stroking the bread within the sheaves, Looking 'twixt apples and their leaves.

And while this rose made round her cup, The armies died convulsed. And when This chaste young silver sun went up Softly, a thousand shattered men, One wet corruption, heaped the plain, After a league-long throb of pain.

Flower following tender flower; and birds, And berries; and benignant skies Made thrive the serried flocks and herds.-- Yonder are men shot through the eyes. Love, hide thy face From man's unpardonable race. * * * Who said ``No man hath greater love than this, To die to serve his friend''? So these have loved us all unto the end. Chide thou no more, O thou unsacrificed! The soldier dying dies upon a kiss, The very kiss of Christ.

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The Art of Painting had in the Primitive years looked with the light, not towards it. Before Tintoretto's date, however, many painters practised shadows and lights, and turned more or less sunwards; but he set the figure between himself and a full sun. His work is to be known in Venice by the splendid trick of an occluded sun and a shadow thrown straight at the spectator.

    Master, thy enterprise, 
Magnificent, magnanimous, was well done, 
Which seized the head of Art, and turned her eyes-- 
The simpleton--and made her front the sun.

Long had she sat content, Her young unlessoned back to a morning gay, To a solemn noon, to a cloudy firmament, And looked upon a world in gentle day.

But thy imperial call Bade her to stand with thee and breast the light, And therefore face the shadows, mystical, Sombre, translucent vestiges of night,

Yet glories of the day. Eagle! we know thee by thy undaunted eyes Sky-ward, and by thy glooms; we know thy way Ambiguous, and those halo-misted dyes.

Thou Cloud, the bridegroom's friend (The bridegroom sun)! Master, we know thy sign: A mystery of hues world-without-end; And hide-and-seek of gamesome and divine;

Shade of the noble head Cast hitherward upon the noble breast; Human solemnities thrice hallowèd; The haste to Calvary, the Cross at rest.

Look sunward, Angel, then! Carry the fortress-heavens by that hand; Still be the interpreter of suns to men; And shadow us, O thou Tower! for thou shalt stand.

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A voice peals in this end of night 
  A phrase of notes resembling stars, 
Single and spiritual notes of light. 
  What call they at my window-bars? 
    The South, the past, the day to be, 
    An ancient infelicity.

Darkling, deliberate, what sings This wonderful one, alone, at peace? What wilder things than song, what things Sweeter than youth, clearer than Greece, Dearer than Italy, untold Delight, and freshness centuries old?

And first first-loves, a multitude, The exaltation of their pain; Ancestral childhood long renewed; And midnights of invisible rain; And gardens, gardens, night and day, Gardens and childhood all the way.

What Middle Ages passionate, O passionless voice! What distant bells Lodged in the hills, what palace state Illyrian! For it speaks, it tells, Without desire, without dismay, Some morrow and some yesterday.

All-natural things! But more--Whence came This yet remoter mystery? How do these starry notes proclaim A graver still divinity? This hope, this sanctity of fear? O innocent throat! O human ear!

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OF BIRTH, 1864; OF DEATH, 1916


    Longer than thine, than thine, 
Is now my time of life; and thus thy years 
Seem to be clasped and harboured within mine. 
O how ignoble this my clasp appears!

Thy unprophetic birth, Thy darkling death: living I might have seen That cradle, marked those labours, closed that earth. O first, O last, O infinite between!

Now that my life has shared Thy dedicated date, O mortal, twice, To what all-vain embrace shall be compared My lean enclosure of thy paradise:

To ignorant arms that fold A poet to a foolish breast? The Line, That is not, with the world within its hold? So, days with days, my days encompass thine.

Child, Stripling, Man--the sod. Might I talk little language to thee, pore On thy last silence? O thou city of God, My waste lies after thee, and lies before.

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A cross what calm of tropic seas, 
  'Neath alien clusters of the nights, 
Looked, in the past, such eyes as these? 
  Long-quenched, relumed, ancestral lights!

The generations fostered them; And steadfast Nature, secretwise-- Thou seedling child of that old stem-- Kindled anew thy dark-bright eyes.

Was it a century or two This lovely darkness rose and set, Occluded by grey eyes and blue, And Nature feigning to forget?

Some grandam gave a hint of it-- So cherished was it in thy race, So fine a treasure to transmit In its perfection to thy face.

Some father to some mother's breast Entrusted it, unknowing. Time Implied, or made it manifest, Bequest of a forgotten clime.

Hereditary eyes! But this Is single, singular, apart:-- New-made thy love, new-made thy kiss, New-made thy errand to my heart.

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    Three times have I beheld 
Fear leap in a babe's face, and take his breath, 
    Fear, like the fear of eld 
That knows the price of life, the name of death.

What is it justifies This thing, this dread, this fright that has no tongue, The terror in those eyes When only eyes can speak--they are so young?

Not yet those eyes had wept. What does fear cherish that it locks so well? What fortress is thus kept? Of what is ignorant terror sentinel?

And pain in the poor child, Monstrously disproportionate, and dumb In the poor beast, and wild In the old decorous man, caught, overcome?

Of what the outposts these? Of what the fighting guardians? What demands That sense of menaces, And then such flying feet, imploring hands?

Life: There's nought else to seek; Life only, little prized; but by design Of nature prized. How weak, How sad, how brief! O how divine, divine!

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O what a miracle wind is this 
  Has crossed the English land to-day 
With an unprecedented kiss, 
  And wonderfully found a way!

Unsmirched incredibly and clean, Between the towns and factories, Avoiding, has his long flight been, Bringing a sky like Sicily's.

O fine escape, horizon pure As Rome's! Black chimneys left and right, But not for him, the straight, the sure, His luminous day, his spacious night.

How keen his choice, how swift his feet! Narrow the way and hard to find! This delicate stepper and discreet Walked not like any worldly wind.

Most like a man in man's own day, One of the few, a perfect one: His open earth--the single way; His narrow road--the open sun.

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I dreamt (no ``dream'' awake--a dream indeed) 
A wrathful man was talking in the park: 
``Where are the Higher Powers, who know our need 
    And leave us in the dark?

``There are no Higher Powers; there is no heart In God, no love''--his oratory here, Taking the paupers' and the cripples' part, Was broken by a tear.

And then it seemed that One who did create Compassion, who alone invented pity, Walked, as though called, in at that north-east gate, Out from the muttering city;

Threaded the little crowd, trod the brown grass, Bent o'er the speaker close, saw the tear rise, And saw Himself, as one looks in a glass, In those impassioned eyes.

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Lord, where are Thy prerogatives? 
  Why, men have more than Thou hast kept; 
The king rewards, remits, forgives, 
  The poet to a throne has stept.

And Thou, despoiled, hast given away Worship to men, success to strife, Thy glory to the heavenly day, And made Thy sun the lord of life.

Is one too precious to impart, One property reserved to Christ, One, cherished, grappled to that heart? --To be alone the Sacrificed?

O Thou who lovest to redeem!-- One whom I know lies sore oppressed. Thou wilt not suffer me to dream That I can bargain for her rest.

Seven hours I swiftly sleep, while she Measures the leagues of dark, awake. O that my dewy eyes might be Parched by a vigil for her sake!

But O rejected! O in vain! I cannot give who would not keep. I cannot buy, I cannot gain, I cannot give her half my sleep.

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Dear are some hidden things 
  My soul has sealed in silence; past delights; 
Hope unconfessed; desires with hampered wings, 
  Remembered in the nights.

But my best treasures are Ignoble, undelightful, abject, cold; Yet O! profounder hoards oracular No reliquaries hold.

There lie my trespasses, Abjured but not disowned. I'll not accuse Determinism, nor, as the Master* says, Charge even ``the poor Deuce.''

Under my hand they lie, My very own, my proved iniquities; And though the glory of my life go by I hold and garner these.

How else, how otherwhere, How otherwise, shall I discern and grope For lowliness? How hate, how love, how dare How weep, how hope?

* George Meredith

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    ``Ariddling world!'' one cried. 
``If pangs must be, would God that they were sent 
To the impure, the cruel, and passed aside 
    The holy innocent!''

But I, ``Ah no, no, no! Not the clean heart transpierced; not tears that fall For a child's agony; nor a martyr's woe; Not these, not these appal.

``Not docile motherhood, Dutiful, frequent, closed in all distress; Not shedding of the unoffending blood; Not little joy grown less;

``Not all-benign old age With dotage mocked; not gallantry that faints And still pursues; not the vile heritage Of sin's disease in saints;

``Not these defeat the mind. For great is that abjection, and august That irony. Submissive we shall find A splendour in that dust.

``Not these puzzle the will; Not these the yet unanswered question urge. But the unjust stricken; but the hands that kill Lopped; but the merited scourge;

``The sensualist at fast; The merciless felled; the liar in his snares. The cowardice of my judgment sees, aghast, The flail, the chaff, the tares.''

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"Audemus dicere 'Pater Noster.'"--CANON OF THE MASS

    There is a bolder way, 
There is a wilder enterprise than this 
All-human iteration day by day. 
Courage, mankind! Restore Him what is His.

Out of His mouth were given These phrases. O replace them whence they came. He, only, knows our inconceivable "Heaven," Our hidden "Father," and the unspoken "Name";

Our "trespasses," our "bread," The "will" inexorable yet implored; The miracle-words that are and are not said, Charged with the unknown purpose of their Lord.

"Forgive," "give," "lead us not"-- Speak them by Him, O man the unaware, Speak by that dear tongue, though thou know not what, Shuddering through the paradox of prayer.

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The Shepherdess
This poem was first entitled "The Lady of the Lambs."
The poem's original dedication was to Agnes Tobin.
Written in 1895, "The Shepherdess" sprang from thoughts suggested by Meredith's The Amazing Marriage.
Wilfrid Meynell, after Alice Meynell's death, said that when she handed him the manuscript of "The Shepherdess" he had said: "That is the poem which will make your name." "Oh, don't say that," she had replied, "let me destroy it."


"Why Wilt Thou Chide?"
Alice Meynell published this poem anonymously in the Pall Mall Gazette in July, 1895, around the time when she ended her close friendship with the by-then irrationally jealous and possessive Coventry Patmore.


Veni Creator
This poem was first published in the Scots Observer in 1890. The idea of man forgiving God was one Meynell had broached before in an unpublished essay written after the death of her five-month-old son, Vivian, in 1887:
"We have something to forgive God for. Does that seem a blasphemy? I say that with the little knowledge He has given us and the short sight, we have something to forgive the Creator who makes husband and wife grow one only to smite them in two again... who prodigally overdoes and exaggerates the love in a mother's heart and then forces her to watch a child's long agony. If we saw all we should have nothing to forgive. But He makes us see so little and He must wish us to forgive Him. It is easy to forgive; to be forgiven is not easy; shall man alone play that noble part, and so be more noble than God? Will not God, too take our pardon? We forgive Thee, our Maker, for Thy infinite inventiveness in planning the anguish of human life."
(quoted Badeni 75)
Francis Thompson, who adored Alice Meynell, adored this poem, writing to a friend:
"The poem is a perfect miniature example of her most lovelily tender work; and is, like all her best, of a signal originality in its central idea no less than in its development."


To Sylvia, Two Years Old
The Sylvia of the title was Alice Meynell's granddaughter, daughter of Madeleine and Percy Lucas.


Maternity and The First Snow
In 1912 Alice Meynell sent the manuscript of these two poems to her husband, saying in her cover letter, "Thinking them over, I am as much pleased with 'The First Snow' as with 'Maternity.' The more undecorated henceforth my poems, the better."


A Father of Women
Alice Meynell dedicated this poem about her father to her sister, the artist Elizabeth Butler. Thomas Thompson died in 1881, and apart from a short period of estrangement when he did not approve of Alice's engagement, father and daughter were very close. Her memoir to him can be found in a short essay called "A Remembrance."

The delicate, the abstinent, the reticent graces were his in the heroic degree. Where shall I find a pen fastidious enough to define and limit and enforce so many significant negatives? Words seem to offend by too much assertion, and to check the suggestions of his reserve. The reserve was life-long. Loving literature, he never lifted a pen except to write a letter. He was not inarticulate, he was only silent. He had an exquisite style from which to refrain. The things he abstained from were all exquisite.... Things ignoble never approached near enough for his refusal; they had not with him so much as that negative connection. If I had to equip an author I should ask no better than to arm him and invest him with precisely the riches that were renounced by the man whose intellect, by integrity, had become a presence-chamber.
In 1917 she published a volume of poems that took its title from this poem, A Father of Women.

Nurse Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell was first matron of Birkendael Medical Institute, a Red Cross Hospital in Brussels, during World War I. She was executed by the Germans on a charge of espionage, for helping Allied soldiers flee over the Dutch frontier. Her death was emotionally broadcast by British propagandists in pamphlets like The Case of Edith Cavell and The Death of Edith Cavell.


Two Shakespeare Tercentenaries
Alice Meynell referred in a letter to this poem, "Shakespeare," as "my one, one masterpiece."


To O---, of her Dark Eyes
The O--- of the title is Alice Meynell's daughter Olivia, born in 1890. Mrs. Meynell was proud of her daughter's dark coloring, a result of the "Creole blood" she had inherited.


Free Will
Alice Meynell wrote to her husband of this poem:
"Remember it is a poem of self-accusation and expresses the simple thought that it is in the Free Will of our old transgressions that we find humility. There is a slight paradox in the idea of those evils as treasures, which is a paradox of poetry, it seems to me, and makes the poem a poem."


The Lord's Prayer
Alice Meynell wrote of the duty and discipline of prayer: "There should be nothing habitual in literature as there must not be in prayer; every movement should have a special intention, an impulse to itself, a separate thought."