The dew falls and the stars fall,
The sun falls in the west,
But never more
Through the closed door,
Shall the one that I loved best
Return to me:
A salt tear is the sea,
All earth’s air is a sigh,
But they never can mourn for me
With my heart’s cry,
For the one that I loved best
Who caressed me with her eyes,
And every morning came to me,
With the beauty of sunrise,
Who was health and wealth and all,
Who never shall answer my call,
While the sun falls in the west,
The dew falls and the stars fall.
BY A CHILD’S BED
She breathed deep,
And stepped from out life’s stream
Upon the shore of sleep;
And parted from the earthly noise,
Leaving her world of toys,
To dwell a little in a dell of dream.
Then brooding on the love I hold so free,
My fond possessions come to be
Clouded with grief;
These fairy kisses,
This archness innocent,
Sting me with sorrow and disturbed content:
I think of what my portion might have been;
A dearth of blisses,
A famine of delights,
If I had never had what now I value most;
Till all I have seems something I have lost;
A desert underneath the garden shows,
And in a mound of cinders roots the rose.
Here then I linger by the little bed,
Till all my spirit’s sphere,
Grows one half brightness and the other dead,
One half all joy, the other vague alarms;
And, holding each the other half in fee,
Floats like the growing moon
That bears implicitly
Her lessening pearl of shadow
Clasped in the crescent silver of her arms.
Now every night we light the grate
And I sit up till really late;
My Father sits upon the right,
My Mother on the left, and I
Between them on an ancient chair,
That once belonged to my Great-Gran,
Before my Father was a man.
We sit without another light;
I really, truly never tire
Watching that space, as black as night,
That hangs behind the fire;
For there sometimes, you know,
The dearest, queerest little sparks,
Without a sound creep to and fro;
Sometimes they form in rings
Or lines that look like many things,
Like skipping ropes, or hoops, or swings:
Before you know what you’re about,
They all go out!
My Father says that they are gnomes,
Beyond the grate they have their homes,
In a tall, black, and windy town,
Behind a door we cannot see.
Often when it’s time for bed
The children run away instead,
Out through the door to see our fire,
Then their angry parents come
With every candle in the town,
The beadle with his lantern too,
And search and rummage up and down,
To catch the children as they play,
Between the rows of new-mown hay,
And bring them home;
(They must be, O, so very small,
How do they capture them at all?
But then they must be very dear);
When they can find no more
They blow a horn we cannot hear,
And march with the beadle at their head,
Right through the little open door,
Then close it tight and go to bed.
My Mother says that may be so;
(They both agree they’re gnomes, you
She says, she thinks that every night,
The gnomes have had a fearful fight;
Their valiant General has been slain,
And all the soldiers leave the camp
To dig his grave upon the plain;
They drag the General on a gun;
Every bandsman has a lamp
And there’s a torch for every one,
They dig his grave with bayonets
And wrap him grandly in his flag,
Then they gather in a ring,
The band plays very soft and low,
And all the soldiers sing.
(Of course we cannot hear, you know,)
Then some one calls “The enemy comes!”
They muffle up their pipes and drums;
Every soldier in a fright
Puts out his light.
Then hand in hand, and very still,
They clamber up the dark, dark hill
And hold their breath tight tight.
(I’d like to know which tale is right.)
O! there is something I forgot!
Sometimes one little spark burns on
Long after the rest have gone.
My Father says that lamp is left
By a little crooked, crotchety man,
Who cannot find his wayward son;
When the horn begins to blow,
He has to drop his light and run.
Of course he limps so slow
He squeezes through the very last,
When he is gone the naughty scamp
Jumps up and puff! out goes the lamp.
My Mother says that is the light,
Borne by the very bravest knight;
He is so very, very brave,
He would not leave his General’s grave,
And when the Enemy General tries
To make him tell where his General lies,
He answers boldly, “I will not!”
Then they shoot him on the spot,
And give a horrid, dreadful shout,
And then of course his light goes out.
I sit and think when they are through,
Which tale I like best of the two.
Sometimes I like the Father one;
It is such fun!
But then I love the Mother one,
That dear brave soldier and the rest:
Now which one do you like the best?
A LEGEND OF CHRIST’S NATIVITY
At Bethlehem upon the hill,
The day was done, the night was nigh,
The dusk was deep and had its will,
The stars were very small and still,
Like unblown tapers, faint and high.
The noises had begun to fall,
And quiet stole upon the place,
The howl of dogs along the wall,
Voices that from the houstops call
And answer, and the grace
Of some low breath of even-song
Grew faint apace: between the rocks
In misty pastures, and along
The dim hillside with crook and thong
The lonely shepherds watched their flocks.
The Inn-master within the Inn
Called loudly out after this sort,
“Draw no more water, cease the din,
Pile the loose fodder, and begin
To turn the mules out of the court.
The time has come to shut the gate,
Make way,” he cried, and then began
To sweep and set the litter straight,
And pile the saddle-bags and freight
Of some belated caravan.
The drivers whirled their beasts about,
And beat them on with shoutings great;
The nosebags slipped, the feed flew out,
The water-buckets reeled, the rout
Went jostling onward to the gate.
Came one unto the master then,
Hasting to find him through the gloom,
“Give us a place to rest;” and when
He spake, the master cried again,
“There is no room there
is no room.”
“But I have come from Nazareth,
Full three days’ toil to Bethlehem”
“What matters that,” the master saith,
“For here is hardly room for breath;
The guests curse me for crowding them.”
“Hold, Sir! leave me not so, I pray”
He plucked him sudden by the sleeve,
“My wife is with me and doth say,
Her hour hath come, I beg you, stay,
And make some plan for her relief.”
“Two hours ago you might have had
The chamber wherein stands the loom;
But then to drive me wholly mad,
Came this great merchant from Baghdad,
And thrust himself into the room.
“There is no other shelf to call
A bed But just beyond the gate,
You may find shelter in a stall,
If there be shelter left at all,
You may be even now too late.”
Beyond the gate within the night,
A figure rested on the ground,
About her all the rout took flight,
The dizzy noise, the flashing light,
The mules were tramping all around.
Leaning in mute expectancy,
Beneath a stunted sycamore,
She added darkness utterly,
To the dim light, the shrouded tree,
By her hands held her face before.
And yet to mock her eye’s desire,
The cavern into which she stared,
Was lit with disks and lines of fire;
When triple darkness did conspire,
The secret founts of light were bared.
And all the wheeling fire was rife
With haunting fears, her broken breath
Grew short with this prophetic strife;
What was for one the dawn of life,
Would be for one the dawn of death.
Meantime the stranger with a lamp,
Which lit the darkness, small and wan,
Searched where the mules did tramp and stamp,
Amid the litter and the damp,
For some small place to rest upon.
And there against the furthest wall,
Where the black shade was dense and deep,
He found a mean and meager stall,
But there when the weak light did fall,
He found a little lad asleep.
He lifted up his childish head,
And smiled serenely at the light,
“And have you found him, then,” he said,
“My brother who I thought was dead,
I lost him in the crowd last night.
“His name is Ezra, and he is
So tall and strong that when I try,
Standing on tiptoe for a kiss
I could not reach, except for this,
He lifts me up so easily.
“I had two little doves to take
Up to the booths” he
held his breath,
“Peace, child! and for your mother’s sake,
Yield me this place nay, nay! awake!
My weary wife is sick to death.”
“I will,” the little lad replied
“I promised never to forget
My mother, years ago she died,
I will lie out on the hillside,
And I may find dear Ezra yet.”
And now she drooped her weary head,
Within that comfortless manger,
It might have been a palace bed,
With canopy of gold instead,
So little did she know or care.
Gentle Jesus, slumber mild,
Succored by a little child,
You of children are the
Sovereign to all ministering,
Grace you bring them from
They give promise, lisping
And out upon the darkened hill,
With all the quiet-pastured sheep,
Charmed by the falling of a rill,
Where in the pool it cadenced still,
The little lad was fallen asleep.
All his young dreams were robed with power.
And glad were all his vision folk;
He wandered on from hour to hour,
With Ezra, happy as a flower
That blooms safe-shadowed by the oak.
But once before his dreams were told,
He thought he saw within the deep
Vault of the sky a rose unfold,
Made all of fire and lovely gold,
Whose petals seemed to glow and leap,
As if each dewy, crystal cell
Were a great angel live with light,
And trembling to the coronal,
Merging in sheen of pearl and shell,
With his great comrade, equal, bright,
Until the petals flashed and sprang,
And folded to the central heart:
Music there was that showered and rang,
As if each angel harped and sang,
Controlled by some celestial art.
The child saw splendor without name,
And turned and smiled, and all the noise
Of strings and singing sank; it came
Faint and dream-altered, yet the same,
Soft-tempered to his mother’s voice.
Slumber, slumber, gentle
Sweet as henna, dear and mild,
You the first of all the
Gave your master early grace,
Gave a shelter for his
Took the chilly earth instead,
Now take comfort infant
Jesus Christ is come to birth,
For his principality,
Children cluster at his knee,
Hail the heaven-happy age,
Love begins his pilgrimage,
So in the shadow by the nimble flood
He made her whistles of the willow wood,
Flutes of one note with mellow slender tone;
(A robin piping in the dusk alone).
Lively the pleasure was the wand to bruise,
And notch the light rod for its lyric use,
Until the stem gave up its tender sheath,
And showed the white and glistening wood beneath.
And when the ground was covered with light chips,
Grey leaves and green, and twigs and tender slips,
They placed the well-made whistles in a row
And left them for the careless wind to blow.
Come to me when grief is over,
When the tired eyes,
Seek thy cloudy wings to cover
Close their burning skies.
Come to me when tears have dwindled
Into drops of dew,
When the sighs like sobs re-kindled
Are but deep and few.
Hold me like a crooning mother,
Heal me of the smart;
All mine anguish let me smother
In thy brooding heart.
Those who die on Christmas Day
(I heard the triumphant Seraph say)
Will be remembered, for they died
Upon the Holy Christmastide;
When they attain to Paradise,
The Angels with the tranquil Eyes
Will ask if Jesus rules on Earth
The Anniversary of His Birth;
This Question do they ask alway
Of those who die on Christmas Day.
Those who are born on Christmas Day
(I heard the triumphant Seraph say)
Will bring again the Peace on Earth
That came with gentle Christ His Birth;
They may be lowly Folk and poor
Living about the Manger Door,
They may be Kings of Mighty Line,
Their Lives alike will be benign;
To them belongeth Peace alway,
Those who are born on Christmas Day.
Here there is balm for every tender heart
Wounded by life;
Rest for each one who bore a valiant part
Crushed in the strife.
I suffered there and held a losing fight
Even to the grave;
And now I know that it was very right
To suffer and be brave.
This silver-edged geranium leaf
Is one sign of a bitter grief
Whose symbols are a myriad more;
They cluster round a carven stone
Where she who sleeps is never alone
For two hearts at the core,
Bound with her heart make one of three,
A trinity in unity,
One sentient heart that grieves;
And myriad dark-leaved memories keep
Vigil above the triune sleep,
Edged all with silver are the leaves.
A MYSTERY PLAY
The Father. The Child. Death. Angels.
The even settles still and deep,
In the cold sky the last gold burns,
Across the colour snow flakes creep.
Each one from grey to glory turns
Then flutters into nothingness;
The frost down falls with mighty stress
Through the swift cloud that parts on high;
The great stars shrivel into less
In the hard depth of the iron sky.
What is that light, dear father,
That light in the dark, dark sky?
Those are the lights of the city
And the villages thereby.
There must be fire in the city
To throw that yellow glare;
And fire in the little villages
On all the hearthstones there.
The Father, musing:
Yea, flames are on the hearthstones;
The ovens are full of bread,
But here the coals are dying
And the flames are dead.
What is the cold, dear father?
It stings like an angry bee.
Wherever it stings my hand turns white,
The cold is a beast, my dear one,
With his paws he tears at the thatch,
His breath is a curse and a warning,
You can see it creep on the latch.
If ’tis a wolf, dear father,
That lies with his paw on the floor,
Let us heat the spade in the embers
And drive him away from the door.
God is the power of growth,
In the snail and the tree,
God is the power of growth
In the heart of the man.
Did you not hear the singing,
Mother’s voice and Ruth’s voice,
Voices of the dead.
The Father, musing:
Our Ruth died in the springtime,
With the spade I turned the sod,
We buried her by the brier rose,
Her life is hid with God.
All summer long in the garden
No roses came to the tree.
Father, was it for sorrow,
Sorrow for thee and me?
Roses grew in the garden,
I saw them at morning and even,
Shadows of earthly roses
They bloomed for fingers in heaven.
The air is very clear and still,
The moonlight falls from half the sphere;
The shadow from the silver hill
Fills half the vale, and half is clear
As the moon’s self with cloudless snow;
By the dead stream the alders throw
Their shadows, shot with tingling spars;
On the sheer height the elm trees glow:
Their tops are tangled with the stars.
Father, the coals are dying,
See! I have heated the spade,
Let me throw the door wide open,
I will not be afraid.
Let me kiss you once on the forehead,
And once on your darling eyes;
We may see them both at the dawning,
In the dales of Paradise.
And if I only see them,
I will tell them how you smiled;
For the wolf, you know, is angry,
And I am a little child.
I give thee peace,
For a world of dread
For desperate toil
Thou who didst say,
When the waters of poverty
Waxed deep, deep,
What we bear is best;
I give thee sleep.
Keep up your spirits, I know
There’s a cabin under the hill,
The fellow will make a roaring fire;
We’ll heat our hands and drink our fill
And go warm to our heart’s desire!
The door is open, Heigho!
This pair will claim neither crown nor groat,
The man has gripped his garden spade
As if he would dig his grave in the snow;
The boy has the face of a saint, I trow;
His brow says, “I was not afraid!”
Ah well, these things must be, you know!
Gather your sables around your throat;
Give us that story about the monk,
His niece, and the wandering conjurer,
Just to keep our blood astir.
The heart of God,
The worlds and man,
Are fashioned and moulded,
In a subtle plan;
Sweeps far but converges:
Nothing is lost,
Sod or stone,
But comes to its own;
Bear well thy joy,
’Tis mixed with alloy,
Bear well thy grief,
’Tis a rich full sheaf:
Gather the souls that have passed in the night,
Theirs is the peace and the light.
The moon is gone, the dawning brings
A deeper dark with silver blent,
Above the wells where, myriad, springs
Light from the crimson orient;
The elms are born, the shadows creep,
Tremble and melt away one sweep
The great soft color floods and flows,
Where under snow the roses sleep;
The morn has turned the snow to rose.