Convict Once - Part First.

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FREE again! Free again! eastward and westward, before me, behind me,
Wide lies Australia! and free are my feet, as my soul is, to roam!
Oh joy unwonted of space undetermined! No limit assigned me!
Freedom conditioned by nought save the need and desire of a home!

Wrought even to pain with emotions long-prisoned and ardours volcanic,
Great with the promise of things that have grown in the silence of years,
Seems to me now that my soul should be mother of issue Titanic.
Drunken with Freedom I leap, as a inaddened steed plunges and rears.
Seven retributive years have not left my tried spirit unshaken,
Vulture-like tearing me, harpy-like soiling me, blinding my eyes.
Yet from the depths I emerge; like a giant refreshed I awaken,
Strong for the purpose of life, for the struggle, the victory, the prize.
Ah! I must calm me, nor triumph too soon with exultant delirium:
Silence, and patience, and foresight, to these is the victory given:
Life's raging sea is not cloven at the sound of the timbrel of Miriam;
But at the touch of the red of the SEER the dark waters are riven.
Yes, I must calm me, remembering that Freedom restores me to Duty —
Not to the license and rapture of such as have struggled and won.
Passion hath proved itself fatal, and fatal the magic of beauty;
I must try wisdom and prudence, contented to walk ere I run.
Have I not found what I longed for? Already my star is propitious.
Heaven hath found me a home where life's sweetest amenities smile;
Lowly indeed, but unmerited, poor to a spirit ambitious;
Yet a sweet oasis-fountain whereat I may linger awhile.
Here I behold it, my long-cherished dream of a home in the wild wood:
Here I shall hide my reproach, and my name shall be MAGDALEN POWER.
Never again shall I utter the name that I bore in my childhood;
Know it shall none, save the Angel that watched at my christening hour.
Now I begin life again; but a clearer, a stronger beginning:
Not as a child, but a woman — a teacher of children not mine.
What can I teach them? My lesson? Repenting is longer than sinning?
Nay; I can read; I can write; I can moralize line upon line.
Branded no more as a felon : — but hush! let such phrases be banished!
Let me recall the old precepts that moulded my innocent youth!
Knowledge, and Beauty, and Goodness, thank God, have not utterly vanished:
Quick to perceive them as ever; alive to the glory of Truth.
No more abasement! I'm weary and blind with the tears of repentance:
Though it was wrong, and I know it, yet surely such weeping is vain.
Have I not borne to the full all the pangs of my terrible sentence?
Shall there no harvest arise from this plentiful penitent rain?
Worshipping sorrow it seems, thus to sacrifice life on its altar;
Petting my error it is, thus to water it evening and morn:
Cherishing aye in my breast, as a fetish, a scarce escaped halter —
This is the culture of Terror — Idolatry worthy of scorn!
I will no more of it. — Twenty-three years have I lived; and my labour
Vanity, fruitless regret, and a secret that may not be told,
Honour-imperilling, head-overhanging, like Damocles' sabre,
Swinging and threat'ning my new-donned propriety scarce a day old.
Ha! I must clothe me with armour; yet not in the garb of defiance:
Panoply brazen flings back every incident ray of the sun:
Darkly encased I shall be in a corslet of quiet reliance;
Shield I shall carry of triple propriety; sword I'll have none.
Is this hyprocisy? Is it a refuge 'twixt seeming and being?
Self-enforced virtue (who knows?) may develop from habit to love.
Heedless of obstacles, patient for ends, strong of heart, and far-seeing,
I may be wise as the serpent, yet innocent still as the dove.
Die then, sad memories, leaving behind you no token nor relic!
Hark how the tremulous night-wind is passing in joy-laden sighs!
Soft through my windows it comes, like the fanning of pinions angelic,
Whispering to cease from myself, and look out on the infinite skies.
Out on the orb-studded night, and the crescent effulgence of Dian;
Out on the far-gleaming star-dust that marks where the angels have trod;
Out on the gem-pointed Cross, and the glittering pomp of Orion,
Flaming in measureless azure, the coronal jewels of God.
Luminous streams of delight in the silent immensity flowing,
Journeying surgelessly on through impalpable ether of peace,
How can I think of myself when infinitude o'er me is glowing,
Glowing with tokens of love from the land where my sorrows shall cease?
Oh, summer-night of the South! Oh, sweet languor of zephyrs lovesighing!
Oh, mighty circuit of shadowy solitude, holy and still!
Music scarce audible, echo-less harmony joyously dying,
Dying in faint suspirations o'er meadow, and forest, and hill!
I must go forth and be part of it, part of the night and its gladness.
But a few steps, and I pause on the marge of the shining lagoon.
Here then, at length, I have rest; and I lay down my burden of sadness,
Kneeling alone 'neath the stars and the silvery arc of the moon.
Peace-speaking night of the South, will thine influence last through my sleeping,
Dream with my dreaming, awake with my waking, and blend with the morn?
Or shall I start as of old, and my pillow be wet with my weeping,
Victim alternate of self-accusation and impious scorn?
Have I so cast out myself that the morrow's meridian shall find me
Lightly esteeming the earth, and with spirit affianced to heaven?
Have I said, once and for ever, "Proud Lucifer, get thee behind me!
Leave me to die in the desert, if only my sin be forgiven"?
Let me not hoodwink myself. Of the many desires that come thronging —
Demons they may be, or angels of brightness, I hardly know
One I retain unto death, one supreme irresistible longing;
Heaven without it were poor, and earth with it ineffably rich.
Can it be wrong? It was God, and not I, who created me woman,
And on my woman's heart portrayed the nobler ideal of man;
Dowered me with instincts of love, that shall rule till I cease to be human:
Shall the Creator require of the creature beyond what she can?
Ah! but the soft, subtle voice of the Night whispers, "First be thou worthy:
Vaunt not thyself till the work of thy hands is recorded above:
Gird thee for labour; and if, being earthly, thou needs must be earthy,
Pray that through Duty alone thou attain to the pleasaunce of love."

PLEASANTLY, almost too pleasantly, blendeth to-day with to-morrow.
Hours are as moments: a twinkle of white wings, and, lo, they are gone!
Day bringeth work without bondage, and night bringeth dreams without sorrow:
Pleasantly, almost too pleasantly, life is  meandering on.
Precious my charge, and delightsome: three spirits all joyous and tender —
Children of nature and innocence, breathing the freshness of flowers.
Love-tokens are they from Paradise, warm from the kiss of the Sender,
Blossoms of promise still rich with the glow of the Amaranth Bowers.
Hyacinth, Lily, and Violet — pleasant conceit of their christening:
Hyacinth, darkly embowered in the riches of clustering curls;
Slenderly delicate Lily, a lily transfigured and glistening;
Violet, lowly and meek, yet the joy of my garland of girls.
Happy their lot — in themselves, in their sire, in a mother's affection;
Happy in mutual love all the merry bright round of the years,
Little they reck of the travailing world, with its nameless dejection;
Even their sighs are the surfeit of joy, laughter-laden their tears.
Lofty things move them to worship; adoring they wonder, but fear not;
Little things minister pleasure, as ever it fares with the good;
Nature to them utters low subtle voices that other ears hear not;
Marvellous harmonies greet them from river, and mountain, and wood.
Down in umbrageons retreats, chosen haunts by the shadow-flecked river,
Drinking delights from the murmur of streams and the flutter of wings,
Streams as they murmur, bright wings as they flutter, green leaves as they quiver,
All have strange music for them, and a tale of invisible things.
Almost I fancy them other than human; great Nature's own daughters,
Beings of Fable that only the rapture of Fancy conceives,
Naiad-like, laving white feet in the dimpled disturbance of waters,
Dryad-like, peering bright-visioned thro' tremulous umbrage of leaves.
Otherwhile mounted on steeds and in madness of motion careering,
Fitfully seen thro' far vistas, and mazy divergence of trees;
Elfin-revealings of fleetness and liberty sudden appearing,
Vanishing whither they list, uncontrolled as the libertine breeze.
Train them and form them! Ah me! it is they who, unconscious, have wrought me
Back to the form that I bore when I bloomed as the darling of home.
I their preceptress! Ah me! with their innocent smiles they have taught me
Lessons more glorious than Greece, aspirations more lofty than Rome.
Mine is the lore of dark ages, of empires convulsed and war-wasted,
Rapine and bloodshed, the ebb and the flow of perpetual strife;
I of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and of Evil have tasted;
Fitter for them were the fruit of the Tree, angel-guarded, of Life.

HYACINTH loves . . . I have noted of late the mysterious transition;
Soft silken-footed approaches of something that whispers a change;
Chrysalis-stirrings that herald the full-winged and perfected mission;
Timid assumptions of woman-demeanour unwonted and strange;
Beautiful sequence of vermeil suffusions and paleness unbidden;
Dream-lustred eyes that look inward on something to others unseen;
Reveries sudden, and maidenly languor, and sighs but half-hidden;
Pensive reserve over-drooping the virginal grace of her mien.
Saddened, yet listlessly happy; ah, well I remember the token!
Well I remember the oxymel mingling of pleasure and pain!
Some face hath gleamed upon hers, and the sleep of her childhood is broken;
Hardly she knows as yet whether to rise or to slumber again.

WANDERING to-day by the river where refuge is greenest and coolest,
Watching beneath me the moving mosaic of shadow and sheen,
Came I on Hyacinth, radiant, elated, her bloom at the fullest,
Rapt, like a vision-filled soul that hath quaffed of divine Hippocrene.
No need of words to interpret those moist lips halfparted and glowing,
Nor the luxurious droop of the eyelid with pleasure opprest,
Nor the strewn wealth of her tresses, in careless dishevelment flowing,
Nor the warm crimson that blushed thro' the gossamer folds on her breast.
Heedless and hearing not, trance-like — the sun thro' the bowerage
above her,
Scattering broken effulgence, like largesse of gold, on her charms, —
Stood the flushed impress of maidenhood fresh from the kiss of a lover,
Fervid in recent release from the passioned entwinement of arms.
Such I divined, with an eye and an instinct for love's hidden history;
Thrilled by ineffable sympathies, every sweet token I knew,
Gathered in fancy the fluttering threads, and unravelled the mystery,
Read, like a scroll, the yet lingering signs of reluctant adieu.
Lower her eyelids drooped, closing; then rose, and the sensuous present
Broke once again into verdure and song, on her eye and her ear;
But the entrancement of vision was gone, and the bloom evanescent
Passed into sorrowful paleness, and died in the track of a tear.
Then, while her ringlets, in silken compliance and rich adaptation,
Rounded each movement with graces, as music the words of a lay,
Stooped she a moment, and, fluttering still with Love's sweet trepidation,
Caught up a scroll from the grass at her feet, and moved, sighing, away.
And, till the sun set, empurpling the glorified hills with its splendour,
Lone in her chamber sat Hyacinth, writing the words on her soul;
Then, as the glory died, yielding to radiance more softened and tender,
Forth from her chamber came Hyacinth, singing the song of the scroll:
"Ever thou speakest of angels, my love, and I fear me, I fear me,
Thou art too heavenly pure to commèrce with such grossness as mine."
"Angels are lower than God, and when thou art anear me, anear me,
Godhead looks into mine eyes, for thy kinship, through grace, is Divine."
"Ah, but the angels will find thee in sleep, and will take thee, will take thee,
Bearing thee far from me, leaving me weary, forsaken, and old."
"Yea, but thou likewise shalt sleep, and my singing shall wake thee, shall wake thee,
Over the crystalline sea, by the city of jasper and gold."
"Ah, but the angels are better than I! and will love thee, will love thee,
Teaching thee music I know not, and whispering secrets of bliss."
"Yea, but though angels, no angel I'll cherish above thee, above thee;
Nought, till thou come to thy love, save the feet of my God, shall I kiss."
"Ah, but the angels, the iris-winged angels, will hate me, will hate me,
Soiled with the touch of corruption, and swathed in the cerements of sin."
"Nay, at the glistening portals of pearl I'll await thee, await thee,
Bearing thee radiant attire for the joy of thine entering in."
"Ah, but the angels, the aurioled angels, adoring, adoring,
Will they not mock us, faint-quiring the notes of our penitent strain?"
"Nay, for our hymns have a theme of Redemption, high-soaring, highsoaring,
Far o'er the music of angels, the song of the Lamb that was slain."
* * * * *
"Where hath she learned it?" quoth one; and "Who wrote it? who gave it?" another:
Hyacinth answered with silvery laughter, and sought her lone room.
"Surely my child has some secret at heart," said the wondering mother.
I alone knew why she brooked not the question of whence or by whom.
All the night long in her slumber I heard the unconscious out-pouring
Of her young spirit in jubilant thoughts from the dream-broken strain;
Ever she murmured — "a theme of Redemption high-soaring, highsoaring,
Far o'er the music of angels, the song of the Lamb that was slain."

PLEASANTLY," said I? Yea, pleasantly, Three summer months of contentment,
Bright with bright faces, and sweet with sweet voices, or sleeping in
Here the green earth is the heaven-domed temple of poet's presentment,
Manifold harmonies rolling for ever thro' long forest aisles.
Softly I've moved through the time with the echo-less footfalls of Duty,
Wearing the garments of meekness and schooling my heart to constraint,
Shunning my mirror for dread of the slumbering demon of Beauty:
Puritan I in my plainness of garb, in demeanour a saint.
All I resolved I have done; much in spirit, and wholly in letter;
Faultless my conduct and converse . . . but where is the sign of return?
See, I have prisoned my life in routine till my soul is no better
Than the grey ashes that lie in the coldly-symmetrical urn.
Am I then weary of well-doing, deeming it fruitless endurance?
Nay, but my spirit is cloyed with the feast of perpetual sweets.
I was not moulded for peace, or the dreamless repose of assurance.
Oh, I am faint with the opiate breath of these woodland retreats!
This is not life, to be bowed in the heart-hush of worship for ever,
Softly asleep on my shadow to glide o'er a summer-lit sea.
Life is not passionless calm, but the turbid delight of the river.
Give me the billowy Jordan! . . . enough now of blue Galilee.
All my young dream was of heroes; my play was Olympian frolic,
Venus, Minerva, Alecto, alternate — love, wisdom, and gall.
What is the mood of my life-music now? Why, a piping bucolic.
Babbling melodious of pastoral peace and content; that is all.
Soul cannot march to the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle.
Rather the war-blast of passion were thrilling again in mine ears!
Oh for a touch of the palpitant world! for the glory of battle!
Show me once more the proud wave of the banners, the gleam of the spears!
What would I conquer? Myself? So I might; but such war were inglorious.
How should it yield me the rapture that only the conqueror feels?
What were the spoils of the slain? To what Capitol march when victorious?
Whom should I drag thro' the dust, captive-bound at my chariotwheels?
Oh, I am sick of unlaurelled self-conquest! A region fire-smitten
Lies at the feet of the victor, unworthy the cost of the strife.
What is the fruit of my summer of meekness? Behold, I have written!
Ink! where the blood should have been, and the dust of the battle of life!
Stay. Let me question myself. Whence this change of mood? Yesterday only
All in my heart was the hush of the temple, conventual calm.
Yesterday quickening Nature sufficed me; alone, but not lonely,
Breathing concordant with all things, embraced in the infinite psalm.
Now all this musical silence but frets me. I live, but I sing not,
Save in harsh discords that jar with the tender discourse of the flowers.
Soft airs are wooing my brow with their winnowing wings, but they bring not
Tribute of hope. Time's too smooth, and I chafe at the impotent hours.
What hath unfellowed me thus from the spirits of beauty beside me?
Why do I turn from the honey of life to the blood-kindling wine?
Yesterday, heaven was opened: I saw, but its bliss was denied me,
Saw it in Hyacinth's eyes with the Demon of Envy in mine.
Even as she passed from my sight, while the branches yet shook from her presence,
Rose in unblest resurrection the sepulchred passions of yore.
I to go dreaming of life while this novice is drinking its essence!
I to be almost content with the dregs, while her cup runneth o'er!
Say, were an angel cast down by mischance at the great consummation,
Would not his sharpest distress be the gleam of his home in the skies?
Even the shadow of heaven were worse torment than hell's conflagration:
What then for me was the reflex of Eden in Hyacinth's eyes?
Shut out from life and from love by hard circumstance, not from unmeetness,
Can I untempted look on while another sits down to the feast?
Why must I drag through the hours when this Hyacinth leaps to completeness,
Leaps to her queenly meridian, still flushed with the roseate east?
"It is because thou hast sinned." Oh emaciate ghost of repentance!
Thou here again with thine offerings of sackcloth, and ashes, and tears!
Pointing thy skeleton finger at Law! See, I point to the Sentence,
Paid to the uttermost farthing by weary fulfilment of years.
What-then? Shall envy inherit me wholly? A thousand times Never.
It hath but waked me once more from the spell of a somnolent hour,
Stirred up the thorns in the nest, struck a spur in the flank of endeavour:
I am the old self again. I am. . . . Nay, I am Magdalen Power.

STRANGERS to-day; a momentous event in this slumb'rous seclusion:
Lily and Violet sadly impatient of precept and books:
Hyacinth calmer, but fluttering dove-like with pretty confusion;
Something of mystery, too, in those quick interrogative looks.
"Are they from far?" I ask carelessly. "Not from a very great distance,"
Violet answers; "but oh! 'tis so seldom they visit us now.
There was a quarrel, you know," she continues with prattling persistence,
All unaware of the shadow that gathers on Hyacinth's brow.
"Something I don't understand, about cattle, and buying, and selling;
Arthur Trevelyan was rude, and dropped words about ‘ill-gotten gear;’
Father was angered, and said that no Convict should darken his dwelling:
But he repented, and wrote to both father and son; so they're here."
"What is a Convict?" she asks me; "Trevelyan's a Convict, they tell me.
It must be something, I'm sure, to be proud of, if Raymond is one."
Ah, cruel question that would to my own definition compel me!
Hyacinth comes to my rescue: "A Convict! Young Raymond is none!
"Tell me," she said, and I mark the unwonted and quivering passion,
"Can it be just that a son should inherit a father's disgrace?"
Gladly I catch at the turn of the theme, and reply, " 'Tis a fashion
That were best honoured by breach." There's a story in Hyacinth's face.

OFT hath it pleased me in day-dream and night-watch to mould an ideal:
Is not my heart-wish incarnate, new risen or dropt from above?
One sudden gleam of a face, and my cherished ideal is real!
There moved my miracle, there passed my Fate, whom to see is to love!
Somewhere I've read that the gods, waxing wroth at our mad importunity,
Hurl us our boon, and it falls with the weight of a curse at our feet:
Perilous thing to intrude on their lofty Olympian immunity!
"Take it, and die," say the gods, and we die of our fondest conceit.
Is it so now with myself? I have riven the night-watches asunder,
Murmuring "Give me to see him," and fretting the beautiful skies.
Lo, I have seen him! And now, I shrink, trembling with impotent wonder,
Pondering, Is it the blessing I craved, or a curse in disguise?
Yes, I have seen him; and envious murmur and fretful rebellion
Pause as I muse on a possible future, and gird up my strength.
How my wild spirit was hushed when I looked on this Raymond Trevelyan!
Prince of my dreams, by the throb of this heart, thou art come — come at length!

DOWN in the vines he is sitting, the fruitage, leaf-shadowed above him,
Lending concomitant charm to the ripeness that flushes his cheek.
There is the glory of summer about him. I see him, and love him,
Asking not why. I but know that the strong one is come to the weak.
Down in the vines he is sitting; and radiance leaf-softened and golden
On the broad calm of his brow through the veil of the vintage is shed.
Blest be each bough that enshrines him! Henceforth I am ever beholden
Unto the slenderest, tenderest leaflet that shelters his head.
Down in the vines he is sitting; I see him leaf-circled and Faun-like,
Such as I've seen in my dreams, in like halo of amber and green,
With those same love-seeking glances, so placidly, dreamily, dawn-like,
Quiet as the birth of the dew, as the star of the morning serene.
Dream, heart, no more of thy lyre-lauded heroes, and demi-gods storied!
Open thine eyes on the breathing fulfilment of beauty and strength!
Down in the vines he is sitting; I see him leaf-girt, and leaf-gloried;
Prince of my dreams, by the throb of this heart, thou art come — come at length!

ONLY two syllables uttered — "Goodnight;" a conventional
Nay, not so much — a mere meeting of finger-tips formally deigned.
Nothing for heart to interpret; no look to remember and treasure:
Lovingly courteous to others; to me alone coldly constrained.
Yet he is mine. I have marked him for mine. Am I fantasy's minion?
Slave to a self-born philosophy? victim of doating conceit?
Or, am I privileged priestess, beholding dark things Eleusinian,
Piercing the thought of the gods, and fore-casting the way of their feet?
Gods, gods, and gods! I am weary of gods! I have looked on humanity,
Living, and breathing, and glowing, and burning — limb, body, and face!
Time that my dreams become touch, that I cease from this bodiless vanity,
Wistfully rounding my vacuous arms to the shape of embrace!

OVER my mirror. 'Tis time that I look to my weapons and armour.
Keener than ever, I fancy, the penetrant edge of my glance.
I can remember a fuller-orbed cheek, and a rose-blushing warmer;
But on my brow is no line sorrow-furrowed, no wake of mischance.
Loves he dark tresses, I wonder, in sinuous subtlety twining?
Loves he dark eyes, fired with love, and star-sympathied passion of night?
Loves he the long drooping eye-lash, half secret half story combining?
Loves he the lithe grace of undulous ease, and imperial height?
This is the reflex of beauty I gaze on, the beauty I've hidden,
Most from myself, and have struggled thro' years of control to forget,
Deeming it e'en as a perilous thing, and a weapon forbidden,
Piercing the hand of the user, and dealing but shame and regret.
Wherefore should beauty be evil? and that which in lilies and roses
Men deem most gracious and holy be fatal in woman alone?
Why should the flower seek the light, while the woman in cloister reposes,
Sealed down by vows from the eyes that were made to drink love at her own?
Beauty, like Knowledge, is Power; what of Beauty and Knowledge colleaguing,
Guided by keen-visioned Prudence to work to one ultimate goal?
Not Cleopatra herself, 'mid the lurements of Tarsus intriguing,
Boasted this tri-une endowment concluded in body and soul.
Not as my past is my present. No more as a child shall I stumble,
Hastening the end by false measures, and grasping the fruit immature:
I shall be patient. The time may be long, and the means may be humble,
But he is mine; I have marked him for mine; and the triumph is sure.
This idle curl that I smooth even now betwixt finger and finger,
Silkenly circling his own shall he press upon amorous lips;
Yea, on the yielding delight of this breast shall that conquered head linger,
And 'neath the veil of these tresses lie hid in enamoured eclipse.
But my lamp pales as I gaze; and I feel the weird tremor that thrilleth
Brain, heart, and limb, when the night seems to yield up its soul unto day.
Now to mine orisons. Shall I then speak as the spirit not willeth?
Nay: I must couch me unshriven. To-night I am powerless to pray.

WAS it a chance or a Providence brought me once more to the river?
Wandering whither I knew not, and cared not, I came as before
Unto the spot. It was ever my solace to wander; and ever
Seem I allured to the stream: for the rush and the musical roar,
Rhyming and chiming in mystic agreement with that which works in me,
Bravely concording with thoughts of wild action and furious delight,
Win me from baleful contentment, from dreamy oblivion win me,
Call me to live and to dare, re-endow me with motion and might.
How I have smiled at my school-bred compatriots languidly viewing
Iyy-clad relics caducous, and morbidly learned in decay!
Give me the bountiful rush of my river, its ever-renewing
Life and festivity, song, dance, and revel by night and by day!
Surely 'twas this and not espionage guided my fanciful wandering,
Drew me thro' bosky entanglement e'en to the ripple-wooed marge;
Couched me in ready concealment, and set me conjecturing, pondering,
Ever on life, and on my life; when, lo, by the mangroves a barge,
Fairy-like, noiselessly gliding! Or ever I saw him I knew him.
Knew by the sudden rebound of my blood, and the quiver of limb!
Knew, too, that rustling of leaves, and the gleam of white vesture that drew him
Unto the haven appointed — the heaven of Hyacinth and him.
Then the old story, the Adam-old story, the Eve-old love story:
Rapture of lips, and entwining of arms, and commingling of sighs,
Heart-to-heart clingings, and glad jets of tears; all the glow and the glory
Of a ripe summer of love sunned in splendour of amorous eyes.
Was it in generous forbearance I bore me so calmly, so mildly,
Marking the kiss-dented lips, and sweet license of zephyr-blown hair?
Who could have dreamed of young Hyacinth clasping and clinging so wildly?
She of the angels! In sooth such embracement is not of the air.
Well: 'tis enough. A new obstacle. Sometimes the ghost of it haunted me,
Breathing on sparks of suspicion that now are enkindled to flame.
Phantom no more: I have seen, and the glare of the truth hath not daunted me;
Truly, forewarned is forearmed, and I grow but the more to mine aim.
She is a child; I a woman; and he! could he fill up the measure
Of the great longing I read in his eyes with a kiss or a song?
Greatness of heart soon outgrows the milk-dainties of infantile pleasure.
Weak silly-winning young ways are poor wiles for the wise and the strong.
It is not ivy he needeth, the boughs of his manhood caressing,
Ivy that drains what it clings to, and sappeth the life of the tree.
It is the earth for the roots, and the blood of the storm, and the blessing
Wrapt in the rolling of vapours, and born of the sun and the sea.
These would I give him, a closer embrace than poor parasite-clinging,
Being his meat, and his drink, and his strength, and his light, and his breath!
Is not this better than daintiest love-lore of sighing and singing?
Hyacinth! Hyacinth! It is not you, it is I . . . his till death!
Yea, though I saw you to-day in the rapture of parasite-clinging,
Luring the strength from his heart, and suspiring a mutual breath,
Practising daintiest love-lore of kissing, and sighing, and singing,
Hyacinth! Hyacinth! . . . it is not you . . . it is I . . . his till death!

LET me be justified in my own sight. She is young, and before her
Lies all the wide world to choose from. Would God that it were so with me!
Hers is blind impulse: she cannot have chosen: and Raymond reigns o'er
Only by right of first comer. Not such would my fealty be!
Not with the eye of a child do I measure those opulent merits —
Frame of Antinöus, utterance of Pericles, heart of "The Just."
All the more mine do I claim him because of the taint he inherits:
This were a shame unto her in high places of blue-veined disgust.
Shall I invoke higher motives, and sanction my purpose by duty?
Well, an I would, so I might, and no more than my duty fulfil.
Am not I Hyacinth's keeper, aedile of this temple of beauty,
Bound by my service and honour to watch and to guard? . . . And I will.

LINGER, oh Sun, for a little, nor close yet this day of a million!
Is there not glory enough in the rose-curtained halls of the West?
Hast thou no joy in the passion-hued folds of thy kingly pavilion?
Why shouldst thou only pass through it? Oh rest thee a little while, rest!
Why should the Night come and take it, the wan Night that cannot enjoy it,
Bringing pale argent for golden, and changing vermilion to grey?
Why should the Night come and shadow it, entering but to destroy it?
Rest 'mid thy ruby-trailed splendours! Oh stay thee a little while, stay!
Rest thee at least a brief hour in it! 'Tis a right royal pavilion.
Lo, there are thrones for high dalliance all gloriously canopied o'er!
Lo, there are hangings of purple, and hangings of blue and vermilion,
And there are fleeces of gold for thy feet on the diapered floor!
Linger, a little while linger. To-morrow my heart may not sing to thee:
This shall be Yesterday, numbered with memories, folded away.
Now should my flesh-fettered soul be set free! I would soar to thee, cling to thee,
And be thy rereward Aurora, pursuing the skirts of To-day!
Shall I not doat on to-day that hath brought me the earnest of blessing,
Young buds of friendship whose promise the coming of time shall fulfil?
First the green blade; then the ear, from the green to the yellow progressing;
Then the full corn in the ear, golden waving, to reap when I will.
For, as it fell out to-day, I was sought and was found of young Raymond;
And he hath told me his story, beseeching my counsel and aid:
Closest of friends, we are Pythias out-Pythias'd and Damon out- Damon'd;
Man unto man is as nought to our friendship of young man and maid.
All this is well. It is something to nourish a secret between us.
All this is well. There are meetings, and moon-light and star-light in store.
Ah, my poor "mournful OEnone," dost think there is pity in Venus
When she contends with her peers for the prize? Such have I, and no more.
This is not new in the love-lore of woman — love's messenger pleading
Subtly and warily, making the cause of another her own;
Skilfully pouring in shaft upon shaft, till the love that lies bleeding
Turns to the smiter for help, and finds rest in her bosom alone.
Didst thou not dream then, my love, when I proffered a guerdonless traffic
'Twixt that poor dove and thyself, that thy trust was most sweetly beguiled?
Didst thou then deem me so icy-angelic, so snowy-seraphic,
That I but gazed on thine eyes to reflect back their light on a child?
Ah me! this turmoil of heart! Is it truly a change for the better?
Once I remember a setting of sun, yea, and settings of suns,
Which I all-hailed, when, as warder, and order, and grating, and fetter,
Passed into darkness and silence — twin-heaven of the spirit that shuns
Daylight and audible life. Oh my soul! the delight, the delicious
Pressing together of arms, and up-gathering of knees to the chin,
And the spent air breathed for warmth 'twixt the breasts, while the darkness propitious
Softer than wool wrapt me round with a dreamless oblivion of sin!
Which is the better? — the torpid collapse of spent penitence crouching
Into the darkness and solitude, hugging the joy of the night,
Or the fierce gladness of day that would hinder the sun from his couching,
Mad with the bitter-sweet wine of desire, and the pain of delight?
Is there no midway for such one as I am 'twixt being and doing?
Is there no choice save the lotus of sleep or the apple of strife?
Is there no bliss that is neither dull rest nor a fevered pursuing?
Is there no twilight dividing the noon-flame and night of my life?
Well, what I am, that I am. It is better to scheme than to slumber.
What was this goodness that sometime I strove for? Supineness, constraint,
Mortification of spirit, and crosses and thorns without number,
Pride in abasement, and sombre complacence of embryo saint.
That is all over; and, saving some fitful remembrance of pity
Piercing the joints of the harness, to break as it reaches the heart,
All is as erst. . . . Touching Hyacinth, she must to school, to the city.
This I advise for her good — for her good (perhaps mine, too, in part).

VASTNESS of verdurous solitude, forest complexity boundless,
Where is no stir save the fall of a leaf, or the wave of a wing:
Lone sunny regions where virginal Nature roams ceaseless and soundless,
Rich with the richness of summer, yet fresh with the freshness of
Where is no stir save of leaf in its falling, or bird in its winging,
Or the unfrequent sweet idyll low-murmured by devious streams;
Where is no passion, or sign of desire, save the infantile clinging
Of the young tendrils, or opening of flowers to a morning of beams.
That was but yesterday. Comes a brief journey . . . a sleep . . . and the morrow
Wakes on the City, with issuing forth of tumultuous life —
Wakes upon quickening footsteps, and faces acquainted with sorrow,
Hurried uptaking of burdens, and voices familiar with strife.
Marvel of contrast, that seems like the swift incoherence of vision!
As peradventure it may be; for who can say more than "It seems"?
Surely all life is a dream, mis-begot of Olympian derision,
And the divided strange courses of men are but dreams within dreams.
Let me dream on, then. Of late I confess I have dreamed somewhat pleasantly.
Last night I dreamed of a school in a convent. And Hyacinth and I
Came to the gate. So we knocked at the gate, and it opened, and presently
Hyacinth passed from my sight, and I heard a voice sobbing "Goodbye."
Poor little Hyacinth! But it was better, assuredly better.
You'll be too busy to think, and too much with the angels to care.
Now you are safe from the freaks of young fantasy — safe as your letter
Is not to pass from my hand into his. You'll forget him in there!

BACK to my woods; back to Lily and Violet; back to the daily
Track of the wheels, and the hidden rotation of wheels within wheels.
But there is hush in the home all unwonted. Where three voices gaily
Sang to one tune, there is silence, save whispers, and wordless appeals
From sad young eyes unto mine, as the last who have seen and have kissed her,
Fretting my soul with unspoken entreaty and inquest of truth,
Seeming to ask with sharp scrutiny, "What hast thou done with our sister?
Art thou more cruel than death, that thou grudgest the years of her youth?"
Give me a woman to strive with, a man, or a demon, or angel!
When did I tremble or cringe, when the proud and the strong were my foes?
But from the weaklings of Christ, from the delicate lambs of Evangel,
From the lorn looks of young innocents — save me, oh save me from those!

© James Brunton Stephens