A Cottage In A Chine

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We reached the place by night,
  And heard the waves breaking:
They came to meet us with candles alight
  To show the path we were taking.
A myrtle, trained on the gate, was white
  With tufted flowers down shaking.

With head beneath her wing,
  A little wren was sleeping—­
So near, I had found it an easy thing
  To steal her for my keeping
From the myrtle-bough that with easy swing
  Across the path was sweeping.

Down rocky steps rough-hewed,
  Where cup-mosses flowered,
And under the trees, all twisted and rude,
  Wherewith the dell was dowered,
They led us, where deep in its solitude
  Lay the cottage, leaf-embowered.

The thatch was all bespread
  With climbing passion-flowers;
They were wet, and glistened with raindrops, shed
  That day in genial showers.
“Was never a sweeter nest,” we said,
  “Than this little nest of ours.”

We laid us down to sleep:
  But as for me—­waking,
I marked the plunge of the muffled deep
  On its sandy reaches breaking;
For heart-joyance doth sometimes keep
  From slumber, like heart-aching.

And I was glad that night,
  With no reason ready,
To give my own heart for its deep delight,
  That flowed like some tidal eddy,
Or shone like a star that was rising bright
  With comforting radiance steady.

But on a sudden—­hark!
  Music struck asunder
Those meshes of bliss, and I wept in the dark,
  So sweet was the unseen wonder;
So swiftly it touched, as if struck at a mark,
  The trouble that joy kept under.

I rose—­the moon outshone:
  I saw the sea heaving,
And a little vessel sailing alone,
  The small crisp wavelet cleaving;
’Twas she as she sailed to her port unknown—­
  Was that track of sweetness leaving.

We know they music made
  In heaven, ere man’s creation;
But when God threw it down to us that strayed
  It dropt with lamentation,
And ever since doth its sweetness shade
  With sighs for its first station.

Its joy suggests regret—­
  Its most for more is yearning;
And it brings to the soul that its voice hath met,
  No rest that cadence learning,
But a conscious part in the sighs that fret
  Its nature for returning.

O Eve, sweet Eve! methought
  When sometimes comfort winning,
As she watched the first children’s tender sport,
  Sole joy born since her sinning,
If a bird anear them sang, it brought
  The pang as at beginning.

While swam the unshed tear,
  Her prattlers little heeding,
Would murmur, “This bird, with its carol clear.
  When the red clay was kneaden,
And God made Adam our father dear,
  Sang to him thus in Eden.”

The moon went in—­the sky
  And earth and sea hiding,
I laid me down, with the yearning sigh
  Of that strain in my heart abiding;
I slept, and the barque that had sailed so nigh
  In my dream was ever gliding.

I slept, but waked amazed,
  With sudden noise frighted,
And voices without, and a flash that dazed
  My eyes from candles lighted.
“Ah! surely,” methought, “by these shouts upraised
  Some travellers are benighted.”

A voice was at my side—­
  “Waken, madam, waken!
The long prayed-for ship at her anchor doth ride.
  Let the child from its rest be taken,
For the captain doth weary for babe and for bride—­
  Waken, madam, waken!

“The home you left but late,
  He speeds to it light-hearted;
By the wires he sent this news, and straight
  To you with it they started.”
O joy for a yearning heart too great,
  O union for the parted!

We rose up in the night,
  The morning star was shining;
We carried the child in its slumber light
  Out by the myrtles twining:
Orion over the sea hung bright,
  And glorious in declining.

Mother, to meet her son,
  Smiled first, then wept the rather;
And wife, to bind up those links undone,
  And cherished words to gather,
And to show the face of her little one,
  That had never seen its father.

That cottage in a chine
  We were not to behold it;
But there may the purest of sunbeams shine,
  May freshest flowers enfold it,
For sake of the news which our hearts must twine
  With the bower where we were told it!

Now oft, left lone again,
  Sit mother and sit daughter,
And bless the good ship that sailed over the main,
  And the favoring winds that brought her;
While still some new beauty they fable and feign
  For the cottage by the water.

© Jean Ingelow