It is full winter now: the trees are bare, Save where the cattle huddle from the cold Beneath the pine, for it doth never wear The autumn's gaudy livery whose gold Her jealous brother pilfers, but is true To the green doublet; bitter is the wind, as though it blew
From Saturn's cave; a few thin wisps of hay Lie on the sharp black hedges, where the wain Dragged the sweet pillage of a summer's day From the low meadows up the narrow lane; Upon the half-thawed snow the bleating sheep Press close against the hurdles, and the shivering house-dogs creep
From the shut stable to the frozen stream And back again disconsolate, and miss The bawling shepherds and the noisy team; And overhead in circling listlessness The cawing rooks whirl round the frosted stack, Or crowd the dripping boughs; and in the fen the ice-pools crack
Where the gaunt bittern stalks among the reeds And flaps his wings, and stretches back his neck, And hoots to see the moon; across the meads Limps the poor frightened hare, a little speck; And a stray seamew with its fretful cry Flits like a sudden drift of snow against the dull grey sky.
Full winter: and the lusty goodman brings His load of faggots from the chilly byre, And stamps his feet upon the hearth, and flings The sappy billets on the waning fire, And laughs to see the sudden lightening scare His children at their play, and yet, - the spring is in the air;
Already the slim crocus stirs the snow, And soon yon blanched fields will bloom again With nodding cowslips for some lad to mow, For with the first warm kisses of the rain The winter's icy sorrow breaks to tears, And the brown thrushes mate, and with bright eyes the rabbit peers
From the dark warren where the fir-cones lie, And treads one snowdrop under foot, and runs Over the mossy knoll, and blackbirds fly Across our path at evening, and the suns Stay longer with us; ah! how good to see Grass-girdled spring in all her joy of laughing greenery
Dance through the hedges till the early rose, (That sweet repentance of the thorny briar!) Burst from its sheathed emerald and disclose The little quivering disk of golden fire Which the bees know so well, for with it come Pale boy's-love, sops-in-wine, and daffadillies all in bloom.
Then up and down the field the sower goes, While close behind the laughing younker scares With shrilly whoop the black and thievish crows, And then the chestnut-tree its glory wears, And on the grass the creamy blossom falls In odorous excess, and faint half-whispered madrigals
Steal from the bluebells' nodding carillons Each breezy morn, and then white jessamine, That star of its own heaven, snap-dragons With lolling crimson tongues, and eglantine In dusty velvets clad usurp the bed And woodland empery, and when the lingering rose hath shed
Red leaf by leaf its folded panoply, And pansies closed their purple-lidded eyes, Chrysanthemums from gilded argosy Unload their gaudy scentless merchandise, And violets getting overbold withdraw From their shy nooks, and scarlet berries dot the leafless haw.
O happy field! and O thrice happy tree! Soon will your queen in daisy-flowered smock And crown of flower-de-luce trip down the lea, Soon will the lazy shepherds drive their flock Back to the pasture by the pool, and soon Through the green leaves will float the hum of murmuring bees at noon.
Soon will the glade be bright with bellamour, The flower which wantons love, and those sweet nuns Vale-lilies in their snowy vestiture Will tell their beaded pearls, and carnations With mitred dusky leaves will scent the wind, And straggling traveller's-joy each hedge with yellow stars will bind.
Dear bride of Nature and most bounteous spring, That canst give increase to the sweet-breath'd kine, And to the kid its little horns, and bring The soft and silky blossoms to the vine, Where is that old nepenthe which of yore Man got from poppy root and glossy-berried mandragore!
There was a time when any common bird Could make me sing in unison, a time When all the strings of boyish life were stirred To quick response or more melodious rhyme By every forest idyll; - do I change? Or rather doth some evil thing through thy fair pleasaunce range?
Nay, nay, thou art the same: 'tis I who seek To vex with sighs thy simple solitude, And because fruitless tears bedew my cheek Would have thee weep with me in brotherhood; Fool! shall each wronged and restless spirit dare To taint such wine with the salt poison of own despair!
Thou art the same: 'tis I whose wretched soul Takes discontent to be its paramour, And gives its kingdom to the rude control Of what should be its servitor, - for sure Wisdom is somewhere, though the stormy sea Contain it not, and the huge deep answer ''Tis not in me.'
To burn with one clear flame, to stand erect In natural honour, not to bend the knee In profitless prostrations whose effect Is by itself condemned, what alchemy Can teach me this? what herb Medea brewed Will bring the unexultant peace of essence not subdued?
The minor chord which ends the harmony, And for its answering brother waits in vain Sobbing for incompleted melody, Dies a swan's death; but I the heir of pain, A silent Memnon with blank lidless eyes, Wait for the light and music of those suns which never rise.
The quenched-out torch, the lonely cypress-gloom, The little dust stored in the narrow urn, The gentle XAIPE of the Attic tomb, - Were not these better far than to return To my old fitful restless malady, Or spend my days within the voiceless cave of misery?
Nay! for perchance that poppy-crowned god Is like the watcher by a sick man's bed Who talks of sleep but gives it not; his rod Hath lost its virtue, and, when all is said, Death is too rude, too obvious a key To solve one single secret in a life's philosophy.
And Love! that noble madness, whose august And inextinguishable might can slay The soul with honeyed drugs, - alas! I must From such sweet ruin play the runaway, Although too constant memory never can Forget the arched splendour of those brows Olympian
Which for a little season made my youth So soft a swoon of exquisite indolence That all the chiding of more prudent Truth Seemed the thin voice of jealousy, - O hence Thou huntress deadlier than Artemis! Go seek some other quarry! for of thy too perilous bliss.
My lips have drunk enough, - no more, no more, - Though Love himself should turn his gilded prow Back to the troubled waters of this shore Where I am wrecked and stranded, even now The chariot wheels of passion sweep too near, Hence! Hence! I pass unto a life more barren, more austere.
More barren - ay, those arms will never lean Down through the trellised vines and draw my soul In sweet reluctance through the tangled green; Some other head must wear that aureole, For I am hers who loves not any man Whose white and stainless bosom bears the sign Gorgonian.
Let Venus go and chuck her dainty page, And kiss his mouth, and toss his curly hair, With net and spear and hunting equipage Let young Adonis to his tryst repair, But me her fond and subtle-fashioned spell Delights no more, though I could win her dearest citadel.
Ay, though I were that laughing shepherd boy Who from Mount Ida saw the little cloud Pass over Tenedos and lofty Troy And knew the coming of the Queen, and bowed In wonder at her feet, not for the sake Of a new Helen would I bid her hand the apple take.
Then rise supreme Athena argent-limbed! And, if my lips be musicless, inspire At least my life: was not thy glory hymned By One who gave to thee his sword and lyre Like AEschylos at well-fought Marathon, And died to show that Milton's England still could bear a son!
And yet I cannot tread the Portico And live without desire, fear and pain, Or nurture that wise calm which long ago The grave Athenian master taught to men, Self-poised, self-centred, and self-comforted, To watch the world's vain phantasies go by with unbowed head.
Alas! that serene brow, those eloquent lips, Those eyes that mirrored all eternity, Rest in their own Colonos, an eclipse Hath come on Wisdom, and Mnemosyne Is childless; in the night which she had made For lofty secure flight Athena's owl itself hath strayed.
Nor much with Science do I care to climb, Although by strange and subtle witchery She drew the moon from heaven: the Muse Time Unrolls her gorgeous-coloured tapestry To no less eager eyes; often indeed In the great epic of Polymnia's scroll I love to read
How Asia sent her myriad hosts to war Against a little town, and panoplied In gilded mail with jewelled scimitar, White-shielded, purple-crested, rode the Mede Between the waving poplars and the sea Which men call Artemisium, till he saw Thermopylae
Its steep ravine spanned by a narrow wall, And on the nearer side a little brood Of careless lions holding festival! And stood amazed at such hardihood, And pitched his tent upon the reedy shore, And stayed two days to wonder, and then crept at midnight o'er
Some unfrequented height, and coming down The autumn forests treacherously slew What Sparta held most dear and was the crown Of far Eurotas, and passed on, nor knew How God had staked an evil net for him In the small bay at Salamis, - and yet, the page grows dim,
Its cadenced Greek delights me not, I feel With such a goodly time too out of tune To love it much: for like the Dial's wheel That from its blinded darkness strikes the noon Yet never sees the sun, so do my eyes Restlessly follow that which from my cheated vision flies.
O for one grand unselfish simple life To teach us what is Wisdom! speak ye hills Of lone Helvellyn, for this note of strife Shunned your untroubled crags and crystal rills, Where is that Spirit which living blamelessly Yet dared to kiss the smitten mouth of his own century!
Speak ye Rydalian laurels! where is he Whose gentle head ye sheltered, that pure soul Whose gracious days of uncrowned majesty Through lowliest conduct touched the lofty goal Where love and duty mingle! Him at least The most high Laws were glad of, he had sat at Wisdom's feast;
But we are Learning's changelings, know by rote The clarion watchword of each Grecian school And follow none, the flawless sword which smote The pagan Hydra is an effete tool Which we ourselves have blunted, what man now Shall scale the august ancient heights and to old Reverence bow?
One such indeed I saw, but, Ichabod! Gone is that last dear son of Italy, Who being man died for the sake of God, And whose unrisen bones sleep peacefully, O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower, Thou marble lily of the lily town! let not the lour
Of the rude tempest vex his slumber, or The Arno with its tawny troubled gold O'er-leap its marge, no mightier conqueror Clomb the high Capitol in the days of old When Rome was indeed Rome, for Liberty Walked like a bride beside him, at which sight pale Mystery
Fled shrieking to her farthest sombrest cell With an old man who grabbled rusty keys, Fled shuddering, for that immemorial knell With which oblivion buries dynasties Swept like a wounded eagle on the blast, As to the holy heart of Rome the great triumvir passed.
He knew the holiest heart and heights of Rome, He drave the base wolf from the lion's lair, And now lies dead by that empyreal dome Which overtops Valdarno hung in air By Brunelleschi - O Melpomene Breathe through thy melancholy pipe thy sweetest threnody!
Breathe through the tragic stops such melodies That Joy's self may grow jealous, and the Nine Forget awhile their discreet emperies, Mourning for him who on Rome's lordliest shrine Lit for men's lives the light of Marathon, And bare to sun-forgotten fields the fire of the sun!
O guard him, guard him well, my Giotto's tower! Let some young Florentine each eventide Bring coronals of that enchanted flower Which the dim woods of Vallombrosa hide, And deck the marble tomb wherein he lies Whose soul is as some mighty orb unseen of mortal eyes;
Some mighty orb whose cycled wanderings, Being tempest-driven to the farthest rim Where Chaos meets Creation and the wings Of the eternal chanting Cherubim Are pavilioned on Nothing, passed away Into a moonless void, - and yet, though he is dust and clay,
He is not dead, the immemorial Fates Forbid it, and the closing shears refrain. Lift up your heads ye everlasting gates! Ye argent clarions, sound a loftier strain For the vile thing he hated lurks within Its sombre house, alone with God and memories of sin.
Still what avails it that she sought her cave That murderous mother of red harlotries? At Munich on the marble architrave The Grecian boys die smiling, but the seas Which wash AEgina fret in loneliness Not mirroring their beauty; so our lives grow colourless
For lack of our ideals, if one star Flame torch-like in the heavens the unjust Swift daylight kills it, and no trump of war Can wake to passionate voice the silent dust Which was Mazzini once! rich Niobe For all her stony sorrows hath her sons; but Italy,
What Easter Day shall make her children rise, Who were not Gods yet suffered? what sure feet Shall find their grave-clothes folded? what clear eyes Shall see them bodily? O it were meet To roll the stone from off the sepulchre And kiss the bleeding roses of their wounds, in love of her,
Our Italy! our mother visible! Most blessed among nations and most sad, For whose dear sake the young Calabrian fell That day at Aspromonte and was glad That in an age when God was bought and sold One man could die for Liberty! but we, burnt out and cold,
See Honour smitten on the cheek and gyves Bind the sweet feet of Mercy: Poverty Creeps through our sunless lanes and with sharp knives Cuts the warm throats of children stealthily, And no word said:- O we are wretched men Unworthy of our great inheritance! where is the pen
Of austere Milton? where the mighty sword Which slew its master righteously? the years Have lost their ancient leader, and no word Breaks from the voiceless tripod on our ears: While as a ruined mother in some spasm Bears a base child and loathes it, so our best enthusiasm
Genders unlawful children, Anarchy Freedom's own Judas, the vile prodigal Licence who steals the gold of Liberty And yet has nothing, Ignorance the real One Fraticide since Cain, Envy the asp That stings itself to anguish, Avarice whose palsied grasp
Is in its extent stiffened, moneyed Greed For whose dull appetite men waste away Amid the whirr of wheels and are the seed Of things which slay their sower, these each day Sees rife in England, and the gentle feet Of Beauty tread no more the stones of each unlovely street.
What even Cromwell spared is desecrated By weed and worm, left to the stormy play Of wind and beating snow, or renovated By more destructful hands: Time's worst decay Will wreathe its ruins with some loveliness, But these new Vandals can but make a rain-proof barrenness.
Where is that Art which bade the Angels sing Through Lincoln's lofty choir, till the air Seems from such marble harmonies to ring With sweeter song than common lips can dare To draw from actual reed? ah! where is now The cunning hand which made the flowering hawthorn branches bow
For Southwell's arch, and carved the House of One Who loved the lilies of the field with all Our dearest English flowers? the same sun Rises for us: the seasons natural Weave the same tapestry of green and grey: The unchanged hills are with us: but that Spirit hath passed away.
And yet perchance it may be better so, For Tyranny is an incestuous Queen, Murder her brother is her bedfellow, And the Plague chambers with her: in obscene And bloody paths her treacherous feet are set; Better the empty desert and a soul inviolate!
For gentle brotherhood, the harmony Of living in the healthful air, the swift Clean beauty of strong limbs when men are free And women chaste, these are the things which lift Our souls up more than even Agnolo's Gaunt blinded Sibyl poring o'er the scroll of human woes,
Or Titian's little maiden on the stair White as her own sweet lily and as tall, Or Mona Lisa smiling through her hair, - Ah! somehow life is bigger after all Than any painted angel, could we see The God that is within us! The old Greek serenity
Which curbs the passion of that level line Of marble youths, who with untroubled eyes And chastened limbs ride round Athena's shrine And mirror her divine economies, And balanced symmetry of what in man Would else wage ceaseless warfare, - this at least within the span
Between our mother's kisses and the grave Might so inform our lives, that we could win Such mighty empires that from her cave Temptation would grow hoarse, and pallid Sin Would walk ashamed of his adulteries, And Passion creep from out the House of Lust with startled eyes.
To make the body and the spirit one With all right things, till no thing live in vain From morn to noon, but in sweet unison With every pulse of flesh and throb of brain The soul in flawless essence high enthroned, Against all outer vain attack invincibly bastioned,
Mark with serene impartiality The strife of things, and yet be comforted, Knowing that by the chain causality All separate existences are wed Into one supreme whole, whose utterance Is joy, or holier praise! ah! surely this were governance
Of Life in most august omnipresence, Through which the rational intellect would find In passion its expression, and mere sense, Ignoble else, lend fire to the mind, And being joined with it in harmony More mystical than that which binds the stars planetary,
Strike from their several tones one octave chord Whose cadence being measureless would fly Through all the circling spheres, then to its Lord Return refreshed with its new empery And more exultant power, - this indeed Could we but reach it were to find the last, the perfect creed.
Ah! it was easy when the world was young To keep one's life free and inviolate, From our sad lips another song is rung, By our own hands our heads are desecrate, Wanderers in drear exile, and dispossessed Of what should be our own, we can but feed on wild unrest.
Somehow the grace, the bloom of things has flown, And of all men we are most wretched who Must live each other's lives and not our own For very pity's sake and then undo All that we lived for - it was otherwise When soul and body seemed to blend in mystic symphonies.
But we have left those gentle haunts to pass With weary feet to the new Calvary, Where we behold, as one who in a glass Sees his own face, self-slain Humanity, And in the dumb reproach of that sad gaze Learn what an awful phantom the red hand of man can raise.
O smitten mouth! O forehead crowned with thorn! O chalice of all common miseries! Thou for our sakes that loved thee not hast borne An agony of endless centuries, And we were vain and ignorant nor knew That when we stabbed thy heart it was our own real hearts we slew.
Being ourselves the sowers and the seeds, The night that covers and the lights that fade, The spear that pierces and the side that bleeds, The lips betraying and the life betrayed; The deep hath calm: the moon hath rest: but we Lords of the natural world are yet our own dread enemy.
Is this the end of all that primal force Which, in its changes being still the same, From eyeless Chaos cleft its upward course, Through ravenous seas and whirling rocks and flame, Till the suns met in heaven and began Their cycles, and the morning stars sang, and the Word was Man!
Nay, nay, we are but crucified, and though The bloody sweat falls from our brows like rain Loosen the nails - we shall come down I know, Staunch the red wounds - we shall be whole again, No need have we of hyssop-laden rod, That which is purely human, that is godlike, that is God.