"Oh for a pen of light, a tongue of fire,
That every word might burn in living flame
Upon the age's brow, and leave one name
Engraven on the future! One desire
Fills every nook and cranny of my heart;
One hope - one sorrow - one belovèd aim!
She whose pure life was of my life a part,
As light is of the day, could she inspire
My unmelodious muse, or tune the lyre
To diapasons worthy of the theme,
How would her joy put on its robes of light,
And nestle in my bosom once again,
As when life, like an Oriental dream,
Fanned by Arabian airs, glode down the stream
To music whose remembrance is a pain.
The foot of time might trample on my strain,
But could not quench its essence. There was might,
And majesty, and greatness in the love
She blest me with - a blessing without stain,
And that was earthly; since her spirit-sight
Looked through the veil, and learned love's true delight,
Which sainted ministrants alone can prove
Who taste the waters of eternal love:
I pause to think how wonderful has grown
The love that was to me so wondrous here!
Chained as I am to this terrestrial sphere,
Groping my way through darkness, and alone,
Like a blind eaglet soaring towards the sun,
How would her full experience lift and cheer
The heart that never feels its duty done,
And with a girdle of pure light enzone
My flowery world of thought, and make it all her own."
Thus mused the Minstrel, for his heart was sad.
Death had bereaved him of his bride, while youth,
And looming years of future trust and truth,
Knit them together, till their souls were clad
With joy ineffable. Love's great High Priest
Sacrificed in their hearts to Him that doeth
All things well; and such rare, perpetual feast
Of love and truth no mortals ever had,
To keep their memories green, their lives serene and glad,
He sat again within the quiet room,
Where Death had snapped one golden thread of life,
And the pale hand of Sickness, sorrow-rife,
Robbed the plump cheek of childhood of its bloom;
Where she, another Philomena, moved
Like a fond Charity - the coming wife
Ordained to crown his being: And he loved.
The future rose before him, joy and gloom;
For where the sunlight shone, there waved the sable plume.
And yet he failed not, for the coming pain;
The coming bliss would counterbalance all.
The sight prophetic that perceived the pall,
Looked far beyond for the celestial gain.
They do not truly love who cannot yield
The mortal up at the Immortal's call,
Or fail to triumph for the soul that's sealed.
His mind was strung to one harmonious strain:
To give when God should ask, and not resign in vain.
Love was to him life's chiefest victory;
He knew no greater, and he sought no less.
Like a green isle surrounded by the sea
That gives it health and vigour, so was he
The centre of love's sphere of perfectness;
He breathed its heavenly atmosphere; the key
That opened every chamber in love's court
Was in his hand; love's mystery was his sport,
He knelt within love's fane and worshipped there -
But not alone, for one was by his side
Whose love refined his being, filled the air
Of life's irradiated sky with light,
As the sun floods the heavens with a tide
Of renovating freshness, as the night
Is mellowed by the ample moon.
And hoping for the recompense
That would be theirs in life's approaching noon,
They built on hope's high eminence
Their airy palaces, whose magnificence
Surpassed the dreams that fancy drew,
So fair the promised land that lay within their view.
And here they lived; just within reach of heaven.
They could put forth their hands and touch the skies
That brooded o'er the walls of chrysolite,
The airy minarets, and golden domes
Of their new home, by Love, the Maker, given,
Steeped in his brightest dyes.
All nature opened up her ponderous tomes,
Whereby they had new knowledge and new sight,
Learned greater truths, and saw the paths of light,
Mosaic-paven, which to Duty led.
And there were secrets written overhead,
In burning hieroglyphs of thought,
From which they gleaned such lessons as are taught
Only to those whom heaven, in graciousness,
Lifts in her arms with a divine caress.
Earth, like a joyous maiden whose pure soul
Is filled with sudden ecstacy, became
A fruitful Eden; and the golden bowl
That held their elixir of life was filled
To overflowing with the rarest draught
Ever by gods or men in rapture quaffed;
Till from the altar of their hearts love's flame
Passed through the veins of the world, and thrilled
The soul of the rejoicing universe,
Which became theirs, and like true neophytes
They drained the sweet nepenthe, and love's rites
Wiped from their hearts all trace of the primeval curse.
The happy months rolled on; each wedded day
A bridal; and each calm and holy eve
Strewed with rare blessings all the sunny way
Through which they passed, with so divine a joy
That in his brain would meditation weave
Love's roses into garlands of sweet song,
To deck the brow of his devoted wife.
In this their El Dorado, no alloy
Mixed with the coinage of their wedded life;
The workmen in the mint an honest throng.
No wonder, then, that with go fine a bliss
Informing every fibre of his brain,
His thoughts begat impressions such as this;
Linking their lives together with a chain
Of melody as rare as some divine refrain:
Like dew to the thirsty flower,
Like sweets to the hungry bee,
Is love's divinest dower,
Its tenderness and power,
To thee, dear Wife! to thee.
Like light to the darkened spirit,
Like oil to the turbid sea,
Like truthful words to merit,
Are the blessings I inherit
With thee, dear Wife! with thee.
Afar in the distant ages,
Soul-ransomed, and spirit-free,
I'll read all being's pages,
Unread by mortal sages,
With thee, dear Wife! with thee.
None but the happy heart could carol thus;
A feather stolen from Devotion's wing,
To keep as a memento of the time
When earth met heaven, in life's duteous
And prayerful journey towards the shadowy clime;
Ere they descended from their height sublime,
Where at Love's well-filled table, banqueting,
They sat, and watched the first glad year,
Earthlike, revolving round the sun
Of their true life. Within that sphere
Was the new Eden. One by one
The precious moments dropped like golden sands,
And formed the solid hours. No perilous strands
Delayed life's blissful current, as it sped
Through flowery realms with blue skies overhead,
To songs and laughter musically sweet,
As if all sorrow had forever fled;
And idylls, sung with cheerful tone,
Haunted the calm, enchanted zone
That hemmed them in,
Where, like a stately queen,
Sate Peace, beatified, serene,
The guardian, heaven-sent, of this their fair demesne:
- - -
Like a bold, adventurous swain,
Just a year ago to-day,
I launched my bark on a radiant main,
And Hymen led the way:
"Breakers ahead!" he cried,
As he sought to overwhelm
My daring craft in the shrieking tide,
But Love, like a pilot bold and tried,
Sat, watchful, at the helm.
And we passed the treacherous shoals,
Where many a hope lay dead,
And splendid wrecks were piled, like the ghouls
Of joys forever fled.
Once safely over these,
We sped by a fairy realm,
Across the bluest and calmest seas
That were ever kissed by a truant breeze,
With Love still at the helm.
We sailed by sweet, odorous isles,
Where the flowers and trees were one;
Through lakes that vied with the golden smiles
Of heaven's unclouded sun:
Still speeds our merry bark,
Threading life's peaceful realm,
And 'tis ever morn with our marriage-lark,
For the Pilot-Love of our safety-ark
Stands, watchful, at the helm.
A beautiful land is the Land of Dreams,
Green hills and valleys, and deep lagoons,
Swift-rushing torrents and gentle streams,
Glassing a myriad silver moons;
Mirror-like lakelets with lovely isles,
And verdurous headlands looking down
On the Neread shapes, whose smiles
Were worth the price of a peaceful crown.
We clutch at the silvery bars
Flung from the motionless stars,
And climb far into space,
Defying the race
Who ride in aërial cars.
We take up the harp of the mind,
And finger its delicate strings;
The notes, soft and light
As a moonbeam's flight,
Departing on viewless wings.
Afar in some fanciful bower,
Some region of exquisite calm,
Where the starlight falls in a gleaming shower,
We sink to repose
On our couch of rose,
Inhaling no mortal balm.
The worlds are no longer unknown,
We pass through the uttermost sky,
Our eyelids are kissed
By a gentle mist,
And we feel the tone
Of a calmer zone,
As if heaven were wondrous nigh.
A fanciful land is the Land of Dreams,
Where earth and heaven are clasping hands;
No heaven - no earth,
But one wide, new birth,
Where Beauty and Goodness, and human worth,
Make earth of heaven and heaven of earth;
And angels are walking on golden strands.
And the pearly gates of the universe
Of mind and fancy, opening
To the touch of the dainty finger-tips
Of elegant Peris with rose-bud lips,
Delicate, weird-like sounds are born
From the amber depths of odorous morn,
And spirits of beauty and light rehearse
Such strains as the young immortals sing,
When the souls of the blest
Are borne to their rest,
On luminous pinions of light serene
To the fragrant bowers of evergreen;
O'er the rosy plains, where the dying hours
Are changed by a spell to celestial flowers,
Where the skies have a hue no name can express,
For the tone of their passionate loveliness
Surpasseth all human imagining.
Such was their beautiful Dream of Life;
Each stern reality softened down;
Earth seemed to have ended her age of Strife,
And Harmony reigned, her olive crown
Besting on the Parian brow
Of the fair victor, like the gleam
Of the silvery moon on waves that flow
Thoughtfully down the summer stream.
Such was their earnest Dream of Life!
Was it some angel, with jealous eye,
Seeing such love beneath the sky
As never yet in world or star,
Or spheral height, that reached so far
'Twas never beheld by mortal sight,
Or elsewhere, save in highest heaven,
Was duly earned, or truly given,
That leagued with the usurper, Death,
To quench the light that shone so bright
That in all the earth there was not a breath
So foul as to change their day to night?
Alone! alone! Oh, word of fearful tone!
Well might the moon withhold her light,
The stars withdraw from human sight,
When Love was overthrown.
The Minstrel's heart how changed!
O'er which he reigned supreme,
Usurped by earth's realities;
The realm through which he ranged
Become a vanished dream!
And yet he sung, as sings
The dying swan that droops its wings
And drifts along the stream:
- - -
THE LIGHT IN THE WINDOW PANE.
A joy from my soul's departed,
A bliss from my heart is flown,
As weary, weary-hearted,
I wander alone - alone!
The night wind sadly sigheth
A withering, wild refrain,
And my heart within me dieth
For the light in the window pane.
The stars overhead are shining,
As brightly as e'er they shone,
As heartless - sad - repining,
I wander alone - alone!
A sudden flash comes streaming,
And flickers adown the lane,
But no more for me is gleaming
The light in the window pane.
The voices that pass are cheerful,
Men laugh as the night winds moan;
They cannot tell how fearful
'Tis to wander alone - alone!
For them, with each night's returning,
Life singeth its tenderest strain,
Where the beacon of love is burning -
The light in the window pane.
Oh, sorrow beyond all sorrows
To which human life is prone:
Without thee, through all the morrows,
To wander alone - alone!
Oh, dark, deserted dwelling!
Where Hope like a lamb was slain,
No voice from thy lone walls welling,
No light in thy window pane.
But memory, sainted angel!
Rolls back the sepulchral stone,
And sings like a sweet evangel:
"No - never, never alone!
True grief has its royal palace,
Each loss is a greater gain;
And Sorrow ne'er filled a chalice
That Joy did not wait to drain!
- - -
"Man must be perfected
By suffering," he said;
"And Death is but the stepping-stone, whereby
We mount towards the gate
Of heaven, soon or late.
Death is the penalty of life; we die,
Because we live; and life
Is but a constant strife
With the immortal Impulse that within
Our bodies seeks control -
The time-abiding Soul,
That wrestles with us - yet we fain would win.
And what? the victory
Would make us slaves; and we,
Who in our blindness struggle for the prize
Of this illusive state
Called Life, do but frustrate
The higher law - refusing to be wise."
Rightly he knew, indeed,
Earth's brightest paths but lead
To the true wisdom of that perfect state,
Where Knowledge, heaven-born,
And Love's eternal morn,
Awaiteth those who would be truly great.
With what abiding trust
He rose from out the dust,
As Death's swift chariot passed him by the way;
No visionary dream
Was his - no trifling theme -
The Soul's great Mystery before him lay:
- - -
All my mind has sat in state,
Pond'ring on the deathless Soul:
What must be the Perfect Whole,
When the atom is so great!
God! I fall in spirit down,
Low as Persian to the sun;
All my senses, one by one,
In the stream of Thought must drown.
On the tide of mystery,
Like a waif, I'm seaward borne,
Ever looking for the morn
That will yet interpret Thee,
Opening my blinded eyes,
That have strove to look within,
'Whelmed in clouds of doubt and sin,
Sinking where I dared to rise:
Could I trace one Spirit's flight,
Track it to its final goal,
Know that 'Spirit' meant 'the Soul,'
I must perish in the light.
All in vain I search, and cry:
"What, O Soul, and whence art thou?"
Lower than the earth I bow,
Stricken with the grave reply:
"Wouldst thou ope what God has sealed -
Sealed in mercy here below?
What is best for man to know,
Shall most surely be revealed!"
Deep on deep of mystery!
Ask the sage, he knows no more
Of the soul's unspoken lore
Than the child upon his knee!
Cannot tell me whence the thought
That is passing through my mind!
Where the mystic soul is shrined,
Wherewith all my life is fraught?
Knows not how the brain conceives
Images almost divine;
Cannot work my mental mine,
Cannot bind my golden sheaves.
Is he wiser, then, than I,
Seeing he can read the stars?
I have rode in fancy's oars
Leagues beyond his farthest sky!
Some old Rabbi, dreaming o'er
The sweet legends of his race,
Ask him for some certain trace
Of the far, eternal shore.
No. The Talmud page is dark,
Though it burn with quenchless fire,
And the insight must pierce higher,
That would find the vital spark.
O, my Soul! be firm and wait,
Hoping with the zealous few,
Till the Shekinah of the True
Lead thee through the Golden Gate.